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0% Damsel, 100% Distress

Chapter Text

While Loki was not yet considered an Avenger, he was on his way, even if not on purpose. It had been a legal mess trying to straighten up the whole “brainwashing” incident with the attack on New York, but surprisingly Stark had stepped up and taken care of it. There was some mention of not holding someone accountable because of what someone else did with their weapon, even if said person was the weapon. Loki was now staying in Avengers Tower and helping with missions/attacks when it suited him or when others were unavailable and his help was needed. It kept things from getting too boring and he would never admit it to anyone but as much as he liked causing mischief and chaos, the whole scale of the destruction and killing might have been a bit much for him so he might be trying to make up for a bit of that.

Currently, he was lounging on the couch in the common room reading Hamlet. Again. He was the only one in the tower except for Dr. Banner being that it was a Tuesday morning, so everyone was on mission or working. He had just started a new page when the call to assemble came through. He rolled his eyes as he spoke to the ceiling,

“FRIDAY, dear, what is it this time?”

“There is a man downtown who has opened fire on civilians and seems to be setting bombs off in buildings. Law enforcement has yet to be able to contain the situation.”
Loki raised an eyebrow, “A single man?”

“That is correct. Dozens are injured and law enforcement has requested assistance.”

Bruce walked in the room and looked around. Based on his rumpled lab coat and dark bags under his eyes, it was obvious he had been in his lab for a long while and was trying to figure out who was available.

“Are you the only one here?”

“It seems I am.” Loki said as a shimmer ran down his body to replace his black t-shirt and sweatpants with his typical armor.

“Great,” Bruce sighed, “I don’t want to make you go alone, but I think the big guy might be overkill for just one guy.”

“I’ll be fine. It’s just one mortal and Stark will make a dramatic late appearance, as per usual, I’m sure.”

“Okay. I’ll have Friday monitor the area if you need anything.”

Loki nodded as he disappeared. He appeared about a block away from screaming and the sound of gunfire. He jogged past a police blockade as he saw the man that was obviously responsible for the ensuing chaos. In the middle of the street was a man with shaggy black hair wearing black tactical gear. He was wielding a machine gun but the part that was the most interesting was the silver metal arm the man sported. There was some kind of control device attached to his forearm that seemed to control the explosions in various buildings in the area.

Two daggers appeared in Loki’s hands as he walked the block distance between them. With a half a block distance still between then, Loki flung the dagger at the device on the man’s arm. Without even looking at him, the man dodged it with ease. Loki continued walking towards the man as he threw the second dagger. It wasn’t until he went to throw a third that he realized the dagger hadn’t reappeared in his hand. There was a moment he startled as he looked at his empty hand and that’s when the dark assailant grabbed Loki and threw him across the street into a brick building. He felt the brick give under him as his ribs cracked. His mind was fogged as he tried to figure out why he couldn’t conjure any magic. As he braced himself to press off the wall, he felt a metal hand close around his throat. It took his addled mind a second to realize what was happening as he started to struggle against the metal-armed man. He hoped to Thor that one of the others were close.

Just as he started to see black spots in his vision, there was the echoing gong of metal on metal and the hand loosened its grip. He gulped in air as he saw the still-silent man backhand a young woman. The man growled at the woman to stay down and turned back to Loki, who had managed to clear his head some since the oxygen flow has been restored. Loki, being the taller of the two, was able to land a kick to the man’s abdomen, but only received a grunt and a hand once again tightening around his throat as a reward. Loki was prying at the metal fingers as his feet flailed a foot off the ground. He heard the glorious sound of a repulsor blast as the man released his throat and was forced into him against the wall. He shoved the man off of him as Stark landed next to him.

“About time you showed up.” Loki rasped as he held his sore ribs.

“Hey, at least my meeting wasn’t somewhere fun; you would have really been screwed then.”

Loki glared at Stark as he helped him get the unconscious man up and secured as a SHIELD detail arrived. Stark was giving the needed information to the authorities when Loki noticed that the young woman who stepped in on his behalf was still laying to the side, unconscious. He walked over to her as Stark yelled that they were ready to go.

“She needs medical attention.” Loki knelt beside the young woman. She was pleasant looking enough. Not unattractive, per se, just….plain.

“I’ll get an ambulance.” Stark stated as he began to walk away.

“No. I’m going to make sure she’s alright. She’s coming with us.” Stark could tell Loki wasn’t going to budge.

“Oookay?” He wasn’t sure why this one woman in particular caught Loki’s eye but after the investment meeting he’d just been through; he didn’t have the energy to argue with him. He had never understood Loki’s motives and he sure as hell wasn’t going to start now. “Guess I’ll see you at the tower. I’ll have medical waiting for you.” His faceplate slid down as he took a step back to take off.

“Wait!” Loki started to lunge forward and raised his hand as he winced through the pain of moving. “For some reason I don’t have access to my magic. I need you to carry her.”

“You can’t use your magic?” The Iron Man faceplate slid back up to reveal Stark’s perplexed face. Guess there’s a first time for everything.

“It seems not. Can you carry her?” Loki obviously didn’t want to have this conversation now, if his death glare was any indicator.

“Help the damsel in distress? Why, that is exactly what I’m here for!” Stark grinned as he carefully picked up the young woman. Loki rolled his eyes.

“At least you could be helpful for something.”

“Hey now! I just saved your sorry smurf ass! You could at least say ‘thanks,’” Stark quipped as Loki’s head snapped down to his hands. He looked back up to Stark with a shocked look on his face. “I’m guessing you aren’t doing that on purpose?”

Loki turned to look in a window that miraculously hadn’t been broken. Looking back was his shocked and cut up face, sporting his natural blue skin and Jotun markings. He had never lost control of his shapeshifting abilities, and honestly, it frightened him. He wasn’t ashamed of his true form, and would walk around from time to time in this state, originally to make the other Avengers jump, but they eventually got used to it, so now it’s just nice to not have to hide. He hadn’t even noticed he had been bearing his true skin until Stark had mentioned it.

“I’m going to get her to medical. Can you find a way back?”

Loki snapped back to reality, “Yes. I’ll have the SHIELD detail drop me off.”

Chapter Text

I grabbed the bag of chips and rolled over the back of the couch. It was my first day off in a week and I was going to do nothing but laying around and watch Netflix. Working for an accountant was okay, but it got monotonous after a while. I was halfway through a random episode of Supernatural and had just finished braiding my hair when I heard the first explosion. I didn’t pay it too much mind, growing up in the middle of nowhere in Missouri means you get used to people randomly blowing stuff up, but when the second one sounded closer I went to look out the window. It was chaos. People were running and a building down the street was smoking. I threw on my old tennis shoes and grabbed my phone as I tried to figure out if it would be safer to stay or leave. That decision was made for me.

The explosion shattered my windows and knocked me to the ground. It had come from below so I knew I had to get out before the building collapsed. I reached for the door as I remembered the Jonas’s. They lived in the next apartment over and had 5 kids. I babysat occasionally and this morning Mrs. Jonas told me that they had to work and all the kids were home with colds. Taylor, the eldest at 14, might come get me if there was an emergency or they needed something she couldn’t handle. There was no way she was going to be able to evacuate all the little ones by herself. I ran next door. Taylor was barely hiding the panic on her face and the three youngest were crying. I helped gather the children as we ran outside and joined the crowd.

We were almost to a police barricade when a tall man in strange armor passed us going towards the explosions. I knew him from somewhere but couldn’t place it and it wasn’t a concern at the moment. I got the children to the barricade and gave Taylor the baby and my phone so she could call her parents. I live in a building with families and elderly and had to make sure no one else needed help out so I headed back.

Just before I got to the building, something, or should I say, someone, flew by me and hit the building to my right. I scrambled back out of the way as a man with a metal arm and machine gun marched over to him. My back hit a scaffold as the metal arm reached up and started to choke the injured man. It was the man who passed me a short time ago, except now he was blue? and it looked like someone had drawn all over him. I couldn’t stand here and watch as this obviously crazy guy kills this man that walked towards danger. I turned to the scaffolding and found a discarded tool bag, most likely left when the workers ran. I reached in and as hoped for, easily found a heavy hammer. The metal armed man wasn’t concerned with me so I was able to get close. I took a breath as I ran the last few steps and swung the hammer. I connected with the middle of the metal arm and heard a satisfying clang and the give of the elbow joint that proved I had hit my mark. A second later, my head snapped to the side as I flew backwards and hit the sidewalk.

“Stay down.” The man nearly growled as I tried to pick my head up. I could feel blood in my mouth and couldn’t even begin to guess which way was up. I laid my head back on the concrete as my vision went dark.

 

The first thing I noticed when I came to was my pounding head. The beeping in the room didn’t help that at all. When I managed to get my eyes open, I recognized the medical use of the room, but it definitely wasn’t a hospital. I dragged my eyes to the left and saw a man, the same man who ran into danger and was being choked when I passed out. He was sitting uncomfortably straight in a chair beside my bed reading a book.  “Where am I?” God, my voice was raspy.

“How are you?” The man asked as he closed his book and scooted forward in the chair.

“Head. Ow.” I tried to sit up but that was a bad idea. A very bad idea. “You didn’t answer my question.”

“You’re at Avengers Tower. Do you remember what happened?” He held a cup of water out so I could wet my parched throat.

Avengers Tower? Yeah, I wasn’t even going to try to process the reason for that right now. “Explosions. You were getting the crap beat out of you.” I saw the stoic face of the man crack as he twitched the corner of his mouth.

“I wouldn’t go so far as to say that, but it is fortunate you intervened. The brute had done something to mess with my magical abilities. I owe you, my lady, for you saved my life. That is not a debt I hold lightly.”

“I-I’m sure you would have found a way out of it.” I stammered. This isn’t the first time I had intervened in a life or death situation, but I still couldn’t get used to getting the glory for it. I needed to get the attention off of me. “What is your name? Are you okay?”

He looked startled for a minute. “You don’t know of me?” The thought that someone would save him given his reputation was surprising, but getting between an assassin and a literal god that you didn’t even know? He couldn’t even think of a person with that much courage.

“You look familiar but I haven’t been able to place you.”

“Hmm. Interesting. My name is Loki. To answer your other question, yes. I am alright.”

Loki. I had seen that name on the news. There was a terrorist attack in New York and some political drama about brainwashing. I was still living in Missouri, so it wasn’t knowledge I was keeping up with. I had my hands full with other things at the time.

“Ah. Why were you blue?” I’m not sure why that was the next question out of my mouth, but it seemed to amuse Loki.

“I am not of Midgard-Earth. You saw my true nature in a time I was unable to shapeshift. To be honest, I was expecting more of a reaction, but again, I’m still not sure why you stepped in on my fight. Or even your name.” Loki tilted his head expectantly.

“I’m Laira. Laira Jackson. I couldn’t just stand there and let you die.” I was now very fascinated with the sheet I was twisting between my fingers. His stare was ridiculously intense.

“But you didn’t even know who I was.” It was said as a statement like Loki was running the idea by himself and couldn’t understand it.

“It doesn’t matter who you are. I saw you walking towards the danger instead of running with the others. You took a chance on us and deserved some kind of help, not that I was able to do much. I still don’t understand what happened after I passed out.”

Loki was looking at me like I was a challenging puzzle. “Stark showed up shortly after you were…. decommissioned. We were able to get the man restrained and transported to a secure facility. I wanted to make sure you were okay so I could pay back my debt to you so Stark brought you back here to be treated by his medical team.”

“Stark. Tony Stark? Iron Man?” My voice went up an octave. That was a name I knew. You would have to be dead not to know of Tony Stark, and even then, the ghosts probably tell stories about him.

“Always the favorite.” Loki grumbled. “Yes. Tony Stark. I believe he is somewhere around here working on something or another.” He waved a hand and rolled his eyes but I could tell it was a lighthearted exasperation.

“Okay… Well this isn’t how I expected my day off to go.” I chuckled as I yawned.

“Get some rest and we shall talk some more when you awaken. I will remain here if you should need anything.”

“You don’t need to do that.” I muttered as I was already starting to doze off.

“Nonsense. Consider it part of my repayment.” I’m pretty sure I saw him smile as I drifted off to sleep.

Chapter Text

When I woke again, Loki hadn’t appeared to have moved. He was in the same chair reading what looked to be the same book.

“How long have you been sitting there?” I shifted myself into a sitting position since my head had mostly stopped throbbing.

Loki smirked, “Only a day or so. How are you feeling?”

“A lot better. Wait. A day? Shit.” My boss was going to kill me. We didn’t have the staffing for me to stop showing up for work, crazy man attack or not. Tax season, after all.

“Did you have somewhere to be?”

“Oh, just work. If I even still have a job. I need to call my boss.” Then I remembered Taylor probably still had my phone. Fantastic.

“Here.” Loki handed me a phone. I dialed the number and quickly explained the situation to my boss. She knew of the attack and had heard my building was hit so they were making due without me. She told me to take a few days to figure stuff out and let her know when I wanted to come back. At least I still had a job, even if my building had collapsed.

A doctor came in while I was on the phone and started looking stuff over. Apparently, I had a minor concussion, a badly bruised jaw, and a sprained wrist where I caught myself. I looked rough but was deemed fit enough to leave the med bay. Loki handed me my freshly laundered t-shirt and sweats I was wearing during the attack and excused himself so I could change. I was stiff and sore but managed to get dressed with little issue. I stepped out into the hall where Loki was waiting for me.

“Where to?” I looked at him for a moment as I realized he was probably going to take home.

“Oh… Uhm…. Not sure. If I can find my wallet in what’s left of my apartment I can go to a hotel until I figure out what I’m going to do.”

Loki’s brow furrowed. “What’s left of your apartment?”

“It was hit by one of the explosions. That’s why I was on the street. I doubt it’s still standing or habitable.”

“Oh. Well then, you’ll stay here. There is plenty of space. Let’s go talk to Stark and find you a room.”

“Wha- Loki! I can’t stay at Avengers Tower!” I reluctantly followed him.

“That’s absurd. Of course you can. Why wouldn’t you be able to?” He replied as he continued to walk down the hall.

“Well… I’m not an Avenger? I don’t know, but I can’t just stay here.” I felt like a petulant child at this point.

“Nonsense.” The elevator opened and I followed Loki in. What else was I going to do? “FRIDAY, dearest, where is Stark?”

I jumped when a voice answered back. “Sir is in the common room waiting for the pizza delivery.”

“What the hell?!” I backed up to one of the walls are started looking around.

“I’m sorry to frighten you. That is FRIDAY, she’s an AI that runs the tower and is in general, useful. FRIDAY take us up.”

I had just calmed my breathing down when the doors opened again. I followed Loki into a large room that looked more expensive than anything I could ever dream to live in. On the half circle of couches there were several people sat. I quickly realized that these were The Avengers and froze. How had my life spiraled so that I am being led by an ex-super villain into a room of literal superheroes?

“Stark. We will be needing a room for Miss Jackson.” Loki announced as he continued into the room. I, however, stepped slightly behind Loki to try to avoid being the center of attention once again. Tony Stark (!!) turned and looked over his shoulder and smiled when he saw us.

“Good to see you up and about. How are you feeling?” He stood and came over followed by Captain America (!!) and another man I didn’t recognize right away.

“Uhm. I’m doing alright. I don’t want to intrude. Loki was going to take me home but my apartment kinda got blown up so I don’t have anywhere to go right now and Loki offered a room here but I don’t want to invite myself or anything…” I trailed off as I realized I was rambling in front of one of the most powerful men in the world. My shoes needed cleaned. And my shoelaces were dirty.

Captain America was the one to respond. “Don’t be ridiculous. Loki told us what happened. If you don’t have anywhere to go, stay here till you get back on your feet. I’m Steve.” He gave a friendly smile as he held out his hand.

“Laira. Nice to meet you Captain Rogers.”

“Well I know it’s called Avengers Tower but it really is my building. Don’t you think I would be the one making the decision?” Tony Stark eyed me and I held my breath. Approximately one eternity later (maybe just a couple seconds), he broke into a wide smile. “We’d be happy to have you. You saved me a load of trouble by not having to deal with him dying again. I’m Tony.” Tony offered his hand.

“Nice to meet you Mr. Stark. Wait-Again?!” I finished processing what he had said as I was shaking his hand. My head turned to a Trickster god who was very obviously proud of himself. All four of the men around me started to chuckle.

“It’s a long story. I’m Rhodey.” I nodded as I shook the last man’s hand.

“Sir, the pizza is here.” The ceiling, FRIDAY, announced.

“Time to eat! Laira! Grab a drink and find a seat!” Tony cried as he bounded for the elevator.

Chapter Text

I made my way to the couch, followed by Loki and decided to take up residency on the loveseat on the edge of the circle. I sighed when I sat down. I was feeling much better but I was sore and my head was starting to throb. Loki handed me a blanket and walked off to the kitchen without a word. I curled up on half the plush loveseat and laid my head on a throw pillow. I pulled my head up as I felt the cushion next to me dip. Loki settled next to me and handed me a glass of water and a couple of pills.

“You look like you could use these.”

I took the glass and the pills. It was about time for them anyways. “Thank you, Loki.”

He nodded and settled back against the couch after placing my glass back on the coffee table.

Tony came back with what looked to be enough pizza to feed a small army. He sat the ridiculous stack on one of the coffee tables as the mass of people in the room descended.  I recognized most of the people as they all filled their plates; Hawkeye, Thor, Black Widow, and of course Tony, Rhodey, and Captain America. There was a timid looking man and a woman who looked a little younger than me with long red hair. I figured they were connected to the rest of the Avengers but I didn’t have the energy to ask at the moment.

As my eyes started to drift shut, Loki handed me a plate with a slice of pizza on it. “You should eat something.”

“’M not hungry.” I didn’t even bother lifting my head.

“You need to eat something with your medication. I can get you something else if you’d like.”

“It’s okay. This is fine.” I pushed myself up. I really wasn’t hungry but Loki didn’t look like he was going to give up anytime soon so I accepted the plate with a mumbled thanks.

I slowly ate my slice of pizza as the rest of the group chatted around me. I’ve never been super outspoken around a new group, especially one that intimidates like a group of superheroes, and it was cool to see the interactions between the group. I spent the next couple hours watching and answering questions when they were asked of me. Steve made a point to include me to a degree but mostly Loki and I just sat and watched the rest of the group.

Around 11 o’clock, everyone started to head to bed. Loki nudged me from my doze and I took my legs off his lap. Oops. Didn’t realize I had stretched out. At least he didn’t seem to mind. Loki led me a couple floors down and showed me to my rooms.

“There are clothes on the couch and your medicine should be by the bed. If you need anything, I am only a room down, or you can ask FRIDAY. Just speak her name and she will answer.”

“Loki. Can I ask you a question?”

“Of course.”

“Not that I’m complaining, but why have you been doting on me so much? I don’t get the impression that that is in character for you.”

“I owe you a larger debt than I have ever had before. I am going to do everything I can to repay you. If that means doing everything I can think of that might be of assistance, then so be it.”

“Loki, that’s very sweet of you, but it’s really not necessary, I promise. You don’t owe me anything.”

“How can you justify that? You put your mortal life in danger for someone you didn’t even know. Someone who was very clearly not of your world, unless I’ve missed some blue group of humans walking around?”

I snickered at the accidental reference, “Okay, one: Just because you aren’t of my world, doesn’t make you any less of a person. Two: You put your life in danger for many people you didn’t know that weren’t of your world, so how is that any different?”

“With my powers and heritage, it is my burden to protect those mortals who cannot protect themselves.”

“I don’t buy that.” I studied Loki as I stood by the couch in my front room. I could tell he was just waiting for me to stop talking long enough so it wasn’t awkward and he could escape from my room and this conversation. He wasn’t getting away that easy. “Loki, I hereby absolve you of any debt owed to me. I enjoyed spending time with you all tonight, and would love to become better friends with you, but no acting like you owe me something. I want to be your friend, so no more waiting on me. Deal?”

He looked slightly perplexed. He finally bowed his head. “As you wish. I will see you in the common room in the morning. Sleep well, my lady.”

I rolled my eyes while I closed the door after Loki left. I turned around and got a good look at the room for the first time. The living area was the size of the bedroom in my apartment. There was enough room for a large TV, coffee table and couch, and a bookshelf off to the side. I could see a bathroom off to one side. I decided to go ahead and claim unconsciousness for the night so I headed in the other direction towards what I assumed what the bedroom. I was right, and a bedroom it was. That had to be a king size bed with the fluffiest looking comforter I had ever seen. There was a gorgeous cherry dresser to one side and a floor to ceiling window on the other. I took a couple minutes to look out onto the city before I closed the curtains and made my way to bed. I sunk into what I could only imagine was a pile of clouds and drifted to sleep in less time than I ever had before.

Chapter Text

Loki walked back to his room. He still could not figure out this woman. She risks her very mortal self to try to save someone she doesn’t know, she won’t let him repay such a debt, and even more so, she’s intriguing. He normally hated having people touch him and didn’t often like to be in the company of others for very long, but for some reason she was different. She was a quiet watching type during the evening but when she did speak, she was full of wit and intelligence. He didn’t think she even noticed when she stretched her legs out over his, and he only stiffened for a moment before allowing it and settling his hands on her shin. His suspicion was confirmed when he roused her for bed and she blushed and stammered as she pulled her legs off of him. She had said she wanted to be his friend, but his brother was the closest thing to that he had ever had so he wasn’t even sure what that entailed. He decided if that was how he was to keep this enticing woman around, then he would do what he needed to.

“FRIDAY?” Loki spoke softly as he entered his rooms.

“How can I be of service?”

“Please notify me if Miss Jackson needs any assistance.”

“Yes, sir.”

He changed and laid in bed as he stared at the ceiling, wide awake. He had too much on his mind to sleep. All they had gotten out of the man with the metal arm was that he was an assassin sent to kill the avengers. They still don’t know how he was able to prevent Loki’s magic or anymore about his mission. Being that close to death, real death, was something he refused to let himself dwell on. It had always been a trick or projection, he had never actually come close to dying before now. Thor’s new concern over his mental status was an interesting change of pace. Though all this had piled up in his mind, they kept getting pushed to the side to make way for the intriguing woman in the next room. Her bravery and wit notwithstanding, as plain as Loki thought she looked at first, there were aspects he couldn’t ignore. Her eyes were his favorite shade of emerald green and they held specks of gold that sparkled when she got a witty comment in. As much as she tried to hide when she giggled at other people, her smile was stunning. He felt a grin creep on his face every time she beamed at something one of the others said.

Her friend. Yes, he will be that. He couldn’t help but want to know more about this precious woman and was looking forward to spending more time with her. His last thoughts as he fell asleep were that he hoped she wouldn’t leave him once she found out what he was really like just like everyone else did.

Chapter Text

When I woke up my head was lightly pounding but I couldn’t bring myself to grab my pain pills due to the comfort of the bed. I was gonna have to steal it. This was the best thing on the face of the planet. After a while I finally drug myself to the edge of the bed and grabbed a bottle of water and my pills. I laid back for a few minutes to let the meds kick in as I went over my plans for the day. The doctor had said I needed to relax for at least another day before I really tried to do anything so I probably shouldn’t try to go back to the apartment to see what I could find. I needed to get my phone replaced, and to call mom, she was most definitely freaking out since I hadn’t spoken to her since the attack. The rest of the day I would just play by ear.

I got out of bed and decided to start with a hot shower. I grabbed the clothes off the couch, a Stark Industries t-shirt and a pair of sweatpants. After experiencing water pressure from the Lord himself, and mostly drying my long hair, leaving it down so it could dry, I decided to venture to the common room. The Black Widow and Captain Rogers were sitting at the kitchen table talking quietly over a bunch of papers and files that covered the table. Loki was sprawled across one of the couches reading yet another book.

I crept over to the back of the couch and popped my head over, “Morning!”

Loki fell off the couch. Natasha and I started laughing and Steve had a grin on his face. (I should probably get used to calling them by their real names and not their superhero names.)

“What on Earth possessed you to do such a thing?” Loki eyed with a lifted brow as he stood up.

“Not my fault you aren’t that observant.” He looked a little surprised when I winked at him. “Is there something I can have for breakfast. I’m feeling better and I’m actually hungry.”

“Of course. I believe Rogers made waffles a short while ago and there are some still in the refrigerator.”

“Awesome.” I made a plate with one of the biggest waffles I’ve ever seen (does everything in place have to be so much better than the rest of the world??) and found some peanut butter and doused it in syrup. I didn’t want to make a mess on the papers on the kitchen table so I made my way back to one of the coffee tables and sat on the floor in front of it. I figured if pizza was alright the night before, I would be okay eating a waffle.

“What is on that waffle?” Loki looked at me like I was eating a kitten instead of actual food.

“Uhm. Peanut butter? Have you never had it?”

“Is that a normal garnish?”

“Not really, but it’s super good. You want to try?” I cut off a piece and made sure there was a good peanut butter to syrup ratio on it and held it out to Loki. He looked at me like he was trying to figure out if I was poisoning him or not then leaned forward and took the bite from the fork still in my hand. We maintained eye contact the whole time, and let me tell you, it was the most ridiculously erotic thing I’ve ever been a part of. I tried to keep my breathing steady and Loki arched an eyebrow at me as he chewed his newly acquired bite.

“Hmm. I can see the appeal.” Loki said with a sultriness that did not help to keep my breathing normal. It wasn’t that Loki wasn’t attractive, it was quite the opposite. Tall, dark, and handsome sold him short. He was sly and funny and damn it! I was not going to start thinking like this about a literal god who was who knows how old. I cleared my throat and went back to my breakfast.

I could feel Loki’s eyes on me from where he was sitting on the couch behind me. “What tasks do you need to accomplish today?” I’m pretty sure he was smirking. Probably because he was able to make me uncomfortable. I’m pretty sure I blushed. Damn.

“Uhm. I need to replace my phone and call my mom. I’m sure she’s flipping shit. Not sure yet after that. I need to go see what’s left of my apartment but I’m not supposed to really do anything today.”

“You can use my phone to contact your mother then I’ll take you to replace your phone and get some clothing. I’m sure you don’t want to wear sweats around until you can make it to your apartment.”

“Remember what we talked about? No more doting.” I looked back at Loki as he smirked.

“Yes, but today I’m taking I’m friend to run an errand since she shouldn’t be on her own for medical reasons.” He smiled like he thought he was clever for figuring a way around that rule.

I sighed. “You’re incorrigible.”

“Glad we’re on the same page. Now finish up your concoction so we can go. I’ll go get some keys from Stark so I can take you shopping.” He handed me his phone so I could call my mom. Let’s just say that was not a conversation I want to ever have again. There was crying, there was yelling, there were threats to chain me up in the basement so she wouldn’t have to worry about where I was again. I promised to call again when I got my phone replaced and she made me promise to come out for a visit a when I got back on my feet.

                Apparently, when Loki meant to take me shopping, he meant it. If I was on my own, I would have hit up a department store around my apartment but Loki ended up driving us to a mall. I found a pair of jeans in the first store we stopped in and changed into them after he paid. (Yes, there was a conversation, but he won since I had no access to my money and he refused to stop by my bank so I could get cash. I’m pretty sure he was using Tony’s credit card.) I ended up getting two more basic outfits before talking Loki into letting us leave.

                When we got back to the tower Loki informed me there was a new Starkphone waiting in my room for me. I don’t know why I was even surprised at this point. We went upstairs and I got my phone from my room before we went to the common room. Hawkeye was watching TV with Natasha, Rhodey, and another man I only vaguely recognized. Loki followed me to the couch opposite of the group as I sat down and started to program my new phone.

                “So what does it feel like to be a knight in shining armor to a god?” I looked up and realized the question was directed at me.

                “Eerrr…. I don’t really think that’s what I am.” Hawkeye was talking to me. Clint Barton was talking. to ME. I was worried about this exact moment. I was trying to avoid him completely to prevent the obvious hero worship that was about to happen. I grew up in BFE Missouri and hunting was a favorite past time. I can use a rifle just fine but bow season was always my favorite. There was just something about using your own strength to fire a weapon and the sound an arrow makes as it leaves its cradle. Clint Barton is arguably the best archer in the world. He was my favorite Avenger growing up and we aren’t going to talk about the posters that are probably still hanging in my childhood room. Now he was talking to me. Don’t fangirl, don’t fangirl…

                “Oh c’mon! You saved the damsel in distress!” Clint winked at me and grinned. I stole a look at Loki and I was correct in my assumption that if looks could kill, the archer would be dead several times over.

                “I wouldn’t exactly call Loki a damsel, although there was a little distress.” I grinned back at Clint.

                “You wound me.” Loki put his hand on his chest and held the fakest pained look on his face. Of course, that just make me start to giggle. Great. Now I’m giggled like a dork in front of Hawkeye.

                “I like you.” Clint said as he gave a little wave. “I’m Clint by the way. I don’t think I actually introduced myself last night.”

                I swear I wasn’t blushing. “I know who you are Mr. Barton. I’m a fan.” Nope. Wasn’t blushing. Was that a spot on the rug? Yup. Definitely a spot.

                “A fan? Whaa- Who’s your favorite Avenger? This is important. C’mon!” He moved up to the edge of his seat.

                “Leave the poor girl alone. I’m Sam by the way. Falcon.” The man beside Clint playfully slapped him in the back of the head.

                “Laira.” I replied with a smile, hoping we would just glance over Clint’s question. I had a feeling I wouldn’t be living it down if I had to answer. Unfortunately, I wasn’t so lucky.

                “You might as well answer the dimwit. He won’t let you rest until you do.” Loki smirked and raised an eyebrow while awaiting my answer. Dammit. Did he already know my answer? We were going to have to have a conversation about ratting out friends.

                I sighed. “I was a bow hunter growing up. So naturally, the world’s best archer is going to be my role model.”

                Clint jumped off the couch as he whooped and fist pumped in the air, “YES! I’m the favorite! Suck it, losers!” Then he turned to me, “You any good?”

                I smirked at him. “Two state champions and all the records possible at my high school. Been a while since I’ve been able to go to the range, though. Haven’t been home in a bit.”

                He let out a whistle, “Well then, little missy, we are just gonna have to see if you still have what it takes. There’s a range downstairs with the gyms.”

                “You two can run off and play AFTER she has been released by the good doctors to do so.” Clint rolled his eyes at Loki. “Based off what I have witnessed thus far, she has approximately the same amount of self-preservation as the rest of us.”

“Yes, dear.” Sarcasm dripped from my playful tone as I rolled my eyes. Loki arched an eyebrow and was about to say something as FRIDAY interrupted.

“Captain Rogers is on his way up and is in distress.”

“FRIDAY, what happened?” Sam was on his feet as well as Natasha (where did that knife come from?) and Clint (he did NOT have his bow two seconds ago). Loki and Rhodey sat up straighter and looked towards the door.

“He seems to be having an anxiety attack. No physical injuries detected.” Natasha and Clint relaxed slightly but stayed at the ready.

“What the hell was he doing?”

Natasha spoke for the first time since I had been in the room. “He was helping SHIELD with the assassin to try to figure out origin and mission.”

About that time the elevator doors slid open and Steve stumbled out. He ended up on his knees just inside the common room gasping for air. “Shit!” Sam slid over so he was in front of Steve and lifted his hands to touch his upper arms but stopped before he made contact with him. He lowered his voice, “Steve, I need you to breathe. Focus on me. That’s it. Deep breathe. Good. Now another.” Everyone stayed back and waited as Sam talked Steve down. After a little while his breathing had returned to normal.

“Sorry….” Steve lifted his head and started to stand. “Sorry, guys. I kinda lost it there for a moment.”

Obviously, Sam was better equipped to deal this sort of thing than the others so they stayed quiet. “It’s okay, Steve. You know you can’t always stop it. Do you want to talk about what happened?”

“I should. Let’s sit down.” Everyone migrated back over the couches and Clint moved over to let Steve sit between Sam and Natasha. “My best friend growing up was James Barnes.” His voice has turned monotone and almost robotic. “He enlisted and went to fight the war just before I went into The Program. On one of our missions… He fell….” Steve trailed off and the rest of the sentence was implied but I don’t think he could bring himself to say it. I decided to help him out.

“Bucky. A train. I remember studying it in school. It was shortly before you... disappeared...” He nodded.

“Apparently, he was on ice too.” It was almost a whisper.

“What do you mean, Steve?” Natasha was trying to be gentle but you could tell she wanted an explanation.

“The assassin. It’s Bucky.” Silent tears started rolling down Steve’s cheeks.

“What?!” All of us were basically in unison.

“HYDRA got him. Brainwashed him.” Steve’s voice was nothing more than a whisper. Loki winced when the brainwashing was mentioned. He had been there and it was not something he would wish on an enemy.

“I’m so sorry. Are they able to fix it like they did with Loki?” I kept my voice soft so as not to ruin the moment.

“They are trying. He didn’t even recognize me. I mean-I have known him my whole life and there wasn’t even the slightest bit of recognition… What am I going to do?” Sam put a hand on his shoulder as Natasha started rubbing his back.

“I’m sure they will find a way to get him back, Steve. If he was willing to put up with you, I’m sure he’s stubborn and a fighter.” Clint threw out some hope.

“He really is.” That made Steve smile and the tension in room started to ease. We sat around and for the next little bit Steve told anecdotes about him and Bucky and we laughed about how Bucky saved Steve when he tried to jump a fence and got caught by the back of his pants and aww’ed when Steve told us about how Bucky used to take care of him in his sickly spells. After a few stories Steve could help but to smile. “Thanks, guys. I really needed that.”

“We’ll figure it out.” Rhodey nodded to Steve. The whole situation wasn’t nearly as horrifying as it was 20 minutes prior when Captain Freakin’ America basically collapsed in a panic attack in the room you were chilling in. We hung around and watched Jeopardy for a while as Clint shouted out answers that were so wrong it was almost painful. Loki would snicker occasionally and when some history questions came around, Steve even joined in and threw out some backwards answers that made Natasha snort. What had my life even become?