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The lines, here are written

Chapter Text

Take this palm, follow the lines here are written
And script out the rest of your life...

Loki carefully turned another page and listened. Thor was still there, standing on the doorway, his breathing loud in the quiet room, but he hadn’t moved or tried to interrupt his brother's reading, unlike he usually did.

Loki wondered how long he could keep his brother there, but curiosity got the better of him.

“Don’t just stand there, come in and have a seat,” he said without looking up from his book.

“Thank you, brother.” Thor let himself fall on a chair and gave an uninterested look at his brother’s room. “I have just been talking to mother.”

“Ah.” Loki looked up at last. Yes, the sleeves of Thor’s second-best tunic were irreparably wrinkled around the cuffs, as always that he twisted them around his fingers while listening to things he didn’t want to listen. “What did she say?”

Thor didn’t answer immediately. He gnawed on his bottom lip, tapped his fingers on his knee and pretended to be interested on a tapestry which had hung above the fireplace for at least three hundred years.

Now Loki was definitely intrigued.

“Well?” he demanded. “What was it?”

“She wants me to marry Sif,” Thor blurted out, looking profoundly unhappy.

Loki stared at his brother.

“Is that it?”

“Why, you think it’s a small matter?!” asked Thor sullenly.

“Well, yes.” Loki shrugged. “You are going to end up marrying her anyway.”

Thor gave him a disbelieving look. Loki raised an eyebrow, looked down at his brother’s left wrist (covered by a leather vambrace), then looked up again.

Thor blushed and looked away.

“You aren’t supposed to know those things, brother,” he grumbled.

Loki shrugged; as if it’d been hard to spot the way Thor had of looking at Sif, or how he fidgeted with his vambraces when talking to her. It had been no more difficult than guessing the reason behind Sif’s increased belligerence when Thor was watching her spar. Sentiment. He wrinkled his nose and turned to his upset brother again.

“Don’t you want to marry her?” he asked instead.

“Of course I do.” Thor looked down, looking like a sad puppy; that look might work with Frigga, but Loki fancied himself impervious to it. “Just… not yet.”

Loki snorted inelegantly and didn’t bother to cover his smirk when Thor turned to glare at him.

“Did you tell that to mother?” he asked, sitting back to better enjoy his brother’s discomfort.

Thor glared at him. Loki sniggered.

“Maybe you should have,” he said helpfully. “It’s known that she gave father many years to sow his wild oats before they got married.”

“You shouldn’t listen to women’s gossip, brother,” Thor said -all affronted dignity-, standing up; he hesitated on his way to the door. “Surely mother will wait until I am made king, don’t you think?”

‘If,’ thought Loki savagely. ‘If you are made king, you big oaf, not when’. But his thoughts had the taste of defeat, and he smiled instead.

“Not even mother could get Sif to marry you right away,” he said. “Not until she has beheaded a frost giant to decorate her bride trunk and skinned a bilgesnipe for the bed covers, I should think.”

Thor’s lips twitched in a smile.

“You better grow to love Sif, brother. Sooner or later she will be your sister too, and you must welcome her into the family as I will welcome whoever has their name etched on your wrist.”

Loki managed a weak smile, but it didn’t matter, because Thor was leaving anyway, his shoulders looser, his posture more at ease.

Once the door had closed behind his brother and he was alone, Loki looked down at his wrist, covered by a soft black leather vambrace; he didn’t need to loosen it to know what was underneath.

Nothing. A perfect stretch of flawless, unmarked skin.

He remembered going to Frigga, little more than a toddler, and asking about the leather bracelet he’d been forbidden to take off, even though it rubbed his delicate skin raw; his mother had smoothed a herbal ointment over the reddened skin, wrapped a silk bandage around his wrist, and then fastened the bracelet again, over Loki’s tearful protests.

“You must always wear it, and never take it off where someone can see,” she told him, carrying him out into her garden; Loki had stopped crying at the sight of the flowers.

“But why?”

Frigga had sat down with him on the edge of a fountain, and told him the story of how, long ago, a magician, after a long life lived alone with his magic, had come to regret his solitude, and had turned all his knowledge to make sure that everyone else in the world would know that there was someone out there for them.

“But why don't I have anything?” Loki had asked, looking at his bandaged wrist and the hateful bracelet.

Frigga was silent for a long time.

“I don't know, little one,” she answered at last, pulling him onto her lap to hug him close. “I don't know.”


By the time he was twelve, it became obvious that the writing in Steve's wrist wasn't going to become any clearer.

Steve agonised over it for many nights before showing it to Bucky one day after school; it took much swearing of secrecy and looking over their shoulders to make sure they were absolutely alone, and only then did Steve loosen the worn leather strap he wore around his wrist and showed his best friend his soulmate's name: a long line of symbols that almost wrapped around his wrist.

“... maybe it's in Chinese?” Bucky said after a long moment.

Steve had seen enough Chinese writing around Sunset Park to know it wasn't, but Bucky's answer opened a new possibility.

Over the next couple of years, Steve consulted every encyclopaedia, dictionary and travel book he could get his hands on. He became familiar with the look of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Cyrillic, Arabic, and tens of other alphabets he hadn't suspected existed; he pored over books of Egyptian hieroglyphs, baffled the librarian asking for dusty cryptography manuals, and took a detour on his way to school to stare at the advertisements on a tiny kosher store next to the synagogue in Bensonhurst.

But none of the alphabets matched with the curvy, yet rigidly geometric designs on Steve’s wrist.

Then his mother fell ill, and all thoughts of soulmates flew out of the window as Steve had to take on more and more responsibilities at home to make up for her failing health, while trying to conceal from her his recurrent asthma attacks and the bruises from the unfortunately frequent fights he got into.

By the time Sarah Rogers passed away, Steve had resigned himself to living the rest of his life alone; even if he managed to find whoever it was that those symbols referred to (he thought guiltily about the worn paperback of ‘A Princess of Mars’ stuffed behind his school books), who would want him, sickly and poor as he was?

One of the first things he did, after Project Rebirth came to its hectic conclusion, was to lock the door to the room he’d been given and unwrap the stretchy bandage he’d been instructed to put around his wrist before the procedure.

The strange symbols were still there, unchanged, and there they remained all through the war, all through his awkward flirtation with Peggy (who had she lost, what was she avoiding that she opened herself up to Steve so much?), and all through that last, fateful flight.

After seventy years in the ice, the attitudes surrounding soulmates had, like everything else, changed. There were giant name-matching databases on the internet now, young people sometimes went about with their wrists uncovered (Steve had trouble not looking scandalised at the sight of their delicate wrist bones emerging from their sleeves with no bracelet or bandage to hide them), and there seemed to be a growing movement that said that soulmates were all very well, but you couldn’t let your life be decided by a name marked on your skin; marriages between non-soulmates were on the rise (and so were divorces, but Steve didn’t bother to point this out).

At least things for him personally were better. Everyone assumed that his soulmate had passed away while he was in the ice, and they tried not to broach the subject in his presence, or if they did, they didn’t expect him to join in the conversation.

He wasn’t the only one for whom the name on their wrist was a sore subject, anyway. Everyone had seen the name spanning The Hulk’s massive wrist and General Ross had made sure that his daughter went somewhere very distant to ‘weather the media storm’; Bruce's lips went tight at any mention of the subject, and he had refused Tony’s well-meant offers of kidnapping Betty and bringing her to Avengers Tower, and Pepper’s slightly more sane proposal of wielding public opinion to force General Ross’ hand into bringing Betty back.

Tony and Pepper, Pepper and Tony… proof that being soulmates didn’t mean idyllic happiness, or even a normal relationship. Steve tried not to pry, but some nights he went down to Tony’s workshop and sat with him, reading or sketching while Tony worked and talked at equal manic speed, smelling faintly of scotch and guilt.

Call it the intuition of someone who'd been in the same situation, but Steve knew that Natasha and Clint were not –in spite of what everyone else thought- soulmates; he didn’t begrudge them finding comfort in each other, however, not when Natasha’s eyes sometimes went so distant and so sad, her fingertips barely touching the weaponised cuff around her wrist, and not when Clint’s expression turned to stone (his eyes anxious and scared) with every new person he met.

Steve was surprised (or maybe not) to learn from Thor that Asgardians had pretty much the same system in place, and that his love waited for him back at home ‘for me to become a warrior worthy of her, friend Steve, for she is much braver and wiser than I’. What this mean for Doctor Foster, he didn’t want to speculate, but what it meant for Steve... it meant the possibility that the strange markings on his wrist belonged to someone in one of those strange worlds they were just learning about now, that -somewhere around a distant star- someone sat and looked at the letters on their wrist and wondered too.

But most of the time, Steve tried not to think about it. If he thought about it, he was seized with alternatively wild hope and crushing despair (because, even for a distant star, he had spent seventy years frozen), and that was much worse than the resignation he’d lived with most of his life.

So, he focused on work and let events unfold as they would, paying just a bit more attention that was strictly necessary when they got wind of some new dimension.

Fortunately, there wasn’t a lack of work to keep him distracted. It seemed as if supervillains, natural disasters, and alien visitors had a strict schedule to keep The Avengers busy. And when there weren’t any great world-threatening plants to thwart or giant alien spiders to fight, Loki made an appearance to throw things into further confusion.

Thor had arrived back from Asgard, soon after the Chitauri crisis, with what he called good and bad news. The ‘good’ news were that it had been established that Loki had acted on someone else’s orders, compelled by a combination of torture, mental compulsion, and the bribe of a promised reward; the bad news were that he who had used Loki as their pawn was still at large and likely still in full Earth-conquering mode.

Thor had given a halting account of the events that had led to Loki coming in contact with Thanos, of his fall from the Bifrost (Steve noticed how Tony winced in sympathy here), and of what they had found of Loki's treatment (half imprisonment and half brain-washing) at the hands of The Other.

After Thor finished speaking, there was silence around the table.

“So that’s why he lacked conviction,” said Coulson after a moment, looking thoughtful. “Poor bastard.”

Thor’s indignation over what he perceived as a slight on his mother’s honour was nothing compared to Clint’s indignation over his handler’s calm reaction.

“He tried to kill you!” he said, leaning forwards across the table; Coulson stared back pleasantly.

“And I tried to kill him. Neither took.” Coulson shrugged.

If Coulson, whose ‘death’ had come at Loki’s hand (and don’t you think that any of them had yet forgiven Fury about that dirty trick), accepted Thor’s explanation, how could The Avengers not? Only Clint looked still uncomfortable, but he refused to answer Steve's questions about it.

Thor hadn’t been back on Earth for a week when he heard news that Loki had escaped his confinement (‘if you knew he hadn’t meant to do anything, why did you throw him in prison anyway?’ ‘Father considered he should have died before giving in.’ ‘And I thought the American justice system left a lot to be desired…’). It didn’t exactly surprise anyone when Loki appeared in Moscow soon after that, invoked two great ice dragons to fight above the Kremlin, and disappeared while The Avengers did damage control on the ground and Tony tried to referee the dragon duel.

Still, Steve hesitated to classify Loki as a supervillian. He was insanely powerful, seemed to have a taste for chaos, and held a grudge against The Avengers, but he also tended to do things that were more spectacular than damaging, and he had no civilian deaths to his name after the Chitauri debacle. He seemed to be passing the time rather than actively trying to take over the world.

Tony downright liked Loki. He’d nearly fallen to his death laughing when Loki had turned a whole rush-hour Manhattan-street worth of cars into ice cream, and he’d declined to participate in the clean-up claiming that the melting ice cream might damage some of the suit’s electronics, choosing instead to sit on a high spot with Clint and shout advice. In the end, Steve had to go at it alone, since Bruce couldn’t find in himself to be angry at the sight of a hundred executives in silk-blend suits and high heels trying to fish their iPhones out of giant hunks of chocolate and strawberry ice cream.

So, when Steve found himself walking through a half-demolished building, he wasn’t particularly afraid. Annoyed, yes, but the building had been empty before Loki had hit it with the fluorescent green slime, and Steve had only gone inside because Fury wanted him to recover some files; he hadn’t been told what the files were actually about, and he suspected that it was because Fury knew Steve would disapprove, so he wasn’t too heartbroken to find his way blocked.

“Captain.” Loki, in full armour, appeared in a shimmer of green magic. He had a spear held loosely at his side (a different one than the one which had enslaved Clint); it looked made of ice and gold and Steve thought it was more decorative than functional. “The building’s integrity has been compromised, would you do me the courtesy of stepping outside before it collapses? My intent today was to disrupt a certain method of weapon production, not to deprive America of one of its symbols.”

“Certainly,” agreed Steve, holding back a smile.

While Loki had adapted better than Thor to Midgard and its ways, he still had old-fashioned manners that Tony could never refrain from mocking, but that Steve found much easier to deal with than the abrasiveness and grandiloquence of other supervillains. And both Loki and Thor (for some reason that Steve supposed had to do with the fact that he was in their eyes a warrior and almost as strong as they were) seemed to hold him in higher respect than they did others.

“Wait… weapons production?” he asked, stopping in the middle of a corridor filled with rubble and slime. “I was told this was a pharmaceutical company.”

“A pharmaceutical company working on some very crude magic-blocking compounds based on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s experience with me, yes.” Loki gave him a quick, mirthless smile. “As primitive as they might be, it’s in my best interests they are never developed.”

Steve swallowed a rush of bile, knowing now why Fury hadn’t wanted to tell him what he was supposed to recover from the site. Back after the Chituri crisis, Steve had protested Loki’s painful-looking metallic gag, even as he still believed him a supervillain, and he had put an immediate stop to Tony’s suggestions about how to restrain and experiment on their prisoner while they worked a way to send him and Thor home; Steve’s protests had been backed (perhaps unsurprisingly) by Bruce, but he wasn’t surprised to hear S.H.I.E.L.D. had gone behind their backs and done it anyway.

“Well, I couldn’t recover any files,” Steve said, and if it sounded a bit like an apology, well, maybe it was.

Loki’s answer, if there was going to be one, was interrupted by a loud rumbling as a few tons of concrete and metal collapsed above them. Steve instinctively moved closer to Loki and raised his shield above their heads, though he knew that all his strength and all the vibranium in the world weren't enough to stop what was coming. He was rather surprised, then, when after the deafening crash and between the cloud of dust, he found himself intact, standing in what felt like a small cave.

“Loki?” he asked into the darkness and dust, hesitatingly lowering his shield when nothing worse than small pebbles fell on it. “Are you alright?”

“Yes,” said Loki in a strained voice.

“Are you sure? You don't sound too good.” Steve was afraid to move, not knowing how big was the space they were in, or where Loki was standing. “Damn it, I can't see. Agent Jackson? Hello, can anyone hear me? It figures these communicators wouldn't work underground... Loki? Still here?”

“I'm here.” A soft light flickered into existence and Steve saw Loki standing two feet away from him, arms raised over his head; the slim spear of gold and ice in his hands was holding up a massive concrete pillar which would have otherwise crushed them.

“Gee,” Steve murmured. “Right. Can you hold that for long? The people outside will have noticed the building has caved in, they'll be here trying to get us out soon. With any luck Agent Jackson will call Tony or Bruce, and...”

“Not enough time,” said Loki between gritted teeth. “The floor might cave in any moment now.”

“Right.” Steve took a deep breath, looked around himself; nope, they were trapped, and there didn't seem to be any way of digging their way out that wouldn't prompt a faster cave-in. “Is there something I can do?”

“I doubt it.” Loki probably meant to sound biting, but he only managed to achieve 'matter-of-fact'.

“Well, then...” Steve looked around, spotted a small alcove made by two walls falling towards each other. “You better get out of here before the floor caves in.”

There was a moment of silence from Loki; Steve moved towards his chosen refuge, trying not to think of the odds of surviving a cave-in with only two brick walls and his shield to protect him.

“Are you suggesting I leave you here to your death?” asked Loki; the light flickered.

Steve didn't know how to answer. Supervillain or not, he wasn't expecting Loki to rescue him, but he couldn't think of a diplomatic way to say this; his silence must have been eloquent enough, because the demigod huffed.

“You must have a low opinion of me, Captain,” he said. “A poor warrior were I if I didn't try to get us both out of here.”

“Right.” Steve tried not to sound surprised. “I certainly didn't mean to imply...”

“Captain,” Loki interrupted him between gritted teeth. “This will require concentration. I'd appreciate some silence.”

“Oh, sorry. Just tell me if there's something I can do.”

“Move closer.” Steve could see how tense the tendons on Loki's neck were, how the sweat running down his temples cut a track through the dust that clung to him. “The less space I have to cover, the better.”

Carefully, hoping not to step on something that would cause the whole thing to collapse before Loki was ready to do whatever it was he planned to do, Steve approached until he was less than a foot away from the demigod, close enough to see his jaw work as he gritted his teeth.

“The light might...” Go out, guessed Steve in the sudden darkness. “... flicker.” The light returned, weaker and trembling like a candle in a storm. “I need all my strength and concentration...”

“That's fine.” Steve swallowed against the dust and the sudden dryness in his throat; a few pebbles and fist-sized bits of concrete and plaster started to rain down, and he raised his shield to protect Loki from them. “If you can't keep the light up, just do as you think best. I'll be quiet.”

The grimace that Loki gave him was meant to be a smile, Steve decided, and continued to keep his silence as more debris fell onto his shield. Loki began to mutter audibly now, in a language Steve didn't understand, and the light was out more than it was lit; Steve wanted to tell Loki not to bother with it, that Steve could stand a bit of darkness, but he didn't want to interrupt his concentration, so he kept quiet.

The first time he saw something odd, he blamed the flickering light of playing tricks of him; then, he wondered if he'd hit his head and was hallucinating. But no, Loki's eyes were glowing red in the stretches of darkness, and when the light flickered into life, his skin looked distinctly blue.

Steve tried not to stare, but there was something oddly beautiful about that strange colouring. Maybe it was related to the magic Loki was channelling? In the flickering light, Steve thought he could make out silvery scars too, like cracks in the ice Loki's skin reminded him off.

His observations flew out of the window as Loki held up his spear (and the whole building) with one hand and grabbed Steve’s arm with the other.

There was a flash of pain, a moment of darkness, and then Steve stumbled back.

They were just outside the building. Dust rose from some point in the wreckage, presumably where a concrete pillar had just collapsed. Under the distant light from the street lamps across what had been a parking lot, Loki looked wild, otherworldy, beautiful. Steve clutched his forearm and took a deep breath.

“Are you alright, Captain?” asked Loki, frowning at him.

“I think it's just frostburn.” Steve knew the feeling well. “Where you touched me. But I'm fine.”

Loki froze where he stood; he gave a disbelieving look at the hand he had stretched towards Steve (delicate blue skin and graceful wrists hidden under black leather vambraces), then looked up (face twisted in such horrified sadness that Steve wanted to take back his words, grit his teeth and forget about the frostburn, never mention it) and, in the blink of an eye, he was gone.

Steve stared at the empty space in front of him for a minute, until his communicator crackled.

“Agent Jackson? Yes, I've... I'm out of the building. Mostly fine. But Director Fury is going to have to do without those files.”

That night, Steve couldn't sleep. The burn where his suit had ripped along his forearm was bandaged (he'd said something about a liquid nitrogen leak to the S.H.I.E.L.D. medics) and Fury had seemed resigned at Steve's failure to retrieve the documents, but something uneasy skittered on the back of his mind; something about Loki's punctilious chivalry and incredible strength, something about the play of light over blue skin and the devastated look in those red eyes.

He fell asleep thinking about ice.

The next morning, he went to find Thor, who'd been assigned to help with a tornado while Steve held the surprisingly courteous conversation with his brother. It was easy to convince Thor to have breakfast with him on the terrace, where Tony had told him once that all S.H.I.E.L.D. surveillance was disabled.

“I saw Loki last night,” Steve said after the first cup of coffee. “He was behind the attack on that building I was sent to investigate.”

“There were no injured, no?” asked Thor. “Did he seem well?”

Steve smiled; Thor’s worry about his brother’s wellbeing never failed to inspire in him both tenderness and a little unease. It was endearing, yes, but also unhealthy. Sometimes Steve thought that Thor was so focused on saving what his brother could be that he was completely blinded to what Loki really was; Thor could look up to see Loki standing on a mountain of corpses and see only his baby brother, so innocent that he could only be the delusion of a guilt-plagued mind.

Sometimes, Steve wondered what it would be like, to love someone so much.

“No, there weren't any injured. And Loki seemed fine. He saved my life, actually, kept the building from falling down on me while I was searching for some things for Fury.”

Thor nodded. He didn't seem surprised, but then he wouldn't be, who had dived into the North Sea once to pull out a HYDRA commander, and then proceeded to beat him up once in dry land.

“He...” Steve put his empty cup aside. “There was a moment when his skin was blue and his eyes were red. Is that normal?”

Thor looked away. Steve had yet to see him avoid a question, so he waited as patiently as he could.

“Captain, you know my brother is adopted,” Thor said at last, twisting the cuffs of his plaid shirt between his fingers. “He... his blood is Jotun, of the frost giants, a race of monsters with whom Asgard has been at war for centuries. What you saw was probably his Jotun appearance, if for some reason his magic and glamours slipped.”

If his magic slipped, all his concentration devoted to keeping the building from collapsing and getting Steve safely out of there.

“I trust you will not mention this to any of the others. Jotun or not, I love my brother dearly, and he is worth as much to me as any Asgardian, but it is a distasteful matter and I would not like to see it discussed publicly.”

Too surprised to do anything else, Steve murmured his agreement. Thor left almost immediately (perhaps trying to discourage Steve from asking anything else), but Steve stayed in the terrace, empty coffee mug by his side, thinking and remembering.

He remembered Bucky coming up to him one night, taking him aside, telling him that some of the top brass had come talking to him. That they wanted to know if they could move Gabe to a different squad, because having a colored guy with them was making them look bad. That of course he was a great soldier, and all his achievements with the Howling Commandos would remain in his service records, but that all things considered, maybe he'd be better off serving somewhere else. Somewhere less visible. Somewhere not by the side of Captain America.

“No,” Steve had said the second Bucky had stopped talking.

“I think they knew you were going to be like that,” Bucky had replied with a chuckle. “That's why they talked to me.”

Steve had spluttered, not finding words for his indignation.

“I mean, it's obvious they're going to have to do something about it. There's so many colored guys fighting over here, desegregation is just matter of time.” Bucky had taken some gum out of his pocket, and then some chocolate which he pushed into Steve's hand; where he kept finding supplies, Steve would never know. “I guess they'd rather it wasn't forced on them by Captain America.”

Steve had glared at his friend's mocking look.

“It's not right. They haven't said anything about Jacques or Jim or...”

Bucky had hummed thoughtfully.

“I don't know,” he'd said at last. “Don't you think Gabe would be more comfortable, somewhere else?”

“No,” Steve had said, and that had been the end of the conversation.

He'd been so angry then -angry at his superiors, and angry at Bucky, and angry at himself- that everyone had noticed. Even Gabe had noticed, maybe because he was the only one who'd escaped Steve's wrath, and he'd come to talk to him one day, to ask if there was a problem; there'd been fear in his eyes, and worry, but mostly tired resignation, and Steve had felt angry at this too even as he reassured Gabe that he had nothing to worry about.

He remembered all that now. And he also remembered the look in Loki's eyes by the side of that wrecked building, the disgust, and the surprise, and the fear at Steve's reaction.

Steve poured himself more coffee. God, he was angry. He understood Natasha now, and the way she had of stalking out of the room when Thor -and, more rarely, Steve himself, although he always made a point of apologising afterwards- said certain things. Cultural differences, he repeated to himself, because he'd attended the seminar (mostly to make sure Tony did too); Thor meant well, and he loved his brother in spite of everything, but Steve could only imagine how Loki would feel on seeing the shame in his brother’s eyes for something that –unlike everything else- he couldn’t help.

Stve shook his head and went back inside, because sympathising with supervillains was the first step towards madness, and Clint would never forgive him.

In the calm days that followed, Steve tried not to think. Whatever was trying to crawl up from the depths of his memory or his subconscious would make its way up in good time, and faster if he didn't try to force it. He trained a lot, sparred with Natasha, put up with Tony's ribbing about how he always managed to damage his suit, even though it was made from the same material as The Hulk's pants. He let his thoughts simmer gently, unwatched.

A week after his encounter with Loki, he sat at his desk with his sketchpad and some pencils. He drew the soft, interlocking curls of Natasha's hair as it dried after a shower; he sketched the wrinkles around Bruce's eyes behind his glasses; he committed to paper the play of shadows and light in the kitchen at midday; he challenged himself to draw his old bedroom in Brooklyn from memory, trying to get all the details right.

He drew Loki as he'd seen him that night under the flickering light of his magic, blue-skinned and red-eyed, and so incredibly alien.

And that's when it hit him: pencil in hand, eraser held between his lips, his hands going through the familiar motions of tracing the markings on Loki's face because those were the exact same markings on Steve's wrist.

Distantly, Steve heard the tip of the pencil break against the paper, leaving a dark, jagged line down the sketch of Loki's jawline. He stared for a minute or two before dropping his sketchbook; his trembling fingers scrabbled against the fastenings on the bracelet at his wrist and he almost broke it in his panic.

There it was: the curved lines along Loki's forehead, the curved lines at the start of the line of symbols around Steve's wrist; the parallel lines that ran from Loki's cheekbones down to his neck, and the parallel lines in Steve's wrist... there'd been more markings, peeking from under the high collar of Loki's armour and stretching over his hands, and though Steve hadn't caught more than a glimpse of them and didn't remember them well enough to draw them, he knew -with the certainty that romantic movies always insisted the heroines should feel about their soulmates- that they would match.

His first thought was to go to Thor, but he discarded it as soon as it came up. Thor wouldn't know, and if he knew, he probably wouldn't tell; and even if he did, he would also judge Steve horribly, and Steve didn't want to be judged about this, not when his heart was still beating like a panicked bird against his ribs.