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“Well, fuck… you killed him. Which means Thor is going to kill you. Which means that I’m going to stay as far away from you as I can. You’re in this alone. I’m out. Peace.“

“Fuck you, Clint.“

Seriously. Fuck Clint. For being completely right. Tony was dead. Life well spent, now it was over. Had he mentioned Pepper in his will? Yeah, probably, he had told her to write it before he had signed it. Without reading it.

“Yeah. Definitely dead.“ Clint gave the motionless body on the floor a little kick with his foot and when there was no reaction he nodded again. „Good job, Tony. High five. Sorry you have to die now.“

Tony was about to tell him to go to hell when he was harshly pushed aside. „Don’t just stand there!“

Clint watched rather sceptically as Steve knelt down and checked Loki’s pulse. „What’s the use? He’s dead. He crashed head first into this concrete wall.“

“He’s breathing.“

“Oh, come on…“

Unlike Clint Tony released a deep sigh of relief. Good. He hadn’t killed Loki, therefore Thor had no reason to kill him. “That means… We finally captured Loki! We got him! High five!“

Steve had to ruin Tony’s great mood by growling at them. “He’s out cold and we have no idea how quickly he’ll regain consciousness or maybe he’s hurt… We have to call for back-up and get him out of here.”

Sounded like a reasonable idea. They would have to celebrate later on. Tony would tell Jarvis to keep the champagne nice and cool.

 ***

“He’s going to be so pissed when he wakes up. Can I tell him that he’s our prisoner and that we totally kicked his ass? Please!”

Of course Tony knew that he was acting like a little child, but it was so hilarious to watch how Fury scowled at him and how Natasha tried to swallow a frustrated sigh. Seriously? They should be happy and dancing on the table. They had him! They had Loki! Their arch nemesis was in a little cell, tightly chained to the table he was lying on. Right next to him they had placed one of the stones Thor had given them which were supposed to dampen Loki’s magic.

Tony didn’t want to brag, but it had been his blast that had knocked Loki out. Hero of the day. It felt good to be king.

“Are you sure he is alright? Thor isn’t going to take it well if…” Steve didn’t get to finish his sentence, because Clint already let out a loud groan. “Stop it. Nothing can kill this guy… and if Thor doesn’t want his precious manic brother to get hurt… then he shouldn’t take off before we start fighting him.”

“Birdman’s got a point here. Where is point break anyway? It can’t take that long to install some stupid magical artefact to shield another mystical artefact…” Tony was so sick of these Asgardians trying to hide their super-secret stuff on Earth. Only a few days ago Thor had showed up, some ugly amulet in his hands and had told them how powerful it was. Naturally Loki was after it and therefore these Asgardian idiots had decided that they should hide the fucking thing on Earth. In Tony’s tower to be exact. What a great idea.

Loki had restarted his attacks on New York about half a week later. Coincidence? However, Thor was still setting up some magic defense for the amulet and in the meantime Tony had succeeded in taking Loki out. Like a boss.

“Sir, he is waking up.” Natasha nodded towards the glass panel that was separating them from Loki. She was right. Loki’s head was slightly moving and his eyelids were fluttering.

“I’m calling dibs!” Rushing past them Clint didn’t wait for permission and entered Loki’s cell without hesitation. His bow had been replaced by a gun, just in case.

Standing right next to the table Clint looked down at Loki who was moaning softly. An Asgardian head and a hard concrete wall didn’t make the best combination.

“Hey Sleeping Beauty, time to wake up…” Granted, Tony would have thought of something better to say, but Clint was doing a good job at being a jerk. Loki didn’t deserve anything else.

Another second and then these green eyes were open, darting around in confusion. “What…?” Loki’s voice was nothing but a hoarse croak and it felt so good to see him in such a fucked up position. The tables had definitely turned.

“Good morning… how are you feeling? I bet it hurts. I hope it does. Welcome to your new home. It’s not as fancy as what you’re probably used to, but I think it’ll perfectly do…” The grin on Clint’s face couldn’t be crueller and it finally got Loki’s attention. The Asgardian blinked, turned his head to look at Clint and then he just stared.

“What? Surprised? I bet you are…” Clint trailed off when Loki violently tore at the shackles around his wrists. In vain. Oh, poor alien psychopath. “I wouldn’t do that again if I were you. The next time we’ll have to punish you. Nevermind. Please, try again.”

Tony only realised that he was also grinning when it faded away. Because Loki did try again. This time crackling, green sparks were surrounding his fingers and with another violent tug Loki tore himself free and the iron shackles off the table.

Well, fuck…

By the time Clint had raised his hand with the gun Loki was already on his feet and had his hand around Clint’s throat.

“Fuck! How is that even possible?! We saw the fucking stone work before!”

They didn’t have the time to wonder how it had come to this, since Loki was already easily lifting Clint off the floor. So they all rushed into the room, several guns were instantly pointed at Loki who didn’t bother to take his eyes off Clint. “Where am I?”

“Loki, put him down. Now!” Natasha sounded as cool and even as ever, but Tony could tell that she was on the edge of freaking out. Like all of them. Damn, Tony would kick Thor’s ass when he got back here. If they were still alive then…

“Who are you?! What is this place?” Loki was spatting these words and Steve shared a confused glance with Natasha. “Loki, you got to…”

Ignoring him Loki tilted his head, still focusing on Clint who was gasping for air. “I could break your bones with one single move… You aren’t…” His eyes lit up in realisation and Tony had no idea what kind of show Loki was putting on. You never knew with that bastard. “You are Midgardian…” Out of a sudden Loki tossed Clint to the floor and turned to the rest of them.

Tony felt the strong urge to hide behind Steve.

“What have you done to me?!” Loki was growling, his hands forming fists. Despite his obvious anger he didn’t attack them and Tony had no idea what was going on. Whatever was happening here didn’t live up to his expectations. Why hadn’t Loki tried to kill them yet? “I demand to know where I am!”

Steve made a subtle gesture to tell Natasha to not start shooting and then he made a slow step towards Loki. “You are in S.H.I.E.L.D’s custody. You were hurt, maybe you are…”

“I want to speak to your leader! The one responsible for…” Loki abruptly stopped when he spotted the Asgardian stone still placed next to the table. The moment he recognized it was clearly visible on his face. If Tony wouldn’t know better, he’d say that Loki looked honestly disturbed. “How… Where is Thor?”

“He is…”

“I want to talk to my brother! Now!”

Brother? Okay, maybe Tony had knocked Loki a little bit harder against the wall than he had thought. “Listen reindeer games, you stop that shit right now! Get back in your chains now or something bad is going to happen!”

Empty threat, but Tony had to say something and if Loki was getting homicidal, Tony would let Steve handle that.

“Who do you think you are to even try… Thor!” Loki’s eyes lit up and Tony couldn’t wrap his head around what was happening here. At least Thor had finally decided that having his maniac brother in custody was worth showing up. There he was, his hammer in hand and a hard look on his face. Probably Loki was already regretting asking for him. “Brother, you’ve been defeated. There is no other option than surrender.”

Really Thor? Really? Tony wasn’t an expert on magic and shit, but he was sure that Loki was still able to put up a good fight and kick their asses.

Instead of kicking their asses Loki was staring at Thor with wide eyes full of disbelief. “Surrender? What are you talking about? Are you under a spell? Where are we?”

Loki acting completely out of character, not insulting Thor the second he saw him caused the older brother to raise his eyebrows. “Brother, are you well?”

“What is going on here?! Why would you…” Loki shook his head and suddenly closed his eyes.

“Uhm… what are you doing?”

The expression on Loki’s face looked highly concentrated and that was never a good sign. Before anyone could do something about it Loki’s eyes snapped back open. “This isn’t an illusion.”

“Well, no shit, Sherlock.”

“Thor, what is going on?! How did I get here? Who are these people? Why are you standing on their side? Why is the stone here?!” Loki seemed right about to lose his shit and Tony couldn’t help but be even more confused.

Clint wasn’t. Not at all. “Oh fuck you! Don’t even start pretending you have no idea what’s going on!”

“How dare you to even talk to me after…” Loki turned towards him, growling, but Thor quickly stepped in, grabbing his brother’s arm. Steve and Tony were simultaneously sucking in a breath, waiting for Loki to go insane.

Which didn’t happen.

“Don’t. He is a friend. They are all friends…”

Loki snarled, but still didn’t try to shake Thor’s hand off. “I have no idea how I got here! They chained me to this table and use the stone dampen my magic! These are certainly not friends!”

“Damn right, we are not your friends!”

This was going to end badly, Tony could tell by the scowl on Loki’s face. That dirt bag was already trying to come up with some idea how to gut them. As always Thor didn’t take his brothers antics seriously. No matter how often he told them that he wanted to skin them alive. “Brother… you do not remember how you got here?”

Again Loki focused on Thor, gritting his teeth. “That’s what I just said! Why are you with these people who tried to imprison me!? What are we even doing on Midgard?”

Ha, very funny. Definitely something new. “Come on, Thor, you don’t seriously buy that bullshit. Can’t I just shoot him in the face?”

Unfortunately Tony was being ignored. “What is the last thing you remember?”

Loki frowned and for a short moment all that anger seemed to have left his face. Weird sight. “I… I am not sure… There were preparations going on… for the coronation… then it’s all dark…”

Tony didn’t get any of that, but Thor’s eyes went wide and no, that wasn’t good. Falling for it. “Lady Widow, please put down your weapon.”

“Not going to happen.”

“The situation has changed… my brother is…”

“Trying to fake amnesia! Big fucking deal!”

“You slammed his head against a wall, it’s very possible!”

“Bullshit! I’m going to shoot him now!”

 ***

Tony didn’t get to shoot Loki. A pity. Instead of punching his stupid brother through another wall, Thor insisted on having some more doctors to check on Loki, to make sure if he was alright… and if he actually could suffer from amnesia.

Right…

They watched the whole procedure, just waiting for Loki to move a muscle and try to kill them. That didn’t happen, all Loki did was pulling a perfect bitch face.

“His physiology is very different from what we are considering human… but he did suffer a traumatic head injury…”

“Are you saying that it might be possible?”

“Yes.”

“I’m still calling bullshit on this one.”

To everybody’s surprise Thor didn’t protest, but took a step closer to the glass panel that separated them from Loki. Their least favourite villain was sitting Indian style on a chair, staring back at the panel. Creepy… “I’m inclined to believe my brother…”

Clint and Tony called out in perfect unison. “Are you fucking insane?!”

Of course that got them one of Steve’s dark glares. “How can you be sure that he’s telling the truth, Thor?”

“I am not sure. Yet look at him. He only showed willingness to use violence when he felt threatened and he agreed to undergo this procedure… Would the Loki you’ve come to know do these kinds of things?” Thor turned to them, looking at them expectantly Once again Clint didn’t miss a beat. “Sure, he would! In an attempt to screw us over! Don’t you see that!? It’s already working, because you’re so eager to believe him!”

“I must admit that Clint does have a point.” Steve shifted from one foot to another, obviously feeling bad about potentially crushing Thor’s dreams about reuniting with his brother. “Then again… if it’s true… it would be an amazing chance…”

Wait a second, what were they talking about now? How were they even considering the possibility that Loki wasn’t faking his memory loss? They were the Avengers, they weren’t supposed to be that stupid. Why did it always have come down to Tony to point out something obvious? “Forget it, Cap. God of mischief and lies. Doesn’t that ring a bell?”

Subtly clearing her throat Natasha captured their attention. “I agree, it’s very likely that he is faking it, but the doctors say there is a possibility that he isn’t. If that’s true, we have to use that to our advantage. Thor, he mentioned the coronation. What does that mean?”

It was impossible to miss the shadow that fell on Thor’s face. “Until the coronation… Back then I still knew who he was. He was my brother who I could trust with anything… It happened later that my brother lost his mind and descended into darkness… Back then… he was another person…”

“What a fucking coincidence! He doesn’t forget last week. No, he forgets every single thing he did as a bad guy, so you’ll gladly open your arms and welcome him back home. Come on, Thor, he’s so obviously playing us!”

“I cannot dismiss this possibility, my friend… but the Lady Widow is right. If there was a chance to get my brother back, the way he was…” Damn, there was so much hope in Thor’s eyes, Tony felt his throat constricting. “Guess we’ll have to find out somehow if he indeed lost his memory…”

Easier said than done.

Loki raised his head when they re-entered his cell. Tony tried to read his face, to find the traces of a lie. “Brother, I am running out of patience…”

Thor approached him and Tony wondered if it was such a good idea to let him do the talking. “Brother, I know this must be confusing…”

“It’s not confusing, Thor, it’s rather obvious.” Again that snarl. Wasn’t that proof enough that Loki was still a bad guy. “I suffered a blow to the head. The circumstances make it quite clear that this happened during a fight… I wake up in chains. Ridiculous and pathetic chains, but chains nonetheless. Asgardian stones to dampen my magic… You are with these people who try to imprison me. I have no idea how we’ve come to this point, but I can see well enough that I am supposed to be your prisoner… I am going to leave, but before that I want to know what happened. Don’t even bother try lying to me!”

“Hey, you’re not in the position to…”

Steve put a hand on Clint’s shoulder and shook his head. Before speaking up to his brother Thor took a long, deep breath, trying to get himself ready for this conversation. “Loki, it was never my intention to make you a prisoner. We brought you here for your own safe…”

“Don’t patronize me! I am not stupid! I can tell when I am a prisoner, so do not lie to me!”

Thor was just gaping at Loki with his mouth open, so it was all down to the Captain once again. “Listen, Loki… You are right. We are not friends and we brought you here as a prisoner. We have been fighting each other for a long time. I have no reason to lie to you.”

Green eyes fixed Steve with their intense gaze and they made Tony feel uncomfortable although he wasn’t the one being stared at. Tony had to give Loki some credit, he was a good actor. He was looking at Steve like he was seeing him for the very first time. “Go on.”

Steve didn’t hesitate. “About half a year ago you attacked our world with an army, trying to conquer it. We beat you, but we weren’t able to capture you. Since then we’ve been fighting you… to be honest quite regularly. Same thing happened last night and we managed for the very first time to take you out. So we brought you here. That’s the short version.”

Everybody remained silent when Steve was finished, concentrating to see Loki’s reaction, ready to call his bluff at any second.

It was almost unreal. They were used to Loki being horribly tough, pretending that nothing could ever reach him. Right now Loki blinked at Steve, his lips slightly parted and he seemed utterly speechless.

Give that man an Academy Award.

“I…” Loki licked his lips, obviously trying to buy himself some time to think of something to say. “I have no interest whatsoever in Midgard and I certainly do not have an army. Your story doesn’t make sense…” The usual spite in his words was missing, he sounded rather confused.

“Will you stop that shit now? Nobody here is falling for your show!”

Clint’s hostility caused Loki to instantly put on that stoic face that they all knew so well. “And why should I believe a single word from what you’re saying? I don’t know you and you stated yourself that we’re enemies…”

Tony was surprised to see Steve shrug. “You cannot know for sure and we don’t know if you are only faking this memory loss. There is no guarantee for any of us.”

Loki’s eyes lingered a little bit longer on Steve before turning back to Thor. “I can tell that some time has passed…” His hand went up to touch his hair that was reaching down to his shoulders. “You look different… Is this mortal telling the truth?”

This wasn’t good. Tony started nagging on his lips, because he felt the soft tone of Loki’s words having an effect on him. This guy just knew who to make himself look like an innocent little lamb. Pathetic… Probably Loki had a perfect idea of how getting Thor on his side.

“A lot of things happened, Loki… The rainbow bridge got destroyed and you fell from its edge into a dark abyss. We thought you dead… then months later you came back. Out of nowhere… with an army of Chitauri and the intention to conquer Midgard. The Captain is telling the truth. We fought each other blood was shed and from this day on… I refuse to see you as an enemy, but you haven’t been the same since you fell from the Bifröst. This is the longest conversation we’ve had since that day…”

It would have been heart-breaking to hear this if it hadn’t been Loki’s story. Loki who had thrown him out of the window…

Loki who was crossing his arms in front of his chest, his knuckles turning white from digging his fingers into his own flesh. “I don’t see… None of this is making sense.”

“I know, Loki…”

Tony watched Loki sitting back down, lowering his head, seemingly lost in thought. What? Was he now going to ignore them? Just like that? If he was telling the truth… he had just found out that he was the bad guy. That must be tough… but he was still totally faking it. Clearing his throat Tony raised an eyebrow at everybody else. “Cool… so what are we doing now? Any suggestions?”

“After all that happened I understand that it is too much to ask for to put your trust in my brother’s words, but I believe that he did lose all memories of what happened after he changed his ways… If this is the case my brother is innocent and I will not leave him in this cell.”

“Are you mad?! That’s what he wants! He’s putting on this show to get you to let him out!”

After seeing how Loki had got out of his chains, Tony wasn’t so sure if he actually needed to make up such a story to escape from his cell.

“I say we take him to the tower.” Steve was voicing these words perfectly calm, making them sound so serious although they obviously were a joke. They had to be a joke.

“Steve, please don’t take this personally, but… have you lost your fucking mind?”

Not batting an eyelid Steve started to explain his reasoning. “If Loki doesn’t remember… then he needs help. There is a good chance that he’s only playing us… and in that case it would be the best to have him under constant surveillance. S.H.I.E.L.D can’t do that, but we can…”

Clint was shaking his head in disbelief and Tony thought he looked ready to try to beat some sense into Steve. “You are nuts. This is exactly what he wants!”

“Maybe… but we’re the only ones who are able to deal with him, so it has to be us who take care of him until we figured out what is going on…”

Tony didn’t object, because Steve had already made his decision and there was no way to sway him now. Instead Tony watched Loki sitting there, pretending that he didn’t care or notice that they were still present. He was busy staring at the wall in front of him and the sight of him was terribly unsettling. Loki was ignoring them. Until this very moment Tony hadn’t thought him capable of such a thing. He always needed to say something, to mock them, show them how inferior they were to him. Now Loki was sitting there, not even glancing at them.

“Captain, can we talk? Outside.” Clint more or less pressed these words through his gritted teeth and Steve slowly nodded. “Sure. Thor, you’ll want to stay with your brother…”

As fast as he could Tony hurried after them, not wanting to miss a single syllable of the fight that was about to happen. The door closed behind them and Clint unleashed hell upon Steve. “No! Don’t you see what is happening! You already forgot why we were fighting last night?! Because he is still after that damned amulet! He can’t find it, so he’s faking that amnesia bullshit to get closer to us and to find out where we hid it! You are walking right into his trap! That’s what he wants us to do!”

“I agree.” Steve nodded shortly and the raging fire in Clint’s eyes instantly extinguished. “Wait, what?”

“It’s all very convenient and Loki knows that Thor will always hope for him to change his ways. Right now we don’t have any evidence that Loki is lying and Thor will gladly grant him the benefit of the doubt. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe his story, but I can’t deny the possibility that it’s true. We can keep him in check and that’s why he’s staying with us. Jarvis and we will have an eye on him. He’ll think he’s watching us, but it will be us watching him. Let’s see this as an opportunity… We could learn some things about him that might help us in the future… It’s a risk, I know… but I feel it’s what we should do. If we tell him we don’t believe him and let him in this cell, he’ll throw everything he has at us or he’ll try to continue playing this show to tear us apart, because Thor will stand up for him. Loki has tried these things before…” Steve pointed towards the panel and they could see Thor trying to engage in a conversation, but it didn’t look like Loki was very interested.

Letting out a groan Clint ran one hand through his short hair. “Keep your friends close but your enemies closer? I don’t like that. At all. But you have a point… I just fear that we’re totally going to regret it…”

“I agree with Birdy… I don’t even want to imagine how Bruce is going to react…” Tony’s eyes darted back to the brothers and frowned when he saw Thor placing a hand on Loki’s shoulder. Not even a flinch.

What an actor…

 

Chapter Text

If this was going wrong, it would be Steve’s fault. That knowledge was wearing him down, like a weight on his shoulders, but Steve tried to not let it show. Loki not trying to fool them was almost out of the question. Almost. There was a tiny chance of him indeed something from some form of amnesia. No, Steve didn’t believe it, but he couldn’t be sure.

Thor had a blind spot when it came to Loki, Steve was perfectly aware of that. This was such a smart idea. Which other way would allow Loki to be completely redeemed from one second to another? Just forgetting what he had done, forgetting the hatred he was feeling for Thor and all of them. It was all Thor wanted and Loki had just given him that. Too perfect to be a coincidence.

Loki was definitely planning something. This time they would let him that they were falling for it. Steve had a better feeling about having Loki right in front of him when he was trying to come up with ways to destroy them. Like this they had a better chance to be faster than him.

Again, Steve couldn’t be sure that he wasn’t making a mistake.

Watching Thor Steve didn’t know how to feel about him already being so hopeful. His whole body language clearly showed how happy he felt, just being in the same room as Loki, being able to talk to him. If this could be called a conversation.

Every now and then Loki opened his mouth to respond, but his eyes didn’t meet Thor’s a single time.

One mistake. Steve didn’t need more to feel sure. Still he was very aware of Loki’s wit. Unlikely to make a mistake so soon. Steve would make sure to be prepared.

“There, done. I had Jarvis and Pepper clear an entire floor. Cameras are in place and Jarvis has strict orders to keep us up to date with everything Loki does… We’re covered… as good as it gets. I hope this isn’t going to bite us in the ass. We’re inviting a maniac in our house. No, my house… Well, at least Thor will be happy.”

Tony leaned against the wall right next to Steve, also watching the brothers through the panel. “How exactly are we hoping that this plays out?”

“Loki really having lost his memory, never getting it back and the two of them making up.”

“And what are we hoping for when we’re not caught up in a dream?”

Sighing softly Loki shrugged. “Thor quickly realising that Loki is pretending. Maybe that way it wouldn’t hurt him as much and Loki… would just leave. Hopefully. I have no idea… There is no way can leave him here or let him go, Thor would never agree…”

“So how are we going to do this? Pretend that we buy his shit?”

“No, he wouldn’t believe that…”

“We’ll be sceptical and then we’ll slowly warm up to him, because you bet he’ll try to charm our pants off.” Natasha walked past them, opening the door to the cell. “Thor, we’re leaving.”

Thor nodded in response and Loki narrowed his eyes. “I don’t trust them. I don’t want to go with them.”

“Loki… I explained you the necessity…”

“That doesn’t mean I have to like it.” Getting up from his seat Loki walked past them, but stopped right next to the door, looking expectantly at Natasha. When she didn’t move, Loki turned to Thor. “Are Midgardian customs that different from ours?”

Natasha questionably raised an eyebrow at Thor who cleared his throat. “My brother refers to an Asgardian tradition which… it’s considered very rude if a man leaves a room before a woman…”

Out of the corner of an eye Steve could see Tony frowning, but he couldn’t help but feel amused. Asgardian curtesy? That was something new. Especially since Thor had never mentioned anything like this. Natasha didn’t look too impressed, but she indeed was the first one to leave the room with Loki and Thor following her.

Steve straightened up when they came face to face, Loki should know that they were cautious. For some reason Loki’s eyes fell on him and Steve wished he was better at reading faces, but right now he wasn’t able to tell what was going on in Loki’s head.

“Captain…”

A single word that softly fell from Loki’s lips and Steve was trying to figure out what he meant. What he even supposed to recognize Steve? Did that mean…

“They called you Captain… A position of leadership…” Loki cocked his head, taking in Steve’s appearance and it indeed felt like he was looking at him for the very first time. “I find it hard to believe that my brother would accept a mortal as his superior…”

When Steve was about to reply Loki simply walked past him and Tony snorted. “Memory loss or not, still quite the charmer.”

 ***

Not a second passed without Steve attentively watching Loki. When they got out of the car he didn’t miss Loki’s eyes darting around. Was he trying to check out the place? Figure out where they were? Or was he merely overwhelmed from this new place that had to seem so different from everything he knew? Until now Loki could easily give the impression of somebody who had no idea what was happening to them and tried to not let it show.

The Asgardian was unusually quiet, taking in his surroundings and only spoke up again when they were already in the tower. “I guess you don’t think that this is necessary, because you know who I am, but I have no idea who you are. I would appreciate an introduction.”

“Fuck you, you know exactly who we are… I am out off here. You try dealing with that asshole.” Clint instantly turned back around and left them to deal with Loki.

They would have to talk about this, but right now Steve didn’t do anything about it, he could perfectly understand where Clint was coming from.

“Fine, I’ll play your little game. That guy who just ran off was Clint… as you already know. He doesn’t like you very much. I’m Tony. We don’t like each other either. Although I am sure that I’m your secret favourite.” Tony actually winked at Loki who quirked an eyebrow and then looked at Thor who smiled and shrugged.

“Natasha.” That was all she said. Straight and simple.

Loki answered with a small nod and then turned to Steve. “I hardly doubt you only go by Captain.”

This felt strange. Was he honestly supposed to tell Loki his name? Something he was perfectly aware of. Then again, the others had done it too. “Steve… but you never called me that anyway.”

Loki didn’t show any kind of reaction until he crossed his arms in front of his chest. “So what now?”

“Sorry?”

Sighing softly Loki let his eyes travel from one Avenger to another. “What is going to happen now? How did you imagine that this was going to play out? I will stay with you in this tower? The people who were trying to imprison me and openly told me that we are at war with each other? I don’t trust you, it’d be a fool if I did. We’re enemies. Why shouldn’t you use the first opportunity to hurt me?”

Steve could see Tony blinking in confusion and Thor instantly shook his head with determination. “Brother, I would never…”

Almost lazily Loki lifted a hand and that was enough to make Thor fall silent. “The first thing you said to me was that I should surrender. Didn’t you enter that cell with the intention to subdue me? None of the things you told me makes sense, I have no idea what happened to me that I forgot… the entire last year. But I can tell that these people look at me with hostility in their eyes. So tell me, Thor… why should I stay here?”

This was a man who knew what he was doing, even Steve had to admit that he had a point. A person in his situation, a person without any idea who they were… why would they want to stay with them? Loki was definitely smart enough to point this out.

“Because… if you truly can’t remember what you did… we can’t hold you responsible for it. To be honest we’re doing this for Thor. He is our friend, you are his brother. Thor is convinced that one year ago you were a different person, not the one we’ve come to know. Maybe you are that person, maybe you aren’t. You’ll stay here until we figured that out. Does that sound reasonable to you?”

When Loki looked at him now, he seemed way more interested than before. A soft spark was gleaming in his eyes as if he had finally found something worth his attention. “From your point of view… yes. I do not fancy being a prisoner.”

Tony snorted in response and Steve was feeling glad that it wasn’t only him anymore who had to talk to Loki. “We’ll call you a guest then. You get an entire floor to yourself. No leaving without permission though.”

“Then why should I stay in the first place?”

“Brother, please… don’t steal this opportunity from us. I swear I do not consider you my enemy. All this time I’ve wished for a chance to reunite with you. Give me time to earn back your trust.”

“Jesus Christ…” Tony didn’t even attempt to suppress that annoyed groan. Steve kept quiet, but the irony wasn’t lost on him. How was it Thor who was apologizing? This blind spot concerning Loki was incredibly dangerous and Steve promised himself to be extremely cautious as long as Loki would be here.

Watching Loki’s features Steve saw them softening a little bit, but his eyes were anything but friendly. It made sense. They couldn’t afford to underestimate him.

“I accept.” Loki finally said and instantly added a “For now, but don’t think I will hesitate to use violence if I feel threatened.”

“Same here.” Natasha’s tone was very similar to Loki who frowned lightly.

What were they getting themselves into?

 ***

The sound of fists hitting the punching bag couldn’t be missed and Steve mentally readied himself for what he was about to do. Pushing the door to the gym open Steve instantly spotted Clint putting all he got into the punches he delivered. It was a familiar picture. Every time his frustration about this new, unknown time became too much or whenever Steve felt lonely he ended up in the place where Clint was now.

Beating the crap out of a punching bag.

Steve let him have some more kicks before he slowly approached him. “Hey…”

Clint didn’t turn around, but delivered another powerful punch that left him breathless.

“I know it’s not… ideal, but…”

“It’s what that asshole wants. We’re doing what he wants… and it makes me sick to have him in the same building I sleep in… Did you listen to the shit he said? He’s seriously pretending that he has no idea who we are! Fucking asshole has some nerves…” Clint was snarling and Steve was bothered by the sheer hatred he could see on his face. It was understandable after all Clint had gone through, but Steve wasn’t going to ignore the danger coming from it.

“Yes… but I don’t see another way. Thor believes him, wants to believe him and if refused to take him in… it would tear us apart and somehow I have the feeling that this is what Loki wants.”

Finally completely turning around Clint narrowed his eyes at Steve, suspicion clearly visible in his eyes. “That’s it? There’s no chance you actually believe his bullshit? No offence, Cap, but you are a sucker for redemption stories…”

“No, I don’t believe him, but I believe that we can take advantage of the situation. Learn about him and find a way to defeat him for good. I don’t know. With him around Tony and Bruce are maybe able to figure out a way to deal with his magic. Trust me, I don’t intent to sit around and let him do what he wants. But I do feel better with him being here than out there and possibly hurting civilians.” Steve was content to hear that he sounded as convinced as he felt. At the moment he couldn’t afford a single slip-up.

Clint stared at him intensely until he finally nodded. “Alright… fine. I will not try sneaking into his room and murder him. That’s why you’re hear for, right?”

Now Steve felt kind of bad for this, but he nodded nevertheless. “Yeah… we’ll stick to the plan. Let him believe we’re falling for his scheme. Slowly. In the meantime we’re going to figure out how to put him behind bars.”

“Right, I’ll try to keep thinking about that and not… murdering him. God, it’d feel so good… Okay, okay, I’ll shut up.”

Squeezing Clint’s shoulder Steve turned around and instantly heard how the punching started all over again.

Steve’s next stop was in Tony’s lab. He was happy to see that the engineer was already trying to come up with ideas how to learn more about Loki’s magic. It had to do with body scans and lots of other words that Steve didn’t understand. Luckily Tony also volunteered to tell Bruce about their new guest before he would come back from the current work he was doing for S.H.I.E.L.D. This wasn’t a task Steve wanted to do himself.

When Steve finally lay in his bed at the end of this terrible day he couldn’t close his eyes for a single second. Loki was in the Avenger’s Tower. Because of him.

“Jarvis?”

“At your service, Captain Rogers.”

“What is Loki doing?”

Not that he would ever admit it, but he was afraid of the answer.

“He is examining his rooms.”

“Something to worry about?” Steve had no idea what to expect, his mind was racing to think of all the possibilities.

“I do not think so. He seems rather intrigued by the technical devices. At the moment he is familiarising himself with the TV.”

What? “I don’t understand. He’s watching TV?”

Jarvis seemed amused by the question which was deeply unsettling. “No, Captain. I have the impression he is trying to understand how it works. He opened the remote control to check out the batteries. He was very surprised to see that the remote control wouldn’t work without them.”

Steve needed a few seconds to understand. Of course he’d know that they’d be watching. Loki was willing and ready to play this game 24/7. He had to if he wanted it to work. A Loki without any memory of the last year would know nothing about Earth’s culture or technology. Everything would be new to him, perhaps even… interesting. No, Steve doubted that, Loki was always eager to point out how feeble and stupid all of humanity was. How unworthy.

One thing was sure, Loki knew how to play his part.

 ***

With Loki in the tower Steve decided that going out for a run wasn’t an option. So he did his morning work-out in the gym, relieved to see that Clint hadn’t destroyed the punching bag.

Even after he was done Steve was still the first one in the common kitchen, as usual. Steve was busy pouring the milk in his cereal when Jarvis spoke up, causing a shudder running down his spine. “Captain, your guest is heading towards the kitchen.”

“Thank you, Jarvis.”

As casually as possible Steve continued what he was doing and only put the milk away when he was done. He perfectly could tell when Loki entered the room although he had his back to him. “Good morning.”

Turning around Steve faced the Asgardian who wasn’t looking at him, but scanning the room. “I wasn’t sure if breakfast is part of Midgardian culture.”

“It’s part of Midgardian culture to say ‘good morning’.”

Eventually Loki’s eyes settled on him and he frowned as if he was trying to figure out if Steve had made a joke or not. Steve was ready, they were alone and if Loki wanted to attack now…

“Good morning.”

It was unexpected, but definitely better than an attack. Not replying in any kind of way Steve began eating his cereal, unable to take his eyes off Loki who was checking out the kitchen. “I thought Thor would show you around…”

“You expected Thor to get up before daylight? Not going to happen. Talking about expectations…” Loki clicked his tongue. “I was surprised to be left alone the entire night.”

Fine, Steve would take the bite, because he wanted to see where Loki wanted to go with this. “Were you expecting to be attacked?”

“I didn’t know what to expect…” After slowly walking closer Loki leaned against the counter, his green eyes boring into Steve, but he wouldn’t do him the favour of looking away. “What did you expect… Captain? Being attacked in your sleep?”

It was something Loki would say and yet it sounded different. No sarcasm, almost like an actual question. As if Loki wanted to know.

“To be honest, I wouldn’t have been surprised.” Steve held his gaze and he could see a change in Loki’s eyes. Perhaps Natasha would be able to tell what that meant, but Steve had no idea.

“It would have been a very bad idea. I don’t know you. I have no idea what your abilities are and this is your home. It’s a clear disadvantage. All of you are Midgardian, your physical strength doesn’t compare to mine, but you must have your own way of fighting. It’s not easy to subdue me… you must have done something right… I would be stupid to attack an enemy you know nothing about. I know nothing about you, but I want to learn.”

Steve barely resisted the urge to yell at him. Playing this part, pretending they were fools when they could look right through him. “You know a lot about me, Loki.”

“I can tell that you are the leader and that the others trust you…” Trailing off Loki started chuckling and Steve couldn’t remain quiet. “What is so funny?”

“I do think this whole situation is incredibly… intriguing and deliciously ironic. You are accusing me of feigning the loss of my memories… while I am pondering the possibility that it was you who took them from me. I don’t know yet why you would do that, but I will find out soon. Do you know that about me, Captain? I tend to find things out quiet quickly…”

Over the last months Steve had heard Loki utter curses and threats, but none of it had ever scared him. This was different, Loki’s words were making Steve’s skin crawl, but he wouldn’t let him see that.

That bastard was clever. How would a person in this situation react? Paranoia? Fear? Of course they would be distrustful…

“You’re not the only one good at that… Could you please stop talking now? Get some breakfast if you want…”

A smirk spread across Loki’s lips and again he seemed honestly amused. “I have no knowledge about Midgardian food.”

“I am sure you find out how we eat breakfast. You are good at finding things out…” Sarcasm wasn’t a thing Steve was fond of and it bothered him that Loki was getting to him so easily.

Loki answered with an even bigger smirk.

Steve had never been so happy to see Thor in his entire life.

“Brother, are you…”

“Perfectly fine, Thor. Me and the Captain shared a nice talk about Midgardian morning rituals. I want to learn more about Midgardian culture. I want you to tell me everything you know. Now.”

Thor looked completely perplexed and Steve was fine with everything as long as he wouldn’t have to continue his own conversation with Loki.

“Of course… but I fear I am not my knowledge is limited.”

“It is a good place to start… and I want to hear the rest of the story how you met your… comrades.” Loki shot Steve a glance before casually leaving the room with Thor following him.

As soon as they were done Steve would have to talk to Thor, make sure that Loki wasn’t gaining any kind of information that he could use against them. Thor being so immensely happy that Loki was actually talking to him… God knows what he would tell him in an attempt to keep the conversation going.

It was still about the amulet. Thor knew where it was, but Loki was too smart to just… ask about it. Nevertheless…

“Jarvis?”

“Captain?”

“Did Loki sleep tonight? At all?”

“No, he did not. After examining his room, he kept staring out of the window for several hours…”

Loki had some dedication, Steve shouldn’t be surprised. The next days weren’t going to be easy. It probably was a foolish hope to believe that Loki would stop his charade sooner than later. Or make a mistake.

“Morning, Cap. How was breakfast with our guest?” Natasha joined him, rather casually, but it was no surprise that the first thing she asked about was Loki. They needed to be careful and couldn’t afford to miss anything. “Lovely… he doesn’t use the same words to get under my skin as before… but he’s doing a good job…”

Natasha screwed her face up, while opening the fridge. “Does he still play the victim?”

“Better than you can imagine… He put some real thought into this… You want to know what he just said to me. He would be careful around us, because he can’t be sure that it wasn’t us who stole his memories…”

No matter how outrageous the news was, Natasha never lost her cool and she didn’t now. Frowning softly she seemed to ponder Steve’s words. “That makes sense… If something like this would happen to me, I would definitely consider this possibility. Surrounded by people who are obviously my enemies although I have no idea who they are? I would definitely try to find out if they were responsible for my situation… You are right, he definitely thought this through… We need to come up with a strategy. He already has his own.”

“Tony is already working on a new device to track down his magic… Jarvis has a constant eye on him.”

“I know, but I don’t think that’s enough. He’s alone with Thor now? I don’t think we should let that happen too often. Loki is closer to us now than ever before. Maybe it’s not just the amulet that he wants. Thor is so happy about this… development. He’s listening to Loki that could also be part of his plan. Thor is very susceptible to Loki’s influence…”

Slowly Steve put down his spoon, the cereal in his mouth suddenly tasted incredibly bitter. So many he hadn’t really thought of. “I liked it way more when he was throwing energy balls or fire at us… that’s clear and unambiguous. I hate tricks…”

A rare gentle smile appeared on Natasha’s face. “That’s why you’d make a lousy politician.” She even gave him a pat on the shoulder. “It was the right call nonetheless. He is here which means he can’t cause trouble anywhere else.”

That would sound way better if Steve wasn’t sure that Loki could cause more than enough trouble in the tower.

Chapter Text

“Show me the numbers again… I still don’t get it…” Tony was nagging on his pen, his eyes wondering across the hologram in front of him. S.H.I.E.L.D had been nice enough to send him the data of Loki’s little stay with them. Since their equipment was shit they had barely registered anything, but Tony had still been able to pull some information from it. Loki’s magic had some influence on the temperature. When he had burst his shackles a sudden rise of temperature had been registered, but it had disappeared so quickly that nobody had noticed.

That was all…

Okay, so Loki was creating heat when he was using magic. That was a start, Tony was sure he would be able to use this. If he told Jarvis to constantly check the temperature in every room, maybe he would be able to tell when Loki was using magic. This way he wouldn’t have a chance to set up traps and they would know if he was trying to come up with something to hurt them…

Yeah, good idea.

Nevertheless Tony was frustrated, because he didn’t have enough data to actually figure out what Loki was doing. Was magic heat itself? Or was heat a bi-product of magic? It was possible that Loki was manipulating the air around him, playing with the electrons, bending them to his will… which would make him incredibly powerful. Nothing new there.

Sitting there, watching the hologram Tony started playing the thought of getting Loki to use some magic. Small things. Perhaps ask him for a little favour to prove to them that he meant them no harm?

Dangerous… you never knew with Loki and wanting him to use magic would definitely backfire. But hey, Tony would do pretty much everything for some new scientific knowledge. Loki thought he was so smart, manipulating them? Tony could do that too. It was better not to rush things though, Tony would have to come up with something good.

“Sir, your guest wishes to talk to you.”

Huh? Really? Talk of the devil…

“To me? As in Iron Man? Greatest human being on this planet?”

“As in the owner of this tower.”

How disappointing. Tony had no desire whatsoever to talk to Loki or to be thrown out of the window. Again. “What does he want?”

“He did not mention specifics. He merely asked me who was in charge of this building.”

Well, at least Loki knew now who was the boss… of the tower. It would be a bad idea to ignore Loki, right? “Tell him to meet me in the living room, I don’t want him near the lab.”

“Of course, sir.”

Tony took his time, Loki shouldn’t think that everybody was dancing to his tune or that Tony didn’t have anything better to do than talking to Loki. Before heading towards the living room Tony put on his bracelets, just in case. “Jarvis, tell Steve what’s going on, but I don’t want anyone showing up. I don’t want Loki to think that we’re scared of him.”

To deny a slight feeling of nervousness would be ridiculous, but Tony would be damned if he let Loki see that.

Thor’s brother was standing next to one of the windows, looking outside. Showtime. “So Reindeer Games, what’s up?”

Loki turned around, one eyebrow slightly raised and Tony was already taken aback. It was so weird to not have Loki instantly insulting him. Or to not see him pulling his bitch face 24/7. Great actor…

“Tony Stark. The voice in the ceiling told me that you are the Lord of this building.”

Tony, Lord of Stark Tower… nah, didn’t sound so bad. Tony liked it. “Hey, you know who I am. Let’s just cut the bullshit and tell me what you want.”

Acting slightly surprised Loki blinked. “A man who comes straight to the point. I appreciate that. I have a request, Stark… I like the chambers you offered me, they are comfortable and beautiful, but I noticed the complete absence of sharp objects…”

Oh really? “Obviously. We’re not best friends and I’m not stupid. I won’t give you any weapons.”

“How unfortunate… I would probably do the same if I was in your position. Nevertheless I am going to ask a favour… I require a pair of scissors.”

“Interesting. Who do you want to stab? Or which parts do you want to cut off?” Scissors? Loki must think they were crazy…

Crossing his arms in front of his chest Loki slowly shook his head. “I prefer daggers to stab my enemies… but I tend to avoid physical violence, it’s not my field of expertise. However, I need the scissors for something more traditional. I want to cut my hair.”

Okay, where was the hidden camera? No way this shit was really happening. “Are you fucking kidding me?”

Loki’s reaction was a scowl, obviously displeased. “I do not see why you would interpret my request as a jest. I am displeased by my appearance. I don’t like my long hair and I want to cut it. I am very… astonished that it has become so long…”

Tony had never seen Loki looking any different, so he clearly didn’t bother. “Go to the hair dresser.”

“I have always cut my own hair. I am perfectly capable of doing it myself. All I need is a pair of scissors.”

“No way in hell.”

“You are this scared of me?” Loki pursed his lips, tilting his chin up. “I can’t stop wondering what you did to me to make so angry at you… So angry that you immediately expect me to hurt you.”

No need to check the video footage later, Tony knew that his expression was one of disbelief. Should he admire the fact that somebody could lie so blatantly? “What we did to you? Nobody has ever done anything to you! You’re nothing but a bully with a god complex who likes to step on people who are smaller than you!”

Tony expected all kind of reactions, but he didn’t expect Loki to gape at him. All these human emotions were disturbing. Loki had mastered suppressing them perfectly. Normally he would only grant them a sneer or a sarcastic laugh. He wouldn’t allow himself to show surprise. Until now.

“A bully? Me?” Thank god he was starting to laugh now. “Tony Stark, have we ever met? You pretend to fiercely hate me and yet you know nothing about me. Well, I guess that makes sense. It is easy to hate something you do not know. You think I would use the scissors to attack you? I do not need a weapon to hurt you and at this moment I am rather looking for a way to defend myself.”

Defend himself… How could he even dare… “Son of a…”

“What is going on? Brother?”

Tony spun around to see Thor standing in the doorway, looking at them with his dumbfounded expression. Fuck, Tony should probably be thankful that he was here.

“Your friend Tony Stark was kind enough to remind me of my place as a prisoner.” Loki was snarling and Tony’s fingers twitched. Why not just call the suit and punch Loki through another wall. He deserved it and Tony would feel so much better.

Too bad Thor wouldn’t let him do that and Tony wasn’t eager on finding out how he would react. “Brother, I’ve told you before that you aren’t…”

“Save it, Thor… I have found more than enough proof for what hap-…” Loki stopped himself and Tony wanted to laugh. What? Was the next lie not good enough? “I want a pair of scissors to cut my hair. The way I remember it.”

Thor’s eyes travelled from Loki to Tony and fuck, why was he glaring? What had Tony done wrong? Was he supposed to give Loki any weapon he wanted? Today scissors, tomorrow a nuclear warhead?

“There is no reason to deny my brother this wish.”

“No pointy things for Reindeer games.”

“Enough. Thor, I am leaving.”

“Loki, please… Stark, I thought we agreed to help my brother. To treat him as an innocent. It is unfair to deny him such a simple wish.”

This was a bad movie. Had Thor forgotten who they were talking about? Loki was not to be trusted. Unfortunately it wasn’t the plan to completely piss him off, but to let him believe that they were falling for his game. “Fuck you guys… Fine, you get a pair of scissors. You’ll do it here with both of us present and then I’ll get the scissors back.”

A bad plan, but Tony didn’t want to spend another minute talking about scissors.

Several minutes later Loki was sitting on the couch, scissors in his hand, a little mirror placed on the table in front of him. This was completely unreal. Loki was cutting his hair, looking so casual and skilled he must have done it before. Hundreds of times. Tony couldn’t help but be surprised how much he was cutting off. When Loki was done his hair was barely reaching to his chin. Even Tony had to admit that he was looking different. Especially due to the little smile that played around Loki’s lips when he looked at his reflection. He seemed legitimately content. Because of a haircut?

“That’s better…”

Tony felt his throat constricting when Loki contemplated the scissors in his hand, but then he casually handed them to Thor. “I look like myself again, don’t I?”

“Indeed, brother…”

A challenging gaze met Tony’s. “I have another request to make, Tony Stark.”

“Here we go again…”

“I would like a book. About the history of Midgard. As expected Thor’s knowledge on the subject was shockingly limited…”

If anybody else had said that, Tony would have laughed. But it was Loki. “Fine that can be arranged, then it’s enough.”

Loki’s eyes were cold and he nodded. “Thank you. I appreciate it.”

There was no appropriate reaction to this. Until now Tony had been sure that these words didn’t exist in Loki’s vocabulary. Thanking him? Not just ordering him around? Tony didn’t even get the chance to make some comment, Loki turned on his heels and left the room. “What the hell was that?”

“My brother went back to the way he looked before he fell… he looks like my little brother before I lost him.”

“Great, even easier to manipulate you then…”

Now Thor’s face instantly fell and Tony almost felt bad for being this harsh. “I understand that you have trouble believing that my brother lost his memories, but I am sure that you have noticed the change in him… in his behaviour.”

“Granted, but your brother is one hell of an actor… We shouldn’t let our guard down around him, not even a second.”

“I respect your opinion and I see your reasoning, but you haven’t talked to my brother. You didn’t know him before he fell… I can see this person in him again. Not entirely, he is distant, he is confused and due to the situation he woke up in… he doesn’t trust me, but this man is my brother.”

“He seems pretty much the same to me.”

Thor smiled at him, condescendingly. How was he able to do that? “Really? I am perfectly sure that this isn’t true. You didn’t notice any differences in his behaviour?”

Tony would rather bite his tongue off than answer to this question. Yeah, he had noticed differences. Loki saying ‘Thank you’. Loki insisting on leaving the room after Natasha. Loki showing some other emotion than disdain. Thor had already fallen for it, so they needed to get him back to the bright side of the force. “Your brother is the god of mischief, right? The god of lies. Faking memory loss is definitely up his alley. You gotta admit.”

“You speak truly, but my brother isn’t predictable.”

Sighing softly Tony shook his head and decided to give up this fight. For today. That was too much brotherly love for him to deal with.

 ***

So they had a secret meeting. In the middle of the night. Sneaking around in his own house, wonderful. Tony loved having homicidal guests around. They others seemed to agree with him. Most of all Clint who was glaring at nobody in particular and yet his eyes made Tony’s skin crawl. Perhaps sooner or later Clint would snap, put an arrow in Loki’s head. There, problem solved… and then Thor would be likely to declare war on their entire world… Damn, no killing then. A pity.

“I guess we should accept that it’s not very probable that he will make a mistake on his own. All he has said and done until now makes sense… A person in his situation… you know with real memories loss would do anything but trust us. He knows he’s a prisoner. He’s very distant towards Thor, because if he had really lost his memory… he would be. He constantly looks at things that seem new to him. He’s good at this…” Steve’s summary caused everybody to nod and Clint grumbled in agreement. Time to put in Tony’s two cents. “Yeah and we should definitely worry about Thor… He’s totally eating that shit up. Loki just needs to bat his eyelids at him and Thor does everything he wants.”

“Indeed and I fear we underestimated how desperately Thor wants Loki to trust him. I fear that there is a possibility that he might distant himself from us to show Loki that he is on his side…” Natasha said all of this in here usual monotone, not caring way while Tony was starting to feel sick. Now this wasn’t the nicest prospect…

Time for Steve to step in and to rush to the absent Avenger’s rescue. “I don’t think we have to worry about this… Thor wants things the way they were, but we are his friends and I am sure we can trust him. I still see what you are saying though…” Clearing his throat Steve readied himself to say something that he didn’t like. “I guess we should try to stop them from spending too much time with each other. Alone… minimize Loki’s influence…”

Tony quickly nodded. “Agreed… Thor is already convinced that Loki is not faking. I don’t want it to go farther than that.”

“And we should…”

“Sir, I am sorry to interrupt…”

Everybody immediately tensed, straightening up. “What is it, Jarvis?”

Was it happening? Had Loki dropped the scheme and was out to search the amulet? Or was already tearing down the tower?

“Your guest just realized that there are cameras installed in his room.”

“What?! How?”

“He spent hours examining the television and when Mr. Odinson invited him to his rooms Mr. Laufeyson was very intrigued by the laptop there.”

Clint snorted, his eyes flashing. “Thor doesn’t even know how to use a computer. Why does he have a laptop?”

It wasn’t the right time to get offended, but Tony couldn’t help himself. “Hey, I want my guests to live comfortably… I didn’t put one in Loki’s room!”

Steve made a gesture that indicated them to shut up. “Jarvis, you think he figured it out on his own?”

“Yes, Captain Rogers. He definitely noticed the webcam. Back in his room he opened the book he received from Mr. Stark. He took some time to look at the photographs in it. Then he turned back to the TV and he watched the news. They showed security footage of a bank robbery. Instantly afterwards he started searching the room…”

“Fucking great…” Running one hand down his face Tony tried to swallow his frustration, he needed to think clearly. “Did he find one? Wait, what am I saying… He can’t find one, they are way too small. You can’t find them if you don’t know where they are.”

Tony didn’t have much time to feel better, because Clint sneered dismissively. “Fuck those Asgardians, I bet they have better eyesight than we do… It’s fucking Loki. He has magic…”

“Did he find the cameras?”

“No, sir, but he is definitely aware of them being there.”

“Great… fucking fantastic. You wanna bet that he’ll insist on having them removed?”

While Tony felt tempted to throw something against the wall, because Loki was so terribly frustrating, Steve kept his cool. “That’s something we could talk about… we don’t need the cameras to keep track of him, right? Jarvis can do that…”

“Oh really? Do you believe that Jarvis has actual eyes?”

“I meant that we don’t have to remove all of them. Jarvis has other means of watching him. You talked about his magic altering the temperature… We have to make sure that he doesn’t realise we can also keep an eye on him this way… If he wants to talk about the cameras, fine. We can deal with that.” Steve didn’t seem bothered at all and Tony resisted the urge to tell Steve that they couldn’t have Loki messing with their security measures.

Natasha definitely was aware of what was going on in Tony’s head. She had that look on her face that made clear that she was looking right through him. Couldn’t she do that with Loki instead of him? “You do realise that he probably doesn’t care about the cameras or us watching him? He’ll use it to play the part of the victim even better, try to get Thor’s sympathy… I can’t be sure, but at the moment I do believe he wants to tear us apart, to create chaos… just enough to jump at the right opportunity and get the amulet…”

“That sounds like something he would do… Right… Whatever we do, we have to give Thor the feeling that we might consider that the memory loss is real. He is a good and loyal guy, that will be enough for him.” Only now Tony realised that Steve looked tired. A rather strange sight. “Our best shot is to find a way to stop him from using magic. The stones are definitely not doing the job… When is Bruce going to be back?”

“Tomorrow afternoon. I’ve already filled him in. Not sure if he's going to show though. He’s not excited about it...”

“Nobody is…”

They fell silent for a moment, maybe just waiting for Jarvis to tell them that Loki was complaining about the surveillance. That didn’t happen, it was Clint who spoke up. “You got him a book? Why? What kind of book?”

God, Tony had known that he would get into trouble because of this. It was a fucking book, no big deal. “A book about the history of the United States… he said he wanted to learn about… Midgard and Thor didn’t know shit. I can’t see the harm in giving him a fucking book. Thor seemed happy and the declaration of independence won’t give Loki any ideas how to murder us quicker…”

“It was a good idea. It showed Thor some good will… We should go to bed. Jarvis will keep an eye on him and we’ll hear what he has to say about the cameras tomorrow…”

 ***

The next morning Tony didn’t want anything else than replacing the blood in his veins with coffee. Instead of going to bed he had pulled an all-nighter, trying to figure out how he could use the data. The sooner he could get Loki out of his house and into a S.H.I.E.L.D cell the better. Hopefully for the rest of fucking eternity.

Unfortunately he didn’t find Loki in a cell, but in the common living room. It made him feel uneasy to know that Loki walked around here. Yes, Jarvis was monitoring him and he couldn’t even enter the kitchen when nobody else was in there. Still, Tony couldn’t help the feeling that it wasn’t enough.

Loki was lying in wait. Getting ready to do something and that something wouldn’t be pretty.

“Mr. Stark… That’s the proper way to address somebody in this country, isn’t it?”

No, Tony wouldn’t pretend to know a lot about human nature or to be good at figuring people out. Most of the time he didn’t know what was going on in his own hand. However, he had experience with being lied to. With being mocked. Business men liked to do that. To him this seemed like an honest question. Loki actually wanted to know something.

Tony took his time before responding. He took a sip from his coffee and let his eyes run over Loki’s body. Trying to find something that he could maybe use against him. He would have to ask Jarvis if Loki had actually slept since he had arrived at the tower. The permanent dark rings beneath his eyes seemed to fade away. It was hard to miss that Loki looked better in general. His shorter hair was nicely combed, brushed back behind his ears and his entire demeanour could almost be described as calm.

That idiot was definitely putting some effort into his role…

“Yeah… Mr. Stark works for me. What’s up?”

Leaning forward Loki put a hand on the book which was lying on the couch table. “I enjoyed this book very much, but it was definitely confusing…”

Against his own will Tony’s eyebrows went straight up. He wanted to talk about the book? The history of the United States? Not the cameras in his rooms? Fine, Tony could play along. “Confusing? Why? You’ve always loved to point out how smart you are, but you think it’s confusing.”

“Maybe confusing was the wrong choice of words… I feel like I definitely need more information to make sense of what I’ve read. The history of this country is tightly intertwined with the history of Europe. I’ve never heard of this place before I read this book… I would be most grateful if I could have another book similar to this one. About the history of Europe, especially Britain and France.”

What was this… weird expression on Loki’s face? A smile? Not taunting or homicidal but… kind of legit? To Tony it seemed real enough… Was he really grateful? Nah, great actor, again. Wait a second…

“I gave you that book yesterday… There’s no way you’ve already finished it.”

“I have.”

“No way.”

“Prove it. Boston Tea Party. When?”

“16th December 1773.”

“1st President.”

“George Washington.”

“2nd

“John Adams.”

“3rd

“Thomas Jefferson.”

“27th

“William Howard Taft.”

“Hell, I have no idea if this is right! Damn, I’ll assume you’ve read it.”

Loki shrugged softly. “I am a quick reader and it was fairly interesting.”

Another long sip of coffee was necessary before Tony kept the conversation going. “Fine… Okay, I’ll get you some more books… It might take half a day or so.”

No complaining, no snarl or demanding. Instead Loki offered him another small smile. “I thank you… you look surprised?”

How was Tony supposed to hold back? A bitter laugh escaped his throat. “Huh? I didn’t know that you could ask for something. Or say thank you.”

While raising an eyebrow Loki got up from the couch. “Is that so? Interesting. I don’t know under which circumstances we’ve met before, but I know for certain that I never forget my manners.”

One of the rare moments when Tony didn’t know what to say. He was so sick of Loki’s allusions of them being the bad guys. Especially when Tony tended to believe parts of it.

“Oh right… about the devices installed in my rooms to spy on me… I am the god of mischief and illusions. So I don’t really understand what you hope to gain from it…” The way he curled his lips was a sign of amusement and Tony hissed in response. “You think you’re pretty smart, right?”

“I think… if you want to find out more about me… you should try to talk to me… Just a thought.” Grabbing his book Loki left him alone and Tony stared after him. No, he wouldn’t even start pretending to understand what was going on.

 

Chapter Text

Sweat was dripping off Steve’s forehead and yet he was not close to his limit. It was more or less impossible to exhaust himself during a work-out, something Steve had realised quite some time ago. That wouldn’t stop him from trying though. He had already finished his run and had used up another punching bag. By now he was busy doing sit-ups, the Loki situation still weighing heavily on his mind.

Everything was so calm, suspiciously calm. Silence before the storm? Loki was keeping a low profile, staying in his rooms all of the time after Tony had given him some more books. According to Jarvis he was actually reading them, not doing anything else. It was so strange. Steve wouldn’t have Loki expected to be so patient… He felt like a disaster tourist, not doing anything, just sitting down and watching the catastrophe.

“Captain Rogers, Mr. Laufeyson is heading towards the gym.”

Letting out a long breath Steve sat up. Talk of the devil. “Does he know I am here?”

“Yes, he wishes to speak to you.”

“What about?”

“He didn’t mention specifics.”

Wonderful. Getting up to his feet, slowly walking towards his bag where he picked up a towel to rub off his face. Behind him he already heard the door being opened. Well then…

“My apologies, am I interrupting?”

His first words and he was already confusing Steve. Turning around slowly Steve came to face him and was taken aback. At first glance Steve didn’t recognize him. Tony had mentioned him cutting his hair, but Steve hadn’t been prepared for such a difference. Loki had always had this haunted look about him, like a man who was ready all the time to attack, flee or defend himself. It also made him seem constantly tired and ready to snap, like a chased animal. Now Steve got quite a different impression from the man standing in the doorway.

Loki’s appearance was elegant and yet casual. The charisma had been there before, but now it wasn’t menacing anymore, rather engaging. Maybe seeing Loki in jeans and a pullover was such an unusual sight that Steve couldn’t help but feel intrigued by it. Over the last six months he had learned how to deal with an angry man in a foreign armour who was spatting insults and instantly filled a room with his threatening presence. This was completely different. The way he was standing there, waiting for Steve’s permission to come any closer. Not shy, no. For the lack of a better word Steve would describe him as polite. The kind of person who instantly captured anyone’s attention by being present.

Although it pained him to admit it, Steve had no idea how to react to this sudden change. It was still Loki’s face, green eyes, black hair, sharp and yet delicate feature. Steve would have to be blind to miss the changes though. A god of lies and deceit. Who could change personalities like shirts, but Steve had never actually seen it.

Quickly pushing all of these thoughts away Steve concentrated on the conversation that was about to start. Those were never easy with Loki.

“I am done for today anyway. What do you want?” Normally Steve didn’t want to sound so distant and repellent, but these were special circumstances. Despite Loki’s games Steve hadn’t forgotten who he was and why he was here.

Raising his hand Loki let Steve glance at the book he was holding in his hand. “Mr. Stark was kind enough to let me have this. A work that tells the history of your country.”

Steve knew about the books, but Loki calling Tony ‘Mr. Stark’ was definitely new and it was hard not to feel amused by it. “And what does this have to do with me?”

“You were mentioned in the book. Admittedly at first I wasn’t sure if it was really you. The description reminded me of old Asgardian tales, legends. About great warriors with their hearts full of honesty and grace, ready to sacrifice themselves for the greater good. Honestly I’ve always found this type of hero rather boring and predictable. So tame and… unrealistic. That’s why at first I thought that said Captain America was only a figure of propaganda, designed to help the people through a difficult time. To let them dream of heroism and ideals that have been long gone. Then I saw the pictures…” Loki opened the book and Steve saw a photograph of himself which had been taken during his time in Europe. "You haven’t changed a bit in 70 years, Captain Rogers.”

There was something in Loki’s eyes, a faint glimmer which achieved something that happened very rarely. A shiver was running down Steve’s spine. It wasn’t intimidating per se. Loki seemed to be enraptured by some sullen form of curiosity and the object of his interest was Steve.

“If you are surprised by this… you haven’t read the rest of the chapter.”

“Oh, I have… it was mesmerising. The story of a true hero… although in my humble opinion I am more fascinated by the miracle your body has accomplished. Keeping you alive for all those years, far beyond the average life expectancy of your species… On the other hand I am not familiar with Midgardian historiography. It’s certainly different from Asgardian… I have no idea how much exaggeration or description is tolerated. I couldn’t help wondering how much of it was true…”

Steve’s gut told him to be careful, that this was a trap. This was a scheme, Loki was trying to gain something from it. “I have never bothered to read what other people write about me. People who don’t know me.”

“I see…” Loki put the book aside, casually walking across the room. “Maybe you should read it sometime. Correct errors if you find them. You’re in a special position… Most heroes die before books are written about them…”

“What’s your point?”

Stopping just a few steps away from him Loki smiled wickedly. “The historian described your strength as superior to all other… humans. I am so curious what that means… I am sure you would describe the man who tried to taunt me as strong… yet I could break his bones without the tiniest effort.”

“Are you threatening me?” Steve’s guard was up, he was ready for anything and Loki laughed softly at him. “Does it sound like a threat? I didn’t intent it to be one… I was merely wondering what would happen if I tried to…”

Steve saw it coming and he knew that Loki wanted it this way. His arm went up quickly to block Loki’s hand which was about to hit him. Loki blinked, his eyes, a bit wider than before, lingered on Steve’s arm for a second and then darted to his face. This little test had done nothing to decrease his curiosity. Rather the opposite. Bright, admittedly beautiful.

“I have to admit that I am impressed… Your strength mirrors the one of an Asgardian… Something that’s impossible to achieve if you are born Midgardian. What they did to you is remarkable… and terrifying.”

The last word had more effect than Steve was ever willing to admit and he quickly dropped his arm. “Don’t ever do that again.”

“The book is very vague on how this happened… How long ago? 70 years? I doubt that your scientists were far enough advanced to know what they were doing… I guess the fact that you are standing here in front of me is pure coincidence… they could have easily killed you… instead they made you immortal having no idea what they were doing…” Loki took a step back and Steve was grateful for it. “Stop this.”

Cocking his head Loki raised an eyebrow. “Stop what?”

“Pretending you don’t already know all these things…”

To his surprise Loki continued to smile. “Would that make any difference? If I learned them today or years ago? I’d be fascinated all the same…”

Where was he going with this?

“Are you done?” Demonstratively Steve picked up his bag

“No. Not by far. I am trying to figure you out. You and your friends… the Avengers. I am trying to understand who you are and why I am here. Or why my brother seems like a different person and willing to make a prisoner… and I want to know who I am up against if I should have to fight you.” Still smiling Loki slowly nodded his head as if he was greeting somebody. “Thank you for the demonstration.”

Loki left and Steve’s eyes followed him. God, he hated it when Loki acted like he was the smartest in the room. He probably was.

 ***

Thor hesitated before knocking at Loki’s door. His little brother had always hated people storming into his chambers. Something that hadn’t happened rarely. While waiting Thor shifted from foot to another until he heard Loki’s soft voice. “Come in.”

After entering the room Thor instantly spotted his little brother sitting at the table, his eyes fixed on the book in front of him. Several others were scattered across the table and Thor did his best not to smile because of the familiarity of this situation. How often had he seen Loki like this? Studying, learning instead going out for a hunt…

“What do you want, Thor?”

Even that was so incredibly familiar.

“I wish to talk to you…”

“I am working.”

As if nothing had changed, nothing at all. Sitting down opposite of his brother Thor wasn’t willing to let this opportunity pass. “What are you working on? Maybe I can be of help?”

Loki wasn’t looking up, but letting out a sigh and somehow Thor didn’t think that he was the reason for it. “I am trying to make sense of… everything. I couldn’t even start studying the history of this country, because it’s tied so tightly to European history. So I tried to learn about Europe… which consists of several other countries. They do all have a different culture, forms of government… even religion. There is such a huge variety of civilisation… I can hardly grasp it. To be honest… It seems kind of unorganised. Cooperation doesn’t seem to be a Midgardian virtue.”

Thor would agree, but he had to admit that he had never paid much attention to Midgardian cultures or politics. Sure, Jane and his friends constantly introduced him to new things and yet his knowledge was very limited.

“… and so many languages… How anybody here is able to communicate without the All-speak is beyond me…”

Another thing that made Thor smile. “It can get confusing at time… Any chance you might stop working for a moment and we have a talk?”

“No.”

A single word and a painful sting in his chest. Sitting here with Loki was a miracle. His little brother tolerating his presence without a sudden burst of violence. Tolerating. That wasn’t enough for Thor, there was nothing he wanted more than going back to how things had been only a year ago. When his little brother had been his best friend, when they had been able to tell each other everything… when Loki had greeted him a smile instead of a curse.

“Why not?”

“Because I am not interested in a conversation that will only consist of lies.”

“Loki, I wouldn’t…”

Looking up Loki shot him a dark look. It wasn’t enough to give Thor chills, because he recognized his brother’s angry glare. Anger, no hatred. “You won’t tell me why we can’t just go home! Why we are even here! I want to go home!”

Thor knew he couldn’t continue to avoid this topic. Until know he had desperately tried to hide the implications of Loki’s actions. Loki couldn’t remember what he had done and naturally all the changes around him left him confused. Unfortunately the truth would bring Loki more pain than the confusion. Loki didn’t know and Thor knew his little brother, always thirsty for knowledge. This about himself, of course Loki wanted to know. How long was Thor supposed to keep this a secret? It wasn’t fair to both of them.

“I don’t… I want to protect you. I am worried what the All-father might do if we return to Asgard…”

The rage in Loki’s eyes quickly disappeared, being replaced by even more confusion. “Afraid what father might do? I don’t see… Why?”

Father. He was calling him father…

“I… Father’s the king of Asgard, the All-father… He’d be forced to punish you for your crimes…”

Blinking lightly Loki shook his head, supressing a hoarse laugh. “My crimes? Trying to conquer this world? A world that I have no interest in? A plot that makes no sense? That I don’t have the means to realise? I still have trouble believing this.”

It wasn’t just about Midgard. There had been the attack of Jotunheim and Thor would do everything to keep this event in the shadows. Loki had always accused him of being dense, slow and there was some truth in that. Thor didn’t have his brother’s wits or cunning, but he wasn’t stupid either. He knew exactly when something in his brother had changed and poisoned his sanity. The moment when Loki had learned about his true heritage, Thor was aware of that. It pained him that he couldn’t fully understand what Loki had been going through. How it had torn him apart, because it must have… Otherwise his brother would have never fallen from grace. Loki would have never lost his mind…

Thor had promised himself that he would do anything in his might to prevent this from happening again. The Nornes had given them a second chance, Thor was sure of that. A chance for Loki to give peace of mind, to come back home.

Loki would never learn about what had happened during the war against the Jotuns, he would never know that they didn’t share the same blood and Loki would have his brother back.

“I wish I could give you a satisfying answer, Loki, but I can’t. I don’t know what happened to you after you fell… what you went through. We thought you dead and when you came back… you were different. I didn’t recognize you… you were full of spite and anger. Driven by hatred. All this time I hoped there would be a chance to get my little brother back. I wished for something like this. To be able to sit here with you and talk… I don’t know what happened. I am sorry I can’t tell you more…”

His brother’s green eyes were fixed on his face and Thor barely resisted the urge to turn away to escape that intense gaze. Who but Loki could read him that easily? What if he was able to call his bluff? If Loki spotted his lie, he would never start trusting Thor again.

Instead of saying anything Loki just kept looking at him, narrowing his eyes lightly as if he was trying to concentrate, trying to find the meaning in Thor’s words.

Finally Loki dropped his pen and Thor could hear him releasing a long sigh. “You are my brother, I know you have my best interests at heart, but… I don’t have any memories of what happened during the last year and you are here and tell me that… I tried to subdue an entire world to my will. Don’t you see that this might be a little bit hard to believe? Especially when I am still trying to find out what they did to us.”

“Who?”

Loki snarled. “Your so called friends. The Avengers…”

“They didn’t do anything to us.”

“They hold me as a prisoner! With your consent! They only show me hostility and they are the reason why I don’t remember. I don’t know yet what they have done to you, but I will find out. There has to be magic at work although I can’t find any trace of it. Even the voice in the ceiling doesn’t seem to be the work of a sorcerer…” There was such determination in his eyes and Thor didn’t know what to do, because how could Loki believe that any of this was real? He had to think he was caught up in a bad dream.

“Brother… please… it has nothing to do with my friends. I am not under a spell, neither are you…”

“Then why are you on their side?!” Loki was yelling and Thor was reminded of them being kids. “I am your brother! We could just leave! They are Midgardian, nothing is stopping us!”

Not knowing what else to do Thor grabbed Loki’s hand, hoping it would calm him down. “Loki, please listen to me… We can’t go home, not yet. Some time ago I made a deal with Heimdall… that he wouldn’t immediately alert our father if I should ca… find you again. That’s the only reason why Asgardian soldiers haven’t been sent to take you back to Asgard. In chains. I am not going to let that happen. My friends will realise that you aren’t the person they think you are… We’ve been offered a chance and…”

“A chance? Somebody stole my memories, I am surrounded by enemies, you refuse to help me and you call it a chance! Until now I didn’t make a move to get away because of you! They can’t hold me back. The only considerable threat is the Captain and I should be able to take him with ease. I am not going to continue sitting here and give them time to obtain whatever they want!” Hissing these words Loki got up from his chair and Thor knew that he had to do something. He couldn’t lose Loki again and he wouldn’t take the risk of his brother getting hurt. Most importantly Thor would not lose him again.

It was a quick decision, maybe even a mistake, but it was the only thing Thor could think of. “Wait… I will show you. I know it must confusing and frustrating to hear this story without having any proof… So I will show you what happened.”

This prospect was enough to calm Loki down. “How?”

“Jarvis…” Thor cleared his throat, he always felt uncomfortable talking to Stark’s invention and he avoided it most of the time. “Could you please tell Stark that I want Loki to see the footage of the invasion of New York?”

“Of course, Mr. Odinson.”

Thor would have preferred to spare Loki this experience. To simply forget about had happened six months ago, but now he realised that this wasn’t possible. So this was the right thing to do? Thor tried to tell himself that it was, pushing away the thought Loki might remember something and he would lose his brother either way.

Chapter Text

“Why? You want to see us kicking your ass? Seriously?” Tony spat, crossing his arms in front of his chest. He didn’t understand why Loki would want to see the footage of the invasion. Was there a real reason behind it? A scheme? Or just another try to make Thor believe that he had no idea what was going on?

“My brother has trouble believing what… happened six months ago. I thought it would help him to see it.”

Tony let out a bitter laugh and turned to Loki. “So you don’t believe that you tried to enslave mankind? Well, you did such a terrible job at invading… if I were you, I would try to forget that too.”

Loki merely narrowed his eyes and then looked at Thor. “I stand by my word. If I don’t get an explanation, I will leave. Now.”

Huh…

“Friend Stark, please. Where is the harm in showing him? We’ve already told him…” Thor was using his puppy dog eyes on Tony and he was tempted to let out a loud groan. Seriously?

“Fine. If you insist…but don’t start to cry.” Maybe it would be even interesting to watch Loki’s reaction. Maybe they would be able to tell that he was faking it? Tony was willing to give it a try. He quickly told Jarvis to show the footage from the Hellcarrier. Loki sitting in cell of glass, a cruel smirk on his lips and madness in his eyes.

Tony’s were fixed on the Loki standing right next to him. The Asgardian was staring the screen in front of them, until now his face gave nothing away. This was going to be interesting.

“Another prison.” Loki’s lips formed a thin line and Thor looked so incredibly guilty, Tony fought the urge to slap him. A cell was where he belonged. They should put him in a cell right now. “What kind of magic did you use to sustain it?”

What was the psychopath talking about now? “No magic, Reindeer Games. Just some solid glass…”

Loki actually blinked, then raised an eyebrow. “Midgardian?”

“Of course. Only the best for you.”

Ignoring Tony’s last comment Loki turned to Thor. “Why didn’t I just leave?”

Idiot. “Because you were locked in, idiot.”

“Thor?”

Wait a second…”

“You allowed yourself to be captured. It was part of your plan, a scheme…” Thor’s voice resembled a whisper and only now the implications dawned on Tony. No way. Were they saying that Loki could have walked out of there any time? Granted, by now they had learned the Loki knew some seriously mean tricks and they obviously wouldn’t have been able to keep him in this cell forever. But until now Tony had been perfectly sure that they had had him, even without stupid Asgardian stones.

Now Loki was telling him that he could have easily left?

Bullshit…

The video continued, it only showed Loki in his cell, completely calm, a pretentious smirk on his lips. Damn, Tony hated the Loki on screen even more than the one next to him. Which was admittedly pretty stupid. Loki kept watching and Tony had to give it to him, he really looked like he was seeing this for the first time.

“I look sick… You didn’t mention anything about me being sick.”

Tony opened his mouth to tell Loki that he had always been a sick bastard, but then he couldn’t help but realise that Loki had a point. Until now he had never paid any attention to it. The Loki on screen really looked like shit… and Tony was only able to tell that, because the Loki next to him was looking pretty. No dark circles around his eyes. An actual haircut. Not looking like he was about to pass out anytime. Tony had just assumed that this was Loki’s usual appearance. Now he knew better…

Thor didn’t answer and when Loki glanced at him expectantly he shook his head.

“Okay, that was just your little stop at the Hellcarrier… I guess you want to see the real stuff. The quality won’t be as good, hardly anyone was doing any real filming. They were too busy running for their lives since there was no place in Manhattan that wasn’t being attacked.” Tony was growling and told Jarvis to show the footage from the actual invasion. As soon as the first aliens appeared on the screen Tony turned his back to it. He had no intention or desire whatsoever to watch this. Ever again. Living through it had been worse enough.

Instead he was watching Loki, ready to smack him across the face if he should see the tiniest bit of pride in his eyes. That didn’t happen. Those green eyes were fixed on the screen, not blinking once. Loki’s face was as hard as stone. At the beginning. The more destruction and debris was shown the more Loki was reacting to it. No menacing and crazed out smirk. Tony would be damned, because Loki definitely knew how to play the unsettled. First his lips formed a tight line, then his mouth slightly dropped open and these green eyes grew wide. Too wide to hide any kind of secret?

Tony had no idea, but he knew better than to lower his guard around this son of a bitch.

“This… I don’t see… Why would I…” He stopped his stuttering which was completely out of character and freaking Tony out. After straightening up Loki slightly raised his chin. “It is me commanding them? How?”

“You promised them the Tesseract.” Why was Tony answering his questions? Don’t feed the fucking troll. Didn’t he learn anything on the internet?

It took Loki a moment, but then he turned to Tony and he was taken aback. Mere curiosity, a need to know, no hostility. When had this happened? How was Loki pulling this of? Tony wasn’t able to even smile at people he couldn’t stand.

“The Tesseract has long been lost.”

Seriously, one more time and Tony was going to rip him apart. Uttering a sigh he glanced at Thor, indicating him to answer the question, because he wouldn’t do it.

“The Midgardians discovered it… shortly before your arrival.”

“So you used the Tesseract to bring me here…”

Tony was going to hit him. “Oh, we didn’t bring you here. Nobody wanted you here. We still don’t want you here.”

No reaction from both of them, Loki turned back to the screen and Tony could see him swallow. Huh? Was he finally realising that they would never buy his fucking story? No matter how hard he tried.

“During my time as a… prisoner…” Loki’s tone was quiet, but definitely not calm. “… did they do anything to my powers?”

Blinking Tony turned to Thor, instantly curious what this question was about. Thor was quick to answer. “No, they don’t have the means, Loki. Nothing happened to you.”

“Then why am I not using them?!” Suddenly Loki was yelling and Tony felt like he was missing some important pieces of information. “None of this makes any kind of sense! I had no idea about the Tesseract or some army of disgusting monster which… These images you show me… they are images of war. I would use my powers in a fight. I am not using them! I would… I would not… What have you down to me?!”

Tony was up from his chair as soon as Loki had taken a step towards him. The sudden change from confusion to rage was almost as intimidating as the look in Loki’s eyes. Green sparks were dancing around his fingertips and Tony opened his mouth to call for Jarvis.

“Brother, stop! I understand your anger and your confusion, but they didn’t do anything to you. Whatever happened to you… it happened when you fell into the abyss… They don’t deserve your hostility.” Thor had grabbed Loki’s wrist and Tony wasn’t so dead inside that he didn’t get the tenderness with which Thor approached his brother. Also Tony didn’t miss that -Thor was putting himself between Loki and Tony. Just in case? It would have been a better idea to have Steve here. Just in case.

Loki’s hand was balled into a fist, Tony could hear the sizzling sound of sparks of magic and he definitely didn’t want to find out what Loki had meant when he had been talking about his powers.

“Please, brother…”

“I need more than that, Thor! Yesterday I was still in Asgard and today you tell me all these things, show me these images that make no sense to me! I don’t know what happened! I don’t know if all of this is some kind of trick, so spell too brilliant for me to figure out… all I have to rely on is you and you’ve made me a prisoner! I need your word! I need your word that all of this is true, that you are not lying to me!”

How many times had Tony heard Loki scream before? Too many. Not like this though. Normally it was all anger and spite. Nothing that sounded only slightly familiar to desperation. It was Loki, therefore it was an act, but he was pretty amazing at acting desperate. Willing to do anything to wrap Thor around his little finger. Which was working out perfectly for him.

Thor slowly reached out. So slowly that he was clearly asking for permission to touch Loki and the latter didn’t do anything to stop him. His eyes were burning and Tony felt a sting in the back of his neck. Something about this didn’t make sense.

“Loki, I swear to you… Nobody here is playing a trick on you. Do you even think me capable of playing a trick on you? I am just as clueless as you about what happened after you fell from the Bifröst. This…” Thor was gesturing towards the screen. “… was when I found out that you were still alive. We both don’t know what happened… but you are still my brother and we have a chance to go back to how things were before… Please. I am not lying to you.”

Tony had to swallow softly. Yes, Thor was talking all the time about how much he loved his brother and how different their relationship had been. Hearing him say it to Loki who was actually willing to listen was something else entirely. It made Tony uncomfortable, he felt like he was witnessing something so private and definitely not meant for his eyes. For the first time Tony could see that they had been a family. A long time ago, nevertheless a family.

Loki was releasing a long breath and Tony watched carefully how he uncurled his fingers. Hesitant but eventually he nodded. “I… can’t fight this feeling of dread, Thor. I see that they hate me and you call them your friends…”

The question was unspoken, but even Tony had been able to hear it perfectly. He felt the urge to snore. Loki could tear down an entire world and Thor would still continue to love him. Another time Tony would have made some comment, now it felt out of place. It had to be nice to have somebody to have your back. Unconditionally. Somebody who would never turn on you no matter how often you screwed up.

“You are my brother, I could never hate you… and I hope this feeling is mutual…”

The faintest smile was ghosting across Loki’s face and Tony bit his lower lip. “I am… This is so much to take in, but I’ll try…” Whatever he wanted to say, Loki wasn’t able to voice it. Instead he looked past his brother, his eyes meeting Tony’s. It seemed like he had forgotten about him for a moment. “Mr. Stark, I thank you for letting me see this. I will excuse myself… I need time to process this…”

After another glance at Thor Loki turned around and slowly walked out of the room. Tony sighed deeply, the tension slowly leaving his shoulders. This had been weird. “Jarvis, turn off the footage, please. What was this about?”

“I tried to explain my brother what happened when he came to Midgard. He didn’t believe me, so I wanted to show him… I can’t imagine how he must feel now. Waking up one day and finding out that you became another person and you have no idea how…”

Tony only huffed. “So we showed him the footage… what is he trying to gain from it?”

“I know you don’t believe him, my friend, but I know my brother. He will need some time to cope with this and then we will try to make peace with you. I told the truth, I don’t know what happened to him when he fell, but something most definitely happened… He forgot about it, so there is a chance you will get to know him the way he was. If he decides to stay.”

Nagging on his lower lip Tony sat back down, looking at Thor expectantly. “How can you be so sure that he is not faking it? By all means, he is the god of lies and he has been fighting us for the last six months…”

Thor even started to smile and Tony wasn’t able to take that. “You saw him, didn’t you? His reaction to the video. He is not pretending. I am willing to listen to you and willing to go after every sign you might spot. Is there anything that gives you reason to believe that he is dishonest?”

“Another than our lovely past and him throwing me out of the window… No. But the whole thing is still too convenient. Be careful. You’re so happy that he’s here and currently homicidal… I am worried that this is going to blow up in your face.”

 ***

Steve couldn’t deny that he was worried. Mostly he felt tired, a bit worn out and ready for a long shower. The mission had been short, but strenuous. Especially because he hadn’t been distracted. One night ago Fury had called him, emergency situation, get on a plane and fly to Kuwait. Granted, Steve hadn’t been concerned, he had been worried to leave. Loki could have been waiting for an opportunity like this. Fortunately Thor had agreed to stay behind, but it hadn’t been enough to put Steve’s mind at ease.

21 hours later he was back at the tower and relieved to see that nothing had happened. Nobody had called him or Natasha during their mission and Jarvis greeted Steve by telling him that everything was perfectly fine.

It was still in the middle of the night and despite a warm shower and tired muscles Steve was wide awake. Natasha had left straight for her room and everybody else was probably still asleep. Wandering into the kitchen Steve got himself a glass of water and then made his way into the living room. Steve had been wrong, not everybody was asleep.

Loki was sitting on the floor, leaning with his shoulder against the huge panorama window, staring outside. Once again Steve was shocked by how normal he looked. A black t-shirt, jeans… where did he have the clothes from anyway? Tony probably. He was holding something in his hands, it looked like a pencil. Had Loki been writing something? Why would he do that here and not in his rooms?

Steve was about to turn back around, but his feet were glued to the floor. There was something about Loki’s expression. Completely lost in thought, miles away. It was hard to not be interested in what he might be thinking about. To be honest, Steve had no idea how a person looked like when they were plotting or coming up with evil plans. Not like this. Soft features that were dominated by… It was hard to find a word to describe it. Sadness? Melancholia?

Right now he didn’t look like Loki. Not the man Steve had met and fought in Germany. Could a facial expression really change that much? Steve knew better than to be fooled that easily, but the difference was impossible to go by unnoticed.

“Can’t sleep?” Steve didn’t know why he spoke up, but now it was too late to take it back. Loki blinked in surprise and turned his head. He didn’t seem to be bothered by Steve’s presence. “No, there are too many things on my mind to even think about sleep.”

Not knowing how to take this Steve walked into the room, taking a sip from his water. “Someone in your position shouldn’t say things like that.”

The corners of Loki’s mouth twitched. “Do not worry, Captain. I am not thinking about other ways to test your strength or how to enslave this planet… I haven’t apologized yet for trying to strike you. I am sorry. I didn’t mean you any harm though, I was fairly sure you would be able to fight me off.”

Steve raised an eyebrow, but an apology was an apology. It even sounded honest. “Thank you… you mind telling me what you are thinking about?”

Loki turned his head away, leaning it against the glass of the window. “Philosophy mostly…”

When he didn’t give any details Steve asked further. “Philosophy? Did you read some of it?”

“No… I am pondering some questions. Let’s say you’ve committed some vile act, but you are not able to remember it. Something you can’t imagine yourself doing… would you still have to apologize for it?”

Steve felt himself tensing up and Loki had made it to render him speechless. Was this a trick? Until now Loki hadn’t mentioned a word about feeling bad for what he had done. Apologizing? No, it wouldn’t undo anything, but… it would be a start. “You… want to apologize? What for?”

“Your friend Stark showed me… images… he called it a video. About what happened to your city six months ago. What I did… I have no memory of doing anything, but it is hard to deny something your eyes are seeing so clearly… Am I responsible for something I have no notion of doing? Thor keeps claiming that I am innocent, because I don’t remember, but I have the feeling he would be of another opinion if we were talking about somebody else.” There was a soft chuckle in Loki’s voice and Steve had to admit that he hadn’t thought about any of this until now. Loki was only pretending, so there was no need ask these questions.

“What’s your opinion?”

“I would want them to reflect on what they have done. No matter if they remember it or not.”

“Do you? Reflect on it?”

Loki turned back to him. “I am trying to understand which is hard to do. I don’t see myself like you do. I don’t see myself as the person I saw on this video. I am still not sure if I can trust any of you, but my brother… Thor does trust you and until now you’ve been true to your word and nobody tried to cause me any harm.”

This very moment Steve realised how wrong he had been. They had sat down and had talked about how Loki was going to try to trick them and how they were going to turn the tables. Now Steve was standing here and had no idea how to react to Loki’s words. Yes, he knew that it was an act, but nevertheless he started to feel sympathy.

“Do you feel sorry for it?”

After hearing that question Loki’s eyes darted back to the window. There was this expression again. So strangely sad. What if maybe some of it was true? If Loki had made up this entire story to have a way to find some form of redemption? No, that was wishful thinking.

“I guess so…”

His words were weighing heavily on the silence and Steve bit his lip. There was no way to ignore this or to take it back. A week ago Loki would have never apologized. For nothing. Maybe, probably there was no truth in his words, no heart whatsoever, but he had said them. That meant something. Or at least Steve wanted it to mean something.

“I like beautiful things. I want to study them, not to destroy them…” Loki reached behind him and pulled out a sketch book. So he hadn’t been writing?

Steve could make out lines and shapes and… “You draw?”

“Sometimes… I do like the architecture of your city. I find it hard to believe that I would be willing to destroy it…”

When Loki continued to move the pencil across the paper Steve came a bit closer to see what he had been drawing. Loki had some talent, that was for sure. Looking out of the window or at the sheet of paper didn’t make much difference, Loki had an eye for details. “That’s… very good.”

“It’s a way to pass time. A distraction…”

Steve felt a sting of disappointment when Loki got up to his feet, the drawing still in his hand. He would have liked to take a closer look at it.

“I will go to bed now… Thank you for the talk, Captain. I appreciate it…” The melancholia disappeared for a moment when Loki actually smiled.

The surprises simply wouldn’t end.

Chapter Text

“Just for the record – I hate these team meetings.” Clint was pulling a face and Steve sighed inwardly. By now he was sure that it was going to be a rough talk, but it was all the more necessary. Updates on the Loki situation were vital and they had to let each other know what they had learned.

“It won’t take long. Tony has a few things to say.”

“Are we interested in that?” Clint leaned back in his chair and grinned at Tony who rolled his eyes. “I wish it’d be funny.”

Natasha was taking it seriously which made Steve feel a little bit better. “Any progress on your work concerning his magic?”

Tony shook his head and Steve was unable to overlook how different his friend looked today. Pensive, lost in thought, barely uttering a word. “No. According to Jarvis he hasn’t used any magic since he’s been here. Well, expect his little freak out, but that seemed to be the exact same thing he did when he woke up from his little coma… Anyway that’s not what I wanted to talk about… First thing in the morning Loki came to talk to me and… I’m getting chills thinking about it. You ready for this? Because you won’t fucking believe it. He walked up to me and apologized. Yeah, I was sure that I was hallucinating. He wasn’t apologized for trying to take over the world, but… he figured out that the tower got heavily damaged during the invasion and he figured that this was a place to start? I have no idea! He was explaining it and I didn’t understand anything else after the words ‘I am sorry’, because I was in fucking shock.”

To be honest these news would have caused Steve to have a stronger reaction if there hadn’t been his nightly conversation with Loki. Now he had gone through with it. An apology. Granted for a minor detail, but it was still an act they had thought Loki unable of.

“Wow, he’s really putting some effort into his scheme. I’m almost impressed…” Clint let out a long and exaggerated moan to show how much he didn’t care and obviously displeased Thor by doing that. “I assure you my brother’s apology was sincere.”

“Fuck your brother’s fake apology. Even if he meant it which he didn’t… So he apologized for the tower, what about the people who died? The rest of the city? The people whose mind he messed with?” Clint had shifted in his seat, now leaning forward, his eyes fixed on Thor. It was a challenging position, ready to get into a fight. A stupid idea and Steve wouldn’t let it go as far anyway.

Thor clearly felt the need to defend his little brother and his voice resembled a low growl when he answered. “My brother has no memory of committing these crimes. The way he speaks, carries himself and his entire behaviour show that he isn’t the person you think he is…”

“Yeah, whatever… is there anything you wouldn’t believe if he told you?” Clint was searching the confrontation and Steve decided to quickly step in. “We should try to sum up all the information we’ve gather until now. I am not as convinced as Thor, but I have to admit Loki’s been… surprising me… he was talking about this with me. About apologizing, feeling guilty despite having no memory of what happened. I don’t believe him that he doesn’t remember, but… maybe we should take something else into consideration.”

Clint was already rolling his eyes, but Natasha raised an eyebrow at him. She seemed intrigued. “And what would that be?”

“This is just an idea. A thought I had and… what if he’s being honest? Perhaps he wants indeed to start over. Maybe he is searching redemption and he knows that we wouldn’t buy it any other way… so he is faking his amnesia to have a shot. I know how this sounds and it’s very unlikely, but…”

“It’s not unlikely, it’s out of the fucking question. Seriously? Loki is fucking with us and he is waiting for us to fall into his trap… you are about to do just that.” Clint snorted and Thor sighed in response. “I see your reasoning, Captain, but I can ensure you – my brother doesn’t remember.”

Clearing his throat Tony drew all attention to himself. “I’m still with Clint on this on, but I gotta admit that Cap has a point… Loki’s show is so fucking good… and I didn’t think he’d last this long without using any magic. We should be fucking careful, because he’s probably waiting for us to get comfortable around him…”

That was a good idea, it sounded sensible. Still, Steve wasn’t content.

“Sir, your guest wishes to talk to his brother and one of your employees has just arrived with the special deliveries.”

No, Steve wasn’t going to ask what that meant…

“Special deliveries? That sounds just wrong.”

Tony snarled at Clint. “It’s fan mail, you idiot. Of course you know nothing about that. Who’d send fan mail to Hawkeye? I’m drowning in letters of women who thank me for saving the world and complimenting me on my marvellous looks.”

That wasn’t half as bad as Steve had thought it would be.

“Fine, let both of them in… Loki isn’t stupid, he knows anyway what we’re talking about when we’re all in one room and Jarvis doesn’t let him in…”

Steve wasn’t going to argue with that and their meeting seemed to be over anyway. Without any results. Rubbing his temples Steve got up from his chair and one second later Loki stepped through the door. White jeans and a long-sleeved green shirt, his hair brushed back behind his ears, Loki definitely didn’t look like an alien god. Loki entered the room and that aura of danger and rage didn’t surround him.

“Brother, you wanted to speak to me?”

Loki nodded, completely ignoring the dark glare Clint sent him. “Yes, I wish to see the city. Would you accompany me when I leave the tower?”

Steve was instantly alarmed, but he didn’t get a chance to interject. “Hell no! You are not setting one foot out off the tower! You are not going out!”

Unimpressed Loki quirked an eyebrow at Clint and Steve carefully watched his face. No, he didn’t know what he was searching for. Some kind of sign, a twinkle in his eyes that would give him away? “I do not recall you being in a position to give me orders, Clint.”

“Don’t call me that, you son of a…”

“Everybody calm down for a second… Loki, you surely understand that the idea of you leaving the tower is… problematic…” Steve didn’t want the situation to get out of hand and until now Loki had proved himself to be able to have a civil conversation. Unfortunately you never knew when he would decide to drop his act or what he was trying to gain…

No matter how much Steve hoped that it was redemption, he had left his nativity behind himself a long time ago.

At least Loki seemed far more interested in talking about this with Steve than with Clint. “If you are worrying that I might attract unwanted attention, then I can reassure you. I am perfectly capable of disguising myself. That is something you should know by now… Am I right?” Loki shot Thor a glance who nodded softly. “I’ll accompany my brother, so I see no reason not to…”

“Slow down, pointbreak. I’ll admit your baby brother behaved until now, but we have a shitload of bad experiences with him and I don’t feel at ease letting him out to scare the crap out of the city…”

“Mr. Stark… I hope you and your friends are aware of the fact that I am merely being polite. Absolutely nothing stops me from leaving this very second. I came here to let you know about what I had in mind and I want Thor at my side to put your minds at ease. None of this is necessary…” Loki seemed calm enough, perfectly collected and Steve didn’t know if that should make him uncomfortable.

“Now listen, you fu-“

A knock at the door stopped Clint from continuing his slur and Steve had never been so grateful for a Stark employee interrupting them. Not that it happened so often. After a word from Tony a young man strolled into the room, a large package tucked beneath his arm and a smile on his face. “Mr. Stark, here’s your…”

“Yeah, right. Thank you. We’re still in the middle of a meeting.” Tony made an impatient gesture, grabbed the package and the employee instantly disappeared again. Placing the package on the table in front of him Tony grinned. “You know what? I’ll let you deal with the unpleasant stuff like telling Reindeer Games that he is still under house arrest while I am going to read letters of people who I don’t know but who tell me how awesome I am.”

Steve released a sigh, but he refused to say anything. He knew Tony when he got frustrated and there was no use in scowling him now, especially when there were more important issues at hand. “Loki, you…”

It turned out to be also useless to try to talk to Loki whose entire attention was suddenly focused on Tony who was busy opening the package. The slight frown on Loki’s forehead didn’t go by unnoticed and it was Thor who commented on it. “Brother? Is something not right?”

Loki ever so slightly narrowed his eyes which gave his face a very pensive look, like he was trying to understand an unknown fact that he had just learned about. Finally he opened his mouth, still sounded so extraordinarily collected and calm. “I would not open this packet if I were you.”

The whole atmosphere in the room instantly changed although it already been tensed. Tony froze, quirking one eyebrow and looked at Loki. “What? You’re jealous you don’t get any fan mail?”

“The content of this packet is dangerous.”

It wasn’t a threat and unlike Tony Steve had no idea how to react to this. “Sorry to disappoint you, but this little thing has gone through a Stark security check. Done by Jarvis. It’s perfectly safe.”

Shaking his head Loki crossed his arms in front of his chest. “It’s not. You’ll get hurt if you open it.”

Steve had no idea what was going on, but a feeling in his gut told him that maybe they shouldn’t dismiss this instantly. Sometimes though even being a super soldier wasn’t good enough to keep up with Tony Stark when he decided to be reckless. “Fuck you, Reindeer Games, we’re not here to do whatever the fuck you want!”

That was all warning they got before Tony ripped the package open and the instant flash of light was so bright that Steve had to cover his eyes with his hands, but it didn’t save him any pain. A loud bang tore the momentary silence apart and Steve’s instinct stopped him from staying immobile another second. Something had happened, something bad and he needed to find out what to make sure that everybody was alright, to see how he could help.

Opening his eyes Steve noticed in relief that the bright light had already disappeared and whatever had happened hadn’t been an explosion. Or such a minor one that it hadn’t destroyed anything in the room. Despite the package.

Steve’s breath got caught when his eyes settled on Tony who was still in his chair and whose face was white as chalk. Right in front of him, where the package had been, little pieces of metal were floating in the air, some kind of pellets and from what Steve could tell they were being kept where they were through some green energy. Steve had seen this before, it was always related to Loki.

Said Asgardian was still standing in the very same spot as he had before. Still calm and collected, Loki was holding his hand out, all too familiar green sparks dancing around his fingers. It was him holding the pellets in place and from what Steve could tell it didn’t even look like an actual effort.

With a loud thunk the chair crashed onto the floor when Tony jumped up to his feet, ungraciously stumbling backwards. His breathing was ragged and his eyes unnaturally wide. “Shit…”

“I told you not to open it.” Loki walked closer to the table, not moving his hand. The sparks around it were still crackling. Thor quickly joined him and examined the still floating pellets. “What is this, brother?”

“Yeah! What the fuck is this?!” Tony was yelling and Steve noticed that one of his hands was clutching his chest. He needed to calm down…

“I do not know…” Loki slowly turned his hand and the pellets starting rotating, allowing them to watch them from all sides. “I sensed magic inside of the package… but it is combined with Midgardian technology… something my knowledge is very limited of…”

“Magic!? Why the fuck didn’t you say something?!”

“I did tell you it was a bad idea to open the package. Someone clearly intended to harm you and your… security measures are proven to be inadequate.” Muttering under his breath Loki closed his hand to form a fist and suddenly the green force field vanished. The pellets fell down onto the table and Steve heard somebody release a long breath. A few seconds of silence were abruptly ended by Clint’s shouting. “What the hell did you just do?!”

Ridiculously calm Loki turned and when he looked at Clint his lips twitched. “I just saved Mr. Stark’s life. I am not that familiar with American culture, but in Asgard such an action is usually awarded with gratitude. Not a reason to be yelled at. Now will you excuse me… I have suddenly lost all interest in being in one room with you.”

When Loki put his words into action Steve was suddenly seized by a strong desire to hold him back, but at the moment there were more important things to do. “Tony, you’re okay?”

Still a little bit pale Tony nodded. “Yeah… I was just… a little taken aback. No biggie…” Reaching out Tony picked up one of the pellets and examined it closely. “Fucking shit…”

“You guys know that this was him, right? Can we now throw him back in a cell where he belongs?” The expression on Clint’s face was grim and Steve knew that he had to do something about this if he wanted to avoid further conflict with Thor.

“I am getting tired of you accusing my brother when he is obviously innocent.”

“Innocent?! He…”

“Was right.” Tony interrupted them, waving with the pellet in his hand. “I gotta let Jarvis take a look at it, but at first glance I’d say that this is Vibranium. There’s not much of the package left… maybe I can figure out what made it go off. A fucking package full of Vibranium pellets and... How the hell did it get past the security? Yeah, Thor, I know… it was a rhetorical question… Loki spelled it out clearly enough… fucking magic…”

They were losing time. Somebody had tried to kill or to at least seriously hurt Tony. As soon as they would find out that they had failed, they would try again. They had to act fast. “Tony, you should start instantly working on this… We need to find out who is responsible for this so we can…”

“Are you fucking kidding me?! Loki did it! To make us believe that his bullshit story is true!”

“Newsflash, Legolas! I’m all in for a good old Loki bashing, but he can’t have sent that fucking package, because he is monitored 24/7 and he hasn’t used a damned phone and he hasn’t been on the internet either. As much as I hate to admit it, there are more people than Loki out there who want to kill me… Fuck, I’m going to check out the security footage… What a shit way to start a day…”

Clint started the same argument all over again and Steve couldn’t ignore that his worries might be reasonable. It sounded like something Loki would do. Would do. Everybody in this room had seen with their own eyes what he had done. Stopping all this metallic rubble from entering Tony’s body and probably injuring him lethally.

How were they able to dismiss this? Loki could have uttered the same warning and let Tony open the package and do nothing to stop him from getting hurt. This way he would have got rid of an enemy and he would have still been able to pretend that he had tried to warn them.

That hadn’t happened. Instead Loki had saved Tony’s life and the first reaction to that had been an insult.

“I’m going to talk to Loki.”

All eyes were suddenly on him and Steve felt like he needed to add something. “I’m going to try to find out what he can tell us about the package…”

Natasha nodded and Steve didn’t wait for anything else. While leaving the room Steve asked Jarvis where to find Loki.

“He has returned to his floor, Captain Rogers.”

Good, for a moment Steve had been afraid that Loki would have left the tower. Ever so slowly Steve made his way to the elevator and tried to use the time to think of things to say. It was everything but easy and when Steve stood in front of the door to Loki’s room he still had no idea. After knocking at the door Steve had only to wait a few seconds before he heard Loki’s voice. “Yes?”

When he pushed the door open the words came to Steve surprisingly naturally. “I’ve wanted to say sorry…”

Taking in his surroundings Steve fell quiet, almost shocked by what he saw. About three-fourths of the walls were covered with different sheets of paper. Some of them were drawings, others had words written all over them. It all looked organized, structured, but what really caught Steve’s eyes were several sheets somehow glued together. Loki had created one large drawing that showed… some kind of city. Steve couldn’t be sure, because the buildings looked very different from what he had seen on Earth. Judging by their shape it seemed pretty implausible that they weren’t caving in. Nevertheless the ensemble was beautiful, dominated by what seemed to be a big palace. Steve could make out all the windows, cravings and ornaments on the towers. How many hours had Loki worked on this? And how he fit so many details into it?

“This is beautiful…”

“The golden city of Asgard. I guess I was able to capture some of its glory…”

Turning around Steve faced Loki who was observing him with his arms crossed in front of his chest. He didn’t look too pleased about Steve’s presence. “It’s amazing, it’s… Anyway I’ve come here to…”

“Say you’re sorry. Yes, I heard that. Why? You didn’t do anything.”

That was true. “I guess I am here to apologize on Clint’s behalf.”

Loki reacted with a snore. “Not necessary, Captain. I am not interesting in an apology. My brother told me why the agent is acting so hostile towards me and I can understand his reasoning, but that doesn’t change the fact that I don’t care about his opinion whatsoever. Even if I did what he reproaches me of… I have no memory of it and I don’t feel responsible for it. I don’t care about his hatred.”

God of lies, right? Steve had a feeling that what he said wasn’t the truth. “Even if you don’t care… You did a good thing and the appropriate reaction would have been to thank you. So… thank you.”

This was completely awkward, even more so because Loki was raising an eyebrow now as if Steve had said something wrong. “You are an odd man, Captain Rogers.”

“Why? Because I want to thank you for saving my friend’s life?”

Slowly Loki shook his head. “No, I appreciate that… It is odd that you come here when your friends think that I was the cause of this… incident.”

“I don’t think that.” The words were out way too quickly, but Steve decided that he didn’t want to talk them back. It was the truth. “And Tony doesn’t think so either. He was a bit shocked… that rarely ever happens. I’m sure he’ll come to thank you too… when he is done figuring out who sent the magic.”

Loki looked at him in surprise. “Some Midgardian with knowledge of magic. There can’t be that many.”

“Uhm… there are some and we’re not on good terms with any of them… Somebody sending packages to kill one of us is new though…”

In response Loki frowned, then he wordlessly turned around and sat down on the couch where even more sheets were lying around. Where they done talking? Did Loki want him to leave? “You don’t believe me?”

“My brother swears on his love for our mother that you are good people, noble warriors who do what they can for their world. I have no reason to question his word… except for the fact that I have no memory of the last year and I seem to have committed crimes that make no sense to me… A lot of things make no sense to me, but I am smart, Captain. You will have to excuse me when I tell you that I am smarter than my brother. I know that good people have enemies too. I don’t trust you, but until now you’ve been true to your word… I didn’t save his life because he was kind to me, but because I wouldn’t let any person die right in front of me… unless they were trying to kill me.” Loki wasn’t even looking at him but picking up a pencil and an unfinished drawing of… a man. He hadn’t drawn the face yet, but Steve could tell that the man was wearing Asgardian armour. Looking around Steve had no trouble noticing that most of what Loki had been drawing seemed to be Asgardian. As far as he could tell.

“Do you… miss your home?”

Loki met his eyes and once again Steve saw these hints of melancholy. “I miss… things to do. All I am doing is killing time. Waiting for Thor to agree on leaving. I could leave on my own, but judging the circumstances I doubt it would do me any good…”

It was play, of course, it had to be. Yet Steve felt the idea growing on him that Loki was faking his amnesia to have a chance to change his ways. Steve could be wrong, but they had already taken the risk of bringing Loki here… “Today is a bad time, because we’ll be entirely busy with… what just happened, but… You still want to see the city? We can do that… You obviously can’t go alone. I’ll accompany you, show you around. I grew up here. I know a thing or two, unlike Thor…”

There was no way to get used to seeing actual emotions on Loki’s face. Especially surprise and… content? “Thank you for the offer, Captain. I accept it.”

 ***

The day didn’t seem to end. Tony had severe trouble tracing the package back, Jarvis came up with some parameters that seemed to narrow their suspects down. Some members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Doctor Doom. Maybe even some Hydra agents. In fact they had no idea.

Except for Clint…

Steve crawled into bed shortly before sunrise only to find out that sleep was impossible to find. He couldn’t stop thinking about what had happened today. Tony would be seriously hurt or even dead if it hadn’t been for Loki. Their enemy which had tried to kill them so many times had saved one of them.

Saving somebody’s life meant something. Human lives were of value and Loki could have let him die… If Steve only knew what to make of this. He should be able to understand what was going on, he was supposed to be the leader, to read between the lines…

“Jarvis, is Loki still awake?”

“Yes, Captain Rogers.”

Why had he even asked that? “What is he doing?”

“Drawing. He’s been working on a rather big project all day.”

Steve remembered the gorgeous works he had seen and he wanted to see more of it. Maybe even copying some of Loki’s style… Getting out of his bed Steve sat down at his desk and started his laptop. “Can you show me?”

A rather easy task for Jarvis and half a minute later Steve could watch Loki sitting on the floor of his living room, working on the portrait of a woman. Again he had used several sheets, allowing him to draw a person on a scale of 1 : 1.

The surveillance cameras delivered high quality footage and gave Steve the perfect opportunity to marvel at what he was seeing. About half an hour he watched Loki adding little details on the woman’s dress, her belt and the clips in her hair. Everything about the drawing was lovely. Steve was unable to deny his disappointment when Loki got up from the floor, seemingly finished with his drawing. Unlike Steve Loki didn’t look impressed with his own work, he didn’t even glance at it before he turned around and walked out of the frame.

“What is he doing?”

“Heading for the bathroom, Captain Rogers.”

Jarvis was nice enough to switch cameras and Steve saw the inside of Loki’s bathroom. Loki himself was stepping in the shower, still fully clothed but about to pull his sweater off.

“Good lord, Jarvis… Give him some privacy.” Steve turned his head away, waiting for Jarvis put on something else when… “Stop!”

By now Loki had pushed the milky shower screen shut, concealing him completely.

“What do you want me to do, Captain Rogers?”

“Uhm… can you… show me again… uhm… just before he closed the screen? And freeze the frame?”

Jarvis could and Steve’s nose was almost touching the screen as he leaned to get a better look. It didn’t help much despite the high quality. There was this tiny patch of revealed skin and…

God, Steve was so glad that nobody was here to hear him asking this. “Uhm… do you have any footage of him…” It was almost too hard to say even though Steve was alone. “… without his shirt on?”

“I fear I do not, Captain Rogers. Your guest has a very distinct sense of private. He always gets undressed in the shower and places his new clothes near enough so he can reach them without getting out.”

Well, that made perfect sense. Who wouldn’t act like this when you knew that cameras were on you 24/7… Unfortunately that didn’t help Steve. He wasn’t sure about what he had seen. If he had seen anything at all. What he knew was that he had to ask Thor about it. First thing in the morning.

Chapter Text

By now Steve was sure that it was nothing. Either he had been imagining it or it was a minor detail that Thor was already aware of. They were brothers after all and during the last days Steve had caught a glimpse of what Thor had always been talking about. Loki looking at his brother without any contempt or spite. Them having actual conversations and Loki referring to him as his brother. Suddenly Steve didn’t doubt anymore that they had been close, he didn’t doubt that they had shared secrets and maybe they would be like that again…

If Loki was indeed searching for his redemption…

The night had turned out to be incredibly long and Steve didn’t sleep a single second of it. Neither did Tony, that’s what Jarvis told him. Researching the entire night and he didn’t find anything. Steve understood only too well how frustrating that was. Somebody was trying to kill you and you couldn’t even tell who. How badly Steve wished for this to not be an everyday event…

Stepping out of the shower Steve grabbed a towel, his thoughts wondering back to Loki and what he had seen. Should he ask Thor outright? Or tell him what he had seen? It would be awkward to explain that he had watched his little brother getting into the shower, but it had been by accident. Thor would understand. Steve didn’t have to make a big deal out of it.

What if the bad feeling in his guts wasn’t without a good reason? What would that mean? Would it change anything? It probably wouldn’t for Clint or Natasha, but it would a lot for Steve… He was getting carried away, he didn’t know anything right now.

After getting dressed and having Jarvis tell him where Thor was Steve headed out to the kitchen. To his disappointment he had to find out that Thor wasn’t alone, but Tony and Natasha were also present. They were having breakfast. In Tony’s case that meant sleeping with open eyes and almost falling face first into his bowl of cereal.

“Good morning.”

Natasha nodded, Tony blinked and Thor smiled brightly at him. “Good morning, Captain.”

Steve didn’t know if it was a bright idea to bring up his problem with Natasha and Tony around, so he bought his time. “Any news?”

Yawning loudly Tony shook his head. “Nah… I called in some favours to find out if anybody has heard anything, but nothing. I couldn’t trace it back and Jarvis is clueless too. Damn, I’m getting old… How can I be so fucking tired after a single all-nighter?”

“It’s not last night. It’s an entire week with an average two hours of sleep each night.” Natasha sounded slightly amused before instantly turning serious again. “I think we should take the risk and ask Loki about it…”

Now Thor was wearing an even brighter smile on his face and Steve already felt terrible, because he was about to ruin Thor’s day.

“Yeah, I guess it’s worth a try… Don’t get over excited, pointbreak. I am pretty sure that your Emo brother didn’t magic that package to the post office… still doesn’t mean that I trust him… Maybe he can be of some help, but… if he isn’t trying to screw us over at the same time…”

“My brother is the reason you are sitting healthy at this table, able to eat your breakfast.”

Tony propped his head up on his hand and let his eyes slide closed. “Yeah, don’t remind me… I’ll gotta have to thank him for that too.”

They all fell silent for a moment and Steve knew that it wasn’t going to get any easier to bring this up. “Uhm, listen Thor, I wanted to ask you something. About Loki.”

Everybody’s eyes were instantly on him, but at least Tony’s were still closed. “What do you want to know?” Thor was in such a good mood, not expecting anything bad from him. For him Loki saving Tony’s life was the ultimate proof that his little brother was back. That they could be a family again, that Loki had given up his wayward ways. Time for Steve to ruin the day? He was feeling terrible and he hadn’t even said a word yet.

“Last night I was…” Why had he been watching Loki anyway? “I had a feeling and… I was checking on Loki via the security cameras…”

“What? Don’t you trust Jarvis to tell us when something happens? Like him opening a "portal in the tower to release the hounds of hell upon us?” Tony was yawning again and Thor’s smile froze a bit.

“No, that’s not… Okay, I think I saw something and I wanted to know if… maybe I got it wrong…”

“Just say what you want to say, Captain Rogers.”

Easier said than done. “Did your brother… ever get hurt in a battle or in an accident? I saw some scars on his back…”

Steve hadn’t even finished his phrase when it was clear that Thor knew nothing about any scars. It was clearly visible on his face. All traces of his smile were gone. “What scars? I don’t know about any scars. Is my brother in need of a healer?”

“I don’t know. I could barely make it out. I’m not even sure…”

“How would it even be possible for him to have scars? All of your cuts and injuries healed without any scar tissue whatsoever.” Of course it was Natasha who would notice something like that.

Thor was shaking his head. “Midgardian weapons are not able to cause permanent damage. Only a weapon of Asgard or…  If my brother has suffered injuries bad enough to scar his skin… it must have happened after his fall… I need to know what this means. I’m going to talk with my brother.”

As Thor was getting up to his feet Jarvis told him that this wasn’t necessary. “Mr. Odinson, your brother is already on his way to the kitchen.”

Closing his eyes for a second Steve cursed himself. This had been a mistake, Steve should have brought this up in private. Now this was going to be discussed in front of everybody and… Steve had no idea if there even was an issue.

“I smell drama…” Tony was definitely right…

Steve’s mind was racing to find some solution, to avoid what was about to happen, but it turned out to be too late. The moment Loki set a foot into the room Thor was right in front of him. “Show me.”

Loki merely raised an eyebrow while Steve swallowed deeply. “Excuse me?”

“The injuries you’ve been trying to hide. I want to see if you are hurt.”

Subtlety has never been one of Thor’s virtues. Loki reacted by pursing his lips, his green eyes flashed and the features of his face instantly hardened. It didn’t look like a mask and seemed terrifyingly familiar. This was Loki when he was angry. “I am not trying to hide anything! Midgard clearly doesn’t have a notion of privacy, but you should know better.”

“Loki, if somebody hurt you…”

“Then it’d be another thing that you would know about! I knew that they were spying on me, because they don’t trust me. But you…”

Unable to listen to this Steve took a step forward. “Loki, Thor didn’t do anything. I saw them and I told him.”

Green eyes darted from Thor to Steve and his expression changed. Nothing of his anger had faded away, Steve could see something else in his eyes. Something he couldn’t name, but it made him feel uncomfortable. “I see… I must admit that I am surprised. I didn’t expect that your observation would be that… thorough.”

A word dripping with contempt and Steve felt his cheeks heating up. That wasn’t enough, he was pretty sure that he had done something wrong.

“Loki, I am sure the Captain merely wanted…”

“What? Make sure that I’m nicely sitting in my cage? Is that why you came to speak to me yesterday? To make sure I didn’t have the tiniest bit of privacy? Or to…”

Thor reached out to touch Loki’s arm which stopped him from continuing his tirade. “Don’t try to distract, Loki. The Captain did nothing wrong but you are trying to hide something.”

It was the wrong thing to say. For the first time since Loki had woken up they saw him furious. Tearing his arm form Thor’s grip Loki shouted at him and it was different. Another kind of anger. More… personal? “Hide? You want to see it? To give them the satisfaction?”

While still hissing the last words Loki pulled his grey shirt over his head and carelessly dropped it to the floor. “Here! Is this to your satisfaction?” Loki turned around and Steve wished he had been wrong. Then again he hadn’t been actually right. This was far worse than anything Steve had imagined. What he had seen was a glimpse of Loki’s skin right above his hip. Loki’s back was more scars than skin. So many of them and not two of them were the same. Long, short, their shapes were different and the only thing they had in common was their ugliness. Wounds that had probably never been cleaned and hadn’t healed properly. Before Steve could take in any more details Loki turned back around. “Are you happy now? Is that what you wanted to see?”

Steve wanted to say no, he felt the need to apologize, to do something.

“Loki… what happened to you?” Thor’s eyes were wide with shock and confusion. Like he had seen something he didn’t want to believe.

The response was a snarl and Steve balled his hands into fists. “You want to know what happened?! I want that too! I don’t know! I don’t know what happened and I don’t know who did it!”

Green and so full of rage. Loki’s eyes left Thor’s face and darted to… Steve, Natasha and Tony.

“Oh, fuck you! You don’t seriously believe that one of us…”

“I don’t know! But I am perfectly aware of the fact that I don’t know who did this, because I was attacked by you!” He was yelling, reminding Steve of every single fight they’ve had and yet it was so completely different.

“We didn’t… We wouldn’t do something like…”

Steve’s voice died off when he was suddenly staring at the empty spot where Loki had been standing one second ago. He had vanished in a flash of green light and Tony let out a groan. “Fuck… There he goes… What kind of shit was that?”

“I have to go looking for him.”

It was about time for Steve to get a grip, to start reacting. “Thor, wait… he teleported. He could be anywhere… We have to… If he doesn’t remember… have you any idea where he would go?”

“I won’t lose time asking myself these questions. I will seek out Heimdall. He will be able to tell me where Loki is.”

Until now Thor had never used this possibility, no matter what kind of situation they had been in. Getting help from Asgard had never been an option. It seemed like a good idea though, like this they would find him instantly and there would be no danger that… Steve wasn’t sure what he was afraid of at the moment.

Thor didn’t wait for anything else, just left the room and them behind.

“Tony, I need an image of his back. Best quality you can give me.” Natasha was as calm and collected as always. Tony slowly nodded, straightening up. “You heard the woman, Jarvis. Living room, let’s go.”

Clint joined them on their way there and it was no surprise that he wasn’t too upset by the new development. “He’s gone. So what? We’re back to status quo. He did enough spying on us.”

“You didn’t see him, okay? He looked fucked up… and he freaked out about it. I want to know what this is all about…” The dark glance which Tony shot Clint made Steve frown a little bit. “Okay, Jarvis… bring it on.”

By now Steve should have been used to it. The holograms popping up, seemingly wherever Tony wanted them to. Normally he used them to visualize their plans and strategy for their next mission, but at the moment Jarvis showed them something entirely different.

A video from what had happened not five minutes ago and it came to an abrupt halt when Natasha spoke up. “Can you zoom in?”

“Who do you think you’re talking to?”

Steve shifted from one foot to another when he was faced with these scars again and while he wanted to turn away Natasha only moved closer. An almost fascinated, a strangely interested look on her face. “Somebody really had some fun…”

Right next to her Tony cleared his throat and Steve noticed that he was avoiding looking at the image of Loki’s battered back. “That’s just fucked up. What are you trying to see there?”

“I know a thing or two about scars. Mostly I want to know how old they are.”

That was an ability Steve never wanted obtain and fortunately enough he didn’t have to, because Natasha obviously knew what she was doing. Everybody seemed to be holding their breath while she examined the image. Everybody but Clint who was rolling his eyes at the entire situation.

Tony was fidgeting, looking at Natasha, not at the scars. “So? Come on, I want to continue to be able to eat food. If I have to keep seeing this…”

“Man up a little bit…” Natasha whispered absently before clearing her throat. “That’s a complete mess. Whoever did that had a lot of time at his disposal and a lot of tools… You see the edges of big one right across his right shoulder blade? All rough and uneven. The one next to it was a clear cut. At first glance I can spot at least five different forms which means five different tools were used to cause an injury…”

“Well, so somebody was pretty pissed off at him. Not exactly shocked.” Steve was almost grateful for Clint’s comment, because it distracted him from feeling terrible for a moment. Instead he could be angry. Yes, Clint hated Loki, he knew that. None of them were friends, but this… Scars on somebody’s back weren’t the result of a battle. They were torture.

“Can you shut your fucking mouth for a moment?! He thinks we did this!”

Tony’s voice was easily as sharp as one of the blades which had done this to Loki. Maybe Steve was wrong, but he got the impression that Tony was relieved that he could yell at Clint. Focus his attention at him and Clint was always willing to get into a fight. Especially when the topic was Loki.

“Congratulations, Stark, you went crazy! He is faking his amnesia! Maybe this is also fake and if you seriously believe that he has no idea who did this to him, then you are fucking stupid. We’re talking about Loki here. He definitely had it coming.”

Steve could see it coming. Tony’s hands were balled into fists, he was slightly shaking and he was about to lose his composure. Quickly stepping in Steve put a hand on his shoulder. “Right now is not the time for this. We don’t know enough to make any assumptions…”

Except that Loki definitely didn’t cause these scars himself…

“Damn…” Natasha’s soft whisper made them forget about the impending argument.

“What is it?”

“They’re all at a different… The wounds weren’t inflicted at the same time. I need more time to make sure and it would be better if I could get a look at him in person, but… I’d say the oldest ones are about a year old. The most recent ones… six months.”

Silence settled in and Steve realised that he wished he had never seen them in the first place. They had gone through a lot of terrible things together, had winded up in situations where they had seen death and pain and only now they had no idea what to say. Steve was avoiding everybody’s eyes, trying to come to terms with that revelation. Thor’s words echoed in his mind. How he had no idea what had happened to Loki after his fall… and how Loki had been a different person afterwards.

“Okay, this…” Clint was still searching for words when Tony rudely cut him off. “This adds up perfectly. Thor told us that he disappeared about one year ago. Six months later he showed back up to conquer Earth… What a fucking coincidence!”

“That doesn’t mean…”

“Oh, fuck you!” Tony shook off Steve’s hand and now he was most definitely shaking with anger. Steve couldn’t remember seeing him like this. Normally Tony tried to cover up his anger or discomfort by joking around. Him letting it out happened… very rarely. “Yeah, you fucking hate him. Me too! But you fucking know what this is, so don’t pretend any different! I need some fresh air.”

Nobody tried to stop him and Steve would have liked to sit down, to take a moment to think about the implications. About what he might have said and done during the last six months and what seemed entirely out of place now. He tried to recall every single one of Loki’s comments, his behaviour, anything that might have given away something. Out a sudden Steve felt a need to go through the footage of the invasion. To find out if they should have been able to see it…

“Cap, don’t.”

Natasha pulled him out of his thoughts, her eyes boring holes into him and Steve wanted to run after Tony. “What?”

“You are jumping to conclusions. I gotta admit it seems pretty obvious, but this is Loki. We can’t be sure. Especially considering the situation we are in… We should get ready to go after him. Thor could be back any moment and… We have to tell him what we’ve found out…” None of them were keen on doing that and while gritting his teeth to stop himself from answering Steve at least told himself that Natasha was right. They couldn’t be sure…

Even if it was true, it wouldn’t change anything for most people. It didn’t change anything for Clint. It didn’t change what had happened, but Steve knew that he was already looking at it differently. “Fine, let’s get ready…”

Chapter Text

“Sir, are you alright?”

For the first time ever Tony wanted to tell Jarvis to shut the fuck up and leave him alone. Instead he quickly nodded and pushed the door to the balcony open. It wasn’t an actual panic attack, unfortunately he knew them too well by now. His chest was feeling a little tight and he felt the urge to fill his lungs with some fresh air. Suddenly it was so hard to breathe in the tower.

Fleeing to his own penthouse didn’t make him look very heroic, but Tony wouldn’t have been able to spend another second in Clint’s company. Fucking asshole thought it was funny to have somebody slice you apart? Sure, Loki was a dick, but…

Tony shook his head and just sat down. Didn’t matter if he was sitting right next to the door. Sucking in a deep breath Tony rubbed one hand down his face and tried to get rid of the mental image of Loki’s back. It had looked fucking disgusting and Tony should probably feel bad for even thinking this. Wasn’t his fault somebody had decided to be a fucking sadist and try out a weapon arsenal on him.

Between a year and six months ago…

So somebody had been torturing him for half a year?

The taste of bile was rising up Tony’s throat and no, he wasn’t going to throw up.

“Sir, you are not alone. I am going to alert the…”

“No! Wait a second, buddy…” Most probably one of the stupidest decisions that Tony would ever make. Still, none of these idiots should come up right now.

A second ago Loki hadn’t been there. Otherwise Tony would have seen him and Jarvis would have told him. Tony remembered the day of the invasion. He remembered landing here and seeing Loki. Watching him. That fucking smirk on his face and those green, maniac eyes.

Now Loki was sitting here, his legs dangling over the edge of the platform and staring into distance. He was wearing a black, long-sleeved shirt, so maybe he hadn’t left the tower at all. Later on Tony would have to check the footage to examine Loki’s use of magic, but until then…

Sucking in another deep breath Tony got back up on his feet. This was insane. This was still Loki. Him and heights weren’t the best combination, especially when Tony was involved. He had no desires whatsoever to fall of this tower again, this time without wearing his bracelets.

Yeah, stupid, but Tony knew about the scars and he knew it could make a person snap. In the worst ways. Fuck it. Slowly he made his way towards Loki who was sitting with his back towards him. There was no way he didn’t know that Tony was here. “Uhm… could you please take the tiniest step back? Just watching you gives me nausea…”

Loki turned his head and when his eyes met Tony’s the latter felt the urge to run away. Not because he felt threatened, but he didn’t want to deal with the emotional turmoil he just had stumbled in. Sighing softly Loki pulled his legs up and stretched them out on the ground. “If you don’t like heights, why didn’t you install a balustrade?”

“Good fucking question… and a long unneeded explanation that I am too lazy to give. That’s better, thank you.” Looking around for a second Tony decided to be a badass and sat down next to Loki, still not as close to the edge as him. “Look… I don’t trust you. You did something awful to me and I have no fucking idea if you are faking your amnesia, because that shit would be totally up your ally… But just in case… nobody of us has done this to you. None of us ever would. We are the good guys and… Thor would crush anybody’s skull who would dare to touch you…”

Slowly Loki looked him up and down and then turned his head back to contemplate the city. “I read up on what Midgardian scholars wrote about me. They called me the god of lies. It’s fitting, doesn’t sound as good as Silvertongue, but nevermind. It’s possible to lie to me though. I am good at recognizing the truth, but it doesn’t work every time. You may tell me that you have nothing to do with it and I may be tempted to believe you, but I can’t be sure. The same way you can’t be sure that I am telling the truth. It is quite a predicament.”

He sounded calm enough, definitely not happy. “You can say that… Do you have no idea at all how this happened?”

“No.”

Okay, dead-end. Maybe Tony had to try the other way round. “Listen… Jarvis is watching every single corner of the tower 24/7. There’s nothing he doesn’t miss. So I have no idea how he didn’t see them sooner…”

“I value my privacy, Mr. Stark. Also Thor told me that there wouldn’t be any of those… cameras in the shower. So I only got undressed inside of it. Obviously that wasn’t enough to fool the Captain’s watchful eye.”

Damn, Tony definitely had to ask Steve again how he had ended up seeing the scars in the first place. Tony just couldn’t imagine Steve watching Loki shower. Then again, you never knew…

“Then how did you see them?”

Loki winced and Tony could see him actually biting his lip. “I haven’t seen them yet. I felt them and I… touched them. During my years or studying magic I worked as an apprentice with a skilled healer. I have seen a lot of scars. I know how they feel, it wasn’t necessary to see them…”

Tony swallowed and for a second he wondered what it would be like not remembering the 10 rings. Not remembering Afghanistan… waking up one night with the arc-reactor in his chest. Holy fuck, Tony didn’t even want to imagine that. He would be going insane, probably trying to rip it out and…

“I… You’re the only reason I still have a face. That little package would have blown it off if it wasn’t for you… so… thank you. Thank you for that… Hell, this was awkward.”

Either Tony was losing his mind or Loki was actually smiling. Made him look human. Almost. “No, I appreciate it…”

That was a start. Tony was sitting next to an abyss and was making casual conversation with Loki. Awesome. Well, not exactly casual, but Tony could get there. “Thor is out looking for you. We thought you’d jump into another dimension or… I definitely didn’t expect you to be here. Did you get tired on your way out?”

“No, I went to the other end of this world when I realised that… I am not angry at Thor. Not really. I am angry, because I don’t know what I did to the people of this world and I am also angry, because I don’t know who and why did this to me. When I think about it, maybe I am angry at Thor. He can’t give me any answers either… It’s very upsetting.”

“I guess so… Do you even want to remember? I mean… whatever happened to you and did… that… the stuff on your back… it can’t be a pleasant memory. Maybe you’d be better off without it.”

A smirk ghosted over Loki’s face and he shrugged. “I must admit that I’ve had the same thought. I am not sure. Right now I just want to know what happened. I can’t shake off the idea that I might someday run into the person who did that and… I wouldn’t know about it.”

The words caused a shudder to run down Tony’s spine and he had to remind himself that he didn’t know if any of this was the truth. At the moment he was convinced that the scars on Loki’s back were real, Jarvis hadn’t detected any magic whatsoever. If there was the slightest chance that Loki really didn’t remember… Shit, Tony didn’t want to imagine this.

“None of us had anything to do with this. That’s something I can assure you…”

Loki didn’t respond, but Tony could see him nod ever so slightly. The thought crossed Tony’s mind that he didn’t feel like he was talking with Loki. Yes, this person right next to him looked and sounded like Loki, but that was all. Although the words he used were still eloquent they didn’t transport the usual spite nor the anger. Even the way he sat there was completely different. More relaxed, not ready to jump and attack somebody. Like this Tony could almost join having a conversation with him.

If there was some way to be sure…

“You are different, Tony Stark. I wasn’t sure what actually makes you different. I know it isn’t magic, but it has a familiar feel. It surrounds you… At first I wasn’t even sure if you were Midgardian…” An innuendo about the arc-reactor should have made Tony’s skin crawl, even more so when Loki was the one saying it. Tony didn’t feel threatened at all, he could hear curiosity in Loki’s word, nothing else. So many people had asked about the arc-reactor before and Tony had never given any information away. “I am definitely human, thank you very much. A little different though…”

Loki waited for a few seconds then he smiled weakly. “I see. You don’t want to tell me about it. I can’t say I don’t understand… it’s not like I would tell a former enemy about my strengths and weaknesses.”

Former enemy? Tony didn’t comment on it although he felt the need to. It was odd enough that Loki had saved his life and now the new information about what might have happened to Loki before the invasion. Seeing him sitting here casually with that look upon his face made Tony speculate about what could be if Loki wasn’t fooling them. One enemy less to fight, perhaps even the gain of a strong ally.

It was so unlikely…

A lot of events during Tony’s life should have made him a strong believer in redemption and in second chances. Unfortunately he had seen more than enough people betraying their friends, turning on them when they thought it would be to their advantage.

Yes, Loki had tried to kill him, that fact didn’t get erased by saving his life six months later. Tony knew better than to trust Loki… but the knowledge that somebody had tortured Loki wasn’t something that Tony could shrug off. Who was Tony to rule out that whatever had happened to Loki after his fall had made him lose his mind? Would that mean that losing his memories would restore his sanity?

Too good to be true and so incredibly convenient…

And if Steve’s idea had some truth in it? What if Loki had made up this entire story to start all over again? Granted, it was hard to believe that their arch-nemesis would change his evil ways, but Tony had never understood Loki’s motivation. Except for his hatred for Thor Loki had no ties with Earth or them…

Damn, Tony would give it a shot. A small one.

“Okay, I thought that maybe you’d like have something to do… you must be so incredibly bored…”

“Actually the Captain offered to accompany me and Thor to explore the city today…”

A strange trio, but no reason to sound sad about it. “Okay, that’s cool. A change of scenery does never hurt.”

“I will not take him up on that offer.”

Honestly, Tony could imagine a better crowd to hit the streets with than Thor and Steve, but Loki couldn’t afford being picky. “Why? You like sitting here all day?”

Loki shook his head and the expression in his eyes was something he couldn’t quite grasp. Disappointment? Maybe? “I don’t want to spend my time with the Captain. He felt the need to discuss something that only concerns me with other people and he didn’t even think it necessary to ask me about it. I can gladly pass on his company.”

Was this real? Loki wanted Steve to stay away from him, because he had invaded his privacy? What had the world come to? “You obviously need a babysitter, you can’t leave alone with Thor, he has no idea whatsoever how to survive in New York… I see it as my duty to accompany you.”

There, done. Tony had surprised Loki. Both eyebrows were up, almost meeting his hairline and it looked so ridiculous that Tony was tempted to call it cute. “Really?”

“Of course. Why would it be hard to believe?”

“Because… I am not naïve. I am very aware of the fact that the Captain was supposed to accompany us, because he is the physically strongest, able to put up a fight I should try to cause any danger…”

Damn, Tony was starting to feel insulted. “Wait a second, everybody here knows I can easily kick your ass. Also… we just saw that you can leave at any time you like and nobody can do anything about it. Why bother? So, you wanna go out and grab something to eat? We’ll get Thor, tell him to shut up about things that you don’t want to talk about and then we’ll be out of here. What do you say?”

Loki blinked, utterly speechless for a moment and Tony couldn’t hold back a laugh. “I’m waiting.”

Clearing his throat Loki nodded. “Yes, thank you. I would… appreciate that.”

Yeah, Tony would definitely regret this, but now it seemed like a good idea and who cared about tomorrow.

Their reactions when Tony and Loki entered the common living room were hilarious. Steve, Natasha and Clint were already in their battle gear and Thor looked completely flustered. So pointbreak was back, good. All of them blinked in confusion when they spotted them and Thor was about to have another fit of brotherly emotions. Tony quickly stopped that by speaking up, thanks to years of training of talking to the press he knew how to capture the attention of a room. That and his natural charms. “Everybody listening? Great. You lost the right to talk, pointbreak, I’m so sorry. Loki needed some fresh air and checked out the balcony. Cap, next time you feel the urge you want to know something about Loki. Ask him, that avoids drama and big, overprotective brothers won’t go crazy on his ass. In the kitchen. During breakfast. Anything else? Yeah, right… Cap, I know you offered Loki to show him the city. Change of plan. I am going to show him around, because I can keep my mouth shut unlike other people. Thor, if you want to come with us, you won’t say anything or ask about things that your brother has no memories of. Are we clear?”

As expected Clint had his very own opinion on this. “It’s official… Stark has gone insane. If you believe we’ll let you…”

“It’s alright.” Steve interrupted him with a soft gesture of his hand, his eyes fixed on Loki and Tony. It was a rather strange expression, as if Steve couldn’t decide if he should be glad or worried. “I said it was okay.”

Clint’s face turned a shade darker and Tony was in no mood whatsoever to hear his ranting. “What is wrong with you?! You want to let him out to the public?!”

“I do not need your permission. I could leave this very instant if I should decide so.” Loki sounded cold, completely different from a few moments ago. Obviously it was the wrong thing to say, because out of a sudden Clint was pulling an arrow from his quiver. “I would like to see you try.”

“Clint! Stop. Right now.” Steve was way too calm, never a good sign when bad things were about to happen. He only did that, because he was sure that things were getting out of control. Tony didn’t doubt that judging by the dark glint in Clint’s eyes.

Loki was anything but impressed, another thing that should worry them. “I’ve told you before that I will not hesitate to defend me if I need to. Though I don’t think your arrows could hurt me…”

“You wanna bet?”

Luckily Thor literally stepped in before the situation could get out of hand. Putting himself between the two sides Thor gave Clint a glare that made Tony want to take a step back. “Put your weapon down, agent Barton. My brother did nothing wrong. He will leave now and you will have some time to compose yourself.”

Tony could hear Loki chuckling quietly and Clint gritting his teeth. “You did not just…”

“I think it’s a good idea.”

Clint spun around to stare at Natasha who had no problem at all to stand his gaze. Her face gave nothing away, but Tony didn’t know her the way Clint did. He was fairly sure that they were communicating, right now. Perhaps even having a conversation. It ended with Clint lowering his bow although his body language clearly showed that he didn’t want to. “Fine… I am just waiting for the moment to tell you I told you so.” Like that he stormed off and Tony released a long breath. Time to say something to ease the tension. “Well, that was awkward. Hey, pointbreak, get changed. We’re not going out with you like that.”

Thor was clearly confused by that, he couldn’t see what was wrong with his cape, but he nodded anyway. Good, time for Tony to get prepared himself. When Tony casually walked behind the bar, Steve brushed past him. “You’re sure about this?”

Nothing but a soft murmur and Tony wanted to smack Steve. Seriously? Now? After already telling everybody that it was totally okay to take the aliens out? Even the homicidal one? Grabbing his bracelets Tony slipped them on and then shrugged. “He’s right, you know? He could leave at any instant… and I don’t care if he’s faking it or not… he definitely will remember how we treat him now…”

Steve didn’t say anything else, so Tony turned back to Loki who was still waiting in the doorframe. “Alright, let’s hit the streets.”

 ***

“Thor, Stark will not stop staring at me. Why is he staring?” Loki sounded so seriously clueless that Tony would have laughed if he wasn’t so busy staring at him.

Loki’s big brother thought it was funny and chuckled. Kind of amazing that he was so relaxed after Loki had told him one more time that there would be no talking about the scars. “It seems to me Tony Stark is infatuated with your disguise.”

Wait a second, what?! “Infatuated, right…” Tony snorted and almost tripped over his own feet. Proof that it was definitely time to stop staring at Loki. “He’s blonde. You’re blonde!”

In response Loki raised a blonde eyebrow. “I thought it would be a good idea to alter my appearance. After the footage you showed me…”

Clever boy, Tony was impressed. Well not really, he had known for a long time that Loki was able to think ahead. Unlike Thor, they still had to tell him that being discrete meant he wasn’t able to wear his armour. “That’s not something you have to worry about. It was my footage, it isn’t public. Nobody got a decent picture of your face and S.H.I.E.L.D took care of that thing in Germany. So the blonde hair isn’t necessary… It’s disturbing.”

Loki frowned, looking at Thor who smiled. “He is joking, Loki. Midgardians are not used to somebody who has the ability to change their physical appearance within a single second.”

“Right… here it usually takes years, tons of money and a hell load of plastic surgery.”

“I am afraid I can’t follow you…”

“Long story. For another time. Okay, I know a great diner just down the street. It’s brunch time. Just follow my lead.”

Walking down a busy New York street shouldn’t be exciting, but an everyday routine. It obviously wasn’t for Loki. They were moving forward very slowly, because the god of mischief had to stop every three steps to look at something. He seemed fascinated by all the shops, the people, the cars… pretty much everything.

Either a better actor than Daniel Day-Lewis or he was genuinely amazed…

Something that didn’t change when they entered the diner and sat down at the table. Tony was going to have brunch with Loki. Nobody beat him when it came down to who had the most exciting life.

“I don’t understand a word of this. Despite the allspeak… Is this food?” Putting the menu down Loki looked at them, searching for help and how could he be faking this?

Since Tony had taken them out he decided to be of some use. “You know what… Order the Cheddar Spinach Omelette… I think you’ll like it. Number 1 rule. Always be nice to the waitresses, they bring your food. Do you have waitresses in Asgard?”

“We’re members of the royal family, Stark. We call them servants.” Thor was happy to point this out and Tony huffed. “Didn’t you guys go through the enlightenment? Servant is a bad word. Very bad. Rule number 2. Don’t call the waitresses servants.”

“How many rules are there?”

“I dunno. I make them up as I go. How about coffee? Do you have coffee in Asgard?”

“No, but I’ve already tasted it at the tower. It’s disgusting.”

“Thor, did you tell him he could put milk and sugar into it? Of course not… Rule number 3…”

 ***

In the end they didn’t stay out long. A surprisingly nice brunch and then back to the tower. Tony had taken a pretty good guess, Loki turned out love the spinach omelette. For some reason Tony hadn’t been able to picture him enjoying food. A ridiculous thought. What? Villains didn’t eat?

Loki did eat and he openly said that he liked it. He also liked the idea of eating several times a day. In Asgard they supposedly had only one big feast during the evening and Loki had made it sound like a real food orgy. Thor was completely into it unlike his little brother.

After paying the check Tony handed Loki a 10 dollar note, because he seemed so fucking fascinated with it. A currency that wasn’t made of gold? Impossible! Next thing Loki asked him who Alexander Hamilton was and why he was on the 10 dollar bill. Had to be their king or something like that… When Tony had been finished laughing he made a mental note to tell Pepper to get tickets for Hamilton for the Avengers.

Back at the tower Loki thanked him for their little trip and excused himself which caused Thor to put on that heartbroken look. He didn’t get to talk with Loki at all about the incident and he evidently didn’t like that. Good luck with that, Loki didn’t have anything to talk about and in Tony’s experience you preferred to keep quiet about this sort of thing. Playtime was over, Tony still had to analyse the new data. Finally Loki had used some magic in the tower and Tony was going to gain some information from that. Tony would have liked to do that, but he only found Steve lingering around in front of the door to his lab.

“Hey there, you missed out on a lot of fun.”

Steve didn’t smile back, merely crossed his arms in front of his chest. Why so serious? “So it went fine?”

“Yeah. No threats, no speeches about taking over the world, no murders, no nothing. We had brunch, he ate something, was fucking amazed by everything around him and he let me pay. If Thor hadn’t been there it would have been a date.”

The way Steve screwed up his face was hilarious, Tony would have to tell Jarvis to make a screenshot of that. “Can’t you be serious for a second?”

“I am serious. Steve, I have no fucking clue what is going on with him, but I can tell that he enjoyed leaving the tower or an hour or two. And that he was really pissed that you didn’t keep quiet about the scars. They are real, that’s the one thing I am sure of. Maybe he knows where he got them or maybe he doesn’t… I don’t care, because it doesn’t change the fact that he has them. Maybe Clint is right and he’ll murder us all in our sleep, but… I’m starting to like your theory of him trying to start over. I’m not saying it’s true… I don’t know.” When even Tony himself noticed how much he was babbling it was time to shut up.

He expected Steve to give another one of his speeches about safety and innocence and on how they had to treat Loki with…

“So he’s pretty angry at me?”

What? That was the part Steve had decided to concentrate on? “Uhm yeah… he doesn’t like it that you ran to Thor with what you saw and he also didn’t like it that you saw them in first place. What was that about anyway? Did you use Jarvis to watch him shower? Dude, it’s 2016, we have the Internet for that!”

It was almost too easy to make Steve blush. Didn’t mean it wasn’t fun though. “No. You know I didn’t watch him in… I just… Okay, he’s drawing. His whole floor is covered with his drawings…”

“Yeah, I know. I have Jarvis update me about him twice a day. He constantly needs new pencils…”

Steve looked surprised but continued talking. “He’s good. He’s pretty amazing actually and I wanted to check some of it out, so I watched him draw. I kept watching for a moment when he was done and when he got into the bathroom I told Jarvis to turn it off, but I got a glimpse of the scars first. That’s all…”

He still sounded defensive and it was so funny to see Steve feeling uncomfortable. “Alright, Peeping Tom, I got it… Listen, I have an idea how we might find out if he is faking. We just need to get him into a situation that wouldn’t seem special or dangerous to him if he really lost his memories. If he didn’t… he’ll be forced to react.”

Eventually the slight flush disappeared from Steve’s cheeks and he studied Tony’s face. “Alright… what did you have in mind?”

“Telling Bruce to finally get his ass back here.”

Chapter Text

“It’s brilliant.”

“It’s the worst idea in the history of bad ideas.”

Clint and Natasha shared a look, probably taken aback that they disagreed on this. It was Clint who reacted first. “Oh come on, Nat. It’s the first sensible idea in two weeks. You can’t seriously disagree with that.”

Natasha did anything but agree. “It’s madness. The outcome is going to be a disaster. No matter which one it might be… also he will never agree to this.”

Steve glanced at Tony, asking him with his eyes if he should respond to that, but Tony shook his head. “I called Bruce last night. He agreed.”

These rare moments when Steve saw Natasha surprised. Or when she let them see her surprise. “How? Did you give him all the details?”

“Of course!” Tony rarely sounded offended, he used such moments to make jokes, but that wasn’t happening now. “I told him exactly what I had in mind and Steve told him what has happened until now. He agrees with us that we need to find out if Loki is for real… and honestly he just wants to get back. He can’t stay away forever, because at the moment we have no idea if Loki is going to leave anytime soon. Bruce said it was okay. He’ll do it…”

None of this convinced Natasha, that was obvious enough. At least Clint seemed downright infatuated with Tony’s idea. “I say we do it. It’s perfect. We’ve fought him, we know he doesn’t bat an eyelid at whatever we throw at him, but he’s scared shitless of the Hulk. That’s why he usually attacks in highly populated places. He knows we’ll hesitate to bring him out.”

All this time Steve had waited for Thor to speak up, genuinely worried that the situation would immediately escalate, because Thor would not be willing to put Loki at any kind of risk. To be honest, a little part of Steve actually wanted that to happen. This way it would be so easy to call it all off and it would be Thor’s decision. Not his.

“My brother is not afraid of the Hulk. He despises him and he is very aware of the damage he can do. He is not afraid… Nevertheless forcing him in this kind of situation is dangerous and I will not let it happen.”

The pure determination in Thor’s eyes caused Steve to feel a strange mixture of relief and frustration.

“Listen, pointbreak…” Tony sat down as if he was trying to get comfortable for a very long speech. Somehow Steve felt like he should be doing this. “I am very grateful that your brother saved my ass. I admit that… having brunch with him is kind of fun. Honestly at first I thought you were full of shit with your stories about your sweet, little brother. You know… without homicidal tendencies. Now I see it… a bit. He’s curious about our culture, he’s fucking polite, has great manners, he hasn’t tried to hurt or kill anyone. I am almost tempted to say that I like him, but then Clint would rip me a new one and I’m not eager for that to happen. Also… we have a very bad history with your brother and he proved himself to be very smart, manipulative and creative in how to fuck other people over. At the moment nobody would be happier than me to find out that he is sincere and that we could start over…”

When Tony paused Steve’s eyes darted to Clint who looked so terribly tensed, yet made no move to interrupt.

“But due to the fact that your brother is the god of lies and since he threw me out of a window, tried to conquer this planet, mind-controlled Clint, threatened Natasha and was out to get that fucking amulet that we’re protecting when he crashed into that wall… I don’t trust him and I still tend to believe that he is only playing us.”

Ever so slightly Tony raised his head, searching for Thor’s eyes and Steve did the same. He could see Thor balling one hand into a fist, shaking lightly. An effort to hold back from releasing his anger upon them? There was no way Thor would feel angry after Tony’s statement. Even a god had to grow tired of saying the very same thing over and over again.

“So because you are not fully convinced of his amnesia you are willing to toss him in a highly dangerous situation? Without his knowledge? I will not let this happen.”

Tony’s gaze shifted to Steve, searching for help. “Thor, at the moment we are only discussing the possibilities. We don’t intent to harm him. Tony is right, we don’t know how to continue. We’d like to have clarity... if he doesn’t remember I’m ready to take him in and to start over. That’s just me though, we’ll have to talk about that later on and maybe vote… That depends on… him being honest about his amnesia.”

“What about your theory that he is pretending to have a chance to start all over?”

Steve had been pondering about this all night and it hadn’t been easy to come up with a decision, but now he was sure that it was the right thing to do. At least that was what he was telling himself, because there was no way to go on like this. “That wouldn’t be enough. Yes, it would be wonderful if he had decided to change, but he can’t just turn around and don’t acknowledge what he has done… Right now this isn’t though what we should be talking about. Tony will tell Jarvis to let Loki know that he wishes to talk to him. He’ll let Loki wait in a secure room and instead of Tony we’ll have Bruce walking in. There is no guarantee, but given all we know and all the times we have seen Loki reacting to him… I am fairly sure that he wouldn’t be able to hold back any kind of reaction.”

Looking from one of his friends to the next one Steve waited for agreement or refusal. Anything. For a moment they just avoided his gaze until Natasha broke the silence. It was obvious that Tony and Steve hadn’t been able to change her mind. “You guys really do think that Loki is an idiot.”

Taken aback Steve found himself at a loss for words. Fortunately such a thing had never happened to Tony. “No, actually I think he is a cunning son of a bitch. Just a phrase, Thor, that wasn’t meant to be an insult to your mother.”

“If you think that he’s that smart, why are you treating him like an idiot? I’m still with Clint on this one, he is faking it. A scheme that he had to plan. Do you really think he didn’t consider the possibility that he would be facing Bruce sooner or later? Out of the question.”

“Hey, he definitely didn’t plan on me smacking him around and crashing him into a concrete wall. You were there, did he look like he was holding back or like he wanted to get his ass kicked? No, he didn’t. Maybe he made all of this shit up the second he woke up. Then he wouldn’t have been able to plan it all out that great. Even if… Fuck his plans. Bruce knows how to bring people to drop their masks. Ain’t that right, Nat?” Tony was challenging her and Natasha scowled. She made that face when Tony was right and she didn’t like to admit it. “I don’t know if that’s enough…”

“Okay, then offer another idea. I have no interest whatever in continuing like this. Walking on eggshells and letting him sit in his rooms. He’s not a fucking kid, we’re not his parents and he isn’t grounded. We can’t go on like this. Either we kick him out or we take him in. If we kick him out, we’re forcing Thor to go with him. We obviously can’t take in him, because we don’t know if he’s fucking evil and only trolling us. Sorry, but if we don’t do anything we’re fucking stuck. Perhaps it’s not the best idea, but it is an idea!”

Clint audibly gritted his teeth and made a sort of helpless gesture. “I’m all for it, but we’re still talking about the Hulk and Loki. In a room in your tower. That could go so fucking wrong. We’re not just talking about holes in the walls, but two incredibly powerful forces hitting each other.”

Time to go into more details. “Bruce has no intention whatsoever of turning into the Hulk. Yes, we know there is no guarantee that it isn’t going to happen, but we’re going to watch everything and be ready to step in anytime. It’s a risk, yeah… but so was bringing him here. We’re not going to do it if not everybody is okay with this. So what do you say?”

This time the answers came way quicker. Nodding determinedly Clint agreed. “I’m game.”

Natasha’s expression gave away that she wasn’t convinced. Yet he let out a soft sigh. “I don’t think we’ll gain the results you’re hoping for. Still… you’re right. Something has to happen and I have nothing else to offer. Thor?”

All eyes were on him. Thor’s jaw was tensed and Steve closely watched his fingers slowly uncurling. “You are putting my brother at an unnecessary risk.”

“Thor, I understand that you’re worried and I won’t say that it’s unfounded to feel that way… but your brother has proven tons of times that he can look out for himself.” Steve tried to smile, but it turned out as a thing too hard to do.

“Uhm… Thor, what the fuck is your problem?”

The blood in Steve’s veins was running cold when he heard the venom dripping from Clint’s words. “You are so fucking sure that Loki doesn’t remember shit. Where’s the problem? He’ll be sitting there, Bruce comes in and Loki will have no idea who he is. No reason to go green, no reason to attack. Nothing. Unless you aren’t so sure that he doesn’t remember being beaten into a pulp by the Hulk…”

Steve was afraid that this was going to end in a fight, however that didn’t happen. Lowering his eyes Thor nodded. “I see your point. I agree… let’s try. If it will put your minds at ease… but I want all of you to be ready to step in…”

 ***

“Uhm… did you get him these clothes?” Steve felt the urge to make conversation or to at least say something. They couldn’t just stand here and watch Loki on a screen in complete silence. Waiting for Bruce to show up and do something incredibly dangerous.

Tony glanced over his shoulder and raised an eyebrow at Steve. “Now that is a weird question.”

Shrugging lightly Steve sighed. “I’ve wondering… he hasn’t been wearing his armour since he has got here. Where would he get the clothes from if not from you?”

Steve’s eyes flickered back to the screen. Loki was sitting at a table, book in his hands, looking relaxed and… pretty? Sometimes Steve wished to be more eloquent to come up with a better word. He seemed so relaxed and at ease, wearing grey sweatpants and a long sleeved dark green shirt. His hair was pulled back in a bun and the strands that were too short were loosely framing his face. Everything about him was so terribly domestic that Steve couldn’t believe that this was to be the same guy who had screamed at them how unworthy they were to even look at him. A god.

“Nope. I told Jarvis to order a few things for him… Why are we talking about this?”

“I guess I’m nervous…” Letting his fingers run across the edge of his shield Steve desperately hoped that he wouldn’t have to use it today.

Now Tony nodded softly. “It’ll be fine… we are all here, Jarvis has his eyes on them and the security protocol is activated. Hulk level.”

“Let’s hope that will be enough…” Natasha still wasn’t convinced of their plan and Thor hadn’t said a word since they had started watching Loki.

“Okay, here goes nothing. Jarvis, you got the vitals?”

“Of course, sir. Heartrate is absolutely normal.”

“Great… now put me through.”

A short moment there was complete silence and Steve held his breath. Tony licked his lips and then spoke up in his usual cheerful voice. “Loki, it’s Stark… I’ll be there in a second. Just got held up in a business call.”

Loki looked up, but not at the camera, nodding softly. “I see. The book is very entertaining, you don’t have to hurry.”

“Alright.”

Tony made a little sign with his hand that was supposed to tell Jarvis to shut off the microphone.

“What did you tell him anyway? What does he think he is waiting for?”

“I said I wanted to figure out some way how he could leave the tower more frequently and I wanted to talk with him about the conditions… Jarvis, put Bruce through.”

Two seconds until Bruce’s voice was filling the room. “Tony? You guys are ready?”

“As ready as they come… Just try to not fuck up my tower.”

“I guess that’s depends on him. See you on the other side.”

Leaning forward, even closer to the screen Tony whispered “Here we go.”

The thought of calling it all off crossed Steve’s mind without him being able to tell why. Shouldn’t it be obvious? Steve didn’t want anybody to get hurt… and he didn’t want to Loki to make fools out of them. Shifting slightly Steve pulled his shield closer to his chest, he had to be ready to storm out of here any second.

Bruce didn’t knock. He was pushing the door open and Loki raised his head.

Thor behind Steve shifted, he could hear Clint’s breathing and Tony moved even closer to the screen, almost blocking their view. The images of debris, the hole in the floor, the trashed furniture flashed before Steve’s eyes and his fingers tightened around the shield.

Loki turned around in his chair, his demeanour still so relaxed and then his eyes found Bruce.

Steve imagined the shirt and the sweatpants to disappear, replaced by that too well known armour, Loki jumping up from his chair, creating crackling flashes of green with his bare hands. Letting all the drawings and the talk about responsibility and bad conscious burn up in flames. Revealing them as lies and Steve as a fool who was clinging to the possibility that good could be found in every person. Even in a man who tried to take hundreds of lives with a cruel smile on his lips.

“You are not Mr. Stark.” A frown on his face and an edge of surprise in his voice.

Slowly and ridiculously calmly Bruce closed the door behind him. “No, I’m not. He can’t be here right now. So I am here to keep you company.”

It was strange to hear these words pronounced this way. Not an actual threat and yet cold enough to make a person uncomfortable.

Unconsciously Steve took a step closer to the screen, completely focused on Loki’s face. The truth had to be there and Steve needed to find it. He remembered the first encounters after the invasion. Loki flinching when Bruce was mentioned. Abruptly stopping a condescending speech, because he was shaking with anger just by looking at him.

No trace of anything close to this could be found on Loki’s face right now. There was a reaction, of course. Loki was narrowing his eyes ever so slightly, looking Bruce up and down with no attempt to hide it. “And might I ask who you are?”

When the last word left Loki’s lips Steve just knew. “He doesn’t remember him.”

“Bullshit…” Clint hissed right behind him and Steve shook his head. He doesn’t remember.”

“Oh, we have met before…” Bruce was moving closer, a smile was dancing around his lips and it didn’t fit. It was arrogant, patronising even. In the meanwhile Loki was looking at him in slight confusion. To them switch roles like this didn’t look real. “Several times… our meetings always tend to end the same way.”

Loki sat a little straighter, placing the book on the table. “Who are you? What does that mean?”

“Jarvis, the vitals?”

“No significant changes, sir.”

Steve loosened his grip on the shield, releasing a quiet sigh of relief. “He doesn’t recognize him.”

“Don’t jump the gun on us, Steve…” Tony’s mutter was barely audible.

“It means that whenever you are trying to accomplish something and do some shady business, I am there to stop you… at the end you always leave with your tail between your legs. Kind of pathetic actually. The one time I had a fight with Thor he at least put up some resistance. Unlike his little brother.” A cheap attack but perfectly delivered and if Steve didn’t know that Bruce was literally the most respectful person on this planet, he would have believed every single word of it.

Loki got up from his chair, still looking perfectly calm and collected. “I am Loki Odinson. Prince of Asgard and you will treat me with the respect I deserve.”

“Oh really?”

The corners of Loki’s mouth were twitching and Steve’s eyes were on Tony who shook his head. “Nothing. No signs of magic, his heartrate is still normal… Maybe he’s getting pissed, but…”

“I do not know who you are and…” Loki stopped in mid-sentence and suddenly Steve had no idea how to read his face. He looked so lost, sparking a feeling of regret inside of Steve. What had they done this for? “I don’t remember you or what might have… Have I… done you wrong in any way?”

That question was enough to let the smug smile on Bruce’s lips disappear and Steve was trying to wrap his head around what was happening at this very moment. They had been ready for a fight between two powerful entities, for screams and perhaps even bloodshed. Tony hadn’t been kidding when he had asked Bruce to no destroy the tower. Now they were merely looking at two mean who seemed to be at a complete loss about what to do. Confronted with Loki’s humbling reaction Bruce obviously couldn’t continue his game and…

“We are so done.” Tony was getting up from his chair, pushing past Steve. He didn’t make it to the door though. A seething Clint was blocking his way. “No, we’re not! Just because he’s able to keep himself in check doesn’t mean…”

“Oh, fuck off, Clint!” Tony’s snarl had a vicious bite to it. Steve figured he was running out of patience. “He didn’t get nervous, nor angry! He let Bruce shit talk him and he’s about to apologize! No matter how good of an actor he is, Loki wouldn’t humiliate himself like that! We all know that he can’t keep his fucking cool around Bruce like that! I’m with Cap – he doesn’t remember!”

“You can’t seriously…”

“You’ve heard the Man of Iron.” Stepping forward Thor put a hand on Tony’s shoulder. It was impossible to miss the grateful and happy glimmer in his eyes. “It’s impossible to deny the evident change in my brother.”

Clint stared at them in utter shock when his gaze landed on Steve, he was almost looking hopeful. Steve felt a soft sting of guilt when he realised that he didn’t even want to be on Clint’s side. Maybe it was the irrational thing to do, but he couldn’t shake off the memory of the look on Loki’s face. That sadness… Stuck in a place where he didn’t belong and he had no idea how he even got here. “I’m sorry, Clint, but until now… we have no indication whatsoever to believe that actually does remember…”

“It’s Loki… that should be fucking enough.”

Storming out of the room Clint slammed the door shut behind him and Tony ran one hand down his face. “Shit… I’m gonna go… trying to clear this mess up…”

 ***

The irony didn’t go by unnoticed. An encounter with Bruce hadn’t been enough to get Loki to raise his voice. As soon as Tony introduced them and Loki got the information to figure out what they had been trying to do… He was furious. There was screaming and yelling about him not being their toy to mess with. Then it only needed one word from Thor and Loki did the very same thing as Clint. Running off and slamming doors.

“I can’t believe I am saying this… but this is an adequate reaction.” Bruce was trying to sound light-hearted and failing at it.

“I guess we let him cool down a bit… we still gotta figure out what to do with him now. Good lord, we have an amnesiac Loki at your disposal… We gotta come up with something.”

Thor was instantly there to make his proposals, share his ideas and Steve didn’t want to hear any of it. Not now anyway. Yes, they had to ask themselves these questions and Loki should be part of it. Everything was about him and Steve didn’t want imagine how he had to feel right now. First the invasion of his privacy, everybody knowing about the scars and now…

Somebody was calling after him as he was leaving.

“Jarvis, where did Loki go?”

“His rooms, Captain Rogers. He seemed rather upset.”

Yeah, that was obvious.

During his way to Loki’s floor Steve tried to think of things to say. Nothing at all came to his mind. Nobody had ever thought about this kind of situation and nobody prepared him for that. When finally standing in front of Loki’s door Steve let another moment pass before he knocked. He wasn’t surprised by the lack of an answer.

“Loki? Can I come in?”

Again there was no answer and Steve knew that should respect that. Leave, give him a moment to be alone…

Steve slowly opened the door and peered into the room. “Loki?”

“On Asgard we do not enter a room unless we are asked to. Then again… you have already proven that you don’t care about being given permission…”

That stung because it was the truth and it would be the decent thing to leave immediately. “Loki, I am sorry.”

Green eyes were staring up at him and Steve instantly felt the urge to instantly apologize again. Loki was sitting on the floor, his back against the window and it was so different from last time. No attempt was made to hide his bitterness and the anger.

A week ago all Steve had known had been an angry Loki. This wasn’t the same expression. Seven days ago it would have bounced off Steve like nothing. He had been used to Loki’s contempt. Now Loki almost seemed disappointed in him.

“Go on. I am curious, Captain. What are you sorry for? What exactly?”

There was nothing kind about it… nevertheless it was an invitation to stay. “I…” Why was this hard? Steve had never had problems admitting his own mistakes. “I am sorry telling Thor about your… about what I saw. I should have asked you about it…”

Turning his head away Loki seemed to be more interested in the wall than in Steve. “So why didn’t you?”

“It… didn’t really… occur to me.” To whisper hadn’t been Steve’s intention, but he turned out unable to speak any louder.

For Loki that wasn’t an issue. He was snarling and after the last week it seemed so terrible out of place. “It didn’t occur to you to ask me about something that only concerns me?” The snarl turned into a bitter laugh and the way Loki crossed his arms in front of chest was an evident sign that he couldn’t even put enough distance between them. “At least I have learned now that I cannot trust the words of Midgardian historians…”

“I beg your pardon? I don’t think I understand…”

In response Loki arched an eyebrow he clearly had perfected the art of making other people feel like they were stupid with just a single glance. “I’ve read about you. Not just the references in the history books. I read several of your biographies.”

Several? Steve wasn’t so naïve to believe that people hadn’t been writing books about him, but… Really? Who would bother to read more than one book? Why would you bother to read one at all? Maybe if you had lost your memory and wanted to find out about the people you were staying with. “And… you didn’t agree with what they wrote?”

“Oh, they were not holding back with their praise. Raving about your virtues, honesty, loyalty, righteousness, bravery and your strategic genius… I fear I don’t see it. None of it.”

Luckily Steve had learned so long ago that what other people thought of you didn’t matter. Also it was so easy to tell that Loki only said these things to upset him. It was working.

“These books were written by people who have never met me… Perhaps they talked to people who knew me and who were trying to only say the very best about me, because they thought I was dead. I guess if you want to know how accurate the description is… you will have to talk to me to get to know me…”

Loki huffed, his eyes meeting Steve’s. “I have no interest in doing so. Would you close the door now? From the outside.”

Steve did as he was told and while doing so he couldn’t fight the feeling of committing a mistake.

Chapter Text

With slow steps Steve made his way into the common area. Jarvis had let him know that Tony wanted a meeting. It wasn’t what he expected. No round table for them to sit at, he found them in the living room, comfortably lingering around on the couch. What was that smell? “Are you drinking hot chocolate?”

Bruce smiled lightly, nodded and took a sip from his cup. Tony walked past, shoving another cup into Steve’s hand. “Chilling setting for a not so chilling conversation. Sit down, then we can get started.”

Doing just that Steve took another look around. “Where is Clint?”

“He doesn’t want to have anything to do with that.” Natasha made it sound completely neutral and Steve instantly decided that he wouldn’t argue. It would be arrogant to not respect Clint’s wishes on this.

“Okay… everybody feeling nice and cosy? Awesome. What are we going to do with Loki? Any suggestions? Get him a nice suit and let him start crime fighting with us?”

Tony’s idea almost made Steve drop his cup which would have been a shame. Was he being serious? A question that Steve didn’t have to ask, because Natasha was way more focused than him. “How about we start with the more important matters at hand? I’m still not convinced, but you overruled me. Fine, let’s go with this. He doesn’t remember and is the nice guy Thor always told us about. He definitely has better manners than you, he held the door open for me. But that nice guy became the same guy who tried to enslave this planet. How do we know that this isn’t going to happen again?”

A lithe shiver was running down Steve’s spine when the implications of her words became clear to him. After spending so much time asking himself if Loki did or did not remember, he hadn’t actually thought about this possibility.

“Natasha has a good point.” Bruce shifted slightly. Everybody’s eyes were on Thor, waiting for him to discard their doubts and worries.

Thor nodded softly and Steve didn’t feel as tensed anymore when he noticed the beginning of a smile on Thor’s lips. “There is nothing to worry about. Two major events occurred that sent my brother on the wrong way and clouded his spirits with darkness. These events are not going to repeat themselves.”

“By all due respect… if he isn’t stable, maybe something else will…”

Bruce got instantly interrupted. “This is not possible. What happened to my brother was highly… what is the word you used? Traumatic. It cannot repeat itself.”

Clearing his throat Steve drew the attention to him. “You should a little bit more specific on this, Thor. You said he fell of the rainbow bridge…”

“Exactly, my friend. Although I fear… he didn’t fall but…” Thor stopped and his eyes glazed over. “… he let go. We were about to save him, but he let go and fell into the abyss… As I’ve already told you several times… we thought him dead until he returned. I still have no idea what happened to him in the abyss…”

The one thing left unsaid lay heavily on them and maybe Tony wasn’t able to take that. “We know that somebody had his fun almost ripping the skin off his back. That could help make somebody lose their shit… you know.”

Steve tried to push the mental image of the scars away and instead kept his eyes on Bruce who looked like the rest of them. Incredibly uncomfortable. “Tony is right about that part… he came back through the Tesseract… he could have been anywhere. Wherever he ended up… it definitely wasn’t a nice place. Who knows what they did to him to make him lose his mind. All assumptions of course.”

“Well… we’re still facing a problem. I can remember Thor telling us that Loki only fell off the rainbow bridge, because he attacked another realm beforehand.” Natasha’s remark hit Steve unguarded and unfortunately he remembered that now. The little smile on Thor’s lips faltered a little bit. “That is correct, Agent Romanoff. An action I cannot defend, but I can explain. I mentioned two events… the discovery of his adoption made my brother turn against Jotunheim…”

“We kinda need more context, Thor. Yes, to find out that you’re adopted can be a traumatic experience, but… Normally people don’t go crazy over such a thing… or try to attack another world to let off some steam…”

Lowering his eyes Thor bit the inside of his cheek and Steve tried to remember if he had ever seen him in such a state. Not knowing what to say. “My brother… I’ve mentioned this before… You have to promise me to never mention any of this to Loki. The fact that he can’t remember… it gives him a chance to be happy again. To start over…”

Steve didn’t know if he wanted to make any promises. Especially after having Loki being angry at him for keeping things from him. “How about you tell us and then… we’ll try to figure out what would be best?”

Thor glanced at him and then silently agreed. “About a thousand years ago… Asgard was at war with Jotunheim. They were defeated by Asgardian forces, led by my father. In the aftermath of the last battle my father found an abandoned babe in a temple. It had been left to die, so my father took it back with him to Asgard… and raised it as his own son.”

No way. Steve didn’t know anything about Asgard or Jotunheim. About their differences or relationship. Steve did know about adoption and normally that didn’t mean you got to keep the kid whose life you had saved. “Okay, but I don’t understand how…”

“Loki didn’t know. I didn’t know. We were raised thinking that they are related by blood. For a thousand years Loki thought he was Asgardian. In fact he is Jotun… A race Asgardians have always considered their enemies.”

There wasn’t a sound to be heard when Thor paused. Nobody wanted to say anything, so Thor slowly continued. “It would not be an exaggeration to say that every Asgardian family has at some time mourned the loss of a loved one… who died by the hand of a Jotun during war. Songs and tales exist that describe them as monsters and… when parents want their children to do their chores… there is a saying that… if you don’t do as you’re told, the Jotuns will come and rip you apart. Everybody knows that these are… exaggerations, relicts of another time and yes, propaganda… Nevertheless they haven’t disappeared yet. The hatred for the Jotun is deeply embodied in Asgardian culture and Loki was raised by the man who defeated them in a bloody war and who is greatly worshipped by his people for this deed. Loki grew up with a brother who…”

Another pause and this time it was different, Steve could see the words dying on Thor’s lips and this impressive, huge man seemed to become smaller. Just looking at him made Steve feel sympathy for him.

“Loki grew up with a brother who always wanted to be like his father and kept talking about how he would go to Jotunheim and kill all the monsters there. I know I was only a child when I said these words, but… do you think you can try to understand what it meant for Loki to discover one day that he actually was… a Jotun?” The last word was a mere whisper and Steve knew that he needed time to process this. How was he supposed to react to this, to understand the implications…

“Good lord…” Bruce obviously didn’t feel the same. He was running one hand down his face, shaking his head. A perfect display of disbelief. “Please, tell me you just made this up.”

“Why would I…”

“You guys are fucking insane!” Trust Tony to find the proper words that Steve would be never able to think of. “So basically… you guys told Loki how fucking bad the boogie man is and then you were like – Hey, by the way, you are the boogie man! This is… There, you made it! You broke me! I have no idea what to say!”

Natasha did. “Loki was raised to despise his own kind. Did your father just tell him?”

“No… a Jotun’s touch burns Asgardian skin. Loki was touched by one during a fight and it didn’t burn him… he did his own research then… and when he found out he wanted to prove our father his worth by… killing as many Jotuns as possible.”

How could any of them understand? They were human, they had no idea what all of this meant or how Loki felt. Yes, the story had caused Steve to feel sorry for him, but no trauma or bad childhood were an excuse or a reason to kill people.

“That’s fucked up. That’s so…” Tony lifted his cup to his mouth and then stopped in mid-motion, staring at it. Probably asking himself why it didn’t have any alcohol in it. “Great, existential crisis, dad fucked him over, tries to kill himself, fails and falls right into the hands of some other asshole who tortures him. Fan-fucking-tastic. Now I feel bad for every single time I fired a shot at him…”

“I wouldn’t go that far. He still made his own choices…” Sighing Natasha rubbed her temples. “But… the circumstances are indeed rather extreme. If he doesn’t remember any of that…”

Bruce gladly stepped in. “It’s indeed a chance to start over… but is that fair to him? Doesn’t he have a right to know who he is?”

“Of course he fucking does, but pointbreak’s dad made sure that he can’t find out without losing his shit. You tell me tomorrow morning that I’m Howard – I’m going to blow up the tower with all of us inside.”

Steve only partly listened, he was still trying to get his thoughts in order and figure out what to do with this mix of emotions. He couldn’t fight the down the anger he was feeling, without having anyone he could direct it at. Loki had been through a sensation that none of them could relate to. There wasn’t a single human being who grew up to discover that they were actually part of another species. Monsters? Yes, something like that could destroy a person. Now the memory was all gone and… was that really for the better? Could you just erase such an important event from somebody’s life?

“My brother was a happy person until that discovery and now he has the chance to live that life again. He must not learn about his true heritage.”

“Thor, I’m sorry but… Your brother has already learned about the fact that he tried to conquer this planet and he has obvious signs of torture on his body. If you guys are right and he doesn’t remember… imagine waking up one day, having scars all over your body and people going after you, because you are a criminal. I can picture anyone being very happy in that kind of situation.” Natasha’s dry explanation gave Steve’s chills and it clearly didn’t fail to impact Thor. Loki’s brother swallowed lightly. “I know. This is unfortunate, but… whatever is keeping Loki’s mind busy right now… it can’t be as bad as what he has already lived through…”

Silence and Steve wondered how they had ended up here. A room full of Avengers and you could practically taste the pity they felt for Loki.

“Somebody has to address the elephant in the room.” When Bruce put his cup of hot chocolate away Steve thought that playtime was indeed over. “Memory loss can be permanent… but it doesn’t have to be. We have no way of knowing… tomorrow he could remember everything. What are we going to do then?”

That was another one of these thoughts which made it hard for Steve to sleep.

Tony shrugged a bit too casually. “If he goes crazy again, we have to put him in check. Lock him up and throw the key away… But wait, here’s a silly thought… we’re pretty awesome people, we’re living in an awesome place and maybe… just maybe if he treat him like a person and not like a piece of shit, he’ll come to like the planet… us… and he won’t fuck up shit again. Hell, I know that this sounds fucking naïve, but… hey, it’s worth a try and there is not much we can do anyway… He definitely needs to get out of here more. He’s going to go crazy if he has to stay in all day.”

“What about the amulet? He was trying to get it before you smashed his head.”

“Fuck the amulet. It’s safe, Thor put up all this magical shit to protect it and it will stay where it is. If we find Loki near it… well, guess he fucked us over. Not going to happen though. Everybody happy with our discussion? Great. I’m going to bed. Have a good night.”

And that was it. Tony had called in this meeting and now he had ended it. Everybody got up slowly, leaving the room. Steve didn’t move a muscle, all of that was happening a bit too fast. A bit too much information.

“Cap?” Looking up he saw Natasha standing in front of him. “You’ve barely said anything.”

“Frankly… I don’t know what to say… You heard all of that. Something like that would get anybody a lifetime of therapy. I know you don’t believe that he doesn’t remember, but… I think we should give it a chance…”

Natasha’s eyes had that dark glimmer in them and Steve felt like he should apologize although he had no idea what for.

 ***

Tony was bouncing up and down, feeling terribly excited. He was always excited when he was starting a new project and this one was going to be interesting. Probably lethal and terribly stupid, but so exciting. Whistling a Queen song Tony walked down the hall and when he reached the door to Loki’s rooms, he didn’t even bother to knock. A cool and confident entrance was very important when you wanted to make the right impression. “Rise and shine, Lokes. We’re going out.”

The living room was empty and Tony impatiently cleared his throat. “Come on! Losing precious time here!”

Another few seconds of waiting and then Loki joined him, pulling a perfect bitch-face. Damn, Tony had never seen something like that on a guy. Wasn’t this a girl’s thing? A one night stand who got kicked out kind of thing? “What are you doing here? I did not invite you in, Mr. Stark.”

“Yeah, yeah. You are pissed, I got that. How about you get over it, put on some decent clothes… that shirt looks awful by the way… and we get going?”

Both eyebrows met Loki’s hairline. Perfect. Mission accomplished.

“I have no intention to leave this tower with you. You organised this farce yesterday which…”

“Of course it was my idea! Because it was smart, it had to be my idea.” Putting on his cockiest grin Tony couldn’t find the words to describe how good it felt to talk to Loki this way. What a relief. “Come on, you are a smart cookie, you get it. We didn’t know if you’re faking your amnesia or it was real. We needed to find out some way, so I came up with something. Don’t be mad, you would have done something similar.”

In response Loki scowled which was pretty much an agreement. Perfect.

“Look, I know you’re tired of being inside the whole day. I’ll take you out, show you around a bit. Make sense of all the things you’ve read about. You want to do that or to continue sulking?”

Loki’s eyes looked him up and down almost as if he was waiting for Tony to add something to or to tell him that it was a joke. Finally he nodded softly. “Will you grant me five minutes to get myself ready to leave?”

“Sure, but no longer. Come on, get going.”

Tony checked his watch and Loki was back in three minutes and 45 seconds. Now that was a pleasant surprise. “Hold on to your socks, Lokes. I’m going to blow your mind.”

Twenty minutes later Loki did a look around and then raised an eyebrow at Tony. “This is a park.”

“No, it’s Central Park. Best park in the entire world. There’s nothing you can't do here. You can do sports, take a nice walk in beautiful nature, check out the sights and works of art all over the place or go for a boat ride. There are several museums right next to the park and this is the only piece of nature in the entire city. Come on, give it a try. You’ll like it and you’re out of the tower.” Grinning at Loki Tony began walking down the path and was content to see Loki follow suit. It had been years since Tony had taken an actual walk in the park, but he still knew his way around. Quieter spots, not the great tourist routes.

“I’ve already read up on the history of this city. The park was mentioned. Judging by first impression… it looks lovely.”

“Told you so.” Tony didn’t really have a plan what to do in the park, but he definitely hadn’t expected that Loki would ask questions. About every little thing they came across. Turned out the only sports in Asgard were fighting and hunting. No idea about soccer, football, badminton. God, Tony wouldn’t even try to start explaining baseball to him. An hour later they settled down in two deckchairs next to the Belvedere Lake and Tony was actually spending a pleasant afternoon with Loki. Miracles did happen. Was that a pig flying there?

“I have to admit this is a nice spot, but I can’t stop asking myself…” Loki turned his head and looked at him. His green eyes had golden spots in them. They were lively and curious. Tony liked that about people. “What?”

“Why are you doing this? You clearly don’t trust me. What happened yesterday is proof enough. Why are you doing this? Entertaining me?”

Oh, so now they were having the talk. Tony could easily deal with that. “What? Aren’t we already past this? We wanted to make sure that you don’t remember. You don’t remember, done. You’re only getting to know us now. Starting over.”

“Why? I remember perfectly what you’ve said on the roof… I did something terrible to you and I can’t fight the feeling that it has something to do with the energy surrounding you. It’s fascinating, it’s almost pulling me in…”

The golden spots in his eyes were dancing and the unmasked curiosity on his face was sending chills down Tony’s back. He was very capable of dealing with an amnesiac Loki, but he couldn’t take any allusions to the arc-reactor. Loki must have noticed his discomfort, because the expression on his face instantly changed. “I am sorry, I didn’t mean it like that. I am fascinated with all sorts of energy and I have never encountered anything like this. I still don’t understand my reasoning for attacking your planet… but I can’t imagine any form of reality where I wouldn’t have been interested in your energy…”

Was Loki hitting on him? Who knew anything about Asgardian flirting? It sounded like Loki was hitting on him. Okay, now Tony really needed an appointment with a psychiatrist…

“You did a lot of stuff that wasn’t okay. Nobody knows why and honestly at the moment I am not very interested in finding out. I don’t know about you, but I am trying to start over. We don’t have to dwell on the past… there are things we don’t want to revisit.”

A shadow was cast over Loki’s face and Tony thought of the scars, so he quickly continued to talk. “Instead I want to find out what kind of guy you are. No offense to Thor, but half he stories he tells sound stupidly crazy and he’s probably just trying to show off… Seriously him slaying a three-headed dragon? Come on…”

Loki… laughed. This was the first time Tony actually heard him laugh. A real laugh without bitterness or spite. It was pretty. A pretty laugh and golden spots in his eyes. Fuck, Tony was already starting to like him.

“Actually… that tale is true.”

Holy crap, somebody was having him on here. “You are kidding me.”

“No, I assure you, Thor did slay that dragon… but I doubt that he told you the entire story. Did he mention that he had to dance around it on one leg and sing a song about the virtues of only having half a brain…”

So this was Tony trying not to laugh his ass off. “Oh, come on. You are making this up…”

Smiling softly Loki shook his head. “No, I wouldn’t dare. It was a necessary task to slay the beast.”

Tony had a good idea why. “How did you get him to do that? Were you just having fun?”

“To slay a dragon is not easy. A dragon with three heads and six eyes is almost impossible to kill. I would be very useful to have a distraction while you’re trying to cut its throat. Thor asked me to create a distraction and I did that… but I had a little fun first. I’m the god of mischief…” Loki shrugged, chuckling ever so softly and Tony couldn’t believe that he was enjoying this conversation with Loki, that he thought he was funny. Seriously, making Thor dance around a dragon in complete battle gear? Amazing!

“That’s the kind of stuff you spend your time with? Slaying monsters and making a fool out of your brother?”

“No… Slaying monsters is more Thor’s field of expertise. I’ve had my fair share, I’m Asgardian, but I prefer books, music, art, especially architecture… I like creating things. Magic, designs and so on…”

Tony huffed jokingly. “Good lord, another artist… No, that’s cool. What designs are we talking about? Also architecture?”

Loki nodded. “Yes, I’ve designed a number of buildings, temples… That’s why I like your city. It’s so different from Asgardian structures. The lines, the edges… it’s a lot more… lineal. I think it’s very interesting.”

Mental note – send Loki to a bunch of art museums. They were in New York City, those places could be found around every corner. Tony just had to be careful to not make a New Yorker out of him.

“Well, I don’t want to disappoint you, but nobody comes to the States to admire the architecture of our cities… you go to Europe to do that. That’s not a very patriotic thing to say, don’t quote me on that.”

“I am afraid I don’t understand.”

“Don’t worry, I hear that a lot. Now lean back, close your eyes and chill. It’s Saturday… I think.” Slipping on his sunglasses Tony leaned back and crossed his arms behind his head. Yeah, this was the sweet life. Was Loki still looking at him, having no idea what was going on? Yes. Wonderful. “It’s called chilling. Try it…”

After enjoying the silence and the sun for a few minutes Tony pulled his sunglasses back down and glanced at Loki. Unbelievable. Tony Stark was witnessing Loki lying in a deck chair, having his eyes closed, looking utterly relaxed and letting the sun shine onto his face.

Weird?

Yeah, a bit, but mostly fascinating. Loki was able to actually relax and it suited him. That was a good sign. They were here together and Loki was willing to let a bit of his guard down. Perhaps Tony’s plan could actually work out. Why not? He was charming as fuck, New York was amazing and why the hell shouldn’t Loki come to the conclusion that his situation wasn’t this bad. That the Avengers weren’t so bad.

“You’re staring at me, Mr. Stark.”

Loki didn’t bother to open his eyes and Tony noticed that he was indeed staring. “No, I am not.”

“Of course, you are.”

“No, I am not.”

Still not opening his eyes Loki kept his face completely neutral. “I can tell that you are. I get stared at a lot. I am very pretty.”

Tony’s mouth dropped open and he obviously didn’t hear right. Right? He wasn’t able to hold back his laughter, not a second. This was too awesome. “I have nothing against a healthy self-esteem, but you can’t use the word pretty. That’s just wrong. It’s for girls.”

“I’m afraid I am not completely familiar with Midgardian semantics yet.”

“Don’t worry. We’ll get there.”

They spent another good hour in the park and then Tony was bound to find out that Loki couldn’t walk past a bookstore. Tony watched him walking past the shelves, looking awed and lost at the same time. “Need any help?”

“I have no idea where to start… Philosophy, poetry and arts… To able to understand and appreciate it I require a solid knowledge of Midgardian history. Only reading up on history is kind of tiring…”

“How about you get some novels? Not the cheap stuff, but classics. No good stuff is being written nowadays anyway. They tell you a lot about the period they’ve been written in.”

Loki awarded him with an approving look. “This is a good idea…” He continued to stroll through the shop, every now and then picking up a book and Tony for the most part just watched him. The same guy who had tried to take over this planet, who had spat insults left and right, the same guy was now casually standing in a New York bookshop, checking out a copy of the Scarlet Letter.

There was a good chance that Tony was crazy, but this might actually work out.

Crap, who was calling him now? Captain Babysitter, of course. Tony wondered what this might be about… Ridiculous.

“What’s up, Steve-O?”

Before even saying anything Steve huffed in annoyance and Tony mentally high fived himself. Did Asgardian know how to high five? He would teach Loki how to high five.

“Hey Tony… Jarvis told us that you went out… with Loki. You’ve been gone for almost two hours and I… just wanted to know if everything was okay?”

Tony glanced at Loki who was now talking to an employee who was smiling charmingly at him. Loki going into a shop, checking out books and letting the employee give him advice. Mind officially blown.

“Nothing’s okay, you’re interrupting my date.”

“Your what?!”

“Relax, Cap. We’re about 10 minutes away from the tower. We’re shopping. I’ll bring him back home safely.”

He actually heard Steve sigh in release. “Good… Thor’s a bit… indignant.”

“When I think about… maybe I’ll take him to Chinatown. That’ll blow his mind. Don’t wait for us.”

Chapter Text

Steve was pacing. Natasha was raising an eyebrow at him and he felt stupid, but every time Steve sat down he started feeling uneasy. Something he didn’t want to admit. Tony and Loki hadn’t been gone that long. Jarvis was even keeping them updated wherever they went, because Tony had taken his bracelets with him. So there was no reason to be worried. Loki couldn’t remember and he was accompanied by an Avenger. Why was Steve feeling so uncomfortable with the situation?

“Cap, you want to grab something to eat?”

Grateful for any kind of distraction Steve quickly agreed to Bruce’s suggestion. Since Steve had been walking up the walls he had completely forgotten about food and Bruce had been working in the lab. Still Steve wasn’t actually hungry, but he couldn’t keep pacing around the living room with Natasha watching him. She might think that Steve was worried about Loki going crazy which wasn’t the case.

“There’s still a lot of leftover Thai food in the fridge. If that’s okay with you?”

Steve quickly nodded and sat down at the counter. Better think of something to say, that would help him to find some distraction. “

“It’s good to have you back around. Last couple of days were pretty weird.”

Bruce offered him a smile while placing the boxes of Thai food on the counter. “Yeah, but it was for the better. We couldn’t know how the other guy would react to Loki. I’m pretty confident now that there won’t be any incidents.”

That was relieving to hear. “Because he doesn’t remember?”

“Perhaps, but mostly because I don’t feel uncomfortable around him.” Bruce shrugged, a smile dancing around his lips. “I know that sounds strange, but… Loki is the one person who had the worst… encounter with the Hulk. That was really bad… a human being would have died and he got up about ten minutes later. All these times we fought after that… I could see in his eyes how much he loathed the Hulk. So much contempt and anger, concealing… a bit of fear, but mostly rage. Yesterday when I walked into that room – there was none of that. Nothing at all. He looked at me like he would like at everybody else. That’s… No, I can’t say that, it’s going to sound so weird.”

Steve was way too curious to let this moment go by. “No, tell me. Pretty much everything in our lives is weird.”

Laughing softly Bruce agreed. “Okay… I know it shouldn’t count, because he doesn’t remember, but… There is someone I… the other guy beat into a pulp and now he is looking at me like I’m a normal person. It makes me feel good, you know. That’s everything but rational and I know it’s stupid. It’s Loki and he doesn’t remember and yet... It makes me feel good. There, that sounded totally weird.”

Shaking his head Steve reached for one of the boxes. The sweet smell of food entered his nose and for some reason his anxiety had vanished. “No, it’s not weird. I think it makes a lot of sense. I just fear that none of us has that effect on him…”

“Well, he must feel a bit lost, but Tony is working on that. They’ve been out for half the day now and I’ll take that as a good sign. I don’t think Loki is the kind of person who spends more than five minutes with a person he can’t stand.”

“Yeah, that is most definitely true…” Steve murmured more or less to himself, but Bruce heard him way too clearly. “He’s still angry with you?”

“Great, you already know that…” Suddenly Steve felt his bad mood returning and Bruce looked at him with this soft gaze as he wanted to comfort him. What for? After a shrug and swallowing the first bite of his food Bruce continued the conversation. “Tony gave me an update. Listen, I don’t know him, but… maybe you should try to talk to him? If we want to try to start over with him… we should get rid of bad blood as soon as possible. I’ll have to talk to him too, apologize for our little trick.”

“So you do believe that he doesn’t remember?”

“Either that or he is a hell of an actor. I just told you… the way he looked at me. It’s hard to believe that somebody could fake that. He saved Tony’s life and he didn’t have to. That’s why Tony’s looking out for him… and because of the scars.” The mere word brought a shadow to Bruce’s face and Steve wasn’t able to say anything. Tony’s past and the events in Afghanistan were things Steve knew about, but he didn’t dare to talk with Tony about it. It was only natural that Tony would feel compassion for somebody who had suffered from torture. If Tony and Loki managed to get along, that would be a good thing. It would make it easier for Loki to see them in a different light. Right? Why wasn’t Steve feeling better about this?

“I have no idea if this is going to work out… or where we’re going with this?”

Bruce smirked conspiratorially. “Best case scenario – he becomes our second Thor. I don’t believe it for a second, but… we could win an ally. Maybe even a friend and with a lot of luck… somebody gets to start over their entire life. People would kill for that. To start over and Loki doesn’t even know he’s doing it. We’ll hope for the best and try to not treat him like… the guy who tried to conquer the world. We’ll see how Tony’s doing when they get back.”

Yeah and Steve wanted them to be back three hours ago and at the same time he dreaded it. None of this made any sense.

Tony and Loki didn’t return until eight o’clock. That didn’t mean though that anybody got a glimpse of Loki. A completely worn out Tony stumbled into the common room and collapsed onto the couch. “I am so done! I need new feet, they hurt like fuck. Why does this guy want to walk everywhere?”

It was only Natasha’s stern gaze that caused Tony to stop his ramblings. “What do you think you were doing? Have you any idea how dangerous…”

“Oh, cut it out! We agreed! I got him out of the tower, let him breathe some fresh air and guess what – he didn’t go crazy, but he enjoyed it. He is in a fucking good mood, because I gave him something to do… Don’t give me that look, Thor. He is still pissed at most of you guys. Apologize to him and it’ll be okay. Now shut up and let me put my feet on the table. Your brother wanted to see the entire city in one fucking day… and all of those bags were fucking heavy.”

Steve was still trying to figure out how he felt and Natasha wouldn’t let it go. “You can’t just leave the tower with him. Alone. You’re not equipped to keep him in check if he…”

“You know what? I’m not even listening. Too tired.”

Natasha scowled, not able to believe that Tony was dismissing her comments and Steve wanted something entirely different. “So… uhm… what did you do? You have been gone all day… You didn’t spend all that time in the park?”

“Hell no, didn’t you get the part when I was complaining about walking across the entire city? We agreed that we should show him how fucking awesome we are and I started doing that. I thought of a way how to show him everything that is amazing about this country. Our culture, our values, freedom, equality… all that shit. There is only one place that combines all of these things. So I took him to Hooters.”

Steve felt as if Tony had just hit him on the head with a baseball bat. “What?!”

Thor didn’t look as offended. “What is Hooters?”

“Tony, you didn’t…”

“Relax.” Tony raised both of his hands, his smirk promising something even worse. “Of course I didn’t take him to Hooters. I have class, man. I took him to a strip club.”

Oh god, why hadn't they stopped Tony this morning from leaving with Loki? This was a disaster.

“I don’t see why my brother would…”

“You’ve lost your mind!”

“Tony, you’re such an idiot.”

Snorting softly Tony shrugged. “Showing your true colours, huh? I was kidding. There was no time for barely clothed ladies. We were checking out about every museum in Manhattan. Your brother wants to know about everything, it’s kind of tiring. Then we went shopping… he has his own fucking library now… and a ton of CDs. Yeah, I know, CDs. I couldn’t explain to him that nobody uses CDs anymore, he was so fucking fascinated by the medium… You know what. He had a great day and so did I. By the way, he’s joining us for breakfast tomorrow.”

Natasha’s face instantly darkened. “Clint isn’t going to tolerate that.”

“Then Clint can go fuck himself. During the two weeks that Loki doesn’t remember he’s been nicer to me than Clint the entire fucking year. Loki is going to sit at the table tomorrow and we’re going to eat pancakes. I promised and I am a man of my word.” Tony shrugged at the end and pulled out his phone. For him the conversation was definitely over.

For a moment Natasha only watched him with squinted eyes and that displeased expression on her face. Never a good sign and Steve felt like he should do or say something, but he was at a loss for words. Something that seemed to happen frequently during the last time. “He’s growing on you quite quickly. A bit too quickly for my taste.”

“I don’t care about your taste, Natasha. He doesn’t remember and Thor is right, his brother is a nice guy. Nice in an interesting way, not boring like… you know… Cap for example. No offense, pal.”

“None taken, jerk…”

Natasha ignored Steve’s remark. “You’re throwing all caution out of the window way too quickly.”

Tony’s head flung up. “Don’t talk to me about things going out of the window! I spent some time actually talking to him, okay? How about you do that too before lecturing me? This fucking distrust will only help to drive him away and what would that be good for? If Clint should be right about his fucking idea, which he isn’t… what difference does it make? Loki would try to screw us over anyway, regardless of me being nice or not. I thought we were done having this conversation? Ah, screw you guys, I’m going to bed.”

Once again Tony just left them there and Steve suddenly knew why he had been feeling uncomfortable the whole day. He was feeling even worse now.

 ***

Laughter was coming from the kitchen and it made Steve even grumpier, because he had barely gotten any sleep. It had been so incredibly hard to even close his eyes. He was far away from feeling particularly cheerful, unlike the persons in the kitchen. Wasn’t it a bit early to be laughing?

“I am sorry, but I don’t understand what’s funny about what I just said?”

Steve stopped in the doorway and watched the scene playing out in front of him. Tony, Bruce and Loki were sitting at the counter and the latter had a confused expression etching on his face. The other two were laughing, Bruce had an amused glimmer in his eyes which Steve had only seen a few times before.

“Ah, this is hilarious… if that’s your reaction to fairy tales, I can’t wait to introduce you to reality TV…” Tony was slowly calming down, actually wiping away a few tears.

“Oh, you can’t do that… you’ll make us look bad as a species…” Bruce was shaking his head and Loki obviously couldn’t understand a word they said. “Care to explain?”

Deciding that he couldn’t keep standing there Steve took a breath and walked into the room. “Good morning.”

Loki turned his head and as soon as he recognized Steve the confusion turned into something more unpleasant. The corners of his mouth curled and Steve felt a knot forming inside of his chest. “Good morning.”

Tony smirked at him. “Hey there, Cap. You look like shit, want a coffee? Yeah, you want some coffee.”

Bruce smiled at him when Steve sat down next to him and Tony instantly placed a mug of black, steaming coffee in front of him. “You guys were talking about fairy tales?” Steve felt stupid when these words left his mouth.

“Yes, Loki has some trouble with his bedtime literature…” Bruce was chuckling and Tony started laughing again. “It’s so great. I’ve bought you every important book in the history of American history… and what do you read? The fucking fairy tales… so awesome.”

“I wanted to know what stories Midgardian children grow up with… I was surprised by how barbaric it was. A little girl being devoured by wolf. Just like her grandmother? It’s disturbing.” Loki softly shook his head and then took a bite from his pancakes. Tony must have made them for him…

“Yes, but they get saved by the hunter later on…” Steve pointed that out softly and Loki’s eyes were suddenly back on him. “Not in the version that I read. She gets eaten and the story ends, telling the reader that little girls shouldn’t trust a wolf no matter how nice or charming he might be.”

What? Loki’s version had the wolf win? That was just cruel and Steve had never heard about such a thing. “But Little Red Riding Hood ends with the wolf dead. Everybody knows that.”

“Are you implying that I can’t read?”

Steve wanted to kick himself or tell Loki that he hadn’t said anything even remotely close to this. Before he could even come up with something to defend himself Bruce started to set things straight. “Loki, you read the original version. That fairy tale has been retold hundreds of time and most people only know the version where the hunter saves both Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother. Does that sound less barbaric?”

“Oh, come on, you can't leave out the part where he cuts the wolf’s stomach open to get them out.” Tony looked so utterly disappointed and Loki screwed up his face. “Barbaric indeed. I definitely do fail to understand Midgardian tales.”

“Well, Thor mentioned something a while ago. Don’t you have fairy tales in Asgard as well? About monsters?” Bruce asked tentatively and Steve’s fingers tightened around his cup.

Why was he asking this question? Hadn’t Thor made clear what was at stake here? Loki’s sanity and happiness? Or was Bruce simply trying to get a reaction to test Loki’s memory another time? Steve desperately hoped that his discomfort wasn’t visible on his face, because Tony made barely any attempt to hide his own.

Loki merely shrugged, seemingly uninterested. “Yes, we do, but they aren’t entirely made up. Rather old war stories… about other people Asgard had been at war with. They are no morals to them… This is really good.” Loki pointed at the pancakes and Tony grinned in response. “Of course they are. I made them. So, you’ve read anything else than the evil kids stories which gave you nightmares.”

How was Tony doing this? From one day to another he had completely changed his entire behaviour around Loki. Here he was, playfully teasing him like he did with everybody else. Even more so, Tony seemed to be having a lot of fun doing it. More than usual.

“Funny that you ask – I read your biography.”

Loki really had a thing for these, didn’t he?

The grin on Tony’s face got even wider and Steve shifted on his chair. Bruce raised an eyebrow at him, so Steve instantly stopped and wondered why he might actually blush now. “Which one? There is a countless number, you know, I am very popular and an interesting person to write a book about.”

“The author is called Hutchinson.”

That name which Steve had never heard before wiped the grin off Tony’s face. “What? From all the books written about me you choose the one from that stick-in-the-mud idiot who went to MIT with me and is still angry I got more girls than him and is constantly trying to ridicule my inventions although he has never accomplished anything on his own? Wait a second, did I buy this book for you? Did I just help him earn 30 bucks? Outrageous!”

“I admit you were portrayed in a rather negative light. It also focused less on your work but on your social life. There was a mention of a very fascinating incident in a city called Las Vegas. It involved three women, a bear costume and…”

“Wohow… don’t even start quoting that evil, evil book! It’s full of lies. Evil lies that must not be repeated. We will never speak of it again. Also I want you to burn that book. Now let’s talk about something relevant. Did you know that Rick from the Walking Dead is actually British? Blew my fucking mind!”

Steve didn’t understand a single word Tony said and judging by Loki’s expression he was having the very same experience. Tony kept talking endlessly, like always and Steve had to realise that another thing also hadn’t changed yet. Loki was still clearly angry with him and barely even looked at him during the entire breakfast. Thor showed up three minutes later, followed by Natasha who was the only one to not act like Loki sitting there with them was something that happened every day.

Eventually Loki was the first one to get up, he excused himself, explaining that he would go back to his rooms and read.

“Alright, I’ll pick you up around three.”

Loki nodded at Tony’s remark and then left. The second he was out of earshot Thor turned to Tony. “You want to continue to show my brother the city?”

“Yeah, he read about the High Line and wants to see it. I think I’ll pretend that we’re going there and instead drive to Atlantic City. I feel like losing some money at poker.”

“I do appreciate you spending time with my brother, but…”

“Hey, if you want some quality family time – go and ask him about it. He’s still pissed and waiting for an apology. I did apologize and he accepted. It’s that easy. Why don’t you fucking try it?”

As much as Steve didn’t want to admit it, Tony was absolutely right about this.

 ***

Nobody should say that Steve wasn’t able to learn from his mistakes. This time he was actually prepared and he didn’t attempt to upset Loki even more. After exhaling loudly Steve knocked at the door and waited. “Loki? It’s Steve. Sorry to disturb you, but… I want to apologize.”

Here he was trying to do everything in his might to not give Loki another reason to be angry at him. Loki who had been his enemy two weeks ago and who was now living with them. And spent a lot of time with Tony…

Seconds passed painfully slowly and Steve kept standing there, feeling almost completely useless. Until he heard steps coming closer and suddenly the door was actually opened. Something that Steve had almost been sure that it wasn’t going to happen.

Loki was just standing there, looking at him with disinterest. “If I am recalling this right you already have apologized. Why do it another time?”

“Because you didn’t accept it… and it was a bad apology. I didn’t even really explain myself. I would like to do that now.” Good, Steve sounded more convincing than he had expected.

The door wasn’t slammed in his face. Instead Loki crossed his arms in front of his chest and nodded. “Go on.”

Here goes nothing. “I know it would have been the correct thing to ask you about the scars or… not watching you in the first place… for the latter one I don’t have an explanation, but… We haven’t been on good terms, we fought and even now I don’t know you. I know Thor, he is my friend. All of the Avengers are my friends and I trust them. All of them have my back and I know I can discuss pretty much everything with them. That’s why I went to Thor, because he is my friend and I trust him. I don’t know you. Also I didn’t want to… think about the possibility that the scars might be recent… and I definitely didn’t consider that Thor would instantly run up to you and… I thought he’d address it with a bit more care.”

In response Loki snorted. “Thor? He is heavy-handed. Did you really accept him to handle this differently? To maybe sit down with me and not demanding that I undress in front of half the Avengers? People who I don’t know. People that I don’t trust.”

Swallowing lightly Steve nodded in agreement. “Yes, I know… Or I should have known. I see your point. I am sorry, I was wrong about this and… inconsiderate, but you are not the only one who is confused by all of this. You are in a situation you know nothing about and… we’re in a situation that has drastically changed from one moment to another and not everybody is adapting to it as well as Tony. I am trying though.”

Trailing off Steve watched Loki’s face closely and he thought to see his features soften a little bit. He wished for a smile on these lips, but Loki wouldn’t grant it. Nevertheless he surprised Steve. “Thank you, I appreciate your apology. It was way better than the first one.” For a second Loki seemed indecisive about something, then he made a step aside. “You want to come in? I’m in the midst of organising stuff.”

Taken aback Steve realised that he didn’t really care what Loki was doing, but yeah, he wanted to stay. “Yeah, sure. Can I help?”

The words died on Steve’s lips when he took in the state of chaos Loki’s living room was in. Tony hadn’t been lying, they definitely had bought a lot of stuff on their little trip. There were piles of books and CDs all over the place. At first glance it was even hard to find a place where to sit down. “Wow… uhm… that’s a lot of stuff.”

“Indeed and it’s only the beginning, there is a lot to learn. Tony promised me install some more bookshelves, but until then I need them organized. That pile over there is history, philosophy, art… human biology, physics… the bookstores delivered them out of order.”

So it was Tony now? No more Mr. Stark?

“I see… but… that’s probably a lifetime of reading.”

“My guess is two months.”

“How is that even possible?”

“I require little sleep and I read very fast.” Loki shrugged casually and picked up a few books, checking out their titles.

Okay, Steve could help with that. He couldn’t read that fast, but he was still able to organize books by genre. Picking up some novels Steve searched the according pile and watched Loki out the corner of his eyes. Thor’s brother was browsing through one of the books and Steve couldn’t help to admire the way he was simply standing there. Sometimes Thor seemed so gawky in his movements, almost as if everything on Asgard was so different that he couldn’t stop feeling and looking out of place. It was different with Loki, he had a grace to him that made it hard to believe that they were actually related…

Which they weren’t…

Steve felt a little sting and tried to push that thought away. How he was he supposed to not feel terrible knowing something like this, while Loki was standing right next to him, having no idea.

“Captain, I have a question and I hope you might be able to help me with it.”

Loki had closed the book, his eyes were on Steve who instantly nodded. Perhaps they could have a normal conversation and he could try to follow Tony’s example.

“I’ll try. What do you want to know?”

“I am perfectly aware of how generous these gifts are and I am very grateful. Unfortunately my knowledge of Midgardian culture and customs is still very limited and I need some advice on how to express my gratitude and appreciation in an appropriate way. A mere ‘Thank you’ isn’t going to cut it.”

So Loki was asking him how to thank Tony for spending a ton of money for him? “Uhm… Tony is indeed very generous, he’s not expecting anything in return and… when somebody gives you a gift, you aren’t obligated to pay them back in any kind of way. “

In response Loki raised both eyebrows, looking utterly confused. “But I have to do something otherwise I would be taking advantage of somebody’s kindness. I am being offered housing and unlimited access to Midgardian culture. Without any demands of compensation. Not doing anything would make me feel uncomfortable.”

The way he said it made clear that this was actually weighing heavily on his mind and Steve and realised that Loki had a point. “Okay, uhm… Tony is a mechanic, an inventor and probably one of the smartest people on the planet. He constantly wants to learn stuff and pushing boundaries… He is very interested in Asgardian technology and… magic. Once he got Thor to hand over his hammer, so Tony could do some tests on him. If you want to do something nice for him… he would love it if you told him about how some things on Asgard work… the rainbow bridge for example. Thor’s explanation was very unsatisfactory for Tony. You know… this entire room is full of books, because you want to learn, because you are fascinated with somebody else’s culture. It also works the other way round.”

When Steve was done Loki offered him a small smile and at that moment it was downright unbelievable that he should have ever raised a hand against anyone of them. “Thank you, Captain. That was very helpful.”

“Uhm… I’d prefer it if you called me Steve.”

“That could be arranged.” Loki held his gaze for a second and the hard expression in his eyes was completely gone. Steve tried hard to understand why he felt so light now and his sleepless night seemed without consequences out of a sudden.

There was no time to think about it, because Jarvis’ voice filled the room, demanding their attention. “Avengers assemble. New York City is under attack.”

 

Chapter Text

“No way. He is not coming with us. If you are even considering this…” Clint was pressing these words through gritted teeth and since they had no time to lose Steve didn’t even attempt to make a conversation out of this. “I agree. Bruce is going to stay here with him. Come on, we don’t have any more time to lose.”

Naturally Thor protested, Loki would be able to help them, but Steve was quick in his judgement. Loki wasn’t an Avenger and despite the events during the last couple of days Steve didn’t feel comfortable with the thought of taking him along to a fight.

They had always been fighting Loki, it had never been different.

Loki didn’t mind being left behind, Steve thought that he looked rather sceptical when all of them got ready to leave in an instant.

There was no time to discuss any of this, but Natasha was instantly talking into her radio when they were on the Quinjet. “Tony, make sure that Jarvis has his eye on him… maybe he has been waiting for an opportunity like this. A Jarvis controlled suit wouldn’t be a bad idea either. Complete lock-down.”

Steve met her eyes, but didn’t argue with any of her points, he knew that they were reasonable. As hard as it was to believe though – Loki wasn’t their main concern at the moment. Checking the live footage on one of the pads Steve swallowed lightly and felt his chest tightening. Two explosions at a convention center. Most probably a terrorist attack. They didn’t know much yet, but Steve feared that it was too late to do anything but damage control. Trying to get as many people out of the debris and destruction and if they were lucky they could get their hands on whoever was responsible for this.

Seething anger was rising up inside of Steve. How were people able to do this? Killing innocents for the sake of taking as many lives as possible? Hitting people where they least expected it?

Luckily he didn’t get to think about this too long, because they arrived at the scene only two minutes later.

Parts of the building had collapsed, columns of black smoke were rising up and screams of panics were welcoming them. Right now Steve couldn’t let that get to him. He needed to stay focused. “Alright, we don’t know if there are any more bombs, so we have to get the people out of the building and to safety…”

“Way ahead of you, Cap.” Tony’s voice resounded over the coms and Steve was glad that he was already here, they needed any help they could get.

Before they could even enter the building Steve and Thor had to remove fallen debris while Tony had probably found another way. Within seconds more and more ambulances were arriving, their sirens mingling with the screams. This was good, this way they only had to get the people out and there would be immediate help. Together Thor and him managed to unblock the entrance and they entered something that used to be a corridor. Darkness engulfed them and Steve resisted the urge to cover his mouth with his hand when his first breath inside seemed to fill his lungs with dust. Natasha and Clint weren’t able to help them in this environment, not without special equipment.

As far as Steve could tell there were long, deep cracks spreading across the walls. Perhaps they only had minutes before the whole structure would come down. They had to get out as many as they could. Steve told Thor that they should split up and then headed down the hall, following the cries for help that seemed to come from all directions.

The first person Steve found was a young woman whose arm was trapped between several pieces of rubble. After Steve had freed her from it, he was overjoyed to see that she could make it to the exit on her own and he could immediately continue his search. Almost uncontainable anger came over him when the next two people Steve found, stared up at him with dead, empty eyes. He instantly had to leave them behind to help two young men, both too injured to move.

Carrying them to the exit Steve was relieved to find firefighters already waiting for him. They immediately took care of the men and when Steve turned around again somebody grabbed his arm. “You can’t go back in there! The whole structure can collapse at any second.”

“There are still people inside!” Steve hadn’t done anything yet, he couldn’t leave. The firefighter was calling after him, but Steve didn’t listen.

Not a minute later Steve found a little girl, crouching and crying on the floor. Before Steve could make any attempt to pick her up, he could hear a loud grumble right above them. Dropping to his knees Steve brought up his shield and he didn’t even have the time for another thought when part of the ceiling came crashing down. The girl’s screams were ringing in his ears and Steve pulled her closer. The words he tried to comfort her with were swallowed by the sounds of destruction and Steve didn’t dare to move until it was over.

They were in luck, the way back wasn’t blocked and Steve picked her up, rushing back out. One of the firefighters tried to talk to him again, but the constant rumble made it impossible to understand him. Steve wasn’t going to leave.

Running back inside Steve encountered several bodies, lying on the floor, skin turn apart by the force of the explosion. There were other people still trapped inside.

“Cap, you gotta get out of there!” Tony’s voice resounded over the coms.

“There are still people in here, Tony!”

“I did a scan! The whole building is coming down, it’s a fucking matter of seconds.”

Tony was always right about these things and Steve knew that they couldn’t save them all, but…

“Get out now!”

“Help!”

Somebody was screaming and they were close. Steve was following it as best as he could, ignoring the small parts of the ceiling which were coming down. He had to find them, now he couldn’t turn around when somebody was calling for his help. More darkness, more dust and it was getting harder to breathe.

“Somebody help me, please!”

It was a woman, her leg was broken and she continued to scream even though Steve was already standing beside her. “Please…”

With a deafening sound a rock of concrete came down at the other end of the room and Steve swiped the woman up in his arms. It hurt him to have to ignore her scream of pain. Steve kept running towards the exit, trying to avoid to get hit by the debris and then there was light. Almost done.

The ground and what was left of the walls around them started shaking, crumbling. A bang so loud Steve couldn’t make out the voice of the woman anymore. The ceiling collapsed and everything went black.

 ***

There was pain. Bearable, but pain. Steve’s head was pounding and his mouth felt dry, a vile taste on his tongue. He wanted to cough, but a weight seemed to be lying on his chest. Opening his mouth Steve sucked in a breath and his throat made a rattling sound.

“Cap, hey, take it easy.”

A hand was placed on his shoulder and Steve could make out Bruce standing next to him.

“You fucking idiot!”

“Tony…”

“What? I told him to get out of there!”

After blinking a few times Steve’s vision became perfectly clear and he took in his surroundings. It didn’t look like an actual hospital room. There was a doctor though, Steve had seen her before, she was working for SHIELD. Tony and Natasha were standing near the door, silently arguing.

“How are you feeling, Captain Rogers?”

“The woman… what happened to her?”

Bruce smiled at him, but it looked sad. “She’s in intense care… we don’t know yet. She has a chance thanks to you.”

Steve made an effort to sit up and a sharp, instant pain was coursing through his left arm. Looking at it Steve saw a white bandage around his upper arm and… “What is this?” The veins beneath his skin seemed to be bulging, taking on a blackish tone.

“There was another explosion. It knocked you out and some part of the bomb pierced your arm. It wasn’t a regular bomb, but…” Bruce took a breath and Steve knew he had to ready himself for what was coming. “It was spiked with some kind of neurotoxin. We don’t know what it is and how your body is reacting to it. Could you tell us…”

“I have trouble breathing…” The weight on his chest was still there, maybe even heavier and Steve felt his throat constricting. Was he afraid? Or was this the toxin?

Bruce quickly nodded. “Anything else? Nausea?”

Opening his mouth Steve wanted to confirm the question, but the only sound he managed to produce was a hoarse rasp. Bringing on hand up to his throat Steve tried in vain to say something. Instead of talking Steve was suddenly gasping for air and his sudden panic grabbed all the other people in the room.

“Here, it will help you breathe. Slowly. It will only get harder if you try hard.” The doctor slipped an oxygen mask over his mouth and Steve tried to follow her advice. He didn’t quite make it, but when the oxygen finally entered his lungs Steve felt himself calming down a little.

“Steve…” Bruce’s voice was so soft and Steve could tell that he was afraid. “We don’t know anything about the toxin… and we can’t treat it as long as we don’t know what we are dealing with. It will take time to identify it and… it’s very aggressive. I don’t know if we can figure it out fast enough.”

The weight on his chest was crushing him, his bones and his lungs. He was going to die? Just like this? A feeling of dread rapidly spread inside of Steve and this couldn’t be it. Steve wasn’t scared of dying. Not if he had done enough, not when… There had been so many people. So much screaming and Steve had saved how many people? Five?

Pressing the mask tighter against his mouth Steve sucked in a deep breath, but it barely brought him any release. He felt like his lungs were shutting down, burning with the effort to keep breathing.

They all were staring at him and Steve knew that they wanted to help him. Yet all they did give him was their pity and their fear. Tony was whispering something to Natasha who was shaking her head in response. Steve could see Tony’s wide eyes darkening and he spat out a loud “Fuck you, he has a right to know!”

While Tony was making his way over to Steve’s bed Natasha hissed sharply “Tony, we said no!”

“You were never dying, because something inside of you is poisoning you, so shut up!” Tony turned to Steve and his eyes were burning with rage and fear. Steve wanted to tell him that it was alright, but he couldn’t. “Cap, listen… I am sure they’re trying their best, but… Thor said that Loki might know what to do…

“Tony!”

“Shut up! We can’t pick and choose now! Clint is already having his little freak-out, he and Thor are talking to Fury about this. They are losing time and it’s not their fucking decision! It’s yours… To be honest, I’m not sure this is a good idea either, but…” Tony made no attempt to hide how helpless he felt and Steve didn’t need another proof for how terrible the situation was. With a little gesture Steve let them know that he wanted to write something down.

Next to him Tony grabbed a little notepad and pressed it into Steve’s hands. Writing was harder than he had expected, the letters were swimming in front of his eyes.

I am dying

Not question mark

I’ll suffocate

When he looked back up Bruce was nodding slowly. “Yes… probably during the next 30 minutes…”

Steve’s heartbeat sped up and the next breath he took was more pain than release. It would be agony, dying this way, Steve had no illusions about that. He could take a lot of pain, but he definitely didn’t want to die. Did Steve trust Loki enough to put his life in his hands? No, but what choice did he have? Steve had to make this decision right now, because his brain would shut down before his body due to the lack of oxygen. Who knew how long he was still able to make this kind of decision?

His fingers were trembling when he wrote the next line.

Get Loki

Tony looked somewhat relieved and nodded, rushing towards the door. Natasha took his place next to Steve. “Cap, this is madness. You can’t…”

Out of the corner of his Steve saw Bruce grabbing Natasha’s arm, harshly pulling her aside. “He’s dying, Nat. We gotta try…”

It took ten minutes, at least that was what the clock on the wall indicated. Steve wasn’t sure. It was so hard to make out. By now Steve’s throat felt terribly sore and a throbbing headache was torturing him. Breathing had become so hard that Steve felt tempted to just close his eyes and fall asleep. It made him so tried…

“No, you can’t…”

“I swear if you don’t shut your mouth.”

Several people were entering the room, their voices mingled together and Steve tried to make out who they were, but it was hard to tell. Something was wrong with his eyes, everything was blurry.

“Silence, too much time has already been lost. Brother, please.”

“You said he agreed?”

“Cap would never…”

“Yes, he did. Please, just try to help him.”

Who was talking? Steve blinked, but his vision didn’t any better. Another attempt to breathe shot pain through his body and Steve coughed.

A hand was placed on the bandage on his arm and suddenly it was ripped off.

“What you are you doing, you…”

The shout died away and Steve didn’t care, something warm touched him. It was pleasant, distracting him from the pain in his chest. Closing his eyes Steve concentrated on the warmth, finding it was easier to breathe like this.

“Brother?”

“It will take time. The poison has already spread… It will take time.”

Something was placed on his chest, but it didn’t increase the pressure. Quite the opposite, it seemed to help him support the weight. Steve thought that the next breath came a little bit easier. The warm feeling spread from his arm to his chest and his lungs were expanding. There was still pain, suddenly bearable and somebody seemed to wrap a blanket around him. Gently, lulling him to sleep, telling him that it would be alright. To breathe.

Steve didn’t know if he was asleep or awake. The burning sensation was gone, the weight had faded away, the touch was lingering. It was warm. A hand lying on his chest, another one on his arm. Pushing warmth and life into his body.

When Steve opened his eyes his vision was perfectly fine. Somebody was sitting next to him and they had beautiful, green eyes. Loki’s hands were on him and they were glowing with soft green light. They were letting him breathe. Steve could breathe.

“Loki?”

“I am almost done, Steve.” Loki sounded tired and Steve remembered Tony telling him that Loki could help him. Steve could breathe because of Loki.

Thor and Tony were standing right next to him. Natasha, Bruce and Clint at the other side of his bed. Had they been here all the time? How long had it been anyway? Three agents and Fury were lingering around the door, their eyes fixed on Loki. Were they waiting for him to attack?

Taking a deep breath Steve relished the mere ability to do that. He was feeling good. So warm and…

“The poison is gone. A bit more rest and you should be able to get up…” Loki’s hands were gone and with them the warmth, but Steve could still breathe. Loki had healed him.

“Thank you…”

Looking up Loki met his eyes and then he smiled. It was lovely, small and worn-out. Lovely.

Then he turned away again and Steve kept breathing. “Thor, I would like to rest now…”

Thor nodded and reached out as if to help his brother up from his chair, but Loki refused and got up himself. His movements looked sluggish.

“I fear you will have to do that here. The World Security Council insists on him staying in SHIELD’s custody. They are very upset about the fact that we let him go in the first place.” Fury made a step forward and the whole atmosphere in the room suddenly changed. Steve didn’t see Thor’s face, but he could hear him grumble.

“Thor, you promised…”

“My brother provided his help to save one of my friends. You will not take advantage of his weakened state. I am going to take him back to the tower. Now.”

Fury seemed unimpressed. “I am sorry, Thor, but the Avengers were permitted to take Loki with them to the tower, because it seemed like the best equipped place to contain him. You were supposed to keep him imprisoned, not to take him out on a shopping trip.”

Who had…

“Well, fuck both of you!” There was no way to misunderstand who these words were directed at. Tony was pretty much stabbing both Clint and Natasha with his eyes. “Running back to daddy and complain? Now listen, Captain Ahab, Steve would be dead if it wasn’t for him and you didn’t do shit… except for almost keeping Loki from helping him! They are leaving and you don’t want to do a single thing about that… Bruce doesn’t it make you a little bit angry how these guys want to treat somebody who is helping them?”

“Tony is right, I don’t feel very comfortable with this.” Bruce took his time, putting emphasis on every single word and the agents next to Fury paled a little bit.

“Stark, your opinion on this matter doesn’t…”

“We are leaving. Anybody standing in our way will have to face Mjölnir.” Thor demonstratively raised his hammer and looked at Loki who nodded. They walked to the door and Fury made a little gesture with his hand to tell the agents to stand still. They left the room and when the door fell shut behind them – everybody started talking at once.

The noise was giving Steve a headache and he could only make out Clint’s voice. “You can’t be serious… It’s still Loki. I can’t believe you even let him touch Steve…”

That sentence was enough to make Steve snap. There was this feeling surging inside of him, a need to defend Loki. “I couldn’t breathe. I was dying. He saved my life.”

“Why don’t we wait five fucking minutes to check you out and see if he has done something else to you? That guy likes to mess with brains, remember?”

“Shut up… He saved my life. He didn’t have to do that. He could have let that bomb blow right up into my face. He didn’t have to save Steve! He could have said no - I can’t do it. He didn’t! He could have let two Avengers die!”

Fury shook his head in frustration. “We are talking about the man who tried to take over this planet, Stark. Not everybody is content with letting him get away with that.”

“He does not remember and what do you want to do to him anyway? You don’t have the means to lock him up… Thor definitely didn’t forget what you threatened to do to him on the Hellcarrier. He won’t let you get even close to him! What do you think I am trying to do? He doesn’t remember, he doesn’t trust us and I am trying to show him that we aren’t half bad. What do you idiots do? Talking about imprisoning him when he is standing right there! That’s a fucking new kind of stupid…” Taking a breath Tony turned to Steve. “You’re feeling alright? You want to come back to the tower? We can check you out there.”

Steve didn’t even think about it, he just nodded. He wanted to get out of this bed, out of this room. He wanted… to thank Loki. Without other people around who were just waiting to get their hands on him. They needed to find out who was responsible for the bombing.

“Cap, you really should…”

Not even listening to Natasha Steve let Bruce help him to his feet. It was surprisingly easy, Steve didn’t feel dizzy or weak. Almost as if nothing had happened. “What did I miss? Do we know who is responsible?”

“Yeah…” Tony mumbled, a sudden darkness etching on his face. “Some old friends of mine… Let’s get out of here. I’ll tell you everything on the way to the tower.”

Chapter Text

Thor could remember a time when it had been normal to see his brother at peace. Only a few days ago this time had seemed so far away and now almost close enough to touch it. Loki was lying on his side, breathing softly and fast asleep. His face looked so relaxed and calm. Had he forgotten that his bother could be like this?

No, Thor had known this all along, he had searched for this man, had been longing for him to come back and now… Now Thor was overwhelmed by being reunited with his brother. The veil of darkness surrounding him had been lifted and Thor wouldn’t let anybody or anything take his brother away from him again. He had made that mistake once and what had happened to Loki because of that…

A Frost giant’s touch couldn’t feel any colder. The mere memory of what had been done to Loki caused Thor’s body to tremble. Somebody or something had tried to put his brother through as much pain as possible. Loki was strong, he could take a lot of it and his torment had lasted for six months. If Thor should ever get his hands on them, he would let them feel the power of Mjölnir…

Knowing his brother well enough Thor knew that Loki would want to find out what had happened to him. A dark place to visit and Thor couldn’t risk his brother sinking back into the shadows.

Thor wouldn’t allow any of the Midgardians to lay a finger on him. They didn’t know him and they had no idea what he had gone through. How could they ever understand? They were mortal, they didn’t know anything about Asgard or Jotunheim. There was no way for them to get the implications of what their father had done to Loki by keeping his origin a secret. Everything could have gone so differently…

Shaking his head Thor tried to dispel these thoughts. Loki was here with him and it seemed he had won some of his mortal friends over. This was a new beginning and Thor would try to make up for his mistakes. Loki’s mind had been lying in shambles and now that it was put back together, there was no reason to remind him of wrong doings. It was like somebody else had committed them.

Clearing his throat Thor took a step closer to Loki’s bed. “Loki?”

Stark had said it would be better not to touch him. Especially when he couldn’t see your hands…

Luckily his brother had always been a light sleeper, his eyelids instantly flickered open. “Thor?”

Thor smiled gently at him. “How are you feeling?”

Grumbling Loki sat up, brushing a strand of black hair from his face. “I would feel better if you hadn’t woken me up…”

“I am sorry, but the other Avengers have returned some time ago and…”

“Are they still debating whether to put me in a cage?” His tone was dark and Thor felt his anger rising. “Nobody is going to put you in a cage. They are not able to do that and I would not let them…”

“As I recall… you’ve already let them. “

Loki’s words were needles and they didn’t fail to sting. “It was different. You were not yourself… I have come to see that you are the same Loki like before you fell. My brother and they will come to know you like this. You heard Stark protesting. Nobody is going to imprison you.”

His words didn’t impress Loki, but that wasn’t surprising. “Tony is smart and entertaining, but mostly strange. I don’t think I understand his motives or his kindness. His first reaction to me was full of hostility and now he is standing up for me. Arguing with his friends.”

“You said it yourself. He is smart. Stark knows that you are not the same person who attacked them half a year ago. He can see that. That’s why he is on your side.” There were also other reasons, but Thor had no right to share them.

“Are you sure that he is Midgardian?”

Thor frowned in confusion. “What would you make ask such a thing?”

There was this look on his brother’s face, Thor had seen it before. When somebody presented him a seemingly unsolvable riddle and Loki’s whole purpose in life suddenly became to be the one person to figure it out. “He is surrounded by energy. It’s all over him. I have never encountered anything like this before. It’s powerful, but I can’t tell what it can do. I don’t even know what it is… It’s intriguing… I can hardly believe it’s Midgardian…”

It was only natural for Loki to react this way, Stark’s technology was something astounding even by Asgardian standards. Still Thor couldn’t fight down a feeling of unease when he heard Loki talking about the arc-reactor like this. Thor’s knowledge on it was very limited, but he knew that it had been strong enough to withstand Loki’s staff and… that Stark’s life depended on it. Considering all circumstances that wasn’t something Loki should concentrate on. “He is just as Midgardian as the rest of them. I’m surprised you haven’t asked about the Captain yet.”

Loki responded with a raised eyebrow. “Why? I healed him. He is fine.”

Thor had to smirk at that, Loki’s confidence in his abilities had always been remarkable. “Right, but I think it is time they should thank you for what you did.”

“The Captain did thank me.”

“I am talking about everybody else.”

“I do not care about their gratitude and I am not fond of their company.”

Sighing in defeat Thor sat down on the edge of the bed next to Loki. This would probably take a while. “You will not change the way they see you if you avoid them.”

Loki let out a dry laugh. “I don’t trust them, they despise me…”

“It is hard for them, but they’ll see…”

“Why is it so important that they like me? Why is any of this of importance? They are your friends. Not mine. I… for whatever reason tried to take over their world. They should in no way feel obligated to like me.”

“You were not in your right mind when you…”

“Does that make a difference?” Loki’s eyes were drilling holes into him. “If it had been anybody else? Not your own kin? Would you still insist on everybody’s immediate forgiveness? If they had gathered their weapons against Asgard? Would you forgive so easily?”

This was unexpected and it didn’t make sense. How should Loki know? He had no memory of what had happened? Of the darkness that had clouded his mind. “I can’t hold you liable for things you did when you… had lost your mind.”

Clearly unsatisfied with his answer Loki huffed. “One’s mind is as precious as it is fragile. Is it possible to put its shattered pieces back together? I doubt it… My mind is not broken. My senses are sharp and my magic is as powerful as it has always been. Nothing is different. Nothing at all. I have trouble believing the story of my shattered mind.”

Thor wished that somebody else would be having this conversation with Loki. Somebody who knew better how to use their words, how to explain this to Loki without giving the one thing away that would make him understand and toss him into an endless abyss filled with darkness.

“Nothing is different? Loki?” Thor tried to sound as gentle as possible, but he couldn’t stop his eyes from darting to Loki’s back and his mistake was immediately punished. “Do not even dare.”

“Loki…”

Standing up Loki gritted his teeth at him. “No. It’s nothing. I do not know how it happened. It has no impact…”

“How can you say something like that? For months I’ve been wondering what had happened to you… what had sent you on this path… and all this time the answer was on your back…”

“Oh, I am so glad that now everything makes sense to you! “ Loki’s spite hit him directly and it hurt. “How hard it must have been for you! You must have been so terribly confused!”

Closing his eyes for a second Thor tried to gather his thoughts, to not make the same mistake again. “I am sorry… of course I do not know how you feel. I do not know what it is like to wake up one day and to find out that… If I had any idea who did this to you… Loki, you know so much more about these things than I do. I have never bothered to question what might lie beyond the Bifröst…”

What creatures might have waited there for Loki? To tear him apart?

Turning away Loki crossed his arms in front of his chest, looking anywhere but not at Thor. His shoulders were trembling so softly that Thor wasn’t sure if he was imagining it or not. “I do not know… There are no records about this. I’ve always thought that there was… nothing. If someone fell… I imagined that they would continue to fall forever. Maybe there are holes… gateways… to other worlds or dimensions… I do not know. You want me to tell you what I do know, brother?”

Loki glanced at him and his eyes were cold. No contempt, but disappointment and distrust. He could have wrapped his hands around Thor’s throat, it would have felt the same way. “What?”

“I know that you are lying to me.”

Sudden, numbing fear took a hold of Thor, because he couldn’t lose him again. “No, I told you that…”

His brother finished his sentence for him, pointing out his lie. “… I fell from the rainbow bridge. First you told me that I fell… then you added that the bridge got destroyed and yet you fail to give me any kind of explanation. Just like when we were children and you tried to fool our parents. You did not come up with a story beforehand. You made it up while you were already telling it. You’re doing the very same thing here.”

“It’s not…”

“I am still tired, Thor. I want to rest. Leave me alone….” With that dismissive whisper Loki sat down on the bed, looking expectantly at Thor.

It wouldn’t be right to leave, they had to talk about this. Thor had to offer him some piece of information. Anything. It would be a lie and Loki would realise that, but everything was better than the truth. The truth why Loki had let go when they could have saved him. “You have lost your trust in me?”

“I trust you to do what you think is right and in my best interest… but that does not mean you are right. Now leave.”

The hard expression on Loki’s face told Thor that there was no point in continuing this conversation right now. “Will I see you at dinner?”

“I don’t know. Maybe. I want to sleep now.”

 ***

Steve’s skin was crawling by the time Jarvis stopped the video. Would there ever be a time when people, who were bragging about how many innocent lives they had taken, wouldn’t give him that feeling of nausea? “I thought the organisation had completely broken apart after… you know… Iron Man?”

Tony’s snarl made clear that he wished for that to be true. “Yeah, I thought so too… terrorists and their fucking ability to simply not die…”

Just looking at Tony made Steve almost lose it. It made him so angry that Tony had to deal with this. If Steve were allowed to put all his principals and morals aside, he would enjoy throwing the entire Ten Rings into a dark cave give them the same treatment they had given Tony. Steve was fully aware of that being wrong and he would never do any of that, but sometimes it was strangely fulfilling to play the thought.

“Looks like we don’t have to wonder anymore who sent you the package.”

The second Tony turned around to look at Natasha Steve knew that there was going to be a fight. No, they didn’t have time for this.

“Oh, fucking really? You think so?”

Natasha kept her cool, of course. “Why are you snarling at me?”

“I don’t know, maybe I’m still pissed that you’re acting like nothing happened, although you almost got Steve killed.”

This shouldn’t be about him. “Tony, that’s not fair…”

Not another word was needed to draw Tony’s attention to him. “When they were checking you out, everybody else who had come in contact with the toxin had already died. You only lasted that long, because of the fucking serum. You were dying and Thor suggested a way to help you. The first thing they do is running to Fury to make sure Loki is not allowed on the same floor as you. Yeah, I’m fucking pissed and no, it’s not fair!”

“I am not going to apologize for being unwilling to put Cap’s life into the hands of a mass murderer who is still SHIELD’s most wanted criminal.”

“Steve was dying! You would have rather let him die than…”

“Enough…” Steve pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to not let the frustration get the better of him. “There’s no point in discussing that any longer. I am fine. It was a close call, but I am fine. We should talk about the more important matter at hand. I am fine.”

“We don’t know that yet…”

Raising his head Steve met Clint’s cold glare. The archer hadn’t said a single word until now, lingering on his chair, watching them with attentive eyes. “What do you mean?”

“You let him touch you.” The disgust in Clint’s words was impossible to miss. “His hands were fucking glowing and we could see his magic or whatever shit slipping under your skin. That stuff is fucking inside you, Cap.”

More a warning than a threat. “Yeah and that’s the reason why we are not busy organisation a funeral! No offense, Cap.”

“Granted, but how can you be comfortable with that? Does he have to take over your minds, so you’ll remember that he can fucking do that!”

Steve winced at that, because he had to admit this was information he would rather forget. Unlike him Tony didn’t have trouble to find an answer. “Do I have to help your memory? He doesn’t have the power to do that. The sceptre did.”

“Right and he didn’t have trouble using it.” Clint stopped himself when Steve expected him to start another angry tirade against Loki, but to his surprise Clint sounded calm and collected. “Look, Steve, I am glad that you are alright. Despite what Tony is saying, I was fucking scared too. I get it, you guys want to believe that he isn’t a complete piece of shit and that he doesn’t remember… But nobody can deny that he did the stuff that he did! He did mess with my mind, he tried to take over the world, he did almost kill Coulson and he did attack us over and over during the last six months. We only got into this situation, because he wanted the fucking amulet. These things happened and I don’t believe for a second that he lost his memory. This is going to blow up in our faces. Is it too fucking to ask for that you are a bit more cautious? Two weeks ago everybody would have freaked out if Loki got to touch one of us while doing his magic thing. Is it so fucking unreasonable that I want you to do a through check-up?”

Slightly shifting from one foot to the other Steve glanced at the paused video, the men with masked faces with their rifles in their hands in front of the flag of the Ten Rings. He thought of the dead eyes of the people he had found in convention center. There was no time to lose. He was feeling good, there was no need for a check-up.

“Steve, we are not going to take out a terrorist organisation in a single day and we’re definitely not going to do it tonight.” Natasha had a point and it wasn’t like Steve couldn’t understand where Clint was coming from. But he hadn’t seen the look on Loki’s face… Lost and miserable without knowing that Steve was watching him.

“Okay… Alright. Tony, can we get one of the physicians here to…”

“No.” Now it was Bruce who was shaking his head. “If you want to do that, you gotta do it right. A hospital, they have the necessary equipment. Tony has the best research labs in the world, but they aren’t medical labs. You need to go to a hospital or to SHIELD.”

“Cool, you have fun losing precious time while I’m going to try to follow some leads to track down some terrorists. You know… so they won’t kill any more people.” No hiding the slightest bit of his repugnance Tony completely turned off the video and walked past them.

“You know, just because he is your new shopping buddy that doesn’t mean…”

“He is not my shopping buddy! Obviously I am the only guy who sees the opportunity here! Steve is alive because of him, because he has the power to do such things. Don’t you realise what kind of knowledge he has? About magic, the universe… We could get him to share that with us! To use it for something good. To fuck up a few terrorists for example. So I am working my ass off to get him to trust us to gain an ally… but hey, why bother with that when he can just throw him into prison… knowing that he’ll break out one hour later, because he can fucking teleport! So yeah, yeah, I really just want somebody to go book shopping with… Jesus fucking Christ, would it kill you to see the big picture!”

The atmosphere stayed tense even after Tony had left and Steve could hear Clint muttering something that sounded suspiciously like “Fucking idiot…”

“I… should probably leave and get the check-up done. I know the Loki business puts a strain on you guys, but… we have another immediate threat on our hands. Can we try to focus on that? Arguing about Loki won’t do us any good. We’ll find a solution, I promise.”

Natasha answered with a nod which wasn’t what Steve had been hoping for, but it was a beginning. “Clint?”

“I am perfectly able to control myself, but the second he steps out of line… Right now I only want to know that he didn’t mess around with you…”

Steve was sure that the doctors would be able to put Clint’s mind at ease and then they should sit down and have another talk. SHIELD also had to be involved. A person who had saved the lives of two of his former enemies within a couple of days deserved the benefit of the doubt.

 ***

Leaning against the wall of the elevator Steve stretched his muscles. He felt sore. No work-out, no fight, just a couple of doctors and Steve felt completely beat. They had done their best to wear him out. Until a few hours ago Steve had had no idea how many medical tests actually existed. He couldn’t be sure, but he felt like he had undergone every single one of them.

Mention Loki’s name to a couple of SHIELD agents and voilà. Head scan, x-rays, blood tests, physical examination, a sample of pretty much every liquid of his body… No, Steve didn’t want to think about that anymore. They didn’t have all the results yet, but what they did have said that Steve was in perfect shape. Hopefully that would reassure everybody a bit.

Another look at his watch told Steve nothing different than before, he had clearly missed dinner. By a couple of hours. Loki had told him that he didn’t sleep much, so there was a good chance that he was still awake. Steve needed an opportunity to express his gratitude without tons of other people watching them and wanting to throw Loki in jail.

The doors of the elevator opened and Steve made his way down the hall. For some reason Steve noticed his heartbeat speeding up and he hated feeling nervous about something so… normal?

His knock on the door was answered by a loud “Come in!”

What was Tony doing in Loki’s rooms? Asking people to come in? Only one way to find out. The living room offered the most surprising picture. Most of the books had been arranged in neat piles during Steve’s absence and the chaos had disappeared. What really caught Steve’s attention was Thor sleeping soundly on the couch. Interesting… Tony and Loki were sitting at the dinner table, there were sheets of paper everywhere and no drawings on it.

“… but I still don’t understand the connection between the Palestinian conflict and the…”

“Oh, hey Cap.” Casually Tony interrupted Loki, grinning at Steve who was staring at them. Loki turned his head and Steve thought he could see a little smile.

“Hey… uhm… am I interrupting? What are you doing?”

Loki released a long sigh and gestured towards all the sheets on the table. “I watched your… mission? Mission on TV and I wanted to understand the motives of the men causing the destruction. Tony said it was complicated, so I asked him to sit down and explain it to me.”

Tony explaining the Ten Rings? Coming closer Steve glanced at the sheets, words were scribbled all over them. “And?”

“Yeah, that’s a fucking challenge? What does the average American know about the Middle East… except that it’s evil? I’m doing my best. Arabic Spring, Sunnis, Shiites, jihadism, oil, American interference in foreign policies, oil, Israel, oil, Palestine, dictators, 9/11, weapons of mass destruction, American press and politicians fucking lying, Bush… It’s a fucking lot. How am I doing, Lokes?”

Lokes?

“I have lived for over a thousand years now and witnessed political intruige in several different realms, but I have never heard something as complicated as what you just told me.”

“Wonderful! That’s the most important part to realise, even the guys who write books about this shit don’t understand it. Nobody does.” Tony grinned and now Loki was most definitely smiling.

Clearing his throat Steve pointed at Thor. “What happened there?”

“Nothing, he fell asleep when I brought up the difference between Sunnis and Shiites. The mere concept of different religions is beyond him.” Chuckling Tony reached for his glass and only now Steve noticed that they were drinking wine. What a setting to discuss politics and the origins of terrorism. Sitting down at the table Steve didn’t quite know how to enter this conversation. “Uhm… any new information regarding the attack?”

“After the confession tape? No, it was sent to the New York Times, I tried to trace it back, but nada. I checked out their old bases, but nothing.” Tony’s grip on his glass visibly tightened and his expression darkened.

“Their old bases? You didn’t go to Afghanistan?”

“Of course, I did.”

“Alone?! Tony, that’s…”

“Hey, don’t give me that look, after all you guys were busy with… other stuff.”

Loki raised an eyebrow, watching them closely and Steve suddenly felt ridiculous. “If the two of you want to fight, please go ahead. Outside. I am not interested in seeing that.”

Steve froze and Tony flinched. Hearing something like that coming out of Loki’s mouth…

“Nah, it’s cool. All I did was taking a little trip and all I found was… sand and stones. Nobody’s interested in that. I need another glass.” Getting up Tony headed towards the kitchen area and Loki looked at Steve. With beautiful, green eyes. “May I ask why you are here?”

Although Steve tried really hard he couldn’t hear in Loki’s voice how he felt about Steve being here. Was he interrupting them? Did he care at all? “I wanted to…” Licking his lips Steve lowered his eyes, trying to get over the awkwardness of the situation. “I wanted to thank you. For saving my life.”

Steve had no idea what he had expected, but definitely not another raised eyebrow. “You’ve already done that.”

“Yeah, but… I would be dead if it wasn’t for you… that’s a big deal, I don’t feel like one ‘Thank you’ is enough…”

Loki seemed confused and Steve was struggling for words. “Uhm… you know… just like you said that you had to come up with something to thank Tony for the books…”

“You wanna thank me?”

Steve had no idea why he was inwardly cursing Tony.

“I could give you some ideas. I tried to make sense of this mess, how about you explain to me what you actually do when you teleport? That’s something I’d be really thankful for.” Tony winked at Loki and Steve huffed audibly.

Loki’s lips formed a thin line, excitement looked definitely different. “You want me to explain to you one of my greatest powers that is usually my last line of defence in a fight?”

Instantly Tony raised both of his hands as one would do to show that they weren’t armed. “No offence, Lokes, but I don’t know if you realise that you are a fucking walking miracle. Just like him.” Tony pointed at Thor who was sleeping with his mouth open. “Okay not quite like him. The things you can do… the teleportation, the energy beams, being the cure for a fucking neurotoxin… That’s incredible awesome stuff and I am an expert on awesome stuff. I want to learn more about that. Everything.”

“Flattery doesn’t change the fact that you want me to give up a power that I use to defend myself.” Steve could tell by the look on his face and the sound of his voice that he felt threatened, that he was pulling back and Steve needed to say something. To make him feel safe and understand that they weren’t…

“You can’t still think that any of us gave you the scars.” Tony’s face showed honest surprise and Steve wanted to yell at him for being so… direct.

“Somebody did give me them.” That bitterness was unmatched and Steve felt utterly helpless. Unlike Tony who met Loki’s hard gaze without blinking. “Yeah and that sucks and it’s never going away. You don’t even know who did it, you don’t know who to hate for it. That sucks even more, but hey… Maybe you killed them. Maybe I blew them up with a nuke. Who the hell knows. You’re smart, you’ve already figured out that we didn’t do that to you. You don’t have to trust us, we don’t trust you, but you know that we didn’t hurt you. Do you actually think that we’d be able to?”

Loki’s lack of reaction caused Steve to shift around in his seat, he wanted to do something, say something, anything to… let those deep lines around Loki’s eyes disappear.

Eventually Loki tilted his head to the said, watching Tony closely. “To understand the mere essence of teleportation between the worlds you need a well-founded knowledge of the basic principles and structure of the universe. Knowledge that lies far beyond anything Midgard has discovered yet.”

What?

Steve could see that thrilled shining in Tony’s eyes. “Okay, then start explaining, Lokes. I was at the top of my class every single year. Go on.” With a snarky grin Tony tossed a pencil at Loki and handed him an empty sheet of paper.

With his perfectly skilled hands Loki started to sketch something and Tony leaned forward to not miss any of that. “First you have to get rid of your limited concepts, they don’t apply to reality. You have to envision it like… a tree with roots and branches…”

The words were flowing from Loki’s lips, Tony was listening eagerly, throwing in a question or a comment every now and then, completely engaged in the conversation.

Steve was sitting next to them, realising that they had forgotten about him even being there. Something that happened all the time when Tony and Bruce were talking science and Steve had never minded that before.

Now he did.

Chapter Text

By the end of his work-out the sandbag had ripped open and its content poured out all over the floor. Sighing in frustration Steve rubbed his forehead. This was completely unnecessary. Tony would tease him about that for days to come. Grumbling softly Steve told himself to get a grip and began cleaning up the mess. After that and a long shower Steve joined the others at breakfast, both relieved and disappointed that Tony wasn’t present.

“He’s still in the lab?”

Clint just nodded and continued to chew on his cereal, Natasha offered the details. “Jarvis said he did actually sleep a couple of hours after we got back from New Jersey. Then he suddenly jumped up and shouted something about he was going to get at least six Nobel Prices…” By the end of that sentence she was rolling her eyes, but Bruce instantly cleared his throat. “Actually I looked at his work… it’s worth a few Nobel Prices…”

Steve should be excited about that, he knew he should, because Tony was beaming. Ever since Loki had started explaining his teleportation powers to him, Tony was constantly in his lab or with Loki, using words that Steve didn’t understand and had never heard before.

Yesterday Jarvis had found a small cell of the Ten Rings in Atlantic City. Steve had hoped that this would be the breakthrough, but they had only got their hands on some unimportant members who were only waiting for orders. They didn’t give them any information, probably because they didn’t have any. Tony had been tensed the entire day, refusing to talk to anybody, so it was good to know that something had lifted his spirits.

“So how long till he lets Loki into his lab?” Clint didn’t ask anyone in particular and Bruce was instantly shaking his head. “Not going to happen. He doesn’t need to anyway, Loki gave him enough information to tinker with…”

Four days had passed since the terrorist attack and despite the mission in Atlantic City nothing had happened. Except for Tony spending every single minute around Loki to gain more information about… Steve had no clue. Space? Different dimensions? Were they still talking about teleportation? What Steve had noticed was that they were settling into a routine. Loki’s presence at the tower was becoming normal and he could clearly see that this was putting Clint on the edge.

“It’s too fucking quiet. It’s giving me the creeps…” Clint was clearly lost in thought and Steve fought the urge to tell him that maybe things were alright. That wasn’t what Clint wanted to hear and probably it wasn’t what he needed.

Having finished his breakfast Bruce carried his plate to the sink, letting out a soft sigh. “Quiet is something beautiful, Clint. Thor has never been this happy, Tony is beaming and have you seen Loki? He is smiling quite a lot lately.”

“Yeah, I’d be smiling a lot too if everybody was falling for my great scheme…” Clint snorted and Steve had to admit once again that it wasn’t getting any easier to fight the urge to defend Loki. No, he had accepted that Clint didn’t want to hear any of this and it would probably better for him to come to his own conclusions.

Steve had already done that. Tony was working in his lab which meant he wasn’t talking with Loki at the moment….

“Any plans for today, Cap?” Was Natasha reading his mind? Steve did his very best to not let it show how uncomfortable he suddenly felt. “Nothing in particular, I thought about getting out of the tower… it’s been out a while since I’ve checked out an art gallery.”

The common interest in what he was doing immediately faded away, Clint even let out a yawn and Steve had an idea. Maybe it was stupid, maybe not, it was something Steve wanted to do.

About an hour after breakfast Steve was knocking at Loki’s door and he instantly got a reply. “Yes?”

Coming in Steve smiled at Loki who was lying on the couch, a book in his hands. “Hey, I was wondering… I am about to leave to check out an art gallery. There’s a new exposition about impressionism that… it’s supposed to be very beautiful. You want to come along? It would be something different than reading all day?”

Except that Loki liked to read all day…

“That sounds nice. Will you give me a minute to get ready?”

Taken aback Steve realised that he hadn’t expected him to say yes. “Uhm… sure.”

Stunned Steve watched Loki getting up and leaving the room. Okay, so Loki was coming with him. Hopefully they’d find something to talk about that had nothing to do with teleportation or the structure of the universe.

Loki didn’t let him wait for the too long, he had merely changed his clothes, but the effects were astounding. It made Steve think of the very first time he had ever seen him, in Germany. Pale, dark rings beneath his eyes and that haunted expression. Back then Steve hadn’t given it any thought. For him that was what Loki looked like. Except that it wasn’t.

The rings beneath his eyes had been gone for days now, just like the constant snarl. That allowed everybody to see that he had a beautiful face, with delicate features and sharp cheekbones. Loki looked healthy, he had big, vivid eyes. Perhaps they weren’t really that green. The way his black hair framing his face made them stand out.

That green scarf also didn’t help. A black blazer, a grey shirt underneath and Steve noticed that Loki had gained some weight. He had been way too skinny anyway, now he was…

Loki was gorgeous.

A realisation that hit Steve with unexpected force. He was standing there, looking at Loki and how had he never noticed that he was…

“Can we leave?”

“Yeah, yeah sure…”

As it turned out Loki loved impressionistic works. It was easy, walking with him through a gallery and talk about the paintings. So easy that Steve had a hard time imagining that it had ever been any different. After checking out the gallery they were walking down a highly frequented street and Steve found that it was so much harder to find something to talk about when there wasn’t a Renoir right in front of them.

“You don’t notice, do you?”

Startled Steve looked at Loki who was wearing a wicked smile on his lips. “What?”

“People staring at you. Everywhere.”

No, Steve hadn’t noticed, because he was busy staring himself. “Uhm, it’s…”

“They stare at Tony too. He does notice though and I think he enjoys it. No, he most obviously enjoys it. Why aren’t you?” The question was honest enough and playful at the same time.

“I don’t know… I like my privacy and… what’s there to stare at? I am a soldier, Tony is a celebrity, a billionaire and the about the smartest person on the planet. That’s something to stare at and he has his own way of dealing with that. I don’t quite get it, because I don’t think anybody feels comfortable… being stared at.” Out of the corner of his eye Steve did indeed see two young women turning their hands when they walked past them. Perhaps they were looking at Loki… who knew…

He was laughing, his lips forming a grin. “I like being stared at. If you’re interesting enough for people to notice – why not enjoy it?”

Unfortunately Steve couldn’t agree with that. “Most of the time people stare for other reasons… not because they think you’re interesting…”

“So why are they staring at you? What do you think?”

“Because they read or heard about what happened during the 2nd World War. Because this is New York and they remember what happened half a year ago. I tried my best to help to protect them…” A subject Steve would rather not talk about. This wasn’t his field of expertise. Especially when he was asked to talk about him being Captain America. A title that had been way too glorified while Steve had been in the ice. Now he didn’t have any power over it anymore.

Next to him Loki slowed down his steps. “To protect them from me.”

“No, it’s… It’s complicated.”

“The first time we talked about this, it didn’t seem like a complicated matter. Everybody was very clear on it.”

Steve knew why he shouldn’t be talking about this. There was no way he could get this right. “I… Look, can we sit down and… I don’t think we should be talking about this while… let’s just sit down.” Rather helplessly Steve gestured at a café just a few feet down the street and Loki nodded. There was something in his eyes and Steve didn’t know how to describe it. He had the feeling though that Loki was trying to hide it.

They sat down at a table and Steve had no chance to say anything, because the waitress was instantly there to take their order and then he was too stunned by how casually Loki asked for a cappuccino. Almost as if he had done it before.

Probably with Tony…

“I am waiting.” Leaning back Loki crossed his arms in front of his chest. About three minutes ago they had been talking effortlessly and now Loki was distant. What was it like to be reminded all the time of something you didn’t remember doing? Something horrendous… “You wanted to tell me why it’s suddenly complicated that I am responsible for a big part of your fame? In the most despicable way.”

How was Steve supposed to respond to this? How to react when his words were true and didn’t make sense anymore at the same time? Steve didn’t want him to have these kinds of thoughts? Steve remembered the weight on his chest, how it had been crushing him and how Loki had lifted it.

“Look, I know what happened… or parts of it. I know what I saw, what I took part in and that’s what we’ve told you. I saw you… the way you talked and how much contempt you had for… us. As a race. You were…” Steve stopped mid-sentence, because suddenly he had too many words to describe Loki. For what Steve had seen in Stuttgart, on the Hellcarrier and in New York. They were ugly and vile and worst of all – fitting.

Not anymore though. Not like this.

Loki kept looking at him, seemingly unmoved. If it wasn’t for those green eyes…

“Now… sitting here with you and seeing what you are like… what Thor has always been talking about… I can’t imagine you doing the things I have seen you doing. I only know that it was you, because that person carried your name and shared your face, but… that’s about it. That’s about all you have in common with that man.”

Again, somebody else should have said that. Somebody who knew better. Steve had done it all wrong and now Loki was staring at him and despite desperately wanting to know what he was thinking, Steve was afraid of it.

“You think…” Loki paused, he was stumbling over his own words and Steve had never thought that he would one day see this. “Did I… My brother was to be crowned King of Asgard and he wasn’t ready. I could tell, it was blatantly obvious and our father refused to see. Thor would have started a war over the smallest incident and throw entire worlds into chaos… or that’s what I thought.” Loki placed one of his hands on the table, his fingers curling into a fist. “One year later I open my eyes to see that it was me who brought chaos to another realm…”

Steve had thought it gone, but there it was. All that loathing, disdain, contempt and hatred. Not directed at anyone else but himself. No, this was the last thing Steve wanted, he had almost gotten used to Loki’s smiles. Or he had wished that he could get used to them. They were unstrained, beautiful and showed better than anything else that he was somebody different.

“I mean what I say. I don’t rely on Thor’s word for that. I see you for myself and you are not that person who came through the portal…”

“I was wrong about Thor…” Loki’s eyes were looking at something next to Steve, maybe at nothing at all. “He’s different now. Calm and… just before… before the coronation… I was playing the thought of…” He took a breath and suddenly he looked so vulnerable, it was hard to believe that he could hold so much power. “I thought about… stopping it. To win time, maybe to give our father time to realise that Thor was not ready and… I was jealous. Perhaps I might have… I can’t remember having an idea about what to do, but perhaps I came up with something and maybe I did ruin the coronation. Thor is not King of Asgard… Whatever I did, it could have let to the destruction of the Bifröst and to me… falling.”

Thor had said he must not know. It would only cause more harm. But how much did it have to hurt to not know what you did? To not be able to trust yourself?

“Thor’s your brother. Whatever might have happened… he does not hold a grudge. He loves you and for over six months he hasn’t been doing anything else but… trying to tell us that something happened to you. That you are different. I’ll be honest, none of us believed it, but… looking at you now… I know it’s true and you’re doing nobody a favour by… beating yourself up about things you don’t even know… if they happened at all.”

That was the right thing to say, wasn’t it? Loki’s eyes settled back on him and his features softened. There was the faintest smile on his face and Steve was lost.

“I guess you are right… but I can’t help but wonder...” Once again he trailed off and then the waitress dashed Steve’s hopes of hearing the rest of what he might have to say.

Loki didn’t say anything else, he took a sip from his coffee and Steve thought that was okay, just sitting here with him. Admiring his eyes.

“So… I doubt you have coffee in Asgard?”

That was the most terrible and most desperate attempt at conversation somebody had ever made and Steve wished for the ground to open up and swallow him.

“Midgardian beverage is indeed quite different. You have a lot more variety than we do… at first I thought that coffee was atrocious… until Doctor Banner was kind enough to explain to me that I could add sugar. A definite step-up.”

They were talking about coffee. For several minutes and it was great. Steve came to realise after Loki had left for the restroom that he had just let Loki leave. Completely unsupervised in New York City… and Steve wasn’t worried.

Nevertheless it made him feel uneasy when his phone started ringing. Now? What were the odds? Tony’s name blinked on the display and Steve sighed. Really? “Hello?”

“Cap, hey there. Don’t you think your kidnapping is going on long enough?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Art gallery. Boring. Except if you were watching nudes. Were you watching nudes? Anyway, I need some advice on my work and you kidnapped my consultant. Bring him back.”

Why was Tony talking like Steve had taken away his toy? Tony had spent pretty much every single minute with Loki during the last couple of days. It couldn’t hurt him to wait a little longer now. “No, he hasn’t left the tower in three days. You can wait a bit.”

“Oh, sweetheart, am I interrupting your date? Put Loki on the line, I’m sure he’ll want to come home and hang with the cool kids.”

Unable to hold back a growl Steve decided that he was done with this conversation. “We’ll be back in a couple of hours. You can ask him if he wants to help you then. Bye Tony.”

After hanging up Steve had to wait about another minute until Loki was coming back and Steve’s face lit up. “Uhm… hey, you want to check out the High Line? You didn’t get to do that the last time, so…”

“Yeah, I would like that very much.” Loki smiled and Tony would have to wait.

 ***

Tony texted him about three times and Steve didn’t care, because the light of the setting sun was so beautiful on Loki’s face. Or was it the other way round? Steve didn’t bother, he wanted to draw him.

It was late though, they grabbed a falafel on their way back to the tower and Loki thought it was disgusting. Steve thought him pulling a face was cute.

The second they stepped out of the elevator Tony was there and started talking non-stop. “Lokes, I have a couple of questions concerning the branches! See, I can use your weird Asgardian terms. I’m completely stuck, I need input. How can you even create the magnetic field without…”

“Tony, you are talking way too fast. What do you want?” Loki sounded amused and Steve thought Tony was about to start jumping up and down. From excitement or frustration, it was hard to tell.

“I did my math, okay! My math is always correct. I never make a fucking mistake.”

“I congratulate you on your accomplishment. Anything else?”

“Yeah! You are full of shit, my friend.” Tony made a threatening gesture with his forefinger and it looked all kinds of ridiculous. “Teleporting from one corner of the room into another is already a fucking big deal, but no… You gotta tell me these fucking stories about jumping between dimensions and make me excited like a school girl before prom, but… you have been making a fool out of me, because I did my fucking math. It’s fucking impossible to jump between the dimensions or to create holes between them – you need the energy of… about a billion stars to do that! Not acceptable!”

“Geez, Tony, calm down. You’re about to have a heart attack.” Steve was shaking his head while Loki was laughing. So this was Loki when he was having fun. Not on the expense of others.

“Your… math seems right, but I told you, you have to free yourself from your concepts. They don’t apply when magic is at work. Especially my magic.”

Putting his hands to his hips Tony tilted his chin up, up for a challenge. “Oh yeah? Let’s see. Why is your magic so much better than math and physics?”

Loki didn’t react immediately, he and Tony just stared at each other until Loki slowly raised his right hand. “See for yourself.”

Before any of them could ask what he meant Steve and Tony could see the soft glimmer forming around Loki’s fingers. It was spreading from his skin, green light, mingled with golden sparks. By ever so slightly moving his fingers Loki could pull little strings from it. When he curled his fingers to a fist the light started pulsating, turning more gold than green. After a moment Loki opened his hand again and waves of green were streaming from his palm.

Steve’s breath got caught looking at it. He had seen Loki using magic before, he had felt him using it on him, but this was different. It seemed like something Loki had created for the sake of creating something beautiful.

Hadn’t he said that? That he valued beautiful things?

“Holy… that’s your essence, isn’t it? You can bend it to your will and…” Tony took a step closer, mesmerized, staring at Loki’s hand. “That’s going to sound weird, but I want to touch it.”

“If you dare…” Loki wiggled his fingers and sparks were flying from them. Small, harmless and yet Steve thought that this was a bad idea. So, of course, it was already too late. Tony’s hand shot up, not touching Loki’s, but dipping his fingers into the green light.

“Tony, what…”

“Shh! That’s…” Tony’s brown eyes grew wider, darting from his fingers to Loki’s face. “Wow, that’s… do you feel like that all the time? Like a constant buzz of electricity?”

“No, only when I’m using it…”

“Wow… that’s by far the coolest thing that… No, wait… my threesome with the playboy twins was the coolest thing ever, but this is in the top 5.”

Steve probably should have felt embarrassed, but instead he was only staring at their hands almost touching and released a long breath when Loki did a little wave and the green light faded away.

Tony protested, once again bombarding Loki with his questions, but the Asgardian merely smiled. “I had a strenuous day, I’d like to go to sleep.” Turning around Loki met Steve’s eyes. “Thank you for the nice day, Steve. I had a lot of fun.”

Although Loki casually left Tony wouldn’t give up, running after him, still rambling about energy, mass and power.

About two hours later Steve was lying in his bed and he couldn’t sleep. His thoughts travelled to Peggy and how she had looked in her uniform, watching the rain coming down on the Austrian forest. It would have been a beautiful place if they hadn’t been there to fight a war. Then he thought of Loki and his eyes when he realised that New York was actually a gorgeous place. His green eyes shining in the setting sun.

Rolling over Steve tried to empty his head, to get some sleep, but that attempt was pretty useless. Eventually Steve turned on the lights and grabbed his sketching book. His fingers guided the pencil over the white page and it was so easy. No hesitation, no need for a model, Steve had a clear picture in his mind. He was done so fast, marvelling at the result. Still it didn’t quite met Steve’s expectation or what he wanted, so Steve began another drawing. Eventually he fell asleep over another drawing, pencil still in hand.

 ***

A soft rustling was enough to pull Steve from his dreams. He felt like he should still be asleep, so Steve refused to open his eyes and nuzzled his face against the pillow. Until he heard it again and his senses quickly caught up with the situation.

Opening his eyes Steve spotted Natasha standing next to his bed, studying some sheets of paper with a blank expression on her face. As the realisation hit him what she was looking at, Steve hastily sat up, wanting to rip them from her fingers.

It was too late though, Natasha had already seen everything of interest. On several pages. When she raised her head to look at him she also lowered the drawings and Steve got a glimpse of Loki’s face.

“I think we have a problem, Cap.”

Chapter Text

Luckily Steve could get over his shock pretty fast by getting angry. Beyond compare. “What are you doing? Sneaking into my room while I’m sleeping?”

“You can’t have been asleep for so long. You’ve obviously had a busy night.” Natasha dropped the sheets on the bed and Steve instantly felt his anger being fuelled by the careless way she treated his drawings. Pushing the blanket off himself Steve got to his feet. It wasn’t something he enjoyed doing, but right now he took advantage of his height and built to look down at Natasha. “I want you to get out of my room. Instantly.”

Natasha wouldn’t be the woman he knew if she had even batted an eyelid due to his demeanour. Something he would have appreciated, but Steve was too angry and he wanted her gone. In a few minutes, when there would be time to think about it, he would probably feel hurt, because of her spying at him. Now his anger was still covering all of that.

“No, we have to have a conversation. Right now.”

“A conversation about you not respecting my privacy? Gladly. Later. I’d like to get dressed.”

Casually crossing her arms in front of her chest Natasha held his gaze without any trouble. “I have seen men in white briefs before, I will cope.”

She didn’t think at all that she had overstepped any boundaries or she didn’t care. These were Steve’s rooms, he had no right to be in here without his knowledge or permission. Natasha was a spy, but first of all she was Steve’s friend and this was a violation of his trust, nothing else.

“Natasha, I want you to leave my room. Now!”

Not moving a muscle Natasha acted as if he hadn’t said anything. “You are compromised.”

For a few seconds there was nothing Steve could say or even think. That statement had managed to wipe his mind clean. No rage, not even shock. Nothing. “Pardon?”

By the way Natasha shifted Steve could tell that she felt content, that she had made him stop protesting. “You spend the whole time with him, take him on a date and now this. It’s the definition of compromised.”

Slowly Steve was shaking his head, still not believing what he had just heard. So, she was sneaking into his room and then she started throwing accusations at him. “You are being ridiculous.”

“I am not joking, Cap. This is a serious issue. You’re letting the Number 1 of SHIELD’s watchlist getting inside your head.” Her cold stare made clear that she indeed meant every word she said and Steve felt like he was still in a dream. None of this was really happening. “You’re doing an intervention for me, because I drew him?! Good lord in heaven… Natasha, I draw all the time. I fill a sketchbook a month. That’s what I do.”

In response Natasha raised an eyebrow and Steve hadn’t known that she could pull off such a patronizing expression. She glanced at the drawings on Steve’s bed. The one on top showed Loki’s profile, his head slightly tilted upwards. Steve felt like he had to defend himself and that wasn’t right. He hadn’t done anything wrong.

“Well, you definitely have a new favourite model.”

“What do you want to hear? Yes, he has a nice and very expressive face, I wanted to draw him.”

“So you drew him about… ten times?”

Closing his eyes for a second Steve tried to gather himself, because he simply couldn’t wrap his mind around what was happening to him right now. “I don’t have to justify my drawings. I wanted to try out different angles, capture light and shadow. That’s it. They are drawings. What do you want to hear from me? Yeah, I think he is beautiful and that’s why I drew him. I have drawings of Thor too. Of Tony, of Clint… of every single one of you. Are we done now?”

Not waiting for her answer Steve picked up his drawings, carefully unlike Natasha, gathering them together into a little pile. Natasha’s eyes didn’t leave him for a second which meant they weren’t done having this conversation. Which wasn’t an actual conversation.

“You sound like a teenager denying his crush. Which would be funny if we were not talking about an intergalactic terrorist who tried to enslave mankind and kill all of us. He is manipulating you, Steve. To get close to you, to use you for his purpose. Believe me, I know what I am talking about. And he is succeeding.” Calm and even as if she was stating facts and not some wild ideas.

“Fine, I will play along. What is he doing to manipulate me? You are the expert on this, aren’t you?” Steve didn’t want to hear any of this and yet he was fascinated with what she might come up.

“It’s all very simple. He knows how to play you, how to appeal to you. You are all about protecting people, Steve. First he shows you a bit of humanity inside of him. Being interested in art, something you enjoy. Then he shows you that he is vulnerable, unsure about what happened and his role in all of this. He’s using your own instincts against you, Cap. He’s giving you the feeling that he needs your protection. He is doing the same thing with Tony. It’s not so much about protection, but about intellect, ideas…”

Steve had enough of this and he wanted to say a very vile thing. Why was Natasha so sure about this? Because it was the thing she would do. These thoughts about betrayal and manipulation naturally came to her, so she thought Loki was doing the exact same thing. A part of Steve wanted to yell that straight at her, but he couldn’t. It wouldn’t have been fair.

“What if he all he needs is a chance? A chance to let it behind him?”

“You can’t be seriously considering to let him get away with everything. Without any consequences.”

Steve felt terrible for it, but the hypocrisy made him laugh. “Nat, I am sorry, but… half the people working for SHIELD were its former enemies. I know there is a long list of crimes locked away in some room and…” No, this wasn’t the right way to do it. “I talked to him. I looked into his eyes. He doesn’t remember and at the same time he feels sorry for what happened. He does and if there is a chance to gain an ally or… he was tortured, Nat. Severely, that’s not something we can overlook….”

“Like I said, you want to protect him.” It sounded like a reproach and Steve didn’t want to feel guilty about any of this. There was no reason.

“I am done talking about this. It’s ridiculous.” Steve walked past her, the drawings still in hand.

She didn’t let him take two steps. “I wanted to avoid this, but I guess we have to have a group discussion about this.”

Turning around Steve stared at her. “What? Are you trying to embarrass me or yourself?”

“I am not going to stand by and watch you fall for the play of a master deceiver.”

“Oh great, so you think I’m stupid and that I can’t think straight if somebody…”

If somebody what? Steve himself didn’t know what to say and for a second, maybe shorter he was wondering if…

The corners of Natasha’s mouth twitched. “If somebody what?”

“Yes, I like him. So does Tony and Bruce. I don’t need to mention Thor. I understand why you don’t, but you don’t have the right to tell me that I am doing something wrong… If you want to bring that before everyone else… It’s four against two.” Not caring about anything else what Natasha might have to say Steve put the drawings on his night table. “I’m going to take a shower now and by the time I get out of the bathroom I want you gone… and just for the record… I am going to be mad about this for a long time.”

Entering the adjoining bathroom Steve closed the door behind him and released a long breath. His hands were trembling with rage. Who did she think she was? Accusing him of forgetting about all of his principles because of… Because of what?

Because he thought that Loki had a lovely appearance that he wanted to draw? Because he believed in second chances? Or because he wasn’t so bitter that he couldn’t see that somebody else had opened their eyes after Tony had knocked him out…

Steve tried not to worry about Natasha being true to her word. He definitely didn’t want to discuss what had just happened in front of everybody. God, if Tony heard what Natasha was implying he would never let it go again. And Loki…

A flush of heat went through Steve’s body and he absently touched his cheek to find out that it was warm. Fantastic, now he was blushing over Natasha’s fantasies. Tony was never going to let him hear the end of it.

Stepping underneath the shower Steve decided that he would have a lot of time left to worry about all of that. Right now he should probably try to figure out a place where to put his drawings. He didn’t need anybody else to see them.

 ***

“Hey there, you missed breakfast… and lunch.” Bruce place a plate of lasagne on the table in front of him, still waiting for Tony to look up from his pad.

“Don’t care. Too busy.”

Bruce swallowed a sigh, walked over to Tony and took the pad away from that.

“Hey! I need that! Future of science! World as we know it! Reason even more women will want to sleep with me!” Like a child Tony tried to reach for the pad and Bruce was shaking his head. “You need to eat something. I know you, this is only the start. You’ll lock yourself up in here for the next couple of days and you won’t shower. I’m not going to have that. Your scientific breakthrough can wait a bit longer. Now sit down and eat.”

Immediately Tony started to pout and Bruce did his very best to not start smiling. If you stopped insisting for a single second, Tony would slip right through your hands.

“Fine! I’ll eat, but you won’t get me to shower. It’s not like I’ve missed anything out there. The real action is going on in this lab.” Slumping down onto a chair Tony grabbed a fork and still didn’t miss how Bruce’s mouth twitched. “What? Don’t tell me I missed something. Jarvis, did I miss something?”

“That depends on your definition of ‘something’, sir.”

“Holy shit, I missed something! What? Tell me everything, Brucie. I need to know. Clint didn’t do anything stupid, didn’t he?”

Bruce shook his head in response, a little bit alienated that Tony thought Clint might cause trouble when Loki was living in the same building. “Breakfast was rather… tense.”

“Details, Bruce. I can’t read your mind. Well, not yet.” Tony was already chewing on his lasagne, looking expectantly at Bruce. Seemed like he had to deliver the newest gossip now. Leaning against the next best desk Bruce shrugged. “Well… Thor and Loki didn’t show up, because Thor wants to spend some alone time with him. Loki still needs to warm up to him.”

“Nothing new there…”

“Right, so Clint, Natasha and me were sitting at the table. Then Steve came in and… let’s say he was pissed. Uhm… he said good morning to me and Clint, got himself some cereal and left. Staring Natasha down like he wanted to kill her…” Bruce shifted uncomfortably when thinking about it and now he had definitely caught Tony’s attention.

“Huh? Cap? Sure that wasn’t his evil twin? Not saying good morning to Natasha? How rude…”

“It’s not just that, Tony.” Bruce sighed. “Steve was obviously very angry and it’s not like him to completely avoid a person. So I asked Natasha about it and she said it was too soon to talk about it.”

Raising both eyebrows Tony proved that he didn’t mind talking with a full mouth. “Ha… too soon? Sounds like a lover’s spat. You think they have a thing going on and Romanoff isn’t ready to tell us while Cap wants to make it official and get rings?”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

Shrugging softly Tony didn’t seem surprised that his suggestion was being dismissed. “Then there was lunch and that… got ugly.”

“Bruce, come on! Get to the point, I want to hear the interesting stuff. If there is anything interesting.”

Way too interesting for Bruce’s taste. “Steve showed up to get himself a plate and he wanted to leave instantly, but Natasha told him to not be childish… He didn’t take it well. It looks like Natasha sneaked into Steve’s room while he was sleeping and… No, don’t say anything till I’m finished… She claims that, because she is worried that he might be… comprised.”

Tony almost choked on the lasagne, but not because he was shocked. No, he was laughing and Bruce wasn’t surprised. “Are you shitting me? Cap? What? Did some evil bad guy install a device in his room that washes his brain when he is asleep? Cap compromised… Didn’t he eat all of his vegetables and now Natasha thinks he is possessed?”

“Actually…” Bruce wondered if he should take a few steps back to be at a safe distance from Tony’s reaction. “She thinks Loki has a too strong influence on him and… looks like she found several drawings in Steve’s room. Drawings of Loki.”

To be honest Bruce was disappointed. He was expecting Tony to jump to his feet, to make the strangest, most incomprehensible references or to start laughing hysterically. None of that happened, Tony merely raised an eyebrow. “Jarvis, did you alert Steve that Natasha had slipped into his room?”

“Agent Romanoff has access to all areas except for the lab. I saw no immediate reason to draw attention to her until she started touching the Captain’s belongings. I was about to speak up, but the Captain noticed her on his own.”

“Next time don’t wait so long. The second she comes close to a private area, ask her what she wants and tell her to fuck off.”

Bruce was startled to say the least. Definitely not the reaction he had expected. “Are you restricting her access?”

“No, but she has no fucking right to sneak into Cap’s room and look through his stuff when he doesn’t want that. We may be a community, but everybody still has a right for privacy.”

Sitting down Bruce blinked at him. “Tony, you are scaring me.”

“Huh? What did I do now?”

Laughing softly Bruce shrugged casually. “I don’t know. I just mentioned that Cap draws Loki in his spare time and you don’t even bat an eyelid. Are you getting old?”

Offended Tony huffed. “No, it’s just not worth of my attention. Steve thinks he is a fucking artist. He is drawing everybody and everything. About two months ago he asked me if he could draw me while I was working on the suit… because he wanted to see if he could capture the concentrated expression on my face or some shit. Although the result looked pretty amazing… Why wouldn’t he draw Loki? Did you see those cheekbones?”

Well, Bruce had to admit that he hadn’t thought about it like this. No, he hadn’t given it much thought anyway. People fighting around him made him uncomfortable, especially when Steve was involved. Wasn’t he supposed to be calm, reflective? That hadn’t been the case. Steve was furious, but trying to keep it down, not letting it out. Who was better to tell that than Bruce? It wasn’t a good idea for him to be around somebody like this, not for long. He could only hope that the two of them would quickly figure this out. “Natasha thinks that Steve starts trusting him too quickly and… Look, a lot of words were used without saying what she actually meant… Steve was fuming and all the time I was praying that Clint wouldn’t get what she was insinuating.”

Tony took his time, he was licking his fingers before smirking at Bruce. “Insinuating what? That Cap wants to screw Loki? Look, I am not going to deny the power of boner. It’s the greatest force in the world, but as the world’s leading force on trying to get Steve Rogers laid… Well, let’s just say I think it’s highly unlikely. Cap’s married to his work and runs away from everything that could be fun… Basically he’s just like you.”

“Very funny, Tony…” Taking off his glasses Bruce rubbed one hand over his eyes, hoping this wasn’t the beginning of a migraine. “Look, this is bad. Cap is pissed off at Natasha and what she did wasn’t okay, but we can’t have something like this… one person accusing the other one of being manipulated by a supervillain… It’s time we figure out what to do with Loki.”

Pushing the plate away Tony offered him a smile. “I didn’t change my mind. He has knowledge and abilities we can only dream of… Things I’ve been dreaming of. He’s offering it on silver plate. That would be enough for me. Then there’s the little bonus of him occasionally saving my life… I’m going to keep him around.”

It sounded so easy, of course, everything was always easy with Tony. Except for when the world was going to shit. Which could happen if they kept Loki around. “Just like this? Despite what happened? The ‘Kneel before me’ stuff… throwing you out of the window. I don’t say that you’re wrong, I just want to make sure.”

Casually grabbing his pad Tony went back to multitasking. “I would want to keep him around for the data on this little thing alone… but okay, you want details, you are a scientist. He got screwed over by his dad and as somebody who has a lot of experience with daddy issues, I can’t fault him for that.”

“What about the torture?” Bruce didn’t miss Tony’s little wince, but he tried not to feel bad about this. It was necessary for Tony to talk more about it. Or to talk about it at all. Especially when it was influencing his decisions.

Tony’s eyes lingered for a moment on the pad and when he looked back up there was this look in them. Bruce knew it too well. A man who had seen a dark place and didn’t want to go back there. “Scars are a funny thing. They change the way people look and think about you. Too bad you can’t see them all the time. You have any idea what would have happened if SHIELD had taken his armour off in his glass prison? If we had realised what kind of state he had been in? No idea… I spent three months in a cave and I don’t have scars… no visible ones and sometimes I still wake up in the middle of the night and it takes me minutes to realise that I’m not in that cave anymore. During those minutes… when I don’t feel like I’m choking I want to tear down the house… The waterboarding didn’t last three entire months, when I started working on the suit they left me alone. Judging by Loki’s back they didn’t leave him alone… and those are only the scars we see. Can you imagine what it must be like to remember this? Every single time they cut you? With knifes, scissors or whatever tool they could think of? And that’s only what we know of… Wipe his mind off that memory and what do you have? A smart, cocky, but pretty much normal guy. Somebody fucked him up. What do we do with guys who are mentally unstable? We sent them to a clinic and hope they get better. Then we release them. He got better. He probably got better than anybody could have hoped for. So, yes, I’ll give him a pass.”

Bruce felt the heavy weight of the words and he couldn’t deny that he saw Tony’s point. Everybody always claimed that they wanted to see a mad person cured, that they were not guilty of their crimes, because their sanity was in question. To be honest, Loki did seem perfectly fine… except for the moments when he was wondering about what had happened to him. “SHIELD still wants a piece of him…”

Not another word was necessary for Tony to screw up his face. “Yeah, but they want a piece of everybody. Don’t tell me you don’t notice how Fury’s eye twitches when he looks at you.”

No, Bruce definitely did notice.

“Besides that they hand out pardons like they’re candy… the second they think they can control Loki or that he’s of use for them… well, you get the picture. I give a damn about SHIELD and I know you also don’t give a shit about what they say.”

Once again, true. “So… you just want him to move in completely? That’s not going to work out. Clint is already on the edge.”

“Well, bad for him.”

“Tony, you can’t just…”

“Of course, I can. This is my house. They are both my guests and if one doesn’t like the other, feel free to leave.”

Again, Tony made things sound easy when they were anything but. “Clint is your friend and he’s living under the same roof of a guy who has messed with his mind. I kinda see his point…”

Instead of giving an answer Tony held out the pad. “Look at it.”

“Tony?”

“Look at it.”

Sighing in defeat Bruce did as Tony asked and something strange happened. Bruce was confused. At first glance he could tell that Tony was still working on Loki’s information about teleporting. In detail that meant that Tony was trying to figure out how to create a wormhole. “Those numbers don’t make sense.”

“Yeah, I thought that too… but then I had him perform a little magic trick and Jarvis registered all of it. I let the numbers run through several programs and then I came up with this…” Tony tapped his fingers against the pad and opened a new window.

A jolt went through Bruce’s body when the meaning of the numbers in front of him was suddenly changing. He wasn’t looking at some mere theory, but at something that could change science as they knew it. “Is this real?”

“Yes…” Tony’s eyes were sparkling, the smile on his face contagious and Bruce understood perfectly. To be honest, the excitement was already taking a hold of him. He wanted to help Tony to work on this, to realise something that they hadn’t thought possible three days ago.

“It’s perfectly real and he gave it to me. Just like that. Loki is staying and Cap can draw him in every fucking position he wants to.”

“Still… any ideas how to make everybody comfortable with this situation?”

“I’m Tony Stark, of course I have an idea… I’m throwing a party.”

 

Chapter Text

After a desperately needed shower Tony searched every cabinet in the kitchen for salsa and nachos. “Jarvis, put Loki on the line.”

“Certainly, sir.”

Tony was busy ripping open the bag of tacos he had found when that smooth British voice resounded. Well, that other smooth British voice. “Tony?”

“Hey there, Lokes. Bruce kicked me out of the lab. Outrageous! Anyway, it’s too soon to go out and I wanna chill and watch some Netflix… Okay, no. Let me rephrase that… wanna watch a movie?”

“Now? I am working on a sketch of…”

“What is it with you guys and drawing? That’s not going to run away. Come on, get your skinny ass up here. Common area. There’ll be Mexican snacks. You always want to learn about American culture, so move.”

“What has Mexican food to do with American culture?”

“A fucking lot. Now get up here, we’re watching the Fifth Element, you are going to love it.” Tony placed his private Mexican buffet on a tray and waited for Loki to do as he said. Which was weird and completely awesome. Even more so, because it actually happened. “I will give it a chance…”

“Cool.”

While waiting for Loki Tony made himself comfortable on the couch in the common room, already munching on the nachos. When Loki showed up the first thing he did was frowning. “Any particular reason why you want to do this?”

“Team bonding. Also the Fifth Element is awesome. Sit down. Jarvis, do the honours.”

Loki still didn’t seem quite convinced, so Tony grabbed his wrist and pulled him down. “You need to come out of your rooms. You’re lucky, you get to hang out with the cool kid. Try the nachos, they are awesome.”

Putting his feet on the couch table Tony shoved a hand full of nachos into his mouth and yes, Loki did look a bit amused by this. They were 10 minutes into the movie when Loki started asking questions and it was hilarious.

“Is this a serious description of how Midgardians picture the future?”

“How is anyone supposed to take these people seriously if they’re wearing such ridiculous clothes?”

“This woman is a supreme being? She seems to have the mind of a toddler.”

Tony wasn’t going to listen to him destroying this classic. “Stop criticising. It’s amazing!”

“I’m just trying to understand what…”

“What the hell is he doing here?”

Both of them turned around and spotted Clint standing in the doorway. Well, that wasn’t an ideal setting, but Tony couldn’t give a damn. Clint should get used to Loki hanging around, because Tony wasn’t going to lock him away in his rooms. “We are watching a movie. A pretty kick-ass movie. Sit down and watch it with us.”

Of course Clint didn’t move a finger, keeping his eyes fixed on Loki. “What is he doing here?”

Damn, this was going to end up badly and Tony didn’t have the necessary negotiation skills to avoid the catastrophe.

“Just like Tony pointed out – I am watching the movie.” Loki sounded casual enough, but he was definitely watching Clint closely. He was neither blind, nor deaf, he was well aware of Clint’s disapproval of him. What an understatement.

Something in Clint’s face twitched and Tony started to worry a bit about his furniture. This better wouldn’t end up in a fight. There wasn’t any feeling of relief when Clint’s eyes were back on him. “This is the common area. He has no fucking right to be here.”

“Common – that means for everybody. Stop complaining.”

“Are you drunk or how can you sit next to…”

“Agent Barton…” Loki’s voice was perfectly calm and patient. Tony thought it was amazing. “Since you have a problem with me, not with Tony… why don’t you talk about it with me?”

Tony waited for an arrow to be fired. No, Clint wasn’t carrying his bow, but that didn’t stop him. For now his eyes were enough to almost pierce holes into Loki. His words weren’t any better either. “I don’t have a single problem with you. I have a truck full of problems! It’s not even about the fact that pretty much everybody starts to fall for your amnesia bullshit… Right now I have a problem with you sitting on the couch next to Tony like you’ve got a fucking right to be there. About two metres away from the very same window you tossed him through!”

That was enough to make Tony flinch and he could tell the exact moment when Loki understood what Clint had just said. He opened his mouth although he didn’t make a sound and the indifferent expression quickly faded away.

“Oh, please, spare us the acting routine! You know exactly what you did!”

“Clint, shut up!”

“God, the way Cap and you are coddling him is making me sick! It’s like watching women writing to serial killers in prison and telling them that they’re only misunderstood.” Tony couldn’t reproach Clint of sending mixed messages.

Well, Tony was also good at glaring daggers at someone and he was starting right now. Clint obviously didn’t want to risk catching some kind of disease by staying too long in a room with Loki and left. A completely disgusted expression on his face.

Okay, damage control, Tony would have loved to keep the window incident a bit longer from Loki. Like forever.

Loki’s eyes were glued to the window and Tony’s mind was racing. Was there a way to play this down? Holy shit, if anyone had told Tony that he would one day end up trying to tell Loki that being thrown out of the window wasn’t such a big deal…

“You’ve said…” Tony felt Loki’s gaze on him and it was filled with terror. “I did something awful to you… is that what you meant?”

Fuck… Tony could deal with an atomic bomb threatening to blow up Manhattan and with a terrorist group which tried to kill him, but he couldn’t deal with this. Even when they had showed Loki the video of the invasion… he hadn’t reacted like this. No wide eyes, glazed over by something that Tony couldn’t name. An expression that made him want to look away and was mesmerizing him at the same time. Why was it so much different now?

“I pushed you out of the window in an attempt to kill you?”

No, Loki hadn’t pushed him. He had thrown him. Had put his hand around his throat and… An idea dawned on Tony and he thought of Yinsen. They could tell you about one million dead people, those were only nameless numbers. You only needed a single person with a face and suddenly you felt the impact. Hitting you with all its force.

Tony had a face and a name. Maybe Loki even liked him which made matters only worse.

“Uhm… yeah, but… I said something really mean to you beforehand, so… it was kind of an appropriate reaction.”

“Is everything a jest to you, Tony Stark?” Loki got up and walked towards the windows. Was he trying to find something there that would help him remember? Tony definitely didn’t hope so. Damage control, now. “Loki, everything that happened that day was one big fight… nobody was pulling their punches.”

Stopping at the window Loki was pressing his forehead against the glass. Did Tony have to build this tower so fucking high? “How did you survive this?”

“You’ve watched me on television, hon… I can fly. Look, we’re over this. I admit… Clint was in the worst situation during the invasion and he can’t let it go. I can leave this shit behind me, because you didn’t know what were you doing…”

“How can you know that?”

A whisper, Loki turned back to him, his arms crossed in front of his chest, ready to defend himself. Wonderful, Tony had wanted to watch a movie and what was he doing now? Therapy?

“How can you know anything about my motives or my state of mind?”

“Because I talked to you. I talked to you back then and I am talking to you now. I can tell the difference and… you took off your shirt. That’s also a reason.” Tony tried to shoot him a cheeky grin, but it was only a half-hearted attempt. Something he instantly regretted when he saw Loki digging his fingers into his own upper arm.

Yeah, that was to be expected.

“Sometimes… people hurt us and we do stupid things… When we get time to heal, things can change completely. That’s it…” Another awkward phrase and Tony even emphasized it with a shrug.

Loki stared at him and normally Tony would have patted his own shoulder, because it was an accomplishment to shock Loki. “I can’t tell if you are mocking me or if you really that… careless.”

“Maybe both? Look, if you want to get blamed for what happened, be my guest and go to Clint or Natasha. Can we now go back to watching the movie? It’s awesome and you’re missing all of it!”

It was hilarious to see how Loki blinked and then hesitantly nodded. So they returned to watching the movie, sitting next to each other on the couch. Bruce Willis was busy shooting aliens and Tony had just decided name his next invention after his character when Loki softly spoke up. “I am sorry.”

“Huh?”

“I am sorry. For trying to…” Loki paused, his finger tapping against a cushion. “I am sorry for trying to harm you… in any kind of way. I… I don’t like your friend, he is obnoxious, rude and unpleasant, I don’t care what he thinks about what I might or might not have done. It’s different with you. I am fond of you and the thought that I tried to hurt you is troubling me.”

Tony’s mouth dropped slightly open and maybe it had something to do with nobody ever openly stating their appreciation for him, but Tony couldn’t deny a warm feeling spreading inside of him. It was still mostly weird, but in a good way. Still, they didn’t need to dwell on that. “It’s okay… you’ve saved my life. We’re even and… how could you not be fond of me? I am awesome.”

“And so modest.”

“Hey, you call yourself pretty and intelligent all the time.”

“So? It’s true.”

Smirking Tony turned back to the TV screen. “Watch the movie, idiot.”

 ***

Hiding from every other person in the tower was surprisingly easy, but that didn’t stop Steve from feeling stupid about it. One day later his anger hadn’t subsided, quite the opposite. It hadn’t been enough for Natasha to invade his privacy, no she had had to tell everybody about the drawings. Technically she had only told Bruce and Clint, but by now Steve was sure that everybody knew. Including Loki.

Steve wasn’t eager on meeting any of them at the moment. No, he hadn’t done anything wrong, but he still felt like being called out on something. Naturally Tony had decided to throw a party tonight. Another reason why Steve hated spontaneity. He wasn’t like he completely wanted to skip the party although Steve didn’t feel too excited about roaming and smiling at strangers.

Letting out a sigh Steve buttoned up his shirt and decided to look at the more positive side of things. A good distraction, why not? Talking to people and have some fun. If the tower was full of people there was a good chance he wouldn’t have to talk to Natasha.

She and Clint had protested when Tony had told them about the party which had resulted in Tony repeatedly saying “I can’t hear you, too busy planning my party”.

That had admittedly been ridiculously funny.

Just when Steve was about to leave, somebody knocked at his door. The party had already started, so there was a good chance that Tony was here to drag him out of his rooms. Opening the door Steve was faced with an unexpected guest.

A smile was playing around Loki’s lips and Steve saw himself immediately unarmed. “Hey… uhm… you’re not already at the party?”

That was the main reason for this whole event, wasn’t it? Tony wanted to show Clint and Natasha that most people could act completely normal around Loki. Granted, most of the people at this party wouldn’t have any idea who he was. They would only see a shockingly handsome man in a black suit and a grey shirt.

“No, Tony said there would be a lot of people and I figure it might be difficult to talk to you. Would you mind if I come in?”

“No, sure, come in.”

Closing the door behind him Steve tried his best to not stare at him. “So… uhm… what can I do for you?”

“Tony helped me organising my living room… he got me a portfolio, so my drawings would cover half of the walls and the floor… Well, he got me several portfolios. Anyhow, we talked and he told me you enjoyed drawing yourself. I wanted to ask if I could see something of your work?”

Steve did his best not to flinch, obviously failing. Was Loki making fun of him? What had Tony told him? Had they decided to embarrass Steve like this? A foolish thought that sparked Steve’s anger against himself. Sure, Tony had his flaws and he enjoyed to make fun out of people, but he definitely wasn’t cruel. Loki wouldn’t make fun of him like this? Then again, he was the god of mischief and Steve was thinking way too hard about this. Loki was still looking at him, smiling and Steve felt so incredibly stupid. “Uhm… sure… but…”

Perhaps later on when Steve had thought of a very good reason why he had drawn Loki more often than anybody else? Another reason than Steve thinking he was beautiful?

“Sure, uhm… I’ll gladly show them to you, but how about we take a look at them when we have a bit more time on our hands? Tony will kick our asses if we show up too late at his party…”

To his relief Loki nodded. “Of course. I am looking forward to this.”

“So, you wanna…”

“What is going on? Why does Jarvis have to tell me that you’re hanging out with Cap when half of the people upstairs are already drunk… Well, they’ve already showed up drunk, but I’m digressing… Why are you guys still here?”

Had Tony been following Loki around? Seriously, Loki had knocked at his door about two minutes ago. For the second time in two days somebody entered his rooms without knocking, but at least it wasn’t his bedroom this time. Tony put all of his usual swagger on display, wearing an impeccable, red three piece suit and sunglasses. Inside. Steve didn’t know if this was ridiculous or smooth.

“Loki just wanted to ask me something, we’re pretty much already on our way…”

Steve felt strangely ignored when Tony didn’t react but instead looked Loki up and down. “See, I told you it would look good on you. Where is your tie?”

Looking pretty clueless Loki pulled a folded black tie from the pocket of his suit. “You mean this? I have no idea what to do with this.”

Tony threw his head back and let out a joyful laugh. “You hear that, Cap? He doesn’t know how to tie a tie? Wait, why am I telling you this, you have no idea how to do that either, you’ve never worn a suit in your life.”

Steve wanted to protest, but he was rendered speechless when Tony grabbed the tie, took a step closer to Loki, wrapping the tie around his neck. “What are you doing?”

“I’m making you look good, Lokes. No pay attention how it’s done.” With the most dazzling smile on his face Tony started to work on the tie knot, proving that his fingers weren’t only skilled when they were working on technical devices. No, the expert and somewhat casual way Tony was standing there, tying Loki’s tie, made Steve feel uncomfortable. Or was it the fact that Loki didn’t seem to mind? Not at all.

Done with his work Tony grinned at Loki, nodding softly, his hands on Loki’s shoulders. “There. Told you so. Now you look like an heir to a family business who got rich by screwing people over.”

“Is that a compliment?”

“You can bet your ass on that.”

Something about this was weird, but Steve couldn’t put his finger on it. There was also no more time to think about it. “Come on, Cap. I’m going to show the two of you how to have a good time.” Tony’s hand was on Loki’s arm, pulling him along and Steve followed them. Well, time to party?

It was nothing new that Tony Stark was very good at most things he did and organizing parties was one of them. It obviously was impossible to refuse an invitation from Tony Stark, because the room was full of people, laughing, talking and Steve lost sight of Tony and Loki the very first second. Which would have happened anyway, because some guy was instantly at his side, talking about what an honour it was to meet Captain America and offered him a drink. What was there to offer, Tony was paying for all of this?

Apart from that Steve was surprised that the atmosphere of the party was very pleasant. He had no idea who these people were who Tony had invited, but the ones who talked to him were nice and easy to have a conversation with. There were so many people at this party that two hours passed until Steve got a glimpse of another Avenger.

Of course it had to be Natasha.

Steve was leaning against the bar, sipping on his beer when she approached him. Out of the corner of his eyes Steve could see her stopping right next to him, but he didn’t bother to turn to really look at her. If Natasha wanted to talk to him, she would have to make the first step.

“Look, Steve, I know you are angry at me for…”

“This is no way to start an apology.”

Natasha audibly sighed. “Fine, I will give you that. I should not have entered your room without asking. That wasn’t okay.”

This was a start, so Steve turned to look at her. She was undeniably pretty in a white dress and Steve wondered how long they would be able to stand here without some guy wanting to talk to her. “No, it wasn’t and I don’t get what you wanted to prove or accomplish… Why are you going after me when Tony is the one declaring that Loki is going to stay?”

“Tony is overly excited about the knowledge Loki offers. That’s the main reason he wants to keep him here. You… you just like him.”

Steve was already awfully tired of this. “Yes. Yeah, I like him. He is smart, surprisingly nice and dare I say it, attentive. I’m with Tony and Thor on this one. He had serious problems, he doesn’t have them anymore and from that moment he hasn’t been causing any trouble. He has been helping us. Look around… this is a party, he’s here and everything is just fine. I wouldn’t have thought that this is possible, but it is… So… Honestly, Nat, I am worried that we might end up ruining this by not giving him a chance. If a person is only confronted with distrust and rejection... they are going to turn on you.”

That was it. Steve was done with this now. He wanted to believe that they could continue living their lives, establishing a routine without Loki being the only thing they would talk about.

Sadly he was fairly sure that Natasha would disagree with him, telling him again that he was compromised or…

“I hope you are right. I don’t believe it, but that doesn’t mean I can’t hope that you are right. I’ll keep my eyes open and I hope you do the same…” There was something in Natasha’s voice that Steve didn’t like. Almost as if she was expecting him to do something stupid.

“We’re finally at a point where Loki isn’t our concern anymore. Instead we have the Ten Rings causing chaos in New York and sending Tony bombs… That’s the thing I will keep my eyes on.”

Natasha didn’t reply, but the expression on her face could be easily interpreted as a truce. Perhaps that was only what Steve wished for, but he would take what he could get. “So? Met any new interesting people?”

“God no, Stark’s business partners are the worst…” The honest way she rolled her eyes caused Steve to laugh and yes, the party wasn’t so bad.

Until Natasha was gone to talk with somebody Steve honestly didn’t care about and he spotted Loki and Tony at the other end of the room. Had they spent the entire time with each other? It was hard to keep an eye on them with so many people blocking his sight, so Steve made his way through the crowd to get a better view. They were standing with their backs to these huge windows, both a glass of champagne in hand, talking about something that Steve probably wouldn’t understand. Again Steve had a fishy feeling about this, something that made him feel uneasy and he couldn’t quite…

Tony was leaning in, whispering something in Loki’s ear. He was rewarded with a smile and Loki did the same.

Suddenly Steve knew what was wrong. It was so blatantly obvious, Steve had no idea how he could have missed it in the first place.

Tony was touching Loki. He had been touching him all evening. Steve could remember Tony’s hands on Loki’s shoulders in perfect detail. While leaving the room, he had had his fingers wrapped around Loki’s arm. Now he was whispering into Loki’s ear, more or less resting his chin on Loki’s shoulder.

Had anyone of them actually touched Loki? Ever? Like not during a fight?

Gnawing on his lower lip Steve pondered the idea if he should just walk over there and… do what? They seemed very engaged in their conversation, Steve would probably annoy them.

“Captain!” Steve flinched when a large hand was grabbing his shoulder and a beaming god of thunder was smiling on him. “Isn’t this a most successful feast?”

“No, it sucks…”

Thor raised an eyebrow at, obviously confused while Steve was downing the rest of his beer. Not too far away among the other guests was Natasha, shooting him a knowing glance and Steve was confirmed in his assumption. Parties were horrible.

Mumbling an apology Steve returned to the bar and got a new beer, which was completely pointless and therefore pathetic. It turned out Steve couldn’t even do that untroubled, somebody was casually sliding into the spot right next to him. A rather elegant movement which should have been an obvious clue, making it unnecessary to look up.

“I must admit… despite Tony’s claims… this is a rather dull affair. What do you think?” Loki was smiling and Steve quickly nodded. “Yeah… pretty much.”

“So if we’re both bored – how about you showing me the drawings? Now? I would very much like to see them.”

Chapter Text

“Interesting…” Slowly Loki was turning the page, taking his time to examine the next of Steve’s works.

Nervously Steve shifted around in his chair, sipping on his beer. “Interesting? Interesting is the word you use when you’re being polite, although you think it’s terrible.”

Loki smiled without looking up from the drawing. “Tell me, Steve… do you think I wouldn’t call it anything else but terrible if I thought it was… terrible?”

“No… you wouldn’t.” Interesting wasn’t that bad, was it?

“What I meant… you and me have a very different style… this is gorgeous… You prefer portraits, am I right?”

Well, it seemed to be obvious. The portfolio Steve had handed Loki consisted only of portraits. Minus a few that were stored safely in the drawer of Steve’s desk. “Yeah… I don’t know… I always end up drawing people…”

“I see… I prefer scenery…”

Loki continued to look through Steve’s works and very slowly Steve calmed down. This wasn’t so bad. Quite the opposite, he could feel his chest swelling with pride every time Loki muttered words like “Beautiful” or “Marvellous”.

“This woman is lovely. You’ve drawn her a lot of times. Any chance that this is Agent Carter?”

Steve blinked, the uneasiness back thanks to that one question. “What?”

Raising the portfolio Loki showed Steve a drawing of Peppy’s face and this was awkward. In all sorts of ways. “How do you know about…” Before finishing his question Steve already knew the answer. “Right, the biographies…”

“Indeed. Although none of them actually agreed on the nature of your relationship.”

The bottle and Steve almost dropped to the floor. “What? What are they saying about it?”

Looking back at the drawing Loki shrugged. “Depends on which one you read. Some assume you were friends, others say you were lovers, others claim that you barely spent time together and Agent Carter made up most of your interactions to make herself look good.”

“What? Seriously? Good lord, that’s… People really seem to be able to write whatever they want…” Steve shuddered at this thought and decided not to wonder a single second who else might have read these books.

“It seems like it…” Loki turned the page, checking out a drawing of a woman Steve had seen in the park.

While he was waiting for the inevitable question Steve started to peel the label off the beer bottle, feeling slightly ridiculous for doing that. Seconds passed and when the question didn’t come Steve looked at Loki in confusion, but the Asgardian was still admiring a new drawing. Really? Steve gave it time, but Loki seemed thoroughly content with what he was doing.

Why didn’t he ask? Loki had brought the topic up himself, so why was he quiet now? Probably he was only being polite, after all Steve’s relationship with Peggy was none of his business. Or… more likely, Loki just didn’t care.

It felt like being woken up from a soft slumber. By a hard slap.

Steve wanted Loki to ask about it, he wanted him to be interested in… In what? Steve’s love life? Or in Steve? It was something Steve couldn’t put his finger on, but he was unable to deny that he wanted Loki to care.

At the moment Loki wasn’t interesting in anything else but looking at the drawings. Sure, that was why he was here after all and Steve still felt disappointed. He was only sitting here, watching Loki’s delicate fingers and the hinted smile on his lips. Another expression that Steve wanted to draw. Just when he tried to memorize it, Loki turned serious and started to frown.

“What is this? It looks familiar…”

As soon as Loki showed him the drawing Steve felt his mouth run dry. This wasn’t supposed to be in there. How had Steve forgotten to take it out? Damage was already done and now Steve had to do his best to control it. “That’s… one of Tony’s inventions. I don’t know too much about it… it’s a power source…”

With a soft frown Loki studied the picture of the arc-reactor and Steve tried to swallow the lump in his throat. Tony was so careful and even paranoid about the reactor. Who wouldn’t be? It wasn’t an energy source, it was the one thing keeping him alive and it had already been in the focus of some really shady guys. Since the moment Loki had started living with them Tony had been wearing dark shirts that were completely covering all traces of the reactor. Steve hadn’t been paying attention, but now it seemed perfectly obvious.

“It’s part of his suit…” Loki muttered those words in awe, in way as if he only now had learned that piece of information. Which was the case, sometimes it was so easy to forget.

“Yeah… you could make that out? On television?”

“There are a lot of pictures of the Iron Man suit in half the biographies written about Tony. This is the center piece. It’s hard to miss…”

Could they talk about something else’s than the Iron Man suit? “I don’t know… I don’t know much about technology… least of all about Tony’s…” Steve shrugged, trying to emphasise his disinterest.

“Well, you thought it was remarkable enough to draw it…” Loki traced his fingers along the lines of Steve’s drawing and Steve tried his best to ignore that he was still feeling awkward that they had switched from Steve’s… past relationship to Tony’s suit. Steve definitely wasn’t going to continue talking about this, so he remained quiet.

Eventually Loki had gone through the entire portfolio and carefully closed it. “It’s impressive work. Most of it is impressively beautiful.”

“Are you just saying that to make me feel good about myself?”

That mere idea caused Loki laugh amusedly. “Believe me, Steve, if I thought they were terrible, I would say so. No, I enjoyed them very much…” Smiling Loki handed Steve the portfolio and what were they supposed to do now? “I guess we should return to the party. Your fan club will be missing you by now.”

Why was he saying stuff all the time that Steve couldn’t keep up with? Or was he still making fun of him? “What fan club?”

The smile on Loki’s face got a bigger and there was this hint of malice in it that gave Steve chills. “You really don’t notice people staring at you, Captain. I guess I will have to show you.”

Steve had no desire whatsoever to return to the party, but Loki was already getting up to his feet and Steve definitely wouldn’t stay here alone. “I don’t have a fan club.”

Loki merely smiled and Steve wished that he could think of something, so they wouldn’t have to return to the party. That didn’t happen and two minutes later they were back in the common area and Loki got them two glasses of wine from the bar. “They are not even subtle, I don’t understand how you can’t notice…”

Taking a sip from his wine Loki casually indicated Steve to look to their right. “There. These three women were rather upset when you left, now they look quite relieved.”

“Oh come on, they aren’t looking at me…” Maybe they were, but Steve had no interest in finding out or talking about them. Unfortunately Loki wouldn’t let it go, he seemed so honestly amused by Steve’s discomfort. “Oh, they are… and I am going to leave you alone now, because they are coming over.”

“What? Hey, I don’t want to talk to them!”

“I know, that’s why it’s fun.” No way, Loki actually winked and slipped away. Steve didn’t even get the chance to see where he was going, his so called fan club instantly approached him. Then it was the usual. What a great honour, Captain Rogers. Can you tell us a few anecdotes about the war? It must be so difficult for you to adapt to the new time…

Steve tried his best to stay polite and nice, but as soon as he spotted a familiar face in the crowd, he used this as an excuse and left them alone.

Clint didn’t do as much as blink at him. “Hey…”

“Hey, you’re having fun?”

Shrugging Clint took a sip from his beer. “Too many people with too much money who think we’re here for their entertainment. That’s Stark’s crowd. Not mine.”

“Yeah, it’s kind of a drag…”

Steve froze when Clint turned to him, something so dark and hostile was in his eyes that it sent a shiver down Steve’s spine. “I figured that you were incredibly bored… why else disappear for half an hour with another guy?”

The lump in his throat was back and Steve felt an instant need to defend himself. “It was just…”

“Oh, I know.” Clint made a dismissive gesture. “But some people might get the wrong idea, you know?”

“I didn’t…”

Clint repeated the gesture. “Don’t bother, Cap… Just watch your back.”

 ***

The only thing that Steve remembered from his dream was hands. It had been strange, but that was all he knew. No reason to spend much time thinking about it. Instead he followed his usual morning routine, working out, having a shower and showing up for breakfast. To his surprise he wasn’t the first one to do that. Tony was already enjoying his cup of coffee and several painkillers. “I can’t believe I got so old… I feel like shit…”

“Well, I’m perfectly sure that this has less to do with your age… but with the amount of alcohol you consumed.” Bruce was so obviously joyful about Tony’s misery that Steve couldn’t suppress a laugh.

“Not funny, Cap. People who can’t get drunk are not allowed to laugh…” Tony screwed his face up, sipping at his coffee.

The others wished Steve a good morning while he sat down next to Tony. “A reason why you’re all already… here?”

It might be odd, but quite some time had passed since the last time everybody had been present at breakfast. Except for Loki and Thor. Clint was glad to answer his question. “Jarvis let us know that the gods are about to smash the place. I’m here to tell all of you that I told you so.”

Steve instantly winced, letting his gaze travel from one person to another to search for further explanation. Bruce offered it gladly. “Well, he said they were fighting… with words. It’s no evil business… probably just a spat between brothers…”

“Or Thor realising that Loki is playing a dirty game… I told you so.” There was no way to sound more convinced than Clint and despite his headache Tony managed to roll his eyes.

Clint turned out to be seriously disappointed when Thor showed up about five minutes later. Granted, his features were hard and contorted, but he gladly explained them that he and Loki disagreed on a private matter.

“What? Were you discussing fashion? Horns or wings?”

Tony’s suggestion was more or less ignored. “No, I am displeased by his complete disinterest in meeting Jane.”

Somehow surprising, but not that outrageous. It was definitely a family matter which was none of their business. Didn’t stop Clint from asking questions and Thor from being annoyed by them. Eventually Tony told them to shut up, they were making his head hurt. Breakfast was surprisingly dull and Steve chuckled to himself when Clint was cursing beneath his breath.

Something that Steve didn’t mind that much, he was already thinking about the drawing he would start as soon as he was back in his room. Tony was the first one to leave, telling them that everybody who dared to talk to him during the next 24 hours would get their ass kicked. Steve thought that was the perfect moment to leave too, nothing good was going to happen from now on.

Excusing himself Steve grabbed an apple and then left the kitchen. It turned out he was wrong. The doors to the elevator opened and revealed Loki. “Good morning.”

“Morning, you just missed breakfast.”

“I’m not here for breakfast, I want to talk to Tony.” It didn’t sound urgent, not at all, rather like something Loki actually wanted to do. The sound of his voice didn’t sit right with Steve and in all honesty, he didn’t want Loki to spend another morning with Tony. “He went back to bed, he is a bit hungover from last night… he’s not feeling too fine…”

Loki raised an eyebrow, looking at Steve as if he didn’t understand the concept of somebody being hungover. Then he simply brushed it off and shrugged. “I see… Well, too bad. I can wait another 12 hours.”

When Loki pressed a button Steve quickly slid into the elevator before the doors would close again. “Uhm… Thor said you were fighting…”

Great, Steve, fantastic job, what a great way to start a conversation

The immediate reaction was Loki pulling a face. “I would not call it fighting… I simply refused to be part in his ridiculous jest.”

Were they talking about the same thing? “I don’t see why you meeting his girlfriend is a joke…”

“Oh please…” Loki looked somewhat like Tony when he was rolling his eyes. “His intentions concerning that woman are not serious and if they are… I don’t want to have anything to do with it.”

Steve was staring at him, almost speechless. “What? I don’t see… Why wouldn’t he be serious about his relationship?”

“She is mortal.” Loki said that as if it actually meant something and Steve was shaking his head. “I’m afraid I don’t see your point.”

Sighing softly Loki rubbed his temple and the thought crossed Steve’s mind that he was saying all of this for the second time. “How old is she? In her early thirties? She will be dead in 50 years. Such a period of time passes like this for us…” Loki demonstratively clicked his fingers. “The blink of an eye. It’s nothing. The mere concept of a relationship between an Asgardian and a mortal doesn’t make sense.”

It was a punch in the guts. Steve couldn’t tell what had hit him so badly, but it hurt, knocked the breath out of his lungs. Several questions were lying on his tongue, burning beneath his skin, but he couldn’t voice a single one.

Loki didn’t notice, he gladly continued his little speech. “At the moment their minds and bodies might match, but Thor’s physique will stay the way he is now for about… a thousand years. That woman will wither away soon and he will lose interest. It’s that simple, so why should I lose my time meeting her?”

Arrogant and still somewhat reasonable. No. No, it wasn’t reasonable, it was cynical and stupid. Loki just looked at the whole thing from one side and ignored all the other points. “Because your brother cares about her. He loves Jane and what you’re saying is very…”

“It’s the truth. Maybe Thor is too infatuated to bother at the moment. It’s ridiculous.” Loki huffed, clearly meaning every word and left the elevator since they had arrived on his floor. Steve needed another second to get his body to move, but then he hurried after Loki. The state he was suddenly in was completely unknown, some kind of haste and unrest and it felt horrible. “So you say there can’t be any love between them, because they are going to age differently?”

“That is an understatement, Steve. Thor will still be in the prime of his youth when she is old enough to have grandchildren. Do I really need to say more? It seems so unnecessary, the whole idea is so foolish. I couldn’t believe it when Thor told me he had taken a mortal lover…”

This time it wasn’t a punch, but a sting, somewhere in his chest. Out of a sudden he could see some of the old Loki. How clearly he was rejecting something, something that he didn’t consider worthy of his attention. Still, that wasn’t what caused the pain inside his ribcage.

Loki was opening the door to his rooms, Steve still following him. “Does that mean you don’t think it’s impossible? An Asgardian having a relationship with a mortal?”

Maybe it was his serious tone that caused Loki to turn around and look at him. His gaze wasn’t quite as dismissive, somewhat interested. “Why would I engage in a relationship with someone I know will be dead in… maybe a year? That’s what half of your lifetime feels to us. Maybe a year.”

The sting got a little more intense and Steve pushed away the obvious logic in Loki’s words. Sometimes you just didn’t want to be logical, sometimes you just wanted to hear what would make you feel better. Reasoning had nothing to do with love or affection. These things couldn’t be explained and perhaps they shouldn’t be explained.

“It’s not impossible to fall in love, is it? If you’re in love… you want to be with another person, regardless of the obstacles or consequences…”

It was a struggle to say this, Steve felt like exposing a part of himself, but Loki reacted in a completely different way than expected. “It is hard for me to believe that my brother is in love with a woman who tries to prove that the powers of Mjölnir have nothing to do with magic… I have never met her and yet her ignorance is already annoying me…”

Hot, burning frustration got the better of Steve, using his words against him. “I am not talking about your brother. I am…” Mid-sentence the pieces were finally falling into place and somebody pulled the blindfold off Steve’s eyes. He saw Loki standing before him, watching him with green, attentive, vivid eyes. Different thoughts were coming to him in little flashes and Steve remembered Tony’s hands fixing Loki’s tie, Loki’s fingers tracing the lines of a drawing and Loki’s hands, glowing in soft green light, lifting the weight of Steve’s chest.

“I’m talking about… a matter of principle…” Steve knew he was getting lost in between different words that didn’t mean anything, especially when he just wanted to yell at Loki. Telling him to take it back, because Steve was confused and scared. “Aren’t you a bit too… judgmental? Thor can’t help who he falls in love with. Nobody can…”

Loki let him wait for an answer and as the seconds were passing Steve came closer to slipping. Was he expecting something? Had Loki understood this way sooner than Steve? Had he wanted to see his drawings because of this? Had he thought he would find the drawings that Steve had hidden so carefully?

Eventually Loki let out a little sigh and Steve couldn’t name the emotion on his face. He looked tired, weary of telling the same story over and over again without getting through to the person listening to him. No surprise, because Steve didn’t want to understand him. What he definitely didn’t want was to agree with him.

“If you insist that we state generally known facts… Yes, nobody can choose who they fall in love with, but they can still choose if they want to be with them or not.”

It was cold, detached and Steve bit his lip to keep himself from saying something, he couldn’t trust himself at that moment. Was this real? Were they even talking about the same thing? Did Steve even want to go down that road?

Oh god, yes…

All this talk about him being compromised, about how it was wrong to be interested into one person but completely okay to like another person for an absolutely ridiculous reason. Those were just words, they didn’t mean anything if you decided that they didn’t. Steve had learned quite some time ago that actions could tell you so much more.

Like a sting in his chest when Loki talked about how much of a bad match Asgardians and mortals were.

Loki didn’t offer him any more words, nor actions. Just a blank space, standing there, looking at Steve.

The silence was weighing heavily on his shoulders and Loki’s eyes on him did the rest. Steve should leave, out of this room, away from that careless stare. “I guess I…” Turning around Steve reached for the doorknob, his fingers barely touching it when Loki’s voice made him freeze.

“I told you that the scientists had no idea what they were doing to you. That they made you immortal. I don’t know that. There is no way of knowing that… but it might be the case… and to somebody who is immortal even an Asgardian life must seem so terrifyingly fleeting.”

Or maybe words could mean more than actions when somebody like Loki used them…

Spinning around Steve made the short distance in less than a second, his hands coming up to frame Loki’s face, his mouth crashing down on Loki’s and the sting faded away, turning into a soft flutter.

Chapter Text

Rushed actions hardly led to good results. It took a few seconds of moving his lips in a very clumsy manner before he could make it an actual kiss. A bit one-sided maybe, but those lips were sweet, soft and…

“Captain Rogers”

Abruptly that new found, exciting sensation was gone and Steve sighed. “Not now, Jarvis…”

“Due to the most recent turn of events I fear I can’t delay this conversation.”

Inwardly Steve wanted to scream, then he heard Loki’s soft chuckle and this couldn’t be happening to him. “Fine, what can’t wait?”

“Sir equipped me with a parameter to be able to analyse and judge dangerous situations that he might get into. Most of the time these situations are related to explosives or a fleeting desire to hack a government server. I am supposed to ensure that he actually wishes to go through with whatever decision he has made… Are you sure you want to go through with your decision, Captain Rogers?”

Steve’s mouth dropped open in utter shock while Loki actually laughed. Which was the worst reaction somebody could have after a kiss. Although… it wasn’t about the kiss, right? “Jarvis, for god’s sake, shut up!”

“Certainly, Captain.” Another proof that Jarvis was Tony’s creation, he sounded insulted. Then he was quiet and there was only Steve and Loki. Steve had kissed him… out of nowhere and now that he was looking at Loki’s unreadable expression – Steve had no idea what to do.

“No one has ever kissed me without asking for my permission first. Believe me, they had good reason to do that… This new development is… very intriguing…”

Steve felt the blood rushing to his face, colouring his cheeks and he didn’t know where his boldness had gone when Loki made half a step forward and there was his warm mouth. On Steve’s. So very different from before, an actual kiss, Loki’s lips moving against his own. It didn’t come as a surprise at all that Steve loved the way Loki tasted. Fresh, maybe even a bit cold, it was perfect. A hand settled on Steve’s hip and he asked himself if Loki’s skin would taste the same…

No, Steve had to do this right…

It was a hard task to pull away, especially when he saw the surprise in Loki’s eyes. “No, uhm… dinner. We need to have dinner.”

Surprise turned into confusion and was Steve stunned by how beautiful he was. “Dinner? It’s not even noon.”

Steve had never thought that the day would come he would call Loki cute… or kiss him. “No, I mean I should take you out for dinner. On a date.”

Good, his voice sounded surprisingly firm despite Steve’s heart hammering in his chest. Loki raised an eyebrow at his request. “A Midgardian costume I assume?”

“Yes… let’s just say… I want to have dinner with you and talk about this… mortal and Asgardian thing…” Not very eloquent, but Loki would understand.

“I see… I accept the invitation…” Loki smiled lightly and Steve wished he could just make time move faster. “Great… really… I gotta go now… find a restaurant and come to grips with what just happened.”

This time Loki didn’t laugh, but Steve could see the corners of his mouth twitch. Steve wanted to kiss him again and it didn’t need more than a look into these green eyes. Third time indeed was a charm, Loki opened up beneath him, his teeth were grazing softly over Steve’s lip and he definitely could get used to this. Way too easily…

Pulling away again Steve unconsciously licked his lips and this was probably going to get him into trouble. “Uhm, I have to go… I’ll pick you up at 8 o’clock?”

“Agreed.”

Great, so Steve had a date… He could panic the second when he was out of this room. “Cool… then… I see you tonight…”

Quickly Steve turned around and headed for the door, because he felt like he couldn’t quite trust himself if he looked at Loki another time. The second he closed the door behind him Steve released a long breath, trying to wrap his head around what had just happened. So he had kissed Loki and asked him out on a date. That was the wrong order of events, but Steve obviously hadn’t been thinking straight. Where had that come from? Sure, he had realised some time ago that Loki was gorgeous and that he was so different from before. Different. Smart. Empathetic. Funny.

“Jarvis?”

“Yes, Captain Rogers?”

“You didn’t… tell Tony what happened? By any chance?”

“Of course not, Captain Rogers. It was clearly a private matter.”

A feeling of immense relief washed over Steve. “Good… a private matter, but you still think I’m doing something… dangerous?”

“I merely thought it might be a good idea to make sure you had considered the possible consequences of getting involved with a former super villain who is still a wanted terrorist. I have no clear instructions how to act in such a case, therefore I decided to speak up.”

Steve didn’t want to think too much about that. Did Tony tell Jarvis to make sure that everything was okay if somebody should hook up with a villain? No, Loki wasn’t a villain anymore, that didn’t count, but Steve could partly understand why Jarvis might be confused by them making out. Not as confused as Steve, but still…

“It’s okay… I know what I’m doing.” A blatant lie, but Steve had no interest whatsoever to discuss this with Jarvis. Or anyone.

Going to his own rooms Steve grabbed his laptop and opened google.

compromised

adjective, Pathology

  1. unable to function optimally, especially with regard to immune response, owing to underlying disease, harmful environmental exposure, or the side effects of a course of

Harmful environmental exposure? Did that mean that Loki was a bad influence? Yes, Steve understood where Natasha and Clint were coming from, but even they had to admit the obvious change in Loki…

A person couldn’t fake all of that. Not possible… Why would somebody put so much dedication and effort into something? By now Loki would have had so many opportunities to hurt them or go after the amulet. He had even been alone in the tower. What was still to gain if Loki was pretending? What that he couldn’t have done already?

verb (used without object), compromised, compromising.

  1. to make a compromise or compromises:

The conflicting parties agreed to compromise
to make a dishonorable or shameful concession:
He is too honorable to compromise with his principles.

Fine, it wasn’t like Steve was unfamiliar with the definition of the word ‘compromised’. At the same time he had no idea what the others thought what would happen if they started to trust or to even like Loki.

Did Natasha think that Steve would forget about his principles? No, such a thing wouldn’t happen. Steve wouldn’t forget his principles for anyone and they should know him well enough. After all he had his own mind and was perfectly able to make his own decisions. Maybe they feared he would get corrupted… Really? No matter how hard Steve tried, he didn’t get it. His principles told him that everybody deserved a second chance and Loki had used his one better than anyone could have imagined.

No matter how this new development might turn out, Steve would have a lot of explaining to do and he wanted to be prepared. The most important argument was that Loki had had enough time to hurt time, manipulate them or realise some kind of scheme. Nothing had happened. Instead he had saved Tony’s and Steve’s life. He could have let them die so easily and in all honesty… if he had only wanted to get close to them to hurt them – the best opportunity to hurt them had already passed. With Steve and Tony out of the picture it wouldn’t have been too difficult for Loki to go after Natasha or Clint. When it came down to their powers… they would be pretty helpless against him…

Closing the laptop Steve thought back to what had happened five minutes ago and he could feel that smile spreading on his face. Steve still had no idea how he had ended up kissing Loki. Five minutes ago he hadn’t even thought about him that way. Had he? Sure, it had been impossible to overlook how attractive Loki was and Steve deeply enjoyed talking to him and he wanted to… Hell, Steve wanted to go on a date with Loki. He wanted to go with him to the movies, to take a walk through the park… like Tony had.

Right, Steve had to make a reservation… and maybe think of a few other things to do. This had to be good. “Jarvis, do you have any idea about Loki’s food preferences?”

Tony would know and it bugged Steve that he didn’t.

“He hasn’t shown any preferences, he eats everything that he is offered. He does detest tuna.”

Well, that was at least some information…

“Okay, I gotta find a place that doesn’t only serve tuna. That shouldn’t be too hard.”

 ***

These were bad news. Steve was turning back into a teenager. There was no other way to explain why he was trying so hard to not start fidgeting. Loki didn’t help. Wearing a ridiculously elegant jacket, a white shirt beneath and looking so beautiful. Oh, he knew. Nobody had ever been more aware of their attractiveness than Loki. He had that smile on his lips, the right mixture of kind- and cockiness. It was no surprise that Loki was having fun because of Steve’s discomfort.

This wasn’t fair. There was still hope that Loki might go easy on him…

“So do you often happen to kiss people out of nowhere or am I just special?”

There went that hope. Steve was going to die.

“No… actually I normally don’t do that… ever.”

Loki’s grin told him that Steve had said the wrong thing. “Rather impressive for your first kiss.”

Great, now he was blushing… this couldn’t get worse and they hadn’t even arrived at the restaurant yet. “I didn’t mean it like that and you know it.”

“Do I? I learn new things about you every passing second…” Loki winked and Steve didn’t think it was charming. Maybe just a little bit.

“Well, that’s what dating is all about…”

Finally arrived at the restaurant Steve was content to find out that it was indeed a lovely place and felt bad for not completely trusting Jarvis in the first place. Not too romantic, but definitely good enough for a date. He noticed Loki looking around as if he was trying to figure out what to make of his surroundings. Only when they had got their table he started talking again. “I am not completely unfamiliar with the term, but I would like a more in detail explanation. Dating? What does it entail?”

Evidently, Steve had been wrong, things could get worse. “Please, tell me that you’re just mocking me…”

“A little bit, but I would enjoy a bit of clarification… How is this supposed to go down? What are your intentions? Will you try to kiss me again before or after the main course?”

“You’re not planning on making this easy for me, right?”

“Not a bit.”

There was still a smirk on his face, but Steve thought he could see something softer in his eyes and Steve felt a bit more at ease. “Okay… let’s try… I like you. Obviously. I want to go out with you, because… I really didn’t like your… rant on Asgardian / Human relationships.”

“I figured.”

“Your look at it is… nonchalant. Okay, I admit you have some points about the… let’s call it age difference… but you completely ignore the main reason why people get in a relationship.”

Loki couldn’t give an immediate answer, because the waiter served them their wine and even then he tasted it before saying anything. “I’ve already told you that you can choose not to be with a person despite being in love with them.”

Not a good start. “Can you really choose that? Wouldn’t you want to be with someone you’re in love with? I can’t see anyone choosing not to be with them… at least not under these circumstances.”

“So you think the fact that you will outlive another person for about… 3000 years isn’t a legitimate reason to not get into a relationship?” Casually leaning back in his chair Loki watched his face, looking genuinely curious.

“It’s a reason, but… there are always odds, things can always go wrong and… maybe you’d be happy to just spend as much time as you can with the other person. You may consider it short… but it’s still better than nothing…” Steve had the feeling he was doing a bad job at making a case for himself. The look on Loki’s face was way too serious. “And I should believe that my brother feels such a deep connection to this woman who clearly shows no respect for his cultural background and denies the magic origin of Thor’s weapon?”

What they were talking about Thor?

“I think you shouldn’t dismiss the possibility before actually meeting her… You could see for yourself how they are as a couple and perhaps you might end up liking her.” Steve offered him a smile and Loki pulled a face. “I have no desire to meet a woman who thinks she can explain or re-enact magic by using some kind of technology.”

“How you do you know that she does that?”

“The internet. I looked her up. I’ve read some of her papers. It’s insulting to me and my entire race. She is trying to build a device that could imitate the powers of the rainbow bridge…” Yes, Loki was indeed rolling his eyes and Steve couldn’t dismiss that this was more than a bit of annoyance. If he didn’t want to seriously upset Loki Steve had to choose his words carefully. If it wasn’t for one small detail…

“Isn’t Tony doing the same?”

Loki responded with a huff, then slowly shook his head. “No, Tony is trying to understand and his mind might actually be bright enough to understand some of the concepts. He listened to my explanations and respects them for what they are. She downright denies the existence of magic. I have no idea if Thor supports this delusion… it’s ridiculous.”

The way he crossed his arms in front of his chest seemed somehow defensive and the real problem slowly dawned on Steve. “You want to hear my opinion?”

Not saying anything Loki made a gesture that indicated him to continue talking. “I feel like the mortal aspect doesn’t bother you that much. It’s more about the fact that she has a different view on magic than…”

“That’s no different view! It’s stupid and ignorant. I am a magic user and I should listen to somebody who walks around, telling everybody that magic isn’t real or can be reproduced by…” Instead of finishing his sentence Loki let out a groan and threw his hands up.

How was it possible to not laugh at that?

“Do not laugh at me.”

“I am not laughing at you, but I think it’s funny that your problem could be solved so easily.”

“I don’t have a problem. She does… and Thor.”

“Okay, so get to know her and take advantage of the situation to tell and show her how she is wrong. Wouldn’t that be more fun than being angry? Also it’d be a nice opportunity to show off.” Steve smiled at him and Loki scowled before his expression changed and he was so obviously thinking about it. “Maybe I could give that try… so she’ll realise how stupid she is.”

Feeling content Steve continued to smile and Loki still pretended to be annoyed, but Steve could see the amusement in his eyes. Not too bad of a start. What also turned out great was the fact that Loki liked Greek food. Jarvis had earned himself a pat on the back…

It was about the time that Steve had completely relaxed and felt at ease when Loki felt that he had to ruin it. “So is the evening living up to your expectations?”

“Actually I didn’t have any expectations… I just wanted to spend time with you, because…” Steve didn’t have an explanation for this. When you kissed someone and wanted to do more than just that, you took that person on a date to give them an opportunity to get to know you better. To find out if they liked you well enough for not just kissing you one single time. Even in his head this sounded so terribly old-fashioned and corny, there was no way he could say it out loud.

“Because what, Steve? We’ve already established that I wasn’t going to make it easy for you.”

Well, obviously. “Okay, I have no idea how you handle these… things in Asgard, but here… if we like someone and we want to show them that we aren’t interested in something… superficial…, we’ll ask them out on a date and it’s so terribly awkward that you make me say this…” Steve was blushing, he felt it and this shouldn’t feel so terribly uncomfortable.

At least Loki smiled, looking beautiful. “So you wish to court me.”

“God, this is word is horrible! That sounds like I am about to propose to you… Which I am not… Really, I just want to… it’s not like…”

No longer able to keep a straight face Loki burst out laughing and made a dismissive gesture. “Relax, Steve… I am merely messing with you.”

Yes, Steve should probably feel a little angry about this, but he was mostly relieved. “You just had to make it awkward, right?”

Shrugging Loki smiled wickedly at him and Steve’s heart might have skipped a beat. There was nothing he could think of to say, so Steve took a sip from his wine.

“I guess you have suffered enough… Despite what you might think Asgardians are quite liberal concerning romantic matters. You don’t need to explain yourself and I found myself strangely pleased by your indignation about my view on my Asgardian / mortal relationships.”

“Because it’s stupid.”

Loki shrugged another time and Steve wanted to reach out and touch him.

“Should we leave?”

“I’d like that.”

The whole way back to the tower Steve swore his heart was beating so fast and so loudly that every person passing them by simply had to notice. Either Loki didn’t or he had decided to ignore it, because he kept the conversation going. Steve took part in it, but he didn’t get a word from what they were saying. Another thing that Loki didn’t seem to be mind. He still looked at Steve with a smile on his lips and the constant realisation that this was going to get Steve into so much trouble didn’t bother him at all.

Back at the tower the doors of the elevator closed behind them and Steve wanted to brush that single strand of pitch black hair behind Loki’s ear. How he ended up gathering enough courage to do it was beyond Steve, but then Loki was gazing at him with green, questioning eyes.

“Are you aware of what you are getting yourself into, Captain America? As far as I know I am still the person who tried to take over your planet and other people aren’t quite as forgiving.” Suddenly he was more serious and open than the entire evening and again Steve could hear that hint of vulnerability in his voice.

“No. No, you aren’t.” Such a simple thing to say and yet it managed to leave him speechless. To have achieved this sheer incredible task felt amazing, but not quite as good as when his lips were on Loki’s. Instantly Loki’s arms came up, sliding around Steve’s shoulders while he was kissing him back. At this moment there was no way to deny he had been waiting for this the entire day. Therefore Steve couldn’t suppress a soft sigh and loosely closed his hands around Loki’s slim waist.

It was different from this morning. There was a strange playfulness about it, but maybe that was just the way Loki kissed. Steve loved it. The way his teeth grazed over Steve’s lower lip, how he sucked it on it just lightly almost caused Steve’s knees to buckle. Their mouths seemed to be a perfect fit, sliding together just fine and Steve pulled him closer, because he wanted to feel all of it at once. Loki didn’t mind, tilting his body just right and Steve gasped into the kiss.

It was so easy to get lost in that marvellous feeling which made his lips and skin tingle, therefore Steve only remembered that they were in an elevator when the doors opened again.

This was Loki’s floor, so…

A question that didn’t need to be asked, because Loki grabbed his hand and pulled him out of the elevator. Okay, then…

They stopped kissing for about as long as it took to open the next door, then Loki’s mouth was back on his and Steve promised himself to definitely convince Loki that his views on relationships between Asgardians and mortals were stupid. Downright unacceptable.

Chapter Text

The scent of coffee was filling Steve’s nose and he realised immediately that he wasn’t in his bed.

“I didn’t picture you as a sleepyhead. Just like I said, I’m constantly learning new things about you.”

Blinking his eyes open Steve saw Loki right next to him, smiling, a cup of coffee in his hand. “Morning…”

“Good morning. Here.” Steve got handed the cup and he gratefully took a sip before sitting up. Putting one hand in the back of Loki’s neck Steve pulled him down, merely brushing his lips over Loki’s. “Thank you…” He felt Loki smiling before they engaged in a real kiss.

“We fell asleep on the couch?” It was more of a statement than a question and Loki nodded. “Well, you did. I moved to the bed, it was way more comfortable.”

Now that was a disappointment. On the other hand Steve felt relieved to wake up and feel the exact same way as last night. No, he wanted to kiss him even more. Putting the cup away Steve slid his arms around Loki’s waist and pulled him into his lap. One second later he wondered if that was too straightforward or too fast, but then Loki was already kissing him.

Sighing softly Steve let his hands travel up Loki’s back, realising he was only wearing a thin sweatshirt. He could feel the fine muscles through it and maybe he should take it off…

“Will you take me on another date today?” Loki was smiling at him, looking so happy and excited about the prospect that Steve wouldn’t dare to say no. “Sure, if you want to.”

“Gladly… I would like to get out of the city… see some actual nature, not just a park. Is that okay?”

“Of course… We could head out to Bear Mountain… takes a bit longer than an hour… how about we leave after lunch?” Wow, did he really sound that hopeful?

Smiling softly Loki nodded. “I would like that. I really want to see more of your world. Not just this city or the tower… and I would like you to show me these places.”

Loki’s voice was like honey and every word made Steve feel warm inside. “Actually… you’ve read the biographies… I might not be the best guide, I’m not up to date with a lot of stuff…”

A surprised gasp escaped Steve’s lips when Loki nuzzled his neck. “I don’t want you to show me because of your skill as a guide… I am fond of your company, Steve. Otherwise I wouldn’t allow the current position we’re in…”

Great, Steve really needed to stop blushing around Loki. “You’re doing that on purpose…”

“A little bit. It is fascinating to me that you sometimes act so shy around me and are admirably brave in other situations. You kissed me, which is also a brave thing to do… and a little bit stupid.”

Loki was definitely talking too much, so Steve proved his point by kissing him. He could get used to this, being so close and able to kiss Loki anytime he wanted to… Skilled fingers were running through his hair and Loki’s tongue licked over his lips when…

“Lokes! Nerd alert! I need your brains!”

Steve winced so violently, he almost pushed Loki off him.

“Seriously! I think might destabilize the force field I just created. Want to help me out? Before I blow the place up?”

Raising both eyebrows Loki looked at the ceiling where Tony’s voice seemed to be coming from. “Tony, what are you…”

“Fine, I’m bluffing! No force field, I just need input and I need it now! Withdrawal symptoms are all over the place!”

Steve growled and then immediately bit his lip, if Tony could hear Loki he could also hear Steve. The only reason why he was sure that Tony wasn’t watching on a screen was the lack of shouting and yelling.

“I guess we can talk over breakfast… if you manage to not blow up the tower during the next 15 minutes.”

Steve felt his face fell while Tony happily agreed to Loki’s proposal. When he thought it was safe to talk again Steve let out a sigh. “Does what he’s doing actually make sense?”

Laughing softly Loki shrugged. “He tries to understand and to explore something alien to him, I respect and appreciate that. Unlike other people he knows that there are things completely unknown to him and he wants to learn. I must admit that I don’t think he can actually achieve what he wants to… but it pleases me to share my knowledge and through him I’m also learning a lot about Midgardian concepts and technology. It’s very interesting…”

Now those were some conflicting emotions. Steve thought it was great that Loki had a friend in Tony, but he felt that a hint of jealousy that there was so much they could talk about, things that Steve couldn’t grasp. “Okay…”

“I suppose you don’t want anybody to know about the latest developments between us?” Loki made it sound like a question, perfectly honest and Steve felt almost a bit bad for how quickly he nodded. “Uhm… yeah, I guess that would be for the best. There’s no way it’s going to go over smoothly and by the way… I’d like to have you for myself for some time…”

Clearly amused by that Loki pulled him in another kiss before getting up to his feet. “Then I guess it’d be a good idea for you to return to your own rooms… for now.”

A bit reluctantly Steve nodded, but he only left the room after another kiss. It was definitely time to come up with a strategy how to tell the others what was going on between him and Loki. With Jarvis around and Tony and Natasha’s disrespect for privacy somebody could walk in on them pretty much any second.

It would be naïve to think that Clint and Natasha wouldn’t lose their mind over it. Compromised would be the nicest word they would use to describe Steve. Tony was the one who was most likely to not give a damn, but Steve couldn’t be entirely sure. Bruce? Steve had no idea… Thor? That was impossible to tell. Maybe he’d be glad that his brother was happy… or he’d rip out Steve’s spine for even daring to kiss him.

All in all, the perspectives didn’t look too good, but Steve was sure that he could figure it out. If they were just willing enough to see how much he had changed… or how easily he brought a smile to Steve’s face.

Said smile didn’t disappear on his way to his own floor. There Steve slid out of his clothes and stepped under the shower. Loki had said he would talk with Tony during breakfast and Steve definitely wasn’t going to miss that, better hurry up.

When he was dressed and almost out of the door his cell phone caught his attention. A quick glance at the display caused Steve to freeze. Fury himself, that most of the time meant bad news.

“Director?”

“Good morning, Captain. How do you feel about scrambled eggs for breakfast?”

What? “Sorry, I don’t…”

“Scrambled eggs. I hope you like them, because I’ve already ordered them for you. Breakfast. You’ve got 15 minutes and…”

“Wait, wait. I’m just about to have breakfast here and I don’t know what you are…”

“15 minutes, Cap. The café right next to the restaurant you went to have dinner last night… Don’t make me wait for you.”

Fury hung up on him and Steve was staring speechlessly at the phone. So much about keeping it a secret… They were spying on him? Of course they were, they had also known about Tony taking Loki to the city, but why hadn’t they said anything the last time Steve had left the tower with Loki.

Because it hadn’t been a date… late dinner for two… yeah, they had noticed…

Now the director of SHIELD was personally showing up to tell Steve that he was compromised and then what? They wanted him out of the tower… were they going to arrest him? They couldn’t just do that, but why would Fury want him out of the tower? Away from Loki? Were they coming for him?

No, they couldn’t walk into the tower without Jarvis’ permission and Tony wouldn’t allow anybody to lay a finger on Loki. Also… Loki could be gone in a second if he wanted. This theory didn’t really make sense… Fury wanted Steve in a public space, so they wouldn’t arrest him… it made most sense to assume that Fury just didn’t want any other Avenger around. Or Loki…

Well, there was no way for Steve to avoid this and maybe he deserved to be punished for so much naivety. They had seen him and Loki and now Steve had to own up. Then again, was it anybody’s business than his own? And Loki’s?

Sighing in defeat Steve grabbed his wallet and stuffed it into his pocket. “Jarvis, I’m going out. Meeting with SHIELD… just in case… if I’m not back in an hour, could you tell Tony that something’s wrong?”

“Certainly, sir. Will you allow me a suggestion?”

“Sure.”

“Perhaps you would feel more at ease if you took somebody with you. Director Fury didn’t tell you not to.”

Technically that was right, but considering what they were going to talk about Steve didn’t want anybody else around. “Thanks Jarvis, but I’ll go alone. Just let them know where I am after an hour.”

Steve naturally had a bad feeling about all of this and he looked over his shoulder when entering the café Fury wanted to meet him at. It was impossible to overlook the man with the eye pad, even though he was sitting at a table in the back. Trying to appear as casual and relaxed as possible Steve sat down opposite of him. “Director.”

“You know, Cap, when Romanoff handed me her report I thought she was losing her mojo. Seriously, Captain America? The guy from the 40ies? She must have confused him with Stark…”

Biting his lip Steve was already trying to not start protesting. Why was he even surprised? Natasha was a spy, there was no way she wouldn’t report to Fury.

Fury simply had to notice Steve’s rising anger, but he didn’t give a damn and continued casually. “Then I get these photos…” Said pictures were slid across the table right into Steve’s hands.

Deliberatively slowly Steve picked them up and scanned through them. Really? That was actually disappointing. Just him and Loki sitting at the table. Not even doing anything that would make it look like a date. Two people sitting at a table, no touching or compromising closeness. Nothing.

“I guess I am not even supposed to feel offended that you’re spying on me.” Unimpressed Steve put the photos back down, meeting Fury’s glare without any hesitation.

“Technically I am not spying on you, Cap. I am keeping my eye on a psychotic criminal who’s not in prison solely for the fact that his brother would personally release lightning and thunder on me. You just happen to coddle that criminal and take him out on dates.”

Steve pursed his lips, but he had enough control over his emotions to not start protesting. The way Fury talked about Loki didn’t please him. Just the same over and over again when they didn’t bother to talk to him. “Maybe you should consider using those resources for finding the Ten Rings and not waste them on observing Loki… Jarvis is around him 24/7 and if he leaves the tower, he only does it in the company of another Avenger.”

Fury’s face didn’t show any kind of reaction, he kept scowling, but Steve had already decided that he wouldn’t let anybody pressure him into feeling guilty about having discovered this new side about Loki.

“Look, Cap, I’m giving you a chance here. I could have just walked into the tower, grab that son of bitch and put him back into his cell.”

It was hard to actually get angry because of this. Every word was ridiculous and Fury had to know that. They had never succeeded at capturing Loki, not until the very day Tony had somehow managed it to smash Loki against that wall. Walking into the tower? Tony wouldn’t let them take a step inside, he had updated the security measures after the invasion. Even if… Loki could teleport.

What was the point of this conversation? Was Fury trying to coax some reactions out of Steve? Why else would Fury say things that didn’t make sense? “Loki isn’t a menace anymore. During the time he has been living with us he saved Tony’s life. My life and he didn’t show the tiniest sign of malice or evil intent. Loki doesn’t remember what he did and he showed several times that he is horrified by his actions. Before coming to earth he was severely tortured and now that he doesn’t remember… He is trying to be a good person and there is no so reason to imprison him.”

“Except that there is no reason whatsoever to be sure that he doesn’t play a huge game of pretend.”

Okay, there were only so many buttons he could push. “With all due respect, sir… How many agents work for SHIELD who are turn cloaks? Wasn’t Clint on an assignment to kill Natasha before she started working for you? How long did you survey very single one of her steps before she was allowed to do the same with other people? I don’t get this. I would be dead if it wasn’t for him. Tony would be dead too. Why would he save our lives if he was faking?”

Fury responded with a nerve-racking calmness. “What would be a more effective method to earn your trust? It’s working, isn’t it?”

“Why gain our trust if he could have us dead?” Steve wouldn’t say it out loud with Fury right in front of him, but Tony and him were a much bigger danger to Loki than Natasha or Clint…

“Despite what you might think, Cap… Some people are actually of use when they’re alive. Maybe he wants something from you. Let me take a guess, the amulet that is hidden in Stark’s tower?”

“So? It would be easier for him to find it if he had the tower for himself. It does not make sense and to be honest, it’s getting tiring to see people trying to make him the problem. He has done nothing to raise any suspicions.”

Fury snarled. “Except for trying to conquer the planet, manipulating Barton’s mind and trying to kill everyone of you on multiple occasions. Anything I forgot?”

Biting his lip Steve swallowed another comment, because all of that was true, but the man pointing all of this out hadn’t shared words with Loki since. They hadn’t even been in the same room. Every piece of information he possessed Fury had received from Natasha who didn’t bother to spend time with Loki. Steve might really lose his mind over this. He was tired of arguing and defending himself for giving Loki the chance he deserved.

“I trust him.” Straightforward. Simple and that had to be enough.

Hearing Steve’s words Fury’s dark gaze on him intensified. “That is shockingly naïve, Captain and I’m inclined to believe that your motives aren’t unbiased.”

Natasha must have told him about the drawings and by now Steve wanted to do something ridiculous. Like grabbing a glass of water and throw it right into Fury’s face. Of course, he wouldn’t do it, but it was tempting. “Sir, I believe in second chances and I have seen what the war can do to people. How it messes decent men up emotionally… they need help and it doesn’t help them to lock them away. Loki had help. Granted, it was rather unusual, because he simply forgot what had happened to him… and there were people who were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Why is it so shocking that it worked out? Right, because you’re only reading Natasha’s reports. Who doesn’t talk to him. I do talk to him, so does Tony, Bruce and Thor. As long as he doesn’t return to his old ways he is considered an innocent. We don’t lock up innocents. If you want to accuse me of being compromised, then please, go ahead, but spare me this annoying setting. Anything else you want to tell me or can I go to have breakfast at the tower?”

“You’re handling the situation carelessly, Captain.”

“So there isn’t anything else. Have a nice day.” Getting up Steve left the café, trying to fight his anger down. It was nothing new that they didn’t trust Loki, but they didn’t make any effort to let him earn it. That was driving Steve nuts, but what was he supposed to do about it? Sooner or later they had to realise that they were wrong, because Loki wouldn’t give them any reason for further suspicion.

Returning to the tower Steve let his anger fade away, thinking of Loki, looking forward to see him. Unfortunately the kitchen was empty but for Bruce. “Hey, uhm… breakfast already over?”

“Yes, that was a very short affair. Tony pretty much dragged Loki away, because he wanted his opinion on a device he built… to create the wormhole.” Bruce shrugged, continuing to eat his cereal and Steve suppressed a sigh. That wasn’t a surprise…

“Do you think he can actually do that? Do something Loki can do with magic… with machinery?”

“Tony isn’t trying to do the same, but trying to find another way to do the same thing. The problem is to create the amount of power necessary… Loki can do it with magic, Tony can’t. So he was to find another way… which would probably be never as efficient. It’s fascinating…”

Nodding Steve grabbed a few slices of bread to make himself a sandwich. Time to ponder a little bit. How big was the chance that Clint and Natasha weren’t here, because Fury was already briefing them? Even if…

Bruce joined them only a few minutes later and Steve secretly cursed Fury for keeping him away from breakfast. Worse, he was going to keep him from something else and Loki definitely would be disappointed…

That thought kept bothering Steve until noon when there was this knock at his door. He instantly brightened up when he saw Loki standing in front of him. “Hey, are you done with your… scientific research?”

“Tony stopped talking with me about an hour ago and half an hour ago I think he forgot that I was in the same room. He is quite absorbed by his work. Are you ready to leave?”

“About that… Come inside for a second?”

Steve didn’t like any of this, especially when Loki was looking at him with those expectant eyes. When the door was closed Steve took a breath. “Actually… would you be mad if we postpone our little trip?”

Immediately Loki’s expression darkened. “Why? Did something else come up?”

Steve was quick to deny that. “No… I just… Did we ever tell you about SHIELD?”

“Thor and Tony did, yes.”

Doing his best to describe the situation in the nicest way possible Steve felt horrible when Loki still arched an eyebrow at him. “I just think… perhaps it would be better to let things calm down a little bit… If I immediately take you out of town after that talk…it might look a little odd, make the impression that I want to… upset them. I know you were looking forward to this, but how about we stay here today?”

Steve felt his throat constricting when Loki narrowed his eyes at him. Now he was disappointed and… “You go back to keeping me a prisoner.”

The last word made Steve flinch and he immediately shook his head, trying to make Loki understand that this definitely wasn’t his intention. “No! That’s not at all what I meant… They are so ridiculously suspicious of you… and I don’t want to give them anymore reason to believe that you… are manipulating us. Manipulating me. I just want to keep them… out of this. For a moment, because it’s pretty obvious that in a day or two everybody will know about… this.”

Loki tilted his chin up, making no attempt to hide his displeasure and it made Steve feel horrible when he thought of his lovely smile. “This? I’m sure nobody has ever told you that you have a way with words, because you clearly don’t.”

“I know. To be honest… I just want to be alone with you and I don’t think we’ll get the chance to if we leave the tower.” That was something Steve had trouble admitting, opening up like this in front of Loki.

To his surprise and immense relief Loki’s face lightened up and his lips hinted at a smile. “This conversation would have taken a very different turn if you had started with this.”

The good kind of goose bumps were suddenly covering Steve’s arms. “Yeah? What turn?”

Grinning wickedly Loki reached out and grabbed Steve at his shirt, pulling him close and covering Steve’s mouth with his own. It was like a huge burden was falling of his shoulders and Steve instantly snaked his arms around Loki’s waist. Just when he was about to deepen the kiss Loki pulled away, a not so sheepish smile on his lips. “So what are we going to do if we’re going to stay here?”

That was the great thing about being a man out of time and a man who wasn’t even born on this planet – there was always new stuff to discover. In this case it was music. Thanks to Steve’s laptop they could listen to pretty much anything and it was amazing to watch Loki’s reaction to different music styles. For some reason it wasn’t a surprise that he hated rap and hip hop. He was the definition of the guy who liked to sip wine and listen to Mozart. Speaking of which…

“This is beautiful… what is it?” Loki stretched out his legs, his feet dangling over the edge of the couch while his head was resting against Steve’s chest.

“Uhm, let me check…” Turning his head Steve checked the display of the laptop placed on the couch table next to them. “Mozart. Piano Concerto No. 21…”

Loki made an appreciative sound and moved his fingers to the rhythm of the music. “It’s lovely… soothing… I have to admit that Asgard… we have a lot of talents, but music isn’t one of them.”

“No, why not?”

“I don’t know… there is only harp music over dinner and it’s amazingly dull… now be quiet, I’m trying to enjoy the music…”

Steve smiled and indeed closed his mouth. This was nice. Loki’s back was resting against his chest, Steve had one hand loosely placed on his hips, the other one playing with Loki’s hair. Strangely enough Steve hadn’t pictured Loki as a very… cuddly person. He wasn’t going to complain though. It was something so simple, but it made Steve so content about pretty much everything. So easy to push SHIELD aside and concentrate on what was happening right now, because it was so much better.

“They are right to distrust me, you know?”

Blinking in confusion Steve looked down at Loki, but the Asgardian hadn’t bothered to turn his head to look at him. “What?”

“I said they are right to distrust me.”

“No, they aren’t. We talked about this… You are completely different from back then and they don’t even bother to find out about that…”

“I’m not talking about the past, Steve. It’s only natural. I am an unknown force. Well, not completely unknown, they may have seen what I could do. Now I am blank space. A stranger who yet may not know what to make of your world and your people. Perhaps they fear that I won’t share Thor’s fond opinion. That is after all a possibility. I have no idea who you are and what you represent, it would be naïve to think that there wasn’t a possibility that I could decide that I feel threatened or that I don’t want to have anything to do with you. That is reason enough for natural distrust… considering my powers… and don’t believe that you’ve seen the true extent of them… I can understand distrust and fear, but I’ll never let anybody try making me a prisoner.”

Swallowing softly Steve wanted to tell him that fear and distrust didn’t make any of this right. They didn’t give you an excuse to not even attempting to overcome them. Loki had done that. He had had his reservations too, not knowing who they are and having his own brother keeping him a prisoner. Yet he had been willing to talk to them, to learn and that was why Steve and Tony had overcome their fear.

“Nobody is going to make you a prisoner. I won’t let them.”

“I don’t need your protection. I have never needed anyone’s protection.” There was a sharpness to these words that Steve couldn’t miss and it wasn’t just a statement to make a point. Loki did not need his protection and he wanted Steve to understand that.

Sliding his arm around Loki’s chest Steve pulled him up which caused Loki to finally look at him. “I know that… I wouldn’t dare to assume anything else.”

Loki’s green gaze was as intense as ever, capturing him completely until a smile flickered across that face. “Maybe you do have a way with words after all.”

Chapter Text

There was something so tempting about how the corners of his lips formed that smile that it was impossible to resist. They were kissing, that mouth was perfect and Loki turned around in his arms, lying on top of him. This was a little bit better than nice. A lot better.

So many things that Steve still didn’t know about Loki, things he wanted to learn and Steve had no idea if he was being too bolt or if this was no big deal at all. There was only one way to find out and to be honest, Steve just wanted to touch him. Kiss every part of him, not just his lips and Steve felt very sure that Loki would let him. That Loki would want him to.

Or maybe Steve was thinking way too hard about this when he shouldn’t be thinking at all.

To test the waters Steve gently put his hands on Loki’s hips and then slowly let his fingers slip beneath his sweatshirt. The reaction was instant. Loki broke the kiss and muttered a soft “Don’t” and Steve jerked his hands back, a lump instantly forming in his throat. “I’m sorry, I thought…”

“No.” Loki kissed him another time, only then meeting his eyes. “I want you to touch me… just not…”

Steve felt like somebody had tossed him back into the ice. He felt cold all over. How could he be such an idiot? “I’m sorry, I…”

He didn’t get to finish, because Loki pulled him in a new kiss, one that definitely wasn’t supposed to end immediately. Now Steve found it a bit more complicated to get into it when he had just tried to touch Loki’s back which was full of scars that he didn’t know the origin of.

It was Loki’s tongue sliding between Steve’s lips that brought him back and he could relax again, still he didn’t dare to put his fingers anywhere near Loki’s upper body. The result was eventually a frustrated sigh from Loki and he shifted to sit up, straddling Steve’s hips. “I said I wanted you to touch me…”

Looking up at him Steve marvelled at Loki’s pale skin when he pulled off his own shirt. Fine but clearly defined muscles and nothing but perfect white skin. Everything about him was gorgeous. Leaning forward Steve wrapped his arms back around Loki, pressing his lips against his collarbone. “You are so beautiful…”

Loki’s fingers were running through his hair and Steve slowly trailed little kisses along Loki’s shoulder. His skin tasted completely different than his lips. Not fresh, but sweet and just as intoxicating. A gasp passed Loki’s lips when Steve softly bit down on his shoulder and it caused Steve’s skin to tingle. He loved that he could coax this sound out of Loki.

Fisting his fingers in Steve’s shirt Loki pulled at it until Steve let go of him. The second Steve’s shirt was gone Loki was kissing him again and Steve might feel a little bit dizzy. What was happening here still seemed unreal, this was Loki and him and Steve wanted it so baldy. “Do you… we should maybe move this somewhere else…”

“Like the bed?” Loki’s whisper was sending a shiver down Steve’s spine, because this could be the best mistake of his entire life. “Yeah…”

After another kiss Loki untangled himself from Steve’s grip and got up to his feet. “These are your rooms, aren’t they?”

Right… a bit too fast to not be embarrassing Steve stood up and took Loki’s hand. Until ending up in the bedroom Loki made a clear effort to never turn his back to him. Steve made a mental note to tell him over and over and over again that not a single one of his scars mattered, but that wouldn’t do anything good now. Especially when Loki was pretty much melting into his arms. They continued to kiss, Steve was on top of him and Loki’s hands were on his skin. Anything but shy, exploring rather confidently and how could Steve not be amazed when it was Loki.

And he definitely knew what he wanted.

Wickedly skilled fingers got to work on Steve’s jeans and they pulled a gasp from Steve’s lips when they slipped inside. He wasn’t quite sure if Loki was taking pity on him or torturing him when he pulled back. No time to complain though, Loki started to remove his jeans completely.

One moment later both of them were naked and wrapped around each other. To feel another body so close without any kind of garment between them was something he had been missing and Steve only realised now how much. That only led to him pushing Loki down, kissing the outlines of his muscles, tracing him with his fingers, almost desperate to discover every part of him. To find out what he liked and to do that again and again. To hear his soft sighs, gasps and moans.

Steve was pretty sure that his heart skipped a beat when Loki’s eyes fell closed and he audibly sucked in a breath and dug his fingernails into Steve’s side. Everything because of relatively gentle bite.

That was a good thing to be aware of – Loki liked a little biting.

“How do you want… What do you… prefer…” It was the worst time to blush, especially because of his own word, but Loki’s eyes were directly looking into his, wide and green.

The most seductive smile spread across his face and suddenly Steve found himself on his back, Loki kissing him teasingly. Letting his eyes slide closed Steve responded to the kiss, sighing in disappointment when Loki quickly pulled away again. He was still smiling.

There must have been something magical about it, not just as a corny phrase, but the actual magic Loki was capable of. After that smile everything mingled together, became a blur of sharpened senses, desperate touches, kisses, heat, a bit of nausea, tingling skin and ecstasy. How could something be too much and not enough at the same time?

Steve couldn’t take his eyes off Loki, that beautiful man moving on top of him in the most perfectly languid way. His muscles glistening with sweat, lips slightly parted and loose strands of black hair were falling into his face. The fleeting moments during which Steve actually was able to think his only thought was that he couldn’t be real.

Loki softly moaned his name and Steve was almost being undone. Moving his hands from Loki’s hips to his shoulders Steve pulled him down into a heated kiss. By all means Steve couldn’t remember the last time he had felt like this. Relaxed, completely wound up in something that wasn’t a mission, that made every single fibre of his body tremble and vibrate, overwhelmed by so many sensation in the best way. Loki was radiating with warmth, he was wonderfully tight and Steve couldn’t get close enough. Eventually he could only try to hold on to it, despite it being all slow and leisure movements, filled with such an intensity that left him breathless.

Afterwards Loki was lying on top of him, his face buried in Steve’s neck, he could feel every single one of his fast breaths, his body still slightly trembling and Steve wished they could stay like this for the rest of the night. Exactly in this position, with him so close and completely open and unafraid with Steve.

“This was really nice…” Loki sighed contently against Steve’s skin and this felt amused and charmed at the same time.

“Nice? Normally we don’t use that word in this context…” Steve chuckled, his fingers playing with a few sweaty strands of Loki’s hair.

“I think it’s perfectly appropriate…” Humming softly Loki didn’t move a muscle, so clearly relaxed. “Not leaving might have been a very good idea after all.”

That was definitely true and here right now Steve didn’t even think that they were in trouble. None of this had the thrill of doing something wrong, forbidden or dangerous. Steve knew himself well enough what all of this meant. It was one thing to bring yourself to put your prejudices aside and give somebody a second chance or going on dates and sleeping with them. Not just that but cuddling afterwards. Getting into bed with somebody he didn’t care about was something that Steve didn’t do. Now here he was, watching Loki’s dark shock of hair and slightly wondered why he was even here. The whole situation had to be so much more confusing for him. He was the one in a foreign place with no person he knew but his brother and their first meeting on Earth hadn’t gone over well. Then so much hostility and learning about what he had done without being able to remember it… The fact that Loki had still ended up trusting him enough to be here caused a warm, somewhat fuzzy feeling to spread inside Steve’s chest.

What Steve longed for was wrapping his arms around him, but he was afraid Loki would move away if Steve only so much touched his back. Instead he continued to pet Loki’s hair and savoured everything about this moment. Admitting to himself that he had evidently fallen for this guy wasn’t scaring Steve at all, it made him smile.

Steve’s eyes were sliding closed and it would be incredibly nice to just doze off for a moment. It was in middle of the afternoon, way too soon to even think about something like sleep, but Loki wasn’t moving, breathing softly and why not?

In that comfortable warmth and the afterglow it was so incredibly easy to drift off and Steve felt so wonderfully at ease. When he woke back up he was unable to tell if a few hours had passed or only five minutes. Moving had become way easier, because Loki was no longer lying on top but next to him. On his side, face partly buried in a pillow, sleeping peacefully. He had even put the blanket over them, Steve had no idea how he had done that without waking him up. Magic?

Rolling over Steve watched him closely. There was something fragile about him like this, vulnerable and Steve thought it was odd that this would immediately change as soon as Loki opened his eyes. Thor acted like he had to constantly protect Loki, something that wasn’t necessary. Loki was strong, fierce even and Steve didn’t have to act like he wasn’t.

Shifting closer Steve pressed a small kiss on the corner of Loki’s mouth and chuckled when Loki screwed his face up. “Most people would never dare to wake me up from my sleep… normally that doesn’t work out well for them.”

“You said the same thing about kissing you… and I did that too.”

“Guess you aren’t most people then.” Opening his eyes Loki slid an arm around Steve’s waist. What would your superiors say if they saw you like this, Captain Rogers?”

Slightly amused Steve shrugged. “I don’t care and it’s none of their business…”

Loki smiled and it was so real and heartfelt that Steve decided to gather up all of his courage. Perhaps for selfish reasons, because he really wanted to be the person with whom Loki would talk about this and he wanted to help him. Carefully Steve placed his hand on Loki’s side, trailing his fingers up and down. “It’s completely okay that you don’t want me to and I won’t, but… why won’t you let me touch your back? I’ve seen the scars and… I really don’t care.”

“They are… unpleasant. Everything about them is unpleasant… and that’s not something I want to think about in… situations like this.” The sudden darkness in Loki’s eyes almost made Steve swallow. He had seen it before. Not in weeks. Before all of this, when Loki had thrown balls of green fire at them. It was like a strange revelation that the same hands which had touched Steve just a moment ago had also tried to kill him. Sure, he had known all along and it was still so easy to forget. No matter how lovely and kind Loki was no, there were still rough edges, everybody had them.

What was going on in his head when he thought about the scars? Loki knew that somebody had tortured him… Steve had no idea what he would want to do with whoever had caused these scars. Something horrible? Maybe. Steve might do the same…

There were more important things to think about now.

“I really don’t mind them… You aren’t… You’re in pain, right?” That idea was way scarier than anything else and Steve hated himself for not considering this earlier. Sure, the wounds had healed, but who knew about the damage. What if…

“No, I’m not in pain. Not even a second.” Loki shook his head, his eyes not leaving Steve’s. “My skin was white as snow… then I wake up again and it’s… I haven’t felt it. The pain. Do you know how hard it is to scar Asgardian skin? You can cut us, but the wounds heal very quickly. Only a few weapons known to us leave actual scars… or inflict almost unbearable pain. I can take a lot of it. I’ve counted them… and… their size and form… it must have been painful… but I’ve never felt it. I don’t want to start feeling it… “

Nodding slowly Steve suddenly wanted him closer, against himself, to give him some protection that he probably didn’t want and didn’t need, but Steve needed to let him know that he would give it anyway. Therefore Steve slid his arm around Loki’s hips, pulled him close and brushed his lips over Loki’s cheek. “I’m sorry…”

It was strange. Steve felt him wince, his whole body suddenly tense in his arms. Why now? “Loki?”

His forehead was resting against Steve’s chest and when Loki didn’t respond Steve began rubbing the back of his neck. “What is it?”

“I…” Not raising his head Loki put his arms around Steve’s waist. His voice was hoarse and it was so odd to hear him hesitant. Words were Loki’s favourite tool, him struggling with them didn’t seem right. “Have I ever… hurt you? Back then?”

Steve’s breath got caught and his mind was racing. Several memories were coming to him at once. The med team stitching up his arm, lithe burns on his neck, a stab wound. Not very deep, a mere distraction, but Loki had never bothered. The answer was yes, he had hurt Steve, deliberately. Never enough to kill him or to cause permanent damage, but Loki had hurt him.

“No. You… or who you were back then… you tried, but you didn’t.” Steve whispered the words into his hair and he felt so much lighter when the tension was slowly leaving Loki’s body. “You didn’t hurt me.”

Suddenly green eyes were looking at him, wide open and glimmering. Loki’s mouth was on Steve’s, kissing him with an unexpected need and passion. Taken by surprise Steve only responded to the kiss after a few seconds and Loki was pressing their bodies together. It was so different than before, a completely new sensation to have Loki impatient, almost hectic. There were no more clothes to be torn off, so Loki just pulled Steve on top of him. Sliding both of his hands in Loki’s hair Steve took control of the kiss, trying to even Loki’s impatience with sweetness. Evidently that wasn’t the thing Loki had in mind. With his hands on Steve’s hips Loki parted his legs and urged Steve to get between them.

“What’s the rush?” Steve mumbled against his lips and earned a little bite. “Why wait?”

It sounded reasonable enough, especially when Loki nipped at his earlobe. A gasp escaped Loki’s lips when Steve slowly slid two fingers into him. A gasp that turned into a hoarse chuckle. “It’s funny…”

“What?”

“Your… carefulness. I’m Asgardian… you couldn’t hurt me if you tried…” The high pitched sound of his voice told Steve that he was doing something entirely different than hurting him.

Kissing him shortly Steve smiled. “That’s not why…” Swallowing Loki’s response with another kiss Steve pulled his fingers back and pushed inside of Loki with one smooth thrust. There was no moan or another gasp, Loki just deepened the kiss and wrapped his legs around Steve, pulling him closer. It was Steve who had to break the kiss to get some air into his lungs, to not be completely overwhelmed by how good he felt and what it meant that Loki actually let him do this…

A rather gentle hand grabbed him at the back of his neck and their eyes met before Loki brought their lips back together. Steve melted into the new kiss, tentatively moving his hips and Loki shivered, arching against him.

Steve was absolutely lost.

 ***

Waking up from a dreamless sleep Steve instinctively pulled Loki closer who sighed in his sleep. The windows revealed that it was still dark outside and Steve rubbed his eyes with one hand. He had no clue what had woken him up, but he felt completely awake. Unlike Loki next to him.

Smiling softly at him Steve carefully removed his arms from around him and sat up. A soft grumble followed and Loki rolled over, revealing his back to Steve. The smile faded away, because everything looked exactly how he remembered them. From his shoulders to just above his hips. Straight. Jagged. Round. Short. Long. Everything you could imagine.

Steve bit his lip, balling his hand into a fist, his fingernails digging into his skin. He didn’t want to become angry. Not now. Not after what they had just shared and when Steve should be so happy. They would talk about this. Not today, but they would. After adjusting the blanket Steve tiptoed out of the bedroom to get himself something to drink. Jarvis must have waited for that kind of opportunity.

“Captain Rogers, sir would like to speak to you.”

Steve winced in surprise. “Now? It’s in the middle of the night.”

“Sir is very much awake and wants you to join him in the kitchen. Immediately.”

A very unsettling thought crossed Steve’s mind, but that had to be expected. Still, he couldn’t leave now. “But Loki is…”

“Now, Captain Rogers.”

Was Jarvis sounding annoyed? By Steve? Tony wanted to talk to him… that couldn’t be a coincidence. Sighing in defeat Steve grabbed a t-shirt and his shorts, got dressed and left his rooms. He still felt bad about leaving Loki alone, hoping he wouldn’t wake up during Steve’s absence.

Tony was indeed waiting for him in the kitchen, in the most casual way possible. One hand buried in a bag of crisps, his feet on the table, munching loudly. Steve had left Loki alone in his bed for this? “What’s going on?”

“Hey, Steve-O, I got a problem and I need you to help me to figure it out. I’ve been racking my brains out for hours and I can’t do it!” He was speaking in his usual jokey manner, causing Steve to frown. It was odd, but not odder than most of the time.

“What are you trying to figure out?”

“In your opinion… is it plain stupid to bang a former supervillain who just joined the good side five minutes ago or is it the most awesome thing ever?”

Steve could feel his mouth drop open and Tony shrugged, a huge grin on his face. “Ah, screw it… Most awesome thing ever! I’m so proud of you. That’s worth a high-five. Do I get a high-five? Come on!”

That was not the reaction Steve had expected and… Oh god. “How did you… You didn’t…”

“Watch? What do you think of me? I wanted to ask Loki something about the wormhole, but Jarvis got all defensive and told me that it wasn’t a good time to talk to him. I asked why. Jarvis said he was busy. I asked with what. Jarvis said with private stuff. I asked what private stuff… and so on. The conversation lasted about five minutes before I decided to check the security cameras.”

“You did watch!”

“For three seconds! Do you really think I’d want to see that! The two of you with your perfect abs, muscles of steel and the sexy hair. No, thank you, I’d like to not feel incredibly inadequate… Anyhow, you scored with a Norse god! I’m still waiting for my high-five.”

“I’m not going to high-five you, Tony and I would appreciate it if this conversation stopped immediately…”

Placing his feet back on the floor Tony placed the bag of crisps on the table. “Nah, can’t have that. I wanted to stroke your ego for a bit, but if you insist we can get to the good stuff immediately. Or bad stuff… we need to do a head scan right fucking now.”

And the last of Steve’s endorphins were gone. “What the hell?! Why would I do that?”

Tony made a face like ‘You really need me to explain this?’. “Do you have a better plan how to make everybody else but me believe that you aren’t either brain damaged or brain washed?”

Couldn’t the rest of the world just take a break? Steve didn’t want to have to think all this for a little while. “It’s nobody’s business who I sleep with and I don’t care what everybody else thinks about it.”

“Nice try. Captain purity, definitely straight and from the 40ies fucks the ex-villain who likes to mess with people’s minds. Sounds very brain washed to me. Anything to say in your defence, Captain Compromised?”

“Tony…”

“Hey, I’m just giving you a taste of what Clint and Natasha are going to say. I’m not judging, he’s got a pretty face and some people are into the gothic look…. But they’re already mad at us for being nice to him. Now you’re screwing him! You! I’m glad you’re getting some fun, might help you relax a bit, but you have to admit that the timing is a bit off. Couldn’t you have waited for another five to ten years?”

Why couldn’t Steve go back to sleep? He had been so happy a few hours ago. “I am not brain washed, compromised or… bewitched. He’s changed and I like him. That’s what I’m going to tell them. As long as Loki doesn’t do anything… evil, which he won’t, it’s nobody’s business.”

Groaning loudly Tony picked the bag of crisps back up and threw it at Steve. “Don’t make me the responsible one! I’m already angry enough that you did this! Captain America fucking Loki… Do you have any idea what kind of shit I have to pull next time to make anybody bat an eyelid?”

“If that’s your biggest worry…”

“No, my biggest worry is that I’ll have Fury and SHIELD annoying me over this and to my very own surprise – I don’t feel the need to talk about your sex life. You know Romanoff, she likes to write reports… I know the headline for the next one – Why Captain Compromised is no longer fit to lead the Avengers? Because he is compromised! Seriously, Steve, they’re going to lose their shit over this.”

That was nothing new. “Since when do you care about that?”

“Oh, I don’t give a fuck if Clint’s head explodes because you’re having some fun. But if SHIELD is going to sit around and twiddle their thumbs, they’re either going to take you off the team or they’re going to come for him. He’s more badass than any of them and without Thor or the anti-magic stones there’s not really a chance for them to apprehend him, but… he’s still confused, Steve. He doesn’t know who tortured him and he is way too fucking smart to forget about the obvious resentment lots of us have against him. He trusts and likes you enough to sleep with you, I’m not keen on finding out how he’ll react if the same people who locked him up now start looking at you cross-eyed. That might just give him the wrong idea.”

Chapter Text

“So he’s your boyfriend… unbelievable.”

“He isn’t. I mean… I have no idea what he is.”

“Go easy on me, Steve. It takes a big enough toll from me to believe that you fucked somebody without putting a ring on them beforehand. If you start telling me that you just got yourself a casual fuck body, I’m going to shoot myself.” To put his frustration on display Tony refilled his glass and instantly took a large gulp from the vodka.

At first Steve felt offended by the mere proposition, but then his brain instantly concentrated on something else. What were they? Again something that he should have discussed with Loki before… not necessarily before sleeping with him, however they needed to talk about this and Steve had no idea how to have such a conversation. “You know I don’t do things like that, Tony.”

Tony pretended chocking on the vodka. “What the hell do I know, I didn’t even expect you to hold hands before getting married. Consider my mind blown.”

“We already knew what sex is during the 40ies, Tony… and I didn’t wake up yesterday. Anyway, that’s not the point… I really like him and I think he likes me too. I hope so.”

“Oh, how cute, you are already worried that he’s walking out on you. Don’t buy the cow if you can get the milk for free? You’ll have to sort that out with him, I’m only here to make sure SHIELD doesn’t go ‘Enemy of the State’ on us. It’s on you to take care of your stuff with Loki. I’ll make sure that Romanoff is not going to walk in on your ‘private time’. You gotta keep it to your rooms though. I can keep them away from the video footage all day, it won’t do us any good if you and Loki start fucking on the kitchen table. Not giving you any ideas, just saying.”

Steve grimaced at that. “I would never…”

“Don’t even say that. You’re sleeping with Loki, you’re capable of everything… Seriously, I’ll help you to keep this a secret as long as possible, but that doesn’t change the fact that you’re in for a major ass kicking… I don’t envy you.” Yawning softly Tony got up to his feet and patted Steve’s shoulder. “Thank you, Tony… I appreciate it.”

“Don’t thank me too soon. I’m still traumatised and too tired to actually be a dick about this, but as soon as I’ll get you alone the next time… I’ll ask about all the dirty details. Performance, stamina, size…”

“Good night, Tony.” Steve was out of the kitchen as fast as he could, he didn’t want to give Tony the opportunity to go into detail. Also Steve was tired, he wanted to slip back into back and wrap his arms around Loki. There would be enough to worry about tomorrow.

Back in his rooms Steve took off his shirt, dropped it carelessly to the floor and made his way back to the bedroom. Which was empty. Steve swallowed heavily and cursed himself for leaving in the first place. “Loki?”

His voice was wavering and how should he explain something so stupid like leaving him alone and…

“I don’t know that much about Midgardian customs on these matters, but in Asgard it’s considered a sign of disinterest when you wake up alone in a bed that you shared with another person just a moment ago.”

A sigh of relief escaped Steve’s lips when he saw Loki coming out of the bathroom, only partly dressed. His words and his tone though were clearly telling Steve that he was in trouble. There was a scowl on his face and his eyes were glimmering dangerously. Loki was already looking for a fight.

“I am so sorry. Tony wanted to talk to me and… okay, that’s a stupid excuse. I know this wasn’t okay, but I thought Tony knew about… us and I needed to talk with him about that instantly and I hoped… I wanted to slip back into bed without you noticing. I really didn’t want to make you feel like… I was trying to sneak out.” Steve was terrible at apologizing, that’s why he should be avoiding making mistakes altogether.

Loki was frowning now, but it didn’t look less displeased. “A conversation that couldn’t have waited a couple of hours? Shouldn’t I have been present during that conversation?”

“Yes… yeah… you totally should have been there, but… I’ve never thought I would be in this kind of situation and I’m trying my best. That doesn’t mean I’m going to make a mistake every now and then… I’m going to get into a lot of trouble for this and… I’m already trying to handle that which is stupid and…”

“By the Nines, you definitely don’t have a way with words.” Loki interrupted him with a loud sigh. “I don’t see why you are so worried. You are like a god among the other people here. You could do anything you wanted, who’s stopping you? I really do not get it. The mere concept of you taking orders from someone or being worried what others think of you is bizarre.”

To say that the words startled him couldn’t describe what Steve was feeling right now. It was completely wrong. This sudden talk about… gods and superiority… was way too familiar. It made Steve’s skin crawl and he saw Loki right in front of him, back in Germany. Then half an hour ago, Loki holding on to him, whispering ever so softly that he was sorry. “How do you… What do you mean by that?”

Loki shrugged, obviously still angry. “I find it quite disappointing that you care so incredibly much about what these people have to say. You could just choose to ignore it and do what you want. As far as I’ve come to understand they’re merely supervising your work as an Avenger, your private affairs shouldn’t interest them and you should tell them that. This whole ordeal is… ridiculous.”

That last part was true and Steve had to remind himself that Loki was coming from a completely different place, most of this had to sound strange and nonsensical to him. “It doesn’t work like this… not quite… and they wouldn’t bother about who I’m sleeping with if it wasn’t… you.”

“I see. If I am the problem… I am going to solve it for you.” Way too much spite to be ignored. Loki walked over to the bed, grabbing his shirt and putting it on.

“What are you doing?”

“Leaving.”

No, this was having none of this. Loki wasn’t the only one who had the right to get frustrated. Stalking over to him Steve softly grabbed Loki’s arm. “Whatever you are doing right now – stop it. I told you that I don’t care about what everybody else is thinking and that’s true. That doesn’t change the fact that they can and will make this situation very… uncomfortable. You can be mad that I crawled out of bed, but that’s about it. A lot of people are going to give me shit about this, but you shouldn’t.”

Looking at him Loki narrowed his eyes, but then his features lightened up a little bit. “I don’t like hearing about how spending the night with me only has the worst consequences imaginable for you…”

How stupid of him… it wasn’t about arrogance. Steve had hurt him and Loki was unsure about his place. “That’s not the case and you are way too smart to not know that. Listen, I’m not liking this. Them interfering. Us fighting. I don’t like that you are so dismissive of everything… but I guess these are things we can talk about and there is still a lot I can learn about you… and vice-versa. Running away is just stupid…”

“I’m not planning on running away, I was planning on making you feel bad and apologize. I still mean it though. None of their complains should bear any importance to you… They don’t hold a candle to you and you are not responsible for them. I just don’t see the problem. Perhaps it’s because I’m Asgardian or not familiar with your cultural habits… I have no idea… I don’t understand.” Eventually Loki shrugged and Steve was slightly taken aback by how simple it was.

Loki didn’t know anything about how Steve’s life worked. Loki hadn’t even been born on this planet. What would you know about people judging you when you were a prince? Sure, everybody was being judged in some way, but Loki didn’t have the same responsibilities as Steve. He was prince, he wasn’t used to having people in a superior position than him. Unlike Steve. Perhaps Loki better knew how to deal with pleas and requests than demands.

“I’ll try to explain it to you. Tomorrow. Over breakfast. Can we leave it at that for now? I apologized for leaving you alone, that was indeed stupid. We’ll talk about the rest. Can we get back into bed?”

By the look on Loki’s face Steve had a feeling that Loki wouldn’t let it go. That he would demand a better apology, but Steve wouldn’t give him one. Leaving him alone had been stupid, but not a crime.

“Yes, I’d like that.” A smile discarded Steve’s worries and he eased into the new situation by pressing a sheepish kiss on Loki’s lips. Humming softly Loki slid his arms around Steve’s neck. “It would be alright if you don’t want me to stay… Neither of us did make any promises and…”

“Good lord, be quiet.” To make sure of that Steve kissed him again and this time Loki responded to it, making it all the more pleasurable. He didn’t really believe that Steve would want him to leave? That was the last thing on Steve’s mind. The first thing on Steve’s mind was to push Loki down on the bed and kept kissing him. Downright playfully Loki was scratching his short nails down Steve’s back and Steve reacted by taking Loki’s lower lip between his teeth.

The respond was a gasp and Loki reluctantly pulled away. “I thought with going back to bed you meant sleeping.”

“Do you want to sleep?”

“Sure… in about twenty minutes.” Smirking wickedly Loki pulled him in a new kiss and Steve couldn’t hold back a smile.

 ***

Steve made sure that they woke up next to each other, not wanting to risk another fight. It was early and Steve thought it would be a good idea to have breakfast here, in his ridiculously small kitchen. Loki was sitting there at the table, a cup of coffee in his hand and looking so casual that Steve caught himself thinking that he might belong there.

Talking about jumping the gun…

Eventually they were both sitting there and Loki made a demanding gesture. “You said you would explain… explain.”

This was going to be a blast.

“Okay… we’ve told you about SHIELD. They’re not really known to the public, because they are that kind of organisation who takes care of things that the people better shouldn’t know about. To avoid panic and… other stuff. The Avengers are working for them, they’re our bosses. More or less.”

Loki pulled a face and Steve continued anyway. “They have a lot of resources, influence and so on. If there’s a crisis, we support each other. They were the first ones to… meet you when you came here.”

“I know about their involvement. I asked Thor about my prison.”

“Right… they are exercising the law… most of the time. There are laws against terrorism and terrorists. That’s what they consider you… Let’s just say… nobody wants to mess with those laws… They think you are manipulating me and if they might believe that I could end up… assisting you in some… scheme… Well, the first thing that could happen is that they would arrest me.” Steve tried to say it like it was some vague concept, far away, something that couldn’t really happen.

Blinking in surprise Loki actually huffed. “It’s somewhat entertaining that they think they are able to arrest you.”

“Like I said… they are very resourceful…”

“False modesty is a very annoying character trait… They depend more on you than you on them. According to most biographies… people are not even sure if you can be hurt by bullets. What are they supposed to do?”

“Bullets can hurt me… and I am not arrogant enough to believe that they couldn’t put me away if they thought it necessary. I’m not saying that it would be easy though…” Another thing Steve didn’t really want to think about. None of that would happen anyway, because Loki wasn’t what they believed he was and Steve would make them understand.

Annoyed. Loki was definitely annoyed by this conversation. “They are not thinking about arresting Tony.”

“I don’t think so, but Tony isn’t sleeping with you.”

That comment made Loki grin and he shrugged. “I like him and he treats me respectfully, like a friend. He showed me some of his work. I don’t think these people would appreciate that and… in their position I would consider my relationship to Tony more dangerous than ours.”

This was a point Steve hadn’t thought about yet. If they assumed that Loki was playing a game, trying to get somebody to do his bidding – the most logical choice would be Tony. He was way more useful for Loki than Steve. At the end of the day Steve had fists that could punch really hard. Tony had a brain that could disable an entire nation for some time. All the technology that he had stored in his lab would be more interesting for Loki than Steve’s ability to take out a military squad. Loki could do that himself and probably better. So yes, SHIELD should rather go crazy about Tony than him. Hadn’t Fury said he would have expected such behaviour from Tony?

“I guess… Tony has a history of making reckless decisions, but he doesn’t… play second fiddle to anyone, he likes to do things his way and alone. When it comes down to me… again, I have no idea what those guys wrote about me, but I know that SHIELD has a certain picture of me and… I am not really sure how they’d react if I’m going to rip that picture apart.”

Now that had caught Loki’s attention, his expression was turning more serious. “What picture?”

“That all must sound so weird to you… you’re from Asgard and I’m from… the 40ies. Hardly anyone alive today can actually remember them and still everybody acts like they know how different everything must be. According to most people I’ve talked to sex before marriage didn’t even exist 70 years ago. Neither did homosexuality. Two things nobody associates with me…”

“Oh… I think I see where you are going with this.”

“Do you?”

“Am I allowed to take a guess, Captain?” Why was he smiling so sweetly and using that teasing tone? It was giving Steve goose bumps. “Go ahead.”

And Loki did. Out of his chair and into Steve’s lap which pulled a surprised gasp from Steve’s lips. “They didn’t bother to get to know you or you weren’t eager to share that information. It doesn’t matter. They believe you to have values that aren’t actually yours. They wouldn’t believe that they are wrong, but that I changed you… manipulated you, changed you… so much. Sounds a bit like mind control, doesn’t it?”

Steve merely nodded in defeat, because it was the truth. At least he thought so. Judging by the talk Fury had given him there was no way that they would ever believe that Steve could genuinely care about Loki or vice-versa. What had Tony said? Captain Purity? That was the point. Steve had no idea how that idea had become so incredibly well established.

Sure, it had been the 40ies, but premarital sex had already existed… also Steve had been out of the ice for over a year now. It wasn’t the 40ies anymore. And why were people interested in love life or preferences anyway? Were they even interested? No, they just thought they had figured it out. Which wasn’t the case.

“SHIELD would think that it definitely sounds like mind control, yeah.” Steve nodded and tried not to look into these green eyes which were staring at him so intensely. Loki was still smiling at him in that challenging way that made Steve want to take him right back to bed. Fingers brushed over his neck before Loki’s hand settled on his back and Steve automatically slid his arms around his hips. That hot mouth was pressed against his ear and a wave of heat was rushing through Steve’s body. “What do you think, Steve? Am I mind-controlling you?”

More a purr than a whisper and suddenly that ‘god of mischief’ title made a lot more sense. Letting his head fall back Steve took in Loki’s face and he was beautiful. That smile was both exciting and ominous. It wasn’t just this moment though. Steve could perfectly remember the vulnerability when Loki had talked about things he couldn’t recall. His spite from the night before, because he wouldn’t admit that he felt unsure. Also that smile when Loki had healed him… the sad expression on his face while watching New York at night.

“A little bit… yes.”

More wasn’t necessary to change everything about this situation. The smile fell off Loki’s face and these marvellous eyes widened in bewilderment. There was nothing to hide pure, honest confusion. Steve got another glimpse of what was going on in Loki’s head and it was fascinating, pulling him in. Suddenly Loki seemed to be completely thrown off his game and Steve reached up, cradling his face in his hands. “I don’t think you’re doing it on purpose though… and I don’t care what other people might think about this. I just want them to stay out of it.”

Loki blinked, still too taken aback to respond and Steve decided to take advantage of the situation. Tilting his head up Steve began to trail small kisses down Loki’s throat and earned a little sigh.

“Steve…”

“This is nobody’s business but ours and it’s bothering me that they are going to try to interfere… it has nothing to do with you… at least for me…” Nuzzling his nose against Loki’s neck Steve breathed in his scent and he wanted to keep him. Despite knowing that none of his could ever work out, because Loki wasn’t even human. That didn’t stop Steve from wanting him, from wanting to learn every single thing about him.

Out of a sudden Loki’s fingers were tangled in Steve’s hair, yanking his head up so he could smash their mouths together in a messy kiss. Steve was having none of it and made the kiss his own, slow, intense and passionate.

“Those things normally don’t happen to me…” Loki was mumbling the words against Steve’s lips, somewhat sounding shy. Instead of pulling back Steve pecked him, his finger stroking Loki’s lower back. “Hmm?”

“I rarely meet someone that I find interesting… beyond their physical attributes… and even then… they don’t hold my attention…”

“You’re saying I’m not what you expected?”

“A little bit… yes.”

Steve offered him a smile, leaning in to kiss him again when Jarvis had to ruin it all. “Captain Rogers, I am sorry to interrupt, but Mr. Odinson is standing in front of Loki’s room. He wants to talk to his brother. I am not sure what to tell him.”

Groaning in frustration Steve rested his forehead against Loki’s chest. “Does that mean you have to leave?”

“If you don’t want everybody to know about us… I guess so.”

What if Loki just stayed here, they would spend the rest of the day in bed and Steve would tell everybody else to mind their own business.

“I will take my leave then. Will I see you tonight?”

“Definitely…”

Giving Steve a soft smile Loki kissed him one more time and then he was gone. Literally. Blinking in shock Steve looked down at his lap where Loki had sat one second ago. He had seen Loki teleporting before, but they had been touching and now he had vanished into thin air. “Jarvis?”

“Yes, Captain Rogers?”

“Where did he go?”

“To his rooms, he is opening the door for Thor at this very moment.”

“I see, thank you.”

Not able to hold back a sigh of disappointment Steve continued to his breakfast alone and then got ready to meet up with Tony. All this talk about Loki had been distracting them from actually doing their job and finding the hiding spot of the Ten Rings. This was the real issue at hand.

Chapter Text

“Oh, I bet he’s into kinky stuff… somebody who likes to dress in that armour with horns… definitely kinky…”

“Tony, I swear – another word and I’m gone.”

“Hey, I didn’t invite you in here, so I don’t care.”

Sighing in annoyance Steve gave up and tried to focus on the map Jarvis was showing them. It didn’t help much anyway, they still had no clue where the main terrorist cell was located. Which was terrible, because all they could do was waiting for another attack to happen. More people to die and all they could do was reacting to it. That wasn’t enough, there had to be more that they could do. “They obviously have some kind of network… they must have… it’s hard to believe that we can’t find at least some trace. A starting point…”

“I know it sucks, but terrorists are pretty damn good at keeping things a secret.” Tony grumbled, amazing Steve by how quickly he had turned serious again.

“We can’t just sit around and wait for them to…”

“I hate to break it to you, Cap, but this isn’t our field of expertise… this is what the intelligent services is for. Infiltration, gathering information… We’re good at taking the guys out, but spying? Don’t even start with Natasha. Her face has been all over the media, she is not a spy anymore. At least not for that kind of work… You can get somebody in there and despite popular belief, I can’t listen in on every conversation in New York. Let’s face the truth, if Jarvis hasn’t found them yet… we won’t find them. Not until we have new leads… Don’t look at me like this, it’s making me sick too…” Tony gritted his teeth and Steve shared his sentiment. What were they going to do? Just sitting around and wait?

“If we’re not able to do that… we should get other people in on this…”

“What? Do you think the FBI isn’t already searching for them? That they leave that to us? They wouldn’t be doing their job if they did… If somebody finds them, we’ll know about it and we’ll be there. By the way I got Loki a phone.”

The last part sounded like some added phrase that didn’t make sense in context and Steve could only frown. “Huh?”

Groaning softly Tony repeated himself. “I got Loki a phone. We should be able to reach him any time and this way you can write him ridiculously corny messages. You are so the type for this.”

“Why are we suddenly talking about Loki? Not about the Ten Rings?”

“Because there is nothing we can do right now and that will drive me crazy, so I need to distract myself by…

“Sir, I’ve been able to locate one of the Ten Rings’ associates.”

Both of them almost jumped out of their skin, their attention immediately back on the subject at hand. “Good boy, Jarvis! Have I told you lately that you are awesome? Shoot!”

Jarvis showed them on the map that a man who had in the past been linked with the Ten Rings through arms dealing. There was no guarantee they were still working together since that man had never been an actual member of the Ten Rings.

“Can we keep him under constant surveillance?”

“Who do you think you’re talking to?” Rolling his eyes Tony started typing on the keyboard in front of him, muttering under his breath. “We don’t want to scare him off… if we’re lucky he’ll lead us to an actual cell… I have some work to do. Why don’t you go holding hands with your boyfriend?”

Steve did his best to ignore this comment. “Is there nothing I can do to help you?”

“Oh, I’ll need your help when we’ve found them and kick their asses. Finding them is my job. Jarvis will keep you updated. Why don’t you tell the others what we’ve got?”

It was always hard to admit that there was not much one could do. Right now Steve was of absolutely no use and that didn’t sit right with him. Anyway if he stayed here, he would merely distract Tony from getting them closer to their target. “Fine… I’ll do that. Feels always great to be of use.”

Tony winked at him before clearly concentrating on the task at hand. So Steve left him alone and asked Jarvis where to find the others. Natasha and Bruce were in the common room, so Steve directly went there. Natasha greeted him with a frown, that’s what she did after their wonderful discussion about privacy. Steve ignored that told both of them about Tony’s discovery, happy to talk about something else than Loki or the definition of compromised.

“Those are finally some good news. If that guy tries to contact somebody inside of the Ten Rings we could have a real chance at finding them before they do any more damage.” Bruce smiled optimistically while Natasha was still putting her frown on display. “Not every organisation can be infiltrated that easily.”

This was something Steve had to work on, one single phrase of Natasha and he already felt like being under attack. “Unlike who? We’re not talking about infiltration, we just want that guy to lead us to the Ten Rings.”

“It’s a good idea, the only one we have at the moment.”

That was all she said and Steve was grateful for that, because he had not desire whatsoever to stay another second in this room. “Good. See you later.”

All he could do was turning around, then Natasha was already one step behind him. “There is something else we should talk about.”

Loki. Of course.

Steve tried to understand her reasoning. Very bad things had happened in the past and Loki had caused them. That was the truth and Steve couldn’t make it go away. It was also undeniable that things had changed, the events that had made Loki lose his mind had been undone. He was innocent and even though he didn’t let it show most of the time – Steve knew that Loki felt guilty for his actions. Actions he couldn’t even remember.

Natasha and Clint refused to see this. It was so much easier when Loki was just the bad guy and Steve a stupid victim of his manipulation. Facing her Steve did his best to not look annoyed. “You start sounding like a broken record.”

“I don’t think I deserve to be mocked for worrying about your wellbeing. Are you okay?”

Now Steve was startled, not knowing what to make out of this. Her question sounded so painfully honest, no reproach whatsoever. Perhaps Steve had been too quick to judge and it wasn’t all just distrusting Loki.

“I am fine. I am perfect. There is no reason to worry about me.” Steve did his best not to smile, because it might have set Natasha off. He couldn’t show how happy he really was.

“Good, but I’m not only worried about you, but about all of us.”

“Nat, I get that and it’s okay, but… except for his past that he can’t remember… has he given us any reason to suspect that he might have hostile intentions? I’m being serious. You might say that his past is enough, but I disagree. Not when he can’t remember. So is there anything else? Then I’ll gladly look into it. So?”

There wouldn’t be anything, Steve knew that. He was the one spending time with Loki, him and Tony had been talking to him. Unlike the rest of them. Natasha tilted her head, she had no problem at all with looking straight into his eyes. Was she able to see it? Steve would be anything but surprised if she already knew. For half a week now Steve was feeling so incredibly well in his own skin and he was enjoying something he had been missing for quite some time. Every night he spent with Loki made Steve fall even harder for him and Steve didn’t want anything or anyone to ruin this.

“Fine, if you want to get straight to the point. I am worried about the fact that Jarvis has been deleting video footage of the surveillance cameras for half a week now.”

She knew and Steve had been waiting for this.

“Sometimes just a few minutes, sometimes a couple of hours. Minutes only get lost in the common rooms or the halls. The cameras in your rooms and Loki’s stopped recording for several hours. More than once. Any idea why?”

It was coming out now. No matter what Steve was going to say. Natasha knew and Steve was very aware that keeping it a secret would only make their relationship look shady. What was he supposed to say? That it was none of her business? That might be the truth, but Natasha wouldn’t see it that way. How about Steve wanted Tony to delete the footage, because he wasn’t eager on anyone watching him and Loki having sex? Why were these things he should have to apologize for? Ridiculous. SHIELD was going to make his life a living hell anyway. Loki deserved a real chance and Steve just wanted the possibility to start a…

The realisation took him by complete surprise and it shouldn’t have. After all he was regularly watching Loki sleep. Steve didn’t want to protest when Tony referred to Loki as Steve’s boyfriend. Steve wanted to be with him and find out where it would lead. What he didn’t want was justifying himself for falling for a person he had got to know. That was the point – he just had got to know Loki.

“I asked Tony to delete the footage, because I figured that was the only way to have some kind of a private life in the tower. I wouldn’t have had to do that if I hadn’t had some very bad experiences in this domain.” Steve was glad he could say this so calmly and completely straight. It was the truth and he didn’t feel embarrassed by it.

How refreshing to see that Natasha had expected him to react quite differently. Ever so slightly she arched an eyebrow and unlike her Steve wasn’t surprised. Why were they so sure that he would freak out over the mere idea of having an intimate relationship with another man?

Natasha recovered quickly, as always. “Not the most thought out attempt to stop us finding out about you sleeping with him.”

Steve could see Bruce flinch, obviously wishing that there was some way to wipe the memory of ever hearing this away. It was another try of Natasha to confuse him or maybe she was hoping if she said it out loud that Steve would realise how crazy this was. Which it wasn’t.

“It wasn’t an attempt to stop you from finding out about us having sex. It was an attempt to stop you from watching us having sex.”

Bruce coughed loudly, but Steve’s eyes were on Natasha’s face, waiting for her reaction. Nothing. Completely bland. Maybe she had already expected this when she had found the drawings. “Steve.”

The softness with which she was saying his name made Steve grit his teeth. She was already trying to present herself as his friend, which she was, but this was supposed to tell him that she was trying to look out for him. That wasn’t the case. It was about Loki and Natasha just couldn’t believe that Steve would be actually interested in him.

“You are not acting like yourself.”

That sentence was enough to make Steve’s blood boil. Why was everybody assuming that they knew everything about him? That they knew what he wanted or longed for. No. Natasha and Clint were wrong about this. It wouldn’t help Steve’s case if he lost his cool. That would only be another thing they would blame Loki for. “How am I not acting like myself? I am genuinely curious how you see me. What about this is so unlike me? Is it the fact that I’m dating somebody? You’ve been trying to set me up for half a year or so? So no, it can’t be the dating. Because he’s a guy? I’ve always liked them too and I didn’t talk about that not because I am embarrassed, but because it’s nobody’s business. Is it the sex? Well, I guess that’s another thing that is nobody’s business… but no, he isn’t the first person I’ve slept with. What is it, Natasha? How am I not acting like myself?”

Still no reaction whatsoever. Somehow Steve felt betrayed, he had seen Natasha’s emotions before. They were friends, but at the moment she was treating him like a suspect during interrogation. “None of that. You are sleeping with a terrorist and we still have no way of telling if his amnesia is real. You were the one who told us that we can’t fall for his scheme. You are falling for it.”

By now Steve wasn’t even angry anymore. Just tired. “Loki is not faking it. There is not a single indication that…”

“With the right person sex can be a very effective method to gain trust. It’s a very common way to manipulate people.”

Slowly shaking his head Steve dropped both of his hands. What was there left to say? It all came down to them not trusting Loki. It would be understandable if they had made any attempt to find out what was going on in his head. “It doesn’t matter what I say, does it? You’ve already made up your mind. I can’t stop you from going to Fury or whoever else should have that information… Just a thought… has my relationship with Loki influenced any of my actions?”

“You’re avoiding me and Clint. You said yourself that he was going to try to tear us apart.”

“Maybe I am just not fond of hearing you talk about how compromised I am. Or your constant distrust of a man who saved my life. Or you going through my personal stuff without my permission. Those are things that you did. Not him. Do about it what you want… I am tired of this. Sorry you had to listen to all of this, Bruce.”

“Yeah, I am sorry too…” Bruce sighed, but at the same time he shot Steve a somewhat encouraging smile.

This was a good moment to leave, on a somewhat positive note. Natasha was about to open her mouth again when she got interrupted by Bruce’s soft “Don’t.”

As fast as he could without starting to run Steve made his way to the elevator. Loki had said something about talking to Thor, a conversation that was hopefully already over. Steve still had some of his luck left, since Loki was indeed alone, his nose buried in a big book. He looked so at ease like this, as if the entire world could lose its mind and he wouldn’t care. The mere sight of him made Steve feel lighter.

Loki only acknowledged Steve’s presence when he joined him on the couch, sliding one arm around his waist. “What troubles you?”

“What makes you think I am troubled?”

Turning the page Loki glanced at him. “You didn’t knock and you haven’t said a word yet. Also there is this line one your forehead…”

„I’m tired that’s all…“

„You do realise you are talking to the god of lies.” Loki quirked an eyebrow at him and Steve felt indeed stupid. His next phrase was rather sheepish. “They do know about us… I got tired of denying.”

To his surprise Loki responded with a little smile. “Those are some good news. I’m not something you’d want to hide.”

“No, you definitely aren’t… but I’m not overly fond of the trouble that’s going to head our way.”

“I still don’t see what kind of trouble you are talking about. If anyone judges your value on who you are sleeping with… they are fools. Even if, I am a prince, immensely powerful and highly educated. No, you don’t need to say anything, I know that it was nothing to do with me, but what I have done. I can even see why they wouldn’t ever come to tolerate me…I don’t mind. They can hate and distrust me for all they want. I don’t care. Why would you? There is nothing they can do about it.”

Steve wasn’t quite as confident in that as Loki was. “It just makes me angry that they are so quick to… dismiss the possibility that something might be different now. Might have been different back then, but they don’t bother to talk to you… God, I don’t want to talk about this. Do you want to get out of here for a bit?”

It was a completely spontaneous idea and Loki nodded instantly. “Yes, I would like that.”

“We could head out to Bear Mountain like we wanted…”

“I was thinking about Europe.”

Steve’s eyebrows shot up. “The car won’t get us there.”

“No, but I will… if you are alright with it.” Looking at him with a perfectly soft expression Loki held out his hand and Steve was overwhelmed by his suggestion. “You want to… teleport to Europe? With me? Does that even work?”

The laugh that passed Loki’s lips was clearly amused. “I can teleport anyone and anything. Things by looking at them, but you… I would have to touch you. I was thinking about Vienna.”

That sounded very tempting in all the right ways, but the thought of teleporting to another continent gave Steve a stomach ache. “Sure it has to be Europe? I’d probably faint and that’d be utterly ridiculous. I’m not so sure about the whole… teleportation thing. I’m only human… you know?”

“I am not quite so sure about this statement, but it’s only normal to be hesitant. Would you feel better about it if we tried something smaller first? To the other end of the room instead around the whole world?” Loki was smiling and Steve felt his heart skipping a beat.

Teleporting across the room? Still didn’t sound very tempting. “I’m… I’m human. I’m not made to be teleported around.”

“Tony would say something very different.”

Oh, that was mean and it was terrible, because it worked. “You’re saying that I’m too afraid?”

“No, that’s what you were saying.” Loki winked at him, before kissing him shortly and then turning serious. “Just so you know… Teleporting alone is very easy, something as natural as moving. Teleporting objects is more difficult. Teleporting with another person is quite strenuous and I can’t do it very often. I definitely don’t offer it to a lot of people. None actually. I just thought… I have no problem sharing it with you. I would like to share something else with you. Like your world. You can show it to me. You can show me a place, I can bring you there.”

Holding out his hand again Loki kept smiling. “Just across the room. You can trust me. I know what I’m doing.”

Steve was holding his breath. This was a moment he couldn’t afford to ruin. Loki was asking him to trust him and to show it to him. It should be so easy, because Steve did trust him. He could and wanted to sleep with his arms around Loki, he wouldn’t do that if he didn’t trust a person.

“How does it feel? Anything I should be prepared for?”

“No. It might a strange pulling sensation, but it happens so quickly, it will be over before you realise. You want to give it a try?”

That smile was lovely, Loki was holding out his hand and this was probably something you had to deal with when you fell in love with a sorcerer. Nodding slowly Steve reached out, grabbed Loki’s hand and the world faded away.

For not even a second.

It felt like getting dizzy, but then everything was back to normal, except that Steve had to hold on to Loki or he would have fallen over. What had just happened? They had been lying on the couch and now Steve was on his feet, right in front of the door. Loki’s laugh was ringing in his ears. “I’m sorry… we should have got up first.”

“That was all?” Steve couldn’t help but be completely astonished. Loki had teleported them. His body had been moved from one part to another in less than a second. He was perfectly fine, not feeling any different from before.

“Of course. Why so surprised? Did you expect it to hurt?”

“No… I didn’t know what I expected.” Looking at their still entwined fingers Steve couldn’t fight a smile. “We could go to Vienna? Just like that?”

Amused by his amazement Loki nodded. “Every place in this world and other worlds… but I wouldn’t recommend interdimensional travel right now. Did you change your mind about going on a little trip?”

It definitely sounded tempting. Just leaving for a couple of hours. If somebody came to bother them, they wouldn’t be there and they would be able to go outside and act like a real couple. Couple… Were they a couple? Anyway, that wasn’t the point now. Steve wanted to get out of here and spend time with Loki. Alone.

“Okay, Vienna… but can you make sure that we won’t just pop up in a crowded street, freaking everybody out?”

“I’ve been doing this for over a thousand years. Don’t worry.”

There was a strange pulling sensation, as if Loki was tugging on his hand. A shadow crept over his eyes, then it was instantly gone again and the sun was blinding Steve. Blinking heavily Steve turned his head, hiding his face against Loki’s shoulders. The sounds were catching up to him. Birds, vehicles, kids laughing. “A park?”

“Yes. The sun is already setting… you want to take a walk?”

“Yeah, definitely.”

It took one glance around, one look at the buildings to figure out that they weren’t in the States anymore. Later on Steve would have loved to tell everybody about the city, the beautiful, historical buildings he had seen, the breath taking atmosphere and hundreds of little details… Steve didn’t really take anything of that in. This world famous city full of cultural treasures was mere scenery.

Loki and him were walking down the Ring Road, casually chatting about little differences between Europe and the US. They were eating ice-cream, which was exceedingly funny, because Steve had to explain to Loki what ice-cream was. He definitely liked it, Steve could tell by how his eyes were lightening up. When they went to have coffee in a lovely little bistro Steve tried use some of the few German words he had learned during the war to talk to the waiter. The result was an epic disaster and Loki was so entertained by it that he just sat there and didn’t attempt to end Steve’s misery in any way.

After having coffee Loki insisted that they would visit one of those many vineyards surrounding the city and Steve agreed although he preferred beer to wine. That eventually didn’t matter, they were sitting beneath a wine bower, listening to two men playing the violin and singing traditional songs while Steve was sipping on a delicious glass of wine whose name he couldn’t pronounce. Everything had a complete unknown charm about it and Steve realised that despite having travelled around the world, he hadn’t seen anything.

“I like this… checking out new places with you. This is… charming. I see you sitting here and I still can’t believe it…”

“I think I like Europe better than America. I still have a long list of places I want to visit. Paris, Dublin, London, Madrid, Barcelona and so on. Another time of course. Would you like to come along? I will need somebody with me who is aware of the basic Midgardian costumes, so I will not make a fool out of myself.” That smile was supposed to seduce him, Steve could tell and Loki was doing a pretty good job at that.

“Really? You need help? You’re not even from this planet and you’re doing at better job at this thing than me. I’d be lost and wouldn’t even know how to order anything without you… We should go to Paris, my French isn’t half-bad.” Steve smirked and Loki nodded in agreement. “I would like to see France…”

“Yeah, I can picture you there. In a small bistro, drinking overpriced red wine, reading Sartre or something like that. You’d fit right in.”

Loki responded with a laugh. “We’ll see about that… Thank you, by the way. For coming here with me. I know that the idea of teleportation can be a bit unsettling. So thank you, I appreciate it.”

There was no rational thought involved. Loki was sitting right next to him, smiling and showing him once again that little bit of vulnerability which made Steve’s heart skip a beat. It was just them and Steve wanted to go to Paris with him and hundreds of other places. Right now Steve just wanted to kiss him. Which he did.

Loki sighed softly in surprise against his lips before kissing him back. Soft, sweet, a little bit short and perfect. While pulling away Steve could see the waitress turning away, a faint blush covering her cheeks. “Thanks for asking me to come with you.”

Yeah, Steve was most definitely in love…

It was already dark when they ready to leave. Loki pulled him behind a tree and a deep kiss and this time Steve didn’t feel a pulling sensation. Way too distracted by Loki’s lips on his. Sliding his arms around Loki’s waist Steve leaned into him, licking over his lips when…

“Captain Rogers, your presence is requested. I would advise you to seek out the common area immediately. The atmosphere is quite… heated.”

Jarvis sounded somewhat troubled which was enough to let Steve’s bubble burst. The last couple of hours had been too wonderful to last. “What’s wrong?”

“Director Fury and three other agents are arrived about 78 minutes ago. They were very concerned that you and Mr. Odinson’s brother had disappeared. Sir is very upset about their presence… yet not quite as upset as Mr. Odinson. You should hurry to avoid an escalation.”

Steve sucked in a breath while Loki audibly chuckled behind him. “This is going to be fun.”

Chapter Text

Loki had a strange definition of fun, that was for sure. No matter how hard Steve tried, there was not a sign of discomfort or uneasiness to be found on Loki’s face. Perhaps he still couldn’t grasp what all of this meant in Steve’s world or it simply wasn’t possible to shake his confidence. Well, they were strangers to him and he didn’t care about them… Which was sad, but it mattered most to Steve that Loki cared about him.

“This is going to be bad… We just disappeared after I had that talk with Natasha… I should have thought of that.”

“As far as I know you are considered old enough to make your own decisions.” Almost disinterested Loki shrugged, walking deliberately slower than Steve who was hurrying to the elevator.

“It’s a little more complicated…” Sighing Steve pressed the button and luckily the doors instantly opened.

“No, it’s not. Their wish to control you is beyond ridiculous.” When Loki joined him Steve took a soft breath. “Listen… This isn’t going to be nice. It’s not dangerous… Tony wouldn’t have led them in if… I’m pretty sure that harsh things are going to be said and… I’m just asking you to keep calm.”

That alone was enough to frustrate Loki. “I will not stand by if somebody is going to insult me. Or you.”

“Okay, then maybe give me chance to explain everything to them… we’ll see how it goes.”

The only response that Steve got was a shrug and Loki again made no attempt to play down his annoyance. Nothing about this gave Steve much hope. At least the ride was very short and then the doors opened again, revealing what they were in for.

“… put those things down or I will make you wear them as necklaces! No, wait, I will make Point Break make you wear them as necklaces!”

Guns. Three of them. Steve’s instincts were immediately kicking in. His body was already moving to stand in front of Loki, to shield him from a possible attack. Not that Loki needed his protection, but Steve wasn’t the only one who wanted to rip everyone apart who even dared to…

“You dare to point a weapon at my brother!” Thor’s dangerous growl finished Steve’s thought and why was Loki still chuckling. “I wouldn’t call a device that shoots a little ball of metal at me a weapon…”

The three agents didn’t move a muscle and Fury made a step forward, his demeanour way too cool for Steve’s taste. “I wouldn’t be that confident if I were…”

“Nick, I would raise my hand to ask a question, but because for some reason I feel like saving your life and therefore won’t let you finish this sentence. So, here’s my question. Are you fucking insane? Are you seriously going to threaten to shoot him?! Here?! What do you got? Three machine guns. Impressive. Okay, I’ll need a second to get into my suit, but the two Norse gods will knock the shit out of you while the bullets are going to bounce off them. Also I have a Hulk right next door who won’t be too thrilled by all of this. Oh… I forgot Cap. You are pointing weapons at Cap’s boyfriend… with Cap standing right next to him. Given all those facts I have to repeat my question. Are you fucking insane?!” Tony was yelling, his eyes blown wide and still Steve's flickered to Thor right behind him whose grip was tightening around Mjölnir.

It was a battle set-up, intentional or not. Those three agents, Fury, Clint and Natasha on one side, Thor and Tony on the other one. Steve had to calm things down and…

“Captain, would you do us a favour and step away from him? This situation does not have to escalate.” Ignoring Tony completely Fury addressed Steve in a calm, almost casual way and Steve knew what that meant. They were here to take him and Loki. Maybe they wanted to take away both of them. There wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that anybody would lay a finger on Loki, not with Steve present. Not to mention Thor who was uttering another growl.

No, Steve needed to focus. He couldn’t risk a fight, somebody would get hurt. Their powers colliding would end up in catastrophe. “May I ask why you are here? Or what this is all about?”

“You disappeared. Just like that. After our conversation. For over six hours. So we had to consider the possibility that he had escaped and kidnapped you.” Natasha was just as calm as Fury and Tony huffed. “He can fucking teleport! I told you they were probably on a trip to Paris! You know like young lovebirds do!”

“Not quite… we went to Vienna and we have every right to do that. Now put your weapons down, there is no threat here. Yes, I should have told someone that we were leaving, I’m sorry about that. It’s still not a reason to wander in here and…”

“It’s just one of the reasons, Captain.” Fury interrupted him drily. “Considering all of the recent developments and your disquieting actions SHIELD does no longer see you fit to lead the Avengers.”

Something that Steve had expected for some time now and it still hit him like a punch in the guts. Hard and unforgiving. It wasn’t him though who gave an immediate reaction. Tony always had words for any kind of situation. “When you’re saying SHIELD you just mean you, yourself and your sparkling personality, right?”

Steve was about to justify himself when he heard that laugh again. Right behind him, clearly amused in a condescending way. “What makes you think that you are in any position to give him any orders? It’s ludicrous. Him working for you when he is clearly superior to all of you in every single way…”

“Doesn’t that sound familiar? You really like talking about some people being better than others, don’t you?” Clint’s voice resembled a low hiss and Steve swallowed softly, confronted with that unveiled contempt and an arrow pointed in his direction.

Loki didn’t seem to be bothered by this, he stepped past him, although Steve shot him a look that said ‘What are you doing?’. “Oh, I wasn’t aware that you weren’t allowed to say out loud very obvious yet uncomfortable truths. You would like to hear some facts, Agent Barton? Physically he is superior to all of you. By far. Tony’s intellect surpasses yours by… let’s say he makes you look like another species and I don’t need more than a single conversation with you to be capable of making that deduction. I don’t know why but all of you are somewhat scared of Doctor Banner. Even my brother. Whatever may be his power… it must be immense. So… what do these three men need you for? To point that arrow at me? I bet I could catch that little toy with my left hand…”

“Son of a bitch!”

“Clint, lower the damn arrow! Every one of you! Nobody is going to start a fight here! Fine, if you don’t see me fit to lead the Avengers anymore, we’ll talk about it. There is no reason for the guns. Nick, please. Let’s handle this like civilised people.” Steve didn’t want to think about Loki’s little speech right now, having guns pointed at him was terrifying enough.

Fury’s cold glare met his and for a second Steve thought that he might tell them to shoot Loki. “Fine. Lower your weapons.”

“Fucking finally.” Tony muttered under his breath. “Now get the fuck out of my tower.”

“Not so fast, Stark. We’ll have to set this straight. We’ve had doubts for a while now that Captain Rogers is no longer fit to make decisions for this team… I wasn’t thrilled with the decision to take him to the tower, but I agreed, because it seemed like the best equipped place to detain him. So that one is on me. You were supposed to detain him. Instead you’re leaving the tower with him and even when he’s here, no security measures whatsoever are installed. You seem to put more trust into him than into your teammates and the fact that you have sexual relations with him makes you unfit for the team, Captain. Keeping you in charge would put the rest of us in danger, so I must ask you to step away from him.”

Yes, sure, all because he was sleeping with him. They were accusing him of being blind when it came down to Loki, but they weren’t even bothering to look. Now it had come down to this, Fury standing her and telling Steve that he was no longer an Avenger? That wouldn’t be the case if Natasha and Clint hadn’t come to him to… accuse him? Steve couldn’t help but feel betrayed. It wasn’t like he couldn’t see where they were coming from, but they had never given him a real chance to explain or bothered to find out why he might care for Loki. “The two of you agree with that?”

His question caused Clint to snore, then he yelled. “You know what, Cap, fuck you! You were the one who said that he would be trying to tear us apart! Guess what he’s doing right now! But obviously you don’t care anymore, because you’re too busy having your cock sucked by him!”

That accusation made Steve flinch and not just because of its vulgar wording. The implication was that Steve cared more about sex than his friends and this wasn’t something he would ever want somebody to think about him.

There was no time to start defending himself, not when Thor was about to lose it. “Enough!” The loud growl was filling the room and suddenly everybody’s eyes weren’t on Loki anymore. “Ever since my brother has come back to me he didt nothing wrong. Nothing to raise any suspicions and yet you treat him without respect and insult a righteous man for showing him kindness! Let me tell you – even if Loki wasn’t my kin I would still feel disgusted by of your behaviour. I will no longer be associated with you in any way. I am still a protector of this world, but no longer consider me an ally. I will no longer react this kindly to you threatening my brother.”

Things were getting out of hand and Steve had no idea what to do about it. Fury wasn’t going to back off, that wasn’t in his nature. Steve wouldn’t hand Loki over to them… and Loki wouldn’t go voluntarily either. Three agents, Clint and Natasha – Loki could be gone with the mere blink of an eye if he wanted. The stones which were supposed to dampen his magic and stop him from teleporting were nowhere around. There was no immediate danger to Loki, which was relieving, but Steve still had to try to somehow smooth things over.

“There, you heard it. Thor is going to lose his shit if you don’t grab your things and fuck off. No more entering my tower for SHIELD agents. You leave Cap alone, the man has a right to get laid like everybody else. Same goes for the Norse god, he’s actually useful and productive. Something I can’t say about the rest of you. Out. Now.” It was typical Tony, somewhat cheeky, but his face clearly said that he wouldn’t accept any refusal. Steve was grateful for it, although he would have preferred a less direct approach.

Something that wouldn’t have caused Clint to grit his teeth and Natasha wouldn’t narrow her eyes in a way that gave Steve the creeps. They were supposed to be a team, they should be able to handle this differently.

Fury snorted in the most patronizing way. “Really, Stark? You of all people? Did your memory get messed up when he threw you through the window? You must have lost what is left of your mind if you trust him.”

In response Tony started to laugh and not sarcastically. “Good lord, I don’t trust Reindeer Games. He’s a fucking smart, wicked son of a bitch… No, Thor, that was a compliment, let me finish, will ya? He’s smart and he’s mostly looking out for himself, just like everybody else. But unlike you, he hasn’t tried to screw me over yet and you know what, he knows the words ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. I only got to know him about two weeks ago, so no, I don’t trust him, but he seems better company than you. Sorry, Lokes, no hard feelings.”

Steve turned to glance at Loki who smirked. “No offense taken. You’d be a fool to trust me and so would I.”

“Great, now that we’ve established that nobody here has any trust in another person, we can all be friends. Hey, Clint, Nat, wanna calm the fuck down?”

“How can you be so dumb!? He’s saying himself that you can’t trust him! He’s screwing us over and you let him. He’s tearing the team apart and you’re playing right into his hands. It’s his fucking plan!”

“Whatever plan I may or may not have… I highly doubt you would have the mental capacities necessary to grasp the concept…”

No more words were spoken and the arrow was way too fast, even for Steve’s eyes. That still didn’t stop Loki from casually catching it and twirling it between his fingers. “This was a mistake.” His face hardened and when he made a step forward, Steve quickly grabbed his wrist. “Loki, please…”

His gaze was met and it was dark. “I said I would not hesitate to defend myself. He attacked me.”

“Please.” Steve whispered softly with enough intensity to make Loki stop. “If he does it again…”

“He won’t.” Tony snarled, his eyes fixed on Clint. “Get out. All of you.”

Natasha wasn’t having any of that. “You are throwing us out and letting him stay?”

“No, you are throwing yourself out! It’s not him who’s causing trouble. All this time he’s been perfectly civil until you’ve been up his ass, just waiting for something to happen, so you could throw him in a prison cell. Just admit that you’ve never wanted this to work out. A bit hypocritical for a guy who was supposed to kill a hostile agent, but instead recruited her… and for a former hostile agent who switches sides like I’m building new suits. Yeah, I can read secret SHIELD reports, thank you very much. Now get out of my tower, no more SHIELD agents allowed here. If you want in, call me beforehand, ask nicely and I’ll think about it. Don’t give me that look, Nick. Okay, I’m not in the suit right now, but those three guys are more than enough to kick all of you out. Also am I the only one noticing that it has started raining when Clint did that incredible stupid thing of firing an arrow at Loki? Someone’s in a bad mood.”

That was an understatement, Thor was growling and judging by his posture he was about to lance himself at someone any second.

It seemed to finally dawn on Fury that this couldn’t end well for them if he wasn’t going to back off. “We’re not done with this, Stark. You can’t just shelter a dangerous terrorist and expect everyone to be fine with it.”

“Yeah, yeah, cry me a river. Out now.”

To Steve’s immense surprise and relief Fury didn’t cry a river, instead he made a subtle gesture towards the other agents and three seconds later they were actually leaving. Strangely enough Clint and Natasha followed them without any further discussion, which made Steve feel weird. This was wrong and yet this could have ended way worse. Loki was still here, there hadn’t been a fight and Steve had a bitter taste in his mouth.

As soon as they were alone Tony rubbed his hands. “Great, now that was a fucked up conversation.”

“Stark, I owe you immense gratitude for acting the way you did. I highly appreciate your loyalty.” Thor approached Tony, going so far as bowing his head a little bit

“No big deal, Point Break. That was more about them going crazy than about Loki. Speaking of the lovebirds. The next time the two of you decide to take a trip around the world, just give us a fucking warning or leave a note. Something! Anyway, now I gotta tell Jarvis that we have to put up a ‘Keep SHIELD out of the tower’ sign…”

“Tony, I don’t think…”

“Again, I’m not doing this to enable you to have an undisturbed love life. This is my fucking tower and everybody has to play to my rules. They didn’t, they’re out. You do… whatever you were up do, I gotta tell Bruce what happened. That’s gonna be fun. Then I have a meeting with Pepper and he’s already pissed at me for missing the last three. I gotta play good boy today.” Winking at them Tony almost casually strolled out of the room, seemingly unaffected by what had just happened while Steve’s entire body was still completely tensed.

His fingers were also still wrapped around Loki’s wrist.

Steve was releasing a shaky breath when Thor was suddenly in front of them, making him realise that they were still standing in the elevator. Why hadn’t the doors closed? Not even for a second? Sometimes Steve hated that Tony controlled everything around here…

Blinking lightly Steve looked at Thor whose eyes were lingering on him, then darting to Loki and it was then that Steve realised that Thor had heard all of that. Clint’s vile reproaches and Tony’s… allusions. None of this was a secret anymore and Loki was Thor’s brother. This was the last thing Steve should worry about right now and yet he felt a little anxious when Thor’s eyes darted to Loki and then back to Steve.

A faint smile flickered across his lips and he ever so slightly shook his head. “We will talk another time.”

Then Thor left too and Steve let go of Loki’s wrist, pressing the button that would bring them back to his floor. Out of the corner of his eye he could see that Loki looked anything but displeased and Steve had to swallow down the lump that reformed in his throat. Nobody said a word until they were in Steve’s rooms and at least he had had used this short amount of time to sort out his feelings. Somewhat. Several things were making him sick to his stomach right now, but one in particular.

“You didn’t mean that, didn’t you?”

Loki turned to look at him, raising one eyebrow. “You need to be more specific.”

“That Tony would be a fool to trust you…”

“Given the circumstances – he would be a fool to trust me. I don’t scorn somebody for distrusting me, it’s only natural. What matters is the way you act on it.” Loki shrugged in the most casual way and Steve felt like he was being slapped. Brutally by somebody who was wearing spiked clothes.

“I trust you. Does that make me a fool? Shouldn’t I do that? Am I making a mistake?” Steve couldn’t help himself, he sounded hurt and Loki suddenly seemed confused. His lips parting to say something, but he took his time. “It’s different with you.”

That should be enough, only it wasn’t. “Why?”

The expression on Loki’s face couldn’t quite be described as embarrassed, that would be too much. Nevertheless, he didn’t look comfortable having this conversation. “As I’ve said before… I’m not aware of all the cultural Midgardian traditions or habits that are tied to carnal pleasures… but I don’t give myself to just anybody. Didn’t you tell me that the sense of dating was to get to know each other? I think that I got to know you better than them and you know me better than they do.”

“Really? Do I? I had no idea what you were doing up there two minutes ago! The things you said to Clint were despicable and you were having fun saying them!”

“Every single word was the truth and if I remember correctly he wasn’t shy about the things he said either.”

“Yes, but he…” Steve struggled with what to say here, because Loki wasn’t the same person as the one who had manipulated Clint’s mind. Until now he had been so perfectly different… except for the way he had acted five minutes ago. When he had shown something dark to him. Was it fair to make that comparison? Everybody had darker sides and... Steve had no idea what to make of this. “Clint has some very bad history with you and no, none of this was okay, but I’m willing to cut him some slack. You don’t know him. You don’t know any of them, so why were you…”

The words died on Steve’s lips when he saw the disbelief in Loki’s eyes. A hint of shock. “Are you seriously asking this? Why I don’t feel sorry for calling them out? I am neither deaf nor blind, I do notice the distain they have for me. I see it in their eyes and their movements when they are around me. That is nothing I can’t deal with. That they’ve decided to hate me and have no desire to change that… You are different, smarter, not as worn out as them and you are kind. Then you tell me about how they will look down on you for… not necessarily sharing my bed, but for the mere act of talking to me… They do it with Tony too… You expect me to keep my lips sealed and let them throw their dirt at you? When they can’t hold a candle to you? Believe me, I do not have anything against arrogance, I find it most interesting. But it has to be earned. Their arrogance isn’t earned, because they are nothing without you. They need you and nonetheless they think that they can impose their beliefs on you, that they can dispose of you… I’ve been way too kind…”

Steve could see that one of Loki’s hands was balled into to a fist. It was shaky. The wicked smile was gone and Steve instantly wondered if that anger had been there before and Loki had just refused to let them see it. What if it hadn’t been about Loki having fun? If insulting Clint hadn’t been about getting some cruel pleasure out of it, but…

“Don’t say you did this to protect me?”

Huffing in offence Loki shrugged. “I am more than aware of your ability to protect yourself. They made me angry. He made me angry. They are ridiculously easy to read, I just gave them what would make them snap…”

It was turmoil, Steve had no idea what to think. A strange feeling was sneaking up on him, he was touched and he wasn’t sure if this was okay. “This shouldn’t have gone down like this. They are friends, we work together. There would have been a better way to handle this…”

“It wasn’t me who waited in rooms that aren’t my own with a weapon in my hand. None of this was me. I was only reacting to it and if you don’t appreciate the way I did that… well, I will not apologize.” Loki was waiting for a response and Steve didn’t know which one to give.

Most of it was true after all. What had Loki done since his memory loss to provoke such actions? Nothing. What had Steve done? Fallen in love with him.

“I… he shouldn’t have shot that arrow at you… none of this should have happened. Tony kicked them out and I get why, but that’s not going to solve the problem, it’s probably only making it worse. Believe me, I wish we wouldn’t have to go through…”

“We don’t. I have nothing to do with these people and you don’t need them. I know you think you do… which is beyond me, but none of this is necessary. None of it. You don’t need anybody talking down to you… and neither do I.”

Loki meant that, this much was obvious and the worry Steve had been feeling was slowly fading away. No, Loki felt nothing but disdain for Clint or Natasha, but Steve was fairly sure that it had nothing to do with them being human. In his eyes they had treated Steve disrespectfully and that made him angry. It was impossible to outrule that it upset Loki even more, because he considered them inferior. Maybe there was a hint of that somewhere… Something that Steve would have to deal with eventually.

What had happened in the common room… it hadn’t been okay, but Steve thought that it was easier now to understand. Loki got angry and frustrated just like everybody else and it hadn’t been solely about him, but also about Steve.

“Guess we should have stayed in Vienna…” Steve offered Loki a little smile who reacted with a frown. “You live here, we would have had to come back eventually…”

“I know… what I wanted to say… I would have been nice to be alone for a bit longer. It’s so much easier when it’s just the two of us…” That didn’t mean they could hide from the real world, but Steve could play the thought, right?

His heart skipped a beat when Loki returned his smile. “You know that I could do that… Take you anywhere and there aren’t any limits.”

That could be it… why Loki wasn’t willing to put up with all of this. Why compromises seemed strange to him. He didn’t need them. He could turn around and leave at any time. A thought that was unsettling Steve so much that he reached for Loki and pulled him close. “Good to know…but we don’t have to do that. We’re alone right now… no need to get away.”

“Oh, there will be soon. I’m not going to be around for when Thor wants to have that talk.”

“Right… uhm, that’s going to be bad, isn’t it?”

Loki shrugged casually. “No, he’ll probably warn you about my… track record.”

The bad news simply wouldn’t end. “Track record?”

“Is this the right word? Thor sees it as his duty to warn people about… I had a lover, about 100 years ago. He decided to lay with other people although we had agreed to stay faithful. I turned him into an insect. I only lifted the curse 10 days later. I was merciful… Thor thinks that’s something people who get involved with me should know.”

Another shrug and Steve blinked, taken aback. First – who would possibly cheat on Loki? Somebody so smart and beautiful…

“I would never do something like that to you.”

“Of course not. We’ve never agreed on such terms. You are free to do whatever you want…”

“That wasn’t what I…” Sighing softly Steve brought his lips to Loki’s cheek and brushed them over it. “My prince, I would very much like to negotiate the terms of our relationship.”

To his great pleasure Steve saw how Loki’s lips started to form a smile. “I’m listening.”

“I am… the exclusive type. That’s what people date for… at least in my opinion. To get into a relationship. With only two people. I really like you and Tony has already called you my boyfriend… I’d like to keep it that way.”

It was so hard to understand, but now when Steve should be horribly scared, he was absolutely calm. Because of Loki’s smile. “You are in luck that I read up on pretty much every single romantic related term in Midgardian lingua… I accept your suggestion.”

Steve’s reaction surprised himself. He hadn’t planned on smashing his mouth on Loki’s and pushing him down on the couch. Especially not after the most recent events. It happened anyway and Loki laughed sweetly against Steve’s mouth.

Sure, Steve knew that it was naïve thought that everything was going to work out on itself, but in this moment he was so very happy that it almost seemed possible. When that mouth felt so wonderful against his own it was so hard to believe that anything bad could happen. Quite the opposite.

Unceremoniously Steve pulled off Loki’s shirt, showering his chest with little kisses and he was rewarded with the most perfect, soft sighs. Luckily Loki was just as much in a hurry as him and within seconds they were stripping each other’s clothes off. No words spoken, just two entwined body’s, trying to have as much skin contact as possible, getting lost in the quickly building heat.

Steve couldn’t even mind that it was over embarrassingly fast, not when they were both laying there, still wrapped up in each other, Loki listening to his heartbeat, his fingers running up and down Steve’s lower arm. “Why aren’t you afraid?”

The soft question sounded like scream, tearing apart the silence and Steve didn’t bother to move his head, Loki’s hair smelled too sweet. “Afraid of what?”

Loki shifted, bringing even more of his body in direct contact with Steve’s, his breath ghosting over the other’s skin. “Afraid that I might wake up one day and that I’ll remember…”

Involuntarily Steve flinched and tightened his arms around Loki. “You think that possibility should scare me?”

“It scares them… If I remember what I did… perhaps I will also remember why I did it and that reason… what if it hasn’t vanished?”

Finally Steve pulled back enough to look at Loki. Beautiful green eyes wide open. “Are you afraid that this might be the case?”

“No, because I cannot see myself doing such a thing in the first place… What I don’t understand is how you are not worried about this. That I’ll remember and then… decide that I want to go back to how it was before… Why aren’t you scared of that?” A hushed whisper didn’t make sense coming from Loki. Nothing about him was shy or quiet.

Smiling gently at him Steve leaned his forehead against Loki’s. “Because I know that you will also remember this. Right now… and I know that it’ll be more important to you.”

He was too close to see Loki’s eyes, but Steve could hear him taking a shaky breath. To end this conversation and to show him how sure he was Steve kissed him.

They were definitely going to be fine.

The comfortable silence returned and Steve had no interest in knowing how long they had been lying there until they headed for the showers together. A lot more kisses and hot water later they were back on the couch, Loki’s head resting on Steve’s shoulder while they were watching TV, not really doing anything and every now and then Steve pressed a kiss on Loki’s hair.

It was perfect and for the second time today Jarvis burst Steve’s little bubble. Only this time it was different. Steve hadn’t known that Jarvis could… sound scared.

“Avengers, Sir needs your immediate help. His car has been ambushed on his way to his meeting. I can’t get a response, the car is still under fire.”

Chapter Text

“Where?”

“On the highway. The exact coordinates are already on your…”

“Get your shield.” Loki was already up on his feet, his casual clothes vanishing to be replaced by his armour. Something that Steve hadn’t seen in a while. There was no time to think when Tony was in danger. Steve did what he had been told. The shield was in the room next door and as soon as he had it in his hands on it Loki was right next to him. “Thor will catch up to us. We’ll have the element of surprise, but it’s an unknown place, I can’t quite control where we’re going to pop up. Be ready.”

Steve nodded, Loki grabbed his arm and there was the pulling sensation. Disappearing as fast as it had come. Sunlight. Gunfire.

“How primitive…” Loki was muttering next to him and Steve saw him throwing a ball of golden fire before Steve had even adapted to his surroundings.

Three masked men with machine guns to their right, two snipers on the hill on the left. There had to be more, but Steve couldn’t make them out due to the car.

The car…

Steve’s throat was constricting and he anger was rising so quickly, his body was acting faster on it than his mind. The shield knocked the gun out of the hands of the terrorist and then Steve was already on him, punching him to the ground.

They needed to stop them from firing. Right now.

Picking up the shield Steve blocked the shots that were now being fired at him and rammed a foot right into the face of the man standing closest to him.

If they had killed him…

Steve was literally staring into the barrel of a gun when a blast of golden / green energy threw the guy who was holding it several feet away. Another reason to thank Loki later on, now they had to save Tony though.

Fear was the worst passenger, but it was a good motivator. Most of the terrorists had turned their attention to them which was wonderful, because that meant the car wasn’t under fire. Tony had to be hurt, there was no other possibility. Not with the Ferrari turned upside down and full of bullet holes. This was Tony’s car, Steve had to remind himself of that. Tony who was tinkering on his armours, tech and his cars. That meant it wasn’t an ordinary car, it had to be safer than the president’s limousine. At least that was what Steve was desperately hoping for.

“Watch out!” Steve couldn’t see Loki, but he heard him clearly enough and instantly crouched down. He somehow knew that Loki wanted this from him. A good choice, because a new blast of light brought down the men in Steve’s proximity. Not wasting a second Steve rushed towards the little hill, throwing his shield at the snipers and delivered his punches straight afterwards.

The constant fire was still deafening and Steve noticed the van too late. New men with guns were pouring out of it and Steve raised his shield a mere second too late. The pain was sizzling, but Steve was perfectly able to ignore it. What he couldn’t ignore where these black figures quickly advancing and he didn’t doubt that he could take them on, but that would take them and he needed to get Tony out of here.

Five of them were coming at him and Steve raised his shield again. Unnecessarily. The earth started to shake and Steve knew what that meant. The terrorist didn’t and therefore they got to feel the full force of Thor’s hammer. Steve had never been happier to him.

“You need some help with them?”

“Yeah, but we have to get Tony.”

Thor nodded while throwing at another man who was pointing their gun at them. “Loki, the Captain and I are going to take care of them. You get Stark!”

Only now Steve could see Loki again, close by the car, carelessly tossing one of the terrorists away that he had just knocked out. “Then try to not get yourself killed.”

The short moment to concentrate on Loki was instantly gone, because it turned out they didn’t only have machine guns. They were fired at with some weapon that reminded him of the stuff Hydra had produced. Steve threw himself in front of Thor to protect both of them and the shield trembled in his hands from the force of the blast.

“They seem to be better equipped than expected… so there is no reason to hold back.” Thor growled and Steve reacted with a quick nod. No, they deserved everything that would happen to them and if Tony should be badly injured…

“Let’s knock them of their feet.”

Exactly what Steve had in mind. So he brought up his shield and Thor smashed his hammer down onto it. All that experiencing and practising had definitely paid off. The blast wave was strong enough to lift up the van while everybody else was brutally knocked down. Almost a second to breathe, but…

“Thor! Over there!”

Damn, seeing all these destruction and masked men with arms, civilians really should know better than coming this close. Steve was relieved to see that Thor instantly flew towards the car that was approaching them and Steve could take care of the men who were still ignoring him and firing at the car and at Loki.

The later didn’t need Steve’s help, because before he even got to him Loki vanished in green light just to appear right next to one of the terrorist and knocking him out by hitting him on the head with a short object that Steve couldn’t quite make out.

Steve’s instincts suddenly urged him to turn around and he just ditched the punch of a guy who obviously had decided to try to fight a different way. Highly trained, Steve could instantly tell that. Hardly anybody was able to predict Steve’s moves like that and to avoid his fists. Almost like dancing. Nevertheless Steve soon landed a good kick and the terrorist stumbled back. The same second Steve was grabbed from behind, an arm taking him in tight headlock, cutting off his windpipe. Normally Steve would have been easily able to shake anybody off, but this man had an incredible strength. Bringing his hands up to free himself from the grip Steve struggled against him, then saw the man he had just been fighting coming closer again. He was trapped and couldn’t fully concentrate one the man who held him, because he needed to use his legs to deliver another kick that stopped the second attacker to hurt him with a knife. Only this time Steve didn’t have such good aim, being too hectic or due to the lack of air, but he wasn’t immediately able to stop him from going closer and then…

Still with the knife in hand the man collapsed to the ground, an arrow sticking in his shoulder. Taking advantage of the element of surprise Steve tossed the terrorist who was still having a hold on him over his shoulder. That arrow was definitely one of Clint’s. SHIELD agents were finally flooding the road. Turning around Steve’s eyes were frantically searching for Loki and he quickly spotted him. Since the car was too damaged to open one of the doors Loki ripped an entire piece out of it with his bare hands. Reaching inside Loki pulled out Tony who Steve hoped was only unconscious. Blood was streaming down his face, parts of his clothes were torn. Loki put a hand on his chest, probably checking him for injuries or already healing him.

“Get your hands off the reactor!”

A voice that sounded like Clint’s. Loki was looking up in confusion, then he sneered. The next second Tony and him were gone.

“Shit! He has Tony! Where did he go?”

“How could you bring him here?!”

“Cap, what the hell?!”

“Copy, Loki got Tony. I repeat, Loki got Tony!”

Steve didn’t know what was happening to him. Out of a sudden nobody was shooting anymore, agents were running around, Clint was screaming at him, Natasha was quickly talking into her mic and Steve had no idea what was happening to him.

The look that Thor gave him told Steve that the feeling was mutual.

 ***

Loki had brought Tony to the next hospital. Friday let them know the second a nurse had called at the tower. Steve wasn’t very proud of it, but he took the time to give Clint and Natasha a glare. What had they thought that Loki would do? He couldn’t stop them or Fury to come with them and luckily he remembered Tony saying that he had given Loki a phone. Steve desperately hoped that Loki knew how to use it.

“Hello?”

“Thank god… Where are you?”

“At the hospital. Where else should I be? I was told to wait and I got a couple of weird looks… So I am standing here. Waiting. Am I not supposed to do that?”

“No, that’s… How is Tony? Friday couldn’t tell…”

“His heart was beating when I brought him here. There’s something different about his body… I didn’t dare to use magic on it. He was badly injured, but not enough to endanger his life. My knowledge of Midgardian physiology is limited. I’m still very convinced though.”

Steve sighed in relief and all eyes were on him, making him feel uncomfortable. “Listen, me and the other Avengers will be there in a couple of minutes. Just stay where you are and…” Turning a bit away from the rest of them Steve lowered his voice, although he should have no reason to do that. “Uhm… You’re okay, right?”

“Are you implying that those feeble weapons would be able to hurt me?”

That actually coaxed a laugh out of Steve. “No… no. We’ll be there in a couple of minutes. See you.”

“I will stick around… but I am not looking forward to see the others.”

Yeah, Steve couldn’t be mad at him for that. Hanging up Steve took a breath. “Loki says that Tony is hurt, but his life is not in danger.”

Steve could hear Clint snore and decided to ignore it. He didn’t make it easy for him though. “I can’t believe you brought him to this.”

“My brother is probably the reason why Stark is still alive. He saved his life for the second time and your reaction to him teleporting away with Stark was completely out of line.” Thor’s gaze was hard and unforgiving, but Clint didn’t seem too impressed. “I saw his hand. It was right on the arc-reactor. And I saw the look on his face. It was like back then.”

By now Steve couldn’t even be angry because of his stubbornness. Only sad. “Tony was hurt and Loki was worried. He didn’t know about the reactor, now he does. He said he didn’t dare to use his magic on Tony, because of the reactor…”

“Bullshit.” Clint hissed then said nothing.

The ride to the hospital was loathsome and Steve was glad when he could get out of the car. Loki was still at the hospital, looking very out of place wearing his armour and sitting in an empty waiting room. He instantly got up to his feet when he saw them, his eyes darting from Clint, Natasha and Fury to Steve. “The company today doesn’t get better.”

“Yeah, fuck you too.”

Loki snarled in response and Steve wasn’t going to listen to this. Not after Loki saving Tony’s life for the second time and protect Steve during the battle. Steve didn’t give a damn about their opinion or fear, because he knew better. They had seen the same thing, so how could Clint have such a different impression? No, Steve wouldn’t feel awkward for doing what he wanted to do. They had been in a battle and Steve had been afraid for both of them. Grabbing Loki’s hand Steve leaned in and pressed a short kiss on Loki’s lips. “Thank you… We would have probably come too late without you…”

Blinking in surprise Loki stared at him and Steve gave him a soft smile.

“This is a freaking nightmare…”

Closing his eyes Steve took a second before turning back around to face everyone else. “You are right. This is a nightmare. Tony got attacked on his way to Pepper and it happened so fast that he didn’t have a chance to use the suit. We need to do something about the Ten Rings. Instantly.”

“We must have taken a large number of prisoners today. They will be helpful.” Thor pointed that out and Natasha nodded. “This was their second attempt to kill Tony It’s safe to assume that he is their main target. Revenge is their best motive. Tony almost destroyed the entire terrorist cell when he created Iron Man. We’ll have to do the same to make these attacks stop.”

That information didn’t help much. How do you destroy something when you had no idea where to find it? “We need to interrogate them and…”

“That’s already happening, Captain Rogers.” Fury was putting his phone away, Steve hadn’t even realised that he had been having a conversation with someone. “At least we’re going to interrogate the ones who are still alive.”

Taken aback Steve raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”

Fury’s cold gaze met Steve’s without any hesitation. “10 of the attackers are dead.”

Yes, Steve hadn’t held back, but he hadn’t tried to kill anyone. Had he tried to not kill any of them?

Emotionlessly Fury continued. “Most of them had server burns and three of them were stabbed.”

Stabbed…

The fire in Clint’s eyes was way too dark and so triumphant that it caused shivers to run down Steve’s spine. “Daggers, huh? Too bad we don’t know a person who likes to kill people with that weapon.”

“I do not understand why you are reacting this way. They attacked Tony. They attacked me, so I killed them.” Loki’s tone was dry and Steve spun around to look at him. Expression and voice matched perfectly. Loki wasn’t lying, he didn’t understand why they would even discuss this.

“You killed them, Loki.”

Frowning softly Loki focused on him. “Yes.”

That was all he said.

“Usually we try not to kill people, but to disarm them, asshole. Especially when we still need them!” Clint was about to lose it, again, but Steve didn’t have to worry about that since Natasha gave him a telling look.

Standing between them Steve tried to wrap his head around the new information, but he couldn’t do that when he was afraid that Loki and Clint would attack each other. Loki had that look on his face, his eyes so hard and jabbing. They were never like this when he was with Steve. “I’ve said it several times. If somebody attacks me, I will not hesitate to defend myself.”

“Loki…” Steve swallowed softly, having no idea how to say that. “You are… so powerful. You can disable pretty much anybody without killing them.”

“The Asgardian way of fighting is very simple. Everybody who surrenders will be made a prisoner of war. They will not be touched. Everybody who tries to kill us will be killed. It’s simple.”

“My brother speaks the truth. Also I distrust your allusion that my brother is the only one responsible for the bloodshed. I certainly did not try to hold back. These men were trying to kill us and Stark. Loki did nothing wrong and I don’t think your agents…”

“It’s fair to remark how comfortable Loki is with killing people.” Natasha stated and Steve huffed. “Really? You are saying this? You?”

Clint was in his face instantly. “What are you implying, Cap?”

“Step away from him.”

Steve didn’t think he had ever seen Clint shiver or afraid. Now he was seeing both of it at the same time. All it needed was Loki saying that single phrase. Perfectly calm, but it was impossible to miss the obvious threat. Entwining his fingers with Loki’s Steve tugged at his hand. “Don’t. We don’t have time for this. They tried to kill Tony today, they almost succeeded and you lose time by accusing Loki of… This is ridiculous. We’re here to make sure Tony is fine and safe and then we’ll take care of the Ten Rings. Everything else is not a priority.”

Nobody said a word, so Steve concentrated on Loki and Thor. “Come on, let’s go.”

 ***

The second Pepper saw Loki – she hugged him. Also she kept on thanking him for saving Tony’s life, for bringing him to the hospital. Like Loki had said the injuries hadn’t been lethal. Thanks to security measures he had added to his car. So as soon as the surgery had been finished Pepper had made sure that Tony had been transported to the tower. The doctors had protested, but Pepper had insisted. Terrorists had just tried to kill Tony on the highway, they wouldn’t hesitate to enter a hospital where he was completely helpless.

Thor and Loki joined at the tower for security and because Steve wouldn’t risk having Loki present during the interrogations. It would only complicate the situation, because SHIELD obviously wasn’t capable of seeing Loki saving somebody’s life.

Steve was present and unfortunately the members of the Ten Rings stuck to their code. They weren’t saying anything. Natasha didn’t seem surprised, she said that it took time to wear these people down and Steve knew what that meant.

So torture was suddenly okay… He wasn’t going to comment on that.

Eventually Steve sat down, rubbing a hand over his face, feeling incredibly tired and frustrated. While getting here he had hoped that they would instantly find out where to find the master mind behind all of this and that they could end these attacks. That wouldn’t happen tonight. Nor tomorrow. According to Natasha it could take days or longer for them to start talking.

“It’s one thing knowing about it… but seeing you kiss him is about the most atrocious thing that…”

“Save it, Clint. You hate him, I know that and I’m not going to ask you to change that. Is it too much to ask to keep it to yourself?”

“Yes, you know why? Because I give a shit about you, Cap. I see you heading blindly toward disaster… I can’t just stand around and watch you doing that. Not when I know that he has some sort of plan. Maybe I’m not smart enough to figure it out, but he is plotting something and you are part of it. I am not doing that, because I’m an asshole, but because I’m your friend.”

Chapter Text

Arriving back at the tower Steve instantly headed for Tony’s room only to run into Pepper who was just slipping out of the door.

“Hey, how is he doing?”

A sad and yet relieved smile flickered across her face. “Fast asleep, probably going to be for the next 24 hours. Three broken ribs, a very bad concussion and… there will be some scars. We’ve got the entire medical stuff here and Bruce is just next door. Just in case… I know the tower is the safest place in the world, but… they would have killed him.”

“I know and we’ll get them for that. Nobody’s going to hurt him anymore.”

Pepper just nodded and Steve noticed that she wanted to end this conversation as long as she still had a grip on herself. So Steve smiled encouragingly at her and gave her hand a soft squeeze before leaving her alone.

After a quick question Jarvis told Steve that Loki and Thor were in the common room, so Steve went there.

“… do it again. Instantly.”

“I know, Loki, but that’s not the way things are done here.”

“They area a young race, they’ve barely figured out the most basic concepts yet. Today they almost killed one of the few people who might be able to explore them… and they get mad at me for killing them? They deserved so much worse…”

Steve stepped inside and they both looked up at him. “Hey… we still don’t know where the main cell lies and I’m not helping anyone with the interrogation, so… I came back.”

“Did they cause you any trouble?” Loki sounded distrustful, raising an eyebrow at him.

“No, don’t worry. It was fine, everybody is concentrating on the real issue at hand. They’ll notify us as soon as we know something…”

Naturally he was hoping that this would happen as soon as possible, although he felt terribly tired. Part of him just wanted to wrap himself around Loki, which would be weird because his brother was right there. Then again Steve had kissed Loki today, in front of everybody and he didn’t want to feel awkward about this.

Sitting down next to Loki Steve put a hand around Loki’s wrist and rubbed his thumb across the back of his hand. “What are you guys talking about?”

“Differences between Midgard and Asgard… Time to time it gets hard to adjust when you have so many different rules and different… parties which put up these rules.” Thor sounded indeed a little bit confused, but Steve honestly didn’t want to have this kind of discussion now. “Don’t worry… even we have problems with figuring that out…”

“What are we going to do about the men who sent the assassins?” Loki’s question was dry and direct, obviously not caring about the small talk Steve was trying to make.

“As soon as we know where to find them we’ll go there and make sure they’ll end up in prison… I know it’s frustrating, but… there’s not much we can do now.”

“I doubt that… you should let me talk to one of the assassins. I have my ways to make people talk.”

“If you aren’t talking about some… truth spell or something like that… I don’t think I want to hear it.” There was already enough torture going on and Steve felt a lump forming in his throat, hearing Loki suggesting such a thing.

“They are scum, fighting in the most coward way and every minute lost is more time for them to do more damage. They should receive as they give.”

“That’s not…” Steve sighed, wishing that Loki wouldn’t have said that. No, he wasn’t even human, it was only natural that Loki’s views would be totally different and they would have to try to find some common ground. “Listen, I don’t believe in that. Violence should always be the last way to accomplish something… when it’s forced upon you. They did do that today, but we’re better than them.”

This statement was only partly true and Steve felt bad about it. He knew that SHIELD didn’t necessarily share his views on that. At the moment Steve was more interested in what Loki was thinking.

“In Asgard we believe in a very simple principle. If you try to take a life outside of war or not defending yourself or someone else, your life is forfeit. You take another life, you have no right to keep your own.”

Another thing that Steve didn’t want to think about. What did that mean considering Loki’s actions back when… would the Asgardians have killed him if Loki had been brought back there?

“Don’t you think that… that might be too simple? That you have to look at every single case to understand why everyone did what they did? Perhaps they didn’t have any other choice or…”

“So you think excuses can be made for what these people did?”

“No, I… those are terrorists, but there are other cases. I don’t believe you can… judge that quickly without knowing the circumstances.”

Loki looked at him intently, clearly weighing his words and slowly deciding what to think about them. Eventually he slightly bowed his head. “I guess that makes sense considering your diverse cultures and societies. To me it nevertheless is frustrating that it is them who are dictating the course of action…”

That Steve could agree with. “It will work out, because we’re not going to stop until we’ve got them… right now it’s most important that Tony is okay. Thank you guys… it would have gone down differently without you…”

“You do not need to thank us, Captain Rogers. We did what was necessary.” Thor smiled softly and there was something so incredibly content about the expression in his eyes. Because of Steve and Loki? That would be nice, finally a good thing happening.

“I will return to my room and do some reading. You’ll join me later on?” Loki looked at him questionably and Steve nodded instantly. “Yes, sure.”

After pressing a short kiss onto his lips Loki slipped out of the room and Steve was left alone with Thor. This was going to be weird. Steve had never met the big brother of a person he had been dating. Mostly because he hadn’t been dating that many people. Even if… Thor was probably the most intimidating big brother imaginable. Until now he was still smiling at Steve, good sign.

“My brother seems to be very fond of you.”

Steve’s heart was skipping a beat, especially since Loki hadn’t really shown that much affection towards him with other people around. Thor knew him best, so this statement mattered quite a lot to Steve. “I’m fond of him too. He’s… I can’t talk with you about your brother. This is totally awkward.”

“Why? You are not the first man courting my brother. I have met quite a lot of them.”

What? “Quite a lot of them?”

All colour was draining from his face, he was quite sure of that.

Thor just nodded, he was actually beaming. “My brother is royalty and due to his rather… exotic looks… he has always had many opportunities.”

There was so much wrong about this statement and Steve quickly needed to focus on something else, anything but Loki’s… many opportunities. “What do you mean when you say ‘exotic looks’?”

Instantly Thor’s eyes darted to the door as if to make sure that Loki was indeed gone. “Loki’s dark hair is rather uncommon in Asgard. Most of the population is either blond or light brown haired. His skin tone is also very… Even Stark commented on how pale he is while everybody in Asgard is quite… I guess you would use the term tanned. Loki would always stand out in a crowd.”

“I’m not sure if that sounds so good. Being so completely different.” Steve swallowed lightly, thinking about why Loki had never been like everybody else.

The smile on Thor’s face didn’t falter a bit. “Do not worry… I admit there have been some mean or taunting comments during our childhood, but I do not think that Loki cared much… Anyway when we became older men and women both started to look at his appearance in a complete different way. He’s had a long line of suitors ever since…”

By now Steve’s expression had to be the one of a man who was watching a huge, bloody accident on the highway and Thor finally realised that. “Which doesn’t mean that he answered to all of them. Loki has always been very picky.”

“Thor, you know way too much about your brother’s love life than I’m comfortable with.”

“You obviously do not have any siblings, Captain Rogers. What I intended to say – I always got to know the lovers that Loki considered his partners. The ones he was serious about. They weren’t many though.”

Steve wished it was possible to crawl out of his own skin to end this conversation. A conversation that Thor seemed way too comfortable with. Despite the weirdness Steve couldn’t deny a little tingle. He was only human, he was curious. “Why didn’t it work out? Between Loki and his… exes?”

“Now this is something Loki definitively didn’t discuss with me. Except for the insect incident…”

“Yeah… I heard about that. I don’t get it though… Why someone would cheat on him. Or cheat on anybody in general… so uhm… did you like them? Were they… nice? God, what am I doing here…”

“You are trying to find out about Loki’s preferences without having to talk to him.”

“Thanks for pointing that you…”

Thor was clearly enjoying his suffering. “Actually they were all very different… incomparable… their tempers, opinions and looks were vastly different. What they had in common though was… their intelligence and their unwillingness to bend to general rules. Loki never bothered to look at somebody who wouldn’t stand up to him. That obviously hasn’t changed.”

Great, now he was even blushing. “So… you’re okay with… Loki and me dating? I really like him and…”

“If I had any reservations about the both of you… I would have let go of them after seeing you defending them in front of SHIELD. It has always been Loki’s decision whose courtship he was going to accept and… your courtship is an honour to our entire family.”

The blush got deeper and Steve felt ridiculous for feeling proud. Sadly he remembered something else one second later. “I am not going to meet your parents anytime soon, right? Not that I immediately want to do that, but… what’s the situation like at the moment? With your parents and Loki?”

So this was it. Now Thor’s smile was gone and Steve felt bad for it.

“They know about Loki having lost his memories and that he has abandoned his wicked ways. When he disappeared after we discovered the scars… I went to Heimdall to ask to look for him and the Allfather learned about that. I wasn’t able to keep it a secret. They all turn a blind eye to it. My father feels guilt about keeping Loki’s true heritage from him and causing these… terrible events. That doesn’t change the fact though that… Loki would have to suffer the consequences of his attack on Jotunheim… the Allfather would be forced to punish him. So… the three of us agreed that it would be the best if Loki didn’t return home… at least not in the near future. This way he would be safe…”

Steve slowly nodded and it was terrible that this made him feel strangely happy. Loki not going anywhere meant that Loki was going to stay here… with him. But it also meant that Loki couldn’t go home if he wanted to. Not even to visit his parents. Loki didn’t know what his father had done to him, there was no grudge between them.

Loki couldn’t go home for doing something that he didn’t remember doing that he didn’t understand. It wasn’t fair.

“How long do you think is he going to accept that? Not being able to return home?”

“My brother knows what he has done… he does not know why and if the Norns are kind with us, he will never know. I cannot imagine how confusing it must be for him, but he is much smarter than me. He knows that the Allfather would have to punish him… just for Midgard. Loki does not know about Jotunheim. It must be hard for him, but… he is going to accept it.”

Not saying anything Steve nodded again, realising once again how different they were. Loki was born in a place that Steve couldn’t even imagine and that wasn’t even his real home. It should be taken for granted that their views and experiences would differ. Suddenly Steve desperately wanted to go to Loki’s floor and slip into his arms.

“He… I know what he thinks about your relationship with Jane…”

“Oh… yes, he has quite a… specific opinion on… relationships with mortals.”

“So… what about me and him then?”

Thor chuckled at that and Steve was confused. “You aren’t mortal, Steve. At least not like everybody else… but don’t believe that this has made a difference for Loki. He is not known for playing by the rules. Not even his own.”

 ***

After two hours of awkward talk with Thor and checking on Tony Steve went to Loki’s rooms, finding him lying on the bed, reading a book thick enough to knock somebody out with it. One strand of his hair was falling into his forehead, one leg stretched out, the other one propped up, head resting against a pillow.

No, Steve really couldn’t see it. How would anybody cheat on him?

Loki must have noticed him by now, but since there was no reaction, Steve walked over, sat down on the edge of the bed and pulled the book from Loki’s hands. “You are finished with your little chat?”

“Pretty much… how was your read?”

“I wasn’t finished yet.”

Laughing softly Steve placed the book on the nightstand. “I think you are finished.”

It was almost funny to see how Loki pulled his eyebrows together and then raised them. “You do?”

“Absolutely.” Leaning down Steve let his mouth brush over Loki’s, just the idea of a kiss. “If the circumstances had been different… What happened today was horrible, what we had to was horrible, but… you being there… having my back and fighting alongside with me. That was a good thing. A very good thing…”

Loki looked up at him, the corners of his lips forming the faintest of smiles. “Not everybody might agree with you on this.”

“Don’t care. You know I trust you… and I just want you to trust me too. I can’t imagine how strange all of this…”

“It isn’t strange. Not anymore. Not with you anyway. I got to know you and you didn’t give me a reason to distrust you. Quite the opposite. Otherwise you would not be here.” Loki’s hand brushed over Steve’s arm in a strange manner. Almost as if he didn’t know how to touch him.

Unable to resist Steve dipped his head and kissed Loki in response. It was gentle, playful and when Loki sunk deeper into the pillows Steve shifted to lie on top of him. Loki’s hands came up, resting on Steve’s sides while they let themselves get lost in the kiss. Steve wasn’t sure if he had ever experienced something like this. Not the kiss itself, but the sensation of finally being at ease after such a horrible day. His body was relaxing, tingling softly and the warmth of Loki’s body was engulfing him.

“Do you sometimes miss it? The time you come from? It’s gone forever, but… do you miss it?” Loki’s fingers were running through his hair, his green eyes looking up at him with real interest.

While kissing Loki’s temple Steve actually thought about the question. It seemed so easy to answer, but it was anything but. “Yes… every day. I don’t miss the war, but… small things. The smell of paper… or books. It must have been made differently back then… now the smell has changed. I can still listen to the music, so… I don’t know if that counts… and there was another way to look at life. People were… Maybe I am imagining it, but I feel like people are always asking for more, not realising what they already have… I remember it differently. People being content with little, grateful for being healthy, having a place, a family… I don’t know. Maybe it was because of the war… You saw my room, it’s like traveling in time. So yes, I miss it.”

Loki got that look on his face that quickly made Steve shake his head. He was laughing though. “No, you don’t have to… do anything about that… with magic, illusions or… whatever you are thinking about right now. That’s not what I’d like you to do.”

“What would you like me to do then?” Loki’s voice was soft, smooth and it went right under Steve’s skin.

Steve traced the tip of his nose along Loki’s cheek, putting his lips up to Loki’s ear. “I want you to tell me what you like… what you’d like me to do.”

Their bodies were so close, Steve could feel the breath Loki was sucking in. “I want you to keep doing this…”

Not entirely sure what Loki meant Steve gently kissed him again, one of his hands settling on Loki’s thigh, caressing it. Loki hummed in appreciation against his lips and this must have been the right thing to do. They kept kissing like this and Steve suddenly had trouble remembering what he had been doing before Loki had come into his life. Now that he was here, Steve had no intention whatsoever to let him leave again.

“Would you like me to show you something?”

“Right now? Anything you want…”

Pulling Steve in a new kiss Loki ran one hand down Steve’s back and something happened. One second Steve felt his touch through his shirt and a moment later his fingers were on Steve’s skin. Moving upwards, pulling his shirt with them, making it… disappear.

Gasping softly Steve pulled back, looking down at himself to find that his shirt was indeed gone. “Oh…”

“I did not want to scare you.”

“You didn’t. That… Jesus… That spares a lot of time.”

Loki smiled at him and Steve decided to not freak out over this. He had a boyfriend who had magical powers and he had already used them to save his life. Obviously you could also use magic for other purposes.

 ***

Waking up Steve felt cold and reached for Loki before even opening his eyes. Hadn’t he fallen asleep with Loki in his arms? Cracking one eye open Steve could see him lying on the other side of the bed and he felt immediately awake. Loki was lying on his front, his head facing away from Steve, the sheet barely covering his hips. Sitting up Steve took in the sight of Loki’s back.

It was the only part of him that wasn’t stunningly beautiful and Steve wanted to slap himself for thinking this. Somebody had done this to him… and once again it wasn’t the time for Steve to become angry. Loki had called them unpleasant and he didn’t want Steve to see them. It was understandable, but Steve didn’t want this to be between them. Especially something that would never go away.

The biggest scar was next to Loki’s right shoulder blade. Steve couldn’t think of any weapon broad enough to leave a scar of this size. The pain must have been unbearable. Ignoring that thought Steve shifted and second guessed what he was about to do. Loki might get upset… but shouldn’t he at least try to show Loki that it didn’t matter? That there was no need to constantly try to never let Steve see his back.

He was seeing it right now and it didn’t change anything. It was part of Loki and it… explained what had happened a year ago. A terrifying explanation…

Loki knew that this had happened, but that was all…

Lying back down directly next to Loki Steve hesitantly reached out and let his fingers fleetingly touch the nape of Loki’s neck. There was no reaction, so Steve slowly placed his fingers back, his touch almost shy. Taking his time Steve let his fingertips run down along Loki’s spine and of course it didn’t take long until the soft skin turned into scar tissue. After a short hesitation Steve moved his fingers lower, feeling the softness disappear and…

A hand shot forward, grabbing Steve’s wrist in an iron hold. Steve almost gasped in surprise, even more so when Loki hadn’t moved any part of his body but his hand. He was still facing the wall. Not saying anything Steve waited for another reaction. Loki was lying right in front of him. His position made clear that Steve could perfectly make out every single one. Still Loki wasn’t moving a muscle.

“Loki…”

“What are you doing?” Slow, calm, almost detached. To a worrying degree and Steve felt his mouth going try, so he quickly tried to push his rising fears away.

“I’m trying to make a point…”

“What kind of point?”

Steve had no way with words, regardless of what Loki claimed sometimes. He was not going to be able to explain this… not the way he wanted to. So Steve would say anything. For him actions did always say more than words. The second his decision was made Steve leaned down and pressed an open-mouthed kiss right onto the scar he had been about to touch.

Loki winced and Steve reassuringly placed his other hand on Loki’s side. It didn’t feel that much different. Harder, a bit uneven, sort of rough. Slowly Steve softly let his lips brush over the edge, where scar tissue met perfectly white and soft skin. Then he kissed it and it wasn’t necessary to put any form of effort into it. There was no difference, Steve enjoyed it just as much as kissing every other part of Loki’s body.

The grip around his wrist loosened, but didn’t go away.

Bestowing another kiss Steve nuzzled his face between Loki’s shoulder blades, taking in his scent, savouring his warmth. Then he caressed Loki’s right shoulder blade without even checking if there was a scar.

There was one.

Everywhere Steve put his lips he found hard, abused tissue that was still healing and it didn’t make a difference.

Eventually he felt the tension slipping from Loki’s shoulders and his fingers let go of Steve’s. Instantly Steve felt his heartbeat speeding up. Shifting around Steve straddled Loki’s hips and continued indulge himself with scattering kisses all over Loki’s backside.

Only when he reached his neck again Steve paused and leaned up to whisper into Loki’s ear. “I don’t care about them… I hate it that you were hurt, but that’s all… If I could get my hands on whoever did this to you…”

“They would kill you.”

Chapter Text

“What did you just say?” Steve sat up, confusion suddenly overshadowing all other sensations.

“I don’t want to talk about…”

“No…” Shaking his head Steve reached for Loki’s shoulder while getting off him, sitting down next to him. “You said that they would kill me…” Loki turned around, clearly reluctantly. Steve’s voice was slightly wavering when he asked the question which he couldn’t hold back. “Do you… remember something?”

Not a wince, nothing, Loki met his eyes without any kind of hesitation. His face was blank, slightly paler than usual what made his eyes stand out. “Did you ever see Thor hurt? Or did any of you ever succeed in hurting me? No… it’s a hard thing to do. Whoever… they were able to hurt me. A difficult task, but possible if you have the right weapon… They also had the power to… restrain me. To keep me in one place long enough to… do that… to stop me from using my magic or my strength… from teleporting away. Someone who has the power to do that… they would kill me. I don’t know why they didn’t kill me.”

Once again Steve had no words and that left him feeling utterly useless, not able to give Loki the support he needed. Steve had no idea what Loki had gone through and it was beyond his abilities to help him with it.

“I am sorry.”

“Why? You had nothing to with it. Well, you made me think about it, but that’s all.”

It didn’t sound like a small thing. Yes, Loki was upset. While kissing the scars Steve had felt that Loki had been easing into it, but now his guard was up again.

Loki sat up and Steve wanted to push him back down, to kiss him and push all of those dark, hunting thoughts away. The circumstances made it impossible for them to have a somewhat normal relationship, but did it have to be so difficult?

“I didn’t want to make you feel uncomfortable. I just wanted to… when we’re having sex… or when we’re just in bed together, I don’t want you to permanently think about how you stop me from seeing them. Especially when I don’t care about them…”

“I know… I know.” Loki didn’t say anything else and Steve reached out to him, touching his shoulder. When Loki didn’t resist Steve leaned in to kiss him. It was short and didn’t quite feel like it should.

“I want to ask something… about Tony.”

It was an obvious attempt to change the topic and Steve wasn’t comfortable with it, but it had been Steve who had started all of this, so he wouldn’t protest. “Okay… haven’t you asked him yet?”

Loki shook his head. “It’s been always there… from the first second I was in a room with him. I didn’t trust any of you and so I didn’t ask, I wanted to find out myself. I told Thor and I could tell that he knew something that he wouldn’t tell me.” There was a little glimmer in his eyes, a spark of interest and intrigue. Steve had no idea where he was going. “At the beginning… I thought he wasn’t Midgardian.”

Steve blinked in response. Sure, he sometimes thought that Tony wasn’t human or like everybody else, but hearing Loki say something like that didn’t make any kind of sense. “What? Why would you believe that? Sure, he acts very weird from time to time, but…”

“It had nothing to do with his behaviour.” Loki was shaking his head and his eyes were sparkling. “It’s his energy. He’s radiating with it. Intense and… capturing. At first I thought it might be magic, but that isn’t the case. It’s… sometimes it’s pulling me in…”

“I really don’t like where this is going…”

“It’s the device in his chest.” Loki stated that suddenly and Steve’s heart skipped a beat. This was dangerous territory. Tony was a paranoid person anyway and he didn’t trust the arc-reactor with anybody. Maybe Pepper, but that was it. Only yesterday Tony had stated that he didn’t trust Loki… but Loki had saved his life since… “Barton called it the reactor. He told me to get my hands of it. I didn’t touch it, but I could see it and I… felt it. What is it? I didn’t dare to use magic on him, because it was… so intense and special. I’ve never experienced something like that and I want to know what it is.”

Sighing quietly Steve didn’t know what to say. “That’s something you should ask Tony about.”

“I would, but at the moment I can’t and you must know if Barton knows… You drew it. I thought it was part of the suit, but it’s part of his body…”

“Listen, Loki… I don’t know very much about it, because it’s something that clearly… surpasses my intellectual abilities. It’s a power source for the suit and it became part of him… for reasons that I have no right to tell you. That’s Tony’s business if he wants to share the story. It’s definitely not magic… You have to talk with him about it, when he gets better. I can’t… talk about that.”

After listening careful to his short explanation Loki eventually nodded although he didn’t look content. “It’s mesmerizing… I’d like take a look at it…”

That wasn’t going to fly. Why were they still talking about scars? First Loki’s, now Tony’s. “When we’re done with… all of this… ask him about it. Until then… I’d just like a moment. Perhaps we could just pretend that everything’s easy and fine? No terrorists and… no scars. Pretend that I don’t make things weird by something stupid… Yeah, I know that’s childish and strange, but… normal people get to enjoy the first phase of their relationship, because there’s usually nothing to worry about. I want a little bit of that. That can’t be that much to ask for?”

“Has your life ever been normal, Steve? Mine hasn’t.”

Fair point, but Steve actually didn’t want to hear that. He knew very well that any time his phone could be ringing and SHIELD could be telling him that they had new information. That would be wonderful, because then they’d be able to make sure that Tony was safe, but one second later Loki would be SHIELD’s main interest.

Steve definitely had a bad conscience that he wanted to lock the world out for a moment when he should be doing something else. Then there was this smile on Loki’s face and maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea. “I must admit I am not sure about your… idea of normal, but I’ll try.”

Saying that Loki lay back down, sliding one arm around Steve’s chest and put his head on his shoulder. “Tell me something about you. Something I don’t know. Something normal.”

Wow. That was unexpected and perfectly nice. Steve didn’t want to ruin it, so he didn’t place his hand on Loki’s back, but ran his fingers through his hair. “Something normal… something that you don’t know… I am a miserable cook. I can make scrambled eggs, but that’s about it. I’m completely lost in the kitchen… Bucky always said I should marry a girl that can cook, so I won’t have to starve, because I obviously can’t feed myself. Might be true.”

“A shame. I’ve come to like Midgardian food…”

“Guess you can’t count on me to cook for you. What about you? Is there something you are bad at?”

As expected Loki huffed. “No. I surpassed my teachers’ expectations in all of my classes. I am a sorcerer which allows me to do pretty much everything. I’m not as skilled in physical combat as my brother, but I am far above average. I have a good understanding of numbers and of language. I can draw and…”

“Okay, you are very obviously bad at being humble… Ouch!” Steve laughed when Loki softly hit his arm. “Why should I pretend to not possess the skills that I have?”

“You don’t have to pretend, but you don’t have to brag about it either. Come on, there must be something that you’re not… exceptionally good at. Or something that you don’t like doing.” Steve shot him a daring glance and Loki pulled a face. “Oh, there is something!”

“No. I am good at everything.” Such an obvious lie for the god of lies.

“There is something. I could tell by your reaction. You just don’t want to tell me. Come on.”

Loki raised his head and stared daggers at him which caused Steve to laugh. “Don’t look at me like that. There has to be a thing that you can’t do… and I won’t leave you alone until you tell me.”

“I won’t say anything.”

“Come on, tell me.”

“No, it’s so embarrassing.”

“I bet it’s not.”

“It is.”

“Tell me.”

“No!”

“Please.”

“Forget it.”

“Loki, if you don’t tell me, we’re going to continue this forever and ever and…”

“I can’t whistle!”

The sudden outburst caused Steve to blink in surprise. He must have heard wrong, because that was barely worth mentioning. “What? You can’t whistle?”

Obviously he had heard right, because Loki narrowed his eyes and looked ready to seriously hurt him. “That is not funny.”

“Come on, it’s fairly easy… Okay, a lot of people can’t do that. It’s so unimportant. Why would you need to know how to whistle?”

Grumbling under his breath Loki rolled away from him. “I am called Silvertongue. Don’t you see how embarrassing it is that I can’t whistle?”

“I thought you are called Silvertongue because you know how to use perfectly use your words to get what you want. How to sweet talk everyone…”

“Oh, you can’t be that naïve…”

The same thing that happened last night with Thor was happening again. Steve didn’t need a mirror to know that there was no colour left in his cheeks. He wasn’t keen on thinking about Loki’s former lovers and he was even less wild about talking how Loki might have established his reputation as… Silvertongue. “Oh god…”

“To be widely known for your expertise and then being unable to…”

“Widely known… I think I need a drink.”

Laughing softly into his ear Loki put a hand on his cheek, turning Steve’s head to look at him. “It is so easy to scare you…”

“So you weren’t serious.”

“I am the god of lies. Of course the name describes my rhetoric skills….”

Had Steve ever felt so relieved about something? He couldn’t remember, but this was a piece of information that he welcomed. More than anything at the moment. “You are terrible…”

A terrible man with a wicked smile that could make Steve go crazy within a few seconds. Especially now that Loki was running his fingers down his chest, his lips brushing over Steve’s cheek. “Although I have to admit that… some very few, selected people got to call me this in private… and for other reasons than the rest.”

Steve’s breath got caught and his entire body was suddenly covered in goose bumps. “I repeat – you are terrible.”

“I may not be able to whistle, but that doesn’t mean that I am not incredibly skilled otherwise… I will show you.”

 ***

Steve wasn’t able to look into Thor’s eyes. The first person he ran into was Loki’s brother, naturally. With a big smile on his face and Steve couldn’t stop blushing. No matter how close they were or what they knew about each other… there was no way siblings wanted to know everything about each other.

The things Loki had done to him were definitely part of that…

Trying to think of something to say, Steve could only come up with ‘Did you know that your brother doesn’t know how to whistle?’ Good lord…

“I spent the night thinking, Captain.”

Oh good, Thor said something…

“What were you thinking about?” Steve poured himself a cup of coffee, so happy that the conversation had started without him saying something… inappropriate.

“About how we might find the ones we’re looking for… without needing the help of our prisoners.”

A great conversation for breakfast. Sitting down Steve indicated Thor to keep talking. “Do you have an idea?”

“I am not sure… I thought about using the amulet.”

The amulet. That seemed to be one million years ago. “How could it help? Geez, I don’t even really know what it does. You told us that it was powerful. Some kind of… amplifier?”

Thor nodded but made a vague gesture. “Yes and no. It is only useful to a sorcerer. It can save big amounts of magic which the sorcerer can access later one. This way he can use way more magic at once than he is usually capable of.”

That sounded scary. In the wrong hands such a powerful artefact could do a lot of damage. No wonder that Loki had wanted it… Steve started to feel unease when he thought about what Loki might have done with it.

“Okay, but how can us help that to find them?”

“I’m not quite sure… Maybe I am only dreaming and none of this is possible, but… Loki’s ability to teleport is quite complex. Usually he needs to know where he wants to go, but there have been very few occasions when he… was teleporting somewhere by merely thinking about the person he wanted to find. It might have happened… once.”

“If Loki can do that, then why…”

“I am not an expert, but I know that teleportation is one of the most strenuous ways to spend magic on. That’s why he usually teleports alone, taking another person needs even more power. Teleporting without knowing where he’s actually going… it takes up so much of his energy that he can’t do regularly. My theory is that if he could harvest enough energy from the amulet…”

“Then he could teleport to them without even knowing where they are?” It was the first idea that they had come up with. The first promising one and still Steve didn’t like it. Loki would have to spend a lot of energy and he would be going there alone… which was highly dangerous.

“You are thinking about sending him alone? When the teleportation would burn pretty much all of his magic?”

Swiftly Thor shook his head. “I would never do that, Captain. It’s just a theory, but if Loki takes the time and fills with amulet with enough power… he might be able to teleport there without using any magic at all. He would be anything but helpless. He could use his invisibility and alert us somehow where we would have to go… I don’t know if any of this is possible, but… these thoughts kept me awake.”

Steve didn’t know how to feel about this. “We are not going to do anything that puts Loki at risk.”

To Steve’s surprise Thor’s features darkened. Why? Shouldn’t this be his main interest? Keeping Loki safe and sound? “Are you implying that I might willingly endanger my brother?”

“No, I was just…”

“Loki has fought fierce battles long before you were born, Captain Rogers. He is perfectly able to protect himself. He has done that against foes way more powerful than the men are dealing with now. I know my brother’s strength.” Thor’s voice was sharp and it was giving Steve’s goose bumps. Did he think that Steve was underestimating Loki’s powers and abilities? That he thought that it was his duty as his boyfriend to protect Loki? That was partly true, Steve would gladly admit that, but he didn’t believe that Loki depended on his protection. Anything but…

“Listen, Thor… I know that Loki is powerful. Nonetheless we’re dealing with people who we don’t know what to expect from them… I wouldn’t want anyone to take that kind of risk. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about Loki or anybody else.”

“But talking about me is so much more interesting.”

Both Steve and Thor looked up to see Loki entering the kitchen. Unlike Steve who was wearing shorts and a white t-shirt, Loki was already impeccable dressed. Green sweater, black jeans, he looked beautiful and elegant. Which made Steve blush for all the wrong reasons.

“Good morning, brother. Have you slept well?”

Loki was getting himself a cup of coffee and Steve was praying to god that his cheeks would stop burning. This was the wrong time. If there was one reason why Loki and him shouldn’t be together – this was it.

“Oh yes, thank you for asking. May I ask why you are talking about me? You’re telling Steve some more anecdotes that will shake him to his core?”

“The insect story didn’t upset me that much.”

“I am not talking about the insect story.” A small grin on Loki’s face was enough to make sure that Steve’s blush wouldn’t go away so fast.

“Neither were we.” Either Thor didn’t realise Steve’s discomfort or he didn’t care. “Loki, I was wondering if your teleportation powers might help us to find the one who tried to kill our friend.”

That awoke Loki’s interest and caused him to raise both eyebrows. “Well done, Thor. You’ve caught me off-guard. I’m listening.”

“I remember... maybe two hundred years ago. I got lost during one of my… quests in Álfheimr and when I couldn’t find my way back you came and brought me home. You got there by walking the branches of the world tree and…”

“You think I could do the same to find the cowards who want to end Tony’s life?” Steve knew that it was pointless when Loki huffed, almost sounding offended by Thor’s suggestion.

Thor wasn’t that quick to give up. “I believe in your abilities, brother. Why are you brushing this off so quickly? You were able to find me in another realm without any hint or indication where I might be…”

Good point on Thor’s side, but Loki had that look on his face when he was one second away from rolling his eyes. “Yes, I could find you. A person I have spent my entire life with. I know your energy and aura better than anybody else. I could concentrate on that and it was a chore. Incredibly hard to do and believe, I’m not exaggerating when I say that I almost didn’t make it. Don’t you think I would do that all the time if I could? It’s a very seductive prospect… finding any person at any time. A power I sadly do not possess.”

Steve and Thor shared a glance. That explanation had been clear and straight enough. There was no point in telling Loki about the amulet, it was the last thing they should do. It would be adding petrol to a fire. Loki had been trying to get his hands on the amulet before losing his memory and having him close to it… SHIELD would lose their mind. Steve wasn’t going to take such a risk when they should be doing everything in their power to ensure Tony’s safety.

“You mean it is too strenuous? Would you be able to do it if you had… more power at your disposal?”

Loki blinked in response, his face was putting his confusion on display. “Are saying that I’m not powerful enough?”

“No, I am asking you why it’s not possible to do.”

“Because I am walking the branches of the world tree to get to another place. Not to another person. Persons are constantly in motion, they are not bound to a single place. The branches of the world tree lead to places, not to persons. I could find you, because I could trace down your aura and then I teleported to this place. I could trace it down, because I know it by heart. Because it’s you. I wouldn’t be able to find mother or father. I don’t think I’m able to find you all the time. So no, Thor, it is not possible. It would be a very useful power to have, but I don’t have it.”

“Then that’s about it. We have to find another way. Or maybe SHIELD is going to figure something out… Jarvis, any news from them?”

“No, Captain Rogers. Nobody called.”

“How is Tony?”

“Still asleep and resting. He was last checked on by the medical team five minutes ago.”

Good. That was the most important thing at hand. “I’m going to head to the SHIELD facility. Gotta find out if there’s new information.”

Thirty minutes later Steve was ready to leave, but somebody turned out to be quicker than him.

“Captain Rogers, Agent Barton requests entry to the tower.”

Clint was here? “Tony restricted his access, didn’t he?”

“Yes.” Jarvis replied drily. “But now that Sir is not able to respond to Agent Barton’s request… it’s you who is calling the shots, Captain Rogers.”

Alright. Tony had said that SHIELD couldn’t come and go as they wanted to, but now it was only Clint and Steve was ready to show some goodwill, he didn’t want the divide between them to become even larger. Especially now they should be able to put their differences aside. “Okay, let him in, Jarvis.”

Thor and Loki both scowled, but remained silent. When Clint joined them, three minutes later, he didn’t look any happier than them. So it was up to Steve to start the conversation. “Any news?”

“No, these fucking assholes are way too tough for their own good. They’re not going to give the rest of them up. Not going to happen.” Clint spat and Thor’s expression instantly darkened. It was indeed frustrating, Steve couldn’t believe that they should just sit around and wait for something terrible to happen. That couldn’t be it. “No leads? Nothing?”

Shaking his head Clint sat down next to Steve, not even glancing at Loki. “No… They only thing they like to say… all of them… is that Tony Stark is a dead man.”

Steve’s hand tightened around his coffee cup and when he could feel the cracks forming, he quickly let go.

“That’s why I am here. SHIELD put the tower under surveillance. I know that Tony is pissed at me and I still really don’t appreciate your taste in man.” Clint’s eyes lingered for a second on Loki who wasn’t trying to hide his contempt for Clint. “But Tony is my friend and someone is out for his blood, so I’ll stay here and make sure he’s safe. You are not okay with that, you’ll have to carry my cold dead body out of here.”

“If another arrow is fired at me… that could be arranged.” Loki mumbled under his breath and Steve closed his eyes, wishing that things could be easy, just for one single time. “Nobody is going to attack anybody. Tony’s safety is our main concern and I appreciate that Clint wants to help. Can I be sure that there will be no… other incidents?”

Loki and Clint were staring at each other, both of their gazes filled with disgust and disdain. This wasn’t going to work out. Demonstratively taking his hand Steve looked at his boyfriend. “Loki?”

“I’ve said it before. I will not hesitate to defend myself.”

“Ditto, asshole.”

Chapter Text

Clint was walking on very thin ice here and he knew that very well. There was nothing he could do in the tower without being watched by Jarvis. Yeah, Tony had promised them privacy and generally Clint didn’t worry about Tony saving videos of them in the shower. After their little fall-out he had to be careful though, zero tolerance policy.

Tony had overwritten their codes. Seriously? No, Clint didn’t mind paranoia, it kept people alive, but not when you allowed the murderous sociopath in the house and threw out the people that warned you about him. Clint could only hope that he could find some dirt on Loki before somebody ended up dead… If that wasn’t worse enough, terrorists were running around, trying to kill Tony, because he had almost destroyed their entire existence. Yes, sometimes Tony was awesome like that…

“Unfortunately you’re losing your mind at the moment. Throwing us out? Dick move, Stark, dick move. I’m definitely going to tell you that I told you so…” Sighing Clint leaned back in his chair, eyes lingering on Tony’s sleeping, slightly bruised face. “But before that I guess we’ll have to fuck up these assholes who are after you… and they’re going to get fucked up badly…”

Tony continued to sleep and that was probably for the best. They had come so close to killing him, even closer than in Afghanistan. Pieces of shit… Almost impossible to believe, but Clint actually wanted to go after them more than he wanted to rip Loki into tiny little pieces. Not by much though.

Come to believe that this guy was walking around the tower while Tony was lying here, completely helpless… Not enough, Loki was sleeping in Steve’s bed… when he was done sleeping with Steve. Clint’s stomach turned at the thought. Sometimes he was still hoping that this was some kind of parallel universe or that he had lost his mind and was sitting in some cell, imaging all of this.

Had they all forgotten what had happened? Loki had killed people, he had made Clint kill people and that was suddenly all okay, because they thought he couldn’t remember? How did that change his personality? Okay, Thor had told them that some shit had happened to Loki, but he wasn’t the only one in the universe who had been through some nasty stuff. Millions of kids had a terrible childhood, got abused, beaten and they grew up, trying to make their lives work. Not all of them make it, but some do and they do it without trying to take over the world or killing people.

Not being able to remember something didn’t change the fact that you did it.

Except that Loki could remember perfectly. How could there be any doubt about that? It was so terribly obvious. This was a man famous for being a good liar and luring people into believing him. Also there was that expression Loki’s eyes. It hadn’t changed. Loki still looked at them the same way he had before ‘losing his memory’. Even for him it was too hard to hide his hatred for them 24 hours a day.

So much trouble for that stupid amulet. What else could Loki want? Clint had to admit that Steve was right about one point – he could have easily killed him or Tony. First the bomb, then the toxin and finally the terrorist attack. Loki could have taken advantage of that, but he didn’t. So killing them wasn’t his intention.

For now, Clint knew that it was his end game.

What had Loki done until now? Convinced them to get casual around him and that he wasn’t a threat. Hell, he had convinced Steve of some more things. This was the critical point. Why seducing Steve? This was Tony’s tower, Tony would be the better choice. He could help Loki to find it, he had the gadgets and the tech that could be of interest to Loki.

But Tony had a reputation, he wasn’t picky when it came down to his lovers. Steve on the other hand… Tony was detached, liked to have fun and he didn’t trust anybody. Steve on the other hand… Okay, Steve might not be as old-fashioned as they had thought, but that didn’t change Steve’s basic principles or morals. That guy was anything but the one night stand type. Steve didn’t sleep with people he didn’t care about or he didn’t trust.

No matter how stupid you had to be to jump into bed with Loki… Clint knew that Steve wouldn’t go for every opportunity just to get laid. No, definitely not. Which meant that Steve genuinely liked and trusted Loki, the sex was the consequence of that – not the other way round.

Cunning bastard…

Steve’s trust meant information, meant access to the Avengers’ secrets. Hell, Steve was probably already thinking of making Loki an Avenger. Loki still needed something from them. Clint didn’t know what, but otherwise it didn’t make sense that they were still alive. Thor was already completely wrapped up in the idea of having a normal little brother… still Loki directly asking about the amulet would be too suspicious.

“I’ll figure it out… promise. Can’t have that poor guy heading straight for doom…”

Tony, of course, didn’t respond and Clint couldn’t wait to rip those assholes apart. Sadly Clint doubted that they would gain new information soon…

After leaving the room Clint turned back to his thoughts concerning Loki. One shitty situation obviously wasn’t enough, Clint had to put up with two and perhaps they were equally dangerous.

“Jarvis, I’m going out to meet some agents to get some updates on the Ten Rings… or are they now allowed here?”

“They are not, agent Barton. Why not using the phone?”

Clint laughed softly. “In the tower? Not likely. I’ll be back soon enough and I hope you’ll still let me in.”

“If the Captain doesn’t change his mind.”

Steve was a man of his word, so there was nothing to worry about here. So Clint did go for a walk, not far though, because then he’d lose the signal. Natasha had called him crazy when they had talked about setting up microphones in the tower. They were dealing with Tony Stark here, Jarvis would be able to detect everything and then they would be screwed.

There was no one here to listen to him brag, but Clint was proud nonetheless. They had come up with a rather unorthodox idea. Instead of out-smarting Tony, they had done the opposite. No tricky, new technology that was supposed to be better than Tony’s (those SHIELD scientists were dreamers), they had planted the oldest, most outdated bug they could find. Nobody with a brain was still using them today, the quality was horrendous, but it worked.

Until now the bug hadn’t been detected, a fact that Clint still hardly could believe. Sitting down on a bench Clint put on his headphones and waited. They weren’t insane, they had only placed that one bug in the common room, which had been hard enough without Jarvis noticing.

Minutes went by and Clint had nothing else to do than staring into the sky or checking out people who were strolling down the street. There was no guarantee that anybody would check out the common room tonight. With Natasha and Clint still at the mansion Loki and Steve had stayed in their rooms, so now Clint’s chances of hearing something were…

“Which movie do you want to watch?”

Clint startled, because hell, he hadn’t expected that to happen so quickly.

“Really? You are asking me which movie we are going to watch? Me?”

Steve laughed and the microphone cracked. “Yeah, you got a point there. We shouldn’t be watching a movie anyway…”

“I thought you said that there was nothing we could do… as long as we don’t know where to find them…”

“Yeah, I know it was me who suggested that we get some distraction, but… I feel kind of guilty sitting here, doing nothing. That can’t be all…”

“You could still let me talk to the…”

“No, as long as nobody is held hostage or in immediate danger… I told you what I think about excessive violence… or do you have some truth spell that I should know about?”

“If I had one, don’t you think I would have used it when I had no idea who you were and if you were friends or enemies?”

Groaning Clint rolled his eyes at that. Absolutely shameless. Well, it wasn’t surprising and nothing new, but hearing it made it so much worse.

“Makes sense… and you’re sure you can’t help Tony like you helped me? Heal his wounds? Something?”

“That was different. You were being poisoned. His wounds are… more superficial. Also I don’t dare to use magic on him.”

What? Why the hell would he…

“Because of the reactor, I know. But I don’t really understand the problem. It’s a piece of tech, isn’t it?”

“It’s not that simple. Most of Midgardian technology seems dead to me. The reactor is radiating with energy, so similar to magic and… if I’m close enough I can feel it on my skin. I can’t really put my finger on it. I don’t know what it is, but I don’t dare to mess with it. I might do more damage than good…”

If just a single word of this was true, then it was some crucial information. Loki afraid to use magic on Tony? That could save their asses. Unfortunately Clint couldn’t believe whatever Loki was saying. Perhaps he was just refusing to do anything about Tony’s wounds to keep one of them out of the picture. Unable to put up a fight…

“Okay, for the record…” Clint couldn’t be sure due to the bad quality, but Steve sounded a bit annoyed. “… I really don’t like the way you are talking about this… You make it sound like you are… attracted to it.”

This was Captain America, seriously? Steve should be freaking out that Loki even knew about the arc-reactor. He shouldn’t get a jealous fit because of it. Ridiculous…

“Something of that energy is attractive and I may not the only one who thinks so. Could other people have an interest in it?”

“The reactor? Sure… I guess, but nobody knows about it. Except… Oh god…”

“What?”

“He built it while he was being kept prisoner by the Ten Rings, so… They were trying to kill him. Sometimes it’s that’s simple, I guess. Tony did more damage to their entire organisation than any military or nation in over 10 years. It’s revenge… nothing good ever comes from that.”

“We should forgive our enemies, but not before they are hanged.”

Clint huffed in disgust. Yeah, that sounded like a Loki thing to say. Steve had to finally get who he was talking to.

“Uhm…that’s harsh.”

“It’s German poetry. It sounds better in German.”

Oh, fuck you, asshole…

“You read poetry?”

“Yes, I do… I don’t like French poets though. They have a terrible pessimistic view on everything. Love is fleeting, it hurts, life is short and painful. Portuguese is melancholic but beautiful. German is very… multifaceted. It treats every subject imaginable. The structure of the language allows some marvellous expression that can hardly be translated. I haven’t read any American poetry yet. I’m still working through the Shakespeare sonnets.”

This wasn’t real, right? Clint was dreaming this. Loki and Captain America weren’t talking about poetry. How far was Loki going with this shit.

“God, I can’t even remember the last book I read… Makes me think of… People wrote me a list of things that I missed and most of it were movies… I don’t think there was a single book on the list.”

“Those people are stupid.”

“Well…”

“Don’t make up excuses for them. They probably don’t know how to read.”

Fuck you again, asshole

“It’s not like I have that much time and whenever more of us are around… somebody says ‘Hey, let’s watch a movie’”

“I see. Hey, let’s read a book.”

“What?”

“My rooms are full of books. A lot of them were written during the time you were asleep. You could start reading one of them. I could continue reading the sonnets.”

“Uhm… but then we would just be sitting next to each other on the couch. Not talking at all.”

“Just like watching a movie.”

“You got a point there. Which books do you have?”

Less than a minute later both of them got up and left the room, in search of Loki’s books. That couldn’t be fucking happening. Loki was fucking dedicated to his scheme.

***

It was a police novel. Entertaining, sometimes funny. The main focus was on the detective who had problems with his wife and was incredibly annoyed by his co-worker who was also his best friend. According to Loki it wasn’t a bestseller, but he enjoyed the murder mystery and he told Steve that he thought he would like it. So far Loki was right.

Nevertheless there was something strange about this situation. No, that was the wrong word. It was unfamiliar. Both of them on the couch, reading, only their feet touching. Steve couldn’t remember being this long in a room without saying a word. People were always trying to make conversation, because it was considered awkward if you were right next to each other and not saying anything.

Loki was completely enraptured by his book and Steve was right there, enjoying his own read and it was completely okay. Comfortable, actually.

Every now and then Steve looked over the edge of his book and simply contemplated Loki. Sitting there with his legs folded, head propped up on his hand, the book lying in his lap. Wasn’t this what Steve had asked for? It couldn’t get more normal than this. Loki seemed to be at ease and it caused Steve to feel warm inside. He wanted it to keep it this way. It was a thought that brought a smile to Steve’s lips, that he had somehow made it to make Loki feel like he could stay here. That this could be his safe place.

Yes, it was way too soon and probably not even realistic, but Steve’s mind started to wander. He wanted Loki around and they hadn’t been here to be together. Steve hadn’t intended to spend the rest of his life in the tower anyway. If he got a place for himself… he’d like Loki to be there too…

Smiling to himself Steve closed his book and put it aside. “I am in love with you.”

Just like that. No need to set up a moment, because it already felt right. Loki was reading poetry right now, written by the man who was universally considered the best writer who had ever lived. Words and descriptions of the very same feeling that probably were excessively beautiful, but Steve didn’t have a way with words. That didn’t mean he couldn’t tell how he felt.

Loki only slowly raised his head, blinking softly. His surprise wasn’t exaggerating but perfectly genuine and Steve felt strangely proud for rendering him speechless. Lips slightly parted and that brilliant mind was obviously racing behind those green eyes. “What?”

“I think you heard right and I’m sure you realised that before I did.”

With a soft shake of his head Loki negated that. “No, I didn’t know. I… Is it common for Midgardians to… say things out loud like that?”

“That depends…” Steve shrugged, still with a smile on his lips. “I can’t write you a poem, so I decided that I would just say it. Is it uncommon in Asgard to say something like that?”

Loki nodded, again so slowly as if he wasn’t sure how to actually do it. “Yes… it’s considered unorthodox. To be honest… nobody has ever said that to me.”

Sliding closer to Loki Steve put his hand on Loki’s knee. “Well… get used to it.”

It was so hear to believe, but Steve seemed to have thrown him for a loop. Judging by the expression on his face Loki was still trying to make sense out of what Steve had just said. Seeing somebody so confident and strong like Loki not able to grasp something so simple was almost endearing. It made Steve want to kiss him and because he could, Steve did just that. He could feel Loki breathing in, as in surprise and Steve kept kissing him.

Only slowly Loki started opening up to him and when Steve moved in closer Loki’s arms slid around his shoulders. Their bodies were touching each other and Steve didn’t even care about the book between them which was pressing against his ribcage. They would have to move to get rid of it and Steve simply didn’t want to do that. Loki’s fingers were softly running through Steve’s hair and this was so it, Steve didn’t want to have it any other way.

They kept kissing for a while until Loki started to pull back, something that Steve definitely wasn’t fond of. “Hmm?” Steve brushed his lips over Loki’s, his hand cupping Loki’s cheek.

“I… didn’t expect this. Any of this.” Loki’s voice had turned into a faint whisper and Steve nuzzled his neck. “What do you mean?”

“You and…” Loki stopped, looking up to meet Steve’s and suddenly it was back. That raw vulnerability that Steve had seen before and which Loki seemed so eager so hide. “… mostly you.”

“That doesn’t have to be a bad thing, right?”

It looked like Loki was about to respond, but then he simply leaned up and the both of them engaged in a new kiss. Way too short for Steve’s taste. It was okay though when Loki grabbed his hand and indicated him to get up. Steve let Loki pull him into the bedroom where he was pushed onto the bed and Loki slid right into his lap. Then there was a moment when Loki was just looking at him.

“Loki?”

Shaking his head Loki brought their lips back together and it was perfect. Loki’s hands were sliding under Steve’s shirt, pushing it higher. Steve let him do as he pleased and Loki pulled off his shirt, trailing little kisses over Steve’s shoulder. Loki took his time, his fingers tracing the muscles of Steve’s arms and Steve would have loved to just enjoy his touches, but he was unable to. So he mimicked Loki’s actions, stripping his shirt off and kissing his chest. There was this sort of intimacy between them that Steve had never experienced with anybody else and that he didn’t want to share with anybody else. This was Loki and him, Loki’s hands on Steve’s skin and Steve’s lips on Loki’s.

Leaning up Steve mouthed Loki’s earlobe which caused his boyfriend to shudder and Steve loved his reaction. Again he didn’t have time to savour it, since Loki pushed him onto his back. Closing his eyes Steve let Loki work his way down his chest, kissing and licking, eventually dipping his tongue into his belly button.

“Loki…” Steve gasped, trying to reach for Loki who batted his hands away and instead unbuckled Steve’s jeans. Loki kissed every single part of Steve’s skin that he revealed until he finally pushed his jeans and underwear past his hips. It wasn’t in Steve’s nature to let the other one do everything and to just lie back. Wrapping his arms around Loki Steve pulled him on top of him into a new kiss.

Not quite as soft anymore, there was longing and desire in it.

Putting his hands on Loki’s sides and Steve let them slowly move upwards. His fingertips brushed the scar tissue and when he felt Loki wince Steve distracted him with a deeper kiss. When Loki eased into it, Steve moved his hands higher, caressing Loki’s back.

Pulling him closer Steve rolled them over and when he reached for Loki’s jeans Steve had to find out that they were already gone. No, Steve still wasn’t completely comfortable with magic in this kind of situations, but he wanted Loki too much to let it throw him off.

Breaking the kiss Loki met his eyes, looking so beautiful with his eyes clouded by lust, the red cheeks and his fast breathing. “I thought it’d be different…”

“What do you mean?” Steve let his thumb brush over Loki’s cheek, pressing a kiss to his temple.

“You…” Loki whispered, then kissed him before turning around, now lying on his stomach.

Despite the darkness in the room Steve could make out the scars on Loki’s back. With Loki turning around willingly Steve suddenly didn’t know what to do. What was expected of him. “Loki?”

“I want it this way…” A short whisper and it was obvious how hard it was for Loki to say this, so Steve wasn’t going to make him repeat it. Leaning down Steve nipped at Loki’s neck and kissed the spot between his shoulder blades. Hearing Loki sigh Steve could feel himself relax too and he continued to kiss Loki’s back, along his spine. After continuing like this for several minutes Steve reached for the lube and slicked up his fingers.

Loki buried his face in the crook of his arm and let out a soft groan when Steve gently began preparing him. Steve kept kissing Loki’s spine, moving his fingers not only to get him ready but to make him feel good. Which seemed to work, judging by Loki’s soft gasps and moans.

“Come on… please…” It was demanding, almost a whine. Steve pressed a kiss against his neck. “No need to rush…”

Steve didn’t sound calm, because he didn’t feel calm. Quite the opposite. There was no way to deny that he wanted this just as bad as Loki. With one hand on Loki’s hip Steve adjusted his position slightly and buried his face in Loki’s back. While entering Loki Steve inhaled, got a bit lost in Loki’s scent and he just might start shaking.

Loki’s low moan reached his ears and Steve pushed completely inside, overwhelmed by the intense feeling of pleasure that came with it. Releasing a shaky breath Steve stretched out on top of Loki, wanting to feel every inch of him.

Letting seconds run into the next ones Steve savoured the heat that spread across his entire body, into the tips of his fingers and his toes, making them tingle. This was Loki and him, as close as they could be and it was at the same time overwhelming and insufficient.

Shifting his weight onto his knees Steve slid his arms beneath Loki’s chest, grabbing his shoulders. Loki reacted with a gasp, his back bending into a bow to arch against Steve. The movement caused Steve to hiss in pleasure and he started to thrust into Loki.

“Oh, you’re perfect…” Steve panted into Loki’s ear, his hips establishing a fast rhythm that was enthusiastically met by Loki.

Steve took Loki’s earlobe between his teeth, then sucked on it, wanting everything. Feeling him in every kind of way, on the outside an inside, taste him, smell him. Loki was moving, his hands suddenly grabbing Steve’s, entwining their fingers and Steve gasped. Turning his head Loki pressed mouth against his Steve’s cheek until Steve tilted his head, bringing their lips together in a messy kiss. Speeding up his thrusts Steve closed his eyes, ready to lose himself entirely in this. In Loki…

Someone he was in love with and who trusted him enough to let Steve see him in his most vulnerable state.

Steve went through the probably most intense and most pleasurable moment of his life, wrapped around Loki. His lips against his neck, feeling his heartbeat and Steve was at ease, content. Happy…

It was impossible to let go of Loki even when they both were breathing regularly again, when the sweat on their skin had dried. So Steve held him close, lazily kissing his lips or cheeks. Steve thought he could see a smile on Loki’s lips when he fell asleep.

Loud, vile noise exploded in Steve’s ears and he sat up straight, his heart hammering in his chest, all senses immediately being attacked. The lights were on and they were red. Blinking, hurting his eyes. Howling, steadily rising and falling as if it was trying to burst Steve’s eardrums.

And Jarvis…

“Avengers Assemble. Security breach. Alarms set off on every floor. Avengers Assemble. Attempted unauthorized access to the security system. Security breach on all levels. Avengers Assemble.”

“Loki, we…” Looking beside him Steve had to find out that he was alone. Loki’s spot was empty.

Chapter Text

“Jarvis, where is Loki?”

“I can't locate him anywhere in the tower, but 12 highly armed individuals are entering the 78th floor right now.”

It was one of these situations where you couldn’t afford to think. If Steve was going to start, he wouldn’t be able to do anything. Jumping out of bed Steve slipped on his boxers, started running and grabbed his shield on the way. Waiting for the elevator was out of the question, so Steve stormed into the staircase. Only three floors to go and Steve pretty much jumped down the stairs.

Ripping the door open Steve was blinded by white light and felt a bit of relief, realising that Thor was already here. As soon as the lightning had vanished to Steve could see what they were up against. The windows were shattered, glass all over the floor and guys dressed in black with machine guns. How was this even… They must have used a helicopter or a plane to get in and…

Steve didn’t have time to think. People were firing at him, so he brought his shield up while jumping to the side to find cover behind some of the furniture. He felt extra vulnerable due to the fact that he was only wearing his boxers, but that was also something he couldn’t pay any attention to.

Another glance around the room, memorizing all their positions and then Steve threw his shield and at the same time pounced at the terrorist closest to him. With one hand Steve pushed his gun out of the way, hit him in the face with his elbow and then moved to get behind him for some coverage.

“Captain!”

The shield came flying back at him and Steve caught it, holding it in front of him while rushing towards the next one. It took Thor and him about 10 seconds, then they were back to their old dynamic, working together, keeping an eye out for each other. That didn’t stop Steve from suddenly feeling a sharp and stinging pain in his arm. A bullet must have brushed or hit him. Another thing that Steve couldn’t pay any attention to.

“Jarvis, lock down the top three floors!”

Tony was up there…

“He already did that!” Clint’s voice came as a surprise, Steve hadn’t noticed him being here. “We need Bruce down here!”

Steve wasn’t so sure about that. Did they really want a Hulk in here too? That would only make the situation more dangerous and they couldn’t…

It wasn’t possible to continue this thought, Steve had to take care of two other guys and his main focus had to be avoiding getting hit since he wasn’t wearing his uniform and there were so many of them in such a small space.

Bringing one them down Steve jerked back when felt another man approaching him. Too late anyway, but the man fell to the floor before being able to touch him, an arrow sticking in his shoulder. No time to thank Clint, he would have to do this later.

“Break in on level 80th.”

This couldn’t be happening.

“We need to get somebody…”

The floor and the walls around him suddenly started shaking and everybody stopped for a second. So much about no bringing in the Hulk. It seemed like he was already taking care of their problem upstairs. Taking advantage of the element of surprise Steve delivered an unmerciful kick to the closest terrorist. Were still more of them entering through the windows?

Another flash of light, but this time it was different, definitely not Thor. Steve almost believed that it was Tony before another suit showed up behind the windows. Jarvis was helping them out and they definitely needed the support. The odds had now definitely changed in their favour and a few minutes later they had cleared the area.

Breathing hard Steve looked around, the floor was covered with knocked-out or dead terrorists and now he would be glad to make an exception for SHIELD to come into the tower. “Clint?”

“Already on it.”

Jarvis locked down the floor, two suits remained in place to ensure that while Steve, Thor and Clint headed upstairs. It seemed like the entire tower was shaking.

“Captain Rogers, an intruder is nearing sir’s room.”

God no. Acting on pure instinct Steve began running even faster, unaware if Thor was still next to him or behind him. The doors he needed to get through opened automatically in front of him, making to possible to advance as quickly as possible.

When Steve finally got there his blood instantly turned cold. The door to Tony’s room was wide open. Not wasting another second Steve stormed inside and there was a black, hooded figure leaning over Tony.

“Get away from him!” Throwing his shield with full force Steve had to watch it going right through the intruder, slamming against the wall. “What…”

The figure turned around and Steve’s breath got caught. There was no head, no face, just darkness beneath the hood.

“By the Nornes…” Thor released a shaky breath next to Steve and they couldn’t just stand here. Stand. Steve had seen so many things that didn’t seem to be from this world, horrible actions and yes, monsters. There was no time to hesitate. Before Steve could make an attempt at a second attack, an arrow flew past his head and through the hooded figure. Maybe there was something different about this arrow, there was no way to know. Steve could only believe his own eyes when the figure started to dissolve right in front of them. In green light.

This didn’t make any sense. What was going on here?

“Where is he?”

Green light. Loki had created that illusion. Why? Why would he do…

Somebody grabbed his arms and forcefully spun him around. Steve was looking into Clint’s burning eyes. “Where is he?! Where is Loki?!”

“I don’t…”

Groaning Clint instantly pushed him away again and turned to Thor. “Where is the amulet?”

On Thor’s face Steve saw the same confusion that he was feeling. “Why does that…”

“That’s a fucking distraction! What do you think he is doing right now?! Where is the amulet!?” Clint was yelling, screaming and Steve felt completely lost. What was going on?

“Captain Rogers, something is interfering with my security protocol. I cannot access the 70th floor anymore.”

Jarvis’ voice had just faded away when Clint was already out of the door and Steve felt overwhelmed, not able to keep up the things happening around him. Tony was still here, alone and vulnerable. “Jarvis, we need a suit here… to make sure that Tony…”

“Already on its way.”

Nodding Steve turned to Thor, almost not daring to ask it. “Is the amulet on the 70th floor?”

Thor’s whisper was a scream in the silence of this room. “Yes.”

There had to be an explanation that Steve couldn’t grasp yet, but it would all make sense. As soon as Steve would be there and he couldn’t let Clint get there before him. So Steve started to run. Clint must have taken the stairs, the elevators had been stopped. This was going to be Steve’s way. When he reached it Steve pushed its doors open and looked down the lift shaft. The elevator was so far down that Steve couldn’t even quite make it out.

“Not the craziest thing I’ve ever done…” Taking a breath Steve grabbed his shield with both hands and jumped. In free fall Steve thrust his shield into the wall and held on to it. While dangling above the literal abyss Steve was putting lot of strain on his arms, but he had been able to place the shield just above the doors to a lower level. Steve couldn’t be sure, but he must have fallen down at least 10 floors. Using his legs Steve started to swing and when he had picked up enough speed Steve pushed his feet against the closed doors.

Since he wasn’t wearing any boots it hurt like hell and it wasn’t even enough to get the doors open. The result was a considerable dent and a small gap between the doors. By the next swing Steve let go of the shield and managed to grab one of the doors, digging his fingers into the gap. Now it was possible to push them apart and Steve could get his feet back on hard ground. Holding on to one door Steve leaned forward was able to grab his shield and yanked it out of the wall.

Turning around Steve looked at the little signs next to the elevator. 68th floor. Damn… Steve had to be there, to clear everything up, to make sure things would escalate. The second Steve entered the staircase he could hear Clint’s footsteps on the higher levels. He was running. So was Steve and he was indeed the first one to reach the 70th floor, ripping the door open.

Steve had never been on this level before. It looked like it had been used as an office floor. Desks and computers, nothing else. Rushing through the room Steve approached another door. Which was locked and massive. “Loki!”

When there was no response Steve slammed his shield against the door’s lock, hearing it break under the impact. With his foot Steve kicked it open and was faced with horror.

The room was almost empty, white walls completely covered with big, black symbols. Runes. In the middle Steve could see some kind of force field, pulsating with white energy, coming from stones that were placed in the form of circle on the floor. It was impossible to see what was in that circle, since somebody was blocking his view. A person was standing in front of it with their back turned to Steve. Wearing dark blue jeans, a green hoody and who had black hair.

“Loki?”

It was obviously him and Steve’s voice was shaking nonetheless.

Steve could see Loki’s shoulder’s tense when he called his name. No.

Ever so slowly Loki slightly turned around, looking over his shoulder. His movement allowed Steve to see that the amulet was lying on a table surrounded by the stones. Loki’s hand was on the force field, glowing with green light.

There had to be another reason for this than the obvious one. Steve knew that.

Loki’s green eyes found his and Steve remembered how he had looked at him only a few hours earlier. Steve tried to find something of that trust, that openness, but it wasn’t there. A bit of surprise and most definitely annoyance. “Captain, you really have to work on your timing.”

“Loki, what are you doing?”

“Breaking a force field. I’m almost impressed by all the defence mechanisms that Thor has put up. It takes some time.” Loki shrugged, but Steve was attentive and noted how he slowly curled the fingers of his left hand.

“Loki, please you have…”

“Show me your hands, asshole! Put them up!”

Spinning around Steve saw Clint and Thor entering the room. An arrow was pointed at Loki who narrowed his eyes at him. He huffed, sounding almost offended. “Are you serious, agent Barton? An arrow? Again?”

“Shut the fuck up, you son of a bitch! I want to see your hands and step away from the amulet! Don’t even bother to put on another show. Thor told me that you can’t teleport out of this room. You’ll step away, then stay where you are.”

Those green eyes lingered at Clint a second longer, then darted to Thor. “What a useful piece of information… Will you now put the arrow away? You will hurt yourself? Aren’t there any more of these pathetic men left that you can kill?”

“STEP AWAY! NOW!”

Groaning Loki let his head fall back before turning his attention back to Steve. “Two more minutes. That’s all I would have needed.”

“Brother, please, whatever you are trying to accomplish here, we can…”

Thor was brutally cut off and Loki’s smile caused a shiver to run down Steve’s spine. “Brother?” Strings of green light were starting to dance around the fingers of Loki’s left hand. “Let me remind you, Thor… in case you have forgotten. The two of us are not related.”

Over one hundred things happened in the next three seconds. A smile turned into a well-known snarl that Steve had thought he would never see again. Green light turned into a ball of fire that was directly thrown at them.

Steve jumped out of the way. His mind should be racing, but it had been wiped clean. It wasn’t happening. It clearly was happening, but it couldn’t be. Not after everything they had shared, not after what Steve had seen.

Not related…

Loki knew. How could he possibly know?

“Cap, fucking do something!”

Loki hadn’t moved, just thrown three new energy balls that forced them to move and Steve could only blink before the force field which protected the amulet suddenly collapsed. Picking up the amulet Loki contemplated it in his hand. “A shame to just put it aside when there are so many ways to make use of it.”

“You fucking…”

The amulet was slipped into the pocket of his hoody and Loki finally fully turned around. “As you’ve already pointed out, I cannot teleport out of this room. I will leave though.”

“Yeah, come on. I’d love to see you try.”

“Loki, please…”

Not even a glance, Loki walked straight towards them, batting away the arrow Clint shot at him as if it was a fly. And the next one.

Steve couldn’t move.

“Guys! Fucking do something!”

Stave had looked into his eyes. Loki had been a different person. How could…

Flames danced in Loki’s palm, Clint was yelling and then there was Mjölnir. It hit Loki right into the chest, throwing him back across the room. Steve wanted to run towards him, checking if he was okay, but Loki immediately back on his feet. A grin was playing around his lips. Dark and deranged. “Is that a way to treat your brother?”

“Loki, please. We can still…” Thor was desperate, Steve could hear it and it could have been him who said that.

The phrase was left unfinished when the room was suddenly filled with clones of Loki.

Something that Steve had seen before and it was getting hard to deny the obvious. This was a fight. Those clones were nasty. Some of them would disappear the moment you touched them. Others could actually use magic, but no way as powerful as Loki’s. They were a distraction for the real Loki to get out of this room.

Several of the clones started throwing energy beams at them and Steve’s senses were finally catching up with him. Just the thought of hitting Loki was unbearable, but it was impossible to overlook the fact that these beams were also aimed at him. Raising his shield Steve couldn’t bring himself to throw it. Instead he used it to protect himself and Clint from the attacks. Thor and Clint weren’t as hesitant. Arrows were flying through clones, just like the hammer and Steve lost track. He felt numb, only concentrating on defending his friends, when something brushed his arm.

Soft garment

Somebody was slipping past him. Someone made of flesh and blood.

“Steve, get him!”

It was too late, one of the Lokis was standing in the doorframe, one foot already outside.

“Not this time, you son of a bitch.”

Loki gasped in pain and within a second the clones dissolved into green light. Ripping the arrow out of his shoulder Loki looked up, his beautiful face contorted by rage and disgust. “I’m looking forward to kill you, agent Barton…”

Just like that he was gone.

 ***

The tower was bursting with SHIELD agents who were taking away the members of the Ten Rings, cleaning up the place. Steve watched them and didn’t really see anything.

Loki had left. In the middle of the night. Out of their bed. He had stolen the artefact he had been trying to obtain before losing his memory. He had attacked them. He had attacked Steve.

They probably were all looking at him. Steve didn’t notice or cared, but he was sure that they did.

“Here…” Bruce slid a blanket over his shoulders and Steve startled. “It’s okay. Normally it’s me who needs somebody to bring them clothes.”

Looking down at himself Steve realised that he was still only wearing his boxers. His feet were bleeding. There was a large cut on his arm. Steve didn’t care.

“Is Tony okay?”

Sitting down next to him Bruce nodded. “Yeah… nobody got even close to his room. Except for…” He didn’t want to say it. Was he afraid that Steve might break down? That he was going to cry?

Steve didn’t think that he was able to.

“Thanks to the security footage the whole thing seems pretty clear. Two armed helicopters. They blasted the windows and this way their guys could enter. Another attack on Tony and Loki jumped at the opportunity. Couldn’t hope for a better distraction…”

Clint was staring at Steve while pointing this out. The expected taunt or reproach wasn’t coming. It was worse. Disappointment. Steve had a good idea what he looked like right now. Perhaps it wouldn’t take long for them to even start pitying him.

“We do not know yet what happened to my brother…”

“Don’t even start! You saw what he did! You saw what happened!” Clint hissed at him and it was strange to see Thor lowering his eyes, looking ashamed. Yet he wouldn’t give up. “We talked about the possibility of his memories coming back… He said I wasn’t his… wasn’t his brother. Which means he knows about his heritage… he must have remembered and… Did something happen? Did he say anything that would help us to understand?”

Now they were all looking at him. Thor, Bruce, Clint and Natasha who had showed up with SHIELD. Their expressions were all different and Steve wanted to scream at them. Instead he remained silent, not saying anything. None of these events meant sense to him.

“Steve, did you notice something?”

“Did he say something?”

“What were you doing before this happened?”

The last question caused Steve to wince and Clint groaned in response, rubbing one hand over his face. “Oh, I get it. You were fucking. There was no magic moment when he remembered. You guys were fucking and when you rolled over and fell asleep he slipped out to get the one thing he was after from the very beginning. Now he has it and god knows what he is able to do with it!”

“No.” Steve shook his head. “Something’s not right. We saw him and we talked to him. He wasn’t… God, he has been through hell, somebody made him… You saw him! His back is covered in…”

“Oh, give me a break! He can make up a clone! He can make up monsters and change his face. He can alter his appearance. They probably weren’t even real. I’ll give it to the son of a bitch, he’s fucking smart. He pulled off this show beautifully and he knew how to appeal to you. To get you to trust him and the second he saw a possibility to get what he wants, he went for it. Fuck this, I’m fucking mad, because I told you so, but that won’t get us anywhere. We need to set down and find out what he wants to use the amulet for and figure out a way to stop him. I get it. This is ugly and terrible… and you guys were right about one thing – He could have changed his mind. Tony, Thor and you, Cap… you gave him a chance. He could have come around, he could have let go of his plan, but he didn’t. Instead he betrayed you and now it’s personal.”

Nausea was coming over Steve and fought the urge to throw up. He remembered Loki looking over the city with that melancholic expression. He remembered him being taken aback by Steve telling him that he was in love with him. Loki giving Steve the feeling that there could be something normal in his life. Something more than spending all of his days trying to save the world without having something or someone to come home to.

Steve also remembered Loki’s snarl and his careless eyes when Steve had found him with amulet.

The numbness started to dissolve like Loki’s clones. Something else manifested itself and Steve couldn’t let it be chagrin or sorrow, because then it would overwhelm him and he wouldn’t be able to get back up to his feet. It would rip him apart.

So what Steve felt wasn’t grief or even pain.

Steve felt betrayed and his rising anger quickly engulfed him. Something that needed to happen for him to not break down.

Chapter Text

Blood was splattered all over the shards. Now Steve would have to bandage his hand and his foot. Steve hadn’t been able to look into the mirror and now it was lying broken on the floor. Where was the point in caring about bad luck? Things couldn’t get worse.

How did he even get here?

After waking up from the ice Steve hadn’t thought that he would ever be able to lead a normal life. To be honest, he didn’t want a totally normal life, but Steve couldn’t deny that he longed for simple things that everybody else could enjoy. Steve had wished for Loki to be that. Because Steve had fallen in love with him.

Saving his life, fighting at his side, everything he said…

The cuts in his skin began to hurt even more when he balled his hand into a fist.

It was so hard to tell who he was more furious with. Himself or Loki.

Yes, Loki had betrayed him, but Steve allowed himself to fall for it.

Because he wanted to believe that there was something good in every person? Or because he had wanted Loki?

Anger wasn’t enough. Steve had destroyed the mirror, because looking at himself had been pure humiliation. Steve had told him. He had looked at Loki and told him that he was in love with him. They had slept with each other. Numerous times.

Despite all Steve had gone through… he couldn’t think of anything crueller that anybody had ever done to him.

“Steve?”

A knock on the door told him that he couldn’t lock himself up any longer and Steve didn’t even want to. Opening the door Steve left the bathroom and joined the others.

“What happened to your hand?” Natasha raised an eyebrow and Steve made a dismissive gesture. “Doesn’t matter… The amulet gives him the ability to store energy. Which means it makes him more powerful in every aspect… So we’ll have to act quickly, before he’ll be able to store a lot of his power away.”

The bewilderment was obvious although nobody dared to say a word. Natasha and Clint shared a look, but they spared him the speech and the gloating. Steve knew what he had done, how foolish he had been.

“Loki could be anywhere right now. We were never able to find him. It was always him who found us.” Thor mumbled under his breath, his voice barely filling the room. Was it even worse for him? To lose Loki a second time? Steve hadn’t been the only one who had been betrayed.

“This time that might be different.” Clint was tapping one of his arrows against his knee. “Tony has been working on the… wormhole thing. He might have been onto something how to locate his magic.”

“Loki is too smart to let Tony find something so important.”

“I’m not just relying on Tony here…” Holding up the arrow Clint pointed at its top. “I got him before he disappeared. He won’t be happy about that.”

Steve couldn’t follow his thought and neither did Thor. “That wound has probably already started healing.”

“Unlikely. I poisoned him. SHIELD has been working on this stuff for months now. They are not quite as happy with the results as they wanted to be, but they didn’t have enough time. The tests were pretty effective. It would definitely kill a normal person, but with him… he’ll probably feel like shit for a day and if the stuff is worth its money he’ll not be able to do his biggest tricks.” Clint probably wanted to sound smug, but this issue was too important to get carried away.

Poisoned… that word sounded horrible and yet Steve felt like he still had a chance. To make up for his unforgivable mistake. “You mean he won’t be able to teleport away far?”

Again everybody was looking at him and it was almost possible to taste the doubt floating around the room. After all that had happened Steve couldn’t fault them for this. At least they were generous enough to leave every mean or questioning comment unsaid. “It’s hard to tell, because no test subject quite resembles him, but considering the results… all of his abilities will be impaired.” Natasha explained and Steve nodded.

All of them had seen so many times what Loki could do. Steve wasn’t sure if there was any SHIELD created poison that could power him down, but if there was a chance, Steve was going to make most of it. “Okay, he can’t go far… he needs his power before making use of the amulet… Thor, any idea where he could have gone? If he is low on power and can’t afford to go very far?”

Not raising his head, Thor kept his eyes fixed on Mjölnir which was lying on the floor in front of him. “It seems I do not know anything about my brother or what he might do.”

Steve wouldn’t think about this, not even a second, because if he did, he wouldn’t be able to go on. “We need Tony for this… he has been working on the teleportation technology… Jarvis?”

“Sir woke up 15 minutes ago. Miss Potts is filling him in.”

God, Tony was still in terrible shape and they had to bother him with this, but they couldn’t afford to lose any time. Loki wasn’t going to get away with that… Steve would make sure of that.

“Speaking for Tony… The Ten Rings took a bad hit… the timing is odd though. Is there any chance that Loki might be working with them?” Bruce was sheepish and Steve felt nauseous.

To his big surprise Natasha shook her head. “Loki doesn’t play well with others, we know that… he thinks that mortal concepts and ideas are beneath him. It’s very unlikely. Thanks to the helicopters we could locate another cell. The anti-terrorist units are dealing with it right now. We have to take care of Loki. He’s not going through all this trouble to get the amulet if he hasn’t plans what to do next.”

“So how do we find him? Thor, what does he need to work with the amulet?”

Still not looking up Thor answered. “He needs… a safe place. The amulet stores the power that he offers. That is a strenuous process and he will be weak after doing so, he needs time to regenerate. Later he has his own power and the power in the amulet at his disposal. The amount of power the amulet can store is almost… unlimited. Loki could take years to fill it which would allow him to… destroy entire planets. Patience is not his greatest virtue… so I believe he will only put as much power into the amulet as necessary for whatever he wants to achieve. We might have a few days…”

Safe place… two words that couldn’t have hit Steve any harder.

“Okay… that means he’ll be vulnerable, he has to have set something up. He prepares for this kind of thing. What if he can’t get there, because the poison weakens him too much… We need a list of potential hide-outs… unfortunately it’s not like we haven’t had this idea before…”

“I am sorry to interrupt your conversation, but Mr. Stark wishes to talk to you. Since he is still unable to leave the bed, he wants you to come to him.”

Jarvis’ request came as a relief since Steve had honestly no idea where they could go from here. They needed to get the amulet back and it was Steve’s fault that Loki had got his hands on it in the first place. It was his responsibility to get it back and lock Loki up behind bars. Like they should have done a few weeks ago.

This was all on Steve…

All of them got up to their feet, Thor a little slower than everybody else and they made their way up to Tony’s floor. The sight of him was the first good thing that Steve had witnessed since waking up. Tony was sitting in his bed, leaning against the pillows and his face was still white as chalk, but his eyes were vivid. “I’m missing in action for a day and you immediately manage to let my tower be invaded. Great…”

Trying to sit up a little straighter Tony winced in pain and Pepper laid a hand on his arm. “Tony, no. You don’t move. Do you hear me?”

“Always bossing me around. It’s just my ribs… don’t need them anyway.” Tony gritted his teeth, but he complied which made clear that he was still in severe pain. “Okay, let’s get this over quickly before the morphine kills the last of my brain cells… Bruce, there’s a tablet in the one of the lockers in my lab. The last one on the left. Jarvis, give Doctor Banner the permission to open it. The tablet can locate the amulet…”

Tony took a moment to suck some air into his lungs and Clint instantly jumped at the opportunity. Eyes wide and excited. “What the hell, how?!”

Rolling his eyes Tony groaned softly. “This is my tower… do you seriously believe if Thor is hiding something here that I wouldn’t find out where? I put a tracker onto it… it’s tiny, but with Loki you never know… you should hurry up.”

“On my way. Thanks, Tony.” Bruce was already out of the door and everybody else on his heels when Tony spoke up again. “Steve… wait a second.”

No, Steve didn’t want to and he didn’t have the time. Loki had come this far because of him, Loki had escaped because of him. Tony had also been on Loki’s side, but he had kept a cool head. Instead of completely falling for this scheme Tony had even thought as far as making sure that they would be able to find the amulet. It was another proof how far Steve had fallen. “I gotta help them to…”

“You gotta listen to me for a second. It’s not going to take long, just listen.” Tony glanced at Pepper who scowled, but then nodded and also left the room.

“Okay… what is it?” Subconsciously Steve crossed his arms in front of his chest, ready to defend himself, although Tony was probably the last one who would reproach him.

“I wouldn’t be lying here if it wasn’t for him and you wouldn’t be standing there. No, let me finish… I know he fucked you over and you deserve to burn all of his stuff, cut all the photographs and write the word ‘Asshole’ on the windshield of his car… but there has to be more to it… Clint doesn’t think about that, because he hates him. Natasha is too focused on Clint to get it and Thor is too crushed to think straight… Loki is smart, he could have both of us killed and he doesn’t need us to get to the amulet. Something is not right about this…” Tony sank deeper into the pillows, sighing softly and Steve merely shook his head. “He lied. All the time and I fell for it. You said yourself that you don’t trust him. Thor is his brother. What excuse do I have? That he looked at me with his sad eyes and that I couldn’t believe that he was entirely bad? Or that I wanted to sleep with him? That I wanted him to like me? I was stupid and I will not make the same mistake again…”

“What are you going to do? Let Clint kill him?”

“No… just put him away like we should have done…”

Tony softly nodded. “Definitely a good idea, but still… we’re missing something here. Something’s not right.”

No, nothing was right about this. “Take care, we’ll be back soon.”

Steve was sure that Tony was about to say something else, but he couldn’t stay to listen to it. He just couldn’t. One level lower Bruce held up said tablet. “We got him.”

Nodding softly Steve grabbed his shield from where he leaned it against the wall. “Let’s go.”

 ***

An apartment. Not even 15 minutes away. It seemed like Loki couldn’t stop laughing at them. When Thor broke the door to the flat, him, Clint and Steve were instantly thrown back by a shockwave of energy. Steve’s head was slammed against the wall, his ears were ringing, but he ignored that, instantly getting back up on his feet.

“A defense spell. This is the right place.” Thor growled under his breath, being the first one to enter the apartment. All four of them stayed close together, Bruce was waiting outside, ready if they should need the big guns.

The apartment was small, tidy and it looked nothing like Loki. No drawings, just a few books lying around, dark colours. Or was this really Loki? It was entirely possible that Steve didn’t know him at all.

“Hey, woah! What are you doing here?”

A young man who looked nothing like Loki entered the room, clear shock etching on his face when he spotted the Avengers. “Brother, surrender immediately!”

“What? Who are you? What are you…”

Not this time. Steve wouldn’t fall for his games another time. Loki didn’t get to finish, Steve threw his shield at him. It was a perfect hit against his shoulder and the glamour dropped the same second. Loki was still trying to keep his balance when Thor was already on him, swinging his hammer to bring him to the ground. He wasn’t as successful as Steve though. Once again Loki vanished before their eyes and Steve wanted to scream if he had slipped through their hands once again. What if the poison didn’t work after all and Loki was now at the other end of the world…

“I am not your brother!” Loki popped up right behind Thor, kicking him right in the back before turning around throwing an energy ball at Natasha and Clint who were jumping out of the way.

At first glance he looked as strong as ever, but Steve wouldn’t get fooled again by appearances. All he needed was to look closely. Loki was pale, more than usual. Dark rings were beneath his eyes and his movements were jerky, hectic.

The poison was working…

Lunging forward Steve let his anger lead him and threw himself at Loki. Surprise was on his side, but while he was trying to pin Loki to the floor, the god pushed both of his feet against Steve’s stomach, knocking all air out of his lungs. The second Loki had sat up Thor grabbed him in a choke-hold. “Loki, leave it be! Please!”

No grip, no matter how tight was able to hold Loki. Suddenly Thor was only grabbing thin air and all of them glanced around, trying to…

“Now stay where you are or you can pick up her dead body from the floor.”

“Let go of her, you son of a bitch!”

Steve’s breath got caught, his mind was racing, trying to find a way around this. Loki had one hand wrapped around Natasha’s throat, the tip of his dagger pressed against her carotid artery.

This wasn’t the same man Steve had spent the last weeks with. Steve could remember gentle eyes looking at him. Those were just mad, haunted. Loki looked sick. Mentally and physically.

“What do you think is going to happen? You would be already out of here if you could. Look at you, you’re pathetic. You can barely stand on your own feet.” Clint spat, aiming an arrow at Loki and every single word was the truth. He was stating the obvious. Loki looked terrible, swaying dangerously, his hand which could kill Natasha any second was shaking slightly.

“I can stand long enough to kill her and you.”

Finally some true words coming from Loki. “Put that dagger down. You are not getting out of this and you know it. You’re too weak.”

Loki’s eyes darted to Steve and it shouldn’t get so easily under Steve’s skin. He didn’t receive a response, Loki’s cold and vicious stare went back to Clint. “I will gut you for even daring to use your Midgardian trash on me and I will enjoy it.”

“By god, look at you! You wouldn’t even be able to lift your hand to hit me! That Midgardian trash is doing quite some damage, doesn’t it? I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t work on Thor. Your race doesn’t seem to take it so well…” Clint was taunting him and Steve wished for him to close his mouth, Loki was already on the edge. There was no guarantee he wouldn’t…

“Shut up!”

“What? Sore spot? You really wish you could forget that you are not an actual god, but a monster that the Asgardians have been fighting against for over thousands of years?”

“You puny, pathetic- Ahh!” Loki’s voice turned into a scream and he dropped the dagger. It happened so fast Steve could hardly make out that Natasha had rammed a small knife into Loki’s thigh. Jumping at her chance she got out of his slipping grip, Clint let go of his arrow, Thor threw his hammer and Steve stood there.

A part of him felt dark but intense satisfaction when Loki was thrust against the wall and when he kept lying motionless on the floor satisfaction turned into disgust. A second ago Loki had held a dagger to Natasha’s throat, talked about killing Clint and Steve still wanted to rush towards him and make sure that he was okay. Steve hated himself for this and he hated himself for feeling good about Loki getting hurt.

“Be careful, Thor…”

Ignoring Clint’s hiss Thor walked over to Loki and turned him onto his back. His eyes were closed, all blood seemed to have drained from his face. “He lost consciousness.”

“Thank god… Nat?”

“I’m alright. Let’s get out of here.”

Steve nodded, his eyes following Thor’s every move when he picked up his brother into his arms and carried him out of the room. So this was it. Hopefully it had come to an end now.

 ***

Two agents started whispering as Steve walked by. Everybody knew and Steve hadn’t cared when he had still thought Loki to be innocent. Now… Steve wanted to turn away. Ignoring them he continued to walk to the observation room. Inside there it was all the same. Steve was used to people looking at him when he entered a room but not like this. Acting as if he didn’t notice Steve turned to screens. He had had no idea about this, yet it was another thing that he should have known. During all the time Loki had been at the tower SHIELD had worked on their security measures. Excessively.

The cell Loki was kept in reminded him a lot of the room where Thor had hidden the amulet. Walls covered with runes, empty for the table they had bound him to. Vibranium cuffs around his wrists, ankles, elbows and neck. Even more runes were painted on them. Thor had brought the stones which were now placed around Loki. Since nobody could be entirely sure that this was going to keep Loki in check, they had hooked him up to an infusion tube, pumping the only thing into his veins which had proven to successfully weaken him.

So Loki was lying there. His eyes staring up at the ceiling and Steve should feel better. They had the amulet back, Loki was in a cell and nobody had got hurt. Why wasn’t Steve feeling any better?

Nothing seemed to help.

When Loki had woken up it had been Clint, again, who had informed him about his new situation. This time Loki hadn’t been able to free himself, but he had done just as much damage.

“I knew you wouldn’t believe me and I also knew that they wouldn’t take you seriously. I’ve looked into your mind, agent Barton. It’s so simple and plain, how could anyone ever think that you are right about something?”

Clint had hit him in the face, splitting Loki’s lip, making him spit blood and Loki still had laughed.

Steve had forced himself to stand there and keep his face blank, because once again everybody had stared at him. What had they expected from him? That he would storm inside and throw himself between them? Part of him had wanted to and part of him had wanted to hit Loki himself.

They had kissed, shared private details about their lives, had slept with each other and every second of it had felt real. Honest. It had been real for Steve and it had been beautiful. Now those moments were tarnished, hurting and Steve wished he could be like Loki. Turn around and change completely. Forget about and stop caring.

Why?

Had it been joke? Loki had had to get into the tower to get the amulet. He had already been in the tower, why would he seduce Steve? Seduce… that wasn’t even the right word. Why sleep with him, get into a relationship with him? It hadn’t helped him to get closer to the amulet. To torture Steve? To make him go through what he was suffering from right now? These questions. Was he just cruel?

“I want to talk to him.”

“I’m sorry, Captain Rogers, but you have no permission to…”

“I don’t care about permissions. I helped bringing him here, didn’t I? I’m not going to let him out, but I’m going to talk to him. Now.”

The agent started immediately talking into his phone, only to be ignored by Steve who was already on his way. Naturally the cell was highly guarded and at first they actually refused Steve entry. Five minutes later Fury must have realised that there was no way to that Steve was going back off and the guards received orders to let him through.

His heart was beating way to fast and Steve tried to tell himself that it didn’t pain him to see Loki in this state. Not proud and strong, but fragile and worn out. Stopping next to the table Steve looked at him and Loki met his gaze without any hesitation. There was no shame to be found in them. No regret.

“You still don’t care about other people might think or say about you?”

The very first thing Loki said to him and Steve tensed, frozen to a spot. This was how he did it. One look at Steve and he instantly knew how to get to him, which buttons to push and Steve didn’t know how to come back from that. No, Loki wasn’t going to do this now. Steve wouldn’t let him play his game. Instead of answering Steve asked his own question. “Why? Why did you do it?”

Loki laughed, a rattling sound that seemed to cause him pain. “Don’t worry I didn’t tell them what you said. You might be able to save pieces of your reputation, great Captain America.”

No, this wasn’t going to happen. Loki had no right to mock him over this. Steve had meant it and he couldn’t be ashamed because of it. Not when it had been the most beautiful thing in his life. If only for half an hour.

“Not telling them what? That I told you that I’m in love with you?”

The tables had turned. Loki stared up at him, his eyes slightly widening and then his face went blank again. Too late. Steve had seen the surprise. “I don’t care about what you might have to say. I’m not interested in a conversation. I just want to know why. What were you planning? What did you want the amulet for? What was this all about?”

Loki blinked as if he wasn’t quite sure what Steve wanted from him. Or he just didn’t care.

“What did you want?”

No response, Loki kept looking at him, his gaze intense and cold. It was too much. Steve remembered how he had been looking at him last night and what it had meant to him. Those couldn’t be the same eyes.

Turning around Steve was about to leave when he got his answer.

“Stark. I wanted Stark.”

Chapter Text

This was the hardest part. Steve couldn’t tell if what he said was true or if it was made up to hurt him. Whatever Loki wanted to achieve, Steve had no idea, because he didn’t know Loki. He had called him two different persons. Before and after the supposed memory loss. It was time to admit that Steve didn’t know who was lying right in front of him.

That didn’t mean that it hurt any less and Steve didn’t want to continue this conversation, although it had been him who had sought it out. Steve could do fight terrorists, Nazis or Hydra, but this was something else entirely. Until now things had been pretty easy. Black and white. Good or bad. Loki didn’t fit anywhere.

Tony….

Steve kept looking at Loki. Something about his eyes was wrong. They were green, amazingly beautiful still and blank. No love for him, nor disdain. Nothing. It had to be a mask. After all what Loki had done, what he had gone through to get to this point… there was no way he wasn’t feeling one way or the other about Steve.

Most likely he despised him because of his stupidity. Loki had nothing but contempt for stupid people and Steve had definitely proven that he didn’t possess a lot of wit. Fallen for the oldest trick in the book. Loki being indifferent about him wasn’t an option.

“Tony. What do you mean? I don’t…”

Green eyes slid closed and Loki’s lips twitched the slightest bit. Another expression that Steve didn’t know how to take. “Isn’t it obvious?”

No, nothing was obvious. Nothing at all. “Loki, damn it, talk to me! I gave you a chance. Tony, Thor and me. You could have stayed at the tower. With us or you could have left, I would have let you go. I believed in you, I trusted you. You could have walked away. Why didn’t you? Why was the amulet so important? Why do you want it so badly?”

Loki parted his lips ever so lightly, releasing a breath that sounded strangely rattled. Steve’s eyes involuntarily were back on the needle in his arm. What was it going to do to him if they kept pushing this stuff into his veins 24/7? Was it going to kill him?

“I don’t want it. I need it.”

Steve could see a dark spot on Loki’s white skin where the needle was placed. The poison was black, he could see it forming thin lines beneath Loki’s skin. Like a cobwebs. The sight was making Steve feel nauseous and his stomach was turning. He remembered kissing that skin. Pale, cold and yet so soft and perfect. This was taking him apart, it was supposed to and Steve couldn’t look at it.

“Are you in pain?” The words were barely passing his lips, they were heavy and vile.

Those eyes were being opened again and the mask slipped for a second. Loki looked at him in a clearly confused way before going blank again. “What do you think?”

Steve thought that it had to be painful. Agonizing. Something that Loki wouldn’t show, not in front of him, no matter how much it might hurt. This was wrong. Yes, he was dangerous and they needed to keep him locked up to make sure Loki wouldn’t start hurting people again. There was no reason, no justification to make sure that he was in pain.

“I think that…” After hesitating for a second Steve reached out, putting his hand around Loki’s lower arm where he could see the lines. He almost pulled back, almost winced. The skin beneath his hand was burning. It felt like he had fever. “I think that this must hurt. Let’s clear. I came to bring you here, because you need to be here. Because you aren’t the person you showed me. You are still the same person as when you brought the Chitauri to kill us all. You need to be in a cell to stop you from hurting other people. Believe me, I’ll do everything in my power to make sure that you stay here, not endangering anyone. That doesn’t mean I want to see you in pain. So tell me if this stuff hurts and I will do something about it.”

He could practically hear all of the agents start yelling at their screens and Steve didn’t care. Loki’s skin was pulsing beneath his fingers, radiating with heat and Steve couldn’t fight the urge to put a cold towel on his forehead and brush his hair aside.

One word would be enough, but it never came. Loki looked at him, then at the hand on his arm. Did he want him to take it away? Had Loki ever wanted to be touched by him? That possibility was too much to bear at the moment. “Nobody else will make you such an offer.”

Nothing

Finally pulling back Steve turned around and left the room, breathing easier the second he stepped outside. Natasha was already standing there, with her arms crossed in front of her chest, waiting for him. Another thing that Steve didn’t want to do. “Please, spare me.”

“What do you think that I’m going to say?”

“That I’m still compromised and that I should stay away from him, because I might do something stupid. Again.”

To his great surprise Natasha’s expression was almost warm when she shook her head. “No, not at all. You handled this as well as anybody in your situation could have.”

Far from the truth, but Steve was glad that he was giving him a break. “I should have never been in this situation to begin with.”

And the second time she was also gracious with him. “No, but you weren’t the only one he fooled. He excels at that…”

“He didn’t fool you… Look, I need to get out of here. Get some fresh air.”

“Okay, but we should talk about what he said just a moment ago. Meeting is in fifteen minutes. Conference room.”

 ***

Fury wanted to speak to him in private and Steve knew that he had to. That an apology from him was necessary, but he couldn’t bring himself to it. Instead he listened quietly to whatever the director had to say. Words. Lots of them. Probation. Compromised. Dangerous. Most of it vanished from Steve’s mind instantly. He thought about Loki lying on that table. Loki lying in his bed with Steve’s arm around his waist.

“What’s going to happen to him?”

“Pardon?”

Finally looking up Steve’s eyes still went past Fury. “What’s going to happen to him? He’s not human, he can’t be put on trial. Are you going to keep him here? Or send him back to Asgard?”

Naturally the director was anything but pleased that Steve hadn’t commented on anything and was now asking about Loki. “The last time we handed him over to Thor things didn’t turn out so well. He’s going to stay. We got him sedated and harmless and he’ll stay that way. The next 1000 years if necessary.”

Steve slowly nodded, thinking about how Loki had called him immortal.

“Also you are not going to see him again. No visitors. No interrogations, at least when you are involved.”

“Director, that’s…”

“You are really making this hard for me, Captain. You enabled him and you admitted yourself that you are infatuated with him. I have footage of you telling him that you don’t want him to feel any pain. Let’s be honest, Cap. I don’t trust you anywhere near the prisoner. You are not going to get close to his cell. You are going to go home and consider yourself on holiday. Until you are told otherwise.”

Any other time Steve would have argued, if he hadn’t been so tired. So drained. Maybe Fury felt like this was a triumph, he didn’t care. Nothing he could say would bother him. Steve had lost something dear to him and that was the only thing that mattered. So Steve just left and did go home.

Not to his floor but Loki’s. The drawings were still on the walls, books lying around and nothing had changed. It was still the same place where Steve had spent so many beautiful moments. Good lord, 12 hours ago he had told Loki on this couch that he was in love with him.

Now things were completely different and Steve didn’t know what to do. How to feel. They all expected him to leave this all instantly behind. Loki betrayed him, so forget about him, lock him in a cell and throw the key away. Problem solved. If life only were so easy.

Steve’s eyes wondered to the door to the bedroom and he couldn’t even make one step towards it. Absolutely impossible. He wasn’t capable of going in there. The last moment when everything had been alright had happened inside there. Only it had never been alright to begin with. Steve had let himself be fooled, because that had been what he had wanted. He still wanted it, but Loki had made it all up.

His hand started shaking and Steve tried to not think about how Loki had looked at him. With that empty gaze. Not caring about what he had done to Steve. Not in the slightest. It was something that Steve couldn’t understand. How somebody could be so open, show a vulnerable and soft side when it was all a lie?

And how could Steve have fallen for it?

What was he supposed to do now? Trash the room? Go to bed and sleep? He wasn’t allowed to see Loki anymore, so what was stopping him from pretending that none of this had ever happened?

The image of Loki on this table. With a needle in his arm. Eyes with dark rings around them. Black lines beneath his skin.

“Captain Rogers, Mr. Stark wants to speak to you.”

Steve flinched, still so easy to forget that Jarvis was around all the time. “I’m sorry, Jarvis, but I really don’t feel like talking right now.”

“Sir says that he won’t take no for an answer. It’s urgent.”

Of course it was. It was about Loki. Tony wouldn’t let up, that was for sure, but Steve couldn’t imagine saying him right now. Not after what Loki had said. Another thing that Steve couldn’t understand. If it was all about Tony, why had Loki even looked into his direction?

“Okay, I’ll be upstairs in a second…” Taking a breath Steve ran one hand through his hair, his feet still rooted to a spot. He didn’t feel like moving, didn’t want to see Tony. It wasn’t fair to him.

The way to Tony’s room took him way longer than usual, Steve definitely didn’t hurry. Tony was still lying in his bed and still seemed way more active than him. One tablet was in his hands, another one lying on the nightstand, notes scattered all over the bed. “There you are! Did you fall asleep on your way here? We have a lot of stuff to sort out.”

“Tony, I…”

“Yeah, I know. It sucks, but this whole thing still doesn’t make any sense. I don’t like that, it’s going to come back and bite us in the ass, so we’ll have to figure it out now. Can’t count on SHIELD doing that…”

Blinking in confusion Steve mumbled “You’re talking about Loki?”

“What else should I be talking about?”

Slowly sitting down on a chair on the other side of the room Steve studied the floor. “I fear you’re not up to date with the newest… development.”

“Have to disappoint you again. I have told you guys that SHIELD’s security is useless. Pathetic.”

Steve blinked in surprise. “Are you saying… that you heard what he said?”

“Yeah, every word.”

“Then you’ll understand that I really don’t want to talk about…”

“Sit your ass down!” Tony immediately cut him off when Steve tried to stand up. “Half of the team is either hiding their hand in the sand or completely thrilled with the fact that he is finally imprisoned. I need a sane person to discuss this with. Oh, please, you don’t really buy this? I know you’re in love and that makes you stupid, jealous and turns you into a teenager… you still gotta realise that he had all the opportunity in the world to hit on me. He didn’t, he hit on you. So he clearly didn’t mean it that way. SHIELD isn’t going to bother to find out what he meant, therefore we have to do that.” Tony kept frantically tipping on the tablet, while Steve’s thoughts were only slowly catching up to what he was saying.

“Hold on…” Shaking his head Steve tried to see the sense in all of this. “You think he was lying just to mess with me? Because he’s enjoying this?”

Tony answered with a shrug. “Very possible. It’s Loki after all. We don’t know. Maybe it’s nothing, maybe it’s something. Perhaps he’s just an asshole. But there are two reasons why I’m not going to let this rest before I know what’s going on.”

“What two reasons?” One would be enough to make Steve fall over, he knew that.

Finally Tony turned to actually look at him and it threw Steve off. It was that look that Steve had given him so many times when they had first met each other. The ‘Are you really that stupid?’ look. What had he done wrong now?

“You and me. The two of us not being dead? Which doesn’t make any sense if he was in it for the amulet. We need to…”

No. Loki had looked at him. Blank. When only a day ago Loki had given Steve the feeling to be special, to mean something to him. Today everything was different and Steve didn’t want to give himself to the possibility that they got it all wrong. That Loki wasn’t a liar. That Steve wasn’t just another part in his game. If it should turn out that Steve was indeed a pawn, like everybody else, he would not be able to take it.

Burying his face in his hands Steve made a weak attempt to shake his head. “No. Please, just let it be.”

“No way.”

“Tony, I can’t take this. Not right now. Maybe not at all. He jumped at the first opportunity to run away and to betray us. To betray me. I don’t… You know me. He means something to me, I was serious about all of this. I thought I was in a relationship with him. He walked out on me, instantly used violence against us again and… I can’t.” Steve felt pathetic when he could only whisper these words. No, it shouldn’t be this way. Loki should still be here and he should still be wearing that soft smile on his lips.

It should be…

“Steve, come on. Don’t be coward. How could it get any worse? At the moment he pretended to give a damn about you to fuck all of us over to get an amulet and kill us with its help. That’s awful. Terrible stuff. I say something is wrong about it. If we don’t find anything, situation will still be terrible. If we find something… it can only get better. Right?”

Tony sounded a bit annoyed with him and empathic at the same time. How was this even possible? Despite not wanting it, Steve already felt this glimmer of hope rising inside of him. It was unable to deny that he wished for Loki to be completely redeemed, that everything was just a dream or some ploy to save their lives. Also he wanted Loki off that table.

“Okay… okay. What are we going to do?”

“Look at the information we have. He said that he wanted me.”

Steve winced so visibly that Tony sighed apologetically. “Sorry, but given the evidence… I spent time alone with him and believe me I’m good at reading signs. Especially those signs. He’s an attractive son of a bitch, I would have noticed. Believe me. It didn’t happen. He was into you, so we can definitely rule out the possibility that he meant it that way. What does he want from me?”

“I don’t have a clue. You worked in the lab with you. Did he talk about something? Mention something that he was interested in? Technology? Knowledge about the Avengers?”

“No, I’m not sure. Not really. I asked him hundreds of questions, he barely asked anything. He was attentive though, looking at everything. That’s all too vague. Okay, the amulet. As we’ve seen he didn’t need me or you to get it. There was no reason to let us live. What does he need the amulet for? He said that he needed it…”

“You and the amulet… Sorry, I don’t get it. I… Where do I fit in there? Was he just having fun? A clever way to mock me… to humiliate me?”

Only now Steve had the impression that Tony took the time to meet his eyes. Not blank. They were sad and no attempt was being made to hide the pity he was feeling for Steve. “I don’t know. I really don’t know. It’s the easy explanation. Clint, Natasha and Fury are content with that. Thor is too upset to even think about it. With Loki… there are no easy explanations.”

 ***

Lying in his bed Steve had rolled to the side, the blanket pulled up to his chin. That didn’t stop him from feeling cold and somewhat alone. This had never been a problem. Never. Before having Loki sleeping next to him things had been easier.

Steve closed his eyes, but the result was the same. He saw Loki lying on that table and Steve’s eyes flew back open. A big part of him that it was better this way, there was no way to trust Loki to not start hurting people again.

So why did he still want to get up and go right back to him? No, Steve couldn’t let him lie there.

Chapter Text

Tony’s ribs hurt like hell. Still this pain was nothing against what Pepper was going to do to him as soon as she heard that he had left the bed. Even worse, he had left the tower. Oh, he was getting into so much trouble. At least he had a good reason. Everybody but him wasn’t seeing the big picture. As usual.

When it came down to Loki – everybody was going crazy. Clint’s brain said goodbye, Natasha was being so close with Clint that she got influenced and Thor just wanted to cuddle with his little brother.

Steve… poor guy got his heart broken. Since Bruce liked to stay out of these things, understandable, it came down to Tony. It was nice to tell himself that he was in it for the truth, honour or some bullshit. In the end, it was quite simple. Tony had come to like the guy who had been living with them for the last few weeks. Hell, he liked Loki a lot more than Clint or Natasha.

Yeah, there was the whole madness and potential killer thing, but let’s be real, Clint was one bad day away from killing a dozen civilians on his way to work.

Whatever, Loki had saved their lives and that had been working against him in the end. Stupid rookie mistake. Too stupid for Loki. Tony wasn’t going to let that rest. He knew what kind of guy he was dealing with. Sure, Loki was messed up, but so was Tony.

As long as there was something that Tony couldn’t quite figure out…

Fury was all kinds of pissed off when Tony showed up, but he knew better than throwing him out. Of course, there was the taunting, the ‘told you so’, the ‘you were crazy to let him do all that’. Blablabla, Tony wasn’t really listening.

“You’re done, Nick? Can I talk to him now? I have a few questions. Wormhole stuff, could still be of use.”

Then there was talk about Tony not being allowed to get in there, just like Steve. “Yeah, sure. You just want to lock him away. The best source of information you might ever get and you just throw away the key. I’ll talk to him. I’ll be nice… or bad. Whatever you want me to be. I want my teleportation device to work and I need him for that. Now please. Time is money.”

Most probably Fury only let him inside the cell to make fun of him later on. Expecting him to face only silence. Tony waited till the door was being closed behind him and screwed up his face. Not a pleasant sight.

Loki’s eyes darted to him, not showing if he was pleased or disappointed by seeing him.

“Hey there, Lokes… Damn, I missed quite a lot. Didn’t I?”

No answer. Okay, not that surprising. “Alright. Since you’re so talkative, let’s get straight to the point… What do you need the amulet for?”

For a second Loki’s gaze left his face and Tony made a mental note of that. “Come on, Lokes… it’s me. What do you need it for? World domination? Bending time and space? Sounds all pretty sweet to me. I’m game. Since you’re lying here and can’t use it… maybe I should give it a try.”

“Wrong question.”

Great, so he could talk and give him a condescending glare. Tony could work with that. “Okay. Do I get a second try? What were you going to do with the amulet?”

Loki parted his lips, almost laughing. “You’re so much smarter than them. Don’t pretend that you are not.”

It was hard to stop a smile from spreading across his face. Bingo. So Loki still considered him smart. Which was an acknowledgement of his abilities, something old Loki would have never given him. “Fine, then I won’t dumb it down for the audience anymore. Why am I still alive? Why is Steve still alive?”

Obviously pleased with the questions Loki closed his eyes, a tiny smile playing around his lips. “You do not disappoint.”

“But you do. Get talking. Come on, I know you want to. You want people to know how fucking smart you are. Exposing your own plan is half of the fun. I want to appreciate it, so don’t leave me hanging.” Tony felt like walking on thin ice. Because he wished for a certain explanation. For his own sake… and for Steve’s.

“It seemed useful to me at the time. You are alive because I decided that you could live. Because I have the power to do that. Decide who lives and who dies.”

Yeah, that was some bullshit.

“Not buying it, Lokes. Sure, the power trip is nice, but this whole scheme was too thought out to make knee-jerk reactions on such details like life or death. You knew what you were doing. Maybe you got soft. Maybe you fell for Steve and your plan changed… that wouldn’t explain the bomb. You told me that I shouldn’t pretend being stupid… so don’t treat me as if I was stupid.” Tony wanted to pinch him, to make him open his eyes, but he got distracted by the black lines beneath his skin.

Disgusting…

Better not thinking about what stuff they are using to keep a god down. Good chance that this was going to have lingering effects…

“I’m lying on this table now and the only person who should be praying that I stay here is you.”

Nowadays it was a quite an accomplishment to surprise him. Or scare him. Tony felt a shiver running down his spine. No, that was just what Loki wanted. It was all a game, an act. Let’s see who is going to blink first. Falling for it was not an option.

“Alright… I should be glad that they got you locked up, because you want me. Right? Whatever that means. Is that a question that you can answer? Why do you want me? Or – what do you want from me?”

Tony didn’t get a response and he was maybe a minute away from smacking Loki. There was more to it, this idiot was just too stubborn to admit it. Lying here, at the mercy of his enemies after his plan had failed had to be the worst humiliation possible for Loki. So why hadn’t Tony been able to find any anger in his eyes? Or why was Loki simply lying here without spitting venom and threatening to kill every single one of them as soon as he got out of here.

Oh, he would be getting out of here. That was only a question of time and Fury had to be in denial if he wasn’t aware of that. Maybe he was arrogant enough to believe that Loki’s blank expression and monotone way of talking was a sign of submission.

Submission… Loki wasn’t capable of submitting. To nobody.

“Come on, you can’t drop a bomb like that and then leave me hanging. Not fair… Do I really need to figure this out myself? Fine, I’ll tell you where your story stops making sense.” Leaning against the table Tony crossed his arms in front of his chest and tried not to wince when his ribs started acting up. It wasn’t because of Loki, he didn’t want Fury to see that. “You talk about how much you’d enjoy killing Barton. Not very nice, very bad actually, but I can see your reasoning, he gets on my nerves a lot too. Anyway, you’d enjoy cutting his throat and I am the one who is lucky that you are lying here? Really? It’s not all about your enjoyment, isn’t it?”

Loki’s eyes fluttered open and he looked at Tony. It was almost freaking him out, Loki looked pleased. He was restrained and being poisoned and yet he seemed fucking pleased. “I’m enjoying this. The banter…”

“Okay, you don’t want to put all your cards on the table. You’re still playing a game… there’s still something for you to gain…”

Those lips formed a grin and Loki’s gaze turned to the ceiling. “Do you see this, agent Barton? This is what it looks like when people are using their brains.”

“That was just mean. Also, he doesn’t watch the security footage 24/7.”

“I am sure he does.”

“Yeah, probably…” Tony could easily tell him that this was fun for him too. More than it should. Definitely more than appropriate. Anyway, they had done enough beating around the bush.

Leaning down Tony brought their faces closer together, making sure that Loki’s attention was back on him. “Let’s cut the bullshit. We both know that you aren’t going to stay here forever. They are stupid enough to believe that they got you for good, but the two of us know better, right?”

No matter how much fun this might be, now Loki preferred to silently agree with him. Fine, Tony could work with that.

“When you walk out of here… let’s assume you will still be in one piece when you do that… Cap could still be there. That’s probably his greatest fault. He can be so fucking loyal, so much that it’s actually stupid. If you give him a reason to not give up on you, he won’t.”

Despite Tony’s sheer conviction that there was more to Loki’s plan than getting this damned amulet… he couldn’t be entirely sure about Steve’s role in this play. Sure, gaining somebody’s trust this way was very effective and it was cruel. He couldn’t put it past Loki that he had wanted some fun at Steve’s expense. Nevertheless Tony hoped that it was different.

That Steve just happened. Something that Loki hadn’t expected.

Like he had said…

Staring at him Loki frowned and Tony couldn’t tell what was going on inside of his head. “What makes you think that I’d care? I don’t need him.”

“But you need me? Lokes, darling, it’s getting really hard to follow your train of thought.” Sighing dramatically Tony crossed his arms in front of his chest and Loki responded with a shaky breath that was probably supposed to be a laugh. “Performance Issues? Not that uncommon…”

Then it happened. A little spark in Loki’s eyes and this was all he would get. Loki quoting his own words. A confession that he had remembered all along? It wasn’t mere teasing, Tony could tell. He wasn’t able to grasp it. Yet. It was right in front of him, Tony was sure. This was just for him. For him to understand. Not for SHIELD or…

Oh…

Instinctively Tony made a step back, away from the table and one hand was already going up to his chest when his instincts kicked in and he remembered the cameras. Placing his hand on his hip Tony took a breath, trying to somehow hide that he had obviously gotten scared for a moment.

Loki’s lips twitched, he had noticed. Of course. “Something wrong? Am I making you nervous?

All this time… Loki had pulled him out of the car. He could have… What for? The amulet had something to do with it… Was it possible to combine magic and technology? Hell, Loki was probably able to do everything he wanted…

“Well… that was more or less… Ah, fuck it, we need to have a real conversation…” It was better to always be prepared. Tony casually moved his hand lower, to his belt and pressed against the chip he had hidden beneath it. “Alright, Jarvis is messing with their surveillance and because I’m number 1 on Fury’s shit list, we probably have less than a minute before they come bursting in here. You want the reactor. You could have taken it. You had a lot of opportunities. You could have tried getting into my pants, that would have been perfect and yet you ended up with Steve. So either you are stupid or you slipped up. Even your stunt at the end makes no sense… not without coming back and trying to kill me. You changed your mind, didn’t you? And you had no fucking idea how to get out of the mess you had created, so you ran away.”

The expression on Loki’s face instantly turned so incredibly dark that Tony knew he had hit bullseye. Well, fuck… he was fed up with redemption stories. Especially with ones as twisted as this.

A sensible person should be here to deal with this. Not Tony. What did all this information matter if they kept Loki lying there? Tony would be dead if it wasn’t for him. Twice. The second time Loki should have killed him himself… he could have and then he would have had everything…

“If I cut off the infusion, do you have enough energy left to teleport out of here?”

Finally Tony got the reaction that he had been looking for. Loki’s eyes widened in absolute shock and they didn’t have the time for that. “Do you?”

“Not very far…”

“Good enough.”

Not giving himself the opportunity to think about it a second longer Tony, not very gently, ripped the needle out of Loki’s arm. That was it. Now Tony was officially fucked.

“The stones…”

Oh fuck, right. A bad thing to forget about… Rushing into the corner closest to him Tony picked up the stone and threw it across the room to break the invisible force field that all four stones created. That was about all he could do.

The door was already ripped open and Tony glanced at Loki. “This better works…”

 ***

“You can’t keep him for….”

“Stark stays for as long as I decide for him to stay. At the moment I kind of want to throw the key to his cell away.”

“I want to…”

“The answer is no, Captain. You stay where you are. Nobody gets to see the prisoner. I’m not making the same mistake twice.”

Fury hung up on him and Steve let out a frustrated groan. By now he was pretty sure that he was losing his mind. These events couldn’t be happening. Tony hadn’t left the tower to see Loki and he definitely hadn’t helped him escape. No, this was just Steve hallucinating. He was probably not even standing here, but lying somewhere on the ground, actually unconscious.

What was he supposed to do? Nobody was at the tower but him. Loki had escaped and disappeared, Tony was SHIELD custody and Steve wasn’t allowed to even get close to the headquarters.

So how was he supposed to help Tony? God, what had gotten into him…

“Captain Rogers, would you like to talk to Sir?”

Jerking his head up Steve looked around before realising that Jarvis was talking to him. “I just… I can’t, they won’t allow…”

“I managed to override the security codes of SHIELD’s headquarters. Live video feed is incoming. Sir is able to hear you.”

Steve’s mouth dropped open in awe when the TV in front of him was switched on and he could see Tony lying on a bench in a cell. It was a relief to see that the expression on his face was rather bored. “Tony? Can you hear me?”

Immediately Tony’s head came up, his eyes searching for a camera. “Woah… Jarvis, remind me to tell you more often how awesome you are.”

“Tony, what the hell did you do?! They’re going to put you on trial, you…”

“Calm down, Steve. Geez…” Sitting up Tony leaned back against the wall. “This is temporary. What are they going to do? Loki isn’t human and there is no record of him ever being a prisoner. They are not going to put me on trial for releasing somebody they never had.”

“If they can lock up Loki, they can lock up you.”

“Wrong. I’m Tony Stark. One week that I’m not seen in some club and people start asking questions. This is a slap on the wrist which is honestly quite annoying. Jarvis, be so kind and call about five of my lawyers. Let’s fuck a little bit with the pirate.”

“With pleasure, sir.”

“Good lord, Tony!” Steve was yelling, he couldn’t help himself. How could Tony be so cool, so dismissive? No, Tony hadn’t been there when Loki had betrayed them, but he knew what had happened. “What did you do? I don’t get it… I thought we were trying to figure out what was going before… doing anything.”

Shrugging softly Tony closed his eyes since he didn’t have the possibility to look at Steve. “Talking to him seemed like the most logical way to find out what is going on… and believe me, it paid off.”

Nothing else was necessary to make Steve forget about all his initial remarks and thoughts. The yell turned into a whisper. “What… what did he say? Why did he do all of this?”

“Sorry Steve, can’t tell you. SHIELD is listening to this and since Barton gave me the bitch eye when they threw me in here, they won’t get any information.”

“Talking of SHIELD, they are trying to shut of the security surveillance to cut off the connection, sir.”

“What else is new…”

Shaking his head Steve tried to keep his calm. He had no right to feel entitled to anything, but this was still about Loki and for a short amount of time, Loki had been the most important person in Steve’s life. Steve just wanted to know.

“Listen, Steve, I’ll give you the summary and Fury can hear it if he wants to, he’s not going to believe it anyway… He changed his mind. Loki had some shady business in mind when he moved in with us, but he changed his mind. I can’t say for sure, but I believe that started to like us. I know what he wanted and he had a perfect opportunity to get it. Served on a silver plate. It couldn’t get any better or easier for him, but he didn’t do anything. He changed his mind… so I let him go. Because he changed his mind and because I owed him.”

“But he was lying…”

“Yeah, but even a liar has to tell the truth at some point or you would be able to tell that he’s lying… Look, as soon as I get out of here I’ll explain to you in detail what’s going on. Fact is that he changed his mind and you played a part in that.”

Steve should be feeling better, Tony was telling him something he had been wishing, hoping for. A little voice inside in his head was starting to scream at him. To not be that stupid. Loki had fooled them once, he could easily do it again. There was no way he didn’t know how much Steve wished for all of this to be to be misunderstanding, a dream… anything that would allow them to go back to the way things had been before…

“Are you sure? You let him go. You had to be…”

“I owed him… Like I said, I’ll explain it to you when I get home. You hear that, Nick?”

“You’re sure you’re going to be fine?”

“Totally. My army of lawyers is already on the way. In the meantime I’m trying to get some food around here. Hey, Nick! You’re going to send a waiter down here anytime soon?”

Steve really wanted to crack a smile, but he didn’t quite make it. Jarvis ended the connection and Steve tried to process what he had just heard. Tony was convinced that SHIELD wasn’t going to keep him in a cell, but Steve couldn’t say the same. He had helped a wanted terrorist to escape…

Because Tony had found out that things weren’t like they seemed to be…

Closing his eyes for a moment Steve tried to gather his thoughts, to not be overwhelmed by this new information. What to do first? Talk to Bruce? To SHIELD? They needed to get Tony out of there as quickly as possible. Unfortunately there was no way to deny that Tony had freed Loki…

Which meant that he was out there. Would he still go after the amulet? Or was he gone for good? Dread was fighting hope when Steve realised that there was a strong possibility that Loki would come back to take revenge on them. For strapping him down and poisoning him.

The madness in Loki’s eyes while pressing a knife against Natasha’s throat was still present and Steve desperately wished for clarity. Tony knew or at least he thought he knew… he insisted that Loki had changed his mind. Which confirmed that everything had been a lie. A show, put on by an amazing, mischievous performer without a conscience. The melancholic look on his face while drawing the city. How naïve of Steve to believe that Loki hadn’t been aware of being watched? The little, almost coy smiles on his face when they were talking. Them lying in bed together and Loki asking…

Steve’s chest suddenly got painfully tight, making it hard for him to breathe.

Loki had been looking at him, asking him if he had ever hurt him. With the most earnest concern in his voice and Steve had believed him. Instantly…

“Captain Rogers, behind you!”

Hastily turning around Steve faced a dark, crooked figure. His heart was speeding up quickly until Steve felt like having run a marathon although he hadn’t moved a millimetre.

“Steve…” Loki’s lips were so white they seemed to disappear in his pale face. The trickle of blood running out of his mouth was horrifyingly standing out. Everything about his appearance was frightening in how broken and emaciated he looked. Barely able to stand on his own two feet Loki slumped forward and Steve instinctively reached out, gathering him in his arms before Loki would hit the ground.

The black lines on his arms had moved to his neck. Thicker, more numerous, spreading beneath his skin like a spider web. “Loki? Hey, can you hear me?”

Loki’s eyes had rolled back in his head and when Steve touched his forehead, his skin was burning with fever.

“Okay…” Trying to keep his calm Steve picked up the unconscious body, cradling him against his chest. “Jarvis, I need Bruce here. Now.” Looking down at Loki’s blood drained face Steve encountered that sensation again. The need to protect him and this may be the first situation that Loki actually needed Steve’s protection.

 

Chapter Text

"You’re sure that this is going to help?”

“Steve, I’m not actually a physician and he is not human. They pumped a lot of shit into his veins… There are only two ways how to deal with poison. Get it out or try to… water it down. They’ve been doing this to him for several days. I don’t think there is point in trying to clear his system. He didn’t swallow it, they pumped it directly into his blood. Until I know which parts of his body it attacked… ringer’s solution is the best way to go.” There were lines on Bruce’s forehead that proved his worry and Steve was surprised to see it.

Both of them were looking at Loki, lying on the bed that used to be his and once again, there was a needle in his arm. Only now somebody was trying to help him.

It would make him feel like shit… that’s what Clint had said and Steve had seen it. Loki had collapsed, his appearance closer to a corpse than to a radiant god. Had Tony saved his life? Had they been killing him?

No, not now. Steve had to concentrate on Loki. On him getting better, there was no point in getting angry right now. Maybe he was imaging it, but he thought Loki’s cheeks had regained a little bit of their colour. Absently Steve placed his hand on Loki’s wrist, startled by hot his skin still was. “He has fever…”

“I’ll give him something to bring down his temperature…” Bruce turned around, rummaging in the cupboard where they kept all the meds and the drugs.

Relieved Steve nodded softly. “Thank you. For doing this. I know that you don’t have to…”

When Bruce met his gaze again Steve had to swallow, suddenly confronted with anger that Bruce instantly pushed away. “It’s okay. He obviously needs help and I can’t… approve what they did to him.”

“They said… it was the only way to keep him in check… to immobilize him. Clint said that they created it for him, you heard that. It would make him feel sick… not like this.”

Bruce huffed, his movements stilled and Steve raised an eyebrow when he noticed that his friend was taking deep, slow breaths. “You okay?”

“Yeah… it’s just… they didn’t create this poison for him.”

“What do you mean?”

“I am pretty sure that they have been developing that shit for quite some time now… and not for him. They put him in a cell that was created for something bigger. Same thing.”

Steve couldn’t think of anything to say. It made sense and it was dreadful. SHIELD creating something that might take out the Hulk? Reasonable, but how far could you go?

There was nothing Steve could or wanted to say, so he watched Loki’s slow breathing and stroked with his thumb over his wrist. Loki had lied, but Steve hadn’t and he would be here until Loki was feeling better.

He wouldn’t be sent back to SHIELD. Steve had no idea what was going to happen. What Loki was going to say. If he was going to look at him with those blank eyes…

Loki had come to him. That meant something. Perhaps Loki had known that Steve wouldn’t turn him away… when he needed a safe space and he had nowhere to go.

“Tony has been wrong before… about people… about their intentions. He has been burned. That’s why I’m convinced that he wouldn’t have let him go if he hadn’t been sure…”

“Yes, that he changed his mind. Changed his mind about what? Killing us? Stealing the amulet? He did that anyway. Making me feel like the greatest idiot on earth… he did that too.” Steve had to close his eyes, not able to look at Loki while saying this. “At the beginning of all of this… I made a decision. That I could forgive him if he didn’t remember, because then he’d be innocent… at the same time I told myself that it wouldn’t be enough if he had merely decided to change his ways and try to do it by fooling us. It turns out that he didn’t even do that… He didn’t forget and he wasn’t seeking for redemption….”

“That may be right, but what if he reached that point now?”

“I don’t know… I don’t know. I have no idea if I can overlook this.”

“You shouldn’t overlook it. Talk with him about it. As soon as he’s able to… Listen, I’ll go through the security protocol with Jarvis. With Loki we can’t risk having anybody stumbling into his rooms and since Tony is in a SHIELD cell… they might get stupid ideas. Call me if you need me or if his condition worsens.”

Nodding Steve reopened his eyes, his hand still on Loki’s wrist. Loki needed to be fine, then Steve could still worry about everything else.

Hours were passing slowly, with Steve keeping his eyes on Loki who gave no sign of waking up soon. A smile spread on Steve’s face when he realised that the heat radiating from Loki’s body was slowly cooling down. He was going to be fine.

When his eyelids started fluttering Steve leaned forward, his heart in his throat and he wanted to touch Loki’s cheek, tell him that he was here. Something was stopping him though and Steve cleared his throat. “Jarvis, please call Bruce.”

It took another 40 minutes until Loki actually opened his eyes. They were glazed, unable to hide his sickness. “Loki, can you hear me?”

He blinked, then seemingly focused on Bruce. Steve sucked in a breath since he wasn’t sure if Loki was actually seeing him. Eventually Loki barely moved his head to indicate a nod.

“Okay, that’s good. It’s going to take some time to get the poison out of your body, so you’ll probably feel weary for a couple of hours. Are you in pain?”

Closing his eyes Loki ever so slightly shook his head and Steve felt his heartbeat evening out. It was this moment that he realised he had no idea what he would have done if Loki had been permanently hurt by the use of the poison.

Loki was back asleep and Bruce left after a while Steve stayed behind. If it wasn’t for the sickly tone of his skin and the uneven breathing… Loki almost looked exactly the same way like when he had been lying next to Steve. Which seemed forever ago.

The next time Loki opened his eyes it was early morning. They were green, beautiful and tired. “Are you feeling better? Can you talk?” Steve was careful not to touch him anymore, not sure how Loki would react.

“Yes…” Loki sounded hoarse, but it was easy to understand him. “I wasn’t sure where I would wake up.”

“You thought I’d call SHIELD?”

“I wasn’t sure…”

Understandable. Taking his time Steve carefully chose each of his gestures. He wasn’t willing to show too much of his concern. Loki shouldn’t get the impression that Steve had been sitting here the whole time, because he was upset. It would be better if Loki thought that Steve was here because they considered him dangerous. “How are you feeling?”

“Weary… but better.”

“Then you’ll be able to answer me some questions. I need to know some things before I can decide what’s going to happen to you.”

Loki arched an eyebrow as if he wasn’t completely aware what Steve was talking about, but eventually he nodded. “You may start your interrogation, Captain.”

It stung. Painfully so. When Loki had come here he had called him Steve. It was probably going to get worse. “Was everything a lie? Everything you said?”

“A lie is only a lie when it’s surrounded by truth. Nobody can lie all the time. Not even the god of lies.”

That meant nothing, Steve had asked a stupid question. Not everything had been a lie, obviously. If you spent weeks with another person, daily conversations… you would ask them how they are doing and they’d say good. A truthful statement. One minute later Loki could tell him that he cared and that would be a lie. “Did you remember all the time? Has it been a scheme from the very first second? That’s what I want to know.”

Loki met his eyes and Steve was inclined to believe that he was being honest with him now. “When I woke up… I was confused. Not sure where I was or what had happened. For a minute I didn’t know anything, it was slowly coming back when Thor came into the room and I had the idea that I could just go with it. See if it could get me anywhere… it did. I came up with a plan and that’s it.”

It was pragmatic which made it even worse. “A plan. Was I part of that plan?”

The response was simple and Steve’s world turned around again. “No.”

Steve wasn’t able to stop a certain thought from entering his head. This could be enough. If it hadn’t been Loki’s plan, it had been real. Steve could decide that this was all he wanted. That the initial betrayal didn’t matter. To ignore of all the bad things that had happened…

“Then what was your plan?”

“Gain information and trust. Find opportunities to look for the amulet. Retrieve it. I didn’t know what to do about the reactor, that’s why I needed to be close. To figure out how it works...” Loki trailed off, seemingly confused by Steve’s reaction and expression.

“The reactor…” Steve slowly repeated that word which finally brought some light into the darkness, helping Steve to find his way. “That’s what you wanted. Damn, you were even talking about it. How it was pulling you in… were you going to kill him for it?”

“I didn’t know what I was going to do. I didn’t know how it worked… That’s something I needed to find out.”

Suddenly the missing pieces were there, lying right in front of Steve for him to take. That’s why he had taken care of the bomb, he hadn’t been able to let Tony die, because he had still needed him. Without Tony there was no reactor. Had compassion even played a part in it?

“And you found out a lot more things… I see. When did you realise that I might be useful to you? That I could fall for you?” The bitterness came so easily and Loki still didn’t look away or showed something similar to shame.

“When you watched me drawing. When you told me that I’m a different person than the one you knew.”

Thinking back on how convinced he had been Steve felt like a fool. It was a testament to Loki’s incredible acting ability. Making Steve believe that he was seeing somebody else when he hadn’t changed at all. The temptation to look away was almost overwhelming, threatening to take control. No, Steve would let Loki see how much that had actually hurt him. Was still hurting him. The most prominent question on his mind was simple. Why? Steve hadn’t been of any help for him. Getting closer to the amulet and to Tony were tasks that he had achieved without Steve… and there was still something else. The last night they had spent together, when Steve had felt so close to him. Like Loki was letting him see inside of him, touch him. Not merely physically.

“When you said…” Steve licked his lips, clearing his throat, barely able to voice his thoughts. “… that you didn’t expect me… What did you mean?”

Unafraid Loki met his eyes and Steve had to be imagining the soft glimmer in them. Why was he taking so much time now to give his answer? It wasn’t different from the questions that Steve had asked him before. “I did not expect to… enjoy myself.”

Steve’s heart stuttered and Loki’s gaze left him for a second, then it was back on him. “No, I expected to have fun. Deceiving people, playing games, it is always fun. It’s what I do best. I expected to enjoy myself deceiving you. I didn’t expect to enjoy… being with you.”

During their time together… had Loki ever actually said that he cared? Or how he really felt about Steve? Was this as close as they could get? Given the events of the last days Steve couldn’t tell if this was another lie. It would make sense, wouldn’t it? Loki was still weak and depended on his protection. To save his own skin he would gladly tell Steve everything he wanted to hear. As long as it was still believable…

“So I was a means to an end? Or a little fun on the side while you’re trying to get your hands on the real price?” Steve wasn’t even talking about the sex, he supposed that Loki was getting more glee out of making a fool out of him than actually seducing him.

“It’s just like I told you. You were unexpected…”

“You just could have stayed. Let go of your plan and stay. You knew I believed you. I wouldn’t have let SHIELD or anyone else touch you…”

Loki blinked at him, his eyes still not as radiant as they had been. “No, I couldn’t stay.”

No further explanation, as if it should be clear. Why would he have stayed? For Steve?

“Was any of it real? What you said when we were alone? The scars on your back? Anything?”

Instead of answering Loki started shifting around, rolling to his side while groaning softly. Steve instantly wanted to reach out and stop him from doing anything that might cause him pain. Reaching for the hem of his tunic Loki slowly pulled it up. Swallowing a bitter taste in his mouth Steve tried to fight the rush of shame that went through him. Nothing had changed, his back was still scarred. It was real. In this state Loki shouldn’t be able to keep up an illusion. Which meant… “You know who did this to you. You remember it.”

“Yes. Every wonderful second of it.” Loki lay back down on his back and Steve was torn. He shouldn’t be interested, not anymore. He shouldn’t care. “What happened to you? After you fell?”

“I didn’t fall. I let go.”

Another thing that Steve had known, but now it had become real and Steve wanted it to be abstract again. Something that Thor had talked about, just another story.

“I let go, then I fell. For a very long time. Then I was pulled from the void, entering a new place where I didn’t belong. I got punished for it. Deconstructed. Then put back together. Given a new purpose. I gladly took it. The purpose and the sceptre. He gave me an army… an army I lost. It is very likely that I will have to face the repercussions.”

That piece of information had been in the dark for so long. Thor had told them that he had no idea how Loki had become the leader of the Chitauri forces. The fact that somebody else had to be involved was common knowledge, Thor had made clear that Loki had tried to obtain the tesseract for somebody else. That somebody had also put the scares on Loki’s back. “Repercussions? You mean they’ll come for you and kill you?”

“Not today. Not tomorrow. I’ve told you that time has a different meaning to me. Ten years… seconds. A human life. The blink of an eye. He is patient and he enjoys knowing that I know he’ll come. Sooner or later. Another 100 years… it’s nothing.”

Loki said it as if it was nothing and Steve couldn’t fight it. The desire to protect him. Again. For the first time. “That’s what you need the amulet for?”

“It stores energy. An almost endless amount… I used the sceptre on Tony and it didn’t work. I didn’t know why. Until I found out about the reactor. If it can withstand the power of the sceptre… there might be other ways to use it. To protect myself. That’s what I wanted. Needed.” Loki lowered his eyes and evidently everything had been said.

No ploy to kill them or to gain information to destroy the Avengers. Loki had merely tried to steal something to save his own life. Something that would have been easy to forgive if Loki hadn’t stolen something else too.

“So you needed Tony… you couldn’t let him die. You didn’t need me. Why did you save me? There was nothing for you to gain.”

“And what was there for me to gain in letting you die? So many people have caused my rage and fuelled it. Made me hate them and I don’t forgive. You have never done such a thing… Despite what your little friends may think I don’t kill for fun… I don’t hate you, Steve.” There was a softness to these words and Steve desperately wanted to believe that they were earnest.

Shaking his head Steve stood up, slightly turning away. “Great, really… you not hating me. That’s exactly what I wanted… You were my boyfriend! We were in a relationship! I fell in love with you, because you presented me a person that doesn’t actually exist. I thought you cared about me, so it’s really relieving that you don’t actually hate me. How can I believe you now? When every single thing you said was initially based on a lie? You asked me if you ever hurt me! You pretended every single moment… and then you walked away, attacking my friends. You left my bed, going right back to trying to kill us.”

A hoarse laugh caused Steve to turn back around to look at Loki. “Steve… if I had had the intention to kill anyone of you when I went for the amulet… you would be dead.”

“That’s not the point! You lied! About everything… Now I have no chance anymore to tell when you’re not lying… if you really enjoyed being with me… if you came here because you trust me or because you think that I’m stupid enough to take you in… which I obviously am…”

Steve had no idea why it had taken so long for his built up anger to finally break free, but now he was shaking. It made him mad how easy it would be to just go back. Cling to these things that Loki had admitted. His intention had never been to hurt them. Their relationship hadn’t been a trick. Loki had enjoyed being with him.

No, he couldn’t. Not when the entire premise of their relationship had been a lie and when Loki had had the opportunity to make it real… he had walked away.

“I came here because… I had nowhere to go and…” Steve flinched when Loki reached out and grabbed his hand. “… I couldn’t tell you in the cell. Not with everyone listening. I am sorry…”

Three words that caused his chest to tighten, to make him feel like he was about to suffocate. The blank expression was gone, just like the madness. Pure green staring at Steve, cutting him open and at the same time they gave him a feeling of power. Like he could easily do the same to Loki.

“You touched me… the part of me that I pretend doesn’t exist, because it’s ugly and painful… and you touched it. I needed the amulet to protect myself from the force which had done this to me… when I woke up your hand was still on my back and I needed to leave. I still cannot stand the fact that I let you see this…”

Releasing a shaky breath Steve sank back down on his chair, Loki’s hand still grabbing his. It felt so familiar. So raw. Something that Steve had seen before and which hadn’t been real. So was this fake too? “But you didn’t have to leave… I wanted to see you. The good and the bad. I wanted you… you didn’t have to leave.”

Chapter Text

“I had to…”

“No, you didn’t have to. You could have said anything… I would have helped you. Eventually I would have even given you the amulet. You knew that… and yet you decided to steal it. To run away from me. Why?”

Loki let go of his hand, but Steve wouldn’t have it. “You are smart… why run away when you risk to get yourself in this kind of situation… the one that you are in now?”

“Aren’t you happy that I walked away? That I didn’t fool you any longer…”

“Stop avoiding my questions. You could have stayed and you would be better off now, still getting what you want. Why?”

Closing his eyes Loki slightly turned his head away. “It was too much. You saw me… I didn’t intent for you to see me.”

It was too much. Reaching out Steve put his hand on Loki’s cheek, turning his head back around. “You saw me too… Why is that so bad? I liked what I saw. I liked it a lot…”

Opening his eyes Loki stared at him and Steve choked up. It was the same expression. The one that he saw only a few days ago. Something real. Sad enough to break a heart and yet everything that Steve wanted. He wanted it desperately.

“I don’t want people to see me…”

“Why?”

“Because there is something ugly… and unpleasant beneath the surface. I am used to the glamour, I don’t want to take it off and I don’t want anyone to look beneath it.”

There was a double meaning to it, clearly. Steve didn’t care if Loki wasn’t Asgardian but something else. He knew that he wasn’t human and Steve couldn’t give a damn. It would have been a stretch to claim that Steve was still a part of humanity. What did that matter?

And if Loki didn’t want anyone to notice that he wasn’t just snark and spite… that just wasn’t fair. “Not everybody has to see you… it would be me and only what you let me see. Because that’s what happened, Loki. You let me see… because you wanted me to see.”

It would have been easy to push him away, but Loki hadn’t done that. Not once.

“Why are you so desperately holding on to this?” Loki was whispering. “It’s all different now. It’s over. I’ve burned all the bridges, reminded everybody of what I am. Yet you are talking like you still want to be with me… as if there still was that possibility.”

“You didn’t burn all the bridges. It was Tony who let you go and you came here for a reason… Do you trust me?”

Loki merely looked at him. For a long time. So easy to get lost in. “Yes…”

Smiling at him Steve brushed a strand of hair behind Loki’s ear. “I’m still here you know… and you can still choose. If you told me the truth now, that’s enough for me. Yes, I know, I am naïve and stupid, don’t even start. You just said it yourself… I saw you. I liked what I saw and I want to see more of it. Listen, Loki… I’m not going to hand you back over to SHIELD. I’m going to leave you alone now. If you decide to stay… I’m still around.”

It wasn’t like Steve had made that decision. Those words were just leaving his mouth and maybe that was the very same thing. Perhaps this was reckless and stupid, but Steve saw enough uncertainty in Loki’s eyes and he heard enough honesty in his words to fall right back into that sensation. Steve wanted him. The good and the bad.

Smiling softly at Loki Steve turned around and left the room. It was probably the last time he saw Loki and that was something Steve didn’t want to think about. The question if he was still in love with him didn’t need to be asked. Loki hadn’t intended to kill or hurt them, he had wanted to protect himself. The way he had gone about it had been wrong, but this was something they would be able to sort out.

If Loki was going to stay…

Which he wouldn’t.

“Jarvis? Is Tony okay?”

“He is, Captain Rogers. I received a message from the head of Sir’s team of lawyers. They are confident to have Sir out of prison in less than 12 hours.”

That would be too good to be true. Steve would hate to have to go to war against SHIELD. Not when the memory of Loki’s black veins was still so present. They had tortured him… something that had happened to Loki before. Something so traumatic and painful that had cost his sanity. Even now he was still hunted by these events… and the one who had done this to him? Somebody who scared Loki so much that he was getting himself in potential danger to require some means of defence.

Loki didn’t have anyone to trust, to help him find the protection he was searching for. That was another reason why things had turned out this way. Steve was well aware that he was already trying to make up excuses for him. The betrayal still stung, but the explanation he had been given was enough for Steve to still see the good in Loki.

“Any attempts from SHIELD to get into the tower? It must be the first place where they’re looking for Loki?”

“Doctor Banner received a call, he made clear that he would lose his calm if he saw a single agent approaching the tower. He also pretended that the same would happen if he should get a glimpse of Loki.”

Smiling softly Steve nodded. That was good news and since Loki would be probably gone in a few hours, they wouldn’t have to worry about that anymore. If the lawyers turned out to be wrong Steve would head back to SHIELD get Tony out himself.

Now Steve just wanted to sleep, lie down and close his eyes. Trying to get past the moment when Loki would walk out on him for good. After returning to his room Steve slid out of his clothes and stepped right under the shower. The water was hot, but failing to ease the tension out of his body. Slowly the dread he had been feeling was coming back. This time for another reason. He was going to lose Loki for a second time, knowing why and how.

Maybe it would be easier then. A clean cut…

Being done with his shower Steve slipped beneath the blankets of his bed. Rolling on his side Steve buried his face in a pillow and tried not to think about anything. Clearing his head so it would be easier to fall asleep.

Steve was still just lying there, waiting for sleep to come, but that wouldn’t happen. He thought about the scars on Loki’s back and what he had said about them being together. That he didn’t expect to enjoy being with Steve. That Steve had seen him. Something that Loki couldn’t stand, he wasn’t able to bear it. No matter how much Steve wished it would be different.

“Captain Rogers?”

Jarvis’ tone was unusually soft and Steve surrendered himself to the inevitable. Opening his eyes Steve looked at the white ceiling. “Is he gone?”

“Yes.”

Nodding softly Steve rolled over again and swallowed around the lump in his throat. So this was it. At one point in his life Steve had already lost every single person who had meant something to him. He would just have to get through it again…

Steve drifted in and out of sleep, he couldn’t tell how much time had passed. He was feeling tired and weary, but warm. Slightly confused Steve blinked and turned around. It was one of those moments. When one second was enough to change your entire perspective, your entire outlook on what your life would be like. Such a shift could go either way. This one was good. Beautiful. Something that Steve hadn’t thought could still happen.

The warm spread inside of his chest and he reached out and pulled Loki close. Enjoying his presence in silence Steve hid his face in the shock of black hair, his hand stroking down Loki’s back. No words were being said and Steve was holding on to him, not intending to let him go any time soon. Falling asleep now wasn’t causing him any trouble.

 

 

Loki’s skin was white as snow. Like it had always been. The sickly grey had disappeared, the black lines were gone. A smile was playing around Steve’s lips while he was watching the man lying next to him. He was still fast asleep, his face relaxed and Steve knew that was due to him.

There was no more time to be naïve, this was going to be incredible hard on them. Nothing new. Right now Steve couldn’t even see a way to make it work, but he was going to find one. So much had happened and only a few moments ago Steve had learned that they all knew nothing about Loki. Nevertheless some of them thought they had him perfectly figured out.

That was not the case, but Steve wanted to understand. Because things evidently weren’t as simple as they had seemed. Truth. Lies. Betrayal…

It was a matter of trust. Not just them trusting Loki, for Loki to trust one of them enough to tell his actual story. Brushing a loose strand of hair behind Loki’s ear Steve continued to smile at him when Loki opened his sleepy eyes. “You’re still here…”

“Yes… but you’ll send me away soon.”

“What? No. I’ve made a decision, I’m not going to change it. How you’re feeling? You don’t feel like you’re having fever anymore.” Steve brushed his fingers over Loki’s forehead and cheek which made Loki flinch. “Do you… think I’d hurt you?”

Slowly Loki was shaking his head. “No, but you need to understand and I’m not sure if you do. I am that person. Not changed or another version and you’re not going to like it. I feel nothing but utter disdain for the man who calls himself my brother. The two assassins just need to look at me and I want to strangle them. That sentiment is real, no matter if you like it or not.”

Steve had asked for the truth, hadn’t he? Now he had gotten it. “You didn’t really hide the last part. I am sorry that you feel that way, but maybe we could… Maybe… after some time… you won’t feel that way anymore. It could change… perhaps it won’t. I know I always want things to be perfect, but that’s rarely the case. You don’t need to be part of the Avengers or spend time with them. I don’t want you that way…”

The corners of Loki’s mouth twitched and Steve could see the scepticism in his expression. “You are not going to accept that.”

“Not a couple of months before, but now… things are different.”

Steve hadn’t been in love with him back then.

“So what do you want me to do? Hide me in the wardrobe and hope that nobody sees me?” There was the tiniest bit of spite in his voice and it sounded so much like Loki that Steve couldn’t fight a smile. “No… given the current circumstances I don’t believe that Natasha or Clint are going to move back in here. If they are… I don’t necessarily have to live here. I could live somewhere else and nobody can tell me who I spend my time with. That’s all… secondary.”

“I am an escaped prisoner and I’ll never be something else.”

“To me you aren’t a prisoner. I feel like I can’t say anything else to convince you. It’s about the two of us. You know who I am and I want to understand who you are. That’s where we have to start.”

Loki sucked in a breath, looking pensive. “It’s all just borrowed time. Somebody will come for me… and for the Tesseract.”

“There’s one thing I’ve learned… There is always some kind of threat. If the Tesseract’s involved than it concerns all of us and… the thought of somebody wanting to hurt you… that’s the last thing that’s going to drive me away from you.” Unease and fear settled in the back of Steve’s mind, two new permanent residents, but they were silent. No match for his affection that had claimed all of him.

With Loki it seemed to be the opposite and Steve wished that he could change. To show him that there was no need for tricks or falsehood. Steve had made up his mind.

“I definitely didn’t expect you, Steve Rogers… let’s see what other surprises you might have in store for me.” Loki’s eyes slid back shut and he leaned his forehead against Steve’s shoulder, his arm going around his waist.

A shudder was going through Steve’s body and he allowed himself that moment of happiness. Having Loki in his arms and this time for real. Steve was used to fight for things that he wanted or that he thought were right. He was definitely going to fight for this.

“What happened to Stark?” Loki whispered against Steve’s skin and he instantly felt confirmed in his decision. “They arrested him, but his lawyer said he’ll get him out today…”

“Are you sure? Because I’m not going to sit around and let them…”

“You are not going to do anything about that, because it wouldn’t help him if you showed up and broke him out. If Tony’s lawyers don’t have this figured out by tonight, I’ll take care of it…”

Reaching out Steve let his fingers run down Loki’s arm where the needle had entered his skin. “The stuff they kept you down with… would it have killed you?”

Loki’s eyes followed his gaze, then he shook his head. “No, I don’t think so, but it could have done some permanent damage… which is unacceptable.”

It indeed was, but right now Steve was just grateful that Loki was going to be fine. “The fever seems to be gone, which is good… but it’ll probably be a good idea if you stayed in bed a while longer. I’ll get you something to eat… god, did you have anything to eat during the last week?”

The way Loki was raising his eyebrows was very telling and Steve instantly felt like a fool. “Right… I’ll be back in a second.”

Pressing a kiss on Loki’s hair Steve slipped out of the bed and pulled on a shirt before leaving the room. “Jarvis, any news on Tony?”

“His lawyer just sent a message confirming that Sir will be released from SHIELD custody in three hours.”

Sighing in relief Steve nodded. Everything seemed to work out for now. Tony coming home wouldn’t be the end of it, that was for sure. SHIELD wouldn’t let him get away with releasing Loki… This would get ugly and Steve needed to do everything he could to support him. Because Tony had been able to do what Steve should have done…

Bruce was sitting in the kitchen, going through some notes when Steve joined him. “How is he doing?”

“Good… tired, but good. He’s going to be fine. Thank you again for helping him.”

“Glad I could help…” Bruce pushed his notes away and Steve knew that the real conversation was going to happen now. Yes, it was inevitable, but he wanted to get back to Loki as quickly as possible. Despite him feeling better, Steve was still worried. “What’s going to happen now, Steve?”

“I honestly don’t know. He explained to me what he did and… he didn’t want the amulet to do damage, but to protect himself and…” Steve hesitated for a moment, realising that he couldn’t do that. He had made a decision. For Loki. “I’m still in love with him and I asked him to stay with me. He agreed.”

Yelling and screaming would be okay, Steve almost expected it, but he was disappointed. Bruce frowned and shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “Alright… I’m not going to judge anyone’s life choices… but I feel like I’m still missing out on some information. He faked it. What about the invasion? We can’t pretend anymore that another person did that when we know that…”

“I know… but there is more to it. The scars on his back are real, everything what Thor told us is real and now that I could talk to him… I simply know that not everything he told me was a lie. I don’t want to push him away and if I did… I would be a hypocrite. I realised that now. I was ready to forgive him, because he didn’t remember… still knowing that he had done all those things. Nothing’s changed… except that I can now ask him why he did it and who he is running away from…”

Bruce’s reaction was a fleeting smile and it made Steve believe that everything could work out fine. Somehow…

“Captain America dating a fugitive… Who am I to judge? I know that sometimes things are not as easy as they seem. That doesn’t mean that I trust him and I don’t think you should do that… just yet.”

“I don’t… he lied to me and I didn’t forget that, but he saved my life and I know that he cares. Believe me, I am not so naïve to think that there is no possibility that this might go terribly wrong. I have to try though…”

“And if he… returns to his old ways?”

Steve froze, a prospect that he wished he could push away and forget about. “Then we’ll fight him… and until then I’ll fight whoever tries to hurt him.”

 ***

Loki was fast asleep when Steve came back with a tray of Chinese leftovers. He would have loved to offer Loki something else, something better, but he hadn’t dared to leave him alone any longer.

Sitting down on the edge of the bed Steve watched him. White skin against a dark pillow. It was hard to shake of that image of him strapped to that table. Blood shot eyes and black poison visibly spreading beneath his skin.

A form of torture.

Something that Loki had already gone through. Steve needed to know what had happened to him. To better understand. Then they would be able to start over.

Chapter Text

“God, it’s good to be home. Bruce, this is fucking delicious. The prison food was atrocious, I almost starved to death.” Tony was shovelling pasta into his mouth and Steve couldn’t help but laugh. Not long though, his guilty conscience was quickly resurging. “What’s going to happen now? Fury is not going to…”

“Jesus, Steve! You are such a buzz kill, I just got home. Let me pretend I went through hell, so I can call in a few favours from you. Favour number 1 – more spaghetti. Fucking delicious.”

Bruce responded with a chuckle and filled Tony’s plate. “Glad that prison didn’t change you.”

“Hey, I’m barely holding on. I had to kill three guys during my first week.”

“You were in custody for one day.”

“It felt like a week.” Tony winked at them and Steve felt his heart getting a little lighter. “Seriously, Tony… thank you. I should have done something about this whole… situation, but I couldn’t figure it out. You did…”

Having his mouth full Tony took his time swallowing before he answered. “I owed him, I didn’t owe you, but I’m glad that it worked out. I wasn’t quite so sure… How is he doing? They didn’t screw him up, didn’t they?”

Thinking of Loki lying beneath the covers of his bed, sleeping calmly. “He’s very tired when he got here he lost consciousness. Now he’s feeling alright… he’s been sleeping for the last eight hours straight.”

“Cool, any news? Did he explain? About the arc-reactor? I figured out that he wants to combine the reactor with the amulet, because the reactor was able to mess with his stick of destiny… it would be a good idea to know the motivation behind that. I won’t wake up tomorrow missing an arc-reactor, right?”

“He’s… on the run. I don’t know yet who he is running from, but… I’m sure it was the same person who gave him the scars.” Then Steve explained what Loki had said about the Chitauri army and failing his duty while Bruce and Tony were listening attentively. “So… the invasion wasn’t his idea… Did Thor say that somebody gave him the army and promised him earth to give him the Tesseract?”

Bruce looked at them questionably and Tony nodded. “Yeah, another thing that SHIELD didn’t give a shit about as soon as the Tesseract was gone. They don’t like asking questions. They could learn something and knowledge is evil… I guess the big bad is now mad at him and could go after him? Guy has to look out for himself. I get it… The whole thing would have been way easier if he had just asked… We gotta talk about this. Later. Jarvis, Thor’s still in his rooms, moping?”

“Indeed, Sir.”

“Good, he doesn’t know anything about what’s going on. When he decides to leave his room he’ll have to tell him about Loki’s escape, but I don’t think he should know that Loki is here.”

“How do you want to keep that a secret?”

“No fucking idea, but at the moment I think there is a good chance that he’ll turn right back around and try to put Loki in an Asgardian prison.”

Steve had to think about Loki’s comment about hiding him in the wardrobe. “I know Thor is… very disappointed, but he is all about protecting Loki… if we told him…”

“Cap, trust me on this… wait a bit.” Tony didn’t need to elaborate on that, his face showed how serious he was about that. Sighing in defeat Steve nodded softly, although he didn’t feel like keeping anymore secrets. “SHIELD will be coming knocking on our door soon.”

“Oh, let them knock. I’ll tip of a few journalists to watch the tower, that will scare them off. As soon as Loki is fit enough to talk, we’ll do that and then we’ll see where we go from there. If he wants to stay at all.”

“Of course he wants…”

“Steve…” Tony raised his hand to cut him off. “Just wait till he gets better. I’ll have Jarvis watch over the hallways and some suits patrolling.”

No, Steve didn’t like the sound of that and yet there was no point in arguing. Tony was watching out for all of them and he was the one with the arc-reactor in his chest, he had every right to do it. There was this undertone… that Loki might change his mind about Steve as soon as he was strong enough to leave and be on his own.

That wasn’t going to happen.

“Okay… we’ll talk tomorrow morning?”

“Sure thing, but be a sport and give the guy some rest, Cap. Prison is hard on all of us, he’ll need a good night of sleep.”

“Why shouldn’t he… Tony!”

“Ha! See, Bruce, I told you he would get it!” Tony winked leeringly at him and Steve rolled his eyes in response. At least that was proof enough that Tony was feeling completely fine.

Shaking his head Steve patted Tony’s shoulder. “Good night, see you tomorrow.”

Steve was quick to leave before Tony could say anything else that would make him feel uncomfortable… and because he wanted to get back to Loki. After sliding silently back into his rooms Steve found a Loki who was clearly awake. He was still beneath the covers, his head buried in a pillow and Steve winced softly when he realised what Loki was holding in his hands. Hadn’t he put the drawings in the drawer of his desk? No, he had moved them… into the drawer of his nightstand.

“Hey…”

Lowering the sheet of paper in his hand Loki looked at him. His movements were slow, but his eyes were sharp and attentive. “I didn’t hear you.”

“I thought you were still asleep. I didn’t want to wake you.” Steve smiled softly, walking to the bed and sat down on the edge. Reaching out he tugged one strand of Loki’s hair behind his ear. “You’re feeling okay?”

Nodding Loki turned his attention back to the drawing in his hands, looking at himself. Steve felt like shifting around, not completely comfortable with Loki looking at the drawings he had made of him. “It’s beautiful. Yet superficial.”

“Don’t criticize my work. It’s one of my best… and I really like the model.”

Loki didn’t see the smile Steve gave him, he kept studying the drawing, almost as if he was trying to find something there. Recognizing himself or someone else. His fingers were carefully tracing some of the lines, then pulling back. While Steve was still watching him, Loki suddenly turned to him. Again his expression was so raw, not hiding anything and behind his eyes was sheer curiosity. Untamed.

“Do you love me?”

It didn’t sound like he was expecting a specific answer or that he was hoping for one thing or another. More like something he wanted to know. Like a child who asked their parents why the moon was only there at night.

Fortunately for Steve it was an easy question to answer. “Yes, I do. I’ve already told you so.”

Loki kept watching him, suddenly frowning ever so slightly. “Are you really willing to give me that much power over you?”

It was an odd question and it struck Steve as strange. A little odd that Loki would make such an obvious mistake. “Why do you think that I don’t have any power over you?”

Opening his mouth Loki seemed to be searching for the right answer, not finding it immediately. “Are you implying that I also love you?”

“You stayed… that’s enough for me at the moment…”

To Steve’s surprise Loki smiled softly, uttering a silent laugh. “What an odd couple we are…”

Couple. That sounded way better than anything else he could have said. Steve reached out to touch Loki’s hair again, but he moved away. “Don’t do that. I haven’t washed my hair in over a week. It’s completely gross.”

“Nothing about you is gross… but if you want to take a bath I guess that would be totally okay. You’re fine and you don’t have any wounds…”

Loki raised his eyebrows as if the possibility of actually taking a bath hadn’t occurred to him yet. “That would be wonderful.”

“Okay, I’ll run you a bath and…”

“… you’ll join me in the tub. Yes, I’d like that.”

Steve’s mouth ran dry, but he instantly nodded. “Sure… yeah.”

After pressing a kiss to Loki’s temple Steve got up from the bed and headed for the bathroom. Loki followed him a minute later when the tub was already half-filled with warm, sweet-smelling water. Turning around Steve saw Loki pulling off his tunic and dropping it to the floor. He instantly got caught staring and Loki reacted with a small smirk. “Nothing you haven’t seen before…”

That didn’t mean that Steve didn’t like to look at him anymore. Quite the opposite. When Loki continued to undress Steve quickly did the same. Eventually Steve ended up in the bathtub with Loki’s back resting against his chest, his arms loosely wrapped around him. It took a second until Steve could relax and then it slowly turned into something wonderful. Not just a stolen moment, no pretence, this was just them, like Steve wanted it.

Loki and him…

“There is no real place for me in this world. You have to know that, right? I’ll never fit in here…”

“I’m sure that you can fit in everywhere… like nobody else can…” Steve pressed a soft kiss on Loki’s neck and smiled when he got a pleasurable sigh in response.

They both fell silent, Loki was merely leaning against him, but every now and then he made a content noise when Steve softly caressed his chest or arms. This was beautiful and Steve felt a sensation that had been unknown to him a while ago. It wasn’t new for him to want to protect someone, but Steve had never really wanted to call somebody his own. Except for Loki.

“You know… right now you don’t have to tell me anything. All you have to do is to get better, but eventually… I would like you to tell me why you let go. Why you decided to fall. Is that okay?”

Silence followed and Steve wasn’t sure if Loki had maybe fallen asleep. But then… “Thor must have already told you. He doesn’t have any right to do that… something that had never stopped him before. So you already know…”

“Yes, but I want the story from you. Your version of what happened… so I can understand.”

“I got lied to about who I am. My whole life. Over a thousand years. Odin didn’t tell me I’m the offspring of a monster, so I found out myself… Thor was banned, Odin fell into Odinsleep and I was rightfully crowned king of Asgard. I got betrayed by Thor’s friends who instantly went against my orders to bring Thor back… It didn’t matter in the long run, I knew that Odin was going to wake up again and then… I would have got rid of the Frostgiants. Wipe out their entire world and the monsters with it. To show him that I was different. I failed… because of Thor and when I told Odin that I could have done it… if Thor had only let me… he looked at me and I know what he saw. One of the monsters. So I let go… so I could at least kill one monster. It was foolish…”

“I… hope that you know that you aren’t a monster. No matter who your parents are…”

“Oh, I know who the real monsters are…”

Steve swallowed softly. It was so different now. A few days ago that boiling anger beneath the surface hadn’t been there. Non-existent, easy to deal with. Now Steve couldn’t ignore it when he could hear in Loki’s voice that the word monster was meant literally. Loki hated his family, not trying to hide his contempt and that was part of him. It couldn’t be wiped away like Steve had initially hoped. How foolish…

“Loki…” Steve trailed two fingers along Loki’s cheek, kissing his temple. “I know nothing about your father… perhaps he is indeed a terrible man, I don’t know that. What I do know for sure is that Thor loves you. You saw how happy he was when you were back…”

The instant reaction in form of a dry laugh took Steve aback. “Thor… Thor tells himself that he loves me, because he feels obligated to love me. Because we were raised together. That’s all there’s to it. I know what he really thinks about… what I am although he likes to push that knowledge away from him. It’s not love, it’s about not admitting what I am, because it makes him sick. It shames him.”

That explanation was as surprising as bizarre. “I don’t think that’s true.”

“Because you have the foolish tendency to always believe in people. In the best of them.”

“Unlike you… you always expect the worst. That’s not healthy either. Thor will…”

“I have no intention to have any kind of contact with Thor. I don’t want to have anything to do with him and he would instantly send me back to Asgard, into a cell. No… not going to happen.”

Steve agreed on that, nobody would put Loki in a cell. SHIELD, Asgard… none of them would do something like that. Not without getting past Steve first.

“Well, Thor is here. We’re going to have to find a way for the both of you to…”

“No.” Plain and simple. Loki was softly shaking his head. “There is no reconciliation. No way you are going to fix this and I don’t want you to. I want nothing to do with him. Another reason why I can’t stay… You’ll realise that. Eventually.”

Swallowing softly Steve reached for Loki’s chin and softly forced Loki to look at him. His beautiful eyes were wide open and genuine. “Listen… your relationship with Thor is not a reason for running away… Okay, Thor does live here, but I don’t have to live here. I thought about getting my own place. This is great and all, but honestly I could live without other people in my kitchen. There are a lot of possibilities, I just want you to consider them. Things we’ll have to figure out… ways to protect you, us… Just don’t say no immediately.”

Loki didn’t refuse to look at him and that’s all he did. Looking. Steve’s heart was hammering in his chest, because he knew that if Loki should decide so, he could be gone within this very second. That was something he would had to live with. Or overcome it.

“I know you don’t trust me. You have no reason to, but you have to accept that I don’t trust you either.”

“You just said you did.”

“I do. I trust you to tell me the truth and…” Loki hesitated, licking his lips absently. “… and I know that I’m safe with you, but I don’t trust your judgement. At least when it comes down to me. You will not be able to change me… even though you think that now and I don’t think that you’ll want me to stay when you realise that.”

It was getting hard to stand. Who could he be in so much doubt? Steve was running out of words to say? Shouldn’t it be enough to tell him that he loved him? All he could was telling him the truth and being honest. “You are afraid that I’ll want you to leave. I’m afraid that you will leave. Do you believe me that?”

Ever so slowly Loki nodded. “Yes…”

That had to be enough for now. It was that precise moment when Steve realised that it had been days since the last time he had kissed him. Suddenly the desire to do that just was overwhelming. Loki didn’t wince or pull or, but Steve felt him tensing up. Why? He was naked, vulnerable and he let Steve hold him. Letting his hand slide higher Steve cupped his cheek and kissed him softly, almost a bit shy, rediscovering. Loki’s shoulders went down, his hand came up and wrap itself around Steve’s wrist and for a moment Steve thought he would bat it away. That never happened.

Instead Loki started kissing him back, his thumb caressing the back of Steve’s hand. It did nothing to slow Steve’s heartbeat down, but it felt so much better this way. Feeling that warm mouth on his own, tasting sweet and still exactly how he remembered. Something that he wasn’t going to lose, Steve was sure of that.

Smiling at him Steve tugged a strand of hair behind Loki’s ear and his smile turned into laughter when Loki screwed up his face. “Still have to wash your hair before we get out of the tub?”

“Definitely…”

“I could do that… I’d like to do that.”

Loki cocked an eyebrow at his request and the blood was rushing into Steve’s cheeks. “What?”

“Nothing… I just thought I had figured you out. I guess it will take a bit more time…” Loki untangled himself from Steve’s grip and let his head slide beneath the water surface. When he came back up he looked at Steve expectantly, chuckling softly. “Well then, go ahead…”

It took them another 20 minutes until they got out of the tub and Steve was instantly smitten with Loki in a bathrobe. Nevertheless he pretty much ordered him to immediately get back into bed. Could Asgardians catch a cold? Or… whatever race Loki really belonged to?

Dismissing of that thought Steve climbed into bed with him and Loki had already closed his eyes, breathing softly. Just looking at him brought a smile to Steve’s face and he pressed a kiss on Loki’s cheek. “How long till they kick in the door? They have to know that I’m here.”

Steve couldn’t argue with that. “I have no clue. It’s not like we’re going to let them in… there’ll be no reason to do any harm.”

Loki didn’t open his eyes, but the corners around his mouth twitched. “I’ve told you before that I don’t hesitate to defend myself… and I won’t hesitate to defend somebody I want to protect…”

It was probably the most conflicted Steve had ever felt. A part of him instantly wanted to tell Loki that there wasn’t going to be any need to hurt anybody. The other, way bigger, part was moved by the fact that Loki wanted to protect him.

Which wasn’t going to be necessary.

Running his fingers through Loki’s hair Steve kept watching him, noticing the small smile on his lips.

Chapter Text

Steve woke up, still wrapped up around Loki. Hearing his soft breathing Steve buried his face in Loki’s hair, sighing happily. Loki still smelled like that sweet conditioner and himself. It was intoxicating, making Steve want to sink completely into it. Still feeling sleepy Steve pressed a kiss on the back of Loki’s neck. He could hear Loki making a soft noise that didn’t tell if he was still asleep or not. Steve couldn’t deny the tingle he was feeling all over his skin, caused by the closeness to Loki.

Slowly Steve slid his hand, which was lying on Loki’s stomach, under the bathrobe that Loki was still wearing. Grazing his fingers over Loki’s skin. Moving his hand higher Steve trailed open-mouthed kisses along Loki’s neck. This time Steve could hear a little gasp which was definite sign that Loki was awake now. Steve reacted by brushing his lips over Loki’s ear. “Good morning…”

“Morning…” Loki sighed quietly, not moving at all.

Steve pulled him closer against his chest, kissing his cheek. “How are you feeling?”

In response Loki slightly stretched out his body, moving his hips back against Steve’s obvious erection. “Wanted.”

It would have made Steve laugh if it hadn’t been completely true. Continuing to run his fingers over Loki’s chest. “Can’t guess why…”

Pulling his hand back Steve undid the loose knot that was holding Loki’s bathrobe together. This way it was easier to touch him. That soft skin which felt perfect beneath his fingertips. Steve could feel Loki’s heartbeat when his fingers grazed over his chest. Slightly elevated. Taking his time Steve circled one of Loki’s nipples with his thumb, enjoying how Loki squirmed softly in his arms.

The sheets were soft against his skin, feeling almost cold in comparison to Loki’s warm body. Perfect. Except for the bathrobe still between them. Steve softly bit down on Loki’s neck, rubbing himself against Loki’s backside. It was impossible to hold back a moan when his cock was touching the soft material of the bathrobe, feeling the curves of Loki’s body underneath.

Loki responded by reaching behind himself, wrapping his fingers around Steve’s straining erection. The grip was just right, making Steve arch into his touch.

“Turn around…” Steve sucked hard on the bite mark he had just left on Loki’s neck, wanting to see him, wanting to have him all over himself.

After some shifting around Loki was facing him and their mouths were instantly on each other’s. It wasn’t particularly gentle but full of passion, Steve felt still overwhelmed by the fact that he hadn’t lost him and by having him. Steve’s hands were roaming over Loki’s body, pushing the robe off his shoulders, frustrated that he need Loki’s assistance to get it completely off his body. That was so much better, to feel his entire body against his own.

It was that same sensation again. To possess him, to protect him. Pushing Loki onto his back Steve moved on to top of him and Loki instantly pulled him into another kiss, his fingers tangled in Steve’s hair. Steve grabbed Loki’s legs by the back of his knees, pushing them apart and up against his chest. Loki gasped audibly against Steve’s mouth, but the way his arms went around Steve’s shoulders showed that he didn’t mind the slightly rougher treatment. Running his hand down the inside of Loki’s thigh Steve marvelled at how Loki was shivering when Steve reached between his legs. Their kiss was broken when Loki panted for air, reacting to Steve rubbing his fingers over his entrance.

“Oh…”

Steve took Loki’s lower lip between his teeth and kept his teasing going, not entering him though. It was so intoxicating that Steve didn’t even feel any pain when Loki buried his fingernails in Steve’s back, urging him on. At the moment Steve didn’t even to reach for the lube, because that would require him to stop even for the shortest amount of time. Eventually he had to though.

Loki reacted by biting down on Steve’s lip when he was entered by the first finger. Ignoring the lithe pain Steve continued to prepare him, trailing kissing on Loki’s jaw to avoid further biting. The way Loki bucked against his touch, the soft noises he made were almost too much to bear. Suddenly Loki’s hands were framing Steve’s face, pulling him in a new, passionate kiss. Steve had probably never gone through something more intense.

“Steve, don’t tease me…”

Soft and sharp at the same time. Steve loved the sound of it. He did what Loki asked of him. No more teasing but another deep kiss and Steve got into position. Wrapping his legs around him Loki dug his heels into Steve’s back, urging him on. This was definitely the only good way to go insane.

Loki’s eyes fell closed when Steve entered him and that soft, pleasant sigh which escaped Loki’s lips was something to behold. Steve’s breath got caught, the warmth of Loki’s body was almost overwhelming him, way too easily.

“You’re perfect…” He whispered against Loki’s ear, then kissing it. Loki voiced a hoarse laugh, his hands settling on Steve’s waist. “Anything but…”

“Will you stop disagreeing with me? Just once?”

That devious smirk ghosted across Loki’s face and he didn’t say anything, preferring to kiss Steve instead. They began moving together, slipping into a pattern of soft but intense thrusts. It was bliss, a couple of moments that were free of any doubts and worries.

Steve bemoaned the fact that it couldn’t last forever. Loki’s fingers were in his hair, his breath on his skin, Steve’s name on his lips. For these few moments Steve could feel him all over and drowning in him seemed like the most wonderful that thing could ever happen. Loki kissed him and Steve surrendered completely.

When it was over Steve knew that Loki was slipping from his grip and it wasn’t even a surprise, because Loki had said it several times. He had told Steve that he couldn’t stay. Which wasn’t true.

“You know… I could wake you like this every morning…” Steve murmured these words into Loki’s neck and he could hear him humming softly. “Your naivety is terribly upsetting.”

“And you are terribly stubborn.” Sighing softly Steve rolled onto his side and slid his arm around Loki, pulling him close against his chest.

“We will have to eventually get up. You know that.”

Hearing Loki talk was immensely frustrating, so Steve closed his eyes and kissed his cheek. “Be quiet. Enjoy.”

Loki indeed didn’t say another word, merely placed his hand on top of Steve’s arm. Although they weren’t doing anything time was running by and Steve felt the inevitable approaching. It didn’t matter how much he wanted to drag it out.

“Steve, I’m hungry. Do you want me to starve?”

Sighing Steve kissed Loki’s neck and let go off him. “Shower, then breakfast. Slowly.”

Finally Loki agreed with him and when they had untangled themselves completely from each other, they headed for the bathroom. Loki was already stepping into the shower when all Steve could do was standing there and watch him. Admire every single detail of his body. Trying to burn that exact image into his brain and memory.

“What are you doing?”

“Looking at you.”

Loki brushed his wet hair behind his ears and Steve could see that he was almost tempted to smile. “Come here, theatrics don’t suit you.”

Why was Steve overreacting? Loki kept talking about how he had to leave and that this could never work out. If Steve wanted to look at him, he was going to look at him. So Steve took another few seconds until he joined Loki who greeted him with a kiss. Steve melted a little bit beneath that sweet mouth and put his hands on Loki’s cheeks. “You are going to stay. Because I want you to… and because you want to stay too.”

“It’s not that easy…”

“Sure, it is.”

“I’ve burned some bridges. All of them exactly… They are going to hunt me and I’m not interested in making peace with them. I’ve told you that.”

Yes, Loki had been very clear about that, but Steve just couldn’t believe that a person would willingly continue to hate somebody. That Loki would let a feeling completely consume him. When at the same time Steve could see his heart and his sweetness. Why should Steve be the only one that could bring Loki to show it?

“You didn’t burn every bridge. I’ve already told you that. I’m still here, right?”

Loki sighed, then shook his head. “It’s something different. You are different. I don’t hate you… and I’m not going to drag you into this. Now be silent. I’m getting tired of this conversation.”

Before Steve could protest, Loki kissed him again and that officially ended this discussion. For now.

After the shower they both got dressed and it was time to have breakfast. “What do you want to eat?”

“Everything?”

That meant Loki didn’t plan on sharing another breakfast with Steve. There was still time to talk him out of it. “Okay, everything.”

Everything included scrambled eggs, bacon, waffles, pancakes, toast. Steve definitely had to thank Jarvis to constantly make sure that their refrigerators were stocked.

“Midgardian breakfast is incredibly unhealthy…” Loki obviously felt the need to point that out while reaching for another pancake.

“There is no Midgardian breakfast… This is American breakfast and yeah, it’s unhealthy. Why should we care? I’m genetically modified and pretty much indestructible and you are more or less immortal.” Steve only remembered all too vividly how Loki had talked about Thor’s relationship to Jane and how Steve was different, because he might actually live as long as Loki or even longer than him… Was that Loki’s plan? To wait around until everybody who he despised and who wanted to put him away had died?

Loki put his cup of coffee down and although his eyes were strikingly beautiful Steve didn’t want him to look at him like this. “They are already on their way. You know what will happen when they’ll find me here.”

“They already know that you are here. SHIELD isn’t that stupid. Tony let you out, they know that you are here and nobody has come yet…”

“Because Tony doesn’t want to let them in and they can’t afford the whole town seeing them breaking forcefully into Stark Tower. They need another way, they’ll find one and I’m not going to be here when they will and you aren’t going to tell them that I was here.”

“So I look okay and only Tony will be the one to take the blame.”

“I saved his life. He felt like he needed to pay a debt. It’s an explanation. Whatever you do… everybody will assume it’s because you’re infatuated with me. It would never go away and you wouldn’t want that. I will gladly repeat myself, because I like to be clear. I’m not going to be here when they come.”

Steve looked at his beautiful face and for a moment he thought he was going to be overwhelmed by the urge to grab him and keep him here. “So this is it? You’re going to leave me and I don’t get a choice?”

“If I wanted to leave you, you wouldn’t get a choice. No. It would be the same the other way round…” Loki trailed off, indicating a little smile. “Why are you so sure that I’m not coming back?”

A strange mixture of feeling stupid and ridiculously happy at the same time. “Are you… coming back?”

Loki huffed, crossing his arms in front of his chest and for a moment Steve actually thought that he was offended. “I can teleport. I jump between different worlds and dimension and you instantly assume that I’m never going to come back… because it would be… too strenuous?”

Steve opened his mouth without knowing what to say. “You… uhm… you are constantly talking about leaving. What am I supposed to think?”

“That I’m wickedly smart, brilliant and that I don’t play by other people’s rules. That I figure things out.”

“I’ve been saying the entire day that we’ll figure this out…” A bit frustrated Steve pushed his cup of coffee away. No, he wasn’t just a bit frustrated. For this short moment it didn’t matter that he had fallen in love with this wickedly smart, brilliant and reckless individual. It hurt, just the slightest bit, because Steve was still so relieved that Loki was fine and that he wasn’t going to leave forever. “Why are you doing this? You’re constantly talking about how you have to leave while I’m telling you that you don’t have to. That I don’t want you to and yet… You don’t say that you actually want to stay here with me. Sure, I was unexpected, I make you feel safe. But do you want to stay with me? Come back. Do you want to come back? You want nothing to do with Thor or the Avengers… You made me understand that. Am I enough to come back to? And if I am why can’t you just say that? Does everything have to be a game? I am tired of that… I got it, Loki. You are going to leave. Because you want to or because you don’t want to get me in even bigger trouble, I don’t care. I just want to know if you’re going to come back.”

Steve knew that he wasn’t able to hold Loki. In this situation he was completely powerless, at his mercy and he wasn’t going to wrap his arms around him. It would be useless and Loki should stay because he actually wanted to.

To be with Steve…

Loki responded with an empty glance, no emotion visible on his face, but Steve knew that this didn’t mean anything. Underneath the surface Loki was passionate, twisted, warm, relentless and a thousand things more.

And Loki didn’t want them to be seen while Steve wanted all of it.

The silence between them was interrupted by Loki exhaling loudly and the thought crossed Steve’s mind that he maybe should wrap his arms around him.

“I want to come back.”

It was so short and simple. Completely unlike Loki but it was what Steve had asked for and what he had wished for. A little smile made its way on Steve’s face. “Then come back.”

Loki smiled and Steve felt lighter. They could figure it out. One way or another. They finished breakfast more or less in silence and Steve was almost afraid that by the end Loki would just get up and teleport away. That didn’t happen. Instead they ended up on Steve’s couch, exchanging kisses and talking about things so trivial they were instantly forgotten. Steve could have continued like this for an incredibly long time. Maybe forever.

“Captain Rogers, a squad of SHIELD agents is approaching the tower, including the agents Barton, Romanov and Thor. They have already requested entry. Sir refused.”

Sitting up Loki shook his head, almost in amusement. “Tell him, he can let them in. They won’t find anything.”

“Can’t you just make yourself invisible?” Steve knew that it was a weak attempt, but he couldn’t help himself.

Instead of telling him the same thing just one more time Loki offered him a smile. Soft and almost sweet. Then he leaned in and gently kissed him. Not an actual goodbye kiss, important to remember.

Then he was gone. Just like that. Vanishing into thin air, leaving Steve with nothing but Loki’s statement that he indeed wanted to come back.

Steve remained in the exact same spot until the other Avengers showed up. Including Tony and Steve was thankful for that since he wasn’t in the mood to talk.

Where is Loki?

Not here.

Then can we see the security footage of last night?

Fuck you

Where did he go?

He wasn’t here, go fuck yourself

It took some time, but eventually everybody was convinced that Loki wasn’t here. Except for Thor, Steve could clearly see it in his expression. Just looking at him filled him with sadness since Loki had made it so painfully clear that he didn’t want to have anything to do with his brother. Perhaps Loki’s last betrayal had also been enough for Thor and that bond could never be repaired. Steve didn’t want to believe that.

There would be time to work that out too. Hopefully.

 ***

Tony was left alone thanks to an army of lawyers that handed SHIELD a little document that told them they would be more or less out of business without Tony’s funding and a lawsuit. The thought that money could solve every single problem in the world didn’t please Steve, but he was happy that Tony wasn’t in any trouble after freeing Loki.

Natasha and Clint still weren’t welcomed at the tower and Steve couldn’t say that he minded, especially since the two of them didn’t seem too upset either. They were still working together, but that was strictly professional.

One day slowly turned into the next one and Steve missed Loki who could have easily returned five minutes after SHIELD had left the tower. He still wasn’t there. Tony didn’t comment on the entire story. Every morning he gave Steve a pitiful look and then he remained silent which was better anyway. A conversation about Loki’s whereabouts would be too much to take.

Instead they talked about everything else, mostly about the movies they watched, now that only the two of them were left at the tower.

“I still don’t get what was in the suitcase.”

“We don’t have to know. It’s a riddle. Symbolic. A MacGuffin. What do I know? It’s Pulp Fiction, it’s awesome.”

“It was uselessly vulgar and brutal.”

“Isn’t that what I just said?” Tony raised an eyebrow at him and Steve laughed in response. “Not really. No. Let’s just agree we have very different tastes in movies.”

“I will gladly agree that you have no taste in movies.”

“That’s not what I said.”

Tony grinned and answered with a shrug. “That’s the only thing I’ve heard. You want to watch another one?”

Steve shook his head and yawned softly to make a point. “Sorry, I’m tired. Another time? Tomorrow night?”

“Sure, we’ll watch Django, you’ll like that one. That guy who looks exactly like Fury is also in it.” Tony sounded strangely excited about this and Steve was glad that he was here. Being alone in the tower made Steve think of Loki. Everything made him think of Loki. Fortunately Steve was too tired to think about anything. He would continue to do that the next morning and the one after that.

Or maybe Steve wouldn’t have to, because somebody was sitting on his couch. Smiling softly Steve closed the door behind him. “I was just about to go to bed.”

“I can leave if you want me to?”

“Don’t you dare.”