When Maia came out of the shower wrapped in two towels, Loki had made coffee. His tie was finally gone but his shoes were back on.
‘Suit or casual?’ She asked, poking her head back out of the bedroom.
He looked up at her from where he had been examining her bookshelf. ‘Casual. You are supposed to be recuperating.’
‘I feel fine.’ She reminded him.
‘I can contest to that.’ He smiled wickedly at her.
‘Shush!’ She laughed, her skin flushing even more than it was from the shower, the freckles that smattered her shoulders almost disappearing against the colour. He laughed to himself as the bedroom door closed.
Maia was only a few minutes, which surprised Loki, but he admitted it was a pleasant one as she had forgone make up, and wore a simple fitted black “V” neck t-shirt and blue jeans. She was combing her still damp hair which was much longer than when it was dry.
She took the coffee he offered, taking a small drink to judge the temperature before giving him a surprised look. ‘This is perfect. Thank you.’
‘You are quite welcome.’ He wrapped an arm around her and kissed her temple, having to bend considerably as she was barefoot. ‘I should warn you that sometimes one of The Avengers will cook for all the others, however by now the kitchen should be clear, especially given the time.’
‘Won’t it be busy, with the party tonight?’ She looked up at him and he couldn’t resist kissing her lips while they were tilted towards him.
‘Only the common areas. The kitchen is reasonably private.’ He licked his lips with a smile. ‘Until now I had never found the flavour of coffee appealing, however I have a renewed appreciation for it.’ He took the cup from her hands, took a sip then placed the cup on the counter before pulling her into his arms and kissing her deeply. Maia whimpered as her arms curved around his neck, her fingers tangling in his hair, as the taste of coffee on his tongue took her breath away. She was so distracted by him she didn’t even realise he had lifted her with his forearms around her thighs until he broke the kiss.
‘You’re a distraction.’ She breathed with a small smile.
‘Of the good kind, I do hope?’ He carefully lowered her back to her feet as he spoke.
‘Of the best kind. At this rate we’ll be having lunch, not breakfast.’
‘Perhaps I am not the only one who is a distraction.’
‘Touché. I’ll go grab my shoes.’
Ten minutes later they stepped off the elevator and onto The Avengers floor. Loki had threaded her arm through his as they left and had not yet let her go, nor did he plan to. There was some bustle of preparation in the common room and Loki whisked Maia down a side corridor and into an enormous communal kitchen diner, which wasn’t as empty as he had hoped. Thor was here, by the window, talking quietly into a Stark Phone, Steve was loading the dishwasher with plates as Bruce passed them to him after rinsing them in the sink. It was so normal and domesticated it took Maia aback for a moment.
‘Good morning.’ Steve smiled warmly as he closed the door on the dishwasher. ‘How are you feeling, Miss Tomson?’
‘Good, thank you, Captain Rogers.’ She smiled back.
‘Just Steve, please.’ He dried his hands on a towel.
‘Then you have to call me Maia.’
‘Deal. Have you met Bruce?’
‘A few days ago. Nice to see you again, Dr Banner.’
‘Hey.’ He nodded in greeting. ‘I have to go check something in the labs, but I’ll see you tonight?’ He looked between them all then left. He didn’t seem very comfortable around Loki, and he didn’t blame him.
‘Coffee?’ Steve offered. ‘Or juice? Tea?’
‘I am going to prepare breakfast for us.’ Loki informed him. ‘Has everyone else eaten?’
‘As far as I know. There’s some pancake batter in the refrigerator, if you want to use it feel free.’
‘Pancakes, sweet?’ Loki asked, looking down at her.
He guided her to a stool on the far side of the counter, lifting her at the waist and onto it before she could climb up, and went to the fridge.
‘It’s late for breakfast.’ Steve commented as he brought two mugs over and put them beside Maia before bringing over the pot and offering her a cup, she nodded gratefully.
‘We slept late.’ Loki commented blandly as he passed the milk without being asked.
‘What?’ Steve realised Loki hadn’t just been to collect Maia.
‘Slept, Steven. You know what that is. I believe you did it for seventy years, or thereabouts.’
Maia bit her lip to stop herself laughing at Loki’s casual reply, then tried to mime to Steve’s shocked expression they had only slept, and nothing else, while Loki’s back was turned. Steve looked slightly confused for a moment then worked it out and nodded, leaning on the counter so he could talk to her quietly and Loki couldn’t hear over the banging of pans.
‘So you and he…kissed? You’re like, a couple?’
She nodded, blushing faintly, nowhere near like she did with Loki. ‘Just kissed.’ She whispered back and it was Steve’s turn to blush.
‘I didn’t mean, I mean, Tony kind of started a pool as to when he’d kiss you, and…’
‘When did you pick?’ Maia asked in amusement.
‘At the party.’ Steve admitted reluctantly. ‘If you say it was last night Tony will be unbearable.’
‘Sorry?’ She said with an apologetic smile.
‘Dollar in the swear box, Rogers!’ Tony’s voice preceded him into the room but he saw Loki first before he got out of the corridor. ‘Oh, what’s this? Mischief’s hair unbrushed and yesterdays clothes? Walk of shame!’ He came into view around the corner to find not only was Loki glaring at him but Maia and Steve too. ‘Oh, hi, Cherry Bomb. How’s it going?’ He came and put his arm around her, hugging her to him.
‘Are you drunk?’ She pulled a face as he let her go.
‘Nope, sleep deprived and hopped up on coffee. Worked all night. Why?’
‘I didn’t realise we were on a hugging basis.’
Loki’s head spun around with a scowl on his face aimed at Tony. Steve seemed to be the only one who caught it and grabbed his coffee, walked around Maia and pulled Tony away with the shoulder of his anarchy t-shirt.
‘Come on, Tony. I need to get you that fifty bucks.’
‘What fifty bucks?’ Tony asked as he followed him then stopped dead and turned back with wide eyes. ‘Oh. Ohhh!’
Maia face palmed and was grateful Steve pulled him out of the room.
‘What exactly do you suppose that was about?’ Loki put the butter and syrup on the counter while the pan was heating.
‘They had a pool going.’ Maia explained. ‘To see who could guess when we would have our first kiss.’
‘Please do not tell me Anthony won?’
‘He won.’ She confirmed.
‘The man swings between being helpful and a horses arse, I swear.’ Loki turned back to the pan as Tony came sprinting back into the room.
‘Almost forgot, kids. Sunday night, he’ll pick you up,’ he pointed at Maia, ‘at seven-thirty. Date night. Dress up. And congrats.’ He grabbed an apple from the bowl on the countertop and left again without another word.
‘Date night?’ Maia asked.
‘He mentioned he would arrange something, as we are confined to the tower. Actually he offered his aid even when we were not.’
‘He’s quite a nice guy under that acerbic, obnoxious exterior.’
He laughed at her response. ‘I am torn between being grateful for his aid and wishing to throw him from the top of the tower again for touching you in such a manner.’
Maia slipped off the stool as he spoke and walked up behind him, wrapping her arms around his waist from behind and hugging him. ‘You’re so irrational when you’re jealous. But I don’t mind a hug, it was just unexpected.’
He turned and put his arm around her so she was tucked under his arm against his side. ‘Do not mistake my jealousy for irrationality, love. I assure you, wanting to throw Stark out of a building is a natural progression.’
‘Well, no throwing anyone out of windows, mischief maker.’ She poked him in the ribs as he flipped the first pancake skilfully. ‘At least, no one on our side.’
‘Then they shall learn to keep their hands off what is mine.’
‘Brother, you are still as possessive as a child with a new toy.’ Thor said jovially as he approached, his phone now away.
‘It is not possessiveness when I am as much hers as she is mine. That is a partnership, and make no mistake, we are equals in this and all things.’
Maia looked at Loki in surprise at his words but Thor chuckled. ‘Are your words for my benefit or Lady Maia’s?’
‘They are for whomever wishes to take them.’ Loki replied, passing the plate with the first pancake on it to Maia. ‘Please, start while it is still warm.’
‘Thank you.’ She squeezed him briefly before going back to her seat.
‘I am glad for you both.’ Thor patted Loki on the shoulder.
‘You may not be when you hear you owe Anthony fifty dollars.’ Loki added.
‘Damn your silvertongue.’ Thor laughed. ‘Jane and Darcy are on their way from the airstrip.’
‘Then I shall endeavour to stay at arms length, at the very least.’
‘Jane only hit you the once, Loki.’ Thor remarked as he turned to leave. ‘She slapped me twice.’
‘You do have a face that deserves it.’
‘No more than you do.’
Maia watched their banter until Thor was gone and she realised it was a true brotherly bond between them, despite their different parentage. Friendship and teasing went easily hand in hand.
‘What are you thinking?’ Loki asked without turning to her.
‘What makes you think I’m thinking?’ She asked, reaching for the syrup.
‘I can all but feel your eyes upon me.’
‘Just amused by you and Thor. The brotherly love thing.’ She took a sip of coffee before cutting into her oversized pancake.
‘Do you have any siblings?’
‘Only child.’ She shook her head. ‘A lot of cousins but one of me was enough for my folks. I always wanted a brother or sister, but then hitting X-Manor at twelve gave me an instant adoptive family and I wasn’t so lonely any more.’
‘Did you not miss your parents?’
‘A lot, at first. I still saw them regularly. It was a bit like being at boarding school. I still see them for the holidays.’
He put the second pancake on another plate, speaking as he came and sat beside her. ‘And what will they think of you being in a relationship with the monster who led the Chitauri invasion of Earth?’
‘You’re not a monster, Loki.’ She put down her knife and fork and gave him a firm look but he was concentrating on his food. ‘Even ignoring everything Charles discovered, you have been nothing but kind to me since we met. You’ve proved you are capable of compassion, you put others first; you’re caring, as much as you hate people to know that, and you’re trying to make amends for what you were forced to do.’
He was off the stool and kissing her before she could start her next sentence, his hand cupping her cheek as his lips softly danced over hers, his other hand turning her by the hip to face him until he stood between her knees. ‘You show such mercy when others would have me condemned.’ He whispered with his forehead against hers, his lips brushing the skin beside her mouth. ‘Why do your words mean so much to me?’
‘Everyone deserves a second chance.’ Her hands slid under his jacket and caressed his back. ‘And you’re willing to try.’
‘Because of you.’ He admitted for the first time what a difference her presence had made. ‘Do you know what happened to my handlers before you? Why they looked outside of this organisation?’
‘Because I antagonised them out of the job, terrorised them, and I was quite determined to do the same with you. It is not in my nature to make things simple, if someone wishes my cooperation they must earn my respect before I can give it. But not you.’
‘Why not me?’ She asked in a low murmur as he slowly drew back, his eyes portraying the confusion he felt.
‘Let us continue to eat while we speak. Your pancake will be cold.’
She nodded and he went back to his stool but moved it closer to her. ‘I do not know what it is, exactly. More than attraction or curiosity draws me to you, although both are there and have been since the moment we met. There is something about you compelling to me. You make me want to feel worthy, make me want to be better, make me want…’
‘To throw Stark off a building?’
He turned to see her giving him a smile. ‘I promise you it’s almost a compulsion to want to throw that man out of a window.’
She chuckled. ‘I can actually see that, completely. I get it, though. I get what you’re saying. It’s like something made us sit up and pay attention to one another.’
He gave her an amazed look. He had assumed it was just him. ‘You feel it too?’
‘I feel something.’ She went back to her pancake. ‘Several somethings, in all honesty. We’ve both embraced what we feel, I think, and that has to be a good thing? Ignoring instincts or feelings never helps. Charles taught me that while my powers are wild I could still use my intuition, and that I should trust myself, if nothing else.’
‘Very good advice, but you still did not answer my question. About what your parents would think.’
‘As long as you don’t beat me I don’t think they’ll mind.’ She said it flippantly but Loki had learnt long ago there was often truth in jest.
‘Someone dared lay a finger on you?’
‘Just once. At college. Few too many to drink before he came by my place. Don’t even remember why. He dragged me out of bed for whatever reason.’
Loki felt rage rise within him that he hadn’t felt in some time and he ground his teeth, forced it down. ‘What happened to him?’ He asked in a clipped tone.
‘I broke his nose, collarbone and left leg. I might not be able to control my powers but Xavier’s trained me anyway. Hand to hand.’ She said proudly. ‘I went home for a few weeks after that.’
‘And what became of him? Because I would very much like to teach him a valuable lesson.’
She reached over and took his hand. ‘He tried to press charges, he was more hurt than me, but one look at my injuries, my size compared to his, and his alcohol levels, it was self defence. He changed college before I got back.’
‘I would still like to meet him. That is no way to treat a lady.’
‘My point is, actually it wasn’t my point, but I can take care of myself. My point was if you don’t treat me badly my parents probably won’t mind who you are.’
He gave her a doubtful look. ‘I cannot see they will consider a mass murdering would-be overlord as an improvement.’ She smiled as though she was trying to hide it but it spread anyway until she had to cover her mouth with her hand. ‘What exactly is so amusing?’ He asked frustratedly.
‘The mass murdering would-be overlord is worrying about what my parents will think of him.’ She took another bite of pancake.
‘I am so very glad you find this comical.’ He turned back to his plate.
‘Actually I find it hilarious.’
He turned back to find her still grinning and he fought his own lips from turning up. ‘You’re a minx.’
‘I’ve been called worse.’ She shrugged and for some reason that was his undoing. He started laughing which set her off. They finished their breakfast in relative silence, other than the occasional chuckle.