I Need A Better Friend
He’s not special, not particularly, and maybe that’s precisely why Loki enjoys watching him. It’s nothing stalkerish, really, he just causally spends some time in the cafe in which the man works. Only one day a week, so it’s not much. He’s not a stalker.
But—oh—how he watches him. He’s so normal, so mundane even, that Loki often asks himself why this man has captured his attention so completely.
It started a month back, when winter decided to drag on all the way through March and April certainly lacked enough rain showers to cultivate any greenery. It was the first week of May when Loki ducked into the cafe, damp and shivering from the sudden icy downpour that ruined his six thousand dollar Bottega Veneta coat.
I’ll have to purchase another one, he thought as he approached the counter with no real purpose and glanced up at the messy chalk board. He was wholly unimpressed by the doodles lining the sloppily written drink prices. They were childish, and not in the cute way that Starbucks got away with. Not to mention the fact that the cup sizes were labeled ‘tiny’, 'bigger’, and 'massive’.
“What’s your toxin today!?” Someone yelled from beyond the noisy espresso machine.
“What do you have for a dark roast?” Loki asked, sneering at a particular scribble that looked like some sort of flying robot with 'Pew! Pew!’ Written next to it.
Loki dragged his gaze away from the ugliness to find the most perfect ass right in front of him. He almost blurted something out—probably something horribly not PC—before the ass moved from his line of sight back below the counter that the man had decided to stand on for some ungodly reason. Loki realized that he had climbed up to take down the magnet stuck to the chalk board with the dark roast name listed on it, and bit back a snide comment on stature. It wouldn’t do to insult the man making your coffee. Afterwards, maybe.
“Looks like Costa Rica La-Manita today,” the barista said, looking up with a bright smile. “I personally endorse this roast. It’s my favorite, unless we’re talking espresso, in which case, I prefer something more nutty. Usually Italians go for—”
“I’ll take that,"Loki snapped, not at all interested in what the damned Italians went for. "Grande.”
“The dark roast, grande.”
“Yeah, it’s grand, but what size do you want?”
Loki blinked at him, unable to believe for a second that the man didn’t know what he meant. “You really aren’t that moronic, surely?”
The man simply grinned at him and tossed the magnet into the air, the loud slapping sound of it sticking back to the board assuring Loki that the thing would not come crashing back down on his head.
“Grande, sure thing. One 'grande’ sized cup of dark roast, coming right up. Room for cream? You look like a sugar man to me, I bet it’s the works. Cream, sugar, maybe some flavor. You like those girly coffees, right? The mocha frappa chicka grande with a twist of rum and some pretension?”
“Excuse me?!” Loki hissed, completely taken aback.
“Don’t worry,” he said in a whisper, leaning in close over the counter. “I like them sweet, too.”
Then, with a wink, he was off to make the coffee, singing loudly along with the music Loki had tuned out since he entered the cafe.
“Black coffee’s not enough for me, I need a better friend…”
And that’s how Loki met him, and for some unknown reason, decided to continue to come back. They still exchange snappy comments that could be seen as insults, if it wasn’t for the way the man’s eyes brightened with mischief every time they word-battled over the counter. That’s how he found out his name was Tony, Tony Stark, and his father was someone rich and famous, and that he had a very special drink he only makes for his friends. Loki still hasn’t had that drink yet, but he finds himself wishing every time he gets his 'massive’ cup of coffee.
Until that day, he continues to drop by in the late afternoon, hold a book up to his face, and peer past it at the man behind the counter.
Today was an average day, Tony was being average, and Loki was getting a little bored. He likes it when the weirdos come in, ordering drinks that would probably taste better with raw egg in them, or bumbling around whilst muttering things about Jesus and sin. They liven things up, and Loki gets to finally see Tony’s full range of emotion when things get weird. Because usually, Loki’s noticed, the man keeps up a perfect, normal, happy facade. He’s always happy. Always.
Although, not on Tuesday, when a guy walked into the cafe and made the room lose its air.
Loki hadn’t bothered with a book that day, since, for once, he actually had an appointment elsewhere in a few minutes. But he had taken the time to steal a seat, sip his coffee, and watch his new fascination wiggle his hips behind the counter.
So of course he noticed right away when the hips stopped wiggling and if there had been a live band, Loki swore they would have stopped playing simply to assist in the drama. As it was, there was a sort of hush around the other patrons, as if they knew.
It wasn’t a mystery for very long, because the silence was soon ended by a very short, loudly whispered conversation that ended with a dull smacking sound and the shattering off what Loki hoped was a saucer, not a cup. Tony had been complaining about their shrinking collection of cups.
Not that it mattered right then, because the man was gone and Tony had a bright, red mark blooming across his left cheek. He also didn’t smile, not even a bit, for the rest of the day.
Loki missed his appointment.
The next Saturday, Loki was sick. It was disappointing, especially considering that he’d taken to stopping into the cafe once a day at this point, and had somehow found it to be the highlight of his day.
But no, not today. Today Loki tried to get out of bed and ended up on the floor in a pile of blankets and a fever haze that made the entire thing hilarious to him. It was times like these he wishes he still had his family around. Not that they ever comforted him when he was sick, to begin with, but the empty apartment somehow feels worse than being simply ignored.
Loki sniffles at himself and wallows in self pity until he finally falls back asleep around 3 in the afternoon.
He still doesn’t get out of the house the next day, but he does manage to make himself some soup. It’s too salty, probably, but he can’t taste much anyway.
He suddenly craves coffee.
Loki forces himself to stay home and not act like a stupid teenager.
Monday’s bright, warm sun finally drags Loki out from his stuffy apartment and back across town to the cafe again. It’s not exactly convenient, but Loki’s long since stopped coming up with excuses for that.
“You look like shit,” is the first thing Tony says to him when he walks up to the counter. Not that he’s looking much better than Loki feels. Tony’s eyes are heavily shadowed in a way Loki’s never seen before. Even his smile is weak, not quite reaching his eyes.
“Thank you, but I think I look better than you right now.”
Tony barks out a surprised laugh and leans against the counter, making no move to make him his coffee.
“So what kept you away?”
“I was sick.”
“With what, the plague?”
“Do you see any boils?”
“Maybe,” he says, tilting his head against the hand under his chin. “That’s what that thing in the middle of your face is, right?”
Loki sniffs at him, rubbing absentmindedly at his reddened nose. It always did this when he had a cold, all red and shiny. It’s astounding he’s even out in public looking like this. But, well, he really needed his coffee.
“Oh don’t pout,” Tony says, standing up straight again. “Your boil is beautiful.”
“So is yours,” Loki sneers in return, and pulls out his card. “Something different today, I think.”
Tony whistles and leans back like his impressed. “Oooh, feeling brave today?”
“I left my house, didn’t I?”
“Yeah… yeah, you did,” Tony mumbles in an odd voice, and Loki catches himself staring and being stared at.
“Erm… could you perhaps… Surprise me?”
He finally gets a real smile, and it’s not until he’s sitting down that he realizes what he’s drinking.
It’s sweet, and heavily caffeinated, and Loki realizes it’s the special drink by his sixth sip.
The second time there’s a silence in the cafe, it’s closing time and Loki’s half way out the door, glancing over his shoulder and waving goodbye. He’s nearly bowled over by someone rushing in, and just as he opens his mouth to remind said person that they were closing, he feels the silence.
It’s him again, the man with the mustache, the angry man who hit his Tony last time.
“Anthony Stark, so help me, if you don’t return home today I will—”
“Not now—” Tony’s insisting in a rough whisper, his eyes darting nervously to Loki and back to the man leaning towards him over the counter.
“Yes now!” He screams, and Loki’s jaw drops.
Who on earth was perfectly alright with screaming at someone in front of others? In his own place of business, too. It was so utterly tactless Loki wanted to die of second hand embarrassment.
Instead, Loki does the stupid thing, and steps forward.
“Excuse me…,"he says sharply, "but the cafe is closed.”
The man whips his head around so fast Loki gets flashbacks from his ugly childhood days that he constantly forces himself to forget. But the look on the guy’s face is so familiar, pinched up with anger, all that disappointment, that Loki automatically cowers before it.
“I may speak to my son if I wish too,” the man snaps. “Get out of here, this isn’t your business.”
“Hey!” Tony interjects, “don’t talk to him like that. You’re the one who needs to leave.”
The man turns his glare back to Tony and completely ignores Loki. He doesn’t know if he should feel grateful or worried. “Anthony, if you do not comply—”
“You’ll what? Be disappointed? Oh god, let me just call up my fucks and see how many I have to give. What’s that? None you say?”
Loki’s derisive snort at Tony’s father’s expense does not go unnoticed this time, and Loki once again shrinks back against the door when a glare is leveled at him.
“I said get out,” he snarls, leaving the counter to stride towards Loki. “This is a private conversation.”
“Then have it in a private setting,” Loki snaps, glancing beyond the angry man to Tony, who’s looking an odd mix between impressed and pissed.
“I said leave him alone!”
“Why, Anthony? Is he another one of your regrettable life’s choices?”
Loki stares at the man as he closes in on him. He’s got an escape, all he has to do is open the door and run away. But he’s done running away from fickle assholes, and decides to follow his heart this time.
His heart tells him to punch the son of a bitch, so he does.
“What the fuck are you doing?!” Tony yelps, hopping over the counter before his father even hits the ground.
Loki looks at his fist, down at the man sitting up and touching his bloodied nose, and back at Tony.
“I… I have no idea,” he admits, voice faint. “Sorry.”
Tony sucks in a breath and pushes him through the door, the pleasant ting of the bell jarring in the sudden quiet.
“Look, you need to leave.”
Loki stumbles back, nearly loosing his footing as he misses the step down. He’s shaking now, and more than sure he just bruised his hand pretty badly. What’s worse is the bruising of his ego, and maybe his heart.
“I—i’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking and he was boxing me in and—”
“Just stay out of it,” Tony says in a strange voice, and Loki’s pretty sure he gets his own facade up before the cracks show. Before he shatters visibly. “Go home.”
Loki still stands there when Tony turns away and shuts the door in his face. He stands there until the shutters on the door are pulled and the click of a lock reaches his ears. He stands there hoping that maybe it was all a mistake and any minute now the barista would burst back out, calling to him and…
He realizes that Tony doesn’t even know his name, and goes home.
Loki didn’t return to the cafe, he couldn’t. He tells himself it’s out of the way, anyway, and the coffee was subpar and the service—well—it could have been better. Not to mention the black board that Loki had found out was 'designed’ by Tony.
Not that he was thinking about him. No, in fact, he had spent the past week going to the Starbucks at the end of his street, because there was a Starbucks at the end of every street and they had grande.
He doesn’t spend time in the coffee shop like he used to, and finds himself at home more than ever. Loki didn’t realize how cut off he had become during this whole obsession with To—the cafe.
When had he stopped spending his days in town? When had he stopped shopping or partying? He hadn’t even bought the replacement coat that had been ruined his fist day in the cafe. In fact, he still wears it, strange staining and all.
That’s when he realizes he’s sick, he has to be. To be so sentimental, nostalgic, it wasn’t him.
So, he forces himself back out into the world, and weeks go by. Not that he’s counting.
Starbucks coffee tastes bitter and Loki craves that special drink he only had once.
He can’t stop wearing the coat.
And it’s because of that coat that he hears a painfully familiar voice call out to him as he steps out of the Starbucks for the fourth week in a row.
“Hey! Hey you, boil face!”
Loki drops his grande frappa something and turns around so fast it hurts.
“Oh…” He breathes, then narrows his eyes. “Boil Face? You do realize we are on a side street and I only have to drag you to that alley way to hide your body?”
Tony just laughs as he jogs up to him, and much to Loki’s regret, he’s beyond beautiful. Cheeks pink from running around in the still-chilly spring air, his coat is a beautiful shade of wine-red, which, if Loki was looking, really brought out his amber eyes.
Why did I ever think he was average? There’s nothing common about him.
“I thought I recognized that coat,” Tony says with a wide grin.
“I’m sure other people own the same coat.”
“Mmhh not many, and besides, you’re freakishly tall and that hair is really noticeable.”
Loki reaches up to make sure his hair isn’t doing anything untoward enough to warrant that statement. “I don’t know what you mean, it’s perfect.”
“You noticed?” Loki purrs, forgetting to check himself until it’s too late. He was rejected, and sort of punched Tony’s father. He had no right to flirt and only get himself hurt more.
So, he takes a step back, putting some space between them. It doesn’t go unnoticed, if the small frown forming on Tony’s face means anything.
“Hey… you stopped coming to my cafe… and you’re drinking this girly drink—or you were drinking that girly drink,” he says, pointing to the sugary mess on the ground between them.
“I… Yes,” is all Loki can say without breaking. He needs to get away, he’d been doing is well, too. He almost managed to limit his time thinking about the man to an hour a day, total. “If that’s all…?”
Tony looks up from the puddle of coffee with a much deeper frown.
“Why did you stop coming?”
“It was made perfectly clear to me that I should stay out of your business. The cafe is, after all, you’re business.”
“You’re being purposely obtuse.”
“I’m being safe,” Loki hisses.
Both their eyes widen and Loki stumbles back to get away. Before he can turn and run—because that’s all he can think of doing—two warm hands wrap themselves around his wrists and hold him still.
“I didn’t mean it like that,” Tony insists, pressing right into Loki’s personal space in a way that makes his skin crawl. In a good way. “You don’t know my dad, he was ready to sue you and arrest you and all that jazz.”
“I have lawyers,” Loki replies stupidly.
“You would have been in court for weeks, and that would have been so much less fun than spending time with me.”
Loki chokes out a pathetic squeak, “with you?” and Tony presses in more. He’s now close enough—and undoubtably on his toes—for Loki to feel his breath against his face. He feels over balanced, and forces himself to wrap his arms around Tony’s waist.
It wasn’t safe, but it felt right.
“I missed you these past few weeks…”
“I missed… I… you don’t even know my name.”
“Hence, 'Boil Face.’”
“It’s Loki, thank you very much, and you could have just asked.”
“Well, Loki, you kind of avoided me and I kind of couldn’t exactly look you up in the phone book.”
“You did tell me to go.”
“To avoid dearest daddy-o from ruining what we had going there,” Tony states, his lips quirking into a smirk. “He has a way of fucking shit up for me if I don’t keep my things safe.”
“The cafe?” Loki asks, suddenly realizing why it felt so wrong for that man to be there. “He doesn’t approve?”
“Bingo. I built that place up from my own money, with my own hands and he hates that.” He tilts his head and adds, “but I meant you, also.”
“I’m one of your things?”
“If you want to be, yeah.”
Loki stares down at him, a thousand terrible, hurtful situations that could happen flitting through his mind. But, well, in the end it didn’t matter.
Fuck being safe, I want to be happy.
So, with a pleased smirk of his own, he leans down and kisses Tony at last.
He tastes like coffee.