"Don't worry, Pen," I console her as she buries her head in my chest. "I won't be gone for very long." I've been saying goodbye to everyone for the past thirty minutes and Penny returned for her seventh hug. I wrap her in a final squeeze and turn to Letty.
She smiles sadly and hands me a folded piece of paper. "I thought you might need it for later," she says. I unfold the paper.
"Letty! You shouldn't have!" I gasp.
"Oh now hush, honey. I've got it practically memorized. It's all in there," she taps her head. Letty has given me her recipe for her celebrated chocolate chip cookies. She knows I need them, especially during my time of the year…
I ignore Letty's body odor as I throw my arms around her. I feel a hole in my chest as I think about how much I'm going to miss her.
"You won't let us down. I know you won't," she whispers. Tears begin to prickle the corners of my eyes and I give her a final glance.
Finally, I stand in front of Mr. Bumble, who is angrily looking up at me. "Listen, Kat. I understand that you're gonna have to go and all. But you're the real money maker in this place. If I begin to lose money, I'm gonna have no trouble replacing you, understand?" he snaps.
I smile breezily at him, "Of course, boss. I'll be back before you even start missing me." I plant a short peck on his wrinkly forehead and automatically his cheeks turn a soft shade of pink.
"We're ready to leave, Miss O'Malley. You should be too," Fury's voice cuts me out of my farewell mood. Between Barton and Rogers, my sausage duffel bag is being hauled to the parking lot where Stark's limo is.
I roll my eyes and blow kisses to all of the freaks as I follow the rest of the Avengers out. I am frightened. I will have to be living with the very people who practically showed their disgust with me for the next few months. Loki's words echo in my mind again. "Sickening Freak" is what he said. And while the rest of them haven't actually said it to my face, I know that they're thinking it. I just know it.
But I don't want them to. I want them to see that what I'm doing is for the good of others, those people were cruel and deserved to die. Each of them had killed people, why should they judge me? Even St. Steve Rogers had taken a few. I just get a little more satisfaction out of taking lives that should not go on. Is that really so bad?
Evidently it is.
After following Rogers, Barton, and Fury to the limo, Rogers politely tells me to go in before him.
One side of the limo is filled up by Banner, Stark, Natasha, and Thor. Sitting across from Thor is Loki. Well, it's good to know that the universe is on my side this week.
Just smile and endure it, Kat, I think to myself as I slide into the dark inside of the limo. I make sure that a few inches separate me and Loki. Rogers sits next to me, followed by Barton and Fury.
I feel something soft and light hit my lap. It is a manila folder.
"This is has everything you need to know. Make sure you read it," says Natasha firmly.
As soon as I open the folder, the car takes off toward the direction of the city. A sudden sweep of sleepiness begins to take hold of me as I am greeted with the stream of large, complicated words printed on the paper.
I hear nothing but the soft hum of the car as I try to swallow the words on the paper, it's almost as if they're waiting for me to understand it in order to confirm that I'm not stupid.
What if that's what they're thinking?
I try to concentrate on the information, but it's just turning into a blur. I have to get this. I have to. Loki's presence next to me is consuming my mind. I can hear the gentle rise and fall of his breath and see his long, slender fingers tapping his knee. A hot blush creeps up to my cheeks at the thought of his hands. I am thankful that the limo is dimly lit. I couldn't understand what was wrong with me. My mind was so foggy with sleep yet at the same time, it was panicking. I didn't know I could feel those two things at the same time.
I couldn't focus on the data anymore. Not with him and not with my barely conscious brain.
"What time is it?" I blurt out, breaking the stillness in the car.
"It's 4:30 AM," says Natasha. No wonder, I never stay up this late. "Do you have any questions so far?"
"No," I lie. Drowsiness is evident in my answer. It is taking all of my strength to keep my eyelids apart.
"You know you don't have to read this tonight," she tells me.
I emit a small giggle. "Don't be silly…" are the last words I hear myself say before darkness envelopes me and my head rolls onto Loki's shoulder.
I wake up a little while later and am only able to see my surroundings through blurry slits. All of the voices sound disembodied and distant. The world around me is black and bursting with light at the same time.
Is that even possible?
In my haze, I am only able to recognize one sleek, silver voice.
"Just get this vile thing off of me," grumbles Loki.
I am lifted into someone's arms and carried out into a place where I am greeted with more light. I shield my eyes to it and slip into the depths of unconsciousness with a final thought.
I am not even a person to him.
I wake up to a pristine white ceiling. My heart leaps to my throat before I remember where I am.
Well, I really don't know where I am. I'm assuming that this is SHIELD's headquarters, wherever it is. I sit up and observe. This bedroom is small but rather nice. The walls and bed sheets are all cream-colored. The wide window is covered by a sheer curtain, allowing sunlight to gently pour into my room. There is a large abstract blue painting hanging on the wall and my nightstand has a little vase with an orchid in it.
When I finally manage to tangle myself out of the sheets, I go exploring my new living space. Next to the painting is an open door that leads to a bathroom complete with a shower, toilet with an overhead flush, a marble sink, a closet, and a…bidet?
It all seems a bit opulent for a spy organization.
I look at my reflection in the mirror of the bathroom. My face is smeared with the makeup that I forgot to take off the night before, my hair is greasy from my sweat fest, and my formerly clean sundress is now reeking of…well, eau de Kat.
My bag is patiently sitting against the closet door and I rummage for a tank top, some sweat pants (god forbid that I scare the other workers), and a change of underwear. I scrub the cakey layer of makeup off of my face and brush my teeth.
This is about as good as it's gonna get for today.
I venture quietly out of my room and am greeted by a wide hallway. I keep padding gently and am startled by what I see.
It looks as though I am in a penthouse. There is a spacious kitchen, a living room and a bar. What is this place?
"Good morning, Miss," says a voice.
I yelp girlishly.
"The time is 9:27 AM, the weather is 80 degrees and partly cloudy" the voice continues.
"Who are you?" I whisper-screech.
"Ah, I see you've met Jarvis," says another voice, this one being female. What is it with voices coming out of nowhere?
I whip around, coming face to face with a slender, graceful and now confused-looking strawberry blonde. I realize it's because I look ready to pounce on someone, my hands are already positioned to claw someone's eyes out.
"Whoa, don't attack me," she says, before extending a hand to me. "You must be Kathleen. I'm Stark's assistant, Virginia Potts."
I take a breath. "Call me Kat," I tell her, shaking her hand.
"Then in that case, call me Pepper," she smiles.
I grin faintly, "I know this is going to sound like an odd question, but where am I?"
"It's not an odd question. You were fast asleep when they brought you in. You're in Stark Tower."
Stark Tower? As in the huge building that I can see from my trailer. That one? This has to be a dream. Wait. That must've meant she…
"So you saw my legs," I whisper.
"Kat, I can see your feet right now, even with those pants," she says. She simply acts as though my legs were nothing. I am in shock.
I suck in another breath, "Is this really SHIELD's headquarters?"
Pepper gives me a look, "Of course not. This is, however, the Avengers headquarters."
Avengers? Really? It can't be. "So…does that mean I'm part of the team?" I inquire, almost desperately.
"From what I understood, more like 'assisting'," she replies. "But, I'm not in charge. I just work here. Is there anything else I can help you with?"
"Nope," I huff, pressing my hands to my hips.
"Well, come and get some breakfast. I'll brew some more coffee, in the meantime, help yourself to absolutely anything," she motions to the kitchen.
"Thank you," I say softly. Huh, she seems friendly enough. Pepper shows me where everything is and then sets to making the coffee. I hear heavy footsteps coming into the kitchen.
"Good morning, Lady Potts," Thor booms happily, "And Lady Kathleen of Malley."
This is my chance. Might as well try to turn the likability on. "Lady? I could get used to that," I chirp. He seems a bit surprised at my words but he gives me a dimpled grin. Okay, we're making a bit of progress.
"Hello Thor, don't worry I've got some coffee going. And the Pop Tarts are in the pantry," announces Pepper. Thor strides over and opens the pantry door.
"Lady Kathleen, would you care for some 'Popped Tarts'?" he takes out the Pop Tarts box. I suppress a laugh at this. I would absolutely love some. Oh, Letty, please forgive me. She would have a heart attack if she knew that I was eating that "nasty-ass plastic food".
Just as I'm about to ask him to make it double, Loki shuffles into the kitchen.
"No thanks, Thor," I say. No doubt, Loki will take shots at me for overindulging. Instead, I grudgingly grab for the box of Cheerios. I quietly snicker as I notice that he is wearing a Batman T-shirt as a pajama.
"Brother, would you like some of these?" Thor waves a packet.
"No," Loki says irately and goes to sit uprightly on the couch. Thor shrugs his rudeness off and proceeds to put his ration of Pop Tarts in the toaster. Pepper also ignores Loki as she places a steaming mug of coffee on the table in front of him.
"Where is everybody?" I ask her, trying to diffuse the tension that Loki has been so kind as to cook up.
"Steve, Natasha, and Clint have been in the gym since six; and Tony and Bruce are in the lab right now. That leaves you three," she answers, handing me my own coffee. Ah, the three non-mortals.
Thor's pop tarts jump out of the toaster with a DING! and he sits at the counter next to me.
I can feel Loki's eyes on my back. His being there bearing on my mind the way it did the previous night. After a few mushy, plain bites of Cheerios, I turn around on my stool to face Loki.
"So, Professor," I draw out sweetly. "What are we learning today?"
Loki gives me a hard look, "We certainly won't be learning how to lie about wanting to eat something because of the fear that someone will insult your figure and/or eating habits. Both of which, in fact, are in need of improvement."
"Loki!" Thor barks.
My spoon falls with a metallic clatter on the counter. I feel as though he has slapped me in the face for a second time. The silence in the room is deafening.
"Thor!" says Pepper. "More coffee?"
"Yes please," he says.
"Kat?" she offers, even though my mug is completely full.
"No…" my voice trails off. Loki lifts himself from the couch and goes back to his bedroom to get dressed for our first lesson. For once I notice the thick iron band around his ankle. Very interesting.
"Lady Kathleen, I apologize on behalf of my brother," says Thor sincerely.
"You don't have to," I murmur. Loki's insult while seems silly, hurts.
Well, if that's how he wants to run things, with pain, I'm flexible. If he's going to hurt me, I'm going to hurt him back…somehow. I'm going to have a little fun with him.
"So, Thor. Tell me about we're you're from," I begin, "Wasn't it Asgard that you mentioned?"
A/N: Meh, not really proud of this chapter. The little that there was of Loki was him being an asshole, and Kat is at it again with the cryptic things. But at least you get a teeny-weeny glimpse of Kat's more sinister side (MWAHAHAHAHA!) and her desperation too. Please leave a comment and more virtual Nutella will be coming to you. :D