Welcome back. I appreciate your willingness to give this ridiculous thing a second look.

(And just first, to get it out of the way in case I forget later, I have to apologize to Dickens. I spoof 'A Christmas Carol' later on in the fic.)

First, I have to explain myself and where I've taken you. We're in an alternate dimension, where Phase 1 did happen as we witnessed in the films, but Phase 2 is sketchy. Avengers happened as we saw it. Iron Man 3 happened (though probably later than it was supposed to…? I accidentally referenced it as being 'last year' in the first chapter/prologue of this, and then said it had been "several years" since the events of Avengers in more important text later. So, whoopsies). Winter Soldier happened. So did Ant Man.

But. And this is the big one. Events in Asgard transpired in a slightly different manner, mainly because I had demands that Loki be present (and because he's my favorite, and because most of these jokes/'plot' just DON'T WORK without him). But that's also explained in the text. Suffice it to say, The Dark World did NOT happen as we saw it (though an altercation with the Dark Elves did take place), through differing circumstances that I hope will make themselves obvious below, as did Age of Ultron.

Several of the characters have met that hadn't by this point in the movies. I don't have explanations for that at this time. Butterfly effect, I guess.

Civil War has NOT taken place yet. So, unfortunately, Bucky, Black Panther and Quicksilver will not be making any appearances, except in memory. I had all I could do with the characters I'd already been talked into including.

I listed Tony, Natasha and Loki as characters, because 'everyone' wasn't an option, and they ended up being the characters I gravitated most toward.

Anyways. Sorry for the huge-ass AN. Hope it clears up any questions, or at the very least entertains.

Lots of references included. Especially to National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, because it's my favorite. There will also be cameo appearances.

Now, without any further ado, the first chapter proper.

I.

The lights were dim, Christmas music was playing – nice Christmas music, not too brash, not too nostalgic – just sappy enough. Hors d'oeuvres were on the tables.

Tony flicked the weird little vegetable-things off a cracker.

His four guests had collected themselves onto the couches in the middle of the room. Natasha was the center, sitting next to Bruce who had his arm on the back of the seat behind her. She was leaning forward with her elbows on her knees as she spoke with Steve, who sat on the couch opposite. Then they were all laughing at Clint, who'd come over in his Santa-Clause hat with a beer in his hand and plopped himself onto the floor by her feet.

Tony wandered over their way, nursing a scotch, tracing one hand along the smooth leather of the back of Steve's couch. He half-smirked at their laughter and, finding he didn't actually want to eat the cracker he was carrying, he flicked it at Clint.

He stared out the wide panel windows that overlooked the city. There was nothing to see, this time of day, it was too dark with the lights on. Sometimes when Pepper wasn't home and he was drinking he would turn off all the lights and sit on the bar and just look out at all the tiny, flickering points of light.

"Stark,"

"Mm?" Tony spun on his heel. "Who's asking?"

Steve had turned, and now all four of them were looking at him.

Natasha leaned languidly back on the couch. "We lost you for a minute," she gave her slow smile, the one that had something teasing or uncertain about the eyes. Banner's arm dropped around her shoulders.

"Didn't lose me."

Steve was watching him, "You nervous about something, Tony?"

"Who?" Tony half-turned like he was checking to see if anyone was behind him. Then, finding no one he pointed at his chest, "me? No." He put his hand in his pocket and wandered back down onto the level of the three couches, "I'm not nervous. I never get nervous. Are…are you? Nervous? Is that what this is about?"

"What Steve had asked, originally," Natasha uncrossed and re-crossed her legs, "was what you had planned for this eternal Christmas party."

Tony scoffed, "Eternal's putting a grandiose spin on it, don't you think?"

"Tony," Steve gestured with one hand, "even you've got to admit that two weeks is a bit of a stretch."

Tony pointed at him, "Roman emperors had parties that lasted way longer. Nero, anyone?"

Bruce winced, "Are you sure that's the one you wanna go with?"

Clint laughed.

Tony ignored them, "And don't you dare quote our revered Dr., Sir Benjamin Franklin, for me on this. Fish are friends, not food,"

Touching the bridge of his nose with his thumb, Bruce chuckled.

Tony appreciated that. "And friends don't stink after three days. Not when bathed regularly. This is not the Middle Ages, people," pulling up the sleeve of his jacket, he checked his watch, "not yet." He threw a look at the black surface of the floor-to-ceiling windows and pretended not to notice the questioning looks his guests were giving one another.

"This is Christmas!" Tony proclaimed. He clapped his hands and the lights he'd strung along the balcony and around the parameter of the windows flickered to life.

They had the desired effect.

"And I for one," he continued, pacing along the upper step and calling their attention back to his favorite place, himself, "am tired of this festive season being…shoved aside – like it's just another thing to…to check off on the to-do list.

"And I intend," he persisted, "to do something about it. You," he pointed at Steve, "Robbie the Riveter. What's Christmas all about?"

Bruce looked uncertain, "F-fam –"

Tony waved his hand, "Hush you."

Giving a half-smile, Steve sighed, "We're not really doing this, Tony?"

"Yes," Tony said, "yes we are. What's the answer? I know you know it. Now spill."

Steve raised his head, "Like Banner said," his blue eyes met Tony's. "Family."

Tony snapped his fingers. "I knew you were my man. No offence Dr.,"

Bruce raised the hand not around Natasha, palm out in surrender.

Tony turned back to Steve, "Exactly," he said. He rotated on his heel to face the rest of the room, "Family. Which – I might venture to add – many of you are lacking?"

"Not all of us," Clint muttered, raising his bottle to his lips.

Natasha batted the side of his head with her foot.

Clint choked, "Hey!"

"Shh."

"Thank you," Tony told her.

Natasha's smile slid too far to one side, "You'll only make him take longer."

Tony looked at her a long moment, then closed his hand. "…Never mind."

He went further up the step. He liked the distance, the height. "That's not the point." Pacing, he pressed the bridge of his nose. "God, I hate doing this."

He raised his head, and saw all four of them, watching him.

"I called you all here," he said, "because I don't. Because it'd be fun. Because it's something different. Because I thought you'd have a good time. Because no one should be lonely on Christmas. And, for what it's worth – which admittedly isn't much – you matter to me as much as any of them ever did."

Only Natasha was still looking at him, her elbows on her knees and her drink balanced between her hands. The expression on her face was opaque.

Finding that his pacing had led him near the bar, Tony cleared what little distance remained and refreshed his scotch. "Even you, Agent Romanoff," he said.

She smiled with half her mouth, "Good speech, Tony."

"Good evening, Ms. Potts," Friday's voice was tinny, greeting Pepper at the front door, twenty-three floors below, and alerting Tony from the tiny speaker he'd built into his wristwatch.

Tony's blood went suddenly cold.

Natasha's eyes laughed at him though her mouth didn't once so much as twitch, "You didn't tell her, did you?"

Tony straightened. He set his drink down. He straightened his jacket.

"Tony!" Steve fell back on the couch.

Clint whistled.

"Hey," Tony put his palms up, "Vote of confidence? Guys, come on."

Bruce folded his arms and leaned over them, "Oh this is gonna be…awful."

Tony's mouth twisted, "Whose side are you on?"

Bruce pressed his fingers into his eyes, "The losing side."

Laughing, Natasha reached around to rub his back.

They heard the ting of an opening elevator door.

Tony rubbed his hands. He pivoted to face the door, putting up what was supposed to be a confident smile.

Pepper rounded the corner, then drew up short, seeing everyone. Rhodey, beside her, also seemed surprised.

"Hey Honey. Oh, and you too, Pepper," Tony lowered his voice. "Friday,"

"Yes Boss?"
"You didn't tell me Rhodes was here."

Pepper turned bewildered to Rhodes.

He touched his mouth, then folded his arms.

"You…" the AI sounded uncertain, "only asked me to warn you about Ms. Potts. Did I do something wrong?"

"No," Tony sighed, "You did great. I'll just have to…" he touched the bridge of his nose, "fix that."

Pepper shook her head, smoothing out her skirt with the hand that wasn't holding her papers against her chest. Drawing a long breath she faced the room. "Well, hello everyone," her smile was bright, if thin. "This is a surprise."

Spreading his hands, Tony smiled at his latest arrivals, "Surprise," he said.

Rhodey lifted his head out of his hand, "Tony," he said, crossing his arms, "what did you do?"

Tony pointed at him, "I'll deal with you later. You weren't even supposed to be here. I thought you were in a meeting. Shoo. Mingle."

Rhodes looked at him, his expression very dry.

"Colonel Rhodes," Steve got up from the couch.

Rhodes turned to greet him, "Captain Rogers."

Tony left them to it and went past Rhodey to Pepper, who stood where she had stopped upon entering. She wore a dark skirt and heels and she had all her hair brushed back into a ponytail. Tony stopped in front of her and slid his hand around the bundle of papers. She wouldn't quite meet his eyes. Gently, he took the papers from her and set them onto the bar that stood next to them.

"Merry Christmas," he said. He leaned in to kiss her but she turned her head.

"A party, Tony?" she whispered, "A little warning would have been nice."

The bones of her shoulders were delicate, like a bird's. He traced them with his fingertips. "I wanted to surprise you."

She turned her face up to him, almost smiling, "Did you even try to text me?"

Tony moved back a little. He frowned, "What part of 'surprise,' didn't you hear?"

She exhaled a soft sigh, brushing a hand over her eyes, "I'm sorry, Tony," she said, "I should know better by now. Just," she tipped her head back to look in his eyes, "a little warning next time?" she went up and gave him a quick kiss.

"You're totally not getting the 'surprise' thing." Tony told her. "Did you…not have a childhood?"

Pepper gave a breathy laugh, "Yes, but it ended, Tony. Now I'm a CEO."

"You're…" Tony tipped his head, "a little more than that… And what is this coming in with Rhodey? He told me you weren't together?"

She laughed at him, "He happened to meet me on the way in," she smiled, "Said he was worried about you."

Tony let go of her shoulders to make an expansive gesture with his hands, "Why is everyone always worrying about me?"

One eyebrow wrinkled her forehead, "Really, Tony? Have your party," she smoothed down his tie, "It's Christmas. But after they leave, I need to relax."

Giving her head a little shake she turned to greet their guests.

"Yeah," Tony said, "'bout that… You're not gonna like this at first blush…but I guarantee that once you let it sink in…"

"Two weeks?" Rhodey rounded on him.

"Ohh-kay," Tony said, "See? That was not how I wanted to spring that. But cat's out of the bag now…"

Rhodes looked exasperated. "Tony…"

Pepper stopped, then she turned to face him, realizing all of a sudden what Tony hadn't told her. She closed her eyes. "You did," she asked him, "what?"

"That's not fair." Tony protested, "You didn't let me finish."

"Oh, this is gonna be good." Rhodey squared his feet and put his hand over his mouth.

Pepper crossed her arms.

"Why don't you go…and lie down for a while," Tony started.

"How do I not expect these things?" Pepper interrupted him.

"…and we'll talk," Tony said over her, "when you're feeling better."

"No," she demanded. "We are talking, right now."

"Mmm, no. But you're not listening to my side –"

"Your side?"

"Really? I'm not – Do I really not get a say?"

"We don't have to stay," Steve said from behind Pepper.

That threw her off, she turned around and looked at him.

"You know what, Rogers?" Tony said, "Thanks, but no thanks. I'm trying to have a conversation here,"

"Tony," Pepper held up one hand. She closed her eyes.

Very slowly, she exhaled and lowered her hand.

"I've had a very long day," she said. "And I would like nothing more, in the world, than a glass of wine and a hot bath. I am going to give you, three minutes, to explain yourself."

"Um," Tony blinked, "On the spot…uh," he ran a hand through his hair.

"Stark," Natasha said from the couch.

Tony put up his hand, "Just give the GPS a minute to warm up…"

"Tony,"

"What?" he turned on her.

Natasha's expression was oddly…reassuring. "Tell her what you told us," she said.

Tony watched her for a long minute, but her face didn't change.

"Tony," Pepper prompted.

"Look," Tony started, "it's Christmas…"

She folded her arms. "I-I know it's Christmas."

"No," he said, "Don't do that. Just – just listen for a minute –"

"What do you think we're all doing?" she demanded.

"Do you even want to listen to me?"

"Yes." Pepper shook her head, "Yes, Tony. I'm sure we all want to know what this is all about."

"See, you say 'yes,' but you're –"

Natasha's voice caught him again. "Tony," she said.

"Right. What I said before," he put his hand, stopping his ear, "...and what I said before was that Christmas is about family. And since not everyone here has a family to go home to –"

"Oh, so now the Avengers are your altruistic holiday project?"

"No!" he said, "No. I didn't say that. Don't put words in my mouth, I can do that just fine by myself."

"Are you sure it's not just Tony Stark showing off?"

"No. It's more than that. It's –"

"I can't do it anymore Tony –"

She wasn't looking at him and he couldn't stand it. He took her arms in his hands. "I don't have a family."

She stopped, and she just looked at him.

He gave a long breath. "I, don't have a family," he repeated, softer. "And you," he traced her arms with his thumbs, "and," he glanced around the room at the others, all awkwardly watching the two of them, "all of you, are all I have left. So, there it is." Letting go of Pepper's arms he stepped back. "I'm your altruistic holiday project, I guess," he shrugged. "If you'll have me. I'd like," he offered, "to make it a little bit of fun along the way."

Pepper gave a long sigh, and she closed her eyes.

"For the record," Rhodey interjected. "This is not what I meant when I told you to ask your other friends."

Pepper turned on him, "You're in on this too?"

Rhodey held up his hands, "It's not like that –"

He was cut off by a beam of white light that sliced the blackness outside the windows and temporarily blinded all of them as they turned in surprise. It made no sound and it took up the entire view for long enough that they all caught their breath, then, just as quickly, it vanished.

"Was that…" Rhodey asked after a beat, "what I think it was?"

Tony looked at his watch, re-gathering his swagger, "A little late," he said, "but, eh," he shrugged, "can't rush God. Or, rather," he went past them, "a god. Since that's apparently a genus now. And with that glorious light show," he threw open the doors, letting in a cold wind, "that gang's all here!"

"Weirdly enough." Rhodey muttered from behind him, "this is normal now."

As Tony strode out onto the landing pad, he saw movement in the dark, coming toward him. Then the light from inside the Tower shone on Thor's face.

"Friend Stark!" he clapped a heavy hand on Tony's shoulder.

"Ow, easy there, Point Break, in a suit, not the suit."

Behind Thor, he saw another shape slip free of the darkness.

Lowering his voice, marginally, Tony said, "Shoulda asked first maybe?"

Thor's eyebrows rose, "Our mother insisted," he said, like it was the most natural thing in the world.

"Well," Tony shrugged, "you know, so long as mom's happy,"

"Exactly," Thor smiled. "I trust there is no emergency gathering us this night? That all is well? The messenger you sent seemed…distracted."

"Nope. No emergency," Tony said. He patted Thor's huge bicep. "Come on," he said. "Party's inside. Or it was. Go on," he flipped his wrists, shooing everyone back towards the Tower, "Scoot."

Rhodey and Pepper were talking lowly.

Thor bowed, "Lady Pepper," he took her hand and kissed the back of it.

She smiled, "It's good to see you, Thor."

Bruce looked a little lost from Natasha to Steve, "How did he get a message…?" he trailed, "Even Fury…?"

"Oh, that," Tony smirked, "I sent a bird."

"Oh yeah," Clint laughed, "I can just see you, persuading the pigeons in Central Park," he pretended to scatter seed, then bobbed his head, blinking his eyes in imitation of the pigeon.

"Don't tempt him Clint," Natasha was wearing Bruce's coat around her shoulders. "You don't know what you're getting into."

"Should be all over the tabloids by now," Tony said.

Clint straightened, looking at Natasha, "You know what?" he said. He rubbed the back of his neck, pushing the hat up at an odd angle, "Sad thing is, I do."

Smiling, Natasha shook her head, "And here I was, thinking you'd learn."

Barton chuckled.

Tony shrugged, "Look it up," he said.

Bruce's smile faltered, "You didn't…"

"Did you think any less of me?" Tony turned on him, "Shame on you, Banner. After all we've been through. Hey, what's the holdup? It is cold out here, people, and I have a perfectly good Tower right there."

"Let's go boys," Natasha said, "I think I need to refresh this."

Bruce took the glass from her as they went.

Tony stepped out of the way of the door, letting Pepper, Rhodey, Natasha, Bruce and Clint all pass him. Then Steve and Thor, who were animatedly discussing some new move they wanted to try out for their missions. Tony smirked. He'd had the gym on the lower floor revamped for just such an occasion.

Loki made no move to pass him.

It had been a few years since Loki had attempted Earth's subjugation. After his defeat and forcible removal from the planet, he had faced what Thor assured them was some excruciating form of Asgardian justice – the details of which Thor implied he himself was too pained to reveal. Upon Loki's release from whatever Asgardian cell they'd kept him in for the duration of the punishment, their father had demanded that he serve the remainder of his sentence aiding the very mortals he had fought to vanquish. Tony didn't know that it was a form of justice he approved of, but there was apparently no more point in arguing with any of Thor's family members than in arguing with the Thunder God himself. He comforted himself with the fact that it had to be a stunning blow to the former-villains pride. And he was willing to be a part of that, so long as there was some kind of contingency plan for when the irate godling turned on them.

Which, though it had never happened, still existed in Tony's mind as a relatively distinct possibility.

Even after Loki helped defeat Strucker. Tony had kinda thought he was only in that to get the scepter he could so easily track back for himself, but, to the trickster's credit, he hadn't even made so much as a move toward the Glowstick of Destiny. Didn't want to look at it, if his act was to be believed. And Thor for one had clearly believed it.

He'd lashed out more viciously than Tony had thought strictly necessary during the Ultron crisis, but Thor had too, and the brothers seemed more united in that than Tony had ever seen them before, and he was assured that that was no cause for his alarm.

And it was pretty decent of Loki to block that particular piece of shrapnel that was flying through all the PTSD at his chest that one time. Far be it from Tony not to admit that he appreciated that.

And the time that Loki had brought Banner back from what looked to be certain death. It had been especially funny, since Hulk had come back in Banner's place. Tony kinda wished he'd gotten a picture of Loki's face, so he could have set it as the screensaver for every electronic device in the Tower. What was less funny was that Hulk had taken out almost half a block before VERONICA had shown up, but that was due to technological difficulties that had been entirely Tony's own fault.

It had been a number of years, and where Thor was summoned, Loki followed. By obligation only. The few times Thor had come purely for what the god called 'sport' Loki was notably absent. Until now.

Tony took a deliberate step toward him and put his hands into his pockets. "Not that the cold bothers you, anyway."

Loki didn't move. He only looked at Tony for a long moment from under his dark and delicately sculpted brows, before inclining his chin a fraction. "Stark."

Tony turned to look over the platform, knowing that the move would irritate the god. "I've got to decorate out here," he muttered. "Maybe some red and green lights…Very festive…" He rounded on Loki, "How's Margo?"

Loki looked at him. And if it wasn't for their long and illustrious working relationship, Tony would have missed the brief flicker across his face, and he definitely wouldn't have recognized it as barely-concealed confusion. He patted himself on the back for his improving acuity.

He smirked, "'Christmas Vacation' reference. Duly," he pulled one hand from his pocket pretending to mark on it, "noted." He mimed closing the notebook and slipping it back in his pocket. Clicking the imaginary pen he put his hands back into his pockets, "We will have to make a viewing part of the festivities. You'd –" Glancing up he cocked his head at Loki, "You know, I have no idea. Do you like slapstick?"

Loki's expression might have been an eye-roll and might have been indicative of him silently begging Heimdall to reconsider his freedom. Giving a short sigh he closed his eyes. "Undoubtedly," he said.

"Was that sarcasm?" Tony grinned. "Eh, screw it, you'll love it." Closing the small distance between them, Tony gripped his shoulder.

With a look of disgust, Loki shoved him off.

So, Tony prodded his chest with two fingers. "No stabby-stabby in my Tower this time, capiche?"

Loki looked down his nose at him. "Would you have had me stay my hand last time, Stark?" he drawled, "Because, as I recall…"

"No, no actually, that was a good one. You did a good thing there," he patted Loki's shoulder, "Was mostly referring to the…other…times. Okay. Good talk. Square deal. Want in? Because I don't think Big Brother's gonna appreciate it if I let you stay outside, and we mortals do feel the cold."

"Mm." Loki said. "It would appear that I must then, for your sake."

"Because I could just get Thor out here to –"

"Let me pass, Stark."

"Sure thing, Reindeer Games. Oh, and, one more thing," Tony gripped his shoulder as the god passed him in the doorway.

Loki stopped half-way across the threshold. He didn't actually turn his head, but he glared at Tony well enough without that.

"Merry Christmas." Tony slapped him on the back and released him. He stepped through after and shut the door. Shoving his hands back into his pockets, he shivered.

Looking across this tiny portion of his domain, Tony saw that his guests had gathered back in the midpoint of the room, centered around the couches and the bar. Pepper had taken a place on the couch facing him with her feet propped up on the coffee table. She'd left her coat slung over the back of a chair and let her hair down. The light glinted off of her hair as she moved.

Steve was telling a story, and she was laughing at it.

Smiling, Tony went down to join them.

II.

"You know the deal," Stark dropped onto the couch, "you and Evil-Brother room together."

Thor half-smiled. It had grown quite late; Loki had retired some time since. Thor was just saying that he might join him.

"Yup…" Tony laid back.

Rhodes had taken his leave long ago, and Lady Pepper had gone to her room shortly thereafter. The others had fallen into soft talk or companionable silence.

"Knew he was scared of the dark," Tony continued. "Thought it might be some comfort to him, having you around…"

Pausing as he rose, Thor looked at him, "He told you that?"

Tony faced him from under one hand, "Um, no? No. I just made that up. I put you two together, because I want to diminish the volume of evil he is left free to generate."

Thor gave a low chuckle, "Even after all this time," he said, "You still do not trust him?"

"Uh…No. That's a pretty sure no."

"You know what, guys?" Banner roused himself. "It's late for all this, I'm…I think I'm gonna turn in."

Rising, Thor extended his hand to help Banner to his feet.

"Thanks."

Thor looked over the little group, "Banner is right," he said. "I too shall retire. Rest well, my friends."

Tony gave a non-comital wave.

"Night, Thor," Natasha smiled.

Mjolnir balanced between his hands, Thor took the elevator to the floor Stark had designated as his when this building had been completed. It was a pleasant place. It had a good view of the sky.

The elevator door chimed as it opened and Thor watched it with a little smile he was totally unaware of. He stepped out of the elevator and into the dark of his rooms. He went quietly through the space, dodging the table he had moved when last he had partaken of Stark's hospitality, and a chair he half-saw in the darkness. He tripped over an ottoman he wasn't sure he had ever seen before.

Then he paused on the outer side of the inner-chamber door.

It had been created a large room – nearly the largest bedroom among those in the Tower – designed with huge windows that could be drawn at spoken command. Once Loki had begun accompanying Thor on his missions, Tony had had another bed brought and placed within. They had not shared a room since childhood, and Loki did not enjoy that such was asked of him now.

Nervously, Thor drummed his fingers on Mjolnir's head. Then, dropping his hand he rapped gently against the doorframe with one knuckle.

Receiving no answer, and assuming from that that Loki must have truly been tired and not merely seeking sanctuary from his friends, Thor breathed a sigh of relief and opened the door.

His eyes were immediately drawn to the far side of the room, where Loki was lying on his back, on the bed farthest from the door, with one arm behind his head and the other extended nearly to its full length above his face as he silently watched the little flames that he flicked up and down the fingers of his splayed hand. The glow played across the hard lines of his face.

Startled, but not truly surprised, Thor watched him for a moment, then turned and brought the door to once more behind him. Quietly, he laid Mjolnir in its place, then went across to a spot in the middle of the wall nearer Loki's bed where there was a little low table. Leaning backward against it, he rubbed his hands.

"You're not asleep," he offered, at length.

He saw Loki's jaw tighten.

"All right," Thor folded his arms. "It's obvious that you don't want to be here."

Loki gave no sign that he had heard.

"Are you not going to speak to me?"

"I was waiting to see if you had anything to say of pertinence," Loki answered. He closed his fist and the fire winked out, dropping the dark over both of them. The glow of his fire was replaced by the thin light from the city below. "What do you want, Thor?"

"Well," Thor said, "I would appreciate it if you could at least pretend you're enjoying yourself."

The light caught on the objects in the room, but left the bed in darkness. Thor couldn't see him at all.

"You know very well that I'm not," he said dryly, "Why shouldn't they?"

"These are my friends, Brother."

"Yes. Your friends."

"Yours as well if you made any effort."

In the dark, Thor heard Loki scoff.

"What has passed is past, Loki," he said, "if you would only have it so."

To that, Loki made no answer.

Pushing himself up, Thor went over to the bed. He leaned down and braced his hand against the wall.

Loki glared at him.

"Please, Brother," he asked, "It's only for a fortnight."

Loki looked at him for a long moment, then away. When he brought his eyes back they were softer than they had been. "They're all going to die," he murmured.

Thor half-smiled. "But not today."

"But soon."

"As are we."

Loki rolled his eyes, "A worthy comparison, Thor, truly. Now get off." Rolling to his feet he pushed past Thor's arm. "I don't see why I have to be involved."

Thor turned to follow him. "Yes you do," he grinned.

Loki flicked him a look, then turned back to the window, where he'd stopped and stood, looking down at the city.

Thor went and stood next to him, following his gaze. So many lights. And they was so different from Asgard.

"You never did appreciate festivities, did you?"

Loki didn't look at him. "Did I?"

"Not since we were very young."

"No," Loki said softly, "I suppose I didn't."

Thor turned from the window and looked at him, "What…changed?" he asked.

Loki only glanced at him, "I changed." He drew a breath, "Has Stark made known to you," he asked, filling the space before Thor could speak again, "what he intends to do with us for a fortnight?"

He wanted to change the conversation from himself. Thor recognized the tactic. Loki had employed it often before. Drawing a long breath, Thor squared his feet. "He wishes to share his festival traditions with us," he answered. He folded his arms. "No more and no less."

Loki's mouth twisted, "Now that I doubt," he said. "Earth's festivals are not so lengthy, this age."

"Then what is it you think he intends?"

Loki smiled acerbically at him, "He hasn't taken me into his confidence."

"Nor me either."

Loki only shook his head, looking down through the glass at the city with one hand against his lips.

Silence fell between them for one moment, before Thor broke it. "Don't…you know something of them?"

Loki looked at him.

"Human traditions, I mean. Weren't you always…interested in…those sorts of things?"

"You mean the 'worthless foolery' that distracted me from my 'more worthy' pursuits?" Loki's mouth tipped sarcastically. "That was long ago." He flicked his hand, "I know nothing of this age's traditions."

"But you do know something," Thor pressed.

Loki frowned.

"Look at ours!" Thor flung out one arm, "Steady for eons!"

"Yes." Loki said dryly. "In the 'Realm Eternal'. Are you sure that's all he wants? To 'share his traditions'?"

"Loki," Thor sagged, "enough."

"When have I been wrong?" Loki pressed. "You do recall his 'Ultron'?"

Thor sighed. The glass fogged with his breath. Leaning one arm against the cold pane he saw his own reflection, and through it, the lights of the city.

"This is different," he decided at length. "You'll see."

"We all shall."

"Go to sleep." Thor told him. "The revels begin in earnest at dawn."

"Oh," Loki drawled, "Goody."

Turning back to the window, Thor chuckled. "Rest well, my brother."

Believe it or not. This story was supposed to be crack.

Little known fact: I can't write crack.