Maia had finished eating, redressed, had had her discharge papers and was waiting for Loki to return when the door opened and two agents in suits entered. One came to where she sat in the chair while the other blocked the doorway.
'Maia Tomson?' The one who stood in front of her asked.
'Yes?' She replied hesitantly.
'You have to come with us, ma'am.'
‘Actually, I'm waiting for someone.'
'That wasn't a request.'
Maia swallowed and slowly got to her feet. 'Okay.' And let them lead her from the medical ward to the elevator. 'Am I in some sort of trouble?' She asked as the elevator doors closed.
'We're just here to escort you.' The man said as he pressed a floor button.
'Hmm.' She murmured as she leaned against the side of the elevator so she could see both of them at the same time. She didn't feel threatened but she equally didn't trust what was going on. As they had a few floors to travel she pulled her phone out and tapped a brief message to Loki, in case he went back for her and she was gone.
M~ been collected by two suits. No idea where I'm heading other than up.
Loki's phone vibrated in his pocket as he entered the conference room, to find not only Hill but Fury present.
'Director Fury.' He nodded in greeting. 'What an unexpected honour.'
'Yeah, Nick.' Tony followed up. 'Not like you to get your hands dirty these days.'
'Just sit down and shut up while we wait for the last of our party to show up.' Nick pointed to the three seats on the left side of the rectangular table, Thor and Steve sitting on the opposite side.
'If I'd known it was a party I'd have brought a drink.' Tony said but no one laughed, in fact Nick glared at him with his one scary dark eye.
'Sit. The. Hell. Down. Stark.'
'Serious meeting, got it.' Tony took the seat in the centre, Loki the one nearest Nick.
Loki gave Thor a questioning look. They had grown up together and had a form of silent communication they had developed to inform one another if the other thought the situation good or bad, which had frustrated Odin but amused Frigga no end. Thor almost shrugged with only his eyebrows then gave a quick upward turn of his lips. Loki raised his chin in a half nod that let him know he understood. He was not in trouble but it was a serious matter nonetheless. He assumed it was regarding the incident with the dark power, but why wait to call the meeting until almost ten pm, unless someone couldn't make it until then? As he realised who that someone probably was there was a knock on the door and an agent stepped inside, revealing Maia all but hidden behind his larger frame, a look of concern on her face.
Loki stood when he saw her, closely followed by Thor and Steve, then last by Tony who actually went to meet her.
'You look pale, Cherry Bomb. You feeling okay?'
'I'm fine, thanks, Tony.' She said as she came into the room and the door was closed.
'Take a seat, Ms Tomson.' Fury said as she squared her shoulders. Tony guided her around the table and deliberately held out the seat beside Loki for her, despite having been seated there himself a moment ago, then took the seat on her other side, speaking as he did.
'So, what are me, Dancer and Rose Red here in the shit for?'
'You aren't in the shit, yet.' Fury threw the file from in front of him to Tony. 'But we do need to clear a few things up.' He turned to look at Maia and she tensed at his attention so much Loki noticed and slipped his hand under the table to rest reassuringly on her knee. 'Ms Tomson, we knew of your status as a mutant when we hired you but we didn't know you held enough power to nullify a source of pure thermal energy.'
Tony passed Maia a piece of paper that looked like a print out from a seismograph, but slightly different.
'I don't actually know what I'm looking at.' She admitted so Tony leant towards her.
'This spike here, that runs level for a while, that's the dark energy. This other brief spike that overpowers it and breaks it up? That's you.'
'Oh.' She managed.
'That data,' Nick continued, 'came from out of state. This thing, whatever it was, was damn powerful, not to mention what you did. We need to know everything the three of you can tell us about what the hell it was and if it's likely to come back.'
'I don't imagine we have seen the last of it, or at least seen the last attack.' Loki said as his fingers began to trace a circle on the inside of Maia's knee.
'And what makes you say that?'
'Simply because I still live.' He shrugged, his light tone not matching his words. 'We were warned some sort of darkness was coming for me and quite frankly it would be a little coincidental if it turned out to be something different, not to mention naïve. I have enemies, who would like me hurt, or worse, and I can provide you with details, but I suspect all I can do is be vigilant.'
Fury looked at him suspiciously. 'I don't think you would tell us even if you knew. You work for us now though, and are not only in our protective custody but in our protection. Until we know more you are to be confined here or to the compound, via secure transport.'
'I do not think hiding is the answer.' Loki argued, thinking of how he was supposed to court Maia when he was unable to leave.
'You will do as you are told, and provide us with your list of who could be responsible as a priority, what they are capable of, what we can expect, and whether it will now treat Ms Tomson as a threat.'
At that Loki's hand tightened on Maia's knee. He hadn't considered what this meant for her. 'I will do so as a priority.' Loki said tightly.
'And you, Ms Tomson,' Fury's gaze fell on her again, 'if you would care to share the extent of your enhancements with us we would be grateful.' There was an edge of sarcasm to his words, as though she had deliberately kept it from them.
'That is the extent of my enhancements.' She stated firmly.
'A thermal neutralising explosion?'
'I guess so.' She shrugged. 'One blast of whatever I use and I'm out.' Fury and Hill shared a look and Maia smiled slightly. 'It's not exactly a power you advertise. I may as well not have it.'
'If you did not have it my brother may not be here now.' Thor reminded her. 'I for one am grateful you were able to intervene.'
'If you could harness that power you'd be an asset to the team.' Steve smiled encouragingly at her.
'I tried for years, Captain Rogers.’ Maia gave him an apologetic look. 'No matter what I try it just goes in one big hit with a blackout at the end.'
'I had an idea about that.' Tony spoke as Loki opened his own mouth to speak.
'That's not always a good thing.' Nick unnecessarily reminded him.
'This time it is.' He leant forward on the table with his elbows. 'Mischief here said Red's power reminded him of him of Asgardian magic. Let him train her.'
Nick gave an unfriendly smile. 'And how will he do that with his powers limited?'
'We take the cuff out of action.'
Arguments broke out around the table, with only Loki and Maia remaining silent. She sat back in her chair as though she could escape the argument, which put her hands in her lap and Loki took the opportunity to slip his hand into hers. She gave him a grateful smile which he returned, delighted she hadn't pulled away.
'Contrary to popular belief, I'm not crazy.' Tony said loud enough to get everyone's attention. 'If you hear me out you'll realise that!'
Silence slowly descended again.
'You're going to have to be very convincing, Stark.' Fury pointed out.
'You really think I'd come in here and not have a safe plan to back it up? Shame on you all.' He admonished mockingly. 'We loan him Banner's room for maybe an hour a day?' He turned to Thor. 'Can the cuff be disabled and reenabled easily? You know, in case we get a code green and need them out fast?'
Loki covered his smirk with his hand. Why Tony had decided to claim this idea as his own he had no clue, but the man was almost as convincing a liar as himself.
'Relatively easily.' Thor nodded.
'Problem solved.' Tony spread his hands wide and sat back in the chair as though he had solved everything.
'Is this something the two of you would agree to?' Hill asked.
'I am willing to participate.' Loki nodded slowly.
'And you, Miss Tomson?'
'I'll try. I'm not sure what good it will do, no offence,' she quickly added, glancing at Loki, 'but I will give it a shot.'
'Great.' Tony clapped his hands together. 'So, party tomorrow night, start training the next day.' He got to his feet. 'Now, if we're done, I have much better things to do than sit around a conference room all night, and Cherry Bomb looks like she needs about twelve more hours sleep.'
Hill and Fury shared a look but it was Steve who answered. 'I don't think we can do much more tonight. Let's get everything we can in order. Loki, make your list, we can come up with our arrangements for secure training facilities, and Ms Tomson, take all the time you need to recuperate.'
No one argued and the meeting came to a close, Fury and Hill leaving first. Loki held Maia's chair as she got to her feet slowly, tiredness seeping back in.
'You should do as Steven suggested and retire.' Loki said quietly as Tony began explaining to Thor and Steve about what security arrangements would be in place for the training, although Thor only half listened, observing his brother and the affectionate way he treated her. He had only ever seen him act this way with one other person. It was nice to see, once again.
'I think so.' She puffed out a breath and ran her hands into her hair. 'Wow, Fury lives up to his name. He's scary.'
Loki laughed. 'A mere kitty cat.'
'With barbarous claws.' She started towards the door, Loki close behind.
'I will escort Miss Tomson to her quarters.' He said into the break in conversation.
There were murmurs of agreement and Steve offered Maia his hand. 'We haven't been formally introduced. Steve Rogers.'
'Maia. It's a pleasure.' She shook his hand. 'And you're Thor.' She smiled at the god before her. 'Thank you for bringing the potion for me.'
'It was the least I could do.' He shook the hand she offered him and bowed his head, but his eyes gave her an expectant look, as though waiting for her to realise something. 'And know you are in good hands. If anyone can help tame your magic it will be my brother. He is as smart as he is mischievous.'
'I noticed, and I really hope he can.'
'I am certainly going to give you my undivided attention.' Loki rested a hand on each of Maia's shoulders then turned to Stark. 'Thank you, Anthony.'
'No problem. And the other thing? Leave it with me.' He pointed and winked at him and Loki wasn't sure he knew to what he referred, but he carried on talking, meaning he couldn't ask. 'And you, get some rest. I want you bright eyed and bushy tailed when you meet the rest of the team tomorrow night, you hear me?'
'Back to squirrel jokes already?' Maia smiled teasingly at him.
'You're my favourite Red Squirrel.' He shrugged. 'Now get out of here.'
Loki guided Maia to the door to several "goodnights" and once they were in the elevator Tony turned to the other two men.
'Fifty bucks says he kisses her goodnight.'
'You are gambling on my brother's romantic prowess?' Thor frowned. 'Because I will see your fifty and wager he will remain a gentleman while she is recovering.'
They looked at Steve expectancy. 'Okay, I admit it, they're cute together.'
'And?' Tony prompted.
'And I think it'll be at the party.'
'You're on.' They all shook hands before leaving for The Avengers floors.