a/n: I did nothing all day except write this. black friday ugh

All in Good Fun

The Avengers are kind of a big thing, you see. But they're a pack of modern-day superheroes, fighting crime and saving the day, so why shouldn't they be? Not to mention the fact that they're all attractive, and they aren't exactly shy about who they are. No, pretty much everyone in the nation, if not the world, knows that the Avengers is composed of Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, Natasha Romanov, Clint Barton, Bruce Banner, and Thor Odinson.

Loki Laufeyson knows this list by heart, because the term "pretty much everyone in the nation/world" does not fail to exclude Loki Laufeyson. However, that doesn't necessarily mean he likes them. He doesn't walk past the Stark tower every day on his way to school just to see if he can catch a glimpse of one of them. He doesn't frequent the little diner in front of the Stark tower, eating lunch there nearly every day. And he certainly does not feel a little rush of excitement when he does see one of them.

Loki does not have a poster of the Avengers taped to the back of his door, so his days don't start out as bad as they usually are. He doesn't have seven fan sites bookmarked and accounts for all of them. He doesn't have a Tumblr account and he really doesn't track the Avengers tag.

"I think you like them," Darcy likes to tell him.

"Shut up," he likes to tell her.

He really doesn't. Yes, he's most definitely grateful that they are Earth's Mightiest Heroes, this and that, blah blah blah - because for some reason, every villain out there targets New York City for their schemes - but if he had to choose between getting saved by the Avengers, or getting romanticized by one of them, Loki would choose neither. He would honestly slip something into their drink, then drag that (un)lucky Avenger home to be strapped down to a table so Loki can probe around and figure out what makes them so damn special.

This already excludes Iron Man, Loki knows, because it's really just him and his suit and his gadgets - not that that makes him any less capable, of course. Loki isn't sure about the two assassins - Hawkeye is extremely good with his arrows and the Black Widow is extremely good with beating people up. Sometimes they are a little too good.

Loki also already knows that Captain America's abilities come from a super soldier serum, only one of which was developed back in the days of the war. This is almost common knowledge.

So that leaves the Hulk and Thor (and maybe that one agent, too, but Loki is pretty sure Coulson is simply human, no matter how many near-death situation experiences he's reported to have survived). But then again, speculation on various fan forums has led to, in the Hulk's case, a rather prominent theory for gamma radiation. Plus, Loki won't even think of trying to drug the huge green...well, Hulk.

And by process of elimination, one can say, that it's really only Thor that Loki would like to drug, strap down, then probe into.

People on tumblr think he really is the Norse god of thunder. Also, despite recent sightings of Thor with some woman named Jane, said people on tumblr like to "ship" him with his fellow Norse (half?)(step?)(not?)brother Loki, which is awkward because oh, look, that's Loki's name!

But anyway, to conclude, Loki may like them on some level, but it's not really the type of adoration that a fan has. Now that he thinks about it, his intentions are rather villainous.

Maybe he'll put on some tights one day and then challenge the very Avengers themselves. Perhaps. Possibly.

"But first you'll have to get through your senior year of high school," Darcy reminds him daily. Sometimes Loki thinks it's her hobby, to shoot his dreams down. Nonetheless, they are best friends and have been since they were seven, and Darcy always comes with him to the diner.

Loki leans back in his chair, dragging his eyes lazily up the length of the Stark tower. It's Friday, which means two things: it's the last day of the school week, and tonight is the night of the Avengers movie premiere. There's a psychology essay to be written, but it's not due until two weeks, anyway.

"Wanna skip the rest of the day?" he asks, leaning on his forearms. Art and English are nothing special to miss.

"I gotta turn this in next period," Darcy protests through a mouthful of bagel. Her eyes never leave her laptop screen, and her fingers fly furiously over the keyboard.

Loki makes a face. "Fine, fine." He tries to find comfort in the fact that in two hours, they'll be out anyway, and in nine more, they'll be at the midnight showing.

Fifteen minutes later, they finish, and Darcy finally shuts down her laptop with some sort of sound she classifies to be a "victory yell." Loki rolls his eyes as he pays, and then ushers her through the gates. It's not a long walk back to the school, but he likes to be punctual, if not early.

On his way out, he sneaks a glance at the Stark tower. To his surprise, something catches his eye in one of the lower floors: a shadow standing in front of the glass. And Loki gets a feeling that he's the one being watched, but the thought is so absurd that he pushes that thought away immediately.

They're probably just making sure that the city is doing all right. They are, after all, its protectors.

Yes, that's it.

. . .

The hours pass by surprisingly quickly. Loki takes the time to do some last few touch-ups on Darcy's shirt. "TEAM DOOM" is written on the front crudely in marker, with some green glitter for effect. The back has a printed picture of the comic book villain.

The Avengers movie is supposedly about some big fight between the heroes and Doctor Doom. Because Loki knows Darcy likes to piss people off, he thinks that the shirt will suit her perfectly.

When it's almost time to go, he puts on his own shirt. It was a birthday present from Darcy(maybe a gag gift). It has the Avengers logo pasted proudly on the front, and Loki totally doesn't feel any pride towards it.

He and Darcy meet in front of his apartment complex. When she comes, Loki hands her her shirt and she pulls it over her tank top with a beam. Then they're off to the theater, and Loki prays to god - Norse or not - that the movie is as good as the hype made it out to be.

. . .

It isn't.

It's better.

"Did you see the part where Iron Man and Cap totally beat the crap out of Doom?" Darcy gushes as they file outside with everyone else. "And when the Hulk was smashing those Doom bots out of the sky like flies?"

"Yes, Darcy," Loki drawls, "I was there next to you."

But his best friend doesn't seem to hear, and she continues on babbling until they get outside. There, she would have kept going, if not for the car that suddenly pulls up by the curb.

"Darcy Lewis!" That's when Loki realizes it's her parents.

"Oh, shit," Darcy says, her voice dropping to a low mutter.

Loki faces her, incredulous. "I thought you said they knew you were going!"

Darcy gives a short, nervous laugh. Before she can explain herself, the car honks. "I gotta go," she says quickly. "If I don't text you by tomorrow, assume I've been imprisoned and come break me out, okay?"

"Maybe I'll just let you live out your life sentence." The retort is lost; Darcy is already jogging ahead to the car.

She gives a meek wave goodbye as she gets in, and then the car is speeding down the road.

Loki sighs in aggravation, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his jacket. He weaves his way through the dispersing crowd of people, hearing bits and pieces of excited conversations about the movie.

He wishes he had someone to talk to, too; he curses Darcy out silently in his head.

It's about three AM. In any other state it would be pitch black, but this is New York, the city that never sleeps. Thankfully, it isn't cold like one might expect it to be. The occasional car speeds down the road - he lives in a rather quiet area of the city - but the streets are empty.

A block away from his apartment complex, something grabs him by the collar of his shirt and pulls him into an alley.

Suddenly, things feel like some cliche action movie: the main character strolling, unaware, down the street until they're pulled aside into an alleyway by a...man with a paper bag over his head?

There are two holes for his eyes. "Don't try to escape!" The voice is muffled behind the bag, but it sounds a little wavering.

Loki, who was thrown rather carelessly against the (dirty grimy so unsanitary) brick wall, rubs his head. For a second, he's actually genuinely scared - and then he sees the small knife that the man is clutching. At least it isn't a gun. "Really?" he grumbles. "Mugging a high schooler?"

His assailant gives a "threatening" jab of his arm; the paper bag rustles after the movement. "Take your shirt off!"

That really throws Loki off.

"Excuse me?" he says with a polite sort of incredulity.

"You heard me." He can't tell if the man is serious or not, sane or not, but the knife is definitely real. "Take your shirt off."

Loki clears his throat. Was he finally going to lose his eighteen-year-old virginity in this alley with this guy in a paper bag? "What for?" he says, cautious.

"I want it."


Loki frowns. "You know," he begins conversationally; he puts his hands up and takes a slow step towards the other, "the store I work for sells a ton of them. Just seven dollars each. I can even give you a discount, if you want. The perks of being an employee, you know?"

Another jab. "Take. It. Off." This time, the knife nicks Loki's elbow.

He hisses a curse under his breath. "All right, you win!" He takes a step back, inspecting the cut. Blood is welling up and drips in a thin line down his arm, but he's had worse. He presses the hem of his shirt against it, so it soaks up the blood. Then he takes off his shirt and throws it at the paper bag man.

"Thank you."

Hm, what a polite criminal.

"Yeah, sure, you're welcome," Loki huffs. He resists the urge to wrap his arms around himself, because that's a sign of weakness. The last thing he wants is for this guy to think he's actually intimidated. "Well, what do you have planned now? Stab me to death with your puny knife, then dump my body into a dumpster?"

He sees the man's eyes flicker off to the side. Loki tenses.

Then the other breaks into a sprint. Loki immediately rushes after him; while he isn't the strongest, he is fast. Plus, that shirt was a birthday present.

Loki would caught him if not for the sudden figure that appears at the end of the alley - or, rather, several figures. The man skids to a stop, Loki a few feet behind him.

"Oh, just another thug," a voice says, startling Loki. It sounds-

"How many is this now?" chimes a second, this one higher in pitch. More feminine.

"Five." A sigh.

The man gives a yelp, and Loki sees him being yanked out of the alley and back to the street. Loki automatically follows, though he stops at the edge, clutching at the brick wall.

There's better lighting here, and the sight that Loki's eyes fall upon makes him do a double take and wonder if, perhaps, he's dreaming:

Three of the Avengers are standing over the man with the paper bag. And yes, it's not all of them, but holy cow, three. Loki is standing in the presence of three superheroes.

"Uh, guys? Who's that?"

Loki jerks back to reality when he realizes he's been spotted. He looks down at himself, and- Oh, fantastic, he's still shirtless.

He looks back up. One of them is coming towards him - Tony. It's Tony Stark. The other two behind him are Thor and Steve Rogers. None of them are in their usual getup - they're dressed in jeans and casual looking shirts and Loki wonders if they happened to be taking a nice stroll.

(Y'know, in the middle of the night.)

Thor is looking at him strangely.

"Were you with him?" Tony asks accusingly. He reaches out for Loki, but the teen squirms away, pressing himself against the wall. They don't seem to realize that he's indecent.

"Of course not," Loki says, indignant. He tears his eyes away from Thor to frown at Tony. "What are you guys even doing out this late?" Sometimes he has the social graces of a bull.

"Taking a nice stroll," Tony says at the same time Steve answers, "Stark wanted to see his own movie."

"Hey, hey!" Tony shushes him. "First of all, it's our movie, and second-"

The man bolts up to his feet and runs away. Loki makes this strangled noise in the back of his throat and points. He's privy to gracious curses from the billionaire. "Watch him!" Tony says, motioning wildly to Loki and then to one of the other two Avengers, and then he's taking off after the mugger.

"Tony, wait." Steve reaches out and misses him by an inch. The super soldier sighs, as if he's used to dealing with this every day. "Thor," he says, looking to his teammate, "you got him?" He follows the supposed god's line of sight to Loki, and squints. Loki feels like he's being scrutinized, and he knows he can run away now, but something keeps him glued firmly in place.

"Yeah," Loki finally hears the super soldier mutter, "you got him." Without any further explanation, he goes off after Tony.

Somewhere, a cricket chirps. Loki shifts uncomfortably, wondering how strange of a sight it would be to see a half naked boy suddenly run past you.

"Don't run," Thor says, as if he's reading his mind.

Loki startles, gripping the edge of the wall tightly.

"I won't hurt you." Thor takes a step toward him. "I just need to know if you were associated with that man or not."

Loki harrumphs. "Of course I wasn't," he says, still not moving. "I was just walking home when he suddenly pulled me in here." He gestures behind him, to the alley.

"Did he hurt you?" Thor asks, and no, Loki doesn't feel pleased at how concerned he sounds. "You can come out. Everything's all right."

"He nicked me with his knife, but it's nothing serious. He just, um, took my shirt." He puts his arm out, to show that it's bare. "So I'll stay where I am, thanks." God, Loki has never felt so mortified before. He couldn't even look at Thor square in the eye, how could he hope to one day strap him down and probe him?

Not the time, Loki reminds himself.

"By the Nine, why would he want your shirt?"

"Crazed Avenger fan? Couldn't afford the seven bucks? I don't know." Thor looks like he didn't understand any of that, so Loki decides to drop it. "He was crazy, that's all. I don't suppose you have an extra shirt?" The street light flickers.

Thor starts unbuttoning his shirt, and for a second, Loki panics, thinking he has just inadvertently caused a superhero to start undressing in front of him. But Thor is wearing an undershirt beneath.

(Loki thinks he feels a twinge of disappointment- No, no, no, not that time for that-)

"Here." Thor closes the distance between them and doesn't wait for consent. He drapes his shirt over Loki's shoulders.

Grateful, Loki slips it on and pulls it shut across his chest. His cheeks feel a little less red now. "Thank you," he mumbles.

To his surprise, Thor laughs. "What brings you out here so late, boy?"

Loki's eye twitches. He's eighteen, not a boy. Plus, Thor is only, what? Three, four inches taller than him? "I was coming home from the premiere," he answers and adds, a little grudgingly, "of the Avengers." He waits for the smugness.

But it never comes. "Ah. That's strange, I do not believe I saw you."

"I left early." Thor nods, and the conversation fades off into silence.

They stand there awkwardly until they speak simultaneously:

"I should probably get home."

"Would you like me to walk you home?"

Loki blinks. "Oh- There's no need to, really. Shouldn't you be going after the others?" He looks off in the direction where Steve Rogers and Tony Stark ran off.

"Probably." Thor cocks his head. "Are you sure you can make it home safely?"

Loki would be lying if he said he didn't like the attention. "I'm sure," he says, repressing every urge to instead collapse and have Thor carry him instead. Hmm, how would those arms feel around him? "My apartment complex is just a block away."

"If you insist. Take care, Midgardian." Midgardian...? Thor gives him a pat on the back that Loki guesses is supposed to be gentle, but it knocks him forward a step. "Keep careful guard of your clothing articles."

Loki has to suppress a snicker this time. "Will do, Thor." And then, softer, sincere, "Thank you."

Thor smiles, but he doesn't say another word. For a second, his fingers bump against Loki's, but he turns sharply and goes after his teammates.

When Loki gets home, the first thing he does is slam his head into the wall, as if that will somehow help to calm his frantically beating heart. Then he realizes that he's still wearing Thor's shirt, and that itself is enough to warrant another slam.

. . .

The next day, he's kind of numb from the experience. Or maybe that's because when he tells Darcy, she proceeds to scream his ear off in excitement. And then, afterwards, she demands in a breathless huff, "Wait! I need proof!"

Loki looks down at himself, picks at the shirt he's still wearing. He washed it this morning, something he decides not to tell Darcy because she'll probably scold him for washing off Thor's essence or something. "I'm wearing it."

Another squeal. This one is so loud and high-pitched, Loki has to hold the phone away from his ear. "Calm down, Darcy," he says with a wince.

"You met Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor!" He can practically hear her convulsing in place. "And Thor Odinson gave you his shirt! Oh my god, that means you'll have to meet him again, right? To return it? Damn, all the good stuff always happens when I'm not there."

"You would have tased them," Loki quips dryly. "Anyway, I can't come over for breakfast - Victor just called me in. Apparently, there's been an influx of customers since the Avengers came out last night."

"Ugh. I hate your boss."

"I can do lunch."

"You're paying."

"I always pay."

"And that's why I love you. Now, get to work. Call me on your lunch break!" Darcy doesn't wait for affirmation, simply hangs up first like she always does. Loki rolls his eyes with some fondness and pockets his phone.

Then he starts getting ready for work.

. . .

"Work" means a retail store situated conveniently near the diner, which means he doesn't have to walk very far for lunch. Loki works during the weekends and during holidays, if he can. (There's no one to come home to for most of them, anyway.)

His boss is a tall man with dark brown eyes and black hair usually smoothed back. The store is small enough that not a lot of employees are needed to maintain it; the work force, as far as Loki knows, consists of himself, Peter (who's also in his grade, in his school), and seven others. Victor makes it a point to be called Victor and only Victor. He never offered a last name.

Victor seems estranged and disliked by all his other employees, but Loki personally doesn't have anything against the man. He can relate to his perfectionist tendencies.

And Loki likes to think that Victor likes him too, because sometimes he catches him muttering, "I hate these slobs... Oh, except this one, yes, he's fine..."

He does that a lot.

The store is called Victor's Vendibles. ("Vendibles" is a synonym for "merchandise" and was used for alliteration purposes, but no one ever gets it.) As Loki walks into his work place, he is hit with the sight of rows and rows of Victor von Doom merchandise. In the corner, the TV is on some music channel, blaring, "Hey, I just met you, and this is-"

His boss is nowhere in sight, but Peter's already at the register. "Morning," the brunet says with a loud yawn. He always looks like he just woke up.

Loki returns the greeting, shrugging off his jacket. He notices one whole shelf stocked with Avengers: dolls, backpacks, lunch boxes. Otherwise, the rest of the store is green and silver in a plethora of Doom merchandise.

"So," Loki says, tilting his head, "is there a reason why there's more Doom stuff than Avengers?"

Peter shrugs. "You know him," he says, referring to Victor. "He's obsessed with Doom. I think it's because they have the same name." His eyes widen approximately an inch, and he leans in to whisper conspiratorially, "Sometimes I think Boss is really Doom in disguise."

"Okay, Peter." Loki doesn't roll his eyes, because he can't ever tell whether the kid is being serious or not. "Where is he, by the way?"

"Not here yet, I don't think."

That's strange. Victor is never late.

"Maybe sick," Peter adds. "Anyway, no one's stepped a foot in here all morning, can you believe it?"

Loki pokes a very realistic looking doombot standing beside the checkout counter. "Oh, I wonder why," he mutters. He adjusts the collar of his shirt - green, so he practically blends in with all of the Doom stuffed toys - and walks around aimlessly. For the next half hour, the store is empty save for the two of them.

"Did we forget to flip the closed sign or something?" Peter squints at the door, despite the large glasses already on his face. "Man, I thought we'd be packed. I heard the movie was awesome." He swipes the remote from the counter and flips the channel, turning conveniently to a news channel.

"-en suddenly, a real life von Doom was spotted, wreaking havoc in-"

The camera zooms in wildly on a car, resting peacefully beside the curb until a flash of green sends it flying across the other side of the street.

"Oh my god," Loki says before he can stop himself. "That's- Isn't that-"

"That's near where MJ's working!" Peter vaults over the counter quite impressively. Before Loki can stop him, he's darting out the door, the welcome bell ringing annoyingly after him.

"Wait a second, Peter!" Loki shouts after him in a mixture of insults and commands to stop and get his ass back here. Two steps outside, a flying piece of concrete buries itself into the ground in front of Loki, eliciting a loud and embarrassing squawk from him. He scrambles back inside, praying to whoever is up there that Peter is safe.

Idiot, he thinks. Idiot, idiot, that idiot-

His hands are shaking, resting heavily on the door's glass. He's sorely tempted to try going out again, and he would have, if not for the sudden blur of red-white-and-blue that lands outside.

Loki instinctively backs away, slowly, as if he's afraid to be noticed. Captain America is looking around wildly, shield ever present on his arm, and Loki feels a ridiculously large sense of concern for the man.

Then something green rushes at him, sending the super soldier flying somewhere off sight. The green thing that landed is none other than von Doom.

After that, it's almost like Loki is re-watching the Avengers in 3D with front row seats. The Hulk actually lands on Doom, and Loki baits his breath, wondering if that means victory. Unfortunately, two more appear out of nowhere, and the Hulk gives a roar, chasing both out of sight.

Doombots, Loki recalls, and he wonders if this is all a publicity stunt, because this is terrifyingly accurate to one of the scenes in the movie. Except, you know, everything is louder. And real-er.

Loki feels the phone in his pocket vibrating, but it's immediately forgotten when Iron Man lands on the sidewalk in front of the shop. A mere second later, a doombot throws itself atop him, but Tony Stark reacts quickly and blasts it away.

A funny thought occurs to Loki then: Isn't there a life-sized doombot in the shop, too...?

It can't be, Loki tells himself.

Two cold, metal hands latch onto his arms, gripping him tightly. He can barely twist his neck around to see that it is, indeed, the doombot he saw earlier. "You've got to be kidding me." Loki would facepalm, if he could.

The front window shatters with an explosion of glass and stuffed Dooms, and the most Loki can do is squeeze his eyes shut and turn his face. Something sharp slices across his cheek, but the cut must be shallow; the pain is quick. He feels the blood dripping down his neck.

"Ow," Loki declares loudly.

"Loki?" someone says incredulously, and when Loki opens his eyes, he sees his sprawled on the carpeted floor. A silver mask lies next to him, broken.

"Are you kidding me?" Loki repeats, voice rising just a pitch. "My boss was Doctor Doom?"

"Is," Victor corrects him.

"No, was. I quit."


Before either of them could further lament, the Avengers are stepping through the broken window. Thor in particular kicks a remaining piece of glass so he could fit. The Hulk just sticks his head in.

"There's a door!" Loki shouts at them. If his arms were free, he would be waving towards said entrance. "He'll probably take that broken window out from my last paycheck."

"Release him, Doom," Iron Man commands. His voice is different through the mask.

Victor grumbles to himself, but the doombot releases Loki nonetheless.

Loki rubs his arms gingerly, inspecting the skin. He's certain that there will be bruises the next morning, and won't that be a fun thing to explain to Darcy. "You're mailing me my last paycheck," Loki tells Victor indignantly, and he makes to leave. Unfortunately, Iron Man steps between him and the door.

Loki arches an eyebrow at him, silently demanding an explanation.

They stare each other down until Victor comments, "Are you two done doing your soul searching or-?"

Thor makes this strange grunting noise.

"Thor," Iron Man finally sighs. "Take care of him, please."

At first, Loki thinks that he's referring to his former boss, but Thor grabs his shoulder instead, and the Avenger's grip is firm enough that Loki can't move even if he wants to. Plus, that hammer is rather intimidating. "You can't leave," Thor says.

"And why not?" Loki scoffs. He just suffered a traumatic event, didn't he deserve to go home and sleep it off? He could feel a migraine coming on, too. The whole concept of Doctor Doom being his boss all this time is hard to wrap his mind around.

"You've been working for him, yes?" Thor looks at him as if he's dealing with a child. "We will have to ask you some questions, make sure you are innocent."

"The works," Barton chimes in.

Men in suits are beginning to swarm the shop now, intermixed with others in police uniforms. Loki is bumped multiple times into Thor's chest, which he is not grateful for.

"Come," Thor says, and Loki feels the sound rumbling in his chest.

He doesn't really have a choice, so he follows the Avenger outside. "Where's the questioning taking place?" Loki wants to know. He hopes it's somewhere with food.

Apparently, there are different plans.

"Head on back," Captain America says with a nod. "You can handle him, right, Thor? The rest of the team and I will catch up after we get Doom behind bars..."

"At least let me save the tip jar!" Victor roars somewhere behind them.

"Be safe, kiddos," Iron Man adds helpfully.

"What do you mean by-" The rest of Loki's question melds into a loud shriek as he's suddenly blasted into the air. Loki's not really sure what's coming out of his mouth, but it goes something like, "Oh my god what are you doing let me go let me go oh my god we're so fucking high let me go-"

And Thor does. Loki plummets for three heart-stopping seconds, before he's caught again in strong arms. "Bastard," Loki gasps. This time he isn't punching at Thor's chest, but digging his fingers tightly into whatever purchase in the armor he can find. "I hate you so much-"

They land on the Stark tower, and even then, Loki refuses to let go until Thor carries him inside and ascertains that he will not be falling any time soon. "I deeply apologize." Thor looks every bit guilty as he should. "You were thrashing. I did not mean to let you go, Loki."

Loki is clutching at a chair, face drained of color. "How do you even know my name?" he demands in a croak.

"That's what Doom called you, isn't it? Did I mishear?"

"No, you didn't," Loki answers stiffly.

They are alone. On the Stark tower.

If Loki knew this was going to happen, he would have gotten the chloroform ready. Probing this man still has its appeal, mostly because it would be payback for fucking dropping him.

"Are you okay?" Thor puts a hand on his shoulder, and his touch is gentle. He doesn't wait for a reply, just draws Loki close, one hand on his back and the other on his head, stroking.

"Is this part of the questioning?" Loki mutters. And then, "Let go of me, I can't breathe."

"The last time you told me to let go..." Thor begins.

So Loki squirms away himself, before he starts liking being touched. He settles into one of the chairs, not even looking around to marvel at the huge kitchen. He says to Thor, "Just get the questioning over with, okay? I need to get back and make sure my friends are okay."

"I really am sorry."

"And I'm not mad." Loki establishes what he hopes to be soulful eye contact. "Not anymore. I just...really want to go home."

Thor's face lights up, and he says, "Oh, yes, of course. Your parents must be worried sick."

Loki cringes at the mention of family. "Huh? Yeah, sure."

The look that Thor gives him is one of puzzlement, but Loki shakes his head. "You should get on with the questions."

Thor shifts. "I should," Loki hears him mutter. He watches the blond rifle around some drawers, looking for something.

"So," Loki begins conversationally, "what's your real name?"

Thor looks up. "Excuse me?"

Loki's eyebrows knit together, and he contemplates Thor pensively. "You know, your real name. You're not really a god, so I figured Thor must be your alias or something."

"Alias," Thor repeats slowly.

"Sort of stage name, I guess? I don't know. Like how Tony Stark is Iron Man, Steve Rogers is Captain America, and Clint Barton is Hawkeye..."

Before he can explain any further or get any answers, there's a telltale thump that alerts them of a third party. Loki turns in his seat to see Tony Stark walking in, taking his mask off. His brown hair is tousled and matted with sweat. "Good fight, yeah?" He talks like Loki isn't even there.

A few seconds later, something dings, and an elevator that Loki didn't notice before opens. Out steps Hawkeye, Black Widow, Captain America, and the Hulk - well, Dr. Banner.

"I need wings," Clint is complaining. "We're gonna be taking this elevator for the rest of our lives."

"I don't see a problem with that," Steve puts in.

"Yeah, well, that's because Tony carries you sometimes because you're super special. We, on the other hand, don't have such luxuries."

"Try laying off a few pounds," Tony jibes from the fridge.

"Shut up!"

Natasha looks unimpressed with this, dropping into the seat next to Loki. She looks tired. They all do.

"I'll see about getting you giant riding falcons, my friends," Thor says with a wide smile. He claps Clint on the back whole-heartedly.

The archer grumbles as he sits next to Natasha, reaching across the table for a plate of bite-sized pretzels. "Sure thing, big guy."

And so the "questioning" goes on.

. . .

"I'm still here," Loki announces sometime later. "Sometime later" can constitute to be several hours. Outside, the sky is getting dark, and Loki isn't sure how to feel about being stuck in a room full of superheroes. The only thing that has happened that was remotely close to a questioning was Clint asking, "So, Doom was your boss?" to which Loki replied, "Yeah."

"Okay," Tony says through a mouthful of doughnut. "Hey, can you pass that plate?"

Loki wordlessly obeys, sliding the pretzel plate over to the reputed man of iron. "Do your interrogations always end like this?" he asks the table.

"We could tie you to a chair, if you want," Bruce Banner offers mildly. "I could administer a truth serum, too, if you want to get that serious. But the guys would probably just ask you stupid questions."

"Virginity is not a stupid matter." (Guess who said that.)

"What'd you expect?" Clint says.

Loki blinks. "Not this," he says demurely.

"Ohhhh." Tony drags out the noise, pointing repeatedly at Loki. "Did we accidentally pick up a hater?"

"Thor did," Natasha says.

"JARVIS, prepare those conversion goodie bags." Tony seems to be talking to no one, until a robotic voice answers, "Will do, sir." Loki jumps in his seat, looking around and wondering where it came from.

"Tony, we talked about those," Steve says with a sigh.

"I don't want a goodie bag," Loki sputters. "I want to go home."

The Avengers fall into silence. Loki watches them watch each other and notices that majority of their eyes are on Thor.

"Thor will take you back," Tony declares.

Thor looks up sharply.

"What he said." Clint nods sagely. "But be gentler this time, big guy. Not sure what you did to him earlier, I'm pretty sure even your Asgardians heard Loki's screaming."

Loki pretends that he isn't blushing. He gets up and pushes his chair in, tapping his fingers in waiting. Thor rises as well, and Loki doesn't fail to miss the sour look he passes to Tony.

"Ready?" Thor puts an arm around Loki's waist like it's a very normal thing to do.

"Can we take the elevator?" It can't hurt to hope.

"I promise I won't drop you this time," Thor says earnestly.

In the end, Loki assents. No, it's not because he wants to be pressed up against Thor's chest again, it's because the elevator would be slow. Mostly.

They step outside, and both ignore Tony's last call of, "Are you sure you don't want a goodie bag?"

. . .

They descend carefully, much slower than they had ascended. Thor keeps a firm hold around Loki's waist with the hand not holding his hammer. The whole way down, neither say a word until they reach the last few floors. "That is my floor," Thor says, glancing at the building.

Loki hums in interest. "You each have your own level?"

"Friend Stark has a lot of free space," Thor replies with a nod. "You could come, one day."

Loki watches the passing windows. "And why on earth would I want to do that?"

"You aren't living with family, aren't you?" Thor is looking down at him, blue eyes bright and sincere and hard to avoid. "It must get lonely. You would never be lonely here."

Their feet touch the pavement again. "Thanks, but..." Loki trails off and, when he can't figure out how to explain it, simply shrugs. "Maybe. We'll see."

"Keep it in consideration," Thor murmurs.

He hasn't let go of Loki's waist, and Loki glances up at the tower to avoid further eye contact. He reminds himself that his intentions are evil, he'll one day strap down this man, dissect him-

"Wait a second," Loki says, eyebrows furrowing. "Your room-"

Thor kisses him. There's mace in Loki's back pocket but he winds his arms around the man's shoulders and pulls him closer.

"-has a perfect view of the diner," Loki finishes softly when he pulls away.

Thor's lips quirk into a smile. "I saw you sitting there every day. You were always looking, and I was always looking back." He kisses him again, this one a bit rougher than the last. Loki threads his hands through soft blond strands of hair. He moans before he can help himself, and even though most of it is lost in the kiss, Thor definitely still hears it. "Don't tempt me."

Loki nips at his bottom lip, looking up at the Avenger through half-lidded eyes. "And why not?"

"You are but a boy," Thor says with a chuckle, brushing a stray hair out of Loki's face. "Plus, my enemies would only try to use you against me. It would put both of us in danger."

"I'm eighteen." Sometimes Loki feels like he says that far more than he should have to. He really doesn't look that young, does he? "And I can take care of myself. I am excellently trained in the art of tasing and macing."

Thor shakes his head, looking amused. "I'll walk you to your home."

He does. And when they're at the entrance of Loki's apartment complex, Thor lifts his hand and presses a kiss to the back of it. "Stay safe, Loki," he says, and from anyone else, Loki would have taken it as a goodbye. But somehow, from Thor, it sounds like a promise of otherwise.

"No promises," he tells him seriously and doesn't go inside until Thor's taken off again.

Loki prays it's a promise of otherwise.

. . .

It is. Just the next day, Loki receives a flier: the Avengers are accepting a key to the city from the mayor. The event is scheduled for the next week, and when the day finally arrives, Loki has an outfit picked out and everything. Darcy is already at Central Park waiting for him.

Halfway out the door, he remembers all the times that the Avengers dismissed him as nothing more than a boy. What better opportunity is there to prove that otherwise?

And Thor fears that a villain could try to use Loki against him, but what if the villain is-

Loki makes the last second decision to run back to his room and dig through his closet, searching for a two particular things that his brother had given to him years ago (gag gifts. His siblings loved him, as you can see). He feels a rush of victory when he finds both in relatively good condition, and Loki takes the time to wrap the golden, horned helmet with the velvet green cape.

Then he rushes out so he won't be late, all the while smiling so hard that his cheeks start to hurt.

It will all be in good fun, really.