Youth in Revolt
"You should be happy I did not simply kill you."
Steve glared up at their nemesis. "Why didn't you?"
Loki permitted a smile to cross his face. "Because revenge is so much sweeter."
Steve growled under his breath. It wasn't as if he could do much else...
Thor hadn't explained how Loki had escaped from Asgard, or how he'd managed to steal the magical whatzit staff that had done this to them. He hadn't had time before basically losing the power of speech.
Loki had turned them into children. Practically babies. And he was still laughing.
Beside them, Tony wobbled to his feet. "Hm. Usually I'm drunk when I have this much trouble walking."
"Maybe you're drunk now and dreaming all of this." Bruce put in mildly from the floor. He was sitting splay-legged in near a pile of blocks. Steve tried to ignore the tinge of green that flushed his skin, belying his calm exterior.
"Don't I wish." Tony gave up and thumped onto his rear beside the other genius. He stared intently at the Asgardian towering above them.
Steve was the oldest, as near as he could figure, maybe four years old. He was big for his age; something to do with the super-soldier serum apparently still in his veins. The rest of the boys seemed around two or three. Thor, standing in a playpen, was babbling angrily at his formerly younger brother. They couldn't make out many words. Most seemed to be in Norse, and the ones that weren't, Steve wouldn't repeat in front of children.
In the corner, Clint sat facing the wall, wriggling. "When Nat gets here, you're gonna regret this, you bastard."
"Language, children." Loki made a motion, and the shadows in the corner grew darker. Clint began struggling fiercely. Whimpering in pain. "That's what got you into trouble in the first place."
"Leave him alone!" Steve threw a punch at Loki's leg, landing square on the kneecap.
Loki shook his head, that unshakable smile still on his face. "Spirited, I'll give you that."
At a loss, Steve hurried to the corner and yanked on Clint's arm, pulling him out of the shadow. "You okay?"
"Peachy." Clint shook his head. Red bruise marks began popping up on his exposed skin. "What the hell was that?"
"I don't know." Steve didn't let go of his arm.
"What exactly is your plan here, Loki?" Tony ignored the spectacle, seeming almost bored. "You turn us into kids, treat us like kids to annoy us, and then…what? It's not like we're in real danger here. Hell, this place could probably get accredited as a daycare."
Steve had to admit, it was weird. Aside from the naughty corner, it seemed to be a normal playroom; there were toys galore, bright colors, even a row of cots. It didn't seem odd at all, aside from the horned god in the center of the room.
"Trying to get me to monologue?"
Tony's mouth dropped into an 'o' of surprise. "Erm…"
"The woman is far more skilled than any of you at such things, don't bother." He said dismissively. "Rest assured, you'll understand in time."
With this, he vanished.
"Well, that was productive." Tony looked at Steve. "What now, Captain?"
"Um…I don't know." Steve gently steered Clint to the rest of the group. "Bruce, any ideas?"
"I could let the other guy knock down the wall."
At this, Thor began to wail. Loudly. At an intensely high pitch.
"'Kay, I'm thinking that's a bad plan." Tony struggled to his feet. "Thor. Thor! Stop crying! What kind of god are you?"
Thor stopped wailing, looking abashed. One hand was wrapped around the handle of his hammer, constantly tugging at it. It sat immovable in the center of the playpen.
"Thor, think carefully before you say each word. Remember, we need English." Tony stood, peering over the mesh wall. "Why shouldn't we try to break out?"
Thor reached up, trying to scrub the tears from his eyes without making it too obvious what he was doing. "Bad."
"Yeah, okay. Why is it bad?"
He gestured wildly at the wall. "Bad!"
"What's bad?" Tony growled.
"Bad out!" Thor growled back, frustrated with himself and his teammates. "No go!"
"I think…he's saying outside the walls is bad. Whatever is out there will get us." Clint said. "There's a crack in that corner, and it's pretty dark out there."
At this, Thor clapped his hands together in excitement. "Yes!"
"Good job." Steve finally loosed his grip.
"You think that's why he made Thor so much younger than us? So he couldn't warn us?" Tony eyed the dark corner warily.
"Sounds plausible." Bruce joined the group around the playpen. "Not to mention making him to small to use the hammer."
"Mine." Thor said mournfully, replacing his grip on the hammer and tugging.
"Like a child with a blankey." Clint shook his head.
"It's affected his mind." Tony muttered under his breath. "Gods do not cry."
"He got Thor first. Think that'll happen to the rest of us eventually?" Clint asked.
At this, Tony grew pale. Without the iron-man suit, intellect was all the billionaire had left to defend himself. The arc reactor glowed behind his shirt, pulsing as his heartbeat sped up.
"No sense worrying about it." Steve said hurriedly.
"He'll be after Natasha now. What do you think he'll do if he has all of us?" Bruce asked quietly. "He won't just be hoping we get nabbed by the boogyman out there."
"He's insane. Whatever he's planning, we probably can't figure it out." Clint said bitterly, rubbing his bruised arm.
"Well. We could always try to out-crazy him." Bruce's eyes glinted an evil green.
"What do you mean?" Steve asked a tad apprehensively.
Loki was no longer smiling as he carried the little red-haired girl under his arm. She was screaming her lungs out, thrashing like a wildcat. He'd already been scratched and bitten a dozen times over.
She screeched something in Russian as he fumbled with the warded doorway that led to the playroom. Maybe it would have been better to leave the Black Widow alone…
The god's jaw dropped as they materialized in the room.
"How…What…" He sputtered, dropping the girl to the floor.
The room was in a shambles. Large dents were on the walls; not deep enough to crack them, but still noticeable. Most of the toys had been shredded or broken. The furniture has been smashed. It was as if an Odin storm had passed through the room.
"Hulk SMASH!" A green blur hurled something past his head, missing it by a hairsbreadth.
Hawkeye and Iron Man tussled on the floor, yelling at the top of their lungs, while Thor and Captain America cheered them on.
Black Widow joined the group and began cheering in Russian.
"Have you lost your senses?" Loki roared, silencing the uproar. The Hulk stopped his rampage, and stood with the others, panting loudly. The two boys stopped tussling, and stared at him, wide eyed. "WHAT is going on here?"
"We're boooooored." Tony whined. "I wanna go outside!"
"I want ice cream!"
"I want my mommy!"
The chorus of whines grew louder and more insistent, although the boys couldn't make out what Thor or Natasha were saying.
A vein in Loki's forehead began to throb as he tried to quiet the children. He'd assumed they would be sobbing in terror at this point and begging for mercy. He gripped the staff of youth that was stuck in his belt, knuckles turning white.
"Enough!" He roared, quieting them for a moment. "You will be staying in here, and you will be QUIET!"
"Now!" Tony shouted, leaping up from his wrestling match.
He was pounced on from all sides, it seemed—the Hulk could still jump well beyond human limits. Tiny fingers scrabbled at the staff as others gouged, pinched, groped, and punched.
"No, you don't know what you're doing!" Loki screamed as the staff was wrested from his grasp. Oh, heavens above, this was bad, very very ba—
A blinding flash of green bloomed in his vision. He was laying facedown on a smooth floor, not the rug-lined floor of the nursery.
"What have you fools done?" He groaned and tried to squirm out from under the pile of bodies.
"This wasn't what I intended at all." Bruce's voice was sheepish.
Loki stared in horror. They'd been transported to Stark's blasted tower. The imprint of his body was still in the floor.
"Nice going, Banner."
Loki tried to back away from the mob in front of him. The mob that was roughly the same size as he was. The staff had turned him into a three year old.
He stumbled over the hem of his cloak, falling onto his rear. The avengers glared down at him, circling him.
"You wouldn't strike a child." He squeaked, terrified.
Captain America broke into a grin. 'You never heard the saying 'why don't you pick on somebody your own size'?"
Loki shook his head and scooted back into a wall.
"They say do it." Iron Man said calmly, and jumped on him.
As the two boys tussled, Natasha turned to Bruce and handed him the staff. "You can fix us?"
"Oh, yes, with Tony's help." Bruce smiled as Loki squealed. "But we might wanna let him work out some frustration first."
"Agreed." Clint winced as they watched the rather one-sided wrestling match. "Yeouch. Think we should stop him?"
Steve considered this. "Two more minutes."
A/N Based ever-so-slightly on that adorable Target commercial with the kidvengers. :)