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Delirious

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It was a simple word that made Steve happier than he had ever been in his life. A word that he had heard about a million times before, but only now it sounded so sweet and filled him with so much joy. His own name.

“Steve…”

Bucky was looking him. Just looking. The cold stare was gone, now there was recognition in his eyes and the proof was a single word passing through his lips. “Steve.”

It had taken months to find him and everybody had said that it was impossible and even if Steve was to ever see him again, Bucky would never remember him, he would never be the same. Yet here he was and Bucky was saying his name.

Of course everybody was sceptical, but Steve would have none of it. Normally he wasn’t the kind of person who would use his own status to his advantage, but this time Steve didn’t hesitate. If Thor could bring his crazy brother in as an advisor who was now about to become a fulltime Avenger Steve could do the same for his best friend. Bucky would need him to fight his demons, to cope with what Hydra had done to him, a second time. Nobody could do that on their own.

And Steve also needed Bucky.

Natasha understood that, had his back and so the others just went with it. After all they were slowly turning into a little club for the rehabilitation of villains. Although Steve would never think of Bucky as a villain. He was still his best friend who was lost, shy, kept his head down and needed someone to hold on to. Everybody, including Steve, treated him like a raw egg from the second Bucky moved into the Avengers tower. Steve had insisted on that, but in hindsight it was such a bad idea.

Despite living with them for over a year and regularly playing video game tournaments with Clint Loki still wasn’t considered a real Avengers and he had stayed at the tower, while the others were out, searching for the Winter Soldier. Not that Loki had cared and Steve had been so happy to have Bucky back that he somehow had forgotten about the Nordic god hanging out at the tower.

So Steve stopped dead in his tracks when he was about to show Bucky their common room to hang out. Loki was lying on the couch, nose buried in a book before looking up with his usual disinterested look on his face. Maybe mixed with a bit of disappointment. “You are already back? Too bad. It was heavenly quiet. Did you at least fail miserably, so I can laugh at you?”

Perhaps it was Loki’s dark glare or the tone of his voice, but Bucky who had never been afraid of anything seemed to become a little smaller. Steve instantly wanted to reach out and help him… somehow or to tell Loki to shut his stupid mouth. Thor didn’t notice any of this, just strolled into the room, being as happy as ever. “My brother, we come back to tell the tales of our victory and to present you a new friend to welcome in our home.”

Now Loki showed indeed some mild interest, sitting up straight. Steve definitely didn’t like the way he looked at Bucky. So openly, up and down. Even less he liked the fact that Bucky seemed to be intimated by that.

“Ah, so you are the famous Winter Soldier. We should start a club. People who failed at killing the dear Captain and then ended up working for his little team. Aren’t we some outstanding little fellows?” Loki was already turning back to his book and Steve had to hold back to not snap at him.

Thankfully Thor was there. “This is not a matter to make jokes about, Loki.”

“I wasn’t joking, Thor.”

Taking a deep breath Steve quickly wanted to get out of here, but now that they had already seen each other, he pretty much had to introduce them. “Bucky, this is Loki. Thor’s brother. Don’t listen to him, he just has a twisted sense of humour.”

“Only one of the many reason we adore him so much.”

Great, just what Steve needed to work Bucky up even more. Tony Stark’s daily attempt to get into Loki’s pants. Being brainwashed, tortured and thrown into a time that wasn’t your own probably obviously wasn’t enough. There were so many things Bucky had no seen yet, that would seem awkward and strange to him. Steve wanted to help him through this, slowly and with care. Now there was a bisexual man strolling in here, trying to openly charm a Nordic god who was completely unaffected by all of that. That wasn’t slow.

Tony slumped down on the couch next to Loki who instantly let out a long, deep sigh. “I desperately miss the times when I was alone. It was so peaceful and silent.”

“Oh come on, reindeer games, don’t pretend that you didn’t miss me day and night. I bet you almost cried into your pillow, because you were so worried about me.” With a big smirk on his lips Tony did the next thing that would freak Bucky out. “Jarvis, how many times did Loki ask about me while we were gone?”

Steve didn’t miss how Bucky’s eyes darted around as soon as Jarvis answered and reassuringly squeezed his arm. “Not once, sir.”

Loki’s smug grin was only outdone by Tony’s. “Oh, darling, you got too chocked up about my absence, you couldn’t even talk.”

“Actually, sir, Loki and Agent Barton had a phone conversation everyday during your mission.”

“Come on, Loki, you don’t have to try to get to me via Clint. You know, I just end your suffering and take you out for dinner tonight, then you’ll have me all to yourself.” Tony wiggled his eyebrows and Steve felt the urge to throw something at him. How could a man be so stubborn?

“Since I love repeating myself so much I’ll do it one more time for you. There is no way I would ever go out with any mortal. Least of all you. I would rather volunteer to have Agent Romanov using me as a target to practice her knife throwing skills.”

When Tony opened his mouth to reply Steve quickly pushed Bucky out of the room. “Come, I still need to show you the kitchen.”

Bucky followed him, looking slightly disturbed. Damn, Steve would have Tony and Loki’s heads for this. “Is this… normal?”

“Well, uhm… yeah. Not really, no. Tony is… quite a character and Loki is not from this planet, so… don’t take them too seriously. I know this is quite a lot to take, but… they are all nice people. Or… Loki tries to… sometimes. Don’t worry, we’re all friends.” Steve gave Bucky his most encouraging smile, but it failed and Bucky chose to intently watch the floor. “Friends… I shouldn’t be here among them, Steve.”

No, no, no, no!

“Bucky, of course you should be here!”

“You are heroes, Steve. You are good people. I am not. I shouldn’t be here. The dark haired one… Loki… he is right. I tried to kill you. I killed other people.”

“That wasn’t you.”

“Was it?”

The look on Bucky’s face was breaking Steve’s heart. For a long time Steve had felt so lost and he had thought it would be the same with Bucky, but it wasn’t. This was so much worse and he just didn’t know what to do about it. “No, because I know you, Bucky. You are a good man, something bad happened to you, but this is over now. We will work this out.”

“I don’t deserve to be here…”

“Stop that, of course you do!” Steve noticed he was getting loud and quickly took a step back. “Bucky, listen… You aren’t responsible for what happened and even if you feel that way… look at Loki! He really did some bad things. Really bad things and he still had his own will. Well mostly, he was also being manipulated, but here he is. Living with us, he kinda is an Avenger anyway now, because we gave him a second chance. Everybody deserves one… not that you need it. You are a good guy, Bucky.”

Steve’s heart skipped a beat when the tiniest smile flickered across Bucky’s face. “So… you wanted to show me the kitchen?”

 ***

“Thor, any idea which tie Loki would like more?” Tony held up a red and a blue one, probably only to make Thor scratch his head and Clint sigh. “Stark, you’re staring at his ass 24/7 – how can you have not noticed that all of his fucking clothes are either black or green?”

Rolling his eyes Tony lowered his hands again. “On me, you idiot. He said that green doesn’t suit me and tonight I need to look even more fabulous than usual.”

Three months had passed and Bucky was now way more relaxed around all of them, but he still wasn’t the loud and happy guy Steve remembered. Instead he was shy and quiet, sometimes Steve even thought that he was scared to smile. He had to give him some time, he had been through so much and their little group also wasn’t the easiest environment. Every time Tony was hitting on Loki, which happened every damned day, Bucky looked still uncomfortable when he was around to witness it.

“My brother never favoured the colour red.” Thor finally nodded determinedly and Tony instantly threw the red tie away. “Great! First step is taken. My little reindeer is going be putty in my hands.”

Steve had to leave it to Tony, he was incredibly persistent. Getting Loki into bed isn’t the most… glorious goal to have, but even after being turned down for the 100000th time Tony didn’t lose the tiniest bit of his ambition. Then again, tonight they should be concentrating on other things. “Tony, I hope you don’t forget that we’re going to a fundraiser… not a party.”

“Oh, Cap, don’t be so naïve. There will be music and alcohol, it totally is a party. Perfect moment to start a new strategy.”

Steve desperately prayed that nobody would ask, but Clint simply had to open his mouth. “Care to explain it to us, so we can make even more fun of you afterwards?”

Turning their back to them Tony watched himself in the mirror, fixing his tie. “I’ll get him shitfaced, so he’ll stop pretending that he isn’t into me.”

“You would dare to take advantage of my brother in such a vulnerable state?” Thor towered over Tony’s form, seemingly ready to smash his head in. Clint was easing up the tension by laughing like crazy at the idea that Tony could ever make Loki drunk. “Look, Tony, I know your alcoholism gave you quite a tolerance for booze, but we’re still talking about a god here.”

“Who is talking about me?” Looking up Steve saw Loki and… Bucky coming down the stairs. Both were nicely dressed up for the party, but Steve wasn’t even looking at said god. It had been years since he had seen Bucky like this. Especially during the last months it had only been an Avengers uniform or a casual look to hang out at the tower. No, Steve definitely wasn’t used to see Bucky wearing a grey three-piece suit and looking so fine in it. The thought almost made Steve blush, because he was completely unable to think of anything else. Elegant clothing definitely wasn’t Steve’s field of expertise, but even he could see that this suit was nicely cut, highlighting Bucky’s perfectly trained body. The colour brought out his eyes and Bucky even seemed to move differently with new found confidence. Not just on the battlefield. Yes, he was smiling.

Steve felt his heart skipping a beat when their eyes met and Bucky’s smile grew a little wider. So warm and lively. There was probably no way Bucky had missed the admiring look on Steve’s face, but Bucky looked too beautiful for Steve to even feel embarrassed about getting caught.

“Fuck me! You look good in this suit. You mind if I tear it off you?”

How could he even dare?! In hindsight Steve wanted to beat up himself for spinning around and getting ready to yell at Tony for now also hitting on Bucky. He wasn’t like that, he didn’t act like that and most importantly – Tony at this very moment didn’t even know about Bucky’s existence. Like always Tony was openly leering and made no attempt to hide the very reason for it.

Right, Loki was standing next to Bucky, clad in a dark green almost black frock coat, his hair pulled back in a ponytail. Of course he was snarling and then trying to stab Tony by staring darkly at him. “I will murder you if your dirty hands come even close to my coat…”

“Brother, I am sure the Man or Iron meant no offence.”

“I dunno. Wanting to rip off Loki’s clothes seems pretty damn offensive to me.”

“Shut up, Clint! Loki and me, we’re having a moment here.”

So Tony was still weirdly obsessing over Loki and Steve was disgustingly content with that. Ignoring what was happening around him Steve went back to contemplate Bucky and now he was actually looking forward to the party.

All of them should be out of place at these kinds of events. Maybe except for Tony who was used to rich guys, pretending to be classy and getting plastered, because he was one of them. Natasha was a spy, she adapted quickly to any situation and was walking around, charming everybody, convincing them that throwing money at the Avengers was the best idea ever. Thor was entertaining some old generals with Clint and Steve didn’t even want to think about what Loki was doing here. Well, expect being chased by Tony. Steve himself didn’t feel at ease at all here, he was a soldier, he wasn’t the kind of person to sweet talk business guys. Luckily Bucky wasn’t either and so they finally ended up at the bar next to each other. “This is completely surreal.”

“I know… but you’re doing a better job on this than me.” Steve smiled, watching happily how Bucky did the same. “I don’t think so… I have no idea what we’re even doing here. It’s cute that we’re playing dress up, but it’s still weird to do something like that.”

Another opportunity where Steve should have remained silent, but this smile got the better of him. “Yes, but you look amazing… I mean good… uhm… the suit looks nice.” Somebody had to teach him how to do this kind of stuff… whatever it was.

Luckily Bucky didn’t seem to mind, but Steve was sure that he knew what was going on. Bucky always knew and he was so much better at this than Steve. Whatever it was. “Thanks… it was Natasha who chose it though. I would have had no idea how you’re supposed to dress for this kind of thing. Let’s be honest, I have no idea what is going on here. Parties definitely have changed a lot since the 40ies.”

“How would I know? I’ve never been to one of those.”

Laughing Bucky shrugged and seemed perfectly willing to explain everything that had changed. “First… no woman would have worn a dress with such a cleavage. There would have been women, but I don’t think they would have talked much. The booze is better and definitely more international. What I’m really talking about is that…” Secretly Bucky indicated him to look to the right and Steve instantly wanted to look away again. Loki had stopped running away, instead he was leaning against the wall, sipping on his drink, looking immensely bored, while Tony was shifting closer to him, obviously babbling. It was fairly obvious for anybody what was going on here and sooner or later Loki would probably empty his drink over Tony’s head. Not that he didn’t deserve it for trying all over again, but right now all Steve cared about was why Bucky would even want him to watch something he saw at the tower 24/7.

“A billionaire eager to have some of his limbs ripped off by an alien god?”

The comment made Bucky laugh and Steve’s skin started to tingle all over. “Yeah, but I meant that… a guy is obviously hitting at another guy. Everybody is watching and nobody gives a damn. I’m still getting used to that. It would have been unimaginable… I like that change.”

Bucky’s beautiful eyes left Tony and Loki and instead lingered on Steve. Full of warmth and Bucky was so obviously happy. Steve’s breath got caught, the potential meaning of these words slowly settling in. Before he could croak out an answer he had to swallow deeply. “You do?”

“Yes…” Bucky suddenly mirrored Tony’s movements, shifting a bit closer and Steve minded that way less than when Tony tried that with Loki. “I guess back then… I would have never been able to tell you… that you also look great tonight… People would have looked at us as if we’re crazy.”

“There’s still a chance that they might just do that.”

“Steve, I’m trying to make you a compliment. Do I have to say straight out that you’re beautiful?”

At his age Steve shouldn’t blush, but he did, because it was Bucky. Bucky. Bucky just told him that he was beautiful. Or that he thought Steve was beautiful. “I… thank you… that… I should be saying something now, but I… have no idea…” Somebody walked by, brushing his arms and Steve took a shaky breath. “I know you just said that you like it that you can say something like this publicly now, but… would you mind if went some place… with less people around?”

Did he really just say that? What had gotten into him and why was Bucky still smiling?

Just when Bucky opened his mouth to reply Natasha appeared like out of nowhere next to them. “Boys, we have a situation. Party’s over.”

Story of Steve’s life.

 ***

Steve personally wanted to throw Doom in some hole that he would never get out off again for attacking the city the one time Steve plucked up the courage to ask Bucky out. Well, at least somehow. It did count, right? Bucky had smiled, so there was a chance…

“Holy shit! This place is awesome! Should we write Doom a ‘Thank you’ note for leaving all this stuff behind? My little reindeer is going to love this!”

Shaking his head as if he could clear his thoughts like this Steve tried to focus on their surroundings. This was an amazing victory and Steve should at least feel a bit good about it. After destroying tons of doombots they had even managed to seek out Doom’s secret hideout in New York. The only downside was that Doom had managed to get away, but like Tony had already pointed out – he had left tons of technical equipment and other stuff that looked suspiciously like magical artefacts and potions.

“Thor and Loki just cleared the street of the last remaining doombots, they’ll be here in a second.” Clint got off his transmitter and shot Tony a dark look. “Loki says everybody has to stay away from the magical stuff. Especially you, Tony.”

“Oh, isn’t he adorable? Always worrying about me.”

Steve sighed. “I think he is more worried about you accidentally blowing this whole place up. Seriously, we shouldn’t touch anything.”

“What is half of this stuff anyway? Looks more like a weird kitchen to me… with some strange equipment.” Bucky was standing in front of a large table that was covered over and over with glasses, bottles and bowls filled with liquids of different colours. It did indeed remind Steve of how a movie would try to represent the lab of a mad scientist… who was also a wizard.

“I’m with Steve. Not touching any of that. Doom is probably mass-producing stuff that turns you into a pink, singing, rhinoceros.” True to his word Clint kept lingering around near the door, careful to not even come close to the furniture.

As expected Tony didn’t share these thoughts and was watching everything with big interest, not being worried in the least bit. “So? My little reindeer could turn you into a pink, singing, rhino with a blink of his eye.”

“If you don’t stop calling him that, I will put an arrow through your eye… and stop touching things! Loki will kill you!”

“Tony! Put that down!” Steve would have run up to Tony and taken the bottle away from him, but he didn’t dare to. Nobody knew how Doom’s creations would react to that. It was pure recklessness to even pick up a bottle of…

“Don’t get your panties in a bunch. It’s just glass containing white smoke! What will it do? Turn me into the next pope? Actually, that would be awesome…” Tony got that look on his face that even made Bucky step in. “Shouldn’t we listen to the mage who said that we shouldn’t touch any of the… magical things…”

“Oh, come on, Buck! Loki just wants all this stuff for himself. As soon as he shows up he will tell us to pick everything up and to carry it for him to the tower.”

Steve and Bucky shared a look, because there might be a good chance that Tony was right, but they still shouldn’t take any risks. “Look, just put it down. Loki will be impressed with you.”

This prospect was good enough to made Tony consider putting the bottle down. For two seconds. “Nah, I like it when he’s pissed off at me. It’s hot.”

Jesus Christ! Was there any hope for this man? Bucky had enough of Tony acting like a reckless moron and set Steve’s theoretical plan into action. Sadly it wasn’t the best plan to rip the bottle out off Tony’s fingers, snarling “Don’t act like child, Stark.”

“Hey! I wanted to be the next pope!”

“No more touching the magic stuff until Loki is here.”

Steve couldn’t help but smile how determined Bucky sounded. Just like a real leader and everybody knew it was the toughest task to get Tony Stark to shut up. Sadly this was the last time Steve got to smile for a very long time.

It happened all so fast and the lesson they should take form it was to check out bottles or any form of glass for cracks before picking it up and putting it back down. Everybody could hear the glass breaking and not even a second later all the smoke was released and instantly formed a big cloud, completely engulfing Bucky and only him. There almost seemed to be an invisible barrier between him and Tony.

“Shit!”

“Bucky!” Immense fear took a hold of Steve when he heard Bucky collapsing to the floor. No, not today, not ever. He had just got him back and now Steve had failed again to protect him. Not giving a damn about what might happen to himself Steve rushed towards him, the smoke quickly dissolved and revealed Bucky lying unconsciously on the floor. Dropping to his knees next to him Steve hardly realised that Tony did the same. “He’s out cold.”

Cradling Bucky into his arms Steve checked his pulse and released a long, relieved sigh when he felt it was still strong and steady. Okay, he was going to be okay. “Bucky, come on. Open your eyes… that was just some smoke.”

“Magical, white smoke and he must have inhaled have of it.”

Steve hated Clint with a passion for pointing his out, but he couldn’t argue that he was right. This was magic. They were a soldier, an assassin and a mechanic, they were no help. Loki. They needed Loki, right now.

A quiet, pained groan passed Bucky’s lips and his eyelids flickered. Never having felt this thankful in his whole life Steve almost laughed happily before trying to sound reassuring and calm. “Don’t worry, Bucky. We’re gonna get Loki and he’ll take care of you.”

Bucky coughed, his lips even looked dry and he sounded confused, maybe even disorientated. “Loki?”

“Yeah, he’ll be here in a second. Whatever shit Doom fabricated in this bottle, he isn’t worth shit against my little reindeer.”

It looked like real effort when Bucky opened his eyes and they darted around, clearly unfocused. “What?”

Steve narrowed his eyes at Tony for confusing Bucky even more when they still had no idea what was going on. “He means whatever just happened to you… Loki will know what to do.”

Bucky’s eyes fell shut again, but Steve was sure that he gave a small nod. “Yes… Loki…”

“He’s going to be fine… It’s just Doom… Loki will snap his fingers and he’ll be fine…” Tony was mumbling mainly to himself. Trying to fight down his guilt. Normally Steve would say something, tell him that he shouldn’t beat himself up, that the damage was already done and now they would fix it. But this was Bucky and he was hurt, because Tony had played around, not giving a damn. At this moment Steve couldn’t think about anything else than Bucky losing consciousness again this very second.

“I should have known. Foolish mortals… Which part of ‘don’t touch anything’ didn’t you understand?”

Nobody had ever been happier to hear this voice with the constantly spiteful undertone. “Spare us the lectures and help us!”

Tony flinched when Loki just materialised next to him, shoving him aside. “What happened? What did Stark do?”

“Why me?!”

“Because it’s always you who is responsible for things going wrong.” Loki’s expression didn’t give anything away, just remained completely bland while he was watching Bucky intently and then raised an eyebrow at Steve. Information, right. He needed that so he could help. “A bottle broke, there was some kind of smoke in it. White smoke. It completely surrounded him and he inhaled lots of it… What’s going on? Can you undo it?”

Loki didn’t bother to give a reply, just let his hand hover directly over Bucky’s head and closed his eyes. The tips of his fingers started to glow green and this was good. Loki was doing something, he was helping, Bucky would get up, everything would be alright and they could continue their… whatever they had started tonight. “A spell has been cast over the Winter Soldier. I cannot tell what it is. It is not hurting him and will not affect his health, but I can clearly feel the enchantment. Something that is clouding his thoughts… I will be able to tell what it is when he is awake. It would be wise to isolate him.”

“What?! Why?”

“Because he is under the influence of Doom and we don’t know the effects yet.”

“Can’t you undo it just now?” Tony tried to urge him, but he really should know better when it came down to Loki.

“Sure.” Loki responded dryly. “If you don’t care about him losing his sanity in the progress.”

Hastily Steve shook his head, pulling Bucky tighter against him. “No, we’ll do everything like Loki said. We’re not going to take any risks. But… you can fix this, right? Whatever it is?”

The question seemed to downright offend Loki. “Of course, I can. As soon as I know what this ‘whatever’ really is.”

 ***

The most soothing noise Steve had ever heard. Bucky’s steady breathing and the silent beeping of heart monitor. Bucky was lying there, sleeping peacefully, looking like he could wake up any second. After thoroughly examining Bucky the doctors had said that there was no reason to worry, everything looked normal. Since there was no physical explanation for the breakdown, Bucky was still attached to lots of machines that were monitoring his vitals. For two hours now Steve has been sitting there and he wouldn’t leave until Loki had undone the enchantment. First Bucky needed to wake up though.

“How is he doing?” Tony sneaked into the room and Steve instantly felt sorry for him. During his whole life Steve had probably never seen somebody who looked more guilt ridden. Well, technically it was Tony’s fault, but Steve wasn’t angry at him. Not anymore. Loki and the doctors had said that Bucky was alright, so Steve didn’t hold a grudge.

“He’s still asleep, but he’s fine. When he wakes up Loki will get here and undo the… spell.”

“Still no idea what kind of spell that is?”

“No, he needs to talk to Bucky to find out what exactly is going on… but he said it’s something minor.”

Tony tried to hide it, but Steve could easily see how relieved he was, not just for his own sake, but also for Bucky’s. No, there was no reason to be angry. “Good, my red-nosed darling is going repair him. Just a shame that the party had to end like this.”

Sadly Tony had no idea just how right he was and Steve desperately tried not to think of how the evening could have ended. And that Bucky had called him… beautiful.

“Yes… it would have been a nice evening, I’m sure.”

“Oh, definitely. Look, can you do me a favour and immediately kiss him when Loki fixed him?”

The words almost had Steve falling off his chair. “What?!”

“Look, Clint, Nat and I have a bet going on… Clint says you guys need another two weeks to hook up. Natasha says three days and I said 24 hours. It’s about 500 bucks, we could share.” Tony grinned at him while Steve was still searching for words. He knew?! What did he know?! What was there to know? Well, Steve was pretty sure that he was badly hiding his feelings for Bucky, but…

“How can you guys bet on something like that?!”

“That’s exactly what Bruce said! Come on, Steve, you guys have been drooling over each other for weeks! Being cured from an enchantment is the perfect moment to finally do something about it! You know each other since the 1940ies, it’s about damn time… and I can make some money. You’ll be the cutest couple around here. Second place behind me and Loki.”

Steve raised both eyebrows and Tony huffed. “I’m working on it! Come on, you almost had a complete meltdown when you thought he was hurt. You’re into him and he worships the floor you’re walking on. Just go for it!”

Just the thought of Bucky and him… No time for daydreaming, rather hoping that Bucky hadn’t heard their conversation, now that he was obviously waking up.

“Bucky? Hey…”

“Steve?” Slowly opening his eyes Bucky directly looked at him, while Tony was already calling for a doctor. “What happened? Weren’t we fighting Doom?”

“Yeah, you got… hit by a spell, but everything’s okay.” At least Steve hoped so. Bucky’s eyes were focused, his confusion was gone and those were all good signs.

“Magic? Oh, great…” Sighing softly Bucky rubbed his temple and Steve wanted to ask millions of questions… especially if Bucky still remembered their last conversation. This wasn’t the time.

“James, good to see you awake. Let’s do a little check-up to see if everything’s alright.” The doctor instantly took care of Bucky and Steve avoided Tony’s gaze. No kissing Bucky, definitely not right now. But later… who knew…

Everything seemed to be perfectly normal, the doctor was checking Bucky’s pupils when the two Nordic gods entered the room. Good, Loki could lift the spell and then this terrible night would be over. It had started so well…

“This is odd… Your heart rate just went up. Are you feeling alright?”

Bucky’s eyes quickly darted to the doctor and nodded. “Yeah… yeah, perfectly fine.”

“Those are splendid news, my friend. We were all deeply worried.” Thor was beaming at Bucky, while Loki made the impression that he had a lot of other places where he’d rather be. “Yes, we are all deeply moved. Could you please step aside, so I can see what we’re dealing with?”

Confused and maybe a bit intimated the doctor shuffled back and Steve thought that he could see a faint blush on Bucky’s cheeks. Loki really had a talent to make every situation uncomfortable.

“Right, work your magic, darling and when you’re done with Bucky, you can work it on me.”

Ignoring Tony Loki sat down on the edge of Bucky’s bed, putting his hand on Bucky’s forehead. “Loki, what are you doing?” Suddenly his voice sounded strangely hoarse and Steve started worrying again.

“I’m locating the spell. That requires silence, thank you.”

The result was a rather awkward moment, because nobody dared to say anything. Because of that Steve concentrated on the steady beeping… which wasn’t so steady anymore, but constantly getting faster. How should Steve keep quiet if Bucky’s heart was more or less racing? “Bucky? You okay?”

Bucky only croaked a ‘Yes’, staring at Loki who now put both hands on Bucky’s cheeks and closed his eyes. “It’s strong… it’s everywhere… but I can’t locate it.”

“If it’s everywhere how can’t you tell where it is?”

“Because…” Loki hesitated, reopened his eyes and Steve bit his lip when the pauses between the beeps got even shorter. Something was wrong. Bucky’s eyes were dilated, shining brightly. Maybe he was having temperature?

Letting go of Bucky Loki studied him intently and now the blush on Bucky’s cheeks couldn’t be ignored. “Oh no… what have I done to deserve this?” Loki sighed loudly and everybody in the room was alarmed.

“What did you find, brother?”

“Come on, darling, what’s going on?”

“Loki, is he alright? Can you help him?”

Not one of them got an answer, instead Loki kept his attention fixed on Bucky. “James, Doom cast a spell on you. That’s nothing to be played with. The situation is rather serious. I have to know exactly what I’m dealing with or I can’t help you.”

“If somebody can do it, it’s you, Loki.” It was odd to hear Bucky whisper when Loki was talking so loudly and clearly.

“Exactly. You need to tell me something, so I can identify the nature of the spell. It is absolutely important that you give me an honest answer. If you don’t tell me the truth, I can’t help you. So my question is – what are you thinking right now?”

Steve had no idea what Loki was doing here. Bucky was lying in a hospital bed, he had just learned that he was under the influence of a magical spell… what else should he be thinking…

“You have the most beautiful eyes…”

What?! Everybody’s reaction couldn’t be more different. Thor looked slightly confused, Tony’s mouth dropped wide open, Loki sighed in frustration and Steve… didn’t understand a thing, but he knew that he shouldn’t feel hurt. Yet he did. Bucky himself only blushed harder and mumbled an apology. “I’m sorry… but you said that I had to be honest. I… can’t stop thinking about your eyes, that’s all. They’re beautiful.”

“Whoa, Bucky, calm down a little. The only one who’s allowed to flirt with my little reindeer is…”

“Shut up, Stark!” Snarling at him Loki got up. “I can’t break the enchantment without more information. I’m going to study everything Doom kept in his hideout.” He was about to just leave them alone, but Steve couldn’t let that happen. “Wait! What enchantment are we talking about? What is wrong with him?”

Releasing a long breath Loki rubbed his temples. “Mages use complex and long terms to describe this kind of spell, but you would probably call it… a love spell.”

“You are kidding, right?”

Judging by Loki’s face he wished he was kidding. “Oh, believe me, I can think of more pleasant things than having yet another mortal to annoy me with his foolish interest in me.”

Steve felt his fingers and hands growing cold. A love spell? No, this was… Even to their standards this was ridiculous. Bucky in love with Loki? Out of the question. No way. Definitely not.

Just because Bucky’s heart rate had sped up the second Loki had entered the room… he was constantly blushing, only looking at Loki and nobody else… and talking about how… beautiful Loki’s eyes were.

Oh God, please no.

At least Steve wasn’t the only one who thought this was a catastrophe. Tony seemed desperately eager to find a way to kick his own ass. “Fine, Rudolph, you won. Next time I definitely won’t touch anything…”

“You better…” After giving Tony a look that could make anyone’s blood freeze to ice Loki left without saying another word and Steve tried to keep calm. Just a little love spell. Loki would read a book, come up with a plan to undo this… yes. Loki was a genius, piece of cake. Tomorrow they would laugh about this. “It’s okay, Bucky, don’t worry. We’ll take care of this.”

Bucky slowly nodded, looking heartbreakingly sad. “I didn’t do anything to upset him, didn’t I? I don’t want him to be angry at me. When can I get out of here? I’d like to apologize. Maybe I should invite him to…”

“Wow, wow! Love spell or not, I don’t care! Let me make this clear, just thinking about asking me little reindeer out for a date means war!”

“Man or Iron, he is under a spell, he can’t help it.”

“I don’t care! Yeah, the whole thing may technically be my fault, but… he can’t just have the hots for Loki now! I’m not standing a chance anyway, I’m completely fucked if I now also have to deal with competition!”

Steve buried his face in his hands. They should have never left the damned party.

Chapter Text

“This is a nightmare. This is hell. All the bad karma that I’ve collected over all these years… there it is.” Tony sipped at his drink, his eyes not leaving them for a second. Steve and him had been sitting here now for over an hour. Though Steve didn’t enjoy any of it, he wouldn’t call it hell. It was rather a proof of how pathetic and jealous they were.

“It’s been more than a year… Over a whole year I’ve been telling him how hot, gorgeous and great he is… If I was only thinking about touching one of his books, Loki would cast a spell to blow my head up. Look at him!” Snarling Tony pointed at them as if Steve hadn’t been actually looking all this time.

Not much was happening after all. Loki was examining all of Doom’s stuff, comparing whatever information he found with his own books. Not saying a word for hours. Bucky didn’t mind, he was sitting next to Loki, handing him whatever book or artefact Loki wanted. All the time with the same happy smile on his lips. Loki wasn’t even talking to him and Bucky looked like the happiest person on earth.

No, Steve couldn’t be angry. He knew what this was all about. It was nobody’s fault.

“You know that he has to be around Loki. He might as well give him something to do.”

Again Tony snorted, then took a sip from his drink. “Does he have to be around him all the time? All the fucking time?!”

“He isn’t around him all the time, but it’s necessary. Loki explained it to us… Being away from him for a longer period of time will…”

“Physically hurt Bucky. Yeah, yeah, I got it. I still don’t have to like it.”

Nobody liked the current situation. Well, except for Bucky. Steve wanted nothing more than this whole thing being over, just like Tony, but what were they supposed to do? Loki had explained it all to them.

 ***

“Love spells are complex and incredibly diverse. Most of them, the simpler ones are only based on lust. They are easy to undo, but we’re not dealing with one of them.”

“How do you know that?”

Slightly turning to Clint Loki narrowed his eyes, he hated being interrupted. “Because the Winter Soldier didn’t try to tear my clothes off the second he saw me.”

Steve tried to not show any reaction, although he was definitely feeling sick right now.

“He better won’t, that’s still my job.”

“Tony, please, this is serious. For once, shut up and let Loki talk.”

“Thank you, Captain. It’s not based on lust, so it’s probably a spell that intensifies the affection felt towards a certain person. The Winter Soldier doesn’t actually have these feelings, he merely believes he does. We’re in luck that he seems to be fond of me. Antipathy can be as easily intensified as affection. Let’s say if the Winter Soldier originally thought that he didn’t like me… he would be trying to paint the walls with my blood now. His current symptoms prove that he at least thinks that I’m not an entirely unpleasant person.”

Having it explained helped. At least a little bit. It didn’t make Steve forget the look of pure devotion on Bucky’s face. Nothing real about it. If the spell was focused on somebody else, nobody would be even talking about love. There was still another question that didn’t leave Steve alone. “Why you? Is it random? You weren’t even there when it happened?”

“I am not sure. There are different possibilities. Did somebody mention my name? Did he say it?”

“Uhm, yeah. We told him that you would show up and heal him. That’s it.”

“Did he say my name?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

Letting out a sigh Loki nodded like he had just learned something very important. “That must have been it. Mine was the first name he said under the influence of the spell.”

“Okay, great and what now? You know what it is, can’t you wiggle your fingers and make it disappear?”

Loki scowled and this was a terrible sign. There was nothing that Loki hated more than admitting that there was something he couldn’t do. “No, it’s not that simple. This is a complex spell and I need to know how Doom made it. I will figure it out, no doubt about that, but it will take some time.”

“Fine. Great.” Clint looked way too content. How could anyone be satisfied with this? “You figure that out. It’s not such a bad situation. Okay, Bucky thinks he’s in love with Loki, awkward, but not dangerous. We’ll deal with it.”

“Well, there may be some complications...”

 ***

Complication number 1 – even still in his hospital bed Bucky had not stopped asking about Loki. How was he doing? Had he said something about Bucky? Would he be visiting him soon? It had been almost heartbreaking to watch how unhappy Bucky had looked when he hadn’t seen Loki for an entire day.

Steve’s first solution had been to get Thor to visit Bucky and to tell him stories about Loki when he had been still a child. That had worked for an entire day then Thor had run out off material. How was that even possible? Thor and Loki were both over a thousand years old, how could Thor tell Bucky everything during a single day? Well, according to Thor Bucky was a very good listener and so eager to hear everything that Thor had to say.

After 24 hours Thor needed a break, Bucky didn’t. So Steve spend his time with Bucky, only to have his best friend and crush tell him about how wonderful Loki was and had always been.

Did you know that Loki once cut Thor’s girlfriend hair while she was asleep? Bucky thought it was funny, Steve would call it creepy.

Did you know that Loki and Thor both dressed up as girls to get into a party to steal a magical artefact? No and Steve would have loved to continue living without this information.

Steve also quickly needed a break and they took turns in visiting Bucky. Everybody except Loki, thank God, who was working on finding a cure for the spell. Unfortunately Loki was the only person Bucky wanted to see. He wasn’t constantly whining about wanting to see him, not at all. Bucky was shyly asking about him. Where was Loki? How was he doing? Any chance Loki might show up? Did you talk to Loki?

When Tony was the one to visit Bucky Natasha was smart enough to stay around. Steve wasn’t there, but he was told that she had to drag him out, because Tony had been about to throw a temper tantrum.

The doctors were about to release Bucky when suddenly he seemed to get temperature and he complained about feeling really bad. Steve didn’t leave his side for a minute and everybody was concerned when the doctors had no clue what was going on. Until Thor muttered something about having an idea. One hour later he was dragging Loki into the hospital room who looked like the unhappiest person on earth.

Immediately Steve felt the urge to grab Loki and smash his head against the wall. Yes, he felt ashamed for that, but not as much as he should. Especially not when he saw Bucky lightening up as soon as his eyes fell on Loki.

“What have I done to deserve that?” Loki’s voice was barely loud enough to hear and Steve was about to lose it. How could he talk about this as if it was a bad thing? Having somebody as… lovely, gentle, smart, funny and beautiful like Bucky so devoted to him was wonderful. Judging by Loki’s expression he was about to undergo torture. “

“Sgt. Barnes… who are you doing?”

Bucky’s reply came at an instant. “Fine, thanks.”

“A second ago you were feeling terrible.”

Not taking his eyes off Loki Bucky shrugged. “I’m feeling better now.”

Bucky feeling better must be the most terrible thing on earth for Loki. “As if my life couldn’t get any worse…”

 ***

So now they were here – all of Doom’s stuff had been moved into some empty rooms of the tower where Loki was spending 95% of his time now and Bucky was sitting next to him, looking happy and in love. Even though he got ignored 95% of the time. Steve and Tony weren’t allowed to be there, not after they had randomly showed up every 15 minutes. Loki had yelled at them and Steve swore that he had seen little green flames coming out off his fingertips. Luckily Tony had access to every camera in this tower (maybe even to every camera in the whole world, but Steve didn’t dare to think about that) and now they were sitting in the living room watching a live video of Loki reading and Bucky… making goo-goo eyes at Loki.

Tony was having his third beer and Steve desperately wished that he also could get drunk. Damned serum. “I know what he is doing there… playing the silent, fascinating, secretive loner. Trying to charm my little reindeer by sitting there and saying nothing. Too bad he won’t fall for that. Loki is way too clever.

“Jesus, Tony… Bucky is not trying anything. He is just sitting there and watching Loki work. He’s… happy to be… around him. That’s all.”

“Yeah, yeah, keep telling yourself that. Oh! Talking! Jarvis, up with the volume!”

Steve and Tony almost bumped their heads when they both leaned forward to get a closer look at the screen. It was ridiculous, because that wouldn’t help them to hear any better.

“Don’t you need a break? You’ve been working for hours.”

Not looking up Loki turned the page of the book he was currently reading. “No, I don’t need a break.”

Bucky shifted in his seat, licking his lips and Steve wanted to crawl right through the screen. “It’s just… You’ve been reading for six hours straight. My eyes would be hurting right now…”

“My eyes aren’t as feeble your mortal ones.”

“Yeah! Good one, darling! Show him how inferior he is to you!” Tony tried to high five the screen and Steve only rolled his eyes. “Are you serious? Bucky is trying to be nice and Loki is rude to him.”

“What? Do you want Loki to be nice to him? How nice should he get till you’re satisfied?”

“Shhh!”

“Okay, but don’t you get hungry?” Steve could tell when Bucky was trying hard. He had never seen him try harder to sound nice and to not annoy somebody. Unfortunately this was Loki and Loki, even when he wasn’t trying to take over the world, but trying to save it, was a complete jerk. “No, I don’t and your constant babbling is distracting me from work. The work I’m doing to help you. So would you please shut your mouth and let me help you?”

Nothing more but a hiss combined with Loki’s death stare. Steve bit his lips when he saw Bucky’s dejected expression. Tony was about to start cheering. “Yes, my little reindeer! Good one!”

“Loki is such an ass.”

“What else should he do? When Bucky doesn’t get that no means no!”

Steve wouldn’t try to summarize how crazy and stupid that was.

“I’m sorry, Loki.” Bucky sighed softly, genuinely upset about how that he had made Loki angry. “I really appreciate what you’re doing here. For me. It’s just… I don’t want you to sit around all day, in a bad mood, because you’re stuck here. You haven’t eaten anything the whole day and… I was worried you’d be hungry. I could get you something to eat if you want to…”

It would almost be cute if it wasn’t for… Loki. Who was now looking up from his book. Oh god, that couldn’t be good. What if he was now completely losing it? Tony was right about one thing, Loki really, really hated it to be interrupted while he was reading. “That would nice, thank you.”

“WHAT?!”

“Tony, calm down. Bucky just gets him a sandwich…” Something about this information had to be really disturbing for Tony. “Yeah, that’s how it starts! It always starts with sandwiches! Can’t you see the seriousness of the situation?! You?! Captain ‘I have superpowers I can remember everything after taking a little glance at you’ America?!”

Somehow this was extremely reassuring – Steve was still the sane person in this room although he was stalking his best friend. “Bucky gets Loki something to eat. That’s nice and something everybody would do.”

Tony didn’t think so and he made big, exaggerated gestures with his hands to make Steve understand the sheer horror that was going on. “Don’t you get that?! Loki told him it was okay to get him something to eat.”

“So?”

“Loki hates it if anybody wants to do anything for him! For him that’s… I dunno… He wants to do everything himself, because he is just so great. You remember the one time when that fucking Hydra agent nearly hacked off his arm? He was bleeding all over the place. When Bruce offered him a band-aid he almost ripped his head off! You see where I’m coming from?”

Biting his lips Steve had to admit that Tony had a point. Loki was too pride and too arrogant to accept gifts or to let other people help him. Megalomania wasn’t very useful to make friends. “Maybe… he just wants to get rid of Bucky…”

“That… makes sense and is a perfectly good explanation.”

Indeed Loki looked somehow relieved when Bucky rushed out off the room. The next fifteen minutes were rather boring and consisted of Tony getting another beer, Steve questioning for the 7563rd time what they were doing here and Loki reading in some book. Then Bucky showed back up, a plate in his hands and Loki looked up at him, his face sceptical. “What is this?”

The smile on Bucky’s lips was turning Steve insane. It was so sweet, so eager to please and it was directed at Loki. “Just an omelette.”

Loki looked just as clueless as before and Bucky seemed a bit crestfallen. “You’ve never had an omelette before?”

“I’ve barely eaten any Midgardian food until today. Well, except pizza. It seems to be the only food Stark allows in this tower.”

“That’s a shame, it’s really good. It’s just a few eggs, ham, garlic, peppers and tomatoes… I hope you’ll like it.”

“Yeah, keep on dreaming…”

“Tony, it’s just food.”

After trying a little piece of the omelette Loki’s eyebrows went up and he seemed genuinely surprised. “This is… good.”

Bucky beamed brighter than the entire Avengers Tower in the night and Tony sizzled like a snake. “Steve, chances are good that I’ll use your best friend as a target to test the fire power of my new suit.”

 ***

Thanks to the serum Steve didn’t need a lot of sleep, but sooner or later even he got tired. Didn’t stop him from lying awake half of the night. Loki was a smart son of a… gun. He would figure this out, Doom had nothing on him and Loki was so annoyed by Bucky, he would definitely use all of his time and energy on finding a solution. By spending all his time with Bucky in a small room, only illuminated by candles, because Loki despised electric light while reading.

Tony was right – this was a nightmare.

After this very short night Steve got up, did his daily work-out, this time without Bucky, because he didn’t show up. Probably he had more important stuff to do, with Loki. Therefore it wasn’t surprising when Steve was in a sour mood when he entered the kitchen. Not even the great smell here could make him feel better. What did was the fact that Bucky was here and a certain Asgardian wasn’t. Natasha was reading the newspaper, Thor was eating waffles and Bucky was still preparing breakfast. No sign of Loki nowhere. That shouldn’t make Steve so ridiculously happy. What if he had already broken the spell?

“Good morning, Captain. The Winter Soldier is an excellent cook! You should try some of his waffles! Next time I return to Asgard I will make sure to take the recipe with me!” Somebody still had to teach Thor that one didn’t speak with his mouth full of waffles, but that seemed like an impossible task.

Bucky turned around and smiled joyfully at Steve. Enough to make his heart skip a beat. Again, that couldn’t be healthy. “Morning Steve, you want some of the waffles? I’m almost done with the home fries. Bacon is over there, pancakes will be ready in half a minute. If you want an omelette, you’ll have to wait a few minutes.”

“Wow…that’s great…. you should have waited till somebody is up to help you with all that work. You’re… Good lord, what happened to your face?!”

A slight blush crept onto Bucky’s cheeks which made the big burn on the left side even more stand out. “Yeah… uhm… that was an unfortunate… accident.”

Steve had a slight idea what that meant and he suddenly didn’t feel any hunger anymore. “What kind of accident?”

Shrugging Bucky put a plate full of the most delicious looking pancakes down on the table and Thor instantly grabbed the one on top. “It’s stupid…”

“Bucky! It looks like half your face was burned off!” Yes, the biggest exaggeration someone had ever said and even Natasha rolled his eyes at him. “Okay… uhm… what happened? You didn’t burn yourself making the pancakes?”

For a second Thor hesitated before shrugging and biting into his pancake. Bucky let out a soft sigh, looking really uncomfortable, but there was still a soft smile dancing on his lips. “Loki fell asleep a few hours ago…”

Natasha cocked her head, suddenly interested. “Loki? Normally he doesn’t even get tired.”

“My brother has great stamina in physical combat, but studying magic is quite different. He has to reach a high state of concentration to be even able to make sense of the scriptures of another mage. They are usually made for their very own eyes, which means Loki has to… decrypt all of it. I have no experience with this, but Loki described it… as a very exhausting progress. If he pushes himself too far, he will falls asleep and sleep for several hours.”

Again Steve was tempted to tell Thor to swallow before talking. “Okay, so Loki fell asleep. How did you get burned?”

For a moment Bucky lowered his eyes, a far away look on his face. He didn’t seem unhappy, rather dreamy and Steve didn’t like that. “He fell asleep on one of those books, still sitting there. He didn’t look very comfortable. Really cute, but not very comfortable… So I thought I should put him to bed. He woke up and he wasn’t very… pleased.”

“Are you trying to tell me that… Loki burned you?!”

Bucky shrugged, turning back to the stove. “He was startled and lashed out. It was my fault.”

Natasha chuckled for some reason while Thor only nodded, looked dead serious. “It is never a good idea to wake my brother from his sleep. He once turned Fandral into a frog for waking him up during an invasion…”

“Yeah, but he burned you!”

“Not on purpose… I think… I was being stupid… How do you want your omelette?”

Everybody, especially Bucky, was shrugging this off and Steve couldn’t believe what was happening. “But you now got a nasty burn on your cheek. It’ll probably leave a scar! He can’t just do that!”

“It’s nothing.”

“My brother will heal it when he joins us for breakfast.”

“It’s really nothing in comparison to what I did to Clint when he woke me up to tell me he won a game of chess against Jarvis.”

Steve vaguely remembered Clint not being able to sit down for a week and shuddered at the thought. Fine, since obviously nobody cared about Loki acting like a complete jerk, why should he bother? But he was still going to make sure that Loki healed Bucky and he better didn’t leave a scar behind. How could somebody freak out over… Wait a second…

“Uhm, Bucky… when you say you wanted to put him to bed… you mean like… carrying him to the bed?”

Now Bucky didn’t have to turn around, even the back of his neck was suddenly flaming red. “He didn’t like that very much…”

Oh god, why couldn’t Steve get drunk? He desperately wanted to destroy the brain cells that made him picture Bucky carrying Loki to his bed. Now they were really in trouble. “Uhm… Jarvis, has Tony already seen footage of this… event?”

Obviously Tony hadn’t, otherwise he would have already put on his suit to duel with Bucky to the death.

“No, Captain Rogers. Sir has fallen asleep several hours ago and hasn’t got up from the floor since then.”

“Classy… For the love of god, let’s never talk about this again.”

Clint joined their little meeting a minute later, looking like a zombie who got here, because he followed the smell of brains. Or rather pancakes. “Holy shit, somebody here just volunteered to become our new chef! I never knew you could cook!”

By the end of this sentence Clint had already shoved half a plate of bacon and eggs into his mouth and munched loudly. This guy would feel so at home in Asgard.

“Well… Steve once told me that I should something I’m good at and that’s fun. That has nothing to do with being a soldier or fighting. Something to… compensate. I never did much cooking back… home. It got a lot easier with all the new devices. I don’t understand how we did anything without a microwave…”

Steve got a grateful smile from Bucky and finally this day was getting better. Maybe he had been overreacting. He should take advantage of the time Loki wasn’t here and Bucky not acting like a lovesick puppy. Bruce now also joined them for breakfast and of course they were all raving about the perfect breakfast Bucky had made. It would have all been so nice if it wasn’t for the stupid omelettes.

When Bucky was done with them he put most of them on plate, placing it in the middle of the table. Steve didn’t miss though that he put three of them aside on an extra plate. Something that didn’t go by unnoticed, especially not if a glutton like Clint was present. “That one looks amazing!” Trying to ram his fork into the omelette on top Clint’s hand was stopped in mid-motion. The little squeal he let out would have actually been funny if Bucky wasn’t staring at him with the deadliest eyes one could imagine. Nobody would want to be looked at like at, even less so when the person looking at you was also holding your wrist in a vice-like grip. The voice coming out of Bucky reminded Steve a lot of the Winter Soldier. “They are for Loki. Nobody touches them.”

“Okay, okay! Geez! Let go of me! I still need my arm!”

Bucky did and was instantly all smiles again. “Sorry, I can make you another one of these. They’re with peppers. Loki likes peppers.”

Bruce laughed softly under his breath and Steve had to trouble to find a comical element in this situation. “So I guess there is still no progress concerning the spell…”

“Not the tiniest bit…” Steve said sourly, his fork poking around in his pancakes and he was ready to bury his face in them when Bucky rushed to Loki’s defence. Despite nobody attacking him. “Loki is working very hard on it. He even fell asleep over the books. He’s doing all of that for me. The least I can do is making him some breakfast.”

For some strange reason Steve felt the urge to ram the fork into his thigh.

“Do you even want him to lift the spell?”

“Of course he wants him to lift the spell, Nat!”

Natasha raised one of her perfect eyebrows, but not really bothered by Steve’s embarrassing outburst. “Well, you have to admit this is kind of odd. Bucky is aware that he is under a spell. He spends all of his time with Loki who tries to lift it. Bucky’s feelings for Loki are due to the spell. He wouldn’t want them to go away, because he thinks he really is in love. Or do you know it’s just a spell? It is confusing.”

“Loki said that the spell only reinforces feelings that I already have. I don’t think much will change when he lifts it, but I’m looking forward to it, because then I can prove to him how much he means to me. Right now he thinks I’m only saying all this because of the spell.”

“You are saying all this because of the spell! And it doesn’t work like that! Loki said that positive feelings got intensified! You just liked him, that’s all…” Steve bit his lip when he saw Bucky’s hurt look. It quickly turned angry and Bucky shook his head. “I guess it’s hard for everybody to explain what they feel… or to make somebody else understand it.”

How could this be Steve’s life? Bruce sympathetically patted his shoulder, but it didn’t help.

Things might even get worse when Tony more or less stumbled into the kitchen. Tousled hair, unshaved and obviously completely hung over. “Wow, Tony… glad to tell you, you just broke your own record. You never looked this pathetic.”

“Shut up, Robin Hood. Somebody here hand me a beer or something against my hangover. I swear the hammering inside my skull is loud enough to wake the hounds of hell…” The second Tony had sat down Bucky handed him a glass of water, an aspirin and a slice of toast. “Here, that’ll help.”

Instantly Tony’s whole posture changed. He was sitting up straight, trying to look a little more like a person. Narrowing his eyes he took a close look at the little pill in his hand. “What’s that? Potassium cyanide?”

“Uhm… no. It’s an aspirin. It’ll help you with your headache.”

Tony let out a dry laugh, only to immediately regret it and to hold his head. That didn’t stop him though from glaring at Bucky. “You think you’re the first one to come up with this idea? I invented the whole ‘poison the rival so he won’t stand between you and Loki’ trick! You gotta try harder if you want to outwit me!” Tossing the pill away Tony barked out a loud “Ha!” and then rubbed his temples. Steve didn’t feel sorry for him.

“Tony, after the last party I didn’t think you could make an even bigger fool out of yourself. Congratulations, you proved me wrong.”

“Shut up, Clint. Every single word is like a dagger in my brain.”

“Nice of you to point that out. Reminds me of the fact that now is the perfect time to tell you everything about how I got into the circus. It’s a very, very, very long story and I won’t leave out a single detail.”

“I hate your face… Ouch… that hurts.” Tony groaned quietly, but there was no hope that somebody at this table would pity him. Until now this morning had only made Steve feel like he should have stayed in bed all along. Well, at least there was one thing that…

“Brother, how nice that you join us for breakfast!”

And there it was…

Tony immediately straightened up again, Bucky looked as happy as a kid in front of a Christmas tree and Steve was miserable. Everybody else didn’t care. Including Loki.

“Good morning, Loki. You want an omelette? A waffle? We have enough of everything… except for the pancakes… I can make you new pancakes if you want to?” Bucky started babbling and somehow everybody at this table seemed to think that this was cute. Maybe they were also under some kind of spell.

Loki didn’t want breakfast, he just cocked his head, looking at Bucky. “What happened to your face?”

Was this guy kidding?! Now Steve couldn’t and wouldn’t hold back. He just snapped. “Are you serious?! You burned him!”

Now Loki even had the audacity to actually think, one could see the wheels turning in his head. How could he not remember doing something like that? “Oh, yes, right. I guess I owe you an apology. I always react rather unpleasant when somebody wakes me from my slumber.”

Natasha wrinkled her nose in disgust when Tony spit the water he was drinking from right across the table. “What?! Stop! Rewind! What did you just say?”

Nonchalantly Loki walked up to Bucky and put his hand on his cheek. Steve inwardly counted to ten to keep himself from losing his nerve and Tony made an attempt to crawl straight across the table, probably to strangle Bucky, but Natasha held him back. Nevertheless the worst thing about this was the expression in Bucky’s beautiful eyes. A mixture of shock that Loki was actually touching him and pure delight because all his dreams were coming true at once. Clint would surely be mad if Steve threw up all over his omelette.

“Loki, what are you…”

“Shush.”

His fingers started to glow green and the red, burned skin on Bucky’s cheek slowly turned back to normal. Oh. Good. Right. That was good. When he was finished Loki looked as indifferent as before and turned to the others. “I will continue to go through Doom’s notes. A gruesome task, that man has no idea how to categorize or organize a collection of spells. I am the god of chaos and I feel at loss facing such disorder. I might be in need of some of the black, disgusting brewage you mortals use to stay awake.”

Tilting his head Clint offered a better term. “Coffee?”

“That’s it.” Nodding Loki made an attempt to leave, but got stopped by Tony who had decided that standing up was more effective than trying to crawl over the table and fighting against the Black Widow. “Time out, darling! Obviously Thor doesn’t give a shit about your honour being defiled or something, so it’s gotta be me who asks the question – what the fuck does he mean with ‘he woke you up’?!”

Instead of giving an answer Loki screwed up his face in disgust and glared at Tony as if he was an insect that needed to be crushed. “”By the Nines, Stark. You reek from every pore of your body, but did something crawl into your mouth and died in it?”

Clint laughed so loudly he choked on his pancake and although Steve had to admit that the comment was cruel… there might be a bit of truth in it. The one who didn’t care about this at all was Bucky, he still seemed to be in a dream like state, because Loki had actually touched him. “Can I join you… while you’re working?”

Tony was still taking the blow while Loki sighed mildly annoyed. “Fine. Just… don’t touch anything and… don’t talk… and don’t make any sound while breathing.”

Steve’s jaw literally hit the floor when Bucky nodded eagerly and followed Loki out of the room. This was… unacceptable.

“That’s it! I’m done! Spell or not, he is going down! As soon as I’m done showering, brushing my teeth and implanting a new head that doesn’t hurt like fuck… I’ll take him down! Nobody gets to stalk my little reindeer but me!”

An awkward silence filled the room until Clint, still munching on his food broke it. “You know, Tony? The guy under the influence of a love spell sounds less obsessed and way less creepy than you. Just saying.”

Chapter Text

Steve had fought in the Second World War. Steve had helplessly watched his best friend dying. Supposedly. Steve had seen an alien invasion. Steve had found out that the people he trusted where the enemies he had thought long defeated. Until today Steve had been pretty sure that he had seen it all and that he was able to take quite a lot.

This was too much.

“Please, don’t tell me he’s doing what I think he’s doing.”

Tony just laughed dryly. “Yeah, he’s practising.”

This couldn’t be true. Too surreal. Steve should be doing other things, like smacking Tony for using Jarvis to spy on Bucky when he was in his very own room, not even remotely close to Loki. He should be… doing anything but watching Bucky again on a video screen. Instead this time Bucky wasn’t watching Loki, but standing in front of a mirror, talking to himself.

“Why is on mute? How can you be sure what he is doing?”

“Twenty minutes ago it became incredibly pathetic and I couldn’t listen to it anymore. So I muted it.” Tony sounded bitter and Steve felt offended although he shouldn’t be. “Stop saying that. He isn’t pathetic. He is sweet…”

“Fuck that Captain America talk!” Tony snarled, turned away from the screen, his eyes flashing at Steve. “I want to talk to Steve Rogers. You know, an actual human being who has a few other emotions than being generous and self-sacrificing. The guy you have the hots for and who had the hots for you too a week ago is practicing how to ask my little reindeer out on a date! Be furious! Tear a wall down! Use a fucking curse word, but don’t call him sweet!”

It was hard enough to keep calm without Tony to tell him how… complicated the situation was. Even more so when Steve was reminded of the fact that other people than himself had noticed Bucky’s affection for him. Of course he didn’t enjoy standing by and watching how this situation was playing out right now. In fact, he hated it. But what was he supposed to do? Go crazy like Tony, trying to lock Bucky up in his room, until he used his metal arm to break the door to help Loki carrying a few books from one room to another.

Yes, that actually happened.

“This… isn’t really like Bucky. At all…”

Finally something that seemed to wake Tony’s interest. “What do you mean?”

“Well… he never did something like practising. He just asked girls out, he was a player. A nice, respectful and polite player, but he was never nervous. He just walked up to any girl he liked.”

“Yeah, but we’re not talking about some stupid bimbo that your darling used to date. Loki is the hottest guy walking on this planet. Of course he’s fucking practicing!”

Okay, enough is enough. “Stop that. Loki is smart, attractive and interesting, yes. And about 10 million other people are also smart, attractive and interesting. Bucky is only into Loki because of a stupid spell! It has nothing to do with Loki!”

The second the words were out Steve felt ashamed for yelling at Tony, but the inventor seemed disgustingly pleased. “There you go, Steve. That’s the spirit. Now you gotta take the next step! Get active! Do something! Like me!”

“There is nothing we can do. What are you even talking about?”

“I’m talking about effort. You’re in love with Bucky and he’s probably got a drawer full of love poems about my sweet, little ray of darkness.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.” Sighing Steve rubbed his temple, he didn’t argue being in love with Bucky, because there was no point in it, Tony knew everything and this was nothing to be ashamed of. Steve cared and it was probably the best to not bother Bucky with his own feelings and discomfort. He was under the influence of magic, what was the point in freaking out, being jealous or making a scene when none of it was real. Jealousy was eating him up either way, but he definitely didn’t need to show it to Bucky. Love spell or not, he was still Steve’s friend and he would feel bad for Steve. Beating himself up. Not going to happen. In this case Steve wasn’t anything like Tony.

“I’m putting effort in this whole thing. I even got a plan. I wrote it down and shit.”

No, don’t show it. Steve didn’t want to see it. Too late, because Tony was already pulling a sheet of paper out of his jacket. Did he have that on him 24 hours a day? “I wrote it with my own blood. That’s how serious it is!”

“Tony, I can clearly see that you used a red pen.”

“Whatever. Phase 1 of my genius plan – constant surveillance. I pretty much turned Jarvis into Big Brother. His eyes are glued to Bucky every single second of the day. Aren’t you, Jarvis.”

“Of course, sir.”

Instantly Steve’s headache grew worse. “I would point out the creepiness of that, but I’m still sitting here, watching. So we’re both creepy.”

Shrugging Tony continued to elaborate his plan… madness. “Only constant surveillance can help me to prevent potential closeness.”

Wait a second. “Closeness?! What? Did something happen?”

“Not yet, but with Bucky being so eager and Loki looking gorgeous as hell it’s only a question of time till he jumps at him.”

“Good lord, Tony! He isn’t you.”

Dismissing Steve’s statement with a gesture of his hand Tony got to the next point. “Phase 2 – Interference if potential closeness is about to happen.”

“No, don’t look at me like that. I’m not even going to ask.”

“Phase 3 – I’m going to swipe my little reindeer of his feet and conquer his heart. Bucky doesn’t stand a chance. He’ll cry and weep and…”

“Tony!”

Letting out a sigh Tony rolled his eyes. “Okay, okay. That’s where you come in. I don’t want Bucky to be sad or crushed or devastated… You are into him and before this little incident he was obviously interested in you. Do something! Your real love is going to kick this spell’s ass! Come on! We’re going to take them down… I mean we’re gong to make them fall for us. Doom’s spell got nothing on our natural charm.”

“Nice, there is only one flaw in your plan.”

The grin on Tony’s face told Steve that the other one doubted it. “Yeah, it is too awesome?”

An overwhelming need to smack Tony surged inside of Steve, but he would never do that. “You’re trying for over a year to get Loki to look at you. He isn’t. He even set your jacket on fire once… and Bucky has forgotten that other people than Loki do even exist. The spell is physically hurting him if he isn’t close to Loki. I don’t see our charm working here.”

“Wow, you should change your name into Captain Pessimistic.” Rolling his eyes Tony put his plan away, obviously pouting. Generally this plan wasn’t that crazy, Bucky was a good guy, he would definitely respect it if Loki got into a relationship. Unfortunately Loki had never shown the slightest bit of affection for Tony and Steve’s chances to make Bucky look at him had definitely burned to dust.

“Sir, Sgt. Barnes is heading to Mr. Laufeyson’s study.”

Immediately Tony sat up straight, eyes glued to the screen and Steve couldn’t deny that he was pretty much doing the same. Yes, they were both creepers. So what? It was all for security reasons. There was still a possibility that Loki would snap at Bucky anytime. Security, yes.

“Jarvis, volume. I don’t want to miss anything.”

Loki was sitting in the same spot he has been sitting for a week now. Although Steve unreasonably wanted to be angry at him for having all of Bucky’s attention focused on him … Loki was indeed working his ass off to somehow lift this spell. Two days ago he had thought he had found a breakthrough, but after sprinkling some magic over Bucky, he was still thinking that Loki had the most beautiful eyes in the world. Loki had been so angry that he had thrown half of Doom’s notes out of the window. Tony had been happy that this time it hadn’t been him. His happiness had quickly faded away when Bucky had offered to ease the tension in Loki’s shoulders by giving him a massage. Luckily Loki had only huffed and left before Tony had jumped at Bucky to murder him.

Well, now Loki was back to work and muttered lowly “Come in…” when there was a soft knock on the door. Bucky came in, smiling, but Loki wasn’t looking up. He was obviously used to encounters like this.

“Hey… How are you doing? Found something?”

Slightly shaking his head Loki actually sighed. “No… I’m starting to think that Doom just mixed some ingredients together without even bothering to take notes. It’s so frustrating.”

Steve’s mouth dropped open and he was tempted to rub his eyes and search a doctor to check his ears. “What… Since when is Loki talking to him? He never said a word until now!”

Snarling Tony zoomed in on them. “The day before yesterday… You know, Steve. Effort! Bucky is putting some in and it’s paying off!”

“Nah… they’re just talking… no big deal.” It was a huge deal.

Bucky slowly walked towards Loki, the sweet smile on his lips that Steve had seen a few times before and he could easily tell that his best friend was nervous. The way he slipped his hands into the pockets of his jeans and pulled them out again only seconds later. He was fidgeting. Oh god, no. Tony was right, Bucky really wanted to ask Loki out for a date.

Steve felt a soft stab in his chest, but comforted himself with the knowledge that Loki would most likely tell Bucky to disappear. Maybe he would even laugh at him. No, Steve didn’t want that… but everything was better than Loki agreeing. Fortunately that wasn’t possible.

“That’s bad… uhm… you want to take a break? There are still tons of books you have to work through… after a break you could…”

“It’s fine. I just got myself a glass of water. I can easily pull a nightshift.”

Bucky’s face fell and Steve bit his lip. This was just hard to watch.

“Really? Uhm, you don’t have to work all night. You already did that yesterday… and the day before. You missed out on movie night and games night.”

All he got for that was a casual shrug. “I don’t care that much about these events. You missed them too, you should be more upset about that.”

“Yes, but… I like being here with you. I like spending time with you. But you have to torture yourself with these notes that you hate and you haven’t seen anything else in a week. I appreciate what you’re doing for me, but… I don’t feel okay with you spending day and night in here, doing nothing else. You should take a night off.”

“Wow… I expected something better after so much practicing.”

“Shut up, Tony! It’s hard to pluck up the courage to ask somebody out if you don’t know how they’re going to react.”

“Holy bullshit on a sandwich! Stop being on his side!”

“Stop being such a jerk!”

“Maybe you have a point. I’ve been staring at this horrendous handwriting for so long… I’m starting to have trouble making anything out.”

Both of them swiftly turned back to the screen to see that god was having a field day and had sent Bucky a miracle. Loki had straightened up, for once not looking into this stupid book, but leaning back in his chair, rubbing his eyes. Unbelievable. Only now the thought crossed Steve’s mind that this whole process had to be indeed exhausting for Loki. Bucky was right, the guy had been working day and night. Besides being showered with attention from Bucky and Tony which he both didn’t want. At the moment Steve still couldn’t stop himself from feeling a grudge against Loki for being looked at with these soft eyes… but when this all was over Steve should probably get him a gift and write an apology letter for being angry at him.

Again the overly happy look on Bucky’s face would have given Steve that warm, tingly feeling inside… if it wasn’t so obviously directed at Loki. “See? You should get outta here for a while. Get some fresh air. Something to eat.”

“I guess I will do just that.” Loki dropped his arms and his tunic and the leather pants turned into a dark green, almost black sweater and jeans. Tony whistled next to him and Steve couldn’t resist, so he boxed him lightly. “Stop leering at him.”

“Tell that your sweetheart.”

Bucky definitely wasn’t leering, he was… looking at Loki. Approving… “Listen, Loki… if you’re heading out anyway… would you mind to spend…”

“Ah! Danger! Jarvis, protocol 2.b-4! Now!”

Steve never had the chance to ask what that meant, because in the very same moment Jarvis activated the alarm and all of them flinched. Especially Bucky.

“Avengers Protocol activated. Reports of a Doctor Doom attack in Brooklyn. Help is requested immediately.”

Jeans and sweater were instantly gone again and replaced by an Asgardian armour and Loki had that look in his eyes when he was eager to kill somebody. Luckily it was meant for Doom. “I will teach this wannabe sorcerer a lesson!” Like that Loki disappeared in green light and Bucky rushed out of the room to suit up. Something that they should do too.

“Tony! Get moving!”

The second Steve got up, Tony reached out for him, trying to push him back down on his chair. “Won’t be necessary.”

“What?! We have to get Doom! He can tell us how to lift that spell!”

“Totally agreed. Too bad that we don’t know where he is.”

“Didn’t you lis…” When realisation hit him with full force Steve couldn’t even finish his sentence. “Are you out of your mind?! You use Jarvis to… You make up an attack to stop them from talking to each other?! You can’t do that!”

A decent human being would be ashamed and feel uncomfortable, but Tony just grinned in self-satisfaction. “I just did and you should be grateful. This was phase 2 and we have to work on phase 3.”

 ***

“What the fuck was that about?” Clint slumped down on the couch, propping his feet up and Steve was chewing on his lower lip. He knew exactly what this had been about and he really should have kicked Tony’s ass, but… His crazy method had been very effective.

“Tony, how is it possible that Jarvis was wrong?” Natasha was looking quite calm in comparison and Steve definitely didn’t want to find out what she might do if the truth came out. She would probably kill Tony before Loki even got the chance to. Then she would scowl Steve for not preventing this whole stupid thing from happening. No, thank you.

Playing innocent Tony shrugged and got himself a drink, like he always did. Three seconds ago he had even been complaining about having been on a trip to Brooklyn for nothing. Guy had nerves of steel. “If Jarvis said that Doom was there, then he was there. Maybe just to screw with us or whatever he wanted to do didn’t turn out the way he wanted. No idea.”

Steve didn’t say anything, but made sure to give Tony the death stare, unfortunately the other one didn’t care about that in the least bit. Tony was barely hiding his smug smile, because he was feeling so content with himself.

“It was a waste of precious time. Stark, make sure that your machine doesn’t fool us again.” Loki’s face was so dark that everybody instinctively took a step back. This was not a happy looking man, absolutely not. Did Tony consider this too? That Loki would be incredibly pissed off for not getting a chance to smash Doom’s head and breaking the damned spell.

“I’m on it, new update is going to be installed tonight. Now everybody sit down and get a drink.”

Sighing softly Steve followed Tony’s advice and sat down, the others doing pretty much the same. Except for Loki who seemed to be about to turn around and leave. Something that Tony definitely wouldn’t have. When he opened his mouth to say something he got interrupted by the other god in the room. “Brother, share a drink with us before heading back to your studies.”

What followed was the ultimate proof that Loki was over-worked, because he came back without a word and let Tony had him a glass of wine. Great, now Steve was again starting to feel sorry for him. It must be frustrating to be working on something when nobody can help you and everybody is just waiting for you to get it done. If Bucky was right now crossing the room to stand next to Loki, Steve would actually sympathize with him. Almost.

“Anybody in the mood to watch a movie? Die hard is on tonight. I wanna see Bruce Willis beating up some terrorists.” Changing the subject meant that Clint was over their little trip. Steve wasn’t sure if he was in for Die hard, but putting his feet on couch sounded like a good idea how to spend the evening. Hopefully Tony was going to…

“Hey Lokes… you’re looking a bit pale. We haven’t seen you leaving your study in two days. Everything okay?”

Damn, he really wanted to go through with phase 3. Now Loki’s face wasn’t looking so dark and for once he wasn’t even attempting to hide his surprise. Mixed with a little bit of distrust. For him it definitely had to be weird to have Tony talking to him without every second word being a sexual innuendo. Probably he was already wondering if he had entered a different dimension. “My skin has always had this tone, Stark. I thought until now you would have noticed such an obvious detail.”

Natasha and Clint started whispering, not a good sign, but Steve was more interested in what Bucky was doing right now. Frowning. Also not a good sign.

“Nah, I just wanted to point out that… you’ve been working during the last two days. You must be getting blind doing all that reading. You don’t want to go out for a while?”

Steve discretely rolled his eyes. After months of unsuccessfully trying to seduce Loki Tony ended up repeating Bucky’s lines. A little bit pathetic, wasn’t it?

“Right, I also said that just an hour…”

Bucky never got a chance to finish that sentence. “You know a few months ago I donated quite a big sum to the Museum Of Natural History. Tomorrow they’re going to open their new exhibition about the… Dark Universe… whatever. So tonight is a private party for all the sponsors, which means everybody is just going to eat the food and get drunk, because none of them is actually interested in the exhibition. It’s going to be completely empty. You could stroll around without the annoying tourists. I’m heading there tonight, being one of the people getting drunk and eating the free food. You wanna come too?”

Steve had to leave it to Tony, although Bucky had been practicing all day… now it was still him who asked Loki out on a date. More or less, because Tony had asked him out about a thousand times prior. To coffee, to dinner, to Disneyland, to Paris, to a video games convention, straight to his bedroom. Every time Loki had only snorted.

Now that wasn’t the case. Loki seemed to be pondering the idea, before downing his drink. “What is the exhibition about?”

“Structure and history of the universe.”

“No offence, Anthony, but you mortals barely know anything about the history of the universe.” Well, Steve was siding with Thor here, but that wasn’t really the point.

The glimmer in Tony’s eyes gave away that he would like to do a little dance. If Thor was dismissive of something, you could be sure that Loki would love it. “Yes, Thor, but it’s fascinating to get in touch with another perspective. Stark, I would like to go there. When does said event start?”

Son of a… gun. Now Steve’s first impulse was to give Tony a pat on the shoulder, but that wouldn’t be appropriate. Especially since Bucky looked now like somebody had eaten all the chocolate cake in the world and there would never be any more chocolate cake. Never again. That was just mean.

Good lord, was he really sad, because Tony got to go out with Loki and not Bucky?! As scaring as this thought was – but Tony was right. Steve definitely had to be a bit more selfish.

“We could leave in ten minutes and still get there on time.” Tony was almost singing, he sounded so damned happy. He most likely was tempted to give Bucky the middle finger right now.

Loki nodded, then turned away from Tony and to… Bucky. “Sgt. Barnes you better get dressed appropriately, we’re leaving in 10 minutes.”

Bucky’s response was the same as Tony’s and Steve’s. They even said it in perfect union. “What?” Incredible how many different emotions could be carried by this single word. Surprise, shock, panic, disbelief, happiness, anger, joy and all of that mingled together until the only thing Steve could make out was Clint’s snickering.

“I’m going out and due to the spell, you’ll have to come with us.” The emotion in Loki’s voice was quite clear – I don’t care if you want to go to the museum or not, I’m going there and if you don’t want to get sick, you’ll have to go there too. As if there was only the slightest possibility that Bucky wouldn’t be overjoyed to go out with Loki. Suddenly there was unlimited amount of chocolate cake. “Sure, right… I’ll get ready immediately!”

The room suddenly seemed to be filled with Tony’s heavy breathing and Steve started to wonder if he was about to turn into the Hulk. Seriously, right now Tony looked scarier than Bruce had ever been. Maybe he was a bit exaggerating, but it needed to be pointed out how displeased Tony was. Rather furious, ready to rip Bucky apart… and Loki for inviting him. Then again Steve was the only one who seemed unsettled by that, Clint and Natasha made the impression they wanted to eat popcorn while watching Tony. By now Bucky had rushed out of the room and Loki casually did the same muttering “I feel like moving the traditional way tonight, we’re going to take the car.”

When he was gone Tony twirled around, his eyes narrowed so tightly that he probably didn’t see anything. “You! Captain Boy Scout! You’re coming with us! Get dressed and look good!”

“What?”

“There’s not going to be a third wheel! So get dressed! I’m not going to make my little reindeer wait!”

Well, looked like Steve had a double date.

***

Steve was neither blind nor ignorant. He could see that Loki was an attractive person, if you were into people with pale skin and dark hair. Loki had a nice face and although he definitely wasn’t Steve’s type he could see that other people would feel incredibly attracted to him. Still… sitting in a limousine with two people who were just drooling over Loki was too much. Yes, he was pretty, but just because he was wearing casual clothes and having his hair pulled back in a ponytail… Loki wasn’t pure beauty and hotness walking around on two legs, it was simply annoying that Tony and Bucky couldn’t tear their eyes of him and Loki didn’t bother. Just was inspecting his freshly painted black fingernails. A guy painting his fingernails… what were they drooling over again?

Feeling relieved when they arrived at the museum Steve was convinced that the situation could only get better. There would be other people and they wouldn’t be locked in this tiny room where there was nothing else to do than… marvel at Loki’s magical good looks. Inside they were immediately greeted by a nice looking woman who was clearly overexcited and nervous. “Mr. Stark! It’s an honour to have you here. How wonderful, you brought three of your fellow Avengers. Gentlemen, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Would you like to follow me and I will introduce you to some of our curators.”

“Not interested, I just want to see the exhibition.” Loki also didn’t want to waste any time on manners or polite behaviour, because he just walked past the woman. Steve immediately felt sorry for her, evidently she had no idea how to react to a semi-Avenger just ignoring her and people who were actually interested in learning something new. Bucky instantly followed Loki and Tony just grinned. “I’m sorry, but we aren’t the kind of people who come for the alcohol and the free food.”

Despite having just said that Tony grabbed a bottle of champagne from the next waiter and indicated Steve to walk after Bucky and Loki. They shouldn’t be alone, not even a second. Steve was fine with that.

Loki had chosen himself leader of their little group, although it was obvious that he didn’t care if they really went along with him or not. Bucky didn’t leave his side, Steve was one step behind Bucky and Tony buzzed around them like a bee. The museum halls were indeed quite empty, Steve had never experienced something like this. No crowds, no hurry, no shouting kids or tourists with cameras. It was nice and Loki’s expertise on the universe actually made this little trip quite interesting. Or it would have been if Bucky hadn’t been so eager to listen to him, enjoying every single word that fell from his lips. It was so painfully obvious that Tony had to do something about it immediately. In a way only Tony Stark could.

“Wow, look that exhibit looks awesome! Wanna have a drink?”

Not very creative, but effective. Every time Bucky asked Loki a question Tony stepped between them and held out the bottle of champagne. This probably would have continued forever if the next hall they entered wouldn’t have been… the most romantic setting ever. It was completely dark except for the ceiling that was meant to simulate some… other galaxy or even their own, Steve didn’t know a thing about the difference. What he knew very well was that bright, clear, countless stars above them were incredibly beautiful and setting a mood. And Steve wasn’t the only one thinking that, Bucky’s eyes were sparkling and he seemed to be glued to Loki’s side now, while Tony kept looking at the bottle in his hand and then at Bucky’s head. Like he was pondering… Oh, hell no!

“Give me that!” Steve grabbed the bottle and Tony pouted before changing his strategy. “Lokes, I have a question about intergalactic travelling. How are you able to…” Now he was using dozens of words that Steve had never heard before and couldn’t even pronounce. Bucky looked just as clueless, but for the first time during his evening Tony managed to attract Loki’s attention. The god started explaining and Steve decided to switch his brain off, because this whole monologue just had to be a random collection of words. None of it made sense.

“Isn’t it incredible how smart he is?”

Oh great, now Bucky was talking to him. About Loki. “He grew up travelling like that. He must know some things about it.”

“Yeah, but… I don’t know. I just like listening to him about this kind of stuff. It’s interesting.” Smiling happily Bucky shrugged and Steve’s heart skipped a beat. Not healthy, not at all. The very same second Tony decided to be a douche. He had to be bursting with confidence to stop the conversation with Loki to bring Bucky into it. To make him look stupid in front of Loki. “You do? What do you know about astrophysics?”

Everybody’s eyes were on Bucky and only the dim light made Steve wonder if he was imaging the slight blush on his cheeks. “Nothing, really. But I don’t need to know anything to appreciate their beauty.”

A fleeting moment of silence and why was it Loki of all people who broke it. With that pensive look on his face. Not indifferent or dismissive as usual. “You are right. Unfortunately that’s something I tend to forget. To just… look at them.”

The loveliest smile spread on Bucky’s face, Loki smiled back and Steve had to grab Tony to stop him from murdering someone.

 

 

“You fucked that up!”

“I didn’t do anything!”

“Exactly!”

“What?!”

“I at least put some effort into the whole thing, you were just standing there! It’s 2 for Bucky and 0 for me! We are losing, Steve!”

“That’s not a game.”

“Damn right! Okay, we took a blow, but we come back from this… I just need a plan and…”

Steve sighed and rubbed his temples, like Loki had previously done. He wasn’t doing that anymore, now he was in the kitchen with Bucky who had offered to show him how to cook one of these delicious omelettes. What happened to working on the spell? Why was nobody working on the stupid spell anymore? “Tony… calm down. You…”

“Sir, I’m sorry to interrupt you, but Loki and Sgt. Barnes just engaged into physical contact.”

Jumping out of his seat Tony rushed to the closest screen that streamed a live image from the kitchen. Honestly Steve wanted to take a look at that too, but there were important matters. Like… “You ordered Jarvis to warn you if they touched each other?! Have you any idea how weird… stalkerish that is?!”

Tony only indicated him to hush and stared at the screen. Loki and Bucky were standing next to each other, Bucky chopping onions, nothing else. Totally innocent. “Jarvis, ya sure?”

“100 percent, sir. Loki handed Sgt. Barnes another onion and their fingers brushed.”

Just for the record – Steve would never admit to anybody that both of them sighed in relief. Tony slumped back in his chair, looking exhausted. Being a creepy stalker really took its toll. “Okay… give me the vitals.”

“Jesus Christ! Tony!”

“I couldn’t register any change regarding Loki’s vitals, but Sgt. Barnes' heart rate sped up and I also noticed a slight rise of his body temperature.”

Second sigh of relief. “You gotta love my reindeer for having a heart of ice.”

“Ice can melt.”

“Oh, don’t go fucking poetic on me!”

“No, just… look!” Steve nodded towards the screen, while developing a serious pain in his stomach. Could be a huge ulcer, felt like it.

In the kitchen Bucky seemed to have asked Loki to hand him something else, reversing their roles. Loki grabbed a red pepper and held his hand out to Bucky who took the pepper. Their fingers brushed again and Bucky stopped, eyes fixed on Loki’s face.

“No. No, no, no.”

Thanks to the high quality of the camera Steve could perfectly make out how Bucky’s thumb ran across the back of Loki’s hand and…

“Sir, Loki’s heart rate just went up, barely noticeable, but…”

All colour left Tony’s face and his eyes nearly popped out. Steve tried to tell himself that he didn’t react the same way. “Jarvis! What are you waiting for?! Emergency protocol! Now!”

This little moment Bucky and Loki were having and Steve’s personal nightmare that would hunt him for years quickly came to an end when the sprinkler system off. The pepper was dropped to the floor and Loki’s and Bucky’s were soaking wet before they could even realise what was going on.

It was completely absurd and stupid, but it definitely helped to make Tony look less horrified. So unbothered by Steve’s outraged glare. “What?! They both needed a cold shower!”

A shower that didn’t seem to end, water was pouring down from the ceiling and especially Loki made the impression of being confused by it. He probably had never heard of fire regulations. Definitely an ulcer, the thought suddenly crossed Steve’s mind that Loki wouldn’t find this involuntary shower very funny. Tony had lost his mind to risk pissing Loki off.

Bucky being his charming, happy self was all smiles and pointed at the ceiling, probably explaining Loki what was going on. Time to pray that they wouldn’t put two and two together. Steve didn’t want to be here when Loki decided to lynch Tony.

No lynching during the next five seconds, Loki only made a decisive gesture with his hand and the water masses stopped coming down from one second to another. A rather odd picture. Two adult men standing in a kitchen, both completely wet, drops of water were falling from their drenched clothes that were sticking to their bodies. Both had no idea what was going on, but Tony had clearly succeeded in interrupting them. Unfortunately Tony’s plan didn’t take a very important detail into consideration.

“Tony…”

Bucky was laughing, clearly amused, while Loki was frowning. Well, Steve thought that he was frowning, but there was no way too be sure since Loki’s wet hair was partly covering his face. Within the next second there was a remarkable change on Bucky’s features, causing Steve to swallow. The laughing stopped and instead a soft smile spread on Bucky’s face. Steve didn’t need the camera to zoom in to know that his eyes were sparkling, little water drops dripping from his eyelashes. He was beautiful.

Bucky slowly reached up, brushing Loki’s hair back, behind his ear and Loki… let it happen. Steve heard Tony sucking in a breath or maybe it was him? Mesmerized they watched how Bucky’s hand lingered on Loki’s cheek, he was leaning in and…

“Jarvis! Do something! Fire alarm! Earth quake! Gremlins! Open another dimension! Anything!”

Their lips were inches apart when the kitchen window all of a sudden shattered into pieces. An Iron Man suit was bursting right through it, tackling Bucky with full force and tossing him to the floor. Steve was gaping at the screen, Tony’s mouth fell open and Loki blinked.

“Well, that worked. Not very subtle, but effective. Thanks Jarvis.”

Chapter Text

“Stark!”

Loki’s voice itself was quite menacing, but hearing him pronounce the only syllable so bitter and sharp made Steve very grateful that his name wasn’t Tony Stark. That wasn't even enough, Loki was holding the head of the Iron Man suit in his hand. Former head? It had been ripped off. Somebody was angry. “Explain yourself!” Tossing the head of the suit into Stark’s hands Loki glared at him. Although still being soaking wet Loki looked as menacing as ever. Who was Steve kidding he looked freaking scary.

Until now Tony was taking it quite well, looking curiously at the helmet in his hands. “Wow… did you at least check if I was in there before you did that?”

“No.” Not even blinking.

“Damn…”

Today Loki wasn’t even less patient than usual. “Stark! Why did your machine trigger the sprinklers and let your armour fly through the window?!”

“Uhm…” Tony scratched his head. “Jarvis… wants some attention?”

“Stark!” Loki growled, his eyes flashing and Steve felt the slight urge to call the others, just in case if they had to take him down. Stupid, yes, Loki had every reason to be angry. Being about to kiss someone and getting interrupted by… Good lord! Bucky walked up behind Loki, putting a hand on his shoulder. “Hey, you should…”

Shrugged him off Loki snarled and looked at Tony as he seriously thought about killing him. “I’m going to work on the spell. I don’t want to be disturbed.” Turning around on his heels Loki walked off and only Bucky tried again to talk to him. “Loki…”

“I said I didn’t want to be disturbed! By anybody!”

Bucky’s face fell and Loki was gone. How was Steve supposed to feel about this? Yes, he was glad that nothing had happened between them, but it made him sad to see Bucky so heartbroken. Oh, and angry. “Seriously, Tony… what was that?”

With Loki gone there was no reason for Tony to continue playing his little game. “Didn’t you get the memo, Barnes? Everything’s fair in love in war.”

For a mere second Bucky seemed speechless before slowly shaking his head. “You’re using the Iron Man suit to get between Loki and me? I’m sorry, but’ that’s… really sad.”

Not the verbal or maybe even physical fight Tony had hoped for, Bucky left like Loki had done before and Steve let out the breath he had been holding in. “He is right, you know? That was really… sad.”

“It was necessary! Yes, using the suit wasn’t the smartest option, but at least I’m doing something! You know what’s really sad… just standing by and not doing anything when what you want is being taken from you.”

Steve refused to believe that Tony had a point.

 ***

Everybody seemed to be in need of a break, so they gathered in the common living room and did a Disney marathon. Well, everybody except Loki. The god had locked himself in his study for working on the spell. That was good, working on the spell was good. Bucky was here, next to him on the couch, Loki in another room. Everything was fine. Except that Loki hadn’t left the study for more than eight hours now and Steve couldn’t help but notice that Bucky began fidgeting ever so slightly.

“Are you alright?”

A clearly forced smile appeared on Bucky’s lips as he nodded. “Yeah, I’m good.”

He so obviously wasn’t and everybody else shared a look. Everybody but Tony, he didn’t care. For now Steve let it rest, tried to concentrate on the beginning of the Jungle Book. Sadly it was very hard to ignore how Bucky slowly started shifting around, clearly uncomfortable in every position he was in. Yes, Steve knew what that meant, but he could ignore the reason for it, couldn’t he?

“You’re sure that you’re okay?”

“Sure…” By the way he was talking Steve could easily tell that his throat was sore. How was that even possible? Such a physical reaction to the absence of another person?

Groaning softly Natasha leaned over them and put her hand on Bucky’s forehead. “Hey, what…”

“Shush, you have temperature. Jarvis, call Loki. He’s done with working for tonight.”

Quickly Bucky shook his head and by now nobody could miss that his eyes were slightly glassy. “No, don’t. He wanted to be alone, I don’t want to bother him.”

“Jesus, Bucky, this is ridiculous. You’re feeling bad, he can help. We don’t care if he wants to be alone right now. Jarvis, call Loki.” Steve insisted, his voice sharp and Bucky sighed in defeat. Tony only screwed up his face, while the others didn’t seem to care. Seconds later Jarvis told them that Loki was on his way, making Clint frown. “What? No teleporting?”

“Mr. Laufeyson was asleep, he is still very exhausted.”

Now that didn’t sound good and even Thor raised an eyebrow. “His work probably isn’t progressing well…”

“Wow, great…” Tony muttered under his breath and Bucky looked worried. “You should have let him sleep. He’s having such a hard time…”

If there ever had been the right time for a face palm, it was now. This was just hard to watch and to listen to… everything about it made Steve uncomfortable and it only got worse when Loki actually entered the room. Because Steve fell back into this strange feeling that resembled a mix of pity and anger. Loki looked wrecked. His big green eyes suddenly appeared to be so small, he had dark rings beneath his eyes and it was all too obvious that he was missing out on a lot of sleep. Such a weird picture, because Loki’s appearance had always been impeccable and he had never once said something about being tired. The fact that Loki even showed up here and let them all see the state he was in, was proof enough that he was completely beat.

“Wow, did a bulldozer run you over?”

Thanks to Clint’s comment Steve knew that he wasn’t the only one who noticed. Loki didn’t react, just slumped down on the couch next to the archer and muttered “Whoever dares to wake me up will be sent directly to the fire world. Ask Thor, it’s not a nice place.”

While Loki closed his eyes, Thor was nodding intently, like trying to tell them that nobody should make a sound. So they just continued to watch the movie and Loki seemed to have fallen asleep instantly. Okay, Steve could work with that, neither Tony nor Bucky were saying anything. Well, until Natasha put her hand back on Bucky’s forehead. Straight out of nowhere. “You see, perfectly normal.”

Quickly pushing her away Bucky muttered something inaudible, causing Natasha and Clint to chuckle. “Thor, just how badly is it pissing your brother off that he can’t figure out how to break one of Doom’s spells? A month ago he was still raving about how much he’s better at magic than everybody else.”

Thor barely tore his eyes off the screen, but still gave an answer. “Worry not, Agent Barton. My brother is the greatest sorcerer in the nine realms, he will find a solution.”

“Yeah, I’m seeing that.” Clint pointed at Loki who could also be unconscious for all they knew. “Whatever, I’m getting more popcorn and our lovesick puppy here can sit next to his big heartthrob.”

Just like that Clint got up and left, leaving nothing but an empty spot between Bucky and Loki. Tony instantly snarled and Bucky had obviously forgotten that they were here to watch a movie and not Loki.

“Don’t even think about it.” Tony hissed and Loki shifted a bit in his sleep.

“Be quiet, you’re waking him up.”

“Oh, shut up both of you. There are still people present who aren’t in love with Loki and who want to watch the movie.”

Steve had actually forgotten about Bruce being here, but he had a pretty good point and Bucky and Tony did indeed stop their bickering. They continued to watch the Jungle Book in silence and the second it was done Thor started humming ‘Bear necessities’. Two movies weren’t enough to count as a marathon, therefore they watched the Little Mermaid and by the end of that Loki was still asleep. Clint, Natasha and Bruce just left while Tony and Bucky were eyeing each other suspiciously. What? Didn’t one want the other to be alone with a sleeping Loki?

“Should we wake him up, Thor?”

Loki’s brother slowly shook his head. “No, it would be better to let him sleep here. I doubt his reaction would be any different to the last time you woke him up, Sgt. Barnes.”

“Cool, so let’s go all to bed. Alone. Right now.” Tony stared at Bucky and Steve had enough of it. “Yes, we’ll do just that. All of us.”

There was some complaining and Steve may have used his superhuman strength to shove them all out of the room. It was time to go to sleep and Steve had to get away from this for a few hours.

 ***

After waking up early Steve did his workout to clear his head and then got himself a bottle of water from the kitchen. At least Bucky wasn’t already here, making breakfast for Loki. Wanting to watch the morning news Steve walked into the living room only to find Loki still lying on the couch. Somebody had spread a blanket over him. Steve could only hope that it hadn’t been Bucky.

The second Steve switched on the TV Loki began to stir and Steve sighed inwardly. Or… maybe that wasn’t so bad, an opportunity to talk without Tony or Bucky around. If Tony wasn’t again watching. A man could still hope.

“Is it morning already?” Loki looked dishevelled but well rested when he sat up and Steve nodded. “Yes, but it’s still early. Nobody is awake yet.”

Nodding slightly Loki ran a hand through his hair before looking at the blanket and frowning. He didn’t ask though and Steve was so grateful for that. “You just woke up, but… would you mind if we talked for a second?”

Not saying anything Loki indicated him to talk while making a little gesture with his other hand and his hair suddenly didn’t look like pure chaos anymore. Creepy. “I was wondering… when this all is done and you broke the spell… how much of this is Bucky going to remember?”

Loki raised an eyebrow as if Steve had asked an incredible stupid question. “Everything of course. The spell only creates the illusion of being in love with me, no other part of his personality is effected. He will also remember his feelings, although they won’t be there anymore. It will be like remembering something you were fond of as a child. A pleasant memory, but you aren’t able to tell anymore why you liked it that much.”

Well, that didn’t sound so bad, Steve would have still preferred it if Bucky wouldn’t remember any of this. Would that be fair though? Okay, easy part done, now it was going to get really uncomfortable. “There is something else.”

“I’m listening, Captain, but I don’t have all the time in the world.”

Clearing his throat Steve tried to keep calm and hoped he wouldn’t piss Loki off. ”I know you’re doing everything in your power to break the spell and this whole thing is hard on you… I mean you pretty much passed out on the couch… Sorry, I’ll get to the point, don’t worry. I just hope you don’t… take advantage of Bucky’s vulnerability…”

Oh god, that was so bad.

Loki narrowed his eyes the tiniest bit. “What are you implying, Captain?”

“Nothing… Just… Please, don’t get his hopes up. He is in love with you right now… or thinks he is in love you and therefore he can also get hurt. Also he’s not able to protect himself right now like he should…”

Against Steve’s expectations Loki didn’t look offended or about to murder him, rather interested. “You bring up a fascinating point, Captain. What are you suggesting? That I ignore him? That I reject him? Be mean or unpleasant to him? That would hurt him too and he will remember the hurt the same way he will remember the affection. It’s a philosophical question. Do I crush him so he will remember pain? Or am I being nice to him so he will remember that and will embarrassed or uncomfortable because of it? I’m serious, Captain. I have no idea myself how to act right now.”

Loki admitting being clueless didn’t make Steve feel better, not a bit. “You shouldn’t do anything… he wouldn’t do if he wasn’t under the influence of the spell.”

“Are you calling me a rapist?”

Okay, Steve was a dead man. “No! No, no, no. I didn’t say anything like that. I know this whole thing is hard on you too. I just… please keep in mind that he is under the influence of a spell.”

Getting up Loki shot him a glance that made Steve actually tremble. “Thank you, Captain. For reminding me. It’s not like I’m being confronted with the effects of the spell everyday. Like the Winter Soldier constantly seeking me out while I’m working on a cure for said spell. Thank you.”

Now Loki left him alone and Steve felt bad. Great, that had worked out perfectly. Perhaps Tony was right. Not about the stalking or most of the other stuff, but he definitely should be doing something. Something else than getting on Loki’s nerves.

 ***

“Hey! What the fuck are you doing!” Tony shrieked when Steve slid his laptop shut, being totally absorbed in what he had been watching on screen.

“It’s gotta stop Tony. The creeping, the watching, the stalking… it’s not helping.” Steve was in Captain America mode, he had actually practiced this speech when he had realised that this whole thing had been going on far too long.

“It’s not helping? They would have been making out if I hadn’t stopped them!”

Rubbing his temple Steve sighed. This was going to be hard. “Yeah, I know, but there gotta be other ways to take care of that. I’m not okay with that and I guess… we gotta trust Loki on this one.”

Tony started to frown. “I trust my little reindeer completely. It’s your best buddy that I don’t trust. Using completely romantic set-ups to his advantage and being all…” Making a dismissive gesture with his hand Tony huffed. “… nice.”

This was actually surprising and Steve couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow. He didn’t quite get Tony’s point. “What? Are you angry that he accomplished more in a week than you did during the last year?”

“No! I’m… Argh, it must be the hair!” Pouting Tony crossed his arms in front his chest and Steve suddenly felt like a parent who had to give his kid the… talk. A teenager. A very… young teenager, driven by his hormones. Unfortunately Steve couldn’t remember ever being said person. But he liked Tony and when it all came down Steve didn’t want him to be miserable. Everybody could have said these things months ago, but there had never been an urgent matter. “Listen, Tony… maybe it’s time to let go of this idea. I mean it should be very obvious by now that Loki isn’t into you. The time and effort you use to get him into bed… You’re Tony Stark, just go into a gothic bar and get yourself a look-alike within three seconds… Can’t believe I just said that.”

Tony snorted and tried to reopen the laptop, but Steve laid his hand on it to keep it shut. “Where’s the challenge in that?”

“So it’s all about the chase?”

“We’re talking about Loki here. A god. A very hot, sarcastic god who can shapeshift, has the most intimidating death glare in the whole world and did you ever see him taking his shirt off? Loki is fucking beautiful and a god! You expect me to find something like that in a gothic bar? Very funny.” Rolling his eyes Tony gave up on reopening the laptop and decided it was better to start pouting again.

A teenager. “Okay, then the other way round. Loki doesn’t like you hitting on him, be a fucking adult and respect that. Stop it.”

“Fine. I’ll stop the second you stop drooling over Bucky.” Judging by his face Tony was about to stick his tongue out at him and Steve flinched. “That’s something entirely different.”

“Oh, is it? Great. When you got the hots for somebody it’s pure, wonderful, marvellous, ever lasting love, but when I am into someone, I should just stop because of some minor problems.”

“Minor problems… right.”

“Fuck you, I was getting close before Bucky decided to go all goo goo eyes!”

“Decided?! It was your fault!”

“There was white smoke in that bottle! How could I know?!”

“It was one of Doom’s bottles and Loki said that you shouldn’t touch anything!”

“White smoke! Love stuff is supposed to be pink or red! Not white!”

“Just admit for once that you fucked up!”

Tony opened his mouth to reply before his eyes got wide and the words seemed to die on his lips and instead he was just staring at Steve. Which was making him feel kind of uncomfortable. “What?”

“Did you just say fuck?”

No, he didn’t. Steve was sure he didn’t. No way this whole situation had frustrated him that much. Steve Rogers didn’t swear. He just didn’t. “No, I didn’t.”

“Yes, you totally did! Your coming of age! I’m so proud of you.”

“Shut your mouth, Tony.”

Surprisingly Tony did just that and they both stared at each other in silence. The situation was getting to them, there was no denying it, but why did Tony refuse to…

“Sir, I am sorry to interrupt you, but I was to alarm you if Sgt. Barnes and Loki were to engage in physical contact again.”

Jarvis’ voice tore the silence and Tony lazily raised his head. “What? Did Bucky hand him another book?”

“No, sir. It seems to me like they’re holding hands.”

Instantly Tony jumped up, reaching for his laptop, but Steve wouldn’t have that. “No, Tony.”

“Didn’t you listen?!”

“I did, you can’t use Jarvis to spy on them. I don’t like that either, but…”

“Fuck this!” Tony simply ran and left Steve staring after him. Better following him to stop him from doing something stupid. At least he wasn’t spying. So Loki and Bucky were holding hands… yes, Loki had been definitely listening to him. Damn, Steve hated this.

It was quite easy to find Tony and to catch up to him. The direction he was heading to was fairly obvious. Loki’s study.

Truth to be told, with each step that he was getting closer Steve became more nervous. What if they were already doing more than holding hands? Holding hands was usual the start, wasn’t it? In front of him Tony was bursting through the open door of the study, shouting on the top of his lungs. “What happened?!”

Steve shoved him aside and was… surprised to see that there was no real hand holding going on. Loki was sitting in a chair, holding his hand out and Bucky wasn’t holding it, but bandaging it. Huh. Jarvis really had to work on his semantics. Desperately. Oh, both of them were staring at Tony and him, wondering what they were doing here and rightly so. “Uhm… hey… we kinda were alerted… something happened?”

Bucky slightly shook his head before going back to take care of Loki’s hand. “Nothing major. Loki cut himself while preparing a potion.”

Loki scowled, pursing his lips, but didn’t say a word. Clearly embarrassed by what Bucky was saying. While Steve was still wondering why Tony had already spotted some flaws in this story. “You cut yourself? Why can’t you heal that yourself?”

Now Loki’s eyes almost turned black and he muttered under his breath. “I used an enchanted blade, so the potion will be more powerful. I can’t heal this cut with magic, it was to heal the… traditional way.”

Suddenly Loki hissed in pain and Bucky immediately looked up, a sheepish expression on his face. “Sorry…” As if to apologize he rubbed his thumb over Loki’s wrist and Steve started to feel this pain in his stomach again.

“No… it’s fine… it was my fault.” Loki more or less mouthed the words and the tense atmosphere didn’t please Steve. At all. Luckily Tony cleared his throat, sounding strangely hoarse. “An enchanted blade? But you’re fine? That’s not going to do any weird stuff to your hand? It’s not going to fall off?”

Raising an eyebrow Loki turned his head to Tony before shaking it. “No. It’s just a deep cut. It will heal.”

While Bucky finished bandaging Loki’s hand Steve realised something else, something major. “Wait, you were making a potion? Did you find something to lift the spell?”

“There is a slight chance that I might be on to something. It’s a try.”

“Great!” Tony was instantly all smiles and sat down on the next available chair. “How far are you?”

“It will take another hour and I guess it would be better if I finished it alone. Further distractions could jeopardize the success.” Loki’s eyes darted back to Bucky who finally let go of him. “Okay, whatever you think is a good idea.”

So Loki threw them all out and Steve couldn’t help but ask. “Bucky… how did Loki actually cut himself? He is quite skilled with his daggers…”

Tony shot Steve a look that clearly said “Good question, bro.”

The light flush on Bucky’s cheeks didn’t promise anything good. “I was distracting him, it was my fault.”

“Why? What did you do?”

“I said something.”

“What?”

“That’s… private.” Now even Bucky’s ears were pink and Tony barked out a laugh. “The last time I tried to tell him something private he threatened to cut my dick off.”

Yeah, Steve wondered what ‘private’ thing Tony had told Loki. Whatever it had been, it probably had deserved the reaction it had received. Bucky pulled a face. “Nothing like that. I just told him… what I was thinking. Sorry, that was only meant for him. You wanna grab something to eat? I thought about making pasta.”

A cheap way to change the topic, but Steve and Tony were both fine with it. Probably everybody had decided for themselves that they didn’t need to know what Bucky had really said to distract a man whose favourite weapon was a dagger enough to cut himself. They joined Bucky in the kitchen, Steve was desperate to spend some time with him and Tony probably just wanted to make sure that he wasn't running back to Loki. Now they were even ending up helping him to cook. Steve didn’t want to flatter himself, but he was actually useful here… unlike Tony. Despite being a genius Tony could only chop up onions and that was all.

The smell of delicious pasta had Clint walking into the kitchen half an hour later. “Cool, food! Are we mere mortals allowed to have some of it too? Or is it just for Loki and you’re going to ram a fork into my hand if I try to have some of it?”

Bucky smiled sheepishly and shook his head. “No, there’s enough for everybody…”

“Great!” Clint slumped down on a chair, grabbed a fork and looked expectantly at them. “Get busy, I’m hungry.”

All of them were hungry and Steve was indeed surprised when Bucky didn’t insist on waiting for Loki. Was this a good sign? A bad sign? No sign at all and Steve was just over thinking this or completely losing his mind?

What followed was quite nice. They four of them sat down and had dinner like civilised people. Natasha, Thor and Bruce weren’t home, so it was just them and even Tony made it to keep himself in check. Hopes were high that Loki would show up any second with the cure to this stupid spell. No reason to act crazy and weird now. Or maybe nobody wanted to talk, because they were rather enjoying the great meal. How could Steve not have known that Bucky could cook like this? Side effect of the spell? Yes, Steve was losing his mind.

“I have finished the potion.”

Instantly everybody turned around and there was Loki, standing in the doorway, holding a wineglass in his hand. There was some exotic looking blue liquid inside of it and it did make Steve think of poison. On the other hand the white smoke hadn’t looked dangerous and it had done a lot of damage.

“Sweet! Bring it over here! Bucky needs a drink anyway!” Tony could barely hold still, he was so excited and Steve shared this sentiment. Clint just watched the scene with mild interest, chewing on a mouth full of pasta. Loki walked directly to Bucky, holding out the glass and Steve noticed how tense he looked. So him and Tony weren’t the only ones with high expectations. The person who would be affected most by all of this was still Bucky and he looked as calm as ever, taking the glass, but only looking at Loki. “Is it going to work?”

Again Loki was reluctant to admit that he didn’t know everything. “I can’t be sure. It’s worth a try and I believe there is good chance. You need to drink all of it at once. It should take effect instantly.”

Bucky was already putting the glass to his lips when Steve quickly held him back. “Wait! Loki, are you sure this is safe? We’re dealing with magic here and you said yourself that you don’t really know what Doom… created there. This couldn’t have some… bad side effects?”

Shaking his head Loki gave Steve a dark glare. “Of course it’s totally harmless. I know what I’m doing. I treated it with care and it’s not going to react badly with the spell. It’s going to lift it or it won’t do anything at all. I wouldn’t risk hurting him.”

That was good to hear, but Steve didn’t feel too good about the flush on Bucky’s cheeks. Impatiently clearing his throat Clint looked expectantly at Bucky. “You’re going to drink now or what?”

Not even wasting another word Bucky did just that, downing the glass in one single gulp and Steve held his breath, pretty sure that Tony was doing the same. Even Loki’s eyes were slightly wider than usual, fixed on Bucky, trying to capture some kind of reaction.

None. Bucky just swallowed one more time, obviously feeling uneasy with all the attention on him. “It doesn’t taste very good.”

“We don’t give a shit about the taste! Is your poor little heart still beating for our dark sorcerer here?” Tony barked and Steve would have snarled at him if he hadn’t been busy staring from Bucky to Loki and back to Bucky.

“Don’t listen to him, how are you feeling?” Loki cocked his head, looking at Bucky so intently Steve got the impression he tried reading his expression.

“Good. Not any different than before. I still think we should have dinner at that nice French place tonight.”

Growling in frustration Loki slumped down on an empty chair, grabbed a random wine glass on the table and drank it out in one gulp. Steve wasn’t going to let it show, but he also suffered from this blow and he could understand this reaction only too well. Surprisingly Tony remained silent, but judging by his face he was thinking about getting into his armour and blowing some shit up. Just for fun.

The only one who looked completely unbothered was Clint, again chewing on his pasta and talking with his mouth full. “So it didn’t work, huh?”

“No shit!”

It was awkward and a bit terrifying to hear Loki use this expression. Bucky didn’t seem to understand what all the fuss was about and just smiled encouragingly at Loki. “Maybe it did. I told you there wouldn’t be much of a change.”

“Oh, don’t be ridiculous! I can still feel the spell all over you! You’re pretty much reeking of it!” Rolling his eyes Loki grabbed another glass and downed it. His actions made Steve blink, because until this day he had never seen Loki like this. The god was frustrated most of the time, by his brother, by Midgardian technology, by the so called mortals, but… he always kept his composure. With a touch of snobbish arrogance and disregard for human life. Anyway – Loki would usually never let it show that something was getting to him and now he was… drinking?

“Okay, that happens. You just found another way how to not cure him. Doesn’t matter, that still brought you closer to figure it out. Right? Right?” Tony forced a smile on his face, his eyes drilling holes through Loki who just shrugged. “Nah, to Hel with it! I can’t do it! I have no idea where to start, what to use, which direction to go. We should just get married and be done with it.”

Clint choked on this pasta, Steve was sure that he was suffering a heart attack and Bucky gulped. The only one still capable of a reaction was Tony who quickly positioned himself between Loki and Bucky. Probably making sure that Bucky wasn’t going down on one knee, turning this into a real proposal. “Woah! What the fuck are you talking about?! You can’t do it?! Bullshit!”

Loki huffed, letting his head fall back and closed his eyes. “Have you any idea how frustrating this is? To be completely stuck? I usually figure everything out, I like a good challenge, but I have no idea what Doom has done here. How do you mortals call that? I’m looking for a needle in a haystack and I can’t find it!”

“You haven’t found it yet, but you will!”

“You have no idea what you’re talking about. These kinds of spells are supposed to be simple! Children use these kinds of spells to learn the art of magic! Kids! And I am stuck… So that’s it! I quit. Doom has won. I can’t do it and I’m sick of staring at his books hour after hour after hour after hour after hour…”

Clint raised one hand. “Yeah, we got it. You’re a little bit overworked.”

“Overworked. Overworked?!” Loki’s hiss turned into a deafening scream and he jumped out, looking ready to strangle Clint. That didn’t happen though, because Bucky pushed him softly back onto his chair. “Then stop working on it. I don’t want you to do that for me if it’s taking such a toll on you…”

Loki threw his head around, baring his teeth, ready to snap at Bucky. Another thing that didn’t happen, Bucky squeezed his shoulder, smiling gently at him and Loki’s expression softened a bit. Slowly it was becoming harder and harder to ignore these little moments Tony was constantly talking about. Yes, it was only a spell, but even Loki wasn’t made of stone. Being showered with such affection had to have some effect on him.

Quickly interfering Tony shoved Bucky away, rather gently. A change of strategy? “Nice of you, pal, but you’re completely wrong. Now listen to me, reindeer games. You’re having a little crisis, that’s okay. You’re a diva. You can have your little temper tantrum and five minutes later you get your ass back into your study and work something out. You know why? You are 1000 times smarter than Doom! Only last month you helped ruining five of his plans, because you could undo his magic and it you said that it wasn’t hard! You are better than him and we all know that. You know that too, so don’t get your panties in a bunch, because it’s the first time you have to put some work into it.”

Steve held his breath and Loki simply stared at Tony, probably not knowing if he should feel offended or flattered.

“Okay, I go that you are frustrated, you’re pretty alone with this task and we haven’t done anything to help you yet. So… anything I can do? Get you more material to work on? Better light in your study? Music? I could do some scans of Bucky… maybe the results would be interesting. No idea. Just… tell me how I can help you.”

A brilliant change of strategy, Tony did look like he wanted to help, almost pleading. Perhaps Steve was only thinking the worst of him and Tony was indeed worried about Loki. Him and Bucky, yes, everybody was worried about Loki.

“None of that is going to help me, but thank you.” Uttering a soft sigh Loki straightened up, acting more like himself again, regaining his composure. “I just… have to get back to work.”

Once again Loki tried to stand up, but Bucky pushed him back down. “No. You need a break. Sit down and eat something. No discussion.”

Loki scowled, but accepted his defeat and remained seated. This awkward silence was settling back in, while Bucky put a plate in front of Loki. When Clint, Tony or Steve had tasted it Bucky hadn’t seemed very concerned, but when after a first bite Loki mumbled “That’s good” Bucky started to beam.

Tony made a sound similar to retching and Steve tried to convince himself that he didn’t care. Like Clint for example. “French restaurant, huh? A bit fancy for a first date.”

Clint had to dodge two forks that were thrown at him, Bucky just smiled and Loki stared into his plate as if it contained the answer to how to lift the spell.

If Doom knew what was good for him, he wouldn’t come near them any time soon.

Chapter Text

Steve was busy reading the newspaper when the alarm went off and all the Avengers stormed to the indicated area. Somebody had entered the Tower, how was that even possible? Thanks to Tony they were save from all kind of cyber attacks and Loki had also made it magic-proof. The fact alone that somebody had been able to get inside beside all that was highly alarming.

When Steve reached the common room Clint and Natasha were already there to face the intruder. More than that. Natasha seemed to be kicking thin air and one of Clint’s arrows was sticking in the wall. “What’s going on?!”

They ignored Steve, their eyes darting around, obviously confused. “Where did she go?” Clint saw ‘her’ before Natasha or Steve did and fired another arrow.

“So this is Midgardian hospitality?” A beautiful, young woman had seemingly appeared out of nowhere, holding Clint’s arrow in her hand, looking at it with curiosity and amusement. During his time as an Avenger Steve had seen enough things to smell magic on her. Maybe it was for the best to try to stall her until Loki showed up. Her clothing looked Asgardian, he and Thor would know what this is all about.

“Who are you and what do you want here?” Steve tried to sound firm, but not entirely hostile. Probably that was good for nothing, since Clint had already fired at her.

The brunette smiled at him and it was a strange mixture of charm, sweetness and danger. No, she definitely couldn’t be trusted. “I followed an invitation. I was most surprised to hear it, but I couldn’t resist. A good decision it seems, now that I have found such lovely company.”

“Cut the bullshit! Who are you?” Clint snarled, already aiming another arrow at her, while Natasha was also getting closer.

Her poisonous green eyes settled on Clint and he received the same smile as Steve. “My name is Lorelei, my dear archer. Why don’t you tell the mortal over there that is not nice to point a weapon at a guest? I would rather not destroy his pretty face with this little toy.” She let go of the arrow, but it didn’t drop to floor, but hovered above her fingers. When she made tiny gestures with them, the arrow moved too.

“The mortal with the pretty face is the owner of this tower and he didn’t invite you.” Tony was now walking into the room, wearing a glove of his suit, aiming at Lorelei. “Jarvis, who is she?”

“Lorelei is indeed on the list of potential Asgardian foes that Mr. Odinson gave you, Sir.”

Steve had known it, these horrible sorcerers, he really had enough of them.

“There you heard it, you definitely aren’t a guest. I give you three seconds to get out of here before I personally will-“

“What are you doing?” That annoyed voice could only belong to Loki, appearing right next to Clint, obviously not understanding what all the fuss was about. Finally his eyes settled on the intruder. “Lorelei.”

“My lovely trickster. How good to see you. Your mortal friends already greeted me.” Not caring about all of them anymore Lorelei casually walked over to Loki and kissed him on the cheek.

Clint gaped at the situation and was the one to voice the general impression. “What the fuck?! Loki! Explanation, please!”

Loki just scowled, crossing his arms in front of his chest, looking anything but pleased with the situation. Lorelei definitely did. “I already told you that I was invited. By the man with the silvertongue.”

“Reindeer games! Seriously?!”

“Hey, if you want to be a good guy, then you have to stop playing with the bad guys!”

Sighing Steve raised his voice. “Loki, you can’t just grant a hostile entry to the tower. What is going on?”

Pulling a voice Loki answered. “Lorelei is here for a collaboration. Only temporary.”

Lorelei let out a hearty laugh. “Don’t worry, mortals. I was surprised myself when the trickster asked for my help.”

“I did not ask for help!”

Before Loki could seriously start yelling another two Avengers came into the room, Thor and Bucky. Bruce was probably still down in the laboratory and that was for the best. “Friends, what…” Spotting Lorelei Thor’s expression darkened and he instantly raised his hammer. “Lorelei.”

Again she just smiled, eyes beaming when she recognized the person talking to her. “The mighty Thor. What a delight to see you. Best regards from my sister.”

Steve had no idea who this sister was and how Loki and Thor were even connected to them and he didn’t want to know. He wanted that girl to disappear.

“Loki, what is she doing here?” Thor growled, his obvious distrust and displeasures caused everybody to be on their guard again, but Lorelei had quickly dismissed of him. Steve’s stomach clenched when he realised that she was looking at Bucky. With quite an interest.

“I brought her here, because another magic user would be of use. A second opinion helps to see things clearer.” Again Loki struggled with the words and Lorelei was ignoring them both, strolling towards Bucky. Oh no, Steve definitely wouldn’t let that happen. “Stay where you are.”

Of course she didn’t listen, Asgardian never did. Damned sorcerers never did. At least she didn’t get too close, hopefully because Bucky looked intimidating. Lorelei cocked her head, her eyes running Bucky up and down, her expression changing massively. Was she impressed? “Oh, now I see why you are at loss, trickster. He’s practically glowing. It’s all over him. Fascinating.”

Bucky raised an eyebrow, he felt uncomfortable with being stared at and Steve wouldn’t have that. No way this witch was going to work on this spell and on Bucky. Loki grumbled, grabbed Lorelei’s arm and not very gently he pulled her along. “Wonderful, now let’s start working.”

Was he now completely losing his mind?! “Loki, she is classified as a hostile! She can’t stay here!”

“The Captain is right, brother. Lorelei can’t be trusted.”

Loki turned around, flashing his teeth and he looked scary. “She stays just as long as I want her here! Only people who worked on this spell for over a week have a say in this! So it’s just me!”

“Over a week, my lovely trickster? You must be truly desperate to be asking for help.”

“I’m not asking and I don’t need help!”

“Why is nobody listening to me?”

Tony cleared his throat, now that he had already lowered his glove. “If Loki thinks she can help… let them try. Everybody wants to get rid of that spell. We’ll stay around to make sure no shady shit is happening.”

Obviously Loki was frustrated enough to accept that Tony was the one supporting him. “Thank you! At least one sane person! Quite surprising that it’s Stark, but… No time to lose. Move.”

“Always so demanding, my silvertongue.” Lorelei laughed softly while Loki was more or less pushing her out of the room, indicating Bucky to follow him.

For a moment Steve asked himself how it had come to this that absolutely nobody was listening to him. Now they had an Asgardian criminal in their home. Another one. “Tony, I hope you know that this was the stupidest idea that you’ve ever had. By far.”

“I’m inclined to agree with the Captain. Lorelei is dangerous.”

Thank you, Thor.

“You’re missing the point here.” Natasha had stern look on her face, frowning. “You know how proud Loki is. Especially of his magical abilities. He wouldn’t ask for help if he wasn’t really desperate. So he obviously has still no idea how to break the spell.”

That seemed logical and Steve felt even worse than before. “Anyway… we should make sure that she is under permanent surveillance.”

“Jarvis is already on it and I’m going to join the party too.” Tony followed them and so did everybody else. It got really crowded in Loki’s study, but they still got perfectly ignored. The whole scene playing out in front of them was terribly weird. Loki had made Bucky sit down on a chair and that was all. Lorelei and Loki were just standing in front of him, watching him. Clint looked at his follow Avengers, his mouth forming a silent “What the fuck?”.

Steve didn’t like his choice of words, but he had a point. What were they even doing? Besides making Bucky feeling uncomfortable. He shifted around on the chair, giving Lorelei a suspicious look before settling on Loki and suddenly being again full of trust. Would it be inappropriate to throw a pencil at Loki’s head?

“How deliciously malicious…” Lorelei clicked her tongue, clearly enjoying herself. “It’s in every pore. What an engaging way to turn an enemy into your personal lapdog.”

“Hey!” Bucky snorted and he had every right to be offended, but Lorelei just smiled. “Oh, don’t be upset, mortal. Loki can be the nicest company if he feels like it.”

“New rule – if you don’t have something important or productive to say, don’t say nothing at all.” Loki grumbled and Bucky cocked an eyebrow at him.

Lorelei pouted for about a second before she started smiling again. “As you wish… I have to admit that it is one of the strongest lovespells I have ever seen. The composition seems… unusual. Have you already taken a look at his blood?”

What?!

“Yes. It can’t be filtered.”

“Interesting…” Lorelei started to walk around Bucky and Steve didn’t like that, he didn’t like that at all. “Mortal, be so kind and tell me how you feel when the trickster is not around you.”

Bucky looked at Loki who nodded and only then he answered. “Bad.”

“Be more precise, please.”

“I get tired… and… feel like I have fever. I mean… last time I really got fever…”

Letting out a sigh Lorelei sounded pleased and Steve knew that even considered hitting a woman was bad, so he just bit the inside of his cheek. “I see, so much for the physical aspect, but how do you feel?”

Loki had crossed his arms in front of his chest, leaning against a table, looking completely disconnected from the situation. Unlike Bucky whose eyes were again fixed on Loki. “Bad… I… like something is missing.”

Either Steve was going crazy or Loki was indeed shifting from one foot to another. As if he was genuinely touched by what Bucky was saying.

“Are you sure you want to lift the spell, trickster? I’m sure it’s been a long time since anyone has been so interested in you…” Lorelei batted her eyelids at him and Loki snarled. “You’re having too much fun, Lorelei.”

“You were always short of patience… Fine, let’s get started. This shouldn’t take that long. You cannot deny that it is amusing that the great trickster Loki is not able to lift a simple lovespell.”

Judging by the look on Loki’s face he was now considering hitting her too.

 ***

Lorelei’s smug smile had quickly faded away and Loki found some satisfaction in her frustration. After two hours of casting spells, mumbling words and making exaggerated gestures Lorelei seemed to realise that the spell wasn’t all that simple and Bucky was… bored. At first Steve had felt uncomfortable with Loki and this woman trying to ... do something to him with magic, but Bucky looked so completely unaffected and Loki had told Lorelei at the beginning that he would cut her into pieces if she was trying something stupid.

Most of the Avengers had left by now, only Thor, Tony and Steve were left. Natasha and Clint were gone, but Steve knew that they were close, ready to help if needed. Maybe for moral support, because Lorelei looked about ready to lose it. “I know how we make it go away.” She opened the palm of her hand and suddenly she was holding a dagger. “We slit his throat and are done with it.”

What?! Steve didn’t even have the chance to make a step forward, Loki had already taken the dagger from her. In the most casual way imaginable. “He is not going to be harmed. You said it’s simple, so figure something out.”

Narrowing her eyes at Loki Lorelei turned back to Bucky who still seemed bored. “This is not a spell. This is pure chaos. Your field of expertise.”

“Well, thank you. Anything else?”

“It’s lingering… shows no signs of vanishing. I have no idea where it starts and where it ends. It’s impossible to grab. Well, not quite impossible if we…”

Loki shook his head. “Not an option.”

“Maybe we wouldn’t need that much blood…”

“Obviously I was wrong to put my trust in your skills. With a spell this complex we would have to drain him completely. Not an option.”

“Could you please stop talking about me like I wasn’t here?”

Their eyes turned to Bucky and Steve wasn’t willing to listen to this dialog much longer. Too much talk about blood. Bucky’s blood.

“Listen, you tiny mortal, I’m only here, because the spell you are under is extraordinary and intriguing. Leaving a great sorcerer like Loki clueless is a hard task and I wanted to see it myself. This isn’t a work of art though. Only a lot of pieces scrambled together, disfigured… A great disappointment. The easiest way to lift a spell is to kill the person under the spell. Just smelling it makes me want to…” Lorelei let out a sizzling noise and suddenly she didn’t seem beautiful at all anymore.

Groaning Loki rubbed one hand over his eyes and shook his head. “How foolish of me… I was somehow thinking you could be of use here… I was wrong and hereby I apologize to myself for wasting my time. Goodbye.”

Lorelei quickly turned around, opening her mouth, but Loki only waved his hand and she disappeared in green light.

Wow, Steve only now realised that he had been holding his breath. Also Thor next to him now seemed to visibly relax. “Where did you send her to, brother?”

“A very dark and nasty place. Don’t bother, she won’t be able to come again, I reinforced the protection spell around the tower. Don’t scowl me, I already regret my idea of bringing her here. You can leave now.” Sitting down on the table he had been leaning on Loki pinched the bridge of his nose, lost in thought.

Steve didn’t know yet what to do and Tony didn’t move a muscle. “Okay, reindeer games, you tried a lot of magic and nothing worked out. Maybe it’s time to try something different?”

Against Steve’s expectations Loki raised his head and was willing to listen to Tony. “What are you suggesting? I already made a giant mistake today, it can’t get much worse.”

Steve’s eyes darted to Bucky and was surprised to see him frowning.

“Magic isn’t working out, so why not trying something more traditional? Maybe it’s not just a spell, but some kind of virus… like a cold or the flu. We could do all kind of medical tests, who knows what Doom mixed together… could be some mortal stuff that you’re not totally familiar with. I don’t know. It’s just a try…” Tony shrugged, not completely sure about his own idea, but instead of laughing at him Loki nodded weakly. “Why not… I’m willing to try absolutely anything…”

“Are you that desperate to get rid of me?”

Everyone was startled. Bucky hadn’t spoken up in such a long time that it was odd to hear him, even more so when his tone was so bitter. All eyes were fixed on him and Loki, the person the statement was directed to, frowned. “What?”

“Is my affection for you such a big burden that you are… willing to try absolutely anything?”

Steve bit his lip and felt torn apart. On the one hand it was almost delightful to see that Bucky for once wasn’t staring at Loki with awe, but on the other hand… he was hurt, hurt because he cared and that made it even worse. Loki obviously refused to see that. “I thought we had all agreed on the fact that we wanted to lift this spell as quickly as possible.”

Letting out a dry laugh Bucky turned away. “Yes, sure… I guess I didn’t realise how horrible the situation was for you. You even bring in a witch that you obviously loathe and who’s dangerous, because you are suffering so badly…”

“I can’t stand Lorelei, but I’m permanently working with people I can’t stand. This room is full of people I can’t stand.”

“Wow, careful there, my little reindeer. You’re breaking my heart.”

Tony was being completely ignored, because Bucky and Loki were staring at each other. One confused, a bit angry maybe and the other one was furious and hurt. It was way too personal for Steve’s taste. “It’s good to know that this spell is the worst thing that has ever happened to you… I kinda thought that during a lifetime of over 1000 years you would have lived through something worse.”

Raising an eyebrow Loki shook his head. “I am trying to help you and this is what I get? You acting like a child?”

“You are not trying to help me!” Snapping at Loki Bucky jumped up from his chair. “You are trying to help yourself! You are sick of me and that’s why you’re desperately trying to find a way to…”

“Shut up.” Loki snarled lowly and Steve swallowed. He hated it when Loki did that, it sounded so dangerous, made his skin crawl. Bucky wasn’t impressed at all, his eyes were so bright, full of rage that barely covered how hurt and betrayed he felt. “… get rid of me. You’re willing to work with our enemies or try methods that you think are completely ridiculous…”

“I’ve already found a way to lift the spell! So stop talking about things that you know nothing about!” A hiss escaped Loki’s mouth and for a spare second he seemed shocked at how he had just lost control of himself.

The words were ringing in Steve’s ears and he could hear how Tony was gasping right next to him. How could he even dare? Hadn’t he changed a single bit?

The outburst had also succeeded in shushing Bucky. Now he just blinked, stared at Loki and wasn’t able to respond to the question, because Tony did just that. “What the fuck, reindeer games?! Is this your sick idea of a joke?!”

Loki ignored him, looking at Bucky who swallowed deeply. “If you found a way… why didn’t you use it? Or did you already use it?”

Panic was rising up inside of Steve when he realised what Bucky was implying. Had Loki indeed already lifted the spell and there had been no effect, because… Because Bucky was genuinely in love with Loki? No, that wasn’t possible. If that spell had been lifted, Bucky would have turned back to normal. No. What game was Loki playing?

Breathing out loudly Loki met Bucky’s eyes. “There are always ways to break a spell. Simple, but radical ways. You heard Lorelei, the easiest way is to kill the enchanted person or to shed a considerable amount of their blood. Usually a spell lingers in their blood and if you shed enough of it, the spell dissolves. That’s not an option here, because the spell is too strong. Not a single drop would be left… The third option is more complicated, but quite effective. It’s a procedure too complex to explain to someone who had no idea about magic… I could… for the lack of better word… pull it out. Only a very skilled sorcerer could do it and I am the most skilled in the Nine Realms. I still won’t do it….”

“Why not?” Bucky only whispered the words and Loki’s face seemed to be made of stone. “Because it would change you. The spell is too strong, I would have to do damage while removing it. A lot of damage. Your personality wouldn’t be the same afterwards. Perhaps unrecognizable even…”

That was not an option, of course not. Steve didn’t even want to imagine such a thing. Now he even had to be grateful that Loki wasn’t so desperate to do pretty much anything to get rid of Bucky’s feelings for him. “Wait… does this mean… Is there no way to get rid of it? Is he stuck with it for… the rest of his life?”

Loki shook his head. “No. I have to find another way how to lift it… and at the moment I don’t know where to search anymore. So excuse me for being frustrated when you can’t even stay half a day away from me without getting sick and my only ideas how to lift to the spell is to shed all your blood or to turn you into another person… I don’t want that.”

There was silence, Loki turned his head away and Bucky moved closer, stopping right in front of the table Loki was sitting on. “I’m sorry, Loki.”

“Why? None of this is your fault.”

“I’m sorry for yelling at you. I tend to forget that you… You are worried.”

“No! I am annoyed!”

Why was Bucky smiling now? “Loki, be quiet. I’m going to kiss you now.”

“Wait, what?!”

“You wouldn’t dar-“ Bucky did dare. Right in front of them. He just leaned forward and kissed Loki. On the mouth. For real. Not as a friend. Totally not as a friend. The whole thing happened so fast that there shouldn’t be any time for it to hurt, but it did hurt nevertheless. Loki’s eyes grew wide and almost instantly he pushed Bucky away. “You can’t just…”

Steve had been sure that somebody would make sure that all hell was breaking loose, but he somehow had thought that it would be Tony. Not Thor. Who looked like he was about to smash Bucky’s skull with his hammer. In pure Asgardian rage mode. “How dare you to act against my brother’s wishes! I will not tolerate you viola-“

“By the Nines, Thor, close your stupid mouth!”

Thor had already grabbed Bucky by the collar who looked more confused than scared and Loki had never been more frustrated. Or embarrassed. “Under the influence of a spell or not – I will not stand by while your honour is being soiled!”

“Stop talking, you oaf! I’m over a thousand years old, a powerful sorcerer who can turn entire armies into dust! I don’t need you to protect my so called honour!”

Why were Loki and Thor at each other’s throats now when it had been Bucky who had kissed Loki? The kiss alone was a hard blow, but now things were getting so confusing that Steve couldn’t react to any of it.

“You are my little brother. It’s my duty to protect you when your judgment is clouded and you can’t see somebody’s true intentions.”

“Oh no, not the elf story again!” Loki groaned tiredly, obviously he had already forgotten about the incident that had started it all. Which also had Bucky fairly confused, he was standing right next to Thor and Loki who were completely ignoring him.

Elf story?

“I did what I had to do. You were too enamoured to see that his intentions were vile and dishonest.” Thor shook his head, the pure memory seemed to displease him.

“Maybe my intentions were also vile and dishonest!”

“A proper courtship was the last thing on his mind, he only wanted to bed you!”

“I know, because he told me and I was fine with that!”

“You are a prince of Asgard! You aren’t just some wench to have fun with, you deserve more respect.”

Letting out a hoarse scream Loki jumped of the table. “This is Vanaheim all over again!”

There never had been a more bizarre scene, Steve and Tony shared a look and it was very telling that not even Tony uttered a sound.

“I was only making sure you would be treating like the prince that you are!”

“You threw him off a cliff!”

“His behaviour towards you was unacceptable!”

“I’m called Silvertongue! Believe it or not Thor, lots of people are curious about that!”

No, Steve definitely didn’t want to imagine what they were referring to here.

Bucky cleared his throat, reminding everyone that he was still present. “I’m sorry, Thor, but this has nothing to do with…”

“Shut up!” Loki and Thor snarled at him in unison. Yes, Steve knew that he should be doing something. Anything. Maybe saying something? Then again, this was a fight between two demi-gods. A family fight between two brothers who were also demi-gods. It would definitely be wiser to not interfere.

Frowning Bucky fell silent and Thor seemed to try to remember where they had left of. “I will never understand why you are angry at me for looking out for you.”

“Looking out for me?! I am not a child, but I could turn you into one!”

“Then you would definitely be acting like a child!”

“I do what I want, Thor!” Right now Loki obviously wanted to get away from all of them, because he did just that. Disappearing into thin air and left all of them sharing a strange look. Thor didn’t think that he needed to give any explanation whatsoever and just stormed out of the room. Luckily he had also forgotten about wanting to smash Bucky’s head in.

Bucky, right. Bucky had kissed Loki and in the new established silence Steve had even time to think about this. Yes, Loki had pushed him away, but did that make it any better? Gone were the desperate illusions that Bucky was just innocently crushing on Loki.

“Uhm… I guess alcohol is in order now.” Tony grumbled and unfortunately it had to be Bucky who agreed with him. “That would be a good idea.”

“Woah, I was talking to Captain Boyscout here. I’m not drinking with the guy who just kissed my future husband!”

That was enough. Steve released all of that build up tension in a loud sigh and rolled his eyes. Bucky remained surprisingly calm. “Yeah? Interesting, Loki never mentioned an engagement. You’re sure he knows about it?”

“You know, I would totally kick your ass, but I don’t even have to do that. I’m just going to remind Thor that you tried to snog his brother. Talking of Loki, Jarvis, where did he go?”

“I’m sorry, sir, I don’t know. Mr. Laufeyson has left the tower. His whereabouts are unknown.”

Besides his snappy remark Bucky couldn’t hide the disappointment on his face and suddenly there was it again – this hurt expression that could only be caused by someone you cared deeply about. This damned spell, Steve would tear Doom apart. “I guess I’ll leave you alone.”

Steve opened his mouth to hold Bucky back, but he couldn’t think of anything to say. Bucky had kissed Loki. Maybe he just needed some time to wrap his head around that. Spell or not. Knowing something and seeing it were too different things. The second Bucky had left Tony stood right in front of Steve and did a little wave. “Cap! Wake up! Somebody still in there!?”

“Huh?”

“Great answer. I know you’re traumatized, but we have a few important issues to discuss.”

Was he serious? “What is there to discuss? I’m actually a bit proud of you. You didn’t kill him and you didn’t start screaming. That’s more than I expected.”

Groaning Tony shrugged, trying to play it down, but Steve could see that his hands were balled into fists and trembling. “Hey, Thor had his freak out, that was enough, wasn’t it? Geez.”

“Sorry, Tony, but I really don’t want to talk about this…”

As usual Tony didn’t care about that and just started babbling. “They have issues, real issues! Throwing an elf of a cliff and… If Thor is so overprotective, why did he never have a freak-out when I was hitting on Loki? Because I was hitting on him, a lot. Not always in a very classy way and Thor was standing right next to me most of the time.”

Although Steve couldn’t care less, he had to admit that Tony had a point. For months Tony had made dirty remarks about Loki all the time and Thor had never reacted like that. There was the possibility that he didn’t think Tony was serious or… “Thor probably thinks that you have no chance and Bucky… might have a chance…”

“Nah, I prefer to think that Thor thinks I’m the perfect brother-in-law.”

Steve would have laughed if Bucky hadn’t kissed Loki.

“Sir, Miss Romanov demands that you come into the living room. It’s urgent.”

“Great, probably some monster who is eating the population of Manhattan. As if this day wasn’t fucked up enough.” So Steve followed a grumbling Tony, still feeling strangely numb. What else could happen today? Bucky had kissed Loki. No, this day was done.

How Steve hated to be wrong.

Everybody was gathered around the TV. Everybody. Natasha, Clint, Bruce and even Thor. That was never a good sign. Then again, how bad could it be if nobody was suiting up? With any luck it would a joke. A bad one.

“What’s going on?”

Clint slowly shook his head, not taking his eyes off the TV for a single second. A little bit curious Steve sat down too, turning to the TV and… oh, damn.

“We are being notified that our correspondent in Latveria, Karen Stinson, just arrived at the scene. Karen, can you tell us what is happening?”

There was a cut to an attractive woman, probably in her early thirties, standing somewhere outside. The focus was on her, so you could barely make out her surroundings. Something extraordinary must be going on, because she seemed nervous, somehow excited. Usually journalists were so calm and collected, not engaged at all in what was happening. “Thank you, Gary. I am here in Doomstadt, behind me you see the walls of Castle Doom, home of the current ruler of Latervia, Victor von Doom. Loki Laufeyson, member of the Avengers, has arrived here about one minute ago. Unfortunately we can’t really tell what he is doing, but he seems in a rather unpleasant mood. If I had to take a guess, I would say he is trying to attract the attention of the people in the castle. Most probably Doctor Doom. The mere fact that an Avenger has set foot in Latverian territory turns this into a very difficult situation, since all Avengers are personas non grata in Latervia.”

The camera changed its focus and there was indeed Loki. Loki who was yelling. He was too far away to make out his words, but there wasn’t much imagination needed to figure out that Loki hadn’t come over to drink coffee or to nicely convince him to let the Avengers enter his nation. “What the fuck is he doing?!”

“Diplomatic visit? How the hell am I supposed to know what he is doing?”

Since everybody in front of the TV was probably wondering the same the reporter decided to do her job and help them out. “We will now try to get closer and to ask Loki why he is in Latveria and what his intentions are.”

Clint laughed at that. “His intentions? He is going to blow that castle up and the UN is going to go all crazy on our asses…”

“We don’t know yet if he wants to do some damage.” Everybody was staring at Steve and he felt stupid for saying that. Yes, Loki was going to cause a lot of trouble and every single person in this room was okay with it.

Meanwhile the camera team was approaching Loki, getting close enough for the microphones to catch his voice. “… out of there! You want to play with the big guys, so come out and take the rap for what you’ve done!”

“It seems like Loki is trying to confront Doctor Doom… I am not sure though if Doctor Doom can hear him or if he even is the castle.”

“Oh, he hears him. He hears him…” Natasha muttered under her breath, eyes fixed on the screen.

Times had changed and Steve was well aware of that, maybe he was just too out of this time to understand, but – were all reporters out of their mind? Loki may be an Avenger, sort of, but that didn’t make him a cute, innocent puppy. Especially right now, he looked so angry, menacing and he didn’t need to show off magic tricks to make clear how powerful he was.

Clearly Steve wasn’t the only one worried, Bruce was clearing his throat. “She isn’t… really going to talk to him, is she?”

“Nah, nobody would be that stupid…”

“Loki, Karen Stinson for CNN, would you mind answering us some questions?”

Tony reacted with a facepalm, Natasha pinched the bridge of her nose, Thor slowly shook his head, Steve sighed deeply and Clint burst out laughing.

The camera focused on Loki’s face when he turned to it and his green eyes were flashing. They should better start running. “Are you serious?!”

“No, no. Don’t say anything else, just start running…”

“We would like to know why you are although Victor von Doom as the leader of this country has banned all Avengers from entering Latveria…”

Loki’s eyebrow started to twitch and the Avengers held their breath. “I don’t care about your ridiculous Midgardian politics! Now get out of my way while I’m going to tear every single brick of this abomination of a castle down!”

“Well, somebody is in a good mood…”

“This is so bad for our image…”

“I wouldn’t say that. He looks rather endearing when he’s angry.”

Steve was again confirmed in his assumption that the reporter was crazy and not very keen on living. “So you are here to fight Doctor Doom. Why aren’t the other Avengers with you? Where is Thor?”

Tony started to hum Chopin’s Funeral March and Natasha shot him a dark glance.

Now Loki’s attention was definitely fixed on the reporter and you could hear him growl. That was bad. “Thor?! You want to know where Thor is?! He is probably at home, reading the works about the Little Red Riding Hood or the Sleeping Beauty which he thinks are factual reports of real events! No, silly me, Thor reading a book is very unlikely since he has had such trouble learning it that I had to write his essays for our tutors until he was over 100 years old! Doom! Open the gate and show yourself!”

Five pairs of eyes were instantly on Thor who was slightly blushing. “My brother is exaggerating. I was merely fifty years old.”

Interesting and he didn’t deny that he thought that fairy tales were real stories.

“Guys…” Clint had stopped smirking and nodded towards the television.

Loki was forming a big ball of green energy in his hands. Oh god…

Without hesitating he threw the energy ball at the castle and it bounced off at an invisible force field. Nothing new, Doom’s castle was perfectly protected, they all knew about it. Also thanks to Loki.

“Loki just attacked the castle of Doctor Doom! It seems like the attack had no effect…”

Bruce cleared his throat. “Just a question… why aren’t we already on our way there?”

“You heard the reporter. We are not allowed to enter Latervia, that’s politics… Doom is the leader of that nation, we agreed with S.H.I.E.L.D and the government to not go there.”

“Uhm… yeah… but Loki is there.”

“Yeah, because my little reindeer is amazing and not an actual citizen of Earth. Tear that ugly castle down, darling!”

The camera team still wasn’t backing up and Steve could make out easily what Loki was… yelling. “Doom! Be a man and get out of your hiding place! You made a god angry, now face his rage!”

“God, I love it when he gets all overdramatic!”

Not even waiting for any type of reaction Loki threw another energy ball at the fortress. “Get out, you untalented coward! You’re lucky right now I hate another person actually more than you. I’m here to propose a bargain! So open the damned door and let’s talk like civilised people!” And another ball was thrown against the barrier.

“Oh… that’s… not good.” Bruce’s face was turning pale. Steve and Tony both turned to Thor whose eyes had grown twice their usual size. “Uhm… just how bad did you piss him off?!”

“My brother and I have had this conversation various times before. He wouldn’t…”

“Uhm… guys…” Clint pointed at the TV and Steve’s eyes nearly fell out. They and with them probably half America witnessed how the main gate of Doom’s castle opened and Loki didn’t lose any time. “Finally!” He walked right through it and the gate was closed again. The reporter was confused, commentating on what happened while the Avengers were pretty much speechless.

“Should we… be worried about that?”

“Nah, it isn’t like Loki has any criminal or evil backstory or like he’s pretty pissed off at one of us. Thor, I give you three seconds to start running, then I’ll pull a Loki on you and throw you out of the window.”

Chapter Text

“This is so bad. Bad. Bad, bad, bad. Every shade of bad. We’re so fucked.”

Even Steve had to admit that this was a very good choice of words. There was no better way to describe it. By now pretty much every news channel in the world (or at least the ones that were allowed in Latervia) had a camera in front of Castle Doom, eagerly waiting for a sign of Loki. Or of Doom. Or both of them. Once again it was time to throw up.

“You so deserve getting your ass kicked…” Tony couldn’t stop giving Thor the death glare and even Steve was doing the same.

Thor looked somewhat guilty, but refused to take the blame. “My brother would not work with Doom. He despises him, it’s a scheme. I am sure.”

Clint was stuffing his mouth full with popcorn while agreeing with Thor. “Yap, Loki is a bro. Chances are good he’s fucking the whole place up right now.”

“You wanna bet?”

“You both weren’t there when Thor… upset him. Loki was livid.” Steve felt obligated to point that out and Natasha narrowed her eyes at the demi-god. “Anybody feels like enlightening the rest of us? Loki is constantly angry at Thor.”

Tony snorted. “Yeah and now we know why. Because Thor is constantly trying to keep all guys away from Loki who think he’s hot. Big talk about honour being soiled, being a prince and not being allowed to just bend over for everybody. I think it was also mentioned that Thor threw Loki’s ex-lover off a cliff.”

“He was not Loki’s lover!”

“You threw him off a cliff!”

“It was not a very high cliff and he is perfectly fine.”

Bruce stepped in between them. “I have no idea what you’re talking about and I don’t think I want to know. Just keep it down. We should try to get in contact with Loki.”

A sensible idea, but Natasha brushed Bruce off. “He is in Doom’s castle. Shielded by magic and technology. It’s impossible to get a message in there, we tried, S.H.I.E.L.D, tried Hydra tried. Loki himself tried. He said it wasn’t worth the effort. It would be easier to… just knock at the door.”

“Yeah and he did just that…” Sighing Steve turned back to the TV where the footage of Loki entering the castle was shown over and over again. Not that it was important now, but this was definitely bad for their image.

“Are we even sure that he’s alright?” Bucky had joined them about an hour ago and he was clearly just as worried as everybody else… just for another reason. “It’s still Doom’s place and he tried to kill us all last week.”

“Bucky has a point…” Steve felt kind of bad that they hadn’t even thought about that until now. “Loki is smart and wicked and he went there kinda… completely spontaneously. Maybe he has a plan to screw Doom over and to get the information he wants… Doom isn’t stupid either. If Loki gets in trouble, we have no way to know that.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, my little reindeer is a genius. Doom has nothing on him. He could waltz out there any time he likes. I’m more worried about Loki being so pissed off that they’re going to team up to kill Thor.” Judging by Tony’s voice he wasn’t even against the idea of Thor being murdered.

Hard to believe, but the general consensus in the room was that Loki wasn’t teaming up with Doom, but somehow trying to get the solution to the spell disaster. Steve had no idea how he was going to do that, but Loki always had some tricks up his sleeve… and he was so angry at Thor.

“Whatever is going on inside of that castle… Loki can’t stay away for too long.”

“Huh? Why?”

Natasha nodded towards Bucky. “If he’s gone too long Bucky will get sick and Loki is not angry at him. Until now he has shown that he has no interest in letting Bucky suffer. I don’t think we have to worry that he’ll stay away for too long.”

Steve hated it to be the one, but everybody else was thinking it, so why not saying it. “If he can just… get away. We don’t know. He obviously wasn’t able to get into the castle. What if he can’t get out on his own either?”

Nobody said a word, not even Tony and that made Steve feeling even worse. Silence in the Avengers Tower never meant something good, especially not now. Finally somebody got moving and of course it had to be Bucky. With determined demeanour Bucky got up. “Let’s get going.”

Steve knew what he was alluding to and he also knew that Bucky was right. Sadly things weren’t that simple. “If we go there to get Loki out we will violate a diplomatic agreement between the Latervian government and the United Nations…”

Bucky had that the look on his face, pure determination, not caring for the consequences. “So? The Latervian government is Doom and he is a dictator. Why should we give a damn?”

“Because we agreed to it and we would cause a war. Dragging innocent people into this. Moreover we don’t know what Loki is doing. Maybe he is perfectly fine and we would be ruining everything for him by showing up there.” Steve tried to sound even, serious, but he couldn’t deny that he started worrying to. Yes, Loki was so powerful and smart, yet they couldn’t underestimate Doom either. Loki had been so angry and although he usually was a very thoughtful person, but when you really fuelled his rage, he could act completely impulsively. There was a good chance that this could be it. This could be the day that they had to save Loki. What a weird thought.

By now Bucky was scowling and Steve could clearly see that he wanted to kick something. Doom for example. “We are just supposed to sit here and to wait? What if he needs us to help him?”

“We aren’t just sitting and waiting…” Turning to Tony Steve saw him typing on one of his pads. “Doom can use magic all he wants. He still as computers in his castle and an internet connection, so Jarvis can get in. Get access to the cameras, whatever. I’m working on it. Could take a while do. Unfortunately Doom knows a thing or two about a good firewall.”

Clint reacted by proposing a high-five. “Sounds like a plan. While Tony is working this out and Bucky worrying over his darling… can we talk about the poor guy Thor threw off a cliff? Like is he still alive?”

“You can’t be serious…” Rolling his eyes Steve refused to believe that Clint was willing to treat this difficult situation so lightly. Sadly even Tony who was supposed to be working right now agreed with Clint. “Right, that should be discussed. Come on, Thor, spill the beans. We can handle another bloodthirsty killer among the Avengers.”

Thor softly growled, but still answered the question. “Of course I did not kill the elf. He was a member of the royal family of Vanaheim. The political relationship between Asgard and Vanaheim would have greatly suffered.”

“And throwing him off a cliff didn’t cause some bad feelings?” Natasha pointed this out and Steve was once again grateful that they weren’t living on Asgard. At least now Thor seemed to be a bit embarrassed, although for the wrong reasons. “The royal family decided that I had been already punished enough with the spell Loki had put on me.”

Looking up from the pad Tony grinned widely. “Interesting. What did the little reindeer do?”

Now Thor was screwing up his face, clearly uncomfortable with the memory. “He put an illusion over me to make me look like a woman and he refused to lift it for about two weeks.”

Clint snorted in response. “Well, you stopped him from getting laid. What do you expect? That can make a guy furious.”

“I was merely protecting his honour!”

“What? Loki was still a virgin at that time? Or are you just throwing all guys off a cliff who look at your brother and want to bone him? Why are those two guys here still alive then? Or the guy who delivers the pizza and looks at Loki like he wants to lick him from head to toe.”

Steve’s head flung up and three people in the room practically screamed the same word – “What?!”

This was completely new to Steve and therefore it felt even stranger when it was Bruce who raised an eyebrow. “What? Even I knew that. That guy isn’t very subtle.”

“Are you fucking serious?! We order pizza three times a week and I constantly make Loki get them at the door!” Tony nearly dropped the pad and Natasha raised an eyebrow at him. “You never wondered why Loki would actually do that? Stop reading a book and answering the door? The pizza kid is cute and he likes to flirt.”

“I demand we get a new person to deliver the delicious pizza.”

Unbelievable that Steve was even entering this conversation while Loki was still in Castle Doom. “Thor, please, don’t take that personally, but you are crazy.”

“Gotta agree with the Captain here, it’s kinda of creepy that you’re that concerned about your little brother’s honour.”

“Loki is my brother, he is royalty and he deserves an honest courtship by an honest and righteous person with honourable intentions. I will no accept anything else.”

This reminded Steve a lot of some a conservative father from the Forties and therefore he decided to keep his mouth shut and blame cultural differences between Asgard and Earth. Thor wouldn’t understand anyway.

Not everybody was of the opinion that it was best to stay silent now. Especially not Bucky. Oh god. “That’s not your decision to make, but Loki’s… moreover he had a good point. He is over a thousand years old and he is a great sorcerer. He can take care of himself.”

Oh no, Thor was growling. Not good. Was a storm coming up?

“It is not a surprise to hear that argument from you, but don’t doubt that I will always protect my little brother…”

“Oh come on, Thor! Give that guy a break! He is under spell…” Bruce took off his glasses, easily as frustrated as the rest of them. “Tony has been doing worse things than the pizza boy for a whole year now.”

Again another reason for Tony to look up from his pad. “Yeah, but Thor knows I’d be the perfect brother in law. Honest, righteous, honourable.”

Steve expected a person to burst out laughing, but definitely not Natasha. Tony’s grin faded a bit away after that. “What? I am honest, righteous and honourable! I am Iron Man!”

“You are a good friend, Stark and Loki respects you as a fighter and a scholar, but you are not… you lack the qualities Loki appreciates in a paramour. There is no need for me to even consider your motives…”

Steve closes his eyes. Three, two, one…

“But you are considering the motives of the pizza boy!? The fucking pizza boy!? And the lovesick puppy over there?! I am Iron Man! I am smart, I am hot! What is there not to love about me!”

Bucky, his arms crossed in front of his chest, staring at the TV, muttered under his breath “You never ask how he’s doing.”

“What?”

“If you care so much about him, why do you never ask how he’s doing?”

“I never… Oh, fuck you! Before the spell you didn’t even know he existed!”

“Of course I did!”

“Yeah, sure… close your mouth now, I only hear Doom’s spell talking. It’s not like you actually care.”

“I do care, I love him and you can’t handle that! That’s why you had Jarvis attacking me in the Iron Man suit when Loki and me were about to kiss in the kitchen…”

“So this was not the first time you forced yourself on my brother!”

Thunder was definitely rolling outside and Thor had jumped up to his feet. Steve sighed before stepping into the middle of the room. “Everybody calm down! You can’t be seriously arguing about… these sorts of things when Loki is still in Doom’s castle and we have no idea what’s going on. We have to get working on a plan and…”

“Loki!”

The words died on Steve’s lips when Bruce’s voice turned all their attention to… Yes, Loki. Suddenly standing in the middle of the room, coming straight out of nowhere. He looked though as if he had been through hell. Instead of looking pale as usual Loki’s skin was white as chalk what made the countless cuts on his face and hands gruesomely stand out. Not even enough with that, Loki was shaking. Some parts of his clothing were completely torn, there were probably more cuts and blood hidden underneath. Still, the one thing that took Steve’s breath away was the bottle in Loki’s hands. Filled with white smoke.

“Brother, what happened? I will have Doom killed for that!”

Loki slowly shook his head, his lips were chapped and his voice was nothing more than a hoarse rasping sound. “Agent Romanov…”

Steve didn’t understand, but thankfully Natasha did. Instantly she was out of her chair, moving towards Loki with incredible speed and yet graceful movements. She took the bottle out of Loki’s hands and not a second too soon, Loki was collapsing.

“Loki!”

Everybody got up to support him, but Bucky was the quickest. Dropping down to his knees he just managed to grab the demi-god before he hit the floor. “Good lord, what did Doom do to him?”

“No time to talk. Get him into the lab, so I can help him.” Bruce’s tone made it clear that he wasn’t going to accept any delay. This was serious.

“Give me my brother, I will bring him to safety.”

“It’s okay, I got him.”

“I will not leave my brother in your hands in such a vulnerable state.”

“Are you fucking crazy?! He is hurt and you are arguing about this instead of…”

Steve wasn’t going to listen to this or watching Loki’s frail somehow broken form for a second longer. Unceremoniously and to everybody’s surprise Steve picked Loki up into his arms and carried him out of the room.

Loki needed help and everything else could wait.

 ***

Only half an hour later all the cuts were gone, they had been superficial and Loki’s healing powers were doing the rest. He didn’t regain consciousness though. Bruce made it clear that physically Loki was fine, but he had no idea if there was some magic at play. Loki would know, but he hadn’t woken up yet. A general fear that nobody wanted to voice – was he even going to wake up again? Who knows what Doom had done…

Bucky was sitting next to Loki’s bed, watching him carefully, worry written all over his face. He wasn’t touching him though, not holding his hand or anything like that. For some reason Steve was sure that it had nothing to do with Thor lurking around in the doorway, watching them.

“This is my fault…”

Steve couldn’t believe that Bucky was feeling guilty over this. Not even Tony was responsible for Loki being in this state. Only Doom. “Don’t do that, Buck. Nothing of this is your fault.”

“Sure, it is.” Bucky’s eyes never left Loki’s face and Steve couldn’t remember having ever seen someone that guilt ridden. It almost hurt. “He only went there to break the spell. He only went there because of me and now he’s hurt.”

This was beyond any logic and Steve wouldn’t accept it, so he pulled up a chair on the other side of Loki’s bed. “Listen, Bucky… he went there to help you, himself and all of us, because this spell needs to be lifted. Yes, but you are not responsible for the spell, that was accident… and Doom’s making. None of this is your fault. Don’t beat yourself up about it. He will do that, when he’s awake.”

Steve smiled at him and for a mere second Bucky’s lips twitched like he wanted to do the same. “How am I supposed to not feel guilty about it when… I never actually wanted him to break the spell?”

Not quite believing his ears Steve frowned. “What do you mean?”

Lowering his eyes Bucky didn’t seem at ease anymore with looking at Loki. “This spell… There is no way to not make this sound horrible. It binds me to him. He has to spend time with me. That’s nice, I love being around him and it’s a nice excuse. Nothing will change when the spell is broken, I will still love him, but he won’t be forced to spend time with me anymore. He will be gone. He won’t have a reason to spend time with me anymore and he probably won’t believe anyway that I’m in love with him. Right now it’s real, even for him and I can spend time with him. I’m enjoying this although I shouldn’t and… I was enjoying the spell, he wanted to help me and now he ended up here.”

The words were slowly sinking in and only now Steve managed to wrap his head around the fact how many times Bucky had said today that he loved Loki. And how he was going to continue loving him after the spell would be broken.

Would that make it actually easier? If all of this was real? Not just the work of a sorcerer? If Bucky was in love with Loki, the real kind of love… then Steve would still think that fate had a twisted sense of humour, but… it would be real. Steve couldn’t argue nor compete with real feelings and he wouldn’t want to.

But it was a spell, wasn’t it?

There was one question to ask and Steve couldn’t understand why nobody had thought of that before. “Do you remember… how you felt about him before the spell?”

Now Bucky was looking up, seemingly confused, but then the pensive look on his face told Steve that he was indeed thinking. “When I first met him… I didn’t want to have anything to do with him, because… he seemed dark and twisted. Like me and I wanted to leave all that behind me, but… I couldn’t sleep. Not a single night. I was constantly thinking about the Winter Soldier and how I am different than him… or if there is any difference at all. He couldn’t sleep, so I was working out, wandering around the tower and he… he was in the gym, during the middle of the night, meditating. We started talking and… I came to understand that he was like me. That there were things that he had done, bad things… like the things I did and sometimes they don’t let him sleep either. So he meditates. It helps him… You are my best friend and you did everything you could to make me welcome, make me feel normal and you helped me so much, but… you have always been the best guy there is. You’ve always been strong, good and… you try, but you could never understand this… not like someone who has been in the same spot. He’s been there and he knows what it’s like to try to leave that behind. He knows what it’s like to be scared.” Bucky paused for a moment, eyes on again settling on Loki’s features. “He wants to be a better person, but he doesn’t think he can. He doesn’t think he has it in him. But he does… yes, the spell is inconvenient for him, but he wants to help me. I think… I could help him being the person he’d like to be and vice-versa.”

Steve’s question hadn’t really been answered, but within this minute he had learned so much that he had had no idea about. Until now he hadn’t had any clue that Loki and Bucky even had had a single conversation alone. Now it turned out that they were friends and shared a connection that Steve couldn’t even hope to imitate.

Still Steve had no idea if this was love, but it was definitely more than a simple feeling of sympathy that the spell had reinforced.

“He brought the white smoke with him and he will figure something out. As soon as he wakes up. Which he will pretty soon. It’s Loki…”

Bucky nodded slightly, not looking convinced. The next minute Bruce showed up, checking on Loki. His vitals were still fine, he should wake up any time. If there was no magic involved. Since Bucky refused to leave Loki’s side Steve stayed there too, although they should probably get busy preparing for a Doom attack. That man had to be furious.

Tony was the next one to come over, trying to hide his worry behind his usual cockiness. “No change?”

“No… He’s still out. Any news of Doom?”

“No, the press didn’t see anything either. Cameras are still there. Loki just teleported out… Doom hasn’t shown himself either. Who knows… maybe it was him who ended up at the shit end of the fight… Loki beat the crap out of him…”

Steve smiled at that, they couldn’t rule it out.

“Look, uhm… I’m still working on getting Jarvis inside of Doom’s system… you never know. Call me when he wakes up?” Tony sounded sheepish, which was odd and Bucky slowly nodded. “I will.”

18 hours passed and Loki didn’t wake up.

Bucky hadn’t slept a single minute and Thor grabbed his hammer, ready to seek out Doom and crush his head. Tony was gladly suiting up to help and Steve was tempted to go with them, political diplomacy be damned.

It was like Loki was mocking them, his eyes flickered open and he was yawning. For about a second – then he sat up straight, his eyes darting around in panic. “The bottle! Where is it?!”

“Brother!” Thor was beaming with joy, rushing towards Loki’s bed and pulling him into a crushing hug.

“Let go of me, you oaf!”

“Thor! Are you crazy?! He just woke up!” Bucky more or less tore Thor away from Loki. “Hey, you were out cold… are you feeling alright?”

Steve wasn’t surprised when Loki didn’t care about either of them. “The bottle. I gave it to Agent Romanov. Where is it? Where?!”

Tony took a step forward, raising his hands as a signal for Loki to calm down. “Hey, everything’s cool, darling. Natasha brought it to Bruce. It’s in the lab. Safe and sound. I didn’t even come close to it.”

Loki blinked, then nodded and attempted to get up. “Good, I have to start working on…”

Bucky’s face turned dark and he wasn’t having any of it. Grabbing Loki’s arm he forced him to stay where he was. “No. You looked like death warmed over when you showed up here and you instantly passed out. You didn’t wake up an entire day. You stay in bed until Bruce has checked on you and you tell us what happened. Are you okay?

“You are not telling me what to…”

“No discussion! You stay here until Bruce checked on you. You went there alone, without a warning, without help, you got hurt and everybody worried about you! You owe us this. You stay here until we know you’re fine!”

It was fascinating to see how Loki pursed his lips, tried to probably kill Bucky by glaring at him, but in the end he didn’t move. “So get Banner…”

“Jarvis already did that.” Tony was muttered under his breath, obviously not able to believe that Bucky had made it to make Loki stay in bed.

“What happened, brother? What did Doom do to…”

Gritting his teeth Loki glared at Thor. “He was an idiot as usual. I proposed an exchange if he showed me how he produced the white smoke. Used some flattery, told him I couldn’t do it myself. It didn’t work. He didn’t believe me, so I decided to steal the bottle he still had. We fought, I won, I teleported out. End of story.”

“If you won why did you faint when you got back?”

Snarling Loki turned to Tony. “Because it was a strenuous fight, I was drained and to teleport away across such a large distance while being surrounded by a force field which only purpose is to stop people from teleporting! I used all my strength and barely made it back. So excuse me for feeling a little tired.”

“You made it though.” A soft smile danced on Bucky’s lips and all Loki did was sighing.

“You showed great skill, brother. The deeds of a hero. What did you propose as an exchange?”

“The dead body of a big, blonde, idiotic god, so he could experiment on it and turn it into Frankenstein.”

“I don’t understand all of that, but I know that it is not funny, Loki.”

Tony couldn’t help but smirk and patted Thor’s shoulder. “I don’t think he was joking, point break.”

There was no further explanation, because Bruce showed up and checked on Loki. Everything seemed perfectly fine and Loki instantly jumped out of bed. “Finally. The bottle is still in the lab?”

“Yeah, we put it there and afterwards nobody touched it.”

“Good.”

Bucky got up. “I will come with you. You just got up, you shouldn’t be alone. Just to be sure.”

Steve was sad to admit that he wasn’t surprised when Thor instantly objected. “Then I will also join you. I refuse to let my brother alone with…”

“Shut it, Thor or the next time I will indeed hand you over to Doom. Although he would probably immediately find out how useless you are.” Clearing his throat Loki addressed Bucky without looking at him. “Sgt. Barnes, you presence won’t be needed. Jarvis can alert somebody if I am in of assistance. Which will not be the case.”

Loki left and Steve felt the almost unbearable urge to pull Bucky into a hug, given the look of pure despair on his face. “He’s mad at me…”

Still struggling with words Steve cursed himself for not speaking up faster, because now it was Thor who gave a reply. Something that he should have kept to himself. “My brother has every reason to be angry after your vile attempt to…”

“Holy shit, Thor! Shut your fucking mouth! All Metal Arm did was kissing him and he even gave him a warning about it. I’m sure Loki has done worse, maybe even with the pizza boy!” Tony was yelling at Thor who seemed rather taken aback. Bucky and Steve shared the sentiment. Tony supporting Bucky? Where the hell did that come from?

Thor scowled, shifted around before taking a deep breath. “I am still aware of the spell you are under, Sgt. Barnes and I honour you as a friend and as a warrior. Yet my brother is of Asgard, he is a prince and therefore there are certain courting rituals that have to be respected. One of them is that you are not allowed to touch the other person without asking for their permission. Ignoring this would mean that you do not have respect for him and that your intentions are not serious.”

“Good lord, you Asgardians are no fun at all. Why did I never get these courting rituals talk, huh?”

Tony didn’t an answer, instead Thor just left and Bucky was biting his lower lip. “You think that’s true? He thinks now that I don’t respect him?”

“Bullshit. Unlike Thor Loki knows that he isn’t in Asgard anymore, their stupid rules don’t apply to us. I’m pretty sure he isn’t worried about the respect thing… Probably he just didn’t want you to kiss him. That’s why I never kiss him, I know he doesn’t want me to.”

Steve stared at Tony almost in shock who only seemed to now realise what he had said. “Uhm… I gotta go. Somebody still gotta surveil Doom’s castle and shit… see you around.”

 ***

Again Loki didn’t leave the lab for several hours, Bucky was miserable and Steve was getting worried. Was there any progress? Was Loki really up to this task so shortly after being… knocked out for an entire day? Maybe he should know better, but instead having Jarvis tell Loki that they were about to have dinner Steve went personally to the lab.

Loki was sitting there, the bottle on the table in front of him, both of his hands were closed around the glass. And they were glowing.

Carefully Steve cleared his throat, but Loki didn’t even bat an eyelid. “I knew you were there before you even made the decision to come here, Captain.”

“Nice greeting… Look, we’re about to have dinner. Don’t you want to have a little break?”

“No. I am trying to work.”

“Yeah, I see that. Any progress?”

Sighing loudly Loki let go of the bottle and the soft glow instantly faded away. “I am about 1000 steps closer than before, but still 2000 steps away. I have it here now, so there is no doubt I will figure this out. I just need time and silence. Peace from the oaf and…”

“And from Bucky?”

It was so quick, so easy to miss, but Steve saw how Loki flinched. Just mentioning his name made him feel uncomfortable. “That too.”

It wasn’t Steve’s business, but Bucky was feeling so bad about this and… Loki wasn’t in the best spot either. “Are you angry at him?”

“At Sgt. Barnes? He is under the influence of a powerful spell. He is not able to help it.” Loki shrugged and Steve thought that it was a poor performance coming from the god of lies.

“You aren’t angry at him for kissing you?”

Another wince and Loki clearly avoided Steve’s eyes. “Like I said… he is under the influence of a spell. I cannot hold his actions against him.”

There was more to it, but Steve couldn’t and didn’t want to push it. “Maybe you should tell him that… he feels pretty bad about it. He thinks you are angry at him for… disrespecting Asgardian courting rituals…”

The words died on Steve’s tongue when he saw Loki’s eyes turning completely dark. Mistake. Bad mistake.

“I will kill that stupid oaf.”

“Look, Thor just wanted…”

Steve was interrupted by Jarvis’ voice that was suddenly filling the room. “Mr. Laufeyson, your presence is requested in the common room by Mr. Stark.”

“Tell him I am busy.”

“Mr. Stark says you better get up here, because the pizza delivery has just arrived and Thor is about to kill the pizza boy.”

Chapter Text

Steve only had time to blink then the chair in front of him was empty. Oh, that was not a good sign. Loki just loved to disappear when he was furious. At Thor. Very bad. Sighing and with heavy feet Steve left the laboratory to go the community area and to probably face disaster.

It wasn’t as horrible as expected. No bloodshed, great. The pizza guy was nowhere to be seen, so Steve was positive that Loki had succeeded in saving his life. Steve wasn’t that sure about Thor’s life though. Loki was yelling at him, his face red, his arms making huge, dramatic gestures and he looked about ready to throttle him. Everybody else was just sitting around them, munching on a slice of pizza, while watching them with great interest. A private soap opera. Only Bucky made the impression that he would like to stop them, but he also knew that it was healthier to stay out of this.

“… make decisions for me! I am a grown man! I am a god! I do what I want with whoever I want whenever I want it and any way I like it! Finally get that into your thick, stupid had!”

Although Loki’s voice left no doubt that he meant every word and the he would like to smash in said head, Thor didn’t change his behaviour in the least bit. “I am your big brother, Loki. I will always look out for you. You are a prince, you are beautiful and you have no idea what other people…”

“By the Nornes! Do you actually think that… How can you even… Are you blind or just stupid? This is… How… Argh!” Groaning loudly Loki dropped down on the couch and buried his face in his hands. He stayed like that for about two seconds, before turning to Clint who sat next to him. “I need a pen and a piece of paper. Now.”

“What?”

“Give me something to write!”

Even Steve flinched at that and Clint rushed out of the room.

“Brother, what are you…”

“Shut up, Thor. I’ll be giving you something to read. I hope you know how that works. Reading.” Loki growled, waiting for Clint to come back. When he did, he handed Loki a notepad and a pen before sitting down next to him. “So, what is this all about? You’re writing Thor a letter, telling him that you can’t stand talking to him anymore?”

Even to Steve that sounded pretty stupid… and weird. Hopefully Loki would do something else. “No, I’m writing a list of every person that soiled my so called honour. Maybe then Thor realises that he is acting extremely ridiculous.”

Not what Steve had expected. Thor had a completely bewildered look on his face, like he couldn’t believe what was happening right now. Unlike him Tony thought this was really exciting. “Finally something amusing is happening.”

Loki was already writing fiercely and Steve couldn’t shake off a certain thought. “Uhm… Loki… how long is this list going to be?”

There was no answer, Loki just continued to write and those were definitely already more than ten names. Wow. Thor must have been thinking the same, judging by how pale he was suddenly turning. Natasha raised an eyebrow, Tony cocked his head and Bucky had a deep frown on his forehead. Why wouldn’t he stop writing?

Now he was turning the page.

“Oh, come on! Now you’re just showing off!”

“Well, he is over a thousand years old. You meet a lot of people during such a long time…”

“Brother, stop this immediately. I know you’re making a jest.”

For a bare second Loki looked up and narrowed his eyes. “What’s the name again of the ambassador of Vanaheim who left after only 2 months in office?”

“Loki!”

“No, that’s my name. Whatever. I will simply write ambassador of Vanaheim…”

Tony was snickering and Thor was biting his lip. Steve decided to give up on that and sat down next to Natasha, grabbing a slice of pizza from the box on the table. “How is the pizza guy doing?”

“Perfectly fine. I gave him a big tip and shoved him out of the door before Thor could even reach him.” She seemed to be completely disinterested in her own words and preferred to watch Loki writing a novel. Okay, he might be a thousand years old, but that simply were too many names. Pretty everyone was now staring at him, but Loki clearly didn’t care. Finally Bucky cleared his throat and tried to distract them the tiniest bit. “Uhm… we’re going to watch a movie?”

They did and after the first five minutes of the some action flick that nobody remembered the name of Loki finally stopped writing. Ripping three pages out of the notepad Loki handed them to Thor. “There. You are going to kill all of them? I have to warn you, brother. Some names might not be completely unfamiliar.”

Thor’s eyes grew wider little by little while scanning through the pages and Loki looked so perfectly smug. Steve was going to be sick.

“He was our tutor, Loki! How could you? And how could he?! He was supposed to…”

“Teach us. He taught me a lot of things…”

Thor continued to read, his hands started trembling and more so with every new name. “Frandal?! My friend betraying me like that! I will have his head for…”

“Don’t. It was a boring feast, we were drunk. There was nothing else to do.”

Steve felt the urge to cover his ears with his hands, but he was a grown man too and grown man didn’t act like that.

“Okay, since nobody else is asking this…” Clint let out a dramatic sigh and turned his head to look at Loki. “Did you really sleep with all those guys?”

It wasn’t like Steve had had any expectations, but this was certainly… surprising. Loki’s eyes became as wide as Thor’s and his mouth dropped open. “What?! No!”

Three loud, relieved sighs were uttered and Loki had the audacity to look offended. “So if you didn’t… what is this list about then?”

“Every person I violated the Asgardian courting rituals with. These rules are crazy. Pretty much breathing next to another person is a violation...” Loki shrugged and Tony’s face fell. “Wow, this is suddenly really tame.”

“Keep calm, I slept with some of them.”

“Brother…”

“I am not telling you which ones, Thor! I won’t have you kill them.” Rolling his eyes Loki leaned back and then instantly sat back up straight. “I have work to do. I’m leaving.”

“You should eat something. You were out cold an entire day. When was the last time you ate something?” Bucky gave Loki a soft smile and Steve wondered if that was due to the fact that Loki hadn’t actually been in bed with every person on that list.

Loki’s eyes darted to the pizza boxes and this was definitely the face of a hungry man. “There will still be time to…”

“Loki, eat something.”

Something snapped and Loki got up to his feet, baring his teeth, snarling at back. Completely unexpected and Steve reminded himself to never forget how scary Loki could get. “You don’t tell me what to do! You don’t talk to me! You keep your distance to me, so I can break the spell and then this whole tiresome episode will be dealt with! Until then just leave me be and stay away from me!”

Leaving by foot was evidently not fast enough, Loki just teleported away and left them all confused. Expect for Bucky, he looked downright shocked and so hurt. As if every word had hit him at his core. It was weird, but even Steve could tell that Loki hadn’t meant it like that. He hadn’t. This was frustration and fatigue talking.

Putting his slice away Bucky seemed to become smaller and smaller in on the couch. Wanting to curl himself into a ball. “Now he’s… even angrier at me…”

Steve was already looking for words, something to make him feel better, but Clint was quicker and way more direct. At first it sounded quite rude to laugh, even for Clint. “Are you kidding? You guys from the forties are really bad at reading signs, right? He is totally into you.”

Bucky’s head flung up, his eyes wide and Steve gritted his teeth. “What?”

“Holy shit… are you blind? He’s being the perfect gentleman. He’s into you, but the whole spell thing makes it kinda weird. What do you expect him to do? Jump you while you’re… pretty much intoxicated? That would be like sleeping with the drunk chick at the party. So he acts like an ass.”

That… made an awful lot of sense and Steve carefully watched Tony. No reaction, he was just chewing very slowly on his slice of pizza. Thor probably hadn’t even heard a thing, he was still busy going over the list. So there was no way to keep avoiding how he felt about that himself… How could Loki not fall in love with Bucky? He was lovely, nice, smart, funny, a good person and he was giving Loki these looks like he was the most wonderful person on this planet. But what did that mean?

If Bucky’s feelings were entirely tied to the spell, they would be gone when Loki had gotten rid of it. Then Loki would be the one suffering. If there was some truth to be found in all of this… What would stop them from being together… once the spell was broken? Steve swallowed hard. There was no way to be sure.

“I should talk to him… shouldn’t I?” Bucky was actually asking and the answer came rapidly.

“Yes.”

“No.”

Natasha quirked an eyebrow, shaking her head at Bruce. “There is magic involved. Loki has to deal with that on his own. Let him break the spell, then you can talk about this mess.”

“Yes, but Loki is angry now and he is taking it out on Bucky. They should talk about that. Otherwise there will only be bad blood.” Bruce always wanted harmony all around him, that was nothing new, but Steve wasn’t sure if he shared his opinion on this. Loki wasn’t fun to deal with when he was angry. Even less so when he supposed to get a good piece of work done. Important work.

Ignoring both of them Bucky turned to Steve, looking at him with these big, beautiful eyes, full of trust. “What do you think?”

Steve had no idea what to think. He was jealous, but he had no right to. These were Bucky’s decisions to make… and Loki’s. Not Steve’s. It may hurt, he may not like it and yet it was how things were supposed to be. If he was going to interfere Steve would lose all respect for himself. “I think… you should leave him be for now. He asked you to. For now. He looked like he needed it. Tomorrow he will have cooled down and then you should talk. Tell him he was out of line.”

Bucky slowly nodded and the tiniest smile spread on his lips. “Guess that’s a good idea, thanks.”

Awkward silence settled in, only interrupted by the soft rustling of paper and Thor’s outraged gasp when he found a new familiar name on the list.

***

A knock on the door made Steve look up from his book. It was past one o’clock in the morning, so there was only one person who would still be awake and ready to bother him. “Come in, Tony.”

The engineer did just that, closing the door behind him. He didn’t come a step closer, ready to get away any second.

“What is it? You can’t sleep?”

“So now you’re just going with it? It almost looks like you’re supporting them now.”

Of course. Steve hadn’t expected anything else. “No, I’m just being… realistic. There is nothing to be done with the spell still intact. After Loki has broken it… we will see. Maybe Bucky’s feelings for him will be gone… maybe they won’t, but until there we are stuck. No, they are stuck. It’s not about what I want.”

Raising an eyebrow Tony cocked his head. The expression on his face resembled disbelief. “You think that Clint is right. You think that Loki is falling for him.”

“Bucky is around him all the time… he’s being so nice and sweet to him… it doesn’t matter if it’s the spell or not. He likes Bucky. How long can you be unaffected if somebody treats you like this? Yes, I think there might be a good chance Loki is falling for him…”

“And that’s it? You are okay with that?”

Sighing Steve pushed the jealousy away. “I can’t decide for another person how they are supposed to feel… I talked with Bucky. There might be a chances that… he’ll still be into Loki when the spell is gone. If that’s how they feel… we’ll have to accept that.”

“God, I hate it when you’re that righteous and… right.” Running one hand through his hair Tony finally moved away from the door and sat down on the edge of Steve’s bed. Was this going to be a longer talk? Not something that Steve was looking forward to.

“I hope Loki gave Doom a pretty good beating…” Tony muttered under his breath and Steve couldn’t help but smile. “I’m pretty sure of that. Otherwise we would have already heard from him… How are you dealing with all of this? You’re not going to make a scene… or something.”

Tony rolled his eyes, but shrugged at the same time. “When have I ever reacted unreasonably?”

“You used the Iron Man suit to stop them from kissing. Not the most reasonable thing in the world.”

“I was pissed off, okay! I thought… that… no idea what I thought. The impression I got from Loki was always a bit cold and distanced. I didn’t actually think that he would go for anyone. That he liked being the lonesome prince of darkness. Hey, maybe he does… He was always kinda of straightforward. Don’t come closer. Back off. Don’t even try to touch me or I will rip your head off. Then Bucky shows up and he looks like they’re about to make out in the kitchen. That wasn’t too nice to look at….” Glancing at Steve Tony seemed to be looking for some understanding or at least a nod. Steve wouldn’t have acted like he had, but he understood where Tony was coming from.

“No, it wasn’t… but… if that’s what… I want Bucky to be happy and when the spell is lifted and he still wants to be with Loki… then that’s how it is. I don’t have to like it…”

Now Tony frowned at him. “You are not going to tell him? Okay, let’s pretend that it’s going to happen like this. The spell is broken and Bucky still wants to be with him. Before this whole ordeal he was into you. Are you able to just forget about that?”

Steve felt like choking up and he refused to think much about this. He didn’t know. He had had a feeling, but he didn’t know. Recently he had realised that there were a lot of things that he didn’t know. Like Loki and Bucky even being friends. Talking about that.

“Did you know that… they were hanging out together? Bucky and Loki. Before this thing happened. Loki said that the spell reinforces Bucky’s feelings towards him. I think that… the spell is so strong, because Bucky liked him more than just a little bit. I didn’t know that they were friends. I guess there are a lot of things that I didn’t know. At the party before Doom’s attack… he thought he was about to tell me something and I thought I would be about me, but… I am not so sure anymore. Perhaps it would have been about Loki… I can’t be sure. Like I said… we’ll know when Loki figured it out.”

Again Tony gave a little nod. “Mind if I crash here for the night? You don’t look like you want to sleep tonight and I don’t plan on that either. Wanna watch a movie? Or talk about how evilly fate screwed us over.”

That definitely sounded like something Steve definitely would not do, but a movie was the better option. “Not some action flick. I get enough of that in real life.”

“Fine… how about Groundhog Day?”

“Sounds good enough.”

 ***

Tony Stark was snoring. Steve could have gladly lived on without ever knowing that. Still, when he woke up that day Tony was lying next to him, mouth wide open and snoring. A sight to behold. Smirking in amusement Steve got up and headed for the bathroom. By the time he got back out Tony hadn’t moved an inch, still lying in the same spot, still snoring.

Shaking his head Steve left the room and just in front of the door, he bumped into Clint. “Hey, there. What, you’re only getting up now? Cap sleeping in, that must be a first.”

“Yeah, it was a long night. You’re heading for the gym?”

Clint nodded, demonstratively stretching his muscles. “Yep, you feel like you can take me on?”

“Sure, why not?” Steve could use a good work-out to clear his head. They did just that and for that one and a half hour Steve managed to not think about the spell or Bucky or Loki. Afterwards him and Clint had a small breakfast in the kitchen and only got interrupted when Tony joined them, looking like a mess. “Holy shit… your bed is so fucking uncomfortable. Did I give all of you guys such a shitty mattress as a joke and I just can’t remember it?”

Steve’s brain seemed to be too slow to catch up with the words, unlike Clint’s. The archer was spitting his coffee across the table and then voice a disbelieving “What the fucking hell?!”

Nonchalantly Tony sat down next to him, running one hand through his tousled hair. “What? My back is fucking killing me because of Steve’s bed…”

“What were you even doing in… No, I don’t even want to know. Did Loki fuck something up while working on the spell and now it hit the both of you too?”

Letting Tony Stark sleep in his room turned out to be a bad idea, Steve should have known. “We were watching a movie and Tony fell asleep. You imagination is quite alarming, Clint.”

Now the latter seemed almost disappointed, while Tony’s eyes were growing wide. “Steve, why are you denying what happened between us? You are breaking my heart… I thought that we had something special…”

“Shut up, Tony.”

The engineer winked at him and Steve shook his head, trying to look reproachful, but he couldn’t help but feeling the slightest bit amused. It was a good thing that Tony was joking around, that meant that their conversation last night had been sincere and he wasn’t too upset about what might happen. Steve would only then decide how he was feeling about all of this.

They continued the breakfast in a light-hearted mood and it would have been the nicest morning for weeks if it wasn’t for the furious Asgard that stormed into the kitchen and grabbed Clint by the collar, lifting him up from the floor. “Thor, what the fuck?!”

“Put him down!”

“Hey, point break, you want some coffee?”

Thor ignored all of them, his eyes trying to burn holes into Clint’s skull. “How dare you to betray my trust in you like this?!”

“Fuck, I don’t even know what you’re talking about!”

“I am talking about this!” In his free hand Thor held a few sheets of paper that looked awfully familiar.

By now Thor had proven that he wasn’t to be taken seriously all the time, this was way Steve remained completely calm. “Put Clint down, tell us what the problem is and then we will talk about it. Like adults. I don’t know how you do these things in Asgard, but here we talk about our problems. Put him down, Thor.”

Growling and definitely reluctantly Thor did put Clint down who narrowed his eyes at him. “What the fuck, man?!”

“How do you explain this?” Thor tossed the papers onto the table and Tony, Clint and Steve were instantly leaning over it, trying to find the reason why Thor… lost his cool. As expected it was the list Loki had written and right there in the lower third was the name ‘Clint Barton’.

“Woah, everyone calm down! Don’t look at me like that! That’s not true! I never touched your brother! Not every person here swings both ways!”

“Why would my brother write your name on it nothing happened?!”

“He is the god of lies!”

“Clint, I don’t know if I should hate you right now or if I should give you a high-five. Nah, screw it, high-five, man!”

Rubbing his temples Steve gave them all his darkest look, desperately wanting them all to shut up. “Okay, now listen. We all know that Clint is as straight as an arrow… Loki said that Asgardian courting rituals are pretty ridiculous. Maybe something totally harmless happened that would be considered a violation of these rituals in Asgard. Isn’t that possible? A pat on the shoulder or something?”

Why was Thor staring at Steve now like he wanted to kill him? “Captain, your assumption is ridiculous. Warriors have physical contact all the time. I want to know what you did to my brother so that he wrote your name on there!”

“Maybe he had a wet dream about me! No idea!”

“How dare you to…”

“Okay, enough!” Steve pinched the bridge of his nose and cursed himself for thinking he might have a pleasant morning. “Listen, I’m sure there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for this. We’ll just go to Loki and he’ll tell us what this is all about. Then you can calm down and focusing on killing other people on that list than Clint. Can’t believe I just said that.”

Munching on his toast Tony nodded eagerly. “I like this idea.”

“Hell, I’m fine with pretty much anything as long as it stops Thor from trying to kill me.”

“Agreed.”

Finally some common sense. Still a very stupid reason for abandoning a nice breakfast. Since there was only one place where Loki could be, they all headed towards his study. A funny looking group, Thor looking at Clint like he wanted to kill him, Tony was having a great time and Steve just to clear a few things up.

The door to the study was closed and everybody of them knew better than just burst into this room. Loki would most probably kill them. Steve knocked carefully at the door and called out to their favourite sorcerer who hopefully was in a good mood. Or even there, because there was no answer. “Loki?”

“Maybe he is out, picking up some more guys so he can add them to the list. Just a joke, Thor! Just a joke!”

“Loki? Are you there?”

“Oh, come on, Cap! Everybody knows that when somebody doesn’t answer the door, you only enter faster.” Tony shoved Steve aside and pushed the door open, stepping inside the room. A single step and Steve shouldn’t have followed him that quickly, because now he was bumping into him. “What is… oh…”

One could talk about it all day long, as much and as thoroughly as possible, but it would still be something entirely different to see it happen. Like it was happening now. Knowing was something different than seeing. Or feeling. Loki and Bucky were sitting at a table, the jar with the white smoke right in front of them and being totally ignored. Their attention was focused on each other and the kiss they were sharing.

Sharing.

This wasn’t Bucky throwing Loki off his guard, but both of them being engaged in it. Careful and slow, almost sweet and wrong. Clint had been right, it was like kissing someone under influence and…

Tony cleared his throat and Bucky abruptly pulled back, clearly shocked to be interrupted. Loki didn’t let his feelings show, but Steve thought he could see him wince, just for a second. The way he instantly brought more distance between him and Bucky also couldn’t be missed. Steve just didn’t know what to think about it. “Can’t you knock?”

“We did, two times. Not our fault when you’re too distracted to hear us.”

“Brother, was this mortal…”

“Shut up, Thor!” Loki hissed, his expression turned to stone within seconds. “I do not need another one of your fits. Leave him alone. He is under the influence of magic, he cannot help it.”

Steve knew that he shouldn’t say anything, that it was none of his business and that at the moment Bucky probably didn’t want nothing more than being kissed by Loki, but Steve had his concerns. “Right, he can’t… what about you?”

A shadow crept over Loki’s face, although his eyes never left Steve’s. How would have thought that they would ever see something like guilt on Loki’s face. Trying to invade the planet? Nothing. Kissing a person who wasn’t completely in their right state of mind – yes, he was feeling guilty because of that. “I… I made a mistake and got carried away. It will not happen again. Why are you here?”

Steve wanted to reply, but there was no time for it, since Bucky was once again staring at Loki with these eyes, full of adoration and pain. “Loki…” He was reaching out for him, but again Loki pulled away. „Stop it… I… made a mistake and… I need to break the spell.“

Bucky opened his mouth, yet the words seemed to die on his lips and instead he turned to the others. “Can you… give us a few minutes?”

Immediately Loki shook his head. “No. Stay. It would be a good idea to stay.”

That was also a way to break somebody’s heart. Steve bit his lip when he saw how Bucky’s face fell. That wasn’t fair.

“Brother, we’re here to find out what Agent Barton’s name is doing on this list!”

Frowning Loki looked Thor up and down, then to Clint before he realised what this was all about. “We violated the Asgardian courting rituals.”

“Hey! I would remember if I violated anything! Stop spreading rumours! You want Thor to kill me!?”

Loki raised an eyebrow and still made it to look absolutely disinterested. “Agent Barton asked me if he could use one of my daggers for practice. I agreed and in return he gave me a lesson with his bow and arrow.”

Tony’s jaw dropped to the floor and Steve didn’t understand a single word, while Thor was definitely lightening up. “I see… I think you can be forgiven, Agent Barton.”

“What the hell?! Somebody care to explain to me what is going on?”

Like why weren’t talking about the fact that Loki and Bucky had been kissing?

“Lending your weapon of choice to another warrior comes close to asking for their hand. In Asgard we consider this a proposal…”

“Wow…” Clint raised both hands and took a step back. “Uhm… Loki, we’re cool, right? You know that I wasn’t actually proposing to you.”

“Yes, I am well aware of the fact that there was no way you could have known that.” Loki’s eyes were fixed on the jar in front of him, placing on hand on top of it.

While Clint was feeling incredibly relieved Bucky was having none of it. “Seriously? You are just going to ignore what just happened?”

“We already talked about it.”

“No, we didn’t.”

“Fine, then yes. I will ignore this until the spell is broken.” Loki replied dryly, his hand on the jar was starting to glow in soft light.

Gritting his teeth Bucky got up from his chair, all the warmth gone from his eyes while he was staring at Loki. “Whatever you say…” Loki didn’t even bat an eyelid when Bucky stormed out of the room, by now his whole world consisted of the jar on the table. This wasn’t right, nothing about it.

Making a quick decision Steve followed his best friend. “Bucky, wait up!”

To his surprise Steve found him just outside the door, leaning against the wall. Making sure the door was closed Steve turned to him, trying to figure out by one glance how Bucky was feeling. Miserable and angry were his first choice. “You want to tell me what happened?”

A hoarse sound escaped Bucky’s throat and he was clearly avoiding Steve’s gaze. “You saw what happened, didn’t you?”

“Yes, but I can’t say that I fully understand what I saw… maybe you could fill in the blanks? Only if you want to, of course…”

“I followed your advice and went to him to talk to him. He was way calmer than yesterday and he apologized for being so… frustrated. It was good. We talked… he said there was a good chance that he would break the spell today or tomorrow and… I told him that I loved him…”

Yeah, that was something that nobody wanted to hear.

“How did he react?” Stupid question, Steve had seen the reaction himself.

“He said that…” Bucky paused, taking a deep breath. “… that I didn’t love him. That it was only the spell and that all these feelings would be gone when… I said they wouldn’t… we were almost arguing and… I said if that was going to happen, I didn’t want him to break the spell. He said I was crazy and then I kissed him.”

Well, Loki had obviously kissed him back. “You shouldn’t have kissed him…”

“Why?” Finally Bucky was looking at him, frowning. “I wanted to and he kissed me back.”

“Yeah, he also shouldn’t have done that.”

“Why? Fuck the spell, if I want to and he wants to, what’s the harm in it?”

Steve couldn’t believe what he was about to do. Yet it was the only right thing to do. “Don’t you see in what kind of situation you’re putting him? He has no idea if your feelings won’t just disappear the second the spell is broken. I know you are sure that is not going to happen, but there is no way to know that for sure. He doesn’t know that. How is he supposed to feel about that? Today you kiss him and tomorrow maybe you don’t want him anymore. Then it’s him who has to live with that. To know that he kissed you without you really wanting it. He shouldn’t have done that in the first place and now he… wants to keep you away completely.”

More wasn’t possible. That was all Steve was willing to give. It was the truth and the situation wasn’t fair to any of them. Maybe least of all to Loki. Bucky lowered his eyes, now he was the one looking guilty. “I just want to be with him, Steve… I just want to be with him and a fucking love spell is keeping me from being with him. How stupid is that…” Hard to believe but Bucky actually started laughing and Steve joined in. Everything was so absurd, why not laughing about it. That was better than crying.

They were laughing and Loki was shouting, finally losing his temper. “Stay away from that jar, you stupid oaf! Or do you want to also inflict a spell on… me…”

Definitely not sounding good. Steve and Bucky shared a look and just to make sure that nothing terrible was happening in the study, they went back in, only to find everything in perfect order. Except that Loki’s entire body was glowing with green light. “Uhm, what is going on?”

“I think reindeer games just figured something out. He suddenly got this look on his face.” Tony indeed sounded hopeful and he was proven right.

Within the blink of an eye the green glow simply vanished. Loki stood there, his eyes wide with disbelief and that gave Steve goose bumps since there barely was anything that could amaze Loki.

“What is it?”

“I got it.”

“What do you mean you got it?” Bucky’s voice was shivering and Loki met his gaze without hesitation this time. “I figured it out. Love spells are simply, they are child’s play. It is not hard to crack, I was just looking in the wrong place. Yes, the spell is all over you, but it is also bound to me. There is a connection and when I break it, the spell will dissolve. How could I not think of that sooner…”

So this was it. Loki had found it and it was done. Now he would get rid of it and Steve would finally know…

“Are you sure you can do it? You couldn’t break it before, why is now different when it is on you?” Steve would have loved to smack Clint’s head, but unfortunately he had a point. A point that caused Loki to growl. “The mere connection is the weakest point. Until now I didn’t feel any magic on me, it’s small, has barely any effect.”

Tony clapped his hands, way too excited for Steve’s taste. “So what are you waiting for? Get started.”

Loki sat back down on his chair and closed his eyes. “I can break it, but the spell was been intact for so long… it will hurt. A lot.”

Next to Steve Bucky was straightening up. “I can take it.”

Reopening his eyes Loki looked at Bucky, an amused smile playing around his lips. “I am not talking about you. You will not feel anything.”

“Brother, are you saying…”

Loki cut Thor off with a dismissive gesture and closed his eyes. “Every person who doesn’t want to expose their ears to my screams of agony should leave now.”

“Please, don’t do this if it’s dangerous.”

“I didn’t say dangerous. I just said that it would be painful. Now shush, I have to…”

Bucky’s voice was trembling so much Steve barely recognized it. “Don’t do it if it’s hurting you. We’ll find some other way.”

“This is the only way. Be quiet, James. In a minute my wellbeing won’t be any of your concern anymore.”

Steve could hear Bucky gasp and he wanted to punch Loki for it. A thought that he quickly regretted. Nothing in Loki’s demeanour told them that he was doing something. Anything. He just sat there with his eyes closed. Until his lips were slightly twitching. His brow knitted. His eyes squeezed shut. Could be the exertion of the concentration… or pain. Bucky made a step forward, Steve held him back. “Wait…”

Loki made a sound. Something Steve had never heard from him before. A terrifying rattle that passed his lips and had Tony wincing. Then it all happened very quickly. The rattle turned into a scream and Loki’s hands grabbed the armrests of his chair so hard that his knuckles turned white.

“Stop it! Loki! Stop it!” Bucky was yelling and Steve was with him on that. The sound of Loki’s screaming was like knifes cutting into his skin. Even though obviously Loki was the one who was being tortured. With every second it seemed to become worse, louder, more painful and harder to listen to.

The suffering was too much for all of them, Thor rushed towards his brothers, grabbing his shoulders. “Loki, you have to stop this! You are doing damage to yourself! Listen to me! Stop this at an instant!”

Steve doubted that Loki could even hear him, he just kept screaming. His body started to convulsing in Thor’s grip and made Steve think that he was having a seizure.

“God, do something! Please!”

Suddenly it stopped. Loki went limp underneath Thor’s hands, almost sliding of the chair, but his brother lifted him up into his arms before that happened. “Loki? Loki!”

If the spell had worked or not was the last thing on their minds when there was no reaction.

Chapter Text

“Catatonic. What the hell do you mean he’s catatonic?!” Tony’s voice was a mere high pitched shriek that would have normally sounded ridiculous or even funny. Right now nobody was thinking anything like this. Everybody was shaken to their core and Steve admired how Bruce could keep looking at Loki. How he could stand that.

“I am not a doctor, Tony.” Bruce only sounded calm, but his face showed how shocked he was. “We definitely need an expert here, but…” For the third time he used the pocket light on Loki’s open eyes before straightening up again. Grabbing Loki’s hand Bruce pinched him, but there was no sign that Loki had felt anything. “There is no reaction to any extern stimuli. The light, physical pain. He is still breathing, but… everything else seems to be gone.”

“You cannot mean that… It is not possible to steal a soul. Brother, listen to me…” Thor crouched down next to Loki’s bed, taking one of his hands into his own. “Your magic surpasses every other sorcerer in the nine realms. You fight this and then you will stand up from this bed and…” Thor choked up and this shell kept lying there, motionless.

This couldn’t be Loki. Loki would never allow his brother to touch him. Even when he wasn’t talking much, his face was always so expressive. Eyes that looked at them with disdain and contempt that were now completely empty. Gone.

No panic, there was no time for this. They needed to get things done. This was a medical problem and nobody could afford to delay those. “Okay, Bruce is right. We have to get him a doctor. Immediately. Can you get to that? Thor, I know you don’t want to leave Loki’s side, but this is... magic. We need some expertise. Can you get us some help from Asgard or somewhere else?”

Thor didn’t react instantly, he was staring at Loki, his fingers softly brushing the black hair out of Loki’s face. Nothing.

“How is this even possible? He… said it would be painful, but that it wasn’t dangerous.” Still in disbelief Clint was shaking his head, staring at Loki’s body. Something Steve was trying not to do.

“Something obviously went wrong. Maybe this was also part of the spell… maybe this was the whole intention. Why should Doom produce love spells anyway? This looks much more like him…” Natasha’s mumbling was barely audible, even she had a hard time to deal with the sight in front of them.

Somebody shoved Steve aside and brought him back to reality. “Tony…”

“Get out of my way!”

Probably Thor was startled enough to let Tony drag him away. The engineer was now towering over Loki, on hand balled into a fist and shaking. Steve couldn’t see his face and somehow he was glad for that.

“Reindeer games, I’m sorry. Don’t kill me!”

Nobody had time to react, Tony raised his other and slapped Loki with full force.

“Tony, are you crazy!?”

Steve was being ignored. “Come on, wake up! Damn it! Fuck you, you can’t just magic yourself into a coma! Wake up!”

When he was about to strike again, Natasha stepped in and pulled him back. “Tony… calm down.”

“Don’t tell me to calm down!” Tony pushed her harshly away, his eyes were red and wild, reminding Steve of a drunk, but he knew that Tony hadn’t been drinking. “This is my fault, so don’t tell me to calm down!”

“Tony, it isn’t your fault.”

“Of course, it fucking is! Look at him, he’s… this was Loki. Loki! And now he’s a fucking vegetable, because of me!” After yelling at the top of his lungs Tony stormed out the room and Steve bit his lip. He wanted to go after him and he wanted to get away from Loki in this state. It felt wrong though. “Bruce, the doctor?”

The other one showed him his cellphone. “I’m already on it.”

“Good… Thor, we need every help we can get, so…”

Thor lowered his eyes, but nodded slowly. Never had a big man looked so small. “I will contact the Allfather immediately.”

Steve only hoped that something was going to help. He was a soldier, he could go to war, but he had no idea how to handle… this. “I’m going to check on Tony… can you… take care of Loki?”

Natasha was raising an eyebrow like wanting to ask what they were supposed to do with a catatonic demi-god, but Clint agreed. “Yeah, don’t worry.”

Smiling gratefully at them Steve left the room, sighing in relief. Loki’s screams were still ringing in his ears and the image of him lying motionlessly in Thor’s arms would probably never leave him alone again. He had no idea what had happened and he didn’t want to know. All Steve knew that he was going to fix it. Somehow.

He found Tony in the living room, as expected. Tony was downing a glass of whiskey and Steve was sure that it wasn’t the first one. “Tony, listen…”

“No…” Shaking his head Tony hissed at him. “Don’t even start. I don’t need a speech, I don’t need Captain America. Nothing you’re going to say is going to make me feel better, so save it.”

“I’m not going to let you believe that you are responsible for…”

“It is my fault, Steve!”

“It’s not. If it is someone’s fault, then it’s Doom’s!”

“Fucking stop to try to make feel better!” Tony’s voice was drawn out by the sound of breaking glass. He had thrown his glass against the wall. “Loki said that we shouldn’t touch anything! You told me not to touch anything! What did I do?! I fucking touched the glass, it broke and now he’s… You saw him! It’s because of me.”

Taking a deep breath Steve walked towards him and grabbed Tony’s shoulders. “Listen, okay. Who cares if it is your fault? Loki is in big trouble and we have to help him. We have no time for your little breakdown. Get a grip, so we can work on a solution! He needs our help, this is not about you and your guilt trip!”

The way Tony looked at him made Steve believe that he would hit him any second. Which wasn’t the case, instead Tony got himself a new glass of whiskey. “Fine… I’m going to help. Jarvis, get me the suit. I’m going to get Doom here. He’s going to undo this and then I’m going to fucking rip him apart.”

“Tony…”

“Stop Tony-ing me! I am responsible for that and now I have to… Loki has to pay the price for something I fucked up! You saw this guy tearing down whole cities and now he lies there… because I couldn’t keep my hands off a stupid glass…”

“Tony, we are going to help him and nobody is going to hold this against you.”

Sipping from his drink Tony looked past him, a far away look on his face. “Did you look at him? He screamed like he was being tortured! Loki… the guy who didn’t bat an eyelid when a Hydra agent rammed a knife through his shoulder. What if this can’t be undone? What if he is going to stay like this for the rest of his life?”

Another thing that Steve didn’t want to think about. “What if he gets up in two hours and is completely fine? We don’t know that yet, but you’re not helping by going crazy. About Doom… you’re not going alone. We should also bring Bucky.”

“Yeah, great. At least he will be focused without the damned spell…”

Steve stopped dead in his tracks. “We don’t know if it worked. We didn’t talk to him yet. Also Loki definitely didn’t plan this like this…”

“You saw him with Loki? No, because he immediately got outta there. For me that’s proof enough that he doesn’t give a shit anymore. Thor didn’t leave his side for a second…” There was obvious disdain in Tony’s voice and Steve wasn’t going to think about all these implications now. “I’m going to talk to him. You… No matter what I say you’re not going to wait up anyway. Bucky and I will take the Quinjet.”

“I don’t guarantee that there will be something left.”

Steve feared so, but Doom probably deserved everything that was about to hit him. Jarvis let Steve know that Bucky was on the roof of the tower, so Steve went there, an uneasy feeling in his stomach. Loki had been wrong. First he hadn’t been able to break the spell and then he had said that it wouldn’t be dangerous. What if there were even more things that he hadn’t known?

Bucky was crouching on the floor right next to the door that had led Steve to the roof. Since Steve had never been this worried in his life, it couldn’t get worse, but Bucky’s appearance didn’t make it better either. The way he hid his face behind his fingers was reason for concern. “Bucky, hey… are you alright?”

“No… my head is hurting… like hell.”

Could be the spell… considering Loki’s current state Steve thought that he had every right to panic. “Do you need to see Bruce?”

“No… it started when Loki…” Bucky raised his head, looking at Steve through his fingers. “How is he doing?”

Steve didn’t know. Good lord, he had no idea. “Like… he’s just lying there… not reacting to anything. With his eyes open. It’s creepy… Tony and me are heading out to go after Doom. Try to get him to give us a way to help Loki. You’re coming? If you’re alright?”

Steve hadn’t even finished his sentence when Bucky was already getting up. “Let’s go… “

 ***

Tony Stark was a man of his word. When Steve and Bucky arrived at the scene Tony had already torn down several walls of the castle. Right in front of several TV channel crews. Not that he cared the least bit. Steve was ready for a fight, for bloodshed, for everything that was necessary, but the only thing Bucky and him found in the castle was Tony. Doom wasn’t even here. The fight with Loki had probably made him find a new hiding spot to lick his wounds.

They searched the whole place, not touching anything that looked remotely magic related. There was nothing, not a clue where Doom had disappeared to and without Loki they weren’t able to trace his magic down. What do you do when you cannot save the person you want to save without their help?

“Fuck!” Normally Tony wasn’t fond of destroying things, he was a creator, made things out of nothing, but now he just blew a wall up at random. “I’ll have Jarvis looking for him. He’ll find him… I’ll turn every stone where he could be hiding under. See you guys at the tower.” With that he just took off and flew away, leaving Steve and Bucky standing in the ruins of the room. “We should leave too, there’s nothing we can do here…”

The flight home almost passed in complete silence and Steve didn’t even dare to call in to ask how Loki was doing. No news were good news and Bruce would for sure call them if something happened. Good or bad.

When they arrived though, there was no other place to go but to the lab. Steve could hear Bucky following with heavy steps and again he didn’t dare to say anything. A shiver of dread ran down Steve’s back when he saw Loki still lying in this white, sterile bed which was enough to tell everyone that he wasn’t fine. Everything else had also gotten worse. When Steve had left he hadn’t been able to stand the sight of Loki with his lifeless eyes open being obviously catatonic. Now he looked much more like a common hospital patient. His eyes were closed and Bruce had placed an oxygen mask over his mouth. “What happened?”

Raising his head Bruce looked like he wanted to smile at them, but the situation was just too dreadful to do that. “He… I closed his eyes, because he isn’t able to blink. They would… you know. His body functions were shutting down, he gets more and more trouble breathing… I’ll have to put a tube down his throat eventually….”

“He… is dying?”

Steve turned around, seeing Bucky staring at Bruce with a hardened expression that was about to crumble.

“His body is shutting down, but…” Bruce took a breath and took off his glasses, rubbing a hand over his eyes. “I did an EEG… it’s weird, but… I do believe he is fully conscious. Like he’s locked in his body…”

“You have to be kidding… Please… are you trying to tell us, that he can hear us? That he is aware of everything that’s going on?” No spell could be so cruel.

Before Bruce could explain it any further Bucky passed them, walking up to Loki’s bed, softly grabbing one of his hands like Tony had before. “I told you to not do that… I told you, you shouldn’t risk it if it’s dangerous. Why weren’t you listening? You stubborn idiot…” Bucky trailed off, his voice turning into a hiss and he suddenly pressed his flat hand to his forehead.

“Bucky! Are you alright?”

“Yeah, yeah… I’m fine… it’s just… my headache is getting worse.”

Bruce stepped forward, putting a hand on Bucky’s shoulder. “Let me check on you.”

“No. You have to take care of him. He’s… Loki is lying here because of me. I don’t need your help, he does.”

Fortunately Bruce wasn’t the type of guy to accept a simple no. “Bucky, Loki and you are somehow connected by this spell. If you’re starting to feel sick now, it has to be related to… what happened to Loki. Let me check you out, maybe it will help Loki too. This is important.”

Reluctantly Bucky nodded and let Bruce lead him away. Steve was left there, with Loki and it could so easily be a dream. Such a strong person, with an even stronger will was lying here, trapped in his own body, completely helpless. It was wrong. Downright terrible if Loki was indeed aware of his surroundings, but not able to interact with them. He had to be so scared, terrified. Pulling up a chair Steve sat down next to Loki and thought about what to say, but since there were no words for such a situation, he just started to talk. “I don’t know what this is like for you or if you can even hear me, but… You don’t have to worry, we will help you. Thor is already in Asgard to get some help, Bruce is working on a medical solution. We’re going to do everything that’s necessary to help you. You did this to help Bucky, we’re not going to leave you alone. I… I know you normally like being alone, so maybe you don’t even want me to stay here and talk to you, but… You are in such a lonely place that wasn’t your choice, so… I’m going to keep you company… I know you were reading some huge Russian novel before this whole thing happened. I’ll be gone for a minute and get it…”

Steve felt an intense urge to hurry and returned with the book only two minutes later. Of course nothing had changed. Loki lay there like a lifeless doll and Steve ignored the little stab to his chest. This wasn’t fair. Loki had always been a fighter, always been strong, always looking for a fight and he had been a bad person. Only a few months ago Loki had brought darkness to every place he had gone. There had been nothing gentle about him, only sharp edges, raging anger and a lust for destruction.

Believing in second chances was part of Steve’s identity, if the person wanted to change, if there was honest regret. Even he hadn’t thought Loki redeemable. Especially since Loki had never uttered a word, never said he was sorry. Thor and him had had a talk and Thor had vouched for him. There had been talk about mind control, a place where Loki had been. That had torn him apart and turned Thor’s little lovely brother into something else, someone unrecognizable. No excuses were made, but… context was given and surprisingly Clint was the first one willing to give Loki a chance. He knew what it was like to have his mind torn apart and the experience had scarred him so much that he was sympathizing with everyone who had gone through the same. Even if it was the person who had done it to him.

Even after that Loki never talked about what had happened to him after his suicide attempt, something else he didn’t talk about, or his change of heart. Most of the time Steve thought that Loki didn’t like any of them and that he didn’t enjoy staying with them. Maybe he had no other place to go.

Yet Loki had worked with them, helped them, never wearing a smile on his face. It all seemed to be an annoying duty to him. Except that he did it. Went after villains, disposing of them, locking them away and saving innocent people. Considering what Bucky had said it made more sense. Loki was trying, but didn’t know if he was capable. Steve could relate do that, wanting something so bad, but not knowing if you were able to do it, to live up to your own expectations.

Nothing bad had happened to Loki when he had been still busy spreading chaos and destruction. When he decided to change, to try to be a better person… when he did something selfless, to help a friend he ended up here. In a seemingly vegetative state, depending on other people to help him keep breathing. The sheer injustice of it made Steve’s blood boil.

Taking a deep breath Steve pushed all these thoughts aside and opened the book. “Uhm… there is no bookmark, I have no idea where you stopped reading… I’m just going to start all over. I have no idea about the correct way how to pronounce a Russian name, so bear with me…” Clearing his throat Steve started to read and it felt completely strange. Was he loud enough? Too slow? Would Loki even want to hear it? Or did he want to be alone? No, nobody wanted to be alone in this kind of situation. Loki was probably scared, not even he was immune to this.

Steve had just turned to page 34 when somebody joined him and he only realised the presence of the other person by hearing them talk. “Your pronunciation is terrible.”

Natasha was leaning over him, looking at the book, then at Loki. “This is a good idea. Want to take a break? I can take your place.”

Shaking his head Steve made it to smile at her. “No, thanks. I’m good. Any news? From Tony? Or anyone?”

“Tony is working on finding Doom, nobody else is allowed in his workroom. God only knows what he’s doing in there. Bruce gave Bucky some really strong painkillers, he’s sleeping. Clint is with him. No news from Thor yet.”

“Is Bucky alright?”

Natasha sat down on the edge of Loki’s bed, her eyes fixed on him. “I guess so, no way to be entirely sure. He’s having a major headache that has to be somehow connected to Loki… being in this state. Bruce is still running some tests. Look, it’s totally okay if you want to go and look after him. I’ll be here, I can read… and get the pronunciation right. I am sure Loki would appreciate it.”

A bit reluctantly Steve handed Natasha the book and was about to get up. It felt wrong though, just to leave like this. “Loki… I will look after Bucky and Nat is going to stay with you. You’ll be glad to hear somebody read it who actually knows some Russian. I’ll be back later.”

Mouthing a silent ‘Thank you’ to Natasha Steve left the room and released a long breath. They had to do something about this, right now. If the same thing was happening to Bucky right now, Steve would go insane.

The moment he saw Bucky also lying on a bed Steve thought about going into shock, but then the differences became instantly evident and a little bit of relief set in. Bucky was lying on his side, his legs curled up, his face resting against his arm. He looked like a person who had actually lain down to go to sleep. Not like Loki.

“How is he doing?”

Bruce looked up from the screen he was watching, not surprised to see Steve. “He is okay… I wouldn’t say fine, but… He is suffering from an immense migraine. He said it kicked in when Loki broke down. There is no way this isn’t connected.”

Standing next to Bucky Steve resisted to the urge to reach out and pet Bucky’s hair. “So what is happening to him? The same thing as to Loki?”

“No, I don’t think so. Actually…” Bruce cleared his throat to be sure to have all of Steve’s attention. “I think that Loki’s plan worked. I think the spell is dissolving. I have no proof and no way to make sure, but… Something has been influencing his perceptions and feelings for over a week. His mind. It makes sense that having it go back to normal would hurt.”

This was way too confusing. The spell dissolving was good news, but Loki had said doing it wouldn’t be dangerous. The outcome was different. “But we can’t be sure…”

“Look, Steve, this whole thing is beyond every I know, but Bucky is doing fine, except for the headache. What happened to Loki… No idea. Maybe Doom designed it to be like that. Or something went wrong. Or… I have no idea. Our best chance is probably Thor getting some answers in Asgard. Listen, I should go and check on Loki… if it gets even harder for him to breathe on his own…”

They weren’t going to spell this out and Steve was grateful for that. Thor would come back and everybody would be fine. They would walk away from this. Sitting down next to Bucky Steve asked himself how long it would be like that, alternating between two sickbeds. Luckily Bucky actually looked like he was sleeping. If Bruce was right Bucky would wake up and the spell would be broken. He would be able to tell if the love was feeling was real or just a piece of his imagination. Strangely enough Steve couldn’t care less about this right now. Not when Loki’s body was betraying him, fading away. Only for trying to help somebody else.

A soft whimper was escaping Bucky’s lips, catching Steve’s attention. Even in his sleep Bucky screwed his face up and Steve quickly squeezed his shoulder. “It’s okay… You’ll be fine when you wake up.”

After a few seconds Bucky seemed to relax again and Steve didn’t doubt that he would never experience this kind of headache again if it kept hurting in his sleep. So much pain caused by a love spell.

Steve stayed for a while, then spread a blanket over Bucky and left when he was sure that he was sleeping calmly. By now he had lost all conception of time and was surprise when Jarvis told him that it was already past midnight. Still sleep was the last thing on Steve’s mind. Instead of heading to his room Steve returned to the lab and received a new punch in the guts. It was an actual sickroom now. Nothing nice or uplifting about it.

There were tons of new screens placed around the bed and Steve guessed that Bruce must have hooked Loki up to them. Again, something that Steve didn’t want to know about. Clint was sitting next to Loki, mumbling something too lowly for Steve to hear.

“Hey… everything alright?” Stupid question.

“Yap… he’s sleeping…”

“How can you tell?”

Bruce pointed at one of the screens. “His brain activity. We can’t be completely sure, because we know nothing about his state, but… I think it’s save to assume that he’s asleep.”

“How’s Bucky?”

“Asleep. He’s fine… You want to go to sleep too? I can stay here.”

Clint raised an eyebrow at him. “Sure? You’ve been awake just as long and you’ve out to hunt Doom down.

“Yeah, but I’m fine. He shouldn’t be alone. Right?”

Bruce gave a short nod. “Yeah… I’m still worried about his breathing. It doesn’t look good, but there hasn’t been any change in the last hours. I don’t want to put a tube down his throat if it isn’t necessary. Especially not if he is conscious.”

And the situation just got even more horrible. “I’ll stay… if something happens or one of these screens starts beeping I’ll call you immediately. Go. I’ll be fine.”

Slowly getting up Clint patted Steve on the shoulder and gave him a small, sympathetic smile. “Have a good night… Don’t hesitate to call when something’s up.”

Both of them left him alone and Steve sat down next to Loki. He was looking so fragile, not like Loki. The book was lying at the edge of the bed and Stevefelt like smiling when he saw that the bookmark was now on page 102. Hopefully Loki did enjoy it. There was no way to tell them if he liked a book or not, so… Steve quickly shook his head. It wasn’t even a prospect that he would consider. There would be no second book to read to Loki, because he would be back up on his feet in no time. Asgard was filled with magic objects and spells, Thor would return with something useful. Yes.

Leaning back Steve watched the screens, but there were no changes. Which meant that Loki was still sleeping. Steve wondered if he could dream in this state. He hoped so and that they were nice dreams. Being awake and trapped in his own body was nightmare enough. When all this was done Steve had to change something. Everyday he tried to be nice to everybody, which was something he was proud of. Yet his relationship with Loki was very reserved, Steve hadn’t been cold towards him, but… he hadn’t protested when Loki had isolated himself from the others.

This wouldn’t happen again. Steve would be a better friend. A friend. If Steve was in Loki’s place, he doubted that he would never want to be alone again. Everything about this was beyond cruel. After hesitating for a moment Steve reached out and put his hand on Loki’s wrist. His skin was cool and Steve instinctively rubbed his thumb over it. Yes, Bruce had said that he didn’t feel anything, but Steve refused to believe that a person could be that separated from their own body. Maybe he could feel it, but he was unable to react to it. Or this gesture was more for Steve than for Loki. All he wanted was to let the other know that somebody was here with him. “It’s going to be okay. Don’t worry…”

Time passed and although was Loki right next to him Steve was alone with his own thoughts. Until a little beep stirred him. The lines on one of the screen seemed to be changing and for Steve that could only mean that Loki was waking up. His body didn’t give anything away though. “Hey… if you’re awake… I’m here, okay? I hope Clint didn’t annoy you or… that I’m annoying you. Listen, Thor still isn’t back, but I’m sure he’ll back during the day. It’s still in the middle of the night, so if… let’s say if you don’t go back to sleep during the next 15 minutes, I’ll continue to read the book. I really hope you even like listening to it…”

Steve kept rambling and was feeling incredibly stupid while doing so, but he couldn’t just sit next to Loki in silence. It was only then that he realized that Loki had no idea what was happening if you didn’t tell him. He would want to know how Bucky was doing. After all he was only lying here, because he had tried to help him. “Bucky is doing fine. Whatever you did… it is working. Bruce says the spell seems to be dissolving. Bucky’s sleeping right now. I’m sure he’ll come here when he wakes up. He is okay, you don’t have to worry about him.”

Again Steve softly caressed Loki’s wrist with his thumb, hoping it was somehow reassuring.

About 10 minutes later Steve took a new look at the screens and it seemed like Loki had indeed fallen asleep again. “I really hope you’re dreaming something beautiful… like separating Doom’s head from his body. I definitely wouldn’t stop you…”

Carefully watching Loki’s breathing Steve didn’t dare to blink, not after the information Bruce had given him. Thor better hurry up. Until then all they could do was sitting here… or Tony would figure out a way to locate Doom. “It’s gonna be alright…”

“Steve?”

Turning his head Steve saw Bucky standing in the doorframe and relief instantly settled in. Bucky looked fine, a bit tired, but the constant frown was gone and he didn’t look like a person who was in pain. “Hey… you’re alright?”

Nodding Bucky came slowly closer, his steps somehow unsure, eyes fixed on Steve who only now realised that his hand was still on Loki’s first. His first instinct was to take it away, but Steve didn’t think that would be right. He didn’t want Loki to feel alone.

“How is he doing?” Bucky’s voice was nothing more than a low whisper and Steve did his best not to sigh. “No change. He’s asleep now… at least I think so. We’re worried about his breathing… but it’s going to be fine. Thor’s going to return from Asgard with a solution. Just a question of time.”

Bucky nodded, his eyes travelling over Loki’s fragile form. “I still feel responsible for this. He would have never had to go through this if it wasn’t for me…”

“It’s not your fault and I’m sure he doesn’t hold it against you.”

Awkward silence filled the room and Steve concentrated on Loki, it was easier this way.

“Steve… can we talk? About the last couple of days?”

No attempt was made to look at Bucky. Steve didn’t want to and he especially didn’t want to talk about this. It felt wrong. “Not now and not here.”

“Okay…”

Thor really needed to come back.

Chapter Text

“Are you sure this is necessary?” Steve mumbled under his breath, not wanting to make any sound despite talking. With dread Steve watched the lens tube in the doctor’s hands whose expression didn’t give any hope. “Definitely. It’s getting harder and harder for him to breathe and waiting any longer would only be painful and increase the risk of brain damage. So yes, it has to happen. Now.”

Sighing in defeat Steve shared a look with Natasha who was just standing there, her arms crossed in front of her chest. “I know we hoped to avoid this, but it’s necessary now. Waiting any longer would be torturing him.”

Steve knew that they were right and he was glad that they had finally brought in a real medical doctor, but truth to be told Steve had hoped that he would tell them that Loki was alright and a simple shot would be enough to wake him up. Unfortunately that didn’t happen.

“Fine, let’s do it… but I’ll have to explain it to him. He is conscious, we don’t know what he feels or not…” There was no discussion about that and Steve walked back to Loki’s bed where Bucky was sitting, looking up at him. “So?”

Slowly shaking his head Steve watched Loki’s face before leaning slightly down. “Listen Loki… I’m really sorry, but we have to do something about his breathing. The doctor is worried that it’ll get even harder for you to breathe. He has to put this tube down your throat, that will make it easier for you. I’m sorry, but we have to do that. It won’t be pleasant, but… I’m sorry.”

Instinctively Steve reached for Loki’s hand and gave it a soft squeeze while nodding towards the doctor. “Go ahead. Talk him through us, please…”

The doctor nodded and went ahead, explaining the procedure while going through with it. Steve rubbed his thumb over Loki’s knuckles and hoped the situation was somehow bearable. That it wasn’t painful. When the doctor was done, the sight of Loki was almost too much to bear. Attached to screens and now even to a machine that helped him breathe.

“Steve… you’ve been here all night. You don’t want to catch some sleep? I’m going to stay here.” Bucky touched his shoulder and Steve flinched. He had been feeling a little jumpy for a while now. There was no point in even thinking about it, he knew very well that Bucky was right. A need to sleep was gnawing at him, but he still didn’t feel like leaving. Especially not now. “No, I’m good…”

Bucky lightly scowled at that and Steve thought he saw his eyes darting to his own hand holding Loki’s. An uneasy feeling was overcoming Steve, but he didn’t let go. “Tony said this morning that he managed to track down an energy signature. He’s positive that it’s Doom. With a bit of luck we’ll know his location in a few hours and… then we’ll kick his ass until we know how to undo this. So don’t worry.”

Talking to a completely unresponsive person wasn’t getting any easier and Steve was very much relieved when the screens told him that Loki had fallen asleep.

“He looks so pale… even more so than usual…” Bucky whispered next to him and Steve could only agree. “This isn’t permanent. He’ll be fine…”

“Yes, but you won’t be if you don’t get some sleep soon. It’s okay, I’ll stay here. Natasha is also here. Lie down for an hour or two.” Bucky’s voice was soft and Steve’s eyelids were heavy. Still, after what had just happened Steve didn’t feel like leaving him alone. “I… I’m okay. I don’t feel like sleeping.”

“Steve, this is ridiculous. You can’t do anything and Loki will not be alone. You’re not doing yourself any favour. Get to bed and…”

“Captain Rogers, Agent Romanov, Sgt. Barnes, Mr. Stark asked me to let you know that Thor just returned from Asgard.”

Steve and Bucky instantly shared a look when Jarvis announced this. A rush of relief, mixed with hope and Steve felt his heartbeat speeding up. “Your brother came back.”

“Jarvis, tell him to get down here. It’s about damn time.” Natasha voiced everyone’s thoughts and Steve tried to keep his calm, but he had never felt so excited or happy about seeing Thor.

The later entered the room only a minute later, behind him Tony and a woman that Steve had never seen before, but the way she was dressed made it clear that she was Asgardian. Here to help Loki? Steve hoped so.

“My brother…” Thor was obviously shaken when he saw the state his brother was in. Only now Steve let go of Loki’s hand and made space for Thor who gently reached out, but hesitated before touching Loki’s cheek. “What are all these… devices doing to him?”

“He is having trouble breathing, Thor… This helps him.”

Thor kept looking at his brother, carefully brushing his hair back, wearing an expression filled with love and worry on his face. “I got help, brother.”

The woman stepped forward and Thor straightened up, only reluctantly taking his eyes off his brother. “This is Veira. She is one of the most capable healers of Asgard. She will know how to help my brother.”

For Steve’s taste Veira looked too nervous, it didn’t make him trust her abilities, but this was just unfair. Of course she would be nervous, everybody would. Unlike Steve Tony had no trouble voicing his doubts. “Can you? Help him.”

“I have a lot of experience curing the results of dark spells. Though I have to admit that the person who would be most likely able to help you is the prince himself. Therefore I will try to connect to his mind and magic. He will be able to tell us what to do.”

Steve had to admit that sounded good, he trusted Loki more to deal with this than some Asgardian lady. In the end it didn’t matter, as long as it would help Loki. As Veira was getting closer to Loki’s bed Bucky straightened up and putting himself between them. Nobody could overlook how protective he was acting. “Wait. Is this save? He thought breaking the spell wasn’t going to cause any trouble and now he is lying here. I’m sorry, but I’m not letting you touch him if there is the slightest possibility that this could hurt him.”

Steve almost expected Thor to snarl and lash out at Bucky, they hadn’t been on good terms lately. Quite the opposite happened. “Worry not, Sgt. Barnes. My brother’s body is betraying him, but his mind is still sharp and brilliant. Veira is going to give him the possibility to talk to us, to let us know how to help him. He knows. Nobody knows more about magic than my brother.”

Steve would never dare to point out that Loki definitely didn’t know everything, otherwise they wouldn’t be in this situation. Then again, Loki was their best chance.

“I assure you, mortal, the prince isn’t in any danger whatsoever.” Now the healer was indeed offering them a soft smile and Bucky clenched his teeth. “Okay…”

Everybody took a step back and Veira walked around Loki’s bed, stopping when she was standing next to the top end. “My prince, I hope you will forgive me for invading a place that should only be yours.” She put her hand on Loki’s forehead, closing her eyes and Steve swallowed heavily when her fingers were engulfed by soft golden light. Nobody in the room dared to draw a breath and Steve wanted to take a hold of Loki’s hand. Just to make sure.

Suddenly the light faded away and Veira pulled her hand back. “The prince is dreaming. Pleasant dreams. He needs to be awake for me to connect to his mind.”

Tony scratched his head. “Let him sleep. If he’s having nice dreams… This is such a shitty situation, he deserves some good sleep.”

“We shouldn’t wait any longer. I don’t know about his condition, but the longer he stays in this state, the bigger the risk of permanent damage.”

That was a pretty good argument and Tony bit his lip. “Fine… Whatever is going to help him.”

“Veira, continue please.” Thor nodded determinedly and Veira did as she was told. For a second time she put her hand on Loki’s forehead and the golden light was even brighter than before. Nothing happened for a few minutes and then Steve could clearly make out the change on the screens. “He woke up…”

Please, let this work.

“His mind is clouded… the prince is confused… He’s still caught up in his dream.”

A small part of Steve was wondering what Loki was dreaming about, but mostly he was worried about what would happen now.

“He is coming to his senses. He is not happy about me entering his mind…” Her voice sounded amused and Steve could pretty much imagine Loki being furious although she was trying to help him.

“The prince’s magic is intact. I feel it pulsing inside of him. No harm was done.”

While most of them didn’t know what that meant, Thor seemed downright thrilled, like she had taken an immense weight off his shoulder. “Thank the Norns…”

Natasha raised an eyebrow. “How is this important?”

“If the spell did no damage to Loki’s magic, he is still the person we all know and there is a chance he can free himself from this…”

That sounded too good to be true, but it only made Steve wonder why Loki hadn’t been able to do that until now.

Veira seemed to mumble a few silent words and maybe she was somehow even talking to Loki before addressing the Avengers. “The prince is weak, drained… he must have used all of his magic in a single spell or he must have been practicing magic for a very long time without having the possibility to gather his strength… The prince isn’t scared, his magic is… it’s… recovering. Getting stronger as we speak. The prince is going to be able to access it soon.”

“Wait a second…” Steve wasn’t sure if he was getting this right. If so, it would be wonderful. “Are you saying that he’ll wake up on his own?”

Keeping her eyes closed Veira nodded. “Yes… I can’t be sure, but I’m inclined to think that the prince was surprised how much of his magic the spell was consuming… or he spent everything willingly. His body wasn’t able to take the strain and collapsed. His magic has time to heal, so his body will eventually too.”

“Oh, thank God…” Steve felt all the tension from his muscles and dropped back on down on the chair he had been sitting on. He was going to be alright, they didn’t even have to do anything. Loki was just going to be alright.

“Wait a second… hold on… his body is shutting down. He isn’t able to breathe on his own. He would be fucking dying if it wasn’t for the doctor… are you telling us that he knew this was going to happen?” Tony was staring wide-eyed at Veira who show no reaction. “I don’t know. All I can say for sure that the prince chose protecting his magic over his body and he will regain his powers on his own.”

“That’s the only thing that matters.” Natasha made a statement and Steve couldn’t agree more.

“This is great, but… how is he doing? Is he okay?” Bucky still sounded worried and Thor seconded that question. “How is my brother’s spirit faring?”

“The prince’s mind is wide awake, there is no suffering. I feel him reacting to your voices. He feels great gratitude and…” Veira trailed off, opening her eyes and lifting her hand Loki’s forehead. “I have no right to reveal the prince’s feelings which are his and not meant for anybody else without his permission. Be assured though, the prince is well.”

Good news, perfect news and Steve was suddenly feeling so tired, like he could finally go to sleep. After asking another question though. “Any way to tell us when he is going to wake up? How long it is going to take?”

“A few days at most. Don’t worry, mortals. The prince will be fine.”

 ***

Steve felt good, warm. So good that he didn’t even care where he was. Until everything was slowly slipping away and Steve realised that he was sleeping. Or had been sleeping.

“Well, hello. Seems like the Captain is back with the living.” Clint was smirking and Steve rubbed one hand over his eyes. Living room. He must have fallen asleep during the movie. Well, that happens if you simply wouldn’t admit that you’re tired.

“What did I miss?”

“Nothing. It was completely boring…” Bucky next to him shrugged and Steve did a look around. Natasha, Bruce and Tony were also here. Right, Thor had insisted on watching Loki, because he had been gone for an entire day. They had decided to watch a movie and Steve had fallen asleep. “I guess I should go to bed…”

“I’ve been telling you this the whole day.” Bucky smiled softly and Steve nodded. “Yes, guess you were right. Good night, guys.”

Getting up Steve made a tired gesture with one hand and then left the room. Shortly he contemplated the thought of taking another look at Loki, but he decided against it. Thor was there with him and… Thor was with him. So instead Steve returned to his room, instantly lying down on his bed. It was like a burden had fallen of his shoulders and he could finally give into being tired. His eyes were already falling shut when somebody knocked at his door. It shouldn’t surprise him. “Come in.”

Rolling around Steve saw Bucky slipping the room. “Sorry… I know I told you to go to bed, but… we really need to talk. Can we do this now. Please?”

No. Surprised Steve realised that this was his first and only thought. He didn’t want to have this conversation. Sadly it couldn’t be about what Steve wanted. “Okay… let’s talk.” Sitting up Steve indicated Bucky to sit down next to him. “What do you want to talk about?”

Bucky seemed to be fidgety, shifted uneasily around and maybe he also wasn’t so keen on this like Steve. “I… This is incredibly weird. I…” After taking a little breath Bucky continued. “For about a week… I couldn’t think about anything else but him. I knew there were other things happening, I was aware of that, but even when I tried to concentrate on something else, I was always thinking about him. Now I actually can think about something else and it’s… strange.”

They hadn’t asked. Nobody had asked, but that was proof enough to be sure that the spell was broken. Yet Steve couldn’t quite comprehend what that meant. “You have to get used to it. All about this is… complicated.”

“Yes, but… it feels kind of wrong to… the second he gets… injured I can suddenly think about other things. I’m worried, I’m worried sick about him, but… at the same time I’m now constantly thinking about what I did or what happened the last week. I… It must have been so crazy for you guys.”

Steve wanted him to stop talking. Desperately. Why couldn’t he just lie down and fall asleep and pretend that all these things didn’t exist until tomorrow? Still looking at Bucky and the fact that he looked so self-conscious made Steve remain silent.

“I just want to say I’m sorry. I wasn’t helping, I was putting all of you guys through a lot of stuff. Especially you. I’m sorry.” The expression in Bucky’s eyes was so soft and vulnerable Steve almost couldn’t take it. This throat was constricting and there was only one thought left in his head. Only one thing that Steve could concentrate on. “Are you still in love with him? I know the spell is gone, but does it matter? Are you? In love with him?”

Steve’s voice didn’t sound as calm as he hoped and it didn’t help that Bucky bit his lip. Yes or no would be a perfect answer. It was a simple question after all, no explanation, no details. All Steve wanted was a yes or no.

“I don’t know.”

That was the exact opposite of everything Steve wanted.

“You asked me before… if I was in love with him before the spell. I wasn’t. I liked him, very much so, but… Now I can’t tell anything apart… It’s like a big haze. I don’t know… I guess it’ll be clearer when I talk to him…” Bucky trailed off and he wasn’t even looking at Steve anymore, seemingly lost in thought.

It made sense, but all the possibilities that were opening up made Steve’s head turn. Even more than that, little needles that were piercing into him, all over and the realisation that the end of the spell hadn’t swiped all problems away left a sour taste in his mouths. Steve just wanted to sleep. “Listen, Bucky… you’re going to sort all of these things out. I’m sure everything is going to be fine. Loki is going to wake up, he’s going to be fine and… you’re going to sort everything out.”

A smile appeared on Bucky’s face, but it didn’t make Steve feel better like it usually would have. “You’ve always been an optimist.”

“Listen… I really should go to sleep now… we can continue talking about this tomorrow. Okay?” This wasn’t nice, nor appropriate, but Steve simply couldn’t do it. Not now. It was a cope out and tomorrow the situation would be still the same. Nothing would have changed. Nothing.

“Yes. I guess that would be a good idea. Sleep tight.” Again Bucky smiled and Steve tried to do the same, but relief was only settling in as soon as Bucky closed the door behind him. Life had been so much easier when Steve had still been in the ice. Lying back down on his back Steve stared up at the ceiling and decided to loathe himself for about five minutes, then he simply could just go to sleep and be done with it… for as long as he would sleep. Guess the average person would never think that this was part of Captain America’s life. And Captain America himself would definitely prefer if it wasn’t the case. Sighing Steve wrapped himself up in his blanket and closed his eyes.

***

When Steve woke up it was still dark outside and Jarvis informed him that he had only been asleep for three hours. He didn’t feel rested at all, but he couldn’t stay in bed any longer. There was no way to not act on his desire to check on Loki. Maybe he had already woken up and everything had worked out. There was magic involved after all.

After getting out of bed Steve hit the shower, but the water didn’t help to make him feel in a better state, he was tired and drained like the last week was finally taking its toll. The others were probably feeling familiar, so Steve didn’t feel like he had the right to lament.

About ten minutes later Steve went down to the lab, his steps were unusually slow and heavy. It wasn’t like Steve could exactly tell what was going on with him, it was all too confusing. If Doom knew what was good for him, he wouldn’t show himself any time soon.

For the first time in quite a while Steve was confronted with a sight that didn’t make him feel terrible. Thor was still sitting next to Loki’s bed, but that was pretty much the only thing that had remained the same. Coming closer Steve watched with odd fascination how strong Loki’s breathing was in comparison to yesterday. Also the tube was gone, making him look like a person who was asleep, not a patient in a coma. Steve felt his lips twitch, like trying to form a smile. “He’s doing better?”

Raising his head Thor smiled at Steve. At least one happy person in this tower. Steve instantly felt bad for having that thought. “Yes, he is getting stronger by the minute. The doctor removed the apparatus that helped him breathe, saying it wasn’t necessary anymore. I am sure he will wake up today. You scared all of us, brother. I hope you will never do something like that again.”

Yes, Steve hoped that too. “Do you think he’ll feel alright when he wakes up? His body really underwent a lot of stress…”

“I do not know, Captain. I have seen something like this, but Loki is strong and a hothead. I am sure he will get out off this bed as soon as he opens his eyes.”

That sounded a lot like Loki, Steve would gladly confirm that. “You better don’t do that. Not until we’ve made sure that you’re fine and Thor is right… don’t do something like this again without talking to us about it first. We gave us a big scare and I am personally not keen on reliving that again…”

Pulling up a chair Steve sat down next to Loki, putting his hand on Loki’s wrist. His skin was warmer than it had been the last time. Another good sign. Thor continued to babble about everything and nothing and Steve couldn’t help but think that Loki would be very displeased by the fact that he had to listen to this. A quick glance to the screen told Steve that he didn’t have to worry, Loki was asleep and Thor probably didn’t know it. No need to tell him either. For the most part Steve watched Loki breathe and it seemed to have a calming effect. Something that was working all on its own, steady, slow and reassuring. Perhaps this whole dilemma was going to work out nevertheless. A short while ago Loki hadn’t been able to breathe on his own and now it looked like he would wake up any second and that only proved that everything could work out. And it would, if Captain America stopped being an optimist, the world would probably stop turning.

“Captain, would you stay with my brother for a moment”

Nodding quickly Steve pretended that he had been listening why Thor was leaving. He had been here for some hours, so why not getting something to eat? Anyhow Thor left them alone and Steve’s mind started wondering. Chances were good that Loki would wake up today. Bucky had made clear that he wasn’t sure about his feelings and wanted to talk to Loki. Fair enough, but what about the demi-god? Only all too clearly Steve could remember them kissing. A kiss they both had been engaged in. Not that Loki had shared his feelings about this or letting anything show… but Steve had already thought about this excessively. How long were you able to stay unaffected if a gorgeous and sweet person like Bucky was trying to court you, showering you with romantic affection? Steve heavily doubted that Loki would ever kiss someone if he didn’t want to. Worse so, Loki definitely was a person who didn’t just want to kiss anybody.

There was no way to know what Loki would do or say and Steve was feeling nervous about it. Quite an understatement.

“I’m sure you also didn’t think those kinds of things were going to happen when you decided working for the good guys…”

Thor returned and continued talking to his sleeping brother. Steve smiled at that. A smile that faded away due to surprise when he felt… or thought to feel slight movement beneath his fingers. “Thor, I think…”

One of the machines gave a little beep and the screen unmistakably showed that Loki was awake. Hopefully he would also finally open his eyes. Steve’s breath hitched when Loki’s eyelids fluttered. “He’s waking up.”

“Brother, it is alright. You are among friends.”

The machine kept beeping and Steve swore he could see how Loki’s fingertips were moving ever so slightly. An awkward but beautiful sight, to actually see that there was still life in him. Lots of it.

“We should get the doctor… shouldn’t we?” Steve shook his head about himself, because Jarvis had already alerted everybody else, for sure. There had to be something Steve could do or say. Something that was more useful than what Thor had said. “Go easy, okay? You’ve been lying here for two days, no need to rush.”

As if Loki would listen to him. His head was tilted to the side and Steve could hear a soft gurgling escaping his lips.

“Is he trying to talk?”

Thor nodded and instantly leaned closer, trying to make out what Loki was saying. Steve wasn’t even sure if this sound was a word. Or several words. “Loki, it’s okay… you don’t have to try so hard… you can say it later… whatever it is.”

Loki shifted, his entire body was moving under the covers and this time his lips parted a bit more and both could make out what he said.

“Captain…”

Chapter Text

“Captain… tell the oaf to stop talking, he’s giving me a headache.”

The sound that escaped Steve’s throat was a surprised laugh while Thor was beaming with joy. “Brother! You are well!”

This time even Steve’s reflexes weren’t fast enough to stop Thor from hugging Loki. “Argh! Get off me!”

“Thor, he just woke up! Go easy on him!” Steve instantly pulled Thor back and Loki let out a pained groan. “Oaf…”

His eyes were open, only for a second, but Steve could clearly see that flash of green. “Easy there, you just woke up.”

Letting out another groan Loki pulled a face. “I had to listen to him for hours. Another word and I will kill him.”

Death threats were obviously making Thor really happy, because he wouldn’t stop smiling. “It’s so good to hear you’re faring well, brother.”

“Stop talking…”

“Hey, Jarvis said that… Oh, thank god!”

Steve smiled when he saw Tony entering the room, heading straight towards Loki. It’s been a long time since he had seen him so happy and relieved. Especially since had spent the last days looking for Doom and feeling guilty over what happened. “Hey, how are you doing?”

Loki opened his eyes again, looking at Tony for a second, before they fell closed again. “You slapped me. I will break your hand for this.”

“Good to hear that you’re doing fine.” Tony smiled, patting Loki’s shoulder and then sat down next to the bed. “You sound like you’re fine enough for me to kick your ass. Ready? What the fuck were you thinking?! You did that yourself! You could have died, you stupid idiot!”

“Tony!” Steve hissed at him, but Tony didn’t even blink, he was way to busy staring at Loki who didn’t look like he cared. “I merely miscalculated. It wasn’t supposed to go like this. I know I owe all of you my thanks for taking care of me while I couldn’t do that myself. Thank you.”

It was quite odd to hear something like this from Loki, but it only reminded Steve of the promise had made himself. “You don’t have to thank us…”

Turning his head Loki looked at Steve and it was incredibly fascinating how fast he seemed to recover. “Well, I definitely have to thank you, Captain. Although Agent Romanov is right. Your pronunciation is indeed terrible.”

For some strange reason Steve couldn’t tell why he was blushing. How embarrassing. By now Loki had fully sat up and Thor wasn’t okay with that. “Brother, you still need to rest. You just woke up…”

“I slept for two entire days, I don’t need any more rest.” Snipping his fingers Loki made all the cables and wires disappear that were still attached to him.

“Hey, you probably shouldn’t do that!”

Loki carelessly rolled his eyes and jumped straight out of the bed, causing Steve to suck in his breath. This was going way too fast, but Loki was not even swaying. “Like I said, I slept enough, the spell is broken, I finally have time doing things I actually want to do. I’m not going to waste it lying in this bed, making you feel better.”

Wow, he was really feeling great.

“Brother, you really should…”

“Headache, Thor, you’re making it worse.” Loki didn’t even turn around, walking straight towards the door, barefoot. Yes, he was definitely doing fine, but the whole thing still felt kind of unsatisfying.

By now Loki was almost out off the door when somebody else was trying to enter the room. Bucky. Steve blinked, he could hear how Tony released a loud breath and for some strange reason Thor was keeping quiet. Loki had stopped and Steve regretted that he couldn’t see his face since his back was turned to him. He could see Bucky’s only too well. How surprised he was and how he didn’t know what to say. How he was just looking at Loki… like for the first time and… didn’t know how to act around him. “You… are doing fine. You could already leave the bed?”

“I’m doing perfectly fine, no reason to stay in bed…” There was a little pause and Steve wanted to say something. No matter what, just making a sound. “How are you faring? What about your headache, Sgt Barnes?”

Bucky stared at him, looking like Loki was asking too much of him with that easy question. “I… I am good, thanks… It hurt really bad, but I’m fine now.”

“Good, great. That means the last traces of the spell have vanished. I can’t sense any magic on you. You are free to do now whatever you please. So am I. Have a pleasant day.”

That was all. Loki simply walked past him and was gone. Leaving Bucky standing there and the rest of them terribly confused. As usual Tony was the first one to speak up. “Well, that was awkward… and cold.”

Bucky ignored him. “Is he alright? He… is already walking around?”

“My brother is stubborn. I’m indeed worried that his pride doesn’t allow him to rest some more…”

“Sounds like him. Jarvis, do me a favour and monitor Loki’s vitals. If something’s off, tell us instantly.”

“Of course, sir.”

Silence settled in and Steve looked around. Nobody knew what to say. Well, who would have thought that Loki would just get up and walk out of here? Just like that. Steve had no idea what the little conversation with Bucky had meant, but Tony was right. Awkward and cold were fitting words. Honestly Steve had no idea what to make of this.

Since nobody was saying anything you could still count on Tony. “Well, Loki is back on his feet. No more evil magic spells around. Nobody died, we fucked up Doom’s castle. I guess a celebration is in order.”

Steve didn’t feel like celebrating at all, but Thor was of another opinion. “An excellent idea, Stark. We shall have a feast!”

“Yeah, yeah. It’s still dark outside. I’d say we go back to bed and till tonight I organize a party. With blackjack and hookers. Don’t look like that, Cap, it’s just a phrase.” Humming a tune Tony left and Steve kept looking at Bucky, wondering if that single talk, these few words had sufficed to know if it was real affection or not. There was no opportunity to ask, because Bucky followed Tony’s suit and Thor and Steve were left alone. For a moment Steve just kept looking at the empty bed. So this was it and something definitely didn’t feel right.

 ***

Blackjack and hookers. Well, at least there were no hookers, Steve should be grateful for that. No, it wasn’t that bad, Steve just wasn’t in the mood to party. Tony hadn’t made it a big event, but he had nevertheless invited other people. There was music and food and every five seconds somebody walked up to Steve, wanting to talk to him. All he could do was smile, be nice and excuse himself.

Scanning the room Steve tried to locate Bucky. Still talking with Natasha. Loki was nowhere to be seen. Jarvis had informed them that Loki had only snorted when hearing about the party. Quite different than his brother who was having the time of his life as always.

Taking a sip from his beer Steve decided to leave his comfort zone and joined Thor on the couch where he was talking two girls who had no idea that he was in a relationship. Obviously. Steve casually mentioned Jane and they were gone, Thor was confused, because he had no idea what had been going on. And Tony thought that Steve was naïve…

“Thor, uhm… could I talk to you for a moment?”

Being all smiles and happiness Thor instantly agreed. “Of course, Captain. What do you want to talk about?”

“Your brother.”

“A shame that he still isn’t here. I will have to go and fetch him personally. He should enjoy himself in the company of his friends.”

Yeah, maybe later. “I just wanted… after this weird spell I was wondering… What kind of guys is he usually interested in?” Wow, definitely the stupidest thing Steve had ever said. To a guy who was constantly threatening to kill all people who pronounced interest in his brother. Not that Steve was doing something like this.

“Why would you ask such a thing?”

Great, now Steve was too on Thor’s list. “It’s just… the spell is gone, but there is still a chance that Loki and Bucky… like each other without the influence of the spell. I don’t know. Do you think Bucky is Loki’s type?” What was Steve even doing here? Making a fool out of himself.

Thor still seemed a bit confused, but that didn’t stop him from talking. “Loki has always been discrete about his lovers.”

Yeah, Steve wondered why with Thor constantly wanting to kill them.

“I can’t be sure, but I’ve always had the impression that he likes strong characters who challenge him. He prefers quiet to loud and a sharp mind to a strong body. After seeing the list my brother wrote I don’t dare to make any assumptions about his preferences. The men on the list couldn’t be more different.”

Great that didn’t help at all. Steve probably had to spell it all. “Do you think… that Loki likes Bucky?”

“I don’t know what my brother feels, but I do know that he doesn’t kiss anybody. Yet there was magic at play, maybe my brother has also been influenced. Do not worry, Captain. The spell is broken and everything is back to normal.”

If Steve could be sure about that. “Guess you’re right.”

Some other guy showed up and wanted to talk to Thor and Steve decided that he was fine with that. Loki still wasn’t around and that wasn’t okay. This was a party for a broken spell and for Loki being alive. Shouldn’t he come down for at least half an hour? Steve had promised himself to be a better friend and a friend would look out of Loki. Maybe he should check on him and tell him that they really wanted him to be here. Having made his decision Steve got into the elevator. “Jarvis? Is Loki in his room?”

“He is, Captain Rogers. He doesn’t seem to intent to leave any time soon.”

“Thank you…” If Loki didn’t plan to go to the party at all, perhaps Steve should leave him alone? Nah, asking couldn’t hurt.

Naturally the door to Loki’s room was closed and Steve took a breath before knocking. It was just Loki, he wouldn’t kill him for reminding him for the party.

“Come in.”

Opening the door Steve spotted Loki lying on the bed, reading a book, looking quite comfortable. “Captain, shouldn’t you be at a party?”

“Yes, I guess I should. Just like you.”

Loki cracked a smile without looking at him, just turning the page of his book. “I have never been fond of parties when I could be reading a good book.”

“Well… your friends are down there and we’re kind of celebrating that everything worked fine. That you’re fine, that Bucky’s fine… You don’t want to come down there and drink a few glasses? It’s not like you have to stay if you don’t like it, but… you don’t even want to check it out?”

“I’ve never liked parties. I’ve never liked feasts.” Loki even let out a yawn and Steve realised that this here was pretty much useless. “Okay, if you want to be alone, I’ll just leave and…”

Already putting his hand on the doorknob Steve was held back. “It’s not about being alone. I just don’t like the noise. The turbulence. Too many people at once.”

Now that sounded a bit different. “You wouldn’t mind if I stayed with you for minute?”

“You want to persuade me to go to the party, but use the first opportunity to stay away?” Loki looked up from his book and he actually seemed to be amused.

“Uhm… no. Honestly it just feels weird that you’re sitting here alone while everybody down there is having fun.”

“I’m having fun myself. This is quite an engaging read.”

Yes, Loki seemed like he was doing fine and Steve couldn’t drag him down to the others. Instead he sat down on the edge of Loki’s bed, as far away from him as possible. “What is it about?”

“A prisoner in a Soviet labour camp describes a day in his life.”

Now that was depressing. “You almost died just a day ago. Don’t you think it would be a good moment to read something happy? Or not quite as dark?”

“What would you propose? Should I read a fairy tale? I did and be assured, Captain, Midgardian fairy tales are scary and terrifying.” Loki even chuckled and Steve had to admit that he might have a point.

“I’m just saying… you had a bad week, if I were you I would be in the mood for something more… uplifting. You see what I’m trying to say?”

The last thing Steve was expecting Loki to do was to put the book away. “Well then, you made me curious, Captain. Tell me a story.”

Was he serious? “What?”

“You think my lecture is too dark, so tell me a nicer story.” Crossing his legs Loki looked at him expectantly and Steve was completely lost. “You want me to tell you a story.”

“Exactly and if I like it enough… I will join you and the others at the party. Impress me.” The smile on Loki’s lips was something Steve hadn’t seen in a while and he thought that it was worth giving try. “Uhm… okay… do I have to make something up or can I tell some story you haven’t heard of yet.”

Crossing his arms in front of his chest Loki shrugged. “Whatever you want.”

Another embarrassing moment, he scolded Loki for not reading something happy and now Steve wasn’t able to think of such a story himself. He couldn’t make something up, he had no talent whatsoever in story telling. Taking a few seconds Steve tried to come up with something and went with the first thing that came to his mind. “Okay… I’ve read this one quite some time ago, so bear with me when I get some details wrong.”

“It can’t get worse than your Russian.”

Steve pulled a face at that, but ignored it. Loki was in a good mood, so why start arguing. Anyway, he had to try to remember details of the story he wanted to tell. “So… when the first humans starting wandering the earth virtues and vices came together and talked about which of them should be inhabiting the human heart. Should there only be virtues, only vices or if a human could possess both of them, should there be more virtues or vices.”

Loki was already raising an eyebrow, but Steve decided that he wouldn’t be intimidated by that. “It’s a lovely story about human nature, just wait for a moment… Virtues and vices couldn’t agree, so Madness came up with an idea. It proposed they should play hide and seek. If Madness was going to find a vice last, a human would possess more vices than virtues. If it was going to find a virtue last, it would be the other way around. All the other ones agreed and they started to hide.”

While talking Steve couldn’t help but be surprised that Loki was such a good listener. He made no comments, asked no questions, but his eyes were clearly attentive. Furthermore Steve was pretty sure that there was a faint smile on his lips. It was kind of hard to Steve to remember every detail, but he was confident that he got most of it right. He told Loki how Madness found Laziness, Honesty, Hope, Ignorance, Crapulousness, Arrogance, Humility, Justice, Truth, Musing, Gentleness, Lust and Passion. Loki smirked at the last part and Steve chose to ignore that.

“The only ones left were Envy and Love. Madness found Envy, hiding in the branches of a pine. Therefore the virtues had won the game. Envy knew that Love was hiding in thornbush and because it was angry for losing to Love, Envy told Madness where Love was hiding. Madness checked out the thornbush, looking for Love, but it couldn’t see Love, because Love sometimes is hard to find. Envy insisted that Love was hiding in this thornbush, so Madness tried to reach between its branches to touch Love, but it got only hurt by the thorns. Because sometimes Love hurts people without even meaning to. Not knowing what to do Madness grabbed a stick and started to poke into the thornbush. Eventually all the vices and virtues heard a loud, dreadful scream and Love jumped out of the bush, covering its bloody face with its hands. The stick had pierced Love’s eyes out…”

Loki’s eyebrows almost met his hairline and Steve quickly continued talking, because this was indeed a gruesome part. “Madness felt incredibly sorry and asked Love what it could do to help. Love wasn’t angry with Madness and asked it to be its guide from this moment on and Madness instantly agreed. This is why Love is blind and why it’s always accompanied by Madness…”

Now that he was done Steve seriously started wondering what Loki was thinking about it. Probably that it was ridiculous and childish. Steve was already asking himself why he had chosen to tell it, there definitely would have been better options.

“It’s a lovely tale. I’m aware of the Midgardian proverb that love is blind, although it’s unheard of in Asgard.” Loki’s face was still illuminated by a soft smile and Steve released the breath he didn’t know he had been holding. Good, Loki liked his story that was already something.

“Do you believe it, Captain?” Tilting his head Loki looked at him intently. “Do you believe that love goes hand in hand with madness? I am a mad man and I’m not so sure.”

Frowning Steve shook his head. “You aren’t mad. Not anymore or not madder than the rest of us and the last days were hard on anyone’s sanity… I guess…”

“I’m inclined to agree with you, Captain.”

Steve took a moment and just looked at Loki. He didn’t look like a madman, not at all. More like a person who had been very stressed lately and now finally found some time to relax. It wasn’t so easy though, there was still tension in his features, little lines around his eyes. Looking at them Steve couldn’t stop wondering. Of course it would be out of line to ask, but… Steve wanted to know. “You said that… now that the spell is broken you could do what you want to do. What did you mean?”

Loki raised an eyebrow. “The whole last week I was bound to work on this spell. I don’t have to do that anymore, so I can sit here and read. Or I could go to another galaxy, just because I feel like it… Until now I couldn’t even leave a particular room… for obvious reasons.”

Obvious reasons. Bucky. “Listen, Loki… I know that you broke the spell and you both don’t have to spend time with each other anymore, but… you still could if you wanted to.”

The confusion was clearly visible on Loki’s face and Steve almost regretted asking. “Why would I want that?”

He had to be acting tough, Steve couldn’t believe that Loki was this careless. Thor had said that Loki wouldn’t just kiss anybody and he had kissed Bucky. “Because the two of you spent time with each other before all of this happened. There is nothing stopping you from doing this.”

“I think I’ve spent enough time with Sgt. Barnes for quite a while now.”

“So you just decide that you aren’t friends anymore?”

“Who said that we were friends to begin with?”

Okay, he was definitely playing a game here or trying to act like none of this was his business. “Bucky said that you were talking… about your past and… to me it sounded like something friends would do and I know him. He definitely considers you his friend.”

Loki blinked and finally let out a sigh. “I’ve never been good with friends.”

“You tried to help from the very beginning of this although you didn’t have to.”

“Don’t overestimate my compassion, Captain. It’s not in my nature to just accept that another mage might have created a spell that I am not able to break.”

Why was it so hard for him to admit that he had been something for someone else? Or was Loki bound to lie all the time? “But you were able to break it and you instantly knew how to do it. You could have broken it the first day, but you refused to do it, because it would have put Bucky’s health and sanity at risk. So you didn’t do it.”

In response Loki huffed. “Are you trying to say that I’m a good person, Captain?”

“A bad person wouldn’t have done what you did.” Steve smiled at him, hoping that Loki would do the same, but the demi god only let out a dry laugh. “You are incredibly naïve.”

“And you’re trying to make yourself look bad. I have no idea why and I think it’s ridiculous. You did something for another person you didn’t have to do and you put yourself through a lot of pain while doing that. That’s not something a bad person would do.”

This time Loki didn’t reply, just looked at Steve and frowned. Perhaps he really didn’t understand. Being so sure that he was a bad person that he wouldn’t recognize his own good deed. Which was incredibly sad. “Loki?”

“You said that Sgt. Barnes considered me his friend. How about you?” His voice was so unusually soft although his face gave nothing away. His features showed no vulnerability, nothing that might make Steve suspect that he would hope for a specific answer. “Listen, Loki, I know we haven’t been especially close or… I didn’t make an effort to get to know you better, because… a lot of stuff happened and honestly I didn’t know what to think of you all the time. To me you’ve proven that you are a good person and that’s all that matters. So yes, I consider you my friend and I hope you do the same. I also want to take this effort and get to know you better. You’re my friend and I think you’re a good person, deal with it.”

Again the words seemed completely odd to Steve as soon as they had left his mouth, but Loki showed no actual reaction. “You are a strange man, Captain.”

“I’m a very old man. Old and wise, so listen to me.”

“I am far older than you will ever be, Captain….” Loki trailed off and Steve noticed that his fingers were playing with the edge of the blanket. Could he be nervous? “I… still have to express my gratitude. Lying there, hearing the people around me, without being able to move a limb would have been an atrocious experience if you hadn’t started talking to me. It was… a very nice gesture. I enjoyed it.”

For Steve it was pretty obvious that Loki was having a hard time saying this, therefore he shot him instantly an encouraging smile. This was probably Loki’s way of telling him that he would like to be friends with him or that they already were friends. Steve wasn’t going to dwell on details, he was already happy enough with what he had heard. “You’re welcome, but the others have done the same. I was just the first one to keep you company.”

“Yes, but you were…”

Steve’s reflexes for some reason kicked in too late when the door to the room flung open. Within the same second Tony waltzed into the room, a glass of scotch in his hand, a slightly tipsy smile on his lip. “Loki, no more hiding in your room! There’s a party going on and you’re… Oh, hey.” Tony’s eyes fell on Steve and apparently sobered up the very same instant. “There you are. Your fanclub is looking for you. You guys are having your own private party here?”

Since when was Steve having a fanclub and why didn’t he know about it? Loki narrowed his eyes the tiniest bit when being interrupted by Tony, but then he relaxed completely and straightened up. “Right, the party, I almost forgot. I promised to go if I liked your tale, Captain and I did enjoy it.”

Suddenly Loki was standing up and simply walked out off the room like he did so often, not caring that Tony and Steve were still in his room. Steve even sitting on his bed. An uneasy feeling spread in Steve’s gut and he quickly got up. “Uhm… we should leave too. It’s his room.”

“Yah, sure.” Tony wasn’t moving a single muscle. “What are you doing?”

“What do you mean?”

Making an exaggerated gesture towards the bed and then towards Steve. “Loki already has two Avengers who want to get it on with him, he doesn’t need one more.”

“What?!” Steve thought his jaw might be dropping to the floor and Tony grumbled. “Oh come on, you must realise what this looks like. The party is downstairs and you’re lying in his bed, telling him… tales? I gotta admit, very creative.”

Okay, Tony definitely hadn’t sobered up yet and Steve didn’t have the time nor the nerves to listen to that. “Tony, we should head back to the party…”

“Sure. What were you doing here?”

Uttering an annoyed sigh Steve brushed past Tony. “I was trying to convince him to come to the party and it worked, didn’t it? That’s all.”

“Cool, fan-fucking-tastic. Now that Bucky doesn’t give a shit anymore, Captain righteous starts making goo-goo eyes at Loki… Are you sure you didn’t drink a love potion?”

Stopping dead in his tracks Steve turned around to stare at Tony in disbelief. Why would he even suggest such a thing? “I’m not making goo-goo eyes at anybody. I just wanted to let him know that I appreciate what he did. He’s… What do you mean Bucky doesn’t give… what about Bucky?”

Tony snorted and took a sip from his scotch. “Well, guess what… the guy who went through a lot of pain to break the fucking spell he was under doesn’t show up to the party… I don’t see Bucky telling Loki fairy tales or checking on him.”

“The spell just wore off. He doesn’t know how to act around him. It’s difficult…”

“Aha and while Bucky is sorting his shit out, you’re stepping in and try to fill the hole he’s left?”

“Why is it so hard to expect that I just wanted to be nice?”

“You were being nice when you read to him. You stopped being nice when you started holding his hand. Hey, don’t look at me like that! I wasn’t spying or using Jarvis! Thor told me…”

Giving up on trying to explain himself Steve continued to walk down the hall, shaking his head. Tony’s jealousy was nothing new and Steve should know better than even argue with him. Back at the party Steve was instantly approached by a few people he had never met before, but they were nice, asking him tons of questions and he didn’t want to brush them off. So he politely answered their questions, while his eyes were scanning the room. Loki was standing at the other end of the room, talking with Natasha. Everybody else seemed to shy a bit away from them and Steve had to smile at that. The two of them indeed looked intimidating, dressed in black, no smiles on their faces, but a lot of dark, fascinating charisma. Steve wondered what they were talking about.

Still being caught up in this conversation he didn’t particularly care about Steve watched them and a few minutes passed until… Whatever the person talking to him said, Steve didn’t hear a single syllable. Bucky was making his way over to Natasha and Loki. Or just Loki, Steve didn’t think that Natasha was of any importance to him right now.

Even from the distance it seemed awkward. Bucky said something, Loki stared at him and Natasha took a step backwards, trying to steal herself away. It wasn’t necessary though, because whatever Bucky had said… Loki didn’t care. He didn’t give an answer, didn’t show any reaction, just turned around and disappeared among the other guests.

Biting his lower lip Steve tried to figure out what to make of this. Nothing came to his mind. Except that love was blind and accompanied by madness.

After mumbling an excuse Steve made his way across the room. He needed to talk to Bucky.

Chapter Text

 

“Hey… what happened there?” Steve did his best to show a compassionate face and Bucky seemed completely startled by his voice. Hadn’t he heard him walking up to him?

“I… said that I think we should talk, but… he just walked off.”

Now that was just rude and… almost cruel. Loki really tried to prove to himself that he wasn’t a good person. “Bucky, this whole thing is also difficult for him…”

“I know that.” Bucky bit his lip and then instantly shook his head. “But he can’t just walk away just because he feels like it. Hell, I also needed a day to process this and we’re adults. We’re friends, we should be able to talk about this.”

That sounded very reasonable. “You’re right, but… you think now is the right moment for this? At the party? With so many other people around?”

Slowly shaking his head Bucky let out a sigh. “No. I asked him if we could talk upstairs… and he turns around and leaves. That’s… I need a drink.” Now Bucky was turning around and left Steve standing there like an idiot. Well, he could still go after Loki… or he could stay out of this and… Steve had no idea what to do. It wasn’t any of his business, was it? It probably was a good idea to get a drink first, not that it would help. Stupid serum.

With his mood already ruined Steve joined Clint at the bar who was having the time of his life. “It’s like fucking soap opera…”

“What?”

Clint handed him a beer and gave him a look that said ‘Duh!’. “Bucky and Loki. Tony sulking. You… Honestly I have no idea where you are at by now? Still into Bucky? Loki? I’m sorry with all this shit going on, it’s easy to get confused.”

Steve almost dropped his glass and blinked irritated. “What?! What are you talking about?”

“Oh come on, really? You’re going to pretend? Seriously? Are we in High school? Look, it’s not like I care what you are going to do about it or not. I’m having my fun watching anyway. But seriously! You were drooling over Bucky for ages and now you’re sitting next to Loki’s bed, holding his hand…”

“I wasn’t drooling over anybody…”

“Fine, whatever. You’re not the only one who hasn’t figured out what they want. You should hurry up though, because sooner or later they will do that too. Three guys, so someone is going to be left out.” Clint’s cocky smile turned somewhat sympathetic and he gave Steve a soft pat on the shoulder. In response Steve only stared at him, not wanting to think about all the things Clint was implying and what he might have to face. With the spell gone everything was real now. Every decision Bucky was going to make and all that Loki was going to do.

“Thanks for the advice… I guess…”

Clint did a little salute before leaving Steve alone with his thoughts. The last two days had been hard on him, but… it had given him the opportunity to ignore his own feelings all together. By now Steve wasn’t even sure what he felt. There was no doubt that Clint was right though, he had to come to grips with everything. They all had to do that… Nagging on his lip Steve tried to analyze the idea that was forming in his head. What was the worst that could happen?

It wasn’t like any of the people involved had a dark, twisted back story of murder and treachery. Right.

 ***

“Jarvis, could you please ask Loki if he wants to meet me in the common room in five minutes? I’d like to talk.”

“Of course, Captain Rogers. Anything else I can do for you?”

“Yes, please. Could you tell Bucky in about five minutes to also meet me in the common room. But don’t tell him Loki will be there too.”

It wasn’t exactly fair, but Steve had to do something after all and this was just going to be a little talk. There two guys really needed to talk and Steve wanted to finally understand what was happening. It wasn’t like he was forcing them to anything, he just wanted to get them into the same room. Okay, they would wonder why… it was during the middle of the night, but it had been a long party and Steve was sure that nobody was asleep yet. At least he hoped so.

Steve only had to wait for about a minute until Loki showed up. He had almost expected him to just teleport into the room, but maybe Loki was feeling old-fashioned, he was entering through the door. And what an entrance. Loki was clad in black sweatpants and a black T-shirt, but over it he was wearing an open bathrobe. It looked like it was made of silk, dark green, Asgardian style. Steve should be shocked that by now he knew a thing or two about Asgardian wardrobe. Anyway, Loki looked… extremely casual. Steve took that as a good sign, he was feeling at ease. Or he didn’t care.

“Captain, I’m rather surprised… Our last conversation wasn’t that long ago.” Sitting down next to him Loki crossed his legs, looking at Steve expectantly, but with a little smile on his face. Loki being a good mood could only be an advantage.

“Yes, sorry… you weren’t already asleep, were you?”

Loki merely shook his head.

“Uhm… we didn’t finish said conversation… You want to drink something? There is still more than enough booze left from the party…”

Loki shook his head for the second time. “No, thank you. I would rather want to know what you want to talk about.”

Straight to the point then. Steve had to buy some time though until Bucky would show up too. “You were about to tell me something before Tony interrupted us. I was wondering what you were about to say.”

Now Loki looked definitely more interested, tilting his head to the side and watching Steve with attentive eyes. “I was about to tell you that I enjoyed your presence most. Having Thor talk to you when you can’t tell him to shut up is similar to torture. Agent Barton and Romanov were entertaining enough, but you knew what to say. I wasn’t bored or annoyed and I liked that you thought of my book.”

Steve felt his lips forming a smile and he was happy that this had worked out so well. It would have been terrible if he had been talking to Loki and he had only wanted to cover his ears. “Good… I’m glad I wasn’t getting on your nerves…”

“You weren’t. Thor on the other hand… I would have loved to jump up and strangle him…”

“He’s your brother, he just wanted to be there for you and he probably was scared. You shouldn’t be so hard on him. You have somebody who cares about you, that’s all that matters…”

Loki seemed to think about it, but Steve wouldn’t hear his answer, because five minutes seemed to have passed.

“Steve, I… oh…” There was Bucky, standing in the doorframe and staring at Loki. Definitely surprised, but Loki only raised an eyebrow, his face only displaying mild interest. “Oh Captain… I expected more from you.”

“I… What’s going on here?” Bucky’s eyes darted around between the two of them and Loki sighed at the obviousness of the situation. “The Captain has an undying thirst for harmony as it seems. I appreciate the effort, but it’s unnecessary. I will go to bed.”

The instant Loki stood up Bucky made a step towards him, not looking as self-confident as he would have liked. “Listen, since we’re both here, can we finally talk?”

“That would be a good idea…”

Loki’s deep sigh told both of them that the demi-god didn’t share their opinion. “I don’t see any reason for us to talk.”

How could a person be so stubborn? It made Steve want to grab Loki and shake him, perhaps a little slap wouldn’t hurt him either. Steve had to stop thinking about this.

“Are you kidding? The spell is gone. Shouldn’t we talk about what that means?” Judging by Bucky’s voice he was desperately trying to keep his calm, but Loki’s indifference made it really hard for him. Especially since there was no way this demeanour was real.

Instead of admitting that he was playing tough Loki only shook his head. “The spell is broken, what is there to talk about? You should know by now how to feel about all of this.”

“Loki…” Steve felt his throat tightening at the sound of this single word. Loki’s name, spoken so softly like Bucky was trying to make him understand that he meant him no harm. That he would never hurt him in any way. All that in one word.

The reaction it provoked was something entirely different though. It was impossible to miss how Loki’s whole body tensed, how he straightened up and tried to be again that person who couldn’t be touched by anything or anyone. Well, too late for that. “I don’t see what you would want to talk about. The situation couldn’t be clearer, Sgt. Barnes. You were under a spell and I broke it. From the moment on your headache went away… do you still have to think about me? Do you feel pain when you’re not close to me?”

Bucky opened his mouth, then hesitated and for a second he lowered his eyes to the floor before meeting Loki’s eyes. “No, but…”

“So what is there to talk about? Everything is like it is supposed to be, how it was before the spell. I wish you a pleasant night.”

“Loki, wait…”

Too late, Loki had already vanished into thin air and Bucky stared at the spot where he had been standing. “God, how can he be acting like such a child!?”

Steve had to agree with him and rubbed his temples. “He’s… He doesn’t have a clue how to deal with this situation.”

Turning his attention to Steve Bucky relaxed a little bit. “Why did you… you wanted us to talk, right?”

“Yes… I’m sorry that he’s running away… I guess he has never learned how to deal with any kind of emotional… struggle. He’ll calm down eventually. At least I hope so. He’s acting like a jerk…”

Finally a little smile appeared on Bucky’s face. “Yeah… he is. Thanks though… for setting this up… although it didn’t work.”

Bucky was sitting down next to him and Steve couldn’t help but feel happy about this. So he wasn’t just going to leave, but they were going to talk, something they hadn’t done in quite a while. Not really. “How are you doing? Besides… all that.”

“I’m good… it’s just a little bit weird to… uhm… not experience physical pain when I’m not around Loki… I had time to do some training and read a book. That’s quite nice. And of course that everybody is fine and… not in a coma.” Bucky shrugged, smiling weakly at Steve. “What about you?”

“What about me?”

“How are you doing?”

It was a strange moment, because once again Steve realised that he had no idea how he was feeling or how he was doing. “I’m… confused, I guess. I would love if I finally knew what is going on…”

Instantly Bucky’s expression changed and Steve knew he had made some kind of mistake, although he couldn’t put his finger on it. “What’s going on? What do you mean?”

Why not just say it? Steve wasn’t the only one who wanted an answer to that question anyway. “With you and Loki…”

“Isn’t that obvious? Loki is acting like a jerk and I’m completely clueless…”

That didn’t help Steve at all. Why couldn’t they just… “God damn it, Bucky, are you in love with him or not?”

It was impossible to miss how Bucky winced, but that didn’t mean that he couldn’t immediately try to not answer the question. “Wow… that was straightforward.”

“Bucky, please… I’m going crazy! First there was the spell and I didn’t know what was real or not. Then the spell was gone and you were confused… Loki is acting completely strange, because he’s probably in love with you and now you’re… I have no idea! I want to know what’s going on and… that was out of line. It’s none of my business and you don’t have to answer this question.”

His frustration had got the better of him and now Steve felt ashamed. Whatever Bucky felt for Loki, it was…

“Yes, I think so.” Nothing but a small whisper. Spoken as if Bucky was afraid to hear it himself. There. Now it was out in the open. Confirmed and Steve felt… relieved. It was so much better to know it than to speculate. Now it was out of reach, nothing Steve could do about it and it almost felt like being a burden as being taken of his shoulders. Clearing his throat Steve nodded to himself, not looking at Bucky. “Then you should tell him. I know he doesn’t let you talk, so just… open the door to his room and yell it at him. He’ll be forced to talk to you then.”

“Steve…” His name, again spoken so softly and Steve didn’t want to get goosebumps. “I have no idea how this happened.”

It was adorable to listen to this. “Bucky, nobody knows how these things happen. They just… do. He’s a good guy. It’s okay.

“Is it so hard to look at me while you’re saying that?”

Taking a deep breath Steve raised his head and there was Bucky, staring at him so intently and it couldn’t be more obvious that he was waiting for his approval. Why did it even matter? “It’s not hard, I’m just feeling a little weird talking about this with you. I know 30 seconds ago I demanded that you told me what was going on, but… it’s none of my business. You can do about it whatever you want…”

Bucky was biting his lip. “I am sorry.”

Another thing that Steve didn’t understand. There was no reason to apologize “Why?”

Their eyes met and Steve almost couldn’t bare the intensity of it. He wouldn’t look away though, Bucky wanted him to look at him. “I am sorry.”

Just these three words and suddenly Steve knew what he was trying to say. Bucky knew, had probably always known. He wasn’t trying to get Steve’s approval but his permission. Which wasn’t necessary, it wasn’t Steve’s call to make, his feelings in this regard didn’t matter. If Bucky was happy, everything was alright… and Loki went through a lot of pain to help him.

“It’s okay… Don’t worry about me. There is no need. You are best my friend, I want you to be happy. You should be with the person you’re in love with. It’s that simple. It’s okay.” Steve’s smile felt natural and some of the tension seemed to leave Bucky’s body. His expression grew softer and a sigh escaped his lips. “That’s a whole different story… I don’t think he wants any of that. All he does is avoiding me.”

“I’m sure that’ll change as soon as you tell him that… you heard what he said? He’s convinced you don’t feel anything for him anymore… and… from the way he acts I’m sure he wishes it was different.”

“You don’t know that. Hell, it’s Loki… who knows what’s going on inside of his head…”

That wasn’t entirely true and that knowledge caused Steve to smile. “You have a pretty good idea I think. You know him better than any of us by now. Well, except for Thor… What are you worried about anyway? You guys were kissing. He must be into you.”

Against all his expectations Bucky pulled a face. “People kiss each other all the time without feeling anything for each other… You remember his list?”

“Clint is on that stupid list, because he borrowed Loki his bow. That doesn’t mean anything… Wait a second… I’m not actually talking you into dating Loki?” Maybe it was about time to become a little more selfish. Steve would start doing that tomorrow. Bucky was in love and therefore Steve wanted him to be with the person he was in love with. Knowing that Loki was a good guy who actually cared about Bucky made it easier. Also they would finally get closure, all of them. Thor would probably lose his mind and throw his hammer.

“Sounds like something you would do…” Bucky smiled softly before getting up from the couch. “I’ll… just go to bed. I have to wrap my head around all of this and Loki definitely isn’t in the mood to have another talk tonight. Yeah, give me that look. I know I’m a coward, but I wouldn’t leave him alone when I was under the spell and I really don’t want to do that again now.”

To Steve that made sense, giving Loki some space wasn’t the worst idea. “Okay… I guess I’ll do the same. Thanks, Bucky. For telling me.”

“You’re my best friend… I wouldn’t tell anybody else but you.”

Except for Loki and Steve could only hope that it would turn out well for them.

 ***

The next morning Steve woke up and decided not to think about what happened last night. He would just wait to see how this was going to turn out. Despite that Steve half expected to find Loki and Bucky kissing when he entered the kitchen. He turned out to be completely wrong though, because nobody was there but Tony. Quite an usual sight this early in the morning, especially after a party.

Steve was greeted by a little nod. “You want to have some coffee?”

Tony didn’t seem to be in the best mood, but that didn’t particularly surprise Steve. “Yeah, that would be nice, thank you.”

Without saying anything else Tony handed him a steaming cup and Steve had to admit that Tony could make some damn good coffee. Or Jarvis. “You’re already awake? Or didn’t you go to bed at all?”

“Sure did. Three hours are more than enough sleep. The other ones just can’t keep up.” A little smirk appeared on his face and Steve sighed in relief. Awkward silence with Tony was something he couldn’t stand. “What about you? Is sleep suddenly un-American?”

Steve just shrugged. “No. Just not tired anymore.”

Only half the truth, but Steve had decided to not think about it anymore. Tony took another sip from his coffee and there was the silence again. This wasn’t right, Tony was everything but silent. If he didn’t start babbling or talking about nonsense soon Steve would start to worry. Tony being his usual obnoxious self would have been a nice distraction.

“I’m sorry about yesterday.”

Raising his head Steve blinked and Tony was indeed looking at him. A serious expression on his face. Okay, Tony was sorry and Steve had no idea what he was talking about. “Uhm… what about?”

“Last night? At the party? Me acting like a jealous little bitch? Doesn’t any of this ring a bell?”

“Oh… right. No need to worry about that. I already forgot.”

“Why? Because I’m acting like a jealous little bitch all the time and therefore it was nothing special?”

“Tony…”

Raising his hands Tony grinned weakly. “Hey, I’m just joking… but in all seriousness I wasn’t fair to you last night. You are right, you were being nice and I… was an ass. Loki is great, smart and he can be a decent human being when he wants to… decent demi-god. Whatever. He is cool and it’s actually a good thing that you realised that too. It was a dickmove to bitch about you being nice to him.”

Smiling softly Steve shrugged. “Right… but it is kind of weird to hang out with somebody in their bedroom and telling them fairy tales… It’s understandable that you suspected something.”

“Maybe understandable, but not okay. Even if you guys had been fucking it wouldn’t have been any of my business. It’s not like I have any kind of say in whoever Loki is dating, fucking, bewitching… whatever…” The intent way Tony studied his cup of coffee was very telling and Steve felt the urge to give him a pat on the back, but then Tony would probably strangle him. “But you do know that none of that is ever going to happen? I mean between Loki and me. I like him, but that’s all and god knows… he for sure isn’t into me. At all.”

Tony made a sound that was probably supposed to indicate that he knew that very well. “Yeah… guess you gotta have a metal arm to turn Loki on. God, that’s so wrong. Every shade of wrong. Guess it’s only a matter of days till that is going to happen.”

For a second Steve bit his lip, but he realised what he was doing he immediately stopped it. “Wait… yesterday you said that Bucky doesn’t care anymore.” Steve did know that it wasn’t true, but last night Tony had been fairly convinced.

Now he was letting out a sigh and shrugged. “Hell, it’s Loki. Who wouldn’t go for it if the opportunity presents itself? All Loki did at the party was running away from Bucky… need anymore proof that he likes him? Loki and running away… it doesn’t get any weirder.”

Yes, Steve had thought the exact same thing last night. “That’s going to happen, right? They’re going to start dating without any magic involved. We’re going to have an Avengers couple…”

“Yep, the two former bad guys hooking up… the press is going to love it.” Tony rolled his eyes before focusing on Steve. “How are you feeling about this?”

Why was he biting his lip again? “Strange… Bucky and I talked yesterday and I just want him to happy. He deserves some happiness after all he’s been through and if he wants to be with Loki… then that’s what he wants.”

“God, Steve… I know you’re Captain America, but nobody can be that selfless! Come on, you can be mad or sad or… anything you want. That’s just how you feel. Hell, I’m not happy about it… but it’s none of my business, so I’m not going to do anything about it.” Tony actually smiled at him, not looking sad, but sympathetic. Steve took a second to figure out what to say. “I’m not happy about it, of course not, but I’m not angry or… it’s strange, but it’s okay. They’re both my friends and if they like each other… If I have the choice between being happy for them and feeling sorry for myself, I choose being happy for them.”

“Fuck, you really make everyone else in the world look bad…” Despite rolling his eyes Tony smiled softly and Steve did the same.

***

 Real life put Tony’s prediction to shame. Nothing happened, quite the opposite. Their lives returned back to normal, everybody went after their usual routines and they battled some minor bad guys. As far as Steve knew these were the only times Bucky and Loki actually were in the same room. When Steve asked Bucky about it the other one only shrugged and mumbled something like “I’m working on it…”

Steve promised himself that he wouldn’t get involved in any of that, none of his business, but it was fairly obvious that Bucky just missed the courage to go for it. Something Steve couldn’t understand.

About two weeks later things seemed to have gotten back to normal when it was time for movie night. Thor was visiting Jane and Bruce was at some conference leaving only Clint, Natasha, Tony, Loki, Steve and Bucky were present. Nobody uttered a word about Bucky and Loki both being there, probably afraid one of them would leave if it was pointed out. Since everything was so normal even Steve stopped thinking about it, concentrating on the movie and on Tony’s weird comments. Right, completely normal.

“Do you want to go out with me?”

Clint chocked on his popcorn, Natasha patted his back without batting an eyelid while Tony and Steve were staring at Bucky in disbelief. The whole setting was ridiculous. Loki was sitting on one end of the couch, Bucky on the other one, as far away from each other as possible. The movie was still one, Clint was coughing and Bucky had just asked Loki to go out with him.

Still the demi-god seemed to be the least irritated person in the room. All he did was raising both eyebrows. “What?”

Steve stared with his mouth opened and Bucky sighed. “Listen, I have no idea what would be appropriate in Asgard, but the way you talked about the courting rituals, they seem pretty stupid. I’m from the forties and when we liked someone, we asked them out on a date. That’s what I’m doing here. I would have done it in a more private setting, but since you run away when you see me, I gotta do it here. I like you. Do you want to go out with me?”

It was quite a sight to see Loki staring wide-eyed at Bucky, completely taken aback. Now that Clint had finally managed to swallow the popcorn he couldn’t leave the scene uncommented. “Wow, this movie suddenly got so much better.”

“Shut up, Clint…”

Not letting himself be distracted by Natasha’s scowl Clint elbowed Loki softly in the rips. “Hey, don’t be rude, Loki. Guy asked you a question.”

Loki did indeed open his mouth, but not saying anything. So this was the only way to make the god of lies speechless? Asking him out on a date? Even Tony couldn’t believe that. “Come on, reindeer games, we’re not getting any younger and…”

“Yes.”

“Yes what?”

Grumbling Loki crossed his arms in front of his chest, turning his eyes back to the TV. “Yes, I would like… to go out with you, Sgt. Barnes. Now everybody shut up, I’m trying to concentrate on the movie.”

Tony gave Steve his best – ‘What the fuck just happened’ look, while Bucky was beaming.

Chapter Text

Tony had a lot of stupid ideas. All the time. Steve actually thought that he was crazy. Tonight though Tony had come up with something brilliant. At first Steve had been sceptical, but this was quite nice. “I feel obligated to mention that this is extremely unhealthy.” Despite his own words Steve licked his spoon clean of chocolate ice-cream and savoured the taste of it.

“Yeah, that’s what makes it great. You gotta taste one of them.” Tony tossed him a heart shaped lollipop and Steve caught it. “Seriously?”

“Delicious.” Shoving a hand full of Cherry Fizz Wizz into his mouth Tony grinned at him. It was a clear advantage to live with a billionaire, somehow Tony had managed get them all the sweets and candy that anyone could think of. And ice-cream. They were watching the Wizard of Oz and were ruining their teeth forever. It was nice and a perfect distraction. Steve was having fun.

The reason they were doing this was simple – Two hours ago Bucky and Loki had left to… go on their date. Tony had said that now they only had two options, pout and feel sorry for themselves or they could have their own little party. With blackjack and hookers. They had decided against that and now it was a party with candy and ice-cream.

“We have some caramels?”

“Over here.” Again Tony tossed him some bonbons and Steve thanked him. “This was a really good idea… I should listen to you more often.”

“That’s what I’ve been saying for ages.” Tony winked at him, before taking a big bite from the cookie dough in his hands. “This is so much better than being on a stupid date. We’re having all the fun here. There’s nothing left for anybody else. All the fun is here.”

“No need to exaggerate, this is fun, yeah. But it’s very possible that they’ll come back and tell us that they’ve had the time of their life.”

Pulling a face Tony threw a lollipop at him, aiming for his head. “Hey, there’s also a good chance that they’ll realise they hate each other and it’s the worst date of all time.”

Steve couldn’t help but smile at that. Tony could be so amusing when he was in denial. “I doubt that. Didn’t you say that we should watch a movie so that we won’t talk about them all the time?”

“Right, sorry… Hand me the ice-cream.”

They continued to watch and Steve made to discard the thought of Loki and Bucky kissing in the last row of some movie theatre. After the Wizard of Oz they switched to Citizen Kane and Tony didn’t even complain once that the movie wasn’t coloured.

“Did you see that one when it came out?”

“Yeah, I did. That was quite a while ago. I don’t recall every detail. I went to see it with… with Bucky. It’s good… Any idea which movie they went to see?”

“I thought we weren’t talking about that.”

“Yeah, but we suck at not talking about it. Don’t we?” Steve smiled weakly and Tony snorted. “It’s Loki, so probably some art house flick. We’ll just ask them when they get back and then… Oh fuck.”

The curse word made Steve wince. “What? You don’t like art house films?”

“Nah, I just realised something…” Tony mumbled, looking pensive. “It doesn’t matter if they had the best or the worst date of all time. As soon as Thor gets back here, he’ll kill Bucky.”

Honestly Steve didn’t know if this was supposed to make him laugh or not. “Oh, come on, Thor is overprotective, but he’s not insane. Bucky asked if Loki wanted to go out with him and Loki agreed. Not even Thor can have a problem with that…”

“Who knows… maybe the Asgardian rituals demand that Bucky has to sacrifice three ducks and make it rain before he is allowed to even ask to take Loki out. All this talk about Loki being a prince, perhaps there is even some rule about asking the family for permission. Oh, that would be bad. Or he has to catch a unicorn and…”

“Tony, unicorns don’t exist.”

“Here, but who knows about Asgard. They could have a whole garden full of them. Which would be awesome.” Tony’s grin faded as quickly as it had appeared. “But we both know that Thor is going to be pissed.”

That was a possibility they couldn’t rule out, that much was for sure. Again, none of Steve’s business. Loki and Bucky would have to figure that out on their own. What could Thor do anyway? Complain a little bit and Loki would tell him to piss off like he usually does and Bucky was stubborn, strong-willed, he wouldn’t let Loki’s big brother stop them from anything. “It’s none of Thor’s business. I don’t care about how they do things in Asgard and Loki doesn’t look like he gives a damn about it either. He shouldn’t.”

“Yeah, that’s all great, but I don’t wanna be around when Thor finds out. Just saying.” Tony smirked at him before turning his attention back to his candy and the movie. Okay, they weren’t doing a perfect job on distracting themselves of Loki and Bucky, but they were doing quite alright. Better than Steve had imagined. When they were almost done with the movie Natasha stepped into the room, looked from them to the candy, to the television and she instantly left again without saying a word. Steve thought it was funny.

Another 15 minutes later Clint showed up and let himself fall on the couch without asking if he could join their little party. “What are we watching?”

“Citizen Kane, but those are the last 10 minutes.”

“Cool… you’re trying to give Steve the feeling he’s back home?” Clint gave him a malicious smirk and all Steve did was rolling his eyes. Were they ever going to get tired of the jokes about him being an old man?

“Nope, we’re trying to bring some culture into our life. Not everybody can be into stupid action flicks like you.”

Tony’s little jab was answered by a laugh. “Says the guy who does a Terminator triathlon once a month.”

“Those films are cultural gold.”

“Could you please shut up? I’m trying to watch the movie.” Mumbling Steve tried to do exactly that, not listening to the two guys next to him. An impossible task. “Relax Steve, you’re about to get as bad as Loki when it comes down to bitch about people talking during a movie.”

Wonderful, so much about not thinking about Loki and Bucky for ten seconds. Not saying anything Steve glared at Clint, but as always Tony loved to do the talking. “Thanks, Clint. It’s not like we doing this whole thing here to not think about Loki and Bucky being on a date. Thanks for not mentioning them, really empathetic. Good job. Why don’t you wait in front of the door and tell us exactly when they get back?”

Although Clint was busy shoving a huge cookie into his mouth he still gave Tony an answer. “Sure, I’d be glad to, but they’ve been back for more than half an hour now.”

“What?!”

Clint commented it with a shrug. “Yeah, they instantly went up into Bucky’s room. Why do you think I’ve come here with you guys? It’s way too loud up there…”

Steve felt his own eyes grow wide in shock and Tony dropped the bowl of bonbons in his hand, scattering them all over the floor. “What?!”

For a few seconds Clint made it to keep a straight face, but then he burst out laughing. Normally Steve would have felt bad for such a thought, but right now he wanted nothing more than to strangle Clint. “This is not funny!”

“Sorry, I know that was mean, but you should have seen your faces… No, they aren’t back yet. Tony! What the fuck! Stop throwing lollipops at me!”

Tony didn’t stop, but he switched to liquorice. “I will kill you with candy! Open your mouth, I want you to choke on it!”

“Calm down, Tony! Hey, I made a mean joke. What are you going to do if they show up and they decide they indeed want to fuck on the first date?”

For some reason Steve felt offended and the urge to rush to their defence. “It’s not Loki’s style to sleep with someone on a first date.”

“How do you know that? You’re Bucky’s best friend. To me it seems like something he would do…”

“We are not seriously discussing our friends’ sexlife…” Steve shook his head in disbelief and Tony let out a dry laugh, finally stopping to throw candy at Clint. “Of course we are. We don’t have one ourselves, so we gotta talk about someone else’s. I’m with you though, Loki is too classy. I’m worried about metal arm though, he hasn’t gotten it in over 70 years. Guy must be desperate.”

“Tony!”

“Nah, he’s got a point. 70 years without sex, then a love spell… I would be sick of waiting too.” Clint picked up the little bonbons that had landed in his lap and shoved them into his mouth, while Steve couldn’t believe that they were actually having his conversation. He didn’t want to think about any of that, it was none of his business and moreover he didn’t want to picture it. “Good lord, just stop. They are at the movies. That doesn’t obligate them to hook up.”

Why were they not looking at him like he was a madman? Finally Tony cracked a smile and shook his head. “Oh Steve, I forget all the time how innocent you are. The whole point of dating is hooking up. That’s what they’re doing. They try to find out if they like each other enough to hook up. If they do, they’ll hook up! Well, unless Thor kills them first.”

“No, Thor is still at Jane’s. For now they’re safe. Anyway, let’s be realistic. This date is just a formality. They spend the last week together, almost every second and Bucky was constantly trying to get into his pants. Loki agreed to go out with him, so they can officially start banging. Sorry for you guys, but I bet my money on it, they are at least going to make out tonight. You better be ready to see that happening all around the tower.” Judging by his face Clint was completely serious, but Steve still determinedly shook his head. “No. I talked with both of them, they’re unsure. Nothing is going to happen tonight. They’re watching a movie and having fun, just like us.”

Now Clint burst out laughing for the second time. “Definitely not like us. If one of you only thinks about putting an arm around me, I will bite it off.”

“You wish. My type is tall, hot, gorgeous, good-looking… how do you fit into there?”

“Shut up, Tony. I would be too much of a man for you to handle anyway.”

“Good lord, what have I done to deserve this… Jarvis, could you please start a new movie. I need distraction from the madness right next to me.”

“Gladly, Captain Rogers.”

Steve thanked his lucky star when Tony and Clint did finally shut up and turned their attention to the TV. Since it would be too good to be true…

“Fuck, we’re into the third film. They went out to see one movie. How are they still not back?”

“Tony, do me a favour and shut your mouth…”

“Hey, I’m making a point here. This is…”

Sighing Steve got up from the couch. “I’m going to get a drink.”

“There is a lot of stuff to drink here.”

“Yeah, but I just want to get out of this room for second.” Not turning around Steve headed for the kitchen and took a deep breath. The whole evening hadn’t started that bad, but it seemed like for Tony it hadn’t been enough to distract him. It had worked for Steve and he would have loved for it to continue. No chance for that now. Fortuna really didn’t want to have anything to do with Steve that night. The second he stepped into the kitchen Steve stopped dead in his tracks. What were the odds?

“I still do not think that this is a good idea.”

“It’s delicious, believe me. You gotta try it.”

They obviously had come back from the movies and… wanted to eat something? Why here? If Steve were on a date, he would eat in a restaurant. Loki was leaning against the counter, his arms crossed in front of his chest, watching Bucky’s every move. It wasn’t like he did anything extraordinary, he was wrapping little pieces of melon in prosciutto. With a smile on his face Bucky handed Loki one of the pieces. “It’s good. Try it.”

Loki frowned, wearing that sceptical look on his face whenever they presented something to him that was too ‘Midgardian’ for his taste. Which was pretty much everything but literature and classical music. “These two things do not look like they should be eaten together.”

“Yes, they should. Try it or I’ll have to think that you are a coward.” The smile on Bucky’s lips was teasing, amused and just the slightest bit cocky. It was so strange, because this was Bucky, this was the way he had always acted. 70 years ago, not under the influence of a spell or brainwashed by psychotic Nazis. This was a happy, playful man.

“You should know better than calling me a coward…. I am cautious since you mortals have a very strange taste when it comes down to food…”

“Loki, stop talking and eat the melon.”

Even after living with Loki for some months Steve wasn’t sure that giving him orders was a good idea. Indeed Loki started to snort, but then he grabbed the piece that was offered to him and took a small bite. Bucky watched his face closely and Loki finally mumbled “It is not entirely unpleasant.”

“It’s good. Just admit it.”

Not admitting anything Loki ate the rest of the piece and grinned as if he had won a long and heated argument. “There, you see I’m right…”

“After the movie you chose you had to be right about something…”

“It wasn’t that bad.”

Obviously they weren’t going to notice Steve’s presence, so he cleared this throat. “Hey… You guys are already back?”

“Captain…” Loki smiled in amusement. “We just arrived and James insisted on showing me what melon and prosciutto would taste like. Not entirely unpleasant. It’s late and I will go to bed now. Thank you for nice evening, James. Good night, Captain.” That was sudden, but typical Loki. So he left and Steve bit his own tongue for about two seconds. “How was your date?”

Did he sound too eager? But he really, really wanted to know. Desperately. The smile was still lingering on Bucky’s face and he obviously had not problem to talk about it. “Well… he hated the film, he can’t stand Nachos with cheese and he yelled at some couple in the audience because they were talking…”

“Oh… sounds terrible.”

“No, it was awesome. We had lots of fun, dinner was great and… I was scared that he would be bored or annoyed, but he was having fun. So… I might be using that word too much, but… it was great. How was your evening?“ Just a normal question, asked by a happy man and Steve started wondering what he had been doing anyway? “Clint, Tony and me are having a movie marathon and we’re eating a lot of candy. You want some too? There so much left, way too much for us to eat…”

Bucky wouldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day, that much was for sure. “Nah, thank you. We had dinner. I’m tired, so I’m just going to bed. Good night.”

Then there was only Steve left in the kitchen and why did he come here in the first place? Right, getting away from Tony talking about Bucky and Loki. Sweet irony. Grabbing a beer from the fridge and returned to the common room with slow steps. There was still the possibility to simply go to bed, then he wouldn’t have to tell Tony and Clint about this new development. That would just be childish and there wasn’t so much to tell anyway.

For some reason Tony had stopped talking, him and Clint were actually watching the movie and maybe because of that they instantly turned to Steve when he came in. Damn. “Hey… they just came back.”

A second earlier Tony been leisurely lingering around on the couch, now he immediately sat up straight. “What?! So? What’s going on? Don’t tell me they eloped to Vegas and got married?”

Now that would just be stupid. “No, they aren’t married. Not even engaged. They’re not even a couple. They had dinner and Loki hated the movie, but Bucky said that… the date was great. So yeah, they had fun.”

Clint leaned back and chuckled softly. “Well, that’s pretty tame. Isn’t it? Good for you boys.”

“Shut up, Clint. I was hanging onto hope that they would realise that they hate spending time with each other. Damn. Should I offer them to move into the same floor? I could use the space…”

“Tony, they had a first date. Stop overanalyzing it. I’m going to bed now. See you all tomorrow.”

“Hey, we haven’t even gone into detail yet! Did they look like they had been making out?”

“Good night, Tony.”

 ***

Finally Steve was the first person to be awake in the tower, he could do a long workout in silence and this time the kitchen was empty when he entered it. Normally Steve could call himself a social person, but today it actually felt kind of good to be a little bit alone. Still, sooner or later somebody else would get up and then breakfast should be ready, shouldn’t it? Steve wasn’t as good a cook as Bucky, but he could make decent scrambled eggs and his waffles weren’t that bad either. Also cooking was fun. Most of the time.

“Good morning…” Natasha casually walked into the kitchen, getting a cup of coffee, although he looked more awake than Steve after already being up for two hours.

“Morning. You want some waffles?”

“Yes, thanks. Is it your turn to make breakfast?”

“Uhm… I don’t think so… the schedule kinda got mixed up when Bucky started making breakfast for Loki all the time. So I guess it’s my turn today and yours tomorrow.” Steve shrugged and Natasha agreed with a simple nod, sitting down and sipping from her cup of coffee. One could spend hours with Natasha without her saying a word and today Steve really couldn’t complain about…

“How are you dealing with the two little love birds?”

Great. Since when was Natasha interested in these kinds of things? “Love birds? Really?”

“I met Bucky in the hallway last night. The look on his face makes me think that love birds is a good description.” Again, she didn’t seem interested or invested at all, merely pointed things out.

Fine, if Steve was about to have this conversation with every single Avenger, he could just get started with it. “Bucky seems happy and that’s all I care about. I know that Loki likes him, so… good for them and I’m looking forward to the moment when we’re able to talk about something else.”

“Well, that could take about a few weeks. Until we finally know how this is going to work out. Two Avengers hooking up is not really something I expected to happen. Least of all these two.”

Steve tried no to think about the implications of the last sentence. Instead he sat down next to Natasha with a plate full of scrambled eggs. “You should get some too before Clint shows up and eats half of it.”

Clint wasn’t the next one to show up though. It was Loki. “Greetings.”

“Morning. You want some breakfast?” A legit question, Loki very rarely showed up for breakfast. “No, thank you. I’m merely here to fetch some ingredients for a potion I’m creating.”

All alarm bells started ringing at once. “Please tell us it’s no love potion.”

“Of course not.”

“I’m trying to find a way to raise the dead and make them act to my will.”

Natasha and Steve shared a look and agreed silently that it was better to not find out if this was Loki’s idea of a joke. “You and Bucky doing anything today?”

Maybe Steve did want to talk about zombies.

“James proposed to go to a concert tonight. He said he’s not up to date with contemporary Midgardian music and neither am I. It should be an enlightening experience.” Opening the fridge Loki got his ingredients, milk, two lemons and an apple. What kind of magic potion was this supposed to be? Steve had expected dragon blood or the bones of a unicorn.

“Have fun then.” Natasha smiled amusedly and Steve preferred to stay silent until Loki left again. “So, what are Tony and you going to do then?”

Now she was confusing Steve and he uttered a not very intelligent “Huh?”

Natasha seemed pretty amused. “Last night when they were having their first date you were having a movie night. What are you going to do tonight?”

“I don’t know if we’re going to do anything.”

“Who is not going to do anything?”

Now this was getting silly. First Loki and now Tony was waltzing into the kitchen, heading straight toward the coffee, while already eyeing some of the waffles. Steve wondered how to tell him gently, but Natasha proved once again that she was way faster than him in any regard. “Bucky and Loki are going to a concert tonight.”

“What? It’s Sunday! Nobody goes on a date on Sunday. Especially not if you already were on a date on Saturday…” Upset but not quite as outraged as Steve had expected. Tony quickly managed to get a grip and took a long sip from coffee before his eyes settled on Steve. “What do you say? Halo tournament tonight?”

Ignoring Natasha smug grin Steve shrugged. “I served in World War Two, I’m not really keen on playing a shooter game.”

Rolling his eyes Steve huffed. “Fine then… FIFA tournament? Nah, soccer sucks. Need for speed! You can’t have something against racing cars, right?”

No, Steve had no problems with racing cars and he had no plans for tonight anyway. It wasn’t like anyone had asked him out to go to a concert. “Fine. Why not. If it’s going to be a tournament, we need more players.”

“Shouldn’t be a problem. Romanov, you’re in?”

“No way.”

“Excellent. I’ll get Bruce and Clint to join us too and then I’ll kick all of your asses and it’s going to be so much fun. Way more fun than going to a stupid concert.”

Sighing Steve shook his head and tried to not look at Natasha, knowing she was having the time of her life. Women, Steve would never be able to understand them.

 ***

“This sucks! Fuck me, I’m done. I’m so done.” With a dramatic gesture Tony threw his controller away and crossed his arms in front of his chest. He was about to start pouting. Steve couldn’t help but feel incredibly amused by that. Yes, he was surprised too that Bruce was a natural at playing Need For Speed. Especially since he had been so reluctant about it.

“Sorry, Tony. I can sit the next one out.” Feeling sorry for feeling… Typical.

“Forget it! I’ll beat your ass!” Tony instantly grabbed the controller again or tried to, because Clint had already taken a hold of it. “Give me that!”

“Hell no, you just lost. It’s my turn. Shut up and look how it’s done.” A big grin was displayed on Clint’s face and Tony rolled his eyes the way a five-year old would. “Bruce, kick his ass for me.”

“I’ll try, but I’m not making any promises. I could just be having a lucky streak.”

Steve leaned back, taking a sip from his soda and sighed contently. Honestly the game wasn’t that fun, but watching Tony sulk and getting really into it was incredibly entertaining. “Maybe you just try to not drive in the game like you do in real life. Then you would have better chances…”

Tony turned to him, gritting his teeth. “Are you trying to say that my driving sucks?”

“Yeah, kind of.”

“Woah! Be careful there… I know everything about cars and I know how to use them.” Tony was even raising his forefinger as if he wanted to threaten Steve which only made it even funnier.

“You know… you should drive yourself more often. Don’t let Jarvis do it all the time…” Steve smiled knowingly and Tony made use of his bitchface. “Oh, screw you. I’ll play the next round against you and then you’ll see how badly I drive.”

While they had been talking Bruce was already winning his race against Clint with ease. “Seriously… have you been playing that stupid game while you were supposed to be working in the lab?” Clint sounded a little bit upset, but not nearly as pissed off as Tony. Probably because he was still aware of the fact that this was a game.

“Yeah, yeah… whatever… give me the controller. I’m going to teach Captain America some manners.”

Still smiling Steve took Clint’s controller. “Okay… I’m always willing to learn something new.”

Except that he didn’t, because loud thunder was rumbling outside and Clint groaned. “Why does he always have to be so dramatic?”

Good question, one day they had to ask Thor about that. Steve would find it incredibly distracting and unpleasant to have his arrival announced by thunder and lightening. Thor didn’t seem to be bothered at all when he was strolling into the common room. “Greetings, brothers in arms! I have returned.”

“We see that. You weren’t exactly subtle. Sit down and grab a beer. We’re having a tournament here and you’re distracting me.” Tony made an impatient gesture and Thor, of course, seemed confused. “It wasn’t my intention to…”

“Yeah, yeah… just sit down. I need to kick Cap’s ass and that can’t wait a second longer.”

While Steve and Tony were finally engaging in their game, Bruce asked Thor how Jane was doing. Unfortunately Steve didn’t hear much of Thor’s response, since Tony was cursing loudly, not content with how the race was going for him. “Shit! Why is everybody better at this game than I am? This fucking sucks! We should have totally played Halo, I would have fucking kicked your asses!”

Rubbing his temples Steve hated to play the adult. “Could you swear a little less, Tony?”

“Why because your boyscout ears can’t handle a little…”

“Sir, I hate to interrupt, but I have to inform you that some of the systems in the tower cease to work properly.”

Instantly Tony had all forgotten about the game and there was a change of atmosphere in the entire room. “Which systems? Security?”

“No, sir. Security is not affected. Pretty much everything else though. The problems are only minor hiccups. I would strongly advice against using any tool in the kitchen at the moment. The showers also can’t be trusted. Phones could also pose a problem.”

This wasn’t making much sense, was it?

“Has something like this happened before?”

“Indeed, sir. One single time. When you spilled orange juice over one of Mr. Laufeyson’s books and he got very angry about that.”

Angry? That day they had been sure that they had to put Loki back on the villain list, he had been that furious. “Wait, that doesn’t make any sense. Loki’s not even the tower.”

“Actually Mr. Laufeyson just returned, Captain Rogers and I am sure that he is responsible for the slight system failures.”

Everybody shared a look. Loki had come back from the concert and was so angry that he was fucking with Jarvis? Steve felt a rush of panic – Was Bucky even still alive?

Even Tony seemed to be a bit pale. “Uhm… Jarvis… where is Loki now?”

“Still in the elevator, sir.”

There was a silent agreement and everybody jumped to their feet, rushing out of the room and towards the elevator. “Okay, just in case, we gotta be ready to take him down… or ask him where he put the body… oh, this is bad, very, very bad…”

Tony was still rambling about all the possible ways that Loki might have killed Bucky when the elevator doors finally opened. It turned out that Bucky was still very much alive and just maybe Loki wasn’t only messing with Jarvis when he was angry. Steve blinked a few times to make sure that this was really happening. Bucky had Loki pressed up against the wall, kissing him deeply. Loki obviously was okay with it, more than okay or why else were his arms wrapped around Bucky’s waist.

So everything was fine, wasn’t it?

Thunder was rumbling again and the look on Thor’s face made clear that everything definitely wasn’t fine. Maybe Bucky was going to die after all.

 

Chapter Text

“Get away from my brother!”

This was bad. Steve had lived through a lot of things, he had seen a lot of things and he had rarely been scared or lost his cool. Not that he was scared now, but this was definitely one of the most uncomfortable moments he had ever witnessed. Especially since all he wanted to do was vanishing into thin air.

“Back off, you stupid oaf! This is none of your business!”

The sight of Loki was terrifying. His eyes were flashing, his teeth gritted and he definitely didn’t look like someone who had just been kissing another person. Rather like somebody who wanted to kill Thor.

“You are my brother! Of course, it is my business!”

Loki narrowed his eyes, but it was Bucky who spoke up. “No, Thor… it really isn’t.”

Tony pulled a face, like he wasn’t able to believe that Bucky had said that. Steve had to admit that it really wasn’t a good idea to talk like that to Thor. Not when he was in his ‘I have to protect my brother’s honour’ mode. “I’m not interested in anything you have to say. Step away from my brother instantly! I will not tolerate you defiling his honour!”

How could this be his life? Pinching the bridge of his nose Steve took a deep breath and considered to start taking yoga classes. Weren’t they supposed to help you relax?

“Do you hear yourself talk?! Nobody gives a damn about my honour! I don’t care about my honour! We were merely kissing!”

“I saw him forcing himself on you before!”

By now Steve wouldn’t be surprised if smoke was about to come out of Loki’s ears. Body shaking with anger and his eyes narrowed so tightly that one could barely make out his green eyes. “Forcing himself on… Let me use that phrase Stark particularly seems to like… Are you fucking kidding me?!”

Loki was pretty much screaming by now and his words had a surprising effect, they made Thor flinch. Which didn’t stop Loki from ranting and yelling at his brother. Steve recognized pent-up frustration when he saw it and there was lots of it. “I am a sorcerer! One of the most powerful in the Nine Realms! I could destroy this whole city within a minute if I wanted to! Take magic out of the picture and I am still a god! You truly believe that somebody would be able to force themselves on me?!”

This was a pretty good point and when Thor didn’t respond immediately Tony gladly jumped in. “Gotta agree with Reindeer games here, Pointbreak. You’re kinda embarrassing him…”

Instantly Thor’s gaze lingered on Tony and if looks could kill he would drop dead this second. “Stay out of this, Stark. This is between me and my brother.”

“No! It isn’t! None of this is your business! We’ve been going on about this for over 300 years and I am sick of it! What are you going to do?! Throw James off a cliff too?”

Definitely not. Not as long as Steve was around.

“No, but I will not tolerate…”

“You don’t get a say in this!”

“I am your big brother, you are my responsibility and you evidently are not capable of making these kinds of decisions.”

Loki’s mouth dropped open, but not a sound came out and this was something none of them had ever seen happening. Maybe it wasn’t Bucky who was going to die. Now Thor seemed to have a pretty good chance of doing so.

“Sir, again I am very sorry to interrupt, but I feel obligated to strongly advice you to stay away from every single electronic device in the tower. Just touching them could be fatal at this point.”

“Wow, thank you, Jarvis. Loki, please, take a deep breath and stop turning my tower into a fucking death trap! Jesus, if kissing and fighting gets you to screw up the electronics, maybe Thor is right. Please, don’t get laid tonight, I don’t want you to blow up the tower.”

That was enough, the final straw and Steve was done. His life wasn’t a soap opera and he had no interest in witnessing one. Should the Asgardian gods tear each other apart, what did he care as long as no civilians were in danger? “I’m out of here…”

Turning around Steve left, not back into the living room but straight to his room. Jarvis just had told them that watching TV was out of the question and Steve preferred reading a book right now anyway. Just to be let alone. Not dealing with the crazy soap opera that was going on a floor below. By now it would almost be a relief to have some villain attacking the city. That would almost feel like something normal. Or more normal than whatever was happening right here.

By now Steve was pretty glad that he was an only child, judging by what was happening siblings weren’t a blessing. Especially not if they were overprotective and had weird beliefs about what a relationship had to look like. Did Thor even realise that Loki would only get more interested in Bucky if he was trying to stop them from becoming an item. Becoming… To Steve it pretty much looked like they already were an item.

Bucky had said out loud what he wanted and they had all seen that Loki was indeed emotionally involved. The fact that Thor was so against them was almost offensive… Why was Steve still thinking about this? He really shouldn’t be. It wasn’t his business and Steve was pretty sure that Loki was going to sort this all out on his own. So there was a good chance that the tower would burn down tonight. Steve decided to sit this one out. He was Captain America, but he didn’t need to get involved in everything. As long as Bucky was doing fine and feeling happy.

Steve only realised that he had fallen asleep when he was woken up by a loud, deafening bang. Oh god, now they had really started killing each other. No, definitely not here, not while Steve was around. Why did it have to be him to sort them out like little kids? Jumping out off bed Steve rushed through the open door without even knowing where he’d go. “Jarvis?”

“The floor below you, Captain Rogers. I don’t think there is need to rush though.”

Steve couldn’t help himself and ran there anyway. By the man he got to one of Tony’s workshops he realised that maybe Loki and Thor weren’t the cause for the bang. It had been Tony, standing behind one of the tables, starring down at some strange piece of black metal, twisted in weird angles, completely deformed. Steve was anything but an expert on technology, yet it was easy to tell that this, whatever it was, wasn’t supposed to look like this. Tony’s eyebrows also didn’t usually look burnt. Well, at least Steve wouldn’t have to fight a god or continue to listen to the drama. Instead he let his shoulders drop and relax and shot Tony a resigned look. “What happened?”

“A minor miscalculation. The usual, that happens when you’re about to revolutionize the way we look at technology. You’re here to witness me achieving greatness? Once again. Yeah, I know I do it all the time.” While talking Tony picked up the ruined… machine and tossed it into the trash bin. “Once more with feeling.”

“Please, don’t blow up something again. I thought Loki and Thor would be killing each other.” Steve was already turning around to leave when he heard Tony’s chuckle. Never a good sign. He should just leave and go to bed. “What is so funny?”

“You would know if you hadn’t fled the scene. There was so much screaming that I didn’t get all of it, but it seems like Thor has been cockblocking Loki for centuries. Those two brought up stories… Not pretty. Obviously you are allowed to whore around like crazy if you’re the crown prince, but if you’re second in line, they expect some decent behaviour. Asgardians are crazy as shit…”

By now Steve wasn’t surprised by anything anymore. Although… if he had to put his money on it, he would have said that Thor was more likely to have a long string of lovers, due to his personality. Loki hated most people anyway, it was harder for somebody to get his attention. Taking this into consideration it was very easy to understand that Loki would be furious if Thor was thinking he was allowed to comment on Loki’s choices. Unfortunately Thor did even more than commenting. Way more. “Thor should realise that he has to stay out of this. It’s none of his business and honestly, I’m getting tired of this…”

“Don’t know what you’re talking about, it was fucking hilarious! Because when Loki was done talking about two guys with whom he would have liked to get it on before Thor ruined it… Thor started all over again with the ‘You’re my little brother, I gotta protect you from the evil men with their evil intentions’. That really pissed Loki off. I’m a great sorcerer! You don’t need to protect me from anyone! I can take care of myself! They got so carried away by their fight that they completely forgot about Bucky. I’m so fucking glad that I’m an only child.” Tony shook his head, a smirk dancing on his lips and Steve was speechless that his friend was really amused by this.

“This is ridiculous! How old are they? Over a thousand years?! How can they act like children!? And pull other people into their stupid spat! Look at us! I came down here because I thought they were tearing down the tower! My first thought should be that you were blowing something up, as usual. But since the gods went crazy because they’re fighting over things that are none of our business and that none of us wants to hear! Just throw one of them out the next time they do something like that!”

Tony was staring at him and with his mouth open. It made Steve uncomfortable and as the first instance of silence turned into several seconds, realisation started to dawn on him. Had he just started ranting about Loki and Thor in front of Tony? No, that wasn’t him. That wasn’t how he acted, absolutely not. Completely out of line and Steve couldn’t help but feel terribly ashamed of himself. He wasn’t supposed to snap. Not because of such an unimportant thing that actually had nothing to do with him.

“Now look at that…”

“Please, don’t say anything, Tony.”

Since this was Tony Stark, there was no way he would do him this favour. Why was Tony’s smirk growing bigger by the second? “You actually can get upset about normal things! It’s not just all about freedom and idealism! Thank you! Good for you! More of that!”

“Stop it. That was ridiculous.” Rubbing a hand over his face Steve let out a long breath. He needed to get it together or he wouldn’t be any different than the people he was complaining about. Which he wasn’t.

“No, it’s not.” The look on Tony’s face, now that the smirk was gone, was something entirely new. So new that Steve didn’t quite know how to put it. The expression in Tony’s eyes could be reproachful, but at the same time they seemed to be sympathetic. “That’s probably the first time since I’ve known you that you actually seem pissed off at people that walk all over you. Keep that up, that’s a good character trait.”

Steve’s eyebrows went up to his hairline and he didn’t quite understand yet what Tony meant. It was downright confusing. “I don’t let people walk all over me.”

“Right, if they are bad guys who want to kill you or they refuse to help an old woman across the street, then you start acting like an adult who can take care of himself. Anything else… sorry, but you’re taking everyone’s crap. The guy you’ve been crazy for… for more than seventy years hooks up with a guy who has absolutely nothing in common with you and you’re smiling politely and don’t allow yourself to be angry about it. Not very Captain America… is.”

“It’s none of my business if they want to date or not.”

“That’s not the fucking point!” Tony snapped at him and Steve was in for another surprise. At least now it was easy to tell what Tony was thinking. He didn’t have a history of hiding his anger that well. Still that didn’t explain why he was suddenly… outraged by the new Steve had been acting. “You should be angry about it! Like a normal human being! Yeah, it’s nice to accept what you can’t change, but that’s usually the last step. Normally people get angry or at least frustrated. They show some kind of emotion and don’t just shake it off. Congratulations, you got pissed off about something. It was the wrong thing, you finally showed some human emotion and stopped acting like a robot. Hurray.”

Every muscle in Steve’s body seemed to constrict and he felt like he had been hit. By a bullet or with a baseball bat right on the head. Didn’t matter, because it hurt either way. The words and their meaning, but even more so that it had been Tony who had voiced them. “Are you… did you just say that I’m not acting like a person with actual feelings, because I’m not screaming at them for… falling for each other?”

“No, I’m saying that this whole ‘Everybody comes before me’ bullshit makes you look like a robot. Just for the record, Bucky went for the guy who threatens to kill people when they choose to watch a movie that he doesn’t like. Hey, at least he’s showing some emotion.”

“Okay, you’re angry. Don’t take it out on me.”

“I’m not taking my anger out on you, but you would let me do it, because that’s what you’re always doing. Good guys finish last.”

With that statement Tony left him alone and a bitter taste filled Steve’s mouth. Tony was angry himself and Steve was fully aware that his friend was lashing out and Steve happened to be the person he released his rage on. Just like Tony had said – because Steve was going to take it. Was that true? Was that an issue? Steve wasn’t just swallowing his discomfort and his anger. There was no anger, because Steve knew that he had no right to be angry. Nobody had taken something away from him. So no, Steve wasn’t angry. He wasn’t.

 ***

The next morning Steve was startled to find out that he wasn’t the first person in the kitchen. Thor was already there, munching on some poptarts. Not really the company Steve had hoped for, but Thor was there and maybe things had cooled down a little bit. “Good morning.”

Thor raised his head and Steve already regretted to not have left immediately. The expression on Thor’s face didn’t promise anything good. “Morning, Captain.”

Getting himself a cup of coffee Steve decided to try to lighten the mood with a smile. “How are you doing?”

Bad idea.

“I fear I’m still upset over my brother’s refusal to let me help him.”

Taking a deep breath Steve sat down and he simply had to try. “Loki is a big boy, he is able to take care of himself and Bucky is a good guy. I don’t think there is anything to worry about.”

Steve couldn’t do any better, but Thor instantly narrowed his eyes. “I know the Sergeant is your earliest friend, but I cannot tolerate his interest in my brother.”

Again Steve reminded himself of the fact that he wasn’t angry and that he had no reason to be angry. He didn’t. “Well… that’s still Loki’s choice, isn’t it? He clearly wants to go out with Bucky, so you just have to accept that.”

A logical argument that didn’t seem to impress Thor at all. “Loki has never bothered to respect Asgardian traditions if there was an opportunity for him to upset me. He is a prince, he deserves a more fitting consort.”

No, Steve wouldn’t get angry about his best friend’s relationship or about Thor’s stupid… “Are you saying that Bucky isn’t good enough for Loki?”

Now Thor obviously realised the change in Steve’s voice. His eyes focused on Steve’s face and Thor straightened up, as if he was ready to get into a fight. “”I do not wish to offend you or the Sergeant, but his dark history cannot be considered fitting for a prince consort.”

A few simple words and Steve’s blood started boiling. Maybe he wasn’t better than Thor, because he felt his urge to protect Bucky kicking in… but this was just ridiculous! Yes, Steve was using this word way too much, but it was fitting perfectly. “Dark history? Your brother is the walking definition of dark history! He tried to take over this planet! So your argument is invalid and quite offensive.”

“What my brother has or has not done does not change anything about his status as royalty… and he is my little brother. I will always protect him from potential harm.”

Harm? Was he even being serious? He couldn’t be. “You think Bucky might hurt your brother? There is always a risk of getting hurt if you’re getting involved with another person. Especially if this person is the god of lies and deceit.”

A low blow, but Thor was the one who had started it.

“I do not like the way you are talking about my brother, Captain.”

“Guess what, I don’t like the way you’re talking about Bucky. He’s a good guy, one of the best I’ve ever met and you should be happy that a person like this is interested in your brother.”

Thor studied his face and Steve was confused by the lines that appeared on his forehead. “I fear I do not understand why you are arguing with such passion in your friend’s favour. Since you are clearly upset about his choice.”

“I am not upset!” Steve hissed and instantly bit his tongue. God, he really should stop talking with Tony. He couldn’t start acting like a child too.

“Of course you are, Captain. Just like me. There is no shame in this. Why should we pretend to be at ease with something if we clearly aren’t?”

“Because it’s the decent thing to do!” Steve was shouting and he knew that he would later on feel ashamed for this, but now he wanted to make sure that Thor would get this essential piece of information into his thick skull. “They’re both adults who have the right to be with whoever they want! Yeah, I don’t like it! Tony doesn’t like it and you don’t like it. But that doesn’t matter, because it’s not about us! Our opinions do not matter! They just don’t! You have the right to not like it, but you have no right to complain about it or to try to stop them from being with each other! So just suck it up and let them kiss in the elevator all they want! I can’t be the only person here who acts like an adult!”

The second he had finished Steve took a deep breath and he had been right, he did feel a little ashamed. Because it felt so disturbingly good to let this out. Also Thor’s confused expression was quite funny. So yes, maybe this had been necessary, but Steve definitely wouldn’t do something like this again.

Both of them winced when the sound of clapping cast away the silence in the room. Turning his head Steve saw Tony standing in the doorframe, looking more smug than usual. “Good job, Cap. I’m so proud. For a second I thought you would drop a f-bomb. But that probably would have been too much to ask for.”

Sighing Steve shook his head. “Just let it go. I feel stupid enough.”

“Why would you, Captain? I thought it was an inspiring speech.”

Even more wincing and Steve would steal a line from Tony’s book. He hated magic. How long had Loki been sitting on the kitchen counter, putting Tony’s smug look to shame. As if being able to teleport wasn’t enough, no, he could also turn himself invisible and listen to private conversations.

“Loki! How many times have I told you that I hate it when you follow me around and hide yourself”

To that Loki only rolled his eyes and jumped off the counter. “As usual you think everything is about you. I wasn’t following you around, Thor. I was following the Captain.”

That didn’t make Steve feeling any better. Quite the opposite. “Why were you doing that?”

“Because I was interested in what you might have to say to my brother after you simply disappeared yesterday. It didn’t seem like something you would do. I have to admit that this was very informative.”

So much about feeling ashamed about this little outburst. “Loki… this was…”

“What you’re thinking. What all of you are thinking. But you are right, your thoughts on this matter are not important. I do not care about what you think about this.” For a second he paused and Steve thought that his green eyes darkened for a second. “But James might. Don’t get me wrong, nobody cares about what the oaf thinks. Your opinion might not be as unimportant as you think it is.”

Loki’s eyes lingered on Steve for a moment too long to not feel uncomfortable. It was a relief when Loki turned around and casually walked out off the room. Raising both eyebrows Tony let his gaze follow him. “Now that was weird…”

Thor nodded in agreement. “It indeed was.”

Why was Steve the only sensible person around here? “Really? You didn’t get that? Could he make it any more obvious? He’s worried! He’s worried that we might ruin it for them. That’s horrible. You wanna get into a relationship and you are afraid that your friends might sabotage it. That’s the saddest thing I’ve heard in a while and if someone is going to do that, it’s definitely not going to be me.”

There should have been a moment of silence, of acknowledgement, but instead Tony had to open his mouth. “Hell, we could make millions on Reality TV. All we have to do is to install some cameras and stream this live on the internet. We’d put every soap opera to shame.”

“Good lord, help me…”

Chapter Text

“You know what would be useful in a fight against magical gnomes? A fucking sorcerer! You know, like the one we have! The one you pissed off!”

Steve had no time to react to Clint’s statement, he was too busy trying to hit some of the gnomes with his shield. Trying to. These little beasts were incredibly fast and they were having fun. The only thing that proved to be slightly useful was Thor’s lightning, but most of the time they even avoided that successfully.

“Katniss has a point! I guess it’s time to apologize, Thor!” Steve raised his head to see Tony flying over them, shooting energy blasts at the gnomes. They were thrown into different directions, but Steve could tell that they were laughing. This was exhausting and so pointless.

“My brother’s stubbornness is to blame for his absence. Not me.” Really? Thor was reproaching Loki of being stubborn? Steve would have rolled his eyes if he hadn’t been busy kicking a single gnomes with his foot. That was really going to get him far.

“Yeah, sure…” Bucky even spat out a sarcastic laugh over the intercom and Steve could see that Thor was narrowing his eyes. Luckily Clint threw in some other remark before Thor and Bucky could start another fight. “Hey, Buck! Why don’t you give your boyfriend a call and tell him to get his skinny ass over here!”

“He’s not my boyfriend.”

“We’re not going to discuss semantics now! Tell him to fucking show up!”

Steve sighed and focused fighting off some of the gnomes while the others were still debating over Loki. Even Natasha. “I doubt that Bucky would have to call him. He’s Loki. He’s probably already here.”

“Yeah and laughing his ass off. Ouch! One of these things bit me! I’m so fucking sick of this!”

Grabbing another gnome that tried to jump at him Steve threw it away. Truth to be told he shared Clint’s sentiment. In need one should ask for help, right? “Loki, if you’re here… and listening by any chance… could you please help us?”

Nothing happened. Nothing at all. Well, except for Tony letting out a string of curses, because the gnomes had found a way to jump at him when he was flying around. Okay, so either Loki wasn’t here or he didn’t give a damn about them being attacked. The worst thing about it was that Steve could understand where Loki was coming from. He wouldn’t lift a finger to help them as long as Thor was with them. Well, maybe…

“Oh, come on! Are you fucking serious!?”

Steve turned his head fast enough to see what Clint was complaining about now. A dozen of gnomes had just been about to attack Bucky from all sides at once when they all seemed to smash against an invisible wall around him. It was a horrible, yet funny sound and they all dropped to the ground. Seemingly knocked out. For a mere second Bucky’s face showed surprise and then melted into a little smile.

“Really sweet of you to take care of your boyfriend’s trouble! The rest of us also could need some help!”

“But I was having so much fun watching you, Agent Barton. Gnomes are nasty little creatures, but your little tries to dismiss of them are very entertaining.”

Looking round was pointless, if Loki didn’t want to be seen, then you shouldn’t even bother. Still Steve could try to talk to him and…

“Loki, please. I’m getting tired and I just want to go home. All of us. Could you please help us?” Bucky sounded calm, asking a simple favour and Steve had no time to figure out how he felt about that. The gnomes surrounding him began to screech, so loudly he had to cover his ears. Some invisible force picked them up, let them float in the air and finally tossed them away. Steve couldn’t make out where they were going, they just disappeared into thin air. Thor had said that they could only have gotten here through a fissure between the dimensions. Probably Loki had sent them right back now. Hopefully.

“Brother! This is an evil jest!”

Even Steve had a hard time not to laugh when he realised that Loki hadn’t let all the gnomes disappear. A couple of them were still tantalizing Thor, one of them pulling at his air and Clint’s laughter was downright contagious. That’s what you got for pissing off Loki.

Tony was landing next to him. “Cool. Can we go home now?”

 ***

Steve had spent the afternoon outside of the tower. It felt like the first time in ages and Steve was absolutely enjoying himself. After checking out two museums he had never visited before Steve got himself a hotdog and slowly returned home. Actually he didn’t feel too good about admitting it, but it had been so much fun to get away from everybody else for a little bit. Especially after all the drama that was going on. He shouldn’t probably think this way, but damn it, those last days had been strenuous. Even for him.

Back in the tower Steve was looking forward to lie down on the couch or his bed and read the newspaper or a nice book. Just relaxing and not thinking about anything. At this time there was a good chance that most people were still out and Steve would be able to sneak in without anyone seeing him.

Maybe he wasn’t going to read after all. After stepping out of the elevator and casually looking out of the window Steve asked himself how he had been able to live here for such a long time without ever trying to bring this marvellous view to paper. The city looked beautiful and calm… perhaps Steve was already too used to see it in peril or trouble. Yesterday he had done some sketches, so his block was most probably still in the common room. Tony never missed an opportunity to complain about Steve leaving his stuff all around the tower. The two single times that happened. Without Steve this whole apartment would be in a permanent state of chaos and not because of Loki.

Already picturing his new work in his mind Steve walked straight into the common room and by now he really should have known better. Then again, he would have expected them to do something like this in one of their room, for their privacy’s sake. It wasn’t that bad and couldn’t even be compared to what they had done in the elevator. This was almost… cute. They were sitting next to each other on the couch, only their hands touching and… yes, they were kissing. Playful and sweet. So much about Steve’s nice, relaxing day.

Some of his luck was still left, because Bucky instantly noticed him and slowly pulled back. He didn’t actually blush, but looked clearly uncomfortable. “Uhm, sorry…”

Loki raised an eyebrow even after seeing Steve. “Why are you apologizing? He walked in on us…”

“This is the common living room, Loki.”

“You Midgardians have a strange concept of privacy.” Loki rolled his eyes and Steve desperately hoped that he wasn’t the one blushing now. “No, it’s okay… you guys can do that anywhere you want…”

Bucky slightly shook his head. “Uhm… he thought that everybody was out, so… sorry.”

The look that Loki was giving him made Steve’s skin crawl, so he quickly said something. Anything. “Tony isn’t here either?”

“No, Stark has a date.”

What? That was just as shocking as watching them kiss. Tony didn’t have dates. He went out, brought home a girl or a guy and had a one night stand. Steve couldn’t remember that he had ever mentioned a date. “Really?”

Bucky confirmed Loki’s statement while putting an arm around his shoulder. He did it so casually, like he wasn’t even thinking about it. Most probably he wasn’t. “Yeah, he said that before he left… He definitely looked like he was going on a date. For once he was dressed like a decent human being… not in one of these terrible shirts.”

Loki smirked at that and Steve couldn’t help but notice how soft his features turned when he was looking at Bucky. That was good, wasn’t it?

“Cool. Good for him. I’ll leave you guys alone in a second. I just need to fetch my sketch block.” Steve smiled at them and walked around the couch table, his block was lying on one of the chairs. He was just going to grab it and then he was going to go to his room, not thinking about this awkward moment.

“You don’t have to leave, Captain.” Loki didn’t sound like he meant it, but they all knew that Steve had no intention to stay anyway. Grabbing his block Steve shook his head. “No, thanks. I want to do some sketches. See you later.”

Yes, he was pretty much running away, but who could blame him? Dropping on his bed after grabbing a pencil Steve started drawing. Stuff a kid would tell him to draw. A car, a flower, a star… anything to give his hand something to do, something to concentrate on. It wasn’t like he hadn’t seen them kissing before. Of course they were kissing, they were a couple, weren’t they? Kissing wasn’t the only thing they were doing. No, Steve shouldn’t be thinking about that. Maybe it was about time to change something.

Loki and Bucky were a couple.

Tony was having a date.

Thor was with Jane.

Clint and Natasha had something going on… at least Steve thought so. Sometimes. Who could ever be really sure about that? Steve should give that some thought…

Or better not. He had come up here to draw and he would do just that. Scraping the pencil over the paper Steve pretty much let his hand do what it wanted. Creating a picture completely on its own and Steve froze when he realized that this drawing looked a lot like Bucky and Loki. Kissing.

Damn it.

Why couldn’t he just pretend that it didn’t bother him? His subconscious should really give him a break. Uttering a sigh Steve ripped that sheet from his block and crumbled it up. Steve should really find something else to think about, his life couldn’t be all about the new relationship of his best friend. That just wasn’t healthy. Hell, even Tony was moving on. Tony.

Tony who had been watching them through a camera.

Steve was supposed to be the reasonable guy and now he wasn’t able to deal with a simple kiss. Not even the first that he had seen. Hell, they were going to kiss so much more.

Mumbling under his breath Steve started to draw again. Not New York. Not a kissing couple. Just a random person, sitting on a bench, reading a book. Nothing. Giving his fingers something to do.

When he was almost done with the sketch Steve was interrupted by a knock at the door. Probably Tony had come back from his date and wanted to brag. Or he had also spotted Loki and Bucky in a compromising position. Steve rolled his eyes at himself. Another thought that he clearly shouldn’t have. “Come in.”

The door was being opened and Steve almost dropped the pencil.

“Hey. You’re busy?” Bucky was all smiles, his eyes so bright and hadn’t Steve wanted all the time to see him like this? When it had been so hard for him to leave Hydra behind, to fit in, to find his place. Judging by the look on Bucky’s face that seemed so far way. Which was wonderful. “No, I’m not. I’m just… What are you doing here? I thought you were the one who’s busy?”

When the words were out Steve hoped that he had made them sound neutral. Anyway, they had felt strangely bitter in his mouth. If Bucky agreed on that, he didn’t let it show. “No, Loki wanted to check out some… Medieval notes on magic that only can by found in some Scandinavian library. They just opened, so he went there.”

Slightly confused Steve raised his eyebrows. “Since when does Loki care about opening times?”

“He doesn’t… He wanted to steal them, but I told him that wasn’t okay. He didn’t care too much about that either, but I guess he wanted to avoid a longer discussion about why it wouldn’t be okay…” Still smiling Bucky shrugged and closed the door behind him. “What are you doing?”

At first Steve only answered with a shrug. For some reason he felt uncomfortable. Which had never been the case in Bucky’s presence. “I’m trying to get some sketches done, but… I’m not doing a really good job.”

Casually Bucky sat down next to him, leaning forward to look at the drawing. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. It looks good. You don’t even have a model here. Someone you know? Or did you just make that up?”

Steve shrugged. “No, I just… tried to think something to draw. I didn’t come up with anything so…”

“I like it… and it’s nice that you have something that you can do. Something you like, something normal.” Bucky paused for a second. “I think I need something like that…”

Finally Steve felt a smile forming on his lips. “You mean you need a hobby?”

“Yeah, if you want to call it like that. Everyone around here does or likes doing something that isn’t somehow Avengers related or has something to do fighting… You draw, Loki reads, Thor… What does for do? Except for hating my guts?”

Instantly Steve felt as if he had to say something, to tell him that the situation wasn’t as dire as he made it sound. Yes, Thor was being stupid over this, but he was still a good guy… and he wasn’t from around here. It was important to keep these things in mind. “Thor doesn’t hate your guts. He’s not making it easy, that’s right, but… he comes from another world. I guess it’s normal that things are a bit difficult.”

“Loki isn’t from this world either, he’s dealing just fine with it.”

“That’s something different and you know that. He’ll be okay.” Steve put on his most reassuring smile and hoped that he was convincing. He didn’t really feel like he was. Not at all.

Bucky’s first reaction was a shrug, then he let out a sigh, as if he knew that Steve was right, but he didn’t really want to admit it. “Yeah, you’re right… I’m just growing awfully tired of this. It’s none of his business… also Loki gets incredibly upset about this…” There was a short hesitation and Bucky met his eyes. So expressive and soft. Steve saw something else in them too and it was so easy to read. Bucky regretted bringing this up. “Sorry, that’s pretty much all everyone talks about. I really shouldn’t annoy you with this anymore.”

Immediately Steve tried to convince him of the opposite. Bucky should always feel like he could come to him with these kinds of problems. Even if Steve did indeed feel uncomfortable with it. “You are not annoying me and you can always…”

“Steve, don’t do that.” Bucky shook his head, suddenly sounding so serious. “I shouldn’t have started talking about it in the first place. It’s not fair to you. That was completely inconsiderate…”

In his whole life Steve had never seen a more obvious bad conscience and that wasn’t okay. Also Steve didn’t want to be the person Bucky felt sorry for. Bucky had never done that, not once. Not even when Steve had been this little, frail person who hadn’t been able to stand up for himself. They had been best friends and not once Bucky had pitied him. Why was he doing it now?

“Don’t. Just don’t. You can tell me whatever you want. Like you always have. You’re my best friend…”

The look on Bucky’s face didn’t change and that only made things worse. “It’s not the same and you know that. I just… I would have never thought that we would end up in a situation like this… Then again, considering what we’ve both been through, it’s not even the weirdest thing that has happened….” Finally, he smiled and Steve did the same. “Yes, that’s definitely true… Look, Bucky, I’ll be honest… I’m having a hard time with this. It’s not something I would have ever expected and… I like Loki, but that hasn’t always been like this. Before the spell I… I thought that things would turn out quite… differently. I definitely didn’t picture you with Loki.”

It hurt saying that. Until now Steve hadn’t addressed it so openly, it made him feel vulnerable and exposed. This was Bucky though, so it was okay, Steve had nothing to hide from him.

“Neither did I…” Bucky’s voice was hardly more than a whisper and there shouldn’t be that moment of awkward silence between them. They had never known such a thing. “I would just like for… things to become normal again. Or for the very first time. I’m sure we can get used to all of this… Hell, we even got used to the 21st century and I got the feeling that… now things could finally work out for all of us. At least I hope so.”

Such hopeful, beautiful eyes and yet Steve couldn’t help to utter a sigh. Only a few weeks ago he hadn’t thought he would ever see Bucky again like this. Confident and happy. Not quite the way Steve had thought it would happen, but in the end that didn’t matter, right?

“That would be great… although I’m not really sure if I’m already used to the 21st century.”

“You’ve already played a video game and Clint said that there’s not more to it.”

“Sometimes Clint’s ideas are even crazier than Tony’s. Talking about the 21st century… you want to go down to the gym and play some basketball. I think the rules haven’t changed since the 40ies.”

His proposal was met with an eager nod and Steve thought that maybe everything was indeed going to work out.

 ***

Together they spent over three hours in the gym and only then Steve realised that this was their first time doing something like that. Back in the day that would have been impossible. Now it seemed that they were equally matched and their game turned out to be a lot of fun. When they called it quits Steve returned to his room, taking a shower and he felt good. Better than he had in quite a while.

Stepping out of the shower Steve took a look at himself in the mirror and found his face smiling at him. Yes, he looked good. So it turned out a good day after all. After wrapping a towel around his hips Steve left the bathroom and almost jumped out of his skin. It wasn’t easy to surprise him, but the last person Steve had expected to find in his room was Tony.

Tony sitting cross-legged on his bed, his typical smirk dancing around his lips and he was clearly relishing the fact that his presence had startled Steve. “Well, hello there. Damn it, did you swallow a washboard? That’s not normal! Does your body consist of anything else than muscle? How can you even move?”

Ignoring that comment Steve crossed his arms in front of his chest. “What do you want, Tony?”

“Just came back and I’m already bored. Jarvis said that pretty much nobody is home and I felt like company, so I came over. You wanna have a drink and we watch some sports TV? Only if you put on a shirt though… and some pants. Being in the same room with you makes me rapidly lose my self-confidence and I have lots of it.”

Steve felt like he was missing some piece of information here. “I thought you had a date? You’re already back?”

Tony pulled a face. “Nah, complete waste of time. I was bored out of my mind, but since I’m a gentleman I didn’t leave earlier. So? What about the drinks? And for god’s sake, put on a shirt!”

“This is my room and you didn’t knock. But yeah, I would like that. Give me five minutes.”

“Awesome.” Tony smirked brightly and got up from the bed. “I’ll see you in five.”

Only three minutes later Steve joined Tony in the living room, fully dressed this time. Tony had already turned on the TV, watching a soccer game. “I know, very un-American, but nothing else was on. You’ll have to deal with it.”

Sometimes Tony got incredibly on Steve’s nerves. This was one of these moments. “Just because I happen to be Captain America that doesn’t mean that I can’t watch international sports.”

“Then get your ass on the couch and grab a beer. I think the team in the white shorts is winning, but I have no clue.” Tony grinned at him while Steve was sitting down next to him and took one of the bottles that were placed on the couch table. “The ones who score more goals are winning.”

“I thought the ones who spend more time lying on the floor and complaining to the referee. Seriously, what is this? What a bunch of pansies…” Taking a sip from his beer Tony rolled his eyes at the screen and Steve couldn’t help but chuckle. “It’s a strategic sport… and they aren’t supposed to lie on the ground that much. Usually that’s a bad sign. I can’t believe you’ve never watched a soccer game.”

“I’m more the football kind of guy. Oh, come on! They are supposed to put the ball into the goal, right? How could he miss!”

Steve had to admit that he was amused, but there was something strange about this. Tony was talking even faster than usual and Steve wondered if he tried to distract himself from something. “You’re not going to see your date again?”

Not tearing his eyes off the screen Tony shrugged. “Nah. Like I said, it was a bore. I knew from the very first second that Tony wasn’t going to get any action.”

No, Steve shouldn’t feel judgmental. “Oh, so it was that kind of date…”

That was enough for Tony to turn his head and look at him. “Yeah? So? Problem with that.”

“Of course not. That’s none of my business. I was just wondering… No, it’s really none of my business.”

“You know, you should have that kind of date. That would help you to get rid of some of the tension. After all everybody is getting some but you.” Tony wiggled his eyebrows at him and now Steve had every right in the world to feel judgmental. “Excuse me?!”

“What?” Tony looked honestly confused, as if he couldn’t understand why Steve would feel offended. “I haven’t seen Clint or Natasha the whole day and we both know what that means. Thor is away to see Jane. I don’t have to take a wild guess about what Loki and Bucky are doing.”

Damn, Steve should have known better than to come here. His good mood was being ruined. “They aren’t doing anything. Loki is out.”

“Ah? But it’s Saturday night, he’ll come back and they’ll go out. They’ll go out, have dinner, Loki will do some magic shit that isn’t creepy for a change, but romantic. Then they’ll come home and they’ll fuck like bunnies. You’re the one who isn’t getting any.”

It was childish but Steve couldn’t help himself. “Well, you just told me about your date. So I’m definitely not the only one.”

“Now that was just mean.”

“You started it.” Yes, definitely childish. Steve needed to stop this, so he took a deep breath. “I think this shouldn’t be a conversation topic anymore. I had a talk with Bucky and I’m fine with how things are now. They are dating. There is also a chance that it might work out between them. Deal with it.”

For a moment Tony just looked at him, his expression almost empty and Steve expected him to voice a witty remark any second. A stupid comment, something of that nature. Well, that didn’t happen. Instead Tony pouted. “Fine… we’re acting like adults… They’re our friends, we’re happy and content for them.”

“Exactly.”

They fell silent and the room was only filled with the sound of the TV. For about 30 seconds. “You still need to get laid though.”

“God, Tony!”

“See, that’s what I’m talking about. You’re anything but relaxed. I need something to do anyway. I’m going to get you a date.”

“When you say date, I hope you don’t mean hooker.”

“Uhm…”

“Tony!”

“What? I just don’t want you to be disappointed.”

Steve shook his head and gave Tony his darkest look. “I’m going to ignore the last minute of this conversation.”

“Fine, but I warn you. I’m planning on getting completely shitfaced. So you’ll have a lot more of ignoring to do.”

Yes, Steve was already looking forward to that.

Chapter Text

“No, no, no. You got it all wrong. Saruman is the one with the long white beard. Saron is the big, evil eye. How can you get this wrong?”

Steve sighed and didn’t even try to understand why Tony was so adamant about this. They should have continued watching sports. “I still don’t get it. What is an eye doing with a ring?”

“Argh!” Tony actually started to pull his hair. “That’s the main point of the film.”

“Well, then they’re doing a bad job explaining it.”

“Come on! The ring can’t go back to Saron, because he will give him back his power and then he’ll be able to take a physical form!”

Again Steve raised an eyebrow. “He’s an eye, he’s not able to take the ring.”

Tony’s mouth dropped open and Steve knew that he should have remained silent. “Which part of ‘The ring will help him to take on a physical form’ didn’t you get?! Come on, Cap, that’s general knowledge. Everybody knows that.”

“The fact that Madrid is the capital of Spain is general knowledge. This ring thing isn’t.”

“We need to update your knowledge on fantasy movies. So pay attention and watch.”

“Can’t we just watch the Wizard or Oz?”                                                        

Tony actually started whining and threw some of his popcorn at Steve. “You are hopeless. Why am I even putting up with you?”

“Because your date sucked.”

“Yeah, right. This is not a date, it sucks anyway. We gotta spice it up a little bit. I’m getting another drink.” Steve couldn’t help but to roll his eyes when Tony got up and walked over to the bar to get himself bourbon. As if he hadn’t had already enough of them. Picking up the bottle Tony suddenly stopped mid-motion. “Oh, I’ve got it.”

Why was Steve having a terrible feeling about this? “Yeah?”

“We’re watching Lord of the Rings and I have all the booze in the world! It’s time for a drinking game!”

What was Steve even doing here? “Tony…”

“No, this is brilliant. You take a shot every time there is a close-up of the ring or a panorama shot of the scenery. The director fucking loves New Zealand, it’s almost a fetish. Then we’ll drink when Frodo does something lame or Gandalf gives some serious speech… And when there’s a gay moment between Frodo and Sam, so every time they’re on screen. Every time somebody pulls a sword or whenever Gollum says ‘My precious’. Alcohol poisoning is guaranteed! Oh, this is awesome.”

Rubbing his temples Steve decided to give up on him. “Tony, this is completely stupid and irresponsible and… I can’t get drunk.”

Instantly Tony’s face fell. “Yeah… that sucks. Completely unacceptable. Jarvis, tell Barton to move his ass over here. I can’t get drunk alone. Don’t tell Thor though, that man drinks my whiskey as if it was soda and that’s a sin.”

Steve frowned when Tony suggested that Clint would join them, but he wouldn’t complain. Another person could only help to make Tony’s drunken ramblings more bearable. At least Steve wouldn’t have to drink with them.

“You’re still going to play with us.”

“Why do you think that Clint is even going to play with you?”

This question was answered exactly one minute later. “Lord of the Rings drinking game? Awesome! We’re so in!”

‘We’ turned out to be Clint and Bucky. Tony’s eyes nearly popped out and Steve had to smirk at that. Apparently Clint and Bucky had been chatting when Jarvis had informed them about Tony’s little party and Bucky had decided to join in. A pleasant surprise, at least for Steve.

“So how does this work?”

Tony’s tone was indeed a bit sour when he explained the rules again and handed out shot glasses. “No cheating will be allowed, are we clear? Whoever skips a single shot gets to tell Natasha that she looks fat in her catsuit.”

Steve didn’t comment on that, just looked the glass in his hand and hoped that the whiskey would at least taste good. After all in a few minutes he would be the only sober person around three drunken Avengers. He was so lucky.

“I love the Lord of the Rings. I’ve read all the books and I love the actor they chose for Saruman.”

What? Steve didn’t know that. “You read them? When? They were published in the fifties, weren’t they?”

Bucky nodded casually. “Yeah, Loki told me if I couldn’t sleep I should try to read instead. They’re good. You should read them too.”

“Or you should all just shut up and watch the movie, so we can start getting drunk.” Tony was already starting to whine and Bucky smirked at Steve, shrugging lightly.

Well, Tony hadn’t been kidding about the alcohol poisoning. These crazy rules forced them to drink a shot pretty much every four minutes or less. Clint was the first one to point that out, while screwing his face up after downing the third shot. “Fuck, this is hard… I didn’t remember that they’re talking that much about that stupid ring. Hopefully nobody decides to attack the city, I’m not even sure how many of you are here…”

Oh, this was going to end badly, Steve was sure of it.

“That means we’re on our way. Good work, Barton. You’re a good drinking buddy, keep it up and… Oh, gay moment between Frodo and Sam! Gay moment between Frodo and Sam! That calls for another shot!”

Steve desperately tried to see what gay moment Tony was talking about, but when everybody was drinking, he just did the same.

“Wow… this stuff is really good…” Bucky licked his lips after the last shot, looking at the glass in his hand. Another opportunity for Tony to make another stupid comment. “What do you expect? I only and always have the best stuff. You just beat me at one single thing.”

Dangerous territory. Why couldn’t Tony just let it go? “Tony…” Steve mumbled his name and hoped that it sounded enough like a warning. A nice warning though.

“What? I’m just pointing out facts.”

Clint pulled a face. “Seriously people, we’re playing a drinking game here. Take it a bit more serious and… Hey, swords pulling!”

Everyone drank another shot and Steve let his eyes travel over his three friends. It was quite obvious that the effects of the alcohol were already kicking in. All of them seemed awfully relaxed, just lingering around on the couch. Somehow Steve thought if a fire was about to break out, they wouldn’t even get up from the couch. Sadly Steve was too much of a good person to just leave them behind.

“I don’t get that Aragon dude. That blonde chick is smoking hot and she kicks ass! Why is she so hung up about that elf check?” Clint seemed honestly confused about this and it made Steve realise that he had stopped paying attention to the movie. Or had he ever paid attention to it? Fantasy obviously wasn’t his cup of tea.

“Because dark-haired is hotter and they have the most fun.” Tony pointed out and Steve bit his lip. No comment. No comment.

“Oh come on, all she does is sitting around and cry. Sit around and cry. Sit around and cry. That’s so boring.” Clint was still complaining and Steve thought about reading the books someday, maybe then he would have an idea which woman they were talking about. It should have been easy, because there were only men on the screen.

“Well…” Bucky shifted, to get in a more comfortable position. “They’ve known each other for a very long time and I bet she didn’t just always sit around and cry… and it doesn’t matter when you like each other.”

“Yeah, when you like boring.”

“Okay, okay. You don’t get it.”

Again Tony snarled and he didn’t react at all when Steve nudged him with his elbow. “Could all of you guys just stop commenting on the Lord of the Rings when you obviously have no idea what you’re talking about? You’re supposed to get drunk, not to talk about it. Don’t analyse the fucking love story! It’s Lord of the Rings! It’s one of the few things where you don’t have to put up with stupid love stories!”

Clint started snickering, sipping on his beer. “Uhh… sore spot!”

“Oh, shut your fucking mouth!”

“Tony, you’re only proving my point.” Clint started laughing, but that quickly turned into a yelp when Tony kicked him. There, it was already getting violent. Steve knew why he didn’t like the Lord of the Rings.

Sighing softly Steve wanted to complain about that, but Bucky was faster than him. “Relax, it’s just a…”

“Oh, you shut up!” Suddenly Tony had all forgotten about his drinking game and the movie. “What are you even doing here? You have your own personal love story. And a hot god, a god, who is waiting in your bed! What the fuck are you doing here?”

Yes, Steve had seen it coming from a mile away, but that didn’t make it any less bad. Was it too much to ask for to spend a night in peace? At least Bucky was still looking calm. Why was he so calm? “I don’t have to spend every single minute with Loki and he isn’t waiting in bed. He’s out, collecting herbs for some spell. I don’t mind leaving though. If you don’t want me around…”

Bucky actually got up and so much was wrong with that. Steve shot Tony a glance that hopefully made sure that he was in deep trouble if he really let Bucky go now. This was serious, Steve had had enough of this stupid behaviour. He was about one damned comment away from screaming. What happened two seconds later though left Steve completely astonished.

Tony groaned loudly and for a very short moment his face was more expressive than it had ever been. Unfortunately Steve wasn’t able to tell if that was a good thing or not. “Oh, fuck this… get your ass back on this couch. You know what? I’m getting tired of acting like a dick and of being pissed off. It’s tiring. Hell, when you showed up here I instantly liked you more than I’ve ever liked Clint.”

“Fuck you too.”

“And most of the time you’re cooler than Steve. Not a very difficult task, I know…”

Not that Steve would ever reply the same way Clint had done, but nevertheless he narrowed his eyes at Tony. Yes, this was his way to apologize to Bucky, so Steve would do anything but interrupt him.

“Since Thor is crazy and Natasha is fucking scary… Bruce is awesome, no chance there… Loki likes you, which means you can’t be a complete tool… when it all comes down, you’re probably my third favourite Avenger. Loki doesn’t count. I’m naturally number 1. There, that’s it. I’m not going any further.” Tony nodded to himself and crossed his arms in front of his chest, making Steve think of a pouting child.

Steve didn’t quite know what to think, Clint was rolling his eyes and… Bucky smiled. That was the most important thing anyway. It had been a weird speech, but what else to expect from Tony. “Okay, thanks, Tony. That’s very… nice, I appreciate it. But you don’t want me to list my favourite Avengers now?”

“No need to do that.” Clint jugged another shot. “Loki does count, so number 1 is the one you’re screwing.”

Now Steve couldn’t hold back a frustrated groan and Bucky chuckled. “Loki doesn’t consider himself an Avenger. But I’m really glad you see it this way, Tony. I know it’s…”

“Hey, you wanna know how you can deepen our new-established friendship? By not talking and drinking. We’ve missed so many shots… Oh, I’ve got an idea!” Tony suddenly seemed so excited that he almost fell off the couch. Why was Steve having such a bad feeling about this? “We’ll make Steve drunk!”

What a surprise. “Tony, I told you before, it’s not possible.”

“Yeah, have you ever tried?”

It was amazing how quickly Clint forgot that Tony had insulted him only one minute ago. “Right, Cap. Have you ever tried?”

Unpleasant memory, but Bucky was sitting on the same couch as him, so Steve was feeling okay. “Once. Long time ago. In the forties.”

Tony dismissed the whole decade with a simple gesture. “Nah, booze got way better since then. Also, you give up way too easily. We still have a lot of movie left and I got all the liquor in the world. New rules, Steve has to drink two shots instead of one. Who’s all for it?”

Three hands instantly shot right into the air and Steve couldn’t help but feel offended. “Really, Buck?”

In response Bucky grinned and shrugged. “Hey, Tony says it’ll deepen our friendship. Gotta take one for the team.”

In the end Steve couldn’t care less. If they wanted to bond over alcohol, why not. It wasn’t like Steve could get drunk and if Tony wanted to waste a fortune in booze…

“Oh, close-up of the ring! Refill!”

It was simply impossible to get used to Tony’s mood swings, but Steve was happy to see him with a smile on his lips. Especially when Bucky winked at him. There was hope after all.

During the next half hour Steve got asked over a thousand times if he was already feeling drunk. No, he wasn’t, but it was quite easy to tell that he was the only person in this room who could still say that. Not a bad thing though.

“This movie is totally racist.”

“What? You are drunk!”

“Totally and this movie is totally racist.” Clint nodded to give emphasis to his words. That didn’t help much though, because they were lightly slurred. For some reason Steve almost thought it was endearing.

Bucky had both feet propped on the couch table, his head lazily tilted to the side. “Why don’t you explain it?”

“Oh, come on, it’s fucking obvious. When Gandalf was grey, he was an ordinary wizard. But as soon as he’s white, he’s the great, powerful, ass kicker. White supremacy. That’s racist.”

Steve had to good chuckle over that, while Tony stared at the screen with squinted eyes. “Well, he is very white.”

“He was grey before, not black. So it’s not racist.” Bucky yawned and instantly sighed when the game wanted them to take another shot. “Ahh… so… where were we?”

“We just established that this is the most racist film ever.”

“Yeah, the orcs are considered evil just because they’re orcs.”

“You gotta admit they are fucking evil and cannibals. Never trust a cannibal.”

“How many cannibals do you know?”

“I met one once in a bar. Scared the shit out of me.”

“You’ve never met a cannibal.”

“Wanna bet?”

“You know who’s a cannibal? Tony. The last girl that stumbled out of here looked like he had tried to eat her up alive.”

“I just know what women want.”

“Women want to be eaten up alive?”

“Yap. Oh! My precious! My precious! My precious! Shot! Shot!”

Steve was still playing the good, little boy and drank his two glasses. He could be drinking water, it would have the same effect. It wasn’t like he enjoyed watching three grown men getting drunk, but seeing everybody so relaxed and having fun was quite refreshing. Especially when they erupted into loud laughter and Tony patted Bucky’s shoulder.

Alcohol did bring people together.

“You know what I think…” Tony mumbled tiredly, his eyes suddenly fixed on Steve. “I think that Steve is completely drunk.” He nearly fell off the couch when he shifted lightly and Steve bit his lip to suppress the laughter that wanted to come out. “I don’t think so, Tony.”

For some strange reason Tony got support from the last person Steve had expected that from. “No, no, no. He’s got a point. You haven’t said anything in a long time. You’re trying to hide that you’ve got a little buzz.” Bucky made the most serious face, but it just looked ridiculous, because he was so obviously drunk.

“Yeah, Steve just can’t hold his liquor.” Clint agreed, before frowning. “Does this count as a gay moment? I’m not sure. Hey, you guys are experts on that, on a scale from one to ten. How gay is this?”

“Why are you asking us?”

“Because you’re screwing a very male Norse god and you wanted to screw that very same, very male Norse god. We should call him! He’d know if that was a gay moment!”

“It’s Frodo and Sam, idiot. It can’t get gayer…”

“It wasn’t gay in the book though…”

“Don’t you watch Cinema Sins – The books don’t matter!”

“Huh?”

“Hey, I just got an idea for a new drinking game!”

“Oh, please no. I’m already feeling sick.”

“Great, that means we’re doing it right. Look at Steve, his face is totally green.”

Okay, yes, Steve had to admit that this was quite amusing, downright entertaining. During the next five minutes all of them stopped caring at which scenes they were supposed to drink, instead they suddenly seemed very tired and content.

Tony was stretching lazily on the couch, a drowsy smile dancing on his lips. “Look, those guys are just like us.”

Steve frowned softly, his eyes darting from the screen to his friends. Honestly, he didn’t see any resemblance.

“But their Clint is better. There, see how Legolas can slide down the stairs on a fucking shield? Why can’t you do that? I bet it’s the long hair.”

Although Clint seemed to be more asleep than awake, he still felt the urge to disagree. “That little trick? I can do that in a heartbeat…. and fire more arrows while doing that.”

“Show off. You are Legolas’ bitch.”

“You are just envious, because there’s a badass archer in this movie. Everybody is so badass that they don’t need a fucking armour.”

“I don’t need an armour in this movie. I’m Aragon.”

“You’re not Aragon. Steve is Aragon.”

“Then I’m Gandalf.”

“You can’t be Gandalf. You’re not a wizard. Loki is Gandalf.”

Laughing softly Steve shook his head. “You are not going to start arguing about that, right?”

Bucky had his eyes closed, but still smirked. “Nope. We’re totally cool… as soon as Clint pulls off that stunt with the shield that Legolas just did.”

Within a heartbeat Tony seemed to be completely awake. “See! That’s the reason why I’ve made you my third favourite Avenger. Continue like this and you might get into the top two.” Steve couldn’t believe his eyes, but Tony actually did an excited little clap. “Clint! Get up! Do it! Now!”

Clint’s first reaction was a yawn, he seemed incredibly unimpressed. “I don’t have a shield.”

Oh no, please don’t. Why was Bucky looking at him? With that grin. “Steve’s got a shield.”

“No way.”

Groaning Tony straightened up, looking pleadingly at Steve. “Come on, Steve! Be cool!”

“You’re not getting my shield to use it to reenact a scene from Lord of the Rings.”

“Killjoy.”

“So lame.”

“Has he always been like this?”

“Absolutely.” Bucky had this grin on his lips that made him look like a punk. “He always backed out on having fun, because he was too busy acting grown up and being responsible.”

Fine, until now this had been really funny, but now Steve felt the urge to defend himself. “Yeah and that saved you from getting arrested more than once.”

In response Tony huffed and murmured another “Killjoy” before nudging Bucky with his elbow. “He clearly was dead weight on your back. How did you put up with that?”

“No idea…”

“Hey, I think it’s great that you finally seem to be getting along, but that doesn’t mean you have to team up against me.”

“Who is teaming up? I’m just pointing out the fact that you made my third favourite Avenger miss out on a lot of fun… We gotta make up on that. Steve, give us your shield or I’m going to put on the suit.” Tony looked dead serious, while Clint and Bucky couldn’t stop snickering. Too bad Steve couldn’t get drunk. “I will say this only once. Nobody is going to touch my shield. If you want to do something stupid, make up something else.”

“Come on, Steve! It’s about showing Clint how inferior he’s too Legolas! There has never been a more important task in the history of mankind!”

It continued like this for another hour, then Steve took a little break and went to the bathroom. When he came back they had decided that a good way to test Clint’s abilities would be to shoot arrows at Bucky who was supposed to catch them with his metal arm. Everything about this idea was ludicrous, but it was made even worse due to the fact that all of them were completely wasted. Bucky didn’t even get an opportunity to catch an arrow, because Clint only hit the ceiling and all three of them needed whole ten seconds to figure out where the arrow went. It was hilarious. Dangerous and irresponsible, but hilarious. Steve decided that there was nothing he could do about this. Well, he was laughing, but that was all.

Another 60 minutes later it was all over and Steve had to face a rather grave challenge. How to get three completely drunk idiots off the couch and into their beds? Maybe he should ask Jarvis if he could have photo of this scene. Clint was lying on his stomach, his feet dangling over the edge of the couch, his mouth wide open and Steve could hear him snore softly. Quite a sight, but the real attraction was Tony and Bucky. They both had fallen asleep more less still sitting next to each other, Tony’s head resting on Bucky’s shoulder. It was impossible to not smile at this. Hopefully they wouldn’t have forgotten about their reconciliation by the time they woke up. If this was the case Steve just had to make sure that they would stay drunk for life.

“By the Norns, what happened here?”

Steve almost jumped out of his skin when Loki suddenly was standing right next to him. Out of nowhere. Some things you could never get used to. The Asgardian looked surprisingly casual, wearing jeans and a green sweater. One of is eyebrows was raised suspiciously high and he tilted his head to get a better look at the sight Steve had just been contemplating.

“Hey… you are already back from… what you have been doing…” Steve smiled coyly and Loki finally bothered to look at him. His features were relaxed, good sign. “Already? There are only three hours left till sunrise. What happened? They seem…”

“Drunk. They’re completely wasted. All free of them.”

“I wanted to say peaceful, but this description seems equally accurate.” No, Steve wasn’t dreaming, there was an honest, amused smile dancing on Loki’s lips. Why not telling him the whole story when he was already here? “It looks like… alcohol is the best way to sort out one’s problems and it’s quite helpful to unite people. Watching that happen was something…”

Loki hummed softly. “James and Stark?”

“Yes. Apparently Bucky is now Tony’s third favourite Avenger.”

A silent laugh passed Loki’s lips. “Let me guess, Stark is his own number 1?”

“Exactly.”

They shared another smile before Loki turned serious. “So they settled their differences? By which I mean did Stark stop being stupid for once?”

Steve definitely did hope so. “It definitely looked like it. Tony was being… mean, Bucky called him out on it and they decided that they wouldn’t over something so stupid like…” Realising what he was about to say Steve quickly bit his lip, but he was in luck, because Loki seemed amused by his embarrassment. “Like me? Then we definitely should be glad that they’re done with that. Do you intent to let them sleep here, Captain?”

“Honestly… I was just thinking about how to get them off the couch.” Steve shrugged and Loki turned back to the three guys that would have a hell of a hangover the next morning. “I can take care of that.” Casually Loki snapped his fingers and Clint and Tony just disappeared. By now Steve was used to see a lot of magic regularly, but this was making him uncomfortable. “Uhm… where did you send them?”

“Be reassured, Captain. They will wake safely in their beds.”

Now Steve was feeling stupid for asking. Yet there was still Bucky. The sudden lack of Tony’s weight against him obviously pulled him from his sleep, he was blinking against the soft light of the room. For some reason Steve half expected Loki to snap him away too. None of that happened. Loki approached Bucky, carefully sliding an arm around his upper body. Bucky blinked again, tilting his head to look at Loki. “Gandalf?”

Although he was trying really hard Steve couldn’t hold back a little laugh and he heard Loki’s sigh. “I’m not going to ask…”

Gently Loki pulled Bucky on his feet, steadying him. “Let’s get you to bed… you should at least sleep comfortable… your head will kill you in the morning.”

Said head was resting now on Loki’s shoulder and Steve found that he was surprisingly okay with that. Loki had this warm expression on his face, something Steve had only seen a few times before. All these times it had been connected to Bucky. He was in good hands, Loki wouldn’t ruin this and he would take care of him.

Also Bucky might be drunk and half asleep, since Bucky had joined their team Steve hadn’t seen him accepting this level of closeness. It was alright. It was good.

“Good night, Cap… thanks for taking care of the drunken idiots…”

“Anytime…”

 ***

Breakfast the next morning was a very quiet affair. Clint’s forehead was resting against the tabletop, Tony held his head in his hands, both not moving a muscle. Tony hissed every now and then when Steve chewed too loudly on his cereals. No, Steve wasn’t gloating… Well, maybe a little bit.

Bucky and Loki came in together and after sitting down Bucky instantly mimicked their position from last night, resting his head on Loki’s shoulder. Nobody said a word, Tony raised his head a little bit to greet them with a silent nod. The movement caused him to wince and he looked back down.

“Morning. You want some cereal?” The question was only addressed at Loki, who smiled and took the box that Steve offered him. “Gladly. Thanks.”

Loki reaching out caused Bucky’s head to slip a little and he let out a whine. “You forced me to leave the bed. Now the least you can do is to hold still and let me sleep… your shoulder is comfortable…”

Steve didn’t miss the little smile on Loki’s lips and it was all good.