Over the next two days the rest of The Avengers currently in the tower noticed something of a change in the God of Mischief. While he had previously kept to himself, been aloof, he suddenly had a spring in his step, greeting his teammates politely, offering others present beverages when he made his own, and a general sense of contentment. Tony kept his distance but watched, and noted what he observed like any good scientist.
It was the evening of the second full day. Loki had just returned from a day spent with Maia at the library where they both sought out old tomes to pore over together. Their conversation never went beyond the professional, discussing the relevant items before them or Maia explaining certain references on a larger scale, but Loki was fascinated by her. He found himself developing a new respect for Midgard and its natives simply by being in the presence of this one in particular. After the library they had an early dinner, Maia asking Loki what he would like and matching it to the most appropriate cuisine closest. He appreciated the gesture and enjoyed the food almost as much as the company.
As he stepped off the elevator into the common room, Steve and Tony were at the bar fixing drinks, but they both stopped at the sight of their former enemy smiling slightly and humming to himself. He spotted them and nodded in greeting.
'Loki.' Steve replied automatically as the man came to the bar and leant on it.
'I wonder if you would be so kind as to pass me a bottle of water?'
'Uh, sure.' Tony took one from the refrigerator and passed it to him. 'Everything alright?'
'Perfectly fine, thank you.' He took the bottle and headed straight towards his room, leaving Tony and Steve dumbfounded.
'What happened to him?' Steve frowned at the doorway Loki had disappeared through.
'Well, either his evil plan, whatever it is, is coming together, or he has a crush on his Squirrel.' Tony voiced the only logical explanations he could come up with and realised, if the latter were true...oh he wanted it to be true, if only to see what the hell might happen. He wasn't one to matchmake, but...'You know what, Cap? I feel like a party. You want a party?'
'A party?' Steve looked even more confused at the change in topic. He had still been trying to believe Loki was capable of a crush.
'You drive a hard bargain. Night after tomorrow. Need to get on it, and deliver an invitation.' He stepped out from behind the bar and headed to the elevator, drawing his Stark Phone as he walked.
Maia had had the most amazing day. She had always wanted the time to spend in the library and it had been everything she had ever dreamed of, but somehow Loki had made it even more. They had spoken endlessly about so many topics her head span. Not once did he ask her to calm down, as one ex had when she had shown excitement over something, and Loki hadn't told her she was boring him. Of course he also never tried to start a personal conversation, although if it was relevant she did mention a few small things, such as what she had studied specifically, it was generally just culture and history based, what equated to business for them, and while she could not deny her attraction to the tall, handsome prince, she was painfully aware this was her job and nothing more. Even at dinner he had asked that they discuss Shakespeare, the closest the conversation coming to personal being when he asked her favourite play, then quoted Twelfth Night in his beautiful accented voice until she was sure her heart sighed and she would melt into a puddle. They had walked back to the tower in a companionable silence and said goodnight at the elevators. Now she was in her pyjamas and searching her bookshelf to see if she had packed her copy of the play.
When her phone rang she looked at it expectantly, hoping it would be Loki as they had yet to confirm their itinerary for the next day, but instead it was a number she didn't recognise.
She picked it up with a frown and sat on the edge of the bed. 'Hello?'
'Mr Stark, how did you get my number?' She sighed as she pressed her fingers to the bridge of her nose. She had managed to avoid him for two whole wonderful days.
'Doesn't matter. Listen, not tomorrow night but the next, party on The Avengers floors. Eight til late. You're invited. Gladrags and dancing shoes on. These things get wild.'
She inwardly groaned as she rolled her eyes. 'I'm sorry, Mr...'
'Tony. It's Tony. Call me that or nothing.' He interrupted.
She sighed. 'Alright, Tony, I'm sorry but I didn't come prepared to party, so I'm going to have to decline. Thanks, all the same.'
'Oh, come on. That's no excuse. You're working wonders on Mayhem and this is how I want to thank you. The whole team does. What do you need? A dress? Shoes? Make up?'
'I don't...' She sighed again. 'Everything except make up.'
'Okay, cancel everything you had planned with hair metal man tomorrow, you show him the joy of a designer mall. I'll meet you both out front. I have something to do not far from there. It's on me.'
'I can't accept that.' She tried to get out of it one more time, suspecting she had already lost.
'Sure you can, token of gratitude for pulling the six foot stick out of Anarchy's ass.'
She sputtered a laugh. 'Okay, thank you. What time?'
They hashed out details and agreed to early to enable the maximum shopping time and Tony rang off, leaving her to tell Loki their schedule.
M~ Need to meet Stark out front at 8. He's throwing a party and you drew the short straw to accompany me shopping. So tomorrow's schedule is now retail therapy. Sorry.
She added the last as she knew how much men hated shopping. She wasn't overly keen herself, but she needed to go so would suck it up.
Loki came out of his bathroom post shower and began to towel himself dry. As he passed his desk he touched his phone, not really expecting to see anything, but his heart leapt when he saw a message from Maia. He dropped the towel and snatched up the handset, seeing her message was sent almost thirty minutes before and he read it twice.
L~ We are shopping with Stark?
Maia was beginning to think Loki had deliberately ignored her message when the phone illuminated her dimly lit room from where she was reading by the bedside lamp. She smiled to herself as she read his reply.
M~ I think he's just giving us a ride, as he is passing. Just you and me, is that okay?
L~ I am sure it shall be perfect. Perhaps you could help me with my casual look, whilst we are there?
Maia bit her lip. She could think of a good many worse things than Loki trying on clothes.
M~ I can try, but the suits, well, suit you. Pun intended.
L~ Then perhaps a new shirt and tie, for the party?
M~ I'll help, if I can, but you always look impeccable.
She pressed send quickly before she could delete it, fearing she may have crossed a line.
L~ As do you, however I am very much looking forward to seeing what you would choose for a party.
M~ I might need some help with that myself. I don't want to pick the wrong kind of thing.
Loki mused for a moment how although he had only seen her in suits; skirts or dresses with tailored jackets, she always looked lovely, and today she had worn her hair completely down, the red waves curling enticingly around her face and shoulders. More than once he had to resist the urge to touch it.
L~ My dear, it will not matter what you wear, you shall still be the most stunning creature there.
Loki had a moment of regret after sending the reply. While he meant it he was still unsure if she merely saw him as a job. She was always happy to see him, had no fear of touching him, and she looked at him almost as often as he looked at her, which was a lot. He was a prince of Asgard, but this woman was a complete enigma to him.
Maia stared at Loki's last message for a full minute. A compliment and an endearment, a general one but, wow. Her stomach danced and her pale skin flushed pink. She wasn't used to anyone complimenting her. She decided to play it cool, he was just being polite and reassuring, he didn't mean it the way her heart wanted him to. Then she thought of a witty reply he would appreciate.
M~ "I will praise any man that will praise me." For that I'll buy you a cup of tea and lunch.
When the next message quoted the bard, Loki smiled. She had taken his flattery with good humour, as she did everything else.
L~ Antony and Cleopatra. Very well, my queen, I shall see you on the morrow.
Maia giggled, his reply encouraging her to play along.
M~ And you, my emperor. Until we meet again.
L~ Goodnight, Maia.
M~ Goodnight, Loki.
Maia dropped back in her pillows. It may not have been flirting but it was the closest thing she had had in some time, and coming from him made it all the more amazing.