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Chaos and Order

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Loki was not a god to trifle with.

Everyone seemed to forget that little fact until they were at his mercy. Pathetic little insects , that's what they were, and they always forgot that he was the one who held the magnifying glass. If they annoyed him past the point of patience, he would simply move his hand and their screams of agony would fill his ears until their little hearts stopped beating. The Aesir were particularly good at dancing the line between life and death, as he had discovered. He foolishly had assumed that after he held the throne of Asgard, he would cure that problem. He'd forgotten the fact that he was also an insect—a bigger one than they, perhaps—and his magnifying glass could easily set him on fire as well.

It was exceptionally unfortunate that he hadn't remembered that little tidbit of information until he was dangling off the Bifrost, body left to the whims of those anchoring him to the bridge and the black hole he'd created in space.

Not the most comfortable situation for the Mischief Maker to be in.

He stared up at his father—no, not his father. Simply Odin. All-Father. Wielder of Gungnir. He'd killed his true father, that—that monster , Laufey. Odin had cared for him, though. Not well, but enough to make certain he was fed and watered. It couldn't hurt to appeal to the All-Father as his son, not right now, anyway.

“I could have done it, Father! For you! For all of us!” If Thor had remained on Midgard for just a few more hours, the deed would have been done, and the realms would be at peace again.

Odin would have none of Loki's arrogance. “No, Loki.”

Looking back on that statement later, Loki realized that Odin probably had meant “no, you could have done it for yourself” instead of “you couldn't have done it at all.” The phrasing was of little consequence now, anyway. He'd made his decision to let go and endure madness until he'd managed to remember that he wasn't an acorn, but a god, and a very powerful one, at that. He'd reorganized his mind and found the gateway to the most accessible realm and went through it, leaving the black hole and insanity behind.

Midgard had been sown with the seeds of discord, and Loki intended to reap the fruits of his many labors.

+

“You've been asleep, Cap. For almost seventy years.”

Fury had done Steve Rogers one favor in his life: he'd been completely honest with him. Not the “I'll tell you some words that mean entirely different things” honest, but the “we're in deep shit” honest. That day in Times Square over two years ago had been a shock and a relief bundled into a very nice care package given to him by Director Fury. It had been followed by more care packages in the forms of assimilation therapy, psychological assessments, and several hundred history lessons. He'd then been asked to join the Avengers Initiative, which he'd happily done after being bored out of his mind.

He'd been living in modern day society with only one agent tailing him for the past year, and so far there hadn't been much more use for the Avengers other than occasionally throwing him at a villain that popped up. He usually could handle the villains by himself, as could any of the other Avengers, but there was a new villain they were having troubles with.

Thor, the loud and brash god from outer space, was explaining the bad guy once again. “Loki doesn't want or need motivation for his actions. He sees anything that might suggest an end to his boredom and pounces upon it like a feline does a mouse. He does not want to destroy this realm. It is not in his nature to do so. He wishes to rule a realm like my father does Asgard, and will do anything it takes to do so.”

“So, wait, you're saying he's just bored ?” The ever annoying Tony Stark spoke up. “You've got to be kidding me! Eighteen people have been killed in the attacks this past week , and you're telling me he's just bored ?”

“Stark, please.” Steve felt a headache coming on and was grateful that Dr. Banner had taken the liberty of handing him two aspirin and sliding a glass of water over to him. “If Thor knows his brother, which it's obvious he does on some level, then Loki is capable of destroying the whole planet without a moments notice. He's probably got a different plan. Thor, does Loki have the ability to change will?”

The tall god frowned. “He can make things people desire seem within their grasp or take it away completely. That changes how people think, but he can't change someone's will directly, no.”

Steve nodded. He'd expected to find some limit to Loki's manipulative powers, and there it was. It explained why he'd kept toying with the Avengers: he couldn't change their minds to make them think he was the good guy.

“That's a bit of a relief. What could he possibly be planning? Cap?” Agent Barton was looking at him, looking like a dog eager to leave the leash.

“Yes, Captain, what do you think Loki's after?” Natasha finally joined the conversation.

Steve shrugged, but he had a fairly good idea what the god was after. “The Cube.”

His idea was greeted by awed silence as the others thought of all the things Loki could do with an object that was basically the power of the universe bottled up in a travel-sized package. Tasha and Clint both shuddered, Thor looked like he'd be ill, Bruce looked thoughtful, and Tony looked...oh. Oh no. Tony had a plan.

That was not good.

Steve braced himself. “Tony?”

The man looked up, grin plastered on his face. “You know me too well, Steve.” He rolled his eyes at the blond's stern gaze. “Why don't we just give it to him?”

WHAT?! Are you crazy?!” Clint was standing now, shock running through his entire being. “Hand him the Cube? The item he wants because it has infinite power?!”

Steve caught up to Tony's train of thought and smiled. “I think it's a great idea.” He held his hand up when the group all burst out at that point. “Not the real cube, of course. We make a replica of it, infuse it with power, and hand it over. Loki's happy, we're safe, and the Cube goes nowhere. It's the perfect solution, if we can get the gods to put power in it. Thor?”

The god hesitated, then nodded. “I will speak with my father.”

+

Loki took the item Captain America held out to him, frowning at the dull blue glow. It was definitely not the Cube, and he was insulted that they thought he could be tricked. He glared at the hero in front of him and threw the fake cube onto the ground before sending a blast at it, making it shatter. He had time to see shock on the Captain's face before he was slamming the man into the ground, hand held tight around his throat.

“You think you can fool me, the Trickster god, with a replica of the most powerful item in the nine realms?” His fingers were already creating bruises on the man's skin, his nails digging into flesh. “You pathetic mortals know not the insult you have given me this day!”

He dug his fingers deeper into flesh, gaining purchase before pulling his hand across the Captain's neck, leaving bleeding strips of tanned skin behind. Loki stood and spun around just in time to block a blow from Mjolnir and hissed at his 'brother'. “You should well know that I am not a fool, Thor Odinsson! You are the mother of badly executed plans, and you have done me a great wrong this day.” He twisted his staff behind him, easily blocking the Captain's shield. His magic caught the bullets easily and turned them back on his enemies.

“Loki, please, we meant you no insult!” Thor shouted. Loki would have laughed if he hadn't been so damned angry.

“By attempting to fool the ruler of chaos, the bringer of Ragnarok, you have insinuated that my powers are to inadequate to detect a poorly made replica! You will pay dearly for this!” He caught Captain America's hand with his own and vanished with an angry crack, taking the Avenger with him.

+

Steve felt his feet hit the ground again and was immediately on the floor, vomiting up breakfast. When he was done, he tried to stand but was kicked in the gut by Loki, who was looking down at him with obvious disdain. The gods hands were covered with Steve's blood, and the Captain realized he was still bleeding. Before he could move a hand to stem the flow of blood from his neck, his wrist was held down by Loki's booted foot.

“Don't move. I want to watch you bleed out on the floor while I explain to you why exactly you do not try to trick me.” The god's voice was cold and rough with barely contained rage as he waved a hand before removing his foot from Steve's wrist. The blond tried to move then, but he was tightly restrained by unseen bonds. “Ah-ah. I've clipped your wings, eagle of mine. You must stay here, slowly bleeding, so I can educate you before you meet my lovely daughter in Helheim.”

Steve relaxed onto the floor. He wouldn't waste energy on a fruitless endeavor. “Why me? Why didn't you take Thor or someone else?”

Loki's eyes flashed, and he was suddenly on top of the blond's chest, on knee directly over his heart. “Because you're the one that tried to trick me!” Steve saw the knife appear in the god's hand a second before it punched through his ribs and into a lung. “You, a foolish mortal, tried to trick the god of mischief into accepting a fake in exchange for the most valuable currency in the nine realms!” The knife was pulled downward, tearing Steve's flesh slowly.

The Captain coughed roughly, tasting copper on his tongue. He tried to speak, but his throat couldn't work except to scream as Loki's knee shifted to press on the new wound. He took short, gasping breaths, trying not to think about drowning on his own blood. He managed to choke out a short question. “W-what?”

The god's smile reminded Steve of the Cheshire Cat and didn't reach his eyes. “You attempted, badly, to trick me into accepting that pathetic piece of glass in exchange for guaranteeing peace. You gave me a lie and expected truth in return! I will explain this once, and only once, though I doubt you have a long enough life span left to hear it twice. I may be called the Lie-Smith, my dear Captain, but when I give you a truth, I expect truth back. If you give me a lie, I will exchange for it one of my own untruths. You lied to me! Foolish, pathetic insects!

Loki stood up abruptly and turned, cape brushing over Steve's face and the blond thought of words to say. He felt the dark hand of death upon him and formed the most honest words he could. “S-sorry.”

To Steve's surprise, that turned the god back around, emerald eyes flashing with anger. “If this is a show of pity for me, I will heal you just to kill you many more times. Do not test me, mortal.”

The Captain barely managed to form the rest of the words. He was so close to death he could taste it. “For...not being...honest. Sorry. My...fault.”

Steve saw Loki's eyes widen at his words before his world went black.

Chapter Text

Loki was sitting in the corner of his rather luxurious stronghold on Alfheim, hugging his knees to his chest and resting his chin on them. He was taking yet another break from reading the various tomes spread around him and thinking about the events of the past fortnight. He closed his eyes, humming to himself. The weeks between abducting Captain America and now had been downright peaceful. The Avengers had yet to see Loki again, as he was a little preoccupied with saving his guest's life.

Perhaps the knife in the lungs had been a little much. It had taken him hours to repair the damage he'd done to the eagle's lung and neck enough to sustain life. As it was, he'd had to transfer a drop of his own life force to the Captain's body in order to keep him alive while he worked. After he'd moved the man to his bed, he'd fallen asleep in front of the fire, and didn't wake up for three days.

Still, the man had yet to awake from the coma Loki had been forced to induce in him. The god opened his eyes and stood in one graceful motion, jumping over the semi-circle of papers surrounding his corner. He needed to check on his guest. If the man was still unconscious, he'd wake him up forcefully, which could end badly for both parties.

He was quite surprised to see the Captain sitting up in bed, staring at the far wall vacantly. Loki slowly entered the room, not approaching the massive bed.

“Good evening, Captain.” He watched the man's eyes focus on him and tried to not freeze under the gaze.

“You...I thought I was dead.” The blond looked down at his own hands and sighed. “You healed me?”

“Yes.”

“Why?” The Captain didn't seem angry or upset, just curious. “I don't expect you to have a reason, I just...you tried to kill me.”

Loki sighed and moved forward, coming to sit on the bed. He noticed that the man didn't move an inch when he did and suppressed a smile. “I succeeded, as well.” He frowned. “You apologized for not being honest with me. I'm so used to everyone lying to me about everything, so when you apologized for doing what I've come to accept as normal...I couldn't leave you to die.”

The man frowned. “I'm Steve.”

Loki's brain took a moment to change from 'red-alert' to 'introduction mode', and he could see that were he to continue conversing with the man, he'd have to learn to deal with mental whiplash. “I am Loki.” He couldn't keep the grin off his face.

“We're not friends, Loki.” Steve's face remained serious.

“No, we are not friends.” The grin remained. “But perhaps we need not be enemies, either.”

It was apparent by the expression on the blond's face that he was now suffering from having to reroute his train of thought. “E-excuse me?”

Loki shifted so he was cross-legged on the bed beside Steve and began explaining what had gone through his mind the past fortnight, using his hands to emphasize his points. “While you were in the coma, your words remained with me. You apologized to me, the god of lies, and it was obvious that had you not died at that point, you would have refused my apology in return. I'd had yet to experience an apology that had no demand for anything in return. You made me examine myself in the time you were recovering, and what I found was...educational.”

Steve's expression softened. “No one ever said, 'I'm sorry' and meant it? That had to be fun.”

“I am the god of lies. It was assumed that if anyone had to ask my forgiveness, I had done something to prompt their actions. So, no, no one ever apologized to me and meant it. That is, until you.”

“So what's this mean?”

“I have decided that attacking the Avengers is far too boring. However, attacking those you fight seems to have some interesting potential.” Loki held up his hand, forestalling any arguments. “You mortals have an enchanting phrase that expresses my decision with utmost perfection. 'I am Switzerland.'” The god had had to research what a 'Switzerland' was, but once he was done, it seemed a fitting phrase.

Steve didn't seem too surprised by this. “So you'll help us if we're interesting, and you'll help our enemies if they're interesting? That's not going to go over well with anyone involved.”

“Oh, no, my dear Captain. I will sit on the sidelines and add my own flair to the battles. If I decide that it gets boring, I might make the situation more fun.”

The blond tried to cross his arms, winced, and set his left arm back on the blankets, right arm draped across his ribs. His normally tan complexion had gone white, and Loki crawled across the distance, kneeling next to Steve when he was close enough to investigate. “Lift your shirt.”

He glared at Loki, who rolled his eyes. “Oh, please . If I'd wanted to kill you, I would have left you dead.” Steve still didn't move, so Loki reached over and pulled the shirt up, revealing a bruise covering the majority of the man's left side. Loki cocked his head, looking carefully at the bruise. “This isn't something I'm going to take care of. I've used enough of my magic healing you already. It's not dangerous, but you're going to feel it for a while.”

“How long until I can go home?” The Captain's blue eyes shone with emotion and Loki had to shake himself to actually respond.

“Teleportation while within the realm can be attempted in a few days. However, teleportation between realms takes considerably more effort, and we will have to wait substantially longer before we can attempt that.”

“You're avoiding the question.”

Loki's grin spread. The Captain was sharper than he looked. “A few months. No more than a year, no less than three months. I am aware that you heal much more quickly than other mortals, but the wound was inflicted by a god. You will be injured for quite some time.”

Steve's eyes darted to the window before he responded. “I guess since I'll be staying a while, I might as well figure out where the bathroom is.”

“Bathroom?” Loki had a personal bath the size of a small mortal swimming pool, but he was unfamiliar with the term Steve had used.

The man smiled, amused. “Loki, we are going to have to have a long chat about language.”

+

Loki's senses woke him up with a start a few days later, and he groaned, rolling over and trying to ignore his misfiring survival instincts. He took a deep breath to calm his mind and was greeted by a glorious new scent. He was bolt upright and throwing back the covers in an instant, barely remembering to throw on a robe before seeing what his guest was cooking this time. When he passed the large window in the main room, he scowled, noting that it was still dark out with no hint of dawn on the horizon.

His guest was humming—on key, the god noted—and working over the wood-burning stove with confidence. His blond hair was sticking straight up in the back, which made Loki absurdly happy. After all, if he, a god could have bed-hair, he'd be damned if the mortal didn't. The god leaned against the doorway and crossed his arms.

“Just what are you making at this horrid hour, dear eagle?” Loki took pleasure in making the Captain jump.

The tall man turned and looked at the god warily. He still didn't trust Loki—smart man, Loki thought—and jumped when he was cornered by the brunet. He gestured to the frying pan. “I'm frying up some steak and eggs. I couldn't sleep.”

Frying steak? Won't it burn?” He moved closer to the Captain, noting that the man still favored his left side.

Steve laughed. “You've never made steak and eggs?! Loki, you're missing something in your life. Come on, I made some for you, too.” Steve pointed to the counter, where Loki's warming spell had been activated to keep four steaks and about a dozen eggs at a good temperature. Loki looked at the man with a quirked eyebrow, and Steve's smile just grew. “Thor told us that most gods have quite the appetite, so...”

“I pride myself on being able to eat more than Thor, if I should wish.” It was all the god could do to not snatch the platter off the counter and eat it all. He'd been hungry the past few days, as he was dedicated to Midgardian history and couldn't be disturbed. He nodded at Steve. “This will be quite sufficient, I assure you.” He waved a hand to set the small table in the kitchen. Silverware, napkins, and glasses flew to take their places, while the pitchers of liquid hovered near him, awaiting his command. “What would you have to drink this morning, Steven? I have goat's milk, the juice of the finest pears within the realm, and water.”

Goat's milk?” The blond shuddered. “I'll pass on that one. The juice sounds good, though.”

Loki waved the milk and water away, watching them set themselves under his cold spell. The other pitcher fled to pour its contents into the glasses before rejoining its counterparts. The god smiled and gestured to the platter reserved for him, and it joined the assortment of items on the table.

“Don't you get tired from that?” Loki turned and saw Steve watching him curiously.

He shrugged. “I did when I first tried, but now it's quite easy. Most mornings I don't even have to think about what I want them to do, they just do it.”

“So how do your mornings usually go? Do you cook and then terrorize us on Earth?”

Loki laughed at his eagle's tone. “I usually remain here, furthering my knowledge about your realm and this one. As for cooking...I've never done any. My magic takes care of that.”

Steve fell silent, frowning as he scooped his steak and eggs onto a platter. He set it aside before opening the stove and banking the fire. The trickster watched him, cold expression back in place. As the blond man stood back up, Loki saw a difference in the man. He could tell in the way that his eagle straightened and moved to sit that he had passed judgment on the god. It was the same as everyone that had judged him before, and yet different. Steve's next words shocked the trickster.

“That's pretty useful.” He cut a piece of meat and chewed it before continuing. “Especially for when you're away from a decent kitchen. Though, when you have one as good as this, it's a waste of your talents to not cook by hand. I can teach—why are you looking at me like that?”

Loki closed his mouth and relaxed his eyebrows, trying not to stare at the man. The times he'd been called ergi made him assume to have the same judgment passed on him once again. He stayed silent, cutting his steak into neat little pieces. The god had to give his eagle some credit: he stayed quiet the entire time, busying himself with his own plate. Loki stabbed a piece of meat and ate it before he spoke again, voice full of suspicion. “You do not find my use of magic to be an unmanly trait?”

The blond froze, fork halfway to his mouth. The look that came over his face made the god feel fear for the first time since he discovered the truth of his birth. Steve's eyes became hard, and Loki felt the very energy of the room respond to the man. He could see his eagle's anger, and wasn't sure how to respond. If had hadn't been paying such close attention, Loki would have missed the words that came out.

“Those bastards.” It was barely more than a whisper, but the god wanted to clamp his hands over his ears to block out the power they held. Steve must have seen this, because he slowly, carefully, set down his fork and sighed, snapping the tension in the room like a dry twig. “Sorry.”

Loki's face was full of shock, not only at the man's words, but the emotion coursing through his body. He'd never had someone tell him they were impressed with his magic, let alone defend his use of it. The god cleared his throat and composed himself, passing the rest of the meal in silence.

When he at last set down his fork and knife, he found his eagle looking at him, a curious expression on his face. “Yes?”

“I upset you? I said I was sorry, but...” The blond's eyes were sad. “I think I insulted you or something.”

The brunet almost laughed. “My dear man, you insulted no one. Come, get dressed. I'm going to show you Alfheim.”

Steve started, head jerking up to look at the god. “What?”

This time, Loki did laugh. “I'm going to show you another world. Unless, of course, you'd like to stay here.” Loki's laughter came harder as the Captain stood up so fast he knocked over the chair. The blond said nothing, rushing off to grab suitable clothing for the day's adventure.

Chapter Text

Steve was beaming by the time they got out of the mountains and into the rolling hills, sweat making his blond hair stick to his forehead. He joined Loki on the last outcropping before the fields, breathing hard. His injured side hurt, but it felt good to exercise for the first time in almost a month. The god waited until Steve caught his breath before sweeping his arm in a wide arc to draw the blond's attention to the world laid out in front of them.

“This is Alfheim—Elf Home. This world is inhabited by many creatures that you would not recognize and many that you do, ranging from the villshund to the spenhjort, from the hawks to the mice. There are many things that could kill you in this realm, should you stray too far from me, and that's not including the elves that rule it.” Loki turned to freeze Steve with his glare. “Stay close to me! That is an order that you will not disobey, am I understood? I have no wish to go searching for you only to find your corpse being feasted on by beasts desperate for the hunt.”

Steve slowly nodded, eyes wandering to the landscape around them. “It looks like Earth.” He hadn't realized he said anything wrong until Loki was grabbing his head and turning it to face him, anger evident in the vice-like grip. “What? Yes, okay, I understand. No wandering off.”

The god's grip relaxed. “Good. Do try to keep up. We have a lot of land to cover in very little time, and I don't want to reassemble your innards if we have to teleport back so we're not caught out when the sun goes down.”

The Captain gulped, hoping the god was joking. “Reassemble my innards ?”

“Believe me, it's not pleasant.” Loki's tone was completely serious. “Now, let's be going now.”

+

They had been walking for several hours, the tall god explaining every new landscape they came upon in great detail, making sure Steve absorbed every small tidbit he was fed, only moving to a new description when the blond could answer the questions Loki asked to check his knowledge. The entire trip consisted of new explanations and short quizzes, ranging from the names of mountain ranges to species of insects. Loki finally came to a halt by a small rock-covered hill, nodding to himself.

“And what is the name of the large bird of prey that eats the sønspyd?” The god asked as he drew runes on one of the rocks. He gestured for Steve to come closer as the blond thought, tapping the last rune when the man was close enough.

“Uhh...the dødenflytur?” He looked around slowly. “What did you do?”

Loki was summoning bread and cheese when he looked up. “I put a ward on this hill. We'd be fools to eat in the open without it.” He tossed the Captain a small loaf of bread and hunk of cheese. “Rest for a while, Captain. We only have an hour or so before we reach our destination, and we will stay the night there. It is a safe haven.”

“Where are we going?” The cheese was soft enough that Steve could spread it on the bread with ease. He took a bite and watched Loki ready his own meal before speaking.

“Past the hills and to the ocean. It is a friend's domain, and he will not let any harm come to us whilst we are in his presence.” The brunet turned his head to the sky and took a deep breath. “I always loved it when Thor and I came out here. It smelled so different from Asgard, with so many new sights and sounds, that I was enamored with the realm the first time I saw it. Thor found it boring compared to the others, but I—I just couldn't stay away.”

Steve was shocked that Loki had opened up about that, and turned his head away so the god couldn't see. He fumbled for another question as they ate in silence. “Is that why you come to Midgard?”

“No.” The answer was so sudden that the blond realized he'd been watched. “Midgard was simply the realm that I thought would bend best under my rule. I didn't take into account that humans are notoriously independent.”

The Captain frowned. He knew what Loki meant, but the lack of respect for the human race appalled him. “You still tried after you found out that we wouldn't give in to you.”

The god's eyes flashed dangerously. “I have given up enough in my life: my friends, my family, my home, my very existence. I have given up quite enough things in my lifetime to loathe giving up anything more. I will hold on to what I can with all of my being, and if that means people must perish, so be it.”

Steve saw the god's hands clench into fists and slowly finished his meal, letting Loki's rage settle. It was very similar to working around Bruce when he was stressed. No sudden movements, no unexpected words. Just wait out the storm and try again when he's calm. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the fingers relax. Loki stood up not long after.

“Come, we must resume our journey.” The brunet dusted off his leather tunic and stepped off the rocks, setting the rigorous pace yet again.

+

They finally arrived at a beach a few hours later, the sun beginning set. Steve beamed at Loki, taking off his boots and running to the water's edge in a flash. The god chuckled. It was like dealing with a child, and he couldn't say he didn't miss it. He also removed his boots, allowing his bare skin to touch the soft sand for the first time in too long. He made sure his eagle hadn't dived into the water before whispering a greeting on the wind. After he felt the response, Loki ran down to join his guest in soaking his feet.

“We'll be able to swim a bit later. My acquaintance's magic will protect us, as oceans and beaches are his domain.” He smiled fondly and looked around him. “He has matters to attend to, but will be here before the sun kisses the horizon.”

The blond man nodded, still smiling. His hair trembled slightly in the wind, not long enough to be a nuisance like Loki's was. Steve dug his toes into the wet sand, eyes sliding shut. “I haven't been to the beach since I was a kid. It's nice to be here.”

“I am glad you're pleased with my lands.”

Loki and Steve both turned at the soft but powerful voice. The god nodded at the newcomer. “Hello, Narvi.”

The other god ignored the greeting, his seafoam-colored eyes flicking over to observe Steve. “Why do you bring a mortal into my domain, Lie-smith? I did not give him permission to enter my lands.”

“Vær så snill, min sønn, husk med hvem du snakker.” Loki was not pleased that this friend was treating him so coldly, but didn't want Steve to be privy to their words. The familiar language floated off his tongue.

Narvi's head whipped back to look at the brunet. “Ikke anta at vi er likemenn!” The look in his eyes was akin to murder. “Du ga opp det privilegiet når du dømt Vali og jeg til døden!

Loki's eyes widened at the younger god's words. He thought to yell back at Narvi, but thought better of it, shoulders slumping as he looked away. “Jeg beklager, min sønn. Jeg ville lide titusen dødsfall å ta bort et øyeblikk av smertene dine.”

The red-haired god sighed, rubbing his head. “You may stay for the night. I will give you protection from the beasts in my domain until the sun crests the horizon tomorrow.” He turned to Steve. “My apologies for my attitude, mortal. This visit was...unexpected. Swim in the ocean's waters, and the pain from your wounds will dissipate.” With one last glare at Loki, the god vanished.

Steve turned to Loki. “Well, he was rude.”

“And I deserved every word he said.” Loki shook his head. “Come, he has given us his protection, and we might as well enjoy it.”

+

After the sun set that night, Loki left the cave Steve was sleeping in and stepped into the moonlit night. He sat down on the wet sand at the water's edge, not caring if the waves lapped at his clothes. The god had felt guilty about his fight with Narvi since the younger god had left, and couldn't sleep.

A wave lapped at his bare feet, and the trickster heard footsteps in the sand, light and graceful. Loki didn't bother turning his head—he knew who had come. “Hello again, Narvi.”

The red-haired god sank into the sand next to Loki, his tan and blue outfit glowing in the moonlight. “Hello, Father.”

They sat there in silence for a long while before the trickster spoke again. “How is your mother?”

“Do stop pretending to care, Father. It never did suit you.” Narvi's tone was harsh. “You know exactly how she fares, and you know that she wishes nothing more than to have never met you.” The god let out a groan. “My apologies. I didn't mean--”

“Yes, you did.” Loki set his hand on his son's shoulder, squeezing lightly. “It is both a blessing and a curse that the Norns returned your memories of our last lifetime.” The older god removed his hand and turned his head up to the sky, observing the stars for the first time since he'd fallen to Midgard. The moon drowned out most of the smaller stars, but he could still locate with ease the constellation of Sigyn's ordeal. Only the three stars of her bowl were visible, and he shook his head. “I do not regret my actions, only the consequences of them.”

“I know, Father.” The younger god shifted closer to his father and leaned against his shoulder, resting his head there. “Both Vali and I know.”

Loki held his son close, tears welling up at the mention of his other tormented son. A crunch of sand by the cave made the gods jump and pull apart, only to turn and see Steve, standing there. “Couldn't sleep, eagle mine?”

Steve nodded. “Something like that.”

The two gods observed the blond's progress towards them across the sand before exchanging a look. “What? Don't give me that look, Narvi.” He said in a hushed tone.

Narvi chuckled. “You always had a taste for the foolish ones with the clipped wings.” In a louder voice, he called to the mortal. “Steven, come into the ocean's waters. Soak for a while, and relieve the stiffness in your bones. Worry not about the creatures of the night, for they would not dare harm a guest of mine whilst I am in range.”

The blond smiled at the god, stripping off his clothes as he walked, hopping awkwardly as he removed his pants. “Thank you, Narvi.”

“The proper title for me is Prince Narvi, keeper of the seas of Yggdrasil. You may call me 'prince' or 'sea-keeper'.” His tone was firm, but his eyes were gentle as he watched the man fold his clothes and set them on the sand. “And you are welcome.”

“I didn't mean to offend you, Prince.” Steve said quietly.

“I took no offense. Please,” the redhead jerked his head to the ocean. “I can see your bruises from here. I take it Loki was not the most welcoming of hosts.”

Loki tensed when Steve simply shook his head and waded into the dark waters. He followed the tan figure until he submerged, regretting a decision for the first time in his life. The trickster jumped when Narvi whistled. He turned to his son. “What?”

“Nothing, really. Simply noting that you have not lost your eye for flesh.” He grinned widely at his father, quirking an eyebrow. “You also have not lost your knack for angering those you are fond of.”

The brunet frowned at his son. “I am not--

Please! Lie to yourself all you wish, Father, but do not lie to me.” Narvi shook a finger at his father. “You are attracted to that mortal! One can easily see why anyone other than you would be rendered senseless by him, but I know you better than to think you'd be swayed by looks alone. So, tell me, Father, why do you find him interesting?”

Loki was silent for a while, watching the blond man swim in the moonlit water before answering his son. “He apologized to me.” He could practically hear the eyebrow shoot up again, and he continued. “I had his blood on my hands, and he used his last moments to apologize for a grave insult instead of begging me to save him. He welcomed death when he was able to rid himself of any regrets. That is a trait not found in many mortals, and one I find quite...admirable.”

His son smiled, nodding. “You love him.”

Loki looked down at the sand. He couldn't respond and still remain sane, and decided to remain silent.

Chapter Text

Steve knew there was something else going on between Loki and Narvi, but the looks they both gave him told him that he'd regret asking about their relationship. So, Steve kept quiet the next morning as Loki embraced the younger god and whispered something in the language they'd argued in. He was sitting in the sand, watching the sun rise, when the gods walked over to him. He stood as gracefully as he could, noting with a raised eyebrow the way Loki's eyes widened when he staggered. Steve grinned at Narvi, who bowed before walking down to the water and disappearing.

“So, Loki, are we going back?” Steve asked when they made their way from sand to grass. He was wondering what the purpose of the trip had been. It wasn't just to show Steve the realm...no, that would be too direct for someone like Loki.

The god frowned. “No. Not yet.”

The blond cocked his head, confused at the god's tone. It seemed...stressed. Pained. Steve looked back at the beach and shook his head. “You really missed him, didn't you?”

Loki started and looked at Steve in shock, his eyes wide. It was obvious that the god hadn't expected to be read so easily, but he recovered quickly. The Captain pretended to not see anything as the brunet looked him over. “He and I were—are—close. We have not seen each other in many years, and my presence was unexpected.”

“That's why you two fought?”

“Yes. I've done terrible things to him and his brother, things for which I will never be forgiven.” Loki's eyes were dark. “Nor do I deserve to be.”

Steve sighed. He'd gone through the self-pity before, and between his own and Tony's, he was done with it. He turned and stepped in front of the god, stopping him. “Loki, everyone deserves to be forgiven if they just ask for it. If they are genuinely sorry for the things they have done, everyone deserves forgiveness.”

“Your precious Avengers would disagree, I'm afraid.”

“No, they wouldn't.” He looked into those emerald eyes, seeing the storm brewing there. “Everyone deserves forgiveness, but just because they've been forgiven doesn't mean everyone will forget what happened.”

“Then what is the point of forgiveness?” Loki's eyes flashed dangerously, and Steve knew he was being tested.

“Honestly?”

“You'd do well to be honest around me, dear eagle.” His tone was cold.

The blond thought for a moment, gathering his argument, and nodded. “Right. Well, if I could be forgiven for my actions by having everyone forget them, then I'd never ask for forgiveness.” The god arched an eyebrow, waiting. Steve took that as encouragement, and went on. “I think actions speak a lot to who someone really is. If you forget what you've done, or if other people forget, then you lose part of yourself.”

“Why?” Loki's tone had gone from cold to amused, a more deadly sign. It was never good to be the source of a god's amusement, especially not this god's.

“Because when you forget what you've done, you forget why you did it. You don't learn from mistakes, because you can't remember them. You lose another part of yourself when you don't remember how people reacted to you taking those actions. We're the result of several million years of evolution, Loki, and if we didn't remember and learn from our mistakes and the consequences of our mistakes, then we'd still be tadpoles in a pool somewhere.”

The god said nothing for a long while, processing the new information, before walking around Steve and continuing on his previous path. The subject of the conversation changed to Steve's health, and the sun rose higher in the sky.

Steve could have cheered.

+

Hours later, Loki finally came out of his thoughts and into reality. For someone as good as the Captain to tell him, of all people, that he deserved forgiveness...it was too much. So he locked away the fluttering feeling that came from the blond's words, and settled back into his cold, calculating mind. It had always been easier to shut out the world than to be vulnerable and broken, but this time, it was different. Somehow, the man had seen him, understood him, and Loki was worried that he was slipping. No. He wasn't slipping. He was just unguarded around Steve. That was it. So, he retreated into his mind to see if he could become invisible as he had so many times before.

It was not meant to be.

“I'm sorry.”

Loki grit his teeth. It was so infuriating to always hear those two words come from the blond. He still liked them, but their current situation didn't call for them. The god stopped dead and sighed. “Why?”
“I didn't mean to intrude into your life. I'm--”

“If you say you're sorry for a crime you didn't commit one more time, I will not hesitate to rip out your lungs.” He meant it, though throwing the man into the trees nearby seemed like a decent alternative.

Of course, the blond didn't understand. “I'm sorry!”

Loki growled, hands clenching into fists as he whirled around to grab the blond. He only made it halfway before he heard a young, stern voice, and a fiercer growl than his own.

“Do not touch the human, Loki!”

The voice made his blood run cold and his skin prickle. It was so familiar, but much older than he remembered. Loki turned and watched the flame-haired youth and the tawny wolf walk out of the cover of trees. “Vali, Fenrir, greetings.”

“Greetings, Mischief Maker.” Vali bowed before glancing over at Steve. “You brought a new toy, I see.”

“A human.”

“I am not blind, Loki.” The youth dipped his head in greeting to the Captain. “Do you have a name, mortal?”

Steve, much to Loki's surprise, greeted Vali with an almost-proper bow. “Steve Rogers.” He surprised the god again by bowing to Fenrir as well. “Hello to both of you.”

Fenrir and Vali exchanged a look, and the latter sighed. “Take your leave, then. We will meet later.” The wolf snorted, looked the blond man over once, then turned and ran back into the forest. The redhead looked at Loki with disdain and turned his attention to the man he wasn't familiar with. “Greetings, Steve Rogers, I am Prince Vali, god of the forests. My companion was Fenrir, or the Fenris Wolf, god of the Hunt.” He paused and took a deep breath. “You smell of my brother.”

Steve looked perplexed. “Oh! Prince Narvi's your brother!” He looked at Vali, raising an eyebrow. “You look like him.”

Loki felt shock course through his body when a smile played at the corners of the redhead's mouth. The prince nodded. “We are twins, after all.” The smile died before evolving into a full grin, and the trickster's heart mourned the loss. “Tell me, sir, how did you come to interact with my dear brother?”

The blond shrugged. “I needed salt-water to help with the pain from my bruises, and Prince Narvi was kind enough to give me permission to swim in the ocean.” He shot a wry grin at Loki, telling Vali as much as he needed to know with that one glance. “He and your father had an argument.”

The two gods went still as death. Very, very slowly, Loki asked, “How did you come upon the assumption that Princes Narvi and Vali are my sons?”

“I'm pretty good at picking up certain phrases of different languages, and Tony has some Norwegian board members in his London branch. One of them was in New York for a while, along with his son, and he always referred to the kid as 'min sønn'. I found out what that meant, and I noticed you used it several times when you were trying to calm Narvi down.”

Vali's expression went from shocked, to curious, to amused as Steve spoke, the ghost of a smile formed on his lips again, and Loki felt that his lack of discretion with the argument was well worth it. The redhead shook his head and looked at his father. “For a lie-smith, you seem to be having trouble with keeping secrets.” He turned back to Steve. “Yes, Steve, Loki is my father. You are one of very few who possess this knowledge, and I trust that you will keep it that way.”

“Of course.” The Captain's eyes were sincere, and Vali nodded.

“Then, please, allow me to show you my domain, as my brother has shown you his.” The redhead turned and made his way into the forest, the others close behind.

Chapter Text

 “You'll have to accept my apologies for the state of our trails. We have been quite busy the past few weeks and have been unable to keep them as tidy as we like.” Vali's accent was much thicker than Loki's, but no less elegant, as he spoke while he guided them through the forest. His red hair was a beacon in the poor light, and Steve took comfort that it would take a lot of effort to lose the man if he didn't want them to be lost.

“You call these trails?” Loki asked mockingly. He was having as much difficulty getting through the underbrush as the blond was. “And what exactly makes you think they earn that distinction?”

The younger man stopped and sighed. “Perhaps if you used your nose instead of your eyes , you would understand.” He pressed onwards, pausing only when he noticed that Steve hadn't started walking again. “Mr. Rogers, I would advise against dawdling. Night will be upon us before you know it, and that is never a good time to be caught unawares.”

The Captain nodded, holding up a finger. He took a few deep breaths through his nose, wondering what that odd smell was. It was a combination of many different scents, but had very distinctly come from one being. “Prince, what's that smell? It's like honeysuckle and...oak?”

The god turned and raised an eyebrow. “Walnut, actually. You can smell it unassisted?” Steve nodded. “How peculiar. Come, we need to keep moving.”

Loki looked at the blond with an odd expression and followed him, several more questions about the man coming to mind, demanding to be answered. He needed to figure out the Captain, and soon.

+

Steve was having much less difficulty navigating the thick underbrush now that he knew to follow the honeysuckle scent. He could feel Loki's eyes boring into the back of his head and refrained from showing his annoyance. It was as if the god was angry with him for taking his son's words and applying them to what his senses were picking up, or maybe for figuring out his relationship to the princes before the brunet had wanted them revealed. He wasn't sure if the annoyance was related to Loki's perception of him changing or not, but the blond figured it was better to keep silent and follow Vali.

The scent and Vali both changed abruptly and the prince turned towards the blond. “Why don't you take us from here, mortal?”

“I'll try.” Steve knew a test when he saw one and went with it, trying to pick up traces of the scent, which was suddenly overwhelmed by a different one coming from the trees nearby. He carefully walked a few paces away from the two men and focused on his memory of the smell. It was too faint for him to detect anymore, but perhaps he was doing it wrong. What was it Tony had always told him? 'Blind or deaf people might lack one sense, but their others have compensated for that loss and are better than most humans...other than yours, Captain.'

The Captain grinned and closed his eyes and covered his ears, breathing deeply as he waited for his senses to adjust. It took several long minutes, but when he finally moved, the scent was right there, to the left of the path they had come from, waiting to be detected. Steve uncovered his ears and opened his eyes, smiling widely. “This way.”

“You are certain?” Vali asked, arching an eyebrow. He hadn't moved from the position Steve had last seen him in, though Loki was sitting on a tree stump.

“That's my final answer, Regis.”

“Excuse me?” Vali's eyes narrowed as Loki snorted.

“I'm sure.” Steve shot a glance over to the brunet, who returned the glance with a roll of the eyes. “This way.”

The younger god clapped softly. “Very well done, Steven. You have certainly shown that you belong in this forest. Come, follow me to our den.”

+

The den was another hour walk, but when they arrived, they were greeted by many other beings. Steve was a little overwhelmed by the attention he was getting, and Vali quickly explained that Pack was made up of beings from other realms and dimensions. Elves were a main component of pack, their bright eyes following the smallest movements, their long, pointed ears twitching and turning to capture the quietest sounds. Immortals were another large component, their toned muscle making them fast enough to catch the fleetest of prey, and still strong enough to take down the larger ones. Humans occasionally participated, more for numbers than any other purpose, but they were amusing nonetheless.

Vali took a hold of Steve's arm and began introducing him around. They went to an elf first, his strawberry blond hair gleaming from the water he'd recently been bathing in. “This is Nyalin, our best scout. He finds the prey and flushes it out for the rest of us...with assistance from the others, of course.” He gestured to a blonde woman with blue eyes and smiled. “That's Mira, who always leads a flank. She's vicious and always manages to get the prey to panic, making our lives easier.”

Steve greeted both elves with bows a touch lower than their own, and turned as he felt the young god tug on his arm. He was greeted by the immortals, a tall, muscular bunch. Vali kissed the tall brunet on the cheek and smiled as the man rolled his eyes. The redhead smirked. “This is Alorize, Pack's third in command. Do not worry, he doesn't bite...much.” Alorize snarled playfully, his grey eyes dancing.

“I don't bite when I'm not hungry...or thirsty.” The man's husky voice grew deeper and he smiled, revealing large fangs that made Steve gasp.

Vali smacked the man. “No scaring the guests!” He pulled the blond away from the immortal, who had started to laugh, and sighed. “He is...an interesting case. Do not fear, he really won't hurt you, you have my word.” He showed the man to the next person, whose hair reminded Steve of Fenrir's fur, but a little lighter in color. “This is Kyerus, but we have taken to calling him Ghost, as he is our quietest hunter.”

Steve nodded to the man, who grinned at him before turning back to Vali. “So, Prince Vali, why are you introducing to these people? I don't plan on being around long enough to really get to know them...”

“I know, but my father has other plans, no doubt.” Vali's green eyes glimmered in the moonlight. “Steven, we plan to introduce you to Pack so you will not be harmed while in this realm...but for tonight, we have other plans.”

“Which are?”

“Tonight, we hunt.”

Chapter Text

Steve's expression changed completely as amusement spread over Vali's face. He frowned and looked around, watching the reactions of the rest of the pack. They ranged from calm acknowledgment to barely contained excitement, but all of Pack stared at the prince. “Um, hunt? As in--”

“As in we chase, and kill, prey.” A deep, rough voice answered the blond, and the attention of Pack shifted to the newcomer. The giant tawny wolf came through the trees as the other hunters bowed respectfully. Fenrir nodded at the others and turned back to Steve. “We are all wolves, mortal. We will hunt for food, and anything we do not eat will be used for other purposes. Sinew will be used for bowstrings, bones will be used for weapons. This time, we will wait for Nyalin to skin the prey.” Fenrir shot a glare at Alorize, who ducked his head in apology. “Every part that we do not consume will not be wasted.”

The Captain nodded his understanding. “So...what does this have to do with me?”

The god snorted. “You have much to learn. You are in our territory—an invader. Regardless of the permission my father has to wander into our realms, that does not make you immune. By bringing you here, he has subjected you to our whims.” Fenrir narrowed his yellow eyes at Loki. “As I am Alpha of this pack, the choice of trial is mine and mine alone. So, you hunt with us. You shall share in the experience, and, if it does not plunge you into madness, you will be welcome within Pack.”

“So I'd be one of you?”

“More or less. You are unable to shift into a wolf on your own, so I shall assist you in that endeavor.”

Steve sighed. “Sounds thrilling. When do we start?”

The god looked at Vali. “I like him, he does not dawdle more than necessary.” He turned back to the blond. “Now, if you would prefer.”

Loki stood up from the tree stump he'd been sitting on and hissed at his two sons. “Are you mad?! A human would not survive such a transformation, and for you to even suggest--” He glared at those that growled at him, and continued. “To even suggest and attempt is a gross violation of the treat you have with the elves! And I quote, 'No mortal being shall be purposefully harmed by a permanent resident of this realm'! You need to have the favor of the--”

Vali's eyes turned black and he snarled violently at the god. “You have no right to speak in this clearing, Loki!”

“Like Hel I don't!” Loki stepped forward and reached out to grab Vali's shirt.

Enough!” Fenrir's stern growl made the entire Pack fall silent. He turned to his father. “Father, you lost the right to speak your mind here long ago, and have yet to earn it back. Until you do, you would do well to remember that in this forest, my word is law, not Freyr's. The treaty ends at the forest's edge, and you know that better than anyone else here. To cite it and expect our obedience is a pathetic attempt to control us as you attempted to control the mortals. It won't work.” The great wolf turned to Vali. “Calm yourself, my brother. Right though you may be, Loki is still our father, and we owe him respect for that much.”

The redhead nodded and stepped back, taking a few deep breaths as the immortals held him close, lending their strength. “Then let us ask the mortal again.”

The wolf looked at Steve. “I have no intention of harming you. You are not a true mortal, we can sense that much, and the transformation will not kill you. You will feel your bones breaking and shifting to accommodate the new form, your vision will blur then change. Your skin will itch as the fur grows, and you will probably trip over your own paws for a while. It will not be comfortable for you, but at least you will go into it knowing what will happen. I cannot tell you the severity of the discomfort, as each transformation is different. If you do not wish to participate, then you may leave my territory now, unharmed and whole.”

The blond shook his head. “I'm actually kind of curious about it, so...hell, why not? I'd rather suffer through it, and know what it's like to be one of the pack, than always wonder what could have been.”

Fenrir nodded. “Spoken like a true wolf. Come, let us see how you fare.”

+

Burning, searing pain blossomed all over Steve's body, making his vision go dark. His bones creaked before snapping and moving to their new places, extending where they were too short, shrinking where they were too long. His skin stretched and shrunk, accommodating the new bones that formed, the changes occurring too rapidly for his brain to process. His smell went away entirely when his hearing did, enveloping his world in black. When both senses came back, they were so much better than before, catching the smallest rustle of leaves, the territorial scents of the other wolves. Finally, his sight came back, the colors far less saturated than before, and some were completely different, but he still could make out the colors he knew. One last body-wide burn, and Steve could move with more ease.

Fenrir gave him a wolfish grin. “Well, at least we will know which one is you.” The alpha turned and gave Loki a look. “I told you he would not perish. Now, are you going to stay here and mope about, or are you man enough to take to the hunt like the rest of us?”

Loki glared at his son before shifting easily into a red wolf. “I have never denied the hunt before, my son.”

Vali crouched and scratched behind Steve's ears, much to the blond's delight. “Just follow me, yes? There is a storm coming, so we probably won't find anything tonight. Do not fear for us, though, we have fed recently enough.” Steve wuffed and nodded his head, causing the god to laugh. “Think, mortal, as we will be able to hear you that way.”

Like this? Steve asked.

Perfect. Vali backed away and shifted as well, his white fur gleaming in the moonlight. The rest of the pack followed his lead and shifted as one, colors and patterns so varied from one another that Steve understood how they didn't get confused during the hunt.

Won't your fur give us away?

No, the moonlight does not penetrate the leaves, so the color of our fur matters little. Besides, we have the best vision in the forest.

Are you two done speaking now? We have prey to hunt. Fenrir's voice was smoother in Steve's head than it was when the wolf spoke to him before. Mortal, you follow Vali's orders. Obey whatever he says, and if he asks you to follow him, do so without hesitating.

Steve grinned mentally. Easy enough.

+

Saying something like the hunt was easy was a very large understatement. The hunt was far more complicated that Steve could have ever guess, and far more simple that he could ever hope. The second Fenrir rallied his pack to start the hunt, Steve was no longer a person apart from the pack, but instead was a fragment of the whole. Pack was not many wolves going towards a goal, it was a single entity pursuing its way of life. Steve may be running under Vali's command, his golden fur a blur underneath the trees, but he was not himself. Pack moved without thinking, running solely on the instinct of the Wild, a being older than the oldest god. The Wild directed Pack's movements, acting through Fenrir, showing him how to move, where to attack.

Steve's world became nothing but the brush of leaves and branches against his legs, the rush of wind past his ears, and the scent of the prey. Fear was abound, his nose following it, knowing that it would lead to the animal they were hunting. It was infallible, as long as it followed Fenrir's directions and not his own. He felt a push to head left and did so, somehow knowing that the push belonged to Vali's mind as much as it did Fenrir's. Those that turned with him assisted the flow of Pack, their strong minds providing barriers for the Wild to flow between, coursing ever closer to the kill.

Suddenly, it all stopped. Steve knew someone had taken down the prey they were after, and the Wild was satisfied and subsided. The golden wolf slowed to a stop, panting hard from the exertion. A white wolf and a black wolf flanked him, looking with concern at him. Vali's mind was comforting, easing the pain of separation from main body of Pack, and the other wolf—Alorize, he thought—was strong and eased his exhaustion. Steve sighed with relief as his mind settled into himself again, and thought his gratitude to the two wolves. Vali looked to the other, who ran quickly to follow the scent to the kill.

You did very well for a mortal, Steven. Most who are new to the form are unable to run properly, but you kept up with us. Not an easy feat. Vali's tone was approving.

Sorry to keep you from the food...

Worry not, friend. There will be plenty left for us...animals here are not the same size as the ones on Midgard. The wolf grinned, tongue lolling out of his mouth to cool the heated body down. Come, let us rejoin our brothers. He lead Steve down the forest paths to where the prey had been killed, and watched as Fenrir bowed a greeting to them. The pack parted to let Steve through, allowing him to take second blood—for first blood was always Fenrir's—and seal his bond to the gods, elves, and immortals in the pack.

His teeth sunk into the tender flesh of the hooved beast, and he chewed slowly on the meat as the wolves around him tilted their heads back and let loose a long howl. Steve stepped back to let others take his place, and, as they continued howling, he knew they howled for him.

Chapter Text

Steve woke the next morning with a start, sunlight warming his face. He sat up and shook the sleep from his brain, squinting against the sun’s rays to watch the wolves slowly stand and shift back to their other forms. Somehow, the blond had already shifted, the lack of pain speaking to how exhausted he had been. He caught a glimpse of Fenrir in the shadows, approaching him.

“How did you sleep, mortal?” The giant wolf stopped next to Steve, eyes full of wonder. “Forgive me for not warning you about the fatigue we experience after such a hunt. Father took the liberty of teleporting Pack back to safety before he also succumbed to sleep’s tender embrace.”

The captain nodded, taking inventory of the minor cuts and bruises he had on his legs and arms, as well as his obvious nudity. “I slept. When did I change back, and where are my clothes?” He felt his cheeks heat with embarrassment as the wolf turned towards the stream running through the clearing and Steve felt someone respond. “I can still--”

“I know. It’s residual, you will not feel us in such a manner in an hour or so. You shifted back in the middle of the night, when my spell broke. I eased your pain so you would not wake. Your clothes were washed by the pups that did not join us for the hunt, and will be brought to you as soon as they have dried.” Fenrir looked up to the sky, eyes narrowing. “It should be a very warm day, it won’t take long. In the meantime, get used to being exposed. It’s common for us to be nude in these forms while amongst our peers.”

Steve sighed, uncomfortable with the idea of being exposed to these strangers. He’d only ever been naked in public once, the ‘public’ in that case being Tony and Bruce, who were running blood tests on him. No one outside of the Avengers--and perhaps some SHIELD agents--had ever seen him naked. “Fenrir, I have a question about Loki.”

The wolf sighed and laid on the ground. “What is your question?”

“Narvi, Vali, and you are his sons, right?”

“Correct.”

“The three of you don’t seem to get along with him, but I don’t know why. What happened? Narvi mentioned something about Loki killing him and Vali, and something about taking away pain, but I’m not fluent in the language they were speaking.”

Fenrir was silent for a long while, and Steve didn’t press him, understanding the need to think and, possibly, to carefully circumvent the truth to avoid giving away secrets. At last, the wolf spoke. “In order to explain, you need to understand the death of all known things, called Ragnarok. Human mythologies have more or less stated that once Ragnarok occurs, that is the end and life as we know it must be rebuilt. While the concept is somewhat accurate, it operates on the assumption that once the event happens, it cannot happen again. That assumption is false. Ragnarok can happen many thousands of times, and never stop. It is up to one person’s actions whether or not it happens and the war begins.”

“Loki.”

“Yes. His actions decide if the events leading up to Ragnarok begin, and once they do, nothing can change the flow. Those events are likely why Narvi and Vali continue to hold onto their rage, and why I cannot forgive Father. He kills Odin’s son, Baldr, and insults many of the gods, and Odin and the gods sentence Father to be chained to a rock and held under a venomous snake, tortured by the venom dripping onto his exposed body.” Fenrir paused for a moment, eyes forlorn. “They knew, however, that normal chains would be easily broken by Father, and decided to bind him to the rock by a different type of chain. Bonds of kinship, after all, can’t be broken.”

Steve paled. “You mean--”

“Yes. Odin captures Narvi and Vali, starving them before capturing Father as well, and forcing Vali to shift into a wolf, much like the spell I used on you. However, after being starved for so long, the wolf’s instincts take over, and search for the nearest vulnerable prey. Odin and his soldiers are further away than another food source, and Vali attacks, killing his own brother as Father is forced to watch in horror. Odin’s soldiers dispose of Vali, and then use Narvi’s entrails to create a chain to bind Father to the rock under the snake.”

The captain felt his stomach roll, and barely had time to make it to the edge of the woods, where he fell to his knees and was violently ill. When he was finally able to subdue the dry heaves, he felt the breeze dry the tears he’d shed and cool his heated skin. A gentle hand massaged his neck, soothing him further. He knew without a doubt that it was Vali kneeling beside him. “I’m sorry. No one should ever have done that.”

“No, but that is not how our lives work, Steven.” The man’s voice was full of sorrow and regret. “We are but pawns in the Norns game, we mean nothing to them.”

“The Norns?”

“Fates, if you will.”

“Ah.” Steve sat back on his heels, letting his head roll back and absorb the sunlight. “Your family is not a bunch of pawns for them to play with. They, of all people, should know the value of a single life is greater than their ‘grand design’.”

“The Norns--”

“The Norns can go fuck themselves!” Steve rarely used that particular word, but he figured this situation deserved it. The situation, however, didn’t require him to shout like he had.

The entire clearing was silent except for one lone, cold voice. “Yes, they can. I have, and will always, hold that opinion. They have no right meddling with my family, they have no right to meddle with my sons!” The vehemence in Loki’s voice shook the ground beneath Steve’s feet, as if the very world responded to the power spoken in the clearing. “I have long since strived to kill the Norns where they stand, and I will have my vengeance! I long to bathe in their blood, their heads upon spikes, their bodies burnt to ash!”

Flames sprouted from the god’s fingertips, engulfing his hands in moments. “I will not have my life used as a plaything for some higher being’s amusement. I am through being manipulated to the point of insanity, and my life will be the weapon I use to strike at those that try to take my family from me!”

Steve watched in horror as the flames spread across Loki’s body as his rage grew into something tangible, something that could, and would, destroy every living thing in it’s path. The captain knew he had to prevent Loki from becoming angrier and spreading the fire through the forest around them. He’d seen a fragment of the god’s anger before, on Earth, but he never knew just how much he’d been holding back. He had to act to prevent any harm from being done, and he had to act now.

The blond stood in a swift movement, striding forward to meet Loki. He extended a hand towards the brunet, the flames parting so Steve could come out of this unscathed. The hand connected with Loki’s arm, and the flames subsided completely, the god’s eyes panicked and wild. “Then we will just have to change fate’s design. If the Avengers can somehow manage to not let Manhattan be completely leveled, we can change fate. Let me help.”

Chapter Text

The silence following Steve’s statement lasted for a long time. Pack and Loki all looked shocked, while Fenrir looked far too amused for everyone’s good. The wolf made a choked noise before his body began to shake and he was no longer able to suppress the laughter he was holding back. The shock broke in lieu of the noise, and Vali followed suit, laughter dropping him to his knees as he clutched his sides. Loki’s expression softened as he watched his sons roll on the ground with amusement.

Steve sighed. “What’s so funny?”

Loki shook his head. “My sons have a poor sense of humor. They don’t believe that a human such as yourself can be of any assistance in this venture. Granted, you wouldn’t be able to help. Ragnarok is my burden to bear, and all I can do is play my part.”

The blond shook his head. He’d dealt with the ‘play your part’ bit too often with Tony, and he wasn’t about to let someone else do the same, villain or not. “No.”

The laughter stopped abruptly, and Loki looked slightly offended. “Do you honestly think that you can change anything? I am doomed to my fate.”

“It’s already changing, Loki. We’ve already changed the design of everything! You started it by not killing me!” Steve placed a hand over his ribs, over where Loki had wounded him. “You were supposed to kill me, and you didn’t. No one could have guessed for that mercy, no design could have accounted for that, not when they know who you are and what you normally do. You’ve already changed the design!”

Loki snorted. “Why do you even care? I almost let you die, and suddenly you’re like an eager puppy trying to play fetch with his busy master. So, tell me, my dear clipped eagle, why do you give a damn about me and mine?”

“Because the Norns are bullies.” Steve’s eyes shone with anger. “And I hate bullies.”

The god had to grin. “Well, you and I have that in common.”

+

“Stark, I need an update, now!” Fury’s tone let Tony know that the bastard wasn’t taking any of his snarkiness today, and the man immediately brought up the statistics and formulas he’d had Jarvis processing for the past six weeks.

“According to all accounts, even if we could find the good Captain, he’d be dead by now. Nothing changes that, Fury.” Tony didn’t even raise his head from his current project, pointing to the necessary hologram. “The last vitals we had on him showed his BP dropping rapidly, and the blood flow was too great for him to have survived for more than a few minutes. That’s assuming the neck was the only injury Loki had caused.”

“Knowing how crazy he is, Loki would never have stopped there.” Bruce looked up from his own workstation, where he was running another set of tests on the residue the portal had left on Steve’s shield. “He was as angry as the big guy when he took Rogers, there’s no way he wouldn’t have tortured him in those few minutes.”

Fury glared at the two men. “I don’t care if he’s dead or not, I want to find him and bring him back! Banner, did you get a good look at the shield yet?”

“Director, the pollen test didn’t bring up any species in Jarvis’ database, so I think it’s safe to say that Steve wasn’t teleported to a different location on this planet. Thor only managed to bring back the pollen samples from Asgard two weeks ago, and we’re still running them, but so far nothing. I think it’s very safe to say that the pollen also didn’t come from there. Loki took Cap somewhere in the universe, and we don’t know where!”

“Are you limited to just the pollen tests, or have you been wasting my time?”

Tony scoffed. “Back off, Fury. Banner and I have been working our asses off for you, and you really need to just let us do our thing.” A loud beep sounded from Bruce’s station, and he uttered a curse. “Bruce?”

“We have a partial match on the pollen, but I’m going to need Thor for this. Something’s different between the one in the database and the one on the shield.” He frowned, pushing his glasses up his nose. “The family and genus are a positive match, but the species isn’t right. Worse, the soil for this family and genus isn’t found in the wild on Asgard.”

“English, Doctor.” Fury’s tone was calmer with the news.

“Right. Uh, it means that the species that the database has is a cultivar--a species only grown in gardens and plantations. Cultivars have to come from a parent species, which can either be another cultivar, or, more usually, a wild species. The problem with this result is that we might not be able to find out what the parent is, or worse, where the parent came from.” The man sighed. “I need to speak to Thor’s mother. She was the one that got us all the plants she could, she’d know where to find this one.”

Fury nodded. “I’ll get a hold of the delegation from Asgard.”

+

Tony had to admit the efficiency of the delegation was impressive. They’d had Frigga on hand almost immediately after the request had been placed, and she was busily observing the information coming from the scans. She saw the name of the plant Bruce had identified and frowned.

“Leave us.” The delegation and her personal guards snapped to attention and left without a word. Frigga sighed. “Doctor, you are correct in your assumption that this plant is not native to Asgard’s soils. I received these plants as a gift from Freyr, the ruler of Alfheim, and they are unique to his realm. I fear that your search does not end here, though, as Alfheim is a vast realm, far greater than my own, and with more dangers. There is no one other than Freyr that knows the realm as well as Loki, and he has refused to help.”

Tony grumbled under his breath. “So, the big bad ruler of the big bad realm refuses to help us find our teammate that was teleported to his realm, by a criminal that he’s been harboring! Makes perfect sense.”

The woman was not amused. “I assure you, if Freyr had known that my son were hiding within his realm, he would have captured him immediately. He has far more important tasks than finding the teammate that you failed to protect!”

“Listen, lady--” Tony began.

“You will address me with respect, mortal!” Tony’s mouth snapped shut. “I have come to your aid as soon as you requested me, and I do not have to help any longer if I feel that you do not know how to address a queen of my stature!”

Bruce stepped forward. “Your grace, please, Tony’s not exactly the most respectful person.” He easily soothed the queen’s temper, used to dealing with a much more difficult temper. “Forgive us, we know you’ve been working just as hard to find Steve as we’ve been. We just need to know a few more things, please.”

The tension drained from the woman’s face and shoulders and she nodded. “Very well.”

“Thanks.” He grabbed the clipboard from his desk and flipped to a page in the back. “Alright, so, how did this stuff even get on the shield? As far as we know, the shield didn’t go with Steve.”

“Loki’s teleportation abilities are unparalleled, but still not equal to the power of the Bifrost. Some contaminants from the realm he transports to are occasionally found on objects close to his portals. If I’m not mistaken, the only reason you found the pollen is because there was blood on the shield to capture it. The other evidence from the scene likely blew away in the storm that occurred later that night.” The goddess sat in the chair Bruce offered to her.

“Probably. My other question is a little less objective, so if you could just answer it as best you could, that’d be great.” Frigga nodded, and the man continued. “Is there any chance that Steve would have survived this long?”

Frigga frowned, lines showing in her face. Her eyes were sad as she replied. “The chance that Loki would have spared him is miniscule, at best. If he was able to somehow make amends during his last minutes, perhaps my son would have made his death a quick matter instead of torturing the man. You are not likely to find anything but bones, and even then, it is but a small chance to find them.”

Tony and Bruce exchanged a look and bowed their heads in grief for their comrade. Bruce’s voice was trembling when he next spoke. “We have to try.”

Frigga smoothed out her skirts. “Then I will help as best I can.”

+

Steve fell through the last of the brambles, landing in a patch of mud as Loki and Vali once again stopped to laugh at him. At least they were being pleasant to each other, even if it was at his expense. The brunet helped him up as he stifled his laughter, leaving Vali to grin in the forest. The blond gestured to the god’s son and turned around, allowing the two of them a moment of privacy. He could hear their hushed voices, but they didn’t seem to care. He heard some rustling and turned around just as Loki kissed his son’s forehead and turned to leave.

“Thank you, Steven.” Loki’s voice was quiet and sad.

“I didn’t do anything. You did all the work. Maybe you should visit him and Narvi more often, because they seem to have missed you, even though they were angry at first.” Steve waved at Vali, who nodded and turned back the way he came. “I think family becomes angry when you don’t spend time with them and you expect them to still be as close to you as they once were.”

The god nodded, and Steve pretended not to see the tears on his cheeks while they walked in silence.

Chapter Text

The only thing keeping Steve moving was the slowly sinking sun and the idea of a warm bath and plush bed. Sure, he’d slept on worse during his time in the Army, but he had gotten used to living in Stark Tower, and hadn’t expected to go back to sleeping on bare ground for a long time. When Loki’s keep came into view, the blond stopped to breathe for a minute. The god was sitting on a rock a few meters up the hillside and catching his breath, hands on his knees.

“I thought--” Steve cleared his throat, trying to form the words again. “I thought you said we’d only been gone for a couple of days, not a month!”

It had been a very long month, too. Loki had insisted on showing the captain as much as he could before the blond left for home to speak to his team, and they’d faced several dangers that he could do without in the near future. They’d been chased into a river by something with wings and tusks, hunted by horses with fangs the size of Steve’s arm, and generally harassed by every living thing in the realm. Steve just wanted to go home and face down something easy--an angry grizzly bear, perhaps.

Loki grinned. “Don’t tell me you failed to have fun!” The smile on his face was the most genuine Steve had ever seen, relaxed and wide. “After all, sleeping in a tree for three days wasn’t entirely boring.”

“Oh no, not at all! Especially not when that thing figured out that it was able to climb! Thanks for deciding to use your magic then and not before, by the way.” He glared at the god, who chuckled.

The brunet stood with all the grace of a lumberjack, hissing as he stretched stiff muscles and joints. “It worked, yes? You can’t say I didn’t show you the time of your life after this adventure.” It was very true, and he knew it. “Come, the climb will take another hour or so, and it’s going to rain shortly. I’d rather have the distance between us and the keep covered by as few slippery rocks as possible.”

+

“Two and a half months is unacceptable! We need to bring our boy’s body home now!”

Clint ignored Fury, watching Natasha twirl one of her many blades in her hands before casually flicking it into the center of the target. She was good, he had to concede, but not as good as him. The archer shrugged at the woman and handed her another knife. “Look, sir, Tony and Bruce are doing the best they can, and Frigga can’t get a solid location on Loki. She said that his magic has appeared sporadically at best, and she just can’t track it!”

Fury slammed a fist on the table. “Find a damned pattern then, we don’t have time for this! I’ve got the damn government breathing down my neck on this, and I really don’t want to kill one of them!”

“Yeah, too messy.” Clint grinned at his partner from across the table.

“And the politicians just don’t smell that great!” The woman chimed in, straight-faced.

Fury was about to open his mouth to scold the two agents when Tony burst into the room, flinging a tablet down onto the tabletop. “What’s this?”

“We found a pattern, but it’s not much. The guy bounces around like a ping pong ball, so we only have an estimate within a couple hundred miles, but it’s better than the entire world, right? I think he realized someone was tracking him and tried to cover his tracks as best he could, but we’re better than that, aren’t we, Clint?” The man looked far too smug for his own good.

“Damn straight, Stark.”

Fury wasn’t paying attention to their banter. “Barton, get the delegates to form a search party. I want those couple hundred miles divided into grids and every nook and cranny searched. Find me Cap!”

“Yes sir.”

+

The rain started much sooner than Loki had estimated, making their progress up the steep mountain difficult and slow. Steve slipped on the shale again, landing hard on his knees and scraping the palm of his right hand. The captain muttered a few choice words beneath his breath before getting to his feet. The brunet god was leaning against the boulder a few feet upslope as he waited for the human.

“Why can’t you just teleport us to your keep?” Steve asked. He managed to scramble up to the boulder, breathing hard.

Loki considered the question, and Steve could tell he was deciding whether or not to tell the truth. “I can’t use my powers this close to the keep.” Truth. “The spells protecting it from detection prevent the use of my magic.” Lie.

The blond’s eyes narrowed. “Loki, I’d like to think that you and I have become friends these past couple of months. Is that what we are?”

Silence, then, “I am comfortable with that assumption.”

“Then why do you still lie to me? You’ve been lying to me for the past week. Tell me the truth: why are you refusing to do any spells?” He was tired of being lied to, especially if he was considered a friend.

Loki stood upright and began walking up the slope again, pausing so Steve could join him. It was a little easier to climb now. “We’re being tracked by those pathetic friends of yours. I would let them take you home, but I dare not risk transporting you between realms just yet.”

Steve sighed. “Look, Loki, I trust you. I shouldn’t, but I do. That means that if you say I shouldn’t be moved between worlds yet, then I’m going to defer to your opinion.”

“Thank you.”

But, I need you to be honest with me! I can’t keep trusting you if you hide things from me!” The captain placed a hand on Loki’s shoulder. “I know that you don’t believe in trusting other people, but you need to believe that others can trust you. I don’t need your trust in return, but you should at least have faith in my morals.”

The god frowned, looking a lot like a wet puppy. “Come, we need to get to the keep.”

Steve would have to accept that as a little victory as they stumbled in silence for another couple of hours up the slick boulders. They almost fell into the keep when they opened the doors, and Loki finally spoke again.

“I do have faith in you. I simply don’t have faith in your friends.” Loki bent down and unbuckled his boots, growling at them as they stuck to his soaking wet pants. Steve chuckled and went to the kitchen to grab a chair, bringing it back and placing it just behind the god. “What are you doing?”

“Helping. Sit.” Steve pushed the god back, allowing him to fall into the chair with all the grace of an elephant. He sat on the floor and pulled the boots off, tossing them over to the corner. “There. Give me your jacket.”

“You don’t have to help, I can undress myself.” Loki’s tone was dry.

“This is selfish of me. The sooner you get out of the wet boots and jacket, the sooner you can grab towels and start the fire.” Steve shrugged and pulled the jacket off of the god’s shoulders. “Alright, you’re free.”

Loki shook his head and walked into the main keep, kneeling by the fireplace and whispering hushed words to the logs. Once the fire ignited, he padded over to the closet and pulled out plush towels before heading back to the entrance. His jaw dropped when he got there.

Steve had stripped down to only his undergarments, muscles rippling as he wrung out the clothes. Loki could only see his back, but that was more than enough to have every ounce of his body singing with want. The god managed to clear his expression just as the captain turned around and accepted a towel.

“What a downpour! Did you start a fire?” The blond toweled off his hair and walked into the main room. The fire crackled invitingly as he sat down in front of it, draping the towel around his shoulders. He patted the floor next to him. “You really need to get into dry clothes, Loki.”

The god nodded and took off his shirt in one fluid motion, revealing lithe muscles, and went into his bedroom to change. He debated putting on another shirt, but decided that the loose pants were enough, especially with the blond pretending to be a damned fertility god. Loki looked in the mirror and examined his appearance, happy to see no anger in his emerald eyes. Anger was an emotion he didn’t want to face Steve with, not now, not ever. He nodded at his reflection and rejoined the blond at the fireplace.

“Loki, can I ask you a question?” Steve’s voice was quiet and soft, almost a caress.

“Anything.”

“Why do you always hide yourself?”

Loki shrugged. “I’m a sorcerer, a god of mischief and lies, and have power over fire despite the ice in my blood. I’m an outsider, Steven. I’ll never belong anywhere, and that’s never been a problem for me. I’ve made my own niche, and I will not fight it.”

“I didn’t mean hiding your being, I meant hiding your emotions.” A smile tugged at the corners of the blond’s lips.

“I don’t know what you mean.” The god flinched visibly, willing the frost out of his voice.

“I know.” Steve’s voice was full of laughter, and Loki was shocked to see the man kneeling just in front of him.

“Steve, what--mm!”

The blond leaned forward and captured the god’s lips in a gentle kiss. Loki’s nerves lit on fire at the touch, and then it all stopped. The captain was pulling away, and no! The god surged towards Steve, connecting their lips once more, this time in a more passionate embrace. He felt his eagle gasp into his mouth and took that opportunity to flick his tongue against the blond’s, moaning as the man returned the favor.

How long they were connected, neither knew. They broke apart, breathing heavily, and smiled at each other. Steve was the first to recover, hand massaging Loki’s neck. “Do that again.”

Loki’s smile turned feral, and he obliged without another word.

Chapter Text

Loki woke slowly as the sun’s gentle rays spread across his bare back. He mumbled into his pillow, more of a soft moan, and stretched like a cat before he moved off the bed and over to the large windows. The god smiled to himself at the beautiful view his small fortress provided, glad that Alfheim always held true to the promise of eternal splendor. He felt a small nudge at the back of his mind and instantly changed from calm to furious.

What are they doing here? Loki’s mind filled in the missing pieces and he snarled, engaging one of his many shielding spells around his home. The Avengers...pesky little humans—and Thor might as well be one of them—always in his way. Insects in dire need of a large boot. He tuned his senses elsewhere and noted that Steve was in the bathing chambers, splashing around merrily. The eagle hadn’t woken up much earlier than the brunet had, meaning there wouldn’t be any breakfast ready. It was just as well—Loki needed to stab something repeatedly, and steak wouldn’t protest. Besides, Steve might be pleased that he managed to learn to cook without using magic.

Twenty minutes later, the god was startled out of him personal monologue by the sound of something dropping to the ground. He whirled, on guard, and relaxed when he saw that Steve had only dropped a shoe and a comb. He then noticed that there was no smile on the man’s face, only shock and fear.

“Steven?” Loki kept his voice calm.

“Y-you’re—!” The blond gaped, inching forward with an outstretched arm. Loki looked down at himself.

“Damn.” He scowled at himself, his skin betraying his true heritage, then felt a gentle touch. Steve had barely placed his fingertips on Loki’s chest when the god slapped them away forcefully. “No!”

The god’s eyes were wide, praying to the Norns that he didn’t hurt the man. He wouldn’t be able to do that to him now. When the captain just looked at him with an odd expression, Loki raised an eyebrow. “Hold your hand up.” The words came out like a strict order, and Steve obeyed quickly. His fingers were slightly red from the slap, but the tips that had touched Loki’s skin were the same shade they’d been a few seconds before.

“What did I do?” The blond was still staring at the god’s unusual coloration, and Loki sighed.

“Normally, when someone touches me in this form, they get frostbite.”

Steve grinned and wiggled his fingers. “Not me. My fingers are fine, Loki.”

Loki gave him a droll look. “I can see that. The question is how were you uninjured?”

“No, the question is why are you blue?!”

The god sighed, exasperated. “I am a frost giant, Steven.”

“You’re not that tall. Unless Thor’s a giant, too, which would really explain a lot...”

“Thank you for that astute observation, and no, Thor is not a giant. I am a...a runt. My biological father, Laufey, gave me up because I was not the shape or size of a proper prince of Jotunheim.” He frowned, mentally shaking himself so he could forget his past.

“King.” Steve said simply.

Loki’s entire body stiffened. “Excuse me?”

“Thor told us that you killed Laufey. If Laufey was your father, and you were born to be a prince, that means you succeeded him when you killed him. Which means that you’re the king.” Steve seemed very proud of himself when the god stared in shock. When the silence extended further, the blond’s brow creased with worry. “Loki?” The god was shaking, and Steve gently held his shoulders. “Talk to me.”

“I never thought—I did not—I am the king?!” Loki fought to control his wild thoughts, chaos swirling around him like a maelstrom. He felt Steve’s grip tighten.

“Granted, patricide isn’t the best start to a new reign, but yes, you’re the king. Congratulations.”

The chaos subsided as Loki’s knees gave out, dragging both men to the ground. “All I have ever wanted was to be king. My entire life, I was brought up to believe that I would be second to Thor, as he was older than I. I was told, as a child, that both Thor and I were born to be kings, but I had always thought—Odin didn’t lie, then.” A broken laugh shook the god’s body, and Steve clung to him, a solid pillar supporting the shaking plane of Loki’s existence.

The god’s world swirled in a blaze of color before centering on one truth: he was a king. He had always wanted to hold a throne, any throne, if only to be equal to his so-called brother. He hadn’t killed Laufey to become king of Jotunheim, but now that he held a throne...well, things would change. They would have to. He’d destroyed entire cities on Jotunheim, damaged the planet itself almost beyond repair, and now he would have to fix it. At least the world still remained, despite his best efforts.

“Loki?” The worry in Steve’s voice brought him back to the present.

“I—” Two sharp thuds on the door of his stronghold shook the entire room. Loki’s eyes narrowed, and he stood in a fluid motion. His clothing appeared around him, the mask of royalty shifting into a truth he could wield as defense. How Thor managed to locate him, despite the spells around his home, he didn’t know. The god felt knives fill their hidden sheaths and turned towards the door. “It appears Thor and your...comrades...have located us.”

Steve stood as well. “We’ll have to make more food for our guests, I guess.” He grinned when the brunet shot him a glare. “I’m healed, mostly, and they deserve an explanation. I won’t let them try to hurt you.”

It made Loki’s heart thump hard in his chest when the blond said the word ‘try’. His eagle was a smart one for sure. “Very well, but remember this is my home. I operate under my rules here.”

“Then I’ll have to make them tread lightly.”

Seeing the determination in the blond’s eyes, Loki realized that there would be no getting around opening the door. The blond nodded, understanding the potential for violence, and Loki opened the door for his ‘brother’.

Chaos was nothing compared to the fury of Thor.

Chapter Text

Steve barely managed to get out of the way of Thor before the blond slammed Loki up against the wall. He closed the distance between them in a rush, using all of his strength to pull Thor off of the brunet. “Thor, no! Let him go!”

The other blond didn’t seem to hear him, snarling viciously enough to give Loki a run for his money. It would have been amusing if he didn’t seriously believe Thor was ready to kill the other god. “You! Do you know nothing of honor?! You injure a human and then abduct him so he could be tortured in your own home?! You dare?!” Loki’s feet scrabbled for purchase against the slick wall, obviously trying to relieve the pressure on his throat, but failed before Thor shook the other god again. Steve heard the sick crack of bone meeting stone.

“That’s enough!” The captain reached for his shield--how it had gotten there, he would never know--and threw it with ease. The vibranium made contact with Thor’s skull and dazed the god enough to release Loki, who slumped to the ground. Steve rushed over to the unconscious god and felt his head, frowning at the blood there. He turned to Thor. “You are the one without honor right now. Leave this house. Now.” Thor made to object, but Bruce reached the door right at that moment.

“Captain?” Bruce looked in at the scene and easily put two-and-two together, giving Thor a green-eyed glare before he fixed Steve with his usual calm look. “You’re okay?”

Steve sighed, picking Loki up as if he were a rag doll. “Yeah. Look, can you maybe go out there and keep the situation as calm as possible? I promise I’ll explain everything, but right now, I want to make sure Loki’s okay.” He didn’t wait for an answer, heading into the bedroom to care for his lover.

+

“So, you two did the deed?” Stark’s voice was amused as Steve closed the bedroom door. “Wouldn’t have thought it, but judging by the way you’re caring for him, I guess I was wrong.”

“Stark--” Steve began, only to be cut off by a wave of Tony’s hand.

“I don’t give a shit if you fucked him--”

Language, Tony!” The blond looked aggrieved.

“Sorry. I don’t care if you slept with him or whatever you two have done together. What I do care about is if we’ll have to still be enemies with him. If you’re sleeping with the enemy--”

“Which I’m not.” Steve walked into the sitting room, Tony following like an eager puppy.

“Whatever that means. Anyway, if you’re friends with the enemy, we’ve got a serious problem on our hands.” The brunet caught the apple the blond threw at him and sat down on the couch, Steve joining him. “So, tell me--and you’d damn well better be completely honest and impartial here--is Loki still our enemy?”

The captain sat down and thought hard about the past month or so and sighed. “He’s still very volatile, but no, he’s not. He does get angry if you push him too far or too hard--”

“Which you’d know because--?”

“--but as long as we treat him like the king he is--”

Tony scoffed before he took a bite of the apple, speaking around it. “He’s not a king, Steve! That’s just his delusion.”

“Actually, he is a king, seeing as his father was Laufey, the king of Jotunheim.” Steve thumped Tony on the back when he choked on the apple. Tony pushed his hand away and Steve continued. “We’ll clarify that later once he’s conscious. Like I was saying, as long as we treat him with the respect he’s due, he’d be an asset to us. I don’t think he wants to interfere with us--and that includes helping--but I think he’d make amends for his past crimes.”

The brunet relaxed against the cushions of the couch and sighed. “I’m glad you didn’t give me a snap answer. He will have to atone, though, in whatever way we choose.”

The blond nodded. “I agree.”

“Good. So, now that that’s taken care of, did you or did you not have sex with Loki? Hey!” Tony ducked the pillow that Steve threw and watched the man stand and leave. “I’m taking that as a confirmation!”

+

When Loki woke up, all he could feel was a sharp throbbing in the back of his head and the plush mattress beneath his body. At least he wasn’t dead, he supposed. He heard a rustle and twitched, hoping to all that was sacred that it wasn’t Thor. The musky scent that greeted him was distinctly Steve and Loki relaxed slightly. “Well, that went astoundingly well.”

“You’re not dead, so there’s that. How’s your head?” Steve appeared in his line of sight, a worried expression on his face.

“Same as it always is after Thor tries to punch me through a wall. Thankfully, it’s difficult to give one of us any brain damage.” Loki sat up and winced as the world spun. “Not for lack of trying on his part, mind you. What excitement did I miss out on?”

His eagle smiled and kissed him gently, hands skating along his sides. “We have Tony and Bruce on our side, at the very least. Clint was wisely told to stay back on Earth, and Natasha’s babysitting him, so we won’t know about them yet. Thor remains unconvinced. That’s about all you missed. Tony also knows about us, though it’s not like I’m hiding it.” The blond kissed Loki again, making the god smile.

“Grand, that ought to make the conversation even more interesting. What have you told them about your situation?” He moved to the side of the bed, noting that the world had stopped spinning.

“Frigga examined me and agreed with your diagnosis. No returning to Earth just yet. Tony’s insisting on staying here to keep an eye on us, and I’m pretty sure Bruce will join him. Inseparable, those two. You have any more bedrooms that you’re hiding in this fortress of yours?” Steve’s expression told Loki that more than two additional ones were necessary.

“I can add them. How about you and I go out there and attempt to explain what happened in a more peaceful manner?” Loki really hoped it would be peaceful. He was getting tired of being beaten by the Avengers.

Chapter Text

It took Loki a few minutes to stagger to the couch in the other room, even with Steve’s steadying hands. He swore to freeze Thor the next time he saw him. The god sat on the couch, putting as much distance between himself and the man on the other end. Arrogance rolled off the man in waves, making Loki sneer and direct his attention to the other stranger in the room. He was stockier than the arrogant one, but the anger coming from him made Loki suppress a shudder. Dangerous, that one. He made a note not to anger him further.

“You’ve come here to collect your fellow warrior, yes?” Loki addressed the angry one.

The voice that came out was calmer than the god had expected. “We did, but Frigga told us that it wouldn’t be possible. She skipped some details, so how about you explain it to us?”

Steve spoke before Loki could. “He killed me.” The god flinched and ducked his head, ashamed of his past actions. The anger from the one man turned into rage, and the man took deep breaths to calm himself. Steve shook his head at the man. “Bruce, wait, it’s not like that.”

“Sorry, Cap.” The angry one—Bruce, Loki corrected—stood and made to leave. “I, uh, better remove myself from the situation.”

“No.” Loki spoke easily. “Sit, please. I swear that all will be explained in a more…restrained…manner.”

Bruce sat back down, eying the god warily. Steve gave him a nod, and the arrogant man—Loki assumed this one was the Tony Steve spoke about—seemed amused. “Yeah, Bruce, Cap’s obviously still kickin’, relax!”

“Stark!” Steve’s voice was stern and the other man chuckled and settled down. “Loki, please.”

The god cleared his throat and picked up where the blond left off. “I did kill him, yes, but not before he made amends for the insults he delivered. It’s difficult to explain now, but I realized that he was being genuine, and healed him.” Loki frowned. He really couldn’t remember why he would have made such a decision. He filed it away as being part of his chaotic nature and continued. “Unfortunately, I did a fairly thorough job of taking the dear Captain’s life, and wasn’t able to heal him enough to allow him to be delivered back to Midgard.”

Tony glared at him. “So, what, you didn’t ask for help? Sounds like a real upstanding gesture there, buddy, but not good enough. You kept him trapped here, indulged yourself in whatever sick fantasies you had, and then brainwashed him!”

“Stark, enough!” Steve snarled at the other man. Loki watched Steve’s hands clench and unclench. “Look, he didn’t start anything, okay? He didn’t even keep me trapped here! We traveled as much as we could with my injuries, and he never, never tried to do anything to me!”

The god placed a hand on the blond’s forearm. “Steven, it’s okay.”

“It’s not, Loki! They think you—I—you’d never—“ The Captain’s words failed him and he tried to stand, only to have the god restrain him with his powers.

“At one time, I would have.” His voice was quiet, and the men around him gaped at him. “Perhaps when I was younger and more foolish, but yes, I would have. Their estimation of my character isn’t far off.” He raised his head and looked at the others. “During our travels, I grew to care for your friend. He proved himself trustworthy and compassionate. I introduced him to my kin and he didn’t flinch. He honored them like no others ever have. For that alone, I would have considered him a friend.”

Loki sighed. “But after we parted from them, he continued to express his compassion, not just for the wonders around him, but for me as well. Steven was genuine and kind, and took a kind of joy from this world that I hadn’t seen since my youth. He showed, and continues to show, the type of character that I would have taken pleasure in being around before I became the schemer you think me to be.” He ducked his head again, wringing his hands together nervously. “He is, and always will be, welcome in my home. In my heart.”

Someone gave an astonished chuckled and Loki’s head whipped up to see all of the men grinning at him. Bruce looked at Steve. “You were right.”

Steve grin turned into a soft smile as he took one of the god’s hands. “I know, but I wanted to show you guys what I meant.” He brought the hand up to his lips and gave it a gentle kiss. “They believed me when I told them the story, love, but they wanted to see how you would tell them what happened here.”

Loki realized what had happened and went boneless, sagging against the back of the couch. “I thought you two were angry. It was all I could sense…that, and arrogance.”

Tony gave him a self-deprecating shrug. “I’m always arrogant, comes with being a Stark.” Steve snorted, rolling his eyes. “What, it’s true!”

“And you?” Loki asked Bruce. “You started angry and then you were furious!

“I’m always angry. It’s easier that way, trust me.” Bruce stood and looked out of the massive window in the room. “This place is beautiful. Steve, you’ve got to tell us about it!”

Steve smiled at his friends before looking over to Loki. The love that Loki saw in his eagle’s eyes was unlike anything he’d ever seen before, except from…he wouldn’t think about the past lifetimes. Not now. “You can tell them. I’d try to explain too much.” Loki moved to the other side of his lover, allowing Steve to take the end seat on the couch, and leaned against him as he tucked his legs under him.

Steve wrapped his arm around the god and stroked his arm as he began to tell the tale. “First, did you know most of the things on this planet will kill you?”

+

The blond had finished his story a few hours ago, laughing with his friends, only to notice that Loki had fallen asleep on him sometime during the story about the gigantic birds at the hot springs. Tony and Bruce had gone to go speak to the Avengers that had come with them, and returned a few minutes later with their messages delivered. Steve was still smiling down at the sleeping god and stroking his arm with his thumb.

“Steve, the delegation is taking us to Asgard for the night.” Bruce whispered from the doorway. “Frigga wants to know if you need anything.”

The blond shook his head. “We’ve got plenty of supplies here, unless they want to give us more food. Loki and I haven’t gone through what’s still good yet.”

The scientist nodded. “I’ll bring some back. Thor’s gone back to Earth so we can give the others and update. Oh, and where are we going to stay?”

“With us. Once Loki’s up, I’ll see if he can make good on adding some rooms to this place for you guys. Go have fun, we can take care of things here for now.”

Bruce smiled. “You look happy, Steve.”

Steve nodded, kissing the top of Loki’s head. “I am. I just…everyone’s okay with it?”

“Thor and I have seen worse, Tony’s done worse, and the others will have to deal with it. If you’re happy, we’re happy, Cap. Besides, when they heard about Tony and I, they almost banned Tony from any tinkering around me. That was bad. This is just…par for the couse.”

Steve looked at Bruce. “You and Tony?”

Bruce blushed a deep shade of pink. “It’s not as bad as it sounds. He’s brash, and disorganized, and talks too much, but he knows how to deal with the Other Guy. The Other Guy likes him, which helps.”

“Good for you, Bruce. I’m glad you’ve got someone.” Steve chuckled. “So, one room for the two of you, or should we add two and keep one for Tony time-outs?”

“Two, definitely two.” The brunet grinned. “I’ll see you later, Steve.”

The Captain shook his head and had to refrain from laughing, lest he wake up Loki. “What a pair, those two.”

Loki nuzzled against Steve’s chest, grin on his lips. Steve resumed stroking the god’s arm and rested his head against the couch, settling down further. He was asleep before he heard Loki’s soft chuckle.

Chapter Text

Loki slowly moved off of his sleeping lover, careful not to disturb the man. He winced at the crick in his neck and looked at the wall across from the couch. That portion of his home went straight into the mountainside, which made it the ideal place to expand. He arched an eyebrow as he walked the width of the wall and shrugged. He’d have to offset slightly, but everything would fit. Their rooms wouldn’t be as large as his own, but it didn’t matter too much. His room was massive anyway.

The god took a deep, grounding breath and brought the magic out of the stone beneath his feet and into his own body. It felt like he was being filled with liquid heat until he cut the source off and directed it through his arms. Loki pressed both hands to the wall and pushed mentally, feeling the odd burning sensation pulsing through his body and out through his palms. It ached in the best of ways, and he grinned as the magic drained until it would do his bidding. The wall beneath his palms trembled. Loki stepped back from the wall and went to the kitchen to get food to replenish the energy he’d used.

When he rounded the corner to get to the kitchen, he paused. There, in the corner, was Steve’s shield. Loki cocked his head, curious. He’d specifically left it behind when he’d brought Steve to Alfheim, and he hadn’t seen anyone bring it in with them. The god reached out to touch the disc, only to snatch his hand back when the shield shocked him. Loki frowned as he looked back to his sleeping lover. If it had been left behind and no one had brought it, that would mean that Steve would have had to teleport it across realms.

The process was simple for one trained in the magical arts, but for a human to accomplish the feat was unheard of. It couldn’t be the serum, and if the man had some sort of inherent magic within in, Loki would have sensed it, regardless of how suppressed it might have been. He reached for the shield again, this time able to grasp it. As soon as he lifted it and probed it for any magical residue, he gasped and dropped it to the ground with a loud clang.

“Loki?” Steve had startled from his nap. “What happened?”

The god was in shock, unable to form words as he stared at the shield. It resonated with his mind in the same way that all of his enchanted objects did. He’d never enchanted the shield, though, and had no idea why it would have reacted that way.

“Loki?” The blond was now beside him, a worried expression on his face. He followed Loki’s gaze down. “Hey! Where’d you get this?”

“I do not know.” Loki looked over to Steve. “It wasn’t brought by one of your friends, and I’d left it behind on Midgard, so I don’t know how it got here.”

“How do you know one of the delegates didn’t bring it?” Steve picked up his shield and checked it for damaged. Loki noted that the shield didn’t lash out at the man.

“When one teleports, a magical residue is created on those that teleport and any objects nearby. The Bifrost leaves no residue, since it’s not technically teleportation. This residue is the same type I leave behind, but something is different. It’s me, but not me.” Loki glared at the object, willing it to give up its secrets. “I don’t under—“ The realization hit him hard. “You brought it!”

“Excuse me?” Steve gave him a peculiar look. “I’ve got news for you, love. I can’t teleport.”

The god shook his head, looking back at the blond. “When I told you I brought you back to life, I meant it. You were dead. Not in the temporary sense that humans can be brought back from with proper care, but dead. In order to be restored to life after dying from wounds such as yours, one has to be injected with the life force of another. In your case, it only took a drop of my own.”

Steve’s eyebrows shot up. “You mean I’ve got some of your magic because of that?”

“Yes. In most cases, the transfer of powers is extremely temporary, lasting a day or two at most. It’s been over two months since I brought you back.” Loki paused. “Of course, in most cases, someone else is healing while the life force is being donated…perhaps because I was doing both, more magic was given to you.”

“Are you saying this is going to last longer? How much longer?” The blond looked concerned.

“I’m not certain. Perhaps it will be gone tonight, perhaps it will never fade.”

“You don’t know?!” Steve ran his hand through his hair, taking deep breaths. “Okay, okay. Magic, right. I can…well, I figured out the serum, I can figure out this.”

“I never meant to do this to you, Steve. If I’d known sooner, I would have told you.” Loki met the blond’s eyes. “I swear to you.”

“I know, I know. I just panicked for a sec. I-if it is permanent, can you teach me how to use it? You’d better, seeing as you did this to me.”

The god chuckled. “My dear eagle, it would be my absolute pleasure to teach you how to use magic.”

+

By the time Tony and Bruce made it back to the stronghold, Loki had examined Steve’s entire being in order to determine how deeply ingrained the magic was. The two humans entered the living room while the two lovers were discussing the results and immediately sat down to hear the conversation.

“My magic is mostly based in manipulations of the mind and the physical world as well as fire. You saw the latter when we were with Pack.” Loki showed the manipulative power to everyone, creating a snake that slithered by their feet. “Unfortunately, every type of magic is different, even between identical twins. That means that we don’t know what form yours is going to take. Hello, gentlemen.”

Tony leaned forward in his chair. “What are you talking about? Sounds like you think Steve’s magic.”

Steve nodded. “Loki might have screwed up while bringing me back to life and inserted a healthy chunk of magic into my entire being. He figured out that since I was dead when he put it in—“ Steve ignored the immature snicker. “—the magic bonded to me in the minutes it took to revive me. So, yeah, I’m magic…ish.”

“A very large ‘ish’.” Loki said, his hands hovering about Steve’s arm as he examined the man’s body. “With any normal magic, it’s a constant flow. It’s always there when you need it. With Steve’s though, it appears to be only linked to strong emotions—only available during those times when he’s in distress.” He shared a look with the blond, who blushed.

Tony pounced on the evidence. “Sounds like you figured that out by accident. Do tell us how, Cap.”

Steve blushed deeper. “We were, uh, in bed. Loki got hit in the back by the shield when things got…intense.”

Tony burst out laughing and Bruce tried to suppress a chuckle. Both Steve and Loki grinned at their own experience. “How badly did that kill the mood?”

“Let’s just say that control will be the priority for the time being. Admittedly, it didn’t hit very hard. It landed on me more than hit me, I suppose.” The god was beginning to laugh. “I am sorry, Steve, I don’t mean to laugh at your troubles.”

Bruce shrugged from his seat. “If it helps any, Steve, I’m pretty good at controlling emotions. Do any of you meditate?”

“A sorceror’s best ally is meditation, Doctor.” Loki stated calmly.

“Steve doesn’t meditate with you?” Bruce seemed surprised.

“He cooks while I meditate.”

“You should do so together. It might help Steve, and maybe it’ll help any…other issues?” Bruce looked away as Tony stood.

“Alright, where’s the alcohol? This is starting to sound like couple’s therapy, and I really need to be drunk before that happens.”