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The Thing

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"Oh," Loki says, voice soft and delighted. He lets go of Tony's elbow and dives off into the dark alley they just passed by.

Tony blinks. What the-?

"Hello sweetling," it comes out of the alley. "Oh, you are a hungry little thing, aren't you? Yes you are. Come here, we will remedy that immediately."

Loki is cooing. Tony didn't even know Loki is capable of such a tone of voice.

"Loki?" he calls tentatively. The alley is dark and damp but there's absolutely no need to worry; Loki is perfectly capable of defending himself. Better than Tony would be, all things considered.

When his boyfriend finally emerges back into the light of the streetlamp his arms are cupped and there is something scruffy and mangled-looking thing nestled in the crook of his elbow. It's dirty and smells and it looks more like a rat than the cat it's obviously pretending to be.

Tony backs away and raises his hands defensively when Loki approaches him. "Uh, darling… what are you doing? You know this is going to give you fleas? I bet your super Asgardian immune system doesn't repel fleas and I'm not going to kiss you when bloodsucking little insects are climbing all over you."

Loki glares at him. "She does not have fleas. Her name is Helga and she will now live with us."

"Oh, hell no. No," Tony emphasizes when Loki's glare intensifies. "I will not live with an animal. A couple of humans are already more than enough for me, this is going a bit far."

Pulling himself up to his full height, Loki enunciates, "Helga is going home with us. I am going to feed her and bathe her and make her happy."

Tony takes in Loki's expression. He doesn't understand at all what the fuck is going on – one minute ago they were on their way home after having had a nice, extravagant dinner in a way too expensive restaurant and definitely looking towards a nice couple rounds of sex, and the next moment there's a ratty, dirty, smelly thing in Loki's arms and he's clearly planning to spend the evening, if not the rest of its life, with it.

Clearly, Tony has a choice. Either give in temporarily or refuse and not go home with Loki at all and also face having to make a grand apology, which will likely involve some form of humiliation because that's the way apologies go with Loki. And then Tony will probably still end up with the thing in his vicinity.

With a sigh, he gives in to the inevitable. "But it's not getting into our bed."

Loki purses his lips and narrows his eyes. "We'll see." So said, he strides past Tony, walking towards the tower at a brisk pace.

That's clearly as good as he's going to get, and Tony is not happy about it. Hands in his pockets Tony scowls at the ground as he trudges after Loki, who is giving his whole attention to the mangly thing, cooing and purring at it like there's no tomorrow.

Tony doesn't bother following Loki into the bathroom. There is no way he's going to get to do anything with Loki tonight, probably not even cuddle, going by the way Loki completely dotes on the thing. So he goes to tinker in the workshop instead, but after about two hours of little productivity he gives up and decides to go to bed.

Except there's somebody already in it – somebody who belongs there, of course, but the thing certainly doesn't. "Hey!" Tony exclaims, startled and annoyed. "We said it's not getting into our bed."

"I agreed to no such thing," Loki says carelessly, not even looking up, he's so occupied petting the thing. It admittedly looks more like a cat now and it clearly thrives under the attention. It clearly is also marking territory that is Tony's, shedding dark fur all over his nice, clean sheets.

"Okay," Tony says. "No. No, no, no, no. That bed is not just yours, it's mine as well, and I'm not having some… animal sleep in my bed."

Finally Loki looks up, frowning. "Helga needs love and attention. She was horribly abused and starved."

"Yeah, you can give her whatever the hell you want, but not in our bed," Tony says firmly. "Look, clearly I'm not bringing myself across properly, so let me spell it out: I don't like animals. I don't like things that move that I didn't program myself. I don't want some bitey, scratchy, noisy, smelly thing where I sleep; I don't want it where I eat, I don't want it where I live." Drawing a deep breath to calm himself, Tony continues in a moderate tone, "This is not okay. Right, generally I like it when you act like a diva, you know I love you and your prissy ass but there are lines, and they begin where my personal space is concerned." Clearly nothing more constructive is going to come out of this; Tony is this close to a temper tantrum and some yelling. He just hates animals, hates things that move where he lives. People are already difficult enough to deal with; he's not going to suffer some unpredictable thing that's going to scratch and shed all over his furniture and pee on his carpets and shred all his favorite t-shirts and probably lie right where he steps and yowl at him and then everybody is going to be pissed with him. Tony once killed a goldfish; that was the beginning and end of his brief career as a pet owner. He just doesn't like things that depend on him and that he can't switch off.

Yeah, that's that. Tony turns on his heels goes back to his lab and to tinker around with some more stuff, little productivity be damned.

After about an hour, by this point it's early morning (or late night, depending on how one prefers to look at it), the door to his lab slides open to admit Loki. Tony looks up and is relieved to find that he didn't bring the thing with him.

"I am not the only diva in this relationship, I hope you are aware," Loki says.

Tony rolls his eyes. "Tell me something I don't know."

Pursing his lips, Loki huffs. "It truly bothers you."

Three years of going steady with Loki have taught Tony when to bite his tongue and keep any smartass remark to himself. "What, the animal? Yeah."

"Her name is Helga," Loki says tightly. "And it appears we're at an impasse."

With a sigh Tony lets his head drop into his folded arms. "Don't tell me, you really like it. Her."

"Yes." Loki's lips melt into a pout. The delicious one Tony really likes to kiss and kitsch away because it's ridiculous – though really, that applies to all of Loki's pouts. Or general facial expressions.

Not that Tony is going to let it convince him into something he doesn't want. He's not a push-over – he and Loki like to play a game where Tony lavishes Loki with attention and things and Loki lets him, and sometimes Loki pretends to use his wiles to talk him into things Tony pretends to be reluctant about – but this is not one of those things.

Tilting his head Tony stares up at Loki through his eyelashes. "Darling, really. I love you, but I can't live with a… animal."

Loki sighs and looks down. "I can't give her away. She was horribly mistreated."

"If I may suggest a solution," Jarvis pipes up.

"Fire away," Tony tiredly flaps his hand. He still can't believe they're actually having something like a fight because of an animal.

"How about if Helga stayed in the communal areas of the tower?" Jarvis suggests.

Tony and Loki share a narrow-eyed look, each assessing the other's reaction to that idea. Tony isn't exactly happy about it, it still means an animal in his personal space, but on the other hand, the communal areas aren't really personal space anyway. There are people milling about in them at all times of the day and night, and yeah, they're his team mates and friends and he trusts them but that doesn't mean he's completely comfortable with them. He supposes some animal isn't going to make it much worse.

"Okay," he gives in.

A smile blossoms on Loki's face. "Good," he says, sounding less self-satisfied than he probably means to.

Tony sighs. What had he told Pepper when they had gotten together? No children, no animals. Which is why Pepper had never moved in; she had refused to give her cat up. How is it Tony keeps falling in love with cat people? And how is it Loki doesn't even have to flutter his eyelashes at him before he gives in?

Time to face the truth; Tony is whipped.

"Thank you baby," Loki purrs, slinking up to him and leaning against the table, hips tilted in a way that makes his body into one delicious curve. He cups Tony's face and runs his fingernails along his jaw, turning on the charm full-power. "Will you not come to bed with me now?"

Tony bites his lower lip. "Sorry, darling, I'd love to but I can't, the- Helga has been all over everything."

Loki's brows furrow; he's really not used to being denied sex. As in, at all. Come hell or high water, they don't even have to be on speaking terms, they never stop having sex. Quite the opposite; when they're angry with each other it only gets more fiery and mind-blowing. But really, Tony can't get into that bed, not with the animal hairs all over everything. Just the thought makes an unpleasant shiver run down his back, especially when he recalls the way the thing looked before Loki bathed it. It might really have fleas, or some sort of illnesses or whatever, and it was in his bed.

Oh god, okay, no, Tony's going to have to get a new bed.

"Tony." Wrapping his arms around Tony's neck, Loki takes a seat in his lap. He's wearing the pretty pout again. "How about I change the sheets and you come to bed with me?"

"Uh." Tony knows how much a concession that is, coming from Loki; he usually never deigns to do such menial tasks. But still… he glances at the cot in the corner of his lab. "How about we rough it tonight?" Oh god, Loki didn't leave it alone in the bedroom, did he? "Where is Helga now?"

Loki rolls his eyes heavenwards. "In the kitchen."

Oh god, that might almost be worse.

"Oh dear." Loki sighs. "Fine. We're going to call these cleaning agents and they're going to make everything clean tomorrow, alright?"

"They're called cleaners," Tony corrects mildly, wrapping his arms around Loki's waist and resting his forehead against his collarbone.

"Whatever." Carelessly, Loki waves it away. He glances at the cot, clearly not too enamored with the idea, but sighs. "Alright. But I have to go check on Helga first."

"Please wash your hands before you come back," Tony pleads. "Also, first thing tomorrow she's going to the vet. She's not staying anywhere I live without having been checked thoroughly for everything."

Loki smiles delightedly and presses a kiss to Tony's lips. "I knew you cared, love." He kisses Tony again before hopping off his lap and slinking off to take care of his bitey thing.

Tony watches him appreciatively and then starts to shut his lab down, absently wondering whether he's whipped or whether Loki is. But really, it's not important as long as the thing doesn't end up in his bed anymore. Tony got used to living with four people, and then a fifth who also eventually moved into his private floor; he can get used to a cat in the communal area. Hopefully.