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Friends Don't Let Friends

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Steve was angling his shield to deflect a blast from Loki's staff, when out of nowhere the Hulk dropped down - splintering the concrete under their feet - and scooped Loki up in one massive green hand. Steve cringed reflexively even as he relaxed his stance. Loki was an evil bastard, sure, but watching Hulk use him like that whack-a-mole game was just… uncomfortable.

Only, Hulk didn't smash.

Loki struggled uselessly, yelling for the Hulk to put him down. It was kind of funny how fast the guy could go from menacing and legitimately frightening to… kind of pitiful. The cognitive dissonance gave Steve a headache.

Hulk lifted Loki up and peered at him intently, brow furrowed. "What puny god's intentions?"


"What?" said Loki.

Hulk growled low and dangerous, like thunder. "What puny god's intentions?"

Over the comm link came something that sounded very much like Tony muttering, "Aw, shit."

"My intentions, you blithering beast, are to crush every last one of you," Loki spat. Off to one side, Thor lifted his hammer, then seemed to realize Hulk had everything well in hand. So to speak.

Hulk shook Loki, hard enough that his limbs flopped about like a ragdoll's. "Iron Man Hulk's friend. Puny god treat Iron Man good!"

Wait just a God-damned minute. Steve looked up, pinpointing the red suit of armor that was dropping out of the sky. He opened his mouth, but Agent Romanoff beat him to it.

"Stark, is there something you want to share with the class?" She sounded either amused or annoyed. It was hard to tell.

Tony came to land next to Steve, a lot more delicately than the Hulk had. "So, it turns out, don't tell secrets to a guy with a physically manifesting subconscious."

"Tony," Steve said in disbelief, then stopped, because what in the world did you say in a situation like this?

Loki managed to twist enough to shoot Tony a truly venomous glare over his shoulder. Apparently that was a bad move, because Hulk shook him again and said, "Hulk not finished!"

"Okay," Tony said; "in my defense, he actually showed up to try to kill me."

"How is that a defense?" Romanoff asked.

"I'm still alive, aren't I?" Tony snapped. A little quieter, more sheepish, he added, "We got… distracted."

"That's disgusting," Barton said flatly. "I'm seriously in danger of losing my lunch here. Seriously, Stark?"

"Barton, if you're going to put an arrow through me, would you just do it now so I don't have to have this conversation?"

"I don't know. I'm thinking I might forgive you, if only because this moment is so beautiful."

There was a pause as they all turned their attention back to the Hulk, whose speech made up in enthusiasm what it lacked in creativity. "Puny god hurt Iron Man, Hulk smash! Hulk smash and smash and smash! Hulk smash lots. Hulk make puny god paste!"

"It is pretty great," Steve agreed.

"Yes, all right, I get it," Loki said impatiently. He leaned backwards in Hulk's grip and craned his head to look at Thor. "Would you just get on with it and put me in one of their little cages?"

Thor folded his arms, smirking faintly. "I know of your habits, Loki. It seems to me that it is long past time someone gave you this speech."

"…And smash in park," Hulk was saying, happy with anticipation. "And smash in tower. And smash on beach. Hulk smash puny god everywhere."

Loki gave a pained whine, burying his head in his hands.

"I still have questions," Barton said. "Like, what part of 'trying to kill you' is sexy to you?"

"Peggy shot at me once," Steve said in fond memory, before he could think better of it. He saw the Iron Man helmet swivel in his direction, and coughed. "Uh. Never mind. You were saying?"

Barton chuckled, but went on. "Also, does all that crazy pay off between the sheets?"

"Mm, God, yes," Tony said, with a little too much relish than was really appropriate, considering there was a lady listening. Steve knew better than to suggest that out loud.

Speaking of relish, Hulk brought Loki right up to his face, eye to eye. "Puny god run, Hulk will find," he declared, with an intensity that was a little unnerving even to Steve. Lord knew how Loki was handling it. "Hulk good hunter. Hulk find, Hulk smash. Understand?"

Loki whimpered a little. "Yes, yes, I understand."

"Good." Apparently satisfied, Hulk dropped Loki on the ground and patted him - heavily - on the head. "Hulk watching."

"I feel so loved right now," Tony said dreamily.

Loki scowled at him and mouthed something that looked like, 'I will end you.'

Tony popped his faceplate up and smirked. "Aw, baby, don't be that way. It was at least a little bit worth it."

Loki opened his mouth, then paused and gave Tony a speculative look up and down. Instead of denying it, he looked away with the faintest of smiles as Thor hauled him to his feet.

Steve didn't care to think too hard about that.

He pulled a pair of reinforced handcuffs from one of his belt pouches and tossed them to Thor, who got them on Loki without much trouble.

Tony sauntered towards the Hulk, smacking Loki's ass on the way past. (Loki gave a squeak of outrage that was much more hilarious than intimidating.) "Hulk, buddy, that was, um. Really thoughtful of you."

Hulk beamed. "Hulk good friend!"

"Hulk is a great friend. Hulk is the greatest. Gimme five."