Tony, who is pouring himself a drink near the bar, catches Steve's eye. He gives him a thumbs up and a smirk. Steve manages a smile back. If it hadn't been for Tony egging him on, he never would have found the courage to ask. He turns all his attention back to Loki. He tries to memorize the curve of Loki's brow, the twist of his lips, just in case Loki says no and this moment is all he'll have to remember.
An absolutely wicked glint enters Loki's eyes as he pauses at one of the sketches he is looking through. Steve blushes a bit when he sees which one it is. He doesn't really register Loki throwing a devious smirk Tony's way, too caught up in the memory of drawing that particular sketch.
"Well, my dear captain. Now that I've seen this, I absolutely insist you draw me as one of your French girls."
Steve's too happy and relieved to wonder why Tony is suddenly choking on his drink from laughter or why Loki looks so gleefully amused. Still, all his relief is not enough to stop his blush when he registers which French girls Loki is thinking of.
"I'll be happy to," is all he manages and, in turn, is rewarded with an actual smile.
When the day finally comes, Steve's heart is pounding. Ever since Loki agreed to model for him, he's been a bundle of nerves. Tony teasing him at every turn (with frankly incomprehensible references to the Titanic) had not helped in the slightest. Though he was suspiciously helpful with setting up the scene for the drawing (something about an old-fashioned looking chaise being absolutely necessary). Clint bursting into laughter when hearing about the entire situation and seeing the chaise makes Steve suspect something entirely over his head is going on. There is a joke here, probably some reference Steve has no context for. He'll look it up later. Right now, he's too excited about this opportunity. And all of their teasing can't dampen his enthusiasm.
After all, Loki has modeled for some of the greatest artists in history - and now he's agreed to model for Steve, his previous enmity with the Avengers notwithstanding. Fury would flip a gasket if he knew the Avengers are treating his orders to apprehend Loki more as optional guidelines, but they stopped listening to Fury regarding Loki right about the time the trickster had saved all their collective asses allowing them to in turn stop another invasion. Frenemies, Tony calls them. The mere fact Loki hasn't eviscerated Tony for that, Thor assures them, means Loki is also fond of them in his own way.
Steve's drawn out of his musings by the faint gust of wind that heralds Loki's arrival whenever he's feeling generous enough not to give people a heart attack by arriving silently. Steve takes a deep breath and turns around with a smile. All the air in his lungs rushes out when he sees Loki. Other than being dressed only in a simple robe (couldn't he just magic his clothes off though?), Loki doesn't look any different than usual. It's still enough to make his breath stutter in his throat and his mouth to go dry. He feels a blush rising on his cheeks, not helped at all by Loki's wicked grin.
"Loki," he manages a greeting. Loki's expression softens into something more mischievous rather than devious.
"Captain," he inclines his head regally. His eyes flick around the room. Steve fidgets a bit, hoping it's satisfactory. He's rearranged the couch (chaise, Steve, chaise, he recalls Tony saying) to fully catch the light from the room's generous windows. He sees the exact moment Loki spots it, because his grin turns downright diabolical. He really needs to figure out what the joke is here; Loki is obviously familiar with it as well.
"So...uh, I hope this is okay?" Steve gestures to the chaise in an attempt to cover his nervousness. From the amusement practically radiating off of Loki, he thinks he's failing miserably.
"More than adequate," Loki says and steps up to the chaise, right next to Steve. Steve tries to force his blush down and also tries not to linger too long on the way the robe is getting looser. Which is a bit ridiculous, because he'll be staring at Loki for a long time without it anyway. At least that's what he's trying to convince himself of.
Steve swallows and takes a step back, turning around to pick up his pad from the chair in front of the chaise.
"Right. If you'd just get comfortable and I have to say I'm honored you're letting me do this," he looks up at Loki when he says the last and if he'd felt flabbergasted at Loki's arrival, he feels all his thoughts come to a complete halt at what Loki does next.
Seeing Steve's attention is back on him, Loki takes the robe off. But instead of the hard masculine lines Steve is expecting, Loki's flesh melts into soft, feminine curves, breasts and a veritable cascade of thick, curly dark hair. It is nothing like the few paintings where he's managed to recognize Loki shapeshifted into a woman. This...this is Loki, simply as a woman. He's still tall and lean, just a bit softer, hips wider, breasts high and full, but proportionate to the frame. His features are almost completely the same and Steve has a moment of disconnect of seeing something so familiar in such a different setting.
"Wow. Um...I mean - "
But Loki just smiles, fuller lips stretching into an honest smile.
"Be at ease, Steve. Now," he says, his smile regaining that familiar mischievous twist and his eyes a wicked glint, "how do you want me?"
The sound that comes out of Steve's throat has more in common with a strangled cat than anything, but he manages to gather himself enough to reply.
"However's good for you is fine. As long as you're comfortable. I'd like to do more than one, if that's okay?"
"Whatever you desire."
Steve feels his blush trying to take over again. There is no way Loki hasn't purposefully lowered his voice to that throaty purr, just to mess with him.
His blush eases after Loki arranges himself. He's chosen a reclining position, gaze intently on him. Steve has to clear his throat a few times during the process, but the urge to hide fades after he grips his charcoal and arranges his sketchpad. He's soon lost in the curves and lines and shadows of Loki's body.
It takes one month and three sketchbooks before Steve realizes what the joke is. He's finally watching the Titanic with Thor and that scene comes up. Embarrassment and indignation war for a moment before humor wins out and he lets out a laugh. It is a good joke, he can admit. He's even relieved that he didn't get it before, because Tony and Loki have exhausted all of its possibilities and got tired of it (lord, please let them be tired of it) once they realized he still didn't get it.
And even if it hadn't been a good joke, he's still relieved because he got Loki to model for him because of it. What had been intended as a one time thing somehow managed to morph into a fairly regular occurrence. So much so that it isn't even that unusual anymore to see Loki hanging around the tower, spending time with all of the Avengers (well, except for Thor) and not just Steve. Even Clint had mellowed out towards him. Though Steve suspects that bit had more to do with the outrageous gifts Loki had given all of them (except Thor) in a blatant attempt to bribe them (it had worked, mostly because it had been so blatant).
It is not until the movie ends (and he's absolutely going to deny his eyes are wet) that Thor turns to him. It's not really a surprise. Thor has always made his views on people talking during a movie very clear and always waits until the end to comment on something. When asked, Thor had just muttered something about it being rude to interrupt performances. Apparently, the fact that the movies aren't performed live doesn't really matter. Thor takes it seriously enough they've started gagging Tony if they ever want to watch movies as a group.
"I believe I finally understand the joke that my brother and Tony have so enjoyed," Thor smiles at him and if that isn't the most transparent attempt at 'subtly' asking for information on his brother, Steve doesn't know what is. Looking into Thor's earnest eyes and hopeful expression, Steve can't help but feel a twinge of pity for the big guy. Loki has mellowed out, yes, but he remains as bitter as ever to Thor. And having gotten to know both of them better, he can see it isn't hurting just Thor. But he can also see that it isn't Loki simply being stubborn or deliberately mean (at least, not completely). He doesn't really want to get between them, but he knows that there is a real deeper hurt that makes Loki lash out. Steve knows that Thor's repeated attempts to force a reconciliation aren't helping either. The way Thor goes about it makes Steve get an inkling into some of Loki's issues as well (lets just say he isn't all thatsurprised the brothers had a falling out).
"Me too," Steve says, "I'm just glad they played that joke out. It only took them, what? Three weeks?"
Thor lets out a deep, rolling chuckle. They share a quiet moment before Steve takes pity on Thor.
"Do you want to see some of the drawings?"
Steve isn't particularly shy about his work, but he is more protective than usual of his drawings of Loki. It is partly because he doesn't think Loki would appreciate the Avengers gawking at his naked form (though there are plenty where he is clothed), but mostly because Steve likes having a small private part of Loki all to himself, freely shared by the prickly god.
"I would be honored, Steve," Thor says. He sits patiently while Steve fetches his most recent notebook and hands it over. Thor opens it gingerly.
This one actually doesn't have any nudes, but it is still Steve's favorite of the lot, because Loki isn't posing in most of them. Instead, the drawings are little glimpses of Loki's ever more frequent visits to the tower, moments of unguarded emotion, both good and bad. One of his favorite there is actually a group drawing off all of them (even Thor) where Loki had deigned to entertain them with a story (prompted by some of Tony's more outlandish questions about Norse mythology). Everyone in it is happy, joyous and Steve gets a warm glow of satisfaction every time he sees how he managed to capture a real smile from Loki and the sparkle of mischief in his eyes.
Thor stares at that one for a long time.
But it is the one after that that makes Thor's breath hitch in his throat.
It's another of his favorites, but Steve has no idea why it should get such a reaction from Thor. Loki in the drawing is sitting at the window, awash in moonlight, face turned towards Steve. But what makes this drawing different from the others are the lines swirling across Loki's face and hands, trailing down his neck to be obscured by the loose shirt he wore. The black and white image doesn't show it, but Steve also remembers the red eyes and dusky blue skin. Loki had looked like some fey creature in that light and Steve swallows at the memory.
"What is it?" Steve's voice is low.
"I simply..."Thor trails off. He opens his mouth, tries again, "Loki has truly shown you this form?"
Steve's brows furrow.
"Is there a reason he shouldn't have?" Maybe it is a taboo or something for Loki to reveal it? When Loki's skin had melted from that pale tone, to the rich blue, Steve had known there were undercurrents to Loki's actions he was not aware of, is still not aware of. Steve hadn't pushed, had been happy to merely capture yet another facet of Loki's beauty. If Loki wants to tell him, he will.
Thor shakes his head.
"No, no...I merely, I hadn't expected him to ever..." Thor takes a deep breath, the kind that means he is pushing back tears. Steve is baffled, but he doesn't comment, merely puts a hand on Thor's shoulder. Thor closes the sketchbook, trailing his fingers over the leather binding (a gift from Tony) delicately.
"Thank you, my friend."
Steve smiles and tries not to duck his head.
"I don't mind showing people my drawings, but you're welcome."
Thor's large hand settles over the one he still has on Thor's shoulder.
"Nay, I do not thank you merely for this, though your drawings are a marvel of their own," Thor looks at him, eyes shining, smile wobbly, but there.
"You are a good friend to my brother, Steve Rogers and I am...grateful beyond words that he has opened himself to you in such a way."
A way he is refusing to let Thor in, Steve catches the unsaid words. He squeezes Thor's shoulder before letting go.
"I'm honored that he lets me," Steve says as he rises. He leaves the sketchbook with Thor, knowing that no harm will come to it. As he leaves the room, Steve catches Thor looking at the same drawing again, looking strangely forlorn and small on a couch he usually looks too big for.
He does not notice the glittering green eyes watching them from the shadows of the room.