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Second Chances

Chapter 5

Loki despised the cafeteria food served in the tower. It sufficed for sustenance but its repetitiveness was getting tiresome. From the few occasions one of The Avengers had cooked, when he had been allowed out of the tower to eat, or had been included when the team had "take out", he knew Midgard offered a wide variety of cuisines and he had longed for a change...until today. Now, as he sat with what he was assured was some sort of chicken in bread, he barely noticed the bland flavour as the company preoccupied him. As with every time he came here alone, he chose a table as secluded as he could with his back to the wall and soon found himself with a good many empty tables around him, and today was no exception. He could not blame the employees at all, being wary of him, but he was surprised Maia paid it no mind and more so when she chose to sit beside him at the circular table instead of opposite, meaning between them no one could come up behind them and they could see all exits. If it were truly deliberate he was impressed, and if it was not her choice to sit so close to him was promising.
'Do you like the theatre?' Maia asked, not liking the silence they had been in since their arrival.
Loki nodded, finishing the bite in his mouth before replying, wiping the corner of his lips with one of the ridiculously hard napkins. 'I always enjoyed the players and their shows on Asgard, and I have read all the works by your bard, Shakespeare.'
Maia was surprised by this, although she didn't know why. The way he spoke could pass as Shakespearean and she could easily see him performing as Henry V. 'Really? I love Shakespeare, most of the time.' She added with a small laugh.
'Most of the time?' He queried as he pondered if there were an elegant way of eating his meal that didn't leave him feeling the need to clean up afterwards.
'I'm not a fan of his tragedies. I read to escape, not depress myself. And it's easier to engage kids with a comedy.'
She nodded. ‘I teach literature at Xavier's, studied it at college. I didn't know how you would feel about adding the theatre to our list?'
'It would be a very pleasant way to spend an evening.' He admitted but he was aware of Maia's eyes darting across the room, her delicate brows frowning. 'Is something wrong?'
She shook her head but didn't look at him and he felt the urge to turn far enough in his seat to see just what she was looking at. 'Just, Stark doesn't seem the sort to slum it in the cafeteria. I thought he ran on alcohol, caffeine and sarcasm.'
Loki would have laughed at her accurate description had he not turned, his curiosity piqued. 'I have certainly never seen him lower himself to the cafeteria. And is that Dr Banner with him? He really does not like crowded areas.' He turned back to her. 'Do you suppose we are being followed?'
Maia sighed as Tony smiled and waved when he spotted them. 'I think that's exactly what's going on.'
'You would think I were untrustworthy.' He quirked her an amused smile, his eyes sparkling with it.
'Aren't you insulted?'
He shrugged nonchalantly. 'It is hardly like I have a good reputation for them to give me any leeway. We were asked to go to the common room and return to the conference room. As far as they knew I may have spirited you away to do...unspeakable things to you.'
Maia couldn't be sure but she thought she saw Loki's eyes darken at the phrase and her heart skipped a beat as her already overactive imagination made her wonder how many things unspeakable could cover.
Loki noticed her swallow and lick her lips, her eyes slightly wide, her cheeks tainting slightly. He had not meant to frighten her and was on the verge of apologising when Stark and Banner arrived; the former putting his sealed travel mug on the table heavily while Banner hovered just behind him.
'Squirrel, Frosticilus.' He nodded to each of them.
'Mr Stark.'
'To-ny.' He said slowly and deliberately before turning to Maia. 'You met Bruce?'
She shook her head and stood, offering him her hand as Loki got to his feet. If Frigga had taught him anything it was manners where a lady was concerned.
'We haven't met. It's a pleasure, Dr Banner. Maia Tomson.'
She sat again as did Bruce and Loki, whose hand automatically went to the back of her chair. Tony noticed and raised an eyebrow. He was up to something, he had to be, he just couldn't figure out what.
'So, what did the two of you talk about for the last few hours?' Tony picked up his mug and leaned back in his seat.
'Have you not had your girl FRIDAY eavesdropping for you, Anthony?' Loki asked with disinterest, wiping his hands on his napkin as he gave up on his food.
'That'd be rude.' He said before taking a drink.
'But you are following us.'
Tony shrugged. 'You, I don't trust, no matter what Chuck says, and she,' he looked to Maia who had returned to what was left of her filled bagel, 'intrigues me.'
'"She" has a name.' Loki glared at the impertinent man.
'She does, but I still prefer Squirrel.'
'Squirrel?' Bruce pulled a face, not understanding.
'Secret Squirrel.' Tony explained, offering his fellow scientist a raisin from the bag he had just opened. 'She won't tell me her secret.'
'And I'm done.' Maia dropped the rest of her bagel on her plate and wiped her hands. 'Please ignore him, Dr Banner, he knows not of what he speaks.' She turned to Loki. 'Shall we?'
He had barely contained his smile as Maia called Stark up on his rude inquisitiveness to Banner, but he let his lips curve as she politely asked him if he were ready to leave.
'Indeed.' He stood and put his hand on the back of her chair as she slid it back and followed her as she edged around the table.
'It was nice to meet you, Dr Banner. Mr Stark.'
'Tony!' He called after her and didn't turn as they left. 'Yeah, he's up to something.' He repeated.



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