Steve backed slowly out of the enclosure, keeping his eyes on the white horse pawing the ground in front of him. Now that it was calm, it was hard to believe that this was the same creature that had nearly killed Tony just a few minutes ago. It was hard to believe that this creature existed at all.
He slipped out of the gate and shut it behind him, snapping the latch firmly into place. The sound of the clanking metal caused the animal to shake its head and look at Steve, its horn catching the sunlight. Steve stared in disbelief at the rainbow colored light reflecting off the same horn that had torn through Tony’s armor like it was paper.
Steve took a deep breath and turned around to look at his companions. “Are,” Steve swallowed hard and forced himself to say the word, “unicorns common in Asgard?”
Thor frowned at Steve before turning his gaze toward the creature in the pen. “No. I am certain this one was loosed here to hinder us. Although, not many people can—“
“How in the hell did you do that?” Tony interrupted. He raised an eyebrow at Steve. “That thing was going to kill me until you stopped it. Thanks for that by the way, impaled by a unicorn is not the way I want to go out, but why didn’t it try to run you through too?”
Steve shrugged and looked at Thor who was still staring at the unicorn, his brow furrowed.
“The legends say that virgins are the only ones who can approach unicorns.” Tony laughed dismissively. “Which is crazy or else you wouldn’t—“ He stopped and stared at Steve. “Steve, is there something you aren’t telling us?”
“What?” Steve asked. He blinked at Tony in confusion for a moment before Tony’s meaning sunk in. He felt a slow flush spread across the back of his neck and opened his mouth to answer, but before he could figure out what to say, Thor spoke.
“Legends are often very inaccurate, Tony. The stories humans tell about me bear little resemblance to reality, and trust me; my brother has never lain with a horse.”
Tony chuckled. “How certain are you? Because I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but your brother has a few issues.”
“Tony,” Steve said, warningly. The last thing they needed right now was for Thor to get pissed at Tony—again.
Thor scowled. “Loki is many things, but he does not lay with beasts.”
“If you say so,” Tony said. “But if the legends are wrong, what’s the real story? Why is the Captain here a unicorn whisperer?”
“Being of pure virtue and good morals has nothing to do with virginity,” Thor answered. “Captain Rogers exemplifies those qualities and the unicorn responded to his innate goodness.”
“Innate goodness?” Tony repeated, disbelief coloring his words. “Have I mentioned that I hate magic? How in the world do you quantify a person’s innate goodness?” Tony sighed. “I guess that does explain why it tried to maul me though.”
“It probably didn’t help that you startled it. Was it really necessary to get that close to it?” Steve asked, relieved that Tony seemed ready to let the subject of his virtue drop.
“I was curious,” Tony replied. “It’s not every day that you wander into a meadow and find a creature straight out of myth.”
“Tony,” Steve nodded at Thor. “That does happen every day.”
“Not in a meadow,” Tony pointed out. “Thor is very rarely in a meadow.”
Steve rolled his eyes. “We shouldn’t stand around here talking about unicorns all day. Tony, why don’t you scout ahead to see if there are any other surprises waiting?”
Thankfully Tony did as he was asked and activated his repulsors, shooting into the air. Steve watched him grow smaller until he was no more than a speck of red shining on the horizon, before turning to Thor. “Innate goodness? Really?”
“Nay,” Thor replied. “Unicorns care nothing about true virtue and only about literal virginity. Only those people who have not been touched sexually by another can approach them. I assumed that you wouldn’t want Tony to know that.”
Steve felt his cheeks heat as he nodded. “You assumed right. He’d never let me live it down if he knew.”
“Probably not,” Thor agreed. He clasped his hand on Steve’s shoulder squeezing tightly once before letting go. “It was lucky for us that you were able to calm the beast, however, should you wish to lay with a woman I doubt that you would have any difficulty finding someone. I would gladly throw a banquet when we get back to the palace and tell tales of your heroism and bravery.”
Steve squeezed the bridge of his nose. He was pretty sure that Thor had just offered to be his wing man in the most over the top way possible. Thor offering to host a banquet with the express purpose of getting Steve laid was one of the most mortifying ideas that Steve could think of. “Thank you, that’s nice of you, but I’m fine. I’m waiting for the right person to come along.”
“The offer stands if you change your mind,” Thor said. He started off in the direction Tony had flown. After a moment he glanced over at Steve. “Was there someone before?”
Steve ran his fingers over the outside of the pouch on his belt where he kept the broken compass with Peggy’s picture. They had found it with him in the ice and he’d kept it with him ever since. The picture was faded and water damaged, but he didn’t care because he could still see her. “Yes, but the war got in the way and then I crashed into the ice. We were supposed to go on a date after that flight.”
“I’m sorry,” Thor said genuinely. “What happened to her?”
“She passed away while I was asleep,” Steve replied, keeping his eyes fixed ahead. “She never married. Her niece said that she spoke of me often.”
Thor looked at him, his eyes full of melancholy understanding. “The curse of a long life is watching those you care about pass on. I spent some time on Midgard in my youth, thousands of your years ago. We of Asgard are no strangers to death, but to see that death come not in battle, but at the hands of starvation, illness, and old age is very different. I eventually returned home to those that would not be so stricken.”
“And yet you’re getting involved with humans again now,” Steve said.
Thor nodded. “Some things are worth the pain.”
Steve tapped his pouch. “They are and I’m sure that eventually I’ll be ready to move on, too. Just not today.”
“Until you have moved on, I’ll refrain from telling the tale of Captain Rogers and the fearsome unicorn,” Thor said.
“I’d appreciate it if you never told that story,” Steve said, a smile pulling at the corners of his lips. “Very few people on Earth would consider a unicorn fearsome.”
Thor shook his head. “Midgard is a strange place. I just have one question.”
“How are you going to keep Tony from telling everyone about the encounter as soon as we’re done with this mission?”
Steve groaned. “I don’t even want to think about it.”
“Perhaps you could encourage him to talk about himself,” Thor suggested. “It seems to be one of his favorite topics.”
“That might just work.” Steve said with a laugh. “It’s worth a try anyway.”