"Table for two, please," Grace said to the small, dark-skinned man standing behind the podium just inside the entrance to the bakery. Loki found himself in dim lighting, surrounded by the smell of freshly baked bread. It was not unpleasant. The room was painted a warm cream, and there were fabric-covered seats lining the walls with metal tables in front of them. Silver chairs sat opposite the fabric seats, and each table had a small candle in the center. The man nodded, picked up two menus, and walked them toward a small table toward the back of the restaurant.
She stepped in front of him, walking briskly by, brushing lightly against the forest green cotton pullover framing his chest. His initial reaction was one of annoyance bordering on anger; who was this mortal peasant—a woman, no less—to think she could walk ahead of a man born to be a king? But then, looking down at his clothing—simple Midgardian garments he had been sent with, courtesy of Thor's companion, Jane, no doubt—he wouldn't believe he was royalty if he didn't know better.
He sighed dramatically, but she didn't hear him. She was already halfway to the table, still hanging tightly to her bag with one leather-gloved hand and loosening her scarf with the other. He followed her and waited for her to be seated before sitting down himself; he may have been a prince, but he was also, in some respects, still a gentleman. He blamed his adoptive mother for that. He resented it because he was in no mood to be a gentleman right now. He wasn't even truly sure what he was doing here—perhaps he should have simply stayed the course on his walk through the park. And yet, as Grace pulled her shoulder-length hair into a low, loose tie at the base of her neck, he noticed that her skin was almost as pale as his (or, at least, as pale as his skin appeared) and found himself wondering if it was as cold.
After they had ordered and received two mugs of what Grace described as the restaurant's "famous" hot chocolate, there was an uncomfortable silence. Although she had insisted that Loki join her for this outing, she now seemed unsure of what to say. Loki, for his part, was not going to initiate conversation. What could he possibly have in common with this mortal in the first place, and in the second, why would he care to find out? She was here to amuse him, not the other way around. A few moments passed, and Grace noticed she was still wearing her gloves. She removed them and placed them in the bag she had removed from across her shoulder and laid on the table next to the wall.
"I still can't thank you enough for stopping that asshole," she finally said. "Really. You have no idea."
"It was nothing," he replied. "It was not even intentional. He simply ran into me."
"But you must have done something. The guy had a gun, for God's sake."
God's sake, he thought, smirking at the irony.
"I did nothing. He ran into me, fell, and then ran away." He hesitated, and then took a small sip of the dark, thick liquid in front of him. It filled his icy body with something that felt almost comforting, a warmth that filled his throat and spread to his toes. He hesitated, and then said, "I—enjoy this."
Her brow furrowed for just a second, clearly taken aback by his choice of phrase. "Uh, I'm glad?" She smiled slightly and took a sip from her own mug. "If you don't mind me saying, you look like you needed it."
At this, he was taken aback. "Excuse me?"
"I don't mean to be mean, it's just…" She trailed off, considering her words carefully, chewing her bottom lip. "You look…tired. And not many people are just wandering around the park at night. Homeless people, mostly. So, you know, it really was the least I could do, getting you something warm to drink."
"Homeless?" Loki replied, appalled that she would think he was some vagabond, begging for handouts on the street like so many he had seen in his short time here. "I am not—"
"Oh my God," she interrupted, her eyes widening. At this, he noted, they had shifted color from a steely gray to almost a bright blue. How curious, he thought. "I am so sorry. I swear. Sometimes my mouth just…goes. I didn't mean to imply—I mean, you're not?"
He found himself again keeping his emotions carefully checked; if he was not careful, he knew, he could revert to his frost giant form and, while he did not particularly care whether the humans were frightened of him—in fact, he might prefer it—above all else, he wished to return to Asgard and wreaking any sort of havoc right now would only turn that plan on its head. Lost in this thought, he realized Grace was staring at him, still wide-eyed, obviously afraid, rightfully, that she had offended him.
"I most certainly am not homeless," he replied, with an eerie calm in his voice. "I simply…have been temporarily displaced." He shifted slightly in his seat, eyes cast to the side, lips pursed.
Her face relaxed, and she tilted her head. A section of her hair came loose, falling into her eyes. She brushed it back behind her ear, to no avail. "I'm—I'm sorry. I really didn't mean to offend you. You just seemed a little lost, that's all." She paused, considering whether to go on. "So…Luke…where are you from, originally?"
He did not know how to answer this question. "I…am from outside this country." It wasn't exactly a lie, not that that would have mattered coming from the God of both Mischief and Lies.
"I kind of figured. Your accent sounds kind of British, but not really. I can't place it."
"I am not surprised."
He grew weary of this conversation, and it showed in his response. The truth was that he was simply weary in general but also weary of answering questions. Always, always answering questions. Questions from S.H.I.E.L.D. when they held him, questions from Odin upon his return, questions from Thor about their "brotherhood." He was so tired of being observed as one might observe a wild animal. She seemed to sense the darkness growing around him, because she suddenly stood, gathering her belongings hastily.
"Well, Luke. Thank you again for your help today. Really, I don't know what I would have done—my phone was in my purse, and, well, as you can imagine, you lose your phone and whoever finds it basically has access to your life. Plus, it's a pain in the ass to get a new one, so, you know. Like I said. Thanks." She smiled yet avoided eye contact, pulling her peacoat over her shoulders.
He stood, perplexed by her hastiness. As insistent as she had been to get him here, she was now dashing off just as quickly. "Again. I did nothing."
She reached into her bag and pulled out Midgardian currency, leaving it on the table. "Whatever you say," she replied, her voice not quite as steady as it had been. "I still appreciate it."
They walked to the door together, Loki again following her, but this time, he didn't feel the rush of anger surge when she instinctively led the way. He was more curious, studying her the same way he had just felt resentful for others studying him. He wondered if perhaps she could feel the rage boiling quietly within him and had wisely decided to exit before she came too close to saying the wrong word at the wrong time. Or perhaps she, too, was weary.
As they exited the building, the cold night air hit her like an ice pick to the face. "Gosh, it's freezing. How are you out here without a proper coat?"
He suppressed another smirk. "Where I am from, this weather is considered temperate." As soon as he spoke the words, he suddenly realized that he was becoming entirely too familiar with this woman. "But my troubles are not your concern. I shall take my leave."
He found himself bowing his head to her, but before he could lift his head back up, she had turned and headed the opposite direction from him, without so much as a goodbye.