It had taken a while but by the end of the week all the Avengers were at Loki´s mansion, they were all eager to see Leah and Eerika. Bruce had taken a portable lab to make sure both of them were all right. Tony was setting up the mansion´s communication center so they would have an open untraceable line between the mansion and the Avenger´s Tower. The kitchen was now insufficient to host everyone there so they had to move to the main dinner room which became boisterous. Eerika was already a week old a good enough reason to celebrate, or at least it seemed that way.
Loki had been evading the subject of Fury´s proposal all together in front of Leah, but he hadn’t forgotten about it; he and Thor had been talking a lot since the bold god had arrived to the Mansion. After much debating Loki had decided he should at least find out what Fury wanted; if it was something either he or Leah would be willing to give he much rather have SHIELD covering their back than after them. Leah sensed he was up to something but decided to refrain from mentioning after their second fight over the subject. Neither of them would give in into the other´s plan. Loki´s complaint about her offering herself to Doom had finally taken its toll on that second argument.
“So it´s all right for you to willing fully surrender yourself to Doom but I can´t even talk to Fury. I am the one that´s supposed to protect you … you arrogant mortal child. Not the other way around! You should know your place by now!” Loki regretted his words instantly, he hadn´t meant to put her down; he just wanted her to allow him to protect her from any more battles. He was the more experienced one, he should be the one fighting their battles, not her. But even so he made no effort to apologize.
Leah just stared at him both hurt and angry before spatting furiously. “So I am beneath you.”
“When it comes to battles, yes.” Loki claimed holding her stare.
Leah knew he was right, if it came to fighting experience he was several hundred years in front of her but that didn´t meant he should dismiss her so easily. “Then I´ll just have to catch up with you.” She informed him angrily as she walked out of their room.
Later that day she had asked Clint to start training her again; this time for real. She was so pissed-off at Loki´s demeaning statement Clint had to ask Steve for his help; she needed someone who could spar with her at the same level.
During lunch an unintended comment from Leah unleashed their quarrel. “Yes, it´s too bad grandparents enjoy their grandchildren even more than their own child.” She had been thinking of her own parents, both of them had died in the crash, they would´ve loved meeting Eerika, she was sure of it. Loki would be very difficult to explain … but Eerika, they would’ve loved her open hearted.
She had barely ended her sentence when Loki spat enraged as he stood up. “That´s it! I´m done with you telling me what to do. We are not going to Asgard! And I´m going to talk to Fury regardless of your opinion.”
Luckily Eerika had been in Bruce´s arms the instant everything went wrong. Leah´s face grew red both with embarrassment and anger, he had never talked to her like that in public before. “Fine!” She yelled as she stood up rivaling Loki´s fury. “Do as you want, see if I care.” Next she stormed out of the dinner room.
“Fine, I will!” Loki yelled back as he stormed out on the opposite direction.
“Wait! Loki! Leah!” Steve called them back without any luck. “Dammit!” He stood up a at the same time Thor did.
“I´ll go for Loki.” Thor volunteered.
“I´ll go for Leah then.” Steve agreed then turned to ask. “Bruce …?”
“We´ll be all right, go.” Bruce answered.
After they both left Bruce let out a sigh, he look at Eerika who had started crying when all the shouting began. “Shh, little one, it´s ok. They will be all right, everything will be all right … in time.”
“You really think that Bruce?” Natasha asked worryingly.
“I hope so Nat. I hate to admit it but I think Loki is right, he should at least talk to Fury to find out what he wants. Leah had been cut out from … well, you know real life for seven months now, it´s starting to show whether she realizes it or not. Being locked in her isn´t good for her.”
“And I hope that once this nasty business is settled they still have a relationship to work on.” Clint told them concerned by the last turn of the events.
“Don´t say that Clint! After all that has happened do you think they would really break up?” Natasha asked in a worried tone.
“I don´t know.” Clint answered shrugging his shoulders. “Some things are harder to take back than others.”
“Don´t jinx them Clint, you are going to scare Eerika.” Tony said taking another sip from his glass, he was worried too even if he didn´t wanted to admit it.
“Leah? Are you all right?” Steve asked her as he found Leah in the interior garden, she seemed to be spending more time there as her relationship with Loki became increasingly difficult. She was sitting down resting her back on a tree with her head tilted up and her eyes closed. “Yes and no.” Was her answer; she opened her eyes to look at Steve. “I didn´t meant anything by it, you know? I was thinking of my own parents, not his. He didn’t had to yell at me like that.” Her voice sounded as sad as her eyes conveyed.
“Things hasn´t been all right between the two of you, am I right?” Steve asked her siting down by her side.
“He hardly talks to me anymore.” Leah confessed. “Would you please leave me alone Steve?”
“Why?” Steve asked her, she did seem like she needed to talk.
“Because I don´t want you to see me cry.” Leah answered fighting back her tears.
“Since when?” Steve asked her sympathetically.
“Since you all think I´m going to break down at the first sign of trouble.” Leah answered biting her lower lip, a single tear over flooded her eyes and ran down her cheek; she dried it out immediately.
“We are just worried about you, so is Loki that´s why he´s so angry at you.” Steve tried to explain her. “Try to understand, he just wants you to be all right.”
“I would be all right if he remained safe.” Leah spat as she buried her head between her arms that laid over her knees.
“Leah, we are taking about Loki, he´s one of the most powerful persons I know, you should really stop worrying.” Steve admonished her.
“I know, but my brain simply refuses to stop worrying Steve. I just managed to stop dwelling about the past and now I´m stuck worrying about the future. Why can´t he just let it go? I could accept living here if he just stayed with me.” Leah confessed, she started to feel like she was losing her mind.
“Leah, you can´t live here for the rest of your life, it´s not good for you. And Loki knows it.” Steve told her.
“Why not?” She asked in a half tone, she couldn´t hold her tears back any more.
Steve hugged her trying to provide some comfort. “Because you need to go out, to be around people, take walks in the park with Loki and Eerika, maybe even go to the beach, go to the movies, I don’t know all the things normal people take for granted. You did nothing wrong, you shouldn´t have to lose everything. Loki just wants you to have all that and more.”
“And I just want them to be alive and safe.” Leah volunteered in a whining tone.
“Leah, I´m telling you; Loki is a very intelligent and experienced warrior, you don´t have to worry like that for him, he has his magic back and he has two powerful reasons to vanquish any obstacle that may come up.” Steve kept trying to put her fears at ease.
“I don´t know … maybe one. I really don´t think he likes me that much anymore. Leah told Steve between sniffling’s. “And I really don´t blame him.”
“Leah, it can´t possibly be that bad.” Steve comforted her. “Every relationship has its ups and downs. It´s just a rough patch, you will put this behind you soon.”
“I hope so.” Leah answered drying her tears. “He´s gone right? He went to talk to Fury.”
“Maybe, he seemed decided. But don´t worry Thor went after him; he´l make sure he comes back to you.”
“What if he doesn´t? What if that argument were the last words we spoke to each other?” Leah sounded anguished, her imagination kept portraying the worst conceivable scenarios.
“I´m sure they won’t be; either way try to make peace with him when he gets back.” Steve suggested. “Do you know the old saying never go to sleep …“
“Angry.” Leah ended his phrase-
“Exactly!” Steve agreed cheerfully. “It might be an old advice but it´s a good one.”
“I´m sure is.” Leah acknowledged. “He accused me of being a … foolish child, maybe he was right. “ Leah didn´t felt like repeating Loki exact words.
“You maybe a child compared to him. Hey! Even I’m a child by Asgardian standards. But that doesn´t mean we are either childish or foolish. We just feel things differently, our lifespan is so short compared to theirs that I think we should hold each moment precious and not squander them. You know stop worrying about tomorrow and living in the here and now sort of deal, you´ll never know when your world is going to change.”
“That´s deep.” Leah exclaimed surprised at the sudden turn of their conversation, if only she could stop worrying about the future, if only she could find the switch on her head to make her stop.
“And true.” Steve added.
Even if she understood and agreed with Steve about everything; she couldn´t help feeling anxious but decided not to mention it to any of them. I can manage this by myself she thought, right?
“Loki! Loki! Wait!” Thor had to run to caught up with him, he was marching in a hurry to his study.
“If you came to stop me you are out of luck!” Loki swiftly told him without stopping. “I´m talking to Fury today and that´s that.”
“I´m not here to stop you Loki, you know I agree with you. You should find out what Fury wants.” Thor volunteered “Though you shouldn´t had been so hard on Leah earlier; I´m sure her comment wasn´t supposed to mean anything.”
“I wouldn´t know; we hardly have spoken to each other the last couple of days.” It seemed longer he thought, how things had gotten so bad between them so fast?
Thor sighed, it was no secret they were having troubles but he had hoped they wouldn´t be so bad.
“Loki … the day we fought on Central Park. The day you told me about your feelings for her …”
“I remember.” Loki dryly told him.
“I never told you something that happened earlier that day. I was looking for Leah, she had missed breakfast and I was worried. I finally found her on the rooftop I could tell she had been crying; I offered to take her to Asgard again, to acknowledge her child as my own … she refused, we argued. Angered for her negative I asked her what was what she wanted. I can´t have what I want, that´s what she told me. I couldn´t accept that as an answer so I forced her to tell me what it was.”
Loki was listening attentively to his brother´s recollection puzzled by the relevance of his story.
“Between tears she confessed; I believe for the first time she realized that what she really wanted was you Loki. She wanted you even when she thought you were lost for her, even when she had no hope of ever seeing you again. Never form that moment on has she done or said something that has lead me to believe she has changed her mind about that. She´s just too scared Loki.”
“Scared of what Thor?” Loki answered annoyed. “She treats me as if I was useless, she would had let Doom rape her just to keep me safe. I just can´t allow her to keep doing that sort of thing, she undermines me.
“For being the smart one you are very dumb brother.” Thor told him with sympathy. “She´s scared out of her mind of losing you again, she would do anything to prevent that from happening. Love makes us do foolish things, do you really need any more prove of how much she loves you? She´s not trying to undermine you; she´s just too scared of the thought of living without you.”
Loki´s face frowned; had they been entangled on a grim contest about who would yield more for the other? Because the answer seemed clear enough, they would both forfeit their lives for the other. Why had they been fighting for?
“I called her an arrogant child who didn´t knew her place.” Loki confessed ashamed.
Thor looked at him surprised. “No wonder she is mad at you. You know you ow her an apology?”
“I don´t know.” Loki answered unsure, he did knew but he wasn´t willing to apologize just yet.
“Loki!” Thor scolded him.
“Dammit Thor! You are worse than mother … I´ll apologize when and if I want to.” Loki replied angered.
“Just don´t wait until you lose her to do so.” Thor replied annoyed by Loki´s childish reply.
“I thought you said …” Loki started to answered hurt by Thor´s statement.
“Loki, even the most fierce and strongest maidens have fragile hearts; if you are not careful you are going to break hers.” Thor answered patiently, that she loved him didn´t meant she couldn´t just stop.
“I …” Loki kept pensive for a moment, he had never intended to hurt her even less to do something that would tear them apart. “I probably should apologize when we return.”
“We?” Thor asked surprised.
“Of course, you didn´t thought I was going to talk to Fury by myself, did you? That … would be foolish.” Loki replied with a smirk on his face.
“You always knew I was going to follow you.” Thor reasoned laughing.
“Well, you are very predictable brother, shall we go? I want to come back as soon as we can.”
It didn´t took them long to arrive to the hellicarrier after they made a quick stop at the Avenger´s Tower to ask to Jarvis the current coordinates for the vessel.
“You took your time.” Was Fury´s words when he saw Loki.
“I´ve been occupied.” Loki replied dryly. “What do you want?”
“I think we should discuss this privately.” Furt suggested.
“Why would I want to do that?” Loki spat crossed.
“Because IU won´t tell you otherwise.” Fury replied calmly. “I understand you don’t truth me, but I´ll assure you if you agree to give me what I want I´ll make sure no one tries to take Leah from your side ever again.”
“I can do that by myself.” Loki replied vexed.
“But you must want something, otherwise you wouldn´t had come. Thor can wait in the control room. I´m sure he would tear the hellicarrier apart if we held you against your will.”
“You can be sure of that.” Thor agreed tapping Mjolnir with his hand.
“All right, Thor, would you wait for me in the control room? If I´m not back in an hour you know what to do.” Loki told Thor without losing Fury from his sight.
“I do brother.” Thor agreed as he walked out.
“As we are in a tight schedule let´s get to the point.” Fury told him. “How´s Leah?”
“Still recuperating.” Loki replied defensively. “What do you want?”
Fury looked upset, he had hoped at first for her to be in top condition after a couple of days, that until he had interrogated Doom. He know knew they should´ve intervened the moment they arrived; he hadn´t thought Doom´s twisted logic would make him interested in Leah in a more carnal fashion.
“Doom thinks she´s dead. And we allow him to keep thinking that. He won´t go after her again.” He reassured Loki.
“Why would you do that?” Loki asked intrigued by Fury´s apparent sudden interest on Leah´s welfare.
“I needed her and you to lead a black operations team; I didn´t counted on Doom … messing her up.” He confessed. “But I still need you both on the team. How long do you think it will take her to get back to her feet?”
“She´s not going to fight for you! I won´t allow it.” Loki answered enraged.
“Then everything is lost … it was a slim chance anyway.” Fury sighed disappointed.
“What do you mean by that? What´s so important you would dare ask me to let her fight again after Doom nearly killed her? And whyt do you need my help? Why don´t you just cal the Avengers?” He asked bewildered, Fury´s last statement worried him.
“I can´t ask them.” Fury replied disturbed. “They wouldn´t accept the mission anyway and if they did it would only destroy them. We need them, so I won’t.”
“And you want me to accept this mission and bring Leah with me, are you out of your mind?” Loki felt even more puzzled, what could be the situation that called for such uncommon procedures.
“If you let me talk to her I´m sure she would accept.” Fury volunteered.
“You don´t even know her!” Loki spat annoyed by his assumption.
“Maybe not personally, but all I needed to know I learnt from her fight with Doom. You might chose to ignore it but she reminds me of your friend Sif; and even of Steve himself. She won´t stop fighting no matter what if she thinks it´s worth it even at great personal cost. That would make her invaluable in this mission, and of course having super soldier strength and reflexes isn’t just a bonus.” Fury explained calmly.
“Even if I agreed with you, what makes you think she would agree to participate on your mission?” Loki asked intrigued.
“The greater good,” Was Fury´s enigmatic reply. “Besides, now that she´s a mother I´m quite sure she would like to keep this world safe for her child.”
That´s a cheap low blow, Loki thought but an effective one anyway. Playing with new parents emotions like that, whatever was happening certainly had Fury on edge.
“I don´t care how valuable or indispensable you think she is for this mission; I won´t take her with me.” Loki replied, he couldn´t deny Fury had stroke a nerve, keeping the world safe for his family was amongst his top priorities, that was one of the reasons why he had chosen to join the Avengers.
“So, you are joining this mission?” Fury asked pleasantly surprised. For a moment he had thought Loki wouldn´t agree to be involved.
“Don´t look so surprised, haven´t you just said so? There´s not much a father wouldn´t do to keep his child safe and for the moment Earth is our home. Now, will you just tell me what is this mission you claimed to be of the utmost importance?” Loki asked as he sat in front of Fury.
“Before I tell you, I need you to understand that you can´t talk about it to no one, only a handful of people know about his and I intend to keep it that way.” Fury told him with a very serius tone while leaning over his desk.
“All right, I understand. Will you tell me in what kind of mess I got myself into?” Loki agreed annoyed.n