Reluctantly, Grace got out of bed. She had even considered stopping time to get a few more hours of sleep, but then thought better of it, knowing that the day must go on eventually. Padding over to the mirror that was hanging next to her chest of draws, she inspected her crinkled blonde hair. It had stayed pretty much in tact after the small amount of time she has been asleep last night. Dark bags hung under her blue-green eyes as evidence of her restless night, but she plastered a certain smile on her face and skipped to the kitchen. Many others in the world had it worse, she told herself. Here she was in a billion dollar building with a group of people who cared about her like family, and she was fretting about a few apocalyptic recurring nightmares? It wasn't like clairvoyance was one of her powers, so she didn't really have anything to worry about. The smell of coffee wafted down the corridor as she cracked open her door, and it smelt like home. This calmed her, making her feel a small semblance of normality.
As the blonde walked into the large central room of the floor, everybody present turned to smile or wave at her, wishing her good morning and asking if she'd slept well. She lied, and told them she had. Looking around she could see that Natasha Romanoff and Clint Barton were both still in bed, Bruce Banner was reading the paper whilst simultaneously attempting to explain various articles to Thor, and Tony Stark and Pepper Potts were talking in the open kitchen. Her eyes finally fell upon Steve Rogers, who was sitting at the breakfast bar sketching in a notepad and he smiled back at her happily.
"Good morning," She said to him in her thick, english accent, smiling widely and warmly at the sight of him. She leaned on the breakfast bar next to him for a moment, just staring before she thought better of doing so, walking over to the fridge and pulling out a carton of milk.
Tony watched her movements carefully, "Tony," She nodded formally at him, unable to keep a straight face and allowing her lips to spread into a grin.
He rolled him eyes, grinning before quickly taking a gulp of his coffee, "How are you this happy this early in the morning?" He grumbled, taking yet another sip of coffee from the mug he was holding.
"Very easily," She replied, walking over to him, opening a cupboard door inches from his head then pulling out a box of cornflakes and a bowl. He glared at her before his expression softened at the sight of one of her notoriously contagious and goofy smiles. He was like a brother to her, and he had given her a home she really felt she belonged in. She had been there for only half a year, but she had made ties that she never thought she'd have again. Walking back over to Steve she sat down on a stool and started making herself a bowl of cereal.
"Rough night?" She asked, and they shared a look. He didn't say anything, but remembered clearly what had happened the night before.
"Could have been worse," He replied, smiling slightly at her but quickly looking away. He didn't want things to be awkward between them, or for her to think he was that kind of guy, but they shouldn't just forget it. She bit her lip, remaining silent, and Steve placed his pencil down on his notepad and quickly changed the subject, "Ready for a run today?" He asked her, ignoring whatever topic she had been referring to. He grinned a little as she turned her nose up in distain. If only she could just spend the whole day in bed. He could see the bags that hung under hr eyes, and the worry that was hidden by a convincing smile. All he wanted was for her to feel normal and happy, but something was stopping her. He understood. He knew what it was like trying to fit into a world that you couldn't feel more distant from.
"Grace? Running?" teased Tony, ruffling the younger girl's hair as she raised an eyebrow at him.
"Shut it metal head," She retorted, taking a mouthful of her cereal, "I could run circles around you any day."
He scoffed, "That would require surgically removing your butt from the couch." He said with a smirk and she faked offence, Steve looking between the two with a laugh. Grace had settled in with them so quickly he could barely remember a time with the Pre-Grace Avengers. She maintained the balance between the wide mix of personalities in the group. When someone was impulsive, she was reasonable. When someone was upset, she was comforting. Natasha had once said she had that effect on people. The unblinking ability tot trust her.
After a few minutes of banter with Tony, Grace got up from her chair. Putting her bowl in the sink, she looked back over the living room. Thor and Bruce were preoccupied, talking about something to do with his brother, and she tried desperately to creep away without the physicist catching her eye.
"Physics homework," He reminded her, tapping the pen he was holding on the table. Ever since Grace had joined S.H.E.I.L.D she had been tutored by many top agents, one of which was Dr Banner.
"Give me 24 hours Doc," she sighed, a hopeful loom in her eyes.
Bruce rolled his eyes, shaking his head, "You said that 36 hours ago."
She tutted, "I do know this stuff, you know. It's like teaching a toddler the first three letter of the alphabet."
He laughed, shaking his head, "I would hardly call quantum mechanics 'ABC' but you do pick things up quickly." He raised an eyebrow, "Ever thought about reading ahead?" This was a girl who could speak every language known to man and could remember with an astounding clarity everything she read. She had the capability of being the smartest person on the planet, but maybe that's what scared her.
The girl let out an involuntary noise of derision, "You mean actually use my initiative and doing more than is asked of me?" He tilted his head at her, "Yeah, thanks. But no thanks." She shook her head, grinning and walking towards the bathroom to have a shower, winking at Steve as she went. He winked back, listening to her hum a tune as she went.
Grace walked into the bathroom and, while singing a simple tune, turned on the shower. Throwing her pyjamas on the floor she stepped into the luxurious glass enclosure, letting the scolding water run over her pale skin and wash away her troubles. Getting lost in the melody, she tried hard to think only of the up and down harmonies, instead of her ever-present nightmares.
It had been happening for weeks now, ever since Thor came back from Asgard it seemed. Every night she would shut her eyes only to dream about him. Loki. The dream was always the same; she would be sitting on the cold ground of a place she had never been before and watch as strange creatures tore apart S.H.E.I.L.D and all of her friends, helplessly watching her new life fall apart around her and there was nothing she could do about it. Then she would suddenly see Loki's face inches from her own and he would say "Gratia" and then she would wake up in a cold sweat, continuing to shake in terror until Steve came in to comfort her. It was the same every night and it made her fear going to sleep. It had always felt so real, as if she was truly living each horrible second.
She quickly shook the horrible memory from her mind and got out of the shower, wrapping a towel around her long, wet hair and another towel around her body. Moving from the bathroom that she shared with Natasha, she walked to her room, dropping the towel from her body and pulling on her underwear, a S.H.E.I.L.D t-shirt, and comfortable navy running shorts. The room was a simple one, with only a bed, a desk with a chair, and a few structures to keep her clothes in. Tony had let her decorate it how she wanted, but she had wanted to keep it simple. Anyway, if it was nicer she would want to stay at Stark tower longer which was something she didn't really want for herself. As much as she loved being there, with Tony and everyone else, she was dying to get out into the world and get her own place to live. Every second of the day she felt unworthy of what she had, and a burden of everyone around her. They were all such talented and amazing individuals, and what was she? A flight risk with a couple of powers that came from god knows where. After drying her damp hair and twisting it up into a pony-tail she left her simplistic room, closing the door behind her. As soon as she pulled her door closed with a quite thud she could feel eyes watching her, and she turned to see Steve watching her from the end of the corridor.
"Don't you know it is rude to stare Rodgers," she said blushing at the muscular man. He grinned looking at the ground for a moment, his cheeks flushing a little. He then coughed, composing himself, and stood up straighter as if he were still a soldier at a line-up. She laughed slightly at the sight, he really was a man from another time.
"Are you ready for our run?" He asked, expecting her to walk back in her room and shut the door in his face but she simply agreed and flashed a winning smile his way, as she walked towards the lift that was located in the large living room.
As the two Avengers walked into the room, ready to go running, Tony couldn't help but notice the way Steve looked at Grace. There was a new glint in his eye as he did so, one that he only saw when the man looked at her. She was the only person that could always make him laugh without fail, and perhaps make him feel more normal in this new time. Steve saw him looking as Grace yelled a quick 'goodbye' to everyone, and Tony raised his eyebrows at him and chuckled to himself.
"Hey, have you heard anything about Thor's brother?" She asked abruptly, and Steve looked at her skeptically.
"Loki? No, why do you ask?" He replied, noticing a glint of worry in her eyes that she quickly tried to cover up by glancing away.
She shrugged, "I guess it's just dangerous that he's out there. I know the President would be a little concerned if he misplaced one of his nukes."
Steve scoffed, shaking his head, "Try not to worry about it. It's not your op." He told her, sensing she needed some reassurance, '"You hold the world on your shoulders," He commented and she looked over at him. That look in his eyes, that calming smile, it made her feel better. She wanted to catch Loki so nobody else could get hurt like they did in New York, but Steve was right. She couldn't do everything.
She changed the subject, "I am dreading this run, it's been so long since I've trained," Grace admitted as the lift jolted knocking her into Steve's chest. He caught her in his arms, preventing her from falling, then the lift started its decent. Blushing the girl straightened up and continued, "I guess SHIELD didn't keep me around for my agility and stamina." She scoffed slightly. Steve watched as she then turned to look at the view of the city they got from the glass elevator. Her eyes sparkled in wonder as she looked at the beautiful city, and a child-like smile creeping onto her lips.
As the lift hit the ground floor, they walked from the magnificent building to the pavement. They walked to the street corner and Grace started stretching her arms and legs, clearly exaggerating her movements, when Steve took a deep breath and spoke in a small and cautious voice, "Do you want to talk about what happened last night?"