“Yeah, no. Having a uterus does not, in fact, make me a more capable babysitter. I told you not to screw around in the labs. You didn’t listen and this is what happened.”
“But, it wasn’t supposed to do this.” Pepper snickers at the look on his face before Natasha speaks up.
“Bah. Not our problem. Call us when they revert. Until then I expect you to handle it.”
“But I don’t want to.”
With a stern look and a giddy smirk respectively, Natasha and Pepper turn to leave Loki standing forlorn and surrounded by the Avengers, all of whom look to be no more than four years old. Loki looks like someone knocked over his sandcastle. And then set it on fire.
Heaving a sigh, he tries to figure out where the little monsters are and what they’re destroying.
Thor stands atop his shoulders, clinging to the horns of Loki’s helmet and shouting “Ya!” at the top of his little lungs. Clint kneels and fires an arrow at Loki, hitting his jacket, luckily not doing too much damage, but striking hard enough to prompt a flinch and a spate of words that have the boys chorusing a loud “Oooohhh”
Clint grins before telling Loki, “Tasha said those words were naughty. You’re so busted when they get home.”
Loki wonders if anyone would really miss the archer if he were to be stuffed into a closet until this mess was resolved.
He isn’t even sure where the others have gotten to, but the cry of ‘higher!’ has him scrambling for the balcony just in time to see a miniature Captain fling the shrunken Iron Man high into the air. His heart stutters at the scene before Iron Boy figures out the repulsor controls and careens straight for Loki, tangling in his cape and eliciting panicked cries as Tony fights to free himself from the smothering material.
Finally they manage to untangle themselves, Loki swearing again before deciding the cape is probably not worth the trouble it seems to be causing. The helmet stays, as Thor has yet to relinquish his perch, and given that Clint has a full quiver of arrows, Loki decides that the armor should probably be left on too.
At this point, the only one missing is the shaggy scientist, but he’s unlikely to do much harm, assuming that no one irritates him. Desperate for some way to keep the boys together and occupied long enough to plan, Loki corrals them into the living room and flips on the television, finding a cartoon.
“Here, watch this.” Lokis slumps against the wall, already exhausted, and ponders the feasibility of finding five large dog kennels that can be easily delivered. It would likely get him yelled at, should any of the women discover his methods, but at least it would keep the house, the boys, and most importantly his sanity intact.
A tug on his pant leg forces him to look down, meeting the earnest gaze of Captain America. Loki can’t help but go a little mushy over how cute he is, all big blue eyes and floppy blond hair.
“What is it?”
“It’s lunch time. Whatcha gonna make us?”
“Can’t you feed yourselves?”
A shake of a tiny blond head answers him “Uh uh. Kids are not supposa play in the kitchen. We could get hurt. Plus, nobody’s tall enough.”
“ Hm. I suppose I could order in a pizza. That seems simple enough.”
“Yeah, but we gotta have vegatables. And milk. Milk’s important.”
Tony pipes in, “Forget that, Rogers. I want soda.”
“No arguing. We’ll have milk with lunch. Now, what kind of pizzas do you all want?”
It is as this point that Loki questions his sanity. Asking five year olds to reach a consensus may have been a mistake. By the time the discussion is done, Loki has separated three fights, sent two boys to the corner and patched a grazed knee that happened when the pepperoni/sausage debate escalated to an unfortunate degree. Ultimately, they order three pizzas, one half cheese/half pepperoni, one vegetarian and one meat lovers. Surely everyone can find something. Please gods, let them find something.
Finally the boys settle in to eat, Loki circling the table, pouring glasses of milk and handing out napkins. the boys eat ravenously, decimating the pizza and going through nearly two gallons of milk between the five of them. Loki is fairly sure that normal children don’t eat like that, though he wouldn’t swear to it.
A cry catches his attention and he turns to see a flood of milk pour across the table and straight into Bruce’s lap. Hopping up, he grabs a dish towel before bending to wipe up the milk puddling under the chair. An enraged cry of “You did it on purpose,” catches his attention and he looks up just in time to see Bruce Hulk out and launch himself at the still grinning Tony. While Loki is relieved to see that Hulk is smaller than normal, he is still considerable larger than Tony. Scrambling around the table and sliding a bit on the milk that has spread across the floor, Loki reaches in to physically separate the boys. Tony is pushed back into his seat while Loki wraps his arms around the Hulk and carries him from the kitchen.
“That’s fine. Tell me why.”
“Clumsy Tony spill his milk. Now Hulk all wet.”
“Well, we can go get you a change of clothes. Or we can sit for a while. Up to you.”
Hulk peers at Loki, searching his face for sincerity.
“New clothes. Hulk not want stay wet. Uncomfortable.”
The time on the couch and the walk has calmed the Hulk down enough for him to revert to Bruce. Loki settles him on the bed and turns to pull clothes from the dresser before shrinking them down with a quick spell.
“Here you go. I’ll wait in the hall, and then you can finish your lunch.”
“OK, but you gotta help me with the buttons.”
By the time they make it back to the kitchen, the milk had been cleaned up and a new plate has been set out for Bruce. Tony sits, looking at his hands until a kick from Steve makes him look up. “Sorry Bruce, I didn’t mean to dump my milk. It really was an accident.”
After lunch, Loki sends the boys to play in the living room and tidies up the kitchen. Once that is done, he walks back into the living room to find a room devoid of any boys, but also missing all of the cushions off of every piece of furniture and all of the blankets that had been neatly stacked in a basket next to the TV. “JARVIS, can you find them?”
“They are in Clint’s room. They seem to be building a fort.”
“Fine. Can you monitor them and let me know if they leave the room or need anything? I’ll be in the library trying to figure out what went wrong.”
Three hours later and he’s found precisely nothing and has been informed by JARVIS when each of the boys leaves the room to go to the bathroom. Finally giving up, he closes the book he is reading. As he set the book back in it’s place, JARVIS speaks up. “Sir, all of the boys have moved back into the living room.” Leaving the library, Loki approaches the living room to the sound of boys arguing.
“No I wanna watch cartoon.”
“Cartoons are stupid. Let’s watch a movie.”
“What movie then?”
“I dunno. What do you want to watch?”
“I wanna watch cartoons.”
Loki steps out of the hallway. “How about a cartoon movie? Surely we can find something?”
The boys finally settle in to watch Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole. As the movie plays, Loki slips away to figure out what to feed the boys for supper. Finally deciding on macaroni and cheese with hot dogs, Loki reads and rereads the package instructions before hunting out pots and pans and measuring cups. After burning the first batch of noodles by letting them cook dry, Loki finally figures it out. After mixing the last of the cheese into the noodles, Loki wipes his hands on a towel and walks back to the living room to call the boys.
“Boys, supper is--” Loki’s voice dries in his throat at the sight of Steve and Thor sobbing. Tony has his arms wrapped around them while Clint looks as if he were desperately fighting back tears and Bruce looks ready to bolt. “What happened?” Loki can’t figure out why they were crying. Surely the movie wasn’t that violent, after all it was marketed to children.
“His brother fell and died and that made me so sa-aa-add,” Thor sobs out. Steve nods and then adds, “He tried to catch him when he fell and he couldn’t. I didn’t like that at all.” Nodding along, Loki can only assume that the ending had been more traumatic than the packaging led him to believe. Perching on the edge of the couch, he wraps his arms around all the boys as best he could and pulls them into a tight hug.
“Well, it was only a movie. As long as you have one another, I’m sure you’ll do your very best to keep each other from harm.” Offering one more squeeze, Loki then stands. “Now come, I’ve prepared a fine feast for you all.”
Dinner goes much more smoothly than lunch, with no spillage and only one argument over who had more hot dog slices. All things considered, Loki counts it a win. By this point, the boys are beginning to look sleepy, drooping in their seats and trying to stifle their yawns. Loki had the boys clear their places and then chivies them into the master suite, hoping that the bathtub is large enough to fit all the boys together. If not, Loki plans to use the hot tub and Tony can just deal with getting the soap out of the lines.
Luck is with him and the bathtub is plenty large. Running the tap and checking the temperature, Loki instructs the boys to strip and pile their clothes together. Once the tub is ready, he helps them clamber in, each boy sitting in the warm sudsy water. Again, Loki realizes that he may have made an error, as each boy looks at the others and then begins flailing their arms through the foam and water, sending torrents over the edge and soaking Loki through. After a few minutes of that, and a noticeable drop in the water level, they finally settle.
Shrugging out of his soaked, stiffened armor, Loki begins shampooing each boy’s hair, taking care to visor their faces to keep the soap from their eyes. Finally, they are all clean and Loki sets about gathering towels while the boys clean their bodies and play in the remaining water. Stepping from the room, Loki waves his hands and magicks five sets of pajamas onto the bed in front of him. Returning to the bathroom, he helps the boys from the tub before wrapping each in a warm dry towel. Once they are out and dry, Loki turns to them. “There are pajamas on the bed. I’m sure each of you can figure out whose is whose. Get dressed and then leave your towels piled with your clothes.”
Loki listens to the boys exclaim over the various pajama sets as he mops up the floor and bundles the wet towels and clothing into the laundry. When he finishes, he steps through to the bedroom where the boys are all piled onto the massive bed and laying against the pillows waiting. On one end lay Thor, dressed in blue and grey pajamas covered in storm clouds. Next to him Tony is snuggled down in red and gold swirls. Clint sprawls in the middle, his black, grey, and purple pajamas covered in print that resembles feathers. Bruce’s pajamas are covered in periodic tables and test tubes, and on the far side of the bed, Steve wears red and white stripes with a star on the pocket.
Smiling at the sight, Loki asks “Do any of you want a story, or are you too tired?
A chorus of approval meets his question and Loki pulls a battered book from the air and begins to spin a tale of a young girl falling asleep to the sound of the world outside her window.
By the third page, Steve is asleep. Two pages later,Tony and Bruce follow and at the halfway point, Thor gives in to sleep as well. By the time Loki reads the final lines, only Clint is still awake to hear them. With a tired smile and a quiet “I won’t tell on you.” Clint finally closes his eyes and goes slack as sleep pulls him under.
Loki closes the book and stands before flicking his hand to return the book to its home. Touching each boy’s feet through the covers, Loki whispers good night before crossing the room and pulling the door mostly closed behind him. He stops short at the sight of Natasha and Pepper standing in the hall.
“You know, when we left before, I figured we’d come back to find you taped to a chair and the boys running wild.”
Loki smirks at the stunned look on the women’s faces. “There is a difference between don’t want to and don’t know how,” he drawls, and with that statement, Loki snaps his fingers and vanishes.