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Furious Daddy Fury

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-{[(•)]}-

Nick Fury was not a kind man. He did not care for any of his charges; they were all horrible children that seemed to be perpetually stuck in their terrible twos. The only reason he took good care of them was because it was his job, and if he didn't do it well, he might as well not do it at all.

SHIELD was a new organization to foster children with dark pasts and... special abilities. The initiative had gathered children from all over the globe, bringing them to the US so they could be trained on how to use their powers without causing mass destruction.

Fury was the head of the Avengers division, six little trouble makers who never seemed to do anything cleanly. Five boys and one girl made for an interesting group...

There was Steve Rogers, the oldest of the Avengers at the age of seventeen. He was a handsome teen, with the all American look of blonde hair and blue eyes, and he loved nothing more than to help out around the dorms. After some sort of experimental testing under the government's radar, he had gained super human strength and agility. His best friend and girlfriend were killed by a gang under the control of the monster 'Red Skull.' Steve used his special abilities to take out the entire gang before he was taken in by SHIELD.

Then there was Clint Barton, a twelve year old gifted with the eyesight of an eagle. He was plain looking, with light brown hair and piercing gray eyes. Since the murder of his only remaining family members, he lived on the streets until he was found by Phil Coulson, a field agent and tutor for SHIELD. Clint tended to hide away in rafters and on top of cabinets, preferring to watch events play out from a distance. One could easily spot one of his 'nests', littered with books on science and history.

Clint's closest friend was Natasha Romanoff, an eleven year old from Russia with long, fiery read hair and sharp brown eyes. Raised in the mafia, the girl grew up as an assassin. Discovered on one of her missions, she was quickly brought to America and delivered to SHIELD. Natasha chose to keep to herself and rarely sought out company beyond Clint. She was a quiet, intelligent girl, with a taste for romance and mystery novels.

The next youngest in the Avenger's division was Thor Odinson, a tall boy for ten years of age with the uncanny ability for getting the weather to match his emotions. He summoned thunder and lightning when angered, and it absolutely flooded with rain when he was sad. The blonde haired, blue eyed preteen was left in the park by his parents after disobeying them and almost wiping out another group of children. He had a unique taste for poptarts and a highly Shakespearian attitude. Thor carried around a hammer, which he claimed made him 'worthy.'

After that came Anthony Stark, a technological genius at the age of nine. He had dark hair and dark eyes to match his father's, a man who died before a bond could really form between them. Tony then grew up under the guidance of his father's best friend; said best friend quickly tried to kill the child genius, leaving him to die of heart failure. Luckily, the boy was saved and brought under the protective wings of SHIELD.

Bruce Banner, another child genius at nine, was caught in an intense lab accident involving gamma radiation. This gave him the power to change from a small, brunette boy with bright eyes into a huge, green monster when angered. This monster was later recognized as the 'Hulk.' Bruce was generally timid and polite, but he contained within him a fierce love for nature and animals. He dreamed of being a veterinarian or doctor when he was an adult, a dream that could only be possible with SHIELD.

But those were only the first six of the Avengers division. The youngest member had yet to join...

-{[(•)]}-

Fury didn't like taking his charges for outings. They were loud, obnoxious, and loved to cause trouble. Plus, they all had super powers, doubling the destruction they caused if they had been normal children. Nick didn't like letting them out of the dorms, where they could run out in the street, or bump into another gang, or get lost or hurt; he had to do it anyway, because as much as he hated it, the kids needed fresh air and ways to expel all their pent up energy beyond sparring and inventing.

So that was why Nick Fury was currently driving a van of super powered children to the park.

Though, he should have guessed that the day wouldn't turn out as planned. The nearest park happened to be the same one where Thor was recently abandoned. The boy was fine with it, but he quickly made a startling discovery upon arrival.

"Loki?!" The blonde shouted in surprise, startling a small figure at the top of the play-structure.

A tiny, pained voice softly replied, "Brother?" The Avengers rushed to gather around the small tower, with Fury and Thor being the only ones to climb to the top.

A boy sat there, maybe six or seven years of age. He was small, even for such a young boy, with neatly trimmed black hair and miserable green eyes. His pale body was littered with bruises and cuts, his leg twisted at an awkward angle, a cast on his left arm, and his face darkened with dirt, grime and tear streaks.

"What happened to you?" Thor demanded, grabbing for his hammer. The little boy blinked away furious tears and stood abruptly, despite his injured leg.

"What happened to ME?! What happened to YOU?! You big IDIOT!" The tiny body lunged, tiny hands poised to strangle the blonde. Fury immediately intervened by grabbing Loki around the waist and holding him above the ground. The child winced and struggled weakly; tears trailed down his cheeks, whether from pain or anger one could not tell. "YOU LEFT ME! YOU LEFT ME WITH THEM!" The boy began to weep softly yet kept talking. "First you took your friends and riled up the big kids, then you didn't even realize when one of them broke my arm. Father and Mother left you behind to take me to the HOSPITAL, you DUMMY! They only left you to teach you a LESSON!"

Thor's blue eyes widened in surprise. He opened his mouth to speak, only causing Loki to wail in rage.

"WE CAME BACK AND YOU WERE GONE! YOU LEFT AND FOUND A NEW FAMILY! YOU LEFT ME WITH THEM!" Green eyes flashed dangerously before he began to still. "You know what they do to me, but you left me anyway... They hurt me Thor... And the big kids hurt Father. They made me leave, brother, because they didn't want me if they couldn't have you too. Did you know I was adopted? I was one of the big kids... They left me too." He sniffled weakly and more tears dropped from his eyes. Loki's eyes sparked again. "MORE KIDS CAME AND HURT ME TOO! YOU DIDN'T PROTECT ME! YOU PROMISED! YOU PROMISED ME!"

He screamed in frustration and hurt and turned his attention to Fury, unaware of the horrified and sad faces staring at him. "LET ME GO! LET GO OF ME! PUT ME... Put me down! Let go! L-let.. Let go," he sobbed quietly. When the adult was assured that the boy would no longer try to strangle his charge, he gently set him down. The dark haired child was swept into a hug by the blonde, both of them trembling.

"Mr. Fury," the blue eyed child called softly, pleading and begging with every ounce of his being.

"We can't just pick up any regular kid off the streets, Thor. If anything, he needs to go to a normal orphanage with normal children and be adopted by normal people," Fury stated firmly. He offered no room for negotiations. Loki only sobbed harder and clung to his brother, his knees giving out beneath him.

"He isn't normal!" Thor retorted. "He's got magic!" Fury raised a skeptical eyebrow. "Come on, brother. Show him what you can do."

"F-Father doesn't let me," Loki whispered an anxious protest. Thor knelt beside him.

"Mr. Fury isn't Father. Father left both of us; he hurt both of us. won't do that... doesn't do that," the larger boy offered. "He likes children who are special. He'll like your magic." Loki whimpered and shook his head, terrified of retribution.

"N-no one likes it. N-no one likes me. H-he'll leave me too, a-and he'll take you with him! I-I can't..." He cried.

"You can. Do it for me, please. I can't leave you here. Please, brother. Your magic is a gift. wants to encourage it, not stop it," Thor assured. "He isn't like Father."

The man in question watched the exchange with a careful eye, noticing how scared Loki seemed of using his powers. It seemed the boys' father wasn't kind to either of them. Perhaps he rebuked the younger for using his powers out of spite or because he was the adopted child. Loki was one of the 'big kids', an assumed enemy of the Odinsons.

Finally, Loki nodded tiredly and shifted away from his brother. He held out his hands and focused in silence on something no one else could see. Eventually, a small gold horse formed in his hands and began to trot around, running on air to Fury and dancing around his shoulders. It soon faded out of sight.

"I-I'm sorry I couldn't hold it longer," Loki whispered wearily. "I-I'm just so... tired." He swayed and promptly collapsed. Thor reached out and caught him, apparently used to such occurrences and unaffected.

"Mr. Fury, please," Thor begged. This was about the time when the other children gave their input.

"Mr. Fury, we can't leave him with some orphanage. He's got powers!" Steve defended the child who kept trembling even in sleep. "He's been abused, Mr. Fury, and he needs a home."

"Leaving him is like leaving me," Tony declared. "He sounds just like I did! His parents hurt him too, and left him to be hurt even more. If you leave him, I'm staying with him."

"I agree with Tony," Bruce stated quietly, standing slightly behind his friend. "We can't just abandon him. He needs our help."

"He's like us," Clint offered. "He's like a little bit of all of us. He's hurt, just like we were. It wouldn't be a crime to take care of him. He's got the powers. He's got the abandonment issues. He's pretty much one of us already."

Natasha was the only one who stayed quiet.

Fury sighed and pulled the tiny boy from Thor's arms.

"Fine."

Cheers erupted from the children, and they hurried back to the van. Fury stayed for a moment, allowing a slight tenderness to seep into his touch and gaze as he stared down at the boy in his arms. The dark haired child was badly injured and in desperate need of attention and love.

But this was going to take a lot of paperwork...

-{[(•)]}-

Chapter Text

[Chapter 2]

"His injuries are fairly severe, sir," the voice echoed faintly through the darkness. "He's got several bruised and even cracked ribs." It was definitely a woman. "His leg is broken to a point where I'm not sure I can help, sir, and the other ankle is fractured in a few places." She was probably young... "His left arm is broken, but it seems to have been treated. He's got signs of starvation, exhaustion, and something that resembles heat stroke."

"So he's pretty banged up," a deep voice responded. Definitely male, older, maybe even taller... "How long until he's awake?"

"He's been awake for a few minutes now, Mr. Fury," a smaller female voice responded. "He shows signs of response to your voices. Keep talking and he might wake up all the way."

"That's a relief. I thought with some of those bruises there might be brain damage and it would take longer..." A lighter male voice said, sounding happy. Who were they talking about? Maybe he could use his magic to heal this person...

"Brother, are you asleep?" A familiar voice questioned. Was it talking to him? He thought it was... "Brother?" It was. "Are you still asleep?"

"Idiot," he sighed tiredly, refusing to open his eyes. It was probably too bright like in all those books he read. "If I were asleep, I wouldn't respond to you."

"Couldn't or wouldn't?" Thor challenged. Loki snorted and opened his tired eyes, observing his brother's worried face.

"Wouldn't."

"Are you awake, then?"

"No." Loki closed his eyes again.

Thor huffed, feeling frustrated, and one of the adults laughed. The dark haired boy flinched and his eyes shot open. With a squeak, he used his good arm to pull the sheets over his head.

The sheets fluttered down to lay almost completely flat on the bed.

The adults startled and rushed forward.

"Did he teleport?!" Fury demanded and pulled out a small device to check the energy levels of the room. Thor just snorted.

"He didn't teleport." The three adults gave a sigh of relief. "He can't do that just yet." Fury moaned and let his head hang. Great, another kid that could make themselves disappear. "Loki is still in the bed."

The ten year old stepped forward and lifted the sheets to reveal a quivering black kitten. The blue eyes child gently stroked it between the ears.

"He... turned into a cat?" The shorter man questioned. "I've seen some strange things, but..."

"Loki is a natural shapeshifter. His magic comes from training. When he gets especially scared or nervous, he changes into small animals. I remember once he turned into a mouse and mother almost chopped off his tail," Thor frowned quietly at the memory, still petting his little brother.

"Alright. How do we change him back?" Fury demanded.

The blonde shrugged. "You don't. He will change back when he is ready." The kitten mewled and batted at Thor's hand before changing his line of vision back and forth between his brother and the adults. "Oh!" Thor laughed. "I don't think was quite prepared to wake up to so many adults. Maybe he would be more comfortable if there were fewer people..." Loki nodded timidly and buried himself under the blankets again.

"Hill, thanks for the status. You're dismissed. Coulson, I'm not sure why you were here in the first place, but you're dismissed. Romanof?" The younger male and females nodded and left the room, leaving just Fury and Thor. "Alright, Loki. You can come out now."

"Brother, it is , the man from the park. He's very friendly, remember?" The blonde murmured to the shivering bundle of sheets. Slowly the sheets expanding before falling away to reveal the injured boy.

"S-sorry, . Adults make me n-nervous..." Loki admitted shyly. He rolled over to lay his head back on the pillow, careful not to aggravate his injuries too much. It was a shame he was so experienced at something like that...

"It's alright, kid. I just wanted to talk to you for a little bit, get some things cleared up before we bring you in," the bald man stated plainly. The green eyed boy nodded quietly.

"M-my throat hurts..." He admitted weakly.

"I'll stick to yes or no questions then."

A nod of compliance.

Meanwhile, Thor snuck off to get his brother some water and a couple of poptarts.

"So, you've got magic."

Nod.

"Are you any good with it?"

Nod.

"Are you afraid of what you can do?"

Loki shook his head slowly.

"Are you afraid of what others do? When you use your magic, I mean..."

Nod. Tiny tears formed in the boy's bright eyes. Maybe it was time for a subject change.

"Do you remember us finding you in the park?"

Nod.

"Did you see the other children?"

Shake.

"Could you handle meeting them?"

Loki seemed hesitant. He hadn't even seen the other children in the park, and they were Thor's new friends. Last time Thor made friends, he used them to ignore Loki, especially when Father was angry. Was it going to happen again? Was he going to be cast into the shadows again, lost behind Thor's glory?

The boy's shoulders trembled softly at the thought. Was he ever going to be loved? Or was he doomed to always be ignored? He didn't want to be alone anymore. He wanted friends, a family! A family who loved him, at least.

"Hey, there's no need to cry," Fury said. It was not necessarily soft, nor was it hard. It was simple- a statement. It was as close to gentle as he could probably get.

The man leaned forward and lightly placed a hand on Loki's shoulder, noting the way it flinched under his touch. His other hand came up to wipe Loki's eyes.

"Let me make this clear, kid. If we didn't like you, you wouldn't be here. If we didn't care about you, you wouldn't even be a thought in our minds. You're here because of your brother and the other children here. They practically begged for you to be allowed to stay. They genuinely liked you. I'm not saying you have to meet them all at once, but if you wanted to get introduced one at a time, I'm sure we could arrange something. That sound good?" Fury preached, understanding the basic mental status of abuse and neglect victims.

Loki nodded quietly, but tears still dripped from his eyes. Thor appeared then and silently handed his brother a sippy-cup of water. The younger boy frowned at it for a moment before he recognized the trembling of his hands. He sighed softly and drank a few sips.

"Alright. Are you still okay to answer questions?" Fury requested. Loki nodded again, the cup still in his mouth. He looked smaller somehow, more innocent and fragile. The man tried to focus on the tasks at hand.

"These next questions are probably going to be a little more personal. Are you okay with that?" Nod.

"You mentioned being adopted. Do you know if it was legal?"

Loki summoned his voice for this. "It wasn't," he croaked. "Father found me and took me home, but he never signed any papers."

"That's probably for the best then. Speaking of your father, am I correct in assuming that he abused you?"

Fury definitely got his answer when the room practically exploded with magic energy as Loki chucked the sippy-cup across the room, sobbing and wailing.

The dark skinned man moved to either comfort or silence the boy, but he was stopped by a hand on his elbow. Dark eyes looked down to see Thor, who quietly shook his head.

"LOKI!" The ten year old called in an authoritative voice. "That is enough! You are going to injure yourself further and you are recklessly wasting energy! meant no harm by his line of questioning!"

Loki stilled, angry and fearful tears still streaming down his cheeks. He sniffled defiantly and held out his hand. This apparently summoned the sippy-cup, which floated peacefully back into his hands. The green and gold aura that had began to cover everything died away instantly, but signs of magical energy remained in Loki's glaring eyes.

"This is the third time he's made me cry," he murmured, clearly frustrated. Thor rolled his eyes.

"How else is he supposed to figure out if he's going to adopt you unless he knows about you?" The blonde huffed. "Honestly. Sometimes you make such a fuss..." Green eyes shifted away, slightly shameful.

"I didn't know he wanted to adopt me... No one wants me..."

Fury raised an eyebrow. Was the kid just throwing a pity party or did he actually believe that? Nevermind... Considering he was an abuse victim, it was probably the latter...

"Well, clearly that's not true 'cause that's why I'm here. I'm looking to make an investment in you, kid. I want to figure out if you should be here or not, and from the sounds of things, you're probably sticking around for a while," the man spoke boldly with a hint of pride. Loki's eyes widened in amazement and he turned to face him happily.

"Really?!" He beamed. Fury smirked and stood up, surprisingly happy with himself for getting the kid to smile.

"We'll start introducing you to the others tomorrow, one at a time of course, and once you can move more freely we'll get you started on your new school work. We'll have to start talking about preferences, because I don't know about you, but I'm not fond of the Cinderella-in-rags look. You're gonna need some new clothing. After that, we can get you a room set up. Maybe we can even find a magic teacher for you, someone to help you master your skills. Kid, I think I'm about ready to make you an Avenger," Fury finished with a proud smile, offering his hand to the injured seven year old.

Loki stared at the hand with wide eyes. Tears of joy poured down his cheeks. With a small smile, he reached out and shook the man's hand.

"T-thank you, Mr. Fury. I-I don't know else to say..."

-{[(•)]}-

Chapter Text

[Chapter 3]

"Sir, I hate to say this... But, sir, he can't walk. Probably not ever. Even if we got him the best physical therapy, there is no fix for what's been done to him. He won't walk again, sir," Maria explained as calmly as possible. Not only had the leg been twisted quite terribly, there were several broken bones, damaged muscles, and severed nerves. It was practically impossible that the child could ever walk again, let alone stand.

Fury just chuckled. "You know how I feel about the words can't and won't, Hill. I think you're forgetting- in this building we've got two master assassins at the ages of twelve and eleven, a boy who can turn into a raging green... thing, two child geniuses, a ten year old who can summon lightning... I just don't think you get it. There is no can't anymore. Never was. Anything and everything is possible."

"Well, sir... Currently, his is unable to walk, and we have no way to help him, sir. There is no therapy or solution I know of beyond magic, and the only magician we know isn't experienced enough to heal something of this magnitude. With all due respect, sir," the brunette nodded stiffly, throughly intimidated after Fury's lecture. The man sighed and nodded. He waved his hand in a simple gesture that let her know she was dismissed.

"Oh, and can you call Coulson in? Thanks," he called to her as an afterthought.

Sure enough, the bright eyed man walked in a few moments later. He unbuttoned his suit jacket and sat politely in the chair in front of Fury's desk.

"You called, sir?" He asked in a light tone. He had an idea of what this meeting was going to be about...

"Have you tested him yet?" Nick asked.

"Not yet. He was sleeping last time I went in, and the time before that he was talking to Thor. Sounded serious, so I left them alone," Phil explained in reply.

"When can you try again? It's important that we get an idea of where he's at. You might end up giving him private lessons; he seems timid around new people. That just means we need to get you two introduced and quickly," the head of the Avengers declared firmly. "If he doesn't meet you soon, he might not get used to you. That would be a problem."

"I'll get right on it, sir. Though, I've talked to Thor, and Loki sounds like he's a pretty smart kid. I believe he was reading eighth grade level books." The men nodded in unison.

"Well, I guess that's that then. Test him, get to know him, maybe help introduce him to the others. That should be it for him. What about the others? How are they doing?"

-[]-

Loki timidly looked up when a boy opened the door. A wild mess of brown curls stood out on his head, and his large chocolate eyes took in every detail of the room with mild interest. Then they landed on the injured boy in the bed.

"See! I told you, Bruce! He's totally awake. Come on! Let's meet him!" The boy cried eagerly, looking out into the hallway.

A small voice nervously replied, "No, Tony! said he gets scared around people! We shouldn't even be here! We're gonna get in trouble because of you!"

The brunette in the doorway scoffed. "Fury's never gonna find out! But if you're too scared, I guess you can just go back to your room. By yourself..."

"Tony!"

Loki watched the nine year old with wide eyes. He breathing started to quicken, and his heart beat brutally against his chest.

"You'll be fine. Besides, I'll just chat for a minute, and then I'll be right behind you!" The boy reassured.

"Fine," the other voice huffed, and quiet footsteps moved away from the medical room. Loki's attention was quickly brought back to the other child in the room when 'Tony' sat on the end of the bed.

"So you're Thor's little brother," he murmured with fascination.

Loki shyly averted his eyes. "Y-yeah."

"And you can do magic. How does that work? Is it real? Can you show me something?" Tony questioned in rapid succession. The dark haired boy blushed at the attention, but he felt his heart rate slowing. He quietly waved his hands, making a few glowing flowers appear. "Are they real?" Tony's eyes sparkled. "Can I touch 'em?"

Loki shifted and silently nodded.

Just as Tony reached his hand out, the door opened and Fury walked in. The man's eyebrow twitched, and he grabbed the nine year old's ear without another thought, dragging him from the door despite the boy's many protests.

"Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow!" Tony yelped. "I wasn't hurtin' him! Promise! I was bein' nice!"

"I don't care, I told you to stay out of there!" Fury snapped.

"W-wait!" Loki's voice came quietly from the room. "C-could he stay? P-please?" Met with Loki's desperate voice and Tony's pleading eyes, Nick sighed and released the boy's ear.

"Don't think you're getting out of trouble."

"Wouldn't dream of it, sir!"

And with that, Tony hurried back into the medical room.

He sat down on the end of the bed with a 'plunk' and began to study Loki, his mind whirring away at a million miles an hour.

"So. You look fine. Why are you still in here?" Tony asked. Loki sighed and looked down to where his hands fiddled with the bed sheets.

"I am unable to walk..." He admitted. He sounded tired and a little depressed. That was not fun, and Tony didn't like anything that was not fun.

"That doesn't explain why you're still in here," the brunette pestered, softly poking Loki's good arm.

"Mr. Fury had to order a wheelchair."

Oh. Bummer...

"I don't see why he needs to do that. I could build you one like that!" Tony snapped. He thought for a moment. "And it could have cup holders, and Internet connection... and maybe it could even have a little compartment that gives you Goldfish!"

"You could build that?" Loki questioned, impressed.

"Sure! I build lots of things!" The brown eyes boy grinned. "Like Clint, he wants to be a spy and an archer, so I made him a collapsible bow and a special... thingy to hold his arrows."

"Do you mean a quiver?" The dark haired boy raised an eyebrow.

"Yeah! That! And Bruce's clothes kept getting lost when he turned into the other guy, so I just made him some special stretchy pants in his favorite color!"

"Really? And why did the pants need to stretch? What methods did you use to create such a thing?" The miniature magician asked with bright eyes.

Just beyond the door, Fury listened in thoughtfully. He quietly stepped away and moved down the hallway. Loki would be fine; he was going to fit in just perfectly with the other Avengers.

-{[(•)]}-

Chapter Text

[Chapter 4]

Tony had made it his goal to introduce everyone to Loki. One at a time though, because really, the kid was a nervous wreck. The adults could plan and plot all they wanted, but he was going to get stuff done!

"Come on come on come on come on come on!" Tony whined, tugging on his best friend's sleeve. "He's really cute, and I know you'll like him! He's super smart too, so we don't even have to talk dumb like with Steve!"

"No, Tony. I'm not getting in trouble because of you. Besides, if anything goes wrong, the other guy will come out. I don't want Loki to get hurt," Brice rolled his eyes and continued reading.

"You are zero fun!" Tony wailed. "Please?! Break the rules just this once! Then I'll leave you alone, and you came be a goody two shoes forever!"

"I said no, Tony!"

"Please?"

"No!"

"Pretty please?!"

"Are you even listening to me?!"

"Pretty please with purple frosting and little green rage monsters on top?"

"That is not funny."

"You're smiling."

"Doesn't mean it's funny. Maybe I'm just happy."

"Happy cause you're about to see Loki?"

"No, Tony."

-[]-

"Hi, Loki. I'm Bruce," the second brunette introduced himself politely.

"H-hello," Loki smiled. "How are you?"

"I'm well, thanks. Tony told me you can do magic," Bruce smiled.

"He can!" The first brunette bounced excitedly. "Show him! Show him!"

Bruce have Tony a reprimanding glare before he returned his gaze to Loki. "Only if that's okay with you, Loki." Internally, the miniature scientist in Bruce was jumping at the chance to see something of the magical nature. Externally, he was trying to be considerate to the disabled kid in front of him.

"I-it's fine. It's nice that someone likes my abilities..." When Loki looked down at his hands in concentration, Tony and Bruce shared a look.

Eventually, a small green bird appeared in the seven year old's hands. It hopped curiously closer to the two brunettes. When Bruce reached out to it, it chittered in fright and flew across the room.

"Wow," the dark eyes child breathed. "It acts and reacts like a real bird. How do you do that?"

"You make a lot of nature stuff," Tony observed before listing off items on his fingers. "First you did the little horse trick for Fury, then you did the flowers for me, and now you've done a bird for Bruce. You some kind of hippie or something?"

"No, I am not a hippie," the green eyed boy's eyebrow twitched in irritation. "Things that are found naturally are just easier to replicate. Most magic has some kind of connection to the earth." Bringing up his hands, he made a glowing projection of the earth, subtly dimming the lights as well. "You may have seen this in Avatar, but the four elements are-"

"Water, earth, fire, and air," Bruce nodded thoughtfully. Loki's spinning globe disappeared to make four representation of the previously mentioned symbols. For water, there was the image of a moving waterfall. For earth, there were changing pictures of the Grand Canyon and several other famous natural landmarks. For fire, there was what appeared to be footage of a forest fire, and for air, there was a projection of trees swaying in the wind. Above each magical representation was the appropriate 'nation symbol' from the popular television series.

"That's so cool," Tony whispered and reached out his hand. When it touch the image of the waterfall, he gasped and pulled back. "I got wet!" He even held out the dripping hand to Bruce. Both children now sat on the end of the medical bed, watching Loki's presentation in amazement.

"If I touched the fire, would I get burned?" Bruce asked. The green eyed boy laughed and shook his head.

"I was just messing with Tony. Water isn't too difficult to conjure, since there's already condensation in the air. Magic is just like... advanced science, I guess you could say," he explained quietly. Loki was secretly pleased that his new friends seemed to be enjoying his skills.

Moving on with the lesson, Loki let the images fade. He brought up a new projection of a ball of glowing light. Stands of light twisted around the sphere and danced away from it. "This is a representation of pure magical energy. Magicians can get energy from the environment around them, or they can steal it from another source. I usually get my magic from small creatures or plants."

"Does that hurt them? The animals I mean..." Tony questioned.

"No. They don't use their magical energy, so they wouldn't even notice if it was gone," Loki shrugged. The bird from across the room tweeted cheerfully, as though to confirm what the boy had said. The child's green eyes glittered as he conjured a simple image of a person. "When magicians practice their magic and train with it, they build up their reserves, where thy store their energy." The glowing figure waved their hands, drawing tiny balls of white energy to them. The spheres combined and went inside the figure, forming a glowing heart in their chest.

"What happens if you use too much energy?" Tony asked. Bruce nodded thoughtfully. Loki frowned and thought for a moment.

"Well..." He waved his hands, making the figure demonstrate his next words. "Similar to how the magical energy is connected to nature, the energy is also connected to the magician. When they use all of that energy, it can start to drain them, causing them physical damage." The glowing heart inside the figure faded to a black hole, and the figure grabbed at the hole before falling sideways, seemingly in pain. "I've heard of some magicians going blind, or even falling into comas and never waking up."

Bruce and Tony winced.

"That's not good," Bruce muttered.

"I'll say," Tony agreed. The three boys sat in thoughtful silence for a few moments.

"What about us? What if we tried to use magic?" Bruce questioned. Loki shook his head.

"I doubt it would work. Everything has magical energy, but only some people are gifted with the ability to tap into that magic energy and use it," he answered.

"Does it cost a lot of energy to make pictures like this?" Tony asked.

"Not really," Loki shrugged. "I'm just bending the rays of light that were already here. I simply add color by reflecting the light off of something with that color."

"How do you improve your magic?" Bruce wondered.

"Magic energy can be used for anything. It is only as limited as your imagination, I guess, so you just improve it by thinking of new ways to use it. The more you practice, the better you get at it. And the better you get at it, the easier it is to think of ways to use it," Loki grinned at his explanation. He felt proud of himself for explaining it so perfectly.

"You showed us pure magic energy, and that was white. Is it white because it's pure or just because you made it white? Is there such a think as black energy?" Tony blurted, thinking back to the earlier projection.

The seven year old's face became solemn, and his face significantly paled.

Silently, he conjured several spheres of different colored energies, including red, purple, green, blue, pink, white, and black. He first brought the blue energy to the front, making the other globes smaller in comparison.

Quietly, the other boys noted the different ways the energies moved and acted. The white energy moved beautifully and gently, soothingly like nature itself. The blue energy was just as serene and peaceful, but it was quicker in movement. The green energy looked more like a small ball of fire than energy. The red energy cackled and flickered like lightning, and the purple energy pushed and pulsed like it was alive. Lastly, the black energy sizzled like acid, constantly bubbling and popping with sparks of energy coming off it.

"I assume you have seen the show Danny Phantom," Loki began.

"Yeah, we have," Bruce nodded, completely interested in the boy's speech.

"Wait, hold up. Danny Phantom is stupid; ghosts are so not real."

"As we are currently talking about magic and natural energy..."

"Shut up..."

"As I was trying to say," Loki grinned softly. "The makers of that show had a fairly good idea of what natural energies are like. The weakest energy is blue. It is naturally very peaceful, so it's mostly used by magicians who are healers." He brought the green energy forward. "Green energy is the next most powerful. It's somehow much more raw than blue energy, making it like fire which is wild and fairly unpredictable. It can be very explosive as well, when it is condensed..." The sphere closed in on itself before exploding outwards in a blinding ball of light that made the boy's cover their eyes. When they looked back, it was back to the green fire from before. "I only use green energy because of that rawness, which makes it powerful as well."

"But you also use gold energy. That's the stuff you used to make the horse for Fury," Tony commented. "There's no gold energy there."

"There is; you just don't see it," Loki smirked. "The next energy is red. It's only slightly more stable than green energy because it's slightly less raw. This makes it have the consistency of lightning or electricity." The red energy moved forward next, flickering and cackling so loud the boys could hear it. "I only use red energy when I combine it with green energy. This makes it much more powerful, because it is raw, which is good, but stable, which is better." The red and green spheres of energy combined to make gold energy which swirled and sparked beautifully.

"Why don't you just use gold energy all of the time?" Bruce pondered. "If it's more stable and it works best..."

"Gold energy can't be condensed. And using it just requires more magical energy altogether." The green eyed boy waved his hands in a 'what can you do?' gesture.

"So gold energy is for special occasions then?" Tony asked.

"Not really. It only takes a little more concentration than green energy. But, green energy just comes more naturally to me. Anyway..." He separated the gold energy into green and red energy again. Then he pulled the purple energy forward. "Purple energy is even more powerful than red energy because it's raw and completely unstable, but it is very easily controlled. I can't use purple energy yet, though, so I can't really tell you much about it." The purple sphere moved backwards, and Tony looked excited at the thought of finally having his question answered.

Instead Loki waved his hands and all of the spheres disappeared.

"Something you must understand is the connection between magical energy and the user. As I said, the more a person uses their energy, the bigger their reserves grow and the more they can use. When their reserves grow, the become even more connected to their magical energy, until the person and the magic work as one unit." Loki's face never lost its seriousness, and Bruce and Tony calmly remained serious as well. "It doesn't take very long for a person's magical energy to begin to bond with their personality. Some energies will feel more natural to them than others, as I showed you with the green energy and I. Some people are dark on the inside. That is what transfers to their magical energy... and makes it as black as their soul."

The room was silent for a long moment.

"Scary," Tony nodded. Bruce hummed.

"I'm serious!" Loki cried. "When people are bad, it makes their energy bad!" He summoned the image of the acidic black energy. "Black energy is just as powerful as the pure white stuff." He brought up another white nervy sphere next to it. "Except, black energy is magical energy in its darkest form. It is evil, and it can only be used for destruction. Nothing good ever comes from black energy."

"Alright, alright, we got it. What is that lesson supposed to help us do? Avoid people destroying stuff with glowing black stuff?" Tony questioned, folding his arms behind his head lazily. He fell backwards to lay on the bed.

"I guess! I don't know! You're the one who asked about black energy!" Loki shouted. Bruce chuckled anxiously.

"I don't think he meant anything bad, Loki. He probably just thinks you're being too serious about it. He's allergic to seriousness, you know," Bruce ended in a secretive whisper.

"I am!" Tony defended. "It makes me itchy! Look, I'm breaking out in a rash now!" He scratched his arms playfully.

Loki snickered and waved his hands, causing Tony's skin to become an irritated red. The brunette yelped and scratched viscously, howling out a distressed whine of "LOOOOOKKKIII~!"

-[]-

Fury thoughtfully leaned back in his chair, observing the scene of the three boys in the medical room. He folded his hands together and shifted in his leather office chair.

"So that's how magic works. I guess he won't be needing a teacher after all." The man raised an eyebrow and carefully addressed Stark's little friend. "JARVIS?"

There was no response.

"You know I monitor everything the kids do. You think I don't know you're there?"

Hesitantly, the AI replied, "Yes, Master Fury?"

"Could you email Hill and Coulson the basic details of Loki's little presentation?" The one eyed man requested.

"Certainly, sir. Will that be all?"

"Keep helping Stark. I know you're doing a good job. Maybe you can help Loki a little bit, too."

"I'll do my best, Master Fury."

-{[(•)]}-

Chapter Text

[Chapter 5]

"What are you waiting for?"

Clint jumped about a foot in the air. Turning around to the source of the voice, he dramatically placed a hand over his heart.

"Gosh, Tasha!" He shouted. "Way to give a guy a heart attack!"

"You'll live," she shrugged carelessly. "Besides, anyone could have snuck up on you with you staring at the door like that. I thought you were going to burn a hole through it."

"I wasn't staring at it," he mumbled with a slight blush.

"You want to meet him. Everyone does," she replied simply. "I get it. I even want to talk to him, and I already saw him. He's a cute kid. Sounds pretty sweet too. Just go in there."

"I don't want to freak him out!" The sandy blonde protested.

Natasha rolled her eyes.

"He's already met Tony and Bruce. If things turn out badly, escape through the vents. There's also the window, and there's the trap door under the bed."

"He's disabled, Tasha. I don't think I'd need to escape."

"You would if Fury comes in."

The two children stared at each other for a long moment.

"Fine," Clint sighed. "I'll go in. You're meeting him next."

"I'll be the only one left besides Steve. Phil went in yesterday to test him. I think he's gonna end up in private lessons. And Steve won't go in until he gets approval from Fury. So I'm most likely to be the next one he meets anyway," she sighed.

"Buzz kill." Clint smiled nervously. "See you at dinner?"

"Definitely."

With that wonderful amount of courage boost, the hawk-eyed child entered the medical room. Silently he walked around the end of the bed to stand next to the reading seven year old.

"Hi, I'm Clint."

Loki screamed.

Clint flinched and covered his ears, backing away quickly. The book dropped out of Loki's hands and his green eyes darted all over the room before landing on the surprised twelve year old.

"Don't do that!" He shouted angrily, one hand over his heart. "Why would you do that? What did I ever do to you?!"

"Sorry!" The grey eyed boy apologized. "I didn't know I was going to scare you so badly! I'll... I'll leave if you want me to."

Loki took a moment to regulate his breathing.

"I-it's fine. Just don't sneak up on me again. I am not fond of surprises," he declared. His eyes flashed with annoyance. "Anyway, what did you say your name was?"

"I'm Clint," the twelve year old repeated. The seven year old studied him for a short moment.

"So your the one who Tony made the bow and arrows for," he murmured.

"He told you about that?" The dirty blonde scratched the back of his head, blushing lightly.

"Are you any good?"

"What?"

"With archery, I mean. Are you skilled at archery?"

"I guess... I mean, I always hit the bullseye."

"You'll have to show me sometime."

"Sure. I heard that you make magic."

"You don't make magic! You use it, or summon it. It's all about energy!"

"Oh. That's cool, I guess."

"You guess a lot."

"So... What about magic? Could you show me something?"

"Is that all I'm good for around here? Aren't any of you people interested in my other abilities?"

"Well, we would be if we knew what they were. What else can you do?"

"I'm good at knife throwing. I also hit the bullseye every time."

"Sweet! What kind of knives do you use?"

"I don't know?! Knives?!"

"Hey, there's no need to get so worked up about it! I just... I heard there's, like, special knives for throwing... Or something."

"I just use whatever knives I can find."

"That's cool too. I guess that means you're good at adjusting..."

"You guess a lot."

"You said that already."

-[]-

Fury watched the boys bicker, silently hating the fact that he was going to have a another group of children who consistently fought. Although... Bruce, Tony, and Clint seemed to get along fine, and since Loki liked Tony and Bruce, that might mellow everyone out.

"Sir, I finished grading Loki's tests, sir," Coulson called, leaning into the room.

"That's good. Let me see," Nick nodded gesturing to the seats in front of his desk. The light haired man sat down and folded his hands in front of him.

"He's brilliant, sir. I'm putting him in with Tony and Bruce."

"Really. I could have sworn he was only seven. What is it with all these young geniuses?" The one eyed man sighed. "What were his scores? I can't decipher the mumbo jumbo you scribbled down here." The younger man had the decency to blush.

"Well, sir, he was almost at high school level in his reading. He seems to understand most concepts of literature and writing. He had college level science scores, too," Phil grinned faintly. "I'm seeing a reoccurring theme here..."

"As am I. Does he specialize in any specific field?" Fury questioned thoughtfully, yet he tiredly rubbed his temples with his fingertips.

"No, sir. He's perfectly rounded. Biology, chemistry, physics... I tested him on everything I could, sir."

"Good. What about history and math?"

"He did well with math as well, sir. He came in around sixth grade level or so. History... not so hot, sir," the light eyed man shrugged. "He came in around second or third grade there. He has a basic understanding of history from all around the world, but he doesn't understand the elements of culture or geography, sir."

"I see. That seems odd, though. He does especially well in science, but he doesn't know much about the politics of earth. He does well in literature, but he doesn't understand culture? I'd say he's probably adverse to people in general..." The older man pondered.

"That what his scores indicate, sir. He's not fond of... social interaction. He insisted that I call it history instead of social science," Phil shrugged. "Do you want me to work with him, sir?"

"Not especially. The others will help more than you probably would... Coulson, you're dismissed." The shorter man stood and left the room.

Fury turned his attention back to the screen with the view of the medical room, where Loki was outright laughing at Clint's flushed face. The man sighed and tiredly buried his face in his hands.

-{[(•)]}-

Chapter Text

[Chapter 6]

Loki had been asleep when Natasha had entered. He was cute like that, she gently noticed as she calculatingly took in his peacefully features. In her mind she perfectly pictured the pain and terror from his first day of awareness with the Avengers.

Realizing that she was now staring at the tiny seven year old, she quietly stole a mystery novel from his stack of books and sat down in the armchair in the corner. She brought her legs up beside her, carefully observing her surroundings over the top of her book. Already, she knew the locations of everyone in the building, so she felt no problems about settling down with the book to read.

-[]-

When his eyes opened slowly, Loki immediately noticed the presence of the other person in the room. With such bright red hair and pretty brown eyes, it could be no one else but the single female Avenger. He watched her warily for a moment, until he took notice of the book she was reading.

"I like that one, too. How far in are you?" Loki questioned softly, still tired. His tiny, pale hands lifted to his face to gently rub the sleep away.

If Natasha were any lesser woman, she might have jumped. As it was, she just lowered her book to observe the seven year old. His hair was still slightly messy from sleeping, and his green eyes were filled with sleep. Adorable...

"It is a good book," she agreed before glancing at the page number. "I'm on page 46. The main five just met Danny."

"I bet you'll love what happens next!" Loki grinned mischievously. The redhead squealed slightly and covered her ears.

"Don't tell me!" She barked. "I want to read it myself!"

"I wasn't going to. I was just kidding," he was still smiling softly. "What's your favorite kind of book?"

"The good kind."

Loki pouted. "Come on!" He whined. "I'll tell you my favorite!" Natasha smirked slightly, feeling proud of herself for getting him back so quickly.

"I like mystery novels. The ones where you choose which path you get," she admitted. "What about you?"

"I prefer fantasy books. Stories that take you to far away places or let you meet strange animals," the dark haired child sighed wistfully and sat up against the pillows.

"Speaking of going somewhere new," Natasha bit her lip as she decided whether to continue or not. "Why are you still in the medical room? We've already set up another bed and dresser in Thor's room. And I heard about your legs. The wheelchair should have gotten here by now, right?"

Loki giggled quietly into his hands. "I would have the wheelchair already, but... Tony wanted to make a few, ah, adjustments..."

"Did he get Bruce to help him?" The brown eyed girl inquired with a knowing grin.

"Of course."

"You'll probably never see that wheelchair again..."

The duo laughed.

"You're nice," Loki stated quietly, almost so quietly that she didn't hear it. "C-can we be friends?"

"Sure," she shrugged. Mentally, she cheered. Finally she had another friend besides Clint! And Loki was just too cute!

"O-okay," the green eyed child smiled happily. He adjusted the sheets around him and fidgeted with his hands. "Are there any other kinds of books you like?"

Natasha blushed discretely and nodded almost imperceptibly.

"I'm eleven now," she boasted slightly, "So Fury let's me read... er, romance books." Loki's face bloomed an excellent shade of red.

"A-am I too young?" He whispered. The redhead blinked in surprise and stared at him for a moment.

"I guess he might let you read some," she managed. The tiny boy let out a short breath of relief.

"So!" Natasha quickly searched for a new subject. "What- what other kinds of things do you like?"

"I like to write, and I throw knives sometimes..." The green eyed child shrugged.

"Do you have anything with you that you've written?" The brown eyed eleven year old wondered. Loki grinned.

"I don't normally write with pens and paper."

"Do- Do you use magic then?" She asked.

"Yes," his face flushed and he smiled. He reached over to the nightstand and grabbed a marble from behind the stack of books.

"If you say that's your magic crystal ball-" Natasha warned teasingly. The dark haired boy laughed.

"No! It's more like a magical filing cabinet," he explained. He set it on the sheets in front of him and swiped upwards with his finger, bringing out a magical set of glowing files. Cautiously, Natasha got up from her chair to approach the bed.

Loki's eyes drifted over the folders before he picked one up with a grin. He swiped downwards to put the others away before opening the one he held. Instantly, several different stacks of paper floated up into view.

"Which do you like more, dragons or faeries?" He asked the awestruck girl beside him.

"Dragons," she breathed as she stared at the stories in front of her. "This is like a touch screen computer... Tony's probably made something like this."

"I made the system myself," Loki gave a proud little smirk. "Dragons, you said? Okay..." He reached up to a stack of papers floating to his left and handed it to Natasha on his right. He swiped downwards twice to put the other papers back into the file and return it to the marble.

"You wrote this?" The redheaded girl mumbled after reading a few paragraphs. "It's interesting. So the dragons are being attacked by the humans, because they don't know how else to get food."

"That's the general concept, yes," Loki beamed. She liked his story!

"May I keep this for a little bit so I can read it?" Natasha requested. The green eyed boy nodded, obviously pleased. The girl carefully slipped the pages under the cover of the book she had been reading and promised herself to get back to it later.

"Loki! We finished-!" Tony yelled as he burst into the room, pushing the door so hard it slammed into the wall, bounced back, and knocked him over.

"Tony!" Loki cried is shock. The brunette sat up with a sheepish grin while Bruce calmly entered through the open doorway. The shorter nine year old was pushing Loki's wheelchair.

"Hey, Nat!" Tony smirked and popped up from the floor. Now ignoring her, he practically pounced on the seven year old in the hospital bed. "We're all done now, Loki! We knew you needed it really quick, so we stayed up all night to work on it!"

"R-really?" The dark haired boy seemed surprised that they would go to such lengths for him. "Did say I could leave now?"

"This goofball was too excited to ask him," Bruce scoffed playfully. "Luckily, I was able to ask while I was bringing the wheelchair, which he also forgot."

"Anyway! Check it out!" Tony exclaimed and pushed the wheelchair closer to the bed. "There's storage space in these pouches on the back and underneath." He gestured to said pouches. "That way you don't have to carry all of those... books- (insert shudder) -around on your lap. We also spruced up the brakes, because they certainly were going to work if you were ever going I speeds you should!"

"Tony, I doubt he'll use his wheelchair to zoom like crazy all through the house..." Natasha admonished playfully.

"Be quiet, oh killer-of-joy," he retorted. "Anyway! You can get direct connection to JARVIS through here." Tony pointed to a miniature touch screen on the end of the right armrest. "That way, you can get connection to us or ask questions whenever and wherever you need to. It's kinda like wifi, but it works everywhere."

"Can I explain stuff now?" Bruce sighed. His brown eyed friend huffed but nodded anyway. "Thank you. Under the left armrest is a goldfish dispenser. Unfortunately, we haven't filled it yet. It also works with most cereals and small snacks."

"That's neat! Thanks," Loki grinned. Having 24/7 access to goldfish was like a gift from the snack gods!

Natasha giggled quietly into her hand. Boys and their goldfish. She like marshmallows and gummy bears more herself, but maybe that was just her...

"And, just in case you need to defend yourself... Now, I know you have magic, but we heard from Clint about the knives thing. So, just in case, if you turn around, you can pull this up to get a set of throwing knives," Bruce demonstrated by grabbing the bottom of the back of the seat. He grabbed the lower edge and pulled the padded flap up to reveal two rows of aforementioned knives. "We added padding so the knives won't poke you, and we tried to make them easily accessible. will tell you it's not okay to have weapons, but he doesn't really believe that. Each of us always has some kind of protection on at all times. Clint's got his bow and arrows. Nat's got her mini pistol and her stun gun. Tony's got his repulsers. Thor carries around his hammer, and Steve wears his shield. Heck, even and have weapons on them. The only reason I don't carry a weapon is... Well, I hope you never have to find out. But now you've got knives and your magic. Welcome to the Avengers, I guess."

Loki trembled ever so slightly.

"Is there really a chance I'm going to need those?" He gasped softly.

Tony shrugged sadly. "Who can say? There's lots of creeps out there. And we're kind of special cases. Plus, they also kind of work as security blankets. Makes everybody feels safe. Lord knows everyone around here needs it," he ended in a grumble.

"Come on, guys. Don't freak the poor kid out. None of us have ever really needed them," the redhead eleven year old declared. She ran her fingers through her hair and grabbed her book. "Thanks for the stories, Loki. Will I finally see you at dinner? I can't imagine you eating like your brother."

"No," Loki chuckled. "We eat very differently..."

"Alright. See you later then."

And then there were three.

"Do you know how to use the wheelchair, Loki?" Bruce asked after the brief moment of silence.

"N-no," the green eyed boy admitted.

"Oh, it's easy! You'll catch on quick as lightning," Tony nodded certainly. "I can teach you. My f-family got in an accident once and I refused to use the crutches while we were at the hospital." The brunette sat down in the chair and placed his hands on the wheels. "Okay, so you push forward to go forward, you push behind you to go backwards, push on the left wheel to turn right, and you push on the right wheel to turn left." He demonstrated each motion before stopping in front of the bed. "We can practice drifting later."

"Tony!" Bruce scolded. "Don't listen to him; he is being silly."

"Can I try now?" Loki stifled his giggles.

"Ooh! Ooh! Let's pick him up fireman style to put him in it!" Tony shrieked with glee. Bruce sent him a short glare before letting out a deep sigh.

"Alright. Is that okay with you, Loki?" He questioned. The younger boy nodded quickly and moved the blankets from his lower half. Tony suddenly gasped and covered his mouth with both hands.

"Y-your leg!" He stuttered. The three boys looked at the twisted and mangled limb. "Doesn't that hurt?!"

"S-sort of..." The dark haired boy admitted. He nervously held out his arms to be carried. Bruce nodded slowly, looking a little green.

"You alright, big guy?" Tony whispered to Bruce once they had Loki between them. "You're turning a little.. green."

"I'm fine," the other brunette gritted out as he and Tony pulled Loki's arms around their shoulders and slid their arms under his legs. "I just can't believe someone would do this to a seven year old..."

"I-I'm fine, really," Loki protested quietly as they set him in the wheelchair. "C-could you hand me the blue blanket? Yeah, the fuzzy one." He gently laid it over his legs and smoothed out the wrinkles. "Thank you. Now, let's put my books in."

"Why don't you just practice moving without the extra weight for now?" Tony suggested. He and Bruce quickly sat on the bed to give Loki room to practice. As the seven year old began to move, the boys shifted closer to whisper with each other.

"How could they have gotten his leg that messed up?" Tony wondered quietly as he watched the green eyed boy moving forwards and backwards slowly. "It looks like they twisted it in circles and then stuck his knee in a blender and then smashed his foot with a hammer and then hacked at the whole thing with a butcher knife!"

"I have no idea..." Bruce growled quietly, eyes flashing. "And his other ankle... It wasn't just twisted or sprained. It looked like someone tried to turn it a full 360 degrees before hitting it with a bat three or four times. It couldn't have just twisted to bruised like that without outside interference..."

"Why would that even do that to him? He's the sweetest kid I know, and he'd already been dumped by his dad from what we know," Tony pointed out.

"Didn't he say something about being a 'big kid?' They sounded like they were enemies of the Odinsons..." The shorter brunette remembered and almost leapt forward to help Loki when he pushed too hard on his wheels and almost made him go flying out of the chair.

"So they hurt him because they thought he was an Odinson, because they thought he had betrayed them for the Odinsons, or because they just didn't like him?" The darker eyed boy clarified. He paused for a moment to think. "He said something about some other kids, too."

"Yeah, he gave a whole spiel about being hurt when he was shouting at Thor in the park..." Bruce ran his fingers through the sides of his loose brown curls.

"No, dork, push left to go right, and push right to go left!" Tony called out before hunkering down with his best friend again. "I was worried about that... He was really nervous about using his magic until he knew we'd like it. And he seemed more frightened than angry. Can you imagine your brother abandoning you like that?"

"That's not fair, Tony. You know Thor thought his family had abandoned him first," the other nine year old sighed.

"I'm just trying to see things from Loki's perspective." The brunettes sighed together.

"Hey! I think I've got it!" Loki cried out happily. "Let's go show Thor!" He wheeled towards the door before grabbing the wheels tightly and forcing the chair to stop short. "Wait! Could one of you grab my marble and my books please?" Tony handed the seven year old the marble, and Bruce helped Loki arrange the books in the wheelchair. "Okay! Now we can go! THOR!" The brown eyes boys watched in satisfaction as Loki rolled down the hall and almost collided with the blonde ten year old.

"He's happy for now, though."

"Yeah, that's all that really matters."

Chapter Text

[Chapter 7- Breakfast]

-08:00-

Loki shrieked when Metallica music suddenly awakened him from his slumber. Somewhere down the hall, Tony's alarm had just gone off, and it was loud enough to be heard clearly anywhere in the building.

Momentarily terrified, the dark haired child covered his head with his arms and shrank into a mouse. Thor, who had been living with the Avengers long enough to be used to this unusual wake up call, noticed his brother's distress and sleepily crossed the room to explain.

"Loki," he yawned. "It's just Anthony's alarm clock. He cannot awaken unless it's this loud. Nothing is attacking; there is nothing to fear. Bruce even sleeps in the same room as him, and he is not bothered."

The green eyed mouse warily transformed back into a boy. "Why does it need to be so loud?"

"Anthony often prefers the land of dreams when he actually spends time there."

Loki sighed quietly and shifted to the side of the bed. "Could it be possible to move the dresser next to the bed? This is going to be difficult for me to change..." Thor laughed and easily shoved the dresser closer to his brother's sleeping area. "Thank you." The dark haired seven year old shifted to the end of the bed and carefully removed his clothing from one of the drawers.

Thor finally went back to his side of the room, and the brothers started to get ready for the day. The blonde dressed in his usual red sweatshirt and shiny gray shorts. His green eyed counterpart dressed in a green t-shirt and black pants. The blue eyed preteen pulled his hair back into a ponytail, and Loki followed his lead. Once the younger had moved to his wheelchair, they migrated to the dining room for breakfast.

Clint and Natasha were already situated at the far side of the table, their backs to the wall of windows. Loki pulled up to the empty space at the end of the table, and Thor sat at his right. A few minutes later, Tony stumbled in and plonked down at Loki's left, leaving Bruce to sit between him and Natasha. Steve walked in next and sat to Thor's right. The adults were last, with Fury sitting at the opposite end of Loki, Maria at his left, and Phil between her and Steve.

"Alright!" Fury barked to get everyone's attention. "I'm assuming you've all met Loki by now."

Steve nervously raised his hand. "I haven't, sir..."

"I-I'm right here," the green eyed boy called softly. The seventeen year old blushed.

"Ah, hello. I guess, we'll talk more later...?" He requested. The dark haired child nodded quickly.

"Now that that's settled! Coulson, are we having any changes in arrangements?" Fury asked. The light haired man grinned.

"Loki will be joining Tony and Bruce in the private lessons," he announced.

Clint groaned dramatically and Natasha whispered something that sounded similar to 'I told you so!'

"Not another one!" The gray eyed boy huffed and crossed his arms.

"Congratulations, brother! To join Stark and Banner in their studies is a great achievement!" Thor beamed and clapped his brother on the back. The tinier boy jerked forward and coughed roughly at having his ribs jostled.

"Alright. And how is everyone this morning?" The head of the Avengers asked. Natasha grinned and gave a thumbs up. Tony mumbled something under his breath sleepily and still didn't lift his head from the table.

Bruce replied with a soft, "I'm good." Clint smiled through a yawn and asked for food. Thor laughed loudly and nodded happily. Loki blushed softly but smiled anyway.

"I slept well," Steve chuckled. Coulson gave a soft grin to each of the kids, and Maria nodded to Fury.

"Okay! Then let's eat!"

Most of the children whooped and leapt up from their seats. Loki's eyes widened, and he happily followed the others to the kitchen. Breakfast was laid out on a series plates, with bacon, toast, and scrambled eggs available. Two pitchers were filled with orange juice and water respectively, and there was a bowl filled with assorted berries and chunks of fruits.

Green eyes stayed wide in shock, and the smallest of the Avengers stopped in the doorway. Tony had brightened significantly with food in front of him, and Bruce was laughing next to him. Clint and Natasha nudged each other playfully as they filled their plates. Thor was grabbing as much food as he could manage. Steve let the others in front of him before even attempting to get food, even though he seemed to have forgotten Loki was there.

And Loki suddenly had the strangest notion that he was intruding.

"You gonna go in, or are you gonna sit there all day?" A deep voice asked. The seven year old jumped and twisted around. He looked up to see standing directly behind him, staring down with an almost gentle look.

"S-sorry." Loki moved forward and twisted his wheelchair to the side of the doorway so he could watch from there. The man stepped into the room to let Phil and Maria through, but he didn't go farther than that.

"You hungry?" Fury asked as he watched the children with Loki.

"I-I seem to have lost my appetite," the green eyed boy admitted. Steve teasingly scolded Thor for trying to hog all of the bacon. Clint flicked a grape at Natasha, and she caught it skillfully in her mouth, smirking all the while.

"You can join them. They all seem to like you, and I doubt anyone's going to stop you from getting food. Unless you count filling their plates so much you barely get any, but I'm sure they'd just share what they had with you. Sweet kids that way..." The dark eyed man finally looked down at the injured seven year old. Shyly, the boy averted his gaze.

"Loki, you numbnut!" Tony shouted and ran over. He grabbed the arms of the wheelchair and pulled it towards the buffet. "You're already a twig! Just freakin' eat something, alright?!" Bruce lightly smacked his best friend. The taller brunette rubbed his head and emitted a strangled whine, "Bruce~!"

The green eyed boy giggled softly and followed the nine year olds to the food line. Coulson and Maria stepped up beside their boss and smiled softly at the genius trio. Fury didn't spare them a glance, but he shared their smile. Well, more or less. It was more like a slight upturn of the very farthest part of the corner of his mouth- Anyway!

"Coulson, Hill. Thoughts?"

"He'll be fine, sir. He's making friends, and they'll definitely raise his self-esteem and take care of him."

"I agree. I think he's good for them, too. I've never seen Tony get up so easily, and Thor's never been so happy."

"Right. I'd like to keep it that way. So let's do our best everyone. Do it right or don't do it at all."

"Yes, sir!"

Chapter Text

[Chapter 8- Lessons]

-09:30-

After breakfast, Coulson herded the children to the back of the building. Past the medical room, two identical doors guarded the rooms behind them. Natasha, Clint, Thor, and Steve immediately moved for the door on the right. Loki didn't really understand what was happening, but he decided to follow his brother anyway. Tony just laughed, with Bruce chuckling next to him quietly.

"Loki, didn't you here Agent?" Tony managed. He giggled slightly. The seven year old stared at him in confusion.

"Agent?" he questioned and rolled his wheelchair closer to his friends. Friends, truly wonderful things. He had no doubt this happy feeling was why Thor had always run off to play with Sif and the other three idiots.

"Tony calls him Agent because he's the field agent that helps bring in children. He brought most of us here, though Steve was the first," Bruce explained. The nine years olds shared a look and giggle together. "Coulson is especially... um, proud of being the one to find Steve."

"I swear, he has hundreds of pictures..." Tony lightly scoffed. Loki just smiled awkwardly. Even now that he was officially one of the Avengers, he still wasn't quite a part of their group.

"I'm right here you know," the light haired man peeked out of the room. "It's not as creepy as you make it sound."

"Agent, you're practically a fanboy."

The nine year old and the tutor had a long staring contest before Phil sighed and exited the room. "I started everyone else on their reading assignments for today. You three will be working on math for now."

"At this point, it's so far from just math," Tony rolled his eyes, and Bruce nodded. Coulson shrugged and led the genius trio into the door on the left. A white board hung between two windows on the far side of the room. A rolled up projector screen hung from the ceiling just above the white board, and the projector itself was fixated to the ceiling in the middle of the room. Three desks sat in the middle of the room, one facing the white board and the other two facing the center of the room. This made a three sided square of sorts. Only two of the desks had chairs. The walls of the room were a pale green and covered in highly detailed scientific posters or long pages with complicated equations. A bookshelf near the door was filled with advanced textbooks in sets of three and high school level novels, also in sets of three. The blinds on the windows were closed, so the room was surprisingly dark.

As Coulson moved to open the blinds, Loki pulled his wheelchair up to the desk without a chair, the one in the middle that faced the front. He was still surprised by the neatness of the room, and he carefully opened his desk to see if anything had been placed inside. Four notebooks, labeled with the four core subject of education, sat in a neat stack on the left. On the right was a green pencil box, filled with math supplies, pencils, pens, erasers, markers, and highlighters. In between the notebooks and pencil box, there was a stack of blank lined paper and a stack of neon colored 3x5 index cards.

"Alright, go grab your math books, and we can get started," Coulson's voice pulled him from his thoughtful observation of the room. Loki started to move away from his desk to do as he was told, but Bruce grabbed his book and set it on his desk for him.

"Why don't you just keep your textbooks in you desk?" he suggested, and the green eyed boy quietly nodded. Coulson started the projector and went through the math lesson, sometimes going through problems with them and sometimes letting them work on their own. Eventually, there was nothing left for him to teach on the current lesson, so he assigned them fifty problems to work on. Once he left, Tony, who sat in the desk to Loki's left, groaned overdramatically.

"He's such a slave driver! Fifty problems? We already learned how to solve them!" he moaned. Bruce laughed.

"It's practice, Tony. You'll live," he assured. The smaller nine year old was already working on the work. Loki laughed at Tony's antics and got to work. Said brunette moaned for a few more minutes but began the problems. The trio worked in silence before Tony sighed.

"I can't work like this. Jarv, put something on, something... classy. I'm apparently in a mood," he called into the silence. Music from the Nutcracker ballet softly filled the room. Bruce laughed. Tony just shook his head and continued working. The green eyed seven year old eyed his friends, wondering if this sort of thing was common place or just amusing in general.

Another couple minutes passed before Bruce put his pencil down with a frown. He glanced up at the other young geniuses in the room then stared down at his paper in frustration. The nine year old looked across the room to his 'twin.' "Tony, what's number 27?"

His counterpart glanced at the problem. Loki looked back and forth between the two nine year olds; Bruce was smart enough to do the problem on his own. Why did he need to ask Tony for the answer? Tony himself didn't look at all disturbed.

Instead, he calmly responded, "x2 - 3|x - 2| - 4x." Dainty black eyebrows pinched together in confusion. That wasn't even the answer. That was the problem itself.

"Thanks, Tony," Bruce sighed heavily and once again set to work on the problems. The taller brunette gave his best smirk and nodded. Loki was stopped from asking what was going on by Coulson when he walked in.

"Only half way through?" he questioned with a silly look on his face. "Psh, you guys should be done by now.'

"You gave us fifty!"

-{[(-)]}-

As the trio exited the room, Tony stretched his arms above his head and rolled his shoulders. Bruce rolled his eyes and smacked his friend upside the head. "You act we spent all day in there, dork. We were in there for three hours!"

"Three hours?! That long?! That's an eternity!" Tony wailed. Loki hid his giggles behind his hand. "There is only one way to remedy this lost time! TO THE LAB!" The brown eyed boy grabbed Bruce by the waist and threw him between the handles of Loki's wheelchair.

"Tony!" Bruce shrieked when the nine year old grabbed said handles and started running. Loki laughed maniacally, feeling empowered in a way as the trio sped through the building to the nine year olds' lab. Tony cackled, and even Bruce had to laugh when he saw the look on Maria's face.

"It's time for lunch!" She could be heard calling behind them.

"We have Goldfish!" Tony assured. Loki laughed harder.

The boys screeched to a stop in front of the metal-glass door that led to a lab. "Tony, never do that again," Bruce scolded without really sounding angry.

"We're alive right? Let's go!" The other brunette darted towards the lab and stood on the tips of his toes to reach the keypad. Seems shortness was a common trait among geniuses...

The shorter brunette shook his head but followed his friend in anyway, gesturing for Loki to follow. "What about lunch?" he questioned to the darkened lab.

"I said we have goldfish, didn't I?" was the muffled reply. Tony could be heard rummaging through a toolbox in the back of the room. "Besides, Steve will eventually bring some to us anyway."

"You really shouldn't take advantage of his kindness," Bruce admonished. "Jarvis, for Pete's sake, could you turn the lights up? Tony's going to grab a blow torch and burn his hand off." The AI complied, and the lights gradually brightened. "Like I was saying, one day he's going to realize that you're taking advantage of him, and he's going to stop being so nice." The brunette's foot bounced impatiently. "What are you even doing? All of our current projects are by the door. I know for a fact because you always whine about having to walking across the room." Tony waved his hand dismissively.

"We're not doing any of those today. Since Loki's finally free from the med room, we can work on converting magic into science!" He cried, obviously very excited. His green eyed friend was less so.

"Magic is science. It's just more advanced. I'm sure you could replicate the properties of magic very easily," Loki assured. The nine year old shook his head.

"Not good enough. Don't worry, we'll get it!"

Bruce sighed and rolled his eyes. He politely informed them, "I have projects that need to be worked on every day. Tony, you know I can't just drop those."

"What if we help you? Then everything would go three times as fast! As science bros, I can't just let you go off and work on something all alone! Besides, if magic is science, then Loki will probably know what he's doing," the brunette beamed. Loki nodded, glad that he was to be included. The shorter brown eyed boy thought over it for a moment before nodding slowly.

"But don't touch anything if I tell you not to! And don't do anything I tell you not to, or do something without asking me!" he insisted as they walked back across the room towards the tables near the front. The trio pulled up chairs (or just pulled up, in Loki's case) around a table that was covered in neatly arranged beakers and test tubes. Bruce gave out instructions, and the boys began their first work together in the lab.

Chapter Text

[Chapter 9- Dinner]

-17:50-

"Guys, it's almost time for dinner," Steve poked his head into the lab. Loki gave a shy smile and hesitantly waved. The blonde waved back, looking just as cautious. "You guys should stop whatever you're doing and get cleaned up."

"But, Steve!" Tony whined. "What if when we stop, everything blows up?"

"I know doesn't let you do anything dangerous like that," the blue eyed teen frowned.

"What he doesn't know won't hurt him," the nine year old smirked. Bruce lightly smacked him upside the head. "Brucie!" Loki giggled quietly into his hands.

"Nothing will happen if we leave for an hour or so," Bruce snapped. He sighed and shook his head. "Jarvis will warn us if anything happens."

"Wait, something could actually blow up?" The seventeen year old gasped. He stepped fully into the room, prepared to pull the genius trio away from anything dangerous.

"No, of course not," The only green eyed boy in the room assured. "Anthony is being silly."

"Tony," the brunette demanded. "Why did you suddenly call me by my full name?"

"It makes me sound more mature than you and emphasizes the childishness of your actions." As if to counter his point, Loki stuck his tongue out.

"Stick your tongue out at me and I'll cut it off!" Tony warned. Loki stiffened and quickly retracted the fleshy muscle.

"Y-you would do that?" The seven year old whispered anxiously, shifting away from his friend.

"What? No... No I wouldn't actually- Has someone tried to do that before? Loki? Hey, I'm sorry. Don't cry, okay?" Tony rambled and reached slowly for the smaller boy.

Loki furiously wiped his eyes. "I'm not crying!" He hissed. "I-I'm fine. I just... I don't like being unable to speak..."

"Tony," Steve scowled. "You three need food. I know you had lunch, but you're growing boys and you need nutr-"

"Oh my goodness, for the love of Goldfish! Will you quit being such a mother hen? You can be worse than Maria sometimes! We're coming alright? And I promise not to make Loki cry or blow anything up before we get there! Out! Out! Shoo!" Tony burst and weakly attempted to push the older teen through the doorway. Steve sighed and reluctantly complied.

"Clean and at the table in five minutes," he warned as he exited.

"Tony," Bruce sighed, sounding tired. "Loki, are you really okay? I'm sure Tony didn't mean to scare you."

"Yeah, I'm really sorry," the taller brunette mumbled and comfortingly placed a hand on Loki's head.

"I... When I was younger, my not-father knew this family of dwarves-" Loki started, but Bruce cut him off.

"Dwarves?"

"Jolly green, don't even," Tony chuckled and clapped his friend on the back. "You turn into a neon green rage giant thing. Anyway, your dad knew some... dwarves?"

"Yes. And Thor had a group of friends, Sif and the Idiots Three," Loki stated, slightly more angry than before.

"Thor's told us about Sif and his three friends, but didn't they call themselves the Warriors Three?" Bruce wondered.

"What did they ever have to fight?" Loki countered. "And they were fools. Well, I've always enjoyed playing pranks, but I... I took one too far..."

"Did someone get hurt?" Tony questioned. The seven year old shook his head.

"No. I... I cut off Sif's hair."

The brunettes inhaled sharply.

"Oooooh, bet you were in the dog house for that one," Tony winced.

"Yeah, that's really mean, Loki," Bruce frowned softly. The green eyed boy looked away.

"She burned my books, first." The brown eyed boys shared sympathetic looks.

"Go on," Tony encouraged and lightly ruffled the smaller boy's dark hair. Bruce nodded and rubbed their friend's arm gently. Loki took a deep breath and gave a sharp nod.

"The dwarves were- are talented craftsmen, and I was vey sorry after I realized how much I had hurt her feelings. So I went to the dwarves and tried to make a deal with them. But some of the other dwarves were jealous and wanted to have a contest to see who could make the best work. The first pair of brothers made a golden wig of hair for Sif, and the other pair of brothers made Thor's hammer. You can probably guess who made the better work..."

"So, what happened?"

"The prize for winning the contest was my head."

Instantly, Bruce's eyes glared neon green and the edges of his ears rapidly changed colors. Loki stared at the color change in awe, but Tony quickly tried to calm the other nine year old down.

"It's fine, it's all in the past. No one's going to hurt Loki, Loki's fine, see? They obviously don't have his head. Why don't we hear how it ends? He wins, okay? He's okay," the taller brunette suddenly seemed much shorter in comparison to his friend. "Bruce, please buddy, you gotta calm down! Everyone's fine! No one's hurt! Do you want to go to the smashing room? You can let him out in there for a bit if you need to let out some steam- Dang it, Loki, finish the dad gum story already! Bruce, focus on me! That's it, buddy. Just listen to the sound of my voice."

Confused, Loki continued his tale. "The winners came to retrieve their prize and I quickly told them that my head was theirs but my neck did not belong to them-"

"Oh you clever boy!" Tony cheered without looking away from Bruce. He slowly rubbed the other boy's arms and continue to soothingly whisper in his green ear.

"The dwarves were outraged, feeling they had been tricked even though I never agreed to the contest. So... They... T-they sewed my mouth s-shut." The green eyed boy gulped and quickly cleared his eyes of any liquid memories. "F-Father didn't come for me for a few days, b-but mother cut the leather as s-soon as I was home."

"Leather?!" Bruce growled.

"Please, we don't need you now, big guy," Tony pleaded, seeing more of Bruce's skin was green than white. "If anyone can comfort Loki, it's Bruce. I'm so bad at this and you know that. Please don't leave me here to take care of this myself, Bruce. I need you, Loki needs you. He's not hurting now. There aren't even any scars! Big guy, please, you know how much you'll hurt Bruce if you scare Loki!"

The last statement made the struggling brunette pause. Agonizingly slowly, the boy shrunk back to his normal size and usual coloring. His eyes remained a toxic green, but he was normal otherwise. Bruce took deep breaths and grabbed Tony's hand. On a secondary thought, he also grabbed one of Loki's hands, with Tony taking the other one. Now forming a tight circle, the genius trio stared at each other.

"We're okay," Bruce whispered.

"Of course we are," Tony smiled with warm affection.

"We'll always be okay," Loki nodded, feeling that it was true for once in his life. He had friends now, and people that seemed to care for him. He had his brother back and food to eat and lessons to learn and a lab to play in. He was happy, and as long as he could have these people beside him, he would always come out alright.

"We're going to be so late to dinner," Bruce groaned and hung his head.

"Meh, I was planning on making us late anyway, just to tick Steve off," the other brunette grinned. Bruce smacked him but laughed anyway.

"Shall we go clean up, then?" Loki gestured to the doorway with one of his clasped hands.

"Certainly, my lord," Tony bowed without releasing their hands.

"To the washrooms!" Bruce cried. The boys happily escaped the lab and chased each other down the hallways to the nearest bathroom. The brunettes let Loki wheel up to the sink and wash his hands first before they followed suit. Tony flicked some soap at Bruce and started a brief bubble war, but it ended almost as soon as it started.

The genius trio leisurely made their way to the dining room, where Fury snapped at them about being on time before letting them sit. Everyone was in the same places from that morning. Spread across the tables were bowls and platters of chicken, bread, green beans with pecans, mashed potatoes, and gravy. There was a pitcher of water and another of apple juice.

Loki started to reach for the food, but Tony lightly smacked his hand. Steve glanced around the room and asked, "Who wants to say grace?"

"I'll do it," Fury sighed. He held out his hands, and soon everyone around the table held hands with the people next to them. "Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for this day. Thank you for the food you have given us. Please bless it to our bodies, Amen." There was a brief pause. "Well? Dig in!"

It was as though someone had shot a gun. Everyone burst to life, passing plates and chattering about what they had been doing since they got out of lessons. People's plates filled quickly, and the air was light with chatter and laughter. Coulson talked quietly with Steve and Maria, chuckling about one thing to another. Loki grinned quietly as he spoke to Thor of his adventures in the lab. Tony teased Clint relentlessly until Natasha intervened and Bruce was eventually dragged in. The only person not talking was Fury, who sat quietly at the head of the table, eating and watching the children with an almost warm look on his face. He was broken from his silence when Steve turned from Coulson and asked him a question. The dark eyes man answered with an amused tone and let himself be pulled into the conversation. Thor was next to enter their talk, with Loki following closely behind. After that, everyone had joined the conversation. Light-hearted taunts sailed through the air, and everyone shared their thoughts with equal enthusiasm.

An hour later found Loki in Tony and Bruce's room, playing Legos with them as they waited for their turns in the shower. Bruce was building and anatomically correct bird, Tony made a working action figure, and Loki focused on constructing a stable tower as tall as he could make it. The boys chatted and giggled amicably as they worked, none of them noticing Fury leaning against the doorframe.

The man left with a ghost of a smile on his lips and went to check on Thor and Steve. The blonde duo say in the seventeen year old's room, sharing ideas about technology and how it was supposed to work. Thor cleaned his hammer and Steve wiped down his shield as they compared notes. Fury stifled a snigger when Thor explained how he thought the television worked, but the older blonde was quick to correct him.

Satisfied, Fury turned to the bathroom, where Clint waited patiently outside until Natasha exited. She was dressed in her black pajamas, and a towel was draped over her head. With an exasperated sigh, Clint made her sit in front of him and began to dry her hair for her. She hid a pleased smile as he stood behind her, talking in a bored tone and gently massaging her scalp with the towel. The boy didn't look too unhappy himself, and he did his best to sound unimpressed. Fury was no fool and he clearly saw how Natasha had purposefully left her hair wet for Clint to dry.

The man walked quietly to the medic bay. Coulson sat on an examination as Maria went about cleaning the room. The light haired man conversed quietly with the woman as she stacked jars in a cupboard. She replied in a similar tone, and the two continued with pleasant chatter about the kids and somewhere they could be taken that Saturday or maybe what movie they could watch next Friday. Maria laughed at one of Phil's comments, and Fury felt a calm smile threatening to take over his face.

The dark skinned man finally retreated to his own room and began to make preparations for the next day. The shower started up again, and he knew it was Clint's turn. It had been a long, wonderful day, and thankfully nothing had gone terribly wrong. Loki was adjusting well, and no one was fighting. It was a good day.

-{[(•)]}-

-23:33-

When Fury's door creaked open, his hand instantly slipped under his pillow for his handgun, ready to defend his charges with his very life. He cracked open one eye and was surprised to see no one in the doorway. Alarmed, the man sat upright. He noticed something shifting by the doorway, and he picked out a short, black blob. The door opened some more, and a small black kitten limped into the room.

"Loki?" Nick whispered. He noticed bandages around one of the kitten's front paws and how it tried to stay off one of its back legs. It struggled to even take a step, so the man quickly bent down and picked it up. The kitten whimpered in protest. The dark eyed man felt the poor thing trembling in his hands, and his gaze softened sympathetically. "Are you alright?"

Loki mewed weakly.

"Are you hurt?"

The kitten shook its head and mimed sleeping. He shook himself awake and looked around in fear before returning his gaze to Fury.

"A nightmare then? Did you want to sleep in here?" Fury no longer felt awkward about having any of his charges sleep in his bed. He only had fatherly intentions for any of them, and several of them suffered from intense nightmares. That was part of the reason for the buddy system with the bedrooms, but the man was perfectly alright letting the children in the bed with him. He'd had this job for years. If he couldn't even soothe nightmares, he shouldn't do this at all.

Loki nodded, and Fury just laid back down. The kitten curled up on his stomach. It quivered for a few more minutes before settling down and sleeping. Loki let out soft puffs of air, and his tail flickered softly against Nick's abdomen. Silently, the man wondered why he had taken this job because little cat children and green monsters were probably more than he could chew, but he knew deep down that this position was made for him and he could never forgive himself if he left the Avengers division.

The man laid his head against the pillow and let himself drift to sleep.

-{[(•)]}-

-08:00-

Fury was only mildly surprised to wake up to Tony's alarm with a small black haired boy curled up against his side. The boy jolted away with a small whine of distress before he once again recognized his surroundings.

"Good morning, Sleeping Beauty. Ready for the new day?" Nick questioned. Loki looked up in shock, remembering the events of the previous nights. His face instantly flushed and he fiddled with the hem of his pajama top. The boy gave a quick nod, and Fury repeated the action with an upturned corner to his lips. "Can you get back to you room?"

"N-no," Loki stuttered and flinched. Still afraid of abuse then. Fury nodded and gently lifted him by his underarms. The dark haired boy squeaked but made no real protests. The brown eyed man settled the seven year old against his hip and carried him to the room he shared with Thor. They entered to find the ten year old blonde in a state of great distress, obviously anxious about his seemingly missing brother.

"It's alright, Thor. I've got him," Fury assured and set Loki on the edge of his bed.

"T-thank you," the green eyed boy smiled nervously and ducked his head. The man nodded and left.

The Avengers were already pretty complicated, but now it seemed that Loki could add a whole new flavor to the recipe. Steve was the sweetness to their mix, Tony was the spice, Bruce was the soothing flavor with an aftertaste, Natasha was the sharp and tangy juice, Clint was the salty flavor, Coulson was something fruity, Maria was the more bitter aspect like dark chocolate, and Fury was the flavorless flour that held the odd concoction together. Was Loki sweet or salty, soft or sharp? How would he fit into this mix? Fury could only wait and find out.

Chapter Text

[Chapter 10]

"Alright, everybody!" Fury called through the intercom. "Circle up in the living room!"

Tony and Bruce looked up from their chemical experiment with matching grins. They looked to Loki, who was staring at them curiously from his end of the table.

"What's going on?" He asked quietly as he helped put away the chemical sets.

"It's Friday?" Tony replied without looking up from the cabinet.

"He's never had a Friday before, Tony," Bruce sighed. "We really need to fix the labels on these." He squinted at the shelf in front of him, but Tony just took his project from him and put it away.

"What's so special about Fridays?" Loki wondered. The genius trio exited the lab much more peacefully than they ever had earlier that week.

"It's Movie Night!" Bruce and Tony both informed with glee. Loki's mouth formed a small 'o' shape.

"How do you decide which movie to watch?" He questioned.

"We take turns," the smaller brunette shrugged. "It's easier. There's a chart in the living room. Mr. Fury will pencil you in, I'm sure."

"Do the adults ever pick a movie?" The green eyed boy had to ask.

"I think Agent did once. Scared the tar outta Steve and decided not to do it again," Tony informed. Then, they had arrived at the living room.

"Yeah, I know Steve was supposed to pick tonight," Fury was admonishing Thor. "But since he always goes first in the rotation, I thought I'd stick Loki in last. That way Loki gets a turn. And Steve said he really doesn't mind, so I don't understand why you're getting so picky about this." Thor grumbled and flopped down on the army green couch across from the television.

Maria and Coulson sat in the seats on the far side of the room, right of the television. Natasha and Clint sat in their usual spots on the carpet in front of the couch. Steve took a seat at Thor's right. Tony let Bruce have the last place on the couch, Loki pulled up next to Bruce, and Tony sat at their feet. Fury dragged a chair in from the kitchen.

"Alright, Loki. What do you want to watch?" Fury asked once everyone was seated. Loki stared at his lap for a long moment.

"We forgot popcorn," Coulson realized and left to make some. Maria sighed.

"I'll get drinks."

"I don't know many movies," Loki finally responded after some thought.

"The movie cabinet's just over there," Steve gestured to the oak structure on the left of the tv. "Why don't you pick one?"

Loki quietly rolled over to the short cabinet and stared at the rows of unfamiliar titles. After some pulling and thoughtful reading of back cover descriptions, the dark haired boy had made his choice.

"Finding Nemo?" Bruce wondered. "Are you sure?"

"Yes."

"Okay then."

Tony frowned quietly, remembering his first experience with the seemingly innocent movie. He too had been lured in by the bright colors and happy smiles. But no more! Now he knew the dark truths of the ocean, and he could never return from the dark place his mind had been lured to.

"You drama queen," Clint snorted after the brunette's monologue.

"Oh. Did I say that out loud?"

"Just put in the movie!"

Once everyone had popcorn and drinks, and had returned to their seats, Fury picked up the remote and started the movie. He paused when he heard sniffling after the first scene.

"Stark, is that you again?! I swear to-"

"It's not me!"

"Then who's-"

Slowly, almost mechanically, everyone turned to the source of the noise.

"All- All the fishies died!" Loki blubbered.

"For Pete's sake!" Clint threw his hands up in the air. Natasha frowned and consolingly patted Loki's foot.

"Loki, hey-" Tony got his attention with a reassuring smile. "Not all of 'em died, right? The daddy fish is still alive, and that one baby fish." The seven year old still had tears in his eyes. "Hey, you want some goldfish?"

"Is that some kind of joke?" The dark haired child hissed.

"Oooookay! Let's turn the movie back on! It gets better, really, I promise!" Tony assured as he quickly spun back around.

The rest of the movie progressed decently, and Fury even let them stay up long enough to watch another. Clint argued for the Princess Bride, Natasha for Mission Impossible, Steve for The Little Mermaid, Bruce for Beauty and the Beast, Tony for Treasure Planet, and Thor for Toy Story. The adults let Loki choose again, and he let Thor put in the popular Disney movie.

As they were settling down to watch it, Tony couldn't help but snort, "Really, Steve? The Little Mermaid?"

"I like the art," the seventeen year old grumbled. "None of the computer animated crap. Good, old-fashioned hand drawings. The music isn't bad either."

"Old-fashioned is right," the brunette retorted. "It's completely sexist. The whole time, everyone talks about Ariel looking her best and being beautiful. Not once do they encourage her to be intelligent or independent. It's stupid."

"It's about true love," Steve frowned, leaning forward to glare at the nine year old.

"Uh, yeah? She falls in love with him because he's handsome, and they only spend a day together before they get married. I'm not even sure she knows his name!"

"It's Eric."

"Yeah, you know that! Does she?"

"That is enough!" Fury scowled. "Shut up and watch the talking toys!" Both boys grumbled before falling silent. Everyone else (excluding Loki) sighed; this was an ongoing issue.

Loki had been rightfully concerned when Buzz Lightyear had taken Woody's spotlight. His heart ached for the discarded toy, and he felt that Buzz deserved to be pushed out the window. Apparently, no one else thought that was justified. Even the toys in the movie had turned on the cowboy.

Though, it seemed that Woody and Buzz has become friends in the end. He guessed that way okay too, as he looked over at Thor. The blonde had fallen asleep with his head on Steve's shoulder. Clint and Natasha had also slumped against each other, though they were clearly awake. Tony's eyes were dropping, and Bruce yawned quietly.

"That's it, everybody. Ya'll need to go to bed now," Fury instructed quietly and stood to stretch. He gently shook Thor away as everyone else sleepily got up as well. Loki stared after them quietly in his wheelchair.

"Come on, Lokes. We don't even have to take a shower tonight," Tony murmured and rubbed his eyes. "I love Fridays." The twin brunettes trodden off to their rooms while Clint and Natasha retreated through the kitchen. Steve helped carry Thor when the thunderer refused to awaken. Loki and Steve made their way to the brothers' room, and the awake blonde helped Loki into his bed when he was too tired to do so himself.

Steve left, and the dark haired child sleepily dressed himself for bed. On the way back, he'd caught a glimpse of Mr. Fury's calendar in his office, and he knew there was some kind of event tomorrow. The seven year old wanted to be prepared and alert when the time came, so he readily laid himself down to sleep.

-[]-

"Look what you've done," Odin hissed. He held up the broken glass. "Your chores are simple. Clean the house, do the dishes, wash the laundry, and keep up with your schoolwork. You can't even do something as simple as that, can you? Were you born stupid, or did you just grow up that way? I can't stand having a son like that running around. That's why we don't let you outside! You're a disgrace! Do you see Thor breaking dishes? Is Thor as clumsy as you are? I know it doesn't run in the family. You seem to be the only one with shaking hands and stumbling feet! Why aren't you more like him? It's not hard! That's why Thor can go outside. That's why Thor has friends. Thor can do what he's told and not mess it up. You're a failure. Nobody likes failures. Stupid, worthless boy! This is what happens to people who can't do simple things!"

The greying man grabbed his arm and harshly slashed across it with a shard from the broken glass. Loki cried out softly and began to cry.

"I'm sorry! I-I'm sorry!" He whimpered. "I didn't mean to! I-I won't do i-it again! I'll be better! I p-promise!"

"I don't know if I can believe you," Odin hissed. "How many times have you said those exact words? How many times have I fallen for your deceit. No more, you filthy liar. I won't stand for it any more! Let's make it one cut for each shard of glass. That ought to teach you not to lie, right? And if you do it again, we've always got the kitchen knives."

"N-no, father! I'm s-sorry! Please! S-stop! Stop! P-please!"

Twenty-seven shards of glass.

"F-father! Stop!"

"N-n-no!"

"I-I'm s-s-sor-r-ry!"

"P-puh-please, s-s-st-stop-"

"F-f-father!" Loki whimpered again, tossing and turning in the sheets. "I-I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" A dark shadow loomed over the bed.

"Loki, Вы должны проснуться," a gentle voice called. "Вы должны проснуться." The boy whined and turned again, gasping at the pain it caused in his leg. His hands were clasped around his upper arms, and his face was beaded with sweat. A soft hand stroked his hair, and low, Russian lullaby filled the air. "Спокойный, маленький. Вы сейчас в безопасности."

"Is he okay?" A trembling voice questioned from the darkness.

"It's a nightmare. He'll be better when he wakes up," she assured. She quietly resumed singing. He didn't know the words, but he hummed along anyway.

Finally, the terrified seven year old woke up with a gasping sob. Tears bubbled down his face, and his cheeks turned a blotchy red from embarrassment. He couldn't let himself be so stupid or terrible while he was here; he'd have to work hard to stay with these caring people or else he'd be back on the streets and the Chitauri would find him aga-

"You're alright," a calm voice called from above. "There's no need to cry. It's over now. Clint, can you go get some hot chocolate."

"Uh-huh."

"Thanks." The redhead smiled down at Loki and continued stroking your hair. "It's okay. We all have bad dreams." Though she seemed calm on the outside, her insides were bubbling with anger and hatred towards the boy's father.

"I-I'm sorry," Loki whimpered. "Did I w-wake you?" He silently wiped his tears and forced himself to sit up.

"No. Clint and I were already up. I wanted to check on you. I'm glad I did."

"W-why would you want to check on me?"

"Because you're new, and I was worried about how you were adjusting."

"O-oh."

Now that Loki thought about it, he was glad to have friends like Tony, Bruce, and Natasha who seemed to really care. He'd never had friends or anyone like that before.

The duo sat in quiet silence for a few more minutes before Clint returned with a tray of hot chocolate mugs. One had sprinkles, one had marshmallows, and the last was plain. Loki took the plain one, Natasha the one with marshmallows, and Clint had the one with sprinkles.

"You make good hot chocolate," Loki whispered after a while.

"Thanks. I'll teach you sometime."

When all three mugs were empty and Natasha was tucking Loki back in, the redhead softly offered, "If you ever have a nightmare, our door is always open." The dark haired child nodded, green eyes seemingly glowing in the darkness.

Quietly, the master assassins left.

Chapter Text

[Chapter 11]

The next morning was a Saturday. Loki expected to either have chores to do or just spend the whole day in the lab.

Instead, he was awakened by Tony bouncing excitedly by his bedside. Bruce was standing quietly by Loki's feet, and Thor was getting dressed on the other side of the room. Sounds of activity filtered into the room from the cracked doorway.

"What's going on?" Loki murmured, rubbing his eyes. His long hair was tangled and fluffy from sleep, and his body was still incredibly relaxed.

"It's Saturday?" Tony reminded, as though Loki knew what he meant. Bruce smacked the brunette upside the head again.

"He still doesn't know what that means," the other nine year old snapped lightly. He sighed and moved to pick clothes out from Loki's dresser.

"Fury thinks it's bad for us to practice our unique skills all the time. So we aren't allowed in the labs on Saturdays, and everyone else isn't allowed in the gym. And, because Natasha and Clint have some kind of assassin's code to work out every day, they joined this little soccer league thingy. Now, they have games every Saturday morning, and we have to get ready! Come on!" Tony explained and helped Loki sit up.

The brunette's stood next to each other and regarded him for a moment.

Then, in a flurry of fast, but gentle, activity, the nine year olds helped dress the seven year old. Somehow, his pajamas were neatly put away, his hair was brushed, and the special bandage-sock-things had been replaced. The older boys backed away to admire their work.

"Perfect!" They cried and high-fived. Loki looked down at the odd mix of red and chrome. He guessed it must be the soccer team's colors. Tony shoved a surprisingly large mechanical hand at him and Loki stared at him, wondering if he was insane.

"It's a much cooler version of a foam finger!" Tony enthused. The green eyed boy awkwardly tried to get it on his good hand and hold it up.

"It's too heavy," he dead-panned. Tony wilted slightly and took it back.

"Yeah, I've been working on it since they started the team..." The brunette trailed off and quietly looked to the side.

"What's the team mascot?" Loki asked, thinking about his abilities.

"The Falcon!" Thor answered, and the younger brother startled.

"Falcon? But why?" He asked.

"We're not sure, but the coach is a friend of Steve's! He's two years older, and he just got back from his first tour in the military!" Tony piped up. "He plans on running the team between tours!"

"Now come on! We gotta get breakfast or we'll be late!" Bruce admonished. Loki pulled himself into his wheelchair, and the four boys traveled to the dining room.

"Thank you boys for finally joining us. Again," Fury welcomed irritably. "Maybe I need to just strap a pager on you."

"I don't think that's smart, sir," Phil replied lightly. "They would just dismantle them."

"Or turn them into stun guns," Maria added. Fury visibly winced. Loki looked around the table, noticing everyone was wearing red and chrome. Natasha and Clint were in their uniforms, and the eleven year old's hair was braided.

Fury have the word, everyone gathered their food, and the group ate quietly throughout breakfast. They were either too tired to talk or simply couldn't think of anything worth breaking the calm atmosphere. When everyone was finished, they formed a line beside the time. Loki tried to maneuver in at the end, but one of the wheels got stuck against the table leg. Coulson helped him get in the line.

Fury stood in front of them with an unfamiliar tube.

"Arms out!" He commanded. Each of the children (and Steve) put their arms out in front of them. Loki stared at them in confusion before eventually doing the same. Fury moved down the line, squeezing drops of the white cream on everyone's arms and legs. "Rub!" Everyone began to rub the cream into their skin.

Loki watched for a long moment. He eventually moved his eyes to the substance on his limbs.

"What is this?" He finally asked. The room slowly came to a halt.

"Um, sunscreen?" Clint answered. When Loki just raised an eyebrow, Bruce's eyes flashed green.

"It protects your skin from the sun, so you don't get burned," Tony hesitantly supplied, rubbing Bruce's arms lightly. The other nine year old closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

"Oh," Loki looked at the cream and carefully began to rub it in.

"Eyes and mouth closed," Fury ordered, his voice less bright than before. He carefully sprayed each kid on their face, rubbing it into the cheeks, foreheads and scalps.

"Alright! We have thirty minutes until pre-game practice begins," Coulson announced. "Everyone to the car." Tony and Bruce led Loki to the black minivan, and Fury began to count seats.

"We have an extra person," he sighed. "And Loki still needs a carseat." He looked around at the children. "We're getting another van."

"Yes! Finally!" Clint cheered.

"There'll be so much more space," Bruce smiled.

"But!" Fury interrupted the conversations that had broken out. "Until we get the new van and a carseat, Loki will have to sit in someone's lap."

"Um, sir," Steve cautiously piped up. "That's illegal."

"Well then I just have to hope none of you will tell the police," Fury grinned lightly. Natasha snorted. "And you can make sure Loki stays safe because he'll be in your lap."

"What?! Why?!" Tony demanded, hands on his hips. "I don't want Loki to catch Steve's... Steve-ness."

"Steve's the only one who's big enough, strong enough, and has the quickest reaction time. He can't sit in my lap because I'm the driver, and Coulson will be busy. Also, I make the rules and I said so," Fury explained impatiently. Tony stuck out his tongue but stayed quiet.

"Okay, okay!" Coulson clapped his hands. "Fury and I are still in the front; Natasha, Clint and Bruce have middle row-" Thor let out a mild sound of protest. "-and Loki, Steve, Thor, and Tony take the backseat."

"What about Miss Maria?" Loki raised his hand.

"She always stays home so she can make the post-game meal and pick up ice cream," Natasha whispered to him. The green eyed boy nodded.

"Does everybody have a jacket?" Fury called. Each child nodded. "Water-bottle?"

"No," Loki replied. Coulson held up a black cooler with the word 'Avengers' painted on the side. Steve beamed proudly, and Loki guessed he was the one to paint the letters.

"Does everyone have our phone numbers?" Fury asked, even as he put a lanyard around Loki's neck. The clear pouch at the end had an index card with Fury and Coulson's names and contact information.

When everyone responded positively, Coulson clapped his hands once more. "Everyone pile in! Steve, could you help Fury and I load Loki's wheelchair?" The other children climbed into the van and claimed their desired seats.

Outside, Coulson directed Steve to carry Loki, and the blonde carefully settled the seven year old against his hip. Fury attempted to fold the wheelchair, discretely checking it for any of Tony and Bruce's... "special improvements." Loki let out a quiet sigh of relief when he didn't find the hidden knives.

The wheelchair finally in the trunk, Steve settled in the backseat and Coulson helped him adjust Loki. The dark haired boy anxiously held onto the teenager's shirt, and Fury started the car.

"Play heavy metal!" Tony shouted. Coulson made his way around the car and got into the passenger's seat.

"It's Natasha's turn to pick," he replied. The redhead pondered it for a moment as Fury backed out of the garage.

"Classical," she announced. Tony, Thor and Clint let out exaggerated groans. Coulson switched to the appropriate station, and Mozart streamed through the vehicle. Bruce and Loki peacefully looked out the window, but the brunette's eyebrows pulled together.

"Look at the clouds. I hope it doesn't rain..." He murmured.

"Let's go over the rules, everyone! Loki, pay attention," Fury called. "Coulson?"

"Clint, will you give us rule one?" The bright eyed man questioned.

"No incredible feats of speed, agility or strength!"

"Good. Natasha?"

"No killing or maiming of any persons or animals, no matter the circumstances," she grumbled.

"Correct. Thor?"

"No influencing the weather, atmosphere, or future events," the blonde recited gravely, as though this was a rule he'd been asked to repeat many times.

"Yes. Rule Number Four, Tony?"

"No building of anything destructive or above average."

"Remember it this time, Tony," Fury warned. "You won't be coming next time if you don't."

"Bruce? Will you give us Number Five?" Coulson continued after the nine year old made an irritated sound of agreement.

"Find you or Mr. Fury if we were having any kind of problem or someone is asking us strange questions."

"Perfect! You find either of us if you feel yourself going even a little bit green, okay? And Loki? If you're having any doubts or are concerned about something, find us immediately," Coulson requested. The magician nodded, and the light haired man offered a pleasant smile. "Steve, will you finish us up?"

"Don't talk to any strangers, wander off, or show off our powers in any form," the seventeen year old answered dutifully.

"Everybody got it?" Fury asked. Various forms of confirmation came back. "Alright, we're about five minutes out." The adults finally began to converse between themselves, and the kids took that as a sign they were free to do as they pleased. Clint and Natasha tossed a small ball back and forth between themselves, reciting the rules of little league soccer. Thor chatted with Steve, and Tony leaned onto the back of the seat in front of him to talk with Loki and Bruce.

Soon, their time was up and they arrived at the field. Natasha and Clint grabbed their duffle bags and raced to meet the other Falcons. Coulson chased after them in exasperation and belatedly called behind him for Steve to get Loki situated again. Fury unfolded the wheelchair again as Tony and Bruce patiently waited for their friend. Loki was set in the seat once more, and Thor kindly handed him the blue blanket to cover his legs.

"Come on, everyone," Fury directed. The five kids followed the spies and Coulson onto the field. "You okay on the grass, Loki?"

"N-not really-" the dark haired boy struggled to tug one of the wheels out of a small hole before trying to steer over a rock.

"Here," Fury sighed. He grabbed the handles and gave the chair an experimental push. It moved, and the man moved the wheelchair out onto the field. Loki watched the players practice further out on the field, his hands clasped gently in his lap. Fury maneuvered the wheelchair next to the bleachers. Bruce and Tony sat at the end nearest the seven year old. Steve sat on Tony's right, sketching the soccer players in their uniforms. Coulson was talking to the Falcons' coach, and Thor was pestering Fury for food.

"What team are they playing today?" Tony questioned, fiddling with a small device. Fury gave him a pointed look and he put it back in his pocket.

"The Wolverines?" Bruce guessed from the iconic yellow and blue uniforms.

"Ugh, I hate those guys," Tony complained.

"That's Mr. Xavier's team, right?" Steve asked, leaning forward so he could see past the brunette to Bruce.

"You means Charles?" Tony grumbled.

"It's rude to call adults by their first name, Tony," Steve frowned.

"Unless they tell you otherwise!" The nine year old stuck out his tongue.

"Don't make me come over there!" They heard Fury called.

"Sorry, Mr. Fury!" Tony and Steve called back automatically.

"I managed to negotiate hot dogs for the mid-day meal, my friends!" Thor announced as he made he way over. Loki rolled his eyes, but Tony exasperatedly threw both hands in the air.

"How many times do I have to tell you? It's called lunch!" He cried.

"I think the game's starting," Steve hushed them. Fury and Coulson took a seat, and a referee jogged out on to the field. Thor sat on the grass in front of Loki.

"So, what is soccer? How is it played?" Loki finally asked.

"Heck if I know," Tony shrugged.

"Language," Steve snapped.

"I think you just kick it, right?" The brown eyed boy ignored him. He looked to Bruce, who just shrugged as well.

"I couldn't tell you," he sighed. "We've come to every single one of their games, and I still can't figure out the rules."

"I know not the laws of the soccer game, either my friends!" Thor stated loudly.

"It's okay, guys. As long as we support them and are there for them, it doesn't matter," Steve smiled. He reached an arm around Tony to grab Bruce's shoulder and pull both boys in for a hug.

"Sap," Tony grumbled. The game started after that, and everyone directed their attention to the field.

"But when do we cheer?" Loki questioned further.

"When someone in red kicks the ball into the white box over there," Bruce pointed to the goal, and the seven year old nodded dutifully.

A few minutes into the game, Clint ducked around an opposing player, wove his way across the field, and delivered the ball into the goal. Half the people in the stands, including the Avengers, stood up and screamed their excitement. Loki looked up at the people towering over him for a moment before looking back to the field and cheering as loudly as he could. The crowd settled down after a moment, and Coulson began to pass out water bottles.

After a while, it was halftime and the players were going to take a break. The community cheer team ran out to do their routine, and Natasha and Clint came to the bleachers for water and snacks. The score was 5-5.

"You guys are doing great out there," Steve congratulated warmly. "Good job." Coulson handed each player a water bottle and a granola bar.

"Great?" Natasha echoed. Her voice was as controlled as ever, but Loki noticed a slight tenseness in her shoulders that made him think she was irritated. "We're tied. If anyone scores a point, they'll be in the lead."

"That's at least a 50% chance that you'll get in the lead and win," Bruce pointed out helpfully.

"That's also a 50% chance they'll score and we'll loose," Clint mumbled.

"Hey, hey, hey," Fury said. His face was warmed slightly by the smallest curling of his lips; it was an encouraging smile, Loki realized belatedly. "Any odds in your favor are good, and you should be thankful to have them. You guys are some of the best soccer players I know, and if you put in effort, what will you get out?"

"A win?" Clint answered hopefully.

"Maybe," Fury nodded. "But you have to keep trying."

"Thanks for the life lesson," Tony sighed and laid back against the bleachers behind him. "It's actually a scientific fact you know." He turned his head in Loki's direction. "The Law of Conservation of Matter. Works for Mass and energy too, I guess, but that's not the point. What goes in, must come out, basically. Like, if you have a big chunk of meat. It weighs a few pounds. You put it in the blender, and turn it into mush. It's still meat, technically, and it weighs the same. Apparently science applies to life. You put in the right amount of effort, you get some kind of reward."

"That's very thoughtful of you, Tony," Coulson complimented.

"Whatever, Agent," the nine year old snarked. Loki smiled and looked down to his brother.

"And you? What do you have to say? You always think something," he questioned. Thor turned to look up at him and beamed.

"Mr. Fury is very wise. He knows many values of life, and as the group father, it is his job to impart them to us as we need them," the blonde responded brightly.

"Group father?" Fury questioned from the other end of the group.

"Fury's not my dad," Tony stated. "He's nothing like Howard."

"H-he's not our father, Thor," Bruce fumbled, remembering his father. He quickly hurried over to Coulson and buried himself in his side.

"You know better, Thor," Steve reprimanded. "Mr. Fury is our caretaker, but he's definitely not our dad."

"That is not what I-" Thor started weakly. He cut himself off and looked away with a disheartened spirit.

"Thor didn't mean your literal dad," Loki finished for him. "As your caretaker, he acts very much like a father for all of you. He provides your meals, makes sure you bathe, checks for the things you would otherwise forget, provides an outlet where you had none, encourages you, helps you develop as a person... If that's not a father, I certainly have no idea what is."

Fury looked at Loki, and it felt like waves of gratitude were pouring off him. He seemed stoic and fierce, but he cared for them just as much as Coulson and Maria.

The crowd around them exploded in cheers, and the Avengers looked over to see Natasha had scored a goal. Instantly, everyone began screaming at the top of their lungs. Bruce's eyes were green, but a bright smile lit up his face as he yelled and laughed. Loki didn't even think as he threw his hands in the air and shouted his friends' names.

The game ended shortly after that, and the two teams exchanged encouragement. Eventually, Natasha and Clint ran over to their group.

"We won! We won!" Clint cheered excitedly. "Can we go out for ice cream?!"

"Maybe, after lunch," Fury conceded. "Steve, do you think your friend would like to come eat with us?"

"I'll go ask-" the blonde started, but was interrupted as thunder rumbled ominously across the sky.

"I knew it!" Bruce cried when buckets of rain were suddenly poured out over their heads. Cries of surprise and delight came from all over the field.

"Thank God, it waited until after the game was over," Steve sighed. "I'll go ask Sam." He jogged across the field to a dark skinned man in the Falcons' coach uniform.

"Hurry up, everyone!" Fury ordered, gathering their things. "Into the van! Go, go, go!" Giggling, the Avengers once again took their seats in the black van. Fury loaded Loki's wheelchair after the boy had been placed in his and Steve's seat. Just as Fury had gotten into the driver's seat and shut the door, Coulson's phone buzzed.

"Sam agreed to come to lunch with us. They're going to wait for all the kids to get picked up, then they'll meet us there. He just needs me to send him the address," the bright eyed man read.

"You know the address of the little place down the street from the Life Center? The one with the magic hamburgers," Fury clarified and leaned over to watch the smaller man text it out. "Okay, good."

"Is everybody buckled?" Coulson questioned and turned around to make sure.

"We're not five!" Tony huffed and crossed his arms.

"You are in a mood today," the man muttered with narrowed eyes and turned back around. "We're good to go, sir." Fury nodded, and the van pulled away from the parking lot.

"Whose turn is it?" Clint demanded. Coulson hummed for a moment.

"It's Bruce's," he remembered. "Same as always, Bruce?" The brunette nodded, and Coulson switched to one of the pre-set stations. Movie themes poured from the speakers.

At the restaurant, the place was alive with buzzing people, chatting and flitting to and fro. Two Wolverines and a Falcon had shown up with their parents, though they sat at different tables. Fury did a quick head count before he turned to the hostess.

"Eleven," he offered. She gave him a practiced smile and a welcoming 'Right this way,' and led the group to a large table at the back of the bustling restaurant. Menus were soon passed out, and Loki quickly decided on a hot dog with a side of fruit.

With the extra time before the waitress came, he observed the place around them. The walls were covered in clean white tiles, with the occasional red, yellow, or purple thrown in. The entire wall to the left of the door was a window, but it only let in gloomy, gray light since it was raining. The floors were white as well, but the linoleum tiles were speckled with the primary colors. All the tables and chairs were hard plastic. Oddly enough, the place seemed very friendly and homey.

Lunch was a loud affair. Everyone was talking, reminiscing about the game, cheering for their victory. When everyone finally finished eating, Fury ordered a round of milkshakes. The children slurped them up with gusto, and the teenagers watched on in quiet amusement.

After Tony finished his milkshake, he sneakily ducked under the table and made his way outside. Bruce rolled his eyes in exasperation and followed, Loki rolling along behind him. The two sensible children stayed under the awning as Tony frolicked around in the cool rain.

"You shouldn't do that, Tony!" Bruce called with his hands around his mouth to amplify the volume. "You're gonna get sick, and Mr. Fury'll be really mad!"

"I'll be fine!"

Chapter Text

[Chapter 12- Sunday]

Tony was not fine.

Turns out running around in the rain makes you more vulnerable to sickness. He didn't want to admit Bruce was right, and he didn't plan on telling anyone because it wasn't that bad. He felt a little cold, and sometimes his stomach hurt. But it wasn't that bad.

He still groaned and complained all the way to the breakfast table. Bruce said he looked a little pale, and Tony just moaned at him to stop being a worry wart. Other than that, his slight illness wasn't addressed.

The rest of the Sunday went on as usual. Fury got them lined up, made some of them go change their clothes, and sat down to explain Sundays to Loki. Tony hadn't been sent to change, so he sat with them and pitched in his opinions.

"On Sundays," the head of the Avengers Division began. "Some of us go to the little church in town and sit in the service."

"Why?" Loki asked simply, confused. His father had never taken them to this 'church' and he had no idea what it was.

"Steve's a Christian," Tony stated in a slightly nasally voice, as though that explained anything. "I'm an atheist, Bruce is somewhere in between, Nat's a Catholic, and Clint wants to be Jewish."

"Clint doesn't know what it means," Fury sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. "But Steve and Natasha want to go to church, so we respect their wishes. Everyone has the option to go if they want to. From there, you can sit with the adults or go to the children's service."

"What did Thor think of it?" Loki wanted to know.

"He was confused."

Loki snorted quietly and thought over it for a moment. Eventually he asked, "Are you going, Tony?" The brunette shook his head.

"While Steve goes and sings with the choir, I stay here and do science," the nine year old informed, rather snootily. Fury smacked him upside the head and sent him down to the lab.

"Whether you go or don't go is completely up to you," the director finished explaining.

"I think... I'd like to go at least once," Loki decided. He didn't want to be apart from Tony or Bruce, but he'd never been to church and he wanted to see it, at least.

"Alright, go get your coat," Fury told him, and Loki quickly wheeled away.

Steve, Natasha, Clint, Coulson, Fury and Loki got into the van after a few minutes, and Coulson turned on a Christian radio station. Everyone was wearing nicer clothing than usual, and Natasha was even wearing a dress.

Loki didn't think she even had a dress.

The church turned out to be a very small building, painted in white, with bright, stained glass windows. There were a few cars in the lot, and a lot of people in nice clothing milled around the front. Everyone was chatting and smiling pleasantly.

Fury parked the van, and the Avengers rapidly piled out. Natasha ran around to help Loki out while Steve got his wheelchair. Clint chattered to them excitedly.

"-and we have to show you the nursery and the kitchen and Paul will want to meet you too! And then you can see the gym and the classrooms-"

Natasha his a tiny smile behind her hand and pushed Loki's wheelchair to the ramp near the front. They entered the building, where a bunch of elderly ladies were tittering over steaming styrofoam cups and walkers. A lone man stood in the room, chatting with a woman near his age.

"Hello Pastor Ken and Pastor Flynn," Steve greeted politely. The man smiled warmly, his wrinkled face crinkling at the corners of his eyes and mouth.

"Hello, Steven," the minister greeted. He looked down. "Hello, Natasha, Clint. How are all of you today?"

"And who's your friend?" Mrs. Flynn added, her own smile just as welcoming.

"I'm Loki," the seven year old quietly introduced; he suddenly felt rather shy.

"We're having a good morning," Steve told the older man. "How are your children?"

"They're wonderful!" Ken laughed. "Paul is working in the sanctuary with the worship band, and Denise is watching some of the children in the Sunday school."

"That's good," Natasha nodded. "May we show Loki around the building?"

"Of course," Flynn assured. "Just be quick. Service is going to start soon."

"Yes, ma'am!" Clint and Natasha saluted and quickly dragged Loki away. The adults laughed, and Steve stayed behind to continue the conversation.

"That was the adult pastor, Mr. Ken, and his wife Mrs. Flynn. They live in the little house behind the gym," Natasha explained.

"There's a gym?" Loki questioned. He had seen a slightly larger building behind the church, but he didn't realize it was part of the property.

"Yeah! And a couple of classrooms and stuff too," Clint grinned. "This is the nursery."

The walls were painted in bright colors with pairs of animals walking out of some kind of ship. There was a huge rainbow covering one wall, and a sun hanging over the crib in the corner. A white bin of baby toys sat next to a wooden changing table and plastic trash can.

"What's painted on the wall?" The dark haired magician asked as he ran his fingers over a striped zebra. It had cartoonishly sized eyes, which freaked him out a little bit.

"It's the story of Noah's arc!" Clint chirped. "The world was full of bad people, and they kept being rude to God, so He had to flood the whole earth. God loved Noah, though, so He let him build a big boat to save his family and all the animals!" Loki reeled away from the wall.

"That's horrible! He just killed all those people?!" He squawked.

"Yeah," Natasha confirmed. She was lightly tracing a painted butterfly. "Those people were going to die anyway, right? God just got rid of the bad people so there was more room for the good people. The rainbow means he promised not to do it again. Plus, he's not like that anymore." She turned around to look at him. "God couldn't have saved those people after the whole thing with Cain and Able, so he eventually sent down his Son to fix it so we could go to Heaven."

"Who are Cain and Able?" The green eyed boy asked. Clint began to lead them to the next room as Natasha explained.

"Okay, so way back at the beginning of time, God made the Heavens and the earth. He had to make humans, or we wouldn't be here, right? So he made Adam and Eve. They got tricked by the Devil into sinning, so God had to leave them alone. They ended up having two sons, Cain and Able. I'm sure there were other kids, but anyway. Able raised the sheep and Cain grew the plants. Every once in a while, they had to sacrifice their stuff to God so He wouldn't be mad at them anymore."

The children entered the kitchen, and Clint drew on the whiteboard near the door as Natasha kept talking. She jumped up on the counter, swinging her legs against the wooden cabinets.

"God liked Able's sheep more, and it made Cain really jealous. So one day, Cain hit his brother over the head with a rock and killed him." Loki gasped.

"What happened then?" He prompted.

"God had seen what Cain had done obviously, and He was sad because Able was dead. I don't remember exactly, but Cain moved away and started a city of bad people. That's why God had to send Jesus down to fix everything."

"That's sad. Is everything in Christianity sad and horrible?"

"Well, that was how the world was back then," Clint shrugged. "People were kept as slaves, kings had too much power, women were considered less than men... It led to a lot of messed up stuff."

"But the main point of Christianity is love and forgiveness," Natasha stated.

"What do you mean?" Loki questioned.

"This is a story too," the archer smiled. "So Jesus was the son of God, and God sent him down to teach people about Christianity. But there were the Pharisees, these Jewish leaders at the time, and they didn't like that people were starting to follow Jesus instead of them. Jesus was like the religious version of a rockstar. People followed him everywhere he went, and they listened to everything he had to say.

"Anyway, the Pharisees wanted to see if Jesus was for real, so they sent a guy over to question him and see if he knew his stuff. The guy comes up to Jesus and he's like 'what's the most important rule or commandment or whatever?' And that's when Jesus says the most important thing in the entire religion. If you remember anything about Christianity, remember this," Clint turned to Natasha then, because he never said it right.

"Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.' Matthew 22:37-40," Natasha recited.

"That's the most important thing for the Christians themselves to do, but there's also John 3:16, which I'm sure you've heard a million times," the blonde grinned. Loki just shook his head.

Without missing a beat, Natasha and Clint declared, "For God so loved the world, He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life."

Clint then continued, "There's a trillion versions of it, but they all say pretty much the same thing. God sent Jesus to save us, and if we accept him and keep working on a relationship with him, then we can go to Heaven instead of Hell."

"So God doesn't just punish people or hate them for sinning?" Loki asked, as everything he had heard about Christianity seemed to be to the contrary of what they were saying.

"Nope. God doesn't hate anybody," Clint smiled gently. "Sinning makes him sad, but that's because everything comes at a price. 'For the wages of sin is death.' The Devil introduced sin into the world because he wants to keep us away from God. In fact, the only thing that never comes with a price is God's love and mercy-"

"There you are!" Steve's voice came from the entryway to the dining hall. Hurried footsteps moved towards the kitchen. The teenager's face appeared in the doorway. "Come on! Service is about to start."

Natasha hopped down from the counter, and Clint erased his pictures from the whiteboard. Loki wheeled after them, confused.

"I thought there were two services?" He pondered.

"Clint goes to the younger service, and Natasha and I go to the adult service with Mr. Fury and Mr. Phil," Steve assured him. "Who do you want to go with?"

"I'll stay in the adult service," Loki decided after a moment. He'd rather stay near the adults, and if he really wanted to experience 'church' then he should 'go big or go home' as Tony might say. And what was bigger than an adult?

Mr. Fury had them sit in the last row on the right, shoved all the way into the corner of the room. The service started with a lot of upbeat music about worshipping God and thankfulness and repentance. Everyone stood up while the music played, some people clapped, and there were a lot of 'Hallelujah!'s and 'Praise Jesus!'s mixed in.

The message Pastor Ken gave was about not being perfect just because they were Christians. Being Christian didn't make them better than anybody else, and acting like they knew what they were doing just because Jesus had saved them was just stupid. Being Christian meant they were saved and could experience the full grace of God. But it didn't mean that Christians couldn't sin too.

In fact, Christians were just as likely to sin and make mistakes as any other person.

Christians couldn't prove God's love by being perfect and having everything together. They had to prove God's love through their actions and words, and acting better than everyone else did not seem very loving.

Loki liked the message and the meaning behind it. He liked the idea of Christianity and a loving God who would take care of him. But before he started believing anything, he wanted to read the Bible for himself.

Maybe talk to God if he could, see what he had to say about it.

After service, Clint dragged Loki, Natasha and Steve behind the main building to play with some of the other kids who attended the church. They used some loose bricks and abandoned poles to build a campsite to play in. They gathered seeds and berries to use for 'food' and leaves and sticks acted as the fire.

Loki could have made a fire illusion or set up the campsite with his magic, but it was fun to do it with his hands too. Tony probably would have hated it, wanting to play with technology or experiments. But Loki liked nature, and getting to know the other kids was nice.

Until Kristy found a dead bird and Loki started to cry.

Steve steered the remaining Avengers back to the van, and Mr. Coulson comforted the magician while Mr. Fury finished shaking hands with the adults.

Lunch was on the table when they got back, and Loki considered asking Tony why he was an atheist. But after thinking about it for a few moments, Loki realized Tony probably believed a lot more in science and facts than in faith and ideas.

The seven year old wondered if that made God sad too, but his head was starting to hurt so he decided to worry about Tony another day.

Chapter Text

[Chapter 13- Sick]

Alright, so Tony was definitely sick.

He woke up that morning with a fever, coughing up a lung and sneezing up a storm. His entire body ached, and the full force of a headache ruined any chance of coherent thought. He could barely breathe, much less get out of bed.

"Bruce," he croaked, voice barely a whisper. He could see the sky just turning grey outside his window and know his alarm wouldn't go off for a few more hours. He could be dead by then! "Bruce!"

Tears of frustration bubbled up in his eyes.

"Bruce, I think I'm dying. C'mon, wake up already!" The nine year old hiccuped. Finally, his almost-twin was roused from sleep.

"Tony? What's... going on?" The brunette yawned.

"I think I'm dying," Tony repeated. He tried to sound brave, but his actual fear of death slipped through.

"I doubt it," Bruce snorted and trudged over. He felt Tony's forehead. The boy bit his lip.

"Maybe it's ebola," Tony whispered, horrified.

"Tony, how would you even- Nevermind. I'm going to get Mr. Fury," Bruce sighed. He quietly made his way down the hall; he paused to knock on the door frame before he came in. "Mr. Fury?"

The man wearily sat up, tugging on his eyepatch. A little black kitten on the pillow next to him startled awake at the movement. When Fury was awake enough to pay attention, he turned to the miniature scientist.

"Bruce? What are you doing up at this hour?" The man asked, bemused.

"Tony's sick," the brunette fretted. He worried his hands in his pajama top. "He thinks he's dying."

"I doubt it," Fury rolled his eyes. The man gently scooped Lo-Kitty into his hand, got out of bed, and placed a reassuring hand on Bruce's back. "Lead the way."

Tony did look very ill when they returned, pale except for the deep flush on his cheeks. His eyes were glassy, and his breathing was raspy at best.

Loki mewled in fright, and Fury gently set him down on the bed. Loki turned back into a human and cast a quick spell over Tony. He turned back to the adult, ready to cry.

"Come on," Fury directed and scooped Tony into his arms. "Bruce, get Loki's wheel chair. Wake Steve, Phil, and Maria." The nine year old nodded quickly and hurried away. "Loki, I'm going to put Tony in a bath. Get there as soon as you can and spell some ice into the tub. We need to break his fever." The boy nodded, and Fury quickly moved to the main bathroom.

The tub was quickly filled with cold water. The man removed Tony's top and pajama bottoms, leaving him in his underwear. He put the boy in the tub; he wet a washcloth and put it on the brunette's forehead.

Loki came in and quickly added a few miniature icebergs. Fury stared for a moment before he quickly continued his work. A thermometer was placed in Tony's mouth, just as he began to shiver.

Tony let out a quiet moan at the uncomfortable sensations of cold, but he didn't seem coherent again.

Coulson, Hill, and Steve came in soon. The tutor quickly left to make some soup. Maria went to get her medical kit. Steve went for a lot of extra blankets and towels.

-[]-

Tony's fever broke after just under an hour. He had gotten coherent about halfway through and tried to get out of the bath. Everyone had carefully pushed him back down and explained the situation.

Once his fever broke, they wrapped him in blankets, dressed him in clean pajamas, and gave him some soup Steve and Phil had worked on. Then, Tony was moved back to his bed. Bruce and Loki decided to stay with him instead of going to class that day, knowing they would have to make up for it later.

Loki and Bruce dumped the big box of Legos out on Tony's bed after helping him prop up against a small army of pillows. They built a model of a small Stark Tower (they let Tony name it since he was sick) and Loki's vision of Asgard from his father's Norse mythology books.

They took breaks to get Tony orange juice, water or soup. Bruce got up every hour or so to change the rag on his almost-twin's forehead. Loki gave another magic demonstration.

Thor stopped by around lunch to bellow something about Tony's honor and bravery in the face of such illness. Loki just swatted at his brother and snapped that it wasn't life threatening.

Natasha sat in the corner of the room for a while, reading silently as she watched over the youngest boys.

Clint came in to play with Loki and Bruce, and they ended up doing a sci-fi, fantasy, horror, adventure play with Tony as the director. They made costumes out of towels and paper they had drawn on. The stage was the air mattress from the storage room. They even had scripts, written down for them in Steve's curly handwriting.

Steve came in a quarter of the way into the play and helped set up a green blanket and camera so Tony could edit together a movie when he felt better. They had to start over then, but it was even more fun knowing they could show everyone later.

Around dinner time, Coulson brought them some special fruit popsicles. They had extra vitamins in them, so they were good to eat when you're sick.

Maria gave Tony some more medicine before bedtime. She also gave him a brief check-up to make sure there wouldn't be any scares during the night. When she was done with her doctoring, she read the boys a bedtime story about a brave china rabbit and a girl who loved him very much.

Eventually, she shooed Loki off to bed and helped the nine year olds get tucked into bed. Fury came in to turn the lights off and wish them a good night.

The boys drifted off to dreams of towering skyscrapers and alien robots.

Chapter Text

[Chapter 14- Bad News]

For the first time in Loki's stay with the Avengers branch, the door rumbled ominously.

Someone was knocking.

Mr. Fury opened the door, unaware (or completely aware) of Loki, Tony and Bruce peeking around the corner. The dark skinned man pulled out his gun as he warily looked through the door-viewer. After a moment, he huffed, tucked his gun away, and pulled open the door.

"To what do we owe the pleasure of this visit, Agent Sitwell?"

-[]-

Fifteen minutes later saw Mr. Fury, Mr. Phil, Mr. Sitwell, and a crying Steve in the living room. Loki, Tony and Bruce were watching the events unfold on screens in the lab.

"Hydra's back? What does that mean?" Loki asked innocently, looking up to his best friends. He and Steve weren't exactly close, but he still didn't want to see the poor blonde in such a miserable state.

"Hydra was the super-powered gang that killed Steve's girlfriend and best friend," Bruce explained quietly. He fiddled with his shirt anxiously, squinting at the screen. Tony was silent.

"That's really sad. But when did they leave?"

"Steve took their leader out of power and dissolved the gang. Most of them ended up in prison, but some of the less powerful criminals managed to get away. We've been waiting for the gang to form again so they can be taken out completely," Bruce continued.

"They put Steve in a coma for a month after the fight. He woke up in bad conditions and completely freaked out. He doesn't like talking about it," Tony whispered.

The boys were quiet as Mr. Fury entered the lab. Jarvis automatically shut off the screens, trying to keep his boys out of trouble.

"Tony, Bruce, Agent Sitwell would like your assistance in tracking down Hydra's secret weapon. Oh, don't bother looking surprised- I know you brats were watching. We're not really sure what the weapon is-"

"Hence the secret," Tony murmured.

"-but Sitwell believes your hacking skills can find it. Eventually. You don't have to find anything today, or tomorrow, or even in a week. But it would help us a lot if you could keep a program running or something," the man continued.

"Sure, let me just whip one up!" Tony mumbled sarcastically. He pretended to type on a complicated keyboard. "Beep boop be-boop bop. There you go!" He scowled. "How are we supposed to find something when we don't even know what we're looking for?"

"Just..." Fury rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Keep an eye for any super-powered activity. Especially this." He held up a paper with a printed symbol. The red mark looked somewhat like a bad cross between an octopus and a skull.

"Gimme that," the trouble-making genius muttered and grabbed the paper. He moved to another part of the lab to scan it and create a program.

"What can I do, sir?" Bruce asked nervously, twisting his hands in his shirt.

"So far, Sitwell has been able to connect the weapon with the odd signals that come off Steve. We're not sure how they're connected, but I'm sure you can find a way to track them," Fury also pulled out a folder of charts and data for the other brunette. Bruce moved to his own section to study the information and begin calculating.

"And you," Fury turned to the seven year old. "Is there anything you can do with... with magic?"

Loki thought for a moment. He let green energy run over his fingers, considering the different branches of magic he could wield and how they could be used in this situation.

"There's a few things I can do to help search, and to keep us safe," he admitted. "I can set up a small border around the building that can keep out anyone with intent to harm one of us, and I can enhance whatever Tony and Bruce come up with."

"Will you need any help with that?" Steve's voice drew attention to where he had been quietly standing in the doorway. Loki observed him for a moment before nodding and wheeling closer.

"I need someone to help me get around outside," he offered. The blonde nodded once, sharply, and turned to the brunettes at the back of the lab. "I'll bring you guys some... some snacks when we're done." Tony's head whipped up for a moment, but he quickly put it back down, humming his thanks.

-[]-

"So how does this work?" Steve asked, carrying a large sack of... of whatever Loki had harvested. It looked like salt, but it smelled like flowers, and it had come from some deposit behind the building.

"That," Loki gestured to the bag, "has magical properties. We make a circle around the house, and I can enchant it to keep out anything that means to harm us. It's a weak barrier, but it should hold for a while." Steve nodded again, following after him.

They tried to stick to the paths as they went around the building, but soon they reached the backyard. Loki requested to be settled against Steve's hip, with the bag on the opposite hip. The green eyed boy threw handfuls of the mineral into the grass. His eyes glowed as he chanted.

About an hour later, they had made their way around the entire building. Loki spending a few more minutes testing the barrier with his magic before he deemed it good. Steve stored the sack in the garage, in case they needed to renew the shield.

When they went inside, Tony was complaining and practically begging for goldfish. Steve retrieved some with a smile. The blonde sat with the boys while they continued programming and bantering.

-[]-

Later that evening, Loki tested the barrier again, making him the last to use the shower. On his way to the bathroom, he passed Steve and Thor's room. He knew Thor was in the kitchen with Clint, so he was surprised to hear quiet shuffling from the room.

He gently pushed open the door and instantly saw Steve weeping quietly on the bed. His breathing was labored, his cheeks splotchy red, and his hair mussed. It was not a pretty sight, him crying into that blanket like it was the end of the world.

"Steve?" Loki quietly rolled into the room and up to the bed. The blue eyed teen stiffened; he was obviously ashamed to have been caught in such a position. "It's... not okay, right now, and it probably wasn't back then either. But it'll be okay soon, so don't be too sad, okay?"

"I miss them," Steve whispered brokenly into the space between them. He clutched the blanket closer with one hand and the stuffed dog with the other. "I miss Bucky and... and Peggy. They were my c-closet friends." He sobbed out weakly but quickly tried to reign it back in.

"What are those?" Loki asked softly, gesturing to the items in Steve's hands.

"The blanket... The blanket was a gift from-from Buck's Ma," the blonde said quietly. "We used to watch movies... t-together under it. And... and the dog was from Peg- Peggy. She... She shot this disc at a carnival, and she won it," his face cracked in a strained smile before he dissolved into tears again.

"Now they're dead..."

Loki didn't know what to say, so he just hugged the blue eyed blonde while he sobbed his poor heart out.

Chapter Text

[Chapter 15- The Visit]

"Alright! Avengers meeting in the dining room!" Fury's voice echoed through the building.

Tony and Bruce looked up from their work in the lab, tired and frustrated. Loki blearily sat up from where he had fallen asleep at their feet.

"Wha'...?" He slurred. He'd been renewing the shields for an hour last night after Clint accidentally broke the line.

"Avengers meeting. Come on, Loki, up you go," Bruce muttered. He and Tony lifted the boy back into his wheelchair. He smoothed the blue blanket back over his lap and followed them out.

"What do you think Fury wants?" Tony yawned, stretching his arms far above his head. His hair was greasy and his clothes were stained. Normally, Mr. Coulson or Steve would make sure they took care of themselves, but Hydra's return had really shaken everyone up and Phil was staying with Steve at his therapy appointments.

Bruce squinted at him for a moment before rubbing his eyes and replying, "Dunno. Must be pretty important, I guess."

"I just wanna sleep," Loki whined.

"No time for that now!" Clint hinted excitedly, running past them to the dining room.

"I hate you!" Loki shouted.

"Love you too, Merlin," the blonde blew a kiss.

The boys arrived at the dining room and took their usual places at the table. Loki slumped forward, planning on sleeping just like that, but Fury cleared his throat to get their attention. Everyone was there, so the meeting was ready to begin.

"Alright! I want everyone to take a shower and put on some good play clothes," Fury declared.

"What? Why?! I have work to do!" Tony demanded and slammed his hands down on the table. "We still haven't found-"

"I know you haven't," the man interrupted. "But you're nine. I'm forcing you to take a break. We called some of contacts and are bringing in a few of your friends from other places. That means Pepper, Jane, Darcy, Betty, and Sam."

There was silence for a moment before the room practically burst with cheers.

"Loki! You're gonna get to meet the other half of our people! Except Rhodey. And the Fantastic Four. And everyone else. But that's okay!" Tony grinned.

"Do you think he'll ever get to meet Peter and MJ?" Bruce asked quietly. His face had softened after the announcement, like his entire being was smiling.

"They don't come around often, but I'm sure he will!" Tony chirped. "I can't wait to see Pepper! How do you think she's been, flying between California and New York?"

"Who is Pepper and why is she flying?" Loki mumbled.

"Pepper's Tony's best friend from before O- from before he came here," Bruce informed. "Her parents are divorced, but they're both important business people, so she has to fly back and forth between their fancy houses in New York and California."

"She pretends like she hates it, but she always brags about the best Christmas and birthday gifts," Tony smirked. "She's really nice. You'll like her." He turned on Bruce. "I bet you're excited to see Betty again."

The other brunette blushed and fiddled with the hem of his shirt. Loki sat up straight for the first time that day with a mischievous grin.

"Who's Betty?" He asked teasingly, poking Bruce.

"She's my friend!" The chemist insisted. "She was one of the kids in my neighborhood before... the accident." His body slumped in sadness. "Her dad was the first person to see me. He told her to not play with me ever again."

"Oh," Loki whispered. He leaned forward and hugged his friend as best he could. "I'm sorry. But at least you get to see her now!"

"Yeah!" Tony patted his 'twin's shoulder. "She might even stay the night." Bruce blushed again.

Thor took that as his opportunity to bound over like an excited puppy. Loki snorted at him, imitating an unimpressed cat.

"My sweet Lady Jane is coming to see me once more!" The blonde swooned.

"Thor, you met her once for five minutes," Tony deadpanned.

"It is true love!" The thunderer cried.

"And she's bringing Darcy," Clint popped up next to them. Loki considered hexing him, but it would take too much energy.

"We haven't seen Darcy in a while," Natasha had a finger to her lips in thought. "I wonder if she has any new recipes for us to try."

"Oh no," Fury snapped. "I'm not letting you and that... that little troll in the kitchen again."

"Do you think we should tell Sam about Hydra?" Steve asked Phil anxiously.

"I don't know how much he would be able to help, Steve," the teacher sighed.

"I get that, but he's associated with us. Hydra might go after him for information or just to get at us or-" the blonde fretted, worrying his hands in his hair. His distress was almost silent in the room of cheerful chatter.

Loki gently sent him a tendril of magic, soothing his upset energy. Steve looked up and met his eye with a small, grateful smile.

"C'mon!" Tony dragged everyone towards the dorms. "We gotta get ready!"

-[]-

"What do they look like?" Loki asked as Natasha dried his hair. Bruce was drying her hair, with Tony toweling the other nine year old's hair and Clint fluffing Tony's hair. Thor's hair had already been dried with a quick spell, and the older brother was now sitting in front of the wheelchair. (Maria had silently snapped a picture and left to print it out and frame it.)

"Lady Pepper has hair like a sunset," Thor commented. Loki smacked him, trying to get him to drop the Shakespearean act. "And eyes like that of the finest emeralds."

"Jane has long, brown hair," Bruce added. "And brown eyes."

"Darcy's basically the same, but with super curly hair. So she's female me," Tony smirked.

"Or you're male her," Natasha argued lightly. "Betty also has brown hair, but I think her eyes are green?"

"Bruce wouldn't know. He never gets up the courage to actually look at her face," Clint snickered. The nine year old in question huffed.

"I can't remember if you met Sam," Tony pondered.

"I saw him from across the field," Loki admitted.

"Well he's... Can I say this without sounding racist?" Tony sighed. "He's black, like Fury. And he's got brown eyes. His hair is a very short cut from the military."

"Don't tell Steve I said this, but he's kinda handsome," Natasha whispered. Loki grinned up at her while Bruce made a small gagging motion.

Suddenly, the doorbell rang.

"THEY'RE HERE!" Tony and Clint screamed, tumbling town the hall to the front entryway. Loki started to wheel after them, with the others walking beside him, when they heard another excited shout.

"IT'S PEPPER!"

The other Avengers entered the room, just in time to catch Tony saying, "Just on time like always!" The brunette and the strawberry-blonde hugged, practically crushing each other.

"Hello, everyone," Pepper smiled softly when they parted. Her eyes caught on Loki, sparking for a moment. "Hi, cutie. Who are you?"

"Pepper!" Tony bounced on the balls of his feet. "This is Loki, the kid I was telling you about!" She glanced at the nine year old for a moment; her eyes lit up with recognition.

"Oh! Loki," she came forward and lightly shook his hand. "I've heard a lot about you. You can do magic, right?" He nodded. "Well, I'm Pepper, and I'm eleven."

"You're older than Tony," Loki noticed with a small smile. She flipped her ponytail over her shoulder.

"Yes sir! He was always the younger one that followed me everyone, not the other way around," she winked. "Speaking of which, Tony tells me you've got a new, top-secret project down in the lab. You guys'll have to show me."

Tony excitedly dragged her to the living room, chatting animatedly.

That was about the time the doorbell rang again, accompanied by an odd rhythm of knocks.

"DARCY!" Clint screamed and ripped open the door. He lunged outside, and both children fell over.

"I brought recipes!" A voice rang out, like a slightly cracked bell.

Natasha stepped forward and helped her and Clint up. The two females shared a hug. While the trio began to exchange greetings, another brunette peeked through the doorway.

"My sweet Lady Jane!" Thor bellowed and sauntered forward. His chest was puffed out like an obnoxious balloon, and his hammer seemed to have found its way into his hand, even though they weren't allowed to carry weapons in the house. "I have long awaited your return."

The girl giggled, and Loki wanted to kill himself.

"Come, Lady Jane. You must meet my brother Loki," the blonde led his lady-friend to the dark haired boy. At least Thor remembered him this time.

"A pleasure, Lady Jane," Loki stated, trying hard to not sneer. "How old might you and your... companion be?"

"Oh, I'm nine and Darcy's twelve," Jane answered honestly.

"Hmm." Loki tried for a smile.

"I shall speak to Lady Darcy while I have the opportunity!" Thor stumbled away. Jane watched him go for a second before she bent down to Loki's level.

"Loki, I just want you to know, Thor's told me about you before. He really cares about you, and I wouldn't never try to come between you. I promise not to steal your brother, okay?" She smiled gently.

He stared at her in awe. "O-Okay."

Thor came back with Darcy, Natasha, and Clint in tow. Jane was dragged to the living room by Thor and Clint. Natasha just gestured to Loki.

Darcy looked like she was going to explode.

"Oh my gosh, you got a baby! He's adorable! What's his name? Does he have powers too? What's his favorite food?!" She squealed.

"I'm not a baby!" Loki growled. "I'm seven years old, and I could ki-"

"This is Loki," Natasha interjected smoothly. "He has magic, and he likes yogurt. He and Clint don't really get along, which is why he was up all night."

"What happened?" Darcy gasped.

"I put a magic barrier around the building and the jerk broke it. I don't even know why he was out there last night!" The seven year old grumbled.

"Archery practice," Nat shrugged.

"Anyway, you're adorable, and I now adopt you as one of my own," Darcy declared. "Come, we must cause much destruction in Fury's kitchen." She grabbed the back of his wheelchair and started pushing it.

"H-Hey!" He tried to stop the chair, but he just got his hands scraped. "Ouch!"

"Darcy," Natasha warned lightly.

"What? Fury's angry face is hilarious."

"N-No!" Loki cringed. He'd just gotten in with these wonderful people; he didn't want to be hurt or kicked out again! He didn't want Mr. Fury to be mad at him! He didn't want anyone to be mad at him!

"Why can't you just be a good boy like your brother?"

Why didn't anyone love him?

"Another broken dish! Maybe this will teach you to be more careful!"

Everything hurt...

"Didn't I tell you not to waste your time like that, stupid boy?"

"Loki?"

"You've been very bad recently. I guess I'll have to-"

"Loki, can you hear me?"

The boy came back to his body, feeling his heaving chest and wet cheeks. He was being cradled against something warm and firm, and something was rubbing against his back. Everything felt shaky and scary and wrong.

He gasped loudly and moved his fingers around for purchase. He finally caught some fabric, and he held on as tightly as he could. His head hurt now. His arms and legs ached. Everything hurt.

"I-I'm sorry I'm sorry- sorry I'm sorry," he whimpered.

"Shh, Loki," someone familiar whispered. "Sam and I got you. It's Steve. Can you look at me?"

Loki sobbed.

"I'm sorry!" A girl was crying. "I didn't know he would do that!"

"Why don't we get some water?" A gentle voice offered.

"Loki?" A tired, worried voice questioned, and there was a gentle tug at his shirt. He peeked down and managed to catch a glimpse of curls and brown eyes before it was too much and he ducked away again.

"What is going on in here?" Someone demanded angrily, and his sobs quieted into silent weeping.

"Oh, Loki," a soft, concerned man said and then there was a hand in his hair. "Everything's better now."

"Should I take him back to the hospital wing?"

"No, he just needs reassurance."

"What happened to his hands?!"

"Oh my gosh, Loki!"

"Brother!"

"Loki, can you look at me?"

"Are you okay?"

"What do you need?"

Overwhelmed, Loki felt his magic pushing everyone back like a weak breeze. There were only two people who were able to stay close to him, and they quickly shooed the others away.

He felt himself being smaller and smaller.

He was such a bother. He shouldn't be pestering those perfect people. He needed to get away until he could fix himself. Maybe if he went on a quest, they would take him back? He could do some searching, find out what was wrong with him-

"Loki, look at me," a deep voice ordered, and he wanted to obey. He hiccuped and turned his head slowly. It was a familiar man, with no hair and smooth, dark skin. He hiccuped again. It was Mr. Fury. "Hey." The man's hand landed in his hair and stroked once, gently. "What happened?"

"D-Don't be mad!" Loki cried. "I-I said no! I d-didn' wan' to!" He gasped for breath.

"No one's mad," the adult promised. "We just want to know what happened."

"I-I-" the child gulped. His fingers spasmed in what he realized was Steve's shirt. "D-Darcy wanted to h-hurt the kitchen so y-you'd be m-m-mad, a-and then I heard F-Father and he- he-" More tears bubbled down the sides of his face.

"It's been a rough day, huh, Loki?" Steve bounced him slightly. "But you're here with us, and you're safe, and we'll never let you go. Mr. Fury would never hurt you like your dad; everyone here loves you." Loki hid his face again.

"Why don't we put you down for a quick nap, and you can meet everyone after? I think the lack of sleep is messing with your head," Mr. Fury declared. He carefully took Loki from Steve, just as the seven year old shifted into a small, black mouse. The mouse scampered up his clothing and settled on the back of his neck. "Or you could... just sleep there."

The man's eye twitched.

-[]-

Sam and Steve stayed with Loki, following him around the house as he showed them everything and anything. Sam refused to tell the kid he'd been there before, and Steve groaned in dismay.

He loved Loki like a little brother, but the kid could be as annoying as one too.

When Steve finally reached him limit, he quickly traded Loki off to Tony, Pepper, Bruce and Betty. The five kids played board games until the adults were distracted, then snuck down to the lab. Pepper was tall enough to reach the keypad without trouble, which made Tony grumble irritably.

Tony showed Pepper all the programs he'd created to find Hydra's secret weapon, and Bruce showed Betty all the research and projects he had worked on since she'd last been there. Both of the girls watch Loki's magic display as he explained the different energies for them.

Two hours later, Darcy came down to apologize and drag Loki back up. She, Jane, Thor, Clint, Natasha, and he played an interesting game of Spies and Gods. They battled enemies in the gym until the dinner bell rang.

The dining room was too small for the large group of people, so everyone relocated outside for a nice picnic in the grass. The girls sat in their own circle, catching up and chatting. The boys sat with the adults, trying to not break out in a food fight of epic proportions.

Sam was allowed to stay the night, but the other visitors were picked up gradually a few hours after dinner. Loki mentally added them to his growing list of people he could call 'friends'.

Chapter Text

[Chapter 16- Hydra]

It was late that night when Loki felt it. Someone was pushing against the wards, trying to get in.

The seven year old scrambled out of bed, turning into a small, black dove. He flew to Mr. Fury's room as quickly as possible and began speaking before he'd even changed back. The man jolted upright in sleepy surprise.

"Loki? What's going on?" He asked.

"Someone's trying to get in!" The boy pleaded. His hands were trembling as he tried to show what was happening to the wards.

"Go wake up the other kids. Steve will take you somewhere safe while we deal with the situation," Fury ordered quietly. Loki nodded, switching back to a bird and taking off through the halls.

The man rushed out of bed and hurried to wake up Coulson and Hill. Coulson was already up, probably suffering from insomnia. They woke Hill together. Coulson was ordered to guard the Avengers, and Hill went with Fury to the front door.

"The wards are breaking!" Loki's panicked, slightly pained voice called through JARVIS's intercom system.

Something dark moved silently across the yard. Fury held up his gun, ready to protect his little family. The dark figure raised a shining fist, and suddenly all the glass in the room shattered. Fury and Hill both ducked.

When they looked up, they couldn't see anything. Fury cursed, just before he heard a near silent, "I'm sorry."

Fury fell into unconsciousness.

-[]-

Tony screamed when the safe-room door was suddenly ripped off. Coulson was already shooting, but the bullets didn't seem to have any effect on the intruder. Thor was the first to be grabbed; he tried to fight off the attacker, but there was a near silent snp and the ten year old went limp.

"Brother!" Loki cried, sobbing uncontrollably. He tried to move forward, but they hadn't had time to grab his wheelchair.

"I'm sorry," the attacker gasped wetly, sounding like he was crying as well. "I'm sorry."

Natasha positioned herself in front of Loki, and Clint charged the intruder. Coulson reached for him, but the twelve year old had already gone limp.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so, so sorry-"

Bruce was completely green at this point, and Tony was frantically trying to calm him, when the young Stark was ripped away and went limp.

"TONY!" The Hulk roared. Coulson dropped his gun, silent tears dripping from his blank face.

"I'm sorry, please, I'm sorry-"

"Sorry doesn't cut it," Steve declared icily. He stepped up from the outside of the safe-room, holding his shield. His eyes were like shards of blue glass. His hands fisted, tendons stretching and showing.

The attacker stopped and slowly twisted his whole body to look at the seventeen year old. The room was frozen for a moment before the dark figure suddenly collapsed, weeping.

Steve jumped in slight surprise.

Thor moaned.

"T-Thor," Loki whimpered.

"Clint," Natasha breathed, rushing forward to take their pulses. "They're just asleep! H-He..." Coulson dropped to the ground in a dead faint. The Hulk shuffled through the limited space and grabbed Tony, cradling the unconscious brunette.

"Who are you? What are you doing here?" Steve barked at the intruder, looking more like an upset golden retriever now that he knew everyone was still... still breathing.

"Steve!" The dark figure sobbed out like he'd seen the face of God. "Steve!"

The blonde paused, recognizing the voice.

"Bucky?"

"What's going on in here?!" Fury burst into the room, gun raised.

"Wait!" Steve panicked, stepping in front of Bucky. "I've got it under control."

Fury stared at him for a moment before going to check on Coulson.

"What's going on?" Steve asked his old friend, helping him up. "Why would you do this?"

"Hydra," Bucky managed. He pulled his mask away to reveal familiar features. "They... They showed me pictures, of you... in a coma. They said... They said they'd kill you!" Tears continued to dribble down his cheeks. "I-I didn't kill anyone, but-but they made we watch, and I'm sorry, so, so sorry-"

"Shh, Bucky," the teen quickly pulled him in for a hug. "It's going to be okay now. I'm okay, you're okay, we're all okay, and we're going to help you." The blonde looked over Bucky's shoulder at Mr. Fury, and the man sighed and nodded.

Looks like he had a lot more paperwork to do.

Chapter Text

[Chapter 17- Sights]

The other Avengers gathered in the dining room while Tony, Thor, Clint, and Fury were checked over in the medical wing and Bucky was being tested by Coulson.

Steve sat silently, hands folded in front of his face, and contemplated everything. Natasha leaned back in her seat, cleaning all of her weapons. Bruce paced back and forth. Occasionally, his eyes flickered green and he took deep breaths. Loki was curled in the corner; he created tiny birds and flowers, slowly building a tiny garden around him.

"I don't trust him. I don't want him anywhere near the others," Natasha announced and reloaded her handgun with a sharp clkck.

"He's getting his own room, that's for sure," Bruce muttered. "I'll be keeping Tony in the lab as long as I can..."

"I'll keep Thor busy for you," Natasha looked at Loki, seeing right through him. The seven year old nodded quietly.

"Clint wanted him to teach him how to throw knives. Now seems like a good time," Loki responded. He created a blinding green knife with magic and stabbed it into the wall.

"He won't hurt anyone again," Steve whispered. "Now that he knows I'm safe. He was just trying to protect me."

"You really don't want to defend him right now," Natasha declared. She stripped down another gun.

"Lookit all you Slytherins and your cute little displays of violence," a warm voice grinned. Bruce instantly ran over to the doorway, followed closely by Loki. Tony slid down, looking tired and slightly drugged. "Being knocked out sure does give... one heck of a headache." The nine year old yawned. Bruce checked over him and gently led him to a seat at the far end of the table.

"How are the others?" Steve asked. Natasha eyed Tony but didn't comment. Loki carefully maneuvered his tiny magic village on to the table.

"Thor's sleeping it off, and Hill wanted Clint to wait for Coulson," Tony waved Bruce away. The other nine year old settled at his side anxiously, playing with his shirt. "We're all fine. Really. Just some headaches and light bruising." Bruce's eyes flared green. Tony looked at him with soft features. They held hands as the green faded away.

The door opened, and a dark figure entered the room. A knife instantly hit the door frame, centimeters from his head. Loki's magic creations blinked away. Bruce stepped in front of Tony, growling.

"Whoa!" Steve jumped up, and quickly put himself between Bucky and the others. "Everybody calm down!" Bucky didn't even try to defend himself.

"Steve," he said simply. The blonde deflated. He stormed to the other side of the room, punched the wall, and shoved himself in the corner.

"I understand why you did it," Natasha offered, reloading another gun and starting once again on the knives. Loki glared at her slightly but seemed to loose any heat after a moment.

"But don't do it again," Bruce rumbled. Tony gently grabbed at him, and the nine years olds both seemed to calm.

"Come on, everybody," Mr. Coulson called as he entered the room, leading a red-eyed Clint. "We're doing some classwork today."

"What?!" Tony cried. "After everything that happened last night?!"

"Yes. You've been avoiding any school-work for too long, looking for the 'secret weapon.' You can't really use that excuse anymore." The trio of science nerds blushed slightly and reluctantly followed. Bucky hesitantly went with them, after some prodding from Steve.

Turns out, some time in the classrooms were exactly what everyone needed. The child geniuses relaxed into the brain-food, and the others bonded in the mutual hatred of school-work. Natasha and Bucky both calmed with a task to perform. It was good.

Until Mr. Coulson walked in on Bruce asking for one of the homework problems.

"Bruce!" Mr. Coulson scolded. The brunette jumped, brown eyes wide. "How long have you been doing this?"

"Um, since the beginning?" The nine year old murmured. He tugged at his sleeves.

"I'm very disappointed in you, Bruce. You're a smart kid! You're better than this." The adult shook his head sadly.

"What?" The three boys questioned in confusion.

"Don't 'what' me-"

"Oh!" Loki cried. "He's not asking for the answer to the problem!"

"Really?" Coulson raised an eyebrow (slightly, mind you. He was still Coulson). "Then what is he asking for?"

"What the question is..." Bruce murmured, twisting the hem of his shirt in white-knuckled fists. "I can't... Um..."

Mr. Coulson sighed slightly. He walked over to the trembling nine year old and knelt beside him. He looked at the child's homework, then at the child.

"Bruce, can you see what's on the paper?"

"Not... Not very well," the boy shook his head. "I'm sorry! I-I'm not stupid, I promise-"

"Oh, Bruce." Mr. Coulson gently pulled him in for a hug. "There's nothing wrong with you. You just have poor eye-sight. We just have to get something to help you." The brunette sniffled, awkwardly wiping his nose on his sleeve. "Why didn't you say anything? Mr. Fury or Miss Hill would have gotten you glasses much sooner."

"I-I..." The boy's face lit red and more tears bubbled down his cheeks. He buried his face in his hands, weeping.

"He wasn't supposed to ask for stuff," Tony said, suddenly standing at Coulson's side. Brown eyes slid up to the adult's, assessing him. "You know how butthole fathers are."

"Tony," Mr. Coulson sighed, but couldn't stop the slight smile. "Language." The man gently removed Bruce's hands from his face and began to wipe away the messy tears. "Come on, Bruce. Let's talk to Miss Hill about getting you some glasses."

-[]-

"Wow!" Bruce breathed, standing in the middle of the lab. He spun around in circles and held tightly to the arms of his new glasses. "Everything's so... sharp!"

"Astute observation, Sherlock," Tony commented. He was grinning. "Jarvis? I think that's your cue."

"Right away, Mr. Stark."

Slowly, the lights dimmed. Bruce looked around, expectant but also slightly disappointed. Over one of the tables, a hologram began to glow, projecting a large field of flowers, swaying in the wind. A brilliant blue sky was occasionally broken up by fluffy white clouds as they floated past.

"Whoa," Bruce mumbled, stepping closer. He was able to observe for a long moment before another hologram started to his right. He turned to greet it, met with an image of the ocean. Fishes of all different colors and species swam by; their scales gleamed in the faint sunlight and sent tiny beams of shifting light around the room. Bruce giggled, but his attention was soon caught by a third hologram.

A vast expanse of space spread before them. Stars twinkled as colored light drifted through the cosmos. Planets, solar systems, and entire galaxies floated along.

Bruce watched fascinated. His attention switched between the three projections, hard-pressed to stare at any one image for too long.

After a minute, the holograms began to change and multiply, showing recorded memories. Bruce and Tony's first meeting. Having a tea party with Steve and Natasha. Their first project together in the lab. Playing in the backyard. Watching the others in the gym. Loki's first meal with the Avengers.

Hiccuping, Bruce wiped at his eyes.

Thoughtfully, he turned to Tony and looked at him. Really looked at him.

"Tony," he sobbed. "I can see."

Tears bubbled up in the other nine year old's eyes as well.

"Yeah. You can."

Chapter Text

Each character was meant to have their own arch, with Loki's story of healing unraveling as he got to know each of the Avengers and their own pain. Most of the beginning chapters were meant to set up the story and show you guys how everyone worked as a mismatched, patched up family, but I kinda got sidetracked with soccer games and Bucky.

The first arc is about Bruce. His father abused him and possibly experimented on him, until eventually the Hulk was born in a burst of gamma radiation and pain. While Bruce begins to heal as he is brought into the Avengers, it's little things like giving him a pair of glasses or buying him birthday presents that really make him feel part of the family. Unfortunately, none of this resolves the issues of the Hulk. Pushing down the Other Guy makes Bruce anxious and tense, and he starts to stray from his friends and family. Tony tries to bring him back in with science and open acceptance, but it's not enough. Bruce begins locking himself away, until finally the Hulk has had enough and wants to go on a rampage. While the adults try to calm him down and get him to revert back to Bruce, it's Loki whose words get through. He talks to the Hulk about how Odin hurt him, about how the Chitauri hurt him. He talks about how he's afraid and unhappy, and even angry sometimes. As Loki speaks, the Hulk and Bruce both realize that they are as alone and separated as they thought. The Hulk engages in some playtime, though he doesn't know how to control his strength, and eventually falls asleep, turning back into Bruce.

Steve's arc could have been next, though I'm still not sure on what order I would prefer these to be in. With Bucky's arrival, the Hulk's rampage, and Hydra possibly coming for them, Steve doesn't feel like his problems matter enough to bring to the others. He forces himself to play and watch movies with them; he goes to all the soccer games. But something inside him is hurting. Seeing Bucky again, as much as he hates it, brings back those memories of Peggy's death, of all the illness and pain from his past. The less his struggle is noticed, the more convinced he becomes that no one cares and he's been all alone since he woke up from the coma. He throws himself into his art, churning out sorrowful masterpiece after masterpiece. Loki is one of the few to recognize the emotions behind the pieces, and he is the only one to talk to Steve about it. At first Steve is defensive and walks away. But it's late at night, while Loki has just woken up from a nightmare and is staring at the ceiling, that Steve sneaks into his room to open up. They talk for hours, whispering until the sun has risen. They feel strung out and heavy after releasing so many emotions, but they feel better. It becomes a regular thing, until both of them begin to cheer up more and more. Steve shows Loki how to draw, Loki shows Steve his magic. Steve finally talks to Bucky, have a real conversation with him. They're both crying and hiccuping by the end, but they've finally reconnected. Bucky starts to come out of his shell and interact with the Avengers, though he mainly sticks to Steve, Loki, and surprisingly, Natasha and Tony. Tony does work on his arm for him, and Natasha is the only other one that speaks Russian, though Clint certainly tries.

Tony is next. With more warnings about Hydra and the possibility of his father's weapons being involved, he can feel the tension and painful memories looming over him like a tsunami. The adults constantly push him to do more searches, find out what Hydra has about them, find a way to stop them. Even though it reminds him of Obi, he knows it's his job to take care of his family. He takes the requests as orders and avoids eating, sleeping, or even taking breaks so he can help in every way he can. He finds himself constantly setting JARVIS to look through camera feeds, and the nine year old upgrades everyone's gear as much as he can. Does Clint's bow need the ability to turn into a knife? Probably not. Does Loki need another small arsenal of weaponry to tuck into his wheelchair? Not really, no. But Tony keeps building and pushing himself, until finally he collapses. He wakes up in the medical room with Pepper and some worried Avengers hovering around him, but he still tries to insist on doing more work. Bucky offers to sit on Tony to make him stay, and while everyone does dogpile on him, the tiny genius still tries to get back to work. Instead, Loki brings him a tablet so he can work from bed. Most of the people eventually leave to eat or do something other than watch Tony tap on said tablet. But after a few hours have passed and the room is quiet, Loki slowly pushed the pad down so he can meet Tony's eyes. While initially Tony guards himself with sarcasm and dry humor, he eventually admits to something happening with Obi. Loki shares his true heritage, that he's a 'Big Kid.' Tony is naturally kind of freaked out and fascinated by the chilly blue skin and blood red eyes, but Loki quickly changes back and explains that his really father abandoned him and Odin was cruel and abusive. Tony relates in most ways, but he covers up his feelings. It's after a long discussion alone with Pepper that Tony remembers how much his new family cares about him. How they weren't trying to use him.

Thor's arc follows soon after. It's a relatively short arc, because while he's got a big heart, he still feels very dumb. All the kids younger than him are smarter than him, and Loki helps him with his homework. Not only that, but when he is finally able to reconnect with Sif and his friends, they seemed to have learned and grown so much. Thor becomes snappy and starts to act arrogant, high and mighty again. The adults aren't sure what to do about the issue, and their frustration begins to affect others. Everything comes to a head when Thor gets the worst grade out of everyone on a test, and instead of what was predicted to be a sunny day, a fierce storm begins to rage outside. The wind beats at the windows, the rain hits the roof like bullets, and the thunder is starting to sound closer and closer. Everyone panics, and Loki is lost in the chaos. The storm gets worse with Thor's new worry, but he soon finds Loki as a bird, hiding in the sock drawer. The brothers have a heart to heart, and Loki confessed how inferior he feels to Thor most of the time. Thor is confused, because clearly Loki is much smarter, and more organized, and better. Fury and Phil reveal that their insecurities probably came from their father's emotionally abusive tendencies, and that they are both great in their own ways. Loki and Thor hug it out, and the world is restored to sunshine and rainbows once more.

Clint comes next, as seeing Thor and Loki acting like brothers has reminded him of his own brother and family. While many of his memories with his brother were painful or scary, there were also a lot of happy times. Since living on the streets never gave him much time to mourn his family, Clint still isn't sure how to deal with their deaths. His father was mean and hit him sometimes, and his brother mimicked their dad, but the happy memories convinced Clint that it couldn't have been all bad, right? His family still loved him- they did! They took him to the park, and Mom made his favorite dinner! Natasha notices Clint's emotional battle, though she doesn't know what it's about. Every time she tries to confront him, he insists that everything is fine. Loki is the one who drags Clint to Phil and forces them to talk. Phil helps Clint realize that it was still abuse, whether the boy was able to be happy at times or not. But Phil also helps Clint remember his new family and how much better everything has gotten. All of Clint's insecurities and emotional problems are not instantly resolved, but with time, he comes to terms with the truths of his life and his new family.

Bucky's arc deals mostly with Hydra's abuse. Bucky had no qualms selling out as many Hydra secrets as he can, but when it comes to his own healing, he doesn't even know where to begin. He shies away from the others for the most part, expect the previously mentioned Steve, Natasha, Loki, and Tony. But even with three of those four, he's distant and quiet. He barely eats and often forgets to take care of himself by showering or taking breaks during a workout. He sticks to Steve's side like glue, and when the adults finally get him to a therapist, he doesn't know how to open up. He admits in bits and pieces about what has happened to him, but he still feels terrible for all the things he did. Everything he did was to protect Steve, and after those first few months, Steve hadn't even been there to protect. He'd hurt people in so many ways, and for what? But as time goes on, each of the Avengers provide a grounding, loving presence. They remind him to take care of himself, and they drag him into group activities. His days get brighter, his opens up to the therapist, and though most days he feels emotionally flayed open, he's healing.

Natasha has the final character arc. Much like Bucky, she chooses to mainly interact with Clint. She treats the adults like they're her bosses, and she spends a lot of time practicing and sharpening her skills. With Bucky here, she finally has someone to talk to in Russian, and she practically secludes herself from the others. It's like she living as a Russian assassin again, and it worries everyone. Every time Fury tries to address it, she shuts down, and she's seen the effect Loki has had on people, so she avoids him too. Eventually, Clint corners her in the gym. They spar for hours, with Clint forcing himself up each time she beats him. Her heart seems to break each time she slams him on the mat, but she can't do that. Love is a weakness. Love is for children. And she is no child. Finally, Clint pins her to the mat. He holds her there, and forces her to listen as he talks about the Avengers. She's not in Russia anymore! She doesn't have to do any of that, because they're here for her, to help her and care for her. She can be anything she wants to be; she doesn't have to fight anymore! Natasha doesn't cry, though it's a near thing, instead hugging Clint so forcefully he almost passes out.

Amidst all the emotional turmoil of the character arcs, there are series of connected one-shots. One series is about Fury adding music lessons to the Avengers' schedules. Steve and Tony duke it out, with Tony on violin and Steve on piano. Bruce finds peace and relaxation in the drums. While Clint picks up the flute, Natasha chooses and electric guitar and they have a concert in the living room. Loki also chooses the piano, and when Bucky decides on a saxophone, they practice different jazz pieces together. Thor has a short one-shot all to himself about keeping everyone up at all hours of the night with his horrendous clarinet playing. All of the kids put together a recital for the adults and their friends.

Another series of one-shots, though shorter, is about each of the kids doing physical activities "to stay healthy," Fury says, though he really wants to wear them out so he doesn't have to deal with so much chaos. Bruce leads a yoga session every Monday night. Clint and Natasha train the others in soccer. Bucky teaches the young ones self-defense. Thor and Loki practice throwing knifes, boxing, or dancing, depending on their mood. Steve acts like a PE teacher and has them run laps or do jumping jacks. Tony makes sure everyone has what they need so the group can go swimming at the community pool.

There's more fluff to be had related to everyone's power. Thor tries to get everyone out of school by creating a snow day. The Hulk needs playtime, which Loki and Tony happily provide. Natasha, Clint, and Bucky play an assassin's game of hide and seek. Steve starts a game of Extreme Frisbee. Loki tries to teach the others magic. Tony creates a robot that dispenses snacks, but it gets loose and starts a food fight. Clint wins every game of "I Spy" in a row.

Unfortunately, even through the healing and the fluff, Hydra is still on the move. Other SHIELD orphanages have received warnings or even been attacked. There have been reports of stalkers, predators, and a near-kidnapping. Though Bucky has spilled many secrets and Tony still is constantly monitoring everything, Hydra's presence looms over everyone. When Fury decides to take everyone to the park again, Loki and Tony are followed around and almost taken. Someone sends them a package full of poisons. A creepy figure is seen lurking around the edges of the backyard.

Even as Loki renews the barrier as often as possible, the time finally comes when Hydra launches a full frontal attack. They bring way too many gang members, and more than enough guns. The force field is cracking under the attacks. Fury and Phil guide everyone into the safe room, while Maria tries to keep Bruce calm. Just before they close the door, Loki scuttles out and speeds down the hall. His wheelchair drifts around the corner and he screeches through the front door. The barrier is clearly visible now, while it's under attack. Loki throws his hands up, pushing his magic into keeping his new family safe. The defense strengthens, but that's when the gang brings out the machine guns. The weapons act almost like a battering ram, and Loki is screaming out as he tries to keep the barrier in place. Instead, the barrier begins to shrink, closing in on him and the other Avengers.

In the safe room, Tony is frantically trying to open the door. Bruce takes deep, measured breaths, but his skin and eyes are radiating green. Thor paces, occasionally slamming his fist again a wall. Clint is near tears and clings to Phil's pant leg, while Natasha sits on Phil's other side and sharpens her knives. Bucky leans against the corner, scowling at everything with blank eyes, and Steve desperately pleads with Fury to unlock the door. With an excited cry from Tony, the door swings open. Fury tries to hold them back, but the Avengers have run to their rooms, grabbing weapons and defensive clothing.

The Hulk lets out a mighty roar and demolishes the front of the building as he crashes outside. He stops and watches in awe as Loki uses all of his strength, drawing from the very life of the earth, to push the barrier back again. Subconsciously, the seven year old stands from his wheelchair, sending the barrier forward with a full body physical motion and sheer determination. The Hulk roars again in triumph this time and charges forward. Hydra's attack has lessened, and Loki collapses back into his chair at the same time the barrier shatters.

The Hulk crashes though and begins smashing Hydra goons left and right. Thor follows quickly behind him, striking down enemies with hammer and lightning alike. Tony has created some sort of makeshift stun-gun, but the arrows that Clint shoots are very real. Steve and Bucky fight with good, old-fashioned punching and kicking. Natasha glides through the battlefield with the force of an angel, but her attack are quick and smooth as a demon. No one is killed, but when the police finally arrive, all Hydra members have been incapacitated. A large portion of the gang is arrested, and the police are able to quickly weed out the rest.

With Hydra gone, Loki and friends are able to reflect back on how they've grown with each other. Individually, they all come to the conclusion that they are a truly a family, one of happy choice. They still have music lessons, still goof off during Phil's teaching, still play soccer games and go to the park. But when times get hard, they have people to back them up. They have people who love them.