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that spark of black that I seem to love

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Steve wasn’t sure how he’d gotten here.

No, that wasn’t quite true. He’d walked into it, eyes open.

Loki slammed him against the wall, fingers clamped around Steve’s neck but not squeezing. Not yet. His eyes were sharp as broken glass, the corners of his lips curled in a smirk. His weight drove Steve back, pinning him.

“Look at you,” Loki said, voice that low, dangerous vibration, and sank his teeth into Steve’s lower lip until it bled. Steve jerked, sucking in a breath, and punched Loki in the shortribs. Loki broke free with a sharp, angry sound and Steve took the moment to grab a handful of long, dark hair and drag his head back. Loki just laughed and grinned like a wild thing, his free hand snapping up to grab Steve’s wrist and squeeze.

“I could break it,” Loki said. “Send you back with your wrist shattered. How would you explain that?”

An electric thrill ran down Steve’s spine but he didn’t let go, staring at Loki, stubborn, defiant. “You won’t,” Steve said, not sure if it was a challenge or not. Loki smiled, at least until Steve pulled harder and the expression broke. His lips parted and his eyes half closed. The hand around Steve’s throat loosened.

He flipped them around, putting Loki’s back against the wall and crowding too close to give him room to move. “Careful,” Loki said, his eyes mocking. “You’ll break something.” He let go of Steve’s throat, but only to grab the back of his neck and drag him in, mouth fixing to Steve’s jaw and sucking hard enough to bruise. Steve heard himself make a low sound and went rigid, the knowledge of the dark purple mark that would stay on his skin making his blood hot. Making him hard.

Loki knew it, too. He released Steve’s wrist, too, both hands dropping to his hips and pulling Steve flush against him. He gasped, hips driving forward against Loki’s leg.

Loki laughed and moved his mouth an inch down, biting down. Another bruise.

“This isn’t enough, is it,” he murmured into Steve’s skin. “It never is.”

“Shut up,” Steve said. Loki’s hand slithered between them and thrust down his pants, thumbnail grazing Steve’s cock just enough to make his body sing.

“Make me,” Loki said, a laugh in the words.

It was bad. Steve knew that, knew it was stupid and unhealthy and wrong and none of those things stopped him. None of it seemed to matter, in the moment.

Steve wished he could say that Loki had done something to him. Worked some kind of magic that was messing with his mind, but as Loki pointed out with wicked glee, it wasn’t like he’d needed to. Steve could’ve walked away. Definitely should have.

He didn’t know what Loki had seen in him, or how. What had led him to corner Steve in an alley and-

“If I wanted you dead, you already would be.

The way he’d grinned at Steve, feral and fey. His teeth at Steve’s throat and when Steve had shoved him back with an arm across his throat, his pulse thrumming too fast, Loki had tipped his head back and said is that how you want it?

Immoral, unethical.

Loki didn’t look at him like he was broken, or like he was some kind of marble statue. It was brutal, it was ugly, it was very, very far from what he’d ever thought he’d want from sex.

And right now it was what he needed.

Chapter Text

There was a post-it note on the mirror when Steve got back from the gym: 9:00 pm and an address. There was no signature; it didn’t need one. Steve wondered how Loki had managed to put it there. He was probably happier not knowing. He stared at the green (of course it was green) post-it for several long moments, chewing on the inside of his cheek, before pulling it off and crumpling it into the trash.

But nine o’clock rolled around and he was waiting outside an apartment building. As usual, between one moment and the next Loki was there, seemingly materializing out of nowhere.

“You can’t just expect me to drop everything and come running,” Steve said flatly. Loki’s eyebrows rose and he smirked.

“Isn’t that what you just did?”

Steve’s face got hot. He wasn’t sure if it was embarrassment or anger. “I’m not your trained dog.”

Loki’s head cocked to the side. “True. You aren’t very well trained.”

A growl rose up from deep in Steve’s chest and he took a sharp step forward. Loki laughed. “Careful,” he said. “You wouldn’t want to start a scene on the street.”

“Counting on that, are you?” Steve asked. His voice came out sounding harsh. Loki grinned at him.

“Hardly. It wouldn’t hurt me. You, though…” Loki leaned forward a fraction. “What would your people think. Their golden boy.

Steve made a disgusted noise and turned his back, deliberately. Loki caught him before he made it two steps; Steve turned and broke his grip, the two of them face to face and standing very close together. Steve felt his breathing get a little shorter.

“Come on, then,” Loki said, his eyes bright and sharp as a mirror.

“I’m guessing you have some place you were planning on going,” Steve said. Loki produced a key and spun it around his finger.

“Don’t I just.”

They took the elevator to the seventh floor. The apartment Loki let him into with a flourish was furnished, but empty. Steve waited for Loki to close the door before rounding on him. “You don’t go to my place.”

Loki raised his eyebrows. “Oh, dear,” he drawled. “Were you under the impression I didn’t know where to find you?”

Steve’s skin crawled and his jaw clenched. “I don’t try to hunt you down.”

Loki’s teeth flashed. “More’s the pity.”

He almost growled again, taking a step toward Loki, and watched him coil tight. One of Loki’s hands balled into a fist and Steve stopped, giving him a humorless smile. “You’re trying to piss me off.”

“I don’t think it’s trying if it works.” Loki walked toward him, smooth and sinuous like a cat. Or a snake. “You fuck better when you’re angry.”

Steve’s stomach clenched and twisted. He could feel his neck getting hot and he hated it, hated the way it got to him. Not anger this time.

Loki moved fast and fluid, grabbing the collar of Steve’s jacket and hauling him in. He bit down on Steve’s throat under his jaw and Steve inhaled sharply, his whole body going rigid. He felt Loki laugh and anger flared again.

He grabbed Loki’s hair and yanked, returning the favor on Loki’s bared throat. He made a low sound that made Steve’s blood heat, and he was angry that it did.

“What do you want,” he snarled into Loki’s skin. Loki laughed again.

“If you have to ask, you have not been paying very close attention.” Loki’s hands slid back over Steve’s shoulders and over his back. “Do I still need to spell it out for you?” He grinned, voice lowering to vicious velvet. “Fuck me.”

Steve’s inhale was irregular and his body went taut. Loki’s tongue traced a line up the side of Steve’s neck. “Oh,” he murmured. “He likes that idea.” His exhale raised goosebumps on Steve’s skin. “You like having me bent over, fucking me like you would never dare anyone else, knowing I can take it.” Steve realized he was holding his breath and he let it out in a rush. Loki’s voice lowered further. “Knowing I can give it back.”

“Well,” Steve said, fighting to keep his voice steady, “if you want it that bad…”

Loki laughed and pulled himself away, grinning wildly, viciously. He stripped off his shirt without prompting, and whatever else he was (he was a lot of things), Loki was beautiful. Beautiful like a venomous snake, Steve thought. A warning he’d apparently chosen to ignore.

Loki looked like he was somehow managing to lounge while standing, a faintly amused tilt to his lips where he was watching Steve. Heat spiked in Steve’s stomach and he closed the distance, pushing Loki back onto the couch. He braced one knee on it and ground his hand against the bulge in Loki’s pants. He gasped, head flinging back and pulse fluttering visibly in his throat.

Steve’s eyes caught on it and he gave in to the urge to fix his mouth against Loki’s neck and suck, hard. Loki moaned, his cock thickening against Steve’s palm. “Better,” Loki said, his hands grabbing Steve’s shoulders and squeezing hard enough to bruise. Steve sucked in a breath and tugged at Loki’s pants.

“Get these off,” he said, and Loki twisted under him, black slacks vanishing. His shirt vanished, too, and he wasn’t wearing anything underneath. Heat settled in Steve’s stomach but he managed not to make a sound, at least until Loki arched underneath him, giving Steve a good view of his lean, tautly muscled body. One of his thighs slid between Steve’s legs and rubbed against his erection, and Steve heard his teeth click together. He hissed, his head dropping forward, grinding against Loki’s leg like some kind of horny teenager.

“I could get you off just like this,” Loki said, his voice silky, unfairly steady for all Steve could feel his arousal. “Then I’d push you back and hold you down while I licked you clean-”

Steve groaned, shifting his hand to grab Loki’s cock and squeeze. He almost thrashed, his body jumping like he’d been shocked, and Steve’s breathing stuttered. Loki panted, his head thrown back and it wasn’t fair how good he looked like that.

Loki moved fast, grabbing onto Steve’s hair and yanking his head back, attacking his throat. Steve shouted even as his hips ground helplessly against Loki’s thigh.

“Get on with it,” Loki breathed into his skin. “Do you expect me to wait all day?”

They tumbled off the couch and onto the floor, Steve shoving the coffee table hastily away. He wound up on top and looked down at Loki, sprawled out, flushed, his cock heavy and full. “Over,” Steve said roughly, and Loki flipped without argument, lifting his hips. Steve’s breath caught; he could see the tension in Loki’s back and shoulders. “Lube,” he said shortly, and a small jar appeared on the table. Steve smeared the oil liberally on his fingers before pushing them inside.

Something squeezed in Steve’s stomach for the sound Loki made. Steve’s other hand looked bright pink against Loki’s pale hip, and Steve’s eyes focused on that as he worked his fingers, breathing hard, his body hot and flushed. He worked more lube deeper in, massaging it into Loki’s body until his hips were rocking into Steve’s hand, exhales coming in breathless moans.

Steve added a third finger and spread them as wide as he could. Loki made a choked sound, his back arching, his fingers curling into the floor, and a shudder of nervous pleasure went down Steve’s spine. He took a couple of deep breaths and pulled his fingers out, wiping them off on Loki’s hip before fumbling with his pants.

There was a brief moment of hesitation, just a flash of what am I doing, but then Loki laughed breathlessly.

“Losing your nerve, Captain?”

“No,” Steve said, lining himself up, just rubbing against Loki for a moment before easing the head inside. Loki’s quick, sharp inhale made Steve’s cock twitch.

He groaned, his eyes squeezing closed as he pushed into Loki. His breathing was harsh and loud, and he could see Loki’s shoulders tense and relax. He made a quiet “mmmnnh” sound that sent a shiver down Steve’s spine. Steve shifted, getting comfortable and trying to get his breathing under control.

“Waiting for my permission?” Loki said, voice rough-edged but mocking. Steve held in the urge to growl and just moved instead, pulling out and thrusting back in, this time forcing his eyes to stay open. Arousal had settled low and heavy in his stomach and he shuddered with it, gritting his teeth as his cock pulsed. He wrapped his hands over Loki’s hips, fingers digging in, and moved, driving in deep, the heat of Loki’s body squeezing around him and every thrust met with a muffled sound from Loki underneath him.

“You’re going to have to - mmm - fuck a lot harder if you want to leave a mark,” Loki said, his back arching in a way that changed the pressure on Steve’s cock and made him gasp.

“Don’t rush me.” Steve peeled a hand off Loki’s hip and grabbed onto his hair instead, silky black that almost slid through his fingers, quickening his pace.

“Is that the best you can do?” Loki asked, sharp and mocking. “I should have known you wouldn’t - mm.” He cut off as Steve knotted his hand more firmly in Loki’s hair and dragged his head back at the same time as he snapped his hips forward, a flash of anger searing through him.

“You just can’t stop talking, can you,” Steve said. Loki’s back arched and Steve could almost hear his grin.

“You like it,” he said with relish. “You lap up every word from my wicked tongue. You savor my cruelty, hunger for it, because I can say all the nasty little things you won’t let yourself think.”

Steve squeezed his eyes closed and pulled Loki’s hair harder like that would make the burn of mingled shame and arousal go away. He quickened his pace, driving his cock fast and hard into Loki’s body again and again, listening to his breathing turn strained.

“Better,” he said, though it sounded a little breathless. “But hardly - hardly- adequate. If you can’t keep up, Captain, you should just say so.”

Steve growled and let go of Loki’s hair to brace his hands on his hips where he could hold him steady. His movements felt rough and uncoordinated, his breath coming in short, ragged bursts as he reached for Loki’s cock and squeezed. Loki let out a breathless, fractured noise, clenching tight around Steve.

“That’s it,” he said. “Like you mean it.”

Steve teetered and fell, buried in Loki’s ass and shuddering. He jerked Loki off roughly with his cock still inside him, though the way his body tightened when he came was almost painful.

He pulled out and fell back, still breathing hard. Loki rolled over and looked at him with a lazy smirk. “Very good,” he purred, and Steve felt his whole body flush. He felt raw, stomach burning. A part of him wanted to punch Loki; another part wanted to be on his knees.

Loki stretched, something of a predator about even that simple movement. He moved fast, rolling forward and dragging Steve toward him, sucking his lower lip between his teeth and biting down. Steve sucked in a breath and shoved at Loki’s shoulders, startled by the pain.

Loki let him go, but Steve could taste blood.

“You don’t get to do that,” Steve said, his voice rough.

“Do what?” Loki asked, still too close, his hand heavy on the back of Steve’s neck. “Bite you? Draw blood?” His other hand came up, thumb brushing over Steve’s lip. He parted his lips and waited for Loki to take the invitation, then bit down. Loki hissed, but his eyes lit up.

“Well?” He asked, voice lower. Steve locked eyes with him as he released Loki’s finger. Kiss me, was what he’d been thinking, but it hadn’t really been a kiss at all.

He crowded into Loki’s space and shoved him back down onto the floor, grabbing his wrists and pinning them over his head, looking down at him. “You really don’t shut up,” he said, voice harsh. “What are you afraid happens if you stop talking?”

Loki’s expression flickered briefly with something dangerous. “I am not afraid. It just takes a little more than you have to earn my silence.”

The anger flared up again. “That right?”

Loki’s wrists pressed up against his hands and he grinned. “Don’t worry, Captain. I can show you how it’s done.”

Playing with Steve wasn’t the only game Loki had going, apparently. Or at least, Steve was pretty sure Loki would call the reanimated dinosaur skeletons at the Natural History Museum a game, though the property damage, terrified museum-goers, and injured security guards would probably disagree.

He caught a glimpse of Loki afterward, just for a blink, and saw him smirk, winking before he vanished.

Anger bubbled in Steve’s stomach all through clean-up and debriefing, and only intensified when he found the note on his bathroom mirror that said join me for the after party. He turned on his heel and went out without bothering to change.

The address took him to an abandoned warehouse. Classy, Steve thought, and even though logically he knew this could easily be a trap-

He knew it wasn’t. It disconcerted him a little, that he knew it wasn’t - knew Loki wouldn’t break their deal like that - but at least it cleared him to march in without hesitating.

“Loki!” He shouted.

“No need for such volume,” Loki said, seemingly materializing from the shadows. “I can hear you just fine.”

Steve strode for him, grabbing Loki by the front of the leather armor he was still wearing. “What the hell was that?”

Loki raised his eyebrows and smiled. “You didn’t like it? You seemed to be having fun at the time.”

Steve hauled Loki in closer. “People got hurt. No, I wasn’t having fun.

Loki’s smirk widened. “Oh, come. You cannot say you don’t get a thrill out of it.” He leaned forward, wrapping his hands around Steve’s wrists. “I certainly enjoyed watching you.

Steve hated how his body responded to that. He tried to break Loki’s hold and hissed when his grip tightened painfully.

“I thought it was over too soon,” Loki purred, and yanked Steve forward into a rough, hungry kiss, his tongue thrusting into Steve’s mouth, stealing his breath. He could hear the rumble of a laugh in Loki’s chest.

Steve bit down hard on Loki’s lip and growled. Loki tore away, grabbed Steve and threw him. Steve crashed into one of the walls and the drywall cracked; he flipped to his feet in time to catch Loki’s fist and pivot, using Loki’s own momentum to slam him face first into the wall. He twisted Loki’s arm up behind his back.

“Why do you do it?” He demanded. “Why do you keep on playing the villain?”

Loki twisted. “How else am I going to - get your attention?”

Steve leaned forward and bit his shoulder. “You know damn well you already have my attention.

Loki laughed. “I do now.”

Steve yanked Loki back around but he moved with it, throwing Steve down. He swept Loki’s legs out from under him and pounced but Loki rolled them over, hands pinning Steve’s shoulders and hips dropping heavily on top of Steve’s. Loki ground against him and Steve dropped his head back with a thud, a surge going through him.

“Careful,” Loki murmured. “If you start getting this hard when you’re fighting me your friends might start to ask questions.”

Steve grabbed Loki’s hair and yanked to the side, using the momentary shift in balance to flip them over again. “You push too hard-”

“And you’ll what,” Loki said, grinning at him. “Leave? You won’t.”

He wouldn’t. Steve hated that Loki was right about it, hated himself, suddenly, for not being able to walk away.

Loki’s hips rolled up against him and Steve could feel his erection through his pants. He pressed down, pinning Loki’s body, and watched his expression open up in a way that send heat coursing all the way down into the pit of his stomach.

“Well?” Loki said, his voice only slightly rough-edged. “What are you going to do about it? Hold me down and fuck the bad behavior out of me?”

“I know better than to think that’s possible,” Steve said. Loki’s eyes glittered.

“I knew there was a reason I liked you,” he said, and surged up, biting down hard on Steve’s shoulder. He shouted and shoved Loki down again, but Loki wrapped a leg over Steve’s and flipped them again, bouncing to his feet and grinning.

“Go again, Captain?”

“I’m not here to play-fight with you,” Steve said, but he got up fast too, feet planted.

“Who said I was playing?” Loki moved quick as blinking, and Steve froze, the blade of one of Loki’s slender knives at his throat. His heartbeat picked up but alongside the fear that shivered through him was something lower, darker.

Loki ran his other hand into Steve’s hair, pushing his head slightly back. “Don’t lecture me, Captain. I know who I am. I know what I want. The same cannot be said for you.”

Steve swallowed, but carefully. “Do you?” He said. Loki’s teeth flashed with a brief flare of anger. The knife vanished and Loki pulled Steve’s hips forward.

“On your knees,” he said, voice thrumming dangerously, and Steve felt his cock stiffen. “I want it like this. You in your uniform worshiping me.” His smile was as sharp as his knife. “Maybe if you’re very good I will see if I can’t be...better behaved.”

Steve’s inhale almost rattled and his knees buckled. Loki’s fingers dragged across his scalp and reeled him in, other hand unlacing his pants and pulling out his cock. Steve could’ve resisted but he didn’t, not the time, instead pushing Loki’s hand out of the way to replace it with his own, squeezing roughly. Loki made a harsh, strangled sound but his hips pushed toward Steve’s hand. Steve glanced up to see his eyes closed, lips parted.

“You’re lying,” Steve said. “You don’t know how to be ‘better behaved.’ You don’t know how to be anything but-” He cut off when Loki pulled his hair, hard.

“I didn’t want you kneeling so I could listen to you talk, Captain.”

Steve’s jaw clenched, twitched, but the awful want he wished he could deny flared up in his stomach. He rocked forward and guided Loki’s cock into his mouth, not letting himself hesitate, not giving Loki the chance to taunt him about hesitating. He’d done this before, but only once or twice.

Taking no small pleasure in the sharp intake of breath and the way his muscles tensed, then relaxed. His own cock stiffened and Steve breathed out harshly through his nose, shifting his hand down to the base and bobbing his head down. His nose was full of the startlingly clean smell of Loki’s body, always like he’d just bathed, his mouth full of saliva that he struggled to swallow.

Loki’s fingers wrapped around the back of his head and pulled him forward. Steve jerked, gag reflex triggering, but Loki eased back. Steve sucked in a breath fast before he thrust in again, a slow push that filled Steve’s mouth. His eyes started watering and he made a muffled sound, almost on the point of choking.

And his cock was rock hard, aching, the pressure of Loki’s hand on the back of his head sending electric signals down his spine. He pulled back and thrust in, pressing in deeper, and Steve felt him shudder but he couldn’t breathe-

Loki released him and Steve jerked back, panting, Loki’s cock sliding out of his mouth. Don’t do that, he meant to say. There was an ache in his jaw and the back of his throat, but when he looked up at Loki his face was flushed, his eyes glazed.

“Did I say you could stop?” Loki said. His voice sounded rough and breathless, and Steve inhaled sharply.

“I don’t take your orders,” he said. Loki laughed.

“You do, though,” he said. “That’s the beauty of it.” The corners of his mouth turned up. “Do you want me to make you?”

Steve made a noise in the back of his throat. “Could you?”

“I don’t need to,” Loki said, and grinned. Steve’s breathing snagged and Loki was pulling him forward again, and Steve moved with it, sucked Loki’s cock into his mouth and took the thrusts that almost hit the back of his throat, his watering eyes squeezed closed, sucking in a breath every time Loki pulled back.

Loki’s thrust stuttered and he gasped, fingers clenching in Steve’s hair and holding him steady as he came. Steve tasted bitter seed on the back of his tongue, annoyance and arousal tangling together in his gut. He planted his hands on Loki’s thighs and shoved, turning his head to the side and spitting to clear the taste. He glared up at Loki, trying to pretend like he wasn’t desperately hard.

Loki dropped down and shoved Steve down onto his back, hand planted in the center of his chest as he straddled him. He palmed Steve’s erection through his clothes and Steve heard himself whimper, thumping his head against the floor so he didn’t beg for more.

“So patient of you to wait for me,” Loki crooned, and Steve squeezed his eyes closed.

“Didn’t have to be - that patient,” he said. Loki squeezed and he grunted, surging up against Loki’s hand only to be pushed back down. It was a reminder of how strong Loki was that made Steve gasp, his cock getting impossibly harder.

“Now,” Loki said, undoing Steve’s pants, teasing one finger over the damp spot in his briefs. “Are you going to ask?”

Steve set his jaw and just glared at Loki. His hips bucked into Loki’s teasing touch and Loki hummed, a satisfied, amused noise that vibrated deep in Steve’s stomach.

“Good enough,” he said. Loki licked his palm and took Steve’s cock in hand, his hand moving in quick, rough strokes as he held Steve down. His eyes were locked on Steve’s, intense, burning, and Steve couldn’t look away as he lurched, gasping, into his climax.

“Satisfied?” Loki murmured, still crouching over him. “Did you get what you wanted?”

“Did you?” Steve shot back. Loki laughed and leaned down, dragging Steve’s head up into a kiss, his tongue thrusting into Steve’s mouth. He bit it hard enough that he tasted blood, but he felt Loki tense and then shudder, a laugh rumbling in his chest.

Loki pulled back and Steve’s head hit the floor with a thump. His skin was humming.

“Yes,” he said, finally. Steve blinked, and Loki smiled. “I did get what I wanted.”

He stood up, cocked his head, and vanished. Steve closed his eyes and wished he didn’t feel quite so good.

“Hey,” Natasha said, lounging against the doorway. “Can we talk?”

Steve closed the sketchbook he’d mostly been staring at and looked warily in her direction. “That’s not usually a question that precedes anything good.”

Natasha smiled faintly, but she didn’t disagree. After a moment, Steve sighed. “I guess. Talk about what?”

She came over and sat down. “How’re you doing?”

Steve raised his eyebrows. “Are you making small talk or is that what you want to talk about? Either way, I’m good.”

“That’s a nothing answer,” Natasha said. Steve tensed.

“What do you mean, a nothing answer?”

“It’s like ‘fine.’ It doesn’t mean anything.”

“Yes it does,” Steve said. “It means I’m good.” He could hear the slight edge in his voice. “Don’t try to interrogate me.”

“This isn’t an interrogation,” Natasha said. “I’m just talking to you. Wondering what’s going on in your life. You know, like friends do.”

“Are we friends?” Steve said, and he saw the hurt on Natasha’s face briefly before she erased it.

“Fine,” she said flatly. “If that’s how you want to play it - as your colleague, I’m concerned. You’ve been distracted, distant. You’re barely sleeping and according to JARVIS you leave and come back at odd hours-”

Steve stiffened. “You’ve been keeping track of my movements?

“Because I’m worried about you,” Natasha said. “I’m not blind, Steve - you show up with weird bruises - when you don’t bruise - moving like someone beat you up. You shut down every time someone asks you about your personal life. I don’t know what you’ve gotten into-”

“You ever think that if I wanted you to know I would’ve said?” Steve said, standing up, knuckles white where he was gripping his sketchbook. “If I wanted my personal life fair game for Avengers gossip, I’d say so. I don’t, and you decided that’s a good enough reason to spy on me?”

Natasha’s expression flickered. “All right, I shouldn’t have done that. But still-”

“But nothing,” Steve said savagely. He felt a burning under his skin, anger making his heart pound. And fear. “What next? Are you going to have me followed? My business is my business. Is that clear?”

“You’re a member of this team,” Natasha said, “and that means your well-being affects the rest of us.”

“And has it?” Steve demanded, almost vibrating. “Have I had any effect on the team? I’m doing my job just as well as ever. This isn’t about the team, Natasha, this is about you needing to know everybody’s business. Don’t spy on me again.”

“Steve,” Natasha said, her voice trying to soothe.

“Stop,” Steve said harshly. “This conversation is over.”

He walked out, went back to his bedroom. He dropped the sketchbook on his bed and breathed, hands opening and closing, something seething in his chest. He reached for his phone twice before picking it up and finding the last text from unlisted number. He called it.

There was no ringtone, just extended silence. Steve squeezed his eyes shut. “Where are you,” he said, too loudly. “Call me back.”

He hung up and paced, anger warring with guilt. Was this (stupid, wrong) thing affecting his ability to do his job? Was Natasha right to be worried? Who else had noticed, what did they think? I don’t know what you’ve gotten into, Natasha had said, but could she have guessed?

His phone buzzed with a text. GPS coordinates rather than an address. Steve memorized them and deleted the message before looking up at the ceiling - he couldn’t see any cameras, but he knew that didn’t really mean anything.

He needed to find his own place. He should’ve done it a long time ago - this just made it obvious.

He dressed like he was going for a run and went out, relieved that he didn’t run into anyone on the way.

The coordinates took him to a building in a wretched state of disrepair. Steve let himself inside and found Loki on the second floor, sitting on the remains of an armchair with his chin on one hand. He cocked one eyebrow up at the sight of him.

“Interesting clothing choice.”

The anger that had cooled on the way here flared up again. “Didn’t think you’d care if I dressed my best.”

Loki’s lips curved in a small, mocking smile. “My, you are in a mood.”

Steve gritted his teeth. “Are you just going to sit there?”

“I was surprised to get your call.” Loki unfolded to standing, movements liquid and leisurely. Steve wanted to punch him, bloody that smirking mouth. “You sounded…more distressed than usual. And now that I see you…”

Steve lifted his chin. “You know what I want.”

“Of course I do,” Loki purred. He moved like a striking snake and backhanded Steve across the face, hard enough to throw him back and send him to his knees. Steve’s teeth bit into his cheek and he gasped, head turning angrily toward Loki.

“That’s not-”

Loki crouched down next to him, grabbed Steve’s jaw and holding him with pressure enough to make bone ache. “Oh, I know what you think you wanted. You came here thinking you needed to hurt someone. You thought that anger burning at your core needed to be exorcised in someone else’s flesh.”

Steve lashed out with a fist and Loki blocked it with humiliating ease, grabbed his wrist and squeezed until Steve sucked in a breath. “You were wrong,” Loki said, his eyes boring into Steve’s. “Your anger - it is disgust. Not at me. Not at whoever drove you to summon me. At yourself. Your own filthy desires, your own sickening weakness.” Steve’s stomach lurched, something deep in his chest twisting. “It isn’t me you want to make bleed. It’s you. Fortunately, I can oblige.”

Loki released him, shoving him back to the floor and standing up. Steve stared up at him, gasping and momentarily stunned before he flipped back to his feet. Loki spread his hands, grinning.

“You are welcome to fight me first, if you want to try. Is that what you need to satisfy your honor?

Steve went for Loki, but it was clumsy and he flipped him easily. He hit the ground hard, the air driven out of his lungs. Loki circled him, smile sharp and cruel. “Bastard,” Steve said, but he could feel his blood getting hot. Loki’s smile widened, looking down at him.

“Well?” He asked, voice lowering, slick as blood. “Admit it, Captain.”

He rolled to his feet. “You don’t know half as much as you think you do about me,” he said.

“I do,” Loki countered simply. “I know more than any of your little band of warriors. All the black places in your soul that you hide from them - those belong to me. And they’re more of you than even you would like to admit.”

Loki was still circling and Steve spun around to keep an eye on him. “What do you want,” he said, his voice thick and harsh. Loki’s teeth flashed.

“Surrender,” he said. “Get on your knees. Beg me for the privilege of being taken apart.”

Steve’s throat constricted, but not with anger or disgust. He felt a hot pulse in his stomach, a surge of near desperation. “No,” he said stubbornly. “I’m not going to beg you for anything.”

Loki laughed, hard and sharp. “You already have. ‘Loki, please.’” He imitated Steve’s voice with unnerving precision, and he felt himself shiver, shame and want twisted together. “Why should it hurt you to do it again?”

Steve swallowed hard. “I won’t,” he said, but his voice wavered. He felt like Loki’s words had reached into him and pulled on a thread, was still pulling on it, unraveling him. Loki prowled closer and Steve half moved to lash out, and didn’t.

Loki smiled, small and indulgent in a way that didn’t diminish the dangerous gleam in his eyes. “Go on, then,” he purred. “You are only admitting what we both already know.”

Steve trembled. He thought of the way Natasha had looked at him. Her hurt. Her pity. And she was right to show him both, pathetic, not worthy, don’t deserve-

He hit his knees, hard. “Please,” he said, “I want…” He couldn’t make himself say more. Couldn’t shape the words to ask, and dropped his eyes.

Loki’s delicate fingers tilted Steve’s chin up, drawing his gaze to meet Loki’s eyes. Steve swallowed hard.

“But of course,” he said, quiet and silky. “You only had to ask.”

Steve shuddered violently and closed his eyes. Loki’s fingers pulled away slowly, trailing over his skin, and he felt something slither around his wrists, pulling them together. He fought it, reflexively, but the force was inexorable.

Then the pull yanked him to his feet until his toes were just barely touching the ground. His eyes flew open and he was face to face with Loki, just inches away. He strained against whatever was holding him - magic, he assumed - but there was no give at all, just burn in his shoulders as he tried to get his footing.

Loki smiled at him, narrow and cruel. “There, now,” he murmured. “Isn’t that better?”

Steve wanted to growl, but the only sound that came up was a shuddering exhale. Natasha’s face popped into his head abruptly, worried, the nasty thought what would she think if she could see you now.

His head jerked to the side when Loki slapped him, hard enough to sting. He could feel blood rising to his skin. “Pay attention,” he said. “You’re mine now. Utterly. Completely.”

No, Steve thought, but at the same time, deeper, yes.

Loki circled around him to where Steve couldn’t see and he tensed, shivering when Loki’s fingers trailed down the back of his neck, breathing lightly on Steve’s ear.

Then he grabbed the collar of Steve’s shirt and tore it open down the back, nails raking across skin. Steve jerked, heard himself make a humiliating, strangled sound. “Hey!” He said, sharply. “I need that-”

“Not now, you don’t,” Loki purred, and Steve’s breathing snagged. “Stay steady. And keep count.” He heard Loki stepping back, moving a little away, and tensed, trying to roll his shoulders.

“Count what-”

The first lash across his shoulders knocked him forward. Almost knocked the air out of him, and Steve scrambled to keep his footing, a shout exploding out of his lungs. It didn’t cut - thudded like a punch deep into muscle and for a second he just hung, regaining his breath before he remembered. “What happens if I - don’t,” Steve said.

“This isn’t that kind of game,” Loki said. “You surrendered, Captain. So surrender.

Steve swallowed hard, twice, something rising up in his gut, stronger than the push to resist. He bit the inside of his cheek and said, “one.”

“Good,” Loki said, and Steve hated how he responded to that, the heat in his chest and his groin. He held his breath, waiting.

Another blow, across the first, and the ache seemed to sink even deeper, wiping out thought for a glorious second- “Two.”

Loki didn’t keep a rhythm. Steve tried to wait, tried to anticipate but he couldn’t, never knew when Loki was going to lay into him, and whatever he was using was - effective. Every strike layered, up and down his shoulders until everything was one throbbing ache and he couldn’t-

Loki’s fingers ran over tender, overheated skin, little blades of ice. “Ahh,” Steve said. His heart was racing and he wanted...what did he want? Something. Something sharper.

“Not enough, is it,” Loki murmured. “You’re so hungry for it, Captain Steve Rogers. For punishment. For pain.” Steve opened his eyes and gritted his teeth.

“I don’t want you to talk,” he said harshly. His shoulders pulsed in time with his heartbeat. Loki paced around to stand in front of him again, eyebrows lifted.

“You do, though,” he said. “I know you like the sound of my voice.” His wrist flicked and he was holding a small, slender knife. “You lost count at eight. I thought you might be done.”

“I’m not done,” Steve said, hot and defiant. Loki grinned.

“Good.” Loki made another gesture and Steve’s shirt vanished. His body seized up for the sudden cold air, and then seized up further for the spark of hot pain as Loki slashed a mark across his chest. It stung more than anything, shallow and superficial, but the shock of it still made him gasp. His eyes fixed on Loki, who was looking at his face, eyes bright and glittering.

“You,” he murmured, “are a splendid thing.”

Steve’s teeth clicked together even as he inhaled sharply, those words stirring up a tangle of responses that he couldn’t pull apart. Loki lifted one hand to his mouth, licked his thumb, and ran it over the shallow cut he’d left.

It should have been weird. It was weird, but a rush of heat went through him anyway, a strange tingle following Loki’s touch, the pain vanishing in its wake. Steve craned his neck to look down and saw the cut was gone. Magic, he thought, and the thought of Loki using magic, on him, both made his hair stand on end and his cock twitch.

He made a faint noise that only got fainter when Loki painted a streak on Steve’s sternum in his blood and bent his head to lick it away.

“Loki,” he said, and didn’t know what emotion he meant it to convey. Whatever it came out as, Loki laughed. Steve wanted to be angry, but all he really felt was a kind of eager, quivering tension. Thirst.

Loki trailed the flat of the small knife against the side of Steve’s neck, down over his chest. Another flick of his wrist and Steve jerked, his eyes slamming closed, biting down on his lip so he didn’t make a sound.

“You’re too quiet,” Loki said, his voice right by Steve’s ear. “I want to hear you.”

Steve inhaled to tell Loki that he was going to have to work harder than that, but the pads of Loki’s fingers spread out down the side of his neck and all his nerves lit up at once.

It was pain so fine it almost felt good, somehow, an edge that seemed to cut all the way to his bones. He fought it, struggling, his lungs burning as he held his breath-

It was over as fast as it had started, Steve jerked out of it by the sharp sting of Loki’s knife. Loki’s eyes were intense, focused. “Well?” He said, sounding breathless.

“Is that. Is that it?” Steve heard himself ask, voice a little blurry. Loki grinned. His thumb caressed Steve’s cheekbone and Steve closed his eyes and started to twitch away.

He lost sight of his body. There weren’t parts of him, just that intense, focused, all-encompassing pain, clean and bright and fierce, like purifying fire scouring Steve away.

Blink. Loki’s face was close and Steve couldn’t quite focus on anything else. He felt hot all over, like he was burning up.

Loki’s hand moved down slowly, clasping the side of his neck. His thumb ran down Steve’s throat and he tipped his head back without meaning to, without thinking.

Again, and he could feel it in waves, crashing over him, and over and over, wiping him away like a sculpture made out of sand. Everything vanishing, he was vanishing, and he stretched out for it.

Blink. Loki again, and he might’ve begged but he couldn’t quite find the words to do it. The look in Loki’s eyes pulled him in and he gasped for air, suddenly dizzy, his heart beating too hard and too fast.

It swallowed him again. Everything was stripped away, everything gone except for this, the strain of enduring second after second, heartbeat after heartbeat, and he was close to something but didn’t know what-

Oh, god. It was too much, chewing him up and overwhelming him and he couldn’t take it, wasn’t going to last, too much not enough please-

Black, for just a second. Nothingness.

It took Steve several gasping breaths to realize that the pain had stopped. His breathing was hard and irregular and he could feel his heartbeat pounding in his head, but everything felt...fuzzy. Sweat stung the healing cuts on his chest and he blinked groggily. He felt empty, scoured out. He was a boat rocking on a turbulent sea.

He wasn’t angry anymore. He wasn’t anything.

It was glorious.

Steve realized that Loki was standing in front of him, a strange expression on his face, almost awed. “Oh,” he murmured, one hand lifting toward Steve’s face and then falling away. Steve blinked at him, thinking he should probably say something but not quite able to connect his brain to his mouth, or even really string thoughts together at all.

Loki’s expression flickered and closed off. Then he vanished. A moment later the restraints holding him up vanished and Steve dropped to the floor, kneeling alone in a condemned building. The pleasant, empty feeling was ebbing away, and he realized he was shivering, his head spinning.

He stayed there until his breathing steadied. He found his mangled shirt on the floor nearby and dragged it on, managing to stumble out under his own power. He felt fractured, broken open.

Some part of him thought of how Loki’s hand had lifted toward his face at the end, and wished he’d touched him. Steve could imagine turning his head into his hand and feeling steadied. Loki’s voice saying good, you did well.

He stopped dead, staring at that thought, turning it over in his mind and then shoving it down. That wasn’t what he wanted or needed.

Maybe he didn’t feel good, but at least the emotions Natasha had stirred up were gone. So was everything else, but that was fine.

Wasn’t it?

Loki appeared behind Steve while he was in a bodega, exhaling quietly on the back of his neck. “Hello,” he murmured, and Steve almost punched him in the face, whirling around.

“Don’t do that,” he hissed. Just seeing Loki’s face made something in him wake up and squirm like there were ants under his skin. “What are you doing?”

“Inviting you for an assignation,” Loki said, perfectly coolly. Steve shot a nervous glance toward the bodega owner, and Loki grinned. “Don’t worry. He isn’t paying attention.”

Steve took a step back from Loki, trying to get his skin to stop prickling. “What you did last time,” he said, and had to stop. He didn’t know what he was trying to say. Loki twitched a hand.

“Not what I was thinking. Unless you had other ideas.” His sharp smile made Steve’s breath catch a little, tipping dangerously toward longing for that clean, overwhelming pain.

“No,” he said, probably too quickly. “Besides, I’m not just - you can’t assume I’m just available whenever you want-”

“I haven’t even proposed a date.” Loki’s eyes glittered. “Unless you were expecting me to say now.

Steve’s spine tingled nervously. His body felt distinctly warm. “Obviously I wasn’t-”

“Tonight, then?”

No, Steve should say. No, absolutely not. But his mouth had gone dry and he hesitated a crucial second too long.

“Delightful,” Loki said, his grin widening. “I’ll expect you.” He leaned forward, tucking something into the waistband of Steve’s pants as he yanked him close, biting his lower lip. Heat flooded Steve’s lower belly as he jerked away, but Loki was already gone.

He pulled out the card Loki had given him. Loki, it said on the front, with an elegant design evocative of his horned helmet. On the back, 9 o’clock, 515 Park Avenue. Steve inhaled slowly. His skin was tingling already.

He slipped out at 8:30, careful to take a back route and trying to look casual. Just in case anyone was watching. He walked, rather than taking the subway, even though it meant he got there early.

It was a nice building. Central Park two blocks away. Was this where Loki lived?

Unlikely, Steve thought. He didn’t think Loki was going to take him home anytime soon.

903, came the text from an unknown number. Come on up.

Steve tapped his foot on the ground a couple times, then went in and took the elevator to the ninth floor. The door to 903 opened before he could knock, and Loki grinned at him.

“Right on time, Captain.”

“I try to be punctual,” Steve said dryly, though inwardly he was buzzing. He couldn’t tell if it was anticipation or nerves. Loki had said he didn’t have...what had happened last time in mind, but that didn’t say anything about what he did.

“How very disciplined of you,” Loki murmured, something faintly mocking in his voice. Steve pushed by him to go inside, too self-conscious to keep standing in the hallway, even if it was empty.

He looked around, taking in the apartment - a few months ago he would have said it was ‘plain’, but now he could recognize what people called ‘minimalism’, though the expense of the whole thing didn’t seem very minimal to Steve. It didn’t look much like what he’d expect from Loki, but then he kind of doubted any of the places they met belonged to Loki.

“Nice place,” he said. Loki laughed.

“Don’t tell me you are attempting small talk.”

“I’m kind of wondering who it belongs to.”

“Suffice to say that I have resources,” Loki said, “and no one is going to interrupt us.”

“Well, that’s a relief,” Steve said dryly. Loki laughed under his breath and closed in behind Steve. He turned quickly, and Loki raised his eyebrows.

“You are on edge.”

“You do that to me,” Steve said without thinking, and then realized how it sounded and flushed. Loki grinned.

“Oh, good,” Loki said. “I do so strive to make an impression.”

“For better or for worse,” Steve said. “Usually the latter.”

“Mm,” Loki said. “Just how it suits me.” He sauntered closer and reached out; Steve jerked back away and Loki paused, eyebrows raising further. “Hesitation? Now?”

“What are you going to do,” Steve asked. Loki cocked his head to the side.

“You don’t want to be surprised?” Steve said nothing, and Loki smirked. “Ah, Captain. I promise I intend to go easy on you tonight.”

“Go easy on me,” Steve said flatly.

“Relatively speaking.” Loki extended his hand the last inch and ran his fingers up the side of Steve’s neck, making him shiver. He circled around behind Steve and this time he held still, not turning around though he could feel himself tense. His heart was thudding down in his stomach.

Loki pulled Steve back against him and ran his tongue up the back of Steve’s neck. He inhaled a little unsteadily, leaning back into Loki’s chest without thinking. His hands slid up under Steve’s shirt, nails skating across his stomach.

“I’ve been wondering,” he said conversationally, “what your cock tastes like.” He felt Loki’s lips quirk. “For instance. Does self-righteousness have a flavor?”

Steve stiffened, his jaw tightening even as his body responded to the words. His mind helpfully supplied the mental image of Loki down between his legs. Transposing the feeling of Loki’s tongue on his neck. He shifted slightly. “At least then you’d be quiet,” he said, though his voice broke a little on quiet when Loki pinched one of his nipples.

“You wouldn’t,” Loki purred. “You’d be pleading.

“You sure talk a good game,” Steve said. Loki ground against his ass and bit down on his shoulder. Steve’s body went rigid.

“Either that,” Loki said, “or you wouldn’t be able to form the words.” Loki’s hand pressed against his chest, mouth roaming up Steve’s neck and biting down on the shell of his ear. Then he pulled away, spun Steve around, and shoved him back into the wall. His hand squeezed Steve’s crotch, pink tongue swiping across his lower lip. Steve stared at him, for a moment indeed a little airless.

“You had better be good,” Loki said, his thumb circling the button of Steve’s pants. “You don’t want me to bite. ” He flicked the button open and pulled down the zipper, sliding gracefully down to his knees. The expression on his face, looking up at Steve heavy-lidded and hungry, made him want to just grab Loki’s hair and demand what he was offering.

Loki was already drawing his pants and underwear down, one of his hands sliding between Steve’s legs and tugging on his balls. Steve went rigid with a sharp sound and Loki hummed, sounding pleased. His half hard cock started to fill more and Steve licked his lips. Loki massaged his testicles and Steve wobbled, sucking in a breath. Loki laughed quietly.

“Steady,” he said. “I don’t want you to collapse halfway through.”

Steve sucked in a couple breaths. “I think I’ll be - just fine.”

“Mm.” Loki tugged again, and a sharp, hot, bolt shot from his balls into his stomach, almost painful - and then he leaned in and dragged his lips up the side of Steve’s cock. His head hit the wall and he swallowed hard, his pulse pounding in his stomach, the head of his cock rubbing against Loki’s closed mouth.

“All that talk and you’re just gonna tease,” Steve managed to say. Loki’s eyes flicked up toward him and he smirked.

“Oh, no,” he said. “I have no intention of just teasing.” He leaned forward again and just mouthed at the head of Steve’s cock. The sensation made Steve quiver with the promise of more, the flicker of Loki’s tongue so close-

He pulled away. Steve inhaled shakily and just bit back a curse.

“Come on,” he heard himself groan. Loki laughed, soft and smug.

“Begging already, Captain?”

“Just - just wondering if you’re flaking on the follow-through,” Steve said. Loki’s lips curved in a sharp, pleased smile. He squeezed Steve’s balls again, making him jump, and then let go, hands moving to Steve’s thighs.

“Never,” he said sweetly, and drew Steve’s cock into his mouth, obscenely gently, the little flutters of his tongue making Steve burn all the way into his core.

Loki’s mouth was hot, velvet, sweet, and Steve heard himself moan. Loki sucked and Steve jerked forward, his hand on Loki’s head spasming. Loki’s tongue pressed up and Steve felt it from his toes to the top of his spine. He slid his mouth slowly back off, tongue flicking against Steve’s cockhead.

He burned. This time Steve didn’t wait, pulling Loki back toward him, hand bracing the back of his head, scrambling for some kind of control. He pumped in and out of Loki’s mouth, holding his head steady as he set an almost brutal pace. Loki’s hands came up, his short fingernails dragging down the sides of Steve’s legs.

He came, gasping, deep in Loki’s throat.

Loki pulled away slowly, looking up at Steve with a peculiar little smile on his lips. Steve half fell back against the wall, blinking dazedly at him. “Well,” Loki said, his voice a little rough. “Aren’t you just full of surprises.”

“What was that for,” Steve managed to say. Loki’s smile widened a hair, turning a little smug and self-satisfied.

“Does it have to be for anything?” He cocked his head. “Don’t tell me you are one of those fools who thinks sucking a man’s cock makes you somehow less.”

Steve felt his face get hot. “No,” he said quickly. Loki smirked at him and licked his lips ostentatiously. Steve’s face got even hotter and he felt a spark of anger. “Sounds like the kind of thing you’d believe. Since you’re obsessed with kneeling and all.”

Loki laughed, low and throaty in a way that made a shiver run down Steve’s spine. “Different contexts,” he murmured, and smirked. “ didn’t feel very powerful coming apart for my tongue.”

Steve’s breath snagged and he sucked in a breath, but he didn’t think he could go again yet. He studied Loki, who unfolded from his knees and stood, still standing a little closer than necessary. Glancing down, Steve could see that he was clearly not - unaffected. Still, something nagged at him.

“Was that some sort of - apology, for…”

Loki’s lips twitched. “Leaving you hanging?” He said dryly, and Steve knew exactly how his expression would look. Loki laughed again. “No. I am not in the least bit sorry for that.”

Steve couldn’t decide if he thought Loki should be or not. Thinking back on it still made him feel a little dizzy. “Really? You’re being awfully…” He tried to think of a way around saying it, but couldn’t come up with anything better. “...nice.”

The corners of Loki’s mouth twitched. “I suppose that depends on what you mean by nice.” Loki grinned at him, one of his hands sliding around the back of Steve’s neck and squeezing, almost too hard. “Nothing for nothing, Captain.”

Steve’s stomach flipped. “What does that mean?”

Loki’s smirk widened, the hand not on Steve’s neck pushing up under his shirt, fingernail skating across one nipple. “Use your imagination,” he murmured.

Steve shoved his hand down between Loki’s legs and pushed the heel of his hand against his erection. “I’m pretty sure you’ve said I don’t have one,” he said. Loki’s head fell back with a sharp inhale and Steve leaned forward and scraped his teeth down the column of his throat.

“Mm - you could always try to convince me otherwise.”

“I could,” Steve said, pulling down the zipper on Loki’s pants. “But I don’t really need to. You’re too easy to make it worthwhile.”

“Lucky for you,” Loki said, his voice only fracturing a little bit. “Otherwise you might - hnnh.

“You were saying?” Steve said almost sweetly, hand squeezing roughly around Loki’s cock. He sucked in two breaths before grinning, his eyes fluttering between open and closed.

“Better,” he said. Heat flared in Steve’s chest and he leaned in, bit down on Loki’s neck hard enough to leave a mark and stroked him quick and rough until Loki was gasping, boneless, wordless.

He’d been on edge all day.

Part of it was probably the cold. The temperature had been in freefall for the last week even though it was only mid-September, and Steve’s chest got tight when he stepped outside in the mornings only to feel a chill. It was stupid, weak, and irrational, and knowing all of that didn’t make it go away.

Then there was the fact that everyone else seemed to be trying to get on his last nerve. It wasn’t that they were actually doing anything, more that he was just apparently more nerve than usual He’d started looking for a new apartment but hadn’t found anything yet, and while he’d managed to avoid any more awkward conversations with Natasha by just not being alone around her, he could feel her watching him.

What do you think I’m going to do, he wanted to snap at her. If anything’s going to make me lose it, but that was unfair. She was worried, he got it. It still made him itch all over.

Answering one of Loki’s little summons in that kind of mood probably wasn’t the best idea, but it also sounded like the only thing that might take the edge off, even just a little.

He could tell from the moment he walked in that that wasn’t how it was going to go.

Loki was pacing back and forth like one of the tigers in the Central Park Zoo. Wired, tense, predatory, and he paused to look at Steve with sharp, dangerous eyes. Steve felt an uneasy, uncertain lurch somewhere in his guts.

“What’s wrong with you,” he asked.

“I could ask you the same.”

“None of your business,” Steve said. Loki laughed, bright and sharp.

“Oh!” He said. “Isn’t it? Or do you truly think you can keep your life so neatly sequestered?”

“You don’t need to know any more about me than you already do,” Steve said flatly. Loki grinned toothily.

“That is probably true,” he said. “I know all I need to know. Your wounds, your seams, your scars.”

Steve took a breath through his nose and let it out. “What’s got you in such a mood?”

None of your business.” Loki’s voice was an uncanny mimicry of Steve’s. Steve gritted his teeth.

“Fine,” he said. “It probably isn’t. As long as you’re not up to anything it doesn’t really matter.”

“Oh, Captain,” Loki said silkily. “I am always up to something.

“Yeah?” Steve said. “What is it now? How many lives are you going to destroy this time, trying to be a big man?”

“I haven’t decided,” Loki said lightly. “Care to give me a permissible number? No less than ten, mind, otherwise it just isn’t worth it.”

Steve saw red. He thought of the damage after Loki’s last attack, the destruction he left behind. “I can’t believe you,” Steve said. “I can’t believe - you disgust me, you know that? Have you ever once cared about anyone but yourself?”

“No,” Loki said, still smiling, though it had taken on an edge that something in Steve rose to.

“Yeah, it shows,” he said. “You’re damn lucky, you know that? You had everything handed to you, and you went and threw it away-”

Loki hissed. “You know nothing of my life.”

“I know all I need to know,” Steve echoed. “What you’ve done to this planet, to Thor-”

“To you?” Loki asked, his voice sharp and mocking. “Oh, but you liked that-”

“Mock me all you want,” Steve snapped, “but the day’s going to come when you look around and realize you’ve got nothing, and that’s going to be on you.”

“What is your explanation, then?” Loki asked, cocking his head to the side. “If it is my wickedness that has cost me, how do you explain the fact that you have lost everything you loved? Your beloved Peggy Carter to years, your dear Bucky Barnes to your own failure-”

Steve felt like he’d been punched. The second he caught his breath, he said, “you don’t get to talk about them,” in a voice he barely recognized.

“No? They are always there. Your grief, your love. They are the flail you beat yourself with, harder than I ever could.”

Steve could feel himself shaking. “You don’t even deserve to say their names.

“Why not?” Loki asked. “Afraid I’ll sully their pure memories with my filthy tongue?”

Steve took a step toward him, his heart pounding. “Shut up.”

“Or?” Loki tilted his head back, smiling nastily. “What are you going to do to me?”

“I’ll-” Steve stumbled, just a little. His whole body felt hot, his fists clenched, coiled tight.

“And look at you,” Loki said. “Valiant defender of the weak. Pure beacon of righteousness. But we both know that isn’t true, or you wouldn’t come to me. You always come slinking back because you need to purge your sins, your failures, as if you can fuck away the fact that you’re a hollow shell of a man.”

Steve’s stomach lurched. “You’re one to talk about being hollow, you’ve got nothing but hate and spite all the way through-”

“Where you cling to your sorrows and your misery because without them you know you would be nothing,” Loki said, sneering. “Poor Steve Rogers. Lost and alone, wallowing in self pity like a pig in mud.”

Anger almost choked him. “Self pity! Like yours? Because you won’t admit that you wrecked your own life just because you couldn’t stand that Thor’s twice the man you are and you’ll never even come close to touching him, and the best you can do is make these sad attempts at making yourself greater that never amount to anything at all.”

Loki’s snarl sounded almost inhuman. “Be silent.

Steve’s smile felt nasty. “Why? Too close to home?”

Loki’s teeth flashed. “You pretend to be good but only when others are watching. Underneath you are a failure, a broken toy soldier fighting a war seventy years gone, good for nothing else.”

“At least I’m good for something.

Steve knew the second he’d said it that he’d pushed too far. Loki’s expression twisted with incandescent rage and Steve didn’t even see him move, just felt Loki’s hand around his throat, lifting him off his feet and slamming him into the wall. His lips were pulled back from his teeth in an expression of pure, raw fury. Steve choked, clawing at Loki’s arm with all the reaction as though he were trying to dig his fingers into stone.

Loki was going to crush his throat, going to kill him. Steve could see it in his eyes, feel it in his grip bearing down. Black spots closed in on the edges of Steve’s vision and his hands dropped to his sides.

Was this what he’d been waiting for?

Then he stopped. His fingers loosened and Steve gasped in a breath. They stared at each other, breathing hard.

Loki vanished.

Steve dropped to his knees, coughing and gasping, rubbing his throat where he could already feel bruises forming. His heart was pounding and his head was spinning. He’d been about to die. He’d been certain that was it, that Loki had hit his limit.

What had stopped him?

As the adrenaline rush ebbed away, Steve was left with a sort of hollow, rotten feeling. Some of what he’d said...Loki had hit first but that didn’t necessarily excuse Steve hitting back in kind. It felt like a different kind of cruelty and he didn’t like it. Cruelty was Loki’s province, not his.

That was weak, and Steve knew it. He had that capacity too.

Steve stayed kneeling on the ground for a long time before he picked himself up. He wondered if that was the end of it. If Loki would ever come back again.

Well, Steve wasn’t going back to him. He was done. And if Loki did come slinking back, Steve would make sure he knew it.

Chapter Text

He didn’t need it.

True, for a while he really...didn’t. He kept his distance from his friends while the necklace of bruises healed. The first few nights were restless sleeping, Steve half convinced that Loki was going to materialize out of the shadows to finish what he’d started.

He didn’t, though. Steve was resolved and ready, but Loki seemed to have disappeared. Good riddance, Steve thought angrily, because with the fear gone, the anger crept back in. He didn’t need this. Didn’t need Loki. He’d been an idiot playing with fire, and sure enough he’d gotten burned for it. This whole thing had been a bad idea from the start, and he was almost grateful to Loki for reminding him.

He might be screwed up in the head, but Steve could handle himself just fine.


He tried to imagine going to Natasha and asking for advice, but even the idea of trying to explain, even if he didn’t say a word about Loki or sex, made him feel a little nauseous, and he could guess what she’d say anyway. Talk to a professional.

Sure. That sounded like a great idea. No, he’d keep it to himself and figure out how to deal with it on his own.

Thing was, Steve wasn’t exactly sure what he was supposed to be dealing with. The fact that his stupid fling with Loki had finally blown up in his face like it was always going to? The fact that there might be a pissed off, half-crazy-on-a-good-day alien out there with a new personal grudge against him who knew way too much about Steve?

The fact that he missed it?

Not Loki, necessarily, but what Loki did. What he gave Steve, however wrong it might be. There was still something in him that, just like Loki said, craved it. The first time the itch caught up to him, the crawling feeling under his skin like he was about to explode, Steve thought for a hot second you could find someone else. There are other people this kind of thing, but almost the second the thought occurred to him Steve recoiled from it.

There were too many reasons why he couldn’t, and besides, he wasn’t just going to bounce from one bad habit to another. This was his chance to break it, to be better, stop indulging this fucked up piece of himself that Loki had taken advantage of. Or maybe it hadn’t even been there before Loki’d dug it out of him, and if he just pushed back, fought it, he could get rid of it.

He went for a lot of runs. And broke a lot of punching bags. And when he fell into bed at night exhausted, he woke up in the morning tense and frustrated and hard from dreams where Loki held him down and jerked him off. Or sometimes the other way around.

And none of it seemed to be letting up. He wasn’t getting better. If anything, he seemed to be getting worse.

“What’s the matter with you?” Clint asked directly, after a skirmish with a gang of guys dealing weaponry souped-up with alien tech. “You seem even more intense than usual.”

“Nothing,” Steve said shortly. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He yanked his shield out of where it was embedded six inches through a steel door.

“Uh huh,” Clint said, eyeing him warily. “Sure. I’m just going to go stand by Bruce, who actually seems in a better mood right now.”

He wanted to be able to convince himself that it was something Loki had done to ruin him. But it wasn’t true, and Steve knew it. Knew exactly what he missed and what he wanted, because when he actually managed to sleep, his dreams were pretty damn good at reminding him.

There’s something wrong with you. Obviously. You can’t actually be considering going back to the guy who tried to kill you.

He tried to kill me before we started sleeping together; didn’t stop me then.

Not that there was any sign of Loki, anyway. No, he seemed to have up and vanished. It’d been a month, a month and a half, and Steve was ready to crawl out of his skin but Loki apparently wasn’t having the same problem, and it occurred to Steve abruptly that maybe Loki’d come to the same decision he had, only he was better at holding to it.

Why did that make Steve’s stomach squirm uncomfortably?

He felt like he was going a little crazy. Crazier, since he must’ve already been crazy to get tangled up in this in the first place, and lying awake in the middle of the night he thought bitterly, well, Rogers, if you’re trying to prove something to someone, you’re really doing a bang-up job.

Steve went for a run that left even him winded, and took a scalding hot shower when he got back.

He found the note folded in the pocket of his pants when he went to put them on.

Allow me to make it up to you, it said, and an address. Steve crumpled it and made to throw it away, then stopped. He unfolded it and read it again.

You’re done, remember? He told himself. Throw it away. You’re not going back.

He threw the note away, but it was too late. He already had the address memorized.

I’m just going to tell him in person that we’re through, Steve told himself, but he already knew it was a lie.

This time it was a hotel. Steve stood outside for several long minutes, warring with himself.

In the end he went inside. Of course you did, said a voice that sounded eerily like Loki’s. You can’t walk away now.

He took the elevator up and knocked, bracing himself, trying to practice the words to tell Loki this is over, I’m done, get out of my life.

Loki opened the door. His hair was damp, and he was wearing a loose robe that showed his chest. Steve kept his feet planted.

“How easy do you think I am?” He asked flatly.

“I doubt you want me to answer that question,” Loki said with a flash of a smile. Steve almost growled. Loki tapped his fingers against the door. “Are you going to come in?”

“You went too far,” Steve said. Loki’s eyebrows lifted a fraction.

“Are you sure that wasn’t the point?” Steve’s shoulders seized but before he could say anything Loki waved a hand. “No, you are right. I might have killed you, and that would be...truly a pity.”

Steve narrowed his eyes. “Is that supposed to be an apology?”

“Call it what you like.” Loki held open the door a little wider. “Well? I told you I would make it up to you.”

Steve hesitated, but he could feel a tug under his sternum. Curiosity, and something deeper - that need he wanted to deny but couldn’t quite purge. He stepped over the threshold and let Loki close the door behind him.

“So,” Steve said, not quite warily. “What does ‘making it up to me’ mean? Are you planning on getting me a nice dinner?”

Loki scoffed. “Does that sound like me?”

“No,” Steve said. “It doesn’t.”

Loki regarded him with half lidded eyes. “I underestimated you,” he said. “I didn’t realize just how full of rage you really are.”

Steve twitched back. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Just what I said. No more, no less.” Loki half smiled. “I can help with that.”

Help.” Steve infused his voice with all the doubt he felt.

“Help you free yourself from it.” Loki’s half smile grew. “Use me.”

“What are you talking about,” Steve said. His voice came out sounding harsh, but Loki just smiled at him.

“Don’t be coy, Captain. There is so much anger burning in you. I can feel it. That violence seething just beneath the surface. It terrifies you, doesn’t it? So you hold it down and push it away. Stop fighting it. Embrace it.” He cocked his head to the side. “I am offering you an exorcism.”

Steve’s throat squeezed. His heart started pounding and he wavered between taking a step back and a step forward. “I don’t-”

Loki threw his head back, throat bared, smiling. “Don’t you? It’s satisfying, not having to hold back. Having someone who can take you. Go on, Captain. Do your worst.”

Steve realized that he was breathing hard, heat pulsing at the top of his spine. His hands balled into fists. “Is this supposed to be payback?”

“No,” Loki said. “I’m trying to get you to stop holding back. Stop pulling your punches.”

Steve felt shaky, unsteady. Like he was going to fall, and didn’t know which way.

Loki laughed, harshly. “What are you waiting for?” He said, flinging his arms wide. “Are you afraid of hurting me? Maybe you don’t think you’re capable.”

Steve’s jaw tightened.

“You couldn’t push me too far if you tried,” Loki said, and grinned. “You could cut out my heart and I would ask for more.” He tilted his head back, baring his long, pale throat. Loki’s words jarred Steve, almost brought him up short, but then Loki moved and Steve responded reflexively, pinning Loki back with an arm across his throat. Loki didn’t fight him, just looked at him, still smiling.

“I’m not you,” Steve said harshly.

“Obviously,” Loki said. “That would be a very different scenario.”

“You tried to kill me.”

“If I had been trying you would be dead.” Loki leaned forward into his arm, and Steve pressed back reflexively. “Go on, Captain. I know the violence that lives in you. Pent up. Restrained. Let it go.”

Something bubbled up uneasily in Steve’s chest, a strange, taut feeling. His skin itched and he remembered the wild, almost frantic anger he’d felt before, Loki’s words digging in and twisting, Loki with his smug smile and his airy unconcern for everything he’d done-

He pulled away, hauled back and punched him square in the mouth.

Loki’s head snapped back with a grunt, but it was like he’d barely felt it, so Steve did it again, the fury boiling up in him. How dare Loki act like he knew anything about Steve, like he could understand anything-

You are a failure, a broken toy soldier fighting a war seventy years gone.

He grabbed the front of Loki’s shirt, hauling him away from the wall, and threw him. Loki kept his feet, stumbling back, wiping a hand across his bloodied lips.

“Finished already?” He said, light, mocking, untouchable.

Someone needed to bring him down.

He went for Loki again and he didn’t dodge, didn’t try to block when Steve hit him in the solar plexus. He couldn’t stop moving, couldn’t hesitate, goddammit he was going to make Loki feel something.

A hollow shell of a man.

“On the bed,” Steve snarled, barely recognizing his own voice. “On your stomach, and I want a rope and that whip you’ve used on me.”

“Oh, Captain.” Loki grinned and Steve’s hands clenched.


Loki went, but he went slow. Steve climbed over him and shoved him down the rest of the way, planting a knee in the middle of his back. He grabbed the rope that Loki must have summoned from somewhere, tied his hands, then pulled back and picked up the whip. It wasn’t the same one; he could tell looking at it. Narrower strips. It’d sting. Raise welts instead of bruises.

He hadn’t done this before. Steve swung it experimentally in his hand before bringing it down across Loki’s back.

He arched, inhaling sharply. Steve’s stomach clenched but he wasn’t done, couldn’t be done, and there was something darkly satisfying about the impact. He struck again, and then again, getting easier, and it was horribly good not to hold back, not to limit himself. Loki deserved this and Steve-

You pretend to be good only when others are watching.

Steve froze mid-lash, reeling. He blinked, his eyes focusing, and realized that Loki’s harsh, shallow exhales sounded like whimpers, and a few of the red, raised welts on his back had broken open.

He swallowed hard, stomach lurching into his throat.

You did this.

Suddenly that felt - wrong. Like he’d crossed a line, like he’d dug down and found something ugly and hateful and he didn’t want it, didn’t want to see it and know that this was something he could do. Not just - rough sex, but actually setting out to hurt someone. To make someone hurt.

The whip fell out of his hand, hitting the floor with a thud. Loki shuddered.

“I’m done here,” Steve heard himself say from a great distance. “I have to go.”

He stumbled out, into a nearby alley, and threw up. Standing bent over, panting, he realized that his knuckles had split open on Loki’s teeth.

He pushed me into it, Steve thought. It was...he wanted me to do it.

And did that make it okay?

Steve spat and scrubbed his mouth with the back of his hand. You’re in too deep, Rogers. Way, way too deep.

Steve knew the second he walked into the room that he was stepping onto a battlefield.

Oh, sure, it was a comfortable array of couches and a group of people trying very hard to look serious-but-relaxed, but Steve knew the feeling of trouble brewing and this had that all over it. Casual team dinner, his ass.

He stopped, not sitting down. “Do I even want to ask,” he said.

“Hey, Steve,”  Tony said. “Good to see you too. How’s it going?”

Steve looked at Natasha, not bothering to hide his suspicion. She looked back at him without batting so much as an eyelash. “Have a seat,” Clint said. “Pizza should be here in twenty.”

“Right,” Steve said, not moving to sit. Bruce fidgeted, looking uncomfortable. “Is there a problem?”

“Is there?” Natasha asked. Steve shot her a look, then walked over and sat down almost defiantly.

“If I say no are you going to believe me?” Steve said flatly.

“Hey, man,” Clint said, “We’re just here to talk.”

“Talk about what?” Steve asked, like he didn’t know already. He felt a brief panic wondering what they knew, but - it couldn’t be anything much, or he’d be on his way to a locked cell or a padded room right now.

“About whatever weird shit is going on with you,” Tony said. Natasha glared in his direction, and Steve felt himself tense more.

“What ‘weird shit,’” he said. He knew he was playing dumb, being obstinate, but if they were going to drag him into this he wasn’t going to make it easy for them.

“Steve,” Natasha said, “we’re not blind. And we’re your team. It’s obvious you’re tangled up in something bad. Let us help.”

Something bad. You have no idea. Steve pressed his palms into his legs so he didn’t clench his fists. “I don’t need help. It’s fine.

Clint shook his head. “You’re a shitty liar, Cap.”

Tony shifted. “If you’ve gone and joined a Fight Club, I’m telling you now that wasn’t the point of the movie.”

Steve let that one pass. He looked at Thor, but that just made him think of Loki, so he glanced quickly away.

“You’re quiet,” he said to Bruce.

“I don’t have a lot to say,” Bruce said. “Except Natasha said. This is a team, right? Teams look after each other.”

“Nobody blames you,” Natasha said. “You had a pretty rough landing in a completely different century. It’d be more surprising if you weren’t...having trouble adjusting. But if you let us help…”

Steve snorted. “Help how,” he said, then regretted it. “I told you. I don’t need help.”

“Then why don’t you at least say what’s going on?” Clint said. “Everything’s peachy-keen, fine, great, but that doesn’t explain anything about how you’ve been acting.”

Steve felt like he was about to start shaking. “Awfully casual setting for an interrogation,” he said.

“This is an interrogation now? I thought it was an intervention,” Tony said.

“I’m not an addict,” Steve said. His hands were clenched together. “All of you - agree on this? You think something’s wrong with me and this is how you bring it up? If you think I can’t do my job, fine, but don’t treat me like I can’t look after myself. And when it comes to my personal life - stay out of it.

He stood up, almost tipping the chair over backwards, and walked out.

Dammit. Dammit dammit dammit. He was breathing hard and fast, his head spinning. He wanted to hit something. Wanted a fight and there was one place he could get it, one person he could get it from.

He fumbled for his phone and wrote where can you meet me?

Loki responded a heart-pounding half minute later. Steve hated the relief that swept through him, but that didn’t make it go away.

The wired, anxious feeling didn’t go away on the way to the address Loki had given him. If anything, it got worse - settled somewhere deep in him like a knot in muscle that wouldn’t release no matter how much he stretched.

He knocked on the door and Loki opened it, looking him up and down, eyebrows quirked. Steve looked back at him, jaw set.

After a wordless moment Loki stepped back, leaving the door open. The small apartment was almost entirely empty, the little furniture left covered. “When you give me so little notice, there is only so much I can do,” Loki said lightly. Steve wondered if he was imagining the mockery in it.

“It’s better than some of the places you’ve had me go,” Steve said after a moment. His body was still humming uneasily but now that he was standing here, he wasn’t sure exactly what he wanted. Loki glided over to him, standing close with a faint smile at the corners of his lips. Steve felt himself tense.

“Giving or taking,” Loki said abruptly, the faint smile fading into an expression Steve struggled to read.

Steve’s laugh sounded a little harsh. “You’re asking? That’s awfully polite of you.”

Loki’s lips quirked. “Ah,” he said. “Like that, then.”

Steve frowned, about to say like what? when Loki grabbed him and dragged him into a harsh, vicious kiss. He bit down on Steve’s lower lip, sucked his tongue into his mouth. A charge went through Steve, almost painful in its intensity, and he gasped, grabbing onto Loki’s arms and digging in his fingers.

“You want me to push you, don’t you,” Loki murmured, pulling back only far enough that Steve could feel his breath on his lips. “You want me to dig my wicked claws into you and peel back the armor you’re only barely holding together.” It wasn’t a question. Steve’s fingers dug in harder only to force himself to release, shoving back.

“What makes you think that,” he said, but he knew his attempt at defiance didn’t sound convincing. Loki’s edged smirk just confirmed it, sending a shiver down Steve’s spine.

“I’ve always been good at smelling blood in the water,” Loki said. “And oh, Captain, how you bleed.”

Steve licked his lips. He kept thinking of the looks on the Avengers’ faces, staring at him. There was so much expectation there. They all wanted him to be something, wanted him to be someone who didn’t really exist.

At least, Steve thought bitterly, Loki didn’t expect anything from him.

Loki, who was standing here in front of him, lounging while standing, just...waiting. The knot inside him twisted, tugging.

“You talk a big game for someone who’s just standing there,” Steve said. Loki’s grin turned feral, almost savage.

He moved like lightning. Steve blinked and Loki had him with his face to the wall, arm twisted up behind him. Loki’s tongue flicked the back of Steve’s neck as he pushed back, twisting to free himself.

“Ah,” Loki said, chiding with a touch of laughter. “You just can’t help yourself, can you? Fighting back even when you don’t want to.”

“Who said I don’t want to,” Steve said. Loki pressed against him, the weight of his body pinning Steve in place.

“Don’t you?” Loki asked lightly. Steve heard himself make a sound not quite a growl and not quite a moan. The second Loki released him he spun around and went to grab Loki’s hair; Loki’s hand caught him around the throat and slammed him back again. Not squeezing, but the pressure of his hand against Steve’s trachea made him gasp, but not with fear. And it definitely wasn’t fear that flooded his stomach.

He shouldn’t…

Steve stared at Loki, already breathing hard, wordless.

Loki’s thumb caressed the side of his neck. “Well,” he murmured. “Isn’t that interesting.” He released Steve with a light shove. “Bed,” he said, unmistakably an order.

“What makes you think I’ll do what you tell me to,” Steve said.

Loki’s smile was a quick slash. “I know you,” he said, silky smooth and deadly. A wave of heat rolled through Steve, centering in a knot just above his interested cock. Loki turned and sauntered away. No doubt that Steve would follow.

He did. Steve paused in the doorway to look at the impeccably made bed, wondering how it would look when they were done. Loki had already shed his shirt and folded it neatly, and Steve’s eyes lingered on the lean muscles of his back before he jerked his eyes away.

“Are you planning on leaving your clothes on?” Loki asked, quiet and mocking. Steve tensed. “Or are you waiting for me to tell you to do it?” He half turned, looking over his shoulder with an expression on his face that made Steve’s skin tighten. “Strip, Captain.”

Steve felt the momentary urge to argue, to refuse just to refuse, but even as he thought it he was unbuttoning his shirt and shedding it. He tried not to feel Loki’s eyes on him, even if modesty now felt absurd. Loki had seen him naked before.

This felt – different.

The vibration under his skin was still there, the tension begging for answer, and he remembered what Loki had said. You want me to peel back the armor you’re only barely holding together.

This is stupid. You shouldn’t be here. You need to-

Loki’s hands pushed his out of the way, sliding down the front of his pants and squeezing. Steve jumped with a hiss and locked his eyes on Loki’s. He wasn’t smiling anymore, his eyes dark and almost terrifyingly intense. He leaned forward, barely an inch away, lips almost against Steve’s as he massaged his half-hard cock. Steve’s hips jerked forward, grinding against his hand.

“I don’t care what happened to you to bring you to me like this,” Loki said. “You are here now. Mine now. I am going to make very sure you remember it.”

Steve swayed, momentarily dizzy. Loki pulled back and walked over to the bed, sitting down and leaning back, sprawled with his knees apart, naked and terrifyingly beautiful. Steve shoved his pants and briefs off and walked over to him like he was being pulled, reeled in like a fish.

Loki dragged his head down and kissed him, tongue thrusting into his mouth. Steve bit down and felt Loki growl, his hands roaming down to grab Steve’s ass and squeeze. He climbed onto the bed, sucking on Loki’s tongue in his mouth, and felt him inhale and arch.

When he pulled back, Steve felt flushed and half-drunk. He blinked at Loki, dazed, and Loki grinned at him with all his teeth. “I am going to use you until you can’t string two thoughts together,” Loki said, and in other circumstances it might’ve sounded absurd, or like an exaggeration, but in that moment Steve just believed it and thought yes, I want-

Loki slithered out from under him and planted a hand in the middle of Steve’s back, pushing his head and shoulders down. “You know how I want you,” he purred, and Steve shuddered and didn’t argue. His body seemed aggressively sensitive, attuned to every brush of Loki’s hands, every shiver of anticipatory pleasure almost too sharp to stand.

Bent over, his ass in the air, Steve felt almost unbearably exposed, goosebumps breaking out on his skin. “You look good like this,” Loki murmured in that silky purr that Steve’s body answered like a caress. His fingers dragged over Steve’s scalp. “Bent over in submission. Mmm.

Steve made a sound, half of exasperation and half impatience. He could feel heat flooding his face, filling up his chest. He started to push upwards. “And you never-”

“Down.” Loki’s hand in his hair pressed Steve’s face into the mattress as his tongue traced a too-light line up Steve’s spine. He shuddered.

“You trying to - trying to bore me to death?” Steve managed to force out, his voice muffled. Loki laughed quietly, but there was a vicious edge underneath that made Steve’s skin feel tight (and his cock twitch).

“I thought you might need a moment.” Loki’s hand twisting in his hair, pulling harder, belied the potentially gentle words.

“I don’t need-” Steve broke off, inhaling sharply as one of Loki’s long fingers pressed into him. The lube eased it just enough, but it still burned enough to slam Steve’s eyes closed.

“Good,” Loki said. “You know I don’t have much patience.

Steve twisted but the weight of Loki’s hand holding his head down was immovable, and Loki’s finger fucking in and out of him, working more lube deeper into his body, was making it very hard to focus.

Unh-” Loki’s finger twisted and crooked and Steve jerked, pushing involuntarily back into Loki’s hand. Loki answered by thrusting a second finger into him and Steve bit his tongue so he didn’t shout.

“You take it so well,” Loki almost crooned. “Being fucked. You lie down like you were made for it. Like you’ve just been waiting for someone to come along and use you.”

Steve’s stomach burned at the same time as a shiver ran down his spine.

“Under that wholesome shell...this is what you are. Craving someone to take you apart.”

“Look who’s - look who’s talk-ah.” This time Loki dragged his fingers slowly over that spot inside him, then quickened the pace of his hand, fingers seeming to reach even deeper, making Steve squirm, his cock heavy between his legs, breathing raggedly.

“I just like it when you hurt me,” Loki said, his cool voice at odds with the sound of his labored breathing. “You want me to break you. But you’re already broken.”

Steve squeezed his eyes closed. His inhale burned. Don’t, he wanted to say, but at the same time - yes, do it, yes.

Loki’s fingers pulled out and Steve felt his cock pressing against him. Loki thrust in slowly but that only made the friction more intense and Steve gasped, almost soundlessly, his eyes starting to water.

“Feel that?” Loki murmured, his hand moving up to the back of Steve’s neck and pushing down. “Me. Inside you. And you’re almost keening for more, harder.

Steve squeezed his eyes closed, trying to find words. “Lot of - of-” His voice broke off when Loki drove the rest of the way into him, one sharp thrust that made Steve’s body spasm. He felt Loki’s laugh and his face burned.

“Do you wish I could reach even deeper?” Loki asked, pulling out of him slowly and Steve bit his tongue to keep from keening. “Somehow - hmm - fuck you into oblivion, so you could forget all your failures, all your faults-”

Steve jerked, some part of him thinking yes and another wanting to protest. He pushed up against Loki’s hand holding him down and couldn’t move him at all. The reminder of Loki’s sheer power made Steve’s stomach clench, his arousal growing.

Loki rode him slow and ruthless, but Steve could feel the tension in him, the restraint. “Stop - stop holding back,” he said. “I’m not gonna-”

He realized too late what he was saying, and Loki’s fingers pushed into his hair. “Break?” He said, voice light and mocking, but he moved his hands to Steve’s hips and oh god-

Steve shouted, only Loki’s bracing hold keeping him steady as he took Steve at his word. It was almost too intense, his fingers scrabbling for purchase, each thrust in forcing a sound from Steve that he couldn’t hold back. It was fast and hard and brutal and perfect.

Loki hauled him up by the hair, fucking deep into him with a sharp snap of his hips that Steve felt up into his core. The change in angle made him gasp, Loki’s cock seeming to press even deeper. He let go of Steve’s hair, his fingers sliding over Steve’s throat.

“Should I?” He asked lowly, hips still moving in deep, hard strokes that sent shocks through Steve’s body with every one. He felt his head drop back, wide-eyed, hardly thinking. You’re already broken.

Loki’s pace increased and Steve heard himself make a sound like a whine. Loki’s fingers squeezed.

He couldn’t breathe. The instinctive panic kicked in first, jangling strangely with the almost painful jolts of pleasure that came with each driving thrust of Loki’s cock inside him, but almost too fast the panic was just - gone.

He couldn’t breathe, black was starting to creep in at the edge of his vision, his heart racing, and the feeling that overtook him was utter euphoria.

Steve honestly wasn’t sure whether he’d just come harder than he ever had in his life or had just passed out for a second. He was only dimly aware of Loki’s hips stuttering and the hot feeling of his come in Steve’s ass.

He could feel himself shaking, suddenly feeling like he’d dropped off a cliff and was plummeting toward the bottom. He wondered vaguely what would happen when he hit. Maybe he’d shatter.

Loki pulled out of him and Steve gasped faintly. His ass felt a little raw, but not half as much as the rest of him. His throat was starting to ache.

Steve realized he was shivering.

“Steve.” Loki’s voice sounded strange - Steve’s name in his mouth sounded strange - and Steve licked his lips, trying to figure out what to say, but he didn’t think he could talk. Not yet, anyway. Maybe not ever. Maybe he would just crawl under the covers and stay there.

Loki made a sort of “mm” noise and Steve heard him move away. Leaving. Steve knew he needed to clean up - he could feel come starting to slide down the inside of his leg, and his own must be all over him and probably the sheets - but he couldn’t quite make himself move.

“Drink this,” Loki said. A glass at Steve’s lips, and without thinking he gulped the contents down. It was just water, but that seemed like enough to let Steve unfreeze a little and move, curling up and fumbling to pull the blankets over himself.

He felt the mattress shift and a moment later fingers in his hair. He braced for the sting, or tried, but Loki just combed his fingers through the short strands, ran the opposite direction to muss them up. His breathing sounded slow and even, especially compared to Steve’s, which he couldn’t quite seem to settle.

Another shift, and Loki slid under the covers. One arm draped over Steve’s waist and pulled him gently back. Steve swallowed and coughed for the ache in his throat.

“That’s it,” Loki murmured. “You’re all right.”

It seemed to take a long time for his shivering to slow, but when he finally did start to warm up, it just traded for exhaustion. There was something incongruous about the fact that there was a body still pressed against him, the heavy weight of an arm over his waist, but he couldn’t quite string together why before he drifted off.

When he woke up in the morning with a sore throat and a sore ass, Loki was gone. Steve wandered out to the kitchen, feeling decidedly peculiar, and found a glass bottle filled with...something and a short note.

For your neck. Bruises might create awkward questions. -L

Steve examined the glass bottle and finally poured out a little of the liquid and dabbed it on a small patch of his bruised throat. The ache immediately melted away.

After a long moment of staring at bottle and note, Steve put the cap back on and set it down.

The ache wasn’t that bad.

No one commented on Steve’s bruises. He hoped that meant his use of Natasha’s (borrowed) cover-up and high necked shirts had been successful. Or maybe they were just afraid to talk to him after the last attempt.

He felt a little guilty about that, but didn’t have the first idea of how to address it.

Loki, meanwhile, had vanished, seemingly off the face of the earth. No half-hearted attacks, and certainly no covert messages to Steve. At first it was almost a relief - it gave Steve some time to recover, sort out his head.

Think way too much.

He wasn’t sure he understood exactly what had happened. He was even less sure he understood the way Loki had reacted to it. They’d never actually...stayed together after - and Steve made himself think the harsh word - fucking. But Loki had - taken care of him, when Steve had been coming apart.

That’s it. You’re all right.

It scared him, more than a little. The force of his reaction. And at the same time it’d felt...good. That almost scared him more: maybe this was the start of something different, Loki trying to get in Steve’s head-

He was already in Steve’s head.

But now Loki’d just disappeared, and it was making him antsy. He couldn’t tell if it was because he was nervous about what Loki might be up to, or wanting more of what Loki gave him. He tried to keep it shoved down, and ignored the vague, not quite worry that maybe something had happened. It wasn’t like Loki lacked for enemies, from what Steve had gathered, and…

And what? Loki wasn’t his to worry about. He was busy, besides, moving into a new apartment where no one was going to spy on him.

It was...nice. Finally having his own space, even if sometimes it felt a little lonely, a little isolated. But that wasn’t exactly new.

Then a new player calling himself “Count Nefaria” (and what a name that was) showed up, and Steve had something else to worry about, mostly his broken ribs, sprained ankle, and dislocated shoulder. Oh, and the near strangulation, which wasn’t nearly as fun as it’d been when Loki did it. They’d managed to beat him back, but not completely, and Steve suspected he’d be back later for more.

All in all, it’d been a shit day.

The fact that Loki walked through his door didn’t make it any better.

“That was locked,” Steve said, standing up quickly. A stab of pain from his broken ribs protested, but he wasn’t about to let Loki see his weakness. Even if it was written all over his battered face.

Loki shrugged. “It was,” he said. His eyes narrowed, looking at Steve.

“Where the hell have you been,” Steve asked. Loki raised his eyebrows.

“Missed me?” He said, though there was a bit of an edge missing from it. His eyes flicked up and down Steve’s body, assessing. He lifted his chin and didn’t respond, waiting for Loki to make the first move.

Finally, after a long silence, Loki’s jaw twitched. “You look like you’ve been dragged behind a horse for ten miles,” he said bluntly.

Steve made himself stay straight even if it made his ribs throb. “And?”

Loki’s eyes darkened and for a moment he looked well and truly angry. Then he moved, glided over to Steve and touched a hand to the bruises on his neck. Steve locked eyes with him and Loki pulled away.

“Sit down,” he said. Steve blinked.


“Sit. Down.” Steve stayed standing, and Loki’s eyes narrowed. “You’re useless to me like this,” he said bluntly. “If your broken ribs puncture a lung you will hardly be able to perform to expectations.”

“To-” Steve nearly sputtered. Loki took a step forward, taking every advantage of that bare inch of height.

“Sit down,” Loki said. “Or I will make you. And not in a way you’ll enjoy.”

Steve blinked again, a little unnerved, but he was weakening fast. The desire to defy Loki’s order warred with the lack of desire to fall face down on the floor in front of him. Steve sat down. “Get out of my apartment,” he said flatly.

“I intend to,” Loki said, though when he swept out it was into the kitchen. Steve stared after him, flummoxed. He could hear Loki moving around in the kitchen, the sound of drawers opening and closing, a mutter just below hearing. “This is pathetic,” he said, loudly enough for Steve to hear. “How do you feed yourself?”

“If you’re just going to insult me,” Steve said, starting to push himself up.

“Sit down,” Loki said again, and Steve scowled when he realized that he had. “I insult you fairly frequently. You don’t usually seem to mind.”

Steve felt himself flush, but his head was starting to hurt again and he couldn’t think of a witty response. He put his head down on the table instead, hoping Loki would get bored and leave. He couldn’t deal with him, not right now.

Instead he jerked out of a doze to a light tap on his shoulder and the smell of soup. He stared at it, and then turned his head to stare at Loki, who quirked an eyebrow at him.

“What is this,” he said, groggy and thoroughly baffled.

“Soup,” Loki said, with a faintly condescending air that said obviously. “Tomato, since that was all you had, but I tried to make it a little more interesting.” Steve stared at the steaming bowl, dearly wanting to ask what the hell are you doing.

“I recommend eating it before it gets cold,” Loki said, still in that vaguely condescending voice.

“What the hell are you doing,” Steve said. Loki opened his mouth and Steve added, “no, I mean, why are you doing this?”

“Doing what?” Loki asked, too perfectly innocent. Steve narrowed his eyes.

“Making me soup. Acting like-” Like you care, he meant to say, but cut off. Loki glanced away, for the first time seeming...embarrassed? No, uncomfortable.

“Proprietary interest in keeping you in one piece. More or less,” he said casually. Steve pulled the bowl toward him and took a cautious bite to delay having to respond. It was...actually good. Steve half wanted to ask what Loki had added, but he wasn’t going to.

“Proprietary interest,” Steve said flatly.

“Indeed,” Loki said, looking back at him with a crooked, sharp smile. “I am the only one allowed to ruin you.”

Steve stiffened, a shiver running briefly down his spine. “I hate to break it to you,” he said, “but there are a lot of other people who try to beat me up.”

“I’ll have to have a word with them,” Loki said, his smile getting even sharper. Steve put down his spoon.

“I don’t belong to you.”

“I beg to differ.” Loki glided over and tipped Steve’s head back. He clenched his jaw, glaring up at him, and winced as Loki’s fingers brushed over his black eye. His body tensed involuntarily.

“You’re reckless,” he said, his voice strange.

Steve pulled away. “I don’t exactly lead a risk free life.”

“You hunt death,” Loki said. “You chase it. That’s why you keep coming back to me.”

Steve’s entire body ached and his stomach clenched. Loki wasn’t wrong. He should be, but he wasn’t, and hearing it from his mouth made Steve feel nauseous. “Get out,” he said again. Loki took a step back, his eyes dark and inscrutable.

“Don’t go seeking destruction,” Loki said. “You have me to give it to you.”

He left. A half hour later, Steve realized that the swelling around his eye was going down. Within an hour, the bruise was gone.

Steve stared at his face in the mirror and felt at the skin. The smaller cuts were gone, too.

Loki was playing at something. Steve wished he knew what it was.

Chapter Text

Another quiet evening at home, and Steve started up from his chair at a quiet knock on the door. He narrowed his eyes at it, wondering if Loki had decided to drop in unannounced to check on him or some nonsense.

Still, he got up and went to answer it.

It wasn’t Loki. It was Natasha.

“Hey,” she said, with a crooked, slightly sheepish looking smile. “Can I come in? I brought takeout.” She held up the brown paper bag.

Steve eyed her, but after a long moment he stepped back. “Bribery?” He said dryly.

“Sure,” Natasha said, setting the bag down on the kitchen counter. “I figured I might need some.”

Steve felt a little touch of shame. “Can I get you anything?” He asked. “Water?”

“Water’d be great.”

Steve filled a glass from the pitcher in the fridge and set it down in front of her. She pushed it back and forth between her hands.

“I wanted to apologize,” she said finally. “Spying on you was wrong, whatever my intentions. Old habits are hard to break.” She half smiled again, though it didn’t quite reach her eyes. “And we...shouldn’t have cornered you. I get the feeling that was about the worst thing we could’ve done.”

Yeah, Steve thought uncharitably. Just about. Aloud, he said, “thank you.”

Natasha took a small sip of her water. “Can I say something?”

“Sure,” Steve said, trying not to sound as wary as he felt. Natasha glanced up.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” she said. “What kind of stuff you’ve gotten into. And maybe it’s what you need right now, I don’t know. We’re all of us...we’re all of us dealing with shit. You more than a lot of people. And how we do that...well, I can’t necessarily throw stones.” Steve kept his face still. “But if you ever...if you get in too deep and need a way out, or just an know where to find me. And I don’t judge.”

Steve just looked at her, his skin prickling. You’d judge, he thought miserably. You’d definitely judge if you knew the whole truth. But he didn’t, to his surprise, feel angry. He imagined trying to explain: you see, Loki and I have this deal. We’ve been sleeping together for a while. He hurts me and I like it.

That wasn’t happening.

“I know,” he said slowly. “And...thank you. But I’m...dealing with it.”

“I’m not talking to Captain America about being an effective team leader,” Natasha said. “I’m talking to Steve Rogers. Just so we’re clear.”

“I know,” Steve said again. He summoned up a weak smile, though it fell away quickly. “And...I’m sorry too. I’ve been acting like a complete heel, to you and everyone else. You don’t deserve that.”

“I don’t know,” Natasha said. “Sometimes we probably do.”

“Not most of the time,” Steve said. “And I’m...going to try to do better.”

“Huh.” Natasha looked at him with a sort of strange expression on her face. “Something’s changed, hasn’t it?”

Steve blinked. “What?”

“You seem…” Natasha gestured. “Calmer. Less wound up.” She cocked her head and raised an eyebrow. “It’s a good look on you.”

Steve’s thoughts flashed, oddly, to the weight of Loki’s arm draped over his waist, steadying him. He bit the inside of his cheek. “Really,” he said as neutrally as he could manage. “That’s...interesting.”

Natasha flashed him a smile. “Well, whatever it is...good. I’m glad.” She reached for the bag of takeout. “And I think that’s enough real talk for now. Dim sum?”

“Sounds great,” Steve said. Oddly, it felt like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders.

They didn’t talk much. It was the best dinner Steve could remember having in a long time.

You seem calmer, Natasha had said. Steve could feel it, too. Like something had leveled out in him – slightly, but still. And the thing was that he knew why. Knew exactly why, and was more than a little terrified by it.

By the fact that apparently when he started feeling wound too tight, like he was about to explode, the quickest way to unwind was calling Loki. And more than that, too – that he actively looked forward to it. Half wondered why he was waiting for an excuse, why he was waiting for Loki to ask or waiting until he was miserable.

Why not just embrace it, whispered a dangerously seductive voice that in Steve’s head sounded all too much like Loki. Why not just dive in. Stop pretending.

The real question, to Steve’s mind, was what Loki was thinking.

Steve pulled a post-it off the door to the hotel room. Come in, it said, in Loki’s handwriting, and he glanced at the keycard slot and jiggled the handle.

To his surprise, it opened, though Steve heard it click shut behind him and suspected if anyone else tried it would be locked. He glanced around the room – a suite easily twice the size of his childhood apartment – and didn’t see Loki, but he could hear the shower running.

“Really?” He called. “You told me when to get here.”

No answer. Steve’s stomach flipped a little nervously and he edged forward over to the bathroom door and opened it.

He blinked, stopping with his hand on the doorknob and staring at Loki standing under the stream of water, surrounded by steam, his back to the door as he ran his fingers through his hair. Utterly unselfconscious, and it struck Steve again how beautiful he was.

“Don’t stand there gawking,” Loki said lazily, glancing over his shoulder. “You took long enough.”

“I took-” Steve cut off, but he started forward, pausing for only a moment before pulling off his shirt and stepping out of his pants. He eyed the shower, though. “This is new.”

“What,” Loki said, his eyebrows lifting as he turned toward Steve. “You’ve never taken a shower before?”

Steve glared at him. “You know what I mean.” Loki just smiled at him, and Steve stepped into the open shower. Loki didn’t move toward him, forcing Steve to go to him - and he went, goosebumps breaking out on his skin.

Loki threw his head back and looked down his nose at Steve, still smiling. “What are you waiting for,” Steve almost snapped, bizarrely self-conscious.

“You’re still gawking,” Loki said, sounding amused. “Just a little closer.”

Steve growled and dragged Loki in by the back of his neck, pushing his head to the side so he could fix his mouth to his pale throat and suck a bruise into the skin. Loki moaned, arching against him, and heat flared up in Steve’s stomach. Loki grabbed onto his arm, fingers digging in, body moving against him in an almost serpentine motion.

Steve pulled back, panting. “Better?”

Loki chuckled. “Much.” His fingers flexed on Steve’s arm. “I hope you weren’t planning on stopping there.”

Steve pulled Loki’s head back by his hair and fixed his mouth under his jaw. Their bodies pressed together, Steve could feel Loki’s cock stirring; his own was already half hard. Loki pulled Steve further under the spray, one of his hands sliding down to take Steve in hand.

Steve gasped and inhaled water. Loki laughed but moved so Steve could breathe clearly, though most of his attention was with Loki’s fingers dancing over his cock, stiffening under his touch. Steve gasped and shuddered as he ran a fingertip in circles over the head, traced the sensitive ridge just underneath, pressed just above Steve’s balls.

“Good,” Loki murmured, and Steve shuddered again, warmth flooding through him. He made a faint noise at the back of his throat. One of Loki’s thumbs brushed over his lips and for a moment Steve imagined sucking it into his mouth and seeing how Loki responded, but Loki’s hand fell away too quickly.

The other wrapped around the base of Steve’s cock and squeezed.

Steve jerked with an incoherent sound, stumbling back as Loki pushed him until he hit the wall of the shower, smooth tile cold on his skin. His hand loosened and Steve thrust into it without thinking; the puff of air from Loki’s laugh was cool on his hot skin.

God, Steve bit back. He could just imagine what Loki would say to that.

Loki dropped his head down and flicked his tongue along Steve’s collarbone, leaning his weight into him and pressing Steve back into the tile. His delicate fingers squeezed and Steve gasped; Loki moved and swallowed the sound, mouth fixed to Steve’s, tongue thrusting into his open mouth. Steve bit down and Loki made a low, pleased noise that made Steve’s cock twitch in Loki’s hand.

He wasn’t quick and he wasn’t rough, but there was still a certain ruthlessness to the implacable, regular strokes of Loki’s hand, the friction riding the edge of too intense. Loki twisted his wrist and ran his thumb in a circle over Steve’s cockhead, pushing against the slit; the air left him in a rush and his knees almost buckled. Loki’s body undulated against his and Steve could feel his cock, hot and hard, sliding against Steve’s hip as he worked Steve into a frenzy.

“Come on,” Steve groaned, when Loki let him up for air. “Stop fooling around-“

“Who’s fooling,” Loki murmured, and tugged Steve’s cock hard enough to make his eyes water. But he quickened his pace and before long Steve was gasping in desperate need, lust clenching like a fist in his gut, thrusting against Loki’s hand around him. Loki’s other hand slid down between Steve’s legs and cupped his balls, squeezing gently.

Steve cried out and came, his orgasm zinging through his body from his toes to the crown of his head.

Loki released him and Steve made a noise of protest, his thoughts still a blur, before Loki pressed forward so his body was flush against Steve’s, one of his hands sliding around the back of Steve’s neck. His hips rocked against Steve, the stiff length of him sliding against his hip. On impulse, Steve slid his hands down and grabbed Loki’s ass like he could pull Loki harder against him; Loki moaned and bit Steve’s shoulder. Steve could feel him breathing in sharp, desperate little bursts as his pace quickened, body twisting like a snake’s and then stiffening against Steve. He felt the splash of hot liquid on his skin for a moment before the water washed it away.

Loki reached back and turned the shower off, panting. He pulled back from Steve just a little, who didn’t try to straighten yet, still feeling unsteady. Loki’s gaze swept up and down Steve’s body, slow and lazy. Steve could feel his face getting hot.

“What,” he said, resisting the absurd urge to cover himself.

“You look intact once more,” Loki said, an edge to his voice that made Steve’s face get hotter and stirred up fresh arousal. “That’s good.”

“What are you planning?” Steve asked, but the hum in his nerves was less nervous than anticipatory. Loki glided out of the shower and threw Steve a towel.

“We tried pain,” Loki said. “I was curious what happens if I push you in the other direction.” His eyes glittered, and Steve swallowed.

“The other direction?” He said blankly. Loki picked up his towel and turned back toward Steve.

“I am going to wring you dry,” Loki said, his voice lowering, seeming to wind through Steve’s gut and pull. “Make you come again and again and see how far you can go before crying surrender.”

Steve’s thoughts stuttered and for a second he forgot how to breathe. Scrambling, he said, “you think I will?”

“I think you’ll have to,” Loki said, his smile full of sharp edges as he dried himself off. “Eventually, you just won’t have anything left to give.”

Steve’s mouth went dry and he just blinked at Loki, whose smile somehow managed to widen. He wrapped the towel around his waist and swept out of the bathroom, and after a moment Steve trailed after him into the bedroom. His eyes caught on the enormous bed, mind briefly filling with a jumble of tantalizing images.

Loki, meanwhile, turned, letting the towel fall away, his head cocked as he looked at Steve.

“What,” Steve said a little belligerently, very aware of his body, of the too-quick beat of his heart. Loki didn’t seem affected.

“I was just considering where to start,” he said, the corners of his lips curving upwards. “And, well. You are a beautiful creature.”

Steve’s face got hot and he thought he should probably be indignant. He wasn’t. Loki’s lips twitched and he sauntered over to Steve, his fingers folding into the knot of the towel around his waist and pulling him in, head tilted slightly down so their eyes locked, staring at each other.

“What’re you waiting for,” Steve said, his pulse throbbing in his stomach.

They held like that a breath, then Loki tugged at the towel with one hand, pulling it away, and twisted Steve around, shoving him back. His knees knocked into the bed and he sat down, surprised, as Loki advanced on him, leaning forward over him-

Only to slide down gracefully to his knees, hands guiding Steve’s knees apart. He inhaled through his nose, catching just the brief quirk of Loki’s lips before he ducked his head down, pressing his mouth to Steve’s inner thigh.

“Oh,” burst out of him before he could bite it back, and he felt Loki’s soft laugh. The low-burning heat in his stomach coalesced into something more definite, and he felt his cock twitch.

“I thought I should try to start you gently,” Loki said, faintly mocking. Steve tensed.

“I don’t,” he started to say, but then Loki moved, mouth close enough that Steve felt his exhale on his cock, and his voice broke off.

“Mmhm,” Loki said. His lips just brushed against skin and Steve bit down on a moan as his cock swelled under that slight touch. He squeezed his eyes closed. “Should I hold you down?” Loki asked, and Steve could feel every motion of his lips. “Or should I let you have a little freedom, for now…”

Steve bit down on his lower lip. “I figure you’re - you’re going to do what you want whatever I say,” he said.

Loki laughed and Steve couldn’t hold back a groan. “Yes,” he agreed. “Probably.” He turned his head and swept his tongue up the length of Steve’s cock before sliding his mouth over the head.

Steve gasped, his hips bucking upwards. He grabbed Loki’s shoulder, squeezing hard, but Loki just hummed, sounding pleased.

Loki lifted his head, letting Steve’s cock slip out of his mouth, just his tongue flicking against him. Steve shuddered violently, feeling it seemingly through his whole body. Loki glanced up at him with a sly grin, but only for a moment before he dropped his head again and swallowed Steve in one smooth motion.

Steve made a high pitched, strangled noise, the obscene, wet sound of Loki sucking making his whole face burn. Loki’s throat squeezed around him as he swallowed, then backed off just slightly. It was all Steve could do not to thrust back into the moist heat of Loki’s mouth. His cock throbbed and he grabbed handfuls of the blanket, feeling as though he was only getting hotter, harder.

Then Loki surfaced again, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand and looking up at Steve. His lips were reddened to match the flush in his cheeks, his eyes dark and hungry.

He unfolded to standing and then planted his hands on Steve’s shoulders. He resisted, but Loki bore him down to his back anyway, feet still resting on the floor as Loki climbed onto the bed, kneeling over him. Steve shoved himself further up where he was more fully on the mattress, grabbed the back of Loki’s head and hauled him down to where he could sink his teeth into Loki’s shoulder.

Loki shuddered with a loud moan, his hips dropping down. Steve felt Loki’s cock nudge against his stomach, and then Loki wrapped his fingers around them both, lengths pressed together. Steve closed his eyes and almost thrashed, a mighty pulse of heat rushing through him, excruciatingly aware of the velvety texture of Loki’s cock on his.

A moment later Loki released them and sat up, leaving Steve gasping and bereft. “Tease,” he accused. Loki laughed lowly.

“I am hardly planning to leave you...unfulfilled,” he said, voice full of promise that made Steve’s stomach clench in anticipation.

Oh, good, Steve thought of saying, but was distracted by Loki’s dragging his thumb down the underside of Steve’s erection. He seemed to be considering something, and paused, glancing at Steve. “I think I should make sure you don’t try anything...unexpected,” he said. “Hands over your head.”

Steve didn’t move. “Why?”

Loki leaned forward, slightly. “Because I am going to bind your arms so you are entirely at my mercy while I ride you,” he said, and Steve’s whole body twitched. “Any more stupid questions?”

Steve put his hands over his head, feeling almost hypnotized, and felt the faint brush of something winding around his wrists, holding his arms down. He tried to pull away and couldn’t move even an inch.

Something in him went slack while something else wound tight. Steve swallowed hard, staring up at Loki, whose lips curved in a wicked smile.

“Would that you could see the look on your face,” he said, summoning a bottle of lube with a twist of his hand and coating his fingers.

Steve watched Loki work himself open, his face as hot as the blood filling his cock as Loki twisted and gasped and anticipation built. Steve half wished it was him, his fingers getting that reaction, even as every fruitless tug against the magic holding him down brought fresh waves of mingled pleasure and, strangely, relief.

Then Loki was moving again, one lube-slick hand on Steve’s cock, sliding along his length. Steve dragged in a gasping inhale as Loki lined himself up over Steve’s cock, the head bumping against the curve of Loki’s ass, pressing against his body, the building pressure and then give. Steve felt Loki shudder, heard him make a thin sound through his teeth, and his eyes slammed closed for the hot, tight squeeze around just the head of his cock.

“Loki,” burst out of Steve before he could call it back, but he didn’t answer, and when Steve forced his eyes open his breath caught, seeing him with his lips parted and eyelids fluttering. It wasn’t the first time, but this felt - different.


Loki’s fingers curled into Steve’s chest and he made a low sound that Steve felt deep in his stomach. His arms flexed unconsciously against the invisible bonds holding him down as Loki bore down onto him, Steve’s cock pushing into his body. Steve squeezed his eyes closed and panted, hard, arousal almost a cramp in his stomach. He twisted his head to the side only to start at a stinging swat to his chest.

“Oh no,” Loki said, his voice thick, eyes almost black. “No hiding, Captain. Not from this. Not from me.

Steve bit down on his lower lip and forced his eyes open, turning his head back to look up at Loki straddling him. The moment Steve met his eyes, Loki smiled.

“There,” he said, and moved. “I should just keep you like this. I can think of all kinds of entertaining things to do with you, naked on your back like this.”

Steve inhaled shakily, fingernails digging into his palms, his hips bucking upwards to take back the inch he’d lost. A pulse of hot satisfaction went through him when Loki went rigid, his spine stiffening, smug smile cracking momentarily.

“You - were saying?” He managed. Loki’s grin came back.

“If that’s meant to be deterrent…”

“No,” Steve pushed out. “Just - telling you to get on with it.”

Loki laughed lowly and moved, riding Steve’s cock with slow, rolling motions of his hips, erection bobbing against his stomach with his movements. Naked, his hair loose and mussed, eyes almost black with desire and chest heaving, Loki looked like a vision: beautiful, unearthly.

Steve’s eyes slammed closed and he swallowed a whimper as Loki shifted, the fresh angle turning the friction almost painfully sweet. He bucked his hips again and felt Loki gasp and shudder.

“Aha,” he said, maybe a little stupidly, and did it again, but when Loki’s back arched, body squeezing around Steve’s cock, he lost it.

His eyes slammed closed and he groaned as he came, heat shivering through his body in waves, something clenching like a fist low in his stomach, almost painful. As his orgasm ebbed Steve slumped back to the bed, panting, wide-eyed and limp. The bonds holding his arms vanished, but Steve didn’t move just yet.

Loki’s fingers dragged down Steve’s chest and he stared up at him: his eyes dark and wild, straddling Steve’s hips, his erection curving up toward his stomach.

“What do you want,” Steve heard himself ask, though the words came out slurred and only half intelligible. Apparently it was enough, because Loki laughed, soft and slightly ragged.

“You left some – mm, unfinished business,” Loki said, with a gesture and a faint smile. He lifted his hips so Steve’s softening cock slipped out of him, one slim, pale, hand wrapping around his own cock. “Unless, of course, you don’t feel capable.

Steve found the energy, somewhere, to hook one of Loki’s knees and flip them over, putting Loki on his back. Loki gasped and arched up against him, his cock throbbing hot against Steve’s hip where their bodies were pressed together. Steve ground down against him and Loki moaned loudly.

“I feel – feel plenty capable,” Steve said. Loki looked up at him, eyes narrowed, and for a moment Steve felt a shiver run down his spine, half fear and half lust, the two far too close together. Loki’d never seemed to mind before, but abruptly he wondered if this time...

“You’re lucky I’m feeling forgiving,” Loki said, with a sudden, sharp smile.

Steve’s thoughts flickered and he pushed himself up, not letting himself think, and shimmied down Loki’s body until he was staring at his cock again. This time he didn’t hesitate before taking a deep breath and sucking the head into his mouth.

The taste still made Steve’s nose wrinkle a little – salty and faintly bitter – but he was still riding high on the aftermath of his orgasm, drinking in the way Loki tensed and then relaxed with a groaning sigh. Even if he couldn’t get it up again yet, Steve still felt a pulse of arousal in his stomach.

He bobbed his head down, jaw stretching, adjusting the angle of his head to take as much as he dared without choking. He had to pull back fast when Loki’s hips bucked, but Loki’s hand caught the back of Steve’s head and held him in place.

“No,” he said, voice harsh, rumbling in his chest like a growl that made Steve’s stomach clench. “You don’t do that. You’ll take it if I want you to.”

Steve sucked in a breath through his nose, but with his mouth full he couldn’t exactly argue, and the throb of heat in his groin meant he didn’t really want to. He relaxed, and Loki ran his fingers through Steve’s hair.

“Better,” he murmured, and Steve let out a muffled moan. By the way Loki shuddered under him, he felt it.

For all Loki’s words, he let Steve set the pace; his hand stayed heavy on the back of Steve’s head but he didn’t push even as Steve could feel his need building. He was vocal enough to make Steve blush, though, sure every moan and cry of “yes, that’s good” was audible through the walls.

And at the same time, every sound dug down into Steve until he could feel himself hardening, chasing Loki’s satisfaction with single-minded determination. Loki’s fingers curved, scratching his scalp, his back arching as he made a high pitched keening sound. Steve felt almost dizzy.

Loki came with a cry, and if Steve tried to pull back now, Loki did hold him, hips pumping in shallow thrusts as he spilled on the back of Steve’s tongue so he had to swallow or choke.

When Loki’s hold went slack, Steve lifted his head and looked down at him, feeling a little smug. Loki’s eyes were glazed slits, his lips curved in a slight but unmistakable smile. It was the look of a momentarily satiated predator, and Steve felt a tug below his navel, lust and something more dangerous. The smug feeling slipped away.

He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “You done?” He said, his voice coming out rough.

“Don’t rush me,” Loki said coolly. “Can I not enjoy looking at you for a moment? Your lips red and swollen, your face flushed…” He smirked. “The taste of my seed still in your mouth.”

Steve felt his face get hotter, but he also lurched forward, climbing back up Loki’s body to pull his head back and bite down on his throat. Loki shuddered again, grabbed Steve’s arms and yanked him off balance, flipping Steve onto his back. Loki’s eyes flicked pointedly down between Steve’s legs.

“Oh, well,” he murmured. “You’ve gotten to like sucking my cock, haven’t you?”

Steve twitched. “Don’t get smug.”

Loki’s expression sharpened. “Are you trying to tell me what to do?”

Steve swallowed. “What’re you going to do about it if I am?”

Loki smiled at him again, vicious and intoxicating, and hitched Steve’s hips up, throwing his legs over his shoulders so he was bent almost in half. Steve pushed back but Loki didn’t budge in the slightest, stroking his fingers over Steve’s balls, cupping them in his palm and tugging lightly. Steve heard himself whine and his face heated. His breathing was quick, strained, his whole body unbelievably taut.

Slick fingers circled his asshole and Steve’s teeth clicked together. “Still clenched so tight,” Loki murmured, low and silky, and Steve shivered. “Let’s see if I can change that.”

He worked his fingers into Steve’s body, slow but implacable. He forced his eyes to stay open as Loki kept him effortlessly in place, pinned on his back with Loki’s fingers deep inside.

A yelp bubbled up in Steve’s throat and he just swallowed it back, his cock twitching and jerking as Loki curled his fingers. He squirmed, not quite struggling even if his body was starting to ache. Loki grinned at him, leaning forward as his fingers stroked ruthlessly, again, again-

“Oh god,” Steve heard himself say without meaning to. “Oh - ahhh-

That sounds good,” Loki murmured. “The sound of you coming apart.”

Steve threw his head back and closed his eyes, clenching his jaw. “I’m not - not-”

But he was. Unraveling, and he just wanted Loki to keep pulling.

Loki rubbed his fingers over that spot inside him once more and Steve came, his orgasm almost pushed out of him without a single touch to his cock. His head was already spinning and he had a feeling that Loki wasn’t done.

Something in Steve wasn’t either. Even with the exhaustion tugging at him, the feeling like his skin was superheated and too sensitive, there was still something burning that insisted it wasn’t enough, he needed more, needed to keep going.

He grabbed Loki and hauled him down to savage his mouth, biting his lip, thrusting his tongue into Loki’s mouth.

“Turn over,” Loki said when Steve finally pulled away. He didn’t even think about arguing.

Loki’s fingers slid slickly back into him, spreading wide and then withdrawing. Loki slid his cock against Steve’s ass, rocking against him.

“Stop - stalling,” Steve said, his tongue only tripping a little. Loki hummed, sounding amused, but a moment later his cock was pressing against Steve’s body and then sliding slowly into him. Steve squeezed his eyes closed and bit back a whimper, not quite able to tell if he wanted more or if it was already too much.

Loki bottomed out and Steve heard him moan, his hands digging in where they held Steve’s hips with enough force to make Steve gasp.

“Shall we,” Loki said, his voice a little taut and breathless. He breathed out, started over. “Shall we - see how long you can last like this?” He pulled Steve’s hips back, his hips thrusting forward, and Steve let out a sharp ah at the feel of him shifting inside.

“I can take anything you give,” Steve said. He thought he meant it as defiance - I can do this all day - but it came out as something else. Loki’s hands flexed and for a moment he was quiet before making that sound in his chest, as close as a person could get to a purr.

“Can you, now,” he said, voice dropping slightly, and Steve could’ve sworn he felt Loki’s cock in him twitch. “We’ll see.”

Steve sucked in a breath as Loki pulled out of him almost completely, holding it. He expected Loki to start slow, work his way up.

This time he didn’t bother.

He hammered into Steve, fast, brutal strokes that sent rippling shockwaves up Steve’s spine. He shouted into the sheets, his eyes starting to water. Loki was going to break him like this, and as his cock filled Steve again and again, he thought that might not be a bad thing.

“There,” he heard Loki gasp, and Steve’s body hummed with an echo of the pleasure he could hear in his voice. He panted, his ass already raw, nerves already stretched to the breaking point.

Loki stopped and Steve made an embarrassing, whimpering sound that rose to a sharp yelp as Loki wrapped a lube-slicked hand around his cock.


“You said,” Loki interrupted, “you could take it.”

Steve fell quiet, gasping. He could feel Loki’s cock throbbing deep inside, his entire body almost vibrating. He felt dizzy, overwhelmed, and still something in him wanted - more. Wanted to break and give in and just-

Loki’s hand tugged at his length and Steve moaned.

“So take it,” Loki said, voice low and insistent, and Steve shivered and nodded before he was aware of deciding to do so.

Loki’s other hand stroked over his hip almost gently before he started again, thrusting in rhythm with the fast, rough strokes of his hand and Steve rocked with it, gasping for every breath, pushing closer and closer to some invisible edge.

“That’s it,” Loki said, almost soft. “Stay with me, yes, Steve...” If his words were gentle, though, the way his hand pumped Steve’s cock in time with his deep, driving thrusts was anything but. Steve’s body was raw, excruciatingly sensitive, and every stroke in rubbed across the spot in him that made Steve jump and shudder, a cry - almost a sob - exploding from his lungs. Loki’s cool hand spread across his overheated back, slid down to his hip. His whole body was vibrating and the idea of coming sounded excruciating.

“I can’t,” he said, his voice breaking. “Loki, I-”

“Yes,” Loki said, undeniable. “You can.” He pulled his hand away and Steve let out a sound like a whine; when he gripped him again Loki’s palm slid smoothly against his skin. Steve gasped raggedly; he felt so close but also like if he came now he was going to explode, or maybe implode.

“Now, Captain,” Loki said, bending over and scraping his teeth against the back of Steve’s neck. “Stop-” thrust- “holding-” thrust- “back-”

“Aaah-” The sound Steve made as he came was breathless, barely audible, a scream he didn’t have the air to make. Loki fucked him through it, through the full-body spasms, tears streaming down his face until he was empty. He took the last few thrusts before Loki finished with his eyes closed, wrung out and used up.

Dazed. Gasping.

He started to shiver, his temperature plummeting. Loki pulled out of him and Steve wanted to say no, don’t, but he couldn’t shape the words or make them get from his mouth to his brain. All he could do was lie here, but he didn’t really want to do anything else, so that was fine.

A blanket settled over him. The warmth of it felt good, and Steve opened his eyes and turned his head to see Loki looking at him, an odd expression on his face. “Here,” he said, holding out a glass of water. “You need to drink.”

“Not thirsty,” Steve said. Loki’s eyes narrowed.

“Drink,” he said more firmly, and after a moment Steve took the glass and sipped at it, only to end up gulping the whole thing. He glanced back at Loki, who seemed pleased.

Oddly, that made Steve feel pleased too. Like he’d done something right.

Loki reached out toward his head like he was going to run his fingers into Steve’s hair, but then his hand fell away and he just stood, walking over to run a washcloth under the sink. Steve kept his eyes open so he could watch, eyeing the lean muscle of his naked back.

When he came back over it was to wipe Steve clean: gently running the warm washcloth over his stomach and chest, cleaning up the come leaking from his ass. His skin was almost overwhelmingly sensitive, but it still felt good. If strange.

He couldn’t remember why it’d be strange, though.

Loki dropped the washcloth on the floor and stretched back out on the bed. “Can you talk yet?”

“Yeah,” Steve said, though he wasn’t entirely sure about that. Loki exhaled quietly.

“Never mind,” he said. “Close your eyes. You need to rest.”

Steve frowned. “You leaving?”

“No,” Loki said after a moment. “Not just yet.”

“Mm.” He still felt...raw. And very, very tired. Steve realized he was shaking, his breathing a little ragged.

Loki’s hand cupped the back of his neck. “Look at me,” he said, and Steve opened his eyes before he could remember to argue. “You’re fine,” he said, quiet but firm. “Steady on.”

Steve closed his eyes again. The light pressure on the back of his neck felt...good. Grounding.

It’s okay. It’s all okay.

He drifted.

When Steve woke up in the morning, still tired and more than a little sore, he was on his own. He wondered how long Loki had stayed, and what game Loki was playing. Something was different, and different, with Loki, could mean anything.

Steve rubbed the back of his neck, remembering how Loki’s hand had felt there. Not threatening at all.

Steve passed his thumb over the keyboard several times before he wrote, My apartment. We need to talk.

He didn’t want to. Everything in him was screaming to just leave it alone. But with Loki, anything changing seemed like bad news, and something had changed. He seemed to be veering wildly from one extreme to another, acting like he was going to kill Steve and then switching to almost disorienting gentleness, and it scared Steve how much he was coming to rely on both.

And of course he couldn’t tell what Loki was thinking. Probably what Loki was thinking wouldn’t make sense anyway, but he needed to try.

It wasn’t just Loki, either. Comparing what Loki had done for him when he was crashing with what he’d done when Loki had made him...goaded Steve into hurting him. Bad, like it was payment, or something, and the nauseating lurch when Steve had realized what he’d done. He hadn’t known how to deal with it and he’d bolted.

That felt...wrong, now. Like something he needed to fix.

There was no response from Loki for almost three hours, and Steve had started to get an itch between his shoulder blades when a text popped up on his screen. Not words that typically precede anything pleasant. This evening, your place.

It vanished after he read it, and when Steve tried to respond the message failed to deliver.

Wasn’t that just typical.

Steve paced around his apartment, trying to think what to say, but he hadn’t come up with anything by the time Loki appeared in Steve’s living room, wearing black slacks and a green button down that he managed to make look like armor. “Is this you announcing an end to our liaison?” Loki asked, his eyebrows quirking slightly.

Steve hesitated only a moment. “No,” he said slowly. “This is me...trying to figure out what’s changed.”

Loki’s shoulders tensed in a very minute movement, but Steve was used to noticing that by now. “Changed?”

“Yeah,” Steve said. “You’ve been acting...different. Strange.” Loki cocked his head to the side and Steve cleared his throat. “You’ve, um...stuck around. And when I was injured-”

Loki made a sharp, dismissive gesture. “As I told you, proprietary interest. I hardly want to break you so far as to lose the use of you.”

Steve gritted his teeth and took a deep breath before responding. “And that’s all.”

“That is all.” Loki eyed him. “Is that the sole reason you summoned me? How terribly tiresome.”

“No,” Steve said, even more carefully. “That’s not all. Especially because I don’t believe you.”

Again that minute tension, winding a little tighter. “Is that so.”

“It is.” Steve hesitated, and then said, “And I wanted to...apologize.”

Loki narrowed his eyes. “Whatever for? I assure you, if you had done anything worth an apology, you would know.”

“I…” Steve hesitated. “I ran away. When you made me...when I hurt you, I didn’t…”

“Captain,” Loki said, his voice rich with condescension, “you hurting me was rather the point.”

“I know, but…” Steve worked his jaw. “It doesn’t feel right.”

Loki scoffed. “A fit of conscience? Now? Captain. I thought you were finished with such hesitations.” His lips curved in a sharp, deadly smile. “You know what I am, as I know what you are. If you recall, I haven’t exactly been kind to you. That isn’t why either of us is here.”

Steve hesitated. “That’s what’s changed,” he said slowly.

Loki raised his eyebrows. “Enlighten me, then, as to what you think has...changed.”

“I don’t know how to say it,” Steve said slowly. “But something has. You have.”

Something in Loki’s stance shifted, slightly. “You think so? You think that...what, that since I am fucking you I must have absorbed some of your goodness? Perhaps that you can fuck me back to the light and cure my wicked, wicked ways? We both know that isn’t what you want.”

“That’s not what I said, either,” Steve said, frustration rising. “I don’t know why but you’re treating me differently. You’re acting like you, like you care, somehow-”

Loki laughed, sharp and harsh. “I do not. You misunderstand, Captain. Perhaps you have forgotten the nature of our relationship. Do you need a reminder?” Loki stepped toward him and Steve held his ground, looking him in the eye.

“What,” he said, “am I too close?”

Loki’s lips pulled back from his teeth. “You have never been further from the mark. Come, Captain. Dance with me.” He was breathing strangely, quick and hard, and his hands went to the buttons of his shirt, almost tearing them off as he unbuttoned it.

“No,” Steve said. “Stop it. This is a conversation. You’re not getting out of it by-”

“We don’t have conversations,” Loki interrupted, dropping his shirt and closing the distance between them.

“Would you just shut up for a second?” Steve said, his voice rising. Loki grinned savagely.

“Make me,” he said, leaning toward Steve. “All the tension in you. Unleash it. That’s what I want. All the darkness eating away at your soul? I could swallow all of it and it wouldn’t be enough. You think you know what I am but you have barely touched the surface. You feel guilty for what you did to me once? I’ve never felt better. Give it to me. Haven’t I earned that?”

Loki’s chest heaved. There was something...different in his eyes, a different kind of danger that made Steve’s skin prickle with a nervousness that wasn’t exactly pleasant. He pulled back slowly and Loki snarled.

“What are you waiting for,” he said.

Steve felt like he’d had his head dunked in a bucket of cold water. “I don’t think…”

Loki’s lip curled. “Then stop thinking. That isn’t what we’re here to do, is it?” His eyes darkened, that sense of something wrong deepening. “Have I shocked you? I wouldn’t expect you to flinch now.” He stepped back, just a step. “Do I need to show you how it’s done?”

Loki raised his left hand, grabbed one of those slender, delicate fingers, and wrenched.

The snap of bone breaking jerked Steve out of his freeze and he moved, grabbing Loki’s right arm and pulling it away. “What the hell is wrong with you,” he heard himself say. Loki just looked at him and grinned too widely.

“Do you want a comprehensive list?”

“Cut it out,” Steve growled, anger tangling with confusion and a surprised kind of horror, snapped his own finger, just like that.

Loki flashed his teeth. “Or what?”

“Or nothing,” Steve snapped. “I’m not going to - shit!” Loki surged like he was going to knock Steve back, throw him down, and Steve reacted automatically, shoving back and pinning Loki to the floor. Loki stared up at him, breathing hard and fast. Steve’s eyes flicked to the index finger on his left hand, bent at a wrong angle. “What is going on,” he demanded. Loki’s jaw set, and Steve leaned forward. “Tell me.”

Loki shuddered. His whole body, and then he seemed to go limp. His eyes went blank. “Nothing.”

“Bullshit,” Steve snapped.

A grin, but it was brittle and strange. “I am mad, remember? It catches up sometimes.” Steve just looked at him, refusing to budge, and Loki’s gaze moved away.

“If I let you go are you going to break another finger,” Steve asked, finally. He kept his voice flat, though his own heart was still racing.


Steve let him go and moved back. Loki moved more slowly, still avoiding Steve’s eyes. Steve winced, watching him bend the broken bone back into place with only the faintest hiss. He reached for his shirt and stood up slowly, shrugging back into it. Steve frowned.

“What are you doing?”

“Leaving,” Loki said as he walked toward the door, his voice toneless. Steve blinked, though he supposed that shouldn’t surprise him. The mood was pretty thoroughly dead. But even if the feral aggression was gone Steve still had an uneasy feeling there was something still dangerous just under the surface.

You could cut out my heart and I would thank you for it.

“Don’t,” he said, trying to keep his voice as flat as Loki’s. Loki turned, shirt still half unbuttoned, eyebrows lifted in a fair imitation of his usual expression except that sense of something slightly off. Steve lifted his chin. “Sit down.”

Loki looked at him like Steve was speaking a foreign language. He felt a brief twist of uncertainty, but he remembered a warm body against his back as Steve shivered through his sudden drop. A balm for his sore throat and a cup of soup. So he held Loki’s gaze and waited.

“No,” Loki said, challenging.

“Why not?” Steve asked.

Loki snorted. “Would you?” He asked, lips twisting.

“What are you going to do?” Steve asked. He found himself picturing Loki going off to...wherever he went, and taking a mallet to his hands. He realized he hadn’t really thought about where Loki went in between their little meetups.

Loki laughed, sort of low and ugly. “Good question.”

Steve exhaled and stood up. He walked over, pulled Loki away from the door and shut it. “Just sit down. I’m going to make tea. You like chamomile?”

Loki stuttered another strange laugh. “You are making me tea.

“Yeah,” Steve said. “I am. You made me soup. Now we’re even.” Loki stared at him, and Steve turned his back and went into the kitchen. He took a few deep breaths, leaning on the counter, before he put the kettle on. “So. Chamomile’s fine?”

No response. Steve went back out, where Loki was still standing. Steve looked at him, refusing to give, holding his ground. After a long moment, Loki sat down. He looked sort of lost.

“So,” Steve said. “Are you going to explain what just happened?”

“Why would I?”

“I don’t know, because you just broke your own finger in my apartment?” Steve said. Loki twitched like he hadn’t expected Steve to bring it up.

“It is already healed.”

“That’s really not the point.”

“Then what is?”

“Why you did it in the first place.” The kettle started whistling, and Steve went back to pull a mug out of the cabinet. He returned with tea and set it down in front of Loki, who stared at it like he’d never seen a mug before. “Well?”

Loki shook his head slowly. “You want something from me.”

“What?” Steve said blankly. Loki looked up at him through his eyelashes.

“You are looking for something that isn’t there. You want to believe I am something I am not. You’ve changed the terms of our...agreement.”

I have?” Steve shook his head. “You’re the one who’s changed. Who’s started acting - strange.”

Loki’s eyes were dark when he glanced up. “Who are you to say what is strange, for me? You know nothing of who and what I am.”

“I know a little.” Loki’s lips spasmed. He looked down at the tea like it might give him some answers.

“You do not understand,” he said.

“Definitely not if you don’t tell me.” Why are you bothering, some corner of Steve’s brain asked, but it wasn’t very loud. Whatever this thing was, he couldn’t pretend to be indifferent.

“Allow me to revise that statement. You will not understand.”

“Why wouldn’t I?”

“Your mind isn’t made for it,” Loki said, with a fair approximation of his loftiest tone. Steve felt his jaw clench and waited until he didn’t want to snap back, and then waited a little longer. Loki shifted uneasily.

“Why don’t you try me,” Steve said, his voice flat. Loki exhaled, suddenly looking very tired. A moment later that was smoothed away, too.

“It isn’t relevant. Doesn’t matter.” He looked at his left hand and flexed his fingers, and for a moment Steve thought he was going to do it again, but he let his hand fall. “Do not push further, Captain Rogers. You will not like what you find.” He stood up. “Thank you for the tea.”

“You didn’t drink any,” Steve said, which was a fairly stupid thing to say. The corner of Loki’s mouth flicked up in an expression that didn’t reach his eyes.

“It was, as they say, a nice gesture.”

He left quietly.

A week went by without a post-it appearing on Steve’s mirror, or a nameless text on his phone, or a note tucked into the belt of his suit. Loki didn’t pop up anywhere else making trouble, either.

A week wasn’t that long. Two weeks was longer, and three even longer than that.

It seemed like Loki had just vanished into thin air. Steve felt itchy, restless, caught off balance. And strangely bereft. He hadn’t really realized how...familiar Loki’s presence had become until it was gone. And sure, the need was still there, the craving, but he was also...all right, Steve could say it. He was worried.

Loki wasn’t stable. That much was obvious, and that much Steve had already known, but it seemed like somehow the balance - imbalance - had shifted. The feral, barely contained energy that had always been seething just under the surface seemed to have drawn further inward.

Where did Loki go, when he wasn’t with Steve? What did he do? He hadn’t made even a half-hearted effort at causing trouble in some time. Had he just transferred his energy somewhere else or…

They weren’t questions he’d thought about before, and Steve felt obscurely guilty for that. He shouldn’t, he reminded himself. Loki’s life wasn’t any of his business, and his safety even less. They weren’t friends. They shouldn’t be anything else. Maybe it was for the best if Loki disappeared.

You tried that once, a snide voice reminded Steve. Didn’t work out, did it?

The longer the silence went on, the worse the itch between Steve’s shoulder blades got. He tried calling one of the unknown numbers, but this time it just gave him a busy signal, and his text bounced back without delivering.

Either Loki was ignoring him or something had gone wrong, and Steve couldn’t decide which possibility troubled him more.

You want to believe I am something I am not, Loki had said. What was it he thought Steve believed he was? What did Steve believe he was? Or maybe who?

He wasn’t sure. Not anymore.

Dangerous, untrustworthy, vicious, that was all true, but those strange moments of gentleness, of seeming concern; the fact that for all his scathing commentary on what Steve wanted he’d never explained what drew him back, what kept him from breaking Steve for good.

The look on his face when he’d snapped his own finger. Or when Steve had made him tea and he’d acted like no one had done something nice for him in a long time, which Steve supposed maybe they hadn’t, and that made him feel like he’d done something wrong.

If Loki came back, Steve thought, they’d talk about it. This time without any broken fingers, hopefully.

If Loki came back. And if he didn’t?

Steve told himself he’d figure out something if it...became a problem. He could always go back to breaking punching bags bare-knuckled. Loki could do whatever he damn well pleased, just like always.

Of course, while Steve was trying to convince himself of that, a message written in black pen appeared on his mirror. It was just an address, nothing more, but it wasn’t like Steve didn’t know who it was from.

Steve looked up the address before leaving. It was an apartment building all the way up in Inwood. Nowhere near anywhere they’d met before.

Okay, Steve thought warily. That’s new.

Hopefully in this case new didn’t mean bad.

Steve rang the bell for Apartment 17F and took the elevator up. It was a nice building. If Loki threw Steve through any walls here, someone would definitely notice. Seventeen floors up, hopefully he wouldn’t go for the windows.

He knocked on the door, butterflies fluttering in his stomach. The door opened and Steve looked Loki furtively up and down, but he looked exactly the same as he had last time Steve had seen him. He stepped back and Steve walked in.

It was definitely bigger than his apartment, Steve noticed. Also nicer. There were three crowded bookshelves along one wall, and a part of Steve itched to go and look at them. “Is this your place?” He asked after a moment, studiously ignoring Loki’s eyes on the back of his neck.

“I stay here sometimes.” It was a cagey answer. Steve turned to look at him.

“Is this some kind of test?”

Loki stuttered a laugh, lips curving slightly. “Of whether you’ll tell your friends where to find me? No. I feel relatively certain you wouldn’t want to make the explanations that would require.”

Steve hesitated. He’d half expected to have to fend Loki off, but he hadn’t made a single move in Steve’s direction, just looking at him, strangely intense. “You were gone for a while,” he said, finally.

“I had some...thinking to do.” Loki turned his back and walked over to one of the large windows. It wasn’t high enough to see anything other than the building across the street, and Steve wondered what he was looking at. “It has come to my attention that there seems to have been a...misunderstanding.”

Steve narrowed his eyes. “A misunderstanding.”

“Yes.” Loki glanced over his shoulder. “It seems perhaps I have been unclear. You seem to be under the impression that I am looking for more in this relationship than physical gratification. Perhaps that I have become...emotionally attached. I assure you such is inaccurate.”

Steve felt...stung. “You make it sound like I want something else.”

“I did not say as much. I was, in fact, attempting to reassure you.”

“I’d be more reassured if you told me what’s going on.”

Loki exhaled loudly. “Nothing is going on. I am attempting to lay to rest your fears that there is something going on.

“Well, it’s not helping,” Steve said. “Now you’re just acting weirder than ever.”

“You keep saying that,” Loki said, turning sharply. “That I am - acting weird. What do you think you see?”

Steve shook his head. “It’s nothing specific I can point to. Just instinct. But the cagier you get about it the more sure I am that I’m right.”

“Right about what?” Loki sneered. “You cannot even say what it is. I am not yours to take care of-

Steve flushed. “I know you’re not.”

“I am not seeking to change the status of our relationship,” Loki said stiffly. “If you thought otherwise, I’m terribly sorry to disappoint.”

“I didn’t say anything about that,” Steve said testily. “You’re the one who brought it up. I’m not looking for a partner.”

“Neither am I,” Loki snapped. There was color high in his face. “That you would presume I would feel any interest in you-”

“Bullshit,” Steve said, taking a step toward Loki. “Even if it’s only proprietary, you wouldn’t come back if you weren’t interested somehow.

Loki sneered, but he looked a little wild around the eyes. “You have a very high opinion of yourself. You insist on twisting my words.”

“I’m not stupid,” Steve said. “You can play it off all you want, but the fact that you keep running away from a conversation sure seems like there’s something to talk about. You want something from me-”

“And you don’t want something from me?” Loki’s voice was suddenly shrill. “Then why are you here, Captain?”

“I-” Steve broke off. Why was he here? To talk, but what had he really been planning to talk about, what was he hoping to understand, what did he want? “I’m just trying to clarify things.”

“As was I,” Loki said, his voice sharp. “I thought I made them clear. What more do you want?”

Steve pinned down, finally, what he was reading off Loki. “What are you afraid of?” He asked abruptly. Loki froze.

“I am not afraid,” he snapped, just a moment too late. Steve planted his feet and narrowed his eyes.


Loki’s sneer looked forced. “Hunting for some hidden weakness? I am terribly sorry to disappoint.”

“You’re afraid of something,” Steve said. “This whole conversation has you on edge, just like it did last time when you broke your own finger to get out of it. Something’s up and you’re going to tell me what-”

“Or else?” Loki grinned at him like something feral. “Do tell. What are you planning to do to me, Captain?”

“Nothing,” Steve said flatly. “I’m not doing anything until you tell me what you’re planning.”

“Oh, I’m planning something now, am I? I thought I was frightened.” Loki’s voice was mocking and Steve clamped down on his anger because he knew Loki was trying to provoke him, distract him-

From what?

“Look,” he said, trying to sound calmer. “Whatever’s going on, just - tell me.”

“Why?” Loki demanded. “You have never given any indication before that you cared about my state of mind.”

“Yeah, well,” Steve was saying before he could stop himself, “I do.”

Loki jerked like Steve had slapped him. His mouth opened, then closed, and he looked perfectly stunned, nearly gaping. Steve could feel his face getting hot.

“I - what?” Loki said, and even through the embarrassment he did feel just a little bit of satisfaction that he’d apparently managed to strike Loki dumb.

There was nothing to do but forge onward, though. “Yeah,” he said. “You heard me.” Smooth, Rogers. His ears just kept getting hotter. Loki stared at him further, and Steve expected him to say something sharp and mocking, but he didn’t. “Like it or not, you’re kind of a staple in my life now. You disappeared and I didn’t know where you went or if you were even alive. And I-” Missed you. “Didn’t like that.”

“Didn’t like it,” Loki echoed blankly.

“It doesn’t matter,” Steve said, hurrying onward. “The point is, if something is wrong I’d like to know.”

Loki blinked once, and then his expression closed off like a door slamming. “This cannot go on.”

Steve felt like he’d been slapped. “What?”

“This,” Loki said. “Us. We need to stop.”

Steve’s stomach churned. “What? Why?”

Loki’s eyes skated away from him, to the corner of the room, elsewhere. “You do not think it is best?”

“I don’t know,” Steve said, not sure if what he was feeling was nerves or anger. “Where’s this coming from all of a sudden?”

Loki licked his lips, a small nervous gesture that surprised Steve to see from him. “Things have grown...complicated.”

“Complicated how,” Steve demanded doggedly. There was something that Loki was trying to avoid saying and he was sure now that it was important. He didn’t know how, but he knew that it was, and he wasn’t going to back down until he got it out of him.

“You said-” Loki broke off, his lips spasming. Steve felt a surprising stab of hurt.

“Is this because I admitted that I care about you?” He said, and realized that he should have said care about your state of mind, because that sounded too much like-

Loki looked almost panicked. “You shouldn’t. You don’t-”

“I think I know what I do and don’t feel, thanks.”

“You can’t,” Loki said, his voice rising sharply. “We can’t-”

“Why not?” Steve demanded. “If you’re going to cut and run at least give me a good reason.”

Because I like you too much,” Loki said, so much in a rush that Steve barely understood it at all. It took him a second to sort the words out, and then he rocked back on his heels and blinked, and blinked again.

Then he started to laugh, sort of helplessly. Loki’s jaw tightened and his nostrils flared. “What amuses you,” he said, his cold tone of voice somewhat ruined by the fact that his ears had gone a delicate shade of pink.

“You’re - breaking up with me,” Steve said, laughter turning a little hysterical, “because you like me too much?

Loki hissed. “Fucking you is one thing, but when emotions get involved-”

Steve shook his head. “That’s not it. If that was it you would’ve just said that to start-” Wait. “Is this because I said…”

Oh. Yeah. He could see the issue.

Loki turned away, pacing restlessly across the room and back again. Steve cleared his throat.


“So?” Loki said, stopping and turning sharply toward Steve. “So what?”

“I meant it,” Steve said slowly. “What I said. About...caring. And…” He swallowed. “And I need this.”

Loki’s head turned so he was just looking at Steve out of the corner of his eye. “Do you need it from me?”

“I don’t know. But you do...know what I want.” Steve cleared his throat. “What happens?”

“What happens, what?” Loki said. His voice sounded tight as a wire. Steve bit his lip and made himself stop.

“If we don’t. Stop.”

“Nothing happens,” Loki said. “Because we are going to stop.”

“Why?” Steve said. “You’ve been...this isn’t new. Is it? It’s only, what, when it’s mutual that it’s a problem?”

“It became a problem when you noticed,” Loki said, but now he sounded more upset than angry.

“Why?” Steve asked again. “Is it really worse than me seeing you begging or bleeding or desperate?” He could feel his face getting hot again and pushed onward. “Is that really so much more bearable than having a feeling that isn’t spite or anger?”

“Yes!” Loki said, and flushed and said, “that isn’t-”

“So it’s okay for you to care about me but not for me to care about you?” Steve asked. Loki’s jaw tightened.

“That isn’t the point.” Steve wondered if he looked as tense as Loki did. At least he didn’t feel about to bolt, not anymore. The more nervous Loki got, the more sure he was. “The point is-”

“What do you want?” Steve interrupted. Loki’s eyes flicked wildly around.

“I need - I am leaving,” Loki said. Steve smiled humorlessly.

“We’re in your apartment.”

Loki looked like he was going to snarl. “Why are you doing this?”

“Doing what?” Steve asked, staring him down, except Loki still wouldn’t look directly at him.

He did snarl, then. “You know exactly what you are doing.”

“Not sure I do.”

For a second Steve thought Loki was going to lash out, but the moment passed quickly. “You’re pushing. Trying to make something out of nothing.”

“Too late for that line,” Steve said ruthlessly. “You already admitted it. You haven’t answered the question. What do you want?”

Loki barked a laugh. “You haven’t picked that up yet?”

“Not the question I’m asking and you know it,” Steve said. “What are you so scared of?” Loki said nothing, and Steve said, “look at me.”

To his surprise, Loki actually did. His eyes were wild. “I do not know. Is that what you wanted to hear? I haven’t the faintest idea what I want. And neither have you, you never have, you are just groping around seeking some kind of anchor-”

“Don’t speak for me,” Steve interrupted.

“Am I wrong?”

Yes. No. Steve shook his head, frustration hot in his chest. “This isn’t what I signed up for,” he muttered under his breath, more to himself than anything, and wasn’t sure what he meant by this. Loki? This conversation?

“So go,” Loki hissed. “Why not just leave?

“I don’t want to,” Steve said, and realized with a jolt that it was true. He didn’t want to leave. He didn’t want Loki to leave, and didn’t want to leave himself, and he didn’t want to stop.

He wanted this, whatever this was, to continue. And maybe that was stupid, maybe it was wrong, and maybe it was just about some kind of perverted addiction, but...maybe it didn’t need to be.

Maybe it could be something slightly...better.

Loki was staring at him, blankly but with something very like terror flickering at the back of his eyes. Funny, Steve thought, that this was what scared him. Kind of figured, though.

He licked his lips and finally said, “what do you want, then?”

Steve breathed out slowly. “I don’t know. Not exactly.” He looked around for a place to sit down. “But not for this...whatever it is to end.”

Loki’s expression was blank, impossible to read, and Steve felt his insides curdle a little. He’d left himself exposed, dangerously so, and if Loki decided to lash out…

After a moment, though, he just rubbed his temples. “Then what,” he said flatly. “You’re planning to announce our liaison to your friends? Start courting me with flowers and jewelry?”

“No,” Steve said, his face getting hot. “That’s not - maybe not much changes. I don’t know. This is…” He sat down heavily in the only armchair. “We’re not normal.”

Loki barked a laugh. “Indeed?”

Steve had to laugh a little, too. “I guess that’s an understatement.”

Loki was still standing, and looking at him with a strange, crooked and slightly pained smile. “I should say so.”

Steve grimaced. “Look,” he said. “ this. Right? Without it being so…”

“Sordid?” Loki said. Steve gave him a look.

“Not the word I was going to use.”

Loki’s eyebrows rose. “Surely you’re not expecting to make something functional out of this tangle of thorns.”

“No,” Steve said dryly. “I know you better than that.”

Loki’s lips twitched like he was trying not to laugh. “I suppose you do.” He cocked his head to the side. “Then what?”

“I don’t know,” Steve said at length. “Maybe you could offer some ideas.”

“I already offered my opinion.”

“Yeah,” Steve said, “and it was a shit opinion, and if you actually wanted me out you would’ve thrown me out the window by now.”

“I’m still considering it,” Loki said. Steve raised his eyebrows and Loki huffed, looking away. “I am not your lover, Captain.”

“Yeah, that doesn’t seem like the right word.”

“I suppose,” Loki said after a pause long enough that Steve had to fight not to fidget, “that I could see my way clear to...adjusting some of the terms.”

“That’s big of you,” Steve said. Loki gave him a flat-eyed stare.

“I’m known for my generosity.”

Steve snorted, and Loki’s lips flickered again, this time a little more definitely.

“Please don’t break your own bones in front of me again,” Steve said, half smile falling away. “For that matter, don’t do it not in front of me, either.”

After a long moment, Loki jerked his head in a slight nod. “It matters to you?” He said, sounding like he was trying to mask his surprise.

“Me having a set of broken ribs mattered to you,” Steve said. Loki pressed his lips together like he was thinking about denying it, but he didn’t.

“Do not think this means I am going to go easy on you,” he said.

“I wouldn’t want you to,” Steve said with a half smile, but he could feel his face getting a little pink. “I’d tell you to stop making trouble, but I noticed you already have.”

Loki, oddly enough, flushed. “I was bored,” he said, sounding defensive.

Steve wanted to laugh. He did raise his eyebrows and say, “I guess I did manage to - fuck a little good into you, after all.”

Loki’s cheeks got a little pinker. “Don’t be absurd.”

“Oh, I’m being absurd.”

They stared at each other for a while in silence. Then Loki huffed a laugh.

“Well, well,” he drawled. “Who would have thought to find Captain America seeking domesticated bliss?”

“That’s not - it’s domestic bliss,” Steve said. Loki smirked.

“In this case I think I have the right of it.”

“What does that say about you?” Steve shot back. Loki shrugged.

“Someone must be the domesticator.”

“Shut up,” Steve said. Loki’s grin was edged as always, his eyes glittering. Steve felt a rush of heat through his body. Loki wasn’t tame. Would never be.

But neither was he.

Loki’s head cocked to the side like he could hear Steve thinking. “Make me.”