“Your eyes whisper, ‘Have we met?’ Cross the room your silhouette…”Taylor Swift, “Enchanted.”
There had been an invitation waiting for him when he had come out of the Midgardian bathroom. He could have changed by magic, of course he could, but there was something about having the luxury of time to change, the feel of cloth running up your arms as you prepare yourself, the nicety of brushing your own hair. It was a little ritual of his when he came to Midgard. No one was waiting for him, no royal servant, no petitioner, not the Allfather himself. He was supposedly Midgardian—human. He was free.
There was a publicist. There had to be. He had been noticed too frequently and someone at one of the operas he had attended realized that there was no name on his credit card. He carefully circulated the story that he was The Magician, that he made money seemingly from air.
It had started with a single jewel he had brought from Asgard that had been invested in land which had timber and it had all gone from there. That had been several centuries ago. Now he was a wealthy man for all his infrequent trips to Midgard.
Now there was no door that wasn’t open to him.
Invitations flooded from everywhere but usually he just slipped in with just a smile and a flick of his identification.
She was in the suite, his publicist. He picked up the invitation and noticed that it was for Stark Industries. Loki had only been in Los Angeles for two days and this was the first invitation that his publicist had deemed worthy. It was, perhaps, something to look into.
“Angela,” he greeted, as he came out into the sitting room of his suite. “Stark Industries?”
“I’ve been on the phone with Mr. Stark’s personal assistant all afternoon. She’s assured me that the media will be discreet at the event.” Angela was a dumpy woman with blonde curls. She was undoubtedly the most competent mortal he had come across. Over the decades he had gone through quite a few publicists—and aliases.
He set the invitation down on a side table carelessly. “Stark. Isn’t he an arms dealer?”
Loki was by no means a pacifist but he wasn’t quite sure how he felt about someone who dealt in war. He was afraid the man would remind him of his idiot brother Thor.
“Tony Stark is an engineer who specializes in weapons,” she agreed. “He is also a noted philanthropist.”
Angela shifted a little uncomfortably. “This is the party to go to, sir. To be in attendance would show your importance in the global community.”
“Well,” he smirked at her. “If you put it like that.”
She relaxed visibly. “I will R.S.V.P. for you immediately, sir.”
Loki looked down at his attire. He was wearing a suit with a red tie and green opera scarf. It was undoubtedly evening attire but not formal enough.
“You look splendid. You’ll quite catch the eye,” Angela said helpfully as she covered the mouthpiece of her cellular device. “Oh, Pepper. It’s Angela Frost. Yes, he can come. I’ll be putting him in a limo in the next half hour. A photograph with Mr. Stark?” Angela turned to him with a question in her pretty brown eyes.
Sighing, he nodded his head.
“Yes, he’d be delighted. Thank you so much. –I will, Pepper.—Goodbye.”
As promised, Loki was delivered into a limousine and at a party to a flash of lights and a red carpet.
“It’s the Magician!” someone called out, and he was instantly swamped by reporters.
“Let the man breathe,” an amused voice said, pulling him through the crowd. Loki was met with the dark brown eyes of a handsome man who was ten years older than his own body—in Midgardian years. He was tall, though not taller than Loki. “Tony Stark,” the man introduced himself. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Likewise,” Loki smirked, lying through his teeth. The two posed for pictures before Stark took his hand and held it for several seconds too long.
“You did not come with anyone?” His eyes were playful and yet held an earnestness to them.
Loki would later admit to himself that he was surprised by the question. On Asgard he always went everywhere alone. He was unlike his brother who possessed the company of some Asgardian maiden from one of the noble families, enjoying her blushes while being unaware of Lady Sif’s stares. No one had ever expected anything of Loki, except for embarrassments to be hidden away and never spoken about. Loki knew that the day would come when he would marry for political reasons. His preference would be taken into account, but only just.
Still, he was still shy of three millennia. He would be married within the next thousand years and he could not imagine loving someone so much that he would petition the Allfather to grant him permission to marry. Such a thing was not uncommon in younger sons as long as the lady was appropriate, but Loki never thought of such things.
While Thor made sport of maidens who hoped to be queen, Loki looked up at the heavens through his personal telescope and sketched the expanse.
Part of him still believed what his mother, Queen Frigga, said—that she would be disappointed if he gave his love away to anyone but his wife. He took that to mean that he should never mate with someone who was of Asgard. Sometimes, when he was really bored, Loki wondered if Frigga was disappointed in Thor. He knew that she was disappointed in him for what he had once heard Odin call his “adventures.” They were always not with Asgardian maidens, anyway.
“Did I come with anyone?” Loki repeated the question, caressing it with his tongue. “I live a wandering lifestyle, Mr. Stark. Such a thing would be highly,” and here his mouth whispered across the word, “unlikely.”
“No wife? Children? Lover?”
Children. What a strange notion. There was Sleipnir, but that didn’t bear thinking about. Nor did the others. They had all been banished by the Allfather for being monsters.
The smile on his face was rather strained suddenly.
“I’ve survived my children,” he stated carefully. It was true in a way. He survived in Asgard and in luxury while they were scattered elsewhere in the Nine Realms. “Perhaps it is why I wander.”
Stark’s eyes grew dim. “I’m sorry.”
Somehow, Loki thought he meant it.
Stark continued to caress his hand and Loki pulled it away. “I’ll not keep you any longer,” he said with finesse. He bowed his head slightly, more for the mortal’s benefit than his, and he walked into the party.
Around him there were the lights of cameras and the sparkle of dresses. Loki found that he would rather not be in the room, thinking on his children. He also preferred the opera to actual gatherings. He would talk to other guests, of course he would, and he found one attractive young Midgardian named Taylor attached to him for much of the evening.
She found it amusing that he never gave his name, and thought it was some great game that she could win by asking the right questions.
Loki even danced with her before passing her off to a rather handsome looking young man that he’d never seen before in his life and never would again.
He walked over to the bar and leaned against it, looking at the different drinks that he could order. Finally deciding on grabbing one of the glasses of champagne that floated by on trays, he felt a presence behind him.
“Two scotches, neat,” the strong voice of Tony Stark ordered.
Loki turned and saw the devilish grin of the host of the gathering who was now accepting the drinks. One was passed to him.
“My favorite label. It’s Scottish. I think you’ll enjoy it. Your accent is British, yes?”
“But not Scottish,” Loki murmured, taking a sip. He did not confirm or deny his nationality. He never did.
Stark took a long drag of his drink before looking at Loki intensely. After a long pause, he asked, “How do you like America?”
“I admit to not having seen much of it. This is my first time in Los Angeles, in fact,” Loki began conversationally, all the while spinning his tales. “I find that I’m constantly around singers and movie stars and I have no idea who they are.”
“Well, you were with a singer earlier,” Stark supplied helpfully. “A little young for you.”
Loki turned to see that Taylor was now sitting in a corner with the young man and laughing at something he said. “A bit young for anyone,” he agreed. He took another long sip of his whiskey. “I was a bit surprised by my invitation,” he stated bluntly. He held Stark with his green eyes, not letting the man get away with anything.
“You can thank Pepper—Pepper Potts, my personal assistant. I had no idea you were even in the country.”
So, the man wouldn’t take responsibility for his own guest list. Interesting.
“However, I’m glad she did—Invite you, that is.” Stark was certainly charming.
“Mr. Stark, if you want me to invest in your company, I must tell you that I—“
Making a hand motion, Stark hushed him. “It’s not that. I’d let one of the executives wine you and dine you if I wanted an investment.”
“Good. I do not believe in war for the sake of war,” he stated, his thoughts flickering to the Allfather and the battle that he fought on this very realm. “I am more of an intellectual persuasion.” Magical, he wanted to say. But he couldn’t say that here. Never here.
“Duly noted,” Stark commented.
“Why are you glad I’m here then?” Loki set his glass down and it was immediately refilled. Stark was halfway through his second glass already. Loki doubted that was his first drink of the night.
“Would you care for a nightcap at my hotel?” Stark countered.
Loki looked at him confused. Wasn’t this what one said to a romantic interest?—oh. Loki let his gaze wander over Stark. He’d never taken a Midgardian lover. He’d only had two. A stallion and a giantess. Nothing remotely like an Asgardian. The thought was somehow intoxicating.
Stark was handsome. From his short brown hair to his goatee to his muscled frame, he was pleasing to the eye. Loki had never thought if he would take a male lover before, but now when the proposition presented itself, he found himself intrigued.
“Do you have more of this fine whiskey?” His eyes lit up with laughter.
Stark smiled at him. “I have a full bar.”
“How can I refuse such an offer?” Loki asked, setting down his drink, his fingers still curled around the glass. “Will your P.A. not miss you? Or your other guests?”
“I’ve been here for long enough,” Stark answered, finishing his glass. “Come on, let’s get out of here.”
They wound their way through the crowd of people, Loki ahead of Stark and Stark greeting people as he went. Taylor made her way toward him and air-kissed both his cheeks. “You’re The Magician.”
“Guilty as charged,” Loki replied charmingly.
“Will you read my fortune?” What an odd question. Loki understood the reference but it seemed a little out of place.
“Alas I left my cards back at my hotel suite.” A lie, but one that would hopefully get him away.
Taylor pushed her blonde hair behind one ear. “I could go there with you or, if you prefer, I have a set back at my place.”
Loki was momentarily startled. “How old are you?”
Before Taylor could answer, he could feel Stark behind him, patting his back. “All right, the glad-handing is over. To the laboratory and that prototype I was telling you all about.”
Smirking at the lie, Loki half turned toward the man. “Yes. I’m very interested.” He turned back to Taylor. “Another time perhaps.”
Her annoyed face morphed to one of graciousness and she moved so he could pass. She really was remarkably beautiful for a mortal though, Loki noted, too thin for Thor’s tastes. He did like his blondes.
Loki never bothered to figure out if he himself had a preference.
Tonight it appeared to be lean muscles and dark goatees. A strange preference but one that made his blood boil with excitement. He still hadn’t decided what exactly he should do, but he knew he at least wanted a drink with this Midgardian, as insignificant as his race was.
They were of course accosted once again on their way out. A tall, thin woman with strawberry blonde hair put her hand on Stark’s arm. “Tony,” she said. “You can’t possibly be leaving yet.”
“Pepper!” he greeted, grabbing Loki’s elbow. “Can I thank you for inviting The Magician? Have you two met?”
This Pepper’s eyes moved between the two of them before dawning understanding came into her gaze. “No,” she said elegantly. “I only spoke with his publicist.”
“A pleasure, Miss Potts,” he offered graciously.
When she held out her hand, he lifted it to just beneath his lips in the Asgardian tradition before releasing it there without lowering it first. Some habits, apparently, died hard.
“The pleasure is mine. Are you enjoying the party?”
“Immensely,” he lied smoothly. “However, Mr. Stark promised to show me a prototype, so I fear I must leave it.”
A smirk crossed Pepper’s face. “He did, did he?”
“I swear, Pep, we’re going back to mine for drinks. Don’t try to crash my party.” He held up his hands rather comically and Pepper just shook her head and laughed.
“You know I would never do that, Tony.” She kissed his cheek. “Have a drink for me.”
“Always, doll.” Stark winked at her before gesturing the way out of the room to Loki.
Loki wasn’t one who needed to be told twice. There were more flashes from photographers as they left, but this time Stark ignored them as Loki was ushered into a sports car that had been pulled up for them.
“Yours, I presume?” Loki asked, admiring the sleek lines.
“You like cars?” Stark inquired, whipping away from the venue and onto the road.
“I know little about them,” Loki admitted. “But I can appreciate them when it calls for it.” He could recognize the tone in his voice. It held a certain archness that rarely left his speech except, perhaps, when he was speaking with his mother. Changing gears, Loki inquired, “To ask what you inquired before, do you have a lover? A wife?”
Stark laughed outright. “Neither.”
“Somehow,” Loki said, looking over Stark’s body slowly. “I find that difficult to believe.”
“I’ve never been one for commitment,” the other man admitted.
Loki looked away. He had been faithful to the giantess for years. Then again, there would never have been anyone else anyway, he supposed. For either of them.
“I suppose then that I’m the ideal companion.”
“How long are you in town for?” Stark countered, looking over at him.
“Three days, maybe less,” Loki admitted. It depended on how long these Midgardians could hold his attention.
Stark looked pensive.
The drive wasn’t long and soon Loki was shown into the penthouse of a hotel. The view was beautiful and, as he held a drink, he just looked out at the lights of the city. It was so unlike anything on Asgard but beautiful in its own way.
His coat and scarf had been discarded, as had Stark’s jacket, though Loki wasn’t ready to be so informally attired.
“You cannot live here,” Loki said after a pregnant pause.
“No,” Stark admitted, taking a long drink. He came up behind Loki, and slipped an arm around his waist. “Only when I’m in L.A.”
Loki made a noncommittal sound in the back of his throat. He leaned into the man behind him. Part of him couldn’t quite believe that he was doing this.
After a long silence of just looking out into the city, Stark asked, “Sorry to ask, but you said you had a wife before—“
Well, no, Loki hadn’t. He’d mentioned that he had had children.
“I know you are a well traveled man, but have you been with a man before? You seem—hesitant?”
“Do you want me to stroke your ego, Stark?” Loki asked and then turned in the man’s arm. He let his glass of whiskey fall from his fingertips and laced his fingers in Stark’s hair. After looking into his brown eyes for a fraction of a moment, Loki leaned in and kissed Stark.
It was… different. It was warm and wet where all that Loki had known had been cold and hard. Loki poured himself into the difference and lost himself as Stark pulled him closer, divesting him of his jacket and then his tie.
A few hours later, Loki awoke to the feel of warm breath on his skin. He could feel a hand curled around his bicep and as he turned he saw Stark’s sleeping face. It felt strange to be simply lying next to another being. After several long moments, he untangled himself from the human body and stood.
Carefully he got dressed, ironing out any wrinkles of his clothes with magic. Dragging his fingers through his hair and glancing at himself in the bathroom mirror, Loki looked back at Stark who was sleeping. He then stepped out.
It was easy to find a cab, even at that time of night, and within half an hour he was in his own suite. He carefully undressed and headed for the shower. He fell asleep in human sweatpants and with wet hair.
His publicist knocked on his door while he was taking a late breakfast in the small dining area of his suite. Loki didn’t even bother to invite her in as she sailed into the room, taking the empty seat across from his. Angela glanced at the L.A. Times which was open to a picture of Loki and Stark together.
“Excellent press,” she said in greeting.
Loki folded the paper and put it over to the side. “I’m glad you approve.” He could tell that she picked up on the archness of his statement.
“Pepper Potts, Tony Stark’s personal assistant, has been calling me all morning,” she confided leaning in. “I don’t suppose you know why.” The woman was smiling and positively gleeful. She had that annoying twinkle in her eyes.
Loki was holding a teacup in his hands, warming it up through his fingers with magic. She didn’t even know the impossible was happening before her very eyes.
He took a sip of his tea. “They want me to go on a tour junket with Mr. Stark,” he drawled.
Angela laughed and Loki smiled to himself. He was rather fond of the woman, for all that she was a Midgardian.
“No, sir, that’s not it.” She waited.
Loki just stared at her. “I’m not going to say it, so you might as well.” He was not up to playing games this morning, especially another’s games. He’d spent the whole night dreaming of holding Stark in his arms, which when he woke he found rather disturbing. He was a prince of Asgard!
“Well, it turns out that Tony Stark is simply desperate to talk to you.” She looked at him piercingly. “You were caught by the paparazzi leaving together. Now, they didn’t think anything of it because, well, Tony Stark is a well known womanizer who has never shown any preference for men …”
“Really,” Loki said drily.
“You’ve never shown any preference for women or men either—“ Angela continued.
Loki simply raised an eyebrow at her. On Asgard he would never have allowed anyone but his family to speak to him in such a manner, but he found it amusing how far Midgardians would go with their impertinence.
“But then it occurred to me that it might be because you’re too discreet. And what’s more discreet than leaving a party with a known womanizer? No one would guess. They all think you’re business associates.”
“Not leaving the party at all would have been more discreet,” Loki answered for her.
“Yes, true,” she admitted, but that smile was still on her face. It was beginning to annoy Loki. “However, there was no way you could leave with Tony Stark without being noticed. The press was all over him.”
“So,” Loki recapped, placing down his cup. “I left with Stark and what—went home with him?”
“And now he’s desperate to get ahold of you. I have his private number here.” She held out a sticky note.
“You could have lost that,” Loki berated her and she blushed.
He took and looked over the ten digits, thinking. “I suppose you’d care for me to assuage your curiosity?” His voice was half-mocking, but Angela took it in stride. She always did.
Sighing, he stood up and found his cellular device. Carefully he entered the numbers and waited as the phone rang. Then there was an answer and Stark’s voice undeniably saying, “Hello?”
“Stark,” Loki drawled. “My publicist informs me that Miss Potts has been calling her all morning.”
“Maj!” Stark replied. “That’s Pepper for you, isn’t it? I’m rather surprised you snuck out. Usually I’m the one who’s leaving.”
Loki glanced at Angela. “You could hardly leave your own suite.”
“I could have wandered somewhere. Another party—“
By the end of it all, Loki had agreed to dinner and drinks and fell into bed with Stark once again. They were in the same penthouse suite and once Stark had fallen asleep, Loki sat in one of the chairs, staring up at the Midgardian sky and thinking how different it was from Asgard’s.
He heard Stark wake up several hours later before the sun had even risen. “You know,” Loki began conversationally, “you’re rather egotistical.”
“Yep. Self-Involved Billionaire Genius Playboy Philanthropist—that’s me. And you’re rather mysterious yourself, Magician.”
Loki sneered. “I hate it when people call me that,” he admitted. He didn’t like not having a name, but nothing felt right. And ‘Magician’ was better than ‘Liesmith.’
“Then tell me your name.”
Loki could tell Stark was looking at him but he continued to gaze out at the stars. If he looked at Cassiopeia, just there, he could make out Asgard.
Stark sighed. “You’re far too mysterious, Maj.”
“That’s what you find so attractive,” Loki countered, looking over his shoulder.
Stark was naked and in a mass of sheets from which his legs barely escaped. He smiled slowly. “Are you so sure about that?”
“I’m sure it’s not my sexual prowess,” Loki joked, knowing that he was still a novice.
“Perhaps it’s your lack of it.”
Loki raised his eyebrows. “Is that so rare?”
“You have no idea, darling.” The word just slipped out and hung between them. The two just stared at each other, green eyes meeting brown, and neither spoke for several long minutes.
“You must be cold,” Stark finally said.
Loki looked down at himself. He was wearing nothing but a pair of trousers, he realized, his entire upper body exposed. “I’ve been colder,” he commented.
Stark took him back to bed and Loki lost himself in the Midgardian’s embrace.
They continued in this vein for two more days. They would go about their days separately, then would meet at some exclusive restaurant for dinner and drinks, the press taking picture after picture of the two of them. Then they would wander back to Stark’s penthouse suite and lose themselves in each other.
Loki didn’t bother to say goodbye to anyone but his publicist when he returned to Asgard.
Stark knew that he was leaving and, well, Miss Potts could always relay the message that he had returned to his home in Europe if they reached out to his publicist. Where he lived was anyone’s guess. If hard pressed, Loki would have answered “Norway.”
When he returned to Asgard through one of the paths that did not require the bifrost he was greeted by his mother, who was waiting for him in his royal quarters. “Oh, Loki, how could you?” she asked. Somehow she always knew.
“He was not of Asgard,” he answered simply.
She sighed and patted his cheek affectionately. “At least there will be no children.”
Loki didn’t bother to correct her. Already he could feel the heartbeat of their daughter fluttering inside of him. Being a shapeshifter had its detractions.