A/N: And here we are at the end. This is Loki's first full day on Earth...just a bit of fluff to say goodbye. Thank you for reading & reviewing!
Loki wakes up and stares at the ceiling. This is the first full day of his exile. He plays with the metal around his neck and wonders if he will see the Captain today. He takes a deep breath and gets up.
He showers. (He likes showers.) Then he dresses in the dark blue S.H.I.E.L.D. uniform he has been issued and waits to be escorted to wherever he is to go.
There is a sharp knock on the door just before it opens. Natasha Romanoff is standing in the doorway. "Ready?"
"Yes, though I doubt it matters."
She turns sharply and leads him down the corridor and into an elevator.
They are at S.H.I.E.L.D.'s New York headquarters located in the financial district of Manhattan. Loki actually has a lovely view from of the city from his room.
They arrive at a room full of laptop computers, and Agent Romanoff instructs the god where to sit.
A man approaches and types and maneuvers through the laptop's screens. He turns the computer back to Loki. Then he nods and walks away.
"You'll be taking an assessment exam," Natasha tells him. "This will tell us where you'll be most useful…you know, since you can't use magic." She walks him through the first few questions, showing him how to navigate and select from the multiple-choice answers. Then she watches for a bit before leaving him to do the rest on his own.
In the end, there are over 500 questions to answer. Loki is very tempted to just pick anything, but he knows that might only make his time here that much more tedious. So he answers the questions as best he can.
Agent Romanoff returns with his results in a folder. She leads him to Director Fury's office, keeping the folder closed the entire time. She hands the results to the Director before she and their visitor take a seat.
Fury reads through the results. "Says here you would best fit in either our Behavioral Science Group or into OTaS, the Operational Tactics and Strategy division." He looks at Loki with his good eye. "Since we'd prefer you not to have knowledge of our operations, I think we'll stick you in Behavioral Sciences. Agent Romanoff, please make sure it's taken care of."
"Yes, Sir," she responds, rising to her feet. She begins to lead Loki out of the room, but they are stopped by Director Fury's voice.
"And Loki, if you even think about pulling any shit, I will shoot you myself. I don't care who your daddy is. Got it?"
The god nods and follows Natasha out of the room.
She stops at the desk of the Director's assistant. "Joanna, will you please warn BSG that we're coming? Thanks."
They are back in the elevator and heading to the 16th floor.
"Behavioral Science?" Loki asks.
"It's best if I let them explain."
They arrive and are greeted by the head of BSG. Dr. Nastaya looks over the newcomer's test results as they walk to his office and is impressed. He thinks Loki will make a good fit here.
Natasha stays with the god during the overview of the department and how they hope Loki will be able to help. BSG, the Behavioral Science Group, is tasked with delving into the minds of super humans. They are trying to understand what makes a super human choose to be a hero versus a villain…what circumstances in their life influence that decision.
Loki laughs. "I apologize," he replies when it is obvious his outburst is not welcome. "You talk as though villains choose to be villains. They don't. Everyone is the hero of their own story. For some of us, you are the villains…the evil government agency bent on making the world into your image." He sees the beginnings of comprehension in the doctor's eyes. "Heroes and villains are based on our perspective and on the ultimate winner. I am the villain because I lost. I am the villain because my people lost. I am the villain because you do not agree with me, and you see yourself as the hero."
"Fascinating..and exactly the kind of thinking we do," Dr. Nastaya replies. "Tell me, do you believe there is evil?"
The God of Mischief has to think over that one. "I believe there are unsavory courses of action. I believe evil, like villainy, is based on our perspective. The interesting question is how much of a perceived evil is tolerable in the service of a perceived good. Do the ends justify the means?"
"Fascinating," the doctor says again with a glint in his eye.
"Well, sounds like you two will get along just fine," Agent Romanoff observes. She gets up and leaves them.
Loki is placed at a desk with pen and paper and asked to write down all of his thoughts on the perception of villainy and evil.
"I was told I'd find you here," says a familiar voice.
Loki looks up into the blue eyes of Captain Rogers.
"How's your first day?" Steve asks.
"Tolerable. They have me writing a treatise on the perceived value of actions."
The Captain isn't sure he understands but nods anyway. "Can I take you to lunch?"
The god smiles. "That would be most agreeable."
They go down to the cafeteria on the ground floor. Standing in line, Steve begins to pile both of their green plastic trays with food. Loki says nothing. He just watches as more and more things get added.
When they arrive at the cashier, Steve indicates he'll be paying for both.
"Who's your cute friend?" the woman with the strawberry blonde hair asks.
Loki is looking around to see whom she means when Steve answers, "His name is Loki, but he's off limits."
"Already taken, huh?"
"Something like that." He hands her some money.
"And when are you finally going to ask me out?" she asks as she hands him back his change.
"I don't think your husband would appreciate it if I did," he replies with a warm smile.
"Oh, well, you're on my list, so his opinion doesn't really matter."
Steve is a little confused. "Your list?"
She laughs lightly and tells him not to worry about it. She winks at them both and tells them to have a nice day.
The Captain leads the way to a small table by the window where they can watch the people walk by outside. They unload their trays, and sit down.
"Midnight," Steve says as he looks into Loki's eyes. "I don't think I've ever seen blue eyes that dark." He takes a bite of his macaroni and cheese and studies the color.
"Ever the artist," the god breathes.
"I like it. But I kinda wish the uniforms were green…a dark forest green with hints of blue." The Captain smiles. "So tell me about your day."
Loki does. He starts with the shower and how nice it was. Then he progresses through the entire day surprised at how easy it is to talk to the artist about it and his feelings surrounding it. He stops abruptly when he notices that Steve has almost finished his meal. "I've talked too much. Please, tell me about your day…and what you've been up to…and how you defeated the attack on Midgard."
"Earth," Steve corrects gently. "This is Earth. And it's fine. I like listening to you talk." There is a brief silence before the Captain gets an idea. "The Avengers are all going bowling tonight. You should come."
"I wouldn't wish to impose."
"Nonsense. Thor will be there." Steve leans in conspiratorially. "He's a horrible bowler." He leans back as Loki chuckles. "Besides, we'll have an odd number of players if you don't. You'll even us out."
"I don't know what bowling is," Loki admits.
"That's okay. I'll teach you." He sees the apprehension in the god's eyes. "You can just come watch if you want. It'll be kinda like a date…only not…since everyone will be there." Steve bites his lip. "I'll tell you what, when we get back to your desk, I'll write the address and the time down. Then if you decide to come, you'll know where we'll be."
Loki nods. "Now please, tell me about your day."
Steve is at the bowling alley waiting nervously, nursing his beer as the others take their turns. It's 15 minutes after the time he told Loki they'd be starting. He hears his name being called. It's his turn to bowl. He tears his eyes away from the door and goes to get his ball. The unofficial leader walks purposely down the lane and sends the ball towards the targets. He knocks down 8 pins on his first roll and gets the spare on his second.
When he's done, he forces himself not to look at the door. Loki isn't coming. That's fine. He drinks his beer and watches Natasha take her turn.
They are all wearing black Avengers bowling shirts that Tony had created for them when they started making this a regular thing. There's a big A on the back in what Tony assures them is the official Avengers logo. And on the front left is embroidered 'Avengers' and their first names underneath that. Steve, Natasha, Bruce, Clint, Tony, Thor, and Phil wear them every month, the second Tuesday of the month, when they come here to bowl. Tony made one for Fury, too, that says 'Director', but he never joins them.
Thor is next. He flings the ball towards the pins, and it immediately flies into the gutter. He manages to knock down a couple of pins on his second try.
"You're up, Agent," Tony says. But Phil is looking at the people approaching and doesn't hear.
Everyone turns in the direction he is looking.
Loki, dressed in a blue pinstripe suit, white shirt, and red tie, is walking towards them accompanied by what is obviously a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. The god carries a single red rose in his hand. And he is suddenly feeling very self-conscious as he notices how casual everyone else looks.
Steve rises and smiles warmly. "Blue."
"Ever the artist," Loki greets. Then he observes, "I think I may have overdone it."
The artist shakes his head. "You look amazing."
"I'm glad you're pleased." He offers the rose to Steve. "I believe it is customary to present flowers when one is courting. At least, that is what Jennifer in the office said."
"That's true," Steve confirms.
"And the florist on the corner said the red rose symbolizes my romantic intentions and that a single one would be more romantic still." He adds, "And I didn't have much money."
Steve takes the flower. "It's perfect. Thanks, Loki." He offers the Trickster a seat and asks if he wants something to eat or drink. The god declines. "Okay. Well, Phil was just about to take his turn. I'll explain what he's doing as he goes."
Loki takes off the jacket and tie as Steve tells the unknown agent that he can go away now. The Captain will keep an eye on the god and escort him back when they're done. The agent doesn't move until Agent Coulson tells him it's okay.
"Oooh," Tony sing-songs. "Someone has more power than Captain America."
"Shut up, Tony," Phil says as he lines up to bowl. He steps forward, releases the ball perfectly, and turns around just before all 10 pins go down. "And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how it's done."
Everyone claps, and Coulson bows.
Steve and the others explain the rules of bowling to Loki. The Captain offers to get him some shoes so that the Trickster can take his turn, but Loki declines. He'd rather just watch and learn.
The God of Mischief can feel that his presence has changed the group dynamic. There is a tension in the air that he is sure wasn't there before he arrived, and after watching Steve bowl he begins to think about leaving. He doesn't belong here, not with them. They are his enemies…were his enemies.
Loki realizes suddenly that his perception has changed. And then he feels the Captain take his hand beneath the table and gently rub the tops of his fingers. He doesn't want to leave. Even if it means wearing the collar until the beginning of Ragnarok, he does not want to leave. Not now. Not yet. Though he is quite certain even that sentiment will change eventually. Magic has always been part of his life, and he won't be able to give it up completely and forever. But for now, he wants to stay.
Steve looks at him then, sees a change in the blue eyes. He smiles a small, worried smile. "Are you okay?"
The God of Mischief squeezes the hand holding his. "Yes. Better than I've been in a very long time." He places a very quick kiss on Steve's cheek and then watches his brother's ball roll straight into the gutter.