Discipline should never involve fear. Then you've lost the battle and the trust of your child, and won only enmity.~ Loki
"What's going on here, guys?"
The two boys turned guiltily to see Steve behind them dressed in jeans,sneakers, and a flag pullover. Vince nearly wilted in relief. "Uncle Steve, we have a problem."
"Anything I can do to help?"
"Not unless you can speak goat," Hunter declared. "Or fix broken suits."
Steve looked puzzled. "Hunter, did something happen with Thor's goats?"
"Yeah. Look in there and you"ll see."
Cap did and immediately said, "How did that happen?"
"It wasn't on purpose," Hunter began. "We were feeding them and I was pushing the wheelbarrow out the gate when the goats got out."
"We tried to catch them with food and all but they were too fast,"Vince went on. "Then they got in the house and umm . .. they ate Uncle Tony's suit."
"Uh, okay. Let's get your Uncle Thor to help us corral those goats, then we'll figure out what to do about Tony's suit." Steve began calmly. "You stay here and keep trying to call them. I'll be right back with Thor."
This made sense, so the boys tried again to get Tanngrisnr and Tanngjostr to come to them.
The snow white goat looked up with a piece of red metal dangling from his mouth, and despite the seriousness of the situation, Vince couldn't help giggling at him.
"My God! What the hell is going on here? My armor!" Tony bellowed. "You bloody goats!"He spun on the two brothers. "Weren't you supposed to be watching them, Hunter? Were you playing instead of doing your work? Is that how they got out of the pen?"
Hunter shrank away from the angry man. "No, they just got out, Uncle Tony."
"It wasn't our fault! They escaped when Hunter was pushing the wheelbarrow out," Vince defended. "We didn't mean to let them escape and eat your suit." He bit his lip to keep from crying.
"You didn't mean to? Do you have any idea how much money just went down the throat of that goat because of your irresponsibility?" Tony was so mad he was practically spitting.
"I'm sorry," Hunter began miserably.
"Yeah well sorry doesn't fix what you broke, boy."
"Don't yell at him!" Vince cried. "It was an accident!"
"You watch your mouth, you little brat! I saw you laughing as that goat ate my suit. I oughta -!"
Hunter shoved Vince behind him. "If you wanna hit somebody, hit me. I was in charge-"
"Man of Iron, do not raise your voice at my nephews," Thor ordered, striding into the hallway.
"Thor, your goats ate my new suit and these kids let them out and think it's a big joke-"
"Tony, calm down," Steve began, ever the peacemaker.
While the argument raged, Vince grabbed Hunter's phone from his pocket and crept into the den, where he sent a text to Loki.
Seconds later, the God of Mischief appeared in the den. "It's okay. I'm here."
Vince ran and threw his arms around Loki's waist. "Dad, Uncle Tony's real mad and the goats got out by mistake, and ate his suit . . ."
Loki knelt and hugged his frightened child while Vince told him what happened. "You're not in trouble, son. I'm going to take you home and then I'll deal with your uncle." Loki's voice was soft but there was steel beneath the velvet.
Loki teleported back home with Vince, saying, "I'll be back with your brother. Go and eat a snack."
Then he vanished, arriving back at the mansion and heading towards the source of the shouting.
His temper spiked when he saw Hunter cringing against a wall while Thor and Steve stood in front of him arguing with Tony, who was flushed with anger.
"Dad?" Hunter said, startled. "The goats, umm . .."
"I know, wolfing. I'll fix it." Loki reassured him, then he sidestepped the three Avengers and entered the armory. "Tanngrisnr, Tanngnjostr, come!" He ordered in Norse, using a tone that nothing, not even a pair of stubborn mischievous goats, would disobey.
Tanngrisnr and Tanngnjostr immediately trotted over to him, bleating in recognition . Loki scratched their heads then said, "You haven't forgotten me, have you? Now be good and go home," he opened a portal to their pen and they obediently went through it.
Then he moved over to the ruined suit of armor and drew a few magical runes over it, spoke a Word of Power and the suit was mended. He waved a hand and put it back on it's stand.
He turned and strode over to where Tony was still haranguing his teammates, and spoke in a quiet derisive tone, "By the Nine, Stark, quit acting like some emo teenager who lost his boyfriend. All this fuss over some metal and wires."
"Loki! This is all your kids' fault! If they had been more responsible instead of playing around-"
"Stark, you're out of line," Loki growled. "Your precious suit is no longer damaged. I fixed it, so you can quit the dramatics. No harm done."
"No harm? Those kids need discipline, Master Mischief, something I know you're not a great example of-"
"Man of Iron, you wrong my brother with your words-" Thor interrupted.
"Thor, I can fight my own battles," Loki snapped in Norse. "Look after Hunter. We need to have this discussion in private." His temper skyrocketing, the Asgardian reached out and snagged Tony's sleeve, then teleported them into the kitchen. Waving a hand, he warded the room so no one could hear what was said.
"Listen, Loki, I know you think you ought to be your kids friends but-"
"No, you listen, Stark. I know you think I let my children get away with mischief, but you couldn't be more wrong. I might not fit your idea of a stern disciplinarian, and that's by choice, because I refuse to treat my kids the way I was treated growing up. You want to know why? Because I grew up in a society that believed the way you teach right from wrong is to beat it out of you."
"Laufeyson, no kid ever died from a spanking."
"Stark, I'm not talking about a whack on the backside. I'm talking about being hit with a switch till it left marks. Marks I bear to this day. My father, my tutors, they all thought the answer was to beat the insolence and mischief out of me. But those methods failed. All they taught me was to not get caught, and if I was to lie my way out of it. I learned to fear those in authority, and worse to distrust that they ever cared for me at all. Because their so called caring left me bruised and bleeding, my trust broken, betrayed by the ones who were supposed to protect me." His emerald eyes flashed with bitter gall, like wormwood.
"Loki, I always thought-"
"What? That I was some cosseted spoiled brat? Think again. I was never my father's favorite son. Thor was always his pride and joy, while I was the son he adopted out of pity and some sense of obligation. Oh, he'd claim otherwise, but the proof is written in my flesh. It's not something I can ever forget. And that is why you will never see me raise a hand to any of my children. Because I know it doesn't work. Not on me and not on them. The orphanage manager thought as you did, and his so-called discipline caused Hunter to run away to Fenris, Vince to develop claustrophobia, and Max to develop PTSD so bad he spent the first three months with me hiding under a bed, flinching every time I touched him, and having nightmares. Discipline through fear is wrong. It just breeds enmity. And once you break your child's trust that way, you need to move heaven and Earth to get it back again-if you even can. My father never did. That ought to tell you something."
Tony looked suddenly ashamed. "Loki, I never knew about you or the kids . . ."
"Now you do," he replied in an even tone. "That's also why I don't raise my voice. Because it triggers memories best left sleeping. Also I don't need to shout to get my children to obey. I just need to listen and make sure they understand that even when they're bad I still love them. That they aren't unworthy of being loved and they don't have to earn my love. It will always be there. I will always be there, the way my parents almost never were. I learned from living here that there are others ways to discipline besides a switch, or tearing apart self-esteem, ways that don't leave marks. "
"Yeah, but your kids still get in trouble," Tony coughed.
"They're kids. It's expected. It's also how you learn. I don't demand perfection, Tony. That way I'm never disappointed. I do ask for respect and for them to try not to repeat mistakes they've made. But if they do, then I correct it, gently, until the lesson sticks. It works, not perfectly, but we deal with it."
"I shouldn't have assumed anything. I'm sorry. I think I scared Vince with my screaming."
"You did, a little. It was why he called me. I sent him home." He smirked at the astonishment on the others face. "What you thought I magically divined I should come over? I'm good but not that good."
"Uh, sort of."
"You learn something new everyday," Loki chuckled.
Tony coughed uncomfortably. "I'm sorry I misjudged you. I promise I won't tell anyone what you told me,not even your brother."
"Thor knows ""Loki told him. "I never would have told you if I didn't trust you to keep my secret. Just don't betray me," he warned. "The consequences would not be pleasant."
"You have my word." He reached out and clasped the other's hand. "Friends?"
"Indeed. Now, I think I need to take Hunter home for lunch. I don't like leaving Sam in charge for too long since Max and Aleta could drive an angel to drink."
Tony smiled. "Those two are like monkeys on crack."
Loki giggled. "Too true."
He rose from the chair and together they made their way back to the den, where they found Hunter drinking some soda and listening to Thor tell an amusing tale about the time he went to Jotunheim.
Tony approached Hunter and said, "Hey, Hunter. I just wanted to apologise for overreacting about my suit. Your dad was right, it was an accident. I didn't mean to scare you, sometimes I get loud and obnoxious when I'm upset."
"That's okay, Uncle Tony. I'd been freaking out if Tanngnjostr had eaten my XBox." His stomach rumbled audibly.
"Sounds like you're ready for lunch, wolfing," Loki observed.
"Yeah. Can we have burgers?"
"With lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, Maple bacon, and special sauce?" Loki teased.
Tony was drooling. "Laufeyson,you make Big Macs?"
"Better. He makes Loki burgers." Hunter licked his lips. "With rosemary sweet potato fries."
"That sounds wonderful. I'll need to try one sometime."
"Why don't you and Uncle Thor come over for lunch?" Hunter suggested.
"Loki, is that okay?"
"Yes"," the Asgardian agreed, though it was a lucky thing he had magic so he could replicate the amount of hamburgers he would need. "Come on, we'd better get home so I can start grilling."
"I can help with that, brother," offered Thor.
Loki gave him a pained look. "Thor, do you remember what happened last time you tried to grill a steak?"
"Oh. Never mind. Tony and I will occupy the kids while you cook, Master Chef."
"Thanks," Loki said, relieved. "At least the fire department won't be paying a visit today."
"Very funny," Thor glared at his brother.
"Just what is in that special sauce, Loki?"Tony wheedled.
"Ah ah, Stark." Loki shook a reproving finger at the Avenger. "That's for me to know and never ever tell."
"Aww! Not even a hint?"
"What good would a secret recipe be if I told what ingredients were in it?"
"May as well give up, Man of Iron. My brother keeps secrets forever."
"Like his chocolate chip cookies," Hunter added. "That recipe is locked up tighter than the treasure vault of Fafnir."
"Seriously? What is so secret about a chocolate chip recipe?" Tony asked, puzzled.
"Nobody bakes chocolate chip cookies like Dad " Hunter boasted. "And there's a secret ingredient in them only he knows."
"You need to taste them, Tony," Thor said. "I could eat two dozen."
"Could? Thor, you eat two dozen for a snack," Loki smirked.
"Are you making them too?"
Loki heaved a sigh. "Very well. I'll make the dough and Hunter and Samantha can bake them. "
While his older kids baked, Loki made the special sauce, cut up everything else, and made sweet potato fries. He fired up the grill and began cooking burgers, first seasoning them with his own blend of herbs and spices. Once all the burgers were cooked he put the fixings on them and went to call the kids and their uncle's to the table.
Only to find Thor and Tony tied with bungee cords and duct tape to chairs.
"By the Nine! How did this happen?"
"Mmmhph!" Thor muttered through the gag.
Loki took the tape off. "What's going on?"
"Uh we were playing Prisoner," Thor told him, flushing.
Loki struggled not to bust out laughing.
"Only you, brother."
He undid the restraints and duct tape.
Then he called the children in for lunch.
They stampeded into the kitchen like a herd of starving buffalo and fell upon the food like locusts.
Soon there remained nothing but scraps on the platters. Then Loki brought out the chocolate chip cookies and they too were devoured.
Loki leaned back in his recliner, munching a handful of cookies and drinking a glass of chocolate milk while the kids cleaned up the kitchen. He felt a pleasant lassitude steal over him. All's well that ends well, he thought drowsily.
Until Thor shook him awake. "Loki, we have a problem."
"What? You eat too many cookies? There's peppermint tea in the cabinet."
"No. Mjolnir's missing."
"Nine Hells, Thor! Not again!"