Loki was eating another hamburger when he felt the presence in his head change from the numb one he had grown used to, to a one that was confused and conflicted. He frowned and tried to place the cause for the change, staring outside the window. He wished he knew what the presence was and why it was there; it had seemed to help him a lot in the past week, changing him slowly.
He sighed and wiped his face; what was wrong with him? He didn't feel like lying or cheating people as often and even felt a little guilty about what he had done to humanity in his spite for his brother and father. What was happening to him?
Sage was kept awake by a bad feeling in her stomach; it wasn't her own, but figured that it came from the part of her that was Loki. This made her confused and irate and she felt stifled being stuck in her room for the night; she needed to get out. Silently, she got up and started to get dressed and grabbed her going out gear.
Once dressed, the teenager made her way outside the bedroom and down the elevator; waiting until the cool air from outside would hit her and, hopefully, calm her down a little bit. She hated this feeling of confusion, agitation and sadness brewing in her system.
It was summer but the night was considerably cooler than usual and she found it nice; there were people out, of course, but they were scattered close to bars and all night fast food joints and easily avoided.
The street lamps cast yellow circles of light on the grey sidewalk as her feet made good, solid taps against the concrete; it felt good for her to move and work out her frustrations.
Steve sighed against the heavy bag and leaned against it; it was early morning, around two AM, and he hadn't been able to sleep all night. This world still felt foreign and he still felt out of place in it; he'd felt a little better briefly when he'd helped the Avengers but now they'd been disbanded and he was back to stomping around Boston on his own.
Sighing and grabbing his jacket, he decided to go on a walk to clear his head so that he might be able to sleep a little before the sun rose. There weren't many people out this time of night of course, but he did see an adolescent girl with long, brown hair pacing around.
When he saw someone dart out of an alley, grab her arm, and pull her in with a small yelp he immediately started over to come to her aid.
Sage was deep in thought, trying to sort out her emotions, when suddenly she felt someone grip her arm and yank her into a dark alleyway, away from the lights of the streetlamps. She yelped, feeling fear for the first time before hardening to the threat and kicking out to the man's knee and slamming her fist into his stomach hard as he crumpled to the ground with a grunt.
A blur of movement behind her made her turn and lash out with the back of her right hand, catching another man in the shoulder before he caught her wrist. "Whoa, whoa; hey!" he shouted as she got ready to wrench her hand back and send him over her shoulder. "I saw him trying to mug you and was going to help!"
Analyzing his movements, Sage watched his face; breathing slightly hard as she was released and the man grabbed the guy that had attempted to mug her from the ground and knocked him out. "What are you doing walking out this late anyways?"
"I could ask you the same." She replied, still wary of Steve and tensed to defend herself if she needed to, though her instincts told her that he wouldn't hurt her and was trustworthy.
Steve turned, still holding the guy with one arm and extending his other hand. "Name's Steve; I was just out for a walk."
"Sage; just out for a walk, as well." She shook his hand and looked at the guy he was holding up. "Now what to do with him," she mused to herself, lifting his chin to peer into his face.
"Do you have a phone to call the cops?" Steve asked; he had a cell phone he used occasionally but he hadn't brought it out tonight.
"Not on me at the moment." She'd left it back in her room; she didn't feel like talking to anyone and wanted to disappear for a few days to get her head back. There was a voice note on it to that account. "Should probably let the guy go then; he's been humiliated enough." He was starting to wake up, and she slapped his cheek a few times lightly.
"Let him go? Guy tried to mug you,"
"And for what reason, pray tell?" she tapped him awake a little more. "What reason?"
"I'm bad off," he stuttered.
"Certainly you are; here," she reached into her pocket to fish her wallet out, opening it and pulling out a twenty. "Just scram." She pulled Steve's arm away and he nodded before high-tailing it out of the alley. "Well I'll be on my own way then," Sage returned her wallet and turned around.
Steve caught her shoulder gently; he didn't like the idea of someone so young out walking alone this late. "I'll help you home." He offered, removing his hand after a moment.
"I don't plan on going home quite yet; so thanks for the assistance Steve but I'll be good." Sage nodded to him and turned to leave once more.
"Why? What's wrong with your home?" He sensed this girl was troubled and wouldn't feel right if he didn't know that she was safe.
"Nothing much; it's a long story, but I needed some air." Sage was touched by his concern but was set not to return to Stark Towers and continue on her walk.
"I love stories; I could make you some hot chocolate and we could discuss it," Steve offered and Sage looked back at him, nodding slightly and slowly.
"That sounds like it would be nice," the teenager agreed, feeling that she could trust him. He nodded as well and showed her across the street to his apartment; she looked around and saw that the place was pretty old fashioned, with wooden floors and décor to fit the early 1940's or late 1930's. There was a hanging heavy bag and four others against the wall, two with broken chains where they attach to the ceiling.
Following him to the small kitchen, Sage noted one of the letters sitting at the edge of the counter addressed to a Mr. Rogers. "Make yourself at home." He motioned her over to a chair and started on the hot chocolate; he didn't drink it often but thought that he still had some hidden away in the cupboards.
"You're Steve Rogers, the man out of time," Sage stated quietly, making him turn; she was frowning slightly. "I'm sorry."
"Sorry for what?" Steve sat across from her, disdaining the hot chocolate for the moment. "And how did you know my last name?"
"It's not hard to tell really; your whole apartment is styled from the decade of World War II, there are five heavy bags in the living room, two of which are broken on the top, which isn't an easy feat, but the biggest give away was the letter on your counter addressed to Mr. Rogers." She gave a small smile before sighing slightly. "And I'm sorry because it can't be easy for you to be so displaced."
Steve sighed as well and nodded. "It isn't, so thank you; and thanks for not calling me Captain America."
Sage snorted derisively. "Captain America is a man in a mask, a part to play, an inhuman idea; you're Steve Rogers, Captain America is the celebrity you've taken, and it's just too bad that most people will pay more attention to the celebrity than to the person behind it, Steve."
His lips pursed slightly as he thought about what she had said and slowly nodded. "So I suppose you're not one for celebrity then?"
"Celebrity's fine and good so long as you realize that there is a flesh and blood person behind them." Sage returned, tapping her fingers on the countertop. "Far as I can tell, if it's any consolation, you're a good man, Steve Rogers." He had gotten up and started making the hot chocolate, pausing again.
"What makes you say that?" Steve asked, placing the cups into the microwave to heat up the cocoa.
"How many people try to stop a mugging and then invite the underage near-victim into their home for a cup of cocoa and a chat?"
"Not many, I guess; but it didn't sit right with me to have such a young girl walking around alone this late. So why don't you want to be going home?"
"I need space to think; it's a long story."
"I told you before, I like stories." Steve sat back down and met her green eyes with his blue, leaning forwards against the counter, "So what's yours?"
Sage thought briefly about not answering, of avoiding his question yet again; but decided that he was kind, good-hearted and honest. "I guess I'll tell you that it started when I was just a babe; I was orphaned at the age of one, don't know of my parents, if they're alive or dead. Adopted at the age of two by a bunch of scientists working outside of the law, testing a serum to create another super soldier," she paused then, accommodating Steve's trip over to the microwave to retrieve the mugs of hot chocolate. He was frowning slightly as he handed the cups out and sat back down; the idea of a young girl being experimented on to create a super soldier hit him hard.
"They tested it on a two year old?"
Sipping at the hot drink, she nodded. "Yes; I've gone over their notes in my recent years, it seems the particular chemical they used they had already tested on animals, but it only had effect on those animals that were still maturing, therefore, they hypothesized that it had a better chance of working on a child that was still maturing as well."
Steve's frown deepened and he shook his head. "It's still not right."
She nodded agreement. "Moral flaws aside, there was a small measure of success to the experiments, as well as a few negative side effects; I started learning fast and had an IQ slightly above average, with a fitness level to match, and as for negative effects, the serum fried the part of my brain capable of processing emotion, leaving me emotionless."
Scowling now, Steve looked her over; the girl sitting in front of him didn't seem to be emotionless. "You don't look like you don't have emotions."
"I'm coming to that; anyways, when I was three my adoptive father, Kyle Stewart, found out what was happening and took me away from them; sued the guys and got a lot of money in settlement, around four million, if I remember correctly. He was a good dad; kept a good eye on me as I grew.
"When I hit puberty the serum started working again and my IQ and fitness began increasing exponentially, making it a task for my body to keep up; he developed a treatment for me to keep my organs from failing. Dad got lung cancer a year ago and died a week ago; I'm bedding in Stark Towers with Anthony and Bruce now. I wasn't there when dad died because I had been abducted and taken to Russia by the Romanoff family, then rescued by Natasha and Clint and was on a ten hour flight home when he passed." She stopped talking and sipped at her hot chocolate, letting everything sink in before she would continue.
"I'm sorry about your dad."
"Thank you," Sage was sad thinking about her father's death but shook off her depression to continue her story. "The day he died I went walking and ran into someone you may be familiar with, Loki; he accidentally switched our bodies with magic, as crazy as that sounds, causing a whole lot of drama before we were able to switch back and he was taken back to Asgard. Then, and here's the part I've been building to; earlier today I died and then was brought back by Bruce, and now have emotions because my brain reset and whatever was blocking it from processing them broke down."
"So you do have emotions?" Steve asked, frowning and nursing his own mug of hot chocolate.
"Yes; and they're overwhelming because I don't know how to deal with them, and that's why I went out walking tonight and don't want to go home just yet."
Nodding, Steve could understand her point of view. "It does sound like it would be overwhelming," he sipped at the cooling liquid in his glass and watched the silent girl in front of him; she obviously needed some sort of help, but he wasn't quite sure what he could do.
Sage lost herself for a moment in everything she had told Steve; all of the memories provoking new emotions for her to go over and wrestle with. She sighed, "Can I crash on your couch for a few days Steve? Just until I can get my head well and together; I promise I won't be a bother or anything." She knew that she couldn't go back into that environment just yet; she needed some place that was more laid back and less high stress than living with Anthony Stark and Bruce Banner.
"Of course; for as long as you need." Steve agreed at once, finishing off his cold hot chocolate by dumping it into the sink and grabbing Sage's empty cup as well, rinsing them both and setting them next to the sink. "I can get you blankets and stuff," he offered, smiling a little at this kid and glad that he had invited her inside in the first place; who knows where she would be now if he hadn't.
Smiling, Sage nodded. "That would be incredibly kind of you."