Welcome back everyone, and hello to all the new comers. This fic is AU instead of post-Avengers, and it's also Tony/Loki focused. You'll see glimpses and hints of Clint/Loki as we go on, but it's nowhere near as sweet as the other fic on that front.

Warnings: drug use, past abuse

While this story does not have smut, it does have slash. If this bothers you, please know you can read something that isn't slash.

I do not own the Avengers or anyone in it.

As with "Enough," this story is completed. Unlike it, my update schedule may be slightly different due to some personal events taking place this week and next. I will be aiming for MWF updates.

Chapter 1
Natasha pinned the phone to her ear while she rolled out another sheet of dough, listening to it ring.


"Hey, Steve, it's Natasha. How's life on your end of the city?"

"It's good. Yourself?"

"Pretty well. Hey, you still looking for a waiter to help with the holidays?"

"Yes, you know someone?"

"Yeah. He's a baker here, has been wanting a change of pace and to get up front. He can work late nights. He can work any time really. He's a hard worker, and he's very good with people."

"Sure, I can see him. Tomorrow afternoon, say three?"

"I'll let him know. Thanks Steve, you're a sweetheart."

Steve laughed. "Coming from you that means a lot, Natasha. Talk to you later."

Natasha flipped the phone shut and went back to her pastries.


"Hey, Loki." She toed the lump on the living room floor when she got home, ignored the syringe on the table. A bit of black hair was sticking out from underneath the quilt. "Couldn't even make it onto the couch?" She reached down and pulled the quilt back. Loki blinked at her blearily. She frowned at him, but could already tell it wasn't going to do much to get him up, so she grabbed him by the collar of his shirt and heaved him up.

Loki made a sort of grunt noise and she didn't even bother wondering how much he'd had, just pulled him along and threw him in the shower, turned it on cold, him fully dressed. He shrieked like a little girl, which got her to smirk.

"You witch," Loki shrieked, shivering violently.

"You've got an interview at three p.m. tomorrow. Try to be sober."

"What?" He blinked, and she just used a foot to push him back into the shower when he tried to get out. "Are you firingme? Natasha!"

"You need a change. Meet new people. It'll be good for you."

"I don't even know where this interview is!"

"Steve's diner. Across town. We've gone before. I know Steve, I vouched for you." She took her foot off him and leaned in close, ignoring getting hit by some of the water and giving her best glare. "Don't fuck up."

She turned around and left the bathroom, closing the door behind herself.


It had finally quieted down a bit at the diner and Steve surveyed the few lunch rush stragglers before ducking into his office to try and sort through more paperwork. The kitchen could handle itself for a little while yet and it seemed like there were always prep lists to write and paperwork to process. He was barely paying attention when one of the waiters knocked on his door.

"Steve? Some guy here, says he's got an interview?"

Steve blinked, and looked over at the clock. Three already? He sighed and tried to straighten up some. At least his chef whites were still white today.

"Go ahead and send him in."

He hadn't really been sure what to expect based off the short conversation with Natasha, but the whipcord thin young man who came in wasn't it. He had a coat and scarf over one arm, and as Steve got up to shake his hand, he noted that he had a strong grip despite looking like a stiff breeze might knock him over.

"Loki Odinson." His voice was polite, clipped with an accent Steve couldn't immediately place.

"Steve Rogers. Please, sit down."

Loki handed him a copy of his resume before he sat, settling his coat and scarf on the arm of the chair. Steve gave it a quick look-over, even though Natasha had emailed it to him that morning. He'd been working at Natasha's bakery for nearly two years now, which was good (even if Steve was hiring for the holidays, he wasn't opposed to keeping the man if he could work). Not to mention Natasha was a slave driver—Steve knew, he'd worked with her briefly at another restaurant, before he opened the diner and she opened her bakery.

They talked, Steve pushed him to find out how soon he could work (apparently as soon as Steve would want, and he didn't think it was desperation that made him say that so much as not wanting to sit around doing nothing), when he could work (and he verified that he could work most hours, but preferred the evening and closing with its busy rush), and just tried to size him up. He was very good at not mentioning anything extra that Steve didn't ask, he had a good smile, and it was clear he was willing to work.

Steve checked to make sure his number was on the resume and sent Loki out, told him he'd let him know. Loki walked out, and Steve followed, watched him from the doorway as Loki stood outside in the early November snow putting his coat on and it was sealed. Without anyone watching him, Loki just looked… lost. Lost and scared and hurting with an almost violent pride and anger Steve couldn't place at first even though it seemed familiar.

He knew he was a sucker for someone who needed help and needed to get away, and the kid had good references besides just Natasha. Why not?


It's five minutes until closing and Loki will admit (privately) that maybe Natasha was right and he had needed the change. Waiting is a different dance than the occasional customer interaction after being up since midnight baking, and he genuinely likes people. He especially enjoys the table with kids, who varied from shyly smiling at him to wide-eyed grins. It made him wish he'd finished college (not a first (he'd been so close)), but he'd settle for this.

In any case, it's five minutes till close and he's ready to go, antsy to get home and relax and drag out the needle (never mind Natasha's glare as she heads out the door to go to work), when this guy who he vaguely recognizes in a 'seen on a magazine once maybe?' way walks in and he almost groans because he's the last waiter and it's just him and Steve and one other guy and he was so readyto go home.

But he puts on his best smile for the guy, who eyes him appraisingly with honey-brown eyes and slides into a booth like he owns the joint.

"Coffee, and not the decaf. Mm, and a waffle, Steve knows how I like them," before Loki had even has a chance to open his mouth.

"Do you need a side order of entitlement to go with that, or are you covered?" Loki snarks before he can help himself, but he tries to grin so that it doesn't seem quite so sharp. The man raises an eyebrow and grins at him, and Loki suddenly realizes this is Stark, Toby or Tony or Kelly or something, darling engineer of Valhalla Industries.

"No, but I could go for a spot of cattiness instead of cream." Maybe-Toby smirks, as if he knows how insufferable he's being and he appreciates Loki's calling him on it.

Loki tells Steve about the order, and Steve just shakes his head, muttering something about he could wait till we go home, and grabs a cup of coffee. It's the end of the night coffee, and Lokiwouldn't drink it unless he was so far out of his mind on drugs he didn't recognize what it was. He doesn't bother to get sugar—maybe-Kelly hadn't said he wanted any—and sets it on the table.

"Coffee. Cattiness is extra charge," he says. "And you don't seem like you need sugar."

"Aw, now aren't you something. I can't tell if you're saying I'm too bitter to appreciate sugar or if you think I'm sweet enough as is." Tony takes an appreciative sip of what can only be called coffee sludge at this point. "Where's the smile and name, or is that extra too? I've got money to burn if that's what it takes."

"Smiles are extra, but my name is Loki."

"You must have got beat up as a kid. Well, Loki, I'm sure I need no introduction."

"As the person who walked in right before shift end and demands to be fed? You're right, I don't need one; you lot are a dime a dozen and workers everywhere know you as 'great, it's that asshole.'"

Tony put a hand to his heart, looking theatrically hurt, and Loki can't help the touch of a smile that curves his lips. This is certainly not the worst last customer he's ever dealt with.

"I hope this isn't how you talk to all our customers, or I might be worried." Steve's voice is quietly stern but he's trying to hold back a smile. He's got a plate of waffles, and Loki notices almost immediately something a little dark and jealous in his boss' eyes and mentally backs the hell off. "Tony, stop flirting with the new hire."

"But Mooooom," Tony whines as Steve puts the waffles in front of him. He starts to eat and points his fork at Loki. "And if he'sthe new hire, you should keep him. Easy on the eyes and doesn't lay back and take it." Tony waggles his eyebrows suggestively at Loki.

"And wouldn't you like to know," Loki can't help but respond. He blames the want of drug that's had him itching to leave.

Steve just shakes his head, like he's used to dealing with Tony's man-child ways and the response it gets. "You can head home, Loki. I'll finish up here."

"You sure?" he asks, even though he's ready to bolt.

"Hey, why does he get the soft, polite eyes and I just get vicious sarcasm?" They both ignore Tony.

"Yes. See you tomorrow."

"You're the boss," Loki says amiably, and then he's gone, out the back to grab his coat and dart into the snow outside