Part One: In Which Tony Gets a Headache and Sanity (Doesn't) Return

Tony is still heading towards Doom's current Weapon of the Week when the heap of clothes he's been assuming still houses the (semi) conscious Thor starts to stir. He's actually pretty relieved, given that even on a one of his good days1 Tony has absolutely no intentionof ever taking on Loki on by his lonesome, even if (luckily) Loki too appears to be temporarily comatose2. This would be because Tony does not put it past Loki to accidentally-on-purpose disfigure him while unconscious. And the last time he tried to take Loki on with Hawkeye? They both ended up hospitalized after Clint's bow turned into a goddamn anaconda3 and his own weapons turned out to shoot what Thor later identified as the Asguardian equivalent of fine champagne4. (That would actually be how Tony knows that fighting Loki while drunk is an even worse idea than fighting him5 while sober). Also, Loki sent them a gift basket6.

In any event, Thor's one of the few people capable of going toe-to-toe with their favorite psycho7 and coming out (relatively8) unscathed, so Tony is very happy to note movement in the shiny clothes and go about his own business in the fervent hope that Loki is the one who took the brunt of whatever it was. Even if it did look like he might have tried to include Tony in his failed shield9. Which he's pretty sure he's imagined anyway, because it's Loki. Loki just doesn't do nice10 – the very idea of it kind of makes Tony's world tilt a little and make funny noises (and maybe that's just the nausea from being flash blinded, but if it isn't then Tony will hunt Doom down and Sic Loki on Him11. (Well, assuming Loki's survived and Tony's got no reason to think he hasn't given what it normally takes to even give the guy a pause)). But he's not actually stupid enough12 to turn his back on what will probably go back to being World War Whatever as soon as both parties reawaken. Keeping an eye on things might not stop Loki from stabbing him in the back if the voices tell him to, but at least Tony can pretend he's a threat to be taken seriously13. (He has a secret plan to tell himself that often enough that one day he believes it, at which point he will do something totally amazing and actually punch Loki14. It will be awesome).

So he notices when Loki, too, begins to stir, and in the fit of panic that ensues, Tony tries desperately to pretend he's a wombat15 and wonders why Hawkeye hasn't taken a shot yet16. Again, against someone who probably thinks tangibility involves small orange fruit and the terrified tears of children, arrows are a minor annoyance at best – even those shot by Hawkeye, who can get arrows to places even Tony's state-of-the-art tracking devices think are impossible17. But if there are arrows being shot, at least Tony's not alone – and that makes two targets, which might not be (much) better but at least it'll be more snarky. It also ups their chances of survival from Nil to Probably Just Serious Injury (Before Loki Sees a Butterfly and Wanders Off). After which he can yell at Thor for being a wimp, they can all go back to attempting to kill each other, and things will be just dandy. (Also, if Loki wakes up first and notices Thor's still out, well. Even Tony's not that vindictive, and he might seriously dislike Dr. Doom but he doesn't want to be (even a little) responsible for what Loki will do to the man while in that frame of mind). Discounting that, Loki's first reaction will still probably be to try and vaporize everyone in the area. So Tony will be dead, Dr. Doom will wish he was dead, and Tony will still be responsible for haunting Thor's ass18.

Then Thor sits up, and Tony has to sit down because ohs#$# just happened19.

A short sanity-break later, he opens his eyes again. Unfortunately, the view has not changed. If anything, it's gotten worse, because now there's a teeny black-haired head poking out from Loki'sarmor as well. Not a baby's head, at least, which is a relief because Tony does not do babies any more than he does décor20. No, the kid staring out from inside Loki's armor looks to be about nine, ten at the oldest. And even in his shocked state he has the capacity to notice that some things must just be genetic, because despite having to crawl out from under freaking armor plating the kid's hair is barely mussed21. In complete contrast, the blond one now mostly out from under his own pile has hair that bears a striking resemblance to a drunken scarecrow, fearlessly striking out every which way in utter defiance of any form of order or common sense. Which is Thor all over, even in miniature - up to and including the total lack of concern where his own quite apparent nudity is concerned22. As he notes this, the kid looks over at him, which is when Tony realizes he's made a sound23. Given blondie's still clutching his hammer (now nearly half as big as he is, and isn't that just bloody perfect), Tony braces himself to duck. There's no recognition in those eyes, and if the kid decides he's a threat..

Of course, as Tony briefly forgot while his brain was in candy land, this is Thor, albeit the kiddy version. So instead of an attack, he gets a hearty grin and a big wave24. Then he's promptly ignored (which, while he's kind of used to it with Loki, doesn't exactly make his self esteem do any tricks), as the kid turns back and returns to helping dig his brother out of what remains of Loki's own armor. It's actually kind of cute, as long as Tony's just sitting there waiting for the other shoe25 to drop. Or, except that helping Loki escape (although it is funny watching him pinned by his own gear for once instead of the other way 'round) is not a good idea, right? And as soon as his legs work again, he should probably try to stop it. Just so he can say "I told you so," or something, and not at all because he's scared of what Black Widow might do to him if she thinks he's been slacking off on the job. With that in mind, he's still trying to figure out where his feet are when the black haired bundle grunts impatiently (hey – was that an actual emotional exclamation from Loki?), and the armor disappears26. Tony's ohshit meter pings back, and he makes an aborted attempt to dive for cover before the magic starts flying for real, an act which only serves to further confuse all involved27.

Anyways, it looks like he needn't have worried about missiles, because the first two things the kid does with his newfound freedom is to smooth down his hair (still almost perfectly groomed, and Tony might even admit to being *slightly* jealous, somewhere really deep down) and conjure Thor some clothes, glaring at the older boy until the blonde begins to put on with a long suffering sigh and a pout28. And then Hawkeye announces his presence back in the land of the living by trying to shoot mini-Loki29. Only since Thor doesn't like his brother getting shot at so much even when he's obviously trying to kill them all with evil and malice aforethought while the proto-apocalypse he's summoned hovers threateningly in the background laughing at them all30, maybe it's not surprising that things kind of go a bit downhill from there.

1 No comments, Pepper.

2 Which really should have given Tony a clue. Because anything that can take down either of those two is either a) really bad news, or b) about to explode in his face and turn his hair purple.

3 It should be noted that Tony does not like snakes. Even if they do match his armor.

4 It was quite good, actually. If the associations involved hadn't scarred him for life, he'd totally be adding some to his own cellar for special occasions.

5 Okay, watching Thor fight him. Being in the same vicinity as Loki tends to be enough of a mindfuck to qualify (in Tony's opinion) for the Purple Heart. If, you know, Tony actually had a full heart anymore instead of the high-tech equivalent of a blinking electrical outlet.

6 Just beyond the sheer weirdness of the whole idea of getting gift basket from the guy who'd thrown you through several walls and gotten you completely smashed on your own weaponry, the contents of the gift basket might have been culturally appropriate in Asguard but Tony has never actually fancied severed skulls (which were most inoffensive of the contents) for his dining room decor. They totally clash with wallpaper, and if his brain didn't automatically short out in sheer terror at the thought of Loki actually knowinghow his home is decorated (Pepper. Totally Pepper, because he's a guy and he does not do décor, got that?), he'd have automatically assumed that the objects in question were picked specifically for nefarious purpose.

Thor, under the impression that Loki was actually trying to be friendly, has point-blank refused to let Tony remove them. Since they appear to have glued themselves in place with whatever the magical equivalent of epoxy is, it's a moot point anyways and he's learned to deal.

7 Yes, the term is sociopath. Ask Tony if he cares.

8 Also, ask Loki if he's ever heard of relativity. The odds of him caring are even less.

9 Because Loki taking any sort of interest at all in anything outside of Thor? Is bad news. Tony's seen what he does to Thor, who he actually seems to like (for given values, up to and including attempted maiming and accidental dismemberment). And he knows for a fact that that sort of attention? Does not give him the fluffy bunnies.

10 With the (possible) exception of the gift basket. Although, if you survived the asking, Loki would tell you he really is quite nice, usually. He even feeds stray kittens! With the severed heads of whoever tried to ally with him this time (re: an alliance with Loki is even crazier than going up against him straight out), granted. But still! He feeds kittens.

11 If there's one thing that makes Loki even more accidentally-on-purpose homicidal than he normally is, it's a threat (real or imagined, Tony's still not quite sure what set him off about the pineapples) to Thor. Tony's not sure he wants to know, but is pretty sure if he let himself think about it he'd figure it out, and then his brain would have to go to his Unhappy Place for a bit, so it's better to just avoid thinking about it altogether.

12 Shut up, Pepper.

13 Gar! I Ironman.

14 He actually has managed to land a hit or two on the god before. But this one will be on his face.

15 Because at least the word is funny, and hey, it's not like being a statue (or even shiny robot) impersonator has ever actually worked in the past – Loki makes insurance agents weepinto their early morning coffee and bourbon even when he's not actually doing anything.

16 He's still wishing he was out cold, trying to get his eyes back from wherever they've gone in protest (it might be Cambodia, but it could just as well be Anywhere But Here,, since archer eyesight does not deal kindly to sudden bright lights and/or sounds. Hawkeye is currently thinking nostalgically on the merits of being blind and/or normal. In fact, he could really quite frankly care less about Loki's return to consciousness, given the idea that at least if Loki kills him his eyes will stop their sissy whining and get back to business).

17 Heh. Incidentally, Tony has occasionally wondered if Clint is any relation of Loki's. Right before his mind took another of those long blackouts because that would just be creepy and wrong and evil. Which, when you think about it, kind of means that with Loki it's a definite possibility.

18 Since Loki will probably atomize everything in the area and then check for vital signs. Because, you know, he's sweet like that.

19 Tony likes to swear. This is perhaps one of the few times he's ever run out of words to swear by, because apparently there really are some things even a sailor can't do justice to.

20 The one time he tried was traumatic for all concerned. Enough that even Pepper has backed down from getting him to try ever again, with or without supervision.

21 He suspects that Pepper would love to take those genetic markers and forcibly implant them into her boss. Well, except for the whole crazy!bit. Which is, actually, something of a relief - what do you know, Loki is good for something.

22 Loki does dignity. Thor does stripping. It makes Tony laugh inside, in the place where he's not usually crying in terror.

23 More like a high pitched mewling noise, but Hawkeye's still trying to find his stomach so if Tony says it was a manly high pitched mewling noise, there's no one to protest, right?

24 The only thing that keeps Thor safe from having his lunch money stolen on a regular basis is that he looks like he can take care of himself. At least, until he opens his mouth, at which point the other Avengers can step in and glower at all present until people get the picture and leave the poor guy alone.

25 Hopefully not attached to an ACME anvil. He has to get lucky at some point, right? Right.

26 Tony is, at least, relieved to at least note that mini-Evil has conjured himself some clothes (re: Loki is dignified and Thor is a stripper). Some days you just gotta be thankful for the little things and not fighting a kiddy and naked version of his teammate's evil little brother has to count for something in his books.

27 Thor didn't notice, and Loki just thought the strange man was having an epileptic fit. Since that eliminated the need to keep him from possibly harming Thor until they could figure out where they were, it was a state of affairs he was actually pretty well in favor of.

28 He briefly entertains the idea that this was where their legendary rivalry began – with the shouted invective to "put some damn clothes on, already, you idiot!" (To be fair, he is currently grasping at straws to explain the whole situation as it is, and that makes his mind go funny places even on the best of days).

29 Under any other circumstances, Tony would buy him like fifty drinks for that. But given what happened next, it was really lucky that Hawkeye was still seeing spots, because if the arrow had done more than graze his brother, Thor might have killed them all and then been sorry about it. Or not, since he obviously kind of decided at that point that they were the bad guys and Thor of whatever age doesn't really get the whole distinction between people who shoot at his brother and people who are on his side even when he knows the people in question really well.

30 Tony's not sure which is worse – the apocalypses themselves or the fact that not a few of them have managed to out-snark him.