Steve was already awake, but pretended to be sleeping when he heard Thor get off the bed and start gathering his clothes up.
He finally gave up the pretense when Thor drops his boots, which make enough noise to wake the dead.
"Dammit, Thor. If you're going to sneak out, you will need more practice at moving quietly." Steve said as he sat up and looked at Thor, who was sheepishly standing with his boots gathered up to his chest and his face a scarlet red at being caught.
"I did not want to wake you. You need the sleep."
Steve snorted as he sat up and pulled his boxers on while still under the sheets. It wasn't false modesty that made him do this. But rather that he didn't want to have this conversation while he was naked and Thor wasn't.
"It's fine. I can always catch up. I would have appreciated a good bye though." He keeps his voice light, but Thor picks up on the hurt underneath.
"I am sorry. But I did not know if you wanted that. Considering that we are shield brothers and we have spent the night-"
Steve blushes at Thor's words and puts up his hand to stop the flow of words. Although he knows intellectually that it isn't wrong to bed or be bedded by another man...he still needs to come to terms with the new feelings of freedom.
He enjoyed having sex with Thor, but he still wasn't ready to face the realities. Despite his determination to do so.
"Maybe you are right in trying to leave. It's just a weird situation all around and we can't complicate it. Although I do still appreciate a good bye."
Thor shrugged as he put his boots down on the ground and shoved his feet into them. His face was hidden by his hair and it was hard to tell what his expression was in regards to what Steve had just said.
When he did straighten up, his expression was the same sunny one he often wore and Steve thought that they had avoided that attachment awkwardness. His convictions were cemented by his next words.
"I suppose you are right in that. We are team mates and shield brothers. Anything else would complicate and possibly hurt our friendship." Thor replied as he put his hand on the doorknob.
Steve nodded. "True. It's all done now though."
Thor nods and opens the door.
Steve lets out a sigh once it closes, unsure of how he and Thor let feelings get in to what was supposed to be just one night of desperately needed comfort and nothing more.
"Or maybe they were already there and this was an excuse to get something, anything from him."
Steve thought ruefully to himself as he realized he was still staring at the door that Thor had exited through.
He shook his head and went to the bathroom, thinking that maybe a shower would help clear his head. He didn't think that he had fallen for Thor so fast.
He did admire Thor and had, in his own way, developed a soft spot for the man. Despite his secretive nature, he couldn't help but to like Thor's affable disposition.
He also tended to remind Steve of...
He shut that thought off with a mental click and pulled his boxers off and stepped into the shower. He wasn't going to even entertain that thought. It would be unfair to either one of them for him to do that.
Not to mention very cheap, since it would demean Thor to be simply a body to be used because he reminded Steve of the one he couldn't have.
And despite everything he was, he would never be that much of a cad to demean his team mates and someone he had been intimate with.
With that thought firmly entrenched in his mind, he started his day.
Loki put his hand on the letter he had been reading through and smiled to himself when he saw Thor quietly making his way through the halls, careful to keep to the shadows and using all the shortcuts he knew of. Once of which he had forgotten went directly past Loki's study.
"Really, brother?" Loki muttered, shaking his head in fond amusement and going back to the letter.
Loki was all too aware of when his brother came back to Asgard from his travels. Despite his horribly attempts at subterfuge, Thor was simply not made to sneak around. He was too open and too honest and had no idea how to exactly produce a well crafted excuse or lie.
He had known of Thor's excursions, but hadn't directly approached him, thinking that Thor was allowed some secrets. Especially when it came to his Midgardian toys.
Loki didn't understand why Thor was so taken with Midgard. He himself had gone and lived there from time to time. But it was simply a diversion and amusement at best. For Thor, it was much more than that and he actually tended to enjoy being there more than being in Asgard.
It drove their father to distraction, this pull that Midgard had on Thor. But he didn't do anything to curtail it. Maybe it was their mother's influence on him. Or maybe he saw it as a harmless pastime that would hopefully pass soon.
Loki had stopped trying to figure it out. He figured that there must have been an infatuation of some sort to keep Thor coming back to Midgard. That was the only adequate explanation he could come up with.
He didn't think he needed to interfere and only gave his brother adequate time to get himself presentable before he visited him and started their old game of Loki trying to pry the secret of Thor's visits and Thor thinking that he had dissuaded his older brother.
It wasn't much, but now that Loki was being groomed to take over the throne, it was something that they still had between them.
There was no way that he could do the same with anyone else.
His duties though, prevented that from happening. There was a diplomatic mission he needed to undertake in Musselpheim. Thor was not the son to undertake that mission and the Allfather himself was deep in negotiations with Jotunheim. So Loki was to go and their mother was to be the regent during their time away.
This didn't bode well to Loki, but he was wise enough to keep his mouth shut on his opinions and like a dutiful son, he departed on his mission.
When he returned, he was greeted with the strained smiles of his mother and the grimness of his father. Thor himself was nowhere to be found.
"Where is Thor?"
The Allfather and his mother exchanged a glance before answering.
"In his room. Under guard."
Loki blinked at that piece of information.
"What has he done to merit such a punishment?"
His mother shook her head and clasped his arm.
"It isn't a punishment, my son. Your brother-"
"He had been dishonored. Yet he refuses to say who has done this to him. He is being kept under guard for his own safety."
"Let me see him."
He knew it was serious when he entered Thor's room and found him in bed, curled up under the blankets and his blonde hair the only visible part of him.
"Thor? Brother?" He asked quietly as he moved slowly up to the bed and sat down on the edge of it.
"Go away, Loki." Thor replied, his voice muffled by the covers.
"Not until you quit acting like a child. Mother and father are worried about you."
At the mention of their parents, Thor's head predictably popped out of the covers, along with the rest of him. Which had changed considerably since the last time Loki had laid eyes on his little brother.
Instead of his usual golden radiance, his face was dull and splotchy and pale. His hair was a tangled, greasy mess and he had dark circles under his eyes so dark that they looked like he was bruised and his cheeks hollow.
But that was not all that made Loki worry.
"I guess I was wrong in calling you a child, I now see." Loki commented softly as he took in the bump that wasn't hidden by Thor's loosest nightshirt.
Thor turned even more pale and gently put a hand on his belly, his lip trapped between his teeth as he did so.
"Is that why you kept going to Midgard?" Loki asked, moving closer to his brother and wrapping his arm around his shoulders.
He wanted to desperately shout at Thor for being so careless and so stupid. He had explained things. Father and mother, he was sure, had explained it all to him. And he had still ended up with child. A half Midgardian child.
But as much as he wanted to yell at his little brother, he couldn't bring himself to do it. Not when Thor looked so abjectly guilty and miserable with the knowledge already. He was irritated and annoyed at his brother, but he knew that right now, this wasn't the time.
Besides, he was sure that Thor had gotten all of that and more from their father. He certainly didn't need it coming from him also.
Thor sniffed and nodded.
"Does he know that you are carrying his child?" Loki asked, gently stroking Thor's hair.
"No. I've not been allowed to go to Midgard and it was just meant to be a one time thing."
Thor continued miserably and Loki's hand stilled on his brother's hair.
"So he doesn't know and even if he did know, he wouldn't acknowledge his child?" Loki asked slowly, his voice dripping with anger and menace at every carefully enunciated word.
Thor pulled away from his older brother and blinked as he understood the reason for Loki's anger, which was showing itself in green sparks dancing from his fingertips.
"It was...foolish and born out of the need for comfort. It's not his fault. I am the one that should bear the consequences."
Loki laughed hollowly at that. "You have just started training! You are barely out of mother's apron strings, Thor! How do you expect to raise a child at your age? Besides, how old is he?"
Thor turned red and looked down at his lap before mumbling an answer that Loki had to strain to hear.
"And how old would that make him in Asgardian years?"
Thor hunched his head between his shoulders and answered.
"MY AGE?" Loki shouted, making Thor wince.
"I was willing to let this one go, Thor. To convince mother and father to let you have your freedom back. But not anymore. This is underhanded and I will NOT let anyone do this to my little brother and get away with it."
Thor looked up at Loki when he said this and gasped.
"Get out of bed and get presentable. We are going to pay this dishonorable cur a visit and make him step up to his responsibilities."
"You know, we really could have used Thor about now." Tony commented once the dust had settled and they had made their way back to the tower.
"Agreed. He's never been gone this long." Bruce commented, pushing his glasses up his nose as he spoke.
Steve shifted uncomfortably in his seat, but said nothing. As far as he knew, his team mates didn't know about that interlude he and Thor had had when they had fought that last remnant of the Chitauri that had arrived determined to finish what they had started a year ago. It had been a mistake borne out of relief at being alive and adrenaline, since it had been a hard fought battle. It hadn't been repeated, even when he had seen Thor a month later.
But now, with Thor's long absence, he had to wonder if it had been the reason for Thor's departure and prolonged disappearance.
"Maybe that last battle was harder on him than anticipated." Clint mused thoughtfully. "Yes, he is tough. But even he must have limits."
"Steve? Any ideas?" Tony asked as he swallowed down a cup of coffee.
"Why would I know anything-"
"Because you have perhaps dishonored my little brother, I would guess?"
At the sound of the new voice, everyone's heads (and Natasha's gun) turned to the speaker.
"Thor? Who is this?"
Thor looked at Tony and then at his travelling companion, who had been the one that had spoken. And who was wielding a wicked looking staff and glaring daggers at Steve.
"My older brother, Loki."
Thor replied faintly.
"Ah. So to what do we owe this honour, Thor's older brother?"
Loki scowled and pointed his staff at Steve.
"This person has dishonored my brother. Has got him with child even though he is underage and much too young to even be thinking of childbearing. I demand a werguild on his behalf."
There was silence in the kitchen for several minutes before Bruce cleared his throat and got up from his seat.
"I think it's better if we call Director Fury in for this discussion."
Tony nodded. "Yeah, it's sure going to be worth it to see the expression on his face when he hears Steve knocked up an underage Asgardian."
Thor only groaned and Loki turned to look at his little brother.
"I sincerely hope your child gets some wits from me, because it doesn't look like he will get anything here."
"You know, I expected this out of Tony Stark-"
"Hey! I'd have wrapped that up!"
"-But the damage is done. What is the werguild that your people demand of us?"
Loki shot Steve a murderous look before he spoke.
"Responsibility for the child and for my brother. Or else the child will be taken from him as per our laws and my brother and the father will lose all claim to him."
"And if we refuse the werguild?"
"Then we will be at war and the child will be cut out of my brother and killed."
"Are you people seriously out of-"
All hell broke loose at the declaration, voices shouting over each other as the news sunk in until Steve finally found his voice. It wasn't what he had expected or wanted from the encounter, but one thing was for certain. He wasn't going to let Thor or his child suffer for his carelessness.
"I'll do it."
Everyone abruptly fell silent at the sound of Steve's voice and looked at him, waiting for him to confirm what he had just said.
"I'll pay your werguil and take responsibility for Thor and my child."
Loki nodded and put his hand on Thor's shoulder.
"Good. Where can be find someone to officiate their bonding?"