After the conclusion of their New Year’s Eve rendezvous, Steve began to wonder about the fate of his and Loki’s relationship, for the god’s parting expression had been less than reassuring. Just when he thought he had Loki figured out, the Trickster left him with the impression that they would never see one another again, which was why the Captain was pleasantly surprised whenever he returned from a morning run two days later to find Loki perched on the edge of his bed, a soft smile tugging at the god’s lips as he took in the room’s sparse furnishings. Loki teasingly proclaimed Steve’s living quarters to be dreadfully lacking in style, but that didn’t prevent him from making subsequent visits to the soldier’s room to take advantage of Steve’s spare time.
Pretty soon, Steve found himself unknowingly coveting their fleeting moments of intimacy, and it wasn’t much longer before the idea of being intimate with Loki in every sense of the word didn’t seem to trouble him as much as he knew it should. Instead of feeling like a deer caught in a hunter’s crosshairs, Steve discovered that he quite enjoyed being the object of Loki’s sometimes lustful stares, even if said stares left him more than a little pink in the cheeks. That being said, he knew the flames of lust were fickle and powerful beasts, and he had no desire to see his delicately wrought relationship with Loki fall to pieces should taking that next step be something they both regretted afterwards.
Having therefore decided to treat the issue with upmost caution, Steve chose to approach Valentine’s Day with the same amount of attentiveness he would give to a battle, mentally eliminating various gift ideas until he finally settled on one that wouldn’t seem too forward even for Loki. Since the traditional Valentine’s Day gifts of flowers and candy would more than likely be lost on the god, Steve took his time to carefully craft a present he felt Loki would appreciate, using an elaborately carved piece of wood and the combination of the Trickster’s two favorite colors to create a plaque for Loki to hang up on the wall of his residence. Afterwards, as he ran gentle fingers over the delicately traced inscription, Steve was hit with a reminder that gave him pause, the creation in his hands suddenly seeming less shiny.
To his knowledge, Loki possessed only a casual understanding of Valentine’s Day – the god thinking that it was some sort of Midgardian festival that revolved around giving tribute to a baby who sported a bow and arrow – so as much as he wished to avoid complicating things in the intimacy department, Steve wanted Loki to comprehend the true meaning of the occasion even more, for without that awareness the whole holiday would seem cheapened. It was with his heart firmly in his throat that Steve gave the Trickster a brief history on the meaning behind Valentine’s Day later that evening, the Captain watching with bated breath as Loki absorbed the information with a thoughtful frown. Although the god seemed to be genuinely fascinated by the strange custom of loved ones exchanging gifts on one day in particular, the true source of Loki’s interest wasn’t revealed until the blond went to take a sip from his glass of milk.
“Does this mean you consider me your lover?” the Trickster inquired slyly, casting a sidelong glance at the soldier from beneath hooded eyes.
Steve, who hadn’t been prepared to answer such a question just then, proceeded to choke on his drink, the white stuff dribbling from between his clenched lips. “More like the bane of my existence,” he muttered hoarsely, swiping the vestiges of milk from his mouth with perhaps more force than was necessary.
Loki’s eyes fluttered to mere slits at the blond’s display of awkwardness, and a trace of pink tongue sneaked out to wet his upturned lips as he purred, “Are they not one in the same?” The sheer huskiness in his voice caused Steve to lose focus and drop his glass before it reached the nightstand, but Loki paid the momentary slip no mind, for he was too enraptured with the way the muscles in Steve’s forearm twitched in the wake of his feather-light touch. “I would be honored to celebrate this occasion with you, Captain,” Loki breathed hotly, leaning his head on Steve’s shoulder while his busy fingers crept underneath the blond’s shirt and splayed themselves over warm muscle.
Steve sucked in a sharp breath at the unexpected sensation and quickly pulled the wayward hand loose, his fingers tangling with Loki’s before he brought their joined hands to rest in his lap. “You could try the patience of a saint,” he chuckled affectionately, a pleasant tingle shooting up his spine when he felt Loki turn and press a kiss to his neck.
“Mm, first a romantic invitation and now a compliment, however did I manage to become so fortunate?” Loki hummed between intermittent kisses, a positively wicked grin twisting his lips when he felt the blond’s throat begin to convulse.
He did so enjoy it whenever Steve got worked up, liked seeing the soldier’s cheeks flushed and eyes bright. In Loki’s opinion, he’d never seen anything more exquisite than an emotionally charged Steve Rogers; however, the downside to enjoying such a sight was that he tended to wind up on the wrong side of the man’s enhanced strength.
“Look, let’s not start something we both know we’re not ready for,” Steve said firmly, clamping a hand around Loki’s jaw and tipping the god’s chin up so that their gazes could meet. “I care too much about what we have and would hate to see it destroyed by moving too fast.”
Now it was Loki’s turn to swallow thickly, his glittering eyes turning downcast as he fought the urge to turn away from Steve’s penetrating stare. “Perhaps one day we will be able to overcome our inhibitions and celebrate this event properly,” he whispered, mouth curling at the edges in a soft smile. It was a surprisingly good look for the normally smug Trickster.
“Yeah…one day,” Steve replied absently, thumb brushing an errant strand of inky hair off of Loki’s cheek, “but for now let’s plan to spend tomorrow just enjoying each other’s company, ok?”
“Sounds fair enough,” the god agreed, his smile turning secretive after his eyes landed on one of Steve’s many sketchpads. He knew of a pleasurable way they could occupy their time tomorrow, so long as the Captain held no objections.
When the following afternoon finally rolled around, Steve found himself outside of Loki’s apartment building with a stomach full of butterflies and a mouth devoid of saliva, his custom-made gift tucked underneath his arm and a bag containing a present from Thor dangling from his hand. Up until now, he hadn’t had the pleasure of visiting the Trickster’s abode, but after getting a good look at the lavish surroundings, Steve understood why Loki considered his room to be dull. He figured anything would be dull in comparison to this classic building with its fine carpets and rich tapestries, all of which Loki had to himself. Steve ran an appreciative eye over the painting that hung in the elevator as he waited for the Trickster’s floor to arrive, the ride up to the penthouse providing him with a brief respite from his nerves. He felt the fluttering in his abdomen come to an unbearable climax, however, when the doors finally parted and Loki greeted him with a warm smile, one arm cradling a bowl of cherries and lips stained a deep crimson.
“Good afternoon, Captain, and do come in,” Loki murmured invitingly, bringing the cherry that had been dangling from his free hand up to his mouth for a tantalizing nibble. “I see you have come bearing gifts for the occasion.”
“Mine’s nothing fancy,” Steve said meekly, holding up the bag in his hand, “and this one’s a peace offering from Thor.” Now that he’d gotten an eyeful, the soldier found it difficult to turn his attention to anything other than Loki’s mouth, but he somehow managed to tear his gaze away long enough to shuffle into the apartment without tripping over his own feet. “I uh didn’t know you liked cherries so much or else I would’ve brought some,” he chuckled weakly, tongue darting out to wet his dry lips when Loki plucked a fresh cherry from the bowl.
“Until last night, I was unaware they even existed,” the Trickster remarked lowly before popping the cherry into his mouth, stem and all.
Steve watched the god’s determined movements with bated breath, and his eyes widened in astonishment whenever Loki smugly produced the cherry’s stem with a perfect little knot tied right in the center. “I used to spend hours trying to do that, but all I managed to do was get the darn thing stuck in my teeth,” he grumbled half-heartedly, lips twisting into a self-depreciating smile. “Pretty soon I just gave up and accepted the fact that I’d be a lousy kisser.”
Loki gave the tiny knot an inscrutable look before he shook his head in disbelief, tossing the seemingly offensive stem into the bowl with an indelicate snort. “You Midgardians have such strange customs,” he said dryly, a note of fond amusement underlining his voice as he set the bowl aside and pulled Steve in for a teasing kiss, giving the soldier’s bottom lip a playful nip. “I assure you that you are more than an adequate kisser, Captain, but if you wish to give your tongue some practice, I have plenty of cherries,” Loki whispered suggestively, eyes crinkling at the corners whenever Steve drew away with a shaky laugh.
“That’s mighty kind of you, Loki, but I think I’ll quit while I’m ahead.”
Having expected an answer along those lines, Loki gave the blond an understanding smile and reached for his hand, saying, “Suit yourself then, Captain, but know that the offer still stands,” before turning and leading Steve to the living room beyond, disregarding the look of suspicion he could feel the man giving the back of his head. He knew that the Captain would come around once they were seated and talking. “Shall we exchange gifts now, or did you have something else in mind?” he enquired lightly, not a trace of lascivious intent on his features as he motioned to the room’s oversized couch, which threw Steve for a momentary loop.
The blond was positive that Loki didn’t intend to back off that easily, but after several moments passed by with the Trickster remaining ever patient for an answer, Steve felt the tension that had built up in his shoulders release. “Well, I guess there’s no time like the present,” he sighed, handing over the bag in his hand with ill-concealed eagerness, “but you have to open Thor’s first. I’m dying to know what his idea of a peace offering is.”
“Mm, for someone who disapproves of my sense of humor, you enjoy reveling in my misfortunes a little too much, Captain,” Loki muttered, accepting the bag from Steve’s outstretched hand with a great amount of care, which only served to increase the Captain’s mirth.
“If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that you were scared to see what was inside,” the blond snickered, folding his arms over his chest and adopting a more relaxed stance as he watched the Trickster eye the gift in his hands skeptically.
“The word is reluctant, Captain, and are you sure that I cannot perhaps tempt you with a meal before we continue this?” The words seemed to tumble out of Loki’s mouth with the grace of a clumsy youth, the Trickster making no attempt to cover up his hesitancy. If he could just buy himself a little more time before Steve forced him to confront the issue of his and Thor’s broken relationship...
“Listen, I know how touchy you are about all things Thor, but stalling isn’t going to make things any easier,” Steve said softly, closing the distance between them and cupping Loki’s face when the Trickster made to look away. “Don’t let your pettiness sour the rest of the day for us, please?”
Although Steve’s voice was quiet, there was no denying the hint of steel that suffused his tone, making his words sound less like a request and more like a command, and the seamless shift from man to soldier caused Loki to swallow back a hasty retort. As much as he enjoyed testing the man’s patience, the glint in the Captain’s eyes told him that a verbal spar would not be well-received, so for the sake of prolonging the peace between them, Loki heaved a put-upon sigh and nodded his acquiescence.
“Very well then,” he replied stoically, thrusting a hand into the bag and removing the red envelope that was tucked inside, shooting the now-grinning blond a half-hearted sneer before pulling out the garishly decorated card that was housed within. After wordlessly skimming over his brother’s scrawled note, Loki shook his head in bemusement and handed the card off to Steve, a derisive snigger falling from his lips as he proceeded to riffle through the mounds of tissue paper that concealed his brother’s offering.
“A gift to hold your mead,” Steve read aloud, brows knitting together in puzzlement as he sought to make sense of Thor’s handwriting. At first glance, he thought the words were a riddle of some sort, but when he noticed that Loki was now brandishing a large mug with the words Evil Genius stenciled across the front in bold green letters, he couldn’t help but laugh. “Well, at least he’s developed a sense of humor about things,” the Captain chortled, leaning in for a closer inspection of the tankard-sized mug.
“Yes…a trait that he managed to pick up from Stark no doubt,” Loki remarked dryly, setting the cup down on the nearby coffee table and exchanging it for Steve’s gift. “Might I expect something similarly foolish from you?”
“Well…it’ll probably seem silly to you, but I’d like to think it’s–” Steve was cut off by the sound of paper being ripped to shreds, the rest of his statement clogging in his throat. For the next few moments, he watched as Loki simply stared down at the revealed plaque in utter silence, the god’s expression giving nothing away as to what he was feeling, but just when Steve thought that he couldn’t take the quiet that had descended upon them like a shroud, Loki raised his head and fixed him with a hooded gaze, thin lips curling in the hint of a smile.
“Did you make this yourself?” Loki questioned slyly, mouth widening into a full-sized grin whenever the blond hesitated for a second but then nodded. “You truly are a man of many talents, Captain Rogers.”
“Does that mean you like it, or are you just humoring me?” Steve replied, glancing up at the god through lowered lashes.
Loki, who had begun to trace over the plaque’s inscription with a deferential fingertip, quirked a brow at the blond and said, “While the inscription is understandably maudlin, I find that I quite like it,” and he felt a warm glow infuse him from the inside out whenever Steve’s cheeks turned a pleasant shade of pink.
“You mean you don’t find ‘Loki’s Lair’ to be any less foolish than ‘Evil Genius’?” the Captain chuckled sardonically, but his strained laugh was soon overcome by a harsh swallow when he felt familiarly cool hands surround his face.
“While I admit that it is foolish…I feel I have no room to judge you for your sentimentality, Captain,” Loki stated quietly, the trace of self-derision in his voice not going unnoticed by the other man.
“And what’s that supposed to mean?” Steve demanded albeit not unkindly. He knew that tone never boded well, and he felt his brows knit together in suspicion whenever Loki stepped out of his reach, the god pasting an enigmatic smirk onto his face.
“Perhaps it would be easier to simply show you.” Loki motioned to a door off to the side of the room by way of explanation and waited until the man nodded his assent before he began to tug an almost reluctant Steve behind him, his cooler skin soaking up the heat from the Captain’s palm like a greedy sponge as they made their way to the master bedroom.
“Am I going to like this?” The closer they got to the door of Loki’s room, the more uneasy Steve began to feel, his trepidation becoming evident in both his voice and step. However, once he got a good look at the easel that stood proudly in front of the room’s four poster bed, the knots of apprehension dissipated and his mouth went slack-jawed as he let out a sigh of surprise, “Oh, wow.”
“I trust that you approve then?” Loki laughed throatily, whilst silently drinking in the sight of the Captain’s awestruck features like a fine wine.
“Approve?” Steve croaked, his eyebrows shooting up in response to the god’s understatement, “I don’t even know what to say.”
“Then say nothing.”
Steve wished that he could say nothing, but the glint in the god’s eyes had him begging the question, “What’s your stake in all this?”
“I would have thought my intentions were more than obvious, Captain,” Loki smiled wryly, “I have grown tired of wondering about the images you keep hidden away in those sketchbooks of yours, and I wish for you to share them with me.”
Oh, is that all, Steve chortled inwardly, for he’d never realized the god had harbored such a keen interest in his idle doodles. “So…asking me to draw for you, that’s your idea of foolish, huh?” he tisked, waving a hand at the blank easel. “Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling mighty foolish right about now.”
This…was not the reaction that Loki had been expecting, not quite anyway. “I am afraid you have me at a loss, Captain,” he sighed, folding his arms over his chest. “How does my lapse into mawkishness make you feel like a fool?”
“Well, for one thing, I’m no Da Vinci, and second of all…I haven’t got the first clue about what to draw,” Steve informed the other man bashfully, before stuffing his hands into his pockets.
“Are you saying that you are in need of a subject?” Loki replied coyly, having only understood the second half the Captain’s admission. He hadn’t the foggiest idea about the artist Steve mentioned, and quite frankly, he didn’t care whether the soldier’s talent measured up to this Duh Vinchee person or not.
“Are uh are you volunteering or something?”
Steve felt his cheeks fill with heat as Loki crept closer and pressed a chaste kiss to his lips, the god humming, “Or something,” before he began to steer them towards the easel with no resistance from the Captain this time.
Loki didn’t remember falling asleep; therefore, his body tensed in apprehension whenever he awoke in a cocoon of heat, his eyes remaining closed while he explored his surroundings with his other senses. To his knowledge, Steve had long since left the premises, so when he felt warm breath on his neck, Loki wasted no time in conjuring a dagger from thin air and turned to press the blade against his foe’s throat. When he looked back on the encounter later, Loki supposed that Steve’s only saving grace was the fact that his reactions were slightly tempered by his sleep-muzzled brain, but for now, he wasn’t up to debating semantics as he stilled his hand against the tanned skin, the knife’s edge drawing a thin trickle of blood before he magicked the blade away.
The seemingly oblivious blond gulped noticeably once the weapon had been removed from his neck and mumbled, “Well…that was a bad idea,” before he cracked his eyes open. “Guess that’ll teach me to surprise you while you’re sleeping, huh.”
The Trickster attempted a low wattage smirk as he wiped the traces of blood from the Captain’s neck and swallowed down the surge of adrenaline that continued to pump furiously through his veins. “You would be wise to follow such advice,” he said shakily, gaze transfixed on the cut, which was dangerously close to the man’s carotid. Only the slightest shift to the left and a touch more pressure and his golden sheets would’ve been stained a ghastly crimson. “I nearly killed you.”
Steve wasn’t sure whether the toneless words were intended as an admission of guilt or a statement of fact, for Loki kept his emotions hidden away in the depths of his eyes, which were currently glued to the soldier’s neck. “Well, seeing as I shouldn’t have been here, I would’ve been more surprised if you hadn’t tried to kill me,” Steve observed dryly, crooking a finger under Loki’s chin and forcing the god to meet his gaze. “I’m glad you didn’t though.”
Loki rewarded the blond with a small smile, but it quickly became a frown after he noticed the man’s unusual attire, his hands sliding from Steve’s neck to the now exposed undershirt. “I see you made yourself comfortable,” he remarked archly, turning on his side so that they were facing one another. “If I did not know you better, I would accuse you of taking advantage of me while I slept, Captain.”
Try as he might, Steve was unable to prevent a blush from making its way to his face in light of the implication, for despite not having forced himself on Loki, he couldn’t deny that he’d capitalized on the situation and had used it to satisfy his own desires. “I guess in a way I did,” he flashed his companion a shy grin and motioned to the easel, which had been moved to Loki’s side of the room. “I’d planned on leaving after I finished the drawing I was working on, but then I noticed you’d fallen asleep and…well, time just got away from me so I stayed the night.”
“You mean to say that you spent the night drawing?”
“You sound surprised?” Steve cocked his head to the side and fixed the Trickster with a shrewd stare, mouth hitching upwards slightly as he inquired, “Would you like to see the finished works?”
Loki’s lips pursed thoughtfully as he turned his gaze to the wooden tripod, but after a gentle nudge from the man next to him, he was sliding from the bed to inspect the numerous drawings that littered the small table next to the easel. Not surprisingly, the majority of them were depictions of him in various poses, but when his eyes finally landed on the easel, Loki found himself unable to look away, breath stoppering in his chest as he took in the sight of Steve’s final piece. It was a charcoal drawing of the Trickster in repose, and Loki couldn’t help but touch reverent fingers to its surface. Although the image seemed a little stylized in his opinion, he couldn’t deny that it was beautiful and had obviously been done by someone who put a great amount of care into making sure that it came out just right.
“So…what do you think? Has your curiosity been satisfied?”
Loki quirked a brow at the Captain’s unexpected proximity, for he wasn’t aware that he’d become absorbed in his own thoughts until he heard Steve speak from right next to him rather than from the bed. “Your talent is most impressive, Captain,” he answered with a slight smile, but the troubled glimmer in his eyes caused the soldier to frown.
“I’m sensing there’s a but coming,” Steve exhaled, his hands once again finding their way into his pockets as he waited for the other shoe to drop. He didn’t know why he felt upset at the idea of Loki not liking the drawing, for despite having spent half the night working on it, in the end it was just another picture.
The god’s gaze flickered between the sketch and Steve’s expectant face before he finally whispered, “Is this how you perceive me to be? Is this objectified image what you see whenever you look at me?”
“I draw things the way they appear, Loki, and that’s the way you look when you’re asleep,” Steve said softly, a heavy sigh escaping his lips as he watched Loki turn back and examine the picture even more closely. “It’s funny how a little thing like sleep can change your perspective of a person, isn’t it?”
As Loki traced over his image’s brow, his head unconsciously tilted to the side in thought, for there was nary a sign of distress upon the gray face. “I appear to be content,” he admitted quietly, letting out a rush of breath when he felt Steve wrap him up in a one-armed hug, “Perhaps I should allow myself to sleep more often.”
Steve couldn’t have agreed more, and he valiantly bit back the urge to ask why Loki didn’t let himself sleep, for he knew he wouldn’t like the answer and didn’t want to risk starting an argument this early in the morning. “Does this mean you like the picture?” he murmured instead, pressing a kiss to the god’s temple.
Loki gave an ambivalent hum before he turned to embrace the man fully, hands coming up to frame Steve’s face as he murmured, “I wish I could see myself the way you do, but I suspect my looking glass is doomed to remain cracked.” His smile was soft yet resigned as he held a finger to the soldier’s lips, forestalling the man’s objections with a light, “Perhaps in time you could help me repair it, but for now, allow me to send you on your way with a token of my gratitude.”
When the Captain returned to the mansion later that morning, he sported a collection of love bites on each side of his neck as well as a large one at the hollow of his throat, Loki’s idea of a thank you, which also doubled as payback for getting under the god’s skin. Steve couldn’t say that he minded the bruises so much as he worried about the reaction they would provoke from his teammates, which was why he did his best to hide them from prying eyes until he could make it to the safety of his room. As luck would have it though, he ended up crossing paths with Tony before he reached the stairs; however, instead of poking fun at him for his disheveled appearance, Tony actually sized him up with a hint of jealousy before he backhandedly asked for the number of the Captain’s ‘lady friend’.
“She’s not your type, Tony,” Steve drawled in mild exasperation, flashing the man a warning look that went unheeded like usual.
“Judging by the size of those hickeys, I’d say that she’s definitely my type,” Tony smirked, making to poke the one at the base of Steve’s throat only to find his hand crushed in an iron grip.
“I said she isn’t your type, and I’d appreciate it if you would drop the subject,” the blond replied firmly. Not one to normally take pleasure in causing pain, Steve couldn’t help but smirk when a spark of satisfaction flared in his chest at Tony’s wince and subsequent compliance, and with a last squeeze of the man’s hand he decided to leave Tony to his bitter grumbling and name calling, figuring that he’d managed to come out the victor during this confrontation. However, his momentary happiness at this success soon froze in his veins once he ran into Thor, his comrade’s look of surprise upon catching sight of Loki’s handiwork leaving him feeling like a deer caught in a pair of headlights.
“I trust your evening went well then, Captain?” Thor inquired gruffly, as both men did their best to hasten this awkward meeting along.
“About as well as can be expected,” Steve shrugged, the corners of his mouth twitching into a shy smile. “Your mug was a hit.”
“My brother did not think it foolish?”
“Well…he didn’t get rid of it, so I guess that’s a start,” the Captain answered truthfully, and Thor gave an understanding nod in return before he clapped the man on the shoulder and ambled away. It wasn’t until Thor was out of sight that Steve let out the breath he had been unconsciously holding, muttering, “The one day I don’t wear a turtleneck,” under his breath before he hastened to his bedroom.