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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. 

Chapter Text

Nat was fixing herself a mug of some steamy something when Tony walked in. She turned to him, and her eyes instantly widened in what Tony would assume was delight. Not something he was necessarily used to seeing on her face, but the way she abandoned her drink on the counter and walked right over to Tony — or not Tony, really, but the cat in his arms — more or less confirmed it. 

 

“Where’d you get a cat?” she asked, not once looking away from the little ball of fuzz wriggling in Tony’s jacket. Her lips curled up slightly. Figures that she would be a cat person, Tony thought. 

 

“He was just on the street, I don’t know. At least, I think it’s a he. And I don’t think he’s someone’s pet, although he does seem a bit friendly.”

 

“You just picked a cat up off the street? Never mind, of course you did.”

 

“Was I supposed to just leave him there?” How could he have? The little guy had been shaking, his downy soft fluff evidently not a match for the chilly, blustery wind, eyes huge and frightened. Plus, it had looked like it might rain. There wasn’t a chance of him not coming home with Tony. 

 

“No. But stray cats can carry diseases. What if he bit you?” Her eyes narrowed. “He didn’t, did he?” Because she knew by now that, even if he had, Tony wouldn’t admit to it without directly being asked. 

 

“No. He didn’t scratch me either. I think he likes me. Besides, does he look rabid to you?” He held the cat up by his armpits, giving Nat full view of his long body. 

 

“Rabid, no. Unimpressed?” Her smile widened, amused and definitely delighted. “Yes. Can I hold him?”

 

“Sure. But if he decides he doesn’t like you, just remember who asked.”

 

Nat took the cat from him and held him up for further inspection. 

 

“Yep. A boy alright.” If anything, the cat just looked even more unimpressed, ears back and almost comically miffed. Natasha shifted him to hold him against her shoulder, one hand under him and one behind his back, like a baby. “He’s heavy for his size,” she said to Tony. To the cat, she added, turning her head to whisper into his fur, “What, is that all muscle under all your fluff?” His tail twitched, but he seemed to relax slightly when Nat began to run her hand down his back, scratching gently with her long nails and playing with his thick coat. “Does this little stud muffin here have a name?”

 

Tony rubbed the back of his head, hoping Natasha would at least not balk at his sense of humor. 

 

“Well, I sort of thought about calling him Loki. I think it suits him.” And okay, maybe he hadn’t meant to sound so defensive, but he was never sure if Natasha held a grudge. “He kind of looks like him, with the long hair, and the eyes.”

 

She frowned down at the cat thoughtfully. 

 

“Didn’t Loki have blue eyes?” she asked, noting that the cat Loki’s eyes were very green indeed. 

 

Then Tony frowned. 

 

“Did he? Maybe you’re right. You probably are, you obviously pay more attention to that kind of thing than I do. But then... why did I think he had green eyes?”

 

Tony pictured Loki as last he’d seen him, cuffed and ready to be taken back to Asgard by his brother. But all Tony could recall of his eyes was the color green, and he couldn’t tell if it was his true memory, or if he was just imagining it that way now that he had the idea in his mind. 

 

“It’s a shame Thor isn’t here, or we could just ask him. Easy, mister,” she said in a jarringly sing-song voice as she spoke to a very squirmy Cat-Loki. He’d never, in his life, heard her speak like that to anyone or anything, and- Wait. Was that what he sounded like when he talked to the kitty? Damn. What was Nat saying again?

 

“We could always ask someone else,” he said, and realized that the cat had not at all stopped trying to get away from Natasha. “Maybe hand him back?” She did, looking a little sad as she gave his soft head one last pat. Tony wrapped his jacket back around Loki, the Cat, to restrain his flailing paws and hopefully calm him down a little. “JARVIS? You still have the footage of Loki, right? The god, not the cat, although if you wanna save videos of this guy too I wouldn’t mind. Everyone loves cute cat videos, right?”

 

JARVIS didn’t answer the last bit, but he did project the image of Loki in his tower, standing up from his spot in the floor. Strangely, the lights, or perhaps the quiet voice from the recording seemed to fascinate Lokitty. Or maybe it scared him into stillness, who knew. Either way, he was watching the screen with rapt eyes. 

 

And speaking of eyes, Tony had Jarv zoom in on the god’s face, and paused the video. There, plain as day, were two green eyes, wary and tired looking, and not at all the blue Natasha remembered or the burning, manic ones Tony did right before he made friends with a lot of window glass and, very nearly, a sidewalk. Close friends. But now that he was thinking of it, all he could recall was blue, blue as hot as fire, as destructive. He was sure Nat was right, but the video...

 

He and Natasha shared a glance, uncertainty and suspicion not needing to be voiced. 

 

“What about earlier?” Tony asked his AI. “Back when we had our little chat, before he went all kinky Jezebel on me.”

 

JARVIS somehow managed to untangle that and display the correct footage, with God-Loki prowling up to Tony — and, really, it wasn’t too much better watching it than living it, he thought, not realizing he had tightened his hold on Loki until the cat meowed in distress. He let go, and Loki shot out of his arms and hid under the couch — and there! Blue eyes. Very blue. Unnaturally blue. A familiar shade, in fact. 

 

“Oh, we are such idiots.”

 

And, that, possibly, was the understatement of the year. 

 

Even Natasha seemed shaken by the revelation. She moved along with Tony to sit on the couch, hardly seeming to notice that it was the same one Loki was under. Tony debated getting back up and grabbing a couple of glasses, and the finest vodka he owned. Screw it. They both could use it. 

 

Nat just stared at her glass though, lost in thoughts that Tony couldn’t have a hope of guessing at without her saying a word. Then she downed the whole glass in one shot without even blinking, and Tony knew he had made the right call. 

 

“The implications of that are... far reaching.” And it was just really the time and place for downplays, because shit, they sure were. “If he wasn’t the one responsible, then someone worse was. And he was bad enough.” She took Tony’s glass right out of his hand and drank it as well, even though she could have just refilled her own, the bottle was right there. But Tony was not upset enough to say anything, not with this now needing all his focus. “How likely is it the higher ups won’t come back to finish the job?” she asked, even though it sounded perfectly rhetorical. About as likely as that bottle not being finished by the end of the evening. 

 

“Shit, Nat, we may have sent an innocent man to face jail time under unknown conditions without even asking what had happened. Oh god. We fucked up.”

 

Tony glanced at the two glasses Natasha held, and then just picked up the bottle and took a swig. 

 

“Why is Thor never around when you need him?”

Chapter Text

Loki bristled unconsciously as the mortal’s face came into view in the little strip of light between the floor paneling and the couch bottom. 

 

“There you are!” said Stark, with a soft, benign smile. He reached a hand under the couch toward Loki. Loki hissed and swatted and backed up further, until he was as far in the corner as he could get, against the far wall. “Hey!” Stark complained, pulling his hand back to check for scratch marks. There were none, because Loki stupidly hadn’t used his claws. Then the man shifted so he was fully laying on the floor, peering under the couch with a frown so petulant it was nearly a pout. The whole thing was so completely ridiculous, but Stark seemed not to notice or mind. “What’s gotten into you? Why are you all grumpy now?”

 

Loki was not grumpy. He simply did not like being kidnapped and held in his enemy’s base, being condescended to. No matter that it wasn’t exactly Stark’s fault that he was currently a cat. The mortal should still have better sense than to speak to a god like Loki was a baby or something equally demeaning. 

 

He glared at the man, ears flat against his head and body crouched low, belly tucked out of sight. 

 

Stark just snickered boyishly, eyes lighting with genuine, borderline fond, amusement. 

 

“I know! You’re probably just hungry. Who knows when you ate last. I know I can fall into a foul mood when I forget to eat for hours at a time. Wait here, I’ll go see if I can find something that’s edible for cats.”

 

Without waiting for a reply, not that Loki would have given one besides another hiss for good measure, Stark was off, presumably to the kitchen area of the floor, leaving Loki to ponder what all that was about. Forget to eat? How did a man like Stark forget something as vital as food intake? Didn’t he have people, and his disembodied servant, to remind him? Weird. 

 

The mortal was gone for long minutes, during which time Loki’s fur nearly returned to its normal flatness, but the nervous edge that had risen while watching the projection never truly did go away, magnified threefold by his feline body. He heard footsteps, once again tensing despite himself, and the man plopped down in front of the couch and set a little plate beside him. 

 

“Well,” he began, sounding almost apologetic. “The best I could do is some leftover fish tacos. Cats like fish, right? Maybe not pickled cabbage, but I can scrape that off, I suppose. At least until JARVIS can order something more suitable, this is all I can really think of that cats can even eat. At least, I think cats can eat this. Most of this. I hope so. If I accidentally poison you, I’m pretty sure Nat would “accidentally” poison me in retaliation.” 

 

As he spoke, he scraped breading and strips of some purple vegetable off of the fish, and pushed it to the side of the plate. The scent began to waft to Loki’s corner, and it, unfortunately, smelled good. Really good. His cat senses wanted him to crawl out there and eat the delicious morsels of soft, flaky fish. Which was ridiculous, because Loki wasn’t hungry, and he liked this little corner just fine, alone, and as far away from Stark as he could be, even though the man was making that rather challenging. He ignored the smell. Stark just went on and on, rambling without a care. 

 

“Speaking of Nat — she’s out to talk to Steve, and the rest of the team, by the way — you’re a little ladies’ man, aren’t you? I don’t think I’ve ever seen her so smitten before. Charmer,” he accused lightly, and this time, his grin was unmistakably fond. He ran his hands along his pant legs. “Well? Are you coming out? It’s getting cold.”

 

And Loki’s stomach gave a gurgle that betrayed him. Okay, so maybe he was a bit hungry, but that didn’t mean he was going to sit there and let Stark watch him eat what was left of the mutilated taco, as Stark had called it. There was only so much humiliation Loki was willing to suffer through, and he’d reached his limit already twice over. 

 

Stark held out a hand, not reaching for him this time, but offered, like he was inviting Loki to sniff at it. Loki would do no such thing. He even started making kissing noises and patting the floor beside him, trying to coax Loki out, but Loki stubbornly refused to budge. 

 

Then Stark seemed to wilt. 

 

“Oh,” he said quietly, sounding rather dejected. “I’m probably scaring you, aren’t I?” He laughed, and it was not the good-hearted chuckle of earlier, but a bitter sort of sound. Loki would have had to have been deaf to fail to recognize self-depreciation when he heard it. “Sorry. I’m not trying to bother you, I just-  Sorry. I’ll give you some space.” 

 

The human sounded so miserable, and Loki... Loki actually felt a twinge of sympathy for him. Stark was trying to be nice in the way he knew how, and it was pretty obvious now that he wanted to befriend Loki, and was now beginning to think he’d messed that up. Loki swallowed, not liking the slow, reluctant way Stark clambered to his feet. 

 

Before he fully realized what he was doing, and before Stark could take another step, Loki crawled out from under the couch and tentatively approached the plate. Oh, it truly did smell divine.

 

“Oh,” Stark said again, much softer this time. “Hello there.” 

 

And if Loki chose to ignore the way the man’s lips curled into a tiny smile in favor of eating the fish that tasted just as good as he imagined, well, who was there to know? 

 

Stark settled back down on the floor gingerly as Loki ate. It was awkward, with that sideways manner of chewing that cats had, bits of fish getting caught in his whiskers, but the way Stark’s breathing settled and shoulders relaxed was nearly tangible, and Loki found himself relaxing as well in the curious almost-peace that had sprung up. 

 

“Who knew cats would eat corn tortillas?”

 

Loki nearly jumped when he was touched on his side, but Stark’s fingers were gentle and light as they slid through his fur, as if the man was worried Loki would run and hide away under the couch again. Loki allowed it, because his flank was a bit itchy, and not because he didn’t wish to hurt the mortal’s feelings again, of course. By the time Loki was finished eating, and had cleared the whole plate, Stark was running his hand rhythmically along Loki’s spine and rubbing circles all the way down, like a massage of sorts. Loki sat and folded his tail over his paws, not even aware he was purring loudly. 

 

“Maybe we will be friends after all.”

 

The room was warm, his belly was full, and Stark’s fingers were quite talented, and Loki began to feel content, and very sleepy. He didn’t resist when Stark lifted him and cradled his body against his warm chest, still purring as Stark’s fingers moved to his temples. Oh, that was wonderful! His eyes drifted shut as Stark carried him, and as he fell asleep, he didn’t stop purring, not even when Stark bent forward to place a sweet little kiss right between Loki’s ears.

Chapter Text

Loki woke to the sound of rain on glass and shallow breathing. Warm and heavy with sleep still, he didn't want to lift his head from his paws or uncurl his legs, but the breathing wasn’t his own, and he slowly blinked open his eyes. Blankets and sheets were strewn about messily, hanging off the bed in places. The bed. The mortal’s bed where Loki had just been sleeping. The mortal’s bed where Loki had just been sleeping next to the mortal

 

Much more awake, Loki sat up and glanced around more fully, cursing the limitations of cat head-height. Stark was still asleep, sprawled on his back defenselessly, mouth hanging open, and naked from the waist up. Well, at the very least, naked from the waist up. His lower half was covered by a sheet, and Loki sincerely hoped the man had on those strange Midgardian undergarments at minimum. His hair was disheveled against his pillow, like a half-formed wren’s nest, and there was a bit of dried drool on his chin. Foolish of him, truly, to sleep so deeply while in the presence of one he had called a villain. 

 

Not that he had any way of knowing that Loki wasn’t a cat in actually, and only appeared as such due to reasons he himself wasn’t even sure of. Someone was meddling, and when he figured out who was to blame, well... Loki lifted a paw and flexed it, examining the set of needle sharp claws revealed with something like satisfaction. Perhaps he would make use of them after all. 

 

But for now, he let the claws retreat, and licked at his paw instead. He could hardly fault Stark for sleeping when he himself had fallen asleep, knowing he was in the presence of one who had been his enemy. That was foolish. It took the sting out of his thoughts. No, the mortal man had no idea, as it was, a boon to them both, if easy sleep and an adequate meal were the only corollaries of his naivety. Stark likely hadn’t carried him out of the cold and given him a warm bed if he meant him harm, at least not while he remained a cat. There was no telling what he might do if Loki was in his midst as himself, with horns on his head and daggers instead of claws. He didn’t seem expressly indisposed to Loki, if he would name a cute pet after him, but Loki wasn’t certain he found that to be particularly endearing. 

 

No, there was no conclusion to be drawn, not when it all hung on best guesses and hypotheticals. Stark was a mystery for now, and Loki could not deny his curiosity. 

 

He crawled forward on silent feet, the sheets cool and smooth beneath his paw pads, and stared at the glowing device in Stark’s chest, the thing that had stopped Loki’s scepter like a swath of silk stopping a loosed arrow. As ever, Loki wondered what might have become of them all if it had not done that improbable feat. If he’d been successful taking over Stark’s mind like the Other had intended. He’d prefer being a fluffy kitten in his adversary’s stronghold than finding out the answer. 

 

Without stopping to consider fully what he was doing, he was moving forward to sit on Stark’s chest, glancing between his face, slack with sleep, and the metal circle emitting faint blue light. He reached out, making sure Stark’s eyes were still closed, and tapped it with his paw. 

 

Stark’s eyes flew open and met Loki’s. 

 

“Ahhh!”

 

The man sat upright and Loki scrambled off of him before he could go flying, leaving scratch marks in his wake. 

 

“Shit! Ouch!”

 

He dashed under the bed, heart pounding while Stark got up and walked around the room, footsteps unduly loud and echoey in Loki’s ears. 

 

Loki slunk backward, as far from the man as possible as Stark bent down, settling on his knees beside the bed to look for Loki. 

 

“There you are.” His voice was barely a whisper, his face strangely soft. “I’m sorry, Loki, I didn’t mean to yell. You scared me. I wasn’t expecting to see your big green eyes so close to my face first thing in the morning, that’s all. Well, that and the fact that you were on my chest sort of freaked me out, because the arc reactor, you know. Sort of need that to survive. It’s good for the heart, and all that. I get a little antsy when anything is near it. I’m not really sure what would happen if I got cat hair in there, now that I think about it.”

 

Oh. Loki had not known that. He knew the thing powered the Iron Man armor, and that it was unique among Midgardians to Tony Stark, but he hadn’t realized it was quite that important. And the thing was embedded in the mortal’s chest, protecting his heart, and Loki had stepped on it. Yes. He couldn’t imagine that had felt very good. That would be like someone reaching into Loki and thumping his magic, and that... Loki winced. 

 

“Please come back out?” There was that same sort of internal disparagement from before, when Loki had hidden under the couch, like Stark was blaming himself, even though it had been Loki’s fault, mixed with a touch of hope that made Loki feel somewhat ashamed. He had scared the man, he had scratched him, however inadvertently, and yet Stark was the one on his knees apologizing to him, even though he was a cat who ostensibly wouldn’t understand a word of it. “I’ll bribe you with food again, if that’s what it takes. I think we’ve got a few eggs I can try to cook. Would you eat scrambled eggs? JARVIS said they were okay for cats to eat, although you might not want them once I’ve touched them. I’m not really much of a cook.”

 

It was clear that Stark was the kind of man who needed someone to dote on, to shower with affection, to downright spoil, and for some reason, he wanted that someone to be Loki. Why it was important to him, why he’d gotten so attached to a cat he had only brought home the day before, Loki could only guess at, but... Loki thought of all the nights he had crept out to the stables to sneak apples and oats to his favored palfrey when he was young and troubled and couldn’t sleep; the furry hound pup Odin hadn’t allowed him to keep but who he had coveted regardless, because he had seemed to like Loki even when the other children hadn’t; the people of Midgard he had tried to spare in his own twisted way, the best he could do at the time. And... he thought he sort of understood. 

 

“You can cuddle me if you want. I promise I won’t throw you off of me again. It was an accident, I really don’t mind.”

 

And when Stark spoke again, Loki realized he had been thinking for too long, leaving Stark worrying and, if he was anything like Loki, hating himself because he couldn’t even win the artless love of a small creature, let alone that of another person. 

 

So Loki crawled forward, with no need for expiation, and butted his head against Tony’s outstretched hand, watching the wonder and soft contentment spread on his face and feeling himself strangely comforted. 

Chapter Text

Tony Stark couldn’t have denied having a heart in that moment, because he was sure he felt the distinct sensation of it melting just then, when Loki rubbed his little whiskery cheek against Tony’s hand with a chirp. It was the first contact the cat had initiated, and it was precious. In fact, it more than made up for the discomfort of laying face down on his bedroom floor — the carpet was opulent and cushy, of course, but he wasn’t as young as he used to be, and it wasn’t the most agreeable place for his knees and elbows, and he was working up a nice crick in his neck from craning it to see under the bed frame — with nothing but his sleep pants on. 

  

He liked having the cat around. For some reason, it gave him something to focus on, to distract him from thinking about his breakup with Pepper, about his continuing anxiety and nightmares about nuclear bombs and trips into the dark depths of space, the emptiness of it so complete it was overwhelming. Come to think of it, he had slept pretty well last night, with the sounds of purring and little high-pitched kitty snores to ground him, a soothing warmth by his side. He hadn’t planned on letting the cat sleep in his bed — and likely, he would regret it thoroughly when he rolled over one night and found himself with his face in a pile of cat hair an inch thick — but... Loki had just looked so comfortable and snug in his arms, and then among the covers when Tony had set him down gently so as to not wake him, and he just couldn’t deny the little guy some decadence. Not after how rough his life on the streets must have been. The cat was heavy, but thin, even with the thick ruff of fur around his neck and shoulders. It made him look young, like he was just outgrowing the vestiges of kittenhood. And he’d eaten all the food Tony had given him, even the cabbage and tortilla, which didn’t seem like something a cat would eat unless he was half-starved and possibly still doing some growing. 

 

Loki came out from under the bed and leaned against Tony, purring quietly and tickling Tony’s sides with his fur. Tony sat up and crossed his legs, smiling down at his cat, who sat in front of him and meowed, before pushing his head against Tony’s hand again, as if demanding to be scratched behind the ears. 

 

Tony laughed, delight and soft affection bubbling up, and proceeded to do just that. Just like that, he was in a better mood than when he had woken, already forgiven for startling poor Loki out of his skin. The scratches didn’t even sting too badly, and, honestly, he probably deserved them. But his little cat liked him anyway, and it... it was a good feeling. People talked all the time about the unconditional love of dogs, but it seemed Tony was learning that cats, too, possessed some manner of easy sweetness for those that had been granted their favor. And for some reason, Loki had decided Tony was worthy of it. 

 

He stood up, and lifted Loki into his arms as he did so. The cat squirmed in his hold, and Tony loosened his grip, instantly feeling bad. He was going to set Loki down and apologize for picking him up when he clearly didn’t want to be held, and once more doing something that he didn’t like, but Loki surprised him by clambering up onto his shoulder and perching there like some kind of songbird that had mistaken him for a fairytale princess. 

 

“Hello, sunshine,” he murmured pleasantly, trying to keep his back straight so he wouldn’t accidentally tip Loki off. He brought a hand up to steady the cat, who just hunkered down and seemed not to mind the motion of Tony walking. He grabbed a tank top with his free hand and made his way to the door, enjoying the warm weight of his new friend against his neck and chin. 

 

“Breakfast then? It’s a much nicer way to start the morning than earlier was, especially if I can convince one of the others to do the cooking. It’s a shame cats can’t drink coffee, because you’d like it otherwise. Black, with no sugar, I'd imagine. Oh, but cats like milk, don’t they? So maybe you’d want it with lots of cream. Or maybe you’d just want the cream and no coffee, right? That’s it, huh? Bet you’ve always dreamed of being a pampered little prince, haven’t you? Much better than cold sidewalks and hiding behind dumpsters, I’m sure.”

 

Tony, as was his wont, carried on talking a mile a minute, all the way down the elevator ride and to the kitchen on the common floor, Loki on one shoulder and his shirt slung over the other. Loki, of course, being a cat, didn’t seem to be listening to a word of it, but was dozing lightly to the steady sound of Tony’s voice. 

 

That is, until Tony stepped into the kitchen and realized, coming up from a yawn, that he wasn’t alone. 

 

“Morning, Tony. There’s eggs and sausage on the stove keeping warm. And put on a shirt, would yo- is that a cat?”

 

“Shirt’s right here, Rogers,” he said, gesturing to the black tank top. “And yes, cat’s the reason I’m not wearing it — he was there first.”

 

He turned on a dime and made his way to where Steve was sitting at the table with a mug of coffee in hand, eyebrows raised in incredulity. 

 

“Rogers, meet Loki, Loki this is the man, the myth, the all-American legend, Captain Steve.”

 

Steve lowered his mug to the table with a dull thunk, and closed his mouth. 

 

“I do hope that’s just one example of your world famous naming skills, and that you don’t mean that that’s the actual Loki.”

 

Tony scoffed, plucking Loki from his shoulder to hold him out like he was Rafiki displaying Simba to the whole lion kingdom, or in this case, Steve and his half eaten breakfast. 

 

“This guy? This little dust bunny? This harmless little scrap of fur? Do you really think he’s capable of leading an alien invasion? Which, by the way, we really need to talk about, as I’m sure Nat has mentioned. Also, it hurts me when you mock my lovingly selected nicknames. Those come from the heart, you know.”

 

Steve ignored most of that and eyed his chest with something like displeasure — which, rude. It was a perfectly adequate chest, even if they couldn’t all be meticulously sculpted super soldier jocks, thank you very much — and then looked back at Lokitty, who had long since stopped purring, but was otherwise quiet and docile. 

 

“Tony, you’re covered in scratches, obviously the cat isn’t as harmless as you say. Have you even cleaned those? You don’t want them getting infected, do you?”

 

“These?” Tony said, having completely forgotten about the tiny little hairline scratches. “There was a bit of a misunderstanding, that’s all. Honestly, you’re worse than Nat. I should have known you’d be a dog person,” he mumbled. 

 

Steve just sighed in that extremely disappointed way he had, which usually preluded a lecture Tony had no interest in hearing and doubtlessly wouldn’t heed. And, if he was completely honest with himself, it rankled beyond just having his ears talked off, and managed to strike a nerve Tony had tried to bury every single time. This time was no different, and, unconsciously, Tony hugged Loki to his chest as he braced himself for yet again being such a letdown. 

 

Steve stood up and walked closer. 

 

“Look, Tony,” he began, but he didn’t get much farther then that, because when he next opened his mouth, he was interrupted. 

 

“Meow,” said Loki.

 

They both looked at him a moment, brows furrowed in confusion, but he was calmly being held and didn’t seem to need anything. 

 

“Tony, you-“

 

“Meow, meow,” Loki insisted, deciding he was going to be quite chatty all of a sudden. 

 

“As I was saying, you really need to-“

 

“Meow!”

 

This time, the cat was very emphatic, and loud enough to make Steve frown. 

 

“Never mind.” He sighed again and sat back down. 

 

Loki purred, looking for all the world like a smug little devil, and Tony decided then and there that he loved cats. 

Chapter Text

“Who’s a good boy? Who’s such a good little darling boy?” Tony was cooing, and it was rather humiliating, but... adulation was adulation, and a god turned cat would take what he could get. Besides, the mortal was in the process of giving him a thorough and fantastic head rub, and it was hard to hear him anyway over top of his own purring. “Truly, you are my hero, sunshine, telling Steve off like that. Couldn’t have said it better myself.”

 

Tony had listened to the Captain and washed out his scratches, and donned a shirt, which Loki had approved of. If he had shown said approval by weaving between the man’s legs and brushing against him with his sides, well, that was just the cat equivalent of ‘thank you for not being an utter fool.’ 

 

Loki was lounging in Tony’s lap, in the sort of elegant sprawl that only cats — and Loki — were capable of, being worshipped as he frankly deserved. As demeaning as being stuck in the form of a cat was, especially since he could not figure out a way to undo it with his own magic, Stark Tower and all its furnishings was a much nicer place than his cell in Asgard’s dungeons. It was good to be able to walk around as he pleased, to eat food more substantial than soup — even if eggs cooked in butter and left to dry out on the stove wasn’t particularly extravagant fare — and to see more than just a few stacks of books and the staticky haze that barred him inside, locked away like any common thief to pace away his days with comforts his mother allowed few and far between. Here, his wants as a feline were fewer in number and easier to fulfill, and despite still being himself within, it was easy to fall into a pleasant blur of satisfaction and idle enjoyment. 

 

And, much as Loki didn’t like having to admit to it, didn’t like thinking of why it was so, he could not deny that the physical affection was something he was sorely missing, even beyond his freedom and indulgences and princely regard; he had tasted those things, had known them all his life, alongside solitude which, though not quite as total and deeply felt as it had become in his cage, had ever been familiar as his own shadow, and followed him as such. He was, simply put, not accustomed to any friendly touch beyond that of his mother, and Thor when he was in a tactile mood. His life had been one lacking in that regard, and to receive it in abundance, for no reason other than that the mortal seemed to need to love as much as Loki needed to be loved was becoming addicting at a rate that was dangerous. It lead to things like willingly being doted on as a treasured pet, despite the blow to his pride, because it was more than good, it was a necessity he’d been starved of. 

 

But Tony did not know, could not know, that his name choice had been beyond apt. And so Loki closed his eyes and focused on the fingers running over his head and smoothing down his fur, curling behind his ears and under his jaw, enjoying it like any real cat would, instead of thinking about all those other things. He could pretend for just one moment. 

 

“What a ball of love you’re turning out to be,” his mortal murmured to him, tracing his whiskers and the bridge of his nose. “Who knew it was that easy, huh? All you needed was a place to stay, some food, and lots of noggin scratches. Good thing I was there to bring you home, isn’t it? You and me both. Never thought I’d end up getting a cat, but, between you and me, I’m glad I found you. You're a good little guy, you know?”

 

Loki wasn’t, not really, but Tony would not know that either. 

 

Tony stirred, and Loki opened an eye in disgruntlement at the lack of petting he was receiving. 

 

“Sorry, Loki, bud, as much as I like this and could get used to having you around, I’ve got work to do, and I’ve gotta get up, go to my lab. You can come with me, but you can’t get into anything. You look kind of like you’re ready for another nap anyway, so maybe you won’t cause trouble or get hurt or anything. But if you can’t behave, I’ll have to boot you out, okay? You’ll have to spend the day with Nat, or worse, Steve. But I wouldn’t mind the company, not at all. I could use a lab partner.”

 

Tony picked Loki up and held him to his shoulder, giving him a boost to climb up to what was turning out to be a much better vantage point than walking on his own four feet, and it was less awkward than being cradled like a baby in the man’s arms. He crouched on Tony’s shoulder and let his long tail hang down for balance, leaning against the mortal’s neck on one side. Like that, the man’s chin nearly rested on his head, but he felt steady, and together, they went down to the lab. 

 

The room was a wide open and chaotic space that appealed to Loki both as a god and as a cat, with clutter everywhere in a seemingly random spread, but, if Loki had to take a guess, his mortal probably knew where everything was as easily as if the place was orderly and coordinated. Sure enough, Tony made his way to what was clearly a well-used chair, and picked up several tools out of the disarray straight away and set about using them, like he was continuing right from where he’d left off with no interruption between. Then he stilled, and reached a hand up to touch Loki’s side. 

 

“You might be better off sleeping on the couch, you know. I don’t want you to take a tumble and hurt yourself if you stay there, and the couch is more comfortable anyway. I’ve slept there plenty of times myself, I should know.”

 

And that was another of his mortal’s strange habits that Loki didn’t quite understand. The man had a bed, a lovely one at that, and he would prefer to spend some nights on a couch? 

 

But as it was, Tony’s body heat was seeping into Loki’s fur, warming him all the way through, and he didn’t want to move. Instead, he curled around his mortal’s neck, spreading his slight weight between both shoulders, and buried his nose in the man’s soft hair. 

 

Warm, cozy, and secure, he purred, and Tony turned his face to nuzzle against Loki’s fur, for a long moment just staying that way. His breathing was a little uneven, like he was oddly choked up, and Loki didn’t know what he had done that the man seemed so touched by, but he was a benevolent god, when he wanted to be, and he was glad he had helped his mortal in some small way. 

 

Chapter Text

The elevator chimed as if from a distance, and Tony didn’t look up from his project. The only other member of the team allowed in the lab during non-emergencies was Bruce, and since JARVIS hadn’t sounded the alarm, he, distantly, knew it was the scientist. But he was too distracted by his work and the coziness of a sleeping cat impersonating a scarf to do much more than grunt in greeting. 

 

“You know, only assholes wear fur,” Bruce said in his quiet voice, but there was a sharp humor there that Tony had quickly come to appreciate. 

 

“Tell him that,” he said, gesturing with an oil-coated hand to his resident shawl. 

 

The motion woke Loki, who yawned hugely with a tiny mrrrip sound, which may or may not have made Tony’s eyes go a bit gooey. His whiskers tickled Tony’s beard, making his cheek twitch. Then the cat went very, very still, his little paws tensed like he was ready to spring at any moment. He was eyeing Bruce warily, as if Bruce of all people would lay a finger on him. 

 

“Hey, what’s wrong, buddy? It’s just Bruce. He’s nice. He likes cats. I think?”

 

He looked at Bruce to confirm, who gave a sheepish grin. 

 

“They tend to make me sneeze, but yeah, they’re cute.” He turned his attention on Loki and held out his fingers, slowly so as not to further startle the obviously frightened cat. “Hello,” he said softly. 

 

But Loki backed away from him, much like he’d backed away from Tony, only this time, he didn’t hide under a sofa or a bed, but crept into Tony’s lap, beneath the table, and pressed himself as closely as possible to Tony’s stomach, as if sheltering there. He looked like little more than a ball of fur, shrunk in on himself and seeming impossibly tiny, ears flat and pupils wide within the bright green of his eyes. 

 

Immediately, and without thought, Tony wrapped his arms around his cat and held him tightly, trying to comfort and protect him, even though he knew Bruce was not a threat. Loki seemed to think he was, and, in an overwhelming display of trust, had decided Tony was his shelter and would keep him from being hurt. 

 

“It’s okay, Lo, Bruce isn’t gonna get you, I’ve got you, you’re safe.” On some level, he was aware that the cat couldn’t actually understand him, but he hoped talking in a calm, soothing tone would help. “Look, he’s backing away, no harm done, alright?”

 

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to scare him.”

 

Bruce folded his hands behind his back, lips pressed together and clearly unhappy. 

 

“He’s just skittish, don’t take it personally,” Tony said, even though he knew that Bruce had done just that. 

 

“He seems to like you just fine.”

 

Tony shrugged, or tried to as best he could with his arms awkwardly holding a cat against his abdomen. 

 

“Yeah, well, he knows who his meal ticket is. Trust me, he hid from me for hours when I first brought him home. You’re not any scarier than I am. Although, he seemed fine around Nat, and if anyone is scary, it’s her.”

 

“I’m not sure it’s me he’s scared of.” Bruce fiddled with his glasses, pushing them further onto his face. “Maybe he can sense the other guy.”

 

Tony frowned in thought. It seemed unlikely, but... sometimes pets could be perceptive to an almost uncanny extent, right? Or at least, people’s stories seemed to suggest as much, whether or not they were exaggerated to hell and back was a different matter. But Loki had started trembling, and not in the happy purry kind of way, and it was an awful feeling. The cat was breathing too quickly, and he seemed, strangely, like he was having an anxiety attack. Could cats even have anxiety? Maybe he had been kicked around by someone who looked a bit like Bruce. Maybe that was how a fairly tame cat like Loki had ended up on the streets to begin with. Tony’s heart hurt thinking about his little guy being abused. Well, he certainly would not endure anything of the sort ever again, Tony would make sure of it. 

 

“Who knows. Maybe you just smell like something he doesn’t like. Pet any dogs lately?”

 

Bruce shook his head. Tony wasn’t going to be able to talk him out of believing that it was Hulk responsible for Loki’s terror, nor that that made it somehow his fault. 

 

“I’ll go. Whatever it is, I’m clearly making it worse being here.”

 

He turned, with a last apologetic glance at Loki, and headed back toward the exit. 

 

“Wait,” said Tony, because he didn’t like his friend being upset any more than his cat. Besides, Bruce had come down for a reason. “Did you need something?”

 

“Nothing that’s worth scaring your little...” He frowned. “What’s his name?”

 

Despite it all, Tony’s lips quirked just slightly, because telling the other Avengers that he had named his cat after public enemy number one was always amusing. 

 

“Loki.”

 

“Loki.” Bruce sighed. “Figures. Bag of cats, right?”

 

And with that, he stepped out, and Tony was left alone with his shaking, wheezing little kitty. 

 

He didn’t know what to do. Did he call a vet? Would Loki snap out of it eventually, especially now that Bruce was gone? Would attempting to pet him calm him down, or freak him out worse?

 

Tony decided to try something that helped him when he was panicking. 

 

“Breathe, Loki, please breathe. In and out.” He ran a hand down Loki’s flank, feeling the rapid inhales and trying to ease them into something a little less jittery. He kept his palm flat against Loki’s fur, smoothing it down with long, slow strokes, with a moderately firm pressure, keeping a steady rhythm as he began to rattle off a meaningless spiel of the weather, and his favorite Thai place a few blocks away, what each of the tools in front of him where used for, and so on and so forth, feeling a bit awkward, and more than a little appreciative of JARVIS. 

 

But the weirdest part was that... it seemed to work. Somewhere between the gentle petting and the placid background noise of Tony’s voice, Loki began to breathe at a normal rate, the tension in his little spine uncoiling and the shaking subsiding. He slumped over in Tony’s lap, eyes drooping. Tony shifted Loki up so he was cradling him, letting the cat rest in a more comfortable position. 

 

To his surprise, Loki gave a very quiet, very small meow, and brushed Tony’s cheek with his own before snuggling his head down in the crook of Tony’s neck and closing his eyes, trusting Tony enough to sleep in his arms. 

 

If Tony didn’t know better, he’d say the little cat was thanking him, in his own little kitty way, but that was ridiculous. Right? 

 

At any rate, it was impossible to get any work done when he was holding a warm, clingy, exhausted Loki, so Tony just sat back in his chair, held his cat a little tighter, and settled in for a while. 

Chapter Text

Loki stirred, stretching his paws and letting them knead against a warm, soft surface. He was wrapped in something, like a swaddled infant, and it took him a moment to realize it was a blanket, and it was also draped over Tony’s shoulders, as if the man had gotten cold and huddled into the thin material and bundled Loki up as well. 

 

Tony stood from his work chair, keeping his movements slow and careful, and Loki realized that he wasn’t aware Loki had woken, and was trying to keep from waking him. It was... unexpectedly thoughtful, and more compassion than would normally be bestowed on a cat, Loki or otherwise, and certainly more than Loki deserved. 

  

He was humming softly and occasionally mumbling words under his breath, and the tune wasn’t anywhere close to a lullaby, but the sensation of being carried, held close and sung to, was something Loki hadn’t experienced in so long, he had nearly forgotten what it was like. He recalled his mother holding him like that, when he was very young indeed, and small enough to fit in her arms, along with that remembered feeling of safety and uncomplicated comfort. It was different in many ways, since Loki was not a child, and was a cat, and Stark was certainly not his mother, but it was similar enough that those same feelings were starting to wiggle their way in. And as much as Loki would never admit it to anyone, on pain worse than death, it was nice, being cared for, genuinely and effortlessly, with no ulterior motive, no expectation from his side hanging over him. 

 

Tony walked around the lab, tiptoeing over bits of metal and spare parts, and toward the elevator. Loki nestled back down against him, feeling the man’s chest vibrate slightly as he hummed, almost like a purr. It was soothing, in a way that must have resonated with his cat instincts, because it was otherwise rough and tuneless. But Tony was warm, and smelled nice, and Loki hadn’t slept that well in a long time. 

 

And the mortal had comforted him when he was scared, reassured him and helped him breathe, even though it was ridiculous for him to feel that level of fear, even though it was directed at the man’s friend, even though he had no reason to do so. Loki had well and truly been panicking, gripped by terror he had not expected. He knew Banner would not hurt him, would have no reason to harm a cat, but still, the memory lingered of the green beast, the pain and horror as his body had broken beneath the Hulk’s enormous hands. Not being able to breathe, not being able to move, reliving that moment was... intense, and every manner of horrible, and absolutely overwhelming, too much, far too much for a tiny cat body. Tony had helped him, for no other reason than that he was a kind man, beyond even what Loki had been learning to expect since becoming a cat in the first place. And Loki... Loki began to purr. 

 

Tony paused, the humming stopping, and then he pulled the blanket around them both even tighter. 

 

“Hey, sleepyhead,” he whispered, a smile evident in his voice. “Feeling better? You sound better. I’m glad to hear it. You had me worried for a second. I’m sorry Bruce scared you so badly. He didn’t mean to, but I know sometimes things just freak you out, huh?” And he didn’t sound like he was talking about Loki specifically freaking out, but more like a general relatability. More like something he understood. “I know what that’s like. It’s not fun. But purring is a good sign, right? You seem comfy.”

 

Loki yawned, face splitting to reveal his pointy little teeth, and swallowed, shaking off the cobwebs of sleepiness. 

 

“You cannot still be tired, can you? I know cats sleep a lot, but you just napped for over an hour! Besides, I’ve got something to show you.”

 

Before long, they were back in the penthouse, and Tony walked into his bedroom, where Loki most assuredly did not mip unhappily at being set down. He sat next to Tony’s feet and looked around. 

 

“Whaddya think?” asked Tony, and he sounded equal parts proud and nervous. It should have been ridiculous that he was trying to impress a cat, it was ridiculous. And yet, Loki couldn’t help but think that it was just a tiny bit endearing as well. The man really had gone all out. 

 

All along one wall was a tower of sorts, made of boxes and platforms covered in plush-looking carpet, obviously intended for a cat to climb on and lounge, or survey their surroundings from above, as was the wont of cats. There was an upright pillar next to it made of some material that looked a bit like tree bark, and made Loki’s claws itch to sink into it.  In one corner was a large double-doored cabinet that looked like human furniture at first glance; then Loki saw the cat-sized hole in the side of it, nearly hidden. 

 

Loki, drawn by the lure of curiosity, crept closer, extending his head to sniff at it — cat instincts — and take a peek inside. There was an open box filled with...  pebbles? But they looked too soft and even to be true rocks. What was the purpose of this- Oh. Oh, Loki thought he did know. Well. That was just demeaning. But... there did not seem any alternative, since he could not well use the facilities intended for people whilst in this form. 

 

He turned back around, and sat primly beside the cabinet and looked at Tony. 

 

“Go on,” said Tony, so earnest as to be condescending, and Loki’s tail flicked in irritation. 

 

“Meow,” he said, by which he really meant, “If I have to squat in a box, may I please have some privacy so I can cling to the remainders of my dignity for one last moment,” but he wasn’t sure how well it translated. He just continued to stare, hoping Tony would figure it out. 

 

“Oh. Okay. Well, I’ll leave you to it.” 

 

He walked off toward what may have been a closet, and once his back was turned, Loki crawled shamefully into the box. 

 

When he was finished, his skin hot and prickly with humiliation, he strode into the room with his tail and chin high. He was acutely aware that he was bluffing, and compensating for the horror of the cat toilet, but, well, if he couldn’t pretend, then he wouldn’t be able to bear repeating that, and he didn’t know how long it would be necessary. Best to get it out of his mind, and think about it as infrequently as possible. 

 

Tony had donned a sweatshirt, which looked a bit baggy on him, meant for someone a little taller, a little longer in the arms, the sleeves rolled up out of the way. Though the garment was weirdly formless in the way Midgardian leisure attire tended to be, it looked comfortable, and would keep the mortal warm without having to clutch a blanket at all times. 

 

He was sitting on his bed, looking over something or other on one of his various devices, and Loki hopped up next to him. Truth be told, he was still feeling a little vulnerable and raw from earlier, and the man’s company seemed to help. Again, cat instincts. 

 

Tony looked up and frowned. 

 

“No, you’re not supposed to be on the bed.”

 

Loki stepped toward him and stared up at Tony with big, wide eyes. 

 

“There’s a whole tower over there for you to sleep on and explore, without shedding all over the sheets,” Tony reasoned. 

 

Loki just settled himself down on a pillow at the man’s side and began to purr. He even rolled onto his back, holding his paws over his belly just so, because Loki would not be Loki if he couldn’t do charming, even as a cat. Although, by the way the mortal’s face softened, he realized maybe it was more on the ‘heart-wrenchingly adorable’ side of things, but he could work with that. 

 

“Loki...” Tony tried again, and Loki was sure it was a valiant attempt, but he could tell his resolve was weakening. 

 

Loki let out a truly pitiful mew, and blinked innocently at his mortal, and he knew his victory was sealed. 

 

Tony sighed. 

 

“Fine. You can stay. No need to be manipulative,” he grumbled, but belied the harshness of the words by reaching a hand out to stroke Loki’s ears just the way he liked. 

 

Loki, for his part, was not acting when his purr grew even louder. 

Chapter Text

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?’ 

 

Traitor. 

 

“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.”

 

Tony grinned. 

 

“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. 

Chapter Text

When Loki woke, he was cold, and he saw that Tony was not in bed anymore. He had gotten up at some point, while Loki still slept, and had discarded his sweatshirt, which he seemed to wear often, on the bed. Loki stretched, wondering where his mortal might have gone, and hopped lightly down to the floor. 

 

His first thought was the kitchen, since Tony seemed to drink coffee first thing every morning, sometimes even before cleaning his teeth or showering. Occasionally, he even ate breakfast, and shared whatever he was having with Loki, if Loki was also up. Loki had especially enjoyed it the one time when Steve had decided the Avengers were going to have bagels and lox for breakfast. Tony hadn’t been too keen on the idea, which meant that Loki received an ample portion of the fish, along with cream cheese, which he found he really enjoyed. Tony seemed to also like feeding him, always amused by Loki’s reactions, be they thorough enjoyment or profound disgust. He’d tried all kinds of things, such as waffles, omelettes (which had been fine aside from something green and wilted within them, which had been rather horrid), several kinds of bacon, buttered toast, oatmeal (neither his favorite, nor Tony’s; Bruce had been at fault for that), and on one notable and awful occasion, some of what Tony had called a “smoothie” but had tasted more of pond sludge than anything. Loki had been tempted to be mad at him, but Tony’s absolutely horrified face at Loki’s reaction had been almost sweet, as was the way he had immediately apologized and cradled Loki close, as if to soothe away the foul tase, and he hadn’t been able to stay truly angry when it had so clearly been an accident. Tony had not laughed that time. 

 

Now, however, the kitchen was empty, or nearly so. On second glance, Natasha was sitting, still as a statue, in one of the chairs that encircled the table, occasionally lifting bites of cereal to her mouth in total silence. Loki liked her, quite a bit, and he would blame being a cat for at least half of it: she too was light and nimble on her feet, her footsteps as soundless as his own, and she had poise and dignity not unlike that of many cats. She also had bright green eyes, the eyes of a cat, revealing nothing, the same look cast upon a moth or a monster. 

 

He trotted over to her, and trilled. She seemed surprised, but pleased, and bent down to pick him up. Being held by her wasn’t nearly so nice as being held by Tony, who was warmer, broader, and seemed to radiate ease and affection. 

 

Natasha was friendly enough, and seemed to genuinely like Loki, and, well, her nails were so much better at scratching than Tony’s blunter ones, but he could hardly fault his mortal for that. She held him a moment, petting him all along his back, before setting him on the table. Loki sat, and watched her eat her cereal. 

 

“Meow.”

 

“What?” She looked at him, good humored. 

 

“Meow.”

 

“Sorry, Loki, but I’m not going to share my cereal with you. I don’t think it’s very good for cats.”

 

As if that wasn’t just a convenient excuse for her to be stingy. Besides, that’s not what he was asking, anyway.  

 

“Meow?” he tried again. 

 

“Mmhmm. I know you have Tony wrapped around your paw, but I’m not going to give you something that will upset your tummy, no matter how cute you are.”

 

Loki’s ears twitched, mildly miffed. Must they all treat him like an infant? She rubbed his head, however, and he reluctantly tolerated it. 

 

There was a glass of something orange on the table, and Loki, too curious to stop himself, stuck his head in the rim and sniffed. 

 

Immediately, he pulled back, offended, and swiped at his nose with his paw. That was vile! How could a sensible woman like Natasha drink something like that? 

 

She giggled, actually giggled, at Loki’s reaction, and moved the drink away from him. 

 

Loki sneezed, and decided he was done there. If she could not tell him where his mortal had gone, he’d find out some other way. 

 

His next thought was to try the lab, since that was where Tony spent nearly all of his free time. However, getting there was a challenge. Normally, he was carried there and back on Tony’s shoulders, and hardly had to consider anything more than balancing and leaning against the man, but now, when he approached the elevator, it did not open for him without Tony as well. It was frustrating. He twitched his tail impatiently, sitting before the metal door and waiting. He even meowed at JARVIS, but the AI seemed not to notice that Loki was speaking to him, or perhaps simply wouldn’t allow Loki access without Tony’s permission. Well. 

 

Loki stalked off, back to the bedroom, claws pricking against the floor and ears laid back in irritation. He jumped up on the bed, because he didn’t really know where else to go, and he wanted to take a nap — and it certainly was a nap, and not a sulk. He was heading toward his favorite pillow, the optimal nap spot in his opinion, the fluff level just right for his cat body, when he caught sight of the abandoned sweatshirt still laying haphazardly on the bed. He crawled toward it. 

 

It still smelled like Tony, the scent only just starting to turn stale, and Loki’s tail drooped just a bit. He didn’t, he didn’t miss the stupid mortal, he didn’t! That would be ridiculous. He liked the man, yes, even he would admit it, and enjoyed their time together despite being stuck as a cat, but he wasn’t attached to the human. He was merely upset, because Tony had left him behind, and he could not go to him — which was a very rude thing to do, Loki thought morosely. He hadn’t even said goodbye, and now Loki didn’t know where he was. He certainly did not need comfort, didn’t wish the man was there and not just the scent of him, available to run his fingers though Loki’s fur and find all the right places to scratch. 

 

He curled up on the sweatshirt, but only because it looked warm, and if he was lucky, he’d shed all over it and Tony wouldn’t be able to forget him so easily when he had to deal with constant cat hair everywhere. Yes, it was revenge, sweet and simple, and nothing more. Loki yawned, beginning to feel his eyes get heavy, and as he drifted off to sleep, he hoped, though he would never admit to it, that when he woke, his mortal would be back with him.