Steve skids over the ground before crashing into the wall, but he's quick to his feet and quick to launch an attack of his own. He runs forward and tackles his enemy, taking both of them to the ground with his momentum and landing up on top. Pulling his arm back, he slams his fist down and hears the satisfying thud of flesh on flesh.
Instead of an alien monster or a homicidal foe, the person beneath him is one of his teammates: Thor.
Thor takes one punch and then grabs Steve by the wrist, yanking him off-balance and spinning them around so that Steve is trapped beneath him. One of Thor's hands curls around Steve's neck, ready and able to crush, but he does nothing but rest it there. He grins and looks down at Steve, his blue eyes bright and alive. "I win," he declares. "Do you yield?"
Steve stares up at Thor, both of them panting for lost air. He hasn't had a fight like this in months, and especially not one where his life wasn't actively in danger. Being able to train without having to worry about permanently damaging his opponent is incredibly freeing. He hasn't felt a rush like this in years.
Without answering Thor, he grabs hold of the hand around his neck and pushes back, using the the surprise to unbalance Thor and send him sprawling onto the ground. Scrambling back to his feet, they are both quick to relaunch the attack. Steve's body will be throbbing with pain by the end of this, but it's brilliant.
Thor grabs him and pins him once more, his hands firm and determined around Steve's wrists and he holds them down against the mat. Steve's arms are stretched above his head and despite his thrashing attempts to free himself Thor manages to hold him firm. He smiles benevolently down at Steve, his blond hair sticking to his forehead in damp patches. "Do you yield?" he asks again, panting.
Steve continues to struggle, tugging wildly at his wrists - he's sure he can free himself. He's been in far worse binds than this. Yet there's something about Thor's expression, amused and softly pleased, that makes struggling seem like too much effort. "Sure," Steve says. "I yield."
Yet Thor doesn't let him go immediately. He continues to hold him, his weight pressing heavily upon Steve's captured wrists. His gaze travels down from Steve's eyes, over his face, and with a prickle of awareness Steve can't help but dash his tongue out to lick away the sweat beading over his upper lip. His face burns.
Thor leans down and bestows a gentle kiss upon his cheek, nothing more than a split-second of heated pressure. "To the winner the spoils," Thor murmurs, before he abruptly gets to his feet and holds out a hand to help Steve up to his feet. If there's a flush to Steve's face now, it isn't just from losing the fight.
"This was good," Thor declares. "We must spar again soon."
Steve nods and doesn't know what else to say, instead making a show of catching his breath. He can still feel the tender brush of Thor's lips against his cheek, laughably chaste, and he doesn't know what to make of it at all. To Thor, it appears to be no big deal. Steve can't brush it off quite so easily.
He spars with the others from time to time, but when it comes to one-on-one physical combat he always has to worry about hurting them. Natasha is fast and deadly, but if he gets close enough to catch her he could crush her with a fist; from a distance, with a bow in his hand, Hawkeye could take anyone down. In hand-to-hand combat, Steve could break him down. Bruce refuses to hulk up unless it's absolutely necessary, and Tony finds the concept of sparring laughable. Literally.
Most of the time that leaves him with Thor or a gaggle of nervous S.H.I.E.L.D agents. It wouldn't be so bad, really, if Thor didn't have a habit of stripping off his shirt every time they fight. It's distracting, all that exposed skin. Steve isn't quite as sheltered as everyone seems to believe; he was in the army, once upon a time. He's seen a lot more male flesh than he'd like. For some reason, it's Thor that proves most distracting.
If he had been prone to self-analysis, Steve might have stopped to think about what was causing it after the fourth time he finds himself pinned to the mat. Instead he tries to tuck it away into the dark corners of his mind, somewhere that no one will find it.
Thor reaches out to help him to his feet once more, pulling him upright with a surge of strength that nearly over-topples Steve entirely. "You are not at your best, my friend," Thor observes. "What troubles you?"
Steve shakes his head without saying a word. If he can't work it out for himself, he certainly isn't going to share it with Thor. "Let's go again," he insists, his chest heaving.
For all that Thor frowns, he gives as good as he gets during the next bout, his fists flying and his muscles flexing as they spar. His blue eyes are alert and alive, as if he hasn't had this much fun in years - Steve thinks that there is an answering smile on his own face, an answering joy, and it is with a grunt of satisfaction that he finally manages to get the upper hand and slam Thor face-first onto the mat. He pins him with his knee digging into his friend's upper back and his arm held at an awkward, restraining angle.
"Do you yield?" he demands, purposefully mimicking Thor's own words to him.
His heart is racing fast, so fast.
"Yes," Thor grits out. "I yield."
Steve relaxes his grasp on Thor's arm and releases him from beneath his knee, shifting to the side instead. He doesn't get up, and neither does Thor. Instead, while Steve kneels at his side, Thor rolls over onto his back and looks up at him, his blond hair splayed across the ground. It should be ridiculously impractical, Steve thinks, studying Thor's hair so that he doesn't have to look into his bright blue eyes.
"What do you want to do with me now?" Thor asks, nudging Steve's knee with his hand. Steve's gaze jumps to his face, his eyes wide with alarm. Thor only smiles. "To the victor go the spoils. You remember."
"I remember," Steve says. It's all he's been thinking about ever since he felt the dry rasp of Thor's lips against his cheek. He has been able to convince himself that it's nothing more than the custom of a Norse god, that it means nothing, that he's taking it too seriously. Even among other people from his time, such a fleeting kiss wouldn't mean a thing. Yet there's something in the heavy way that Thor looks at him that makes him doubt everything.
Thor waits for a few moments, the back of his fingers still pressed against Steve's knee. When Steve doesn't move, he takes the opportunity to say, "I find you a very beautiful man."
Steve's face is scarlet and he feels painfully light-headed, but he leans down anyway and presses his mouth against Thor's cheek. It's a perfect reflection of what Thor did to him. He feels the surprising brush of stubble against his lips for a moment before he begins to pull away.
Thor catches him before he does, hooking him in with his hand at the back of Steve's neck. He redirects Steve's mouth until their lips meet in cautious triumph. His breath shivers out of his chest as they kiss.
Thor's mouth is hot and wet and so incredibly welcoming. Shifting position slightly, Steve holds himself up over Thor's body, barely touching him other than the careful contact between their lips. He holds in a moan, unable to let himself go that much, and before more than a few seconds have passed he pulls away and looks down at his friend. Beneath him, Thor's lips are pink and spit-slick. He still has that calmly amused look in his eyes as he holds Steve's gaze.
There is no judgement there between them, but Steve's mind is racing anyway, going even faster than his heart. "I don't know what I'm doing," he blurts out.
Thor's smile doesn't slip. "I believe it gets better with practice," he says, before surging upwards towards him once more.
Steve dodges backwards as if evading an attack, slipping away from Thor's questing hands. "I have to go," he mumbles, stumbling to his feet.
Thor's expression shows nothing but concern, but he doesn't stop Steve from leaving. Instead he stays right where he is, merely watching, as he allows Steve to flee - coward, Steve thinks, but it doesn't make him look back.
A restless itching curls beneath his skin and struggles to drag him back to the gym again, but Steve ignores it for as long as he can. He spars with Tony's robotic training system instead, until he manages to accidentally break one of the arms. "Every single spare part of that machine is worth more than your entire body," Tony says while Steve watches him fix it. "And I'm saying that objectively, in terms of market value, not as any kind of personal judgement on you."
"Uh-huh," Steve agrees, only half-listening to him. Usually he would be far more ready to engage with Tony's prattle; bickering with him is the most fun he gets all day.
"Do you think I should go and talk to Fury?" Tony asks, hunched over his robot's arm like a doctor tending to a patient.
Steve frowns. "About the robot?"
"About you moping around like someone's kicked you in the stomach. You're his favourite, right? I wouldn't want to deprive him of the opportunity to go all love-doctor on your ass."
Steve remains frowning. "I don't understand," he admits. In the limited run of time since he's woken up, he has discovered that he saves a lot of time if he just admits it when he needs something explained.
"Can't say I'm surprised," Tony comments. "Anyway. You're pouting like a teenager and breaking my machines. That is not exactly acceptable."
"I'm fine," Steve answers in bemusement.
"Which is code for...?" Tony looks up and gives a shrug with only one shoulder. "Work with me here, big guy. I'm not your average agony aunt."
Steve places his hands on his hips, every inch the Avenger, and tries to stare Tony down. "I don't need any help."
"Let's call it advice." Tony grins and puts down the mechanical arm. "C'mon. You and me, we can have some male bonding. It'll be fun."
"I really doubt that," Steve says, but there's something about the minuscule flinch in Tony's expression that makes him sigh. "Fine. But if you laugh then I'm going to leave right away."
"You have my solemnest oath," Tony promises.
It probably doesn't mean much, because this is Tony, but Steve believes him. "It's about Thor," he says, and even admitting that much is difficult. He frowns as Tony stares at him, waiting for more. Already he can feel heat tickling over his skin, turning his cheeks pink. "We've been sparring recently, but... When he wins - "
He swallows hard and refuses to look up at Tony. He really can't do this with Tony looking at him.
"He's been kissing me when he wins," he admits in a rush. Said aloud, it sounds ridiculous. "I think maybe it's an Asguardian tradition."
"Right of conquest?" Tony suggests. Steve glances up, and finds that Tony is struggling very hard not to smirk at him. "Wait, wait, don't storm off. Sorry. Just tell him to back off. He's weird but he's not dim."
"That's the problem," Steve admits. "I don't know if I want him to back off."
Tony blinks in surprise. There's a certain level of satisfaction to be had in making Tony speechless. If Steve had been less occupied with blushing, he might have been able to appreciate the moment.
"So we're having a crisis of sexuality over here?" Tony clarifies. "As much as I hate to say it, that's just about normal."
Tony shrugs. "Had you ever even kissed a girl before your big freeze?"
Steve wonders if it's possible to die from blushing too strenuously. "Yes," he clips out.
"Alright, whatever, had you kissed a guy?"
Steve shakes his head, but his mind flutters to quiet nights spent with Bucky, to the way they would sleep in the same bed and think nothing of it; he can still remember the firm, steady sound of Bucky's heartbeat beneath his ear, and the soothing rhythm of his breath. They are all the cherished signs of the life of a lost friend - but, back in those days, they had meant something more than that.
"Have I lost you, buddy?" Tony asks with a curious grin, snapping Steve out of his thoughts. "Anyway, like I'm saying, it's totally normal."
"It worries me that you are telling me what's normal," Steve confesses, but that only prompts Tony's grin to widen with delight. "I guess I'm worried about what it is he wants from me."
Tony quirks an eyebrow. "I have a few suggestions."
Steve closes his eyes for a moment in an attempt not to think about it: it doesn't work. "I don't mean... that." From the second Thor had kissed him for the first time, Steve hadn't been able to block out the thoughts of where that single kiss might lead. Physically, that isn't the point. "I know they're more common in this era, but I'm not interested in a physically intimate relationship if there's nothing else there."
"I would like to be the advocate for physical intimacy. Trust me, it's good."
Steve stares him down with his disapproval: not of the act itself, but of Tony's flippancy. "I don't care what anyone else does. It's just not for me." He absently itches the back of his neck, uncomfortable in his own skin. "And so what do I do if that is what Thor's after?"
"I hate to sound like my old therapist, but that's the kind of thing you actually have to talk to him about. Communication is key."
Steve remains frowning. At this rate he's going to end up with a face full of wrinkles.
"Think of it like you're on the battlefield," Tony suggests. "You've got to talk to your teammates. You can't expect anyone to follow your up-tight orders if you don't try bossing us around. It's the same thing here. Tell Thor you're only going near his dick if he buys you flowers first."
This time Steve decides to by-pass frowning and go straight for scowling. "I hate you sometimes," he informs him.
Tony is bright enough to merely grin in response.
Communication. Battlefields. Teamwork.
It all seems very simple when Tony explains it to him like that, but by the time that Steve is approaching Thor's bedroom the words and resolve are slipping from his fingers like heated sand. Knocking on the door, he finds his mind blank and his mouth dry.
Thor pulls the door open and bursts into a bright smile. "Steve!" he says. "I have missed your visits!"
Steve gives a nervous laugh as he finds himself ushered into the room, Thor's hands upon his shoulders. Thor's room is the same standard, military block that Steve himself had been supplied with, but already it seems to shine with more colour and personality than Steve has managed in the entire time that he has been here.
"Sorry I haven't been by," Steve says. "I had to think for a while."
Thor looks at him, open and quizzical at once, as he releases Steve from his grasp. He gestures towards a wooden chair in front of his desk, the only seat in the room, while he moves to sit on the side of the single bed that is tucked away in the corner of the room. Steve perches on the edge of the chair, his muscles tense, his legs poised as if he might start to run at any moment.
"You seem troubled, my friend," Thor says, leaning forward with his arms resting on his thighs.
Steve nods. "I guess I am," he admits. "I've been trying to think some things through, about..." He trails off and takes a breath. "About you. About me."
Thor doesn't cut in or try to say a word. He only stares at Steve with eyes that are so compassionate that they are unreadable. Steve feels so unjudged that he can't work out what Thor is thinking at all.
"I like you - I really do. And I really like what we do together. What we could do together, I guess." At that, there is a twinkle in Thor's eyes that makes Steve's face flame with heat. He swallows and tries to continue. "But I don't know exactly how these things work where you're from. I know how they work here, in the twenty-first century, and it's not - I'm not that kind of guy. I can't judge anyone who is, but that sort of behaviour isn't for me. So..."
He trails off, and Thor tilts his head thoughtfully. When he gets to his feet, Steve's spine straightens. "I have no designs on your virtue, Steven," Thor assures him. He moves forward until he is so close to Steve, only a single step away, before he dips elegantly down to one knee. He reaches out to take hold of Steve's hands. Steve doesn't resist. "I make no requests. I enjoy your company and it would delight me to spend more time with you."
Steve looks down at their joined hands. Thor's hands are a perfect match for his, the same size and strength. "I don't want to disappoint you," he admits.
Thor releases him from his grasp but reaches up in order to curl one finger beneath Steve's chin. He tilts Steve's head up so that they can look at one another. His smile is soft and understanding, to the point that Steve feels downright embarrassed for his own dramatics.
Thor opens his mouth as if he's about to say something but thinks better of it. His smile fades, just a fraction, but it's enough to make Steve lean down and close the distance between them. He presses their lips together, quick and careful - he lingers against Thor, breathing the same air, before Thor's large hand finds the back of his head, cupping his skull. They tilt and fit together better, until Steve finds Thor's tongue sweeping wet and tender against his lips.
This time, he doesn't think twice about opening up to him.
Steve moans when Thor's tongue flicks inside his mouth, sweeping over the edge of his teeth. He finds himself gripping onto the front of Thor's t-shirt with all his strength. There's nothing else to hold onto.
Thor pulls back before Steve has had enough. He dips his head so that Steve can't follow him, and gets back to his feet once more. "I am glad you came to me tonight," Thor says. He smiles and brushes his fingers against Steve's face, looking down at him as if Steve is the most beautiful thing he's ever seen. Steve has never had anyone look at him like that before. "Please, stay. I won't make any demands of you."
Steve can't resist and he doesn't even want to. He stays with Thor for the night, talking and touching, trading stories about the past and about an alien world he can hardly even imagine.
Communication is key. Maybe Tony is even smarter than he likes to let on.