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Parents and Children

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It's a couple of days after they rescued themselves/got rescued (they and the others can't quite agree which way around it was, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle) that Loki approaches Tony. Ever since DUM-E searched him out Loki has been sending Tony furtive glances and Tony is sure that a couple of times he'd even caught Loki watching him thoughtfully. He can't quite be sure which it is though – DUM-E or the kidnapping aftermath, they did spend nine days protecting each other from beatings and sort of bonding, after all. And as much as he'd like to think Loki finally caught up to the fact that he'd really like to bang Tony because Tony is hot stuff it does seem rather unlikely after all this time. Tony couldn't have been more blatant in his coming on to Loki in those first few weeks and the only reason he'd stopped was because he'd seen how absolutely nowhere it was getting him. It had just made everybody uncomfortable.

"Tony," Loki says, and that at least Tony knows is a result of the kidnapping – that Loki finally addresses him by his first name.

"Present," Tony replies, raising his glass. He's not quite tipsy but he's pleasantly buzzed; it's late evening and anybody who might disapprove of his drinking in light of the fact that he's still on mild pain meds has gone to bed.

"Introduce me to your children."

Tony pauses, turns to fully look at Loki. "Why?"

Eyes narrowed, Loki straightens up from his deliberately casual slouch. "Because I want to meet them."

Yeah, Tony sort of wants to say no but he has a feeling Loki is rather emotionally invested in the fact that Tony has "children" and would take it personal. Also, what the hell, Loki isn't going to damage them, not with how he actually considers them Tony's children. Probably. "Okay."

He leads Loki into the elevator and down into his lab. Loki doesn't say a word and without protest lets Tony register him at the entrance to the lab. And okay, it's not quite necessary for Tony to touch Loki's wrist and hold it above the handprint scanner, but it's not like Tony plasters himself to Loki's back to hold him in place.

As Tony enters the lab, Loki on his heels, the lights flicker on. Clapping into his hands, Tony calls out, "Alright, kids, up and at 'em!"

Of course he has no illusions; it's because of JARVIS that not all of his screens and holotables and whatever else he has turn on. The only thing that moves is DUM-E over in its corner; it raises its "head" curiously. From vaguely the center of the lab Butterfingers comes forward immediately, bold as usual, followed by U. Tony has a feeling they were fighting again, or perhaps they finally moved on from teasing to the incestuous relationship Tony's been waiting to happen for years.

"Okay, great," Tony says, walking up to them. "Guys, this is Loki. Loki, these are DUM-E, Butterfingers and U." All three of them simultaneously focus on Loki, prompting Tony to wince. "Now be nice, guys. We don't want anything to happen like with Pepper."

Tony still isn't sure whether it had been curiosity and clumsiness or something less innocent (such as jealousy), but the first time they had met Pepper, the kids had sort of… scared her off. They had been clumsy in her presence and DUM-E had actually tried to extinguish Pepper, or possibly her hair. Suffice to say, it had taken both sides to warm up to each other somewhat since then and generally they just tend to ignore each other.

"Hello," Loki says softly and smiles brilliantly. It's strange, how nice he's being and how genuine he seems. Tony has no idea whether it's real or not.

DUM-E whirs its "head" and lowers it as Loki holds his hand out like one would when offering a horse a treat, nudging his palm with its pliers.

"You are a curious one, are you?" Loki hums, sounding delighted.

Butterfingers seems unimpressed with the favoritism and moves forwards to claim its own share of the attention. It moves one arm towards Loki who quickly holds out his other hand with a small laugh, letting the AI touch his hand. "Butterfingers, correct? That's an interesting name."

Whirring with pleasure, Butterfingers withdraws its arm and brings the other forward to touch Loki, clearly showing off that it has two arms instead of just one, like DUM-E. Competitive little thing. Behind it, U makes a forlorn noise, earning itself Loki's immediate attention.

"Such sweet little things," Loki coos – actually coos, as if they're kittens. "You love your father very much, don't you?" They all whirr and click and whistle eagerly, making Tony flush and duck his head.

"Yes, I can tell," Loki smiles. "You help him with his work, do you? Are you specialized?"

DUM-E whistles and immediately drives off, presumably to attach its fire extinguisher funnel. Hopefully it won't want to show its abilities off, Tony doesn't fancy a surprise "accidental" lab fire. While DUM-E is busy with that, Butterfingers clicks and whirs and reaches over to push some tools off the table. U whistles, a high, agitated tone, and picks them up again. Their antics make Loki laugh. "I see, I see," he says. "You like to cause mischief, do you?" He curls his fingers around Butterfingers' pliers and smiles when Butterfingers clicks carefully. Turning to U he continues, "And you clean up after your siblings."

"They all like to cause mischief, really," Tony says, watching with faint disbelief as U preens at being noticed. His AIs are flowering under the attention, he's never seen them behave like this. DUM-E returns, having attached the funnel connecting to its in-built extinguisher, and proudly shows it off to Loki.

"DUM-E is the resident fire extinguisher," Tony informs Loki just in case Loki has no idea what the funnel is for.

"Oh really?" Loki says. Then he points his finger towards a space of floor and a small fire bursts into life. "Would you like to demonstrate?"

If DUM-E were able to do such a thing, it would have flailed and fainted with delight, Tony is absolutely sure of that. As it is it targets the fire and extinguishes it very, very thoroughly in a decidedly excited manner.

"Very impressive," Loki compliments as soon as the fire is very definitely extinguished forever and ever. "I am much relieved knowing your father's safety is in your hands."

They all whistle and whirr happily and nudge Loki, who laughs and pets them. He starts complimenting their design, the efficiency and simple beauty of it, at which point Tony starts to wonder whether he ended up in some sort of parallel universe. But of course this must be his life; no other person could end up standing in their workshop while their AIs coo over an alien, maybe sort of formerly evil god. On whom they might or might not be harboring a crush, which said god seems to not give a fuck about. And Tony is sure Loki had noticed; he'd have to be sort of oblivious not to, and one of the last things Loki is is oblivious.

"Okay," Tony decides to break it up eventually. "That's enough, kids. You are supposed to be charging right now."

That makes all of them whine unhappily and Loki seems to actually pout at Tony for just a moment, but then Loki helps Tony usher them to their charger stations. They technically can plug themselves in but Loki is curious about it and lets Tony demonstrate and suddenly Butterfingers and DUM-E spontaneously lose their ability to plug themselves in and Loki has to do it. He seems happy to, which is at least something, even if he seems to treat them like horses, cooing and petting while he opens the covers to their ports and plugs the chargers in. Once they're all properly attached Loki makes a point of saying goodbye to each of them separately, giving them a parting compliment each, before he finally lets Tony lead him out again.

"I thank you for introducing your children to me," Loki says as the door to the lab closes behind them, the lights turning off automatically.

Tony smiles faintly. Figures that what Loki would like best about him are his creations; it's a common theme. "Yeah. Glad you liked them." He waves and hurries up the stairs, making a point not to look back.

So. He wouldn't have thought that this would affect him this much; clearly he's in way too deep. Normally he would combat that sort of thing by burying himself in the lab, but unfortunately Loki was just in there and Tony has the feeling that that won't make him feel at all better. He made a mistake; he shouldn't have let Loki into the lab, shouldn't have introduced him to his AIs. His lab has always been his space, anybody else was just an intruder, but his AIs hadn't treated Loki like one. They'd practically fallen in love with him, Tony doesn't know at all what to make of that. Or rather, he chooses not to follow that line of thinking because he has a feeling he won't like where it leads.

The lab is taboo then, which leaves him either with a communal area or his bedroom. Figuring that he's not really up for company right now, Tony picks his bedroom and gets spectacularly drunk.

When he crawls back into the public around noon the following day his visible hangover earns him several frowns, but thankfully Bruce is tolerant of other people's coping mechanisms and simply plies him with a lot of tea. Science bros forever, man.

Unfortunately, Steve isn't as accepting. "Tony," he says, frown crinkling his forehead. "Is something wrong?"

"What, kidnapping and torture not good enough for you?" Tony grunts, and that's that.

Or sort of, at least. It means Steve backs off on the criticism Tony's habits front, but it also means he feels the need to do some subtle team bonding, which is how they all end up in front of the TV, watching some sports thing. Tony honestly could care less about sport but Loki chooses to sit next to him, which makes it a little bit worth it and also a little bit worse. Until Loki leans in in the middle of it and whispers in his ear, "Would you like to see my children?"

Tony can hardly say no to that, even if he wanted to, which he doesn't. So he nods and is surprised when the next thing Loki does is manhandle him so they're leaning into each other, arranging them so that they look like they fell asleep against each other. Loki puts Tony's head on his shoulder and the next thing Tony knows he's standing in a blank space of indiscernible size. It reminds him of matrix, just before Morpheus assembles the weapons.

"Come," Loki says, suddenly right next to him. He takes Tony's hand and the next moment they're on a meadow. Tony glances at him when Loki doesn't make any motions to let go of his hand but certainly doesn't let go himself.

Loki is staring into the distance, an expression of longing on his face. Tony follows his gaze and spots… a horse with eight legs frolicking about, sniffing at things and delicately nipping at nice tufts of grass. So the horse thing is true.

"This is Sleipnir," Loki whispers.

They watch for a long time, keeping perfectly still, until Loki pulls Tony further along. He leads him along the meadow towards a brook where three young children are playing, their backs to the two approaching adults. Once more Loki halts at a good distance, settling in to watch. It appears the children are comparing pebbles, their childish voices ringing towards Tony and Loki, but not loud enough to tell even what language they speak, much less understand the words.

With his free hand Loki points towards a child with unruly black hair. "Fenrir," he introduces. "Jormungandr," is the child next to Fenrir, and "Hel" on the far right. It's difficult to tell their genders; Hel has long, jet black hair (and appears to have one dark grey hand, Tony doesn't know what's up with that) and Jormunandr's hair is of a golden brown, curly and dipping past the child's shoulders. They don't turn around, not even halfway, at any point.

In the end Tony can't tell how long they stay, just watching the children play. When he wakes up the living room is empty and dark, it clearly being very late at night, and Loki is nowhere to be found.

Tony goes to his bedroom and has JARVIS recap to him again what exactly happened to Loki's children; after that there's no more sleep for him. He considers getting drunk again but eventually decides to go to his lab instead. When he gets down there he finds Loki sitting in front of the glass door, arms wrapped around his knees.

Licking his lips, Tony asks quietly, "Did you want to get in? JARVIS, why didn't you say anything?"

"I asked him not to," Loki says, still staring into the dark lab.

Okay then. Figuring that apparently this is the thing to be done now, Tony sits down next to Loki on the cold floor, legs crossed. "So. You can't see them, I gather."

"They do not live," Loki says quietly. "Fenrir and Hel have been locked away, unable to leave their prisons and unable to receive visitors. Jormungandr is lost, and Sleipnir is Odin's steed."

Yeah, that's gotta suck so hard. Before he can think himself out of it, Tony wraps an arm around Loki's shoulders. For a moment Loki remains stiff but then he sort of sags into Tony's chest.

And then he seems to just fall asleep there. It takes Tony a while to notice because he's occupied with Loki's head being on his chest and the way his hair smells, but then Loki keeps getting heavier and slump more and more against Tony and at some point there's no other possible explanation. Tony debates for a while what to do now; he has the suspicion if he tries to carry Loki up the stairs it will end in embarrassment because Loki is a lot heavier than it seems.

What the hell. It certainly won't be the first time Tony's spent the night on the floor. He gives JARVIS a few quiet instructions and carefully lies down, arranging Loki so he'll be at least a little comfortable. The door to the lab opens soundlessly and U drives over, carrying a blanket. It manages to throw it over them so most of their bodies are covered; Tony does the rest, careful so as not to wake Loki up. Once they're arranged as comfortable as they're gonna get (at least the floor is warming up with JARVIS having turned on the underfloor heating) he tries to resist temptation for a while, but eventually gives in and starts running his fingers through Loki's silky hair.

He sorta expects Loki to be gone when he wakes up, but somehow when Tony opens his eyes he miraculously isn't alone. Loki is still there, half sitting up and looking down on Tony. They stare at each other for a moment, and then Loki suddenly leans down and presses his lips to Tony's. Tony's heart seriously skips a beat, he's not even kidding.

When he pulls away, Loki says, "You have given me a great gift, Tony Stark, and I have returned the favor."

Right. Tony sits up and puts his hand on the back of Loki's head, pulling him in for another kiss. "I don't want this to be favors."

Loki's lips quirk up. "These are not favors. This is flirting." With that he gets up and starts to walk up the stairs.

"Oh is it?" Tony calls after him. "With intent?"

Loki throws him a look over his shoulder. "I never do anything without intent."