This weekend, Tony was having an honest-to-god picnic in Central Park with his arch-nemesis and their daughter, the eight-eyed sentient hawk. This was actually, genuinely his life now. Not a virtual reality or a drugged hallucination cooked up by some evil mastermind to keep him out of the way. (He was sure about this; he'd done tests.)
Loki was sitting on the tartan blanket with his long legs stretched out in front of him, crossed at the ankles. He was currently rummaging in the picnic basket (yeah, he'd brought an actual picnic basket) for more cheese. Tony was pretty sure they'd already eaten more food than the basket could physically hold, and he was valiantly trying not to calculate exact volumes in his head.
Annie was dive-bombing pigeons - and more than a few small children - giving raucous cries of excitement in between targets. And the greatest part was, Loki had this thing about 'family time', so any paparazzi cameras would just… mysteriously not work.
"Seriously, how are you not full yet?" Tony asked, a little fascinated. He frowned as something occurred to him (not jealousy, he wasn't jealous, he was just… wary.) "You're not pregnant again, are you? Are you eating for two? Or, I don't know, more than two? Do you have a litter?"
Loki gave him a look that hovered somewhere in between amusement and contempt. It was weirdly Natasha-like, actually. "I'm not pregnant. This is entirely normal. The energy to use magic must come from somewhere, and not all of us," he reached out to tap Tony's arc reactor, "have implanted a power source in our bodies."
Contrary to public opinion, Tony did have a concept of personal space. His personal space was a circle a few inches in diameter in the middle of his chest. He scowled and put his hand over it as soon as Loki leaned back. "Are you saying I could use this to do-- You know what, don't even answer that. This baby is science, keep your filthy magic away from it."
Loki shook his head, looking smug. "In all your world's history, ever the small-minded have resisted advancement."
"What?" Tony demanded in outrage. "Do you even know how much I've revolutionized-- Just because I have a healthy respect for the laws of physics--"
"Small-minded," Loki repeated, sing-song. Laughing at him, the asshole. Tony threw a crust of bread at him.
Loki's eyes lit up, because he was apparently twelve, and he started pelting Tony with grapes. A small food fight may have ensued (Tony would deny it later). Throwing turned to scuffling, and since Tony wasn't in the suit it wasn't long before he was pinned flat on his back on the picnic blanket, Loki smirking down at him.
"Never, you dastardly fiend," Tony said with a straight face.
Loki's eyes narrowed in an all-too-familiar scheming expression. Tony felt Loki's weight shift on top of him, and a thigh press close and insistent between his own. "Yield," Loki commanded, in a low, purring growl.
Tony let out a small groan despite himself. That voice ought to be criminal. Maybe it was, maybe it was an evil magic spell designed to make him powerless to resist. He relaxed and let his head fall back.
Apparently that was surrender enough. Loki curled a hand around his throat - gently - to hold him still; pressed a deep, wanting kiss into his mouth. Tony closed his eyes and leaned into it, humming in contentment. He could feel the soft brush of Loki's hair against the sides of his face and reached up to run his fingers through it, hand coming to rest at the back of Loki's neck. He dug his fingernails in and dragged, to elicit that hurt, satisfied noise that was his favorite from Loki.
If this was going to stop while they still had clothes on, Tony knew it was pretty much up to him. Loki would be perfectly willing to have sex in the middle of Central Park (although admittedly he might send Annie somewhere first). It should be some kind of massive warning sign that Tony was the responsible one in any relationship. Not relationship. Antagonistic semi-friendship with benefits.
So, he'd stop this. Just… in a minute. First, he rolled them over so he was on top. Yes, much better. Loki went willingly, sliding both hands under the back of his shirt. He groaned into Loki's mouth. "Dirty pool."
"Is there any other kind?" Loki murmured, smiling against him.
Pool, hmm. Snooker. Bending Loki over a billiards table. Yesss, good thoughts. He nipped at Loki's lower lip, teasing. "I really want to fuck you right now."
Loki made a thoughtful noise, fingers digging into Tony's back. "So what's stopping you?"
"Besides the hundreds of people walking around?"
"Nooo," Tony groaned, laughing a little because the idea of letting Loki just throw up an illusion was far too tempting. They were both a terrible influence on each other. "We're watching Annie."
"Anbjörg," Loki sighed.
"Yeah, yeah." Reluctantly, Tony sat back up. He spent a few moments readjusting his clothes and pulling a squashed grape out of his hair.
Loki stayed on the ground, clasping his hands over his chest. "You used to be fun."
"Yeah, well, you used to be scary," Tony retorted. He reached for his empty cup and the bottle of pepsi (Loki was fascinated by carbonated drinks). "Let's be honest, you're domesticated now. Everyone knows, once you have kids, the sex life is the first thing to-- Jesus Christ!"
Flailing violently was probably not the best way to handle a giant spider crawling onto his hand, but Tony wasn't at his best when giant spiders crawled onto his hand. Fortunately it didn't bite him; just dropped to the blanket and melted harmlessly away with a gold shimmer. He glared at Loki, who was smirking up at the sky.
"I don't know how you think that's going to get you laid," Tony muttered, rubbing the back of his hand. The funny part was that it was Pepper who would reap the benefits of any frustration, which was probably one of the reasons she was okay with this arrangement in the first place. Since Loki tended to aggravate the hell out of him every weekend, it worked out pretty well for Pepper.
He watched Annie for a little while. She must have been getting bored, because instead of pulling short just a few feet above the ground, she barreled straight into a pigeon and stunned it. Actually, she looked a little stunned herself, but she shook it off and pounced on the dazed bird, talons extended.
Tony winced, well aware of how sharp those talons were. He poked Loki's arm. "Hey, check it out. Annie caught a pigeon."
"Anbjörg," Loki corrected automatically, but sat up to look.
Slowly but surely, Annie was dragging the pigeon towards them, pausing every so often to adjust her grip as the pigeon fluttered uselessly. Tony frowned slightly, cocking his head as he watched. "Uh, what is she going to do with it?"
"Eat it, I imagine."
Oh, that was just gross. He glanced at Loki, who seemed completely unperturbed at the thought. "Is that… hygienic?"
"She's a hawk, you moron." Loki gave him a scathing look. "I suppose you'd have her eat nothing but gourmet ground venison."
"Well," Tony started, and then was forced to admit, "yeah, probably. I just, pigeons, come on, they're basically rats with wings."
"She eats rats, too," Loki said drily.
"This is not my life." Tony scrubbed his hands over his face. He took a breath then put a bright smile on his face in time for Annie to drop the pigeon in front of them and chirp proudly.
"Yes, I see it," Loki told her. "Very good, Anbjörg. We're both proud of you."
"Yeah," Tony agreed, "awesome, uh, catch."
Annie chirped again then settled firmly on the pigeon and started tearing chunks out of it. While it was still alive. Tony shot a look at Loki, but to his dismay it didn't look like Loki was bothered. Actually, Loki was buttering another piece of bread, and it made Tony's stomach turn a little.
He cleared his throat and said quietly, "Shouldn't we do something?"
"Do what?" Loki glanced at him in confusion.
Tony gestured to the poor pigeon, feeling awkward. "It just seems… cruel."
"Squeamish," Loki muttered, rolling his eyes. "Anbjörg, sweetheart, wait just a moment." He leaned forward and nudged her off the pigeon. She spread her wings and gave an angry cry.
Loki grasped the pigeon in both hands and snapped its neck, then put it back in front of Annie. He raised his eyebrows at Tony impatiently. "There, is that better?"
Tony looked at Loki's hands, hands that had been on his skin a few minutes ago, first warm and sensual and now brutal and deadly. "Honestly, I think that may have been creepier."
The look that Loki gave him was truly spectacular, all disbelief and disdain and pity. "How very gruesome life must seem to you mortals."
"Excuse me for not being a fan of eating things alive." Tony picked at the blanket, definitely not hungry anymore. He looked away from Annie ripping the pigeon apart; let his gaze fall on some teenagers tossing a frisbee back and forth. Loki and Annie both seemed perfectly content to eat in silence for a while.
Some time later, Tony's cellphone rang. He answered it without checking the screen, eyes caught by the grisly mess of feathers and bones Annie was making. It was like driving past the scene of a car crash. "Yeah, shoot."
"Iron Man, I know it's your, uh, family day and everything, but we could really use you down here."
"Hawkeye?" Tony sat up straighter, frowning. "Are those explosions?"
"We have one hell of a monster truck rally gone wrong. Everything we've got is just bouncing off these assholes." Clint sounded out of breath. "I mean literally bouncing, it would be funny if they weren't firing grenades everywhere."
"Right, sure, just gimme--" Tony stopped, staring down at Loki's iron grip on his arm. "Seriously? Let go, Loki, they need my help."
"No," Loki snapped, looking bizarrely pissed off. "You have two days each week to spend with your daughter and I won't have you wasting that time running around with your little group of costumed jesters."
"We're not going to a bar, the city's under attack," Tony said incredulously. He held his cell a little further away from his ear because Clint was yelling insults at Loki, loudly. "I'm not going to just sit here--"
"That's exactly what you'll do." Loki let him go and stood up. "Anbjörg, stay with Tony."
"Where the hell do you get off--" He was talking to empty air. Tony shook his head and turned back to his cellphone. "Hawkeye, I've just got to get my suit. Where are you guys?"
Clint started to answer, then was drowned out by an almighty boom through the cell that coincided with a dull roar from somewhere to the south. Tony turned, staring at the sky, trying to figure out if that was cloud or smoke. "Hawkeye? Are you still there?"
For several long heartbeats all he could make out were muffled noises. Finally there was a clatter and Clint was breathing down the line again. "Uh, cancel that, Iron Man. Loki just showed up and, um. Blew everything to kingdom come."
"He what," Tony said blankly.
"I forgot he looks like that when he's pissed." Clint sounded a little freaked out. Tony wondered exactly how dramatic 'blew to kingdom come' meant.
"He… takes family time kind of seriously," he offered.
"No shit." There was a pause. "I... guess we'll handle the clean-up from here. Enjoy your terrifying family time?"
"Yeah, fill me in when you guys get back," Tony said, looking up as Loki reappeared, dusting ash off his coat.
"I still don't like him," Clint added defensively, and hung up.
Well, that was fair enough. Tony tossed his cell down on the blanket, still watching Loki. "So..."
"So," Loki mimicked, settling back down and reaching for - unbelievably - more food.
Tony shook his head with a short laugh. "Did you just help the Avengers?"
"Certainly not," Loki said, looking insulted. "You were being distracted. I took care of it."
"Youuu helped the Avengers." Tony smirked, leaning back on his hands. "You called me 'Tony', and you helped the team. Face it, Bagheera, you are completely domesticated."
Loki was starting to look murderous, which inevitably just made Tony want to harass him more. Really, if Loki didn't want to be made fun of, he should learn to control his reactions better. It wasn't like he'd never met Tony before.
"Aw, this is adorable." Tony grinned wider. "Have you picked out your superhero name yet? We can make you a new costume to celebrate, something fabulous in green spandex. How do you feel about sequins?"
"I feel like finding out how many I need to drown you with them," Loki said darkly.
"Now, that's not setting a good example for the youth of today. Where's your sense of civic responsibility?"
Loki started to laugh, a fragile mix of bitterness and amusement. "Oh, I don't think you want that. Have you forgotten what my sense of civic responsibility leads to?"
Tony winced slightly. He had forgotten, actually. He waved a hand, playing it off. "If it ever looks like we're about to elect Thor as President, you have my full permission to sneak frost giants into the White House."
"I'm not sure, I think you people might actually deserve him," Loki said, but there was no bite to it. He just looked sad.
Tony took a breath, meaning to suggest that they invite Thor for next time, at least for part of the day. Before he could speak, Loki was leaning forward to catch Annie's attention. It was like Loki had a sixth sense for avoiding Thor talk… which, come to think of it, might actually be true.
"Anbjörg, child, smaller bites. You'll choke yourself."
Annie ducked her head sheepishly, blood all over her beak. The pigeon was mostly unrecognizable now. Tony tried not to look at it too closely.
He tried again. "You know, we could--"
"Go back to your tower? Just what I was thinking." Loki started packing up the remains of their picnic, not looking at him.
All right, message received. Tony sighed a little, tipping his head back. He couldn't even just lock them in a room together, because Loki could teleport away.
He'd figure something out. He was a genius, wasn't he?
Tony climbed to his feet and stretched. He waited for Loki to close the basket and shift it to one side, then helped fold up the blanket. "So, does this mean you're going to come to team training sessions now?"
"Morale exercises? Come to our bonding nights?"
"No." Loki picked up the basket in one hand and held the other arm out for Annie. She wiped her beak and talons on the grass before launching up to take her perch.
Tony tucked the blanket under his own arm and fell into step beside Loki, wandering across the park. "I'll have to build you your own floor. What do you think about pink and orange as a color scheme?"
Loki looked bizarrely incongruous with his coat swirling dramatically around his legs, a hawk perched on one arm, and carrying a picnic basket. "I think, if you're not careful, you may find out."
Oh, that didn't sound good. "I'm going to get back and my penthouse is going to be repainted, isn't it?"
Loki smiled faintly. "No need to thank me, Stark. It's nothing more than my civic responsibility."
"You're an asshole," Tony said.
It was a little disturbing how much he was starting to not mind that.