by Susan M. M.

The Avengers

based on a challenge/prompt by Sheneya at "Avengers Fanfic Challenges and Recommended Reading"

Standard Fanfic Disclaimer that wouldn't last ten seconds in a court of law: Based on characters and situations created by somebody else (other than Kirsi Lokidottir, who's mine). All other characters {beyond minor NPCs} are from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and used without permission and without any hope or chance of financial profit. Just in case anybody has any doubts, I do not own the Avengers. To paraphrase Aggie2011, if I owned the Avengers, Joss Whedon and J. Michael Straczynski would be collaborating on the Hawkeye/Black Widow movie right now. Ten thousand thanks to Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Joss Whedon, Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Renner, Marvel Comics, Disney Studios, et al. This story is debuting as 'netfic and has not previously been printed in any fanzine or APA. Please don't sue. I'm too broke to pay attention, let alone legal fees.

Challenge: Loki had a daughter. He brought her with him during the Earth invasion, thinking he was going to win. He spent so much time on trying to take over, he usually dumped her on MindSlave!Hawkeye to look after. After his defeat, it's revealed that due to an ancient Asgard law, now that Loki's going to prison, Hawkeye is her legal guardian. How will he cope with going from a solitary person, to looking after the child of the man who used him so badly? Not to mention the well meaning, but not always usable, help of his fellow Avengers.

Chapter 6

Thor and Romanoff released Loki from his cage. "Be warned, brother. Fury permits you to bid farewell to Kirsi as a courtesy. Try to run, try to fight, and you will return to this cage. And you will be as a dog chained in this glass kennel again."

Ignoring his brother, Loki turned to Romanoff. "Aren't you planning to threaten me, too?"

The redhead smiled. "I don't need to."

Loki hesitated a moment, stared at her, then stepped forward. "I will not trade the pleasure of a moment's mischief for the chance to see my daughter."

Thor said nothing. He felt as if he no longer knew his brother. Loki had always been a trickster, a prankster, but never evil. This godling who had attempted to usurp their father's throne, allied himself with an alien race to conquer Midgard, he did not know him. Still less did he comprehend Loki as a loving father. He'd known that Loki had tumbled the serving-wenches, and had a bastard by one of them - he tumbled the serving-wenches himself - but he had not expected Loki to actually care for the girl. She was only Maren's bastard, after all ... yet Loki knew her, claimed her as his own, seemed to love her.

Thor's thoughts chased themselves like a dog pursuing its own tail, unable to understand his brother anymore. It was good that Romanoff was keeping a sharp eye on Loki. His brother could have bounced from wall to ceiling turning cartwheels and Thor would not have noticed, so lost in his thoughts was he.

They continued down the corridor to a locked room. Romanoff pressed a seven digit code into the keypad and then used a retina-scan to unlock it. The door slid open. Banner sat on a chair, reading a back issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

"They're in there," Banner said. He looked up at the three. He didn't say another word aloud, but he mouthed the phrase 'puny god.'

Loki paled.

Romanoff strode forward and opened the door. This was an ordinary door; she turned the knob and opened it. "This way."

"I'll be waiting right here, if you need me," Banner told them.

Romanoff nodded. "Thank you."

Loki inhaled, exhaled, then stepped through the door.

"Father!" Kirsi, a dark-haired child with emerald eyes, set her harp aside. She rushed forward to embrace Loki.

Loki squatted down and held out his arms to her. Neither said anything as they hugged. It was a long moment before he released her.

"Prince Thor." Kirsi bobbed a half-curtsy. "Romanoff Flamehair." She gave the SHIELD agent a tentative half-smile. "Barton and I have been practicing."

Barton sat in a chair in the corner of the room. There was a guitar in his lap, a gun at his hip, and a knife in his boot. He glared at Loki, but didn't say anything.

The awkward silence grew heavier.

"Father, something's wrong, isn't it?"

Loki nodded. "Your grandfather is ... displeased with me." He ran a hand gently along one of her long black braids.

"Because you tried to make yourself king of Midgard, or because you failed?" Kirsi asked.

Loki smiled at her. "Ah, there speaks a warrior's daughter. I need to go back to Asgard and face my father's wrath. You remember that I entrusted you to the archer Barton?"

She nodded.

"Well, I need you to stay with him a little longer whilst I return to Asgard to -"


Loki frowned at the interruption.

"If you're going home, I'm going with you," Kirsi insisted.

"You will stay on Midgard, for now. You will stay with Barton; he will guard you."

"He can come with us and guard me in Asgard," Kirsi suggested.

Barton harrumphed. A half-smile escaped his poker face. "Not gonna happen."

"Such a course of events is, indeed, unlikely," Loki agreed wryly. "It is my wish and my will that you remain on Midgard. Barton is your guard and your guardian. You will remain with him and behave for him."

"Won't." Green eyes blazed up at him defiantly.

"Do not disobey me, dear heart," Loki admonished. He was surprised. Kirsi was normally a sweet, biddable child, obedient to her parents and respectful to her elders. At least, that was what Maren told him when he came to visit. "I must return to Asgard. You must bide on Midgard."

"I came to Midgard to be with you. If you're going home, I want to go home."

Barton chuckled softly.

"We do not always get what we want," Loki informed her.

"Mother's in Asgard. You're going to Asgard. Why should I stay in Midgard?" she asked.

Thor knelt beside his niece. "You must stay here, and with the archer. It is the All-Father's will."

Kirsi opened her mouth, then closed it again. No one in Asgard could deny Odin's will.

Thor lowered his voice. "My father," he looked up at his adopted brother, "our father, wishes you to be fostered here."

"Fostered?" Kirsi and Loki repeated simultaneously.

Thor nodded. His voice barely above a whisper, he continued. "Lord Odin has spoken thusly: 'If we are to once again ally ourselves with Midgard, and take them under our protection, 'twould be good to have an Asgardian fostered on Midgard, learning their ways. Let Kirsi remain with the archer.' Thou shouldst not disobey thy father; thou mayest not disobey the King of Asgard."

Kirsi pouted.

"Enough of the whispering. Care to share with the rest of us?" Barton called out.

"Do as thou'rt bid, Kirsi Lokidottir," Thor admonished.

She looked up at her uncle, then at her father. "Am I Kirsi Lokidottir?" She was young by Asgardian standards, but old enough to know the difference between Kirsi Lokidottirr, the prince's child, and Kirsi Marendottirr, the serving-wench's child.

"Aye, child. Thou art Kirsi Lokidottir," Thor confirmed. "My father hath acknowledged thy kinship, and Barton Hawk's Eye's guardianship over thee."

"Truly?" Kirsi peered up at him, her emerald eyes as big as clamshells.

"Yea, verily ... niece." Thor struggled to remember his father's exact words. "Lord Odin said, 'my granddaughter was entrusted to this Hawkeye'."

"At least he gets your code-name right," Romanoff muttered.

"This is no punishment, no abandonment, my flower. I wish you safe, and your grandfather wishes you to be his ambassador. You will stay here, under Barton's protection. You will be good."

Kirsi nodded. "Yes, Father."

He reached out and hugged her.

Barton wished he didn't have to eavesdrop on this. As much as he would happily slit Loki's throat, this was a private moment between the godling and his daughter. They deserved privacy. However, as a spy, Barton knew that privacy got tossed out the window when it came to a choice between security and privacy. He couldn't even tone them out; he had to pay attention to Loki and Kirsi.

Thor, he could see, was as uncomfortable as he was at witnessing this farewell between father and daughter. Romanoff - well, no one ever knew what Romanoff thought or felt unless she wanted you to. The agents watching on closed-circuit TV, however, probably had no scuples about violating Kirsi's privacy. And just outside the room was Dr. Banner, listening for trouble.

After five minutes of caresses and admonishments as to behavior, father and daughter separated. As Thor and Romanoff led Loki off, Barton was surprised to note that his eyes were green, like Kirsi's. They'd been blue before, when Barton had been his zombified slave. Barton wondered if that was an Asgardian trait, changing eye colors.

After Loki had left, Barton gave his ward an awkward hug. "Do you know what a helicopter is?"

Kirsi shook her head. She didn't say anything aloud, and Barton was fairly certain she was trying not to cry.

"It's a flying machine. A flying chariot." Had the Vikings used chariots? "I'm going to take you to meet some friends of mine."

Stark Tower's helipad was still in semi-decent shape. Barton had no trouble landing on top of the building. He, Stark, and Kirsi exited the helicopter and went to join Pepper.

"Hi, I'm Pepper. You must be Kirsi." The redhead bent her knees and leaned over, moving closet to Kirsi's eye-level.

The girl nodded.

"C'mon inside. It's pretty breezy out here," Pepper invited. She turned and kissed Stark's cheek, then smiled at Barton. "Anybody hungry or thirsty?"

"Do you have any Coke?" Kirsi asked.

"Yes, we do," Pepper told her. She led the way into the penthouse. After getting potato chips and soda for everyone, she turned to Kirsi. "So, I understand that you and I have a mission that's too tough for the boys."

Kirsi looked up at her with big green eyes. "We do?"

"We're going shopping, you and I. And these guys may be okay in a fight, but when it comes to shopping, they don't have a chance of keeping up with two determined women."

Kirsi giggled.

"It'll just be you, me, and Tony's credit card." Pepper sipped her 7-Up.

"Uh-oh," Stark muttered.

Barton grinned. "Don't worry, Stark. She'd have to spend a million before you even noticed."

They started at Macy's, in the girl's clothing department. Underthings, skirts, blouses, shorts, scooters, t-shirts, pajamas, sneakers, sandals. Then they went up to the furniture department. They compared trundle beds, bunk beds, canopy beds, and captain's beds. They looked at sheets and matching curtains: pink sheets, lavender sheets, floral sheets, Disney sheets, Dora the Explorer sheets, lacy curtains, gingham curtains, ScoobyDoo curtains. They looked at wallpaper. Once they'd chosen furnishings, and Pepper had paid extra to have the delivered the same day, they went to Macy's toy department, and from there to lunch at McDonald's, and then to the Disney Store on Fifth Avenue.