When Tony woke, Loki was curled into a tight little ball on the pillow beside Tony’s head, whiskers twitching in his sleep. He wondered what the cat could be dreaming of. Whatever it was, he hoped it was a good dream, and not a kitty nightmare. He ran his finger very gently along the little black nose, all the way up to his cute, furry forehead and smiled when Loki’s breathing turned into sleep-soft purring.
He got up and stretched, feeling his back pop in several places with a wince. So maybe he had stayed up too late working, sitting up against the headboard. He’d rather have a sore back than nightmares. Besides, he had rather enjoyed cozying up under the covers with Loki. Who knew getting a cat would turn him into such an introvert?
There was fresh coffee in the pot, despite no one else being up, and he drank from his mug blissfully. Good stuff, always. Once he had downed the whole thing, scalded tongue and all, and could feel the caffeine hit starting to kick in, he figured he should get something for Loki to eat, and maybe himself as well. Hmm. Bacon sounded good. He could probably sneak some to Loki, even if JARVIS had been rather adamant about feeding the cat, well, cat food, now that the order had arrived.
Tony was rummaging through the pantry when he heard soft footsteps approach the kitchen. Not Natasha, then.
He looked over his shoulder and saw Clint, and was about to delegate the task of breakfast making to him when he saw who else was in the room.
He whipped around, already raising his hands, right as Clint stooped to pick Loki up.
“Careful!” he said loudly. He did not yell. “He’s skittish, you’ll scare-“
Clint just raised an eyebrow at him, holding the cat in his arms like it was no big deal, and, frankly, Loki looked unconcerned as well.
“Yeah, a real scaredy-cat.” Clint rolled his eyes. “He’s quaking in his boots, I’m sure. Really, Tony, he’s fine, no need to mother hen.”
Tony was not- Well. Maybe he was, sort of, acting like a concerned parent. Just a little. But Loki was just... a little guy, and he’d already been scared once. Tony couldn’t deny caring about him.
“Fine, whatever.” He tried to dismiss the little bit of worry. Loki was fine, so it would seem. “I didn’t know you liked cats.” So maybe it was an obvious topic change, but, well, deflecting was always a good fallback.
“I don’t,” said Clint immediately, scratching Loki’s chin like it was his job. And based on the way Loki was leaning into it, yet still maintaining a completely aloof demeanor, it might well have been.
“You seem to like him just fine,” said Tony, since Clint was even smiling at the cat, just a little.
Clint just shrugged and didn’t answer.
“His name’s Loki, by the way.” Was he trying to piss Clint off? Maybe. Just a little. It was par for the course.
Clint snorted, and leaned his face down toward Loki.
“Oh, you poor bastard,” he said, affecting sympathy. “He got to you too, huh.” His tone turned conspiratorial. “He shouldn’t be allowed to name things, like, ever.”
Loki made a chittery noise that could have been mistaken for agreement, or even amusement. But cats didn’t laugh. Did they? Either way, Tony felt decidedly ganged-up on.
“Is that so, Hawkness Monster?”
Oh, that was probably the worst one yet. Clint actually looked a bit pained.
“And, there’s your proof.”
“Loki is a great name for a cat,” Tony argued, because it so was.
“By whose standards?”
“Have you looked at him? Tell me you don’t see the resemblance.”
Both Clint and Tony looked at the cat, whose face was very sweet looking and innocent just then, as if to say ‘who, me?’
“You know what,” said Clint setting Loki back on the floor gently. “I do see it.” He gave Loki’s ears one last scratch and made his way to the coffee pot to fill up his own mug.
Tony stared at Loki a minute, curious. Did the cat somehow know they were talking about him?
“Loki,” he said, watching the cat.
Loki’s ears perked up and he turned his head to stare back at Tony.
“Hey, look at that! He knows his name,” said Clint, sipping at his steaming mug. “Smart cat.”
“He sure is.”
Loki trotted over to Tony and wove between his legs, asking to be picked up — or trying to trip Tony — and bumped his head against Tony’s pant leg.
Tony picked him up and let him climb on his shoulder, the soothing rhythm of his purring making Tony feel quite calm and relaxed. Huh. No wonder people had therapy animals. There was something to that after all.
“I’ll cook some bacon if you make something to go along with it,” Tony offered, feeling generous.
Clint looked between him and the cat.
“As long as you don’t get cat hair in it, I’ll set aside my reservations about letting you anywhere near a pan in favor of free bacon.”
So Tony set about cooking bacon, Clint made a start on what may have been pancake batter, and Loki accepted the bits Tony offered him happily.
When breakfast was ready, the rest of the team still hadn’t shown, so Tony took his plate to go and, with Loki to keep him company, made his way to his lab to get some work done.
As he fiddled with his latest project between bites of food he shared with Loki — who knew cats would eat pancakes and strawberry sauce? — he found himself talking out loud more than usual. It felt different than talking to himself — or JARVIS — when he had Loki to direct his words to. The cat didn’t reply, of course, but sounding ideas off of someone else did help, even if it was just allowing him to think through it as he was speaking.
Loki was a good lab cat. Maybe he should get him some little goggles. The mental image amused him, so he told Loki that too. The cat merely let out a sleepy groan and flexed his paws against Tony’s shoulder.
Tony reached his hand up to run his fingers through Loki’s soft fur, absently planning what part of the project he would need to work on next. Loki dozed, and the afternoon passed in Tony’s low voice and Loki’s quiet purrs, the sounds of metal clinking and the occasional curse, and a tentative happiness that wouldn’t quite leave Tony alone.