The big guy’s fist drives through Steve like he’s nothing but paper. Steve’s frail, always has been – physically, that is. His mind is another matter altogether.
Steve wipes his mouth, getting to his feet, but his knees wobble when he puts up his fists to guard himself. The guy – six feet tall or more – snorts, reeling back far enough to end this on the next blow. Steve isn’t swayed; he’s learned to stand his ground, to fight even when the odds are against him.
And, honestly, when aren’t they?
The man’s fist is flying forward again, and Steve closes his eyes, raising his hands up to his face, in hopes of the impact being less bad that way. Instead, Steve feels the air cool against his cheek when the punch misses; hears the guy being yanked back and thrown into the middle of the street, and a car honking when it nearly runs him over. Steve’s eyes open; a tall, dark haired man smiles at him, standing in the exact spot the bully was.
Steve brushes off his pants. “I could have taken him.” The stranger smiles crookedly, and Steve feels bad about his reaction. “I mean, he was almost tired out,” Steve admits, ashamed. “But thanks for the help.”
“I’m certain you would have been victorious,” the man replies almost convincingly.
Steve’s eyes widen at the accent; it’s smooth as butter, brimming with confidence and pride. “You’re not from around here, are you?”
A strand of dark hair falls into the stranger’s face, and he smoothes it back easily; eyes half-lidded when he looks at Steve, a softer smile hanging from his lips. “No. I am indeed a – tourist, is it called?”
“Oh, so you’re on vacation,” Steve helpfully chimes in. He wipes blood away from his lips with the back of his hand, stuffing the reddened fingers into his pocket to hide them from the stranger.
The stranger tilts his head to one side, eyeing Steve with curiosity. “My name is Loki.” He bows his head, dragging a white handkerchief from his pocket. He hands it to Steve, careful not to touch the blood himself. Steve puts his hands up, trying to refuse, but Loki just wraps it around one of Steve’s hands. “I insist.”
“All right,” Steve submits, “thanks.” He stains the white with red quickly as he dabs his knuckles, the corner of his mouth and below his nose. The bully could have been a successful boxer – if he had put his strength to better use. Steve stares at the handkerchief, stretching his arm out to return it to Loki. “Sorry, I—”
“It is yours now,” Loki cuts in, waving a hand nonchalantly. He smiles, gentle and warm as the breeze, before continuing. “May I have your name as well?”
“Oh, yeah. I’m Steve. Rogers. Nice to meet you, Loki.” He returns Loki’s smile, his cheeks feeling flushed for some reason.
Loki crosses his arms, gaze raking down Steve’s body with obvious interest. “You intrigue me,” he admits, too quickly for it to be a lie.
Steve laughs a bit, stuffing the handkerchief in his pocket. Loki watches him, raising a brow. Steve mentally flounders a bit as he realizes Loki is being serious. “Beg your pardon?”
“You are an interesting man, Steve,” Loki answers simply.
Steve’s skin is beyond boiling point. This chic, dark haired stranger not only saved him, but is helping him clean up, and seems to genuinely be interested in a slight fella from Brooklyn. How could the day possibly get any weirder?
Throat too tight to properly answer, Steve looks down at his shoes – mud-covered and sprinkled with droplets of his own blood – wondering how anyone, let alone a fancy guy like Loki, could find him to be anything but average.
“I’d like to share a meal with you,” Loki adds. He tilts Steve’s head up with his fingers, getting him to focus on Loki’s softened expression. “If you don’t mind eating what will be prepared by my hotel, that is.”
“I-I, yeah,” Steve stutters out, shaking himself from his stupor. “Which one are you staying at? I might have some extra bus tickets—”
“I can fetch us a driver if that is your main concern,” Loki interjects. He turns, walking toward the street where the bully was not long ago. “Which hotel is the most highly praised, Steve? I would like to go there.”
Steve is rendered speechless, once again. He watches Loki’s forest green jacket ripple as another car passes, the headlights bathing Loki’s features in white and pale yellow hues. He’s like a celebrity in his pinstripe suit, with his lean body, his fantastic posture and gelled back hair.
What could Loki possibly see in Steve that didn’t make him keep walking, and let him get banged up by that loser like all the other passersby?
“—if you’re not busy,” Loki finishes. Steve wasn’t paying attention, too busy feeling inadequate and overwhelmed by this statuesque man.
“Sorry?” Steve says, scratching the nape of his neck. “I kind of tuned out for a second there.”
Loki hums, eyes fixed on Steve. “Perhaps it would be best if I brought you to a hospital first. I wasn’t here for the beginning of your…misunderstanding.”
Steve swallows, shaking his head. “No, I’m fine. I just need some rest. I think I should be heading home actually.” Before you realize how boring I am.
Striding up to Steve in two swift motions, Loki cups Steve’s face, inspecting the damage. “I suppose you’re right.” His fingers linger at the edge of Steve’s jaw as he says, “I have decided to stay at the Du Louvre, if you would like to join me for a meal tomorrow evening.”
“T-that’s—” Not in New York. And French. Which means it’s not in the country at all. Steve was going to recommend the Waldorf-Astoria; how does that even compare to Paris? “—that’s in France!” Steve chirps, astounded, face burning up from the gentle caress of the strange man. “And I can’t really afford to travel—”
Loki laughs, moving his hand away and turning his back to Steve. “Well, if you do not have dinner plans for tomorrow, you may contact me.” He takes his wallet from his coat, opening it and handing Steve a card with his name.
“Loki Odinson?” Steve reads out loud. That’s definitely a foreign name. “Where are you from?” He could be from France – that would explain the hotel – but Steve has a feeling he’s from somewhere a tad bit more exotic.
Putting his wallet away, Loki shrugs, walking towards the street. His expression turns mischievous, paying no mind to the traffic lights, the cars speeding down either lane, the warnings from the people across the street. He bares his teeth in a blindingly white smile and says, “You’ll have to come with me to find out, Steve.”
Loki disappears before a silver car drives through him, leaving green smog in his wake. And a half dozen people gaping and paralyzed – Steve included.
Steve is definitely going to call him now.