When Loki appeared, everyone dove for a weapon except Tony. Partly because there was no way he could reach his suit in time, and partly because the last time he'd seen Loki their verbal fencing had gotten a little out of hand and unexpectedly naked, and he kind of wanted to see how this played out.
Also, Loki was holding a potted plant, and really, that just raised so many questions.
"Housewarming gift?" Tony suggested. He batted his eyes. "Darling, you shouldn't have."
"You," Loki said, in a tone of great resentment, which frankly Tony was quite used to from his one-night-stands. But then Loki put the potted plant on the kitchen counter and continued, "I have enough children. This one is yours." And then he fucking vanished.
Well, that was weird.
"Did he just say children?" Tony said uneasily. Not from any real concern - he hadn't been that bad at biology, thank you - but just because 'children' was a word he hated to associate with people he'd slept with. It was the principle of the thing.
"Is that thing going to explode?" Clint said, keeping his bow up.
And Thor walked up to the plant, inexplicably patted it, and beamed. "Welcome, nephew!"
"Um, Thor." Tony rubbed the back of his neck, not sure how to put this. "That's a houseplant. In a pot."
"It's a coleus," Steve said helpfully, and Tony made a mental note to tease him about that later.
Thor laughed. "It is far from the strangest thing my brother has given birth to! Why, I recall - but nay, that story is not mine to tell."
"Excuse me, did you just say your brother has given birth." This whole conversation was rapidly giving Tony a headache, and then it got worse because Steve sucked in a breath and turned to him with an absolutely horrified and appalled expression.
"You slept with Loki?!"
Well, shit. Tony took a breath, mentally sorting through his options. He'd been drunk? Loki had put some kind of spell on him? He'd been drunk and Loki had put some kind of spell on him?
"Nay, my friend," Thor said cheerfully, coming over to clap Steve on the shoulder. "Loki's magics are powerful and at times escape his control. Just as his children are often... unusual, so too is the manner of their conception." He peered over at Tony, looking concerned. "He did not eat any part of you, did he?"
Tony choked momentarily on a vivid memory of Loki's mouth on his dick, those sly green eyes gleaming up at him. "Ah... no. Nope. Definitely not."
"No matter. There is no way to know what caused this." Thor looked around at them. "My friends, this is a joyous occasion!"
Steve smiled hesitantly. Clint looked as doubtful as Tony felt, but he lowered his bow. Natasha was - actually, Natasha was looking at Tony with a deeply suspicious expression, and Tony immediately straightened up and did his best to look like someone who had never had sex with Loki. And definitely not really fucking awesome, hair-pulling, neck-biting, back-scratching sex with Loki on the kitchen counter.
Huh. The same kitchen counter the potted plant was sitting on. Tony wondered if that was on purpose.
"Okay," he said, aiming to project confidence and nonchalance. "So who wants a possibly-evil houseplant?"
Thor looked scandalized. "You cannot simply give away your child!"
"You mean, like your brother just did?"
"To the father! It is entirely different." Thor frowned at him, deeply disapproving and somehow it actually made Tony feel a little bit guilty. Goddammit.
"Look," he tried again. "It's for the best. I'm not really good with plants. Or living things in general, really. If Loki gives birth to a robot or a toy car or something, then sure, I'm your guy, but--"
Natasha snorted. She picked up the houseplant, walked over, and shoved it at his chest. Tony's arms came up around it instinctively. "Man up," she said. "Dad."
Tony blanched. "I need to call Pepper," he said, shifting the plant to one hand so he could dig out his cellphone. Why did it have to be a plant? Oh god, was this because of all the chlorophyll he drank when he'd had palladium poisoning?
"Put her on speaker," Clint suggested. "I want to hear how she reacts when you tell her you're holding your and Loki's lovechild."
Tony stopped and put his cellphone away again. "I hate you all," he said bitterly.
Thor seemed to understand that as his surrender, and beamed again, throwing his hands out expansively. "This calls for celebration!"
Parenting a houseplant turned out to not be too bad. With Steve's identification of it, Tony was able to delegate all the research to Jarvis and just get beeped with reminders. Give Cole three ounces of water. Turn Cole so his other side got some sun. Check Cole's soil wasn't too dry. And frankly Tony thought the plant actually looked quite good; large green leaves marked with veins in a deep, rich purple. Obviously any kid of his was going to be good-looking, but it was nice to know that his stellar genetics even crossed species barriers.
He wasn't sure if the (possibly evil, possibly magical) plant could understand him but he found himself talking to it just in case. Even if that consisted of eighty percent 'things I'm thinking of designing' and twenty percent 'your mother is a complete asshole'.
Loki, unsurprisingly, continued to be a complete asshole. It was really hard to fight someone who was smirking at you and asking how your mutual son was faring. (Tony also wasn't sure how Thor and Loki had both come to the conclusion that the plant was a boy, but he could roll with it.) He had this secret nightmare that one day he would have to come home, get on his knees in front of the plant, and tell Cole that his mother was dead at their hands.
He had another secret nightmare that one day this would all seem normal to him.
Time passed. Jarvis let him know that he should get Cole a bigger pot. Tony went to the garden store, looked through their entire selection, and rejected every one of them. He went back home and locked himself in the workshop, and didn't come out until he had designed the perfect plant pot. And then he painted it red.
"It's kind of like your first day of school," he told Cole while he tipped a little soil into the new pot. He'd never repotted a plant before but it couldn't be that hard. "Big day. Big step. They grow up so fast."
He grasped the plant right where it emerged from the soil, carefully working it out of the old pot. He could see where the roots had hit the side of the pot and curved round; definitely time for more space. He put Cole in the new pot and held him in place with one hand while he tipped extra soil in with the other. "That's going to feel so much better. Lots of space for your roots so you can grow up big and strong. How big are you going to grow, anyway? Jarvis?"
"This particular variety should grow to approximately two feet tall, sir."
"Huh," Tony said. He patted down the soil he'd added, then patted Cole. "Hear that, buddy? Big and strong."
He wiped his hands off on his pants, ignoring the dark streaks of dirt it left behind, then picked up the old pot and got to his feet. No need for this anymore, he may as well throw it out - was that a sticker on the bottom of it?
Solenostemon 'Fishnet Stockings' said the sticker, with a price, and a barcode, and Tony stared at it for a long moment as it sank in.
It came from a store. Loki had bought it from a store. Or stolen it from a store, more likely.
It came from a store.
"You son of a bitch," he said out loud, and threw the empty pot at the wall. It broke into a satisfying number of pieces of ugly green plastic.
Behind him, somebody started to laugh.
Tony turned around and glared. Loki was lounging on his bed - Tony's bed! - hands behind his head, long legs crossed at the ankles. And laughing. "This isn't funny!"
"Oh, I beg to differ," Loki drawled. "The look on your face alone is extremely funny. Add in the six months you've been caring for that plant as though it were your child..." He shook his head, laughing harder.
Tony advanced on him furiously. "I am going to kick your ass so hard--"
Loki vanished, and then his voice whispered in Tony's ear from behind, "Oh, please do."
Goddamn teleporting bastard. Tony started to turn, then Loki grabbed his arm and tumbled them both onto the bed. Tony growled, rolling them over, getting on top. He grabbed Loki's wrists and slammed them down on the mattress. "You are such an asshole."
"And wicked," Loki said helpfully, eyes gleaming. "Troublesome. A thorn in your side." His gaze dipped to Tony's mouth. "You must want to punish me dreadfully."
"Not very subtle," Tony said.
"I wasn't trying to be."
Tony scowled down at him, aware that Loki could have easily thrown him across the room by now. Without his suit, it was a lot easier said than done to attack a Norse god. But Loki was just laying there, pliant, and it made Tony want to do things. Bad things. Bad, awesome things.
"Goddammit," Tony said, and started tearing at Loki's clothes.
Loki laughed again, but at least he made himself useful and dealt with the five million impossible buckles. Tony left him to it and stripped off his own clothes. He grabbed lube out of the top drawer, and a condom because apparently that was an issue and he didn't want a real houseplant son, and then Loki hauled him down into a fierce, hungry kiss. Tony raked his fingernails down Loki's sides, making Loki arch up underneath him.
"I'm going to make you feel it," he promised darkly.
Loki grinned, wearing that savage, reckless look that Tony remembered from last time. "I look forward to it."
Tony crawled up the bed and grabbed a handful of Loki's hair to jerk his head up. "Suck it," he demanded, and Loki obeyed without protest, and oh, the myths were so right about him being good with his tongue. Tony groaned, making shallow thrusts into Loki's mouth. He jerked at the hair he was holding, just because he could and because he knew Loki would make that delicious, satisfied noise at the pain.
The thing was, Tony wasn't a sadist. He'd never been into that kind of violence with his sex. Until now, he supposed, because he wanted to hurt Loki, and Loki wanted to be hurt, and that was just perfect.
Soon enough Loki twisted his head to the side and gasped, "Enough. I would have you."
"Would you now," Tony said, but it was an idle threat; they both knew he was going to go through with this. Loki didn't even bother to answer him, just grabbed the condom packet and ripped it open, rolled the condom onto Tony with suspicious proficiency for someone who wasn't even from Earth. Tony rolled his eyes. "Why am I not surprised you know about condoms."
Loki gave him a dark, smug look. "I hope you weren't under the impression you were my only bedmate."
No, of course he wasn't under that impression, but it was still annoying as hell, for some reason Tony didn't care to examine too closely. Instead of answering, he moved back down the bed and tipped out enough lube to slick himself up. Loki was propped up on his elbows, watching in anticipation. The tip of his tongue showed between his teeth.
Tony put a hand on Loki's chest and pushed him back down. Loki let him, he knew Loki was letting him, but it felt good to pretend he was in charge. He reached down to guide his way as he sheathed himself in Loki's body. He took a great deal of satisfaction from the rough moan that Loki gave.
Loki was a tall bastard, something about how they grew them on Asgard (and okay, maybe a little to do with Tony being not all that tall himself), which made him the perfect height for Tony to bite at his shoulders and chest, hard sucking bites that bruised. In retaliation or maybe encouragement, Loki gripped Tony's shoulders, nails digging in.
"Yes," Loki hissed, "mark me, make me - bend me to your will," and Tony went a little wild, slamming in over and over as a series of long growls reverberated in his throat.
After it was all done with, Loki lay beside him, covered in bite marks and scratches and looking far too pleased with himself. He rested a hand on his stomach and mused, "I think it will be a puppy, this time. One of those excitable ones that chews everything and pisses in your shoes."
Tony pushed him off the bed.
After that, Loki just... dropped off the radar. It was something of a relief, for all that Tony spent a lot of time looking over his shoulder, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Thor moped, but Jane kept him occupied, and it wasn't like they had any shortage of general villainy to deal with.
One day Clint called him upstairs from the workshop, saying that he had a visitor, and it said something about how low Tony had let his guard drop that he wandered upstairs without any sense of doom or foreboding. But upstairs, Thor was grinning, Clint and Steve looked amused and concerned, and Natasha looked impassive as always.
And Loki was holding something swaddled in baby blue cloth.
"Oh, no," Tony said, pointing a finger at him. He ignored the strange curl in his stomach that was almost pleased to see Loki again. "I am not falling for that again. There is no way--"
Loki unfolded a corner of the cloth and said, "Really, Stark, does this look like something I purchased in a store?"
Tony stared at it. There were feathers and about four times too many eyes. It cheeped at him.
"But..." He floundered desperately for something, anything, that would disprove what Loki was suggesting. "For all I know, that's some kind of common Asgardian pet--"
Thor shook his head. "I assure you, it is not."
"Stop helping," Tony growled at him. This couldn't be happening, dammit; Loki was fucking with him, somehow. Again. He'd been careful. "We used a condom--"
He realized his mistake when Loki's grin sharpened. Steve and Clint both whipped their heads around to stare at him with identical accusing expressions. Natasha pointed at him and declared, "I knew it!"
"As I said before," Thor said, way too cheerfully, the bastard, "my brother's magics--"
"Are powerful and mysterious, yadda yadda, I got it." Tony scowled.
"I can't believe you slept with him," Steve hissed.
"Can we please stick to the problem at hand?" he hissed back, refusing to blush.
"Oh, I think that is the problem at hand."
Loki cleared his throat, very pointedly. "Her name is Anbjörg," he said primly.
Tony winced. "Really? You don't want to go for, I don't know, Maria, or Virginia, or--"
"Anbjörg," Loki repeated, in a tone that brooked no argument. "You may hold her if you wish. Briefly."
Tony looked at the multiple-eyed bird-thing and then up at Loki in cautious relief. "You're not leaving her with me?"
"As if I would trust you to raise a child of my flesh," Loki said disdainfully, and okay, that was actually a little insulting. "You may have visits. On Saturdays. Under my supervision."
"Who's going to supervise Tony with you?" Clint asked.
"Hey," Tony said indignantly. "It was just once--"
"Twice," said Loki, the bastard.
Clint folded his arms. "I think my point's been made."
Tony decided at this point to take the high road and ignore them all, mostly because they were right. He looked at Loki and held out his arms. "Okay, let me hold my-- her," he amended, because he couldn't quite bring himself to say the word daughter. "I'm still not convinced, by the way. You said I wasn't your only... you know."
"I lied," Loki said easily. He stepped forward and deposited the pile of blanket and bird-baby into Tony's arms while that was still sinking in. Possessive triumph was warring with panic and a fair amount of disbelief. Tony tried to ignore the way Loki was looming over him protectively, and looked down at Anbjörg.
"Hey there," he said softly.
Eight round, dewy eyes blinked up at him. Anbjörg chirped again. She was actually pretty cute. Maybe he could make 'Annie' stick. Tony adjusted her into the crook of his arm so he could use his other hand to stroke her curved, vicious-looking beak. He decided it was in his best interests not to make any cracks about breast-feeding.
Natasha made a noise that might have been "Aww," but when Tony looked up sharply her face was calm and expressionless.
"Sundays, too," he decided, not looking at Loki.
"Is that so," Loki said flatly.
Thor made a disapproving noise. "Brother."
"Oh, very well." Loki lifted the little bundle out of Tony's arms and cradled Annie tenderly, re-adjusting the blanket around her. "I shall return on Saturday. Be ready."
Tony's empty hands itched. He felt weirdly bereft. "Okay. What should I-- Goddammit, stop doing that," he interrupted himself as Loki vanished again.
"So," Steve said, folding his arms. "Loki."
Tony grimaced. Steve, Clint and Natasha were all looking at him, clearly judging him. Tony didn't appreciate being judged. He looked at Thor. "Feel free to start helping again."
"My friends, cast no blame on Tony Stark," Thor said obediently. "Many a delicate maiden has been wooed by my brother's silver tongue, against her better judgement--"
"Oh my god, I take it back," Tony said, slapping a hand over his face. "I am not a delicate maiden."
"Good," Natasha said. "You'll have no problem explaining this to Director Fury then."
Tony cursed, long and creatively.