The days were blending at this point.

Loki Laufeyson had never been good at measuring time by Midgardian standards in the first place, and his skills hadn't improved even though he had been forced to adapt to it. His best estimate was a week, maybe two, since he was out of Asgard at the hand of his adoptive "father," Odin. Something, something, redeem yourself, something, something, understand that the actions of one man can cause a ripple of consequence beyond your comprehension, et cetera. He hadn't paid much attention to anything Odin said since Odin informed him of his true heritage, his true nature. Thor had also told him that, as part of this indignity, he would have to walk amongst the humans he had once tried to rule. As a result of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s meddling, no photographs of him had been published in any of the Midgardian news reports. So, no one would know who he was unless they had seen him in person at the time of the attack—and most of those individuals were dead. All he knew now was that, save for the ability to, at will, chill anything he touched, and the inability to suffer fatal injury, he could not perform any feat of magic on Midgard. He had been stripped of all his other magical capabilities when he had been cast out. Apparently, it was widely believed he was untrustworthy. He could not imagine why that would be the case.

Given that he had very little else to amuse himself, he spent most of his time wandering through what was called Central Park. He hated spending any more time than he had to in the dreadful cinder block walled eight-by-twelve room at a dingy, disgusting inn where he had been sleeping since he had descended to Earth. The park had changed little since the last time he had been here (which, according to what he had read in the newspapers, had been just a bit more than a year ago) but even he had to admit that it was a lovely place in which to lose oneself. He could, at the very least, forget where he was and why he was there. Perhaps in time he could conjure a plan to return to Asgard and seek revenge against his "brother" for trading him in exchange for these mortals. For now, however, he simply sought solace in solitude, walking in the early evening twilight of late autumn. The leaves were just beginning to fall off the trees around him, and they crunched beneath his boots as he strode along the concrete path, heading nowhere in particular.

As he turned a sharp corner passing near a large oak tree, lost in thoughts of ways he could torture Thor—even, perhaps, by paying that overdue visit to Jane Foster, now that he was stuck here anyway—he suddenly felt the weight of another being bounce off his body. The man, who was wearing an extraordinarily large hoodie, dark gloves, and dark pants, seemed to flail a bit, then crashed directly onto his backside, bouncing off Loki as though he had just walked into an invisible force field.

As the man tried to steady himself at the same time as he remained slightly panic-stricken, Loki glared down at him, unamused. "Could you possibly watch where you are walking, you insufferable beast?" he huffed, clearly offended at being touched by this stranger. "Is there not enough room in this park for you to avoid disturbing others with your presence?"

The man was clearly not expecting to run directly into a six-foot-tall frost giant, even though he had no idea that was who—what—he was dealing with. When he scrambled to his feet, he took off running in the other direction—and left behind a small satchel embroidered with the initials "GL." Loki picked up the satchel and ran his fingers over the embroidery. It was nothing fancy, certainly nothing regal. He opened the bag to look for currency—perhaps there might be enough to purchase a room at a slightly nicer inn. Instead, he found what he had recently learned to be something called an iPhone (apparently a type of messenger system), a small card with the words, "Bellevue Hospital Sexual Assault Response Team SAFE Center" along with a ten digit number on it, and a small photograph of an infant Midgardian with bright red hair.

Just as quickly as the man had run off, another figure appeared out of the growing darkness, smaller this time, and more aware of her surroundings. He stared at her with his head held high, an eyebrow cocked, daring her to speak with each movement she made in his direction. As she came closer, he noticed she had her eyes momentarily on the bag he held, then back to his eyes, and one hand on a small container with what he could see were the letters "PEPP" and "SPRAY" on the side. She fingered this container nervously, and he could see she was crying.

"Oh my God, you stopped him! I was chasing him and I couldn't keep up, but if I didn't get my bag back, I would lose my phone, and if someone has my phone, they have every way in the world to get into my life, and oh my God, you stopped him, how can I—"

Loki rolled his eyes and held up a hand in front of her, palm out. "Woman, please. I have no time or care for your troubles. Here is your satchel." He extended the bag to her, which she took from him gingerly. "I shall take my leave now." He turned on his heel.


He wasn't quite sure why he stopped, as he truly did not care to hear what she had to say. But for whatever silly reason, he decided to indulge her. Besides, it was this or the inn. He turned back. "Well," he said impatiently, arms at his sides, voice as cool as his own skin, "what is it, then?"

"I—I just—I need to do something to repay you. You have no idea how difficult my life would be if you hadn't done what you just did. How long have you been walking? You must be cold—and I could use a cup of hot chocolate. Would you please let me buy you one?"

It had been a long time since had had something warm to drink that did not taste like one of Thor's post-training rags (he knew the taste well, as had been the result of a few ill-advised pranks Thor and the Warriors Three had thought funny in their youths, and made a mental note to pay them back in spades upon his return). It was getting colder and darker. And, again, it was this or the inn.

"As you wish," he sighed, slightly put off by the whole idea, but willing to play along for now. Perhaps he would find amusement— something he was sorely in need of.

"Fantastic! We can go to the City Bakery on Fifth. It's kind of far away, but sooooo worth it." The way she dragged out the word "so" was odd to Loki, but surprisingly, it piqued his interest. Her accent was very much the aged New York to which he had become accustomed, but she spoke with a certain youth that he did not expect from a woman he suspected to be in her early thirties. At least, perhaps, he would be entertained. "What's your name?" she asked.

"Luke," he said. This was the name he had been told to use while in banishment. In fact, he could not even speak his real name—Odin had managed to put a spell on him so that he could not speak his name even if he wanted to. Allegedly it was for his own protection, but he suspected it was so he could not obtain the glory to which he was entitled.

"Well, Luke, it's nice to meet you." She slung the strap of her bag over her shoulder and tossed her chestnut hair back, extending her right hand in front of her. He took it lightly, as if she were contagious. "I'm Grace."