"Don't think about it" I told myself. "This is just an opportunity to see the city with someone who actually lives in it and offered to take me to see it." Yes, he was a (reformed?)criminal, but I could still turn him to the authorities after the tour, right? And maybe it would be a nice change. The real start of the holiday.
I deserved his holiday, damn it, and maybe this was destiny's way of showing him to a good time. But yet, I couldn't help feeling extremely guilty when I rang the buzzer of Loki's apartment. He was a killer. A manipulative bad person who had tried to rule the world.I rang the buzzer, again trying to forget the many conflicting thoughts. The door opened.
"Bonjour" said Loki's voice in front of me. He looked tired and was rubbing his eyes absent-mindedly, with a sleepy expression. His left eye was black and his black hair was mussed. He was only wearing a loose black shirt and some green pajama bottoms. The arm was plastered. Of course, I was there when they did it.
"I can come back later if you want." I said, awkward. "If the offer is still up."
"No, please, take a seat. I will just go get dressed."
It was a fairly small apartment and it was bordering on chaos. There were books everyhwere, cds, clothes, magazines, newspapers, a small computer... There were some posters, too. All written in french. À bout de souffle. Noir désir. I sat in the black couch while I waited and gave a hard long look to the place to see if I could find anything suspicious. Nothing stood out. There were some comics on the coffee table in front of me. French comics of a cowboy, of all things. An american cowboy called Lucky Luke. Sadly, all of it was in french.
"Do you like Lucky Luke? I believe he is american, probably would fit in your team. He is faster than his own shadow and has a sarcastic horse." Loki said behind me, the soft voice drawling the syllables. He was elegantly dressed now, wearing a black silk shirt and a matching jacket with some suit pants. A true Parisian gentleman. He motioned to the door.
"On y va?"
I nodded, ready for the adventure, and we left.
And suddenly I was following Loki to an urban bus with no idea of where I was going. It was much better than the subway because this way you could actually see the city while you travelled and it wasn't as expensive as a tour bus. Why hadn't I thought of that? Anyways, Loki told me about the different places we were seeing as the bus passed them. Names of streets, anecdotes, history bits, characteristics. It was nice. Like having a real, professional and personal guide of the city. We got out of the bus in a very peaceful-looking place. I had never seen so few people since arriving to that city.
"Where are we?"
"16ème arrondissement. A family-friendly quiet neighborhood. There's kids, there's dogs, there's parks, there less crime. This is where the old fashioned french people live."
The Steve Rogers-es of Paris, more or less. It was a nice touch.
Loki took me to a place for breakfast, and it was a jazz themed café. The Si Bemol. There were people in pictures that even I knew, from my time. I was shocked.
"Is very anachronical, much like yourself." My guide said and we sat down. I could not believe or understand why Loki was being so thoughtful and nice. Maybe he was grateful that I hadn't denounced him, as I probably should. Maybe Paris-Loki was simply a nicer guy. Who knew.
The breakfast was delicious, it was very european (the coffee, the croissants, the delicious pain au chocolat) and I finally learnt why french waiters were so famous. As long as there was someone who spoke french and ordered perfectly, they were exceedingly polite. There was a tv set in it too, and Loki told me about Hollande and Sarkozy and the problems of the country. Loki had strong opinions about them.
"If I was ruler... Many things would improve. But no, when you have the chance to have a nice leader you throw him out and send super-soldiers to stop him. Well, now you have the rulers you deserve, some corrupt men that do not fulfill their promises."
"People have the right to choose." I said, serious.
"Like they chose Hitler... twice?"
"They are allowed to make their own mistakes. We all are." Loki smirked at my comment.
He looked at me, smiling. He wasn't angry, not anymore. He just looked tired, resigned. And with the cuts and that black eye... He looked startlingly human.
"I only mean to say that the way someone reaches power is not linked to the quality of their rule. Nobody voted for Napoleon and he turned a very poor country into an empire without forgetting his subjects - he was one of the first instigators of civil rights. He wrote a civil code."
"But Napoleon was defeated." I argued. All of them were defeated, sooner or later.
"Yes, by the British people, wasn't it? Just like I was defeated by you."
"Are you comparing yourself with Napoleon?"
"I shouldn't. Napoleon succeeded in overcoming his physicals...shortnesses and proving that intelligence was the way to win. He became emperor. I have never known success." There was a sad tinge to his words, a dark cloud in his eyes. I vaguely wondered if he thought about us while in Paris, if he had nightmares about the Hulk.
"Don't you regret it, Loki? The invasion, Stuttgart, New York? I used to think that you were just a power-thirsty man, you know, with no other ambition than ruling, only wanting blood and power, but... I can't shake the feeling that there's more."
Loki shook his head and tsked.
"Très mal, Capitaine. You're supposed to be on holiday, and that is a matter of work, is it not? Have you not been told that mixing business and pleasure is always a mistake?"
I tried to insist, but he distracted me, talking about the streets and the bridge that was closest to us. After the breakfast, we walked near the river bank, passed many bridges (This is the Bir-Hakeim bridge, he would explain, that appeared in that movie about dreams, Inception, have you seen it? or This is the Pont de l'Alma opened to commemorate a battle in which British and French fought together for once, and actually won). The streets were full of people, of tourists, but Loki led me to very beautiful places near the river.
We sneaked in the Nôtre Dame - I felt a bit guilty about passing before all the people that were waiting in the queue, but what the hell? I was only going to be there for a little while, I deserved to see something. The cathedral was breathtaking. I even bought some souvenirs afterwards and Loki took some photos of me in front of the place and in river... everywhere. We ate in a small crêperie that Loki knew about and the thing was, again, delicious, and not as expensive and the rest of the food I ate. On the afternoon, we went to an enormous park in Belleville and then went back to the centre to have dinner in a fancy restaurant.
In fact, it was so fancy (with maîtres and whatnot) that I thought they were not going to let me in, even. But Loki (Monsieur Narok) spoke to the guy in the entrance and we were directed to a very good table, with a candle and a rose and all. It felt ridiculously special. And incredibly Parisian. The food was delicious, too. Loki ate slowly, having only one good arm. We talked about the Avengers, about politics, about war and strategy, about trying to prove yourself, be better than the bullies. It was nice. Expensive, but well worth the euros.
We even had champagne.
Loki took me to the top of the Eiffel Tower that night, with his magic, when there was nobody there, said it was a special occasion. Made us invisible to camera and security guards. I saw the city from the heights and loved it. Who cared about Loki's past, who cared about my past, who cared about anything. We were in Paris and it was beautiful. The parks, the centuries-old buildings, the river, the monuments, the few people on the street. A real holiday.
The next days passed very quickly. We went to concerts, to shops, I had my picture taken everywhere and Loki took me to the most amazing places. To a party in a boat. I am still ashamed to admit that I even danced with the guy. I blame magic. Another time I went to pick up Loki and he had a slight overdose of those painkiller meds and cried in my lap. Something about not being worthy. Something about self-hate. I stayed there, with him, like in the hospital. We fell asleep in the couch. Another day Loki taught me a bit of french. Another day we went to the cinemathèque and saw a movie from my time. I kept forgetting I shouldn't like Loki.
Two days before leaving Loki told me he had a surprise for me, because he knew I missed my home. Someplace where I would feel perfectly appropriate, he told me. I took his good hand, like the rest of the times when we teleported somewhere, and I saw it. Red, white and an enormous maple leaf. The great Canadian pub. And that cheeky bastard was even humming Oh, Canada under his breath. I couldn't help grinning as I followed him in. We saw a soccer game and drank wine in elegant glasses. Then beer (Raspberry beer, oh la la!). And then... I lost track.
The holiday ended.
I never denounced him to SHIELD, I never told anyone. What happens in Paris, stays in Paris, I told myself, when I went back to the States. Nobody asked much, anyways. But sometimes... Sometimes I saw a film that was set in Paris, or something like that, and I pointed (enthusiastic like a little kid) and I told them that I had been there, maybe even some trivia. I kept an eye on the news in case something evil happened in the area. It didn't.
I had some of the pictures around, and Stark, suspicious, asked who had taken them.
"A friend." I answered.
That was what he was. A friend, even if a dark, shady one. Sometimes I remembered us laughing. Sometimes I read Lucky Luke comics and smiled. Sometimes I remembered him.
It was two years later that I went back to Paris. More prepared this time, and with a better knowledge of the place.
I went to Montmartre, again, to that place where my wallet was almost stolen. And I saw a young man doing some magic tricks, while the tourists applauded. One of his hands was bandaged and one of his cheeks was bruised. Still causing trouble, obviously.
I threw a two euro coin to his hat and he looked up, surprised.
"I see you're still getting injured, friend. It's a dangerous line of work, the one in which you are. Never thought of changing it?"
"Mon cher Capitaine, what brings you to this old city again?"
The air was fresh, different form the one in the States. There were pigeons around and a faint smell of crêpes and nutella. I looked at Loki. And smiled.
"I have come to talk to you about the Avengers initiative."
A/N: This is corny and fluffy but I enjoyed writing it. Hope you enjoyed reading it, too.
Also I decided that an Avenger meets Loki in Europe has become a thing. Which one would you like to see next, Loki meets Tony (in Bruges) or Loki meets Clint (in Athens)?
You know you want to review ;)