The first time Bruce and Thor left the house without Loki in tow, it took weeks of prodding from Tony before either of them would even budge on the manner. When it came down to it, it was Thor who cracked first.
“Perhaps Tony is right,” Thor says. Bruce whips around to face his fiance, jaw dropped, and hands on hips.
“What?” Bruce asks dumbly and Thor gently grabs hold of one of his hands.
“You could use a break. We could use a break.” Thor says. “My dear, you haven’t had a break since....” Thor’s voice broke off as he tries to recall when Bruce last took a moment for himself.
“Since Ultron,” Tony says when it’s clear Thor can’t recall. Thor and Bruce jump, both already forgot that Tony is in the room with them.
“What?” they say in unison.
“Bruce hasn’t had a break since before Ultron. If I’ve got the timeline right, it goes Ultron-Saakar-Asgard-Thanos-Thanos 2.0-Parenthood. So it’s been what, about five years since Brucie last had a vacation?”
Thor's grip on Bruce's hand tightens ever so slightly. “Tony is right, Bruce. You deserve a day off," Thor says.
It was a week later when Bruce finally gave in too but it wasn’t without last-minute anxiety.
“Are you sure?” Bruce asks. He’s bundled up head to toe, ready to face the blistering cold that’s fallen upon New York but he feels like his feet are glued to the floor. He fiddles with the buttons on his coat and looks back and forth between Tony and the doorway where Thor is already waiting for him.
Tony throws an arm dramatically up over his forehead and says “Brucie, do you really not trust me? Loki and I are bffs, at least according to the drawing he gave me last week. We're gonna have a great time."
Bruce bites his lip and worries his hands together. Tony isn’t sure he’s ever seen Bruce this nervous. And considering the fucked up kind of lives they lead, this should hardly be the thing that puts Bruce over the edge.
“Okay pal, I know you’re nervous to leave Loki but you and Thor are going to go absolutely nuts if all you ever do is take care of a toddler and work,” Tony says. Bruce and Thor moved back into the compound well over two years ago and they spent every day between now and then chasing a rapidly growing toddler and working themselves to death: Bruce attempting to understand the properties of each of the infinity stones and Thor ruling and growing the Asgardian refugee settlements. Long story short; they were working themselves to death. And if anyone knows what that looks like, it’s Tony.
Gently he puts a hand on each of Bruce’s shoulders and maneuvers him toward the door where Thor waits. “Happy will take you into the city, drop you off at the restaurant, easy peasy. After you’ve been wined and dined, Happy will take you to the show. And no,” he pauses. “I still won’t tell you what you’re seeing, but you’re going to love it. And as soon as the curtain falls, Happy will be waiting to bring you straight home where you will find Loki snuggled up and fast asleep in bed.”
Bruce allows himself to be led to the door but turns back before Tony can give him the final push out. He opens his mouth to speak but Tony cuts him off.
“Bruce, I promise. It’s all fine,” Tony says.
Bruce grabs Thor’s hand and laughs. “I was going to say thank you.”
“Oh well in that case. You crazy kids get out of here!” he says as they step out the door. Tony hangs onto the doorway with one hand and the doorknob with the other, leaning out into the cold. “Make good choices! Mind your manners and remember to always use protection!” Bruce flips him off without turning around. “Bruce Banner!” Tony calls clutching his heart with one hand while Thor and Bruce squeeze into the car. “What would Captain America say?” he yells. And this time its Thor who flips him off.
That evening Tony, Steve, and Sam got a crash course in taking care of a toddler. Sure, it was easy to chase after the kid and sneak him a cookie or two when Thor wasn’t looking, but getting Loki to eat all of his dinner, change into pajamas, and in bed on time was a whole other story. It took all three of them just to keep him from escaping the bathroom during bathtime. But a couple of years later and with many, many more babysitting nights under their belts, taking care of a now six-year-old Loki is a piece of cake.
Loki zooms past Tony, he has his toy walkie-talkie in hand and he’s wearing the toy gauntlets Tony made for him.
“Target spotted!” Loki says into the toy. Tony follows as Loki rounds the corner into the communal living space. On the couch, Steve sits with sketchbook in hand, undoubtedly fully aware of the tiny menace headed his way. Loki doesn’t stop when he reaches the back of the couch, instead, he propels himself forward and jumps over the back and onto Steve’s shoulders.
Steve drops the sketchbook and yells “ahhh, I’m being attacked!” Steve pulls Loki off his shoulders and into his lap, tickling under his arms. “I won’t go down without a fight!” Steve says.
Loki giggles uncontrollably but somehow manages to yell, “Uncle Tony! I need back up!” in between his giggles. Tony pushes himself off the wall and jumps into the fray. Tony pretends to subdue Steve by pulling his arms back. Steve lets him and Loki takes the distraction to wiggle off Steve’s lap and onto the floor. He belly crawls across the living room before popping back up, arms raised in front of his face. “That’s enough!” he yells. “Let him go, he’s not our man!”
Tony gasps. “Are you sure it isn’t Uncle Steve?”
Loki reaches into his pants pocket and pulls out a crumpled piece of paper. He unfolds it and holds it next to Steve’s face. On the paper is a crude drawing of a man with yellow hair and a purple shirt. The figure’s mouth is open in what Tony thinks is supposed to be an evil laugh and in its hand is a box labeled ‘Loki’s Toys’.
“It can’t be him!” Loki announces while he folds the paper back up and shoves it into his pocket. “According to this bre-briefing my dad gave me,” Loki pats the pocket he put the paper into, “the hair matches.” Loki pokes Steve’s head. “But!” he yells. “The shirt is the wrong color.” Loki raises an index finger in front of his face and says, “there’s only one person in the whole wide world!”
“Lead the way,” Tony says.
Loki turns to take off again but stop and looks back when Steve makes no sign of moving. “Get up Uncle Steve. We’re gonna need all the backup we can get!”
Steve laughs and shakes his head but stands up anyway. “Of course, always happy to provide backup," he says.
Loki takes off again, for real this time, bounding down the hallway. He runs through the communal kitchen and pulls his plastic and foam quiver off the dining table, slinging it onto his back. Tony and Steve follow behind until they reach the training room. Loki looks up at Steve expectantly at the doorway. Without a word, Steve lifts him to the keypad and lets Loki type in the code to access the gym. The door beeps three times as they cross the threshold.
When Loki first began to walk unassisted, Tony and Bruce went on a massive baby-proofing spree inside the entire compound. One of the many baby-monitor protocols added to Friday’s programming was an alert system on every door. Whenever Loki enters a room that isn’t one of the communal spaces, Friday plays three consecutive beeps to alert the room’s occupants of their child visitor.
Clint does not look up when they enter but he does put down the weights he had been lifting moments earlier. Loki directs Tony and Steve to sneak up from the left while Loki drops to the ground and rolls to the right side. He jumps up when he reaches the wall, taking side steps until he is only a few feet from Clint. He drops to the ground and knocks a foam arrow.
“Hands up!” Loki says. “We’ve got you surrounded!”
Slowly, Clint raises his hands, palms out, in front of him.
“I don’t want any trouble, sir,” Clint says.
“That’s ma’am to you buddy!” Loki yells.
“My apologies, I didn’t mean offense, but I’m innocent ma’am!” Clint says.
“That’s what they all say!” Loki lets the nocked arrow fly and the foam tip soars through the air, striking Clint in the shoulder.
“AAAAhhhh! Clint grabs at his shoulder and sinks toward the ground. “I’ve been hit!” He wobbles on his knees for a moment. “Brought down by the very arrows I made,” he says. He wobbles a moment more before his lets his body hit the floor with a loud thud. He reaches a hand out toward Loki, “brought down by my own student.”
Loki drops the foam and plastic quiver and rushes over to Clint’s side.
“Uncle Tony!” he yells. “We can still save him!”
“I thought Uncle Clint was the culprit! Are you telling me we’re saving the baddies now too?” Tony says. "A little villain rehabilitation?"
“Don’t you see!” Loki yells and Tony is impressed by the level of drama the kid can embody during their glorified game of cops and robbers. They're going to have to enroll him in theater camp at this rate. “It was all a setup! Uncle Clint was framed!”
Tony slaps himself in the forehead. “How didn’t we see it until now,” he says. “Uncle Steve, quick, the med kit!” Tony yells. Steve rushes over to the far side wall where next to the standard med kit that is in nearly every room within the compound, there is another simply labeled ‘Loki’s’. Steve yanks the one marked ‘Loki’ from the wall and rushes over to where Tony and Loki are now crouched around Clint’s prone form.
“There’s not much time,” Steve says. “You guys have got to hurry if you’re going to save him.”
“Oh, we’ll save him,’ Tony says.
Loki rips open the medkit revealing a few bandaids, half a roll of medical gauze, a pair of kid scissors, a Hulk action figure, and a handful of lollipops.
“It’s too late for me,” Clint says. “Go catch the real thief.”
“Never! We’re gonna need you on backup! I can’t take down the toy thief without you!” Loki yells. He unwraps a band-aid and sticks it onto Clint’s shirt where his wound would be if the arrows weren't made of foam and had actual weight to them. “That should stop the bleeding,” he says. Loki takes the Hulk action figure and presses it to Clint’s shoulder making a ‘mwa’ sound while smacking his lips. “And that should make it feel all better.”
“Wow doc,” Clint says sitting up. “Where’d you learn that. I’m totally healed.”
Loki shrugs, “a kiss from a dad makes everything better.” He shoves everything back into the med kit and hands it off to Steve who promptly returns it to its place on the wall.
Loki claps his hands together once then turns to face the three of them. “Good work but we still gotta find the toy thief.” Loki briefly explains their next plan and then he’s off, this time on the search for Sam.
“Well fellas, we better get going. We have a toy thief to catch,” Tony says.
Three hours later, Thor and Bruce return from their trip into the city to catch a baseball game. The communal living room is destroyed. Foam arrows and pillows litter the ground. They follow the path of destruction from the living room to the playroom Tony added a few years earlier when Loki turned three. Steve is passed out on one end of the couch and Clint the other, though Bruce doubts Clint is truly asleep. Sam is asleep with one hand behind his head like a pillow on the floor. Parallel to him lies Tony, and in between the two of them is the sleeping outline of a child underneath a massive blanket.
Thor snaps a photo of the scene with his StarkPhone and Bruce laughs, covering his mouth with a hand to keep it quiet.
Not quiet enough though because Loki pops his head out from under the blanket and shushes them.“Ssshhh Papa! I just got them to sleep!” Loki says in a faux whisper. “They were exhausted!” This time Bruce doesn’t bother trying to keep quiet, he and Thor burst out laughing much to the chagrin of their now scowling child. “Fine, you can put them back to bed,” Loki says as he crosses his arms and marches from the room. This time Bruce doesn't bother trying to hide his laughter and both he and Thor double over in a fit of giggles.