It’s not exactly the weirdest conversation Steve’s had, but it’s in the top five. Loki is a pleasant man on the phone; that isn’t the problem. It’s just his timing – maybe it’s Steve’s fault for calling while he was half undressed, lying on his bed in his room – that leaves something to be desired.
So here Loki is, dressed in a fancy navy blue coat and grey slacks, smiling down at Steve knowingly. Steve gapes, the receiver still glued to his ear – unnecessarily one might add – and trying to read Loki’s thoughts with a glance. Loki crosses his arms, pointing to the phone.
“I believe that is no longer needed, Steve.” He smirks, tilting his head as though Steve is the most adorable creature on Earth.
“Y-yeah,” Steve stutters out, jumping off his bed, feeling more flustered than if a woman had walked in on him completely naked. He digs through the closest drawer for a t-shirt. “How did you even do that?”
“Magic,” Loki hisses out, breathing against Steve’s bare shoulder.
Steve startles, kneeing his drawer accidentally, and wincing when the hand that’s meant to soothe meets the same painful fate.
Loki chuckles behind Steve, his voice further away when he says, “I thought you more careful than that. Shame, really.”
“Well, I don’t usually have to deal with magicians sneaking up on me,” Steve mutters, pulling a shirt on at last. “If that’s even what you are.”
“I suppose I could settle for that title, yes,” Loki drawls, leaning his weight on the edge of Steve’s bed. “Have I appeared at a bad time? You seem hardly…prepared.”
“I just got back from seeing a friend. Now’s as good a time as any.” Steve smiles stiffly.
Loki rolls his eyes. “There is no need for these theatrics. I can return when you are—”
Steve waves his hands in the air. “No, no. It’s okay. I’m starving. Did you eat?”
“I was waiting for your call,” Loki answers dryly.
Steve’s brows raise. “We met three days ago. You couldn’t have—”
Loki sighs, crossing his legs, his foot swinging impatiently.
“You waited three days to eat?!” Steve asks, incredulous.
“I don’t require as much sustenance as mortals, Steve. Three days is hardly a long time for me to wait. But to answer your earlier question, no I did not eat. And I’d love for you to join me at the Du Louvre.”
Steve gulps. Travelling with a stranger isn’t really his thing, unless it would have to do with the army. And how does Loki get around, really? He can’t just snap his fingers and be halfway around the globe, can he? It must be something more ordinary.
“I’ve never been on a plane before. Is it scary? What do I need—”
Loki raises a brow questioningly, a gleam in his eyes that makes Steve’s throat go dry. “Did I mention the need for aviation? You are going to rely on me and my magic. You need nothing more, Steve.”
Steve narrows his eyes, unconvinced, and Loki smiles sweetly in response. He turns away, busying himself with his pants rather than trying to figure out how he’s getting to Paris without a plane.
“I am not lying,” Loki says, indignant. The bed creaks loudly when Loki stands. “I should have known the treatment on Midgard would be no different than what I have to endure at home—”
“Now wait a second,” Steve cuts in, taking a few cautious steps toward Loki, “you can’t expect me to understand this right away if you’re not even human, Loki.”
Loki frowns, buttoning up his jacket, preparing to leave. Steve rubs his elbow, feeling inadequate, and guilty for not having recognized sooner that Loki is on his side – the underdogs.
Steve huffs, when Loki refuses to look at him. “I’m trying, okay? I just – I need time.” He shuffles his feet, feeling smaller than ever, and like the universe is playing the cruelest joke in history. “I don’t even know if you’re real or if I’m dreaming all this up.”
Loki snorts. “I doubt your imagination is this vivid.” He’s smiling when Steve looks up, and it makes a world of good. “I would very much like for you to accompany me, no – to trust me, rather – and have a delicious meal with me. Anything you would like to have, I can provide you with.”
Without letting his doubts, his insecurities have a say, Steve agrees. Loki’s smile brightens, and it’s just about the most beautiful thing Steve’s seen in a long time. And it’s shocking, really, to be able to think that about someone who isn’t even of this world.
“Just give me a few minutes to get ready.”
Loki bows his head. “As long as you need,” he whispers, taking a seat on Steve’s bed like before.
The meal – it’s fantastic. Loki speaks French as well as ten other languages he picked up when he was bored one day – literally in one day – and orders them the most delicious, high-class cuisine Steve’s ever had the privilege of trying. He’s never wanted to spoil himself with this kind of thing, but he's definitely not going to refuse the next time someone offers.
Steve can’t, even for one second, forget where he is. The tower sparkling in the light a few miles away from the terrace they’re eating on makes sure of that. It's dark and busy, but calming in other ways, and it makes Steve's heart stutter when he thinks about how easy it would be to travel the world with Loki this way.
Loki eats small, delicate portions, lifting his eyes to Steve after each bite. Loki's gaze sparkles, like the tower, with fondness and amusement. Steve is so busy enjoying the company, the food, the ambience and the unbelievable situation he’s found himself in, that he doesn’t notice Loki’s fingers resting over his own.
Not that he minds Loki touching him, though he probably should. Loki is a man – or looks like one at least – and so is Steve. Bucky would freak out if Steve said a man from another world was holding his hand. This should be weird, unwanted, uncomfortable.
It isn’t. Not for Steve, nor Loki whose gaze only intensifies when their eyes meet, nor to any of the other patrons. And that makes it all okay, somehow.
They go for a stroll; palms brush this moment then the next, until Steve takes the initiative and laces his fingers with Loki’s. Loki hums, satisfied and inaudible to most people, squeezing on to Steve’s hesitant fingers. It makes Steve’s body thrum with warmth, with happiness. Loki drags Steve nearer, pressing their tangled fingers at the small of Loki’s back, their hips bumping with every step they take.
And Steve is left speechless, wondering how anyone could be this amazing. A flush climbs over his cheeks, and Loki uses his free hand to stroke it, to ease it away, to reassure Steve.
“I am glad to have found you, Steve,” Loki murmurs, his eyes straight ahead to avoid making Steve even more embarrassed.
Steve manages, “Me too.” And they continue walking through the park in silence mostly.
Maybe Steve expected a kiss when they’d returned to New York, but then again, maybe his body would implode from all of the good things that have happened during their date. Better to save it for their next date.
Loki says that he will be away for a few days, but that he will find Steve as soon as he returns. Their second date might be postponed for a while, it seems. Steve bites his lip, anxious and slightly disappointed. Loki sighs, cupping Steve’s face. And Steve is praying to anyone who will listen for Loki to lean down and kiss him; to leave Steve with something to keep him going while he waits. Loki smiles softly before disappearing, leaving the feel of his fingers trailing across Steve’s face as the cloud of smoke clears.
Don’t worry, Loki. I’ll be waiting for you.
Bucky finds Steve the next day, and tells him about the double date he has planned. Steve isn’t interested in the girl – she’s no Loki, could never be – and she certainly isn’t into him, so it makes it easier for Steve to slip away and try his luck at joining the army again.
Bucky doesn’t approve of Steve’s yearning for something more, but now there’s something else pushing Steve toward it. And it's even stronger than before.
Who knows when Loki will be back. He could be fighting his own war in his own world, and Steve is too weak, too far away, to even be able to offer help. He needs to be useful somehow. He can’t just sit back, waiting, hoping Loki will return in one piece.
What if Loki is hurt when he comes back? What if Steve isn’t strong enough to save him? What if Loki never comes back?
It may be insane to think risking his life fighting Nazis will change anything about him being weak, but what else can Steve do? He can’t even find Loki if he’s in trouble, and even if he did, how could he help?
This is all Steve has. This is all there is for him.
There’s a doctor hidden nearby, watching intently as Steve is refused yet again for being skinny and small. And when he approaches Steve, his eyes shining with interest and promise, Steve has a feeling he'll finally be able to offer others his help.