I do not own Avengers. Bit of a crack fic.
Despite all appearances, Loki was quite good with children. At first glimpse, children tended to be rather frightened of him, as rightfully they should be. He was tall, with pale skin and black hair and too-bright eyes. And the leather and the metal and that helmet… it was easy to be afraid of Loki.
And their parents were training them to be. They saw his horned helmet, the wicked eyes, the insane grin, and they knew to steer clear. But Loki always held a soft spot for children. He would never intentionally harm one, and had often taken time out of his busy day when he was younger to held some child of some peasant in Asgard's royal market square. Thor would swagger around the cobblestoned streets, spending his gold on various trinkets. And Loki would be far behind, offering sweets and a warm smile to the little boy that had tripped over his own two feet. Loki was very good with children.
So when it came to his own, it was never any surprise that their shapes didn't bother him. While others, even Frigga his own mother, would shy away from Fenris, and Jörmungandr was so large it was difficult to get near. Hel was a frightening child all around; though there was rarely any trouble from her and often times commanded just as much respect as her father. And then there was Sleipnir, the poor thing was always looked down upon for being enslaved by his own grandfather. It was a troubling family, to say the least. But none of it mattered to Loki.
Never a day went by that he didn't unhook Sleipnir from his stables, remove all of the tack, and let the horse run free in the field. Normally Jörmungandr would be with them, sometime teasing his brother, followed often by soft admonishments from Loki. Fenris loved joining them, racing the horse with far too many legs, all the while Loki would be braiding Hel's beautiful hair. After the initial shock of Loki's children, Frigga also enjoyed her growing family. Odin wasn't pleased, and Thor never spoke of them. It was hardly seemly for the second son to be lying about with anyone he chooses, and producing offspring before the eldest. And further shame was brought with the fact that it was Loki giving birth, rather than any woman the boy might have lain with.
Fights, though not common, did happen between Loki's sons. They would usually start between Fenris and Sleipnir over who won a race, or where to run to next. Jörmungandr could never let a fight go without his input, and he would often out-argue his siblings with the tongue he had inherited. Hel stayed out of it, having far more grace than her brothers ever did. Loki was always the one to put an end to the bickering, a soft word, a kind touch, and a smile from their parent, and that was all it took for the great monsters of the gods to calm.
Little was different on Midgard. It took a long time, many many years, for the people of Earth to stop fleeing from Loki. They had accepted that he had been punished for his crimes, that he was now "reformed" and working on their side. It had not been an easy transition, and was not one that was welcomed all too eagerly. And as hard as it was for the public to accept him, the team was even more so unable to give him their trust. But Loki persisted.
It was two months after officially joining the Avengers that they gave their approval. Steve had signed them up to do a talk at a public school. So in full regalia and much grumbling, Iron Man, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Captain America, Thor, and Loki paraded into the elementary school cafeteria to much screaming and cheering. Bruce had wanted to stay behind. "I probably won't fit into the building. And not many parents would like that I've stepped on their children. And if I'm not Hulked out, I'm just some boring guy in a suit."
It was a good excuse, but not one that the others liked to have heard. So they made him come anyway.
Steve gave a good speech, mostly about caring about the world they lived in. Thor spoke of bravery and strength in your trust of others. Tony emphasized the merits of doing what you loved the most (with much coughing from Steve when Tony edged too close into father-issues or womanizing.) Clint went on about patience, and then a weird tangent on picking the right materials for the right job. Natasha made some very good points about visiting the world and loving the differences that people have. Bruce opted for the controlling of your anger angle, and how harming other people was not a way to get your point across. All in all the messages were rather good for kids, though everyone over third grade could clearly be seen getting bored, and everyone under third grade was having fun pointing out their favorite Avenger. Loki knew they were bored. The kids had to be, after all, he was getting bored.
When it was his turn to speak, the master of words knew his gifts would be lost on such young minds. So he stood, the whole room changing its tune as the staff sat on edge, ready to scoop their classes out to safety should he try to blow them up, and the children instantly attentive, their eyes glued to the massive golden horns protruding from his forehead. Loki was reminded of his daughter the first time she had seen him wear his captain of the guard symbol. He cleared his throat, offered a small smile, and said simply "Never judge a book by its cover." And left it at that.
The most surprised person in the whole auditorium was Thor.
The classes broke up after an announcement from the principle that each class would have an Avenger with them the rest of the day. Thor went with the sixth graders, who instantly challenged him to a game of football. It took some teaching but it wasn't hard to see the God of Thunder enjoying himself. Natasha had quite a bit of fun with the fifth graders, while Tony took the forth. They showed him their California Missions projects, and were pleased when he started to help them with their models. Nothing was better than Iron Man helping you build something out of foam and glue. Clint had issues with the third graders, complaining at the end of the day how they stole his arrows. Natasha had warned him not to bring them, so everyone ignored him. Bruce loved the second graders, who were playing with baking soda and vinegar that day. He was in his element. Steve had first graders, who mostly wanted to use him as a jungle gym.
And that left Loki with the kindergarteners.
The teacher was less than comfortable with the God of Mischief in his room. Even more so after he had gotten the children to sit on their numbers, and Loki introduced himself.
"I am Loki, God of Mischief and Lies and Chaos. I enjoy making messes, watching other people figure out if I'm telling the truth or not, and reading. Reading is important." Oh, okay, let's let the one that likes to cause problems loose with a bunch of children who want nothing more than to cause destruction and bedlam. Whoever decided that this was a good idea was going to get an earful from the teacher by the end of the day that was for sure.
"Right, class! Does anyone have any questions for mister…"
Loki's eyes narrowed. "Loki." Oh. Yeah, okay, no last name, that's fine.
"Any questions for mister Loki?"
"Is that a hat?"
"It is a helmet. Something you should always wear when doing a task that can get you hurt."
"Do you really have horns?"
"No, they are part of my helmet. Would you like to see them?"
The answer was an instant and unanimous YES! So Loki sat on the ground, waving for the children to join him. As soon as they crowded around he slipped the helmet off and started to show it around, letting them touch the golden horns.
"Where I come from, Asgard, I lived in a mighty palace. There were guards, and I was captain of the guard. The guards all had small horns on their helmets, and I have these long ones, to note my rank above them."
"It's so heavy!"
"Yes. They are large snake fangs coated in gold. Gold is very heavy, all the more so when it is on the front of your head."
"Why were you chapin?"
"The word is captain, and it was a title I was given." It was a touchy subject, even now, after all these years. But it wasn't something for young ears to bother themselves over.
"Are you like chapim amrica?"
"No. I am far more intelligent." That was met with stares of eyes that didn't understand what he was saying. Not that Loki minded.
"How old are you?"
"Several centuries. You know of dinosaurs, yes?" There was a nod from the mass of children around him. "I am not as old as they are, but pretty close." The teacher and Loki both laughed at this, while the children tried to understand what the joke was.
"You sound funny."
"I take great care of my words, and therefore how I say them."
"Do you have any kids?"
"I do! I have three sons, and a daughter." And the twenty or so children around him drew closer, some touching him with their knees, one small girl actually crawling into his lap. He had let go of his helmet at that point, having stubbornly refused to let the kids hold it without his help. It was heavy, and he didn't want any of them hurt from the points and weight. He didn't worry about the helm itself, there was a reason he wore it into battle after all. But it had lost his interest as the five year olds around him decided that they wanted to hear about his children. Wrapping his arms around the little girl in his lap, Loki remembered Hel when she was just as small, a fond grin softening his face.
"Who would you like to hear about first? The strong Fenris, who with one bite of his mighty jaws could tear a door from its hinges? Or swift Sleipnir, whose speed is still unmatched, even by your machines today? Or Jörmungandr, who is so big he can no longer stay on the planet? Perhaps my beautiful Hela, who is a queen now of her own realm?" He had used her given name, knowing of this world's tendency to use "hell" as a swear word, and would rather not have nasty calls from parents claiming that he was teaching their children words they shouldn't be using. Sad. He rather loved his daughter's shorter name.
A clamor went up around him, a verbal onslaught of mispronounced names and desires to hear about different people. With a joyous laugh Loki rose his hands to gain quite, and then started on his stories.
"I do not know if you know it, but I am quite good at magic. Out of all my children, Jörmungandr managed to command magic the best, even above Hela. Jörmungandr is a snake, twice as long as the world is round, and far thicker than any tree you've ever dreamed of. One day, Sleipnir, who is a horse with eight legs, challenged Jörmungandr to a rather unfair fight. Sleipnir has no magic, and Jörmungandr wanted to see if he could light ten candles on fire in one go. Well, when Hela learnt of this she…"
Three hours later, the Avengers were migrating back to the office, exhausted, and prepared to go home where they could sleep the day off. It had been madness, and now they wanted nothing more than to eat, drink, and shower off the germs of too many brats. Thor had been the first to arrive, missing a tooth but otherwise unharmed, pleased with himself in such a manner that he was covered head to toe in mud, and equipped with a new love of a new game to teach back on Asgard. Tony and Clint were next, the first ignoring the way Clint complained about the bite marks on his arms. Natasha was helping a limping Bruce, he had caught the tail end of a rather nasty chemical burn ("I don't understand where that kid got battery acid! They should not have that in second grade!") on his ankle. Steve was laughed at as he entered, spangled uniform torn and hair mussed. He vowed never to do first graders again. Ten minutes passed. Then twenty. And everyone started to wonder what was keeping Loki.
There had been no screams, no explosions, no monsters rearing their ugly heads to eat them. There was no sign of anything going wrong. But that didn't stop them from worrying. Had the kids angered Loki and he had killed them all in one go? With permission from the principle, the whole team trekked out to room 25C to see what was keeping their newest member.
They found Loki in the center of a massive pile of children, two in his lap, one hanging on his back from around his neck, one not far from him wearing his helmet (it was so big it came down to the child's chin, and a faint green glow about the horns suggested that Loki was keeping it from being too heavy and hurting the boy.) They were all listening, completely entranced, to Loki's story. Even the teacher hadn't noticed the team of superheroes entering the room.
Loki was gesturing about wildly as he spoke, magic dancing at his fingertips as he illustrated his words. Thor instantly recognized images of Jörmungandr and Fenris.
"And with a great roar Fenris descended on the fish, worrying it around like a bone, and then threw it back on the shore where Jörmungandr quickly gobbled it up. Finally, finally, my boys learned how to work together to hunt, rather than relying on me to feed them all the time. Fenris was ten years old by that time, it was about time he learned that I wasn't going to baby him like a pup for the rest of his life."
The kids gasped, cheered, laughed, clapped, raising a ruckus as they learned of the monster fish the great wolf and snake had been chasing through the rivers for days caught their quarry. Thor laughed, remembering that hunting trip with fondness; he had watched the pair of them (Jörmungandr had only been eight feet long at the time, and Fenris only twice the size of the largest dog) bounding up and down the banks after the biggest fish they could find.
The laughter drew attention to the group, Loki instantly going quite, a frown showing his annoyance at being interrupted by his older brother. The kids were confused. Why were the other Avengers in their room? The teacher stood, snapped out of his trance. He had thought having Loki was a bad idea, instead, it turned out to be the greatest day all year.
"Ah, Avengers, please come in! We were just going to ask Loki if he'd tell us another tale about his daughter Hela! Please, join us!" It was clear Loki wanted no such thing to happen.
"Actually, sorry, but we need to get going. Director Fury expected us back about half an hour ago." This was met with groans of despair from the kindergarten class. Loki apologized profusely, affectionate calming smile charming the children into submission as he retrieved his helmet from Jack's red head.
"It's alright. If you're that interested, ask your parents to take you to a library. Though they aren't completely correct, there are books on Norse Mythology that have my stories and many others in them! Just remember that we're real, and the stories are… greatly, exaggerated."
"What does exagumrated mean?"
"Exaggerated. It means, bigger than it really was. Like telling someone you caught a fish as big as your room, when really it was only as big as your bed." This was met with "ohs" and "aaaaaahs" as the kids untangled themselves from the god's form. Kneeling, Loki patted them all on the head one last time before standing to leave with the team.
"Now class, what do you say to Loki?"
"THANK YOU MISTER LOKI!" Came the rousing chorus of grinning children as Loki nodded, beaming, and thanked them back for having him. He left the excited kids, and a confused team of Avengers, in his sweeping wake of exiting the room.
Tony was the first to catch up with him.
"What was that?"
"What was that?"
"That, back there! With the kids! How did you get them to like you, was it magic?"
Loki paused, sizing up Tony before flicking a slick grin and continuing on, throwing over his shoulder:
"Did you ever consider, Stark, that kids enjoy a good orator?"
"My brother has always been good with young ones." Thor supplied once they had arrived back at the tower, Loki retreating to his room. "He has a brood of his own, and none could have raised them better."
"He has kids?" Clint asked, incredulously.
"Why yes, Sleipnir, Jörmungandr, Fenris, and Hel. Strange children, to be sure, but they are his. And until father cast them out they were very well behaved. They never did pick up his practical jokester side. Though Jorgumandr came very close when it came to his magic."
"Loki has kids. I can't believe this."
"But it is true Stark! And he is very caring of them. He had his helmet remade when Jörmungandr began to lose teeth. The horns are his two fangs dipped in gold to preserve them. He was a bit late in losing the teeth of his youth."
"I really, really, don't want to know."
"And why is that Steven?" The team turned to find Loki, jeans and black shirt, leaning against the doorframe of the kitchen. "Is it really that unbelievable that I have children?"
"Well, you're such a, um, well."
"I'm such an evil person that I can't possibly have compassion for being so young and in need of my care?"
"Something like that, yeah?"
"Well, I am sorry to disappoint you. But I decided long ago that I would not be like Odin. I care very deeply for children. Both mine, and those that belong to others. A little care can keep them from becoming like me." With that he pushed himself off the frame, heading back into the main part of the mansion, leaving them to their thoughts.