A Warm Light For All Mankind

Tony is afraid of the dark. He knows he shouldn't be because being afraid of the dark is for babies, and anyway all of the other's sleep in the same room. But the room is big because it used to be a training hall and their beds are really far away. So far away that Tony can't even hear the snuffly sounds of Steve's breathing or the rumble of Thor's prolific snores.

He's taken to stalling Fury at bedtime. Trying to get him to stay for as long as possible, because when Fury is there the lights are on and when the lights are on Tony doesn't have to remember things. Things like dark cold caves and men speaking in angry gibberish and a burning in his chest that hurts so bad.

Tonight is like any other night. Tony convincing Fury to read him story after story until all of the other Avenger's have dozed off. This leaves Tony to deal with a very frustrated Fury as he tries desperately to keep the lights on.

"All the other Avengers are in dreamland. The froggie has made his last leap. Hell no you can't go to the bathroom, Tony. You know where you can go? The fuck to sleep."

With that Fury shuts the door and the room turns all at once into a eerie black void.

Tony huddles in his bed, whispering Taylor's expansion theory to himself because math is set and familiar and most definitely NOT scary. He wants desperately to take off his shirt and bathe in the blue glow of the arc reactor but he knows he can't. If any of the others see him using a nightlight they'll think he's a baby, and Tony can't have that, nuh uh.

So instead, Tony shuts his eyes tight and presses his fingers into the warm circle under his shirt. It is there. He is there. He is safe.

Maybe if he keeps repeating this to himself it'll become true.

It might be minutes or hours later when Tony hears the soft sniffling coming from the bed across from his. Steve's bed.

For a moment Tony panics. Steve never breaths this loud, not unless he's having an attack. He bolts from his bed and runs to the other end of the room. After missing the bed about three times Tony wriggles out of his shirt, deciding that being a baby is fine as long as Steve doesn't get hurt. "Steve!"

The glow lights up the room in front of him, nothing like the giant fluorescent lights on the ceiling but brightly enough for him to spot Steve, curled in on himself and trembling.

"S-Steve?" Tony says, drawing closer to the other boy. Steve looks up at him with watery blue eyes, then presses his head back between his knees, looking ashamed.

"What has happened friend Tony? Friend Steve, are you alright?" A bleary looking Thor steps into the light. Loki is gripping his hand and standing a little bit behind him. Tony knows he's scared because his thumb is stuck deep into his mouth and his knees are shaking.

Steve cringes at the sound of Thor's voice. "It's n-nothing you guys...go back to sleep. I'm okay."

Thor frowns. "It is not nothing that has put you in this state friend Steve. Speak to me of your troubles. I will listen."

Tony nods, not trusting himself to speak without his voice trembling.

Steve draws in a shuddering breath. "I-I don't like the dark...or the cold...they remind me of-"

Loki's thumb drops from his mouth and his eyes go wide. "Y-you don' like cold...?" He looks down at his hand, shaking. "I...I don' like cold."

Steve gasps. "Loki! No! I didn't mean-"

Loki shakes his head, fiercely, and Tony can see tears. "I's okay. Cold is bad. Monsters." He is struggling not to break down completely in front of them, his tiny fists gripping his pajamas. "Monsters."

"Brother no!" Thor says, eyes desperate. "That is not-you are not-"

"What's going on?" Natasha asks, looking strange with her eyes so bright and alert underneath a red thatch of bedhead. Clint is beside her, his resentful scowl fading completely as he catches sight of Loki. Bruce appears a second later, as quiet and pensive a six year old as ever. "Why is Loki crying? What happened?"

"I said something stupid and hurt his feelings." Steve says glumly, still not quite over his own problem, and definitely not equipped to deal with Loki's. "I...I don't know how to fix it." His voice is desperate and broken and Tony immediately draws him into a hug because that's what best buddies do.

"It's okay dude. It's not your fault. You didn't mean to."

Steve squeezes Tony once and then looks to Loki. "Loki, you're not a monster...it's just...just..." He pauses, struggling to find the right words. It's hard for him, he's not smart like Bruce or clever like Tony, all he is is plain honest Steve. "It's different...there's Loki Cold and then there's...there's Lonely Cold...and Lonely Cold's the type that I don't like cause it makes me sad but...but I can't be Lonely Cold if I'm Loki Cold because..." Steve puts a hand on Loki's shoulder, smiling. "...because whenever I'm Loki Cold I'm with you."

Loki looks at Steve, eyes red with tear tracks shining on his cheeks. His wrist comes up and brushes off the hand on his shoulder and for a second Steve feels the distinctively sharp ache of a five year old who's just lost a friend. Then, before his eyes can even process that his brain wants tears he's got an armful of sobbing Loki.

"STEEEEEEEEEEEEEEVE." The other boy wails as he wriggles around on Steve's lap. Steve is very lost at this point so he looks helplessly to Thor. Thor, the ever helpful bumbling hug machine, motions for Steve to rub circles into Loki's back with one hand and pat his head with the other. Steve does with some initial trouble, but finally manages to find a rhythm. He looks back up to Thor for approval and the tiny god smiles and gives him a very midgardian thumbs up.

Finally Loki quiets. Relieved, Steve tries to extricate the bundle from his arms only to have a now half asleep Loki cling to him, mumbling. "No Ste'. Loki Col...so..not...lone..." Steve does the only thing he can do and response and that's hug the pajama pants off of Loki some more. A lot more actually.

Once he's done, he flushes, realizing how much of a dweeb he must look like to the others. "I-I...sorry about waking you guys up..." With one hand he rubs the back of his neck. "I know it's pretty lame to be scared of the dark but I just..."

"Nah." Bruce says gently, sitting on the side of the bed with Tony. "I'm scared of the dark sometimes too...it makes me think about...about..."

"Bad stuff?" Tony asks, voice uncharacteristically solemn.

"Yeah." Bruce answers quietly, head already filling with half formed images of a giant metal cube and all the misery that lay inside it. "Nightmare stuff."

"Nightmare stuff." Tony repeats, his voice barely a whisper. His fingers seek out the warmth of the arc reactor. Bruce is the biggest kid among them, the smartest, and the toughest when he's angry. If Bruce can be scared of the dark then it should be fine if Tony is too right?

"I dun like sleepin' in big places." Clint admits, coming over to sit on an unoccupied corner of the bed. "They make me feel all...what's that word that's like naked?"

"Exposed." Bruce supplies and Clint smiles.

"Yeah! That's it. I feel all e'sposed and I dun like it."

Natasha nods, plopping down next to Clint. "Neither do I. I hate this big room."

Thor shuffles from foot to foot before finally coming to sit near Steve and Loki. "I myself find our distance to the sky troubling, especially at night." He looks towards Tony and grins, tapping at the arc reactor. "However, I find comfort the moon-like glow of Stark Son's strange device."

Tony blushes at this but it doesn't even compare to the tomator red flush he has when Clint of all people agrees.

"Yeah! It's super cool, like a light to make sure nobody can sneak up on ya'."

Natasha hums her approval as well.

Steve reaches out a hand and presses it to the arc reactor, watching the light shine from between the wide gaps of his fingers. "And it's warm, really warm..."

Loki shifts and mumbles out something along the lines of "A warm wight fo' all mankin'." before going limp again.

Tony frowns because that sounds really really familiar but he just can't place his finger on where it's from.

The room falls silent and everyone looks at each other. It is a rare, rare moment in which the entire team has decided on a single plan of action without speaking a word. Usually reserved for battles, this one is for bedtime.

The next morning they will wake up as adults, tangled together on a bed that someone (probably Thor) pushed into the corner of the room.

They won't quite remember the details of that night, but they will remember a light and a warmth and the soft sound of Loki mumbling out something that sounded a lot like 'family'.

I decided to write another one because everyone (myself included) loved Tinyvengers! so much. So there ya' go.

Also, I'm starting my summer job now so updates might become a bit more infrequent. :(

And thanks to everyone for all the Hazing!Verse love!

-Schyzotypal X