STOP. STOP RIGHT THERE. THIS IS A DOUBLE UPDATE! IF YOU HAVE NOT READ CHAPTER 27, DO SO NOW! Then read this. Thank you! ;)
"I say we go for a night on the town," suggested Stark enthusiastically.
"I don't know, Tony," said Banner, sinking down into a recliner in the lounge of Stark Tower and leaning against its back with a tired sigh. "We've been working on repairs since dawn. I'm pretty worn out."
"Aw, come on. You're such a party pooper. I bet the big green guy wants to party, huh? I bet he's a party animal..." Stark was silenced, however briefly, by a cushion flying in the direction of his head and connecting squarely with its target. Banner smirked.
Unfazed, Stark turned to Loki. "What about you, Rudolph? I know you want to come. There will be dancing. You like to dance, right?"
Loki, bringing his newly-brewed cup of tea over to the couch, sat down with his legs crossed under him and scoffed. "I highly doubt your Midgardian dances are anything like what we perform on Asgard. And besides, the doctor is right. We have accomplished a large amount of work today, and you mortals need time to rest your weak bodies so that we may continue tomorrow."
Stark snorted while Loki exchanged a covert smile with Banner. Thor, who had scrounged up a pre-dinner snack of wildberry PopTarts, plopped down next to him, munching contentedly.
"I believe what my brother actually means is that he does not care to listen to any more of your drunken caterwauling," he said through a mouthful of crumbs. "And for once, I must agree with him."
"You don't sing any better than me, Thunder Boy," shot Stark, causing Loki to smirk.
"How would you know, Stark? You were plastered," Rogers spoke up from his place on the futon.
"Hey, Grandpa's learned a twenty-first century word! I'm so proud." Stark smiled broadly. Rogers, Banner, and Loki rolled their eyes. Thor merely looked puzzled.
"You mortals are very odd. Sometimes I consider calling upon Heimdall to return my brother and me to Asgard merely to escape your strange ways."
"I actually find them rather amusing," said Loki slyly.
"Then I shall return alone," Thor teased.
"You would not go anywhere without me, Thor." Loki's tone was playful but knowing. The brothers exchanged affectionate smiles.
"How about this, Tony?" asked Banner. "Natasha and Clint will be back from their S.H.I.E.L.D. assignment tomorrow, and Pepper will be back from Chicago. We'll all go out tomorrow night. Is that okay?"
Stark made a great show of folding his arms over his chest and sighing dramatically.
"Oh, okay. If you insist. Honestly, what I don't do for you people...wait, does that mean I get to pick what we watch tonight?"
"Fine," said Banner with a resigned sigh.
"STAR TREK!" announced Stark immediately. "The new movie this time."
"Not again," groaned Rogers. "I never have any idea what's going on."
"You mean like in real life?" teased Stark.
"They quarrel more than we do, brother," whispered Thor incredulously to Loki, who chuckled softly.
When the movie began, the arguing ceased and the friends settled back in their seats to watch. Nestled next to his brother on the couch, feeling tired but well and continually more at ease around the Avengers, Loki was the closest he had been to being happy in a long time. It was far more than he could have asked for not so very long ago. He even had a place where he-dare he think it?-belonged.
"Jim, I'm a doctor, not a physicist!" announced a frustrated Bones on the screen. Everyone laughed and looked over at Banner, who of course happened to be both a doctor and a physicist.
"Sounds like they could use you on the U.S.S. Enterprise, buddy," chuckled Stark.
"Have you ever thought about going into space, Bruce?" inquired Rogers curiously.
Banner chuckled. "No. I don't think me on a spaceship would be...a good idea." His tone was dry, but not bitter.
"Why do we need a spaceship?" asked Thor. "We can have our own adventures here, my friends. I know I, for one, am looking forward to many more."
So am I, thought Loki suddenly. I am looking forward to having adventures with...these people. The realization warmed his heart. He did anticipate all the adventures to come, yes. But tonight he was content just to be in the cheerful and welcome company of those he was quickly coming to call his friends.
"Oh write me a beacon so I know the way, guide my love through night and through day..." - Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo, "Nostalgia"