A/N: This takes place in chapter 18 (February 11). It's for 1000lux (Ao3), who wanted some Pepper-Loki interaction.

Pepper watched first Tony's and then Odin's back as the two men left the kitchen, and swallowed a sigh. A moment later, she turned back to the counter, hands busy with reaching for things: a plate, two slices of toast, eggs, cutlery. From the corner of her eye, she saw Thor fill the empty spot beside her.

"What is going on?" he asked.

"I was hoping you could tell me. We have the king of Asgard in the Tower. I do so hope Tony managed to keep his mouth shut. Although"—she put the plate on a plastic tray—"knowing Tony…"

"How is Loki suddenly able to do his hocus pocus?" Clint chimed in.

Pepper placed a glass filled with water onto the tray. "I don't know. I don't always have all the answers."

Sometimes, she wished she did. Questions burned inside her head. Was she right and had Tony actually gone to Asgard, dragged the Norse deity king back to Earth, and convinced him Loki should be given his freedom back?

It still struck her as unbelievable, how much Tony loved Loki. Even more so, how much Loki loved him back. They didn't touch in her presence, but they were fools if they thought their bodies weren't giving them away; there was the way Tony's voice went all soft, adopting a tone she'd never heard before, the way Loki's eyes, overblown with emotions the moment he let his guard down, followed Tony's whenever he thought the inventor wasn't looking, the way they sometimes caught each other's gaze and their lips formed the most minute of smiles that somehow shone so brightly…

And Pepper couldn't hate Loki, not when her best friend loved him so much. She'd kept her distance, physical as well as emotional, and so had he, but she simply couldn't actively dislike him even if he had yet to give her a reason to like him (though she sometimes pretended she was fonder of him than she really was. For Tony's sake. His smiles at those times were really too honest).

Or, he had had to, up until the point she'd seen him standing between her and the doombots, armed with nothing but a kitchen knife and sharp wit, and she'd known he was doing it all for Tony, protecting her because Tony wanted her protected, but doing that meant he cared enough to forego selfishness and do what Tony would wish to see done just because Tony would wish to see it done. She'd seen his mind put to use and had finally understood, in those moments when she'd been soaking wet and trembling despite her best efforts not to (because she would not be a poor, helpless woman), why Tony held his would-be murderer so close to his heart.

"Miss Potts—" Bruce begun but cut himself short.



She raised an eyebrow at him. "Later," she said, picking up the tray. "Would you"—her gaze swept the room—"perhaps return to your floor? The penthouse is in a rather sad state right now."

She would have to do something about that. Normally, it would be Loki's job (seeing as he was now Tony's personal assistant, and everybody knew Tony was too lazy to not have his assistants call the workers for him), but Pepper didn't think he'd be up to anything in the near future.

The group at the table hummed in agreement. They needn't have; by now, they knew to distinguish between suggestions and instructions, and Pepper knew, as she left the room, they would do as she'd said.

"Jarvis, locate Loki for me, please."

"Mr Stark's bedroom, ma'am."

"Thank you."

At times, it was hard to imagine how she'd cope with Tony if Jarvis hadn't been her ally. He seemed to have taken a liking to Loki, too. So typical of Tony to create an A.I. that could decide which people he fancied and whom he could not stand.

Balancing the tray on one palm, she softly knocked on the bedroom door.

There was no reply. She knocked again.

A moment of silence, then finally,

"Did Stark send you, Miss Potts?"

It didn't surprise her all that much Loki had been able to tell it was her. How, she didn't know; she wasn't wearing the telltale stilettos that could be heard clicking against the floor from miles away.

"No." She pushed the door open and stepped inside. "Tony is talking to your father."

Loki, who was standing by the window with hands buried in his pockets and a ramrod-straight posture, squared his shoulders just a bit.

"He is not my father."

Oh. Of course. "The adoption."

He shifted, half turning her body towards her. Pepper could imagine him narrowing his eyes all too vividly even though they were still bandaged.

"Yes." A short, clipped word.

A warning.

Pepper placed the tray on the chest of drawers. The glass of apple juice she'd given Loki was standing on the nightstand, untouched.

"I brought you breakfast," she said.

Loki turned fully, now, and made a couple of steps towards her. For a blind man, he moved with too much grace. Perhaps his magic had something to do with it. Either that, or he'd memorized Tony's room, which wasn't at all unlikely. Pepper didn't even want to know half the things the two men had done in this room… Which, knowing Tony, was probably a lot of things.

"What do you want?"

"I brought you breakfast," she repeated.

"That was unnecessary. I'm not hungry."

"I came to check on you. Mostly, I wanted to thank you."

"I told Stark I would protect you," Loki replied, keeping his voice carefully blank.

"You still didn't have to," she said.

Loki pressed his lips together for a moment. A corner of them curled up. "It comes as such a surprise," he drawled, "that I should keep my word when lies are my domain."

"I wasn't implying that."

A fully fake smile before he turned his back to her. "Yet the implication was there."

There were times when Pepper was grateful Tony was so hard to deal with. The experience she'd gathered was beyond compare.

"It was not my intention. You protected me today, and I wanted to thank you. I'm sorry things turned out the way they did. Perhaps you should let Bruce change your bandages?"

"Stark did it already. Would you take the food away? I am not planning to eat."

Pepper crossed her arms on her chest. "You should."

Loki turned to her in one abrupt motion. "Don't tell me what I should or should not do," he snapped. "Don't pretend to care."

Keeping the distance was so much easier. "I'm not pretending to care. You're unwell. I'm offering help."

"Well, I don't need your help!" His pale hands rose to his face and pulled the bandages down, revealing tender reddened skin, but otherwise fully healed eyes. "I'm healed. The injuries are gone."

Pepper sucked in a breath. "I wasn't—" referring to those… It wouldn't do any good to point out his weaknesses. How much he and Tony were alike in certain things… "Good to hear. Tony told me you could draw. Is that true, or is he exaggerating because he's incapable of doing anything artistic?"

She thought she saw Loki's body relax a bit, but she couldn't be sure.

"I draw. I don't care what anyone says about the quality."

Couldn't he ever let emotions other than anger show?

"Can I see what you have?"

Loki shook his head. "I don't show my drawings around."

"Oh. That's okay, I was just asking." She walked back to the door and reached out to pick up the tray. "I'll take that back to the kitchen, then."

She pressed the doorknob down—

"Perhaps I could draw something for you to see."

Her eyebrows rose. "You would?"

"I suppose." His expression was impossible to read. "Meet me on the terrace."

Pepper nodded. Balancing the tray in one hand, she opened the door, closed it behind her, and walked to the kitchen. It was empty now; the team had left. Good. She put the tray down on the counter and—

"Miss Potts."

Her hand flew to her chest on its own accord. "Dr Banner. Please, don't do that. Tony is likely enough to get me into an early grave."

The corner of his mouth curled upwards just a little. "Apologies. Speaking of Tony… He and Loki…?"

"Are together." Pepper emptied the glass into the sink.

"Hm." Banner frowned.

Pepper sighed. "Just leave them alone." She didn't feel like explaining everything. "They're good for each other."


"I don't have time to explain right now. Don't tell anyone. For Tony's sake." She looked directly into his eyes, willing him to agree. Finally, he nodded, though he looked far from satisfied.

"Good. Thank you. I'll talk to you later, okay?"

Banner nodded again, and Pepper nodded back, and then she left to get a coat. A Norse deity was waiting for her. She had to try and form a civil relationship with him. Firstly, because he wasn't going anywhere for a while if Tony had anything to say about it—and Tony happened to have everything to say about it—and secondly, because, perhaps, he wasn't that bad, after all.

A/N: This is the end of the story so far. As I said, I will probably write a sequel, but don't expect anything before November. I'll let you know on tumblr (find me there if you want to rant about Loki or anything, really).

I want to thank everybody who has reviewed, followed, favourited, or read this story, my wonderful beta reader for sacrificing her time, and my friends for their patience when they were forced to listen to me ranting about the story. Stay awesome.

Please review ^^