Thor steps easily from the Bifrost onto the floor of the golden observatory which welcomes all travellers to Asgard. He greets Heimdall, Asgard’s Gatekeeper, with a wide smile and moves to clasp his friend’s forearm in the traditional Aesir welcome.
“How fare you Heimdall?”
“Welcome home, my Prince. I am well, thank you.” Heimdall replies as he meets Thor’s smile with one of his own and clasps Thor's forearm in a similarly solid hold.
“And how is all on Asgard?” Thor asks a little hesitantly as his eyes automatically turn towards the City and its golden Palace rising in the distance.
“Repairs are at an advanced stage and I am pleased to advise the Shield has been repaired and is fully functional again”. Thor can still hear the pain in Heimdall's voice over what had occurred.
Thor smiles, being happy to hear things are getting somewhat back to normal following the attack by the Dark Elves. “That is excellent news! It is good to be back, my friend!”
Heimdall turns his eyes back towards the space and the wider universe. “How fares Loki?” he asks even though he is not sure Thor will give him an honest answer.
“He is well.” Thor smiles and his face lights up as he thinks of how far his brother has come. “He fights alongside Midgard’s mightiest heroes and once again at my side when the need arises”. There is no mistaking the pride in Thor’s voice.
“Hmm!” is all Heimdall says.
This surprises Thor. As a youth Loki had spent many hours in Heimdall’s company asking question after question about the other realms and races. While Loki, since learning of his true parentage, has done things to cause others to doubt his loyalties Thor had expected Heimdall to be happier about his word on Loki.
Turning to face his friend he straightens his shoulders before enquiring further. “You are not pleased that Loki once again fights by side as we had done for centuries?”
A little taken aback by the accusatory tone Thor used, Heimdall tries to explain. “It is not that I am not pleased. Loki is a fine fighter when he chooses but it is his loyalty and the protection he offers your back that concerns me, my Prince”.
“Heimdall, we are friends so speak plainly!”
“There are times when your brother is shielded from my eyes and ears and it is at these times that my concerns are raised”.
Thor considers how Loki has been behaving since he came to live among the Avengers and he thinks he may know when these times might be but he needs more detail to be certain.
“Have there been many such times?” He enquires.
“At first, no!” Heimdall admits. “But the incidents have become more frequent in the immediate weeks past. They vary in time and location.” He adds before Thor can say anything, “I have brought them to the King’s attention. He will, no doubt, be most anxious to speak to you.”
“Is my brother generally at the Avengers’ facility or in the company of one of my shield brothers immediately before you lose sight of him?”
“Generally, yes” Heimdall replies and he can tell by Thor’s expression and lack of concern that he may be aware of what Loki is doing at these times.
“Do not concern yourself, my friend. Loki is no threat to me, Asgard or Midgard at present and I do not believe he will be any time soon if the Norms be kind! And thank you for bringing it to my attention too.”
Thor makes enquiries about the health and wellbeing of Heimdall’s mother and that of his family. Heimdall gives him a quick run-down on what has been happening in his absence and the activities of the Warriors Three and Lady Sif. Some of the tales make Thor chuckle and he confirms that he will seek further details when he is once again in their company.
As he's about to leave he hesitates and enquires about Queen Frigga's health in advance of going to see her. The Queen had been injured when the Dark Elves had attacked and while she was recovering well she had not been fully healed when Thor last visited. She was only in the early stages of recovery when he had taken Loki to Midgard. Thor knew that Loki would have preferred to stay on Asgard until she was fully recovered but Odin did not want the goodwill of people towards Loki, gained as a result of his assistance in the defeat of the Dark Elves, to wain before his reprieve from his life imprisonment sentence was in motion. Thor knew Loki would want to know she was improving.
“The Queen is well and fully recovered. She sits in her garden with her handmaid at present as they enjoy the sunshine and some needlepoint. She will be most pleased to have you home.”
While Heimdall would like to know how long the Crown Prince will be on Asgard he knows it is not his place to ask.
Thor beams a smile at his friend on hearing that his Mother is well. Bidding his friend adieu he heads for the Rainbow Bridge where a groom and two horses await. “Thank you Heimdall for my horse.” Thor calls back across his shoulder as he leaves.
“You are most welcome, my Prince”.
Outside the observatory a beautiful black stallion stands pawing the ground and snorting impatiently as he tosses his head up and down. Thor quickly mounts his favourite horse and races across the rainbow bridge towards the Palace. He acknowledges the welcome of the people as he passes and calls out to several who he fought beside in battle or drank with in taverns.
On arriving at the Palace he heads for the Queen’s private gardens. He knows he really should go see the King first but he knows his father will understand his desire to see his mother. No doubt Odin will pretend to pout but Thor knows it will be a show for any courtiers nearby.
He sees Queen Frigga before she is aware of his presence and he is pleased to see she appears to have returned to full health. Her maid smiles and bows slightly as he approaches. “My Prince, welcome home!”
Frigga rises instantly and laying her needlepoint aside turns to greet her son. Giving his Mother a kiss on the cheek, she embraces him warmly and a warm thrill passes through him, one which can only come from a Mother’s hug.
“Mother, I am pleased to see you are looking well.”
“Thank you Thor, and it always warms my heart to have my son in my arms”.
While pleased to see Thor Frigga’s heart aches a little as she sees that Loki is not with him. She tries to cover her disappointment before Thor can see it. Looking up at Thor with a warm welcoming smile she takes a second embrace before reluctantly letting him out of her reach.
He takes a seat beside his Mother as her maid enquires if the Queen would like tea brought to the garden. “No, please arrange for it to be brought to the family parlour as no doubt the King will wish to join us once he is through in the Throne room”.
Thor smiles as he tells Frigga that he came straight to her and has not yet met with his father. This makes Frigga smile even more. Normally it would be Loki who sought her out first before meeting with Odin whereas Thor would announce himself to the King then come to see her. She wonders if Thor is in some small way trying to make up for Loki’s absence as he had done after Loki had fallen into the void. She chastises herself for the thought as no doubt Thor came to her first because she had not been fully recovered the last time they’d been together.
“Are you truly recovered as Heimdall suggested?” Thor asked as soon as they were alone. This is not a conversation to be had while anyone outside the royal family was present.
“Yes, my son. You need no longer worry. Eir, (The Head Healer), herself ensured I was recovered fully before she would allow me resume my duties as Queen.”
“Then the Norms be praised. I do not know what I would do if we had lost you to Valhalla, Mother. And as for Loki, it scares me to think what would have become of him!”
“We have no need to consider such things.” She said as she laid a gentle hand on Thor’s. “Now tell me of Loki. Has he found a place for himself and perhaps some ease or peace amongst your Midgardian friends?”
“He has.” Thor happily advises their Mother. “He has become fast friends with two in particular. Captain Steven Rogers, the leader of the Avengers and one of whom you have heard me speak often, and the other is Sergeant James Barnes, who is as a brother to Captain Rogers. Both are fine warriors, honourable men and loyal friends so Loki could not have chosen wiser.”
“I am pleased to hear he has found two good friends but what of the others? Have they made room for Loki within their group. You know how hard it has always been for him to find a place for himself amongst others.”
There is no mistaking the concern and anxiety Frigga feels for her youngest son. While in the role of Prince or Ambassador or Emissary he embraces the role and can flourish but as to finding a position for himself he prefers to hide away and keep his own counsel. Frigga has long worried about Loki and even more so since he learned of his true parentage. She hoped that after a time the Midgardians would be more accepting of him and see Loki for all that he can be and not just the power crazed wounded creature that tried to take over their world but she remains skeptical. They have a lot to forgive him for and she would hate to think he has not gained any reprieve from his pain of feeling like an outsider, a role he has sadly embraced for some time.
“For the most part he has been accepted but, as only Loki can, he maintains a distance. He has fought alongside my Shield Brothers and Sisters and they now trust him to have their backs in battle. A number owe Loki for saving them from serious injury if not their lives. It has taken time but it gets easier with each passing week. Captain Rogers, I would suggest with little fear of being proven wrong, trusts Loki as he does me and the others; perhaps even a little more!”
Frigga is happy to hear this and some of the worry she has been feeling eases a little. Thor fills Frigga in on some of what has been happening and what the team gets up to when not defending Midgard. He speaks of his and Loki’s sparring matches with Steve and Bucky, Loki’s yoga and dance workouts with Natasha. He tells her about the team night out but deliberately leaves out the part about Lori making an appearance. He knows Loki would not want him to tell all the tales to their mother.
As Thor regales Frigga she begins to notice a pattern of how many times Captain Rogers and Sergeant Barnes names get mentioned in tales of Loki’s activities. She wishes Loki was there so she could hug him and hopes that he has found some of the happiness Thor’s tales suggest. She wants to hear more but, before she can ask, her maid reappears and advises that the tea is ready in the family parlour and that the King will be there presently.
Thor rises from his seat and offers his arm to his Mother. Taking Thor’s arm she allows him to escort her to the family parlour.
From they were young Bucky and Steve were avid baseball fans and both generally become very animated and vocal while watching a ball game. They couldn’t afford to go to many games when they were young but would sneak into the Dodgers home games every chance they got. A very conveniently placed break in the fence allowed access to the stadium and as long as they waited until close to the first pitch they generally didn't have much difficulty. They'd even met some of the team once after sneaking into the changing area. They’d been certain that security would be alerted but the players smiled and asked them to wish them luck. Both young boys happily obliged and when the Brooklyn Dodgers won that game Steve and Bucky, among themselves, proudly took the credit.
Loki tries to let the baseball game distract him from worrying about what may be happening on Asgard. Several times during the game Steve moves his knee, adding a little pressure where it rests against Loki’s, as a reminder to Loki that he is not alone. Bucky can see how distracted Loki is and how concerned Steve is for him. While he’s not fully sure what has caused this he knows it has something to do with Asgard and Thor’s return home. As its not the first time Thor has returned to Asgard since Loki arrived Bucky knows there must be more going on and he hopes his friend will be okay.
Bucky knows that Loki's norm is to spend most of his time at a baseball game watching Steve’s reactions to the plays in his peripheral vision.This seems to bring Loki more joy than the game itself.
Today though, Loki has spent his time staring blankly at the diamond but clearly not concentrating on or seeing any of the game. The times that Steve has paid attention to the game and not Loki were generally after the various plays had finished and the crowd’s reaction had caught Steve’s attention. Bucky shakes his head as it becomes clear that his two friends could be anywhere right now and be oblivious to the world around them.
Reaching over Steve to offer Loki some toffees Bucky asks if everything is okay. “You don’t need to tell me if you don’t want to but it’s obvious you're not getting the same enjoyment from the game today as you normally do!”
The slight tease is enough to make Loki smile. “My apologies, it seems that my mind is intent on taking me elsewhere today. I can leave and meet you both later if my being here is distracting from the game.” Loki immediately offers as he does not want his friends to miss the game on his account.
“No!” They both answer at once without hesitation.
Steve gives Loki a small smile. “If you'd rather be somewhere else we can leave. The Mets have no hope of getting this one back even if they played right through to tomorrow”.
“No, here is fine" he answered, "but I do not wish to distract you from enjoying the game.”
“I’m fine.” Steve reassures him.
Bucky looks at Loki, “No problem here, I was just concerned about you.”
“Thank you but there really is no need for concern. I assure you.”
“Hey, for someone who's supposed to be a Liesmith, you don’t do it very well when speaking about yourself”. Bucky observes and give Loki a smirk.
“Steve, please give your best friend a friendly dig in the ribs for me!” Loki requests. “I would do it myself but I do not wish to cause a scene as I lean across you to do so!”
Reaching out his elbow, Steve does exactly as Loki asked. Bucky pretends to look insulted and injured as Steve chuckles. "Punk!"
The little display between his friends helps Loki relax a little and maybe Steve having moved a little closer so that their thighs and knees were now touching helped too.
A short while later the intro to The Birdie Song starts and the three friends rise to join the rest of the crowd all standing and waiting to join in the dance. Steve and Bucky enthusiastically join in while Loki makes little effort. Steve gives him a friendly shoulder and a pleading smile. Loki cannot resist those puppy dog eyes looking out at him from behind those long eyelashes and from under the baseball cap and so he gives in and extremely reluctantly joins in the actions just before it finishes.
Steve leans over and whispers in his ear, “I am proud of you and if we were alone I would kiss you right now!”
This makes Loki smile and it is the first real smile since Thor had left. “I will hold you to that later!”
“It’ll be my pleasure.” Steve says as he smiles broadly before re-taking his seat.
Loki quietly and discretely watches Steve for the rest of the game and, as Steve becomes absorbed in the various plays now that Loki has relaxed, they don't find the time passing. The ever present feeling of Steve's body next to him relaxed Loki more than he could have imagined and as he concentrated on the man beside him what was happening on Asgard slipped to the back of his mind.
The three friends head off to get food after the game and Loki tells Bucky a little of his worries about Thor’s return to Asgard. Steve and Bucky discuss the game and they all make plans for the next one. They had previously tried but not succeeded in convincing Loki that the hotdogs at the game were a delicacy and as he refused to take more than one bite he was hungry by the time the food arrived. As the two old friends told stories from their childhood Loki ate happily. He enjoyed seeing Steve be so free and relaxed. Despite not sharing the memories they spoke of, Loki didn't feel left out. Both Steve and Bucky somehow made him feel part of their baseball experience. Steve tended to lean closer to Loki as he recalled embarrassing stories about Bucky as if what they shared was a precious secret known only to a few. Loki smiled at the mischief in his love's eyes as the tales of their escapades continued.
As dinner was ending Bucky gave Natasha a call and arranged to meet her and whoever else wished to join him for a few drinks and late night dancing.
Steve and Loki let Bucky take the car as Loki confirmed they would make their own way back to the facility. Going their separate ways, as Bucky headed off to meet Natasha, Steve and Loki head towards Central Park in anticipation of a quiet evening stroll together.
with an illusion cast by Loki, they walk hand in hand through the Park. They spend time watching the water birds and relax on a bench drinking the hot chocolate bought from a street vendor. Thanks to Loki's magic no one pays them any attention and Steve is emboldened by the fact of having Loki so close in a public place while knowing that his magic shields them.
Loki leans in towards Steve and lays his head against his shoulder as he relaxes more into his warmth. Steve can’t help but lean down and place a tender kiss on the top of Loki’s head as they enjoy being alone together. He wishes he could do more but this will have to do for now. When they are ready to leave they step into a clump of trees and out of sight. Loki leans down and places a gentle kiss on Steve's lips. They continue to kiss as Loki teleports them back to the facility. They reluctantly break apart.
Both tend to Pottery and Tin before making their way to their rooms. A relaxed Loki heads into his room and sleeps better than he'd expected knowing the Steve understands his anxiety and is willing to be there for him and help any way he can.
Maria Hill is with Steve in his office when Loki arrives. He pauses briefly before knocking on the open door. Steve looks up from the papers he's reviewing to greet him and beckon him inside. While Loki was surprised to see Maria there you would never know it from the look on his face when he entered the room.
“Friday said you wished to see me, Captain,” he greeted Steve as he stepped further inside, giving him a small smile.
“Yes. Loki, please take a seat” Steve meets Loki's eyes and returns the smile as he gestures to the empty chair beside Maria.
“Ms. Hill.” Loki politely addresses Maria and moves to take a seat on the offered chair.
“Loki", she nodded. While Maria acknowledges that Loki has done nothing evil or world dominating since his return to Earth and has actually helped the Avengers on a number of missions she continues to reserve her position on his trust worthiness.
Once Loki had taken his seat Steve directs his attention to him.“As you know, we've finally analysed the data recovered from Hammer Industries and it appears that, as Tony suspected, Hammer and Doom have been working closely together for years." There is a deep frown between his eyes and he's clearly concerned.
"Natasha’s algorithm helped reveal the long history but while we know why Hammer and Doom were meeting we're no closer to knowing what Dr. Doom has planned for the upgraded Hammer Industries tech and weapons.” He adds as the frown deepens.
“Ah, I see. You wish to learn of Doom’s plans!” Loki offers with a small sympathetic smile.
“We do, but therein lies our problem. Doom is the leader of a sovereign state and we cannot just fly in there without due cause.”
Loki can see the stress written all over Steve’s posture as he rubs the back of his neck with his hand. But there is something else bothering Steve. He lowers his eyes and appears reluctant to meet Loki’s gaze.
Without waiting to be asked anything, and showing no hesitation, Loki offers the Captain a possible opening. “How may I be of service, Captain?”
Steve’s heart skips a beat at Loki’s willingness to volunteer his help without ever asking what may be needed of him. He wonders if their budding relationship has anything to do with his eagerness to help but then instantly dismisses the idea as being egotistical on his part as Loki had been working with the Avengers for months before they got together.
Loki caught the war of emotions going on briefly behind Steve’s long lashes before Steve steeled his face and slipped into his Captain America role again.
“You know if my talents and skills may be of benefit you need only ask!”
Steve nodded in thanks. The thought occurred to him that perhaps he should have had this conversation with Loki in private but as Maria had suggested that Loki may be able to help he could not very well exclude her from the discussion without raising a few queries in her mind as to his reasoning. It's better to keep this professional and can always speak to Loki in private later if needed.
Not wanting to make any reference to Loki being able to change his gender, Steve decides to concentrate on something he believes Loki will be okay answering, “The way you magically change your armour.... can you change your appearance too or is it restricted to your armour?”
Knowing that Steve already knows the answer Loki recognises that this is being asked for Maria’s benefit. Nodding Loki gives a proud smile. “Clothing being changed to armour is a simple task. A junior mage is able to accomplish this with a little training. My skills in matter manipulation or what you may call shape shifting extend beyond clothing.”
Maria is now looking at Loki with a new intensity. She had wondered about the extent of his skills or powers ever since the Hellicarrier. She knows he can create illusions of himself and shoots blasts of magical energy from a staff but that is about as much as S.H.I.E.L.D. had learned. Of course his speed, super strength and healing they’d suspected from Thor and she’d seen videos of his expertise with daggers and other blades but the extent of his magical ability was unknown.
“Thor said something about a snake once?” Steve prompted.
The memory makes Loki smile and his face lit up. “Ah, the look on his face when I changed back to myself just as he was about to kiss the top of my head was truly worth the effort!”
Maria raised her eyebrows at Steve clearly not believing the story. To her the story was one of exaggeration or the transformation was some kind of an illusion but certainly not what she would call real. She could not accept that Loki could physically change form.
“Do you require a demonstration?” Loki asked, seeing the skepticism on Maria’s face. Before she can answer a golden light shimmers over Loki as he sits next to her. When the light fades a second Captain Rogers is sitting beside her. Steve lets out a low whistle.
In Steve’s voice Loki asks, “Would you prefer me in uniform?” Captain America, wearing the uniform he wore for the Battle of New York now looks directly at Maria.
“Would you like to have a discussion about truth and justice and the American way?” Loki teases in Steve’s Captain America voice before cheekily adding, “God bless America!”
Maria is a little freaked out but keeps her face stoic. She begins to wonder just how the Avengers ever defeated Loki when he is capable of doing such things. He could have made himself look like any one of them (or anyone else for that matter) and gone wherever or done as he wished. Now a different thought as in her head, `Why he had not done so?`
Steve felt a warm feeling of pride and maybe something more arousing spread through him as he watched Loki magically change his appearance. While he smiled when Loki had initially taken his shape now it was starting to feel self-conscious looking across the desk and seeing and hearing himself. Lowering his head slightly in embarrassment, Steve sighed as he rubbed the back of his neck again.
“Okay Loki, demonstration time is over. You can return to looking like yourself now”. The tone held a small plea that not everyone would notice but Loki did.
Loki gave a small pout before complying with Steve’s request. Steve wanted to laugh at the pout but managed to control the urge. Loki thought about changing his appearance to that of Maria but Steve seemed to sense what was coming next and stopped him by keeping him focused on Doom.
“Now, we know you can look like me” Steve started, “The question is can you look like Doom?”
“While I have seen Doom sufficiently to take his form from an aesthetic point of view I would have to study him further, his mannerisms, speech patterns, posture, walking and such like to accurately mimic him” As he said it Loki changed his appearance to that of Dr. Doom complete with the metal mask.
“Wow!” Maria exclaimed before mentally chastising herself for letting her inner fangirl out.
Loki chuckled and it sounded quite menacing coming from behind Doom’s mask.
“Now that, I could have done without!” She said as a shiver ran up her spine.
Re-taking his own form Loki continued, “I will need to study up on Dr. Doom if I am to interact with those who know him. Are there videos or such like that I can use?”
“We have footage and voice recordings” Maria confirmed.
“While those will initially suffice I believe personal observations will be necessary to complete my study of Victor Von Doom.”
Steve was considering the best way to achieve their aims as Loki and Maria talked.
“No doubt Doom knows you are working with us so a direct approach won't work”, Steve states. “We’ll need another strategy”.
“Perhaps audio and visual surveillance from within Doom’s castle would be sufficient” Loki offered. “For that I would not need expose myself beyond a minimal requirement”.
Loki could see that this idea was sitting easier with Steve. Maria looked at Steve for his opinion.
“Okay we are gonna need as much information as we can get on the layout of Doom’s castle, its defences, security personnel movements, staff work patterns etc.” Steve announced, looking at Maria. His tone makes it clear that was an implied order. “I realise that may not amount to a whole lot but as the saying goes every little helps”.
Maria nods as she takes notes on her tablet. Turning his attention now to Loki, Steve instructs “I need you to familiarize yourself with Doom in case we end up needing you to impersonate him. If we find out what he intends to do and stop him before he can carry out his plan that’s preferable to simply reacting after the event”.
Looking from Maria to Loki he adds, “At least now we have an idea of what weapon power we'll be up against so that gives us an advantage”.
Maria nodded. “If that will be all, I’ll leave you to get back to your data perusal, Cap?”
“Yes, thank you Maria. You might also find out if Stark Industries' satellites can help”
“Certainly, Captain”. With that Maria rose from her seat. Steve and Loki automatically stand at the same time. Maria nodded in acknowledgement of the gentlemanly gesture and headed for the door.
When Maria left Loki turned to Steve. “And what of me, Captain? What wish do you have for me?”
A slight blush swept over Steve’s cheeks. “I’d like you to ensure that....” Steve’s eyes sparkle as he continues “that privacy protocols are engaged please Friday”.
Loki chuckles as Friday announced “Privacy protocols engaged until further notice, Captain”.
“Thank you, Friday”. Steve said as he stepped around his desk and moved closer to where Loki was still standing. Reaching out to cup his face in his hand he smiles. “I would like for you to ensure that we can’t be disturbed”.
A mere finger twitch and Steve can feel the air around them change. “As you wish it, so it is done, my dear Captain”. Loki purred as Steve drew Loki into a tender kiss.
“You are incredible”.
The window blinds tilt to an angle that prevents anyone from seeing in from outside and the light automatically dims in the office. The kisses deepen as hands start roaming over each other’s body in caresses and onto bare skin hidden underneath shirts as the desire to touch more intensifies. Loki pushes Steve back slightly until the back of his legs touch the desk. Steve leans against the edge of his desk.
With a little nudge from Loki’s knee Steve’s legs open and Loki steps in between them to get closer to his love. Steve pulls Loki closer to him until their bodies touch wherever they can. Steve concentrates his kisses on Loki’s long neck and Loki leans his head back to give Steve greater access to it.
Steve lowers one hand to squeezes Loki’s ass as the other moves up and down his back. Using Steve’s shoulders to brace himself Loki reclaims those lips and plunders Steve’s mouth with his tongue. Papers and other items get knocked off the edge of the desk as each gives into their desires to kiss and touch the other, neither paying attention to the items as they fall. Both are breathing hard and their pupils are blown with desire as they snatch quick breaths and gaze at each other.
“I wish I could take us both somewhere more private” Loki pants.
“So do I but I’m afraid that will have to wait” Steve reluctantly admits.
“No matter, I get to be alone with you right here, right now” Loki hums as he resumes kissing his love. "And I intend to make the most of it!"
"You'll find no objection here!" Steve happily replies. He has never made out in his office or any other office before and he intends to make the most of it.
Loki definitely seems to have no objections as he moans when Steve, having opened two of Loki’s shirt buttons, attacks his neck and collar bone with strong sucking kisses. Loki presses his thigh against Steve’s groin and it elicits the most deliciously naughty sounds from Steve’s throat. Neither wants this to end any time soon and both hope Loki will carry the hidden marks of Steve's kisses when they eventually have to separate.
Thor rises from his seat alongside Queen Frigga as King Odin enters the family's private parlour. He is accompanied by Tyr, Commander of the Einherjar. Tyr bows in acknowledgement of the presence of the Queen and the Crown Prince as he enters.
Thor had not expected anyone to accompany his father as normally on his return to Asgard he would speak with the King and Queen first in private before addressing the Council members thereafter if so required.
Stepping forward to greet his father Thor reaches out his forearm. "Father!"
Odin takes his forearm and pulls Thor into an one arm embrace. "Thor, my son, you have returned. You have news from Midgard?"
"All is well at present on Midgard, it pleases me to advise." Thor answers, hoping that the Allfather will accept his assurances and not raise any concerns he may have about Loki cloaking himself from Heimdall's view.
Before Odin can ask anything further Thor breaks from his embrace and steps towards Commander Tyr. "Tyr, you look as always!" Thor teases as he offers his arm to the Commander and his old Tutor.
"I believe I should thank you, my Prince, but somehow I am not certain!"
Thor laughs as does the Commander. "You fare well?"
"Indeed I do though I have had more to do since Malekith reappeared", Tyr admits. There is a weariness to his tone that Thor has not heard in a long time.
"Come sit and join us for some tea", Frigga suggests as she offers an already full cup to Tyr. He agrees with a bow and a small smile. Tyr has been a loyal and true friend to Odin and Frigga for millennia and he frequently accompanied Odin to the parlour for tea after a strenuous session with the Council or in the Throne room. Like Thor, Frigga had expected Odin to come alone to greet their son's return but she wishes to enjoy her tea with her family and their friend in peace and calmness. If Odin wishes to discuss Asgard and Midgard's politics he will have to wait until later.
Tyr graciously takes the offered cup and moves to sit opposite his Queen alongside Odin who had already sat down with his own cup.
Odin looks at Thor and is about to ask for his report on Midgard and Loki when Frigga cuts him off. "No politics until after tea. I wish to enjoy having my son home for a while longer before matters of state or the nine realms take his attention from me once again."
The soft pleading smile that Frigga gives Odin is enough for him to give his wife a small nod of his head in surrender. "Your Mother is right. Matters of politics can wait until later now tell us what adventures you and your friends have been undertaking since last you were here!"
Thor tells them about some of the battles he has had alongside the Avengers and also about the video games he has learned to play. To hear Thor speak of the strategy and expertise needed to win the games it sounds as if the game battles were real and that he truly defeated those enemies on a real battle field. He is as animated when he speaks of defeating his team mates as he is of beating the enemy. Tyr enquires if such games were similar to battle simulations they use to teach tactics to the armies on Asgard and as the two men discuss the similarities and differences in detail Frigga sits back and enjoys having her son so close.
While Odin is listening to the discussion between Thor and Tyr he also pays attention to his wife and cannot miss the sadness that came into her eyes at Thor's casual mention of Loki's name. It is a look he has seen many times since he cast Loki out as his son and sentenced Loki to life imprisonment following his return from the attacks on Jotunheim and Midgard.
Despite Odin's declaration to the contrary, made in anger while sentencing Loki, he continues to look on Loki as his youngest son. Odin regrets his declaration and ordering that Loki would never see Frigga again. He knows that Frigga used her magic to visit Loki through projection as her mother's love for her son could not abandon him to his fate.
Some of the brightness and sparkle left Frigga's eyes that day and Odin knows only Loki's full return to his mother's embrace and reinstatement as their son will ever light that missing flame again.
After Loki came to the aid of Asgard and assisted in the defeat of the Dark Elves, Odin has given much thought to the possible official reinstatement of Loki's position within the Royal Family. He has gone so far as to discuss it with some of his more trusted members of the King's Council. Thus far he had received a favourable response as they acknowledge that without Loki's assistance Asgard and the Nine Realms may have fallen.
Odin did not wish to cause his Queen any more pain or to have her pain displayed before another, even if that was a life long friend, and for this reason he waits until later to speak to Thor about Loki.
It takes a while but with the help of what were S.H.I.E.L.D files, modern satellite imaging and intelligence garnered from various law enforcement and military contacts Maria prepares for Cap a comprehensive file on Doom’s Castle, its defenses and layout. While they realise it is not all encompassing, it is nonetheless extremely helpful. Maria is nothing if not thorough and efficient in how she does her job. Not for the first time Steve is thankful that she agreed to come work for the Avengers and he can easily see why she was Fury's number two in command.
Rather than ask Tony to develop new surveillance equipment Steve decides to use existing S.H.I.E.L.D. technology. Tony in the meantime is working on reverse engineering Hammer’s upgrades to Doom’s bots to develop adequate counter measures. His task is made so much easier as he already has the blueprints for the weapons.
For fear of Doom or Hammer accidentally discovering what they are up to the audio and visual surveillance devices get tuned to a secure and restricted encrypted broadcasting frequency. The data received will be further encrypted before being transmitted back to the Avengers’ facility from the, as yet to be established, surveillance station.
Steve briefed the team on the progress and set out the proposed plan of action for discovering what is Doom and Hammer's next move. Tony offers to move a Stark Satellite into position over Latveria to aid surveillance but Steve is reluctant to accept especially after Tony's little stunt in Hammer Industries. To placate Tony it was agreed that the satellite would only be used if it became necessary for any of the Avengers to enter onto Latverian sovereign territory.
After more discussion, and some toing and froing, it was agreed that Natasha, Clint, Wanda and Vision would fly to Germany and from there travel to Sokovia, a neighbouring country of Latveria, to set up and initially man a surveillance operation from a safe house to be located there. Loki will, hopefully without detection, infiltrate and place the surveillance devices within Doom's Castle.
While the Avengers are not particularly welcomed by some citizens in Sokovia they are seen as heroes by others and in general it is a country where their presence may not draw too much unwanted attention. Steve is hoping that most of their enemies, who wish to bring down the Avengers, will not expect them to return to that country after the damage caused by Ultron so it makes it an ideal location within which to base themselves; close enough to Latveria but not within its borders.
The logistics of the operation are considered and Steve finally designates specific tasks to each member of the team, leaving Loki until last. Natasha offers to give Loki a tutorial in the operation and best placement options for the surveillance devices. He graciously accepts her assistance and they agree to head to one of the smaller conference rooms once the meeting is finished. Steve tries to keep the satisfied smile off his face that Natasha so easily offered to work with Loki. He is pleased to see how each assignment seems to integrate Loki further into the team and it no longer feels awkward to include him.
All the team disperse following the briefing to begin preparations for an operation which will last for a yet undetermined time period, it may be days, weeks or months,no one knows. These kind of assignments are harder to plan for as there are so many unknown complications out there just waiting to rise up and disrupt the best laid plans. The atmosphere is one of anticipation and uncertainty.
Steve, being Steve, remains in the conference room after everyone leaves going over his briefing notes to ensure he didn't miss anything. Bucky steps back into the conference room and isn't surprised to see his best friend still concentrating on the mission. Leaning against the door frame he asks, "Everything okay Punk?"
Looking up Steve gives a small smile. "Just making sure I missed nothing."
Bucky can clearly see the concern on his face and he moves to take a seat across from Steve. After a short while Steve leans back in his chair and stretches his back muscles before sitting up straight again and trying to ease the tension from his temples.
"He'll be okay!" Bucky states as Steve continues to rub his temple. "You know he can take care of himself and no one is more capable of getting in and out undetected."
That caught Steve by surprise and as he looked at his friend he marveled at Bucky's apparent ability to see right through him and almost read his mind.
Sighing as he looked at his friend, he knew Bucky would know if he tried to brush his concern under the carpet and claim that he wasn't worried about what he was asking Loki to do, to risk himself for the sake of the Avengers, for what could turn out to be nothing and all for the benefit of unknown persons.
"I know his powers give him an advantage but he'll have no backup or immediate support if something goes wrong. The closest backup will not even be in the same country and we don't really know what Doom is capable of after that accident where his DNA changed. I don't know, maybe I'd feel better if Thor was back from Asgard, then I'd worry less. He'd get to Loki quicker than any of us, even Tony, if Loki needed help."
"What about their all seeing gatekeeper? Surely he keeps an eye on Loki and would tell Thor if something bad happened to him?"
"I doubt he'd be watching. After all as the Gatekeeper for Asgard he'd, no doubt, be focused on watching the universe for threats, not following Loki's every move!" Steve countered or at least that's what he was hoping.
Feeling the need to tease his buddy, Bucky replies, "Nah, I bet he keeps a close eye on what our favourite God of Mischief is up to. After all Loki is technically still serving a sentence for his attack on the Frost Giants and New York!"
That made Steve wonder if Heimdall saw everything Loki did while on earth and, if so, did that mean he also could see what they did while alone together. A blush crept over Steve's face at that thought and he squirmed slightly at how creepy it suddenly felt to think someone was always watching.
Once again Bucky seemed to know what he was thinking as he asked "Steve, do you think he turns away or pays more attention when things get hot and spicy?"
"I don't want to think about it, Jerk!"
"Maybe you should ask Loki about it sometime!"
Bucky ducked as a pencil was launched in his direction from the other side of the table.
Odin asks Thor to accompany him and Tyr as they inspect the training grounds. Standing to Odin's right, Thor looks across the training grounds at the groups of warriors each practising different combat techniques. Some are involved in hand to hand combat, some with various weapons while others are focusing on physical fitness. The clash of weapons fills the air and light shimmers off the blades. Thor has always enjoyed the training grounds both as a participant and as an observer.
Volstagg, one of the Warriors Three, calls out to Thor once he sees his old friend. Hogun who was sparring with him takes advantage of Volstagg's distraction to knock him off his feet. He lands with a great thump onto the ground.
"Take care my friend, it is never a good idea to take your eyes off your opponent! Were Loki here he would no doubt ensure you could not easily rise again." Thor calls out and laughs at his friend lying prone on the ground. Hogun gives Thor an exaggerated bow as Volstagg scowls.
"The invitation I was about to extend to you is now rescinded!" Volstagg declares.
"I am no doubt the worse for that." Thor replies.
Fandral sidesteps an attack from Lady Sif as he calls to Thor."We must all meet later and hear of your adventures of Midgard! If Volstagg will not extend the invitation then I shall do so."
"I accept your kind invitation Fandral. I would enjoy that very much" Thor answers.
Odin lays a hand gently on Thor's forearm to gain his attention. Thor instantly turns to face his father and waits for the King to say whatever is on his mind. "Speaking of Loki!" he enquires.
"He fares well, I am pleased to report" Thor happily answers.
"Does he?" Odin questions. "I have heard from Heimdall that there are times Loki is hidden from his sight and hearing!"
"Yes, so he also informed me upon my return" Thor replies. "As Heimdall has confirmed, Loki is in the company of one of my Avengers shield brothers when this happens and is still in that company when Heimdall sees him again thus I am not concerned."
Odin considers this for a moment. "Loki has, in the past, convinced you of his innocence when the truth was something different" Odin notes.
"Father, when such things happened it was because Loki was up to mischief and such mischief was aimed at me. He has rarely led me to believe an untruth which was not directed at myself. For this and by reason of the company he keeps when shielded from Heimdall's sight I truly believe you need not worry Allfather."
Tyr has been standing beside the father and son but has remained silent. He has always found Thor and Loki's faith in each other astounding, They seem to be able to hold onto the essence of brotherhood despite the doubts and hurt which has been caused over the years. And even now, after all that Loki has done, Thor is speaking of trusting his brother.
"This company Loki is keeping, do you approve of them?"
A broad smile spreads over Thor's lips and his face lights up with genuine delight. "I would trust them with my life and in fact I have done so on many occasions. They have shown themselves to be fine warriors and trustworthy, loyal shield brothers."
Tyr finds this incredible and cannot remain silent any longer. "Excuse me, my Prince, but you mean to say that Loki is keeping the company of warriors outside of the field of battle. That is not his norm, surely you jest. Other than you, it is well known that Loki barely tolerates the company of Warriors, even the Warriors Three and Lady Sif are no more than slightly bearable company to him."
Thor turns to the Commander. "What you say may be true of Warriors of Asgard but it is not the same for my Avengers Shield Brothers. Captain Rogers, the Leader of the Avengers, is like no Warrior of Asgard save for his bravery, courage, strength and skill in battle. Off the battle field he is an artist with the soul of a poet. It is these traits which combined with his honour, loyalty, strength and skills that has drawn Loki into his company".
Tyr raises an eyebrow in surprise. He has never met an artist who is also a skilled warrior save for Frigga but she is a rare exception. On Asgard it is truly rare for a warrior to be anything but a warrior, a fighter, a defender and a provider. Artists are not made for the battlefield other than to capture the battle for history sake.
"You spoke of more than one!" Odin prompted.
"Aye, so I did!" Thor said before adding, "Sergeant Barnes is the best friend of Captain Rogers since childhood. Like the good Captain, he is fiercely loyal and determined. He holds the heart of a lion and is unwavering in his determination to protect those in need of his protection. He is a skilled warrior with a deathly aim. I believe Loki has found a kindred spirit in Bucky as they both continue to battle internal demons and have suffered greatly at the hands of others; having been forced to act against their will. Their loyalty to Captain Rogers and now to each other gladdens my heart for I know they care as I do. They will not see harm come to those they love or care about".
Odin has listened and taken in what Thor has said but he knows there is something Thor is not saying. It does not appear to be something which causes Thor worry but Odin knows how loyal Thor can be to Loki when Loki wishes for something to be unknown to others.
"Perhaps I should meet these warriors and judge for myself!" Odin declares.
"I do not believe you will find them wanting, Father". Thor emphatically states.
When the surveillance mission had been discussed it was agreed that the surveillance team would be swapped out every two weeks.
Not knowing the timescale for Doom’s plan meant that the Avengers were operating a little by the seat of their pants and it was not sitting well with Steve. His strategic mind preferred more concrete plans and a timeframe of some sort. Bucky had almost choked when Steve had mentioned this at the meeting.
“This coming from the guy who was willing to walk to Austria, with nothing more than a tin shield, a pistol and a chorus girl’s helmet, to rescue the 107th!” Bucky teased. He squawked when Steve reached out unexpectedly and caught him in a headlock where he sat before releasing him almost immediately thereafter.
Based on the delivery schedules for the upgrades which they had uncovered, Steve believed that six months should be sufficient time to complete the mission. As an initial estimate a property would be leased for three months with an option to renew for a further three thereafter.
The following week Clint pilots the Avenjet to a small private airfield in Germany; on board is Natasha, Wanda, Vision and Loki. The team disembarks and head to the waiting vehicles after unloading the jet of their equipment. Having secured the jet, Loki and Wanda, working together cast a protection spell which acts as a small force field. Should anyone attempt to gain entry to the jet or in any way attempt to cause damage to it they will be hit with an electrical pulse.
While Loki would prefer a greater electrical output he knows Steve would not approve so he settles for one that will not quite stun the receiver but will definitely sting. Natasha had smiled when he suggested a much greater strength and commented that what the Good Captain did not know would not worry him. When Clint pointed out that Cap had a way of finding out things Loki reluctantly relented.
For months now Loki and Wanda had, with varying degrees of success, been working on ways to combine their magic. The spectrum of Loki’s magic was wider than Wanda’s but he knew Wanda was more powerful than she realised or imagined and he enjoyed helping her improve and reach for her full potential.
They have previously successfully combined their magic to allow for longer lasting sustained force fields (or magic bubbles as Bucky called them) without the necessity for either one to remain present. Additionally, Loki has lent his power to increasing Wanda’s stamina in her castings, strength and scope of her kinetic forces thus allowing her to maintain more control and precision. Steve was very proud of the progress Wanda was making under Loki’s tutelage and he could see Wanda was growing in confidence in her abilities.
They traveled from Germany to Sokovia in convoy and arrived some hours later at what would be their new temporary base near to the Latverian border. Wanda cannot keep from smiling at being back in her homeland. She wishes that she could take her new family, for that is how she now sees the Avengers, and show them the delights of her country. Maybe when they have finished with Doom she will find the time to do so.
Loki had accompanied Natasha in one vehicle while Clint drove the other with Wanda and Vision. Vision did not particularly enjoy the long road trip, something he stated on more than one occasion as he reminded Clint that he could easily have met them at their final destination. Only when Wanda started pointing out places of interest did he stop complaining. This caused Clint to smile to himself and he made a note to tell Natasha later.
On arriving at the country house, which Natasha had rented using one of her lesser known aliases (one which had not been compromised when SHIELD fell), Clint groused as he stepped out of his vehicle, “I am not doing anymore long car journeys with Vision. He travels with you from now on!”
Natasha laughed. “I thought you’d be accustomed to the experience of grumpy children on long drives”, she teased.
Clint cast her a disbelieving look. “I generally have Laura with me for those!”
“I’m gonna tell her that!”
“Go ahead, she already knows. How else do you think I’ve survived this long?”
Shaking her head Natasha headed for the door and retrieved the key from the lockbox on the wall.
The house was an old country house with ornate architectural features set in three acres of grounds and surrounded by a walled boundary and mature gardens. Access to the property was via a long winding driveway which could be seen from the main house. The electronic gates and high wall offered privacy and seclusion. A top of the line security system was also active. The views over the surrounding countryside were spectacular and Loki smiled as he pictured Steve sketching in the afternoon sunshine.
They unloaded the vehicles before heading individually to explore the house. The kitchen was well stocked and French doors led from the lounge area out to a patio which overlooked the garden. To one side a swimming pool could be seen beneath its covers. The house had four bedrooms and they each took one.
Loki would not be staying there for more than a night or two so Vision offered him the use of his room while he was there. “As I have no need for sleep I will not require the bed whereas you do even if you are a god”.
Loki smiled at the kind offer. “While I do not need as much sleep as our friends here I will gladly accept your offer.”
Wanda smiled with pride at Vision’s courtesy.
Tony is working in his private lab as Natasha, Wanda, Clint, Vision and Loki head for Europe. While some, namely Steve, Bucky and Sam, waved them off he remained working.
While he would never admit it to anyone he was fascinated with some of the miniature designs Hammer had developed for the Doombot upgrades. Of course for Tony his mind was already improving the designs and considering if they could be incorporated into Falcon’s weaponry.
While working on a schematic he thought he saw some movement out the side of his eye. Turing around he realised he was alone in his lab. Shaking his head he figured it was a shadow or something.
Returning his attention to the component he had been soldering Tony reached out for the Tip Tinner he had placed to his left hand side on the bench. He automatically left the equipment he needed within easy reach or had Dum–E or one of the other robots fetch it for him.
Tony did not like being distracted while he worked and having to search for something he needed was definitely a distraction. As Dum–E was not at the Avengers’ facility every tool and component within the lab was in a designated place for ease of access.
Tony looked to his left and saw that the Tip Tinner was now approximately two feet further away on the other end of the workstation. Tony frowned as he looked at the tool. He had been distracted slightly lately so he figured he may have accidentally moved it. Reaching across he grabbed it and used it to clean the tip of the soldering iron in his hand.
Later, he again caught movement in his peripheral vision and this time when he looked back to the work station his precision wire stripper had moved from its place in front of the component he was working on.
“Friday, please run a scan of this lab for any anomalies and compare it to yesterday’s readings!”
“Right away, Sir. Is there anything in particular you wish me to concentrate on or simply a complete scan?”
“A complete scan for now, bio-signatures other than my own, radiation fluctuations, radio signals. You know “The whole nine yards”!”
“Of course, an In-depth analysis has commenced.”
Tony leaned back in his seat while the scan was running. He kept glancing from left to right and spinning every so often on his chair as he watched to see if he could catch anything happening. Everything remained in its place. After Friday confirmed that the scan was complete and no anomalies were detected Tony decided to take a break and get more coffee.
As the others settle in at the new base Loki takes a seat at a table on the patio to study the schematics of Doom’s Castle. The songbirds can be heard as they cast their music out to the world. It reminds him of hours spent sitting in the shade of a large tree in Frigga’s private garden as he read his magic texts. The feel of the warm sunshine on his face adds a sense of peace which his mind is trying its best to negate. Drawing in deep breaths he closes his eyes for a few moments and lets the sounds surround him.
Although uncertain as to the exact location within the castle of Doom’s command centre Loki can at least rule out several areas as unlikely locations. He discusses his suppositions with Natasha and Clint when they join him on the patio. Having gleaned all he can from the information at hand he heads to the border accompanied by Wanda and Natasha.
With a flick of his wrist he transforms his clothes to a style more in keeping with local Latverians as they draw closer to the border. He turns to Wanda and speaks in fluent Latverian; a language similar in sound to Sokovian and one which Wanda had heard frequently as a child. She complements Loki on his accent, pronunciation and inflection. He gives her a small bow and a smile in thanks before bidding both goodbye and disappearing.
After taking a break of thirty minutes Tony returns to his lab and resumes his work. The first component he had been working on is complete and he turns his attention to the holographic schematics displayed on several screens. He adjusts the readouts and runs simulations. Once satisfied with the results he returns to his work station to begin work on the next component. He carefully arranges all the tools, equipment and raw materials he will need before he starts.
Reaching over to a shelf to grab a precision ant-static tweezers he notices that they are not in order of descending size. They are now hap hazzardly arranged although they remain on their designated shelf. Tony puts them back in order and asks Friday if anyone has been in the lab when he was absent.
Friday confirms that no one has entered the lab in his absence. Tony is becoming more and more puzzled. The scan showed up nothing and no one has been there when he wasn’t present.
“Friday, please run a self-diagnostic to see if your system has been tampered with from an outside source, check for any new coding since your last upgrade.”
“Right away, Sir. Running diagnostic now! May I ask what has you concerned?”
“Someone has been messing with my tools and I don’t like anyone touching my stuff!”
Over the course of the next hour several other tools are not in their designated places and Tony continues to see random movement out of his peripheral vision but the movement stops as soon as he moves to see better.
Suddenly he doesn’t feel so crazy when before his eyes several tools change their positions on shelves and on his work bench. Tony moves towards the diagonal cutting pliers which appeared to change places on their own and are now in the reverse order from where they had been. He examines each one carefully for wires or filament or some other means by which they could have been moved by a third party.
After getting Friday to show him all recordings from his lab for the previous three hours he begins to think he was imagining or seeing things and doubts what his own eyes had witnessed. If Tony didn’t know better he’d swear his lab was haunted. That brings another thought to his mind and he rises from his seat.
Storming out of his lab he roars “Loki” at the top of his voice.
Loki materialised in a side street off the main market area in Doomstadt, the town nearest to Doom’s Castle. Looking up at the Castle, which stands as a foreboding gothic structure high up on the hillside overlooking the town, Loki can clearly see that it is meant to intimidate the locals. The vain attempt makes Loki smile.
Access to the Castle is, as expected, restricted so he spends the afternoon and early evening observing the comings and goings from the Castle. From casual conversations with the traders in the market place he learns that supplies to the Castle are generally delivered early in the mornings. Posing as a visiting artisan trader from a small hamlet in the South of the Country he found that the local traders were willing to assist him with as much information as they knew. To secure a contract to the supply Dr. Doom’s castle is a valued prize and could set a trader up for life. Loki was careful to ensure that the goods he claimed he would be offering were not something which the market already supplied.
`After all there is no good to be gained from antagonising the locals` he thought as he walked amongst them.
No one had paid particular attention to him as he made subtle enquiries about Doom and the Castle. To many he appeared as any other tourist; somewhat awe struck by the Castle and its inhabitants. It is clear that many have no love lost for their leader but are cautious in expressing their dislike. Loki is reminded of some of the Labourers and Nobles on Asgard who are reluctant to voice their true feelings about Odin and the Royal Family. Loki has long walked among them in disguise to hear the truth of their feelings.
All those who benefit, from what they call Dr. Doom’s generosity, sing his praises and some even declare him the Saviour of Latveria.
Having garnered all the information he believes he can Loki magically hitches a ride in the back of the truck belonging to the local launderette as it returned with the freshly laundered linens to the Castle. It is fortuitous for Loki that his visit coincides with an upcoming extravaganza at the Castle and several traders and suppliers are visiting the Castle to set up their wares. The added traffic to and from the Castle will provide additional cover for Loki.
As the truck approached the Castle boundary Loki sent out a burst of magic to see if there were any wards against magic infused with the standard electronic security. References to Dr. Doom’s use of magic had caught Loki’s interest, although the detail was limited, and as such he was surprised that no magical security measures were in place. Perhaps Doom believed that such measures were unnecessary. The idea that a magic user would infiltrate his home was obviously not something he had considered. Loki had wards set up around the Avengers’ facility. He made a mental note to remember to discuss them with Wanda when they finished this mission.
Entering through the gates Loki prepared for his exit from the truck. Loki, now wearing overalls similar to the launderette employee and carrying an armful of clean linens, slipped unnoticed out of the truck as the linens and laundry were being unloaded. While the driver made several trips from the truck to the internal laundry area Loki used a casting on himself which allowed him to walk unnoticed into the Castle. His image was hidden from surveillance cameras and anyone he met avoided looking at him as they passed. If any were asked about him the best they could give was a vague description of a launderette employee.
Moving silently and unnoticed through the Castle he used his teleportation to avoid opening security doors. While he could have magically opened the doors as he approached them he did not want the open doors to attract attention. The magical casting hiding him from view helped with the security cameras and his natural Jotun body temperature allowed him fool infrared and heat sensors.
Proceeding quickly, he made his way to the area of the Castle with the greatest security, anticipating that the command centre and Doom’s office would in all likelihood be located there. As anticipated he found Doom’s command centre with little difficulty. He swiftly masked each surveillance device with a magical concealment spell before placing them in the optimum locations.
Prior to leaving New York Loki had tested his concealment spells on Tony and SHIELD’s scanning equipment and none had detected the devices or their output signals. The one thing Loki could not determine was whether or not Doom had more proficient equipment but he would deal with that if it became necessary.
Steve had been careful to ensure that nothing on the devices indicated their true origins and the signals were being scrambled via Russia. China, both North and South Korea, several African, Middle Eastern and European countries as well as the USA and Canada before showing a false final destination in South America. The fake final destination changed daily so that no one could determine its true location. Most often the end point appeared to be an uninhabited Island in the South Pacific.
Further devices were placed in Doom’s private office, study, public and private lounge areas. Loki had lingered there and eavesdropped on several conversations being had by the gathered security personnel. Unfortunately he heard nothing of interest and soon resumed his work.
He considered placing a device in the bedroom in case important calls were routed there but having concern for what else may be overheard Loki decided against it.
Luckily for Loki with all the preparations for the upcoming celebration and his added magical concealment his presence went unnoticed and he was able to move easily throughout as the Castle. Staff and other traders and workmen seemed to instinctively but unconsciously avoid him in the halls with none accidentally walking into him.
Loki strode along as if he was back on Asgard and walking the halls he had known all his life, never once having to adjust his movements. He smiled to himself as he walked. Had Doom taken any precautions against magic then his task would have been much more of a challenge. He realised that few beyond the Avengers had any idea of the level of power he possessed and even less the extent or working of his magic.
Occasionally small rodents or birds would materialise and run off down a corridor before disappearing down a nearby hole or fly out through an open window to cover any anomalies which may have occurred in the surveillance cameras footage. Better to be safe than sorry!
Loki wondered when he had become so cautious? Thinking on that while he laid the last of the devices he came to the conclusion that while he thrived on causing chaos he had always been cautious even if his actions did not appear so to others. Thor was reckless and impulsive; not him.
After each device was put in place he contacted Natasha to confirm all were operational and strong clear signals were being received .
Later Loki returned unseen to the town, this time catching a ride in the back of a catering truck which happened to be packing up to leave the Castle as he'd emerged.
Once back in the side street and hidden from prying eyes and ears he notified Natasha that he was ready to return to Sokovia . Carefully exiting the surrounding area he steps into a blind alleyway and teleported back across the border.
Before heading back to the house with food for the others, Loki contacted Steve to let him know he was back in Sokovia and that the devices have been set. The relief was unmistakable in Steve’s voice on hearing that Loki had returned safely to Sokovia. While Steve never doubted Loki’s ability to successfully carry out his mission he had been concerned that something unforeseen could occur. He knew from experience that Doom was unpredictable and that the Avenger's intelligence on him was lacking.
Loki’s reminder to take care of Pottery and Tin in his absence makes Steve smile. He missed Loki but didn’t say anything as Loki was still on a mission. He found himself lost in thought and still staring at the phone in his hand several minutes after Loki hung up.
Deciding to head back to the States rather than staying overnight in Sokovia Loki finished eating and rising from his seat he bade Natasha, Clint, Vision and Wanda adieu.
While not completely necessary to do so, Loki had always found that food before or after long distance teleportation helps to quickly replenish his magic reserves as it raises his energy levels .
While Loki’s range for teleportation with another was limited he had no such difficulty when it was simply himself teleporting and he remained on the same realm. To move between realms he knew hidden pathways should he need them!
Giving a small bow he disappeared from Sokovia and appeared a short while later in the grounds of the Avengers’ facility. Loki casually walked in from the garden as if he was returning from a pleasant stroll. Looking over at him Sam raised an eyebrow and smirked at the self-satisfied look on Loki’s face.
“I take it that went well?”
“It did.” Loki answered Sam with a small smile and a nod of his head in greeting. “Is the Captain in his office?”
“As far as I know, yeah he is! It’s almost lunchtime so he should be coming in through that door anytime soon if you’d prefer to wait”
Loki looked at the door and then at the clock on the wall. “Time zones can be quite confusing.”
“I bet.” Sam replied. Then a thought occurred to him and he scrunched his forehead. “Do you not have time zones on Asgard?”
“No. No matter where on Asgard you are the time is the same.”
“Huh! How does that work? I mean I thought Asgard was quite large”.
“Unlike Midgard, Earth” he corrected “Asgard is not a round planet but rather is all on the same plain, flat so to speak; though we do have mountains and valleys, lakes and rivers.”
“Okay!” Sam says somewhat bewildered. “I guess things work differently there, gravity, physics and such like?”
Sam waits for Loki to continue but he doesn’t appear to be offering anything further so Sam drops the topic. He figures he’d probably not understand the explanation anyway so he’ll leave that to the scientists.
He does wonder just how strange all this must be for Loki and Thor. A proud smile appears as he thinks about how well they’ve adjusted to life on a different alien world and he wonders if he or any of the others would adjust as easily if their roles were reversed.
“Brother, you are back” Thor announces as he enters. He had returned from Asgard while Loki was en route to Latveria.
Deliberately and obviously looking down at himself, Loki remains completely straight faced as he replies “So it would appear!”
Thor picks up an apple from the fruit bowl and tosses it at Loki’s head. Loki reaches up and snatches the apple from the air before taking a large bite.
The smile from Thor lights up his entire face. Sam looks from one brother to the other as it is obvious that he is missing something. “Should I ask what was with the apple toss?”
“Loki is not always as he seems” Thor answers thinking that explains all.
When faced with Sam’s quizzical expression he adds, “Do not always believe what your eyes see where my brother is concerned. He is a master of illusion as well as the God of Mischief!”
“I’ll try to remember that!” Sam says. He’s still not quite sure what happened but maybe he can ask someone again at another time.
A few minutes later Steve arrives, heading straight for the kitchen to fix something to eat. His steps slow and his eyes light up when he sees Loki standing just inside the doors leading from the garden. They exchange a quick smile.
“Loki, you’re back!” Steve states and then blushes at having said something so obvious.
“Indeed I am, Captain. And it appears that I am just in time to have lunch. Teleporting can at times be draining.” he states.
(Even though Loki had eaten with the others in Sokovia and didn’t really need to eat again he was not going to pass up an opportunity to spend some time with Steve.)
“Great, let’s eat first and then you can give me your report later" Steve suggests. "I wasn’t expecting you back till later this evening if not tomorrow.”
“My task was complete and as such the necessity of my presence in Sokovia was redundant.”
Loki sounded nonchalant but Steve hoped that he might have been part of Loki's decision to come immediately back to the States and the way Loki had responded to his smile made him believe he might be right.
Steve stepped back to allow Loki go into the kitchen in front of him and their fingers touched briefly as they passed each other. Sam thought he saw something pass between them but it happened so quickly he can't be sure if he saw something or nothing at all. He makes a note to keep better watch but then Bucky comes in and pulls Loki into a one arm hug.
“Loki, Pal, you made it back in time for weapons sparring this afternoon!” Bucky says clearly delighted to have Loki back.
As Bucky passes Steve he gives him a wink along with a barely noticeable small head gesture in Sam’s direction. He’d seen Sam looking curiously from Steve to Loki as they’d passed each other.
Steve instantly understands the small silent hint from Bucky. “You can have Loki only after I’m finished getting his report!” Steve states.
“Okay, Boss, you get first dibs!” Bucky teases.
“As I don’t appear to get a say,” Loki sighs dramatically then declares “very well I acquiesce!”
He grabs meat and salad from the refrigerator and hands them to Thor and Steve who move to prepare sandwiches for lunch. Sandwiches made, they all take seats at the table to enjoy their lunch. Steve deliberately serves from left to right so that Loki gets served first. Across the table Bucky tries not to snort out loud. He quickly changes the snort to a cough as his best friend glares from the other side of the table. Reaching out his long legs under the table Loki gives Bucky a swift kick on the shin!
"Ouch!" Bucky squeaks out before he can stop himself. "Keep those long legs to your own side of the table!"
"I beg your pardon!" Loki declares but it is clear from the smirk at the edges of his lips and the spark in his eye that he is not repentant. Steve's glare has now turned to a satisfied grin.
Bucky shakes his head at them and wonders if those two will be the death of him.
“Perhaps you should avoid Tony for a while!” Sam suggested to Loki as lunch ended.
Looking completely innocent, (a look which was quickly becoming one of Steve’s favourites), Loki smiled. “Why?”
“Ah, he might not be too happy about his lab and the moving tools!”
“Oh, that!” Loki threw his head back and laughed out loud. “Did I miss the show?”
“Yes!” Steve answered and feigned a scowl.
Loki pouted at him. “Why Captain did I do something wrong?”
Steve couldn’t keep the scowl on his face when he saw Loki’s pout. “He may have screamed a little”.
“Or a lot!” Sam helpfully added.
“I am sorry I missed that. There is less fun doing mischief when one is not present to see the fruit of that labour!”
“So you admit it was your doing?” Bucky asks, not quite sure why Loki would admit to it so easily.
“Of course, who else around here could pull off such a feat? Wanda was with me and as the only practitioners of magic I know of no other it could have been!”
Steve laid a hand on Loki’s shoulder. “Tony was not happy!”
Turning his whole attention onto Steve, Loki smiled. “Well then he should not have agreed to be part of my mischief.”
It’s now Steve’s turn to be surprised. “He agreed! That doesn’t sound like Tony. He does not like anyone touching his things or being in his lab.”
“My dear Captain, that is where you err! I did not say he agreed to me being in his lab or touching his things. I said he agreed to be part of mischief. He did not ask what that mischief was going to be or against whom the mischief was aimed. He will know better in the future”.
Steve smiles as he shakes his head.
“If you do not believe me Thor or Natasha can confirm as they were both present when the agreement was made.”
Thor nods his head in affirmation of what Loki had said. “Aye, Loki speaks true.”
“I believe you Loki. “ Steve confirms. “I just don’t think Tony knew what he was agreeing to!”
Looking up towards the ceiling Steve says “Friday please line up the recording in the media room”.
Clapping Loki gently on the back of the shoulder Steve turns Loki towards the media room. “Come on, we saved the show for you. I figured you wouldn’t want to miss it”.
“Thank you” Loki replied as he leaned slightly into Steve’s hand where it still rested on his back.
The others were already heading for the media room and if Steve’s hand lowered to the small of Loki’s back and rested there momentarily as they walked out of the dining area then who was Loki to complain!
Each day Natasha prepared the collected audio and video data from Doom’s Castle for transfer to Steve. It is sent with an accompanying report containing references to matters of note; giving the date, time and digital reference for ease of playback. Most of the recording is worthless and of no interest to them but what may appear as non-consequential to others is not always so to Steve so Natasha sends it all.
She knows that despite her skills that Steve will want to hear it all for himself and make his own assessment. This is not any slight on her skills but rather Steve knowing his own strengths and hers. The devices have been calibrated to activate when voices are detected so as to avoid long periods of background noise and useless sounds.
From a perusal of the recordings already received Steve had noted delivery patterns and schedules, order numbers, ports of delivery and airfields, flight numbers, frequency of repetitive words or phrases; all of which could be important and form possible codes.
Nothing of significance is heard in the first two weeks of surveillance but Doom did have some interesting contact with individuals of interest, some of whom have dubious international reputations. All of his contacts are noted and quickly other patterns start to emerge beyond his dealings with Hammer Industries. It appears that Dr. Doom frequents the world of illegal arms dealers and organised crime but has, as yet, said nothing to indicate his intentions for the upgraded Doombots.
Two weeks after the initial surveillance operation started Steve, Loki and Bucky fly to Germany where they meet Clint, Wanda and Vision on their rotation back to the States. Steve had taken the second Avenjet so that Clint could pilot home the first one thus ensuring that whoever was on surveillance duty in Sokovia had a jet and a pilot available to them at all times.
When discussing the change in shift Natasha had indicated her desire to remain at the observation house for a further two weeks. As she was not needed for any specific assignment back home Steve agreed.
Natasha had politely but forcibly pointed out that she had years of experience with much longer ops and that staying on wasn’t a hardship or challenge for her.
Steve wondered if the fact that Bucky was coming to Sokovia had anything to do with her decision but he reserved judgment until they met.
On their way to their new base they stopped off in the nearby village, on Clint’s suggestion, to pick up groceries for the coming weeks and take away. Loki’s all speak and talent for accents and illusion once again came in very handy.
Due to the time difference it was early evening when they arrived at the house. Natasha greeted them with a hug. Steve noticed, even though others may have missed it, that Bucky got a bigger smile and a longer hug so he had been right as to one of Natasha’s reasons for wanting to stay on in Sokovia.
Steve grins at his best friend who gives him the middle finger in response. Steve can’t blame Natasha for wanting to stay; he knows he would do the same if he and Loki were in her and Bucky’s shoes.
Natasha shows them around the house and points out where they will be sleeping so that bags can be dropped off. Over the take out dinner she briefs them on the local area, amenities, the data received that day and generally catching them up.
Dinner was pleasant with easy conversation and a relaxed atmosphere. Steve let Natasha know that Tony had returned to New York City and was due to head back to Malibu that week. He expected to be back at the facility in a few weeks having promised everyone they would be seeing much more of him in the future.
“I bet that relieved some tension” she offered.
“It wasn’t that bad, was it?” Steve earnestly asked, looking from Bucky to Loki and then Natasha for an answer.
“Well, it wasn’t exactly a tension free atmosphere” Loki diplomatically answered.
Shocked at the reply, Steve looked at his two friends. “Why didn’t someone say something? Why didn’t one of you say something?” His frown says more than either would like.
“Like what?” Bucky asks. “Hey Steve, you know how Tony squirms when he hears you coming into a room or how he can’t look you in the eye?”
“Jerk!” is Steve’s automatic reply to the sarcastic tone of his best friend.
Steve shakes his head and looks expectantly at Loki. “It wasn’t that bad, was it?”
“No, it was not that bad. James is exaggerating.” Loki casts a quick scowl at Bucky. “ Stark didn’t squirm, as much as I would have enjoyed seeing that. But he was uncomfortable and avoided looking you straight in the face after the Hammer mission. Of course, spending all that extra time in his private lab made avoiding you easier!” Loki gives Steve a small sympathetic smile as he sees the frown between Steve’s eyes has deepened
Steve feels bad. What Tony had done really did piss him off but like so many times before he’d moved past it. There were more important things to focus on and time was of the essence. Unfortunately it seems that Tony had not moved past it.
“It didn’t seem that he was avoiding me!” Steve said in a low voice, almost as if he hadn’t intended to speak out loud.
“That’s because you were busy analysing data in your office which took all your focus. His quick exit, at times out another door, as you approached a room may have given us a hint or two!” Bucky deadpans.
Steve rubs the back of his neck. “What should I do?” He looks to his friends for advice. “Tony messed up sure, but we’ve moved on”.
Loki reaches over, catches Steve’s hand mid-stroke and gently but firmly pulls the hand down. “There is nothing you need do.” The tone used by Loki beggars no argument. “Tony is a big boy. He’ll eventually get over disappointing you.”
“I hope so” Steve sighs.
Natasha laughs. “You really are a boy scout Rogers!”
“Hey!” Steve exclaims, looking across at Natasha as he tries to understand why she said that.
“Tony messes up, you get justifiably annoyed at him and now you're worried because he can’t handle you being disappointed in him!” Natasha’s right eyebrow is raised exaggeratingly high.
Steve blushes. He knows Tony deserved his annoyance but there are times he can’t help but see Tony as Howard’s son and he feels a responsibility to his old friend to look out for his son (even if that son is now older than Steve when he excludes his time spent on ice).
All the while Loki continued to hold Steve’s hand under the table and now looks sympathetically at his love. He decides to remove the focus from Steve to give him a few minutes to sort through his thoughts on Tony.
“Natasha, you no doubt recall the day that Tony agreed to some mischief. Yes?”
“Yeah, I couldn’t believe you managed to talk him into that. What did you do and more importantly why did you do it when I was not there to see it?”
“Firstly, I did not talk him into anything. I asked and he agreed with no persuasion from me. Secondly, it was not my doing that you left the country”.
Natasha is not buying Loki’s innocent act. “No but you were with me when I left the country and you knew I wasn’t coming back with you!” She tried her best glare but somehow it didn’t quite work; the twinkle in her eye may have reduced the overall effect.
Loki raised his hands in mock surrender. “I being out of the country, or at least not at the Avengers’ facility, was a requirement for the mischief!”
“Okay, I’ll give you a pass this one time” she decided.
“My lady Natasha, your kindness is unbounded.” Loki states with as much mock sincerity as he could convey with his voice, which for Loki is substantial.
Bucky and Steve both give surprised snorts as Loki gives them both a dirty look.
“While I was away, Tony’s tools became somewhat animated as they periodically re-arranged themselves without his knowledge or being seen, at least at the beginning. It only became truly apparent what was happening after the third hour. He’d reach for a tool to find that, like five others in the previous hour, it was not in its place or where he had last seen it. Perhaps the sight of all his tools moving independently a little while later may have also suggested that something was amiss!”
“Oh man, no!” Natasha laughed. “He really does not like anyone touching his things and especially not in his lab”.
Smiling at the memory Loki continued. “His reaction when replayed to me by Friday was, as expected, quite wonderful!”
“I heard the scream “Loki” all the way in the kitchen. I’ve never seen Tony look so annoyed and dumbfounded at the same time” Bucky suggested. “There was the proverbial steam coming out his ears”.
Steve smiled at Loki as he added to the story. “He stormed into my office demanding to know exactly where Loki was for every minute of the previous three hours. Loki was of course with you, Clint, Wanda and Vision somewhere over the Atlantic or Northern Europe. I had to get Friday to confirm the exact location to Tony and that Loki had never left the Avenjet since it had taken off.”
Bucky was now laughing hard at the memory. “Tasha, you should have seen his face. What he didn’t call Loki; no sailor has ever used such language or called down so many curses. The rest of the team had by now gathered outside Steve’s office. The completely innocent look on Steve’s face was making Tony more annoyed as he was certain Steve had been in on the joke all along”.
“I was lost. I couldn’t get Tony to calm down enough to tell me what he was annoyed about or why he was ranting at Loki who wasn’t even there.”
Loki is enjoying watching the two friends tell the tale as he sits back with a `cat got the cream` grin.
“Eventually” Steve added, “I asked Friday to show me the recording of whatever had set Tony off.”
Steve now turns his body so he can face Loki as he continues. “To see the tools moving and changing places on the shelves and work benches without any obvious propulsion was amazing. When it happened right beside and in front of Tony his reaction was priceless; at first disbelief, then looking around to see if anyone else was present or if there were thin wires or filaments attached to the tools. He even got Friday to test his blood alcohol level before he started screaming abuse at the absent Loki”.
“Please tell me you still have the video and didn’t let Tony erase it?” Natasha pleaded.
“Thought you might like to see it” Bucky said, handing her a thumb drive.
Steve raised his eyebrows at his best friend in silent admonishment.
“This evening’s entertainment!” Bucky innocently offered.
“You are the best” Natasha declared before leaning across and planting a slow deliberate kiss on Bucky’s lips.
Steve and Loki exchange a look of surprise. This is the first blatant public display of affection they have seen from Natasha and Bucky. While there had been other touches and quick kisses to cheeks none had been on the lips.
“Anything for you doll!” Bucky smiles once his lips are his own again.
“Hey, less of the doll if you don’t mind!” she teases as she play slaps his arm.
“Okay, Red it is then” Bucky says as he flashes Natasha his award winning smile.
“Fine, Red I’ll accept and you’re forgiven for doll”.
Bucky takes a second kiss before relieving Natasha of the USB drive and heads towards the tv. Plugging in the drive he tosses the remote control to Natasha. “It’s all yours Red. I’m grabbing some beers. Anyone else want some?”
After getting three yesses, he grabs a six pack out of the fridge and hands out the beers. The screen lights up with the words “Stark and the mystery of the moving instruments” before an edited version begins to play.
Bucky takes a seat alongside Natasha on one couch while Steve and Loki take the other one. Natasha moves so she can rest comfortably against Bucky’s shoulder as the show starts. All four laugh heartedly as Tony discovers the moving instruments and begins his rant at Loki to an empty room.
When Friday confirmed for the fifth time that there was no footage of Loki or anyone else in his lab when Tony was not also present and no one had entered the lab when Tony was not there Tony stormed off towards Steve’s office. The video also showed what happened there and the rest of the team crying with laughter in the hallway.
“I am somewhat sorry I missed seeing those reactions in person” Loki stated in between laughs.
“You are bad!” Bucky commented.
“For how long did the tools keep moving?” Natasha eventually asked as it became clear that it had continued after Tony had gone to Steve’s office and later when Tony had returned to his lab.
The fact that Tony couldn’t figure out how the tools were moving was now annoying Tony more than trying to prove Loki was behind it.
“Ah, well that was part of the fun.” Loki explained. “A straight six hours was the intended time period but as Tony kept coming and going it lasted longer and ended up being six hours of Tony being present in the lab. And Then Tony spent a further hour watching everything after it ended expecting the tools to move again”.
“Did he prove it was you or more importantly can he prove it?”
“He didn’t need to prove it” Loki smiled, “as I admitted to the mischief when I returned. Pranks are more fun when the author is known”.
Steve adds, “And before you ask Loki pointed out to Tony that he had agreed to have some fun so he really had no grounds for complaint.”
“I bet he didn’t like that!” Natasha suggested.
“He was not overly pleased but Friday was so helpful in proving me correct”. It is clear from Loki’s face that he was pleased with how the prank played out.
Turning her whole attention to Loki, Natasha asks, “So how did you pull it off?”
“No point asking him” Bucky declared, “he won’t tell”.
“James, I did tell. Is it my fault that so many fail to believe me?”
Bucky shrugged and laughed at the innocent look Loki was giving him. Turning to Natasha, Loki answered “Fantasia!”
Steve laughed before drinking more of his beer. Looking over at the other couch a little later he smiled. “Hey, if you two want to get some sleep Loki and I will take the first shift?”
“That’d be great!” They both answered, before heading off towards the bedrooms.
When Steve was certain they were alone he moved closer to Loki who magically drew the headphones towards them so they could listen to Doom’s castle without having to move from their couch.
Now resting against each other they watched the surveillance feed on the tv screen. Steve’s tablet appeared next to him so he could take note of anything of importance that was seen or heard.
They were comfortable and relaxed on the couch and soon settled down for the rest of the evening in surveillance mode, albeit with a few beers and popcorn too.
Over the following week Steve, Loki, Bucky and Natasha took turns watching and listening to the surveillance feed from Doom’s Castle. Each evening the previous 24 hours of recordings were encrypted before being sent with an analysis to the Avengers’ facility for Maria attention. Included in the analysis were Steve’s observations and orders to carry out further research where he deemed necessary. Maria would likewise forward any further information she had uncovered on those visiting Doom and whether or not they were persons of interest who may be of assistance to him in any proposed attack.
By taking shifts they each got to sleep and relax. Steve liked to run in the gardens of the property at dawn and again in the evening. Loki could be found strolling in the gardens or sitting reading in the shade of one of the many mature trees. Natasha and Loki practised their yoga alongside the expansive pool.
Not surprising for a property of this nature it came with a well-equipped gymnasium. While the weights were of little challenge to Steve, Bucky or Loki they could keep their fitness levels up with repetitions rather than weight. Loki had magically added to the weights and ensured that the enhancements only took effect if lifted by Loki, Steve or Bucky. He did not wish for Natasha to injure herself.
All four enjoyed the pool and on more than one occasion water fights broke out. Loki smiled as he saw Natasha, wearing a red sports one piece swimsuit, deliberately stretch into one of her more erotic yoga poses before slipping into the pool. Bucky sitting on a nearby lounger couldn’t take his eyes off her as she approached the pool or moved through the water. The pool was definitely a favourite with both couples.
Steve had thought his eyes would pop out of his head the first time he saw Loki climb out of the pool in his swimming trunks. The droplets of water seemed to sparkle like dew drops in the sunshine as they moved in slow motion down his toned body when he raised one hand up to swish his wet hair back from his face. Steve was mesmerized by the water droplets and found himself unable to draw his eyes away as he followed particular droplets on their journey down Loki’s chest and over abdominal muscles and onto the wet swimming trunks which clung to his body. Even from where Steve stood he could see the outline of Loki’s cock as the wet material surrounded it like a silk glove. He swallowed hard.
“Holy moly he is beautiful!” He gasped unable to keep the words in.
He hadn’t realised he was staring so intently until he managed to free his gaze and look up. Loki was standing watching him, his head tilted faintly to one side and his arms now loosely by his sides. Steve blushed as he wondered just how long he had been caught staring at Loki’s almost naked body.
“Thank you.” Loki replied with a content smile and a twinkle in his eye. He returned the same reverential appraisal to Steve who was wearing a tight fitting running shirt over his running pants. While the running pants did not cling to Steve’s body as the shirt did, they did fit snugly around his ass and from this angle Loki was really appreciating the view in front of him. Steve blushed even more at the attention and he could feel arousal start to pool in his stomach. The reaction caused Loki to break into an open mouthed smile with just the hint of his tongue visible.
Steve took a deep breath and lowered his head into the shy bow that Loki adored. Moving closer to where Steve was standing Loki offered him a bottle of sun cream and asked if he would mind putting some on his back.
“Sure, I can do that!” Steve answered as he tried hard to keep his eyes above Loki’s waist.
As Loki laid his towel on the sun lounger he quietly stated. “You may look as much as you want. I really don’t mind.”
Coughing slightly, in an effort to regain some composure and control over his treacherous body and mind, Steve leaned forward from where he sat on the edge of Loki’s lounger. He covered his hands in sun cream and began rubbing the cream over Loki’s shoulders.
“Thank you, yeah I know…It’s still something I am getting used to….Sorry!” Steve stumbled over his words.
“No need to apologise, Darling. Take as long as you need. I will still be here and my body will still be yours to look at and touch as you wish. I promise.”
Steve increased the pressure slightly as he gave Loki’s shoulders a massage as he rubbed on the cream. The feel of the skin and muscles under his hands had Steve getting hard and he knew that if he didn’t stop soon he’d not be able to stand up without a full erection being on display within his running pants. As it was the outline of his semi-hard cock was becoming visible.
When he was finished he looked around to make sure Natasha hadn’t arisen from her bed. When he was sure they were effectively alone he leaned forward and placed a small kiss on Loki’s shoulder before he rose. Loki’s pert ass was too tempting so Steve gave it a spank before he walked off.
“Hey!” Loki exclaimed in mock annoyance as he turned his head to watch Steve walk off. The satisfied smirk on Steve’s face was enough to make Loki smile; that and admiring Steve’s toned ass as he headed back inside.
Loki thought of the phrase he had heard James say once, “I hate to see you leave but I love to watch you go!” came to mind and Loki laughed.
Later that afternoon Loki came to see where Steve was and found him concentrating on the surveillance feed while making several notes on his tablet. There was a frown between his eyes and Loki wished he could reach out and smooth it out with a kiss but he knew Steve would not be comfortable if he did that especially as Natasha was now up and about.
Steve and Loki had made the best of the shift routine as they got to spend some alone time together, even if they could not switch off completely. Both were acutely aware of Natasha being close by. Neither Steve nor Loki was sure if Bucky’s effort to distract Natasha and give them more alone time was purely altruistic or if he was simply taking advantage of the situation himself. Steve figured it was 30% for their benefit and 70% for Bucky’s own as there was no hiding the looks he and Natasha shared.
Over the first week in Sokovia Steve was careful not to touch Loki as much as he really wanted to but when he was certain Natasha was in bed they sat close together, relaxing against each other exchanging little touches and caresses. Some of the time that led to them ending up snuggled in each other’s arms and on a few occasions when Doom and Natasha had retired for the night they engaged in some make out sessions on the couch but always on alert for any movement from Natasha’s room or Doom.
Loki loved to stretch out on the couch during the day using Steve’s lap as a pillow or foot rest depending on his mood. If he was in a mischievous mood Steve’s lap was definitely a pillow and he would deliberately adjust his head position a few times, always moving his head closer to Steve’s clothed cock, before settling. Steve knew exactly what he was doing and no matter how much he tried to not react or stifle a laugh he would end up giving in.
It was as if Loki made it his goal to get a reaction from Steve before he’d stop moving his head and relax.
The first time Loki had popped down his head on Steve’s lap Steve had tried to ignore him and his moving head but then Loki had turned onto his side to face into Steve’s crotch. His mouth was inches away from Steve’s cock and he could feel Loki deliberately breathing at it through his jeans. That’s when Steve knew he’d lost the small battle of wills. He reached down and chastising tapped Loki on the nose, all the while with a smile on his face.
“Okay cheeky, turn around and you can use my lap as a pillow”.
Loki had given Steve a beaming smile but as requested he turned around to face the other way. In reply Steve ran his fingers through Loki’s hair, stroking gently with one hand as he turned his attention to the surveillance.
Steve was more comfortable being used as a footrest as it was easier to change their position quickly if needed. He still couldn’t stop himself from idly rubbing his hands gently over Loki’s feet and touching the bare skin under his pants’ leg above his socks. Such tender touches were new to Loki and he enjoyed them immensely. He was amazed how such little touches could help him relax in ways he had not done since sitting at Frigga’s knee and resting his head on her lap centuries before as a child or young adolescent. Loki began taking off his socks with his shoes in the evenings and as he settled down alongside Steve his bare feet allowed for intimate skin contact in a less obvious manner.
For their part Bucky and Natasha were fooling themselves if they thought neither Steve nor Loki had noticed that they not only retired within minutes of each other but that they arose at the same time too. Steve was itching to tease his best friend about it but knew that was a dangerous path to take as Bucky had so much more to tease him about Loki and would do so even with Natasha present. So Steve kept his comments to himself even as it became harder and harder to do as the days passed.
In the middle of the second week Natasha strolled into the lounge and sat down right next to Steve in his personal space; so close he could feel the heat of her body coming from her arm and thigh. Wondering why she was sitting so close he gave her a sideways quizzical look.
“Everything okay there, Natasha?”
“Yeah, why shouldn’t it be?”
“No reason. You seem different”. Steve answered, not quite knowing how to ask what he wanted to ask.
When Natasha stayed quiet and said nothing more Steve left it at that but using his peripheral vision he kept glancing in her direction. He knew the way Natasha operated. She’d hint at things and the other person would second guess her and say more than they’d want to and that way Natasha found out more information without ever asking anything out straight. He was determined not to fall into Black Widow’s trap, whatever it was she was after this time.
They stayed like that, sitting in semi-comfortable silence, for around 30 minutes before Natasha casually got up and without saying anything further headed to the garden where Loki and Bucky were chatting.
Later that same day Steve was in the kitchen making a sandwich when Natasha reappeared by his side. Leaning in real close she snagged some of his chopped tomatoes and slowly dropped them into her mouth. He tried not to flinch as he felt her breast deliberately rub against his upper arm as she’d leaned into him. Thanking Steve for the tomatoes she slowly closed her lips around her finger as she slowly withdrew it from her mouth, all the while she allowed her other hand to linger on the bare skin of his arm. This was not normal Natasha behaviour.
“Is there something I can help you with, Natasha?” Steve asked without looking at her as he continued to prepare his sandwich.
“No, why do you ask?” She knew she was laying it on thick but she was enjoying this game.
If Steve didn’t know her better he’d say she really didn’t know what he was talking about but Steve had come to know Natasha better over the years and he considered her a close friend. He straightened up and faced her. With his patented raised eyebrow, he held her gaze. “Out with it!” he ordered.
“I was peckish and you had food” she innocently stated. With that she stole half his sandwich and blew him a kiss as she left the kitchen. Watching her go she could feel his eyes on her and there was no mistaking the deliberate sway of her hips as she moved.
That evening Steve was sitting on the couch reading a report from Maria on his tablet when Natasha leaned over the back of his couch cushion and pressed her breast against his ear. She began idly running her fingers through his hair as she read the report across his shoulder. Steve reached up with his free hand and caught the hand moving through his hair. It immediately stilled.
“Enough Romanoff! What game are you playing?” His annoyance was coming through loud and clear in his tone.
Natasha was surprised when Steve had reached up and caught her hand but not at all surprised by his tone. She tried to pull her hand away but Steve used his strength and speed to pull her forward and flip her onto the couch beside him. That she absolutely had not expected.
Now turning to face her he took hold of both her hands in his one. “What’s going on Tasha?”
Knowing she had to come clean as the annoyed look in Steve’s eyes began breaking down her defences. Looking earnestly at her was the man she had begun to think of as a brother. She sighed.
“I was testing a theory”, she simply answered.
That answer didn’t really make Steve any the wiser, and when it was clear she was not going to volunteer any further information he prompted, “And that theory was…”
“If a) you are immune to flirtation or; b) simply don’t recognise it or; c) whether it just depends on who is doing the flirting!”
“So what did your theory prove or disprove or maybe I shouldn’t ask?” Steve said as he shifted slightly into a more comfortable position.
“Well you didn’t react to my less than subtle moves but you do react to some very subtle almost imperceptible moves if done by someone else”.
“Really?” Steve questions, remaining poker faced.
“When I sat close to you, touching arms and legs, you were uncomfortable but if Bucky or Loki sit that close you are at ease. So I initially put it down to them being male and you being more comfortable that close to men.”
“That seems reasonable.” Steve suggests trying to maintain a calm exterior but internally getting more and more uncomfortable with where this conversation is heading.
Natasha looks at him trying to read him. She had always thought that Steve was easy to read but now she’s not so sure. Continuing on she adds, “I’d seen you dancing with Lori that night at the club and you looked very comfortable with her in your arms. It looked intimate even and you had just met her.”
Steve blushed at the memory. He had been so thrilled to hold Loki in his arms and dance with him that he hadn’t given any thought as to how it looked to others. He mentally kicked himself. He should have remembered Natasha and her spy pedigree. Nothing to be done about that now! He just had to maintain his cool and he may yet survive this.
“I realised it wasn’t a woman versus a man thing so I decided to watch a little closer”.
“What? So you’d nothing better to do than watch me? If I’d known you were that bored I could have found lots for you to do”.
Natasha leaned in towards Steve and stuck out her elbow so she could give him a small dig into the ribs. “Stop trying to change the subject, Rogers. As I said you are most comfortable with Bucky and Loki then Thor and Sam in your personal space. It speaks to your closeness with each of them. Hell, we all had to get used to Thor as he has no personal boundaries” she laughed.
Steve laughed too. “That is true and it does take time”.
“So, back to my theory or experiment; I repeated some of the actions I’ve seen others do around you and I may have added in a few of my own moves….”
Cutting her off Steve states, “I know you haven’t seen any woman rubbing her breasts against me nor have you seen anyone run their fingers through my hair!”
“No, but I have seen you allow someone right into your personal space, lean in close and you didn’t flinch or react or in any way pull back.”
“I’ve known Bucky since we were children. He’s the brother I never had. As kids we shared a bed if one of us stayed over in the other’s house. Later we kept each other warm on winter nights in Brooklyn when we couldn’t afford heating and in foxholes in Europe during the war. When you’re in the military you tend to get accustomed to the other guys being in your space.”
Natasha looked directly at Steve. He could see the determination and compassion in her eyes. “That’s not it, though! You and Sam are close but you maintain a small distance between you when you talk alone or share a couch or look at a map at the same time.”
Steve figured he knew what Natasha was hinting at and he really didn’t want to play her game any longer. He wanted her to say it not him. “Spit it out, Natasha. Say whatever it is you are trying to say or get me to say! No more interrogation techniques.”
Seeing the increasing anxiety in Steve’s eyes, now that he was no longer trying to hide his reactions she decided to just ask out straight.
“Are you interested in Loki? `Cause he is interested in you and I don’t mean just as a friend, Steve. You seem to be; as you don’t move out of his space when he comes into yours. He leans in to speak to you when he thinks no one is looking and you lean into him too.”
“Oh!” is all Steve can think to say.
“Steve, I know this is none of my business but you seemed really into Lori at the club and I don’t want to see you or Loki get hurt because one of you got your signals crossed.”
Steve was not expecting the part about Lori. He must have had a surprised look on his face because Natasha now removed one of her hands from Steve’s and taking the tablet from him she placed it on the table. Then taking one of his hands in each of hers she rubbed thumbs soothingly over the back of their now joined hands as she continued.
“You seemed unsure when I kissed you in the park and I don’t know what romantic experience you’ve had, if any. It not the forties anymore and things are more liberal, more open about sex and relationships. I’m your friend, Steve, and I can help with any question you have about relationships or sexuality or just sex in the current time. I’d be happy…”
“Whoa, stop please!” Steve cut her off as he could feel the heat rise in his cheeks. He’d begun to feel even more uncomfortable than when this conversation started and he really did not want to have the birds and the bees talk with Natasha who he sees as his younger sister!
“There are no crossed wires or signals between myself and Loki. We know exactly where we stand with each other”
Natasha gave him a sympathetic smile. “Are you sure because he has the hots for you Steve? Maybe he doesn’t want to admit it and he’s trying to be just a friend. Gay relationships are not as taboo as they were when you were growing up, Steve and it doesn’t make you any less of a man or Captain America or my friend if you are gay”.
Holding her hands a little tighter Steve looked directly into her eyes so she could not mistake what he was trying to say. He decided it was time to let her in on the truth.
“Natasha, Loki and I are on the exact same page, same paragraph, and who knows maybe even the same word. We know how the other feels. There is no misunderstanding or confusion.”
It took a few seconds but Natasha soon realised what Steve was saying or at least she thought she did. “So you and Loki…”
“Are together, a couple” Steve finished for her. “Just like you and Bucky”. He couldn’t help but get in the tease. At the look of surprise on her face he added, “you are not the only one who has been watching interactions”.
“Wow!” Natasha was amazed. She really thought Steve had missed or misread Loki’s cues as they had been extremely subtle and she’d figured it was her years of training that had allowed her see what was there but it appears she was wrong. “But Lori..” she queried with a smirk and a slightly raised eyebrow.
Loki had been listening to the conversation from the kitchen. He hadn’t wanted to interrupt as it was up to Steve when and if he said anything to Natasha or the others. Now hearing Lori’s name he stepped forward as this was his to reveal.
Steve rubbed the back of his neck. “Yeah Lori, she is like no other woman I have ever met” he honestly said. A movement from the kitchen area caught his attention in his peripheral vision. Steve’s smile widened.
Walking from the kitchen, a gold shimmer passes over Loki’s body and Lori walked around the couch to stand in front of Natasha and Steve. Lori smiled at Steve and then looked at Natasha. “You were wondering about me, Natasha?”
“Not no more, I’m not!” Natasha answered, as she tried to fully grasp the image of the woman now standing in front of her. Lori, wearing a fitted green silk blouse over a tailored pin stripe pencil skirt and black strappy sandals opened her hands in offering. Her hair fell in soft waves over her shoulders and apart from some lipstick and eye liner she was wearing no makeup.
“Is it an illusion or some kind of holographic image?”
“No illusion I assure you, I am very real. You may touch me if you wish.”
Steve immediately rose to greet Lori. “Hey there!” He smiled as he took her hands in his and leaned in to place a kiss on her cheek and for the briefest of moments there was no one else in their world.
“Hey yourself!” she softly replied as she looked into his eyes. “I hope you don’t mind but I thought I’d come join you both.”
Focusing only on Lori, Steve smiled, “I don’t mind at all. How much did you hear?”
“Almost everything, I didn’t want to interrupt”
“That’s okay I’d have told you everything later anyway.”
Natasha cleared her throat to remind them that she was still there. Steve half coughed half laughed.
“This way Natasha can see for herself. Lori, was your story to tell, not mine.”
“Thank you, Astin min” Lori replied, only looking at Steve.
Steve turned to Natasha after what could have been seconds or minutes he didn’t know. Letting go of Lori’s hand and with his head slightly lowered he quietly said, “We’d prefer it if you didn’t say anything to the others. Bucky and Thor know but that’s all. We’d like to be able to enjoy what we have together before others complicate things”.
Natasha gave Steve a small reassuring smile. “Yeah sure, whatever you want. I’m good with it. I’m just glad you two are on the same page.”
Turning her attention to Lori she added “Not so long ago I never thought I’d be in favour of Captain America dating you, Loki, but over the past months we’ve all come to know a different side to you and you’re not the same guy or woman “ she smirked, “who led the attack on New York. So for what it’s worth you have my blessing.”
“I’m dating Steve not Captain America but your blessing though not necessary is welcomed”. Lori replied.
“Thank you Natasha, we both appreciate it” Steve added. “And thank you for your proposed intervention even if it wasn’t needed. I appreciate the thought.”
Steve is surprised at how well Natasha had taken the news but maybe he shouldn’t have been. He’s also amazed at how easy it was to tell her.
Lori, with much too smug a smile on her face focuses on Natasha. “Now your turn, tell us all about you and Bucky!”
Natasha sat back into the couch cushion making herself comfortable. “What’s there to tell? We got together, we’re having fun!” She said with a casual shrug.
“That’s all we’re gonna get?” Steve asked.
“Yep! That’s how it is” she smirked in reply.
As Bucky walked in Natasha turned to look at him and smiled smugly. “We’re busted but so are they!”
Bucky looked at Steve to see how his friend was doing. Steve simply raised his eyebrows and gave a little shrug in response. Bucky gave him a reassuring smile before moving over to the couch and leaning over Natasha greeted her with a full on kiss. “It had to happen sometime” he said as he hopped across the back of the couch and landed beside her.
Looking at Lori he smiled. “Guess my hunch from the night at the club was right! There was no way Steve was holding anyone other than you that close”.
“So it would seem” Lori answered as she gave Steve her best smile. He blushed at the memory.
“To quote Ms Romanoff, public displays of affection make people uncomfortable, so we will leave you two to your watch” Steve stated. With that he took Lori’s hand and they left the lounge area.
“Yes, they do!” Natasha called after them as she laughed. She then realised that when she kissed Steve in the park he was already with Loki and had told the truth when he’d said it wasn’t his first kiss since 1945. She wondered if she now owed them both an apology.
Laughing, Bucky added, “So keep it down in there you two”.
"We are not you two!" Loki answered as a golden light passes over Lori and Loki assumed his male form again.
Steve and Loki headed to Steve’s room for the most relaxed make out session they’d had since arriving in Sokovia. Both are surprised by how comfortable they are with Natasha now knowing about them and they trust her to keep it private.
Loki had relaxed more now that Natasha knew about him and Steve. While they were still not overtly public in their displays of affection they had been more at ease with little touches and open smiles when either one entered or left the room. Natasha thought they were cute and said so to Bucky but not to Loki or Steve. While she knew Bucky liked to tease Steve, she did not want him to feel uncomfortable about greeting his boyfriend with a smile or feel he couldn’t touch Loki as and when he wanted.
Natasha was happy to sit watching tv or relaxing with her legs draped over Bucky’s lap but they kept more affectionate displays to the privacy of their room or while alone.
Loki and Steve reserved their more obvious displays of affection for when they were in privacy of one of their rooms. They each maintained their own room and continued to sleep separately. A lingering hand on an arm or shoulder or sitting close together was generally as much as they were comfortable displaying in front of Natasha and Bucky. That did not mean that Natasha or Bucky had not been seen them exchanging quick kisses or short embraces if they thought they were alone or that Nat and Bucky were otherwise occupied. A hug from behind and soft kisses to the side of the neck or back of the shoulders were also witnessed by Natasha.
Bucky tended to let them know he was approaching as he didn’t want Steve to get anxious or embarrassed by being walked in on. He knew this was all new to his friend as Steve had never had a chance at a serious relationship before now. While he’d had been on dates to the movies or taken a girl to dinner they’d rarely lasted more than a couple of dates. Bucky had asked Natasha, for Steve’s sake, not to say anything if she did see them.
While Natasha didn’t think Steve would spook that easily, she figured Bucky knew Steve the longest so she agreed. One thing Natasha had noticed was that Steve tended to initiate those stolen moments just as often as Loki did so he wasn’t shy in letting Loki know his intentions. She wondered more and more how much she’d really missed up till now and how they’d kept it hidden so well. Their comfort together clearly suggested this was not brand new and they’d had weeks, perhaps even longer together.
Seeing Loki head out to the garden she followed him. As soon as he heard the footsteps behind him he stopped and without turning around greeted “Natasha”.
“Loki”. Natasha replied with a small smile as she came to stand beside him.
“How may I be of assistance?”
“Why do you think you may be of assistance? Or is it that you think I need some?”
“Perhaps it is because you saw me come out into the garden and you followed me!”
“How do you know I wasn’t coming out here anyway?”
Smiling knowingly at her, Loki tilted his head slightly to the side and caught her gaze. “You had moments before retrieved the book you are reading from your room and sat down with the obvious intention of resuming reading. On seeing me come this way you abandoned your book and followed. Mere coincidence that you are here right now, I think not!”
Natasha gave Loki her innocent smile. “Okay, you got me. I wanted to have a word.”
“Any word in particular or may I choose?”
It came as no surprise to her that Loki immediately jumped to Steve as the topic of conversation.
“You may ask whatever you wish but I may not answer. Steve is a very private person and I will not betray that privacy.”
“That’s fair. I was wondering how long you two were together”.
“Does it matter?”
“Not really. I'm simply curious. There is a level of comfort and intimacy between you but yet you maintain separate bedrooms. I know it’s none of my business…”
“You are correct it is none of your business. To discuss this aspect further would violate Steve’s privacy and his trust.” There is a clear warning in Loki’s tone.
Regrouping Natasha states, “I am not asking about your sex life, Loki”.
“No, but you are wondering what stage our relationship has reached and trying to determine what exactly? Why are you so invested in the answer?”
Natasha decides it might be for the best to come clean. “Straight up, I’m trying to figure out how much I’ve missed. How much you and Steve have managed to hide from the others and from me in particular and for how long?”
“Ah!” Loki says now realising her angle. He keeps his tone soft and casual.
“First off, we have not tried to hide anything. As I said, Steve values his privacy. He does not get much of it as Captain America so you will appreciate that what he has as Steve Rogers is treasured and precious to him.”
“Secondly, what we have together or are to each other is also private and we tend to keep it to private time when we are alone. As to what you have missed I cannot say as only you know what you have or have not seen. You may be more observant than most but as a spy I’d expect no less. If you wish to know more I suggest you speak to Steve. He is free to reveal as much of his private matters as he chooses.”
Looking at Loki she can see he’s not being obstinate but really is thinking of Steve’s privacy. That is something she can and does respect.
“One last question though” she says as Loki is about to resume his stroll.
Raising an eyebrow he prompts, “Yes”.
“Were you together before the team night out or did you just get together that night?”
Laughing, Loki replies. “Unlike you and James we were, as you’d say, already a couple before that night”.
The brief surprised look on Natasha’s face prompts Loki to add. “Yes, I was aware that James spent most of that night in your room”.
Natasha laughed as she examined his face. “You don’t need Friday to tell you things, do you?”
“My dearest Natasha, like you I have found good or even acute observational skills to be an extremely useful tool. Information is and always will be power.”
Flicking her head to one side and back a little she looks up at Loki. “So does Steve know?”
“About you and James spending that night together, I suspect he does though it is not something we have discussed. I’m sure Bucky can answer that better than I!”
Stepping forward and placing a chaste kiss on his cheeks she adds. “Loki, you’re all right when you want to be”.
The gesture surprised him but he accepted it graciously with a small bow. “It varies from moment to moment”.
Natasha laughed as she headed back inside. “I’ll leave you to your garden stroll”.
Loki headed for the pond area where, as expected, he found Steve sitting sketching.
“Hey!” Steve greeted when he saw him approach.
“My apologies for my tardiness but I was delayed by Natasha”.
“Oh! Everything okay?”
“Yes, fine. She was concerned about her spy craft; how much her observational skills had missed when it came to us.” Taking a seat across from Steve Loki continued. “As I cannot possibly determine how much she had or had not observed I could not be of assistance to her.”
“So I take it you told her very little”. The twinkle in Steve's eye let Loki know Steve approved as the shy smile that Loki loves appeared on Steve’s lips.
“Less than she would have liked, maybe more than I should have but it is done”.
Steve met the gaze of the man who had captured his heart and with a small sigh he added. “Once the public finds out it won't matter what Natasha did or didn't see”.
“Until then I intend to savour having you all to myself, for as long as I can”. Loki added.
“You and me both, Lo!”
Loki smiled at the new name and he received an equally warm long smile in return from his artist and Captain.
They were one day away from Natasha and Bucky heading home and their places being taken over by Sam and Thor. Steve and Loki had decided to stay on in Sokovia for another two weeks.
Loki had been focused on the surveillance feed from Victor Von Doom's castle for over an hour when he suddenly called everyone to him. On the screen a number of men had gathered in Doom’s office and were discussing delivery schedules to Munich, Germany and then onward to a place in Bavaria and a resort called Schloss Elmau. That name rang bells with both Natasha and Steve but neither could immediately place it. Natasha shared a look with Steve as she reached for her tablet and he took a seat alongside Loki.
Steve quickly noted the delivery dates and schedule discussed by the men while Natasha searched the news websites for news stories associated with Schloss Elmau. Not quite believing what she discovered she handed her tablet over to Bucky first who then passed it onto Loki. Once Steve was finished noting the dates he looked up from his tablet.
“Okay, what'd you find?” he asked Natasha, a deep set frown now between his brows.
Natasha indicated to Loki to hand the tablet to Steve. As he did so Steve handed his tablet with the dates to Loki. Steve read aloud from the article Natasha had opened on her screen as Loki checked it against the dates on Steve's tablet.
“This must be a mistake or a coincidence!” Steve muttered, clearly not believing what he was seeing; a news report confirming the G7 Summit was due to take place at Schloss Elmau, Bavaria, Germany.
“Schloss Elmau is located 62 miles south of Munich, in Bavaria, Germany and lies at the foot of Wetterstein Mountains in a Nature Reserve belonging to the Krun Municipality, a region that borders Austria”. Natasha stated with the added explanation for Loki and Bucky in case they needed it. “The G7 summit is where the leaders of the United States, Japan, Canada, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany and France meet.”
“Russia is currently suspended due to its actions in Crimea” Natasha continued.
Double checking the dates, Loki confirmed they coincided with the Summit dates or close enough to cause concern.
“No way is this coincidence!” Bucky stated rather than asked. He looked to each one to see what they were thinking.
“I for one do not believe in coincidences” Loki emphatically stated.
Natasha shrugged in agreement and turned her focus to Steve.
“Too important to ignore” Steve declared. “We can’t risk being wrong if we do nothing”.
“President Ellis will be in attendance?” Loki asked.
“Ah, I believe I may understand Dr. Doom's motivation. “ Loki observed as the others looked at him. ”President Ellis is coming to the end of his second term of office, is he not?”
All three heads nodded in agreement.
“It would, no doubt, attract worldwide headlines if something were to happen to him before he succeeded in reaching an accord with the other Heads of State on another major Arms Treaty. This has been one of the President’s goals for many years and if such a Treaty and its regulations came to being that would have serious consequences for Doom and some of his business partners, those we witnessed visiting him, perhaps even Justin Hammer.”
Steve, once again, was amazed at Loki’s grasp on earth’s politics. Natasha raised an eyebrow in surprise at the comment. She was impressed but won’t admit it. Quickly her curiosity won out.
“Since when do you know what the President’s goals are, Loki?”
“My dear Natasha,” Loki gave her a patient smile as he answered, “As a student of politics I keep a keen eye on the workings of this world and so many others!”
“I hope that’s the only reason” she teased.
Looking back at the screen Loki casually admitted, “Perhaps! I wasn’t overly fond of the look of glee on Dr. Doom’s face when he said that “time will soon have run out and they will have nowhere to hide!””
“That’s a real warning of approaching Doom!” Bucky declared straight faced.
An audible groan is heard as both Natasha and Steve reached over at the same time and cupped him swiftly around the back of the head, one from each side. “Hey! Knock it off you two!” He protested as he rubbed his head. Natasha’s hit hadn’t hurt but he’d felt Steve’s.
“That was terrible, Barnes”.
Loki looked from one to the other and laughed.
Now looking at Steve, Loki’s expression and tone turned more serious. “What do you suggest, Captain? Try to redirect the shipments, persuade the G7 Organisers to increase security or be there to help when whatever Doom has planned is put into being?”
“A combination of all three, I think! We can’t make known the information came directly from Hammer or Doom nor how it was obtained.”
Natasha smiled in the way that most would rather not witness, as it never boded well for someone. “Maybe some of my old contacts could prove useful,” she suggested.
“What’s on your mind, Tasha?” Steve asked.
“S.H.I.E.L.D, or at least its current reincarnation. Coulson is the New Director.” She announced as she glanced slightly in Loki’s direction.
“How is Agent Coulson? Fully recovered, I trust!” Loki asked; his face a mask showing no surprise on hearing that Coulson was alive.
Natasha looked at him somehow not quite believing he just asked that. Looking directly at Natasha Loki gave her that knowing smile which irritated her so much. There were times she’d love to punch that grin off Loki’s face but she knew she’d never get that close unless he allowed it, and now knowing his relationship with Steve she’d have to deal with Steve afterwards too.
“No need for the glare Widow. Knowing what you now know about me, do you really believe that if I had truly wanted Agent Coulson dead he would not be dead right now?” Casually he continued, “He had a part to play just as you and I had. We may not always know our role in advance but we all know we must play one. That has been the eternal way of the universe!”
“Are you saying that we have a path laid out for us in advance; that we have no free will?” Steve asked, not quite believing he’d understood Loki correctly. “That someone is out there pulling our strings?”
Turning to Steve, a somewhat sad or resigned look in his eyes, Loki reached out and took his hands. “What I am saying Astin min, is that there are paths laid out for the universe and all who dwell within it. Every step taken has an effect on the universe. We choose our own steps, exercise free will as such along those paths, but we do not control where those paths lead, just what we do upon them. What you may call your God, others may call fate or Karma and I may call the Norms. That is who knows what lies ahead and our journey’s end but we do not.”
He gave Steve a small smile hoping to reassure his love. “Agent Coulson’s part was to act as catalyst that glued the Avengers together. Mine was to be the cause for your formation and to activate that catalyst.”
Steve doesn’t know how he feels about that, but he had long accepted that there was another wielding more power than Loki at the time of the New York attack, so he decided to let it go for now.
“Okay” he stated as he rubbed the back of his head.
“Okay?” Loki questioned; not certain that Steve was dropping this or why.
Looking directly into Loki’s eyes Steve reached out one hand and gently cupped his face. “Okay, I get it; we are small fry in the vastness of the universe.”
He gave Loki’s hand, which was still held in his own, a reassuring squeeze before sitting back and releasing Loki from his touch.
Now turning his attention back to Natasha he asked. “Do you really think Coulson will help?”
“I don’t see why not. He won’t want to see Doombots with advanced weaponry any more than we do. I’ll give him a call and see what he has to say.”
“If he’s willing to help that might get us greater assistance from local and international law enforcement without tipping our hand to our intel sources.”
Natasha agreed as she headed towards the garden to make her call.
Stepping into Captain America and leadership mode, Steve ordered, “Loki, set up a video conference call with the rest of the team. We’ll need the resources from home base if we are to pull this off. Ask Maria to link in Tony from Malibu and Nick if she can reach him. With time differences that may mean either we are up late or Tony’s up very early.”
“Not sure that’s a good idea, Cap” Natasha offered across her shoulder.
“Including Tony or doing it at an ungodly hour for him?” Steve’s eyebrow rose in question.
“Trying to get him to communicate and concentrate too early in the day” she smirked as she spun on her heel at the door.
“So I guess normal morning for Tony; lunchtime or early afternoon for New York; and evening for us”. Loki suggested. When no one offered any other alternative he figured that was acceptable.
“Bucky, I need you to find out whatever you can about where the Summit is taking place. We’ll need to scout out the location in person, main and secondary access routes from Munich to it, escape routes to the border etc. Okay folks time to go to work!”
They all dispersed to carry out their assigned tasks. Steve turned his attention to preparing an encrypted report for Maria outlining their observations and suspicions as well as the relevant recording. By the time he finished Loki was back at his side waiting for him to conclude before confirming that Maria will be back in contact within the hour with the requested video conference time. Steve finished up his report and transmitted it to Maria.
For the moment there was nothing further he could do. Waiting on others to do their part was always something which Steve found hard to do. He knew he couldn’t do everything himself but he preferred to keep active.
After inquiring where Natasha and Bucky were, Steve learned that Natasha’s call was ongoing in the garden and that Bucky was in the bedroom he had shared with Natasha most nights since their arrival. Steve stood and stretched, hands over his head and bent his back into a curve stretching his muscles before returning to a straight back. He pulled Loki into a hug that led to tender kisses which quickly became heated as Loki opened his lips in an invitation to Steve.
Loki’s back hit the wall behind him as he was pushed backwards by their colliding bodies. Steve’s hands moved over Loki’s arms and into his hair as they continued to kisses. Loki's arms wrapped around Steve’s waist and held him close. There was a delight to such stolen moments which made his heart beat flutter. To see his Captain act on instinct and desire for even brief encounters like this thrilled Loki to the bone.
All too soon they heard Natasha end her call and the door leading to the kitchen from the garden open. She stopped at the refrigerator for some cold drinks.
“Hey guys, you fancy some chicken salad for lunch? We need to use up what’s here before it spoils” she called out.
Loki and Steve separated with a quiet irritated sigh as soon as the door opened and were now both sitting at the table with Steve’s laptop open in front of them. Steve concentrated on whatever was on the screen while Loki listened to more surveillance audio via headphones. Steve deliberately tapped Loki on his arm to ask about lunch as Natasha stuck her head into the room from the kitchen area.
“That would be delightful” Loki replied before getting up and offering to give Natasha a hand preparing lunch.
“Yes please” Steve responded across his shoulder. He could feel the blush still on his face and he did not want Natasha to see his kiss swollen lips.
“Sure, you can help if you’d like. Not sure your knife skills are up to Barnes’ but they’ll do!” Natasha replied as she winked at Loki.
Loki of course took that for the obvious challenge it was intended to be, making Steve smile and roll his eyes.
Steve admired the male form in front of him as Loki rolled his shoulders back and flexed his arms, neck then hands and those long fingers. “You know that was a challenge, right?” Steve asked as Loki headed for the kitchen.
Walking backwards Loki answered “Yes that was very clear. You know I can meet that challenge easily and never have to use magic but where’d be the fun in that!"”
Smiling back at Steve with an impish twinkle in his eyes, he enquired, “Do you have a desire for any particular shape you would like for your tomatoes; any preference as to the size of chicken pieces or width of the vegetable strips?”
Without waiting for an answer Loki gave a dramatic bow and entered the kitchen area with a smug grin on his face.
Steve laughed as he heard Loki greet Natasha. “Lady Natasha, what use would you have of me?”
Natasha was washing the lettuce, peppers and carrots at the sink. Close to her on the counter top were other salad ingredients. Telling Loki what she needed chopping, she set about getting the chopping boards ready for use. When Loki asked for specifics she’d told him to please himself. That delighted the Trickster so he set about doing exactly that, as he pleased.
Loki laid out three chopping boards, carrots, tomatoes, red onion on one, lettuce and peppers on the second and the remainder of the roasted chicken on the third. With a flick of his wrist three sharp knives started chopping the various ingredients into their desired shapes and dimensions. Nearby Loki washed one of his daggers before stepping over to the tomatoes and started to carve them into the shapes of animals; no two the same and some taking the shape of animals not known to his companions. Some had entire bodies while others had only detailed faces carved into sides.
Natasha turned as she heard the sound of several knives chopping at once and was astonished at the scene in front of her. “Fellas, you might want to come see this for yourselves!” she called out to Steve and Bucky.
Bucky came from the bedroom and gave a playful shoulder shove as he passed to Steve who was already leaning against the door jamb watching the scene, his hands in the pockets of his jeans and a delighted grin on his face. Seeing the twinkle in Loki’s eyes, he’d followed him to the kitchen in the hope of seeing a show. Loki did not disappoint.
“Now that is neat!” Bucky declared.
“Oh it’s more than that!” Steve stated clearly quite proud of his boyfriend’s talents.
“Punk, you may be biased but you're not wrong”.
Loki made each knife stop in mid-air and dip slightly as if taking a bow before returning to their work. Steve laughed at the dramatics of it all.
“If Tony’s instruments moving looked anything like this it’s no wonder he was screaming for answers” Natasha quipped.
She turned to Loki and smiled. “Remind me how we beat you again!”
Lowering his eyes slightly he sighed. “I may not have been at my best at the time”.
“That’s one explanation” Steve offered. “Another is that you weren’t really trying!”
Steve gave Loki an understanding smile before he grabbed the cutlery and plates to set the table as lunch was not going to take long to prepare with so many things being done at once.
Once the table was set he stepped back into the kitchen and gave Loki a small gentle peck on the cheek as he reached for the glasses. They exchanged a smile as Natasha and Bucky looked on, still amazed at the animated knife show.
The video conference call went well; all the team were in attendance even Tony, although he did bitch about missing some corporate lunch that Pepper had wanted him to attend. Everyone knew he hated those lunches but allowed him rant for a minute or two. It was always easier to let Tony have his say before they got down to business otherwise he kept interrupting until they did. Eventually Steve had enough and raised his hand, effectively silencing Tony as he took control of the video conference.
He then brought the team up to speed on the latest surveillance and the conclusions which had been drawn. While some were loath to admit that Loki may have had a point regarding Doom’s suggested motive for picking the Summit they couldn’t offer any reasonable alternate so they stayed quiet.
Tony wondered how they had gotten to the point where they took the lead from their resident God of Mischief! He even suggested that Loki approach Doom and see if he would be welcomed with open arms onto the side of chaos. Steve very quickly shot down that idea before it could gain any momentum. The last thing he wanted was for Doom to get any indication that the Avengers or anyone else were aware of his plans. At least that was the logic he offered to the group. When no one questioned his reasoning he quickly moved on but admitted to himself that not wanting to see Loki deliberately put himself at risk by walking into the “Lion’s Den” was a big motive too.
Steve went through his reports followed by Natasha who filled the others in on what they had learned about the G7 summit, its location, who was expected to attend and time considerations. Various issues arose and they, along with other topics and strategies, were discussed as ideas were teased out. By the end all the team was briefed and up to date.
Maria had managed to get further information on the Summit venue which she’d forwarded to Cap before the call. He now had maps showing the topography of the area, photos and satellite images, a copy of the buildings schematics and general layout.
As the meeting progressed assignments were handed out to various team members in accordance with their strengths as determined by Steve. He’d spent a lot of time getting to know his team over the years and endeavoured to play to their strengths while minimising their weaknesses. It didn’t always work but so far his success rate was considered higher than his failure and he considered that a win any day. Now he had the added tactician brain of Loki too.
When the meeting concluded it was agreed that Steve, Bucky, Loki and Natasha would stay in Europe for the moment and continue to monitor Doom. Natasha and Bucky would travel to Bavaria and check out the Summit location on the ground and, while they were away, Sam and Clint would join Steve and Loki to give surveillance assistance in Sokovia. At times like that Steve missed having Jarvis to monitor the surveillance feeds.
Thor had offered to travel but it was agreed that he and Tony would be too conspicuous and draw too much attention.
“You are not the most inconspicuous, Thor, even when you make an effort to blend in!” Loki had observed.
Thor was slightly hurt at that suggestion from Loki but when Loki reminded him of an incident as they had both walked along the street in New York where Thor had been recognised even while dressed as a ruffian, Thor reluctantly accepted the point.
“But I fare better now than when I first landed in New Mexico, do I not?” Thor asked as he looked at each of his friends.
Several heads nodded in agreement.
Eventually Loki accepted that yes, he had improved over the years and was not quite so obvious when he now moved around Midgard but he still garnered attention.
“Fine,” Loki stated with a large sigh, “you are not quite the conspicuous Oaf you have been in the past”
Steve rolled his eyes at the comment but no one disagreed with Loki.
Tony was busy working on reverse engineering Hammer’s upgrades to ascertain how best to decommission them or build new defences against them as appropriate. If they could take that advantage away from Doom and his bots it would make their job easier. Tony was confident that he would have several options available for consideration within the week.
The others back at base focused on the international delegations and were tasked with finding out more information on logistics, security protocols and to ascertain the size of the delegations attending the summit. Trying to get sufficient details on the delegates attending and their entourages would be difficult but Steve had faith in his team.
Coulson, although reluctant at first, had agreed to liaise with international law enforcement agencies and a further briefing was scheduled for a week later with Fury and Coulson due to join at that time.
When Natasha had initially spoken with Agent Coulson he refused to play any part in anything that involved Loki. He had kept his distance from Loki since his return to earth and didn’t trust him. Nor had he forgiven him for the attack that almost killed him on the Hellicarrier.
More than once he expressed his surprise and dismay that the Avengers, especially her and Clint, were so willing to trust Loki. While Loki had been of assistance on other Avengers’ mission and had done nothing wrong since his return Coulson remained sceptical.
He figured that Captain America had such a big heart that he would give almost anyone a second chance if they convinced him they really were trying, even a Trickster and God of Chaos who had attacked New York.
Coulson would make up his own mind and he was in no hurry to do that but he did not have access to the information Natasha had nor any idea of what had happened Loki before or since the attack.
Knowing Agent Coulson for as long as she did Natasha knew that he needed time to consider the full facts or as much of them as she was willing to disclose. Once upon a time she would have simply forwarded copies of their reports and intel to him for his own information and perusal but she was now an Avenger and this was an Avengers’ mission with SHIELD hopefully going to offer support.
Natasha had taken the time to outline what they’d found out but when pressed she did have to admit that Doom himself was their source. Once she made reference to surveillance Coulson realised that the information had probably been collected in a manner which he was better off not knowing about so he quickly indicated he did not want to hear anything more about how they got their information. Natasha had given a small smile as she knew that Coulson, on his side of the phone call, was screwing his face up in frustration at having insisted on knowing their source.
In the end, Coulson offered to contact the Secret Service with a suggestion that the President’s security be upgraded as SHIELD now had intel on what was considered a plausible threat. He also factored in briefings with Interpol, Europol and the German security forces and Police. As they were mainly speculating at that point Coulson agreed to suggest the intel had been uncovered among suspicious chatter.
So long as a reputable agency, which SHIELD still was in most intelligence circles despite it’s recent difficulties, was taking the suspicious chatter as credible that generally was enough to raise threat levels without too much investigation into the source of the information. Natasha loved the concept of plausible deniability. While some Government Agencies did not put much sway in SHIELD intel any longer there were enough high ranking officials who still trusted them and in particular trusted Coulson. The Military, of course, tried to dismiss his concerns but they were over ruled directly from the Oval Office. (President Ellis had a soft spot for what SHIELD had stood for and a crush from when he was younger on one Margaret (Peggy) Carter).
The more the Avengers listened to Doom the more obvious it became that he was intent on hitting the G7 Summit. Steve came to the unfortunate conclusion that they had no way of stopping all the upgraded weapons and equipment from reaching Doom so damage limitation was their next best option.
With the help of SHIELD and Coulson’s interventions with Interpol and Europol several shipments of arms en route to Latvaria were intercepted. Hammer Industries were careful to only ship component parts rather than assembled weapons and therefore stayed under the radar of Arms Treaties and Law Enforcement. Some of their deliveries became inexplicably delayed at Customs Clearing warehouses or were conveniently delivered to the wrong locations.
“Red tape could be a bitch sometimes!” Tony had offered with a smirk, “And it couldn’t happen to a nicer person!”
The existence of the parts alone, nor their import, could not prove nefarious or criminal intent, but their not quite confiscation would help restrict the amount of upgrades and weapons available to Doom when the time came.
If the temper tantrum they witnessed being thrown by Doom was any indication then their efforts in disrupting his plans were in part succeeding. Unfortunately they had not discovered the information or commenced surveillance on Doom in time to stop all shipments arriving at their destinations. Doom was determined to go ahead with his plan even with a depleted number of upgraded bots. He intended to supplement the numbers with his existing bots, certain that numbers alone would achieve his goal and prevent the arms treaties from being signed.
Part of Doom’s plan was to point the finger of suspicion at rogue elements within the Council Members’ Countries and possibly even hint towards Russia, but that was a delicate line he was loathe to cross as he did a lot of business with elements within Russian Society and its criminal underworld in particular.
His aim, if he was successful in shifting suspicion, was to damage the fragile trust which currently existed amongst the member countries. While the Members squabbled with each other, Doom sought to take advantage of their distraction and fill any voids or vacuum which may arise within these countries’ arms trade.
Daily, Steve was impressed by the fact that Doom failed to uncover Loki’s magically protected surveillance devices. It was widely known that Doom was a practitioner of magic and believed himself to be a Master Sorcerer. In his mind he was the greatest practitioner and wielder of Magic on Earth.
He dismissed Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Stephen Strange, as being more Wiccan or occult follower who dabbled in magic but possessed no true understanding or magical power.
As for the Norse Gods who hung around with the Avengers; they were nothing more than beings of superior strength idolised by inferior men; the source of such strength Doom had yet to ascertain, but they would be nothing in the face of Doom’s improved and upgraded bots. They were no match for Doom and his power.
Loki laughed at Doom’s rant which had now become common place. Steve looked across his shoulder at Loki. With a teasing smile he asked “why do I imagine a certain speech about an ant meeting a boot is running through your mind right now?”
“Please Astin min, that may not have been entirely appropriate in the desert of New Mexico but even you cannot deny it is apt now! Does he really believe he possesses the power to take on not one but two Gods?” The idea was incredulous to Loki.
But that was exactly what Doom believed. He gloriously declared his intentions to his assembled minions; that once he had dealt with the Summit he would call out Earth’s Mightiest Heroes the Avengers and their Norse Gods. There would be no one to stand in his way nor would dare try to stop him then. He would prove to the watching world that his power and strength was something they should fear and they would kneel before the power of Doom.
Giving Loki a mock glare Steve asked. “What’s with all would be conquerors of earth wanting everyone to kneel?”
When Loki looked at Steve he saw the teasing look in his eyes even though he had been initially surprised by the question. Biting his lower lip slightly, and as they were alone, Loki decided to answer with a similar tease.
“Ah, but you looked so good down on one knee!”
“I didn’t kneel!” Steve reminded him.
“Who knows what may have happened if you had, my darling Captain, and had Stark not so rudely interrupted us?”
Loki’s pupils darkened as images ran through his mind. As he spoke Loki moved closer to Steve, never dropping his gaze.
While Natasha and Bucky made the most of their time together it was harder for Steve who didn’t feel comfortable being intimate with Loki while Bucky or Natasha were in the next room, in the garden, or generally anywhere within earshot.
Bucky had told Steve as they switched shifts to pretend they weren’t even there but for Steve the internal walls of the house were too thin. He knew his hearing was more acute than Natasha’s but Bucky had enhanced hearing too so Steve knew that Bucky could hear what he could and that meant Steve kept intimacy to times he and Loki were alone in the house.
Loki offered to soundproof Steve’s room for him as he had done to Bucky and Natasha’s after their first night together. At least Steve no longer had to listen to his best friend having sex with his girlfriend in the next room. He’d had enough of that when they shared an apartment before the war.
Natasha and Bucky had gone grocery shopping and were not expected back for at least an hour and maybe even more if they decided to go for a stroll in the local park which they sometimes did. Loki intended to make the most of their alone time, which had been very limited since they arrived in Sokovia. It would be a shame to waste even a minute.
Steve was leaning back in his chair as he watched Loki approach. The look in Loki’s eyes and the way he moved like a predator left Steve under no illusion but that he was the prey. Steve swallowed hard but never took his eyes off his boyfriend.
When Loki reached him he pushed the chair Steve was sitting on back from the table so that he could sit across Steve’s lap. Without even a pause for thought Steve’s hands automatically moved to Loki’s waist and encircled him within his arms so as to trap the god on his knee.
Loki’s arms draped gently over Steve’s shoulders as he turned towards his love and leaned in for a kiss;one which Steve happily gave as he indulged his boyfriend.
Welcoming the kisses that followed Steve’s fingers moved under Loki’s shirt hem to touch the smooth soft skin along the god’s side. As the kisses continued Steve’s desire to feel more skin intensified and soon all he wanted was to be able to touch, caress and kiss more of that alluring flesh. He quickly pulled Loki’s shirt off over his head.
The desire to touch as much skin as possible was met with no resistance from Loki. The shirt was discarded with a toss. Being able to roam his hands all over Loki’s torso made blood flow to Steve’s groin and he felt the heat of arousal low in his stomach. He leaned into Loki’s kisses as if they were a lifeline. The welcoming feel of Loki’s mouth had them both breathing heavily within minutes.
Steve drew Loki closer to him as his hands smoothed over the muscles in his back. Loki caressed Steve’s scalp as his fingers carded through the blonde hair; all the time he tried to get closer to the man who was making him moan and had all his nerve ends firing like sparklers.
Each touch made Loki’s skin come more alive. Steve’s lips moved over Loki’s before moving to his jaw and neck. His boyfriend leaned back slightly to allow Steve more access to that long neck . A shiver ran up Loki’s spine when Steve lapped his Adam’s apple and latched onto the base of his neck nipping slightly.
“Steve” Loki moaned as the blonde's mouth moved to where neck and shoulder meet. “Please!”
“Please what?” Steve asked never moving his lips more than a millimetre from Loki’s skin.
Not really sure what he wanted, other than to have Steve as close as possible, Loki went for the first thing which came into his head. “Mark me as yours”.
Without having to be asked twice Steve lowered his lips and sucked hard on Loki’s pale skin where his shoulder met the base of his neck. Loki arched his back and leaned further into those lips. Steve bit down on the skin and then sucked making sure that Loki would be left with a mark from his mouth when he finished. When satisfied that the mark would remain he raised his head and smiled as he ran his fingertip along the bruise now visible. He admired his mark on that pale skin before gently kissing the spot and then moving his lips onto Loki’s chest.
Loki heard a little whimper escape from his throat when Steve took his nipple into his mouth. He was amazed how Steve’s touch could elicit such sounds from him and that was before his erection was even touched. He could only imagine how vocal he would be when they’d become one.
His skin felt on fire everywhere Steve touched him but it was a good sensation not the searing pain he had known before at the hands of The Other.
Loki tightened his grip on Steve’s hair as he held Steve’s head in place enjoying the sensation of Steve’s tongue as it moved over and around the now sensitive nub of flesh causing his back to arch again in pleasure.
When Steve had finished his ministrations on Loki’s nipple he leaned back and swiftly removed his own shirt as with an increasing need to feel skin on skin both men fought to get as close to the other as possible. Loki wanted nothing between them not even the thin material of Steve’s shirt.
Loki could feel Steve’s erection pressing against his hip as he moved on Steve’s lap in an effort to get closer to him. If he could have melted into Steve he believed he’d have been happy to remain there for eternity.
One particular movement caused Loki’s hip to collide with his now sensitive penis head, made Steve hiss in the most seductive manner that Loki had ever heard. The friction from his boxers, caused by Loki’s movements, was stimulating and a little painful at the same time for Steve. Loki’s erection was apparent from the obvious tenting in his pants so Steve palmed him through the cloth.
Steve suddenly squeezed Loki’s ass with his other hand before smacking him playfully as an indication that he wished Loki to stand up. Loki loved to tease Steve at moments like this so he deliberately rocked his hips in response and stayed sitting.
Before Loki realised what was happening Steve reached one arm under Loki’s knees and drew Loki close to chest as he tightened his grip around Loki’s waist. In one swift movement Steve rose from his chair and held Loki bridal style in his arms. They continued kissing as Steve carried Loki towards his room, brushing slightly off the walls and doors along the way. Reaching his bed Steve laid Loki gently down on top of the comforter.
Just as Steve was about to follow Loki down onto the bed Loki sat upright and quickly moved off the bed as he pushed Steve up against the wall. There was a look of surprise on Steve’s face as his back hit the wall but the look of desire in Loki’s eyes immediately quelled any concern he may have had.
Both were breathing hard and their chests glistened with sheen of sweat. Holding Steve’s gaze Loki purred. “I think it’s time Captain that you learned just how good it can be to have someone kneel!”
With that Loki sank to his knees in front of Steve, all the while holding Steve’s gaze. He breathed over the tenting in Steve’s jeans before using the tip of his tongue to tease Steve’s penis head through the fabric. Steve swallowed hard as the material dampened and he felt the heat of Loki’s tongue on his cock through his jeans. He leaned back further into the wall for support.
The long fingers made light work of opening Steve’s belt and jeans and quickly lowered his jeans and boxers to his ankles. Loki was watching Steve as his fully erect cock sprang free from the restricting boxers and stood proud in front of Loki’s face.
“Do you wish to keep your jeans and boxers on or should I remove them completely?”
Chewing slightly on his lower lip the Super Soldier hesitated. Figuring if this was going to feel even half as good as he hoped he may need to move his feet for balance and he couldn’t really do that while his jeans and boxers were around his ankles so he nodded.
Loki helped Steve out of his shoes, socks, jeans and boxers. Leaning back onto his heels he admired the incredible form of the muscled naked man before him. His eyes moved slowly from those blue eyes, over the luscious plump lips down along the small moles which added to the man’s beauty in Loki’s eyes, over and along each sculpted muscle of Steve’s chest and abdomen. He smiled as he realised that seeing Steve like this was a privilege experienced by very few. He never asked how many lovers Steve had had previously, if any. That didn’t matter to Loki. What mattered was here and now and that this incredible man was giving himself to Loki.
Steve felt a little embarrassed and exposed as he stood there naked, being admired as Loki was still wearing his pants.
Seeing the slight hesitation in Steve’s eyes Loki ran his hands gently up the muscular thighs and leaned in to place two gentle kisses one on each inner thigh. Now looking at Steve with a knowing smile he added, “You may wish to use the wall for support before I’m finished. Now relax and enjoy Astin min”.
Looking down Steve thought he’d never seen anything as beautiful as the lust filled sparkling green eyes looking up at him. He hoped he wouldn’t come as soon as Loki took him into his mouth. He was on the precipice of having another one of his fantasies about to come true.
Holding onto Steve’s thighs Loki set about pleasuring his love. Steve closed his eyes once he felt the warmth of Loki’s mouth surround him and a tremble moved through him at the sensation of Loki’s tongue swirling around his penis head. He couldn’t stop the moan that rumbled up from his throat. As Loki continued to take his cock into his mouth Steve instinctively moved one hand to rest on Loki’s head. He weaved his fingers in through the silky soft dark tresses. Loki seemed to move his head in time with the fingers in his hair.
“Loki!!” Steve gasped as Loki continued to suck and tease and swirl his tongue hoping to get as many sounds of pleasure out of his love as possible.
Each time Steve moaned or trembled, Loki would repeat that action before changing the strength of the suction of the movement of his tongue and then repeating the action again.
Loki varied the amount of Steve’s cock in his mouth; sometimes pulling back until only the tip was between his lips and other times swallowing him completely down until the head touched the back of his throat. Steve had never experienced anything like it as Loki swallowed him down and nuzzled his public hair with his nose.
“Geez!” Steve exclaimed as he tried to catch quick sharp breaths. Loki chuckled and the vibration ran along Steve's length adding to the already satisfying sensations.
Steve watched in wonder as Loki’s head moved out and back causing his mouth to slide along the length of his shaft. Reluctantly Loki withdrew Steve’s cock from his throat so that he could catch a breath.
He smiled up at Steve. “You taste divine!”
Loki laughed at the blush which swept up from Steve’s throat at the compliment. He buried his tongue into Steve’s slit before taking Steve back into his mouth. Steve fought the urge to thrust into that glorious mouth as Loki continued to move his lips and tongue around his cock. He wanted to bury himself so deep and fuck Loki in a way he’d never felt before.
The stimulation from those sucks and kisses and licks to his shaft and testicles caused sounds he’d never imagined to escape from Steve’s throat. And when Loki licked the pre-cum from the tip of Steve’s penis and slit Steve felt his knees start to go weak. He adjusted his stance to lean back harder and braced one splayed hand against the wall for support.
Loki continued to lap at the sensitive flesh as if it was his favourite treat. Concentrating then on the underside of Steve’s shaft Loki kissed and nipped gently along the vein there. One of Loki’s hands moved to Steve’s hip while the other caressed his testicles and ass.
There was nothing in Steve’s mind at that moment but the sensation of Loki around him and the wonderful pleasurable vibrations running through his body. His heart was beating fast but he didn’t want the pleasure to end although he could feel his climax building.
Taking Steve’s entire length in to his mouth again Loki swallowed and then hummed sending a tremor up Steve’s shaft and straight to his core. The grip in Loki’s hair automatically tightened as Steve’s body reacted to that hum and Steve cried out, “Oh god, Loki!”
Steve could feel Loki smile around him as he reached up and put his hand gently over the one in his hair. Steve immediately relaxed his grip and apologised thinking he had pulled his hair too hard.
Without releasing Steve’s cock form his mouth Loki shook his head slightly. He tightened his grip on Steve’s fingers in his hair. When Steve tightened his grip again Loki hummed again. Wishing to give the control to Steve he then started moving his head back and forth using Steve’s hand.
Steve got the message and began to adjust the movement of Loki’s head and that mouth which surrounded him. He was amazed that Loki could take him completely into his mouth and throat without gagging. The sense of Loki’s throat swallowing around his cock brought Steve closer to orgasm. He could feel his testicles starting to rise and his muscles begin to tighten as he moved closer to release.
Loki could feel the testicles he had cupped gently in his hand move in their sack. His head was held in place as Steve’s hips began to thrust forward and back. The feeling of Steve’s cock moving in and out of his mouth was stimulating to Loki. He wondered if this would bring him release without ever having been touched himself. Steve made certain that Loki could breathe as he pulled out completely of that inviting mouth to allow him catch his breath before plunging back into the welcoming heat.
He moved the hand he was not using for balance to Steve’s ass and massaged the muscles there, making sure he widened the circular movements as he passed over a cheek until his fingers were brushing Steve’s anus each time. As he stimulated the nerves around Steve’s entrance he felt Steve’s thrusts pick up speed and gain strength. Loki was careful not to breach Steve as he wanted that experience to be kept for another time.
Now panting with the effort of trying to delay his release Steve’s head was swirling. The combined sensations of Loki’s stroking his ass and anus, the warmth of his mouth and tightness of his throat around his cock head meant that Steve could not hold out any longer. He tapped Loki on the head and gasped, “Loki, I can’t… I’m almost there..!”
Steve tried to pull back his hips but Loki held them in place and swallowed Steve again; taking him further into his throat as he nodded. Steve came with a loud moan.
“Oh God, Loki! Ah Loki, that was ….. “
He couldn’t speak. His knees almost buckled as Loki swallowed down all he had to offer. Leaning back against the wall Steve continued to thrust through his orgasm. When he finished Loki rose and took Steve into his arms and kissed him deeply.
Steve could taste himself on Loki’s tongue as his brain regained its equilibrium. He slowly pulled back before gently cupping Loki’s erection in his hand.
“Your turn!” He smiled smugly.
Seeing the certainty and determination together with the desire in Steve’s eyes Loki moved backwards towards the bed as he slowly and teasingly opened the button on his pants and then link by link lowered the zipper. His hips swayed slightly with each movement. Releasing his hold on the waistband he allowed the pants to fall to his ankles. His erection, swollen red with precum glistening around its head, was now on full display.
Steve knew that neither Loki nor Thor had any reservations about nudity and Loki stood before him showing no signs of embarrassment or discomfort. Steve allowed his eyes to roam leisurely over Loki’s now naked body in front of him. It was clear that Loki enjoyed seeing Steve’s appreciative looks and was happy to stand there for as long as Steve desired.
The soft blush on Steve’s neck and face only added to his charm as far as Loki was concerned and as Steve’s phrase “I can do this all day!” came to his mind his eyes lit up.
Moving closer to Loki, Steve ran his fingers softly up and along Loki’s arms and shoulders as if in an anatomy appreciation study. He kissed Loki as his hands continued to move over the body on offer to him. Steve’s fingertips traced all the muscles which flexed slightly with each point of contact and as they continued to kiss Steve worked his way over Loki’s chest and abdominal's. As he moved his fingers down over Loki's hips and pubic hair the back of his hand briefly skimmed along the head of Loki’s erection causing Loki to gasp.
The small shudder that moved through Loki’s body in response to his touch made Steve smile into the kiss. He was amazed that this incredible man was giving himself over to Steve to touch and admire at his leisure.
No longer able to reach further down Loki’s body while continuing to kiss his lips Steve moved onto kissing down Loki’s neck and chest.
The deep breaths taken by Loki caused his chest to rise and fall in rhythm with Steve’s kisses; each kiss causing Loki to inhale and as the lips moved away he exhaled. Dropping to his knees Steve continued his ministrations down each leg, taking his time and memorising each twitch and breath.
Part of Steve’s brain was having difficulty comprehending that it was his touch that was eliciting such wonderful responses and sounds from the god in front of him. After what felt like a few seconds but was probably longer Steve gently raised Loki’s left leg and removed his pants before doing the same to the right leg.
Loki had the fingers of one hand in Steve’s hair as he braced himself to help maintain his balance while Steve set about finishing the task of removing his pants. Once both legs were freed Steve reached back and dropped the pants onto the chair near the dresser.
Looking up into the green eyes he adored, Steve smiled and unconsciously licked his lips. The adoring look he received in return made Steve’s heart skip a beat. He motioned to Loki to sit on the edge of the bed. With a flick of fingers the covers moved down to the end of the bed and Loki took a seat as indicated. When he did so Steve moved closer and settled himself kneeling between Loki’s open thighs.
Breathing slowly onto the swollen penis head he grinned at the shiver it caused to run through Loki’s body. Steve moved his lips closer to Loki’s tender inner thigh and began peppering the soft skin with gentle kisses followed by small sucking ones then lapping the area with his tongue.
Alternating what he did as he moved meant Loki couldn’t tell if he was about to receive a kiss, a suck, a lick or a small bite and the anticipation had him moving closer to release even though Steve had not actually touched his cock yet.
Steve moved his lips slowly and teasingly closer to where Loki was now ready to beg to have them. His breath was deliberately directed along the shaft as he brought his lips barely within reach of Loki’s erection.
“Steve! Darling! Astin min!” Loki moaned as he tried to steady his breathing. Steve wasn’t sure if it was a prayer or a plea but he loved the sound Loki was making.
“I won’t last long if you keep doing such wicked things with those lips and that tongue".
All Loki wanted was to feel Steve wrap those lips around him and take him. He had dreamt of this moment so many times. Giving in, Loki now pleaded. "Please!”
The grin on Steve’s face as he looked up at Loki was anything but innocent. There was no doubting the desire Steve felt for the man in front of him and the reciprocated longing he received in return. Loki swallowed hard as that look went straight to his core and made his cock twitch.
Steve Rogers knew exactly what he was doing and the effect he was having on the God of Mischief and Chaos.
Smiling and keeping eye contact with Loki through those long lashes, Steve moved his lips closer to Loki’s erection and as his tongue licked his own lips it also gave a teasing fleeting lick to Loki’s penis head. Loki threw his head back as a whimper ripped from his throat at the sensation.
Biting down on his own lip Loki begged the Norms to not let him come too soon. He wanted to enjoy this for as long as his body would allow but he feared that it would never be long enough.
Remembering what Loki had done for him, Steve started by kissing the tip and tasting the precum there. Another bead escaped in response and Steve willing lapped it up. The musky salty taste was more of a turn on than Steve ever expected.
Steve’s heart was beating fast in response and he could feel a trickle of sweat run down his spine.
Using Loki’s thighs for support Steve began kissing down along the shaft, varying the strength and suction of each kiss. He continued until he had reached the base of Loki’s cock and briefly ran his tongue down over Loki’s testicles, giving each a gentle suck, before making his way up the other side of the shaft.
“Steve, please!” Loki begged as he wanted more and more for those lips to surround him.
“Please what, Loki?” Steve tried to innocently ask as he raised his head to once again look up at Loki but his dilated and blown pupils could never be considered innocent.
Looking down as that teasing smile Loki’s eyes darkened with desire. Putting as much longing as he could into his voice Loki answered. “Please envelope me in those beautiful lips before I lose myself completely and plunge into that angelic mouth of yours with abandon!”
Those words and the images they evoked were enough for Steve to stop teasing and take some of Loki’s length into his mouth. Loki’s moan when Steve took him went straight to Steve’s cock which was once again beginning to come to life.
Loki was already sensitive from the fiction his pants had caused against his head penis head as he’d moved while pleasuring Steve and the heat from Steve’s mouth was like a balm. That was until Steve swirled his tongue along the length and across his slit causing Loki to arch his back in pleasure. Loki leaned heavily on his arms as he braced his hands slightly behind and at an angle against the bed for support.
Taking as much length as he could take into his mouth without gagging Steve wondered how Loki had taken him whole into his mouth and swallowed him down. He figured with practice he’d be able to return that pleasure to Loki too but for now he was careful to avoid touching the back of his throat with the head of Loki’s throbbing cock.
Steve, surprised by the heat coming from the swollen cock head as Loki generally ran a cooler body temperature than others, savoured the taste and weight of Loki’s cock on his tongue as he worked.
He heard Loki let out a sharp hiss when his teeth accidentally brushed too sharply against the tender flesh. Steve looked up apologetically but Loki’s eyes were closed as he concentrated on not coming too soon.
As Loki did not jerk back or in any way try to remove himself from his mouth Steve figured it may not have been entirely a hiss of pain but he concentrated on keeping his teeth away until he knew better.
Slowly he moved the engorged cock in and out of his mouth, sometimes taking it all the way in until it hit the back of his throat, sometimes only the tip or half way and other times returning to kissing and licking and sucking along the length.
Loki was finding it hard to concentrate on anything other than the feelings he was experiencing. The things Steve was doing with his lips, tongue and mouth had Loki gripping the sheets beneath his hands as he attempted to stop his hips from thrusting into that glorious mouth.
Loki wished he could get lost in the sensations running through his body for ever. He was amazed how Steve awakened in him desires he’d believed were long forgotten, desires which went beyond the physical pleasure and could make him long for more.
As Steve pulled back he hollowed his cheeks and increased the suction on Loki’s erection. Loki thought that Steve could pull the semen from him without his body ever having to ejaculate. His cock head slipped from Steve’s lips with a plop before being taken straight back into the warm embrace of Steve’s mouth’s. Any of Loki’s length he could not take into his mouth the blonde stimulated using twists and strokes of his hand.
The combination of the warm mouth, the moving tongue and the grip and twists of Steve’s hand had Loki rushing towards his orgasm. Loki knew he would not last long as he had been already well on the way to release following his own pleasuring of Steve.
Loki tapped Steve on his head to warn him that he was almost there. “Steve, Darling, Mon Amour! Almost there!”
Feeling his muscles tighten Loki’s body moved closer towards its release and a whimper escaped his throat as he ejaculated into Steve’s mouth. Loki couldn’t help calling out Steve’s name repeatedly as his orgasm rocked through him.
Although Steve had nodded his acknowledgement of Loki's warning, the sudden feeling of semen hitting the back of his throat surprised Steve and he coughed trying not to choke on it. While he pulled back slightly he held Loki’s throbbing penis in his mouth and swallowed down as much as he could.
Some of Loki’s seed escaped his lips and dribbled down the side of his chin. When Steve was certain Loki had finished he leaned back onto his heels and released Loki’s cock from his lips. The god was breathing heavily and his body glistened.
When he came back to his senses Loki took in the sight of Steve’s red and swollen lips now shining with saliva and semen. He reached forward and drew Steve up onto his knees until they were close enough to kiss. He wiped the semen from those lips and chin with a long finger before kissing Steve deeply again, tasting himself on Steve’s lips and on his tongue.
Standing up the god helped his love from his knees and pulled him into his arms where he kissed him passionately, trying to convey all he was feeling with actions rather than words.
Gently pushing Loki back towards the bed, Steve moved closer and then climbed on beside his lover. They rested on their sides facing each other, each lovingly stroking and caressing any skin within reach.
Loki beamed when his hand brushed against Steve who was half hard again. The twinkle and delight in Loki’s eyes was breath taking as he took Steve’s cock gently in hand and teased him back to full stiffness.
He applied languid kisses to Steve’s lips and neck and chest as he used Steve’s saliva from his own cock to ease the movement of his palm along Steve’s length. He ran his fingers over the head of Steve’s cock capturing the precum there to help ease the slide. It was only a matter of a dozen or so strokes before Steve was coming for a second time over both their stomachs and pelvic areas.
As they lay there, looking deeply into each other’s eyes, the world faded. There was no one else in their world; no outside sounds just their breathing and only their combined scents of sweat and sex filled the room.
After they both were sufficiently recovered Loki used his magic to summon a warm wash cloth from the ensuite bathroom. He gently cleaned Steve and then himself before sending the cloth back to the sink. Steve looked across his shoulder and laughed as he heard the water splash into the sink and the sound of the cloth getting magically washed.
Loki’s magic never stopped amazing him and he hoped that feeling would never grow old.
Facing each other again Steve moved forward to capture Loki’s lips in another kiss. He felt connected and content in a way he had not since before the ice.
“Yep, definitely see the attraction of kneeling now!” Steve smirked as he looked into Loki’s eyes.
“I am so pleased you do. Will you or I perchance be kneeling again in the future?” Loki hesitantly asked. He hoped Steve had taken as much pleasure from the experience as he had.
“I definitely hope so!” Steve declared with a satisfied smile as he wrapped an arm around Loki, “Again and often!”
Loki nodded in agreement as they continued to exchange kisses and soft touches, their eyes never leaving each other as both enjoyed post orgasmic bliss in each other’s arms. They lay together for several minutes, arms and legs entwined with their bodies as close together as possible, neither saying anything but simply relishing the experience in silence.
Steve yawned unexpectedly. Loki laughed as he ran his fingers down the side of Steve’s face. “Perhaps after such sublime exertion a nap is now in order!”
"Sorry," Steve blushed as he answered, a little embarrassed. “I think we could both use one.”
Loki smiled and sighed happily as Steve reached down and pulled the covers up over them both; accepting they would take that nap together as it didn’t occur to either to suggest otherwise.
Gently Loki easily manoeuvred Steve onto his back and then curled against his side, using the broad chest and shoulder as a pillow. Loki threw a possessive leg over Steve's as their legs tangled easily together and they relaxed. It felt easy as if it was the most natural position in the world for them both.
As Loki’s eye lids got heavy and began to close he placed a soft kiss on Steve’s chest. He eased into a pleasant sleep with the feel of one of Steve’s hands rubbing soothing circles along his side and back while the gentle fingers of the other massaged his scalp through his hair. Steve placed a kiss on the top of Loki’s head just before Loki drifted off completely.
Steve hadn’t intended to sleep even if it had been him who had yawned. He wanted to enjoy the feeling of Loki asleep and curled up in his arms for as long as he could. It felt so comfortable and so right. Steve had thought he’d be embarrassed being naked in front of Loki and also in bed with him but he didn’t.
Loki's warm breath on his skin as he exhaled against him and the gentle rise and fall of his chest soon lulled Steve into sleep too.
Natasha and Bucky arrived back to the house a short time later with the groceries. The place was silent when they entered and Bucky was about to call out to Steve when Natasha stopped him with a hand to his arm and a shake of her head.
Silently she pointed towards the discarded shirts in the dining area; one was on the table and the other was on the chair near the surveillance equipment.
Bucky gave a knowing smirk to Natasha when he saw what she was pointing out on the table.
Natasha merely shrugged as she headed towards the kitchen with her bags of groceries but inside she was beaming. She was glad for Steve, for them both but particularly for Steve.
She had tried to set him up on dates in an effort to help him reintegrate and re-engage with the world. She still didn’t know if her efforts had failed because she had picked all women for him or if he was simply not ready for a relationship at the time. Without anyone else's help Steve and Loki had found each other and, for the moment at least, they made each other happy.
Natasha knew that she would never have picked someone like Loki, (if there was anyone else like Loki out there), for Steve but he was technically older than she was and who knew his taste better than himself! She now came to realise that the women whom she had suggested for him may not have had enough depth to hold Steve's attention. Yes they were all beautiful and intelligent but she knew no one who came close to what she knew of Peggy Carter.
She considered Loki for a few moments as she sorted out the groceries; his physical attributes - dark hair, pale skin, good looking in a striking kind of way; poise, intelligent with an amazing accent and more than a hint of danger behind the charming facade. Yep, Steve Rogers had a type and she had gotten it wrong!
After dropping the grocery bags onto the counter Bucky walked over to the table. The last notation on Steve's pad was over an hour earlier and stated that Doom had left the castle for the afternoon to attend government meetings and was not expected back until 8 p.m. that evening.
As it was now 4 p.m. that meant that they had approximately four more hours of semi relaxation time available to them. Loki's transmitting devices were set to voice and movement activation so for now they were quiet.
Natasha was emptying the bags of food in the kitchen as Bucky walked back over to help her put the groceries away. He smiled to himself at how domestic it all felt. Here he was helping Natasha with the groceries and Steve had done whatever with Loki while they’d had the house to themselves.
For a moment in Bucky's mind the war hadn't happened and this was how his and Steve's lives were supposed to pan out; only he had always imagined Steve with a dame not a fella.
Having put away the last of the groceries Bucky turned to see what Natasha was now doing and he noticed she was busy preparing the meat for a casserole. She gladly accepted the offer of his help.
Following her instructions he chopped and prepared the vegetables as she browned the cubes of beef in a hot pan with onions, garlic and herbs. The aroma from the sizzling pan was tantalizing and Bucky was sorry they’d have to wait hours for the casserole to cook before he could satisfy his hunger.
Natasha smiled as, out the side of her eye, she admired Bucky's knife skills. Once all was ready she placed the ingredients into the awaiting casserole dish and then into the heated oven.
Setting the timer she cleaned up before heading out to join Bucky who had returned to the seating area.
When she got close she slowly ran her fingers up his chest and smiled sweetly as she softly flicked her hair and tilted her head slightly to the side. Bucky smiled back at her as she looked out from under her eyelashes at him and bit her bottom lip. The idea of Natasha playing coy made him laugh.
"Too much?" she asked.
"Just a tad," he answered but put his arms around her waist nonetheless and drew her closer to him as he said it.
"As Doom is out for a few hours and we seem to have some free time should we do what our housemates appear to have done and take advantage?" Natasha asked as her lips lightly brushed Bucky's ear, doing nothing to mask the underlying suggestion.
"Amuse ourselves and perhaps engage in some light entertainment?"
She's left with no doubt as to what is in his mind as his eyes took in the beautiful woman in his arms and his pupils dilated.
"How light remains to be decided but definitely entertain ourselves!" Natasha answered as she slowly escaped from Bucky's arms and started to open the buttons on her shirt while she walked backwards towards their room.
Bucky watched those fingers as they worked for a few seconds, taking in the soft skin as it was slowly revealed. Now moving forward he followed after her and scooped her into his arms as he carried her to their room.
Natasha giggled, (something most would have thought uncharacteristic but a small few knew better), as the bedroom door closed and all noise remained inside thanks to Loki's soundproofing.
Unfortunately for Steve his best friend's reunion with Natasha had been zealous and louder than he appreciated on their first night together in Sokovia. So he was thankful when Loki, on noticing his rising discomfort at the increasing rhythmic banging sounds and moans coming from the bedroom, cast a sound proofing spell on the room. Steve asked Loki why he was smiling smugly afterwards. Loki happily noted that James could never tease them in the future without them both now having ammunition to use in retaliation.
Neither Natasha nor Bucky knew about the sound proofing yet!
A couple of hours later a shaft of soft sunlight spread across Steve's body as he woke with the feeling of an additional weight on his chest. He realised with a huge smile that it was possibly the best nap he’d had in years and the sight of the sleeping man in his arms added to the feeling of contentment that swept over him.
Other than the times when, to stay warm, he had shared a bed with Bucky in their little apartment in Brooklyn Steve had always woken alone. He had often imagined what it might feel like but this exceeded all his expectations. Bucky and some of the Howlies (Howling Commandos) had told stories of their bed partners robbing the covers or worse still looking at their bed partners and regretting ever having let them into their bed.
Sending a small prayer to the heavens in thanks he marvelled at how his life had turned out. This was so far from what he had hoped or dreamed for while growing up but at that minute he knew that there were only a few things he would change if he had to do over again. For the first time since he'd woken from the ice he had a doubt as to whether he would swap what he had now for the life he lost in the ice.
And boy was that a revelation to Steve.
Steve smiled down at the dark head resting peacefully on his chest. Unfortunately he couldn't fully see the expression on Loki's face but he hoped it was as happy as the one he was wearing. Steve relaxed listening once again to the rhythm of Loki's breathing and he again thanked God for giving him this opportunity to not only get to know Loki but for the opportunity to hold him in his arms. He wanted to experience this feeling again and often. He just hoped it wouldn't feel awkward when Loki awoke.
He didn't have long to wait until Loki woke to the scent of the cooking dinner wafting on the air.
Loki stretched slightly. It took only a moment for him to realise where he was and what, or rather who, exactly made such a comfortable pillow. Inhaling the scent of his lover he smiled and tried to gently extract himself from Steve's hold. Just as he moved, Steve seemed to instinctively adjust his embrace and held Loki closer.
Relaxing back against his human body pillow Loki turned his head slightly and began peppering Steve's chest with soft kisses. As his head moved Loki's hair fell forward and hid his face further from view, much to Steve's disappointment.
Steve let out the breath he hadn't realised he'd been holding since Loki had woken. To his immense relief and delight Loki seemed to be as comfortable wakening in his arms as he'd been when they’d fallen asleep.
Raising his head from the pillow he leaned forward to kiss Loki's head and the mop of dark curls now covering so much of his chest and shoulder.
Steve drew his hands even closer together ensnaring Loki within his grasp. "Tu ne vas pas où! Il n'y a pas d'évasion Lo! " he teased.
Loki chuckled and Steve felt the soft puffs of exhaled air against his chest. Both knew that Loki could easily escape if he wanted to but he seemed content to play Steve's little game.
Turning to look up at Steve he fake pouted and with a dramatic sigh enquired in his best defenceless impersonation, "Oh! Is there any way I may possibly earn my freedom?"
Steve tried not to laugh at the reply but the look on Loki's face, especially those pouty lips and pleading green eyes, broke his reserve. Loki loved hearing Steve's laugh as it was not something that was heard on a regular basis and that was something he was working to change.
"I guess you could pay the toll!" The super soldier suggested with a shy smile as a pale pink hue came to his cheeks.
Loki quirked a brow in mock shock at such a suggestion as his fingers started an upwards march across Steve pectoral muscles heading for his throat and chin. "And what, may I ask, is the toll?"
Feeling himself get slightly hot at the now evocatory look in Loki’s eyes, Steve took a quick breath and swallowed hard .
"Three kisses from my best guy!" Steve answered, quite chuffed with himself for having come up with a cute toll.
"Your best guy?" Loki asked, almost reverently, as without looking up at Steve he kept his eyes on his own hand as it moved over the tanned skin and toned muscles.
"Yeah, my best guy!" Steve confirmed as he began to stroke his fingertips softly along Loki's jaw line before tilting the god’s face up towards him so the truth behind his words could be seen in his eyes.
"My best guy, Mon Chéri, grá no chroí ". Each title was punctuated with a tender kiss starting with Loki’s forehead then each eye before “The amazing sexy man currently trapped in my arms” and a final kiss for those tender lips.
Steve raised both his eyebrows in silent question as his smile became full blown.
Loki's heart skip a beat at the titles being bestowed upon him. He wished he could hold onto this moment and stay right there like that forever. His eyes were locked on Steve's.
If he had not been paying attention he may missed it but he caught the slight hesitation in Steve’s smile. Loki moved quickly forward within Steve's hold and leaning on one elbow he manoeuvred himself upwards so that he was closer to Steve's lips and half his body was now draped over his Captain.
"That is an acceptable toll!" Loki stated as he placed three tender kisses onto Steve's lips.
Steve drew him closer before the last kiss could end and, holding Loki's head in place with his right hand, his fingers entangled in the soft curls as he deepened the kiss.
Reluctant to stop, the kiss only ended when they both drew apart in search of a much needed breath. Steve's arms opened as if by magic and he released Loki once the kiss ended.
"Free at last!" Steve offered.
Loki smiled as he looked adoringly at his love. "Maybe I won't pay the toll quite so quickly the next time."
Steve kissed the tip of Loki's nose. "Maybe the toll will be higher next time!"
Loki laughed at the tease as he sat up and stretched his muscles.
"I believe our colleagues have returned as I smell food!"
"Great!" Steve announced as he threw his legs over his side of the bed, "`Cause I'm starving!"
Loki rolled his eyes at his love but quickly smiled as he watched Steve stretch his back and shoulder muscles (which inadvertently treated Loki to a sweet view of his bed partner's muscular back and toned ass).
Steve, feeling rested and relaxed, couldn't wipe the smile off his face. He handed over Loki's pants and then reached for his own boxers and jeans.
As Steve put on his boxers he bit his lip nervously before asking, "You think Bucky or Natasha figured out where we’ve been since they got back?"
"No doubt it didn't take them very long!" Loki replied. "They know we would have left a note had we moved from the house, even if it was to simply walk in the gardens."
Seeing the somewhat nervous stance and the anxious look on Steve's face Loki quickly continued. "As none of magical wards protecting either of our rooms have been triggered, I can confidently say neither James nor Natasha attempted to disturb us or even check in what room or rooms we might be found!"
Moving around the bed to stand close to his guy, Loki placed one hand on Steve's upper bicep and cupped his face with the other hand. "Are you concerned, Chéri, what they will think or simply that they will know we spent the afternoon together?"
Steve paused as he gathered his thoughts. Looking into Loki's eyes and seeing nothing but acceptance, desire and what looked like love there he knew his answer. "No, not anymore!" he admitted.
Loki stepped closer so that their chests now touched as he encircled Steve’s waist with his arms. "If you wish I can easily teleport to my room and emerge from there. As I said earlier the wards there have not been disturbed either."
"I appreciate the offer. Thank you but you don't need to do that", Steve sincerely answered as he reached up and kissed Loki, thankful to have such a considerate and understanding boyfriend.
"I get to spend time with my best guy. Buck's got no grounds to tease; not when he's sharing a room with a dame!"
That earned Steve a kiss and then a second and another. As if on cue to stop those kisses escalating into something more passionate Steve's stomach growled causing him to drop his head to Loki's shoulder as Loki laughed.
"Perhaps it would be best if before that beast in your stomach is released we should consider feeding it."
"That sounds like a plan!" Steve noted as he looked around for his shirt.
Remembering the abandoned shirts in the living room he grabbed two clean ones from his dresser and wordlessly threw one to Loki as he put on the other.
Catching the shirt easily Loki smiled as he brought the offered henley to his nose to inhale Steve's scent before he pulled it over his head. He liked the idea of wearing Steve's shirt and being surrounded by his scent even though he could have called his own shirt to himself with a finger twitch. As he lowered the henley onto his body Loki wondered if he could persuade Steve to wear something of his in the future and if so what; his leathers maybe?
Steve took a deep breath and straightened his shoulders in preparation for the teasing he knew awaited him from his best friend. "How am I still friends with that Jerk?" he wondered to himself and smiled.
Holding the door open for Loki he waited as together they headed out to get food and greet their friends.
"Tu ne vas pas où! Il n'y a pas d'évasion Lo!" means "You're goin' no where! There's no escape, Lo!" in French
"Grá mo chroí" is "sweetheart" in Irish (the literal translation is love of my heart)
The table was set and the casserole was just out of the oven when Natasha and Bucky appeared into the kitchen. Both instantly recognised Steve's shirt on Loki and exchanged a smile when they realised the discarded shirts they'd seen earlier were now gone.
"Good afternoon?" Bucky asked as he looked from one man to the other; a knowing smirk on his lips.
"Very pleasant!" Loki answered, before turning the tables with an equally knowing smile and a quirk of his brow, "And yours?"
"Peachy, we took advantage of Doom's absence and had an afternoon nap!" Bucky turned his attention to Steve as he spoke.
His best friend had his head slightly lowered and was wearing a broad smile; the one Bucky knew he only got after spending time alone with Loki.
Before Bucky could tease Steve, Natasha with a bottle of wine in her hand announced, "Right fellas, time to eat!"
"I'm happy for you, Punk!" Bucky said quietly as he clapped Steve on the back while passing him.
"You too, Jerk!" Steve affectionately answered and he moved to take a seat beside Loki at the table.
As the four passed the bread basket from one to the other Natasha played mother and served out the casserole. Steve bowed his head and quietly said grace. Memories of hot stews with very little meat, bones used to add flavour to the stew and whatever leftovers and fresh vegetables his mother could get her hands on that day rushed unbidden to Steve's mind. He wiped a silent tear from his eye before it fell.
As Steve looked up he felt Loki's hand give his knee as light squeeze. Bucky gave him a sad smile as if similar memories had gone through his head too.
To break the sombre mood Bucky went to his default; teasing Steve.
"We were surprised to find the place empty when we came back earlier. Not like you to abandon your post, Stevie!"
"The place was not empty nor did we abandon our post, Jerk!" Steve stated as he cast Bucky a disbelieving stare.
"It was awfully quiet!" Bucky retorted with a grin
If Steve could have reached him he would have cupped him across the back of the head. Loki smiled as he looked directly at Bucky.
"Some of us prefer to spend our time quietly! No doubt we were both asleep when you returned."
"We could have been anyone calling to the house and we simply walked in!" Natasha offered as she licked some gravy from her lips. The smirk on her face was barely contained.
Without missing a beat, Loki casually responded. "Ah, while I am loathe saying so, that is where you are incorrect. Had a stranger entered the grounds let alone attempted to enter the building I would have been alerted".
Steve appeared to continue eating and blissfully ignore the conversation going on around him as Bucky and Natasha shared a look of curiosity. Natasha raised an eyebrow in silent query at Loki who smiled as he drank some wine and waited for what he knew was the next question.
"Alert you how?" Natasha eventually asked when it became clear Loki was not volunteering any further information.
"Magic!" He answered as he treated them to his best smug grin.
Steve nearly choked on his sip of wine when he saw that grin. It was the one Loki most used with Tony especially when he knew his answer annoyed Tony.
"Loki, have you magical wards in place around this house?" Bucky asked.
"Of course" was the short reply as if the question and the answer were obvious. Looking at Bucky, he gave a small sigh.
"My dear James, it has long been my custom to always protect anywhere I allow my guard to lessen and myself to relax. How else could I possibly sleep undisturbed? You already know this!"
It is clear from Loki's tone that this or similar is a conversation he and Bucky have had previously. Steve looked sideways at Loki and gave him a shy smile as he placed a hand of reassurance on his thigh under the table.
"Do you do the same back at the base?" Steve quietly enquired as he wondered why he did not know this and then realised that he had never thought to ask Loki if he felt safe there. He had taken it for granted that he did but now he wasn’t so sure.
Maybe it was simply that for the past several months he felt that Loki had become a real part of the team and with that had come a level of trust that might not have been there at the beginning. He made a mental note to speak to Loki about it later when they were alone.
"Yes, the grounds and the building."
"And before that at the tower?"
"Certainly but there it was more necessary for my chambers than the building. Only within my chambers did I relax the wards for my person thus necessitating protection wards for the room only."
The concerned frown on Steve's face made Loki turn to face his love and focus on him alone.
“Why do you look so concerned?"
Loki wondered if Steve was upset with him for putting the wards in place but surely he knew that Loki needed to protect himself.
"Loki, you lived at the tower for weeks before we moved to the base and you're saying that the only time you relaxed was when you were in your room!"
"Does this come as a surprise?" His smile is soft and his eyes search out Steve's as he asks.
"Only in my chambers was I truly alone. Everywhere else save the lavatory or washroom was I accompanied!" Lowering his gaze Loki continued, "If you think that escaped my notice then be assured it had not!"
Steve shook his head sadly, and looked down at his plate, not sure what to say to that.
Loki was correct of course; Tony had insisted that Loki not be allowed freedom within the tower and that he was under surveillance at all times, even while he slept. Friday had maintained surveillance then and even though images were heavily pixelated Loki was not as alone in his room and the bathroom as he'd thought. The use of the toilet and shower were really the only privacy he had been afforded. To now hear that despite their best efforts to be discreet Loki had known and it made Steve sad.
It had become easy to forget the details of Loki's first weeks and months with the Avengers before they became friends and trusted each other.
"What changed when you moved to the base?" Natasha asked, now curious about Loki in a way she never had been before.
She knew so little about him still, so little about the man, the Prince and the sorcerer, so little about the real him behind the masks he so often wore. He was still distant and withdrawn as she was with so many. Maybe she needed to give more trust in order to receive it.
Loki was astute and he could read people better than most and he held his trust close and in short supply, much as she herself did.
`Damn, they were more alike than she had ever cared to admit before now!` she thought.
Looking directly at Natasha so she could see the truth in his eyes, he answered with a small smile. "The Captain declared that as a member of the team I had free reign over where I roamed on the base, even the areas normally restricted to the Avengers!"
His statement was casual, with no bitterness or residual hurt to be heard. He reached over and took Steve's hand in his.
"For that show of trust and more I am eternally grateful". He raised the hand to his lips and placed a gentle but heartfelt kiss on the back of Steve's knuckles.
The gesture and the declaration made Steve blush but he couldn't break away from Loki's gaze or reclaim his hand. Steve now understood the depth of trust Loki had placed in him earlier by falling asleep in his arms. Somehow that meant even more to him than the intimacy they had shared.
"So, if I understand you correctly, the more relaxed you are the further away from your person are the wards of protection?" Natasha asked breaking the spell and the moment for Loki and Steve.
Steve frowned at Natasha's question. Had it been a few months previously Steve would more than likely have even intervened and told Loki not to answer but now he left it up to Loki to decide what if any information he wished to divulge. "Hah, no doubt about it, Punk," he heard Bucky's voice say in his head.
"When I am alert there are instinctively or automatically wards of personal protection active. It is something you learn as a young mage and it remains with you throughout your lifetime. I would liken it to a habit of sorts like wearing a seatbelt or safety restraint when travelling in a vehicle or arming yourself daily even when not facing battle." His eyes loved from Natasha to Bucky as he said it.
"But when I relax and allow myself to be distracted or my level of alertness to lower I protect the room within which I am or the building or both."
Loki turned back to Steve. "In the tower my personal wards were always active until I returned to my room. At the base I no longer need the same level of protection for my person nor here in this house so it is the building and the grounds that are protected. Of course I have needed to add some additional soundproofing to some rooms but no matter!" Loki casually added the last part as he pointedly looked at Bucky.
"What about others entering the building or room?" Steve asked.
Loki chuckled as he drew his thumb softly along the nervous frown lines on Steve's face. "As I cast the wards so can I allow those of my choosing to pass through unhindered. Should you, Astin min, wish to enter my private chambers you may do so freely and unhindered."
Looking across the table, a mischievous smile danced on his lips and his eyes sparkled. "Should others, including my oaf of a brother, attempt to do the same they will find their progress suddenly halted!"
Bucky's eyes opened wider as if in shock and he smiled innocently when he asked, "What about me?"
"Ah James, there are special exemptions in place for you but what they are will remain known to only one, me!" Bucky then got treated to Loki's best impish grin which included a challenge.
"Come on, Loki!"
Throwing his head back Loki laughed at the reaction and Bucky's annoyed expression. So as not to leave Natasha out, he added. "Similar if not quite the same exceptions apply to you Natasha and a small number of others."
"So Steve can come and go as he pleases and we have to take our chances!" she clarified.
"Something like that!" Loki smugly answered.
Steve leaned back in his chair and reached over to the back of Loki's. As he ran his fingers gently through the soft curls beginning to form at the ends of Loki's hair he announced.
"Always knew there had to be advantages and bonuses to dating a Master Sorcerer, now I know there are even more!"
The smug look on Steve's face made Natasha laugh.
"Ha, ha!" Bucky mock scowled from his side of the table. "Smug is not a good look on you Stevie!"
"No?" Steve innocently queried. "I learned it from you!"
Loki and Natasha both laughed as Bucky's napkin was catapulted across the table at his best friend.
Loki never imagined he would feel at home and included in the company of Midgardians or anyone other than the family he'd known as a child before the truth of his parentage had ripped that from him. But at that moment he was content, happy even and that was not something he was accustomed to feeling anymore.
I haven't abandoned this story. I just got distracted by some other pieces. Hopefully the updates will not take as long as I have the next few chapters mostly written. Some need more work and one major section needs writing. Thank you for sticking with this.
A few days later Natasha and Bucky headed for Schloss Elmau, Bavaria ,Germany to carry out reconnaissance on the complex where the Summit was due to be held.
Their reports would have to be updated and adjusted closer to the Summit to incorporate the various security measures being put in place. For now it was critical that an initial layout of the terrain and the possible hot spots along the route and at the location be established.
Steve laughed when Loki announced that they were booked into the Hotel for a three night stay as a newly married couple on their honeymoon. He had even booked some couples spa treatments for them as part of their cover.
Natasha quickly grabbed a tablet to check out the treatments as she declared she’d need some stress releasing after spending so long with the three of them. Bucky glared at his best friend.
“Guess this is your idea Punk?”
“Nope, nothing to do with me. This was all Loki!” Steve said as he moved out of reach of Bucky who aimed a cushion at him.
Loki stood his ground. “Well you do make a handsome couple!”
“Did you get us the honeymoon suite Loki?” Natasha asked as she gave Barnes her best smile.
“Alas, it was not available but I did get you a suite overlooking the gardens.”
“Suppose it will have to do!” Natasha sighed. “We’ll need to go shopping unless your magic can change what we have here and make it last while out of your immediate vicinity”
She looked at Loki while he considered the request. “As I won’t be casting an illusion but instead changing the structure of the items it will hold. Of course I do not want to deny you and Bucky a shopping trip if you’d prefer!”
Seeing the unhappy look on Bucky’s face at the idea of going clothes shopping, Steve declared, “shopping trip it is then”.
Natasha laughed and wrapped her arms around Bucky’s waist. “It won’t be that bad, I promise. You get to play dress up and we get to spend some of Tony’s dime!”
“You go shopping, I’ll use the Asgardian Tailor!” Bucky stated, clearly showing he wouldn't change his mind.
Even after all this time he hated the idea of exposing his shoulder scars, where the metal arm joined his body, in public. It wasn't something he spoke of but it was there in his eyes.
“Your loss.” She said as she placed a kiss on his cheek.
While Steve had considered going to Germany for the reconnaissance himself and taking Loki with him he realised that Natasha and Bucky were the better options.
Now that Natasha and Bucky had left for Germany, Sam, Wanda and Clint were on their way to join Steve and Loki in Sokovia to begin liaising with local and international Law Enforcement agencies. Fury in conjunction with the Secret Service had set up an advance liaison conference with German Police, to include a delegation from the Avengers, specifically dealing with President Ellis’ security.
It was agreed that Steve, Sam and Loki would attend the security meeting in Stuttgart. Tony had wanted to attend but it was unanimously decided by the Team that his presence would attract too much attention and possibly raise the question why the Avengers were being included.
It took some time before Tony accepted that the others were right. When he objected to Loki attending Natasha pointed out that in her absence Loki was the one with the most diplomatic experience and his tactical brain would be invaluable. Officially he was attending in his role as an advisor only and would not be directly involved in the discussions but rather assist from the background.
Steve had mixed emotions about the conference location but he had no say in its choice. Sam, aware of the possible memories and issues it could evoke, was thankful that he’d be there if Steve needed someone to talk to about it. After all he wasn’t a member of the Avengers or in any way associated with them when they had first encountered Loki and fought against him there and subsequently in New York.
Sam was hoping to be there for Loki too if he needed any support, not that he was certain the Asgardian would ask for it or even admit to needing any. He’d heard a little about Loki’s nightmares, nothing specific, but enough to know they were not pleasant and whatever the god saw in them had an adverse effect on the dark haired Prince. If Loki turned to anyone it would probably be Steve or Bucky.
It didn’t take long for Natasha and Bucky to scout the various routes to the Summit location. They travelled from Berlin and other major cities as well as approaching from Austria and the South. Unfortunately that only revealed multiple locations from where Doom could launch his attack, even if he didn’t wait until all the Leaders were gathered in one place. It was going to be a nightmare to patrol and secure all access routes.
Whoever had chosen this location had obviously done so for its beauty and not with security in mind.
They understand that the German Police and Military are going to offer ground, mobile and air surveillance but Bucky fears that may not be enough. They need to have the Avenjet, at least, airborne if not support from the Hellicarrier but they doubt the German Authorities will consent to both.
Luckily they had alerted the authorities to their reconnaissance mission as security was already on alert and had they not done so they believe they would have been detained and questioned by now. The fact that they've the backing of President Ellis helps.
Nonetheless they'd managed to gather a lot of information before their presence became known and that worried Natasha. If Doom has managed to do his own reconnaissance it may prove unlikely that they can stop the attack so containing it may be their best hope.
Detailed encrypted reports are forwarded to Steve and to Nick Fury. Beyond that Natasha is leaving it to the two leaders to decide who else gets read in on their reports.
The most enjoyable part is when they reach the Hotel and Spa itself. While they enjoy the accommodation and the services it allows them access to all areas, restricted or otherwise and they gather vital intel.
Both were beginning to feel the stress but the treatments Loki had booked for them and the luxurious suite helped.
Steve, Sam and Loki arrived in Stuttgart, Germany on schedule and quickly found their hotel to check in. The Althoff Hotel Am Schlossgarten turned out to be less than a kilometre from the Square at 28 Koenigstrasse where Steve and Loki had first met and fought.
Steve didn’t think it was a coincidence as Loki had booked the hotel.
At the reception desk the efficient young man greeted them with a welcoming smile and it quickly became clear that he knew who at least one of the three men was. He advised them that triple room they had booked was no longer available as it now formed part of a series of inter-connecting suites which were being occupied by a visiting dignitary and their entourage.
In an effort to accommodate their new guests the Hotel was offering them an upgrade, at no extra cost; they would now share a Junior suite with a connecting Executive bedroom thus making it a two bedroom suite.
Sam smiled at Steve who simply shrugged. He was not going to say no to an upgrade. The smile on Loki’s face said he was going to enjoy this.
The Porter escorted the three men to the Junior suite. As he stood back to allow them enter Sam let out a loud whistle. The surroundings were sumptuous and he was going to enjoy his stay.
Steve gave the Porter a tip and thanked him after he had opened the connecting door. Steve was holding the additional room keycards and one was placed in the electrical slot inside each main entrance.
Sam slowly moved around each room checking out the facilities before returning to the seating area in the main suite. No one could miss the fact there were only two beds even if one was kingsize and the other queensize.
Looking from Steve to Loki, Sam announced. “I guess you two have to share as no offence but I don’t trust either of you two to share my bed!”
“Oh! Do you believe we would be unable to resist you if we had to share?” Loki asked as he allowed his gaze to move deliberately over Sam's body
Sam laughed as he placed a kiss on his fingertips and then moved his hand to his ass. “This piece of sweet honey ass is too hot for the likes of you two!” he teased. “Damn straight, you would not be able to resist tapping this and trust me, this sweet baby is not for tapping by either of you!”
The idea of sharing with Loki had made Steve’s heart speed up and he could feel a blush come to his cheeks at the idea of getting to spend a couple of nights in the same bed as Loki. He liked the idea of falling sleep beside him and Loki being the first thing he'd see when he awoke each morning.
The blonde head lowered to hide his blush. Loki, of course, had noticed and in an effort to save his Captain’s blushes he offered. “The couch looks quite comfortable so there will be no necessity to share.”
Steve’s head immediately shot up and Loki saw the disappointed look in the blue eyes before Steve steeled his expression. The soft smile that Loki gave him made him realise the god was offering to use the couch for his benefit.
“No need, Loki. I trust you. The bed is big enough for the two of us.”
Loki gave Steve a soft smile and a small bow in acquiescence.
Sam smiled. “Well, it’s settled then. I'll take the executive bedroom and you two can share this one.”
With that Sam moved his bag to the other room. He called back, “This way if either of you two snores I can get a good night sleep and not have to listen to you all night!”
The first meeting of the advanced security group was set for 2 pm that afternoon which gave Steve, Sam and Loki time to shower, change and grab some lunch after their journey from Sokovia.
Neither Steve nor Loki said anything further about the sleeping arrangements and as per their behaviour at the Avengers’ facility they keep intimate physical contact to a discrete level while Sam is around. Even so, over lunch they still sit beside each other on the same side of the booth and while their thighs and knees touch throughout it isn’t obvious above the table.
Conversation is concentrated on the upcoming meeting. Steve had received a list of possible attendees from Fury. His information pack also includes a brief breakdown of each attendee’s service record and specialties that Maria had been able to accumulate. As expected she had compiled a very thorough and compact synopsis for Steve.
Steve quickly briefs Sam and Loki on the players; detailing for whom and what they should keep a look out. It’s not that he thinks the other security personnel cannot be trusted but he needs to know who would be of assistance and who could possibly hinder their efforts to deal with Doom, whether inadvertently or otherwise.
As the intel for the possible attack came from them Steve is conscious of the need not to fuck this up, even if he didn’t say so. Sam and Loki both notice the stress signals written across Steve’s face and in his posture. Both know that while Steve displays such signs now he will not do so at the meeting. Loki wishes he could reach across and erase those frown lines or offer a quick neck massage to reduce the stress in his Captain’s shoulders but that will have to wait until much later when they were alone.
They arrive at what had been an old CIA secure location during the Cold War, the place where the meeting is being held. Now it's an Administrative complex and an official section of the State Department. The three Avengers join Agents Coulson and May in the lobby. Security seemed to tense on seeing Loki but after Captain America stepped forward to introduce his team at the reception tension eased slightly. Security passes get issued after identification is checked and processed.
Steve knows that Loki had done something by the way the corners of his lips rose slightly as his fingers twitched. When he raised a quizzical eyebrow at Loki he was met with a warm smile and twinkling green eyes. He knows Loki would do nothing to jeopardise the mission but that didn’t stop the Trickster having some fun. He’ll ask later what he had done but for now the meeting was the priority.
When the tapes are reviewed later the records of Loki's retinal scan appear blurry and his finger prints are unreadable.
Coulson is polite but distant from Loki while May seems to be making it her sole mission not to let the god out of her sight. Steve sighed but understood; they don’t know Loki like the Avengers do.
The meeting is going better than Steve had expected. After the initial inter departmental posturing and the querying of the intel Steve had called a halt and pointed out that the Avengers were present at the request of and with the blessing of President Ellis.
No matter what the others present thought of Loki he is trusted by Steve and Sam. Steve knew better than suggest that he was trusted by all the Avengers. In an effort to bring the conversation to an end Steve states. “I trust Loki not only with my life but that of my Team and by extension this mission.”
That seems to work, albeit a little reluctantly. Steve takes the opportunity to move onto the route or routes that the Presidential motorcade may take from the Munich to the Summit.
The Secret Service had expected that their information on the route and possible hot spots would not be surpassed as they had the experience dealing with such matters. The Commander was pleasantly surprised when Steve called upon Natasha and Bucky’s reports to point out danger areas missing from their information packs as supplied by the Secret Service.
Sam called up maps on his tablet and transferred the images to a large screen. Using Stark satellites they had photographed the entire countryside and Natasha and Bucky had marked the location which gave them the most concern. A copy of the maps was securely transferred to the tablets and lap tops of those present at the meeting.
Coulson smiled with pride when he recognised some of the notations as being that of Black Widow. He did not know who had accompanied her but it was obvious that they worked well together and her companion was as efficient, experienced and professional as Natasha. He could speculate who it was but that was irrelevant right now.
Every so often Loki leans over to Steve and points out something or adds to what one of the others has said. The point is discussed between Steve, Sam and Loki and if Steve deems it necessary he shares it with the group. If it is something he feels is more relevant to the Avengers than the general security group he notes it down with the intention of including it in the Avengers briefing.
After two and a half hours the group break for coffee. Loki asks to be excused and when Steve nods his approval Loki disappears from the room. Sam smirks at the reaction of the others while Steve lowers his eyes to the table to hide his proud smile.
A few minutes later Loki reappears with warm strudel and various other pastries. Gasps of surprise and shocked faces greet his return as did several weapons suddenly pointing in his direction. That makes the god smirk as he casually ignores the drawn weapons. With a dramatic bow he places the confectioneries on the centre of the table with a bundle of napkins.
Arms outstretched he addresses the assembled group. “Ladies and Gentlemen please help yourselves.”
Steve is the first to grab some of the warm strudel. “You know you could have simply walked back into the room or building!”
“Of course, but where would be the fun in that?” Loki responds; eyes twinkling with delight.
Sam laughed, “Never a dull moment with you around Loki!”
Phil seems less than impressed while May kept her face void of expression. Internally she is truly impressed and a little taken back by the blatant display of power.
“Was that absolutely necessary?” Phil asks, as he directs his question at Captain Rogers and not Loki.
“Absolutely necessary? No but an effective demonstration of some of the resources on our side.” Steve smugly replies. Well he feels if Phil is going to be a stick in the mud he deserves a little sass.
The Secret Service officers suddenly realise that Loki is more powerful than they had imagined. Nowhere in their briefing packs had there been any reference to teleportation abilities if that was what they had witnessed.
Looking around the gathered group Loki notes, “I could have simply made the food manifest itself onto the table but I felt that some may be untrusting of it so I chose to buy it instead. There is no compunction on anyone to partake of my offering but I did go to the best Bakery in Stuttgart and it would be a shame to miss out.”
When the others see Sam and Steve eating happily they soon give into the tempting aromas and grab some pastries too; that is to say everyone but Coulson and May who abstained. Loki shrugs and helps himself to the last of the strudel which is glorious.
By seven that evening everyone is more acutely aware of the difficulties ahead and the possible danger zones they are facing should the attack be aimed at President Ellis. The meeting ends with thanks all around and an agreement to meet the following day at the international security conference.
Steve extends an invitation to Coulson and May to join Sam, Loki and himself for dinner at their hotel but they politely refuse.
After dinner Steve announces he is going for a walk before once again delving into the security files. Sam’s headed back to his room while Loki accepts Steve’s invitation to accompany him on his stroll.
“Enjoy the night air”. Sam suggests. “I may or may not be still up when you get back depending on how long your walk takes. And, Loki, in case you hadn’t already noticed he tends to take long runs, so expect long walks too!”
“I believe I can manage.” Loki smiles as Sam takes his leave and heads off to the room.
Steve and Loki head out of the Hotel. A cool breeze whips around their faces and both shiver slightly. “Perhaps we should wear something warmer than our shirts?”
Steve shrugs. He doesn’t want to go back up to the room to grab his jacket. Before he can say so, Loki hands him his brown leather jacket with a smile.
“Thanks. I was trying to decide if it was cold enough to make the journey to the room.”
“No need when you have me!” Loki simply states. Steve’s face lit up at the words.
“I’d give you a kiss in thanks but there are too many people around right now.” Steve admits and then lowers his eyes in apology. “Sorry!”
“No need to apologise Mon Amour. I will simply claim it later when we are alone!”
The two men head off in the opposite direction of Koenigstrasse. They walk in silence for several streets, simply enjoying each other’s company and taking in the various shops and attractions in the area. The area is buzzing with tourists and locals all out enjoying the evening life and lit up like this it is quite beautiful.
Loki notices that the further they walk the smaller the space between them is becoming. Every so often one of them would point out something on a sign or in a window and when they stop to look their fingers brush against each other. The little touch sends a warm sensation across their skin and over their entire bodies.
They stop for hot chocolate at a small café with outside seating. Sipping their hot chocolate they enjoy the company and watch the world go by. Loki begins making up stories about the passers-by and before long they’re engrossed in the soap opera happening a few feet from their seats. The more outrageous the scenario the more Steve laughs. Loki realised this is the most relaxed he had seen his love all day.
Once their hot chocolate is finished and the soap opera ends they walk back to their hotel together, their shoulders now touching and their hands brushing against each other every few steps.
Sam is still awake when they get back and calls them into his room as soon as he hears them enter the suite. The security files are open on his lap and the various maps are clearly visible on the screen on his tablet. He notices how relaxed the two men are and is glad that the stroll has been beneficial to them both.
Steve takes a seat next to Sam on the couch and they begin discussing the earlier meeting. Before long Steve becomes engrossed in the detail.
Loki has little more to add to what he had said during the meeting so he bids them goodnight. Steve is a little disappointed. He looks at Loki who meets his gaze before he retires to the other room. “I’ll try not to be long.”
Realising how that may sound to Sam he quickly adds. “I don’t want to waken you if you’re asleep by the time I hit the bed.”
Loki smiles and gives Steve a deliberate wink and sultry smile. “And what if I want to be awakened when you come to bed, Captain?”
Sam laughs and gives Steve’s shoulder a little shove. “Now there’s an offer you need to really consider before answering, Steve” he teases.
With that Loki twirls on his heel and with a definite sway to his hips he heads off laughing, leaving Steve with the cutest pink hue to his cheeks. Sam notices but says nothing.
Loki did his best to stay awake until Steve came to bed but listening to the muted voices of his love and Sam coming from the next room had lulled him into sleep.
Later, Steve quietly closes the adjoining door to Sam’s room and without turning on a light he undresses. Grabbing a pair of pyjama bottoms from his bag he moves into the bathroom and prepares for bed.
Loki is still asleep and hasn’t moved in the bed by the time Steve returns; the dark hair splayed out behind him on the pillow. Small breaths escaped the slightly opened lips as he breathes out and to Steve he looks beautiful and serene.
Steve stands looking at peaceful face of the sleeping man for a few moments before slowly raising the covers and slipping into bed. He reaches over and places a soft kiss to the back of Loki’s shoulder before settling on his back close to the sleeping god.
“Night Loki.” He softly offers into the darkness.
Just as he drifts off to sleep the god turns onto his side and nestles close to Steve who instantly moves closer. Loki snuggles up against Steve’s shoulder and places an outstretched arm across the broad chest. Steve kisses the dark hair and smiles contentedly as he lets sleep overtake him.
As usual Steve is awake with the dawn which gives him a chance to admire the man wrapped around him before he has to rise. At some stage during the night Loki moved one leg over Steve’s and it now nestles possessively between Steve’s own.
There’s no way Steve is escaping without waking his bed companion. The soft breaths feel like a caress against his skin. The way a shaft of sunlight dances on the dark hair makes Steve wish he could reach his phone to capture the image as he left his drawing materials in Sokovia.
Loki, though not yet fully awake, senses that he is being watched and as he slowly raises himself from the depths of slumber he can feel the warmth of Steve’s muscled chest rise and fall beneath his arm with each breath. Listening to the breaths for a short while, he realises that Steve is awake and has made no attempt to release himself from the hold.
He slowly opens his eyes and green meet blue. The happiness reflected back in those blue eyes warms Loki’s heart. Moving slightly he places a tender kiss on the shoulder next to him.
“Morning beautiful”, and with that Steve bends down to meet Loki’s lips and they kiss softly, neither one wanting to disturb their positions too much. Steve likes having Loki wrapped around him and it is clear that Loki is happy to be there too.
As Steve shifts slightly he can feel Loki’s half hard erection against his thigh. That simply fuels his own morning wood which has increased as he imagines the different ways he wants to waken Loki.
“Pardon me!” Loki mumbles as he starts to put space between his erection and Steve’s thigh.
Steve reaches down to hold Loki’s leg in place. “Don’t move on my account!”
A small blush creeps up to his cheeks as Loki smiles. Instead of moving away Loki now moves closer so Steve can feel him hardening further against his leg. Loki raises his knee to brush against the inside of Steve’ opposite thigh as he adjusts the angle between his pelvis and Steve. With that Steve shift his hips and lowers himself further down on the mattress allowing Loki to realise he’s not the only one who is reacting to other’s body.
Soft touches and more kisses follow as fingertips gently move over skin causing it to warm with each caress. Loki swallows down a gasp as Steve shifts to now face his love. Now with legs entwined they move their bodies closer together and the kisses deepen.
Loki pulls Steve’s upper leg further over his own thigh, bringing the blonde's knee closer to his hip and he slowly starts moving his pelvis, ensuring that their bodies rarely lose contact.
Conscious of Sam being in the adjoining room Steve throws his head back and bites down on his lower lip to stop a moan escaping as their clothed erections meet. They continue moving together, languidly for several minutes; neither in any rush to deepen the contact or move apart. Both men feel their bodies react the longer they move together; their breaths deepen and the kisses become more urgent.
Startled by the sudden sound of Sam now moving around in his room Steve quickly pulls away, causing each to give a disappointed look to the other.
“Sorry”, Steve whispers as his eyes focus on the other room. “The adjoining door isn’t locked!”
Loki closes his eyes for a moment. “Making new German memories will have to wait until another time it seems. Perhaps it would be better if one of us were to head to the shower before Sam chooses to join us this morning?”
Steve looks startled as he completely misunderstands what Loki is saying. “Why would he want to…. I mean..?”
Suddenly understanding Steve’s confused look, Loki laughs. “Not join us like that!” He leans in to place a tender kiss on the plump lower lip which Steve has started to bite.
“Oh!” Steve gulps, becoming embarrassed at where his mind had just gone. “Right, join us for the day ahead.” He tries to recover. “The bathroom is yours…to use first, I mean.”
Loki cups Steve’s face in his hand and places more soft loving kisses on the lips he cannot seem to ignore. In a low voice he adds, “I can hide my current state with magic should the need arise so I suggest you take advantage of the shower first.
Their arousal is clearly visible within their sleep pants as Steve slowly and reluctantly pulls back from the kiss and heads for the bathroom with fresh clothes in his hand. When he returns a short while later, after having his shower and finishing himself to images and memories of Loki, he finds Sam sitting on the couch in their suite chatting to the said god about the day ahead.
There’s so obvious sign of Loki’s earlier arousal as he passes Steve on his way to the bathroom. He briefly touches Steve’s arm as he teases. “I do hope you left some hot water, Captain”.
Sam laughs at Steve’s affronted face. “It’s a hotel, Loki. Of course there’s hot water left and I wasn’t in there that long!”
As Loki closes the door to the bathroom he hears Steve confirm in reply to Sam’s enquiry that he had indeed slept well.
The second day of the security meeting was quickly becoming an ordeal with so many different agencies all vying for priority and Loki was getting bored.
Loki had always hated the beginning of such meetings when he was party to them as Asgard’s Emissary or Representative. He had believed that the vanity of Asgard, Alfhiem or Vanir could not be matched but he was wrong; these Midgardians would give them a run for their money.
To alleviate the boredom, and unknown to the persons involved, he’d begun to randomly swap name tags and shoulder insignia on those around the large conference table, always returning them to the rightful person after a short time. When his little game went unnoticed he changed tact. `After all what was the point of mischief if no one noticed.`
Before long animated characters, instead of a cursor or arrow, begin to run across digital maps pointing out locations or areas of interest. Possible attack scenarios come to life as simulations play out on the screens.
While Agents Coulson and May together with some other delegates are irritated at first they quickly came to like the visual presentation. Whens the theatrics started Steve immediately looked to Loki and frowned but Loki returned the look with an innocent smile. The sparkle in his eyes revealed the truth.
Slowly egos deflated and the entire room took on a much more conciliatory and co-operative tone, causing Steve to be thankful for the good natured mischievous interference. He rewards Loki with a grateful smile when the others begin to calm down and more effort is put into the security briefing than posturing.
For his part Sam simply threw his eyes to heaven. Only the God of Mischief could animate such a serious conference and get away with it.
The characters even resemble the speakers and their delegation before the day ends. The animated Captain America is particularly detailed even down to his muscles. It’s almost like a digitised scan of the hero.
With Loki’s help, Steve is fed his own translation of what’s being said throughout the day and this does not always correspond with that translated by the interpreters. Sometimes derisory comments about another country’s security precautions get translated to the room as a mere mild concern.
Both Steve and Sam are tuned in via ear buds to Loki’s translation and are aware of almost everything being said around the table. Agents Coulson and May declined earbuds and are therefore not party to Loki’s translations or observations. Sam merely shrugged his shoulders as, like Steve, he was not completely surprised by the refusal.
Loki’s personal observations on those present give Steve and Sam an added insight into the working dynamics of each group and that information could prove valuable. All this gives them a clearer sense of who would be a help and who maybe a hindrance whenever the attack comes.
When the conference finally ends it has been a long day so Steve, Loki and Sam order room service once they get back to their hotel. Over dinner they discuss the various personalities they’d met and the views they had established. Steve makes brief notes on his tablet as they go along and by the time they’ve finished all three are ready for an early night.
As Steve and Loki lie in bed facing each other, Steve gently runs the back of his fingers down the side of Loki’s face. “Thank you for today, for everything you did.”
“Even for my contribution to the presentation?” he queries.
“Even for the animations; they were really cute by the way, although you may have overdone my muscles.”
Loki smiles at his Captain. “I thought you were going to order me to stop.”
Steve's eyes sparkle at the memory. “I was, at first,” he admits with a quick eyebrow raise and smile. “But then I noticed the change in atmosphere and realised that when the others were concentrating on the little characters they weren’t posturing. We got much more done than I’d imagined as a result.”
“I was happy to help.”
After a small pause Steve asks, “Would you have stopped if I’d asked?”
Loki leans closer and places a small kiss on Steve’s lips and then smirks. “You’ll never know as you didn’t ask!”
Somehow Steve feels like he already knows the answer as he kisses Loki back. “No, I guess we never will!”
Steve yawns and then apologises. Loki’s face is soft as he looks at his love. It lights up with a smile as Steve gets one more kiss.
“Bonne nuit mon Chér!” the god whispers against the Captain’s lips before he manoeuvres himself into the small spoon position and draws Steve’s arm across his chest.
“Goodnight Lo.” Steve replies as he kisses the back of the shoulder of the man in his arms.
Loki relaxes against the strong chest at his back and drifts quickly off to sleep. The soft snores and the feel of the heart beating beneath his hand ease Steve to sleep not long afterwards. He is determined to enjoy the feel of his love in his arms.
Unfortunately for the Avengers once Doom leaves Latveria for Germany they lose surveillance and don’t know exactly where or when he intends to attack. Once they get confirmation that Doom has arrived in Germany they intend to move their focus to there.
Steve hopes they can keep casualties to a minimum whenever the attack does eventually happen. Based on the topography of the area surrounding the Summit Hotel, with wide open areas and scattered chalets throughout the adjoining fields; it gives Doom’s bots lots of air space within which to manoeuvre. The hotel will be wide open and more difficult to defend, even with the aerial assistance of the Avenjet, Tony, Rhodey and maybe even Coulson’s bus (which is what his team called their jet). Steve knows there will local law enforcement aerial support too but that could prove a hindrance as well as assistance.
From his calculations the access road to the Hotel provides an ideal assault opportunity but, as the G7 Council Leaders are arriving on a staggered basis, unless Doom has only one target in mind he could wait until all have assembled at the Hotel before attacking. Steve hopes that is not his plan. Is it bad that he is hoping only one target is planned and not multiple ones?
A few weeks later The Canadian Prime Minister, Gabrielle Morgan, The French President, André Gerard, The Prime Ministers Yohioka of Japan and Dawkins of The United Kingdom all arrive at Schloss Elman without incident. The Avengers, in the Avenjet, have flown over-watch for each Leader’s arrival and are relieved thus far.
The next due to arrive is President Ellis of the United States followed by the President of the European Commission and the Italian President.
The last arrival will be someone who Steve in particular is looking forward to meeting; The Chancellor of Germany, Michael Van Patrick, who happens to be the Great Grandson of Dr Abraham Erskine. It saddens Steve that Dr. Erskine, the man who played such a pivotal role in his life, never lived long enough to see his faith in that scrawny kid flourish and for Steve to become the man he is today.
The Avenjet, equipped with its newly developed stealth technology, (thank you Tony) hovers high above the United States of America’s Presidential motorcade as it makes its way from Munich, via the A95 motorway and onto the Bundesstraße 2, heading towards Schloss Elman, the Summit location.
Everyone is on edge and the nervous tension within the jet is palpable. Tony is scanning information on his tablet and conversing with Friday; Clint, sitting alongside Natasha who is actually asleep, is checking the tension in his bow for the tenth time since they became air borne; Wanda is flexing her fingers and trying some deep breathing techniques that Loki taught her.
Bucky has his eyes closed and his head tilted back against the headrest of his seat but Steve can see the nervous twitch and flex of his muscles every so often. He has seen his friend do this so many times as it allows him still his movements when in battle. It was a technique he developed as a sniper; release the nervous tension prior to concentrating on the job at hand.
Thor, as usual is regaling everyone and no one in particular with stories of glorious battles he fought alongside the Warriors Three and Lady Sif. Sam appears to be paying attention to Thor but he may just be being polite.
For a change Loki is not correcting his brother’s exaggerations or even showing the slightest interest in the stories being told. He is sitting motionless in a seat slightly away from the others. Other than the slight rise and fall in his chest, which can only be seen after studying his form for several minutes Steve realises, it looks as if Loki is either in a deep sleep or has portaled off somewhere and left an almost lifeless clone in his place.
As Steve looks over his Team he comes to the sudden realisation that while they will never be The Howling Commandos they have become an important part of his life and there is little he wouldn’t do to protect each of them. He is not fool enough to try and kid himself that some do not mean more to him than the others but each has a special place in his heart.
He moves over to the seat beside Loki. “Hey, you doin’ okay?”
A small smile graces Loki’s lips. Without opening his eyes he nods slightly. “Yes, thank you. I find it is better to centre myself, my seidhr, before possible battle”.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt”, Steve says as he begins to rise.
“You’re not. You haven’t.” Loki instantly replies and reaches out to Steve. Gently grasping Steve’s wrist he applies a little pressure indicating that Steve should stay where he is and not rise.
“Captain, I would not have given any reaction to your presence if I had wished you to leave. Ask Thor it has worked on him for centuries!”
“Well, when you put it that way how could I possibly leave you alone!” Steve teased.
Loki opened one eye and cast a disbelieving look at his Captain! In reply Steve gave him his best smile and as the blue eyes sparkled with mirth Loki met the look with bright green eyes and chuckled.
A rolling blockade is in operation along the route for obvious security reasons. Steve is thankful for this particular security measure as it may help reduce risk to civilians. The closer they get to their destination the more hope begins to bloom in Steve’s chest that they will deliver another leader safely to the summit.
Unfortunately as the motorcade approaches the Bundesstraße 2/St2542 intersection the first Doom bots appear and open fire on the lead vehicles causing several following vehicles to swerve violently to avoid a collision. Counter measures are immediately deployed and the accompanying members of the Grenzschutzgruppe 9 (GSG 9) move to intercept.
At the first indication of trouble Captain America looks at each of the assembled Avengers. “Unfortunately it looks like we were correct in our assessment. Time to go to work, Avengers!”
“What no rousing speech?” Tony asks as the Ironman suit forms around his body.
Steve takes a deep breath. “Odds are we'll be riding into heavy fire, and that's what we signed up for. But the ordinary German people, the civilians, they didn't. All they want is to live their lives in peace, and that's not going to happen today. But we can do our best to protect them. And we can get the job done. So, our priority is getting them and the President out of harm’s way. Watch each other’s backs and remember what our goal is here!”
“Destroy Doom and as many of his flying monkeys as we can!” Tony offers.
“No Tony! Protect the President and civilians.” Cap sighs as he looks at his team. “We keep the fight away from the innocent and focused on us.”
Natasha gives Bucky a knowing glance as they do final checks on their equipment before moving to stand close to each other.
Seeing Tony roll his eyes before he closes his face mask, Steve adds “We have a job to do and if that means some of Doom’s bots are destroyed in achieving that aim, well so be it!”
The rear hatch of the Avenjet lowers allowing Ironman, Thor, Iron Patriot and Falcon to fly out. Steve steps up beside Loki and places a hand on his shoulder as they exchange a small smile.
“Ready” Loki confirms as a golden light flows over his body and he now stands in full armour and golden horned helmet. Steve makes a mental note to suggest to Loki that he may want to make some little changes to his armour and helm now that he fights with the Avengers but that is a talk for another day.
Loki turns to face Bucky and with a gleeful smirk declares. “I will be back for you presently.”
Bucky rolls his eyes at the dramatic action of their friend as he looks at the man he has known and loved as a brother since childhood. “Don’t do anything stupid until I get there, Punk!”
“How can I, Jerk? You’re taking all the stupid with you!” Steve automatically replies.
With that Loki wraps an arm snugly around Cap’s waist and they disappear. He lands not far from Victor Von Doom and releases his love.
“Thanks”. Steve says as he meets the green eyes of his love.
“My pleasure, Captain! As James said don’t do anything stupid until I get back”.
Loki gives Steve a wistful look and a small bow before he heads back to collect Bucky from the Avenjet which is looking for a place to land nearby.
Moments later Loki, Bucky and Wanda are on the ground and immediately engage several Doombots who are intent of stopping Steve from reaching Doctor Doom.
Steve moves forward with determined strides to confront Victor Von Doom as the Secret Service manage to maneuver the Presidential car away from the attack and speed swiftly towards safety.
Overhead the bots attempting to pursue are shot from the sky by the Avenjet’s guns.
Doom, his metal mask glinting in the sunlight and his dark cape billowing out behind him looks like the megalomaniac the Avengers believe him to be. He is standing off to one side on a raised area overseeing the chaos and destruction his bots are causing. He curses as he sees the Presidential transport begin to escape the destruction. He barks orders at the bots that instantly respond to his command and begin to pursue the fleeing President.
“Doom, these people don't need to die today!" Steve declares as he steps closer to the Latverian Leader.
He can hear Doom's mocking voice boom out over the noise and the chaos in reply. ""A Symbol to the Nation, a Hero to the World!" Doom sneers as he hovers above the ground. "The Righteous Man!"
Sneering at the man approaching him in his red white and blue uniform Doom announces, "You are correct Captain America no more need die today. The Leaders of the World need only recognise Doom's greatness and admit that there are none who can stand against me and hope to win!"
Steve thinks back to his comment all those years ago to the prisoners he found in Hydra’s cells about knocking out Hitler over 200 times. He had faced The Red Skull and beaten him. Surely Doom is no contest. Nearby Sam lands and shakes his head as Doom continues to speak of himself in the third person. The two friends exchange looks as Steve moves closer in the hope of keeping Doom focused on hin.
"How many lives have you taken, Captain? You and your best friend Bucky Barnes and your new ally the villain turned friend, Loki of Asgard." The contempt is clear in Doom's voice." I have read your history, Captain! You and your good guys did some nasty stuff!"
"Yeah, we compromised. Sometimes in ways that made us not sleep so well at night!" Steve admits as, remembering some of the things they had to do, he fights the urge to lower his head.
"How quickly you choose to forget! I offer freedom, Captain. Look around you! My people are free! All these people can also be free; free to live in a world with a benevolent Leader, no more factions, no more squabbling and petty politics."
"This isn't freedom, its fear!” Steve states as he raises himself to his full height and, with a determined look, squares his shoulders and plants his feet.
Steve hears Loki’s voice as the god declares. “Victor Von Doom! How disappointing! The freedom speech has already be done and by me with much more pizzazz!”
Doom glares at the Trickster before turning his gaze back onto Captain America.
“I have the power to make real change, and that terrifies you. Captain Rogers”
“I wouldn't call it a comfort.” Steve states as he launches his shield in Doom’s direction. The shield gets blasted away by Doom but Steve quickly recalls it to his arm, all the while getting closer to his target.
Across the comms Steve hears Natasha confirm that she and Clint are now in position. Around him he can see Wanda, Sam, Ironman and Thor engaging several bots.
“Thor, light them up!” Steve commands and as requested Thor calls down lighting making a dozen bots explode.
Loki is off to his Captain’s side with Bucky and between them they are preventing bots from getting to Steve. In the distance Clint is expertly hitting every bot he aims at. He has found that his exploding arrows are most effective. Natasha swaps between guns, stingers and hand to hand combat with varying degrees of success.
Overhead the Avenjet being piloted by Friday is now providing aerial cover for what is left of the fleeing Presidential motorcade.
“Cap, can you keep him occupied?” Ironman asks as he flies closer to where Captain America and Doom are battling. The shield is having less and less affect the higher Doom rises into the air.
“What do you think I've been doing?” an exasperated Cap exclaims.
Before Steve can say anything further the despot continues. "I have been stalling, Captain!" With that Doom rises higher into the sky clearly intending to avoid whatever is coming at ground level.
"Cap, we've got a bogey inbound!" Rhodey announces over the comms.
Looking around to see from what direction the attack may come, Steve seeks clarification.
"Short range ballistic missile, 30 seconds out tops!" Friday adds.
"Can you deal with it?" Steve quickly asks, trying desperately to see where all his team is and if they can get to safety in time.
All around him the other members of his team, the security teams and Members of GSG 9 who had stayed to help together with Coulson’s team are fighting Doombots. For the moment, at least, they appear to be holding their own but Steve knows those who were non-enhanced members or gods will soon begin to tire and he needs to end this battle quickly
"I can try!” Tony offers, “Friday maximum thrust!"
"Already done, Sir!" Friday's calm voice responds as Tony accelerates into the air.
"Deploy counter measures!"
"Sir, I'm not certain we have any which will counteract a ballistic missile."
“Do it anyway!” Tony orders in the vain hope that he can do something to protect those on the ground.
"Take cover!" Steve commands as the Avengers and the others dive for whatever cover they can find within Friday’s predicted blast area.
Loki concentrates his power on downing the missile before it reaches its intended target. In an effort to cushion the impact he creates as much of a force field as he is capable of, but without knowing what to expect upon impact he is acting blind.
The ground shakes with the impact and what had been a motorway off ramp and a half mile stretch of the two lane highway behind the Avengers' position explodes sending debris and plumes of smoke high into the air; causing traffic to careen into the barriers and drop into the resulting crater. Doing what he can Loki tries to ease the oncoming traffic to a controlled stop as Wanda focuses on slowing the fall of those entering the impact crater.
Steve is thankful that so far they’ve managed to contain Doom to their current location and the various World Leaders are safely away from the scene but he is concerned about the collateral damage that may now have been caused. He knows Loki, and to a lesser extent Tony and Wanda, will be blamed by those who wish to curtail the Avengers’ activities and the freedom of God of Mischief in particular.
My thanks to Stephen Mc Feely, Christopher Markus and Joss Whedon for some incredible dialogue that not only inspired so much of this chapter but from which I have borrowed some wonderful lines.
I have adjusted a few lines and added a snap-shot of what everyone was doing in the Avenjet prior to Doom's attack into the last chapter if you are interested.
This is a short chapter but the next one is almost ready for posting so it should be up shortly.
Looking around through the slowly clearing smoke, concrete and debris Steve tries to find Doom. Through the chaos he hears approaching whirring sounds and turns hoping to see Iron Man.
"Look out Cap!" Clint warns from his position.
Unfortunately for Steve, he sees four Doombots closing in on his position. They all take aim and fire at once. Steve barely has time to crouch down beside a large lump of concrete and steel which had once been part of the overhead motorway. He raises the shield over his head as he gets bombarded with continuous automatic fire from the four bots. The sound of the blasts rebounding off the shield and the force of the impacts has Steve drop lower to one knee.
Even with his enhanced strength he is not going to be able to sustain this combined attack for long.
Loki, on seeing the attack on Steve, aims a blast of magic in the Captain’s direction which knocks the four bots from their positions targeting Steve. He smiles as he sees the shield reflexively rise once the bombardment stops.
Nearby Doom roars in frustration and turns his focus onto what was left of the highway's concrete support directly behind Steve's position. As Steve begins to rise Doom blasts the support causing the concrete pillar and the remainder of that section of overhead roadway to collapse down on top of Captain America’s position.
One way or another Doom is determined to end Captain America; if his bots can’t do it then he is more than happy to do the job himself. The righteousness of the American idol reminds him of his one-time friend turned enemy Reed Richards. How he hates those smug morally superior types?
Steve tries to shield himself from as much of the falling concrete as he can but despite his best efforts gets buried beneath several feet of concrete and steel supports. “Man!!” he exclaims as the concrete wins the battle.
His helm is split in two and knocked from his head as the Super Soldier forcibly hits the ground under the weight. He tries to move but is trapped from his waist down and one foot is sticking out at an unnatural angle. Pain sears through his body from his abdomen, his pelvis and legs and it just increases with each attempt he makes to free himself.
“Damn it!” escapes his lips as he tries to control his breathing. He knows that he must free himself. If the bots were to continue to attack while he is incapacitated he’s not sure how long he’d survive. He can’t move the shield to protect his more vulnerable bits. Super soldier he may be but that is not immortal and right now, super serum or no, he is feeling very vulnerable.
Steve can already feel the sticky wetness of blood as it trickles down the side of his face. Trying to breathe in through his nose so he can avoid inhaling mouthfuls of dust he attempts to calm his jangling nerves and take stock of his injuries. His team have seen him fall and they will no doubt get to him to free him as soon as they can. He just hopes it is in time.
Loki's action at defending the Captain draws six more bots onto him as more also focus their attentions in his direction. Spinning around he extends his staff before blasting each approaching bot from the sky. As he does so he hears an explosion behind him and turns to see tons of concrete explode and fall directly onto Captain America's position. Unable to get to his love in time to save him, Loki roars in anger and frustration as he deals with the remaining three bots that are currently firing at him.
As soon as he is clear, Loki moves to Steve's position. He clears some of the rubble away only to realise his Captain is barely conscious. Blood is already mixing with sweat and dust in the blonde hair.
Gently checking to see if Steve still has a pulse and determine the extent of the injury to his beloved’s head Loki lowers himself to one knee. He can see that the strong body is trapped beneath outsized concrete boulders that he will have to remove as carefully as possible so as not to aggravate what he already knows is serious injury but for now at least his love lives.
Doom orders more bots to concentrate fire on the Captain and the Trickster. “Doom will not be defeated!” he declares.
Loki erects a magical shield in protection as he uses his magic to cautiously remove some of the concrete from Steve's body. On seeing the extent of the injuries to his love the god growls in anger. He places Steve into a more comfortable position before rising menacingly to face Doom.
"Enough!” he roars as he pierces Doom with a menacing glare. “Doom, you and your meagre tin soldiers have done abundant damage. No more! Face me!" Loki calls out as his anger continues to rise and his eyes blaze with murderous contempt.
"You dare challenge the might of Doom?"
"Yes!" Loki dismissively replies as he stands straight with his shoulders back. His cape now flows out behind him in the breeze and despite the smoke and dust his horned helm glistens. The sight of the god as he strides forward with his staff resting easily in his hand and his magic pulsing along his fingertips is formidable.
At no point during the attack on New York had Loki looked so ominous and truly dangerous. All around him the air crackles with power and magic. There is no mistaking that he is no mere mortal and should be feared.
The other Avengers are shocked and stunned at the display. While they knew Loki was powerful they had mistakenly believed they’d seen his power before. They are wrong. Only Thor has seen Loki like this in the past and he knows what his brother is capable of but even for him there is an added element which Thor cannot quite place at present.
"You're gonna lose!" Doom boasts as he stands triumphantly and gestures around the battlefield. All around him Doombots are attacking the Avengers, Coulson’s team and GSG 9. There is chaos and debris, bits of metal, oil, blood and dirt everywhere to be seen. Civilians scream and run for whatever cover they can find.
"Am I?" Loki questions as he stares at Doom, magic now visibly jumping along the god’s long fingers and iridescent at his fingertips.
"It's in your nature!" Doom goads. The metal mask catches the sunlight and lights up the madness now clear to be seen in his eyes.
"You know nothing of my nature." Loki declares.
Mimicking Doom’s earlier gesture Loki waves his hand over the surrounding area. "Your doombots are scattered. Your mechanical army falls from the sky. Where is my disadvantage?" All the while Loki continues to move closer to Doom, his sceptre held ready in his hand as he strides forward.
Doom, not wavering from his stance, arrogance evident in his demeanour, looks directly at the approaching god. It is clear he is relishing the challenge and maybe that should have been a warning to Loki but rage and vengeance for the slight at the Captain are overshadowing Loki’s actions.
"You lack conviction!" Doom pronounces.
"Really, that is what you see before you; one who lacks conviction? I am a God, your mewling quim! I ....."
Before Loki can finish what he is saying he’s hit by a beam of energy from a weapon Doom had been hiding behind him. The energy surrounds Loki and seems to enter through his each pore into every fibre of his being.
A blood curdling scream rips from Loki’s throat as the energy sears through his body and enters his very soul trying desperately to consume his essence. He is thrown backwards and lands heavily some twenty feet from where he'd stood. All the while the energy from the weapon continues to engulf him.
Seeing what is happening to his brother Thor draws lightning down upon Doom but still Doom’s maniacal laugh can be heard over the battle and the chaos.
Loki can feel his essence being ripped out from within, as if something was trying to take his magic; as if it is being torn from him, from his very core, his very being. He hasn't felt this much pain or helplessness since he suffered at the hands of Thanos and then The Other.
His mind transports him back to that barren rock, the place of his nightmares.
The Mad Titan reached into Loki’s being and tried to rip his magic from him as if it was a possession he could hand over rather than it being part of him, an integral part of him. Failure was not something that Thanos accepted in himself or those he commanded and he had tried time and time again until Loki had lost count of the Titan’s efforts and was barely breathing.
Eventually even Thanos had to accept that Loki could not be parted from his magic and be expected to live. He turned to controlling the Trickster’s magic instead; neutralising and limiting it and only allowing Loki wield it on his command.
Without his magic being allowed to protect and heal him the physical torture had been almost unbearable to Loki. Thanos had pushed the fallen Prince beyond what he previously had known as the limits of his pain threshold and physical endurance. Never before had Loki felt so torn apart, so weak, so vulnerable, and so low.
All that Loki hated about himself was laid bare for all to see on that barren rock and there was no escape, no hope of being rescued, no chance to resist and recover, no future but pain and suffering.
At his hands, Thanos had broken the Prince physically many times over and very nearly succeeded in breaking him mentally as well but Loki had hidden a small part of himself away with the limited magic that had been left free to him.
That small part of his being, the love he held for his mother, (no not his mother, he'd tried in vain to convince himself but the woman who raised him and nurtured him and taught him to love his magic), Frigga. And yes in his darkest hours he did admit the love he held for Thor; who had been his brother and companion since childhood, and even Odin (despite his lies and his treachery and his actions, he knew he still held a love of sorts for him deep down). A love not like that which he held for Frigga or even Thor but that of a son still longing for his father's approval, love and respect and still willing to do whatever it took to gain that approval.
In his blackest hours that small spark of what he had been remained lit; a flicker which sustained him until he was able to negotiate his freedom. A freedom only he knew he was aiming for, one which took him out of the clutches of The Mad Titan and his murderous psychotic followers and children.
And now Loki is back there again in his mind amongst the pain and the suffering but he knows he cannot be parted from his magic.
Taking a deep breath and praying to the Norms for strength Loki reaches deep within himself and sends a burst of magic forward along the beam of energy which Doom has still trained on him. His eyes barely open from the pain, Loki can feel rather than see his magic move along the beam. He senses the moment it connects with Doom's weapon and then blending with the weapon's own energy it shrouds Doom in a blinding light.
Now Doom is being penetrated through his pores with an energy he cannot hope to control as it moves along his limbs and torso. Beside his magic Loki sent some of his pain.
Doom screams as he contorts in agony and pain, his body being raised into the air in a green and golden light as it twists and writhes at unnatural angles.
The silver mask appears to melt from Doom's face and if any can bear to see through the blinding light it looks as if every fibre of skin and muscle is being seared from Doom's bones.
Red wisps suddenly join with the green and gold as Doom’s screams grow louder and more intense.
Neither Doom's body nor mind is a match for the surge of energy and magic which encompasses him, each wave overpowering his mind and overwhelming his senses. He is unable to make sense of the myriad of images and feelings that race through his mind. He is certain that this is what losing his mind feels like as nothing seems real anymore. Images he cannot fully comprehend appear before his eyes and he senses rather than feels enormous pain as if it is being inflicted on his own body but not quite his body, the sensation of his skin being cut by the blades of a thousand knives, or his skin being flailed from his back and laying him open to the elements. He no longer knows if his mind and body are still connected or where he starts and the energy ends.
The Latverian Leader cannot tolerate this for much longer so he throws the weapon from his hands. Slowly the pain and the feeling of being torn apart from the inside begin to ease as the magical connection with the weapon is no longer discharging into his body.
The searing heat which had swept through him begins to wane and his breathing eases. He vaguely thinks he saw the weapon explode into dust as he fell to his knees, his head still feeling like it was exploding with swift moving images or flashes of light but he isn't certain which. Each thought is an ordeal and the pain which comes with movement is as if he has just been hit by a lorry which then used his body as a battering ram against a wall. He is mumbling nonsense and shaking all over.
He wishes he had passed out long before this but something is preventing that from happening. The only explanation is magic, but not his magic.
Whatever just happened, Doom does not know but it definitely was not what was supposed to happen. His weapon was designed to harness the power of his opponent; take it from them and transfer it to Doom in a manner that allowed his body to consume it and make it one with his own. It had worked previously on other powerful beings. His intent was to use it against Captain America, to steal the serum out of his body as he'd stood there broken and helpless before Doom but Loki had interfered with his plans. It was only fitting that he turns the weapon on Loki and steals the God of Mischief's strength and power instead.
Doom is now a shaking babbling wreck as Loki's power and magic is too strong, not meant for a mortal even one such as Doom. The magic itself had overpowered the unworthy vessel which attempted to house it and had sought its own price for such an action.
Loki had previously told Steve and warned Wanda that there is always a price to be paid for wielding magic. Now Doom had learned that lesson too.
Some elements of this chapter overlap in time with what happened in the last chapter. We get a glimpse at Doom's attack on Loki from Steve's point of view. And then the a little of the immediate aftermath.
The blinding light and the stomach churning screams of pain initially from Loki and then from Doom stop all the other Avengers and those present in their tracks. All eyes now focus on the two men and the energy beam connecting them.
Shivers run up their spines as they try in vain to block out the sounds. Bucky is reminded of his own screams as his mind was wiped over and over by Hydra and the Russians while in that chair. The memories try to overwhelm him and may have succeeded in doing so if he’d not seen the anguish on his best friend's face as he attempts to reach for Loki. It breaks Bucky from his memories and spurs him into action.
Steve is on the ground where Loki had placed him; propped up against part of a wall before the god had gone to directly confront Doom. His suit is torn and he knows several ribs are broken and his leg is probably crushed. His head aches and he’s having trouble keeping focus and remaining conscious. The broken bones in his right leg can be seen pointing at wrong angles in an effort to come through the material of his suit. His head continues to pound and he knows he has a concussion from his body being slammed firstly by a Doombot and then impacting the now collapsed concrete support behind him.
He knows only too well what it actually feels like to have a ton of bricks land on him. If Loki had not used his magic, to remove the collapsed concrete and steel, Steve would still be buried beneath the rubble. He is bleeding not only from his head wound but from the site where a steel bar was embedded in his side and has no doubt several other lacerations. Only the adrenaline pumping through his body is keeping the worst pain at bay.
Steve heard curdling screams of pain during the war but they are nothing to what he’s heard just now. He knows he has to somehow get to Loki. While he isn't sure what if anything he can do for him, he knows he has to try. If he does nothing Loki will surely die right before his eyes and that is not an experience he wants.
The weapon Doom has trained on Loki reminds Steve of the weapons Hydra had used during the war, the ones which incorporated power from the tesseract. Then they had obliterated all who had fallen victim to its beam. Thankfully Loki is still alive albeit in enormous pain. Steve says a silent prayer that Loki can not only survive this but fully recover.
Suddenly Thor calls down lightning upon Doom. Rather than stopping the attack on his brother the lightning seems to be add power to Doom.
“Thor, stop!” Steve screams. “You’re killing him!!” He hopes Thor heard him before Loki’s screams drown out his voice.
Clenching his jaw, Steve inhales through his clenched teeth and digs deep as he tries to get to his feet but the world swirls and spins. For a moment nothing makes sense and he feels like he is caught in a whirlpool. With the help of the wall he somehow slowly gets himself into a standing position and using his good leg he attempts to move forward towards Loki.
Maybe if he can disrupt the flow of energy with his shield he can save his love. If he can just steady himself he can throw the shield and break the connection. He looks around for his shield. It is lying nearby.
As he reaches for the shield the sudden rush of blood to his head and the thump of his brain within his skull cause him to fall helplessly forward. All around the Captain blurs once again and he is no longer able to decipher the sounds and images as a blinding light swamps his vision.
Accepting that he is about to face plant into the ground Steve closes his eyes and reaches out his hands to help break his fall as best he can. He waits for the inevitable pain.
Before he hits the ground Steve is captured in strong arms. He doesn't know who has caught him at first but he’s thankful none the less. Taking a deep breath he recognises the scent hidden behind the blood and dirt and the smells of battle. He doesn't know how but somehow Loki is by his side and holding him close.
Steve collapses into darkness as the pain from his concussion and injuries overwhelm even his super soldier system.
Loki, already weakened by the blast from Doom's weapon, moves as quickly as he can manage to Steve's side when he sees the Super Soldier’s attempt to stand cause him to sway. He catches Steve just as the blonde’s balance gives way.
Holding him securely in his arms he lowers Steve once again to the ground but this time he goes with him and holds the Captain against his chest, arms wrapped securely around the muscled torso.
Some may suggest he cradled Steve but none are brave or foolish enough to comment.
The drain on Loki's magic and the subsequent expending of power has substantially weakened the god. While it appears to the other Avengers, save Thor, that Loki is simply protecting Steve the truth is that Loki is too weak to remain standing.
Thor moves quickly to Loki's side now that the Doombots effectively ceased their attack once their Master was incapacitated.
"How fare you brother?" Thor asks as he approaches.
"I am fine, Thor. Stop fussing!" Loki snarls as Thor lowers to one knee to get a closer look at both men.
A small smile crosses Thor's lips before he steadies his face. He knows Loki of old and if he is simply snarling at Thor for his concern rather than using magic to send him off somewhere else then Loki is indeed weakened and injured but does not care to have the fact known by all and sundry.
It is something both brothers have seen the other do over the years. While they know they cannot hide their true state of being from each other, they are able to portray a much healthier and stronger image to those who know them less well.
Even the Warriors Three were known to have been fooled into thinking Thor had suffered less than he actually had in battles. As for Loki, he never let them get close enough to learn his true weaknesses. Only Frigga, Thor and Odin know them. Maybe Steve will come to know them in time too.
Not wanting to annoy Loki further Thor turns his attention to Captain America. The look of concern on Loki's face as he casts his eyes over Steve tells Thor more than he’d like.
"The good Captain is in need of urgent medical attention! He has numerous broken bones. I have stopped the internal bleeding as best I can but I fear I may not have enough magic stores to adequately heal his broken bones and one such now threatens to puncture his lung.” Loki speaks quietly to Thor.
“I dare not risk trying to remove the impaled bar." He adds in a whisper that only one with advanced hearing would hear. The last thing Loki wants is for the others to hear his magic reserves are almost depleted.
Turning to see where the others are, Thor sees Bucky approach. Bucky is covered in dirt and blood and scrapes. While he walks awkwardly, his injuries are minor compared to Steve's who already looks like he is turning purple and black with bruises.
"Is he going to be okay?" Bucky asks as his eyes fleet first across Steve and then Loki. He can see that Steve has passed out and is taking shallow breaths.
"He is in urgent need of medical attention but he should survive. I have done what I can to ensure that!" Loki answers, his eyes never leaving Steve's face as he keeps his hand on the injured man's pulse.
While some may think Loki is merely holding the Captain’s head steady any with battle experience could not fail to notice the fingertips on the Soldier’s pulse point.
"My brother needs rest" Thor directs as Bucky looks at Loki with clear concern.
Loki would have growled his objection at Thor but he knows that James is not so easily fooled. There is a knowing look in the blue eyes as he watches his two friends both gleaning support from the low wall.
"I'm not sure where the closest secure medical facility is any more" Natasha offers as moments later she comes to stand by Bucky. "When Shield was fully operational we could have used one of theirs. I know how Steve feels about people having access to his blood and body samples".
"Stark medical is too far away" Tony admits, landing next to his colleagues; "unless of course Reindeer Games can get them there!" It sounds like a challenge to Loki.
Loki looks at Thor and, after a silent exchange between the brothers; he lowers his eyes giving a small almost imperceptible shake of his head.
Not wanting to ask for help but knowing he needs it, Loki looks to Bucky. "The position in which I find myself does not allow me to rise with the Captain and avoid jostling him further so perhaps a little assistance may be in order". He tries to keep the strain out of his voice and make his voice sound casual as he speaks but only partly succeeds.
"Sure, no problem!" Bucky immediately answers, and drops to one knee to take Steve from Loki's hold.
With the greatest of care Loki reluctantly releases his Captain into the arms of his friend. Bucky swiftly and easily rises back to his feet, holding his best friend’s unconscious body in his arms.
Thor offers his hand to Loki but not surprisingly it is refused. Masking the pain he’s feeling, Loki uses the reserves of his magic to help himself rise. The slow deliberate movement is caught by Thor. He knows now without a doubt that Loki is hurt and seriously suffering.
Loki stands awkwardly with a hand pressed to his lower back just above his hip. His face is stoic but looking close the pain still radiating through his body is displayed in his eyes. He lowers his eyes to hide the tell tale signs of his distress.
"Bucky, if you would but step between my brother and I, we can have Heimdall take us immediately to Asgard where the good Captain may be treated swiftly for his injuries".
"Thor?" Loki questions as his eyes widen in surprise and he looks at his brother.
"It will be fine Loki; I will explain everything to Father. It is my decision that you accompany us. Mother will be most pleased to be afforded the opportunity to tend to us and our shield brothers."
"Thor, you know I cannot return. Have Eir come here and tend to the good Captain if you must. I do not wish to incur the wrath of Odin. You know what happened the last time you took a mortal to the healers’ chambers without the Allfather's permission!"
Thor winces slightly at the memory. "That was different!"
"Yes" Loki says in a flippant tone. "It was, that mortal was your love and even then Odin was not pleased."
He does not wish to say anything further in front of the others. Loki believes Odin would have less regard for a mortal he cares about and may refuse to help Steve even if Steve is the leader of the Avengers and Thor’s shield brother
"Brother, if you will not bring Eir here then at least consider asking Heimdall to take us to Stark's medical facility though I fear what travelling by the Bifrost may do to the Captain's internal injuries." Loki’s main concern is for Steve’s head injury.
"Very well, Brother." Thor sighs as he realises that Loki may be right. Looking up he calls to Heimdall. "Heimdall, please have Eir come to our assistance as soon as possible".
"Thank you, Thor". Loki murmurs as he feels his strength weaken further.
A moment later a flash of bright light appears nearby and when it clears two women, both in flowing robes with intricate braids in their hair, stand in the centre of what is the bifrost's landing place.
One appears to be dressed more lavishly than her companion if the design and quality of her attire is anything to go by. She stands tall, her golden hair falling softly down her back in soft curls, the sides braided neatly with some gathered high into an intricate design on her head. Showing no sign of unease, discomfort or concern for her safety she meets the eyes of the Avengers now assembled around Steve. Her companion who stands slightly to her left focuses her attention on Bucky and the unconscious man in his arms.
Tony lets out a low whistle once he sees the two women and receives a glare from Loki.
"Mother", Thor greets as he rushes forward to embrace the taller of the two women. "It was not my intention that you should come".
Queen Frigga smiles as her son embraces her and she places a soft kiss on his cheek. With her free hand she motions for her companion to move forward towards Bucky and Steve. Giving the Queen a small bow the woman immediately obeys the silent instruction and moves towards the injured man.
"Thor, Loki, my sons" the Queen smiles as she looks from one to the other. "I was visiting with Heimdall when he brought your battle to my attention. As the battle progressed I grew anxious for both your welfare and that of your companions. I had Eir attend at the observatory lest her skills became necessary. It appears I was wise to do so."
“Wise as always, Mother” Thor says with a proud beaming smile.
While it looks like the Queen’s focus is on both her sons her words are directed to Loki. He bows slightly but makes no effort to move to the Queen’s side. Frigga knows then that Loki is masking his injuries and despite outward appearances he is suffering.
Placing a gentle hand on Thor’s cheek she steps out of his embrace to move to her younger son’s side. "Loki, have you no embrace for your mother?" she gently asks once she reaches him.
"Queen Frigga”, he smiles softly. As the Queen’s face momentarily drops at the formal greeting Loki amends his greeting. "Mother, forgive me. I did not wish to hurry you from Thor's embrace."
"Always such a thoughtful boy" She coos into his ear as she takes Loki gently into her arms and holds him close.
Loki can feel her magic sweep over him as she holds him, seeking out his physical injuries to assist healing just as she had done moments before with Thor. Sensing the soul deep raw damage caused by Doom's attempt to rip his magic and his powers from him she winces.
Slowly the Queen leans back to look into Loki's eyes as she gives a sad smile. Only time will help her son heal from such an onslaught and only one as accomplished at magic such as her can sense the depth of the damage and the pain he is suffering. Frigga knows that the trauma will not be as easily recovered from as his physical injuries.
Loki is unable and a little scared to meet her gaze. He has rarely been able to hide from his Mother’s scrutiny and knowing sight. Even now he knows that she knows him better than any other present.
In his weakened state he fears she can detect the still healing injuries caused at the hands of Thanos. If he had a little longer to recover before her embrace he could have masked the scars as he had done previously but as it is he feels like his Mother can see into his soul.
Knowing how proud her youngest son can be Frigga cups his face in her hands and quietly remarks with a fondness only a Mother can display, "You have expended much energy attending to your friend's injuries, Loki. You should now rest".
He sees nothing but love, concern and understanding in her blue eyes, the kind he remembered seeing as a child after he had been teased or isolated by the other children. A part of him wanted to push her away and declare before all present that he didn’t need her or anyone else, that there was none as powerful or as accomplished a Mage as he but at that moment he was a child again in need of the comfort of his Mother’s arms.
Loki lowers his head to her shoulder and draws in deep calming breaths filled with the comforting scent of the one person who knew him better than any other, the one who had so often held him close and wiped away his tears. The hurt, the pain, the anger he felt at her betrayal lessened each day since and in moments like this in her warm embrace were all but forgotten.
Eir quickly moves to Bucky and Steve to perform her initial scan of Steve's body as it is held in Bucky's arms. Bucky offered to lay Steve down to be examined but the Lady assured him with a gentle smile that was not necessary. He had had enough medical procedures to fill his lifetime and did not really trust this stranger even though Loki had looked unconcerned as she’s moved closer to Steve.
Hoping Loki was right and that she could be trusted Bucky had simply adjusted his grip on his best friend as she ran what he would call a hand held scanner over Steve’s body. Lights blinked and he heard a low hum but that was it. He didn’t feel anything.
Standing nearby Tony looked on with curiosity and a little envy. How he wanted to get his hands on the device she held and reverse engineer it. No doubt Loki would smirk and tell the genius that without magic he could not possibly hope to succeed. `Why could he not get his hand on some Asgardian tech? Maybe when they were all back home he’d ask Thor for some, just to borrow it of course.’
Having completed her task Eir turns to the Queen with a look of concern. "This mortal needs immediate care that I fear I am unable to administer here, my Queen". She quickly fills the Queen in on her findings of several internal injuries, broken ribs, pneumothorax, broken tibia and femur, crushed ankle and intracranial bleed that the Captain suffered. She also details the injuries Loki had treated before their arrival.
Looking between the Healer and his Mother, Thor immediately speaks up. "If the Captain were returned to the quinjet he may be treated there before returning him to his lodgings where he can rest more comfortably."
"Thank you, my Prince." Eir replies. "If you please, I suggest we do so post haste but the Captain may require more than rest I fear."
Frigga’s attention returns to Loki. "Will you accompany me to this quinjet as your brother sees to the Captain?" There’s no mistaking the request as one that Loki should not refuse.
"Of course, Mother. It will be my pleasure" Loki answers with a small reverential bow to the Queen.
While Loki customarily offers his hand to Frigga when escorting her, this time he does not. Frigga smoothly and gracefully moves under Loki's arm as she casually drapes her arm around his waist under his cloak. The Queen is nothing if not subtle and she knows well her youngest son with his sense of pride. She will not shame him by openly displaying he is need of her assistance before the others.
"Shall we?" Loki asks as he feels his mother tighten her grip on his waist and give him the unseen support. His arm rest casually across her back, as his fingers lie flat against her waist as if simply walking with a loved one. Only they know how much strength the Queen is lending to the Second Prince.
"We shall" she announces.
Before excusing them both from the others’ company and taking their leave, Frigga addresses the remaining Avengers. "Please excuse me for not making all your acquaintances at present but there will be time for proper introductions and audiences later".
With that Frigga and Loki step close to Bucky and Steve and with a flick of a regal wrist they all disappear. As Frigga has dealt with Steve, Eir steps close to her crown Prince. She holds onto Thor's arm as he raises Mjolnir into the sky and flies towards the quinjet that is parked a little distance away from the battle.
The others stand star struck looking at the spot where seconds before six others had stood but not quite believing that they’d met or at least been in the presence of the Queen of Asgard.
“What just happened really happened, right?” Tony asks as he looks from Natasha to Sam. Rhodey shakes his heads and rolls his eyes at his friend.
“That depends on what you think just happened?” Sam offers. “If you mean did we just see the Queen of Asgard appear with a Doctor of some sort and disappear with Cap and Bucky, then yea!”
“I was gonna say we just had a close encounter of the third kind but your way works too! Not as cool but works." Tony smirks. Natasha shakes her head and sighs at the quip.
Looking at the pile of rubble that was on top of Steve moments before, Sam thinks out loud “I hope Cap will be okay!”
“Super Soldier serum remember! No doubt he’ll be fine”. Tony nonchalantly offers.
Rhodey isn’t so sure. “That was a lot of rubble that fell on him. His leg didn’t look too cool!”
Tony drops the faceplate. “Give him an hour, two tops and Capsicle will be back to his usual laugh a minute self or not!” he adds with a strained smile.
No one falls for Tony’s flippancy; they all know he hides his true feelings behind humour and sarcasm.
Sam steps over and picks up Cap’s helm from where it is lying on the ground in two pieces. “I don’t like the look of this” he says as he hands the broken helmet to Natasha. She quickly tries to school her face and not let the depth of her worry show through.
“He’s in good hands. Loki will do whatever he can for him.” She offers with a small hopeful smile. Knowing how Loki feels about Steve she has no doubt he’ll try but not knowing if Loki can actually help has her worried.
Clint disagrees but not for the reason everyone would expect. “I wouldn’t count on that Nat.” As Natasha spins to glare at her friend he raises his hands in surrender.
“Hey, hang on a minute! I’m not trying to imply that Loki wants any harm to come to Cap. It’s just… he took quite a hit himself from whatever that was that Doom turned on `im. I don’t think he’s got much juice left to offer to save Cap. If he had, why'd Thor call upon Heimdall?”
Everyone now looks at Clint with greater concern. “I may be wrong but that scream of pain was not made up! When have we ever seen Loki sit down on a battlefield? Has anyone ever heard him call out in pain? He’s too proud for that.”
Sam’s frown has grown. “He did look a little out of sorts and he handed Steve off to Bucky pretty easily!”
“Barnes is Cap’s best friend so that means nothing” Tony suggests trying to dismiss the growing concern.
Sam shakes his head slightly. “He is, but Loki is closer to Cap and Barnes than anyone else if you exclude Thor. Maybe Clint is right? We’ve seen Loki fight much longer than this and never even have a hair out of place afterwards.”
In an effort to lighten the now sombre mood Clint chuckles. “Friday, you caught that right? Sam just said I was right! Record that. I may need it in the future!”
“I didn’t say you were right. I said maybe!” Sam protests.
Natasha is more worried than she appears. Knowing about Steve and Loki’s relationship she knows there is no way Loki would have let Steve out of his arms unless he had no choice. Not wanting to rat them out she tries to cast it off as nothing important.
“Guys, we all know Loki likes to act like he doesn’t care about us mere mortals so it was probably his way of doing that. Either way Steve is getting help now."
Natasha faces Sam. "You're the one with some medical training. You might want to drop by the Quinjet and see what’s going on?”
Not needing it to be said twice, Sam lifts into the air and flies towards the jet.
Turning around Natasha sees Wanda standing close to Doom who is subdued by red wisps of magic that trail back to her fingertips. Despite his struggling and pontificating he cannot rise from his knees.
Natasha smiles with pride as she meets Wanda’s eyes. The smile is returned with a small nod of the younger woman’s head.
Several members of GSG 9 with Phil Coulson approach Wanda. Natasha grabs Tony by the arm to get his attention. “Perhaps in Cap’s absence we should join in that conversation?” she suggests as she inclines her head towards the group now surrounding Doom.
Looking to where she indicated Tony pauses. “They seem to have everything under control. I’m hungry; food anyone?”
Natasha gives Tony her `I am not impressed` look. “Really Tony, you gonna leave the decision to Wanda whether Doom gets handed over to the Germans or not?”
Rhodey and Clint stand quietly alongside Natasha making it clear whose side they are on. If Natasha had her way Doom would be locked in Hulk’s cell and never see daylight for a long, long time.
With a dramatic drop of his head Tony audibly sighs. “Fine but this really isn’t our decision. We’re guests here and don’t have the facilities to deal with a prisoner. The jet 's a pseudo-hospital or E.R. right now. Let S.H.I.E.L.D., or I don’t really care who, have him!”
“You do know that the only thing saving you from a clip around the ear right now is your suit!” Widow declares as she moves to join Wanda and the others.
“Yes Mom!” Tony smirks but moves to follow Natasha’s retreating back nonetheless.
Phil Coulson is arguing with the Commander of GSG 9 that Victor Von Doom should be handed over to the American Authorities as his attack was against their President. The Commander of GSG 9 points out that as the attack took place on German soil then it is up to the German Authorities to deal with him and not the security of a visiting Head of State.
Wanda stays quiet, feeling like she doesn’t have the right or authority to offer an opinion. Her primary focus is on subduing Doom until the decision is made. She wishes Captain Rogers was here or Loki then they could deal with all this and she could get some rest. Using so much magic for an extended period is quickly sapping her energy and with Doom fighting against his bonds she is finding it more and more tiring. Absently she wishes she had spent more time working on her stamina as Loki suggested.
Natasha places a hand on Wanda’s arm once she gets close enough. With the look of concern in her face and a raise of one eyebrow she silently asks if Wanda is doing okay. The look in the young eyes tells Natasha that their young Witch is getting tired and that unless a decision is made soon Wanda may be unable to hold the bindings in place for much longer. Without the assistance of Loki’s magic she is getting weaker and will soon need to rest.
Catching Phil’s attention, Natasha questions if Doom can be physically restrained rather than simply magically as he is now. Phil’s eyes move to Scarlett Witch and see the increased strain in her eyes.
“Sure, that’s a good idea”. He offers some S.H.I.E.L.D. tech but it is rejected by the German Soldiers. That gets an eye roll from Natasha. She also wishes Cap was here.
When Natasha points out that Doom is stronger than the average man and therefore should be controlled with something stronger than standard restraints they eventually begin to listen. She’s not sure if even Coulson’s tech will hold him and now wishes that Thor was here too.
The others eventually agree to use a combination of restraint methods. When Doom is eventually restrained to Coulson and the Germans’ satisfaction Wanda releases her binding. Now with greater access to her magic she sends him to sleep.
Previously she would have used her powers to look into his mind and bring his greatest fears to the fore to temporarily cripple him but since working with the Avengers Steve has recommended against such practices. Rather she now uses her magic for defence, restraint and yes, when necessary, attack.
Natasha moves closer to Wanda’s side as she sees the younger woman sway slightly now that she doesn't have to concentrate on her magic. Casually linking her arm with Wanda’s, Natasha offers much needed support to her young teammate. Wanda leans slightly into the contact causing warmth to flow through Natasha.
She’s seen Steve do similar for Wanda on several occasions in the past, though it's usually an arm across her shoulders. Now she appreciates more fully why he does so. Wanda has begun to fill the role of younger sister to Steve, Clint, Natasha, Sam and maybe some of the others. She knows Loki has a soft spot for the young “Witchling” as he calls her.
Alongside the two women a debate now involving Coulson, Stark, GSG 9 and several high ranking German Police is ongoing. It takes a while but in the end a compromise is reached in so far as Doom will be taken into German custody initially before being passed off to NATO forces and a final decision can be made later by those much higher up as to which country will have the privilege of prosecuting him.
Natasha looks at Tony. “Is it wise to simply let the Germans take him? They don’t seem to appreciate who or what they are dealing with, just how dangerous he really is!”
Tony rolls his eyes. “Not our problem anymore. Now food?”
Coulson sees Natasha give him a worried look. “Sorry Natasha but there was no prior agreement in place as to who would have custody of him or his minions if he attacked. The Germans have sovereignty!”
“How did that happen? I can’t believe Cap or Loki didn’t raise it beforehand!”
Phil sighs. “They did; they were just shot down as not everyone believed the attack was imminent. Guess they’ll listen to Captain America the next time he points out that something considered in advance.”
Tony is getting impatient and really hungry. “Phil do you know any good restaurants around here?”
Phil politely ignores Tony’s question and moves back towards his team. “See you all for the debrief later!”
“I think checking on our teammates and getting medical attention is our priority.” Natasha states before she walks Wanda back to where the remainder of the team are waiting.
Rhodey is speaking with a German official and confirms that once the team has been seen by medical staff some of them will return to help with the clean-up.
Tony contacts Friday and authorises the Stark Relief Fund to move to their location and to offer whatever assistance is needed. He’ll have to have a word with Snape later about better aiming the missile next time; a little less property damage would be appreciated.
Steve is laid down very gently by Bucky on the treatment bed in the centre of the Quinjet. Eir immediately moves to his side and completes a second scan of the soldier. Meanwhile Bucky gets the standard saline intravenous solution and after explaining to Eir what it is she gives him the go ahead to use it.
Sam arrives as Bucky sets up the IV drip so he quickly prepares the needle and inserts it into Steve’s left arm. Once it is secure he speaks to Eir about his friend’s condition.
While most of the medical terms are not familiar to him, once Eir explains further he mentally translates the information into terms he can understand. Friday offers help with some of the more complicated descriptions and soon they are all on the same page. Sam asks Friday to scan Steve for injury too in case they need it for reference.
“My Queen, it appears that the pressure within the cranial cavity continues to build. I need to release it but I am uncertain if it is wise to do so here.” Eir says quietly to Frigga.
Frigga helps Loki to sit before she takes her place alongside the Healer. “Perhaps I may be of assistance”. She spreads her fingers wide a little above Steve’s head as she speaks. A warm glow surrounds her hands and slowly moves down over Steve’s skull. He instantly opens his eyes and gasps for breath as he tries to sit up.
“Loki?” It’s no more than a mumble but enough for Loki to hear.
“I am here.” Loki replies as he unsteadily moves to Steve’s side. He takes one of the Captain’s hands in his to prove his presence. “Lie still, you have suffered greatly. Eir is the foremost Healer in Asgard and several realms. She’s here to help. ”
Loki gently strokes the back of Steve’s hand with his thumb. “Rest now, you are in safe hands”. With that Loki casts a sleeping spell on Steve and he watches as the Captain drifts off moments later.
Frigga gives Loki an unhappy scowl but Loki simply gives a little shrug in reply. “He was in greater need than I, Mother!”
Frigga turns to Bucky and Sam. “I have been successful in my effort to relieve some of the pressure within Captain Rogers’ brain but that is but a temporary measure for the moment at best. I understand from Thor that your Captain is enhanced and has greater healing powers than others.”
“He was injected with a super serum 70 years or so back”. Bucky offers. “It enhanced what was already there. He’s stronger, faster, has more endurance and like you said greater healing power. The serum enhanced his cells regenerative qualities or at least that’s what he was told.”
Loki has remained standing at Steve’s bedside and unconsciously continues to offer soothing strokes to the back of his love’s hand. “Captain Rogers, Steve, is not invincible but he is much tougher than his friends save for Sergeant Barnes here. Perhaps a healing stone will be of benefit to him?”
He smiles tentatively at his Mother as he knows that it is extremely rare for a healing stone to be offered for use on any who are not Aesir. Eir looks anxiously to her Queen as she does not wish to deny the Prince but it is not a decision she wishes to make.
Frigga sees the pleading look in Loki’s eyes as he silently begs his Mother to do what she can to help Steve. Even though Frigga already knows the answer nonetheless she asks the Healer if she carries a healing stone with her. Eir reluctantly nods in confirmation and hands it over to her Queen.
Frigga crumbles the stone between her palms but instead of sprinkling it over Steve she quickly turns and blows it in Loki’s direction. The healing dust sprinkles over him before he has time to direct it at Steve.
“What have you done?” Loki shouts in despair as he begins to feel the dust repair more of the injuries Frigga’s magic had been unable to do.
“What I must!” his mother replies without apology. “You expended that which you needed for yourself on your friend, Loki. I could not stand by and watch you suffer when there was something I could do”.
Hurt that his love’s life may still be at risk when he could have so easily been moved back from the brink but instead his Mother, the Queen, saw fit to use the precious dust on him.
“Why would you risk his life in favour of my injuries?” The deep hurt and despair is evident in Loki’s voice as he crumbles to his knees still holding tightly onto Steve’s hand.
In the background Friday alerts Sam to the results of her scan and he realises that Steve is in greater danger than he’d imagined. His brain continues to swell and some of the internal bleeding which Loki had stopped earlier has restarted.
Frigga moves to the areas where Eir indicates the internal bleeding has restarted. Together the two women use their magic to stop the bleeds and repair the cell damage so it won’t start again. Bucky is now standing close to Loki with his hand on the Prince’s shoulder.
Once the Queen has completed her task she steps to Loki’s other side. She sees the tears he’s trying desperately not to shed. “My son, if I had not done what I did you would have joined your friend on a treatment table.”
Lowering herself into a crouched position she speaks in hushed tones to Loki. “I know you value your Steven’s life above your own but he needs you. You cannot help him by expending the little reserves you have left that are needed to assist in your own healing. Only we both know how much healing you need to do. I have done what was necessary and I will never regret that. When you have recovered some energy you may assist me in helping your friend further.”
Loki is unable to meet the Queen’s eyes. She is correct that he was being reckless in using the slim reserves he had left of his magic in his spell to send Steve into a restful sleep but he knows how stubborn Steve can be. The Quinjet has nothing which would knock him out and if the pressure on his brain is to be relieved he needs to rest. He could not stand by and do nothing when he had it within him to do some little act to help save Steve.
A small almost indecipherable nod of the dark head is all the reaction Frigga gets. Stroking her hand gently over the dark hair she leans forward and places a loving kiss on the crown of her son’s head.
“My foolish, stubborn, caring boy!”
Wanting to do more than simply stand by while others work to save his best friend Bucky moves to the end of the treatment bed and starts to remove Steve’s boots. Sam moves to help Bucky but Eir raises a hand to stop them before they come near his broken leg.
Running her scanner over Steve’s leg again they watch as symbols on her device move and change, graphs fluctuate and numbers as it moves over the Captain’s legs.
“The Captain’s boot is maintaining the pressure in his lower leg at present and until his blood pressure stabilises I suggest we retain that assistance.”
Friday updates Sam on Steve’s condition every few minutes quoting figures and terms which he understands but most of which mean nothing to Bucky. Watching Sam’s reaction to the constant information gives Bucky a better idea of how his friend is doing.
As Frigga and Eir feared, despite the super serum, the pressure is building in his skull again and his breathing starts to become laboured even with the oxygen mask on his face.
Loki’s eyes have never left Steve. A little of the colour has come back to Loki’s cheeks but it is taking longer than Frigga had hoped for her son to regain his strength.
Queen Frigga and Eir exchange silent communication as they continue to attend to the Captain. There is urgency to their movements which neither woman attempts to hide. Having spent centuries attending to Asgard’s wounded and injured they know that when the need is greatest there is no room for niceties or feigning an ill placed calmness. Loki knows this too having witnessed it many times.
Without looking at Eir’s device Loki knows how grave Steve’s condition is; if he had not had the benefit of the serum he would not have survived this far.
“Loki, have you recovered some strength?” His Mother asks without looking away from the work she is doing to repair Steve’s punctured lung.
“Yes, the healing stone is performing as expected.”
Her son’s blank tone is not missed by Frigga. “Good!” Frigga smiles softly. “Now once you have recovered sufficiently I need you to take the Captain into your arms and bring him to Asgard through the paths known only to you. Can you do this?”
Loki slowly raises his head and understands now why Frigga used the healing stone on him and not Steve.
This was her plan all along. Having recognised the extent of the Captain’s injuries she knew Eir could not properly treat him here. Giving an apologetic smile to his Mother for his earlier outburst he nods. His Mother accepts the silent apology and gives him a knowing and forgiving smile in return.
Other than for herself and Thor she has rarely seen such concern for another on her young son’s face. She lays a gentle hand on the arm of the Midgardian who seems to have won her youngest’s heart if the look on his face as he keeps watch over the the injured man is any indication of the depth of his feelings.
“Take whatever time you need to regain your strength Loki before you move. You are the Captain’s best hope!. He is in no fit state to travel the Bifrost at present and without further treatment he remains in danger.” Frigga announces.
Sam’s look of concern is shared by Bucky and Thor who had remained quietly in the background up to now.
“Mother, I fear Loki is, at present, in no fit state to undertake such a task.” Thor says as he casts an eye over Loki who is still on his knees beside Steve’s bed.
Loki growls at the apparent slight. “Brother, I will not risk the Captain’s life. You know this!”
Thor takes his Mother’s place alongside Loki. Clasping his hand at the back of Loki’s neck he smiles as he meets his brother’s glare. “This I do but I also know that you would risk your own life for his!”
“He needs me, Thor.” The desperation is clear in Loki’s whispered voice. “He needs me to do this and if I am unable to do so but try anyway I risk his life. Trust me Brother. I will not act recklessly where it risks the Captain, Steve.” He says the name with such love as if it pains him to even consider the thought of risking his love’s life.
“Very well, do what needs but take care, Brother”. Thor leans forward and places a kiss on Loki’s forehead before he rises.
He steps away from Loki and calls Sam and Bucky to him. “My friends, you have heard Queen Frigga, my Mother, and Eir wish to take the Captain to Asgard for his recovery. I trust few more and urge you to consent as our friend and Shield Brother cannot do so for himself.”
Bucky looks to Sam for guidance. “I’ve no medical training but I trust Loki to look out for Steve.”
Sam hopes Bucky’s trust isn’t misplaced as he looks back over towards his friend. He asks Friday where the nearest secure medical facility is.
“The closest secure medical facility would be the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC) located at Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany which is part of the United States Army Medical Command. While it has been downgraded to a Level III trauma centre it should be capable of treating Captain Rogers.” Friday offers in response.
“Okay, thanks Friday” Sam replies but before he can say anything else Friday continues. .
“Mr. Wilson I would offer one point of caution though.”
“I believe Captain Rogers’ preference would be to not allow members of the United States Army access to his body, blood, tissue samples etc.”
Bucky raises an eyebrow at Sam and smirks slightly as he knows the A.I. is right. “You know they’re some of the last people on earth he’d want getting near him! He hated all the experiments they tried on others to recreate the serum after he went in the ice”
“So we both agree if Steve could make the choice….” Sam starts but Bucky finishes “he’d put his trust in Loki to get him to Asgard and in Loki, Thor and their Mom to help him recover.”
Thor smiles; proud of his friends and the trust they were placing in him, Asgard and also in Loki. He wonders if the other members of the Team would be so quick to do so but they are not here.
“Mother, Eir, whenever you have the Captain fit for travel and you are ready to depart I will call Heimdall.”
Scratching the back of his head Bucky looks anxiously between Thor and the Queen. “I don’t suppose there’s any chance I could maybe go with you?” He asks. “You know, to be there when Steve wakes up. It’ll be kinda weird for him to be on another planet and he might appreciate the company. He’s woken up alone once before in a strange place and I’d like to avoid that happening `im again if possible.”
Surprised by the request Queen Frigga hesitates and looks between her sons. Thor knows Bucky wishes to stay by Steve’s side and while he trusts them to do their best it isn’t easy to let Steve be taken all alone to another world. “Mother, do you think Father could be persuaded to consent?”
Loki is listening intently. He knows Bucky would prefer to be by Steve’s side and that Steve would appreciate him being there too but he dares not ask for his friend as he knows Odin will not be pleased as it is. Loki looks imploringly at the Queen.
Having made up her mind Frigga turns to face the Captain’s companion. “I, Frigga, Queen of Asgard, Allmother and Mother to Princes Thor and Loki extend an invitation to Sergeant James Buchanan Barnes, Avenger and brother to Captain Steven Rogers and to the injured Captain Steven Grant Rogers to accompany us to Asgard.” She declares as she smiles firstly at Bucky and then warmly at Loki who mouths a silent “thank you, Mother” to her.
Once Eir has satisfactorily stabilised the patient for transport Frigga lays a gentle hand on Loki’s shoulder. As she does so she uses her magic to assess his healing. Loki meets her smile with a small one of his own.
“Fear not Mother, I am sufficiently rested and already my magic thrums through my very essence once more.”
Leaning in close to Loki under the guise of giving him a hug she whispers into his ear, “You are so perceptive of others Loki but not of yourself. A silver tongue you may have my son but from no more than a babe you have always been a poor liar when it comes to yourself.”
Loki seeks to protest but a gentle finger to his lips stays his objection. “No matter, your magic cannot lie to one raised by witches!” She smiles at her son’s reaction. “I know your reserves are though not yet replenished they are sufficient for the task required of you.”
A short while later Thor, Bucky, Frigga and Eir step out of the quinjet and move to a clearing nearby. Thor calls to Heimdall and they are soon encapsulated in a bright light before disappearing.
“Better to seek forgiveness than permission, I guess” Loki says with a smile.
Sam puts a hand on Loki’s shoulder. “Will the King really be pissed?”
“He will not be best pleased but Frigga is Queen of Asgard and within her right to invite any she wishes to visit the Realm. Do not worry; better the Queen than Thor or I. Now Sam can you fly this jet?”
“No, I’m afraid not. Do you need me to get Clint or Tony?”
“If you wouldn’t mind fetching Clint, I find myself in need of his assistance.”
“No problem, I’ll be right back with him.”
Sam flies off and within minutes he’s back with Clint in tow. “I hear you need a favour!” Clint states as he steps away from Sam.
Loki gives a tight smile. “Not a favour as such but rather in need of your assistance.”
“Wow, asking for help and my help at that! It must be big!” Clint smirks.
Sam scowls at the Archer. “Clint, please!” He hadn’t delayed to give the other details but simply told them that Steve was being treated for his injuries and Loki needed Clint’s help.
Seeing the way Sam is glowering at him Clint throws his hands in the air in surrender. “Geez man, I get the message! What d’you need?”
“The Captain and I need to get to these co-ordinates in the Swiss Alps. As Sam is unable to pilot the Quinjet we have need of your piloting skills. It is rather urgent so an immediate departure would be preferable.”
Before Clint asks why Loki doesn't simply teleport them there Sam gives him a quick run-down of what’s been happening. “Man, why didn’t you say Cap needed my help in the first place!”
Loki can't stop himself as he rolls his eyes and quietly exclaims. “I would have thought that was obvious!”
With no further delay Clint sprints to the pilot’s seat and they’re airborne moments later. He radios Natasha to brief her on what’s happening and confirms he’ll be back with the jet before long.
Friday and Sam continue to monitor Steve’s vitals as they fly towards the designated coordinates.
Loki closes his eyes and rests while he can. As soon as they reach the co-ordinates Clint brings the jet to a hovering position. “Okay, what now?” he asks as Loki takes Steve gently into his arms.
Sam removes the IV line before Loki steps to the rear hatch as it opens. “I can take it from here.”
Thanking both men for their assistance he and Steve disappear. Clint closes the hatch while Sam moves to the co-pilot’s seat and they head back to Bavaria and the others.
No Steve or Loki in this chapter but rather a quick look at how the others are coping.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Clint and Sam find the others in the medical area on their return from dropping off Loki and Steve. Once everyone has been seen to by the medics, all minor injuries cleaned and dressed, more serious matters bandaged and treated as necessary they head back to the Quinjet.
Considering the scale of the attack by Doom and his bots they’ve come off pretty well; apart from Steve and Loki who bore the brunt of the onslaught.
Everyone is tired and weary once they take their seats for the flight back to their temporary accommodations. Tony asks Sam to brief them on Steve’s condition before they take off.
“Saw the Bifrost, hard to miss it really, before you came for Clint. I guess our Norse Gods have gone home with Mama Frigga. So where’d they stash Cap and the Manchurian Candidate?”
Sam gives everyone a quick synopsis of Steve’s medical condition and, as best as he can, he tries to explain what was done for Steve on the jet. “Going on what the Queen and the Healer said it’s pretty bad. Friday took scans so we’d have a better idea of what he’s dealing with. His brain is swelling and they could only relieve so much of the pressure without proper equipment. Seems magic healing can only do so much. He’d internal bleeding which I think they stopped but I can’t be sure and apart from the broken leg, ribs, skull fracture, internal damage and punctured lung he was doing fine!”
As much as Sam tries to make light of Steve’s injuries the others are still shocked. Eyes open wider, several short intakes of breath can be heard and some visibly wince.
“So which hospital has him?” Rhodey asks, knowing they will all want to speak to whatever doctor is treating him as soon as possible.
Sam looks from one Avenger to the next. “He’s not in a hospital; least not one we can go visit. The Queen took him to Asgard.”
“And you just let her?” Tony questioned; a look of disbelief on his face. He's about to lay into Sam for what he sees as stupidity as Natasha stops him.
“Easy Tony!” Natasha intervenes before it escalates into a shouting match.
Sam meets Tony’s scowl with a determined stare of his own. “When the Queen said he needed to go to Asgard Thor asked for my opinion and Bucky’s. We agreed that if that’s what it takes to save Steve’s life then yeah they could take him to Asgard.”
Friday’s voice adds, “Sir, if I may? The closest secure medical facility would be the United States Army’s Medical Corp run Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC).”
“No way Cap would want to let them near him!” Clint states before Tony or Rhodey can say anything.
Natasha gives Clint a small smile, thankful for his two cents. “Clint’s right. Steve would be pissed if we allowed the Army anywhere near his body. Imagine if Ross got access to his blood and tissue samples. Боже мой,we’d have another abomination on our hands or worse!”
Tony hates to admit they are right. He just doesn’t like the idea that Steve has gone off world and they don’t know what’s happening to him. He wishes a Stark Medical facility was close by. He makes a mental note to look into setting one up in Europe and elsewhere just in case they are needed in the future.
“And the Manchurian Candidate, did he run off?”
Sam shakes his head, disappointed that that is where Tony’s mind went. “No, he didn’t run off. Why would you think that, Stark? He went with Steve to Asgard”.
That knocks Tony and the others for six. Natasha looks at Sam, the silent question clear in her face.
“Before you ask, I am serious! Bucky asked the Queen if he could go along, to be there when Steve wakes up and she agreed. In fact she issued him and Steve with a formal royal invitation. Seems like they’re required for anyone who isn’t from Asgard or maybe it’s just for us.”
“Wow!” Wanda says quietly from her seat near Sam. “That must be amazing!”
Tony is looking shell shocked. “Spangles gets to visit Asgard and his best buddy too! I’ll have to speak to Thor! See where our invitations went? If anyone should have gone then surely one of us, Barnes isn’t even an Avenger!”
Natasha reaches out and pinches Tony’s arm. “He may not be an Avenger but he is Cap’s best friend and I’m not sure you wouldn’t cause and intergalactic incident if you went.”
Tony tries his best to look hurt but when he sees everyone else nod their heads in agreement with Natasha he gives up. “Yeah, fine, maybe!”
Rhodey laughs. “There’s no maybe about it, Tony!”
“You’d probably try and steal their tech!” Clint offers.
“Okay are we ready to get airborne ‘cause I’m starving and that cute little Italian Restaurant down the road from my bed is calling me?” And as he starts the engine Natasha adds, “And some of us could use a shower!”
“I think we all could!” Wanda offers. No one disagrees.
“You okay Vis?” she asks.
“Yes, I was reviewing the confrontation in my mind and wondering if there was something I could have done to perhaps protect the Captain more?”
Placing a hand on Vision’s arm Wanda smiles. “If Loki couldn’t do something I doubt you could have. We all had our assignments, our own battle to fight. Without you some of those Bots could have reached the President.”
Vision is grateful for her attempt at comfort. She sees he is not fully convinced. Leaning closer she continues, “After what happened in Sokovia, Captain Rogers spoke with me about regrets in battle. So long as we do our best that is all that can be asked of us, in battle, in life, in everything.”
“Yes, you are right. What is the phrase.....No point crying over spilled milk?”
Wanda’s soft laugh in reply made Vision smile.
“No point closing the stable door after the horse has bolted!” Clint offers from the pilot’s seat. For the remainder of the journey they all take turns quoting various idioms and phrases.
When they land Wanda steps over to Sam. “Sam, you never said how Loki was? Was he okay? I mean I know he’s like Thor but he seemed ….. tired, almost exhausted and in pain?”
Sam can see the genuine concern in Wanda’s eyes. Taking one of her hands in his he gives it a reassuring squeeze. “Not sure what his Mam did but she sprinkled some magic dust on him and it seemed to give him a boost. He was well enough to take Steve back to Asgard without the Bifrost.”
Natasha is listening nearby and steps closer. “Why did he not take the Bifrost?”
Sam smirks, not surprised that Natasha has overheard. “The Queen said Steve wasn’t fit to travel by Bifrost, pressure or something, so Loki took him through some secret passageways between Realms.”
Wanda relaxes once she hears Loki has gotten some help. Training with him she began to understand his power and strength better and having seen him on the ground near Steve she’d worried for him. The others may not have noticed but she had and she knew Thor had too.
“Thank you, Sam.” Wanda says and gives him a small smile in gratitude as he releases her hand.
“No sweat. I’m surprised no one asked before now.”
Wanda isn’t surprised. “Guess all focus was on Captain Rogers” she offers diplomatically.
Natasha places a hand on Sam’s shoulder. “They’d have asked eventually.”
“Yeah, eventually” Sam replies clearly not impressed.
Doom is taken to a secure Military facility following his capture and placed in a cell while the Commander awaits further orders.
Now able to move about as Wanda’s restraining magic has worn off Doom paces back and forth just inside the cell like a caged animal. “Doom will not be treated like a common criminal!” He shouts but those guarding him ignore him. He's been berating the Guards for the past hour when his cell door suddenly opens.
Standing in the doorway are heavily armed Soldiers in full riot gear. While in the cell Doom’s hands and feet are restrained by cuffs and chains but further restraints are now placed around his waist which link the hand cuffs and ankle restraints to his waist. His mobility is now lessened and he lets those present know how he feels about that.
Earlier he tried claiming diplomatic immunity as a foreign Leader on Germanic soil but no one is listening. “Save that for your Tribunal!” One Guard state as Doom is manhandled out of his cell and towards a waiting armoured vehicle to take him to Berlin for questioning.
“You are responsible for the deaths of several of our colleagues today. Please give me a reason to retrain you further!” another growls.
Doom holds his head high and smirks as he’s led away. Delight dances in his eyes as he walks into the daylight before being secured in the back of the secure transport.
“You cannot hope to stop Victor Von Doom! You are all beneath me!” He shouts as the door closes.
Боже мой - Oh my God in Russian
Moments after the Bifrost activates Thor, Bucky, Queen Frigga and Eir arrive at the golden dome to be greeted by a tall dark skinned man wearing a golden crown and armour. Bucky tries to keep his balance but he feels like he’s been on one of those rides on Coney Island where platform suddenly drops from beneath your feet. Thor holds onto the outstretched arm to steady his friend.
“Easy my friend, it is an unusual sensation when you first travel by Bifrost but fear not the sensation will ease presently.”
After taking a few deep breaths Bucky says in the steadiest voice he can muster, “I’m good! It kinda knocked the breath out of me for a minute. Don’t tell Steve or Loki for that matter!”
Thor gives him a hearty clap on the back as he laughs. “Fear not my lips are sealed.”
Turning towards the tall man who is looking on amused Thor introduces them.” Sergeant Barnes, may I present Heimdall, Gatekeeper to Asgard and my friend. Good Heimdall, Sergeant James Buchanan Barnes, my friend and Shield Brother.”
The tall man bows in greeting. “My Queen, my Prince, welcome home! I trust your trip was successful, my Queen.” Then turning his golden eyes to the two others he continues,” Lady Eir, Sergeant Barnes”
The Queen gives a small smile in reply. “Not unsuccessful but we must hurry. We must ready the healing chambers.”
“A carriage awaits my Queen.”
“Thank you, Heimdall. Where is the King, we must speak.”
Heimdall casts his eyes towards the Golden Palace. Bucky looks in the same direction and is struck by the beauty of the city glistening in sunshine.
“The King may be found on the Practice Grounds. He oversees the training of the junior warriors at present.”
“Come my friend, we must be off.” Thor says, full of enthusiasm. “Today is a glorious day when I show my home to my friends.”
Bucky continues starring for a while longer before the Queen gently places her hand on his arm.
“Would you please escort me to the awaiting carriage, Sergeant?”
Shaking himself out of his amazement, Bucky coughs slightly. “Sorry Ma’am, of course!”
He gives Heimdall a small bow before he moves as he’s not sure who this guy is and better safe than sorry as he doesn’t want to insult him. Frigga leans closer and in a hushed voice explains. “No need to bow to any but the King.”
A blush creeps up his neck and cheeks. Thor laughs as he has never seen Bucky blush before.
“But what ‘bout you, Ma’am? You are the Queen; surely I bow to you too?”
Frigga gives his arm a slight squeeze and a warm smile. “Such a polite boy! If you wish you may do so when we are in more formal settings but it is not necessary when other courtiers are not present.”
“Think I’ll err on the side of caution an’ do it anyway.” Bucky announces.
“As you wish!” Frigga replies with a smile as Bucky helps her up into the awaiting carriage. She sees that Thor was right in his description of the friends with whom Loki had aligned himself; this one at least.
Bucky is mesmerised by the rainbow bridge as the colours seem to dance underneath the surface and then the drop into space he sees just off its edge. Not somewhere he’d like to go. He decides it is best to keep his eyes forward and not even think of the drop off. Maybe there is an invisible barrier or shield of some kind. He’ll have to ask Loki later. Frigga watches his reactions with intrigue. It never ceases to amaze her, the sight of wonder in the eyes of those seeing the rainbow bridge and Asgard for the first time.
Loki holds Steve protectively in his arms as he steps off the tailgate of the Quinjet. Having cloaked them both from view of Heimdall or all other methods of surveillance they land softly on the side of a high peak in the Swiss Alps.
A warm fur cloak wraps magically around the man in his arms and another drapes across his own shoulders. Normally the cold breeze would not bother him but with so much of his magic directed at healing the damage Doom’s weapon has done Loki thinks it best that he not waste more of it on a warming spell. Steve seems to snuggle closer to his chest once he feels the warmth from the fur surround him and Loki can feel that body heat warm the places where their two bodies touch.
He looks down kindly at the man in his arms and imagines he is merely asleep rather than in a magical coma.
Moving quickly though cautiously along a long forgotten mountain path, he steps with purpose. Not even climbers who have climbed this peak many times have come upon this path. There is evidence of animal tracks but nothing to cause concern to Loki or his companion.
After a half mile or so of continually upward trekking, Loki sees the entrance to the cave he knows will take him off Midgard. Away from the cold wind he stops just inside the entrance and lowers to one knee allowing Steve to rest more easily against his body.
A vial containing a blue liquid appears his hand. He drinks half of it and slowly allows the remainder of the liquid to slip between Steve’s lips. Steve’s face momentarily scrunches up caused by the bitter taste but he does not awaken.
“Easy, my love!” Loki gently whispers, his words soothing to Steve’s ears. “While it may be bitter in taste it is truly sweet in its effect. It will give us both the strength to finish our journey.”
Loki softly strokes his fingers through the blonde hair which has some streaks of blood and dust still visible. He watches as Steve’s chest rises and falls slowly in time with his resting breaths.
“It is better that we not get caught between realms.” With that Loki lowers his head and places a tender kiss on the lips of his love.
There is no mistaking the look on his face for anything but love and as there is no other to see it Loki allows himself to indulge a little longer.
They rest for a short while, both regaining a little strength. Using only a small amount of magic the mage checks to ensure the potion has taken effect and that Steve is fit to go further. Satisfied, Loki rises swiftly and smoothly to his feet, his Captain secure within his arms once more.
A small magical firefly flies overhead, a foot or two in front of them, lighting their way. As they approach what looks like the back of the cave Loki twitches his fingers and an opening appears. To any other it looks no more than a crack in the rock face but the mage knows better.
Loki moves closer with his precious cargo secured against his chest as the opening widens and he steps through the gap and into a darkened tunnel. Suddenly streaks of multi-coloured lights appear that seem to go on forever. Loki stumbles once or twice but never does his grip on Steve slacken.
Ordinarily this should be no more taxing than a stroll down a garden path for Loki even with someone in his arms but he is not at his best. Though he feels his energy begin to wane the end is in sight as he slowly and carefully steps into another cave.
Here the air is different, the smells and sounds are ones he has known for over a millennium. In the far distance he sees the twinkling lights of Ljosalfgard, the capital of Alfheim and castle stronghold home to Queen Aelsa Featherwine of the Fay, the Ruler of the Light Elves.
If his strength was at its peak the Prince would have gone straight from Midgard to Asgard but that was a risk he was not willing to take today. So he takes what is an extended route but most importantly contains shorter paths between realms making it easier on him and his injured love.
Without wasting any time Loki moves to the Valley of the Moon Elves. Having rested for a short while and partaken of some of the fruits and fresh water to be found there he continues to the next portal between realms.
The deep green forest hides many wondrous things and none more so than the ancient tree whose long roots hide an opening between worlds.
As a young mage Loki loved to travel between realms, hidden from the view of all but a small number who could sense magic. Thankfully for Loki none are present to see him move silently and unnoticed through the Light Elves homeland.
While his presence may cause a minor stir the delay which would inevitably happen because of it could be fatal for Steve so Loki says a prayer to Norms for safe and swift passage. Today it seems he is in their favour or maybe Steve is?
Queen Frigga disembarks from the carriage at the steps to the Golden Palace. Bucky does, as he has seen hundreds of tourists do, when they first walk the streets of New York; stand and stare. The Palace is truly as Thor had once described it, a golden beacon shining out for all to see. They had all thought Thor was exaggerating as no one could contradict him at the time. Ow it appears he was telling the truth.
Bucky wishes Steve was beside him to experience this together but hopefully there will be time for Steve to experience it once he is better.
With a nudge from Thor, he moves to follow alongside the Prince. Suddenly the Thor beside him is seen in all his majesty. The way he reacts to those around him and them to him suddenly makes sense. Thor is accustomed to the attention and adulation and his wide smile seems to brighten the face of all he meets. He calls out to a few by name and all appear delighted to have their Crown Prince back among them once more. Bucky wonders if the reaction would be the same for Loki. Something suggests it may not.
Bucky can’t help but notice the weary looks and stares he is attracting. He knows that if Thor wasn’t with him he’d have been stopped long before now by the intimidating looking Guards which Thor called the Einherjar. Despite not wearing guns Bucky has no doubt they’re just as lethal with their spears and swords.
Queen Frigga has gone in one direction while Thor takes Bucky in another. He is explaining where the various doors lead to as they move through the Palace but Bucky has lost count of how many they’ve passed. He is concentrating on mapping out their route in his head. He’d stopped paying attention to Thor and therefore misses the question he’s asked right before he walks smack into the wall of muscle which is the Crown Prince, his friend.
Chuckling at the bewildered look on Bucky’s face, Thor asks again if he’d like to see the Throne Room before they continue to the Healing chambers. The boy in Bucky, who dreamt of worlds on other planets, wants to see every room and experience everything but the man whose best friend is seriously injured wants to get to where Steve may be waiting as soon as possible.
Not wanting to hurt Thor’s feelings he gives a tight smile. “Maybe later when Steve’s been seen to?”
Clasping Bucky’s shoulder Thor gives it a reassuring squeeze. “Fear not my friend; I understand only too well your concern for the Captain, your Brother. Come; let me not delay us further. The tour can wait till later.”
Several turns, halls, stairs and corridors later they come to a stop outside large ornate doors which are either made of gold or decorated in gold, Bucky isn’t sure which. A battle scene is depicted on both. He recognises the armour and helmets of the Einherjar and a King who he guesses could be Odin. It is clear that the Asgardians have won.
The Sentries on duty outside the room bow in acknowledgement of their Prince and quickly move to open the large doors as he approaches. Without a word or acknowledgement Thor enters the large anti-chamber where several workers, all dressed as Eir had been, move quickly around.
Without the need to be called for, Eir steps out of an inner room ad beckons Thor and Bucky inside. Several of the other Healers acknowledge the men as they go by but none move to intercept them but instead give way to the Prince and his companion.
Thor sees the empty bed and stops abruptly. “Has Loki not yet arrived with the Captain?”
Bucky can hear Loki’s snide response in his head, `does it look like I’ve arrived?’ It’s all he can do not to snicker.
Eir gives Thor a look which can only mean that she’s thinking the same thing as Bucky. “It would appear not, my Prince!”
“Should he not have arrived before us?”
Giving Thor a thin smile, the Healer adds, “I am not familiar with the paths the Prince is taking and cannot offer any insight other than their route will be less stressful on your injured companion.”
Knowing he can get no further information on Loki’s whereabouts he looks towards the bed again. “Is all ready for their arrival?”
“Yes, my Prince.”
“Very well, we wait their arrival in the outer chamber. Should they appear here let us know immediately.” With that Thor turns and leaves with Bucky following behind.
Eir bows as her Prince leaves and resumes her duties preparing for her patient who she silently hopes will arrive soon.
There are some references to medical issues and procedures in this chapter. I have no knowledge of medicine or medical procedures so I apologise in advance if what I suggest happens cannot actually happen or is just plain wrong. Please forgive my ignorance.
Possible trigger warning!!! There is a vague non detailed reference to possible past suicide attempt in this chapter in case that is a trigger for anyone. The one line comes immediately after Odin learns that Loki has been injured.
Loki takes a deep breath. “We are almost at our journey’s end my Darling, bear with me a while longer.”
He carefully steps out from among trees in a lush green forest not far from the back gate to the Queen’s Garden on Asgard. Once he’s far enough away from the hidden path he drops the cloak of magic which had kept him and Steve hidden from Asgard’s Gatekeeper’s sight and hearing.
“Heimdall, Hear me. I have returned with one of Thor’s Midgardian Shield Brothers. We are both here at the Queen’s personal request. Send for Eir or another Healer without delay or better yet advise the Queen, my Mother that I am in need of her aid!”
Cautiously Loki lowers himself onto a tree stump and gently rests against a low wall for support. The journey has taken more from him than he cares to admit but despite his pride he knows he must do what is needed to save his love.
As he waits he lowers his voice and speaks directly into Steve’s ear. “It will not be long now. You are almost near the end of your agony. Soon you will rest easy and be cared for like royalty.”
He gives a small self-deprecating laugh. “Well, like a true son of Odin in any case. You are safe my love and no harm shall come to you. This I swear. When you are well again I shall show you all the places on Asgard which are closest to my heart.”
Steve hears the words and nestles closer to Loki despite his semi-comatose state. Loki lowers his head and places a tender kiss on the blonde’s temple. He runs his fingers through the short strands of blonde hair as they wait.
Queen Frigga enters the Council Chamber with a flourish. All present rise to greet their Queen, even King Odin. He can immediately tell by the worried look on her face that something urgent has happened.
Before any of the Council can greet their Queen she politely but firmly raises a hand to stop them. “Pardon the interruption my King,” the Queen announces before she reaches the Council table,” but I would speak with you on a pressing personal matter.”
Frigga knows from experience that failing to emphasize the personal nature of that which she wishes to discuss may result in Odin suggesting she speak in front of the Council Members. This is not a matter for their concern. To Frigga this is a family matter.
Over the long years of marriage the King and Queen have come to know each other well and have developed their own personal code while talking in public.
Odin gives his Queen a small smile. Turning to his Council he adjourns the meeting to be reconvened later. He advises that each Council Member will be notified of the new time. With that he rises from his seat and with Gungnir in his hand he taps the floor three times.
After bowing to their King and Queen all Council Members file out, talking amongst themselves and speculating about what could be so important that the Queen interrupt the meeting. No one has any idea what it is as there was nothing urgent being spoken of amongst the Palace staff.
Tyr is the last to leave. He bows to Frigga. She does not miss the look of concern on their old friend’s face. Reaching out Frigga places a reassuring hand on his forearm. “Do not be concerned, Asgard is not in any danger.” She gives a small smile before turning her attention to her Husband.
Tyr leaves somewhat reassured.
“Perhaps it would be better to talk in private?” Frigga suggests when she sees Odin about to retake his seat.
“Very well, the garden or our private parlour?”
“It is such a beautiful day. I suggest a walk in my garden.”
Odin’s eyes soften as he looks at his Queen. “So you wish to soften me up before we discuss whatever ails you, my Queen!”
Frigga chuckles softly as she takes his arm but the way she holds on tight tells Odin all he needs to know. They move swiftly and resolutely to the Queen’s private garden without saying anything further.
Only when they are alone in the garden does the Queen allow her true concern to show on her face. Odin rests Gungnir against a seat and places his now free hand over his wife’s where it lies against his forearm.
“What has you so worried, my wife? The last time I saw that look on your face it was for one of our sons!” Odin’s stomach drops as he wonders what had happened and to whom.
Sitting down on a nearby bench Frigga urged Odin to sit beside her. Now facing her Husband, she continues to hold his hand. “There was a battle on Midgard. An adversary to Thor’s Shield Brothers, The Avengers, had a weapon which had power beyond what it should.”
“Is Thor wounded? Has something happened that Heimdall should have alerted to before now?” Odin asks; his concern now tainted by anger.
Frigga reaches out and cups the face of her King to ease his anger. “I was in the Observatory as Heimdall oversaw the battle at my request. The weapon was not aimed at Thor!” She lets that sink in for a moment.
“Loki?” Odin gasps. “But how, surely his magic protected him. He cannot truly be harmed by a Midgardian weapon if he protects himself.” Odin hoped that Loki was coming to terms with his true parentage and had found a jest for life again.
A tear glistens at the side of the Queen’s eye as she remembers the sight of her youngest son sitting against the low wall and the injuries her magic revealed to her. “It was no ordinary Midgardian weapon. Loki had moved to protect the Leader of the Avengers, Captain Rogers, Thor and Loki’s Shield Brother. My King, this weapon sought to rip Loki’s power from him!”
“How is that possible? His power is part of him; it is not something which can be removed without killing him!” Odin declares as he rises to his feet unable to understand what kind of weapon could do this. “Does our youngest still breathe?” He asks in a hushed tone.
“Yes but he is injured beyond what he physically portrays. The Captain was also seriously injured and neither my magic nor Loki’s was sufficient to heal him where he fell.”
Odin slowly turns to face his wife once more. She sees the track of a tear on his cheek. “A loss no doubt which will be a heavy burden to bear!”
“He still lives but only just. My King, Husband, Odin, I instructed Loki to use the pathways known to him to take the Captain here to Asgard. Although Eir accompanied me to Midgard they did not have what is needed to save him.”
Odin is shocked to hear that his Queen has ordered the mortal to be cared for on Asgard. “The Midgardians have healers of their own. Surely they are capable of tending to the Captain? Why, my Queen have you opened Asgard to him?”
Frigga rises and takes both of Odin’s hands in hers. “He is unlike any other Midgardian and he is a true Shield Brother to Thor and Loki. He is worthy of my concern and care.”
She can see that Odin is not happy just as when Thor had taken Jane Foster to Asgard after she was infected with the Aether.
Looking into Odin’s eyes, a soft smile on her lips, she continues. “The Captain is special, as a man, as a warrior, as a Leader and as the one who currently hold the heart of our youngest!”
Odin’s eyes widen. This is news to him. No one had said that a Midgardian or anyone wished to court one of Asgard’s Princes.
Seeing her Husband’s reaction Frigga soothes. “Sssh! There will be time for your questions later. It is with a Mother’s eyes that I have seen. Nothing has been said by Loki or Thor. Healing the Captain and Loki is our priority for now.”
“Very well! We will return to this courtship matter later. Are the wounded already in the Healing Chambers?”
“No my King but Loki and the Captain will be here presently. The Captain was unfit to travel by Bifrost.”
“Woman, you make decisions as Queen which you know I may not approve of but do so in a way that I cannot object. It is well that I love you!” Odin mock scowls.
“And better that I love you, you old fool or I would have killed you in your sleep long ago!” With that Frigga places a sweet kiss on her Husband’s lips.
Odin kisses back knowing that it has been with the steadying hand of his Queen that he has been prevented from making greater mistakes than those already done.
A polite cough and a deliberate heavy step announce the coming presence of another. The King and Queen move slightly apart, but remain with an arm around each other, as the Queen’s Lady in waiting moves quickly towards the Royal couple.
Before she has time to bow, Frigga asks, “Have you news of my sons?”
“My King, my Queen, Loki has asked that his Mother come to him immediately. He is at the edge of the woods closest to your garden your Majesty.”
Frigga turns with wet eyes to Odin. “Go to our son, I will send others to your aide.” He says before she says anything further. Frigga steps away from Odin and moments later she appears beside her youngest son.
Loki runs his free hand over Steve’s head and chest, hoping a little more healing magic will ease his breathing. He wishes he had more to offer to the man in his arms.
A bird’s call overhead draws Loki’s attention to the sky. He sees two large Ravens circle above him, Huginn and Muninn. Odin’s ravens mark his location so he knows Heimdall has heard his plea.
Frigga steps closer to her son who looks dead on his feet. A warm hand on his cheek gives him a boost as her magic passes some strength to him.
“How fares the Captain?” she asks as her eyes take in the sleeping man. His skin is mottled with more bruises than when she last saw him.
“I am glad. And you, my son, how are you doing?”
“I will live.”
His Mother places a tender kiss on Loki’s cheek. “I have spoken with your ....” She sees Loki’s eyes close with a lingering deep felt pain so she adds, “King and he awaits us at the Healing Chambers with your Brother and Friend.”
Loki nods but says nothing. While Odin has privately acknowledged Loki as his son once more he has not yet made a formal announcement. He was waiting for the people of Asgard to acknowledge Loki’s role in securing the victory against the Dark Elves. Frigga thinks that once Loki had healed the time has come to do so.
“Loki, take my hand but hold your Captain close.”
Doing as his Mother instructed, Frigga helps him stand just before Eir and several Members of the King’s Personal Guard arrive.
Steve is placed on a stretcher which hovers above the ground. He is quickly but gently moved to the Healing Chambers. In the same way that Frigga helped Loki move in front of the Avengers she does so again. Only the two of them know how weak Loki truly is.
In the private seating area outside the Royal Healing Chambers, Bucky waits with Thor and King Odin. Odin was surprised to see the Midgardian and Thor there as Frigga had not said anything about them. Once Thor explained who Bucky was, and why he was here, Odin smiled pleasantly and formally greeted the Sergeant.
Bucky is more than a little intimidated by the King who oozes power and authority. He imagines Loki and Thor as young boys being chastised by the King and how intimidating that must have been. He thought his own Father was scary but that’s nothing compared to King Odin.
Thankfully Thor told Bucky in advance how to address the King so he hasn’t messed up yet. He wonders what Steve will think once he meets him. After all he is Loki’s Father and it puts the idea of meeting the parents into a whole new context.
When the King’s Guard and Eir arrive with Steve, Bucky gets a brief glimpse at his friend. It looks like he’s sleeping but thankfully still alive.
They are followed closely behind by Queen Frigga and Loki. Whereas Steve looks like he’s sleeping Loki looks like he will collapse at any minute. Thor immediately moves to Loki’s other side and he helps Frigga take him inside the Healing Chamber.
Outside Odin and Bucky exchange looks but do not speak. Bucky doesn’t know what to say to the King ad Odin seems too deep in thought.
Thor comes back out and lets them know that the Healers are working on Steve and Loki has been put into a magically induced rest by Frigga. Bucky asks if he can wait there in the parlour but Odin insists that he and Thor go clean up and then meet him in the family dining hall for something to eat.
Although he knows Bucky would rather stay Thor places a hand on his friend’s should and says, “of course Father, we will re-join you shortly.” With that he steers Bucky out of the room and leads him to guest chambers off his suite of rooms.
A low whistle from Bucky once he sees the size of the rooms makes Thor chuckle. “You are in a palace my friend and a guest of the Crown Prince. If there is anything you need do not hesitate to ask.”
A Valet steps forward at Thor’s request. “This is my Shield Brother, Friend and personal Guest, Sergeant Barnes. Whatever he needs he shall have!”
“Certainly, my Prince!”
“James, Bucky this is Birger, he shall be your personal Valet while you are here. Anything you require, you need only ask and Birger will fetch it for you.”
“Birger, Sergeant Barnes is a guest unaccustomed to our ways. Treat him with respect!” There is a clear command and a slight warning in Thor’s tone.
“As you say so shall it be, Prince Thor.”
Thor leaves to go to his rooms. He calls back, “Bucky, I am next door just around the corner. When you are ready meet me there. No need to make haste the Healers will be some time with our friends.”
Birger suggests a warm bath for Bucky to remove the remains of battle. He nods his head but his sight is already drawn to the view from the balcony. As Birger draws the bath Bucky stands amazed at the sights of Asgard.
“Steve, buddy you need to wake up and see this for yourself.” He says a little prayer to the universe.
Several hours later, which seems like eternity to Bucky, Queen Frigga joins Thor and him in the family’s private parlour. Both men rise as she enters. Now wearing a different gown from the one she wore earlier she looks more at ease and fresher.
Thor is dressed in his usual Asgardian attire. Bucky is also similarly dressed and while the clothes and the flowing tunic felt strange at first he now finds them incredibly comfortable; even the leather pants. He’s beginning to understand why Loki favours them so much.
The Queen’s eyes light up when she sees both men who stand up to greet her. “How blessed am I to have two handsome young men in my parlour!”
She moves gracefully over to them and places a soft kiss on each man’s cheek. The intimate and personal greeting causes Bucky to blush slightly. To receive the same greeting from the Queen as her son means a lot to Bucky.
“Ma’am, Your Majesty!”
“Such a sweet boy!” she says as she smiles at the Soldier. “Retake your seat, there is no need to remain standing.”
Thor chuckles at Bucky’s reaction. “Steve will be sorry to have missed that blush!” He teases.
“Hush Thor, do not embarrass our guest or I will tell tales of you running naked through the halls being chased by the Maids.” Frigga says. Bucky sees the same mischief in her eyes as he has often seen in Loki’s.
“Mother, please!” Thor says as he almost chokes on the mouthful of wine he’s just taken.
“Then behave and I shall not have to ruin your noble reputation!” There is laughter in the Queen’s eyes as she looks fondly at her son.
It’s now Bucky’s turn to laugh as Thor is cowed by his Mother. This is not something he ever expected to see. “Thank you Ma’am but if I may…. How is Steve?” He asks, “Captain Rogers, and Loki?”
Looking from Thor to Bucky, the Queen confirms that while both remain under the Healers’ observation they are now resting. Eir released the pressure on the Captain’s brain and administered medication which should help reduce the swelling. It is important that it is not rushed for in doing so some brain damage may occur.
His punctured lung has also been repaired and the several broken bones in his leg set. The running repairs to his other injuries which Loki had magically attended to, and then boosted by her and Eir, continue to improve.
All bleeding has stopped and internal injuries attended to. His blood pressure is under control but his body took a heavy hit and even with his advanced healing Frigga does not expect him to be fully recovered for a number of weeks.
What she doesn’t tell them is that they nearly lost Steve while he was receiving treatment. As the pressure eased on his swollen brain it became clear that a tiny fragment of his fractured skull had come loose and embedded itself in his brain causing a contusion. Though carefully removed the resulting bleed coupled with the blood loss he had already suffered caused him to go into myocardial infarction or cardiac arrest.
Although he was already in a weakened state Loki’s magic combined with Frigga’s again helped save Steve’s life. Frigga was amazed and proud of her youngest son and of the man who was fighting so hard not to leave Loki.
Taking hold of Bucky’s right hand she adds softly, “Without your Captain’s advanced healing and enhanced body he would not have survived.”
Bucky wipes a small tear from the corner of his eye before he looks up at the Queen. He swallows hard against the lump in his throat. “Without you, your Majesty and Princes Thor and Loki I would have lost my best friend today. I cannot thank you enough for everything you have done.”
“Hush, no words of thanks are necessary. Both you and the Captain are Thor’s Shield Brothers and Loki’s friends. I know Captain Rogers is someone very special to my youngest and as his brother so are you Sergeant Barnes. If I, as Mother and Queen, cannot render assistance to family, who should I assist?”
Bucky looks from Thor to the Queen. "Would it be okay if I sat with him, with them for a while?"
"I am certain Sergeant Barnes that will be acceptable when they have rested further."
Bucky gives a small bow in reply. Almost under his breath he adds, “James, call me James or Bucky”.
“James, I think will fit better than Bucky.” Queen Frigga decides.
Thor raises a brow at the mention of Steve being very special to Loki but says nothing. That is a conversation for Loki to have with their Mother. He’s not surprised that Frigga has seen the way Loki is with Steve and read it for it is. She knows Loki better than anyone else.