A/N: Plutonio Shoujo requested an AU in which "Levi and Petra meet and fall in love but they don't speak the same language" over half a year ago, and like the piece of trash I am, I took forever to write it. This wasn't my original idea for the prompt, which I still want to write, but since that wasn't working I tried a different approach. I'm so sorry to keep you waiting; hope this is okay!
"Wait, how exactly did you lose your wallet and your passport again?"
"I swear I was being careful," Petra says sheepishly, twirling the phone cord around her finger. Outside the booth, someone shoots her a look through the glass and she realizes with an inward cringe how loud her voice must be. Again. "I guess raising my voice in English in a crowded Paris train station was dumb of me, huh? I was probably a pickpocket magnet."
Hanji sighs, though Petra can imagine the exasperated but fond look on her friend's face. "Hang in there; he'll be over soon. He doesn't live too far away from the Gare du Nord—you did bring documents and other IDs in your suitcase, right?"
"Yeah, I have those with me. And a bit of cash. All my cards were in my wallet though."
"At least this is your last stop in Europe," Hanji says. "He'll take you to the embassy and after you replace your passport, you can finish your trip without any delays."
"Thanks so much; you're a lifesaver," Petra breathes. She glances at her watch and makes a face; she only paid for two minutes on the phone with the remaining euro coins in her pockets. "I have to go before the time I bought runs out; you sure he'll recognize me?"
"Yeah, don't worry. You're ginger."
She laughs and starts to hang up when a new thought occurs to her. "Hold on—what's the guy's name?"
Hanji's voice is muffled through the receiver, as if coming from a distance, but Petra still hears the words clearly. "Levi. Just call him Levi."
The streets outside the train station are lined with cars, so she doesn't think too much when a small black Toyota pulls up by the side of the street, until the passenger's side window rolls down and she hears, "Petra Ral?"
She jumps up from the bench and grabs her suitcase. The door on the driver's side opens and a man steps out.
Hanji described him briefly and he seems to match her mental image of him: short, hair dark and shorn in the back, face rather lacking in expression. He is dressed neatly in a gray button-down and khakis, and before he can say anything she rushes over.
"You must be Levi!"
He opens his mouth to respond but she cuts him off. "Thank you so much for coming; I'm so sorry to bother you. I'm just glad Hanji has a friend living here or I'd be screwed; I don't have enough cash on me to rent a hotel room and my French sucks and I don't know how I'd get to the US embassy myself."
Levi blinks at her, looking startled. He doesn't say anything right away so she barrels on.
"Hanji didn't tell me how long you've been living in Paris, but you're probably used to the pickpockets—you must think I'm an idiot." She smiles ruefully. "Seriously though, thanks a lot. You really saved my ass. I hope I'm not troubling you too much."
He blinks at her some more. "Ah… oui," he says, and with a sinking feeling in her chest, she realizes she forgot to ask Hanji if the guy spoke English.
"Good news," Petra says, walking up to where Levi sits by the receptionist's desk, thumbing through his phone. "My temporary US passport will be available in twenty-four hours."
It could be her imagination, but she thinks there's something like curiosity in his apathetic gaze. "Vingt-quatre heures," he says, and the limited French she remembers from her phrasebook and three years of middle-school classes decides to help her out at the moment.
"Oui!" She grins. In the pretty-awkward-but-not-as-awkward-as-it-could-have-been drive here, she attempted conversation and learned quickly that when she spoke English slowly, trying to keep her words as simple as possible, made various exaggerated hand motions, and littered her speech with whatever French phrases she could, he would usually understand at least half of what she was saying. Quite often more. Sometimes he would respond accordingly; other times he would completely miss the point. At least he tried; his English seems to be a lot better than her French.
"Good," he says, the syllable awkward in his mouth. Levi doesn't seem to speak much, but when he does, she loves the sound of his native language, very lovely and fluid in his voice. His English is a different story, but she finds his heavy accent somewhat endearing.
"Bad?" he says, and it takes her a second to realize what he is asking.
"So, uh, the bad news is—"
At that moment, her stomach decides to protest how hungry it is. Loudly. She can almost feel the eyes of the receptionist and every other person in the waiting area on her, and she tries to fight back a blush. She stares at Levi, determined to keep talking like nothing happened, but then she catches the hint of a smirk curving his lips and the blush wins.
"Je vais te chercher quelque chose à manger," he says, standing and heading towards the exit. She watches his strides, long and purposeful, before nodding and following, dragging her suitcase behind her.
"Manger," she mutters under her breath. "To eat. Food. Yes. Good. Allons-y."
The café is a quaint little place, nestled between two larger convenience stores and open until 2 AM, with fresh coffee and sandwiches so light and delicious she thinks she could consume another two plates of them, but it's hard to enjoy the meal when Levi is sitting opposite her and staring without eating or doing anything else.
Well, that's not entirely true; he's sitting opposite her with his eyes fixed on the surface of the table, occasionally picking up his phone and flicking his thumb across the screen. After a while his gaze wanders to her and settles there for a while before he looks away, and she wonders how she should make small talk during a meal with someone who does not share her language.
"So what do you do for a living? I hope I'm not getting in the way of your work or anything." She picks a lettuce leaf from the plate and chews it. "Uh… I mean… qu'est-ce que… um…" She waves a hand around airily. "Your job."
He slides his phone across the table at her and she looks down to see a browser open to Google Translate. Génie logiciel is typed across the top of the screen; software engineering is the translation beneath.
"Oh! So you probably work at home. That's good." She nods and takes a bite of her sandwich.
"What is bad?" he asks, and she stares at him, uncomprehending, until she remembers what her stomach interrupted half an hour ago. His phone rang in the car and he picked up and jabbered on in French for most of the ride, and by the time they reached the café she'd forgotten to bring it up again.
Petra takes a deep breath and tells herself they're both Hanji's friends, so he must be alright and she won't come across as too creepy. Hopefully. She drops her hands in her lap and flashes him her brightest smile. "I was wondering if I could stay at your place tonight?"
He lives in a one-bedroom apartment in the vingtième arrondissement; when they get out of the car she notices a bar across the street from the building, the door open and people spilling out onto the sidewalk. On the way up the elevator, they pass more people dressed up and heading out, and she wonders if Levi frequently does the same, considering where he lives. Somehow she thinks not.
His apartment is near the end of the hallway on the fifth floor. When he unlocks the door, her first impression is that everything is extremely bare: white walls, polished hardwood floors, spartan furniture. The living room area is small, consisting of only one long couch and a coffee table, and beyond a few open doors she sees an equally bare kitchen and bathroom.
"Il n'y a qu'une seule chambre à coucher," Levi says, shutting the door behind her. "Vous pouvez dormir sur le canapé."
She has no idea what he is saying, but when he gestures at the sofa she understands; it isn't a large apartment. "Merci," she says, dropping her suitcase by the coffee table. Before she can begin to unpack a few essentials or do anything else, he walks past her and starts removing the couch cushions, tugging at the metal bars inside. She watches him pull out the built-in mattress and notes absentmindedly that he rolled up the sleeves of his button-down at some point; she can't help noticing the way the muscles in his arms strain and shift with his movements.
You idiot, she chastises herself. You don't know him at all and he's nice enough to let you stay at his place because you were a dumbass who got your wallet and passport stolen. Don't perv.
Still, she has to force her gaze back to his face when he finally turns to her again. "You want… Internet?"
"Ooh, yes please!" He was probably not expecting her excited outburst or the shoving of her phone under his nose, but there is something good-natured about his sigh as he takes it from her and types in his Wi-Fi password. She can feel the heat of his skin even though his fingers avoid touching hers, and she smiles widely again to cover up the strange nervous feeling suddenly tightening her chest.
"Merci beaucoup," she says, and he tilts his head at her, studying her face for a moment before responding.
"Vous devriez probablement vous contenter de parler en anglais," he says, and then he nods but also smirks a little to himself and she is left wondering just what exactly he said about speaking English.
The ten-hour train ride from Frankfurt to Paris must have taken more out of her than she thought, because somewhere in the middle of typing an email explaining her situation to her dad, she falls asleep and doesn't wake up until rays of light hit her in the face. She opens her eyes, squinting and expecting the sun, only to find it is the ceiling lamp that Levi just turned on.
"Bonjour," he says. He is dressed less formally, in a white T-shirt and a loose pair of jeans. He has a silver laptop under one arm and a cup in the hand attached to that arm; the fingers of his other hand rest on the light switch. The smell of buttered croissants and fresh coffee fills the air and her stomach rumbles.
"Morning," she mumbles, torn between glaring at him for waking her so abruptly and thanking him yet again for letting her sleep in his place. The couch bed is surprisingly comfortable, and the sheets he brought her shortly before she dozed off last night are soft and warm.
"Petit déjeuner." He jerks his thumb over his shoulder at the kitchen door. "Breakfast."
He pronounces the word like "break" and "fast" mashed together; it must be another thing he looked up. Petra hides a smile as she pushes the covers back and stands. "Smells good."
She knows he understands those two words, but to her surprise he only looks away quickly at them, heading back in the direction of his bedroom down the hall. She frowns after him, confused, until she sees the red creeping up the back of his neck, looks down at her own tank top and rather short shorts, and understands.
"Have you never seen a girl in so little before, Levi?" she can't help teasing as she grabs her toothbrush and toothpaste off the coffee table and makes her way towards the bathroom. She doesn't expect him to hear her or understand, but he mutters something that sounds like "pas ici" behind her and she laughs as she closes the bathroom door.
"I'm bored. You should take me out."
Levi does not spare her a glance over his computer screen, but his fingers pause across the keyboard. "Out?"
"Well, unless you're really busy with work, but I just saw you browsing YouTube." Petra wags a finger at him. "And I figure, if I'm in Paris with a native, I might as well take advantage of that."
"Oui," he says, which she has come to realize is his way of saying "I have no idea what you're talking about."
"Okay." She slips her phone in her pocket and stands, wondering how he can sit without squirming on the hard kitchen stool at the counter. "I have half a week in Paris. Like… three or four days. And I want to do as much as I can in that time. It's probably all touristy stuff to you, but this is my requisite post-college world tour—Europe tour, whatever—and I probably won't ever afford such a trip again, not for a long time, so I want to see all the sights. And you're a local, so you know where to go and how to get there, and you can speak the language. Also you can prevent me from getting my phone pickpocketed or something; it's the only thing left worth stealing. You'll have to pay for everything that requires money, of course, but I promise I'll reimburse you once I have money again. If I forget just tell Hanji to remind me."
She blurts it all out in one breath and looks at Levi. He cocks his head, his eyes flickering in puzzlement.
"You." She points at him. "Me." She points at herself. "Paris." She repeats the city's name in a hopefully French way. "Paris."
"Ah," Levi says. "Paris." He turns back to his laptop and starts typing and she thinks it is a rejection until he tilts the screen at her; he's relying on Google Translate again.
Paris is actually pretty crappy, the English says.
Petra snorts; she recognizes merdique in the French—it looks like merde, which she distinctly remembers Auruo telling her means "shit." "To you, maybe, but you live here, whereas I spent ten hours on a train from Germany just for this. Everyone always wants to go to America anyway and I personally think America can be quite merdique. So you, me, and the shitty city—how about it?"
"Oui," Levi says, but his eyes are flickering in something like amusement now and she knows it is a "yes" of understanding this time.
"Le Louvre," he informs her as they wait in line for tickets, "est barbant."
"I know that word," she says, tapping her finger against her chin. "It means 'boring,' right?"
"Boring," he repeats. "Yes."
She's heard so many different accents when people speak English before, but Levi's is particularly interesting. His French is smooth, graceful, though not as elegant as most she's heard and more even than most, and she can hear hints of it in his English, in his carefully enunciated syllables and flat vowels.
"How many times have you been to the Louvre before?"
She doesn't realize the line has moved until he tugs her forward lightly. He drops his fingers from her arm before her brain can process the contact. "Six," he says. "Seven?"
Petra wonders why her heart is thumping slightly harder than usual; she must be excited to see the art, that's all. "Yeah, well for me that number is zero. So guess you're just going to have to up your count, monsieur."
"Oui," he says, and she thinks it's another one of his "what are you going on about" responses until he adds, "mademoiselle."
No one's called her that before—not yet, anyway—and she starts giggling. "Sorry," she says when Levi raises an eyebrow at her. "It's just I've never heard it outside movies before, and never referring to me—don't mind me."
"You are not mademoiselle?" Now he looks perplexed. "You are madame?"
"No, no, no," she blurts, shaking her head and waving her hands around hastily. "Not at all. I am unmarried. I am mademoiselle. Yes."
She doesn't notice she's unconsciously imitating his accent until his eyebrow arches higher, but somehow that just makes her start laughing again. At that moment they reach the front of the line and he steps up to the ticket counter, but she could swear she hears him say under his breath as he goes, "Ah. Bien."
Petra's feet are beginning to ache and faint hunger is starting to gnaw at her stomach, but she thinks she could ignore them both and go on all afternoon. She's never been a huge art or history buff and she's visited plenty of museums in the past three weeks, but wandering the halls of the Louvre, admiring paintings and sculptures and relics from centuries and even millenniums past, she wishes she knew more about the times that produced such works.
"You could never finish seeing everything in just one or two visits or even six. How can you find this boring?" she asks as they walk into a long hall lined with paintings from around the Renaissance period, grouped by country of origin. At the end of the hallway a set of doors opens into another large room; a mass of people crowds around one particular display.
"Mona Lisa," Levi says. He has been plodding after her all this time, holding a map in French and matching it every so often with her English one. The corner of his mouth twitches. "Elle est barbante aussi."
She mock-glares at him and he huffs something that might be misconstrued as a laugh. Reaching the edge of the crowd, Petra tries to stand on her tiptoes to see the famous painting, but being short is definitely a disadvantage at that moment.
"I want a picture," she announces.
"Internet has many pictures," he tells her. "You spend money… good pictures in the store too. Louvre store."
He means the souvenir shop. She considers for a moment, then shakes her head.
"Nah, I'd just be spending your money, not mine. Besides, it means more if I get the pictures myself. Come on!" And then before he can protest, she takes his arm and tugs him with her into the throng.
Everyone is moving, jostling about, trying to reach the front to get a clear shot of the painted woman's enigmatic smile, and she pushes through resolutely, determined to reach the front as well. Her grip on Levi's arm tightens as she squeezes her way through; she doesn't mind people, but too many of them crowded around her does make her feel uneasy, especially when most of them are a lot taller than her. At least Levi is her height.
"Petra," he says; it is the first time he has called her by name since he picked her up at the train station. His voice sounds slightly strangled and farther away than it should be.
"We're almost there," she calls over her shoulder as cheerily as she can. It occurs to her that if this crowd makes her feel uncomfortable, it must be downright unbearable for him; he doesn't seem to be a very sociable person.
Feeling vaguely guilty, she shoves through the horde with renewed effort, and is rewarded when they finally emerge at the edge of the roped-off area to look upon the Mona Lisa. The press of people pushes Levi up against her but he doesn't seem to notice; he lets out a breath that tickles her cheek and she realizes he would rather be closer to her than the strangers around him.
The thought makes her happy, for some odd reason. She smiles apologetically at him for forcing him through that and holds her camera up at the painting; the colors are not as bright as she would like on the screen and she frowns. "I think I look better," she says jokingly as she aims the lens at the painted woman.
"You look better," Levi says, and though he might just be parroting her words, she blushes anyway.
"I still think Napoleon's apartments weren't nearly as great as those frescoes by… Raphael? Michelangelo? Botticelli? I don't really remember the artists' names."
"Vous ne pouvez pas décider maintenant; vous venez tout juste de visiter le Louvre une seule fois et seulement pendant trois heures. Aujourd'hui, c'était ma septième ou huitième fois."
"They're just some famous dude's living quarters. They're famous because he's famous. But think of all the hard work put into that art! Can you imagine painting on a ceiling for so long?"
"Revenez encore et vous pourriez changer d'avis. Si vous n'aviez pas autant faim, nous aurions pu rester plus longtemps."
Petra just rolls her eyes and pops another macaron in her mouth; this one is pink, speckled with cream, and she's not sure what flavor it is but it tastes vaguely like strawberries. She doesn't know exactly what he's saying but she can guess. She understands why he likes the exhibition best though—every article of furniture in Napoleon's apartments was elegant and perfectly placed, aesthetically pleasing in every way possible, and she feels she knows Levi well enough already to see why that appeals to him.
She wanted to try escargot for lunch, but she still has a few more days in Paris and ordering something from a café just outside the Louvre seemed quicker; she has other plans for the afternoon. Levi claims he's had baguettes from real bakeries a hundred times better (at least that seemed to be what he was saying), but the bread and the other food tastes perfectly fine to Petra—and she managed to snag a box of macarons from a pâtisserie next door too.
"Where now?" he asks. He taps his watch, a bulky black thing with a thick strap. "We can walk."
"You have a car," she reminds him.
"Paris is good for walk."
"It'll take too long, won't it? I'll get my temporary passport tonight and… maybe I can find a way to withdraw cash with that. I don't know, but I only have you for today, right, so let's just use your car."
The words are heavy in her mouth, reluctant, and she wonders why the thought of leaving him—or him leaving her—after the day is over makes her feel so hesitant. She should be glad to leave and he should be glad to be rid of her; all she's done is take up his time and money. The feeling persists anyway.
"Oui. Car," Levi says, looking a bit bemused. He shrugs and asks again, "Where now?"
"I'm a tourist in Paris who hasn't seen the Eiffel Tower yet; what do you think?"
"I think you are boring tourist," he says, but his lips twitch into something that almost looks like a smile so she lets it go, but not before swiping the last piece of bread; he said he's had better anyway.
"Je me sens stupide."
"I just heard stupide—yay for cognates—so I assume you just said this is stupid or something. News flash, monsieur—you're a local hanging out with a tourist. Of course you're gonna think this is stupid."
The Eiffel Tower looms above them, 1063 feet of crisscrossing steel beams that hundreds are lining up to ascend. The sun beats down on the mid-afternoon crowd, and the air is thick with the sound of voices babbling in a myriad of languages.
Hearing all the different tongues, Petra is prompted to ask, "Hey, how did you learn English? You've never lived in an English-speaking country before, have you?"
"No. I live in Paris," Levi says. "Toulouse and Lyon also."
"So did you just take English class in school or something? I took French class for three years but I barely remember anything. I also have one of those tourist phrasebooks and I was looking it over on the train here." She pats the purse slung over her shoulder; she's been keeping it as close as possible. "It might be in here, actually."
He nods in response to her question, and it could just be her imagination but she thinks the gesture is a little curt. His face is as bland as usual, but she can see hints of remembered irritation in the depths of his gray eyes—she's come to recognize the subtle shifts there that would be categorized as emotion for him.
"You hated it, didn't you?"
"Je ne suis pas très bon en ce qui concerne les langues. L'anglais était ma plus mauvaise matière." He pauses and then reaches for his phone as if to consult an online translator again, but she puts her hand on his to stop him; she understands his meaning. His eyes widen and he blinks rapidly, his mouth opens then closes again, and it occurs to her she should have removed her hand by now.
The line begins to shuffle forward and the moment passes; she lets go and follows the crowd, and that's when her eyes catch on another entrance to the side, ringed in metal with fewer people standing in front of it. She faces Levi again and she must look somewhat devious because the expression (or lack thereof) on his face quickly morphs into one of alarm.
"Ne me dites pas que vous pensez—"
She grabs his arm and yanks him forward. "Allons-y!"
He's still shooting her occasional disgruntled looks, but he's also suggesting she say "ouistiti" with every shot so she figures he's okay.
"I did you a favor," she says at the Arc de Triomphe; the sky is still bright but the lights of the Champs-Élysées are beginning to glitter around them. Soon evening will fall, signaling dinnertime—and a return to the embassy shortly thereafter.
"Favor? Non, demoiselle, tu ne m'as pas fait de faveur." Sometime on the climb up the Eiffel Tower, he took to calling her demoiselle, and she noticed how he started using tu instead of the more formal vous to address her too, much to her delight. She thinks it's kind of cute. (She thinks he's kind of cute, to be honest.)
"You work at home so all you do is sit around all day," she points out. She makes her way towards him from the base of the arch and takes her camera from him to look at the pictures he helped her take. Levi has a steady hand; all the shots are clear and well-proportioned, with decent amounts of sky and ground above and below the structures. The close-ups with her in them are good too; everything is positioned nicely.
"Je n'ai aucun problème à rester assis toute la journée," he grumbles.
"Whether or not you appreciate it, taking the stairs up the Eiffel Tower was good exercise for you." Petra raises her camera and points it at him. "Okay, enough ouistiti. Say cheese!"
The first picture she snaps of Levi features him looking surprised, though it is certainly not the last.
"It's a good thing I have a few more days here but I'm still not going to be able to visit every place I'd like," she says as they exit the Notre Dame Cathedral. She switches back and forth on her phone between a checklist and a map she downloaded last night in his apartment; most of the museums she made note of are closing around this time and she would love to shop, but she doesn't have any money.
"You walk?" he says; it is a testament to how well she can read him now that she instantly knows what he means.
"I guess, or I would have taken the subway." She smirks. "And I'm sure there are many people in this city who speak English better than you."
He shrugs; she is right, after all. "Subway. Métro?" When she nods, he tells her seriously, "Le métro est dégueulasse et sent la pisse."
"Oui," she says, taking a leaf from his book.
They are silent for a time as they walk; there are still plenty of passersby, citizens and tourists alike strolling down the sidewalks, some heading into restaurants for dinner and others making their way towards larger shopping areas. Traffic crowds the streets but the busy intersections do not remind Petra of New York City or Chicago or Los Angeles or any other busy American city she has been to; there is something lovely and different about the world around her that makes her feel like she is in Paris, even if she does not look at the French street signs.
Evening is beginning to creep in but the world is still warm and golden around her, from the rays of sun touching the horizon to all the welcoming shop windows they pass, and she thinks she can see why people call Paris the "City of Light."
"Hungry?" Levi asks her, breaking into her thoughts.
"Hm?" She blinks. "Oh, not yet." She eyes the stores stretching into the distance, delicate bakeries and cozy little bookshops and large clothing stores lit up with inviting neon lights. "I kinda want to go shopping, actually, but I don't have any money." She scratches the back of her neck. "I'll have to pay you back for the tickets to the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower and the meals and everything, anyway. Tell Hanji how much I owe you—how do you know Hanji anyway?"
She switches topics quickly but he catches on. "Internet," he says. "We meet two times. Hanji is…" He trails off, unable to find an adequate way to describe their mutual friend with his limited English.
"No words is right." Petra grins. Maybe she should be apprehensive about staying in the house of her friend's online friend, but Levi has done nothing she's frowned upon all day (no serious frowns, anyway) and it's certainly done her good this time. "Well, if you're okay with spending a little more money today, I'd love to check out some of the shops—and like I said, I'll reimburse you—er, pay you back. I promise."
"Oui," he agrees, but an hour later as they leave a department store, his wallet nearly two hundred euro notes lighter, she realizes he crumpled the receipt when the cashier handed it to him and threw it out.
"I'm still paying you back. I don't care. That's like nearly three hundred American dollars, and that's not including everything else you paid for—including this meal. Just because you threw the receipt out doesn't mean I can't look at the price tags on the clothing—"
"Shh," Levi says, pushing the other half of the baguette at her. "Eat food. Good food."
He told her this is a real baguette, hand-made from one of the best boulangeries in Paris (at least that was what she discerned from Google Translate), and it is very delicious, the crust crispy and the bread soft and warm, but she's too busy thinking about other things to properly enjoy it. "It's good, but don't try to distract me from what I'm saying and… do you seriously live on coffee and various forms of bread all day?" She's only seen him eat croissants, sandwiches, and baguettes so far, and always with coffee.
"I cook at home," he says. "I eat at the restaurants sometime."
But looking around the small café—yet another one—they are situated in, a brightly lit place with comfortable-looking couches in the corners and large windows overlooking the streets outside, she can see it's more than just a coffee shop to Levi and to all the other locals lounging around it. It's part of their daily lives, an extension of their own homes, part of their culture, and being able to experience it is something she might not get to do again anytime soon.
"So you cook your own meals," she says, letting the matter rest. For now. "And you eat out occasionally." She glances down at the half-finished savory crêpe on her plate. "I wish I could try your cooking."
He murmurs something she doesn't quite catch, but he appears to be contemplating something, so she switches topics. "So you've lived the life of a tourist for one day. What do you do usually do in the city then, when you're not holed up in your apartment?"
"Market," he says. "Not the big stores. Walk in the streets. Paris is—"
"Good for walking, I remember." She checks the antique clock hanging over the counter up front; her shopping bags are in Levi's car and in approximately one hour, she can probably return to the embassy for her temporary passport. Maybe she'll be able to use it to withdraw some money from her bank account; maybe she'll have to call her father for help or borrow money from Levi. Whatever the case, she doesn't want to think about it until the time comes. She likes where she is right now, in the middle of the city of light or romance or whatever people call it, with a Parisian local she probably likes too much by her side.
(Technically he is sitting opposite her, but that's beside the point.)
"Good for walking," she repeats, and takes another bite of her crêpe. Levi watches her, his gaze thoughtful, and after she chews and swallows, she smiles.
"You want to go on a walk, then?"
It's chillier at night along the banks of the Seine, but summer is approaching, the breeze almost warm against her bare arms, and she decides she can make do. She can't help sneaking looks at Levi's jacket though, no matter how thin it looks, but either he does not see her straying eyes or he's just that dense.
The sky is almost completely dark, golden streaks melting into deep blue, and despite all the lights of the city, she can see a few stars. The moon hangs low in the sky, round and almost full, and the rush of the river by her side reminds her again of where she is.
Two other people are taking a walk on the opposite shore; Petra waves and they both wave back. Levi eyes them in a manner that can only be described as awkward, and she swats him on the shoulder before looping her arm through his.
"Thanks for putting up with me," she says when he does not push her away. It is comfortable, strolling along arm-in-arm with him; a little voice in the back of her mind whispers that she could get used to it. "I mean, you didn't even know me, and we don't even speak the same language, but you let me stay at your place and eat your food and you paid for all my things and let me drag you around your own city like a tourist—by the way, I'm still paying for everything—and yeah… thanks a lot."
She glances at him when he does not respond immediately; his gray irises reflect the moonlight and the waters below. "De rien," he says simply, and she squeezes his arm.
"Merci beaucoup," she says, and this time he does not say anything back in French. After a moment's hesitation, she leans forward and pecks him lightly on the cheek.
The French do it all the time, twice, in a friendly greeting—it shouldn't be too much, but he freezes a little anyway. She watches his fingers flex once, twice, and then he nods.
She considers the Seine, its waters flowing past far beneath their feet, sees all the boats docked by the banks and thinks of the river tours available during the day. She looks up at the sky, the stars glittering down at her, and knows this is one moment from her Europe tour she will want to remember.
But all moments end, so she reluctantly checks the time and pulls away. "It's been twenty-four hours; my temporary passport's probably ready," she says. "We can go back to the embassy now. I think I might be able to withdraw money with it and rent a hotel room. Or I'll just figure something out with the officials; maybe they can lend me money. If I need to I'll borrow from you, but again, I am definitely paying you back."
Levi tilts his head and looks at her; his eyes glint but she can't tell what he's thinking. "No," he says.
She blinks. "No?"
He makes an impatient gesture with his hand. "More money for hotel. No. You live… my house. Free."
Petra gapes at him, wondering if he's really saying what she thinks he's saying. "You mean… I can stay with you for the rest of my time here?"
She tells herself not to act too excited, but she can feel a grin blossoming, widening and threatening to split her face in two. "If you're sure, I can—hold on." She mock-squints at him. "You haven't perchance become fond of me, have you, Levi?"
"I do not know fond," he says. "You live… alone, your passport. Someone takes it again."
"So you're just afraid I'll be a dumbass and get pickpocketed again, aren't you." Petra pretends to sigh. "Very well. If you insist." Still, she slings her arm through his again and begins walking once more; her steps feel oddly light.
"Yes." A breeze blows her bangs into her face and he tucks them behind one ear with what she swears is a smile.
"That's the only reason?"
A/N: A million thanks to Pauline (ohwhatsherface/sun-summoning on tumblr) and Rim (songtofly) for talking me through this and helping with the translations, respectively. This fic would be so much worse without both of them. (You should check out their writing if you haven't already~)
Translations: (some of these might be obvious but yeah just in case)
Gare du Nord — a train station in Paris
vingt-quatre heures — twenty-four hours
Je vais te chercher quelque chose à manger — I'll get you some food
allons-y — let's go
génie logiciel — software engineer
qu'est-ce que — what
vingtième arrondissement — twentieth district (of Paris)
Il n'y a qu'une seule chambre à coucher; vous pouvez dormir sur le canapé — There's only one bedroom; you can sleep on the couch
merci (beaucoup) — thank you (very much)
Vous devriez probablement vous contenter de parler en anglais — You should probably just stick to English
bonjour — good morning
petit déjeuner — breakfast
pas ici — not here
merdique — shitty
Le Louvre est barbant — The Louvre is boring
monsieur — sir/Mr.
mademoiselle — miss
madame — ma'am/Mrs.
bien — good
Elle est barbante aussi — She is boring too
Vous ne pouvez pas décider maintenant; vous venez tout juste de visiter le Louvre une seule fois et seulement pendant trois heures. Aujourd'hui, c'était ma septième ou huitième fois — You can't decide now; you've only visited the Louvre once and only for three hours. Today was my seventh or eighth time
Revenez encore et vous pourriez changer d'avis. Si vous n'aviez pas autant faim, nous aurions pu rester plus longtemps — Come back again and you might change your mind. If you weren't so hungry we could have stayed longer
escargot — a dish of cooked snails
pâtisserie — bakery specializing in pastries
Je me sens stupide — I feel stupid
Je ne suis pas très bon en ce qui concerne les langues. L'anglais était ma plus mauvaise matière — I'm not that great with languages. English was my worst subject
Ne me dites pas que vous pensez — Don't tell me you're thinking
ouistiti — marmoset (what French people say when taking pictures, like "say cheese")
Champs-Élysées — "Elysian Fields," famous boulevard in Paris's eighth district
Non, demoiselle, tu ne m'as pas fait de faveur — No, miss, you did not do me a favor
tu/vous — you (the latter is more formal)
Je n'ai aucun problème à rester assis toute la journée — I have no problem with sitting around all day
Le métro est dégueulasse et sent la pisse — The subway is dirty and smells like piss
boulangerie — bakery specializing in bread
crêpe — a thin pancake
de rien — you're welcome