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Up All Night

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David walks into Dr. Strange’s offices to talk over some issues he’s having with his thesis.

And, first of all, Dr. Strange’s offices defy the laws of physics, there’s no way they should be as big as they are or hold as many people as they do and ugh, shit, Billy is here. It’s not that David and Billy don’t get along, it’s just that many years ago when Billy and his high school sweetheart were “on a break”, mental air-quotes necessary and fully supplied, David had gone out on a few dates with said sweetheart, and even though it’s not like it’s David’s fault, he’s pretty sure Billy totally blames him.

Also, there was that ill-advised fling with Billy’s brother. THESE THINGS HAPPEN, OKAY? David does not have a good track record with guys. Tommy was fun but also exhausting, always go-go-go.

All this to say that Billy does not particularly care for David, and Strange’s other TA is more of a myth than anything, because David’s never seen him before today.

David has only ever seen Loki’s workspace, a desk piled high with various papers and books open and extensively bookmarked. The desk has a seemingly endless supply of pens and a bevy of highlighters, and white-out mixed in with nail polish, something David unfortunately discovered several weeks ago when he went to white-out a date on a paper and wound up with a smear of glitter polish across the top of his paper.

So. With the exception of the desk, the existence of Loki has been entirely conjecture until today.

David walks into Strange’s office, and the world, for a single solitary second, stops.

Loki is…Loki is everything you would expect someone called Loki to be. Dark hair and long fingers and bright green eyes that just look ready for trouble, framed by winged eyeliner sharp enough to stab a man to death. Loki wears a black button-down shirt with an emerald sweater with a gold sweater clasp, and David can’t help but feel a little underdressed in his old Xavier Institute chess team shirt and faded jeans.

“You must be David!” Loki says.

Oh no. Loki’s got an accent.

“Dr. Strange is running a little late, so make yourself comfortable….” Loki trails off, frowning. The only chair not overflowing with stacks of papers is occupied by a woman, strewn across the chair in a way that screams both high-drama and back pain. “Kate!” Loki rebukes the woman. “Stop hogging the chair!”

“You’re rude,” the woman informs him. “I am having a crisis and you’re being rude.”

“If you’re having a crisis then you should go to the soft sciences departments,” Loki says, with an undue amount of disdain.

“Asshole,” the woman–Kate– says, but fondly. She also pops up out of the chair. “Hey, guy–”

“David, his name is David,” Loki corrects.

“Sure, David. Question. Would you be my plus-one to a wedding?”

The nos practically shake the walls as both of Dr. Strange’s TA’s answer for David.

“Jesus!” Kate throws her hands up in the air. “Oh my god. I want to ask David a question so please let the man answer! David,” she says, turning to him. “The former love of my life is getting married in a month, is it, or is it not, reasonable for me to ask one of my friends to forgo their plus one in order to be emotional support for me?”

“Uh,” David shifts from foot to foot. “I wouldn’t say it’s unreasonable, no. But obviously it’s a mutual friend?”

Kate nods.

“Then it seems a little unfair to ask someone who might want to enjoy the wedding to be there only for your benefit.”

“Hmm.” Kate nods, weighing his words. “So it’s totally acceptable to ask a stranger to be my plus-one.”

“That seems a little…plot of a rom-com, and as someone who knows nothing about you, I’d be worried you’d project unrealistic expectations on that relationship.”

Another thoughtful hmmm. She and Loki exchange hand gestures–David is pretty sure they’re using sign language–and it might be paranoia but David feels like a few significant looks are being thrown at him.

“Don’t you dare,” Loki says to Kate as she turns back to David.

It is at this moment that Dr. Strange shows up, with what David would guess is Coffee # 6 or #7 of the day in his hand. Given that it’s barely noon, this is cause for alarm.

David also thinks Kate is stealing his phone.

“David, good, you’re here, Ms. Bishop, no,” Strange says in the same breath. “You don’t take any of my classes, yet you are constantly here, distracting my TAs and generally being a nuisance.”

“I’m here because of the way that muscle in your forehead tics when you see me.” Kate slaps David’s phone back in his hand. “You’re my new best friend,” she informs him. “Call me every five minutes. And you know what. Doctor Steve, I was going to ask if you wanted to be my plus-one to a wedding with an open bar and a four course meal, but that’s not happening now.” She sails through the door, leaving Strange and his TAs staring after her.

She’s right. There is a muscle in Strange’s forehead that starts to jump.

“You know–” Loki begins.

“No.” Strange cuts him off.

“I don’t think she was se–”

“Still no.”

“I think she–” Billy tries.

“Also no.” Strange shakes himself, and waves David in to his office. “Let’s get started, then, Mr. Alleyne?”

…..

It’s a productive meeting, and Strange helps David set up a meeting with Dr. Foster to ask her a few questions pertinent to his thesis. He’s feeling pretty good about things when he leaves Strange’s office–

–right before he runs into Loki, scattering all of David’s notes across the floor.

Great job, Alleyne.

“Here, let me help you!” Loki says, because of course Loki is polite. Loki’s long, elegant fingers make quick work of scooping up David’s papers, and Loki even smells good, David is doomed.

“Sorry!” Loki smiles, revealing a chipped tooth. It makes Loki’s smile even nicer, pairs well with the gleam in his eyes.”Let me get you a coffee to make up for it!”

“Uh. What?” David is still distracted by the chipped tooth and thinking things he probably shouldn’t about making out–

“Coffee!” Loki says again. “As an apology for dumping your papers everywhere!”

‘Uh,” David says again, struggling to gather a coherent string of words. “Yes! Sure! That would be great, let’s do that!”

o.O.o.O.o.O.o

Coffee is good, coffee is great, coffee actually turns into lunch and a debate about theoretical physics and the existence of a multiverse until David realizes he’s going to be late for class.

He’s late, anyway, because a very large and very blond man comes up to them. Loki tries to disappear behind David, and David has that sinking-stomach sensation that maybe this is Loki’s boyfriend, this was just a FRIENDLY LUNCH NOT A DATE LUNCH ABORT ABORT–

“Loki!” The large man simply reaches behind David, grabbing Loki by the shoulders and lifting him up. “Brother Loki!”

What.

“I went my Dr. Strange’s offices, and you were nowhere to be seen! And who is this? Your paramour?”

The man is very loud. He’s very...a lot of things. Like big. And tall. And muscular. Probably very able to crush David’s head in his hands.

Loki goes red. “This is David, he’s, um, Strange is his thesis adviser–”

“Indeed!” The man turns to David, who is staring at Loki, who didn't stumble over words once in their conversation and now seems nervous. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, David. I’m Thor.”

Of course his name is Thor.

“Thor is my brother,” Loki hastily adds. David barely has enough time to be shocked about that these two people who look nothing alike are related, before Loki is linking his arm through David’s and dragging him away. “Farewell, brother! We have class!”

“Brother!” Thor calls after them. “Do not forget that Hela is coming into town this weekend, and if you make me have dinner with her by myself, I will be telling mother!”

The tips of Loki’s ears are bright red. It’s kind of adorable. "I will not have this discussion on the quad!"

"It's not a discussion! I will tell mother!" Thor hollers as Loki hustles them out of earshot.

“So, you’re close to your mom?” David prompts. He’s definitely going to be late to class, but he doesn’t care at the moment.

“She encouraged my love of physics,” Loki mutters. “Our father was more…the athletic, Viking-warrior type. Like Thor, but smaller.”

“I feel like everyone’s smaller than Thor?”

Loki chuckles, seemingly less embarrassed. “That’s true.”

“Well, this is me.” David gives a nervous laugh. “Gotta go learn some stuff.”

“Indeed.”

David swallows his nerves. “Hey, would you want to get lunch again sometime? Maybe tomorrow?”

Loki smiles wide, showing off the chipped tooth. David’s heart skips a beat.

“I’d like nothing more, David Alleyne.”

o.O.o.O.o.O.o

Kate Bishop hadn’t been kidding about the best friends thing. When David gets out of class, he has five texts from her. He knows they’re from her because she has very thoughtfully put herself into his phone as “Kate Bishop, the Girl From Stephano String’s Office” and David hopes to god she’s not the one who came up with that nickname of he’ll have to kill her on principle. The horror of the two week period when almost all of Strange’s students turned in papers saying “Dr. Stephano String” is not something easily forgotten.

Hi this is is Kate obviously i got your number from Stragney and Lacey hope you don’t mind

thank you for the wedding date advice idk if ill take it but thanks it was nice to get an opinion from someone not ALL UP IN the situation

Stragney and Lacey is obvs Dr Strange i came up with it myself

how did coffee go loki did take you for coffee right

if loki didn’t take you out for coffee you should take loki out for coffee is all im sayin i dont know anything about the sitch or if loki like likes you or whatever but as a third party observer with no stake in the matter that would probably be a good idea i bet you would like each other

David sighs and composes a text

Hi yes of course I remember you. Yes, I had coffee with Loki and it went well, your denial of having any stake in the matter is highly suspicious, and your on-again-off-again relationship with punctuation is disturbing. Goodbye.

She texts back immediately. She’s one of those people.

i dont have time for punctuation and i don’t know how to get my autocorrect to correct correctly so whatever.

David rolls his eyes and starts walking. His phone buzzes again.

Hey which earrings

Attached is a picture of a hand, holding two different sets of earrings. David pulls a face.

Neither. Both are awful.

He puts his phone away, and resolutely doesn’t look at it again.

o.O.o.O.o.O.o

“Okay, now smooch.”

Loki smooches. “I don’t think this is actually called smooching.”

“Always with the semantics,” Verity mutters, capping the lipstick. “I don’t know what else to call it. Here.” She passes him a small hand mirror.

“You don’t think it’s too much?” Loki asks, examining the lipstick. It’s a little orange, and it’s not normally a color he goes for.

“Loki, it’s called Neon Tiger, of course it’s too much. I thought that was the point.”

“Well, I don’t want to scare him off.”

“If he can’t handle you wearing lipstick then he’s lame and not for you. You’re a good person, Loki,” Verity says, squeezing his shoulder. “And if somebody can’t see that then they’re dumb, orange lipstick or no.”

“It is too much,” Loki declares. “Where’s a makeup wipe, I need to take it off.”

That’s what you got out of my speech? Really? No!” Verity snatches up the wipes before he can, tossing them over his head. “Nope! It looks great on you! It stays!” She tosses the packet over his head and they smack into Leah’s waiting hands.

“Aww, I like it,” Leah says. “It’s so nice to see you in a lipstick that isn’t Blood of My Enemies red. It makes your eyes pop.”

“See!” Verity slaps Loki on the shoulder. “I told you!”

“Do you know what you’re wearing?” Leah asks.

Loki rolls his eyes. “Of course I know what I’m wearing.”

“We spent three hours debating the merits of various outfits,” Verity says, because she is a traitor. “Dinner date outfit is a go.”

o.O.o.O.o.O.o

“Hey, Noh, do you think I could borrow your car oh my god.” David walks into the house he shares with Noh and stares in horror at the scene before him. “Dude! What if our landlord comes by?”

“I will have this cleaned up in a jiffy!” Noh proclaims, which David doubts. The living room is covered with dirt, piled up on the floor, like Noh had decided to recreate the second half of Jumanji. David has a very real fear that there are bugs crawling around in the dirt. 

“What happened?”

“I don’t know,” Noh says. It’s not an entirely believable statement. “Parker said he was going to swing by and pick up some specimens and…” Noh throws his arms out and shrugs. “I have no idea.”

“Right, okay, well, call Parker and tell him to get over here and help us clean up. I’ll call some people, too.”

David pulls out his phone, shoots Kitty a quick text and then Ellie, explaining what’s going on. Kitty lets him know she’ll be there soon, while Ellie just responds with “how the fuck.”

“Why do we even have this much soil in our house?” David asks. He and Noh are on their knees, wearing gardening gloves and carefully transferring handfuls of dirt into large plastic totes. (There are absolutely bugs everywhere. David will scream about it later)

Noh shrugs helplessly. “I wish I knew.”

“You’re the reason it’s here! How do you not know?”

Another shrug. “I’m really sorry, David.”

“We’re going to have to vacuum, like, twenty times,” David mutters. “I don’t even think our vacuum will be able to handle this. Do we know someone who can loan us a fancy vacuum?”

Billy would probably have a fancy vacuum, but no way is David going to ask him.

But…

hey. New best friend.

!!!!!! yes??????

you’re friends with billy, right?

A pause. Then: yes. Why?

He seems like the kind of guy who would have a fancy vacuum, and I need one desperately. Do you think he’d lend it to you and then you could lend it to me?

No response. David shoves his phone back in his pocket and goes back to moving dirt.

“You’re definitely going to loan me your car tonight,” David informs Noh.

“What? Why? I mean yes!” Noh amends when David glares at him. “Of course!”

“I have a date,” David finally admits. “And I wanted to go to the nice Italian place and it’s not in walking distance.”

David’s phone buzzes. Is this a fancy enough vacuum for you. Why do you need a fancy vacuum. Do you have fancy floors???

YES THAT IS A PERFECT VACUUM DO YOU THINK YOU COULD DROP IT OFF RIGHT NOW?

Whoa calm down it’s a vacuum. Yeah sure gimme your address.

David does so, and ten minutes later Kate stands on their porch, vacuum at her side, pointing an accusing finger at Noh. “You!”

“Me?”

“You two know each other?” David drags the vacuum out of Kate’s hand and into the house. Just in case this goes south, he wants to have a means to get the dirt out of the pile.

“I don’t think so?”

“Are you kidding me?” Kate bursts out. “We went on three dates last year and on the third one you and an ex-girlfriend or something got into a screaming bar fight that got the cops called on you.”

“That was you?” David freezes, staring at Kate with his head tilted. He'd been the one to bail Noh out, and then been the one to buy lots of ice cream as Noh reminisced about his ex.

Noh has never been good at handling breakups.

Noh’s face is scrunched up. “I might remember this.”

“And then you never called me again.”

“I don’t remember that.”

David doesn’t remember it, either, but he does remember Noh and Oubliette hate-fucking their way through the next week and then Noh spending the next month listening to Green Light by Lorde, leaving half-eaten pizza all over the place. Again, Noh and breakups. A bad combo.

But then, Noh and Oubliette had never been what one could call good for each other, which made that one a breakup for the better, in David's opinion.

They have an audience, now. MJ has her arm slung over Gwen’s shoulders, watching everything with an air of bemused detachment, while Peter is simply slack-jawed. Ellie is just rolling her eyes.

“Thank you,” David says. “For the vacuum.”

Kate stands, glaring at Noh. The silence just gets more awkward.

“Tell me when you’re done with it,” she finally says, turning on her heel.

“That was awkward,” Gwen says once Kate has pulled out of their driveway.

“Please don’t talk to us about it,” MJ adds. “We don’t care that much. Also,” she leans around David to look inside. “What the hell?”

“Peter left the door unlocked!” Noh blurts out, finally coming unstuck from the stupor Kate put him in.

“Did I?” Peter stands right at their threshold, bending his knees before he jumps from the front door to the living room couch. David’s seen him do this a few times and he still doesn’t quite get how it’s possible. The rest of the group files into the house the normal way. Ellie whistles, impressed.

“And you have no idea what did this?”

None.”

“Right,” MJ drawls. “It was a dog.”

“What? You just got here, how do you know that?”

“Because there’s a big-ass paw print right by the door,” she informs David, pointing to said paw print. 

“I did not bring a dog in!” Peter declares. “I didn’t! I didn’t let a dog in here, I would totally notice that!”

“Considering nobody knew there was a dog here, is it safe to assume nobody checked to see if the dog was still here?” Gwen shouts from the stairs. 

“Gwen, I think we’d know if there was a mystery dog in our house!” David hollers back.

He’s undermined by the faint sound of a bark coming from above them.

MJ raises an eyebrow. “You were saying?”

“Awww!” Gwen’s voice carries. “He’s sweet! His name is Lockjaw.”

o.O.o.O.o.O.o

“Brother,” Thor says, and Loki huffs a sigh.

Normally, a sigh from Loki would be a cause for consternation or irritation, not alarm, but Loki is wearing flannel today and Thor cannot think of a single moment of their lives where Loki has worn plaid and the day hasn’t ended in some form of mayhem.

“Sister,” Loki corrects, softly.

“Sister Loki,” Thor says, nodding. The flannel and the headband. Should have picked up on that. “You’re nervous.”

“I’m not nervous!”

“You are! Is this about that David fellow? Did he hurt you? Misgender you?”

“What? No! Sit down, you oaf!”

“Oaf,” Thor echoes. “Oaf.”

“I say it with love, brother.”

“Oaf. I try to defend you, and oaf–

“It’s Hela.”

That shuts Thor up pretty quick. “You’re not going to bail on me again, are you?” He tries to keep the apprehension out of his voice.

“I didn’t mean to bail on you last time.”

“Going to a subway rave is not a valid excuse.”

“To you!”

“To anyone!”

They glare at one another until Loki’s phone pings. She looks down at her phone, frowning. The frown slips off her face in a fond smile. She takes a deep breath. “Dinner with Hela makes me nervous.”

“Because of your gender identity?”

“Because she is a criminal!”

“They couldn’t prove that! It’s why she got out in three months!”

“They denied her parole appeal!”

“Well, even if she did, I don’t think it’s all that bad. It’s not as though she killed someone.” Thor says. Even as he says the words, Thor hates them. Thor doesn’t like being on the Hela defense squad, isn’t even sure how he got on it–Hela is quite a bit older than Thor and Loki, a product of their father’s first marriage. Thor knew Hela very little–she had a sharp sense of humor and wore lots of dark colors and was arrested on a very long list of criminal charges when Thor was about nine. As he’s gotten older, Thor is relatively certain that Hela, while absolutely guilty, also took the fall for their father. He isn’t sure what to think about that.

Loki, being younger, grew up only knowing of Hela, not actually knowing her. It makes sense, Loki being scared of her. Hela is pretty terrifying. Honestly, Thor doesn’t really want to have dinner with her either. “What if we brought dates?” Thor asks.

Loki stares. And stares.

“You want to introduce innocent strangers to Hela?” Loki’s voice gets a bit pitchy and Thor winces. “To our crime boss sister?” She thinks about this for a moment. “Yeah, okay. I don’t think David fully believes me about her. Who are you going to take?”

Thor frowns.

“Not Jane,” Loki says, beating Thor to the punch. “I like Jane, but when she met Father they almost killed one another.”

“She’s in Norway, at any rate.”

Loki thinks about this, her nose wrinkled. “Well,” she hedges. “I do know someone who’s shown an openness to inviting strangers to important events as a buffer, but you’d probably have to go with her to a wedding in a few weeks.”

“I can think of worse things.”

“Great,” Loki stands, shaking her empty coffee cup at Thor. “I’m going to get a refill. David might be joining us, be nice to him.”

“I’m always nice,” Thor mutters, though this is a blatant lie. Thor wasn’t nice to Sylvie, or Amora, or that one fellow that broke Loki’s heart when they were twelve–

“Thor!” David smiles and flops down in an empty chair. “Where’s Loki?”

“She’s getting more coffee.”

“Cool. Cool. I hear we’re doing a family dinner soon?”

“Yes.” Thor regards David, this young man that Loki seems to like so much. He seems nice enough. Still. Thor is Loki’s older brother, and that requires certain things, and always has. “You seem nice enough, David. Loki enjoys spending time with you.”

“Thanks, that good to–”

“I wasn’t finished. Now, I know Loki is an adult, who makes mistakes and blows off family events to go to sewer raves and drag shows in abandoned airfields, and that she can be irritating and steal all your sweaters instead of buying her own, but Loki is my sibling, and if you do anything to unduly hurt them, I will make sure your dissertation never sees the light of day.”

David–

Does not look particularly threatened. David looks like he’s watched a cute cat video. Thor knows the expression well because it's the same one his longtime storm chasing partner gets when her boyfriend sends her cat videos. 

It is not an expression that Thor wants someone to be wearing when he is threatening them.

“No offense,” David says. “And I totally appreciate the big brother shovel talk, but–I feel kind of like a golden retriever puppy just growled at me. It was cute,” he finishes just as Loki reappears. 

“What?” Loki asks.

“Your brother just told me to never break your heart.”

“Bold of him to assume I have one.”

David laughs, much to Thor’s dismay, and kisses Loki’s cheek. Completely undeterred by his speech.

The curse of the middle child, he supposes. Nobody takes you seriously.

o.O.o.O.o.O.o

Hela looks well, Loki supposes. She has that impish half-smile and a positively obscene diamond on the ring finger of her left hand.

She’s also stopped dying her hair black, it looks like, and she looks like she’s related to Thor.

How’s my favorite little sibling?” She asks, pulling Loki into a hug while Thor splutters indignantly.

Fine.” Loki feels stiff and awkward. “You?”

Can’t complain,” Hela shrugs before moving to hug Thor. “Don’t pout, baby brother. You know I love you too.” She steps back and eyes them all critically. “Aren’t you going to introduce me to your dates?”

This is David, my boyfriend,” Loki blurts out. A slow smile slides across David’s face as he extends his hand to Hela.

It’s nice to meet you,” he says.

Same! Loki is very particular about significant others, so you must be something special.”

I’m Kate,” Kate says, not bothering to wait for Thor to introduce her. “Thor and I are just friends.”

Hela smirks. “Of course you are.”

Thor, though, almost deflates when Kate says this, and oh, that’s certainly interesting. Hela notices it, too, going by the slight rise in her eyebrows.

Thor’s never really been subtle. 

Loki doesn't know Hela all that well, but there's something familiar in the way she looks at Thor--like she's going to pry the information out of him, tact be damned, and this really isn't the time or place for it.

Mostly because David is here, and Loki hopes that he won't be scared off for good after meeting Hela. Which means distracting her.

Loki ushers David to a seat and nods at Hela’s hand. “What’s the ring about?”

Hela extends her hand, letting the stone catch the light. "Not too big, is it?"

Whoa,” David says. “Is that a diamond?”

Is that an engagement ring?” Thor snaps, clearly seeing himself in Brother Protector Mode. As if Hela ever needed someone to protect her. Thor puffs up, probably getting ready to pull out his shovel talk when Kate's elbow slips off the table and jabs Thor in the leg.

Kate, who suddenly has no qualms about personal space, leans over his sister’s hand and breathes heavily over the ring. “ Damn, girl!” Kate looks up and notices all of them staring. David is making a throat cutting gesture. Thor is confused. Hela is still smirking.

Kate drops her hand.

Uh. Sorry. It's, uh, most stones fog up when you breathe on them, only diamonds and a few others clear up immediately, it's, you know...”

No, no, you’re fine." Hela rescues Kate from her ramble. "My girlfriend finally proposed.”

Thor gets, if possible, bigger, and seems to loom even more, even though they're all sitting. “Which girlfriend?”

Debbie.”

Debbie. The reason you went to jail Debbie? Debbie who broke up with you and then went to jail herself? Debbie--”

Congratulations, sister,” Loki interrupts Thor before he can gain more momentum. People are starting to stare. “Why isn’t she joining us?”

Hela gestures at Thor with her fork. “Because of that.”

Thor, predictably, splutters.

Debbie and I went to jail for the same thing, I’ll have you know, and it wasn’t even for that long! A few months. You worry too much, Thor.” She turns back to Loki. “And thank you for the congratulations. Father was less than thrilled when I told him.”

Father is less than thrilled about everything.”

I think Frigga was more excited. She invited me to pinterest. She’s got a wedding planning board made already.” Hela pulls a face but Loki can tell she’s still a bit excited.

Let us know if you need help,” Thor finally says. Grudgingly. Like he'd rather be yelling about morally grey fiancés.  

H ela and Loki lock eyes as their server brings them water.

He’ll do the heavy lifting,” Loki sclarifies. “I’ll help you pick the jumpsuit.”

Who says I’m not wearing a dress?”

Thor snorts, then smiles for the first time all night before he doubles over, laughing. “The last time you wore a dress was 1998,” Thor says, wiping tears from his eyes.

Fine, yes,” Hela snaps. “You can help me pick my jumpsuit.”

Loki smiles as well. "You'll look fantastic."

o.O.o.O.o.O.o

D inner goes pretty well. David thinks Hela might like him.

And him and Kate being there does seem to be setting the Odinsons at ease. There are a few tense moments that he and Kate blunder into--a mention of a museum, allusions to a few family trips gone wrong--but for the most part, it's nice, and not nearly as awkward as David had thought it would be.

There’s a brief flurry of texting between Thor and Loki towards the end of the meal. They’re clearly trying to not draw Hela’s attention, and David’s just about to ask her what she does for a living—a topic he’d been repeatedly warned not to broach—when Kate takes charge of the situation.

Loki said you’d just gotten out of jail,” Kate says. “Can I ask what for?”

I was accused of stealing something that I didn’t.”

Ah. Of course.”

I did do my fair share of petty theft as a youngster, of course. But now I’m on the straight and narrow.” A smile flickers across Hela’s face. “Well. So to speak.”

Were you like a pickpocket?” Kate asks.

Loki and Thor share a glance and silently excuse themselves from the table as Kate continues. “I never understand how people steal watches. How do you not notice that?”

Misdirection,” Hela says, pulling a watch out of her jacket pocket. It looks an awful lot like the one Thor was wearing earlier.

Kate gives a little squeal. “Can you show me how it’s done?”

David tries not to worry about Loki or what’s going on. Loki will tell him when they’re ready, so for the time being, David will learn how to commit minor crimes from Hela Odinsdottir.

o.O.o.O.o.O.o

David slides his hand into Loki’s and squeezes. “That wasn’t so bad. She seems nice.”

She’s mellowed. I never knew her that well, but she’s not as intimidating as she used to be. I think the fact that she doesn’t speak to our father has something to do with it.”

David hums, indicating he’s heard, but lets the silence linger as they walk through Loki’s neighborhood.

You don’t talk about your dad much.”

Because I don’t like him very much.” Loki sighs. “Father is a complicated man, and not always a nice man. But he does try, sometimes, and I suppose that’s more than many people can say about their fathers.”

They walk in silence a bit more. “So what was with you and Thor leaving?”

Father wanted to ask us if we’d heard from Hela.”

And?”

Well, obviously we had, but we didn’t know why he wanted to know, which required us to get our stories straight before we texted him back.”

What, is he trying to pit the two of you against her or something?”

Unclear.”

That’s...intense.”

My family isn’t exactly normal.”

I noticed.”

Loki pulls them to a full stop. “Why doesn’t this bother you more?”

What?”

My family! Me! Everything!”

Sorry. You want me to be upset?”

My sister is a felon! There’s a very real chance she stole millions of dollars worth of jewels from a museum! My brother is named after the god of thunder and chases tornadoes!”

All families are weird?” David tries, and Loki huffs in exasperation.

I’m sorry. This was just not my idea of a good date.”

Meeting the family doesn’t ever count as a date.” David lets go of Loki’s hand to slide his arm around their waist, tugging them close. “Do we need to not go home, and go on a real date? That could be fun. Waffle House.”

I have to teach tomorrow. Strange is at that conference, remember?”

Say you’re sick. Cancel class.”

Loki’s eyes gleam for a moment as they consider it. “That would be fun. But Stephen would know. He always knows.”

Hmmm. Well, we’ll just have to go out this Friday to make up for it.”

o.O.o.O.o.O.o

D avid wipes his sweaty palms on his pants and wonders for the fifth time if he should have just gone with the traditional rose bouquet instead of picking flowers at random. It’s not like there’s a lot of choice for a man on a budget in a small college town as far as florists go.

Loki’s not traditional, but maybe David should have gone with the roses anyway?

David shakes his head and ramps up his mental pep-talk. Loki is dramatic. Loki loves doing dramatic things, and being dramatic, and when other people are dramatic, which is why the background on David’s phone is a picture of the two of them. David is in a zoot suit and Loki is in a backless evening dress draped in a massive faux fur with one of those old-fashioned long cigarette holders.

David bounces up and down on his feet. Drama is good! They will love this! And maybe, hopefully, it will make Loki less worried about their family. David hadn’t liked the worried little frown between their eyes as they’d kissed goodnight.

This is David’s attempt at making Loki feel better.

Which doesn’t work unless David moves.

He decides to all at once, banging the classroom door open.

Oh! Sorry. Didn’t mean to interrupt class,” David slips into the room. “I just had a special delivery.”

He hands Loki the bouquet of flowers and Loki flushes, fighting back a smile .

David shuffles his feet awkwardly, suddenly unsure of the next step of the Grand Romantic Gesture.

Damn,” one of the students mutters. “Loki can get it.”

Yes,” Loki’s gaze zeroes in on the student who spoke before pulling David closer. “I can.”

Loki raises a questioning eyebrow to David, as if to ask is this okay? David can only grin back, and Loki’s widening smile reveals that utterly endearing chipped tooth.

David presses his lips to Loki’s, tasting the cherry lipbalm they pretend they don’t use. David smiles against their lips, and feels Loki smile in return .

Behind them, the class whoops and catcalls.