Note: In this timeline, Iron Man 3 hasn't happened.

#

"I can't believe you told me that all the Avengers were doing this," Lieutenant Colonel James Rhodes seethed, glaring through purple-tinted sunglasses at Tony Stark.

It was Halloween, and Tony had taken all the Avengers (plus Pepper and their two Aesir guests) to a house situated in a nice little town snuggled in the sunshine of California. He had tried to get them to the Malibu mansion, but Pepper flat out refused. She wanted to be able to actually receive trick-or-treaters this year. For some reason, she hadn't wanted to do the trick-or-treating herself.

"Come on, Rhodey, it'll be fun!" Tony enthused, a wicked grin on his face, adjusting his fake beard and wig. "Besides, you're the one who fell for it, so don't blame me."

"I'll blame you all I want," Rhodey replied, not daring to look at himself in the mirror – He looked like a complete idiot! "Hippie pirates... Where do you come up with these ideas?"

Tony shrugged, and banged on the door they were waiting outside of. "Hurry up! We have to hit the streets before all the good candy is gone."

"I'm not going," came a small, furious voice from the other side. "You are an evil, twisted man who should be strung up by his heels underneath a the royal aviaries."

Tony rolled his eyes. "Come, on, Loki, we can't go trick-or-treating without you."

"Why do you even want to go trick-or-treating? You could buy Willy Wonka's candy factory." Natasha asked as she strolled past. She had dyed her hair a brilliant blue, painted her skin gold, and had a utility belt cinched around her waist.

"What's the fun in that?"

"Are those live grenades?" Rhodey asked with a frown.

"Yep. I'm going on a mission."

"Yeah, right," Tony muttered. "You and Barton are just going off to play your own tricks."

Natasha raised an eyebrow. "You might want to rethink the way you just said that."

Tony eyed the knives on her belt. "Have fun!" He pounded on the door again. "Loki! Daylight's wasting!"

"Go away, you despicable man!"

"Nat, can you go get Frigga? She's the only one who can reason with the Lokster."

"Don't call me that!" Loki shouted from inside his room.

Natasha smirked and walked down the hallway. Moments later, Frigga, Pepper, Thor and Bruce all joined Tony and Rhodey. Thor was wearing his armour (he had been delighted that he had an excuse, even if he wasn't planning on leaving the tower), Bruce was dressed as a Mad Scientist (i.e., wasn't wearing a costume), Frigga looked like Galadriel, and Pepper was Cinderella.

"I can't believe you guys won't come with us," Tony sighed. "Bad enough Rogers decided to ditch us for a whole week to have an excuse, but you!"

"Somebody must be at the tower to disperse candy and defend your property from tricks," Thor said.

"Thor, is that you?" Loki's voice came through the door.

"Yes, brother."

"Good. Do me a favour. Get Mjölnir and come squish me."

Thor's brow rose.

Frigga shook her head. "Loki, can I come in please?"

There was silence for a moment, and then Loki loudly sighed. "If you must."

Frigga slipped into the room.

"Pep, can't you at least come with us?" Tony pleaded.

Pepper shook her head. "I've been out all day. As soon as you're gone I'm taking off this ridiculous costume and I'm going to spend the night with a good book."

Tony sighed in an exaggerated lament. "Well, at least I have one true friend," he pattered Rhodey's shoulder.

"I think I might shoot you," Rhodey replied.

-I would- JARVIS volunteered.

"Hey!" Tony sulked. "Just because I want a little bit of fun... I'm not throwing a party, am I?"

Rhodey's phone rang. With a look of cautious hope, he answered, and walked a little ways from the group. Tony frowned. "Not subtle, Rhodey," he called. "If you didn't want to come, you could have just said so!"

"And be submitted to all your sad puppy eyes and groans of mortal distress?" Bruce shot back.

"They don't seem to work, though, do they?"

Loki's door opened and Frigga slipped out. She pressed her lips together in an effort not to laugh. Tony looked hopeful.

"He's agreed to accompany you."

Tony punched the air in triumph. "Great!"

The door opened further to reveal the glaring toddler-demigod. Pepper pressed her hand to her mouth, stifling her instinctive "aw." Bruce suddenly remembered he had laundry that needed to be changed. Loki was wearing a dragon costume, the fat tail swinging out behind him, yellow "spikes" running down his back, and his little hands stuffed into green mitts at the ends of overly fat arms. The feet were big and clumsy, and the narrowed eyes and pursed lips made the whole ensemble that much better.

"We are going to get so much candy!" Tony crowed.

"You said he was going to be dressed as a dragon," Thor said, sounding disappointed.

"He is."

"I have never seen a dragon look like this, Stark," Loki spat. "You deceptive, overgrown weasel-faced –"

"Enough with the insults!" Pepper interrupted. "Come on, let's all get a group picture."

Loki looked alarmed. "You are not making a permanent farce of my dignity!"

"Am I the only one that notices the cuter he is the bigger the words he uses?" Tony said as Frigga picked up Loki and whispered in his ear.

Tony didn't notice the way Loki's eyes lit up and he nodded. The group went to the kitchen, where Bruce was attempting to bring himself under control, and Natasha and Clint were both looking at him with bemused expressions. Clint rolled his eyes when Pepper started organising everybody for a group picture. She set the camera up on a chair on the table for the right height, set the timer and rushed in to join them.

"Say cheese!"

"Cheese!" Thor called loudly, making everybody wince as the flash went off.

"Good enough," Clint declared. "Come on, Nat, let's go."

"Before everyone leaves, I would like to say something," Frigga announced, and handed Loki to Tony. She beamed at everybody, going to the fridge. She pulled out a cake with thick, fluffy icing. "Thor, get me some plates."

She passed her hand over the cake, cutting it into neat squares. Thor handed her plates and she began to magically lift the cake squares onto them and floated the plates to everybody around. Bruce got forks and handed them out.

"First off, I would like to thank each one of you for being so kind and welcoming," Frigga said as she worked. "In the spirit of this admittedly strange Midgardian custom, I would like to ask trick or treat?"

"Um, I don't think you've got that quite right-" Bruce started, but Loki interrupted him.

"TRICK!" the little demigod shouted, mashing his piece of cake in Tony's face.

Frigga shrugged. "Trick it is."

And with that, each piece of cake smashed itself into the face of the person about to eat it. The leftover cake morphed into a tiny monster, and began lobbing handfuls of icing at people.

"Mother!" Thor cried, shielding Mjölnir. "That isn't fair, you're using magic!"

"I'm not!" Loki cried in delight, scraping a handful of cake off Tony's face to fling at Thor.

"Yeah, well-" Tony dodged icing missiles, still clutching Loki, and grabbed a cupcake that Bruce had made just minutes ago from the counter. He squished it into Loki's face.

In response, Loki threw his arms around Tony's neck and pressed a firm, cupcake-kiss to Tony's cheek, smearing the cupcake over him as well. Pepper lunged for the camera and took a picture before either of them noticed.

"Hey!"

Tony grabbed for the camera, but Pepper tossed it to Frigga, who flipped it over in her hands, making it vanish.

"Mother!"

Frigga took Loki back from Tony, pressing a kiss to her son's forehead. "Will you play Mr Stark's game now without complaining?"

"That was not fair." Loki laughed, shaking his head. "But it was well played, that was well played."

"Answer my question, Loki."

Loki smiled angelically at her, the cupcake on his face only enhancing it. "Yes, Mother."

"Good." With the wave of her hand, all the cake and icing mess flew back into the pan, forming a beautiful cake. You would never have guessed that it had been all over the room moments ago.

"I think I missed something here." Rhodey had just entered the kitchen. He had ditched the purple sunglasses and long wig. "Tony, I've got to bail."

"What's going on?" Tony asked, frowning.

Rhodey shrugged. "Probably nothing, but I have to check something out."

Tony sighed in disappointment, and then looked over at Loki. "I guess it's just you and me, Lokster."

Loki scowled. "Mother! Make him stop calling me that."

Frigga rolled her eyes. "Go on, have fun, don't cause too much trouble!"

"Yes, Mother," Loki replied, somewhat subdued.

"We're gonna have tonnes of fun!" Tony enthused, snatching Loki back. "Just be adorable and we'll get enough candy to last everybody for at least a week!"

"Longer," Pepper said, kissing Tony, "if you eat actual meals."

"Aw, Pep, I haven't eaten candy for breakfast since that time that I ended up in the hospital."

"That was last year."

"I know."

Loki stuck his hand between their faces as they went to kiss again. "Since I am being forced into this situation, would it not be better to start right away? Please take this in the spirit that it is intended; when you two start kissing it doesn't end! It's sickening, admittedly in an adorable way."

"I think somebody's found his OTP," Bruce chuckled. "But he's right. You want to get back in time for the party, Tony."

"Party, right." Tony nodded. "We're off, then! Back in a few hours!"

#

"Here, stuff this candy into your costume, the buckets are starting to look too full." Tony bent down over Loki, taking handfuls of candy and shoving them up the sleeves of the dragon costume.

"Tell me again why your joyful man refused to drive us?" Loki asked, stuffing candy down the front of his costume.

"Because the pony wouldn't fit in the back seat. There, I don't think we can fit any more in there."

They were walking down a well-lit street, Tony leading Virginia the Shetland pony while Loki rode in the little wagon she pulled with all the candy they had collected. Tony's plan of adorableness had worked. They went to each house empty-handed, and the people gave generously to Loki's big green eyes and adorable smile.

"I thought that there would be more tricks," Loki complained.

"Yeah, I'll explain later. Just a couple more houses, and then we'll get you home to bed, okay?"

"I'm not sleepy," Loki retorted, struggling to keep his eyes open.

"Sure you're not."

Virginia tugged against the reins suddenly, turning her head down the pathway to a rather small house. It was painted white and green, and had huge gardens practically bursting from it. Tony's brows raised in surprise. Most of those flowers were out of season everywhere else. But there were plenty of decorations in the yard, so it looked promising.

Tony lead Virginia up the cobbled path, and plucked Loki out of the cart so he could press the doorbell and hold out his empty bag with his angelic smile.

"Trick-or-treat!" Tony and he exclaimed in unison as the door opened, but Tony choked on the words.

The man standing in the doorway looked like Thor on steroids. He was huge! Tony's jaw dropped. He didn't think people came in that size! The man had painted his skin gold-coloured, with reddish rays on his bare shoulders and chest. He wore some sort of skirt-kilt thing, which was a dull grey, and such a scowl on his face that Tony was tempted to turn tail and run right there.

"Isn't that adorable?" a woman's voice said.

Tony looked to his left and saw that a beautiful young woman had also come out, and was currently putting an apple in Loki's bag. She had blonde hair braided with leaves and flowers, and she wore a white gown with green and gold trimmings.

"Um..." Loki said, and his face was white with fright.

"What are you supposed to be?" the golden man practically snarled.

"A dragon," Loki whispered, turning his head to bury it in Tony's shoulder.

"And what are you?" Tony asked, bolstered by the little body's shivering.

"I'm Mother Earth," the woman said brightly, reaching out to pat Loki's back. "And this is my son, the sun-god Atum."

"Oh," Tony muttered. "Well, thanks for the apple..."

It took a surprising amount of repression to keep his trepidation at bay enough to turn around. Even then, he almost expected the huge man to smash him. Or step on him, either one. Tony pulled Virginia with them as he headed away.

#

Loki buried his face in Tony's shoulder as they walked. They visited a couple more houses, but Loki didn't look at the people. He was tired of his stupid holiday!

"Are you falling asleep on my shoulder? All right, that's enough for one night."

He was feeling sleepy... Wait... Loki silently cursed himself and pulled away from Tony's shoulder. He hated being in this child's form! He cleared his throat as though that could take away the embarrassed flush in his cheeks. "You can put me down now," he said as imperiously as he could. "Obviously that ploy to collect a greater amount of sweets has resulted in failture.

"Right, that's what you were doing. Trying to get more candy." Tony put Loki back in the wagon. "That one house was just disturbing, though. Mother Nature and her son the sun. He looked older than she did..."

Loki glanced quickly at Tony, but decided not to say anything. He'd look stupid if he was wrong... Glancing past the mortal, Loki spied something. His brow furrowed. "Stark, wasn't that pumpkin-headed skeleton at another house ten minutes ago?"

Tony shrugged. "Those things are mass produced. Probably loads around here. No biggie."

They walked for another few minutes, Tony talking about random things that made no sense whatsoever. Loki was starting to fall asleep again. He was just wondering if he could lie down amongst the candy comfortably with this ridiculous outfit on when he happened to glance back.

"Stark!" he hissed, his heart jumping to his throat.

"What?"

Tony turned and stopped. Standing in the middle of the road several meters back was a pumpkin-headed skeleton. It now appeared to be grinning!

"It's just a prank," Tony said, though he did not sound assured. "It's not..."

"It moved!" Loki shrieked.

"A prank?"

"It's walking. Is it supposed to be walking?"

"Is this another trick of your mom's?"

Another of the pumpkin-headed skeletons stiffly walked out of a yard and joined the first, the grimace on its face widening. Loki stared, his eyes wide. He looked at Tony quickly, hoping to see something that would tell him this was just one of his tricks... the mortal's face was white.

"Stark..."

Loki's voice seemed to break Tony from his trance. He turned on his heel and bolted, pulling Virginia along with him. The wagon bounced over the sidewalk, and Loki clung to the sides. Lamely he wondered if the skeletons would stop if he threw candy at them... More were walking out of yards now, joining an ever-growing posse in the center of the road. Their jagged mouths were open wide, their hollow eyes empty and black. Clawing fingers reached out after the fleeing people. Over the sound of the pony's hooves on the sidewalk, Tony's muttered and panicked curses, the jolting of the wagon wheels, Loki heard the soft flapping and clicking of animated plastic hitting the asphalt.

"They're gaining!" Loki called. I don't have magic.

Tony shouted aloud as Virginia suddenly veered off to one side. The reins ripped from his hands. He lunged forward and was just able to snatch Loki out of the wagon before the pony went into a full-out gallop, candy spraying every which way out of the wagon. She ran between two houses and was gone.

Tony scrambled to his feet, clutching Loki tightly as he broke into a run towards his house. "Phone!"

"What?"

"Phone, jacket pocket. Call Thor!"

Loki managed to worm his hand into Tony's jacket. Hitting the right buttons was hard as he bounced up and down, but finally the small phone appeared on the screen. He held the phone to his ear, his finger fingers gripping it the best he could, one arm around Tony's neck to keep himself stable. The pumpkin-skeletons were mere feet away.

"What is it, Stark?"

Loki cursed and threw the phone away before he realised how stupid that was. It clattered against the asphalt.

"What did you do that for?!" Tony shouted, turning briefly before redoubling his efforts.

"It went to Barton!"

"Oh, real mature-"

A plastic, bony arm caught around Tony's neck. His feet flipped out from under him. Loki heard bone meet concrete. Tony gasped sharply, groaned. The pumpkin-skeletons wrapped their plastic arms around Loki, prying him away. Tony's face was white. His eyes were closed. A trickle of blood was running down the sidewalk.

"Stark?" Loki squirmed in the plastic grips that held him, but the fat dragon costume let the skeletons hold him tightly. "Stark!"

Tony didn't move. His hippie wig was askew. A plastic arm crossed across Loki's throat, and another across his mouth. The squeezed until he could barely breathe. What was this? Loki's heart pounded. Thanos? The Other? He fought the best he could, but it was useless.

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