Loki seriously thinks he might have an aneurysm, and it's not even 9am yet.
His boiler, which had been making worrying clanking sounds the night before, finally gave up the ghost with an almighty groan just as he stepped into the shower. While he fiddled about with dials and tapped the display in nothing but a towel and a frown, his daughter gave out an almighty scream. He jolted up, smacked his head off the top of the boiler cupboard, and raced to her room. He shouldered the door open with a bang to see her stood on her bed, dancing from foot to foot with her phone at arms length.
"Hela! Hela, what's-"
"IT'S HERE! OH MY GOD IT'S FINALLY HERE!"
Her phone was playing some strange electronica from its tinny speakers. Loki considered launching it out the window for a moment; probably sounded better outside.
"And what exactly is "it" that is here, and has you screeching like a bloody banshee first thing in the morning?" He finally managed. Hela waved her phone at him without stopping her incessant dancing.
"The new video from Mykos is here! Dad you don't understand, I've waited months for this and it dropped this morning! Oh my godohmygodohmygo-"
There was a short pause between Loki hearing those words, taking in the scene around him, and absorbing it all before his head gave a warning throb from where he'd thumped it. He closed the door slowly and attempted to hold onto the towel barely covering himself and the last shred of his temper.
Deep breath in. Deep breath out.
"Can you come down and get breakfast once you've finished freaking out over whatever that racket is?" He called as he headed into his room to get dressed. He could shower at the office, Wednesdays were always quiet. That was when he opened his wardrobe to find the rail had collapsed and crumpled all of his shirts and trousers.
He set up the ironing board with a slam, hissing obscenities about cheap peace of shit flatpack furniture fuck sake.
Then he burned a wedged shape onto his first shirt.
Then he melted the button of the second.
By the third he was pretty sure he was blowing more steam from his ears than the iron.
Finally, he was dressed and ready and dropping bread in the toaster, while Hela was nowhere to be seen. He called her name a few times, and got nothing but her signature "thud thud thud" from her room, meaning "jesus christ gimme a minute Dad". Loki scowled at the ceiling and went back to doing up his tie in the reflection of the microwave. He looked half-way passable, partly in thanks to his daughter's endless supply of hair products. Dry shampoo made the world go round, in Loki's opinion.
The toaster popped and he yelled up again.
"If you don't get down in thirty seconds you're missing breakfast!"
"I'm almost done!" She shouted back.
"You'd better not be doing last night's homework!"
"I'm not, I'm fixing my mascara!"
Loki sighed, dropping his head. "Fuck sake." He whispered under his breath, then started rifling through the fridge before shouting back. "Hela, for the last time, you know you're not allowed to wear make up at school - now move your arse!"
"I'm here," she said from behind him, so close and so sudden he jerked back and dropped the packet of butter he'd been looking for. It dropped to the floor with a wet splat, painting the kitchen tiles, the cupboard doors and Loki's trousers in yellow goop.
"Well," Hela said, reaching past him for the Pop Tarts on top of the fridge. "That was a bit daft, wasn't it?"
Loki said nothing. He just stared at the buttery mess splattered like paint up his legs. She paused while opening the packet, and put it back, opting for an apple instead.
"Okay, you've got that eye twitch going on which means you're either having a stroke or about to blow up. I'll get my shoes on."
He could feel his frustration rising - today of all days, he didn't need this. That's when Hela popped a hand over his shoulder and waved a pink packet in his face.
That was his morning, and Loki knows the day isnt done with him yet. Hela had barely made her bus, and he had just managed to slip onto his train before the doors closed. Sure, he spent the whole way to the city centre jammed between a man clutching a Fixie bike and a woman shushinf her screaming baby, and he'd forgotten his headphones and his head was definitely forming an inconspicuous egg from his boiler altercation and there were oil spots on his trousers from the butted explosion and -
He still makes it to work on time with ten minutes to spare. No time to use the tiny employee shower in the back, but plenty of time to have the coffee he missed before he left. Whoever's up there has decided he deserves a break because miraculously the office's temperamental coffee pod machine isn't pouring smoke and blackened coffee and is actually working for once, so he rests his forearms on the countertop and slows his breathing. Remembers his techniques from the little pamphlet his doctor had given him, and focuses on his surroundings.
It's just a bad morning, he tells himself. It doesn't have to be a bad day.
"Long night, Odinson?"
Loki stands bolt upright and plasters an easy smile on his face in time to turn to his boss.
"More like a long morning. How are you, Nick?"
"Doing better than you, by the looks of things." Fury had set up the law firm almost ten years ago, and Loki was one of the first trainees he'd taken on. Fresh from a recent move and a failed university course, Nick had taken a chance on him and helped put him through university again until he was a fully fledged barrister, the only women and children's lawyer in their practice. His words weren't a mean jab, but his gruff way of asking if everything was alright. "That coffee for me?"
Loki hands over the cup with a grimace. "That's the last clean plain mug."
"I know, that's why I asked for it." Nick's eyes spark with mischief. "Now you've got the tough choice of Eeyore or My Little Pony."
"Eugh, I'll go for the ponies over the depressed stuffed donkey. Nothing like rainbows and cupcakes to brighten up a shit morning."
"Hela still a handful?"
"When is she not." Loki grumbles. "No, I had a butter-related incident. And burned some shirts. And my wardrobe broke. And my boiler packed in. So... it's been a morning."
Nick hums as he takes a loud sip. "Speaking of rainbows and cupcakes, did you remember to sort catering for the open day?"
Loki freezes up, his coffee forgotten. Fuck - the firm's open day! They have one every year to celebrate the anniversary of it opening, with treats and goodie bags, raffles and tombola stalls, balloons and cake to entice new customers in and offering reduced hourly rates. Margaret had always taken care of catering (she baked a mean red velvet that always made Loki's mouth water) but she'd retired after Christmas. It had fallen to Loki... and he'd forgotten all about it.
Naturally, he doesn't tell Nick this. Instead he rolls his eyes and picks up his mug with an affected air of nonchalance.
"Of course I have."
"Good, because it's only a few days away and we need to pull this off. It's been a quiet year, I wont have our open day tanking because we have some dry-ass supermarket cupcakes."
Well there goes Plan A.
Plan B involves Loki quietly panicking and chanting a mantra of fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck as he attempts to organise his thoughts in the walk to his desk, in a way that he hopes is somewhat normal and doesn't arouse suspicion.
Naturally, doesn't work.
"You look like you've either sat on a square bed post or shit your pants," Steve comments helpfully. Loki throws him A Look, and slides into his chair. Of course; he works with lawyers, they don't miss shit. "Did you forget about the catering?"
"How did you know?" Loki groans, cradling his cup to his face as he screws his eyes shut.
"Found a post it note under my desk with REMEMBER!! CATERING!! in your hand writing." Steve shrugs. "Must have fallen off your desk. On a scale of one to 'fucked', how -"
"Fucked." Loki says flatly. He breathes deep and spins toward his computer screen. "I've wrapped most of my case notes for this week, I can spare an hour to scrounge through badly-written Facebook reviews for catering companies."
"No need," Steve supplies cheerfully, turning back to his screen. "Check your inbox."
"Steve... you haven't."
"Oh, but I have."
When Loki brings up his email, there's a link from Steve: clicking it brings him to a Facebook page with photos of brightly coloured, wildly decorated cakes.
"Bucky Makes Cupcakes." He reads aloud, scrolling through endless glowing reviews.
"He's a friend of mine, just moved here from back home. He was pretty well-known round our way for his baking, hes trying to make a go of it here."
Loki hums and scours the hundreds of uploaded photos - wedding cakes patterned like galaxies, impossibly intricate figures topping birthday platters made of fondant, icing twisted into flowers and tiny spirals, pastries braided deftly like hair... and of course, cupcakes. He just hopes the poor guy is ready for a massive last minute order.
I was recommended your business by a work colleague, Steven Rogers. Fury Legal LLC has a company open day every year and are looking for catering for the event. Sadly, due to unforeseen circumstances, our previous provider is unable to fulfill the order. I apologise for this being so last minute, but are you possibly able to accommodate catering for 300?
"Done." Loki clicked 'send' with a little flourish, and returned to his email inbox to read through. "Hopefully he has space."
"If he doesn't, he'll probably make space. Buck's just that kind of guy, he hates letting people down."
Loki snorts, but doesn't say anything else, sipping coffee and focusing on replying to a client he dreads; Coulson really is lovely, but he has zero sense of personal boundaries. By the time he's done, he's pleasantly surprised to see RE: Rush Order for Fury Legal LLC in his inbox. Apparently Steve is right, this Bucky seems eager to help. He huffs a sigh of relief, and spends the next five minutes trying to find a way of begging for a massive rush order of food without sounding pathetic.
He almost succeeds. Almost.
The rest of the week flies by uneventfully. Hela causes minimal arguments (apparently this band releasing another god-awful video of flashing lights and noise is enough to improve her sulks for the foreseeable future). Loki's boiler calms down from whatever temper tantrum it seemed to be having. And the food is ordered for the fun day, thank fuck. Loki can breathe a bit easier and focus on a difficult case he's been working on for the past month.
Before he knows it, it's Saturday morning, the birds are singing, and he has to spend the day in work making friendly inane chatter with potential and existing clients in work; he laments how much he'd rather be slobbing around in his holey pyjamas and scratch his arse while he watches Great Restorations marathons on the telly, instead of what he's actually doing, which is buttoning up the cuffs of a shirt to go into fucking work on a fucking weekend. Diabolical.
He arrives slightly late to set-up (no smelly passengers this time though, thankfully) and whatever cloud of bad mood that has been threatening to shadow him dissipates the second he sees the office. Outside there is a huge bouncy house, complete with inflatable obstacle course and giant slide. Tombolas, raffle stalls, tables laden with goodie bags for kids and water and coffee for the adults, face painting stands - there's even a clown getting ready at the side of the building, chattering to a tall man wearing a Spider-Man costume and accepting water from a knock-off Princess Elsa performer. It's the biggest effort made yet by their little firm, and he can't help but think back to when Hela was tiny and free days out like this were both a godsend and a balm on his conscience, guilty for the lack of money to take her places for fun.
Loki pulls himself together and makes to walk inside, but batters right into the side of someone carrying a massive white tray overlaid with sausage rolls.
It happens in slow motion.
Loki tries to pull back, over compensates and slips on one of the sausage rolls that had slid over the edge of the tray. He kicks up as he falls back, booting the tray high into the air and scattering doomed pastries everywhere. There's a cry of "NO!" and he's not sure where it comes from, but it's soon followed by an undignified yelp as Loki lands on his elbow with a crack that sounds like someone snapping dry wood.
After a moment of shocked silence and raining sausage rolls, sickening pain shoots up Loki's arm, and he rolls over with a bitten-off scream to clutch his now-broken elbow.
"Shit, is he okay?"
"Of course he's not, look at his arm oh my god -"
Loki tries to breathe through waves of pain and nausea when a dark head pops into view and a strong, large hand helps sit him up straight.
"I am so sorry - are you okay?"
All Loki can think is Shit, he's pretty, before he leans over, and vomits all over his shoes.