When years later, after the looming threat of Thanos had been eliminated with last-minute assistance from an unexpected quarter – this still does not mean we’re brothers, Thor – the higher powers in Asgard decided Loki should make further amends for his past wrong-doing. After all, that unrepentant reprobate would be the first to admit that he didn’t really mean to help. He must have slipped and fell on something and helped save Midgard by mistake. Still, he was willing to take the credit.
“What more do you want from me?” demanded Loki. “Am I to be locked up in some deep dank hole under the sewers, now? Or do you plan to prevent mischief by keeping me barefoot and pregnant?”
“At least you could bake muffins,” said Thor.
Which was why, overnight and as if by magic, a bakery popped up on prime Manhattan real estate, across the street from the old Stark Towers, re-christened Avengers Tower. The place didn’t have a real name. The sign across the window that read, in green with gold contrast shadow, “Loki is Sorry Cakes,” didn’t count, which was why people started calling it that. Business hours were 1-4 in the afternoon, closed on weekends and Thursdays. Asgardian princes had long ways to go in learning the meaning of a hard day’s work.
Of course, one big right (Thanos) did not cross out a wrong (Chitauri) for the people keeping score, and the first week it opened a few rocks were thrown at the window (that didn’t break), as were cans of paint (slid off like soap water). It was when someone called in about a guy with Molotov cocktails that Captain American stepped in. The irony of the situation, Steve was going to file away for later. Right now, he had to save people from becoming their worst selves.
“Okay, that’s enough,” he called out to the street. “We’re better than this. Just rise above it and move on. Everyone gets a second chance.”
“My hero.” Loki gave him a cupcake. It was a pretty good cupcake.
Which wasn’t why the Avengers were crowded inside a tiny cupcake bakery on a Friday afternoon. There was a long line snaking from the counter to the entrance, but only two tables, one of which was already occupied by Thor and Clint Barton, who were demolishing a basket of mini-muffins.
“Clint, don’t eat that,” said Natasha. “They might be poisoned.”
“Why are we here, anyway?” asked Bruce, who was trying not to bump into people. Tony Stark had no such compunctions.
“We’ve got to check out what baby bad here is up to.” He walked up to the front, and not finding a bell to ring or even a register, thumped on the counter. “Hello? I need to speak to management?”
Someone called out. “Get in line, buddy!” and pointed him in the direction of a ticket dispenser. Under the baleful glare of twelve New Yorkers, each with a green ticket with a number on it, and Steve Rogers, Tony Stark had to give in. He shuffled to the back of the line.
“Jeeze, you’re all welcome,” Tony muttered. “I just helped save the world. Again.”
He plucked a green ticket, upon which appeared the number ‘13’ in scratchy gold script. The guy in front of him, sporting a comb-over and a baggy blue suit, explained it to him. “Everyone takes a ticket. One ticket, one cupcake, but you’re only allowed in here once a day. You can come back the next day, though.”
“What if I want twelve cupcakes right now? What if I want three cupcakes in the morning, and then want five to take home?” Tony asked. The guy shook his head. “Hey, I can buy as many cupcakes as I want to!” said Tony. “It’s a free country!”
Thor laughed. “As a show of penitence for his prior misdeeds, my brother is offering baked goods to the people of this great city.”
“Yes, here I am, toiling away in drudgery.”
A heavenly smell of cake filled the air, as Loki swanned in with a fresh tray of apple cinnamon muffins. He didn’t look too bad for someone who was drudging. There was a smudge of flour on his nose, his hair was held back in a green bandana, and he had on a green apron, with “kneel to the chef” printed all over it in cursive. He gave Barton, who was scarfing down a muffin, a look as if the agent was a hoodlum desecrating the Mona Lisa.
“Hey, these are really, really good,” said Barton. “What’s the catch?”
“They’ll give you syphilis,” said Loki, and Barton spat out cake all over the table. Natasha wore a look of smugness and grimness, but then, it was hard to differentiate from her usual look.
“He is making a jest, my friends,” said Thor, though he hastily put his own muffin down. “My brother, ever the merry prankster.”
“Still not your brother, Thor.”
Tony had come to a more important realization. “Wait a minute. These cupcakes are for free? People aren’t paying good money for this? Why did you open a bakery in the first place? Why have business hours? Are those even business hours? As a good American capitalist, I protest! This isn’t communist Russia! Money in exchange for goods and/ or services!”
Everyone in line, and Bruce, gave him a dirty look. Someone whispered, none to quietly, “That’s Tony Stark. He’s the 1 percent.”
“We had Perestroika,” said Natasha, tightly. “It was generally considered a good thing.”
“What is money?” asked Thor. They still didn’t know if he was joking when he said things like this.
Loki gave the balding man in front of Tony a cupcake with vanilla icing and sprinkles in the shape of four-leaf clovers on it, and sent him on his way.
“I hear it is not an apology, if you make them pay for it. Besides,” said Loki, with a snooty look at Tony. “I was raised in a palace of gold, and my father rules the Nine Realms. That is many, many planets to you, pathetic mortal metal man.”
“I have a pad in nine cities and my own tower,” muttered Tony.
Loki sneered at him. “I am so impressed by your… assets.”
“88% of a tower,” Bruce was saying quietly. “12% is in Pepper’s name.”
Behind the counter, Barton was eating one of the vanilla cupcakes now. “He’s up to something. I just know it.”
“What, with evil cupcakes?” asked Steve. “I don’t think so.”
Loki gave him a sweet smile, and started frosting the apple cinnamon muffins, red, white and blue, with candy star sprinkles. “Captain, you are my favorite Avenger.”
“Brother!” protested Thor. “I should be your favorite Avenger!”
“You’re not even my favorite brother, Thor,” snapped Loki.
“He’s up to something! He just said they were poisoned,” said Barton, with a mouth full of icing. “Somebody’s got to keep an eye on him! This cannot be legit!” Next to him, Natasha hissed, “Then stop eating them!”
Steve gave them all a disapproving look. “It’s all processed through the S.H.I.E.L.D’s interstellar liaison department. And the mayor’s office. Don’t any of you read your memos?”
He took a cupcake from the tray and sighed. A tiny paper Stars and Stripes on a toothpick cheered bravely at the top.
“We could put an agent in here. Part time.”
They whirled around. Agent Coulson was eating a Captain America cupcake.
“Did you see that?” yelped Tony. “Did anyone see him coming in? Did he just, what, teleport in here right now? Did he come back from the dead evil?”
Coulson sighed. The world’s finest, indeed.
Loki looked up from the tray of Captain America cupcakes. “What, and have one of your underlings get underfoot?” Then he paused, turning that idea over in his head. “Well, I could use help, someone to clean up and take out the garbage and scrub under the sink. You, Barton, you will do.”
Clint backed off, waving his hands. “Uh-uh, no way. Wait, do I get to eat the cupcakes?”
“I’ll do it.”
They all whirled around again, this time to stare at agent Natasha Romanov, who just shrugged. “What? I like baking. It relaxes me.”
“Fine, I’ll do it,” said Barton. “But only if Nat’s here. And I want an equal cut from the tip jar.”
There was no tip jar. Barton looked at Loki in disbelief. “I knew it. You’re still evil.”
“Why? What is this obsession with filthy lucre?” asked Loki, and Tony just knew that asshole godling was doing that just to make him feel like a short guy in a metal suit. “Do you get paid for being an Avenger?”
“Actually, yeah,” said Barton, at the same time Tony was saying, “No.”
Tony stared at his teammates. “What? You’re getting paid? You, too? Romanov? Banner? Cap?”
“Hey, I’m poor. I can take the money,” said Bruce, and Steve nodded. “Agent Coulson put me on the S.H.I.E.L.D payroll, with benefits. Full health and dental.”
Natasha smirked at him. “I thought you believed in money for goods and/or services, Stark.”
“What is money?” asked Thor.
Loki made cupcakes for the Avengers. After the Captain America cakes, it was only fair, and the themed cupcakes were rather popular. Even New Yorkers who were outspoken against superheroes, liked superhero cakes made by a god. Time Out magazine called them, “divine.”
The Black Widow helped out with the mixing, so she got one next. It had black currant fondant frosting and a molten cherry core. When you sliced it down the middle, the swirl of red and the black were symmetrical triangles.
“So it’s symbolic,” said Bruce, frowning at the cupcake with an odd look on his face.
“To balance out the red in my ledger with the black,” said Natasha, and Loki assented with a little bow.
Tony bit into the cupcake. “Looks like you’re eating out pussy to me” he said, and raised his hands defensively. “Hey, hey, I’m just saying what everyone else is thinking.”
“You mortals are degenerate,” sneered Loki. “Do you think of nothing but rutting?”
Bruce chuckled at the floor, and Thor took a look at his Black Widow cupcake, shrugged, and kept on eating. Steve just looked disgusted, which made Tony insist. “Still looks like pu – ”
“You, Stark” said Loki, “are not getting a cupcake. Ever.”
“Cupiditas ex homine, cupido ex stulto numquam tollitur ,” said Natasha.
“What does that mean?” demanded Tony.
“He who thinks with his dick, dies with his dick stuffed in his ear,” said Barton, who got a slap up the back of his head by Natasha. “Ow, Nat. What?”
Loki was still skittish around the good doctor Banner, flinching every time Bruce came in, which was often. He brought his own thermos of green tea, and read Thomas Mann parked out at one of the two tables. He said it calmed him. They weren’t sure if making Loki tiptoe around him was what calmed him.
The Hulk brownies had a layer of green mint in them. They were also laced with pot.
Of course, no one could find a trace of cannabis when the brownies were confiscated and sent to a lab, but fans of the bakery would swear you got the real effect when you ate one. That did wonders for the popularity of Loki is Sorry Cakes. The lines went past the block and around the corner now. There was even a Twitter account set up to track the day’s offerings. The brownies were still free.
Eventually, there was a drug bust from the city, and to avoid an interstellar incident, NYC issued a safe-drug zone around the bakery, which worked only by officially declaring it Asgardian ground. The hospitals sent pain relief patients for medical marijuana use. They got a special ticket.
Natasha broke up a brownie with her fork, peering at a piece as if she could find it guilty if it crumbled under interrogation.
“Amsterdam’s not going to like this,” said Clint. “No one’s going to go there for pot, now that we’re giving it away for free.” He was pouring orange juice into the cake batter.
“Why should they care? They don’t let foreigners buy their drugs anymore.” She looked up and leapt over the counter to grab him before he ruined another bowl. “Stop. Clint. No more brownies for you.”
“How crude,” said Loki. “There are many fine museums in that city.”
From Bruce’s table, Tony blew him a raspberry. “What, no opera houses?”
“The answer is still no, Stark.”
It wasn’t the first time Tony was kicked out of Sorry Cakes. Clint and Natasha didn’t even bother to look up, the traitors.
Nick Fury got donut holes iced like an eyeball. He put his foot down on their being called Fury’s Balls, but otherwise he ate them. Coulson got carrot cake because he liked it.
Even Clint got a cake. Croquembouche, a mountain of perfect choux pastry piled high like little eggs inside a delicate nest-like web of crystallized caramel. There was only one and only for Barton, and that day, the bakery was closed to the public.
“Thrall cake,” Loki called it, as the Avengers toasted their mugs of coffee. Tony’s was Irish. He’d had speakers installed in the bakery, and they were playing ‘Star Spangled Man’ on a crazy loop.
“Shut up, you,” said Clint. “Mine’s the classiest.”
“Why don’t I get a cupcake?” whined Tony. “I want an Iron Man cupcake.”
“Why do you need my cupcakes?” asked Loki, primly. “Don’t you already have all the money? Can you not buy all the cupcakes?
“You threw me out of a window!” said Tony, “What?” He glared at the others, who were shaking their heads muttering, “again, with that window.”
“But you don’t care about my money.” Tony took the irate Asgardian by the hands and tugged him out from behind the counter. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were playing hard to get.” Tony put his hand on his waist and whirled him around the bakery. “Baby, I want you to ice my cupcakes. Come on, what do you say?”
“I do not have a Thor cupcake, yet,” said Thor mournfully. “Man of Iron, take your hands off my brother.”
Loki ignored him and let Tony dance with him until the oven timer went off.
Pepper got fed up with Tony’s obsession with getting an Iron Man cupcake – she’d had custom cupcakes ordered from six different places around the city, all of which he rejected. He wanted a Sorry Cake Iron Man cupcake. She had Jarvis put him on a no-carb, and especially no-cupcake, diet for a week. Tony, she said, was born with a sugar-high built in anyway.
Loki kept making mint pot brownies every Wednesday because they were so popular, and also a rankings list of the other Avenger cakes by popularity. He put them up on a board.
“Amazing how mortals will change their minds about you if you give them drugs and baked goods,” said Loki, preening, and that couldn’t be a real sneer because he was honestly so pleased with being liked for once that he didn’t know how to hide it. Thor was starting to look like a kicked puppy.
“Why, brother?” asked Thor. “Why won’t you make a Thor cupcake? Why would you say that I am not your favorite Avenger –”
“You are not even my second favorite Avenger,” said Loki, snarling and circling Thor. He might have looked fearsome if it weren’t for the ‘kneel to the chef’ apron. “That would be Barton.”
“Yes!” cried Clint with a victory fist in the air. “I mean, yuck. Yuck, yuck. No way, yuck.”
“What have I done to offend you so, brother? What gross injustices have you imagined I have inflicted upon you? We were happy once –”
“Imagined? Imagined?!” Loki all but shrieked, and tore off his apron and bandana. His hair looked wild and stuck out a little on the left side. “I did not imagine anything. It was you who never noticed. The slights, the dismissal, the neglect, the ridicule! Until I was backed in to a corner where I could not move or breathe because you took up. So. Much. Space! Everything! Everything was about you! Nothing for me! There was nothing left, for, ME!”
The chair went flying first, and then the table.
“I have always wanted you by my side!” yelled Thor. “When did I ever crowd you? When did you ever allow me to crowd you?! You push me away with your coldness and your tricks!”
He threw the other table, and aimed a mighty kick at the mahogany counter to relieve his feelings some more.
“Uh,” said Tony. “You guys. You’re doing it again.” He turned around to confirm this with his teammates. “They’re doing this again, right? Where they forget everyone else exists?”
“Get Bruce out of here, Tony, now!”
Steve was quickly hustling the people frozen scared in line to get out of the bakery, and Natasha pulled Clint out from behind the counter. They checked for damage potential, and Natasha reported in with her S.H.I.E.L.D. communicator. “It’s mostly each other. And a lot of innocent cupcakes.”
“And now, you want me to be sorry?! You want that as well?” yelled Loki, throwing a tray of un-iced cupcakes at Thor, who ducked. “What more do you want from me? Do you want me to crawl and beg at your feet, too?”
“Yes!” roared Thor. “Maybe I do! Because you have hurt me the most, Loki! Constantly running and hiding from me, refusing to make amends so we can be brothers again! Only a coward would slink away as you do!”
“How. Dare. You!”
Loki’s scream would have shattered the window if it wasn’t magically reinforced.
“Okay, everybody out,” said Steve, and he and Nat and Clint dashed out of the bakery, as Loki broke the entire countertop and brought it down on Thor’s head. Clint locked the door behind them.
“What, we’re just going to let them duke it out?” asked Tony, and then he shrugged. “I’m okay with that. Oh, hey, what’d you know, I think it’s going to rain. Anyone up for Starbucks?”
Lightning and thunder rolled across the sky on an otherwise perfect summer day, and New Yorkers ran scattering for cover. The storm, dark and furious, seemed concentrated over the ‘Loki is Sorry Cakes’ bakery, and sometime in the late afternoon, a bolt of lightning crashed down to burn the sign.
Bruce had to take a Xanax and go back to the tower to have a lie down. The others sipped their coffee drinks and waited out the storm. Tony bought Steve a venti peppermint machiatto with whipped cream and double shots of espresso, because it still made Steve twitch to see him pay $5 for a coffee. Nobody ordered baked goods. It felt disloyal.
Finally, the storm subsided, and the evening sky cleared to a rosy pink. They could have gone home, but they were Avengers and had to check up on the situation. Besides, Clint was sure he’d left the oven on.
The bakery was not completely demolished, and Natasha took in the damage as they waded through the rubble, clucking her tongue. There was no way she was cleaning up this Norse mess.
On the ruins of the counter, sans top, was a china plate with a single cupcake and a note. It was a red velvet cake with golden caramel frosting and shaved gold, and nestled inside was a blueberry heart. “Because you have one” said the note.
“Iron Man cupcake!” yelped Tony, snatching up his cupcake like a prize. “Yes! I have an Iron Man cupcake! I have the best cake!”
The sound of something falling and an odd slurping noise came from the kitchen, and Clint leapt over the counter to check.
“Guys?” he said cautiously, peering in, and immediately he slammed the door shut. “Oh yuck. Thor and Loki are doing it on the kitchen floor. My eyes, my eyes!”
Natasha really needed a raise. “That can not be sanitary.” She didn’t need to stick around to hear any of that. “Okay, we’re closed for renovations.” And management porno, she added to herself.
The bakery didn’t open again for a week, and when it did, it was on a Thursday.
The item of the day was ‘Thor is Sorry Cakes.”