Loki was almost circling Maia in the elevator. He had refused to let her bring her bag, pocketing her key and lipstick and informing her she would not need a phone or pen. He had since then straightened her strap, ensured her hem wasn’t turned up, and was now dusting above her butt as though she had lint.
‘You know, if you’re going to spank me you could at least buy me dinner first.’ She teased and he frowned in confusion at her in the reflection in the door.
‘I beg you pardon?’
‘Never mind.’ She shook her head with a smile. ‘You can tell this is a first date though.’
‘How so?’ He finally took his place on her right, straightening the cuffs in his sleeves.
‘You’re nervous. Although I’m not sure if you’re worried about what the rest of The Avengers will think or if you’re worried I’ll embarrass you somehow.’
‘I am worried about neither one.’ He huffed.
‘But you are worried about something.’ She made it a statement rather than a question.
‘I am worried that they will badger you until nothing I do could convince you to stay.’ He pulled his jacket down at the hem.
‘That’s very sweet, but I’ve already met most of the team, and this isn’t my first powered people rodeo. It’s certainly not my first time being interrogated by a new boyfriend’s friends.’
‘I loathe the term boyfriend. And how many of said former boyfriend’s friends were powered and/or super assassins?’
‘You’d be surprised.’ She tried to distract him with her answer and it worked.
He finally looked at her, his head shooting round with a horrified expression on his face, only to find her smirking. ‘You are mocking me.’
‘I’m trying to get you to relax!’
‘And speaking of your numerous previous lovers is not going to help.’
‘I wouldn’t say numerous.’ She said defensively. ‘But my point is you’re worrying over nothing.’
‘Are you not nervous at all?’
She laughed softly. ‘Loki, I’m terrified.’
He turned to face her fully, taking her hand and looking down at it as he realised she was trembling. ‘Why did you not mention this before?’
‘Because it’s not going to make any difference to what happens. In the last week I’ve started a new job, met several of The Avengers and made out with an Asgardian God. My week is only getting weirder, but if I worry, let people see how scared I am, then I lose. That doesn’t mean the other people win, because they don’t care, not really, but to suck it up and put on a brave face, not letting anyone realise how bad my nerves are, walking into that room and being myself, makes me brave, and the only thing that really makes this hard is my own self doubt.’
He narrowed his eyes at her, not sure what to say for a moment. She had been so honest with him whereas he was used to the political, closed ways; first Asgardian then the Chitauri. It was very refreshing. ‘I think perhaps you are the more courageous of the two of us.’
She bowed her head so her hair covered her face as she hoped the blush she could feel warming her didn’t spread. ‘More stubborn than courageous, I think.’
He raised her chin, making her look at him. ‘Admitting it alone is courageous.’
Maia didn’t get the chance to answer as the elevator doors opened and, after a small smile, Loki turned and tucked her arm over his own.
The music was loud, some recent release Maia recognised but didn’t know, and the chatter was more so. There was easily a hundred people here. Loki drew her out of the elevator and into the room.
‘Perhaps you shall want another drink after all.’ Loki leaned down and said into her ear.
‘Maybe just one.’ She replied.
He led her through the pockets of people to the bar, which was two people deep, but on Loki’s appearance a gap quickly cleared, although before he was served a hand landed on each of their shoulders.
‘Mayhem and the mutant!’ Tony greeted them loudly. ‘You scrub up nicely, CB. What do you think, Lokes?’
‘I think “scrub up” is an insult.’ Loki said honestly. ‘She looks quite beautiful.’
‘Thank you both.’ Maia smiled politely despite being jostled slightly.
‘So, Olive,’ Tony looked at Loki, ‘I have put aside something special for a select few to drink. Why don’t you grab a couple of glasses and then come join us? Couple of people I want to introduce Cherry to.’
‘I suppose, if you must.’ Loki groaned inwardly.
‘I must. Hey!’ He called to the bartender. ‘Special guests, special drink.’ He indicated to Loki and Maia before putting his arm around her and winking at Loki as he led her away.
‘I promised her I would not throw him out of any windows.’ He muttered through gritted teeth as he watched them go.
‘Who have you met from the team so far?’ Tony asked as he nodded greetings to people as they passed.
‘Thor, Steve, yourself and Bruce.’
‘I got third on the list?’ He looked down at her in disappointment.
‘I nearly excluded you, assuming you’d realise I knew you already too.’ She replied.
‘Okay, I’ll give you that. I want to introduce you to some important people, and don’t forget you owe me a dance.’
‘I actually don’t, and if you try I think Loki might try throw you out of a window.’
‘It’s a bad habit he has.’ Tony shrugged. ‘But I’m getting my dance.’
‘And a free fall, quite possibly.’
‘I’m good.’ He shook back his sleeve to reveal the slip on bracelets that allowed him to deploy his suit quickly.
By the time Loki caught up with them Maia had been introduced to James “Rhodey” Rhodes, Tony’s bff by all accounts; Vision, who she had heard of but meeting in person was a different matter; and Pepper Potts, who told her to ignore anything Tony said. Loki furnished Maia with a glass of the very exclusive champagne Tony had provided.
‘I swear to you, she’s tamed him.’ Tony said exaggeratedly, knowing full well Loki had just joined them.
‘Was I so wild I needed taming, Anthony?’ He asked from directly behind him.
‘Your attitude needed reining in, Trickster, so yeah.’
Loki looked down at Maia. ‘May I please have permission to throw him from the window now?’
Maia realised he was joking but managed to keep a straight face and play along. ‘What did we discuss?’
‘No physical violence against team members unless they start it?’ He suggested.
‘Sorry, handsome.’ She smiled as he afforded her a small wink.
‘Well, as murder is apparently off the table this evening, I hope you shall excuse us. If Thor waves much more frantically he is liable to knock something or someone over.’ He raised his hand to his brother’s exuberant gesticulations, put his hand on the base of Maia’s back and guided her away.
‘They’re cute, right?’ Tony said once they were out of earshot.
‘He’s a mass murderer and she’s a, what did you say? English teacher?’ Rhodes said in disbelief. ‘He’ll eat her alive!’
‘I do not believe so.’ Vision interjected. ‘Loki’s heart rate raised considerably upon not only physical but also eye contact with Miss Tomson. There is a physical attraction there that crosses into the emotional.’
Rhodey looked at him in disbelief. ‘You’re saying he’s capable of actual emotions?’
‘Told you.’ Tony said smugly before taking a hefty drink.
‘Brother!’ Thor greeted Loki with a hug and a hearty clap on the back before taking Maia’s hand and kissing it. ‘Lady Maia. May I introduce you to my lady, Dr Jane Foster.’
‘I’ve heard a lot about you.’ Jane smiled excitedly as she shook the equally petite woman’s hand. ‘Thor says you’re like a miracle worker.’
‘Stupidly patient and optimistic.’ Maia said, unsure what Thor might have said. They had only met twice.
‘She is all of those and more. Dr Foster.’ Loki bowed his head to Jane in greeting.
Jane’s smile faltered for a moment. ‘Loki.’ She turned back to Maia. ‘I would love to know which buttons you’ve pushed to get him to behave.’
Maia was going to reply but another pretty brunette woman rushed over. ‘Jane! Look what Nat showed me how…oh, hey!’
‘Darcy Lewis, Maia Tomson.’ Thor introduced them.
‘Oh my God. You’re her.’ Darcy took her hand and shook it rapidly. ‘Loki’s girlfriend. I mean, who knew, right?’
‘Darcy’s my assistant.’ Jane explained.
‘Finally promoted from intern.’ Darcy glanced back at her friend and boss. ‘I need you two to come with me, girl talk. Nat really wants to meet you!’ Darcy pulled on Maia’s hand and linked her other arm with Jane’s. Maia looked back at Loki who sort of shrugged but gave her a gentle nudge. Darcy started talking again as soon as they were moving.
‘Brother, you are very unsubtle.’ Thor said quietly, moving closer to Loki.
‘In what respect?’ Loki asked as the three women took the stairs to the upper level.
‘You have dressed Ms Tomson not only in your signature colour but suitably for a lady of Asgard. You may as well have had your name branded upon her.’
‘I have no idea what you mean.’ Loki smirked at him before taking a drink.
‘Of course you don’t.’ Thor shook some of the contents of his flask into Loki’s glass. ‘Does she remind you of anyone?’
Loki looked at him curiously. ‘I am unsure I have ever met anyone like her. Why?’
‘No reason. I get a feeling of…familiarity from her. Perhaps it is just the fact she is so accepting of you.’
‘She is quite accepting of everyone, and yet not afraid to speak her mind.’
‘Sounds as though you have met your match, finally.’ Loki didn’t answer but he didn't need to. ‘Mother would have liked her.’ Thor rested his hand on Loki’s shoulder.
‘I believe she would.’ Loki agreed.