Steve awakes on his side to light so golden he thinks he must be dreaming. He is in a cloud of white linens. They do nothing to dispel the dreaming sensation. He feels warm and more comfortable, more relaxed than after any sleep he’s had in over 60 years. Not that he should necessarily count the 55 years he spent frozen in ice, but considering how miserably cold he felt waking up from that ordeal, yeah, he thinks he can.
Smiling, he curls his body into a fetal position enjoying the sensation of the smooth sheets against his skin. All of his skin. Raising an eyebrow, he looks beneath the sheet.
Yep. Naked as the day he was born.
He blinks. And wait, this certainly isn’t his bed. He looks around the room. He seems to be in some sort of castle. The walls are stone lined with shimmering tapestries, and the furniture is too fine to be wrought by human hands.
It looks familiar. Is he in Alfheim, land of the elves?
From behind him comes a half strangled sob.
He freezes, and then he turns over very slowly. Sitting next to him in the bed is a young woman, completely naked. Her head is pressed into slender arms, her delicate knees are pulled nearly to her chin. Raven black hair tumbles in loose waves down her shoulders.
Another half choked sob escapes her lips.
Steve swallows, even though his mouth is going dry. The warmth he felt a few minutes ago turns to a chill. This is not the form he usually sees the woman in, but he does recognize her.
“Um, Loki,” he whispers. “Are you alright?”
Her head spins with inhuman speed. Steve finds himself staring at green eyes made brighter by tears, and a nose still delicate even though it’s puffy from sobbing. Lips turning in a snarl, Loki says, “You made me break my oath! And now you’ve ruined everything!”
And that’s when Steve’s last twenty-four hours come rushing back.
x x x x
Steve was feeling low the afternoon of his 79th birthday. The rest of the Avengers were off chasing down an acid spitting extraterrestrial that suddenly popped up in some happy little town called Sunnyvale out on the West Coast. The town’s resident heroes were off on a vacation with the main hero and her mom, so the Avengers were called in.
Steve stayed behind in New York. The city was holding a special birthday celebration in his honor at the American Museum of Natural History.
Stepping out of the gym shower, he sighed. A party for the relic among the relics.
He would have begged off to go with his team, but he had it on fairly good authority that Doctor Doom was planning an assassination attempt on him tonight. It was a chance to catch Doom, and that’s one reason he was going. The other reason was he can’t show fear to Doom. You can never show fear to your enemies.
Not that he was happy about the situation. He told the party’s hosts about Doom’s plans, of course. They were confident nothing would happen. Too confident, in Steve’s opinion.
He was just putting on his helmet when his cell rang in his ear. Pushing the button to accept, he was greeted with the voice of SHIELD’s resident do-everything-gal, Darcy Lewis.
“Hey, Cap,” Darcy said. “Your date is here.”
“I don’t have a date for tonight,” Steve said.
“Ummm...yeah, well, you tell her that,” said Darcy. Before Steve could reply, Darcy said softly, “I think it’s your frienemy -- but as a girl.”
A few minutes later he was in the reception area, and sure enough there was Loki in his, or rather, her female form. Her hair was pulled back in a neat retro updo, her makeup was natural, not heavy.
She was wearing a beautiful mint green floor length gown. It didn’t dip too much in the front, but it showed enough of deep curves to make it hard for Steve to focus on her eyes. Trying not to stare, he dropped his gaze...and noticed the gown had slits up either side revealing long lean legs. Her shoes reminded him of ballet slippers, and they were in the same mint color as the gown. Nearly as tall as Steve, she didn’t need heels. And those legs -- well, no additional augmentation necessary.
Putting one hand on a hip, Steve rubbed his eyes and then gestured towards her. “I thought we agreed you wouldn’t do this.”
“You need a date,” said Loki. “And I refuse to go as a man.”
“I ummm...actually think that would be hot. You two should totally ditch your latent homophobia and go for it,” said Darcy.
Steve found his jaw going tight but said nothing. Lot’s of people seem to think that he and Loki are gay, and frankly, it’s pretty darn annoying, but he was done fighting it.
Loki apparently was not done fighting. Turning sharply to Darcy, she said, “We are not homophobic. We are simply not homosexuals. What is wrong with your culture that you insist on seeing sex everywhere? Can’t two men go to a nice restaurant occasionally because they enjoy each other’s company and good food?”
“Thank you,” Steve said with a nod to Loki.
“Whatever,” said Darcy.
“You are so base,” said Loki. Suddenly flashing a sunny smile, she said, “However if you and Natasha ever decide to ditch your latent homophobia, Steve and I will be happy to watch. As men.”
“Ahem,” Steve said, feeling his face go very hot. Loki in his male form and Steve had once mused about that very thing, but Darcy didn’t need to know about it...and she really didn’t need to put her finger to her mouth and look upwards like she was actually considering it.
“Okay,” Steve said, “back to the topic at hand.” Forcing himself to look Loki in the eyes, he said, “Last time you were a woman, it made us both very uncomfortable.”
The last time Loki did this, they were in Alfheim on a quest to find the elf kingdom’s missing crown. Loki had turned into a woman because she’s slightly smaller in female form, and it meant they had a little more blanket to share. In the end it had been too difficult for Steve or Loki.
Narrowing her eyes, Loki said, “I intend to hang on you all evening, and I find that prospect rather unappealing in my male form. If it makes you reconsider your vow to abstain from sex until marriage, you’ll just have to deal with it. This is purely an arrangement for my comfort.”
“Wow, you’re like over 70 and still a virgin, Steve?” said Darcy.
He didn’t think the 55 years he spent on ice should really count to that number. Ignoring Darcy, Steve glared at Loki. “What about your oath not to have sex with anyone you wouldn’t just as soon see dead?” Last time Loki was a woman, she’d said Steve actually had her reconsidering that oath.
“I think I’m going now,” said Darcy.
Looking away, Loki said haughtily, “I’m sure that won’t be an issue.”
Steve’s jaw tightened. He was vaguely aware of Darcy scurrying away.
Seeing Loki in that dress had him reconsidering his vow already. Of course he’d been reconsidering that particular vow a lot lately. Ruefully. Being a superhero was putting a damper on his efforts to find a wife. Not having a wife put a crimp in his sex life -- and as innocent and pure as the rest of the team thought he was, he’s wasn’t. Not in mind, at least, even if his deeds had been rather innocuous. And solitary. Sadly, sadly, solitary.
That didn’t matter. Loki was his friend. His best friend in this decade, weirdly enough, even if they were actually sort of maybe on different sides of the law. Sometimes.
It started out when the Avengers first captured Loki and managed to put a magic dampening collar on him. Thor had gone in for what Steve and Tony Stark thought was going to be a tender brotherly reunion full of redemption and forgiveness. Instead, Thor wound up torturing Loki. Steve would have guessed that if he’d read the myths. Centuries ago Thor held Loki down while Loki’s lips were sewn shut, and in the stories he was always threatening to beat the living tar out of Loki, too.
Steve had been beat up plenty of times before the super serum, and he went in and gave Thor a piece of his mind --and fist. Loki and Steve’s friendship had sort of grown from there. There was the episode of doubles of Steve running around robbing banks all over the country, and Loki throwing a knife Steve had given him deep into Steve’s thigh, not to mention the week in an insane asylum in Europe...but Loki had also saved Steve from being the main course at a super villain banquet, and he had taken him to Alfheim, land of the elves, so they were pretty even in Steve’s book.
Since then it’s mostly been shooting hoops at the park, going to bars and restaurants, car shows, technology expos, the occasional movie, and playing World of Warcraft. Neither Loki or Steve really fit in this time or place and it was nice to pal around with someone who was frequently discombobulated.
Which is why Steve was putting his foot down. “No,” he said.
Loki’s eyes narrowed. Taking a step closer to Steve he said, “Doctor Doom is planning to kill you this evening.”
“I know,” Steve said.
Stepping even closer, Loki said, “Doom has a very good plan to kill you. Without my help, you will die.” Moving too fast for Steve to stop her, she grabbed his coat and pulled him so close their lips were nearly touching. “The only super villain allowed to kill you is me, do you understand!”
It was Lokiese for “I love you, Man,” and saying no would be very bad for Steve in ways emotional and possibly physical, so he relented.
They had a great time at Steve’s birthday party. Until Doom tried to kill Steve. Steve would have died without Loki being there to throw up some magical invisible force field. Worse, civilians would have died.
Steve was just stepping over one of Doom’s goons when he looked over and saw Loki pull some knives out of her garter and hurl them at the other super-villain. It made Steve’s heart hurt to see just how deadly Loki was. Since he had wound up nearly the main course at the super-villain feast, he thought that he couldn’t possibly get married, or even date. If a super-villain tried to eat him, what would they do to his future wife, his kids? Granted, there were female super heroes, but not nearly enough to go around. And there was Loki, his best friend. Deadly. Beautiful. Female. Perfect.
With a shout, Steve jumped over a tipped table and shouted, “You’re done, Doom!”
That’s when the pink smoke drifted in.
x x x x
In the bed in Alfheim, Steve rubs his eyes. After the pink smoke, things got a little fuzzy. Steve knows Doom got away. He remembers something about the mayor offering him and Loki a ride home, him and Loki refusing, a walk through Central Park instead, and Steve offering Loki his coat.
He’s pretty sure Loki said no, and then it was Steve’s turn to get mad. He thinks that he told Loki that if Loki got to be a woman, Steve got to treat her like a woman.
He’s not sure who suggested going back to Alfheim, but he’s pretty sure that the party the elves threw for his birthday was a lot bigger than the one in New York. Steve doesn’t get drunk on alcohol, not really since the super serum. But whatever the elves gave him to drink. Heck.
Licking his lips, Steve says, “I made you forget your vow not to sleep with someone you wouldn’t as soon see dead.”
Loki narrows her eyes at him and sniffs.
Biting his lip, Steve pulls himself up to sit beside her. Wiping away a tear, he takes her hand. Her skin is very soft, not like when he’s a man, and for a moment that makes Steve’s body go hot. He almost lets go of Loki, because obviously that isn’t the proper reaction. But that seems wrong, unchivalrous, and Loki is a woman right now, and Steve is a gentleman. Usually.
“But see,” Steve says, “you made me forget my vow to wait until I got married. So we’re even.”
Loki drops her head, black hair spills forward, and it’s all that Steve can do not to push it back, not to kiss her forehead.
“Check your left hand,” Loki says.
Steve looks down. There’s a silver band on his ring finger with odd runes on it. Loki puts her hand on top of his. She has a ring that is nearly identical, just slightly narrower. More feminine.
“Once a marriage is consummated, these rings can’t be removed until one of us dies,” Loki says, her eyes and her voice going soft.
Steve swallows. “Are you sure we...I mean...I know we’re naked but there are other things that we might have been...”
Loki’s eyes narrow again, her lip curls in a not nice way, well, except it kind of is, because it’s her lips, not his lips, and then she hisses. “Your leavings are currently leaking out of me.”
That turns Steve on more than it should. He goes red and he stammers. “That was stupid of me to ask...I’m sorry...I just...I don’t really remember.” He closes his eyes. “Loki, I’m such an ass, I can’t believe I did this to you. I’m so sorry.”
Loki sighs. Steve opens his eyes just in time to see her lovely naked chest heave. Her breasts are so full, pale as porcelain, with small dark nipples that make him think of cherries on top of vanilla ice cream -- which is so wrong. And wanting to lick them right now is really, very, very, wrong. About the only thing that is right is that he is at least still covered from the waist down.
“It’s not your fault,” Loki says. “The smoke Doom created. The elven mead...neither of us were in our right minds.”
Steve squeezes her hand. “That’s not an excuse.”
Bowing her head, Loki says, “No, no, it’s not.” She makes a little choking sobbing sound that nearly breaks Steve’s heart. As it is, he pulls her closer to him, rests his chin on the top of her head, and rubs her back gently. Loki doesn’t cry when he’s a man, but Steve’s heard that those female hormones work a number on women. Heck, they’re working a number on him. He wants to cry now, too.
“Steve,” Loki says, her voice crackling with tears, “I can kill you quickly.”
Steve’s hand freezes on a delicate shoulder blade.
Loki gasps out. “Or if you prefer, I can kill you slowly, so you can savor each and every last dying breath.”
Throwing her head in her hands, she says, “We’ve never really talked about how you want to die! I don’t even know.” Sobs shake through her.
Suddenly realizing what this particular bit of Lokiese means, Steve says, “You think I’d rather die than be married to you.”
Loki’s shoulders still. Lifting her head, she says, “Wouldn’t you?”
He can’t help it, he leans forward and kisses her tiny, red, slightly swollen nose.
“No,” Steve says. “Of course not.” Loki’s got a wobbly moral compass, but she is Steve’s friend, and not without reason. She does have a heart.
Swallowing, Loki almost smiles. “Oh,” she says. Squeezing his hand with her smaller one, she says, “That is truly one of the most touching things anyone has said to me in a very, very, very long time.”
Rubbing her back again, Steve sighs and gives in. Leaning forward, he kisses her forehead. For a second she leans into him and then stiffens.
Steve feels his stomach churn with a terrible thought. Dropping his hand from her back, he pulls away. “Loki, it was my first time and I don’t remember anything! I was terrible, wasn’t I?”
He’s overheard enough conversations between Darcy and Natasha to know what they think of most men in bed. He probably did a pretty good impression of every selfish, clumsy oaf they’ve ever talked about.
Loki says nothing. Which is as good as yes.
“Is being married to me a fate worse than death?” Steve asks.
Loki’s hand goes to Steve’s thigh. “No, no. Last night neither of us were at our best. I was only slightly less affected by the smoke and the mead than you were.”
That doesn’t exactly make Steve feel any better. He looks sideways at her and frowns.
With a sigh, Loki says, “These things...believe me when I say they get better with time, if one’s partner is considerate and willing to try new things -- both of which you are in every other aspect of life. I’m sure with practice you can be a very good lover, Steve.”
The words “with practice” hang in the air as Loki gently smooths the covers above Steve’s thigh. He finds himself watching her hand and licking his lips.
“The rings,” Steve says. “Aside from death, there is really nothing we can do?”
“Nothing,” says Loki.
Steve blinks. “But there is always a loophole...” Loki is the king -- well, queen of finding loopholes.
“Death is the loophole,” says Loki.
“This is a little overwhelming,” says Steve.
“Agreed,” says Loki, her body sagging a little. “I can’t even change back to my male form with this ring on.” She starts to shake. “Or maybe I’m just pregnant again.”
That hits Steve like a bucket of ice cold water, and for a moment he can do nothing but stare down at the white sheets on the bed, his mind a complete blank of terror.
And then it dawns on him how selfish he’s being. If this is hard for him, how hard must it be for Loki? Steve knows Loki prefers her male form. It is, in Loki’s words, “more convenient and stronger”. It is apparently also less prone to tears. And the potential for pregnancy? That has to be frightening. He glances over at her, her arms are wrapped around her legs, her knees nearly at her chin again, and she’s shaking.
Lifting up his arm, but not touching her, he says, “I’m just going to hold you right now, if that’s alright.”
Loki nods and Steve drapes his arm around her. She lays her head on Steve’s shoulder. It isn’t really comfortable sitting up on the bed, so Steve guides them down beneath the covers. As they readjust their bodies, her leg grazes him and he finds his breath hitching. “Sorry,” he manages to gasp out.
“I understand,” says Loki, pressing a kiss to his shoulder that makes heat pool in his core. He swallows.
Loki lays her head at the crook of his arm and he pulls her tight. She feels wonderfully soft against him. He crosses his free arm over their bodies and takes her hand in his.
“So,” he says. “If we can’t do anything about it, maybe we should just make the best of it?” Considering what he did to her last night, that’s probably coming off all wrong. Swallowing, he says, “ I mean...I don’t mean...well, whatever you want to make of it, I can go along with.” He’s made his bed and he’ll lie in it. Even if it means a life of celibacy. He struggles not to wince.
Loki lifts her head. Steve turns his eyes to hers. For a moment they just stare at one another and then Loki leans forward and kisses Steve on the lips, light and soft. Steve may not have experience with sex, but he does have experience with this. When he feels the gentle push of her tongue, he opens his mouth and gently sucks the tip. She pulls back a little and he pushes forward a bit, slips his tongue between her lips but doesn’t go any further than she did. They go back and forth like this -- Loki going a little further every time, Steve following, but not pushing, until they’re both out of breath and Loki pulls back.
Steve’s gasping, and his brain is a fog of everything but his sudden desire to pull her completely on top of him, to feel the press of her against him -- and then he sees her face. She’s frowning.
Swallowing, he pushes back a renegade lock of hair. “What?” he whispers.
Licking her lips, she says, “My oath.”
Ah. Her oath not to sleep with someone she wouldn’t as soon see dead. For someone known as a liar, Loki takes oaths rather seriously.
“Well,” says Steve, “didn’t you say you were the only super-villain allowed to kill me? That has to count towards something.”
Loki looks down. Softly, as though confessing something horrible, she says, “I saw that as more of a right than an obligation.”
Steve purses his lips, scowls, and then is hit with an inspiration. He pulls the bed covers off of them and slips his arm out from under her. Lying down on his side, he pulls her up so she is on her side facing him, their bodies not touching. He’s painfully hard, and he knows she can see that. He lets his eyes wander down her body -- and makes sure she sees that, too.
Reddening a little and looking down at his hands he says, “Loki, I’m sure one way or another, you’re bound to be the death of me...if that makes you feel any better.”
Her body shifts, and her hips almost graze him again. Swallowing, he dares to look at her face.
A smirk he’s very familiar with when Loki’s in her male form greets him. It’s pretty sexy on a feminine mouth. “Actually,” she says, licking her lips, “yes, that does make me feel better.”
Steve lets out a breath. There are so many things they have to figure out. The whole opposite sides of the law thing. The Loki may be pregnant thing. The fact that he suddenly wants to kill Thor -- he wanted to before but now...he puts a possessive hand on her hip. She shivers at his touch.
He’s terrified. But he’s never given in to fear before.
And so now, for the moment...he places a light kiss on her lips and she reciprocates and then deepens it. For the moment they just need to get used to being like this together. There are things they can do that won’t risk pregnancy and will probably redeem him for being a selfish, clumsy, oaf, if he can get it right...and he’s pretty sure he will get it right, that they’ll get it right. They have to, and they will. With time, and practice.
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