"He is adorable." Thor said, watching from the royal viewing room. The newborn was settled in a nest of warm cushions and blankets and sleeping soundly. Beside Thor, Sif crossed her arms with an unimpressed look on her face.
"You just could not keep it in your pants." She said, and Thor turned to her, his eyebrow raised. "Don't give me that look, Thor. You cannot go around impregnating random women and then leaving them with demigods on their hands!"
"But lady Sif, Jane Foster is a formidable woman of excellent bone structure and-" Thor started saying, but Sif shook her head and waved a hand at him.
"I will not hear it, Thor. You made him, he is your responsibility." She said, turning on her heels and leaving the viewing room. Thor stayed for a bit longer, watching the small family as they watched the infant sleep. His gaze softened. Yes, it may not have been his wife who'd given birth to the child, but he loved the little one all the same.
Thor, however, was a busy God. As the current king of the Gods, he had varying duties to attend to. And so it was that a year later, when danger approached the youngling, Thor had not been paying attention. A screech startled the household out of a peaceful night's sleep. Jane rushed to the nursing room with Donald on her tracks, and when she slammed the door open, the audible gasp was followed by a moment's stunned silence. And then Steve let out a merry laughter.
In his crib, Steve sat upright, grin stretching his chubby cheeks as two large snakes were held tightly in either of his hands. It seemed as though the snakes had tried to coil around the babe, or bite him, but managed neither feat, as Steve choked them to death in his mighty grip. Jane and Donald exchanged worried looks. This was not what they'd expected when Jane became pregnant all those months ago.
The years passed by unheeded, and Steve grew to be a lanky young man. His looks did not give away the Godly strength that resided in his body. His townsmen knew, however, and were not pleased with his "accidents". Steve wasn't particularly easy to anger, and he wasn't exceptionally clumsy. He wasn't perfect, though, and certain issues could easily set him off - and when he did get angry, things tended to end up in wreckage. Steve never really meant for things to get that far, but it just happened. It wasn't his fault he had a certain upbringing, and that he had grown to loathe any act of bullying or injustice.
A week before Steve's 18th birthday, when Steve was just finishing his day's work, he saw a group of men harassing a lady going about her business in the local market. She was carrying a grocery bag, and the men wanted to see what she had in it, clearly in order to take it from her. Steve would have none of that, of course, and he apparently knew no subtle way to go about it. By the time the fight had come to an end, half the marketplace had been left in shambles, and two of the men were so badly wounded Steve couldn't recognize them anymore. The lady's bag was tossed on the ground, contents strewn every which way, and in the silence that remained, someone called out "MENACE." A shout that was soon followed by many a cry out for Steve to leave at once and never ravage the city again. He tried to voice his argument, that all he did was to stand up for the harassed lady, but she didn't support his claims and instead joined the hoard in demanding he never show his face in town again.
That evening, Steve packed up for a long trip. He wasn't one to impose on the people, and he knew he had caused quite a few events like the one that had happened that day. He understood the people's insistence that he leave. His mother knocked on the door when he was halfway through tucking a couple of extra clothes in his backpack, and when she came in, he knew right away that something was not right. She sat down beside him and smiled kindly at him.
"My child," she said, her eyes cast on the backpack he was packing. "I think it's time you knew." And it was something about her tone that made him suspect she had grave news. He nodded his head, to show he was listening. "Eighteen years ago, when I conceived you, I was fooled by…" She paused, and inexplicably, her smile widened a mite. "By a God."
Steve was confused. He wasn't sure how this story was related to him, even though he did have an inkling of an idea. "You were fooled by a God…?" He asked, frowning. And then, he understood all at once. "You can't be serious."
"Oh trust me, your father and I have recounted that night several times, there could be no other conclusion, and besides…" She paused, poking his thin arm. "You've got the strength of the Gods in you."
"What good does that do me, when all I ever do is leave wreckage in my path?" He asked, scoffing slightly. The understanding that his beloved father had not been the one to bring him into the world, well, it was a shock, but Steve didn't need to even pause and ponder whether or not his father loved him despite this fact. His parents had been the best, most giving and loving parents he could have hoped for.
"You will have to learn how to wield it, my son. I'm sure you can do it. Until you do, though, I do not think it wise to come into the city." She seemed saddened by this, but he saw in her face the confidence she had in him, too. "It would be wisest, I think, if you addressed the Gods directly." She said, patting his shoulder soothingly. "They will give you a sign, I'm sure of it."
"It's bad enough that the snakes didn't kill him in the crib, if you ask me." The tone was lazy, slow and nasal. In the moonlit expanse of the yard, sitting in the veranda, the man speaking could have been deemed to be talking to himself, if not for the figure that stepped out of the shadow of one of the pine-trees. The man didn't turn to look. He ran an impatient hand through his blond hair, before grabbing for his goblet of cider and taking a drink.
"Mr. Stark, you are not the only one disappointed by that turn of events." The figure spoke. The tall, dark haired man approached the veranda in slow, measured steps. Wisps of green trailed his steps, rising from the edges of his overcoat, outlining his black hair. He turned his green eyes at the man in the veranda. "However, our plan must proceed in a timely fashion. Soon, the convergence will occur, our one chance to overturn the rule of the Asgardian Gods."
Unimpressed, the man drank his cider, then swirled the remainder of the drink in his goblet. "How do you think that plan will fare, when Steven is still alive and kicking?" He asked, at last glancing at the God in his garden. The God smiled, an awful, sharp smile that spoke of mischief and wrong-doing.
"Oh, the plan will work out as expected, so long as you play your part, Gregory Stark."
"You still think that blundering idiot will show his face in this court again? He and his family have not set foot in this house in thirteen years!" Greg said, seeming outraged for just a moment before he settled down.
"He will come." The God said, sneering. "As the son of Howard Stark, you will be most qualified to provide Steven with his tasks. I am sure my brother will assign this test, because he is that brand of a fool."
"Fool?" Greg raised an interested eyebrow.
"Thor thinks in terms of physical capacity. If Steven proves his worth in a physical test, he will qualify to enter Asgard." The God explained, exerting patience he sorely lacked.
"And you think Steve will want to go to Asgard?"
"I think he will want to prove his worth. He IS my brother's son, and therefore a hard-headed fool."
"And where does my brother come in, Loki?" Greg asked smoothly, looking at the God under his lashes. "I was under the impression you were going to employ him in bringing Steve down…?"
"He will not be needed for this." Loki said, waving a hand dismissively. "My list is in the first drawer in your office. Stick to it." And with that, the God disappeared, leaving nothing but fading wisps of green in his wake.
The next morning, Donald and Jane bid their son goodbye. They did not know when, if ever, they would get to see him again, but they knew he was meant for greatness, and so while they were sad to see their son leave, they were proud of him, too. Jane gave Steve a package of the kind of food she knew her son loved most. She kissed his cheek, hugged him close, and patted his head, putting his hair in order. "Be safe, my son."
"I will, mother." Steve promised, nodding his head once, then turning to his father. They shared a tight hug, and then Donald held him at an arm's distance, grasping his shoulders.
"You have gotten this far, Steve. Do us proud." Donald said, watching his son's face. Steve beamed back. The circumstances might not have been the best, but he loved his parents, and he wanted them to remember him happy, just as he knew they wanted to be remembered.
He set out just a bit after the sun started rising on the horizon. His destination? The city of the Gods, Asgardia. It was a popular pilgrimage city, where people believed they could be closest to the Gods when they prayed to them. Steve was confident he could find a clue there that would point him in the right direction. All he wanted was to find a way to improve himself. He wanted to better control his power and use it for better causes. He wanted to prove that he could be more than just a menace.
The hike wasn't too difficult. Steve worked through his mother's food-package over the days, and at last, on his birthday, late in the evening, he stumbled into Asgardia. Even in the dim moonlight, Steve could see how grand the city was. He marveled at the tall temples, the articulate statues. Even at night, the colorful atmosphere of the the city struck him, refreshing and new. He walked by the temple for Lady Sif, and the temple for The Voluptuous Volstagg, smiling at the magnificent statues, until he arrived at the main temple in town, his eyes set wide on the large entrance gate. The temple for The God of Thunder was massive.
Cautiously, Steve stepped in and walked through the empty, dark halls. It was well after normal reception hours, but the temples were never closed off for visitors. It was just uncommon for people to come in to pray at night. Steve walked down the wide aisle, looking at the rows of columns that held the ceiling in place, but he couldn't quite keep his eyes off the huge statue at the end of the aisle for very long. The figure, a broad-chested mountain of a man, sat proudly on a throne. All the details on the Mighty Thor's statue were identical to how the myths always depicted him. A formidable size, a shiny armor, a winged helmet, and his trusty Mjolnir in his right hand, resting easy on the throne's arm-rest. The statue stood motionless, its stare vacant, if joyful.
Steve hurriedly set his belongings aside and settled down to pray. He wasn't expecting an answer from the unmoving figure as he spoke. "O Mighty Thor, God of Thunder. I have come a long way to seek guidance." He bowed deeply.
A huge flash of light blinded Steve just as he made to straighten up. A roaring thunder tore through the hall. When he looked up, the huge statue had suddenly become animated, its solid smile stretched into a natural grin. "My boy!" It boomed, knocking Steve back. "I have been waiting for this day!"
Steve groaned, rolling onto his side and pushing himself up again. Just as he was on his feet, the statue's free hand came down to scoop him up and lift him, bringing him close to its enormous face. Steve stared on in horror. Was he hallucinating? Did he fall asleep where he sat in The Mighty Thor's temple? Or did he drop off earlier? Was it poison? The statue kept staring at him expectantly. Steve gulped.
"Why the long face, Steven? Is that how you greet your father for the first time?" Thor asked, though he seemed unfazed by this. Steve stared a bit more, until the words connected in his head.
"Father?" He whispered, his voice shaking. The hand grasping him was solid stone, but it moved like it was a living thing, and Steve was getting a little sea-sick.
"You catch on quick! Good. Good." Thor said, nodding his head approvingly.
"I… Mom told me." Steve said, still thinking it was a dream. "She told me that a God fooled her…" He looked up into the enormous face of a God he was starting to understand had fathered him. "She never said it was The Mighty Thunderer…"
"Ah, well, I never actually told her. She could not have known." Thor said, dismissive. "Are you here for your quest?" He asked by way of course, like he'd been waiting to say this for as long as Steve was alive. Which, Steve assumed, must've been true, if he was really the child of The God of Thunder.
"Quest?" Steve asked, squinting at the huge face.
"If not for a quest, then what business have you here, my son?"
Steve hesitated. Maybe a quest was what he needed. He did set out to prove his worth in the world. "I might be here for a quest. I'm not sure." He admitted, and Thor nodded his head encouragingly, as though pushing him to continue. "It's just… I have this strength, but I always end up wrecking everything. I was banished from my town, and I'm wary of finding a new place, for fear of causing the same trouble…" He explained. "I need to prove my capabilities, sir, to the world and to myself." He searched Thor's face for any hints as to whether he'd come to the right place, and when Thor's smile remained in place, he figured he might've.
"Then you are indeed in need of a quest." Thor said, his tone mock-grave. "I have just the perfect one for you." And Steve leaned in to show his eagerness. "It involves danger," Steve nodded his head, "hard work," Steve blinked in determination, "and tactical genius."
"Okay! I'm ready for that!" Steve said eagerly, but Thor merely laughed.
"Oh, I have seen you handle yourself, my boy. You are not. But you will be." Thor said, setting Steve on the ground gently. "You will need to find The Winter Soldier, and have him train you, and then, you will have to find the grand Stark Mansion, and seek their six trials. Once these trials are successfully accomplished, you will have proven yourself worthy."
"The Winter Soldier?" Steve asked, bewildered. "How will I find him?"
Thor stared at him for a minute like he might be stupid, but then he seemed to remember something and snapped his giant marble fingers. "Of course! How could I forget? Falcon!" He called, and out of nowhere, a fully grown, winged centaur appeared, coming over from behind one of the columns. His black hooves clicked on the marble floor as he walked over, flapping his massive wings to the sides and regarding Steve suspiciously. Steve noted the deep brown color of his skin and the way his wings shone silver, accentuated by the blood-red edge-feathers, as the wings shifted to settle comfortably, folded over the creature's back. Falcon crossed his arms over his chest and watched Steve, walking around him and testing him, until he came face to face with Steve and looked at him for a long moment.
"Steven, this is Samuel, also known as The Falcon. When you were born, I created him, but-" the God seemed sheepish, "I was told it would be a bad idea to let him out on the world on his own." He gestured at the centaur. "He is meant to be your companion, now, be nice."
"It's Steve." Steve said, offering a hand for a shake. "Your wings are awesome, can you really fly?" He asked, curious. Samuel sneered for a minute at the offered hand, but then grabbed it, all pretense of distance disappearing, to be replaced by a wide grin.
"Can I fly?! Oh man this is going to be great. You can call me Sam, or Falcon. However you like." Sam said, flapping out his wings again before grabbing Steve off the ground bodily and setting him astride his back. "Hold on tight." He turned to Thor then. "Where did you want me to take him, old man? The Winter Soldier's lair?"
"Hey, now. I am not old!" Thor retorted, waving a marble fist at the centaur as it took flight.
"Sure you aren't. Now, give us a hand, will ya?" Sam called, ignoring a bewildered Steve, whose arms wrapped instinctively around the centaur's human waist. Thor waved that same hand before scooping Sam onto it and blowing a huge wind under his wings, sending the two flying miles across the land.
"You're sure this is the right place?" Steve asked quietly, as they walked up a grassy, lightly wooded hill. Sam smacked his shoulder.
"Of course I'm sure, man. What do you take me for? I'm an awesome naviga-" Steve covered Sam's mouth with his palm to silence him. Sam looked surprised, but shut up regardless, looking at where Steve was looking. At first, Sam couldn't see anything, but then, there was a brief motion.
"Get down!" Steve said, tackling Sam aside and ducking, just as a knife flew past, embedding half an inch into a tree. Steve stared at it for a moment before looking in the direction it came from, just in time to see a figure disappear into the bushes. "Stay here." He told Sam as he moved to follow the anonymous attacker.
The chase was short lived, not because the attacker would've had much trouble running away, Steve guessed, but because it was a principle to stand his ground. Steve could admire that. The mass of brown hair framed a face Steve recognized immediately, and it gave him pause. The man stood in a wide stance, ready to bolt into action if he had to, but Steve had very little practical combat experience, and he didn't realize this at all. "Bucky?" He asked, bewildered. Bucky had been a childhood friend, Steve had not seen him in almost ten years, but he knew it was him. Two years his senior and always standing up for Steve when the town's kids called him Wrecking Crew. One morning, Steve had gone to their usual playground, and Bucky wasn't there. He hadn't seen him since.
The man who stood before him frowned in mild confusion. "Who the hell is Bucky?" he asked, loosening his stance. He'd done all the assessment he needed of the intruder. The kid wouldn't pose a threat if he tried to. "And who the hell are you?"
"I'm-" Steve was surprised at the indifferent tone. Bucky had always been affectionate when they'd been friends. "I'm Steve… Don't you remember?" He asked, taking half a step towards the other man, who stayed motionless.
"No." Bucky said, turning to look distrustfully at the centaur who now stepped into the space. "Ugh. Mythological creatures." He grumbled, taking a step back. "What do you want?"
"We're looking for The Winter Soldier." Steve said, still obviously stuck on the sudden reappearance of a childhood friend he'd given hope of ever meeting again. "Have you seen him?"
Bucky snorted and turned his back on them. "The Winter Soldier, huh? What do you need with him?" He asked, slowly walking away. Steve finally noticed, as the sun reflected on the man's left arm, that it was made of some kind of solid metal, shining silver, with a red star on the shoulder. Despite this, the arm moved as naturally as the flesh and blood arm and didn't seem to cause Bucky any discomfort. He followed Bucky at what he deemed a safe distance.
"Thor said-" Steve started saying, only to be cut by a snort from the man in front of him. He glanced to Sam, who shrugged. When nothing more came from Bucky, Steve tried again. "He said I needed to complete some tasks and that The Winter Soldier could train me for it." Steve wasn't sure what was going through Bucky's head, because he could barely see his face, but nothing in the man's pace or posture changed.
"You?" Bucky said, glancing over at Steve again. "You'd be lucky if you survived even one training session with him." He said, raising an eyebrow as Steve stared at him, a little irritated. He crossed his arms over his chest as Steve walked over to a nearby tree and gave it a slight push. The tree fell over instantly.
"Maybe we should let him be the judge of whether I qualify or not." Steve then said, his tone a cold dare. Sam stood back, staring at the fallen tree and then glancing at Bucky.
"Dude. Did you just…" Sam said, pointing at the tree. Steve smiled apologetically at him. He hadn't had much of a chance to display his powers before. "Knock over a damn tree?"
"Don't do that again." Bucky grumbled. "That was a fruit-bearing tree, you idiot." He walked over and knocked against Steve's shoulder. "You'll need to correct your posture, lift some weights to get muscle-mass to match that power, running exercises, squats. I'm gonna drive you till you drop." Bucky glared at him intensely. "If you bail on me, I'll make you regret it."
Steve gaped, confused. "What do you mean?"
"Means he's the Winter Soldier, genius." Sam said, palming his forehead. He stomped a little in place and waved his dark tail irritably from side to side. "And he's just saying he'll do it, if you were wondering." Sam sauntered over and ruffled Steve's hair as Bucky looked on, unimpressed as before.
"Get your asses in gear. We'll need to set up training grounds."
"Steve?" The voice is well controlled to sound marginally interested. Tony doesn't need to have Greg meddle in his business more than is crucially necessary for the peaceful management of the house they shared. He remembered Steve as a beacon of light standing out in the midst of a rather mucky childhood. Golden hair, meek appearance, wide blue eyes and fiery determination. Only a few months his senior, and Tony remembered the rest very vaguely, Steve had been the one good memory he had. He was very disappointed when Steve stopped coming for visits.
"I'm surprised you even remember him. We were so young…"
"We're the same age, dumbass." Tony grumbled, hunching back over his project. He was working on a new method to lever heavy loads. "Did they tell you when he's expected to be here?" He asked, hoping he didn't sound too eager. Greg snorted.
"The convergence is two years from now. Who knows when that idiot's going to find his way here?" He said, waving his hand dismissively and turning to leave. "I just thought you'd like to know."
Tony stared after his brother, watching him leave in distrustful dislike. It was bad enough they had to share the stupid house until one of them died, thanks to their wonderful father's ridiculous will, but now he had to lead life endlessly getting mocked by his brother. It hadn't been his fault that he'd gotten a brain tumor, and he had only been lucky that the God of Death and Mischief had agreed to their deal. What did he care that his soul belonged to the God, so long as he had his genius brain still intact? Greg was too narrow minded to see this.
After foaming for a few minutes about this, Tony turned his attention back to his baby. His beloved project. He was close to a breakthrough, he knew it.
A year passed. It was a month before Steve's nineteenth birthday when he'd finally managed to complete The Winter Soldier's deadly final test. They were now heading to Stark Mansion, and Bucky had insisted on joining the ride. He'd said something about Steve being hopeless without him and would not hear no for an answer. Too bad he didn't remember Steve at all.
They entered the small town without much notice, even though Sam did call some attention to himself. They'd done what they could to hide his wings, but it was pretty obvious he was a centaur. Flying in had been a little awkward, but Sam had insisted taking the route by foot would take too long, and Steve and Bucky didn't have a good enough counter-argument. So they ended up riding Sam's back together into the aerial space of the city.
"You sure this is the place?" Bucky asked over Sam's back. Sam huffed in annoyance. It was the fifth time the Winter Soldier had asked this, and Sam was growing tired of reminding them he knew the whole land by heart. Steve just shrugged, then nodded his head.
"It was a long time ago, Buck, but I know these streets. We used to visit here every other weekend when I was little." Steve said, looking around. "Down that street to the left and up the hill." He remarked.
"See?" Sam muttered, and the rest of the walk over went in relative quiet.
When they came upon the large gates into the Mansion's grounds, Steve knocked for good measure, only to have Bucky give him an unbelieving stare. "You really think anyone's going to hear you knocking? We need to just-" He started saying, but fell quiet when a figure burst out of the house. Whoever it was looked tiny from this distance, but they were coming to the gate in a moderate running pace.
"You were saying?" Steve asked, smiling at Bucky as they waited for the person to get to the gates. When finally the man arrived, he was huffing a little, leaning a little forward with both hands on his thighs.
"Hold on." He managed in between deep breaths, before finally he settled down and reached to open the gates. "I need to get in shape." He muttered before facing the bewildered guests. "Hi! I'm Tony Stark. You must be Steve, right?" Tony said, offering a hand for a shake, which Steve automatically took. "I didn't know you were bringing friends."
"What…" Steve was too busy staring at Tony to realize the man had meant Bucky and Sam. After a second, it clicked and he turned to look at them too. "Oh… Uh. Well, this is Bucky, who prefers to be called The Winter Soldier," Steve said, quickly adding the pseudonym before Bucky's glare turned to full I'm-going-to-kill-you force. "And this is Sam, or the Falcon."
"Bucky the Wiener Soldier and Sam the Pegasucentaur. Gotcha." Tony said, flashing Steve's friends with a grin before turning back to Steve. "We've been expecting you! Greg didn't know when exactly, so we ended up giving the staff a day off today." He said as he moved out of the way, allowing the three to come in. It was then that Steve realized he was still holding onto the man's hand and quickly let go.
"You've been expecting me?" Steve said, swiftly pulling Tony by the arm out of the way of a knife Bucky tossed in his direction.
"Woah!" Tony exclaimed, sending a wounded look at Bucky. "Can't your friends take a good joke?"
"I wouldn't try seeing how he reacts to them when I'm not around." Steve answered with a shrug, glancing over at Bucky and smiling approvingly at the way Sam dragged the other man towards the mansion. He didn't need a diplomatic incident on his hands. "Now, what was that about expecting us?" He asked, turning back to Tony.
Stark Mansion had been a place he frequented often as a child, but a rift between his parents and the elder Starks had caused a cessation of those visits. Steve had missed the visits at first, but as most children, eventually found other endeavors to put his attention to. That's why, when he met Tony now, it didn't immediately register that this man, just a little bit shorter than him and sporting carefully manicured facial hair, was the snotty nosed, scraped kneed little boy he used to hang out with during holidays. When the realization finally hit him, it must've been clear on his face, since Tony's grin stretched ever wider.
"Finally remember?" Tony asked, slamming the gate closed and showing Steve to the mansion. "Greg said he'd gotten the intel that you'd be coming here sometime, so yeah, we've been expecting you." Tony said, leaning over a little to bump his shoulder against Steve's. "There's food and rooms… Well, one room, actually, but we can arrange accommodations for your friends, too." Tony spoke on as Steve said nothing. They arrived at the doors to the mansion, where Sam and Bucky stood waiting.
"You sure I can go in?" Sam asked as Tony opened the doors wide. "I've got hooves and all that…" He seemed a little reluctant to cause any damage, but Tony waved at him like it was nothing.
"We've got tall ceilings, and worst case, we'll refloor it, but I think we'll be fine." Tony reassured, patting Sam's arm and turning to look at the silver wings. "Let me see you use these sometime and we'll call it even." He said, and that seemed to appease Sam's worry. "No hard feelings, yeah?" Tony then turned to Bucky, testing the grounds. Bucky shrugged noncommittally and walked into the house.
"He'll… warm up to you, I guess." Steve said, stepping into the house and pausing to take in the interior decor. It was less grandiose than Steve remembered, but the delicate lines were as one would expect of a respectable, rich home. Steve barely remembered anything about the place, and it seemed to have gone through renovations since.
Tony showed Steve and company to a luxurious living room and served them something that could pass for a meal before enthusiastically asking them every question he could think of. Starting from how Steve's been since they last saw each other, through how he came to have to visit, and how he met Bucky and Sam. Bucky retired first, claiming Tony was too noisy for his tastes. Tony showed him to a room and came back quickly, with alcoholic reinforcements. Sam refused to drink, and shortly after that bid them good night. He refused to be shown to his room, too, which left Steve to look at Tony expectantly as soon as they were left alone.
"So… Where's your brother?" Steve finally asked, making a show of looking around the room. Tony shook his head and poured them a serving of wine. He handed one of the glasses to Steve and leaned back against the couch. Somehow, they'd ended up sitting on the carpeted floor.
"He's out on business." Tony rolled his eyes at the last word. "That's part of why he chose today to give the staff a day off. If he'd been here he'd never let them rest." Tony downed half the glass without blinking, while Steve took his time, drinking in small sips.
"And how did you guys know I was going to visit? I didn't send any messengers…" Steve asked, eyeing Tony carefully. Tony waves his hand largely, like he himself was impressed by the feat of intelligence-collection.
"No idea. Greg told me word was you'd be coming over and I rolled with it. Mind you, that was months ago." Tony said, spacing his sentences with measured drags from his glass. When it emptied, he refilled it. Steve was slightly alarmed, but more so amused.
"You should probably slow down…" He said, gesturing at Tony's glass. Tony made a face and waved him off again.
They spent a long while after this talking about mundane, everyday things. Steve explained his training routine and Tony told him about his latest inventions. By the time they were done with the large bottle of wine, Tony had drank most of it, and was leaning leisurely against Steve, like a big cat. Steve sat a little stiffly, but allowed the physical closeness. Tony was slowly dozing off, and Steve loathed to wake him. In this position, Steve could see well under the collar of Tony's toga, and every time his eyes wandered, he mentally slapped himself, repeating in his head that it was bad manners to check out his host when he was sleeping.
After a long time, Steve grew tired, and so he shifted from under Tony and picked his slack form up into his arms. At the very least, he could find a normal bed for the man to sleep in. If Tony burrowed his face closer, well, Steve wasn't quite aware of that. It was only when he finally set Tony in bed that he hesitated. Tony's hand closed around his wrist, insistent but not too tight, and Steve decided to stick around. It's not like he was going to do anything, right? He'd Just wrap an arm around his old friend and make sure he didn't catch a cold at night. With that resolve in mind, Steve stripped out of his armor, leaving only his under-tunic on, and climbed into bed next to Tony.
In the morning, Steve woke up to a pair of metallic blue eyes set intently on him. He was lying on his back, and Tony was propped up on an elbow, looking down at him with a small smile playing on his lips. "Good morning Sunshine." Tony drawled. The shoulder strap of the toga Tony'd been wearing the night before was sliding down his shoulder and he looked downright ravished, but Steve knew beyond any shadow of a doubt that nothing had actually happened between them.
"Good morning." He said, his words tripping over a yawn. It had been quite a while since he'd had the chance to sleep in an actual bed, and he appreciated it. "Bed's pretty comfortable." He remarked.
"Well, you shouldn't expect any less in my house." Tony said, his tone indulgent and affectionate. Strange, Steve thought absently. Did Tony start the day drinking?
"Hmm, I guess that's a good point." Steve answered, letting go of the mistrust. He liked being right where he was at that moment. "What time is it? Is your brother back?"
"He'll be back in a fortnight." Tony answered, lazily falling onto his back and folding his hands under his head. "He's got a list of tasks for you. I hear they're gruesome." He glanced at Steve. "You sure you wanna do it?" Tony seemed worried, and Steve wondered if it was actually there or if he was imagining things.
"Last time I lost control, I nearly killed two men." Steve said, turning his gaze away from Tony. "I have to prove I can live among the people."
"By… killing mythological creatures?" Tony had an eyebrow raised, Steve wasn't sure where that had come from.
"Never mind. The staff is back, if you want breakfast. I do, so I'm going to go, but you don't have to come with." Steve narrowed his eyes at Tony suspiciously. The man was way too alert for a guy who just woke up, so he had to assume-
"You've been up for a while, haven't you?"
"And… What have you been doing?" Steve rolled himself into a sitting position and watched Tony, not sure what to expect.
"Watching you." Tony answered plainly, sitting up too. He seemed to realize something and covered his eyes with his hand. "I mean- That sounds creepy, doesn't it? I promise it isn't." Steve didn't answer, only adjusted his clothes a little and waited. The sleep-wrinkles were beyond repair for now. "We don't get all that many visitors around here…"
"Really?" Steve cut in, surprised.
"Yeah, Greg doesn't like them and I'm usually getting distracted at the workshop." Tony shrugged, climbing out of bed and putting his clothes in order. "Thanks for tucking me in, by the way." And for not taking advantage of the situation, he didn't say, but Steve had a feeling the meaning was intended, partially, to get across.
"No problem." Steve said, following Tony's example, then walking with him out of the room. They found the dining room already occupied. Bucky and Sam were discussing something, but fell silent when Steve and Tony walked in. Steve noted that for the first time since he met him, Bucky was wearing something other than his armor. He looked oddly domestic in the pastel blue pajamas, holding onto a cup with his right hand.
Sam stood beside him, wearing a pale purple pajama shirt and holding onto a saucer with some cake on it. "Good morning." He said, glancing from Steve to Tony and back. "Rough night?"
Steve facepalmed. "Sam…" But before he could say anything else, Tony snorted beside him, before laughing heartily.
"That's a good one!" Tony said, shuffling over to the table to get some food on a plate. "I like your friends, Steve. They can stay as long as they like."
"Beware what you wish for." Bucky grumbled from his seat before turning back to his tea.
"Not as intimidating when it comes from a man in pastel pajamas." Tony said. Steve lounged forward to grab the fork midflight.
"He needs to learn not to aggravate him." Sam said, glancing at Tony.
"Guy's humor sucks." Tony said, pulling a face and sitting down. Bucky looked away moodily.
"When did you say Greg's coming back?" Steve asked, sounding desperate as he dropped into a chair next to Tony.
"Two weeks." Tony said with a shrug before commencing food consumption. Steve sent a warning glance at Bucky, and turned to get some food for himself.
Steve spent most of the days training with Bucky, and Sam showed Tony his flight capabilities. Some time during the first week, Tony invited his two best friends from town to see who they later referred to as 'the mysterious Steven Rogers'. Dinner was served that evening, and the table was livelier than ever.
No one commented on the fact Steve and Tony somehow always ended up sharing a bed, but Steve could tell, by how Sam looked at him, that they suspected there was more afoot than there actually was. When he tried to explain, though, Sam held both hands up in a placating motion and told him he didn't care and would sleep better at night without knowing the fine details.
The time passed faster than Steve had expected, and so it was a surprise when Greg finally came back from his business trip. Tony had been working on some project or another, and Steve had been there, helping with the heavy lifting, when Bucky nearly tore down the workshop door to announce that they were expected to show up.
"Impressive." Greg said in what Steve could only describe as the least impressed tone he's ever heard. "You've put on some muscles since we last saw you. Has Tony been drooling over you the whole time? I'd apologize, but word has it you're taking the attention well." And Steve concluded right then that he did not like Greg at all. "Oh don't give me that offended look, he's not that bad."
Steve moved quickly to grab Bucky's right arm. "Not now." He said, until Bucky tucked the knife back in its sheathe. "Gregory." Steve forced out, putting on a smile he knew seemed strained and not caring. "I am here to receive missions from you."
"Ah yes, the missions. Pleasantries aren't your thing, are they?" Greg said, smiling like a shark as he reached into his jacket. Beside him, Steve could feel Bucky tensing, but all Greg pulled out was a slip of parchment. "Your first mission, Steven Rogers, is to kill the Nemean Lion."
"But you don't have to go right now." Tony reasoned with him, but Steve would not be swayed. He was packing his things efficiently. "Your birthday is right around the corner! Can't you wait until after?" the urgency in Tony's voice should've alerted Steve to what would happen next, but he was too busy shaking his head.
"No. The sooner I get these tests out of the way, the sooner I can start my life as a normal person." Tony snorted at that, but didn't retort as Steve had expected him to. Next, Steve set his round shield, which he had found at Bucky's training ground, to his back, and set his broad-sword at his hip. The gasp that left him when Tony's hand suddenly cupped his crotch was muffled by the man's lips. Steve didn't fight the kiss, but he didn't cooperate, either.
"At least let me give you your birthday present before you leave." Tony breathed against his lips, his eyes set on Steve's. Steve stared right back, startled into silence by the firm grasp at his dick. He licked his lips once, twice, then reached down to gently wrap his hand around Tony's wrist, and pull it up and away from his admittedly interested privates.
"Hold onto it." Steve said, his voice but a whisper. He turned Tony's hand over and kissed the back of it. "I'll be coming back to collect it."
"Oh my God you are unbelievable." Tony groaned but didn't pull his hand free. "Did you really just say that? That is the worst line in history. Are you going to run off and get killed by a Lion without letting me show you what a wonderful mouth you'll be missing out on?" Steve chuckled, eyes closing for a moment as he shook his head.
"No. I'm not going to get killed by the Lion." He said, then on a whim, he leaned in and kissed Tony's forehead. "Try not to get killed by Bucky while I'm gone."
"Wait, what? You're not going out there alone!" Tony's outrage apparently only served to amuse Steve further, because the man simply laughed and patted Tony's shoulder.
"It'll be faster this way. Besides, I gotta do this on my own, or it doesn't count."
The Lion was not easy to beat. In fact, Steve had heard so much about the creature's cleverness that he was wary of approaching it at all. It took a few days to find the giant feline, but once he did, following his daily activities and learning his routine was a quick business. In his brief research about the Lion, Steve learned that its skin was impenetrable, and that it had outwitted all its previous hunters. This stood in stark contrast to what Steve knew of Lions. Those animals tended to be lazy and hardly ever bothered to check if anyone posed a threat.
Steve learned that the Lion's home was in fact a two-ended tunnel. That would be handy, he thought. In its indulgent negligence, the Lion would probably go to rest in the cave without checking both exits, and by the time he'd find out the tunnel was a dead-end, Steve will be able to sneak up on it and grapple with it in close quarters.
Astonishingly, the plan went through just as Steve had planned. He grappled with the creature and wrung at its enormous neck until it could fight no more and succumbed to Steve's greater strength. The carcass was dragged outside after short contemplation. Steve decided to skin the Lion and take its hide. It took the use of one of the Lion's own claws, but the deed was done before long, and victorious, Steve headed back to Stark Mansion.
Tony was giving Steve a burning stare for the entire duration of dinner that day. The lion's hide was lying just outside the doors since Greg refused to let the abomination into his house, and Steve reluctantly complied. Rhodey was talking to Sam about something at the corner of the table, and Pepper was complimenting Natasha on her hair-style. Steve had had a pleasant surprise when he got to the mansion. He found Bucky in bed with a lady he didn't know. She was introduced as Natasha Romanova, Bucky's girlfriend. It was a surprise to learn Bucky had even had a girlfriend, but Steve thought it was great that Bucky had someone special in his life.
Bucky had punched Steve square atop the head with the metal hand, grumbling something about idiotic blonds leaving without warning to get themselves killed. The wrestling that commenced after was only brought to an end once Steve promised to never pulled that one off again.
Steve was half expecting Tony to jump him the minute they had some privacy, but instead, Tony was anything but hasty. He touched Steve's face, running his fingers along his cheeks and up to poke at his head-band.
"You were right." Tony said then, watching Steve's face carefully as he let his hands run lower, fingers trailing his neck before resting on his armor's shoulder-straps. "It was foolish of me to try and give you a present - something you need to enjoy slowly to appreciate it - when you were in a hurry to leave." He leaned in and kissed Steve's cheek, at the corner of his mouth. "And now that you're back, I get to do it right the first time around." The smile on his face was almost coy, and Steve found him irresistible when he looked at him that way.
"You sure you want to do this now?" Steve asked, his voice hushed. "I haven't even washed yet…" He soon had Tony's lips over his own.
"It's taken care of. The bath is waiting for you." Tony explained as he helpfully opened the catches and clasps that held the armor in place. The armor was set aside, and Steve stood in his under-tunic and lace-up sandals, shifting his weight from one leg to the other. It's not like Tony hadn't seen him outside the armor before. It was just that now Tony was looking at him this way, eating him up with his eyes so that Steve felt exposed even though he was dressed quite normally. "You should go now, though." Tony said, pointing towards the washroom.
Bathing that evening was tantamount to a religious experience. Steve took his time, cleaning the grime of the road off himself, sweat and dirt peeling off, to leave him clean and refreshed. When he finally stepped out of the washroom, a fluffed towel draped across his waist, Tony was waiting for him on the bed they'd shared during the time Steve had spent there before the first mission. He was stripped down completely and reading a book, looking completely relaxed, though he set the book aside the minute Steve walked in. It was a surprise to see Tony in all his naked glory, and Steve couldn't help but appreciate the view for a moment. Tony watched him patiently.
"You're naked." Steve observed dumbly. He blinked, then frowned at his own words as Tony laughed and sat up.
"Amazing perception." Tony said, not unkindly, and beckoned with his hand for Steve to come closer. Steve walked over obediently and sat down at the edge of the bed. When he was in range, Tony pulled him into a kiss. It was a deep kiss, and neither seemed inclined to pull apart, but once they did, Steve met Tony's eyes.
"You really want this?" He asked, to make sure, and Tony laughed, his eyes closing with the joy of whatever it was that had made him laugh.
"Oh Steven… If you only knew. Yes, I want it." Tony reached over to run the flat of his palm over Steve's crotch, and his smile went a little more fond when Steve gasped at the touch. The kissing alone had gotten Steve this hard… "Do you mind being on top?" He whispered, and was rewarded by the sweetest heated flush that adorned Steve's face. The lust clouded eyes set on him and Steve nodded once, before swallowing thickly.
"I'd like that." Steve said, reaching down to pull the towel away from his person and set it aside before climbing onto the bed and settling over Tony, who reached down to grasp Steve's ass as soon as it was in range. Tony spread his legs to accommodate Steve's body between them, and before long, their cocks nestled against one another, driving a set of hitched sounds from both of them. Steve leaned in to kiss Tony again as he started moving against him. It was such an intimately arousing feeling, to be pressed so tight against one another, sliding smoothly together, that Steve wasn't sure he would last.
"Steve..." Tony muttered against his lips, meeting his eyes. "If you want more than this, get to it." And Steve realized he wasn't the only one teetering on the edge, so he reluctantly pulled away.
"How..." He started asking, glancing around, his gaze falling on a small bottle that stood on the bed side table. He didn't remember putting it there at any point, and when he glanced at Tony, the smile on his face gave away who was responsible for it.
"I may have planned ahead." Tony said, smirking unapologetically at Steve, who in turn shrugged and took the bottle for closer inspection. Uncorking it, Steve sniffed at the contents. "Best oil for my best man." Tony remarked, making Steve chuckle as he applied some of the slightly scented liquid on his fingers.
"You're ridiculous." Steve said, leaning back to glance between Tony's legs before he reached his slippery fingers down. Tony was relaxed, and took Steve's finger like he was greedy for it. "You're..."
"Did I mention I planned ahead? Because I feel like you missed my meaning." And it was then it dawned on Steve that Tony might have been many things, but utilitarian was one of the leading factors of his personality.
"Oh." Was all Steve could say to that as he pulled his finger free and turned instead to coat his own cock with the lubricating oil. "Then I guess I can...?" He hesitated as he settled back into a good position, enjoying the warmth that was Tony as legs wrapped around his waist.
"Yeah." Tony said after a split-second hesitation which Steve suspected had been Tony's decision to not try wit with him at this point. Wise choice, Steve mused as he leaned in to kiss Tony once more, lining himself up and pressing a little against him, nudging to see if Tony could take him. Tony's eyes closed and he moved to accommodate Steve's advances, his lips hanging slightly open as Steve slid inside. "Perfect…" Tony whispered once they were fully seated together. Steve rested his forehead against Tony's chest, breathing evenly to regain some control.
When Steve looked up to meet Tony's eyes, Tony was looking right at him, his expression completely open and affectionate. There was a certain haze to Tony's gaze, but Steve figured it was because this felt good. Of course, to be on the safe side, he felt compelled to ask, "alright?"
It was only once Tony nodded his head that Steve started moving. He started at an even pace, going slow, enjoying the drag of it. Tony was so responsive with Steve inside him, that Steve couldn't quite get enough of it. He wanted to stay like this as long as possible, but Tony kept egging him on. It was clear Tony wouldn't last very long like this, especially since they'd both been quite close not too long ago, but Steve still took it easy on him all the same. The pace slowly increased, but never managed to reach any considerable levels, because suddenly Tony's back arched, and one of his hands flew up to his face to muffle a surprised cry as he came over their bellies. Steve was too out of touch to realize he hadn't actually touched Tony yet, and he continued to move at the same pace, watching his partner to make sure he wasn't causing him any discomfort. A sudden tightening around his cock was all he needed to get there, though, and he soon joined Tony in the wonder that was afterglow.
Later, as they lay sated and pleased, Tony pressed up against Steve's side and drawing absent geometric formations on his broad chest, Steve thought absently that he could get used to this.
The Hydra battle was gruesome. Steve hadn't had as much intel about this monster as he would've liked, and he had a few close calls. Too close to his liking. When he retreated, Bucky had offered some input and observations as an outsider, which helped Steve devise a plan. All of Hydra's heads could be cut off, but only one of them was immortal. The trick was that all the other necks kept spouting more and more heads for every one he cut off.
At one point, in a feat of rage, Steve stuck his torch into one of the severed necks, before shuffling back and preparing for the menace of yet more heads to fight, but to his surprise, no new head grew in its stead. Scorching had done the job, and Steve was so relieved as he picked up his torch and charged at the monster with all his force. The grimey, dragon-like creature with far too many heads screeched at him with a deafening rage as it charged, but Steve had become quite dexterous in his training, and found it easy to skip between the many heads as he chopped them off and scorched their bases, the gore-y remains falling to the ground writhing in the throes of death.
Every bout of attack saw more and more dead heads, until the awful Hydra had but one head left. Bucky yelled at Steve, warning him. That head is the immortal one, beware. So Steve charged once more, chopping off the gnarly head with a heavy swing of his sword, and scorched its base with all the ruthless, relentless anger he harbored against the creature and the huge trouble it had given him.
The bulky body dropped to the ground and died after a long moment, but the remaining head continued to rasp fiery breath, so Steve climbed atop it and shoved his sword throw its mouth, to keep it shut. He dragged the abomination down to a deep kenyon and dumped the head in a hole. Then, he pried his sword free and sheathed it, before going out to find a large enough rock. A rock would hold the thing in place, he reasoned, before setting it with a bang over the still rasping head.
When he was sure the abomination would never raise its ugly heads ever again, Steve stumbled in place and landed on his butt. That had been so very hard to complete. Bucky came running towards him with a water skin and a huge grin on his face. This, Steve concluded, was the happiest he's ever seen the master assassin. He took the water gratefully and drank, then spilled some of it on a few of his burns. He hadn't been severely wounded, luckily, but the burns were still rather painful.
"You were amazing out there." Bucky congratulated, resting his metal hand on Steve's shoulder. "You made me proud today, punk." He added, and Steve felt a flush of accomplishment rise to his face. He couldn't wait to come back to Stark Mansion and tell Tony all about the battle.
"Unexpectedly, the ray of sunshine has managed to beat two of my trials so far." Loki said, pacing in Tony's room like he owned the place. Tony was sitting at his desk, arms crossed and looking away. "But you know, Tony, every wide-eyed hero has a weakness. I bet you could find out what it is." Loki turned to him, a vicious little smile on his face.
"I'm not doing it, Loki. Steve is a good man." Tony retorted, petulant. He didn't want to bring the downfall of Steve Rogers, and he couldn't even think of a single weakness Steve might've had. He was by all accounts a perfect man. Tony made sure not to drool right then.
"I am sure you will find it in your heart to do this little favor for me, little Stark." Loki said, his tone icy. "Or maybe you would prefer to have your tumor back?" He cautioned, "I can arrange that."
"I'll see what I can do." Tony grit out, glowering at Loki with such a force, that if he were just a little more than a mortal, it might've actually done away with Loki. Too bad he had no powers to speak of.
"I thought so. I shall be visiting you again, soon. Make sure you get some good news for me." Loki said, and disappeared.
Tony turned to stare unseeingly at his desk, before letting his head down to smack against the hardwood.
When Steve faced Greg that day to get his next assignment, he quietly prayed to any of the known deities that he would not be made to kill another monster. Surprisingly, his prayers had been answered. His next missions passed rather smoothly and without any pointless bloodshed.
At first, he rode Sam out into Ceryneia to find the Ceryneian Deer. A beautiful beast who bore golden antlers. He'd been able to retrieve her unharmed and show her to Greg and company. Everyone was impressed, but Steve quickly took her out and away from prying eyes, not wanting her to befall a hunter's greedy bow.
Then, Greg had sent Steve to retrieve the Erymanthian Boar. Steve took Bucky with him, to help drive the boar from behind a thick bush, before propping the creature onto his back and carrying it back to Stark Mansion. Greg's disgusted expression was worth Steve's troubles indeed.
His next endeavor had to be performed without assistance. Greg had notified Steve that he'd gotten a signed approval of the Cretan King, allowing Steve to capture the Cretan Bull, but that he was not to harm the bull, and that he was to return him once he was done. So Steve went alone, readying himself to wrestle the bull. He stood his ground and grabbed the bulls horns, pushing the beast into submission. He then rode its back all the way to Stark Mansion, boasting his achievement before turning back and bringing the bull back to its homeland.
Tony insisted they spent some time together before Steve went off to handle his next mission, and Steve could not refuse Tony anything when the man turned on his full charm. Honestly, Steve was exhausted, and didn't want to wait any more to have some private time with Tony. Sure, Bucky had been getting steadily better, what with Natasha around, and Sam was conspiring to party at every free moment. And sure, Pepper and Rhodey were always around when Steve came back from his missions, but Tony… Steve liked Tony in a whole other way.
"Relax…" Steve said, running his hand down Tony's back slowly. He had decided to take Tony on hands and knees this time around, and the look of utter pleasure he got when he voiced his desire was enough to kindle a quick flame in Steve's pants. The same pants that were now strewn somewhere on the floor, forgotten. Steve's hand reached Tony's ass, and he let his fingers rub fondly at the puckered entrance. He poured some oil on his fingers, still set at Tony's ass, and carefully worked them in. Tony made an impatient sound, which only made Steve's resolve stronger. He knew he didn't have to prepare Tony with his fingers, but he liked doing it, if only because that was one of the few occasions he felt he had the upper hand while interacting with the genius.
Soon, Steve's patience was worn thin, and he found himself pressing into the tight heat that was Tony's body with very little resistance. Tony pressed back into his lap, making Steve slide in faster than he'd been planning to, and by the time he'd managed to settle his hands on Tony's hips to control his motions, he was already fully engulfed. He took a shuddering breath and grasped tightly onto Tony. "You're so… Good." He breathed against Tony's skin.
"Be good to me and move." Tony answered, his speech short as he was breathless. Steve had no qualms about complying, and unlike their first time together, he moved fast. It still wasn't a brutal pace, though he felt that would be happening sometime in the future, no. It was just shy of fast, deliciously brisk. Tony's moans filled the room, accompanied by quieter, but definitely there, sounds from Steve. This time, Steve didn't forget Tony's pleasure, and reached down to close his hand around Tony's cock, pumping it in time with his thrusts.
They lasted a little longer, but were still rather quick about it. When they were done, quivering orgasm still coursing through them, they collapsed sideways, still connected, and drifted off together.
"I need answers."
"Well I don't have any, Loki. The guy's perfect, he doesn't have any weaknesses to speak of." Tony answered, irritated. Having sex with Steve was becoming a problem, because while Tony could pretend well enough outside of bed, when he was intimate with someone, lies would become transparent. He didn't want Steve to know his soul belonged to Loki.
"Do better. There is but one more task, and one week to the convergence. The Frost Giants are going to roam the Earth, little Stark, and I need that golden boy out of the way before that happens." Loki said, and Tony had never hated him as much as he did right now.
"I can't do it, Loki! I've tried!" Tony retorted in annoyance, and suddenly, Loki was very close, hand cupping Tony's face, squashing a little.
"You will do it, or you will become the bait with which I will bring his demise. Do not test me."
Steve wasn't sure if the sex had made them more or less intimate together. On one hand, they were having a lot more of it now, and Tony had gotten him to promise he wouldn't head out for the final mission for the next week. That gave them plenty of time to be obnoxious together. On the other hand, though, he felt like Tony wasn't being completely honest with him, and he wasn't sure what that was about.
"Where are you?" Steve prompted one day. His week off would be up the day after, and he would be heading out again, so he suspected that might've been it. They were laying leisurely on a broad mattress set right at the edge of a large balcony, with a canopy of palm branches overhead. The garden was beautiful, and the afternoon air was fresh. Tony was lying beside him, naked and beautiful in his gloriously smooth, dark skin. The man's eyes were cast outside, but Steve could tell he wasn't seeing anything before him.
"Math." Tony lied. Steve could tell now when he was being lied to. It stung, and he did not understand why Tony did it, even as he allowed himself to forgive him. It was only a week, but with as much skinship as they had, he'd gotten to know Tony intimately well. He knew his looks, his avoidances. He knew when Tony was actually thinking about math, and now was not such a time.
A gentle breeze caressed Steve's body, making him close his eyes to enjoy it. "Liar." He whispered. He didn't mean to. He had never confronted Tony about lying before. There was no merit in doing so, and he didn't want to fight, but the next day, Steve was supposed to go to Hel to bring back Cerberus, the three-headed gate-keeper dog, and he honestly dreaded the notion of going into the land of the dead.
Tony's eyes closed and he turned over, burying his face in the crook of Steve's neck while draping his arm across Steve's broad chest. It was a favorable position for Tony, that Steve assumed was the case because it hid Tony's face from view. "I am." Tony said, brokenly, into Steve's neck. "A liar."
Steve didn't understand what that meant. Why would Tony say this and not explain? Why not just tell the truth? If Tony was worried about his trip to Hel he could just say so, couldn't he? He'd never been shy about expressing his worries.
"Will you tell me the truth?"
"Not right now." Tony hugged Steve tight, as if thinking Steve would disappear, or try to leave, but Steve had no such intentions.
"I will wait, then."
"I don't deserve you." Tony sounded dangerously like he was about to cry, but Steve didn't ask.
"Nonsense." Steve tried to assure him, running his hand comfortingly along Tony's back. Tony shivered against him.
Later that evening, after dinner, Steve walked into the room he and Tony shared, but Tony was nowhere to be found. He searched the washroom and the balcony, and just as he was ready to head out of the room, he saw a man he'd never seen before standing in the middle of the room. At his feet, Tony was tied and gagged and looking utterly horrified.
"Tony!" Steve exclaimed, taking a step forward but stopping in his tracks when the man lifted a warning finger. He had golden horns and green-themed attire. The edges all emitted a sickly green mist.
"Not another step." The man drawled. "Does he even know who I am, Tony? I bet he does not. You do not like to share this type of information, do you?" The man's voice infuriated Steve enough, but the words made rage boil in his stomach. "I am Loki." The God introduced himself, making Steve's eyes narrow at him. "And as you probably did not know, I own this precious pumpkin's soul." He smirked coldly, crouching next to Tony and grasping his face, making Tony look at Steve. "Today, I am thinking of collecting that which is mine." He said, leaning closer, making Steve clench his fists.
"Get away from him."
"Ah… But you see, he did sign the contract." Loki said, producing a document out of thin air. "Fine letters say I can claim him if I want, and you cannot stop me." A dramatic pause followed, which Steve would've suspected was only for the effect, if he weren't so bent on Tony's wellbeing at the moment. "Unless… You were to give me something of equal value. Then, I may be persuaded to relent his soul in favor of it." Loki's tone was all business, and that was the moment Steve realized he was being blackmailed.
"Name your price." Steve said, ignoring Tony's muffled protests.
"If you knew how much I have longed to hear you speak these words, boy, you might have thought twice about letting them out of your mouth." Loki said, his smirk sharp and brutal. "I would take your strength from you, Steven. Will you give up that which makes you special to save this little Stark?"
Steve gritted his teeth, his fists tightening. Why was no one coming to check up on them? Why did no one notice something was wrong? "And he'll be completely free?" Steve asked slowly, ignoring the frantic wriggling from Tony, who was obviously trying to convey 'do not do this!'
"Completely, one hundred percent, irrevocably free." Loki assured him, and Steve sighed. There really wasn't a choice.
"Alright." He said, and Loki's smirk widened.
"That was easy! I knew you would be as stupid as your father." The God said, drifting over to present Steve with a shining, floating contract. "Now, if you could sign here, here, here and there." Loki said, pointing to various spots on the shining scroll. Steve took the pen Loki gave him and signed where Loki pointed, and with a sigh, he felt his power draining from him. He fell to his knees, supporting his weight with his hands. Tony was instantly released from his confines, and Loki disappeared, leaving nothing but green mist in his wake.
"Steve!" Tony cried, rushing over to him. "Why did you do it?" He asked, alarmed and anxious. "You're going to need your strength! Tomorrow Loki is going to unleash the Frost Giants on the Earth!"
The ground was shaking, but no matter how much Tony insisted, Steve would not be moved. He was planted on the ground, back leaning against the bed, arms on his knees and his head bent forward. Tony has tried everything short of literally dragging Steve out of his room, and now, that the earthquake started, Bucky burst into their room.
"Hate to disturb the love-bir- Steve!" Bucky called, rushing to his side. "Steve, what's wrong?" Bucky asked urgently, shaking Steve a little.
"It's over, Bucky. It's all over." Steve said, providing no further answer, so Bucky turned to Tony, his glare fierce.
"What did you do, Stark."
"What are you all doing?!" Greg came to a screeching stop at the door. "The Frost Giants are coming! You have to leave immediately!" He demanded before rushing down the corridor. Bucky didn't waste another minute before lifting Steve off the floor and dragging him out of the mansion, trusting Tony to follow. Sam stood outside with Natasha at his side.
"Guys…" Sam said, staring at a distant spot, and everyone turned to look as a gigantic ice covered monstrosity walked across the land. For a long moment no one moved, and then Steve cleared his throat.
"So since we're probably all going to die anyway…"
"You're going in there?" Bucky completed, sounding exasperated.
"Yeah." Steve answered, sending a rueful smile at Bucky. Bucky nodded his head and glanced at Natasha, who nodded her head back at him.
"Alright. What do you need?" Bucky asked, but before Steve could answer, Tony interrupted.
"I'm going with you." He said, staring at Steve. For a moment Steve thought to argue, but Tony's stare was one that said no argument was going to be accepted, and besides, if he didn't get it done, they would all die anyway, and it would be a shame to die far away from the one person he cared for.
"Okay. But you stay close and you stay safe, okay?"
"Yeah yeah. What's the plan, big guy?"
Sam was carrying Steve and Tony to the center of the fight. Natasha and Bucky had gone to pick up a few friends and do battle on another front. Steve trusted them to get the job done. The wreckage was phenomenal, and Sam at first wouldn't let them land, but Steve insisted. The ground was shaky, and once Steve started attacking the giant, it became clear he could not win. Sam dragged Tony away from the epicenter of the battle, for his safety, but just as it seemed like Steve was getting some headway, the giant smacked him, sending him flying into a wall. Steve was out for a moment, trying to regain his balance, and didn't see the large rock, loosened from the structure it was propped on, started falling right at him.
Tony did see, however, and dove for Steve. He pushed Steve out of the way, calling his name. He didn't make it out of the way, though. By the time Steve realized what was happening, the rock had toppled down and dropped right over Tony.
"No!" Steve cried, rushing over and pushing the rock off of Tony. The man lay there, bruised and smiling, even as Steve could see he wasn't going to make it. His jaw clench with unrestrained rage. He would not have it. Tony would not die. Steve still had one more mission to complete, and that was to bring Cerberus to the Stark Mansion. He would do it, and while doing so, he would take Tony's soul from Hel, even if it killed him.
"You stay right here, Sam. You watch over him." Steve said, getting to his feet, the fire of determination burning in his eyes.
"What are you going to do?" Sam asked, crouching on all fours to check on Tony.
"I'm going to save him. Can you be with him until I get back?"
"You can count on it."
The road to Hel was not as long as Steve had expected. The underworld was close to the center of the fighting, and Steve suspected it was because Yggdrasil connected all the realms at the same spot. If the Frost Giants were going after Asgard, then that's where the fighting would've been. Steve didn't pause on that thought, though, and stepped down into the road to the Underworld.
Cerberus greeted him at the gates, fearsome and hungry, and Steve's fury was fierce enough that after a long staring contest, he'd managed to tame the beast, bending it to his will. He then put a leash on the center head, walking it into hel. Inside, he found Loki and Hela conspiring at her throne.
"Hela of Hel. I demand you return Tony Stark to me." Steve announced, holding the leash close to himself, Cerberus standing submissive beside him. "If you do, I shall spare your beast and return him to you after I have completed my missions. If you refuse to do that, I will slay him right here and now."
Loki looked furious. He looked like he was about to explode into a huge green cloud, but Hela merely laughed. "Oh dear father, you have misjudged this gentleman." She said, leaning back in her chair. "Mortal, I care not for what you do to my dog, nor for what you do to my souls. Once you've stepped into my realm, you are dead, and therefore belong to me. If you manage to find your Tony Stark and take him back, it will not make any difference. The dead cannot be revived." She stroked her cheek in thought. "But, who am I to stop you from trying." She was smiling her most vile of smiles, and Loki was glaring at her, but even though he was God of Death, Hela was Queen of the Underworld. Her word was law in this place.
Steve dropped the leash, telling Cerberus to stay - a command the dog obeyed - and stepped through into the halls of the dead. It took a few moments, or at least so it felt, until Steve found Tony's ghost. By this point, Steve's entire body was decaying in super-speed, but at the minute he grasped onto Tony's arm, his body returned to itself, super-strength and all. Delighted at having his strength back, Steve collected the spirit into his arms and walked back out. He propped up the leash into his hand and walked out of Hel with all he'd come there to take, and without sparing a glance at the rulers of the Underworld.
"Steve…" Sam said, his tone sad. He'd been sitting by Tony's corpse for the entire time it took Steve to complete his final mission. Then, Sam noticed the spirit in Steve's arms and the dog at his side. "You actually did it!" He exclaimed, and rose to his four feet, moving out of the way to give Steve space to maneuver. Tony's spirit was returned to him, and he coughed a few times before finally resuming coherency. His wounds were magically healed, and he was looking healthier, if a little beat up.
"What'd I miss? Oh look at that gross creature." Tony said, laying eyes on the dog. "Is that…"
"I did." Steve said, ducking his head self-consciously.
"My hero." Tony said, smiling fondly at Steve before dragging him in for a brief kiss.
"Well, your hero needs to get his ass back on the battlefield. Your God relatives are going to die if you don't jump in soon." Sam remarked, and Steve pulled back reluctantly.
"Go." Tony encouraged, "I'll be heading back to the Mansion."
With his powers restored, Steve had no problem helping the Gods out of their perilous state and reigning the Frost Giants in. The day was saved before long, and the Earth was once more peaceful and quiet. Thor, the real one, stood proud and smacked Steve's shoulder, sending him a few steps off balance.
"That, my friends, is my boy!" He declared, shaking Steve a little. "You have done it. Completed the tasks, and saved Asgard, Midgard, and all other realms of the terror that is the Frost Giants. You have earned your God status, and may now live in Asgard, with us, your family."
Steve stood awkwardly, smiling at his father with all due manners until he finished talking, and then bowed his head.
"It is a great honor, Mighty Thor, but…" He hesitated when Thor gave him a confused look. "I have never wanted to become a God. All I wanted was a proof that I can live among men, and to be honest… I have someone I would like to live my life with, on Midgard." He explained. To his surprise, the smile Thor gave him was genuine and loving, if a little pained.
"I understand, my son. Your wish will be respected." Thor said, patting Steve's shoulder. "If, one day, you wish to reclaim your right to Asgardian residence, we will welcome you with open arms. In the meantime, do me proud on Midgard."
Astride Sam's back, Steve flew back to Stark Mansion. Everyone was there, beaten, dusty, but very much alive. The relief was immense, but he could not rest easy until he laid eyes on Tony. Already changed out of his dirty garb and wearing his finest toga, Tony was waiting for him. Tony had known Steve would come back to him, and the realization filled Steve's heart with inexplicable joy as he dismounted Sam's back and rushed towards Tony. It didn't matter that half his armor had been fried in battle. It didn't matter he was literally only wearing a skimpy underwear at this point. Half the crowd had seen him in less, and the other half wasn't complaining.
"You're almost naked…" Tony observed as Steve approached, reaching for him and holding onto his arm, his other hand wrapping around Steve's middle just as Steve reached up to cup the back of Tony's head gently.
"Excellent perception." Steve muttered against his lips before kissing him lightly, not minding that Tony was snickering into the kiss. Nothing mattered other than this. He had Tony, and Tony was safe and sound. The rest would work itself out. The rest would be just fine.
And They Lived Happily Ever After