Chapter 1: Steve Rogers vs Human Resources
To: Captain Steven G Rogers
From: Human Resource Manager Dolores Jenson
RE: Cynthia Brennen
Captain Rogers, I am in receipt of your request to reassign Ms. Brennen. Your request has been approved and a new assistant will be assigned immediately.
Human Resource Manager
To: Dolores Jenson
From: Steve Rogers
RE: My assistant
Thank you for confirming Cynthia’s reassignment. I want to reiterate that my request is in no way a reflection upon her work ethic. Since I am not actually in need of an assistant, I feel her skills would be put to better use elsewhere within the organization.
As I have no need for an assistant, there is no need to assign a new one.
Steven G. Rogers
To: Captain Steven G Rogers
From: Human Resource Manager Dolores Jenson
RE: Your assistant
The decision to assign you an assistant was relayed from Director Fury’s office directly. Your new assistant will report to your office at 8:00 AM tomorrow morning.
Human Resource Manager
To: Dolores Jenson
From: Steve Rogers
RE: My assistant
I understand that Director Fury may have initially made an allowance for an assistant if I needed one. However, since that is not the case, there is no need to assign a replacement. I’m sure the Director will agree with me on this matter.
Steven G. Rogers
To: Captain Steven G Rogers
From: Human Resource Manager Dolores Jenson
RE: Your assistant
Your new assistant will report to your office at 8:00AM.
Human Resource Manager
Steve sighs as he sits back heavily in his desk chair. He runs both hands through his hair, resisting the urge to tug at it in his frustration. “Ridiculous,” he snaps at the empty room.
When he jerks to his feet his chair rolls back and slams into the wall behind his desk, making a horizontal dent. He feels bad for a moment, but when his eyes land on the email still displayed on his computer screen, he can’t bring himself to care all that much. He had tried going down to Human Resources to talk to Dolores directly, but was told that she was in meetings all day and that he should have his assistant make an appointment for him. Which of course, irritated him even more.
He could almost swear that the secretary was smirking when he left.
Director Fury’s office is eight floors up and that is where Steve heads next. He’ll talk to Fury, get this straightened out and then he can go back to doing…nothing really. But Steve doesn’t care, as long as he doesn’t have an assistant lurking over his shoulder, trying to be helpful all the time.
Sure, it was nice to have Cynthia show him how to turn on the computer and use some of the stuff on it, but that had taken all of three days. He appreciated her showing him where the lunch room was and the on site gym, but really, he could have figured that out on his own.
Steve jabs a finger at the button to call the elevator to his floor and tries not to glare at the people rushing back and forth in the hallway in his irritation. As soon as the elevator doors slide open, Steve steps in and comes face to face with a dark haired man who smiles entirely too brightly at him in his opinion. He has only a moment to glance at the panel and see that the floor he wants is already lit up.
“Captain Rogers!” The man shoves his hand out and Steve shakes it on reflex. “Agent Coulson. It’s such a pleasure to meet you.”
Pursing his lips together, Steve forces a smile on his face before looking down at where the Agent is still enthusiastically shaking his hand. “Thank you.”
“Sorry,” he says, pulling his hand back. The agent pauses, looking down at his feet, taking a few deep breaths.
Steve makes a concerted effort to look at anything other than Agent Coulson, not really in the mood to hold a conversation. His eyes dart between the steel gray of the walls, the faux wood on the floor and the inexplicably mirrored ceiling.
“I watched you while you were sleeping,” the Agent blurts out and then winces when he realizes what he said. “I mean I watched over you when you came out of the ice while we were waiting for you to wake up.”
The smile that Steve is able to dredge up is awkward and painful and he knows it, but he can’t seem to do any better. He figures it’s fitting anyway, for the way this conversation is going.
“So where’s your assistant?”
At this point, Steve understands that he is not going to get out this elevator unscathed.
Coulson frowns. “When do you get your new one?”
“Actually, I’m on my way to talk to the Director about that. Seems like an awful waste of personnel since I don’t actually need or want an assistant.”
“Oh.” The agent's face does this weird thing that Steve has trouble reading. Concern? Sympathy? Maybe he bit his tongue? Who knows.
Before he can think about it anymore the elevator dings and the doors open. Coulson sweeps his hand out towards the hallway. “After you, Captain.”
Steve nods politely before exiting the elevator and heading down the hallway to the Director’s office. Sitting at her desk, Fury’s secretary looks up from her computer and grins. Steve tries to ignore the way her eyes run over him and resists the urge to shrink in on himself and cover his body. He recognizes that look from his days selling war bonds. It was usually followed up with one of the girls on the tour finding their way into his room at night, or some wealthy widow pawing at him. He doesn’t like it anymore now than he did then.
“Captain Rogers! How nice to see you. What can I help you with?”
“I’m here to see Directory Fury.” He tries to keep his voice pleasant, to match the one that the chipper blonde at the desk is using. The placard on her desk declares her name to be Clarissa.
“Great!” She replies enthusiastically as she begins clicking away at the computer in front of her.
Her smile falters as she furrows her brow at something on the screen. Steve isn’t stupid enough to think it’s anything but false. “I don’t see you on his calendar. Do you have an appointment?”
Steve takes a breath and clamps down on the smart ass reply that tries to jump out of his mouth.
He was raised better than to talk to a lady like that. “No. I’m afraid I don’t.” He adds a little self depreciating smile in for good measure. “But I only need a moment of his time.”
Clarissa flashes her too bright smile again. “Well that’s not a problem. Just go ahead and ask your assistant to schedule something and we’ll get you in at the Directors earliest convenience.”
“Why can’t I just see him now?” Steve asks the question, even though he already knows it’s pointless. He isn’t getting in to see Fury anytime soon.
This time the look on Clarissa’s face turns stern, like she is scolding a particularly stubborn child. And that’s a look Steve is very familiar with from his childhood. He’d almost feel nostalgic, if he wasn’t on the verge of screaming. “Because the Director is currently in a meeting and his schedule is booked solid for the next two weeks.”
“So if something comes up, like an emergency, no one can see Fury? Not unless they schedule an appointment two weeks ahead of time?” Steve is practically fuming as he stands to his full height, putting every ounce of authority in his stance and his voice.
“Are you having an emergency Captain Rogers?”
Yes, I’m having an emergency! This place is utterly ridiculous. He doesn’t say that. Instead he pulls up the fakest, sassiest smile from his repertoire and tells her, “No of course not. Everything is fine. I would just like to see the Director.”
“I understand.” She almost sounds sympathetic, but Steve isn’t fooled. Not for a second. “Have your assistant set something up and we’ll get you in as soon as possible.”
He has to shove his hands in his pockets as he walks away to keep himself from making any inappropriate gestures.
The knock on his office door comes promptly at 8:00am. After a perfunctory introduction, Steve gets right to business.
“I need to schedule an appointment to see Director Fury.”
“Certainly Captain Rogers.” His new assistant Susan starts tapping away at the tablet she brought in with her. “What day would you like? It looks there is an opening for 2pm a week from Thursday, 10am two weeks from Wednesday, or Friday at 7am that same week.”
“There isn’t anything sooner? I only need five minutes of his time.”
Susan looks decidedly uncomfortable as her eyes shift between the screen and Steve. “The only other time is this Friday-“
“Great! I’ll take it.”
“-but you have a mandatory meeting with the staff psychologist.” She has the good sense to wince when she tells him this, but it doesn’t really help.
“I have a what now?” He doesn’t mean to snap at her, but he’s starting to wonder if irritation is just going to be his state of affairs from now on.
“An appointment with the psychologist.” Susan’s voice has lost the air of confidence it had when she first walked into his office and now she looks downright intimidated. It's not his intention to make her feel that way. He's just so frustrated.
“To, uh, discuss your mental state.” She takes a hesitant step backwards at the look on Steve’s face. “It’s standard procedure for someone who has experienced a traumatic event. And your special circumstances…” She trails off, averting her eyes. Which means she misses the scowl that creeps over Steve’s features before he is able to get it under control.
“Reschedule it,” he tells her bluntly.
“I can’t.” She truly looks apologetic, but right now Steve doesn’t care. “Its mandatory.”
Deep breath, take a deep breath. Steve reminds himself that this isn’t her fault. “Who made it mandatory?”
“Director Fury did, Sir.”
Of course he did. “What happens if I don’t show up?”
“You have to. It’s-”
“Mandatory. Yes I know.” Steve cuts her off, figuring he isn’t going to get anywhere with this. “Why don’t you show me how to work the scheduling system that way I don’t have to bother you with it?”
Susan straightens her shoulders and gives him a defiant look. Which under different circumstances he probably would have liked. But in this moment he is having trouble controlling his impulse to lash out. Briefly, he wonders if he might actually benefit from seeing the psychologist, if only to learn a few calming techniques. He'll leave that for another day though. One where his stubborn nature isn't winning out against the easy going facade he's been trying to maintain since waking up in this hellhole of a future.
“Scheduling your appointments is one of my job duties. There is no need for you to learn that.”
A creaking sound alerts Steve to the fact that he is gripping the edge of his desk so hard the cheap wood is close to cracking. He makes an effort to relax his hand before responding. “You’re my assistant correct?” He doesn’t wait for an answer. “You can assist me by showing me how me how to schedule my own appointments.” He adds a smile that he’s sure doesn’t quite come across as friendly, especially given the way Susan blanches at him.
But still she is resilient. Again, a trait he would have found attractive under different circumstances, but right now only finds infuriating. “I assure you, that is not necessary. However, I have prepared a list of activities to assist you with. We can start working on those.”
Something about that bothers Steve. “Let me see the list.”
To: Dolores Jenson
From: Steve Rogers
RE: My assistant
I am requesting an immediate reassignment of my assistant Susan Chambers. I do not believe she is a good fit.
As I have stated previously, I have no need for an assistant, there is no need to assign a new one.
Steven G. Rogers
To: Captain Steven G Rogers
From: Human Resource Manager Dolores Jenson
RE: your assistant
Captain Rogers, I am in receipt of your request to reassign Ms. Chambers. Ms. Chambers has already submitted a request for immediate transfer, for similar reasons. The request has been granted.
I will reiterate that the request to assign you an assistant comes directly from Director Fury. If you have questions regarding this issue, please take it up with his office.
Your new assistant will report to your office at 8:00am tomorrow morning.
Human Resource Manager
Jeremy Scott. That’s the new guys name. Steve hates him.
Maybe hate is a strong word, but Steve is hard pressed to come up with an alternative. He’s condescending and rude. Just being in his presence sets Steve’s teeth on edge. But it’s not like he has a lot of options. Doesn’t make it any easier to accept though.
He spent the first part of the day getting lectured on where he should be buying his morning coffee, as though it makes a difference if he buys it at the corner mom and pop diner versus the place on every corner with a big green mermaid on the outside. And on the wall inside. And the cups.
The worst part is, he can’t even order a large black coffee without the teenage kid behind the counter making sad faces at him. Like he’s some old man that doesn’t understand how shiny new technology works. It shouldn’t be this hard. Steve also hates the way those sad looks make him consider the idea that maybe he is, in fact, an old man who doesn't understand. But it’s just coffee. How hard can it be?
Except according to Jeremy it’s not just coffee, which he fully over explained in front of “Connery” behind the register and the ten or so scattered people in the store. Steve just wanted a cup of coffee. Nothing fancy. No whipped anything, no pumpkin spice, no caramel, double, single or triple shots of anything. Nothing. Just coffee.
When he finally, FINALLY, gets what is supposed to be the equivalent of a large black coffee, his face is red with embarrassment and to add insult to injury, it isn’t even good. But for the price, Steve will choke it down if it’s the last thing he does.
As he makes his way towards the door, with his overpriced and almost undrinkable coffee he is stopped by Jeremy.
“Where are you going?”
“Um, out...there.” Steve points helpfully towards the door, just wanting to escape the hell that is Starbucks. He has his sketchbook and pencils in his bag and is planning on going to the park to enjoy the sunshine. But apparently Jeremy has other ideas as he sits at a high table and stares at Steve until the blond reluctantly backs away from the door, taking the chair across from him.
“Do you know how to hook up to public wifi?”
Steve knows what wifi is. Sort of.
The look on his face must answer Jeremy’s question because the man reaches his hand out for Steve’s bag. “Give me your laptop.”
The blond tries not to let Jeremy’s tone get to him, he’s already had enough embarrassment in Starbucks today and indulging in any of the various scenarios running through his head to shut the man up right now, won’t make it any better. Even if they are satisfying to think about.
"Where's your laptop?" Jeremy asks. Steve hates the way he manages to sound like he's disappointed in him. As though Steve isn't a grown adult who doesn't need to prove himself to anyone. Except apparently Jeremy, Connery behind the counter, and everyone else in this hell of a coffee shop. "Why do you have a laptop bag with no laptop? What even is all this?"
Jeremy has the bag open and Steve's sketchbook out on the table. He pulls out the little box with his pencils and charcoal, rolling his eyes when he opens it. "This is what you carry around all day?"
Steve can feel his face heat up. He tries to tell himself that it doesn't matter what Jeremy or these complete strangers think, but God it's hard. He slides the book and pencils back in his bag and walks out of the shop leaving his disgusting overpriced coffee behind.
Avoiding Jeremy doesn’t seem to be an option either. Steve goes to the gym, he’s there. The cafeteria, he’s there. Outside for fresh air, the deli down the street and the bathroom. He’s there like a shadow. But one that talks and drives Steve up the wall.
Steve tries though. He’s hoping that if he plays well with others Fury may give him something to do other than catching up on events between WWII and now. Because while some of it is interesting, a lot of it is frankly horrifying. But there are some things that are good, amazing in fact.
“I can’t believe that actually passed. Won’t last though. Gay marriage should never have been legalized.”
Steve bristles behind his desk and closes out the page he had been reading on his computer. Jeremy has been sitting across from him for the past two hours, working on his tablet, not saying a thing while Steve read.
“You’re monitoring what I’m looking at?” Steve asks trying to keep his temper from flaring.
“It’s my job.” The way he says it, like Steve is some kind of child that needs things explained slowly pushes Steve just a little bit closer to the edge.
“I don’t think it’s your job to invade my privacy like that,” Steve snarls.
There’s a glint in Jeremy’s eye. The same type that used to start with Steve picking a fight with a bully and ended with him nursing a black eye in an alley. “What? You afraid we might find out all those rumors about you and your old pal Bucky are true?”
This time he doesn't send an email. This time he marches straight into human resources, storms right past the secretary and pounds on the door with the gold name plate declaring that it belongs to Dolores Jenson, Human Resource Manager.
And of course she isn't there.
Doesn't matter. Steve's got nothing but time so he settles in to wait as long as it takes.
Turns out it takes two hours. Probably wouldn't have been that long except he's pretty sure the secretary warned Dolores that Steve was camped out in front of her office, with a scowl on his face that could melt the hideous mint green paint off the walls. If the serum had given him that power.
“Loki!” Thor’s booming voice echoes across the library where Loki has sought out refuge from his boisterous brother.
He contemplates simply disappearing. Just as he has the last four times Thor found him. Ultimately, he decides to stay and hear his brother out, even though he’s fairly certain he already knows what Thor wants.
“Loki, I’m bored,” Thor whines as he grabs the book out of Loki’s hands, before dropping heavily down into a chair.
“I’m sorry?” He phrases it as a question, hoping to convey the fact that he doesn’t care about the status of Thor’s entertainment level.
Thor starts to page through the book, trying hard to act casual. Loki isn’t fooled. He already knows what his brother wants. It’s the same thing every time. He only has to wait until Thor’s patience runs out, which Loki knows won’t be very long.
“We should go on an adventure!” Thor announces, slamming the book closed as though the thought has just occurred to him.
Loki would roll his eyes, but he has a feeling that level of subtlety would be lost on Thor. Instead, he says, “I believe that would be ill advised. Our last ‘adventure’ ended up causing an incident on Vanaheim.”
He chooses not to remind Thor that the incident was a result of his rather amorous advances upon a young noblewoman. The fact that his advances were enthusiastically returned was apparently irrelevant to her father. As was the brothers' royal status. It was only thanks to Loki’s quick thinking and negotiating skills that got them out of there without the Allfather finding out.
The dark haired god has absolutely no desire to be dragged around on another one of Thor’s quests to find a fight or a fuck. But, perhaps he can find a way to end this quickly and without the usual drama that seems to follow in Thor’s wake.
Standing up from his chair, Loki picks up the book Thor has discarded and with a simple hand gesture it vanishes, safely stored away for later. “I’ll go, but on one condition.” It’s almost too easy, the way Thor perks up like a hopeful child, expecting a treat. “I get to choose where we go.”
“Of course! Anywhere you want.”
Loki reaches out and grabs Thor’s arm, pulling him through space. They revert in a narrow spot between two buildings. The walls are grimy, the ground littered with trash. They are immediately assaulted by a plethora of sounds and smells. About twenty feet away a stream of people rush by. Loki watches the people for a few seconds before changing both of their clothes to something that will blend in with the locals.
He strides forward in his fitted black suit and joins the mass of people. Thor grabs the umbrella leaning against his leg and then trails behind Loki after a quick glance down at the faded baggy jeans, t-shirt and hooded jacket his brother has dressed him in.
“Loki! Wait!” Thor jogs after his brother, catching up to him easily. “Midgard? Why bring us to Midgard?”
He almost sounds like he is whining and that pleases Loki, knowing that Thor will get bored quickly. And the faster that happens, the faster he can go home and delve further into the new spell book he had found.
“You said I could choose the place,” Loki points out with a barely suppressed smile. “And I chose Midgard.”
Thor frowns, giving his best impression of a kicked puppy. “Yes but, Midgard is just so…so…boring. Nothing fun ever happens here.”
Loki flashes his brother his best perplexed look. “How can you say that? Don’t you remember all of those great battles you fought in?” Or started, he doesn’t add. “How can you say you haven’t enjoyed Midgard over the centuries?”
A smile creeps over Thor’s features and Loki can tell that the blond is likely thinking about the many maidens who went so willingly to his bed in order to show their gratitude for saving their village, or some other such nonsense.
“Perhaps I am being too hasty in dismissing Midgard,” Thor says as his eyes flick around the street. “The technology has certainly advanced since we were last here.”
Loki rolls his eyes and continues along the sidewalk. The masses of people veer around the brothers, completely oblivious to the subtle suggestion Loki gives them. If Frigga were there he is sure she would tell him that is a misuse of his abilities, but she’s not and even though being here is Loki's idea, he has no desire to be pressed against a bunch of mortals as they rush about.
“I told you to keep your feet off the table,” Loki remarks lowly, not looking up from where he is hunched over an ancient looking text.
The sigh that he gets in return is only slightly moderated for the atmosphere.
Tap. Tap. Tap tap tap. Tap!
“Stop it!” Loki reaches a hand out to snatch Thor’s umbrella away to stop him from making that infernal tapping sound, but pulls back at the last moment. “This is a library, show some respect,” he hisses instead, trying to hide his chagrin in knowing that he will not be able to wield Mjolnir, even as an innocuous umbrella.
And of course Thor notices. Of course he does. Loki mentally braces himself for the inevitable grating jokes at his expense. Surprisingly, they don’t come. Instead, Thor goes back to whining.
“You said we were going on an adventure to Midgard.”
“And we are on Midgard,” Loki responds, using the best approximation of Frigga’s soothing tone that he can muster.
“But this is a library. There are no adventures to be had here.” Before Loki can say anything, Thor continues, “and don’t tell me there are adventures to be had within these books! I will not fall for that again!”
Loki carefully closes the text he has been reading and sits back to look at his brother. He has no desire to engage in any adventuring, but he did imply that was the reason he brought Thor to Midgard. Even if his true reason was to get a look at the text currently sitting on the table before him, he doesn’t really have any other excuse for at least appearing to indulge Thor.
With a wave of his hand, he vanishes the book for safe keeping so he can read it later then stands, twisting his back to work out the kinks from being hunched over the table for so long.
“Alright, let’s go see what we can find.”
Thor looks so eager, that for just a moment Loki feels a little bad, but he quickly reminds himself of the loss of his favorite dagger on Thor’s last ill conceived adventure and he gets over it pretty quickly. Back out on the street Loki turns to the right and wanders down the sidewalk looking for a likely spot for lunch, figuring good food always placates Thor.
This time Steve has a plan. When 8:00am rolls around, he simply isn’t in his office. Instead he's down at the gym hitting the punching bag.
He knows avoidance isn’t a great strategy and that it won’t last long, but he’s still surprised and a little dismayed by how quickly he is found.
It’s a nice voice. Deep and smooth. Too bad it also sounds entirely put out. Steve is a little curious to turn around and see the person attached to that voice. Instead, he continues to pummel the heavy bag in front of him.
Steve jerks, forgetting his form as his right fist jabs out followed by a sharp left. The bag sways and the chain it’s hanging by groans ominously. He stops, hands on his hips, head down, taking a breath to calm himself before he finally turns around.
“Captain Rogers. My name is David Crawford and I am your new assistant.”
There is a beat while Steve just looks at David. He could say something. In fact, he should say something, but he doesn’t. He waits. He waits with his hands on his hips, one eyebrow crooked in challenge, curious to see how long it will take… apparently, not very long.
“Captain Rogers. It is my job-“
“To assist me. Yeah. I know.”
Steve spins suddenly and kicks the heavy bag, sending it flying off the chain. It lands with a satisfying thump. A completely unnecessary show of strength, but the brief flash of alarm on David's face was totally worth it.
“You can start by putting this away.” He gestures to the heavy bag on the floor.
He knows he’s being rude. He knows it’s not David’s fault that they keep sending him people. So he considers reigning in his attitude. Just a little. He doesn’t, but that’s not the point.
“I plan on going for a run. So I won’t be needing you for at least another two hours.” He smiles, but doesn’t put too much effort into making it sincere. “You're welcome to come with me,” he adds, just to satisfy the petty part of himself.
Steve is rewarded with a flicker of irritation, followed by a flash of anger, before David’s features settle on a look that is entirely, falsely bland.
“No thank you.”
David looks down at the tablet in his hands, tapping out a few things with his finger. The little smirk that comes over his face causes Steve's stomach to twinge unpleasantly.
“You go ahead and enjoy your run, Captain Rogers.”
His run does not settle his mind like he hoped it would. Too many people to dodge, too much noise. And it quickly occurs to him that running full speed like he wants to do, will only attract unwanted attention. The world doesn’t know Captain America is miraculously back from the dead, and he’d really like to keep it that way. He has no desire to be put back in a pair of tights so he can pull out the dancing monkey routine.
Steve is still a block away from the Triskelion when he spots David. The dark haired man is looking directly at him even though the blond is surrounded by throngs of people rushing about with their daily business. And that bothers him, probably more than it should. But Steve has learned to trust his instincts about these kinds of things.
“Loki! Look who it is!” The dark haired god raises an eyebrow in question, obviously not recognizing the buxom brunette Thor has his arm draped around. “Its, ah... what was your name again?”
Loki almost laughs, but he focuses on the wolfish grin on the woman’s face. She doesn’t care that Thor doesn’t know her name. And while his brother has never been one to concern himself over such details in his bed partners, Loki likes to think of himself as having more discerning taste.
He supposes she is pretty, in her own way, but his preferences tend more towards the masculine, with only a few women ever having caught and held his attention long enough to mean anything.
This woman does not fall into that category. Which is hardly relevant as she seems to be fully enamored with the force of nature that is Thor Odinson. Loki already knows where this is going. He resigns himself to a night alone, while Thor defiles not only that admittedly willing woman, but also every surface in their shared hotel suite.
Sure, he could shut the door between the rooms, but frankly, Thor is loud. And Loki really doesn’t feel like hearing the actual events when he already knows his brother will regale him with a detailed retelling the next morning over breakfast.
Luckily finding another hotel to spend the night isn't much of an issue for Loki, and the promise of a good night's sleep is more than enough to outweigh the hassle.
Much to Loki’s dismay, when he gets back to his own hotel, he is pretty sure Thor’s bedmate is still in his room, if the animal like noises seeping through the walls are anything to go by. It looks like he is in for a quiet breakfast. Somewhere else.
It’s a nice day, sunny and not too warm. Pleasant enough that Loki decides to get breakfast and take it to go.
The park bench he finds himself on offers a decent view of the small lake, a passable amount of privacy and an incredible opportunity to watch the tall muscular blond that is on his sixth circuit around the water's edge.
Loki watches the blond circle around again, admiring the view both coming and going. And there is so very much to look at. But being stupidly handsome and incredibly well built isn’t quite enough to hold the god of mischief’s attention for more than a few minutes. What really has Loki’s undivided attention is the way the blond puts on a burst of speed when ever he reaches the southernmost side of the lake. Right at the spot where he is almost completely out of view from the rest of the park.
A few more laps around, and Loki is convinced of two important things. The first is that this man is definitely more than just human. And the second is that Loki needs to find out more about him. Purely to satisfy his curiosity, not because he's attracted to the man. Not one bit.
Steve glances at his phone and then turns his attention back to the book in his hand. It's been ringing for the past ten minutes and he's been ignoring it for just as long. He already knows who it is. Caller I.D. is one thing he can definitively say he likes about the future. That and the food.
When David reminded him the day before about his appointment with the psychologist, Steve had nodded his head and told David that he remembered with a smile. His assistant really should have known better.
He can easily ignore the phone, but the knock on his apartment door? Not so much. Sighing, Steve gets up and mentally prepares himself for the confrontation he knows is coming. Before he opens it, he plasters on his most innocent look. The one that used to get him out of trouble with Bucky all the time.
The door is barely open a few inches before a hand reaches out and pushes it open further. “Captain Rogers. You’re a hard man to track down,” Fury says as he breezes past Steve. It’s a lie, Steve's pretty sure of that.
Steve can see David standing in the hallway and decisively shuts the door in his face. It’s petty, Steve knows it. He just doesn’t care.
He turns his attention back to Fury. “You didn’t seem to have any trouble finding me.” Steve leans against the wall and crosses his arms over his chest.
Fury just stares at him and if Steve actually cared, he would possibly be intimidated by it. But he doesn’t. So he’s not.
“You missed your appointment with the psychologist, Captain.”
“Something came up,” Steve lies as he fights to keep a straight face. He knows he shouldn’t find this amusing, but he can’t help it. After all his frustration, if feels good to rile Fury up a little.
“Something came up that was more important than your mandatory meeting with the staff psychologist?”
It’s so hard for Steve not to react to the look on Fury’s face. He has to pinch himself to keep from smirking.
“David has rescheduled your appointment for later this afternoon. Do. Not. Miss. It.”
Fury turns to leave, but Steve intersperses himself between the Director and the door. “Actually, I wanted to talk to you about that.”
The only reaction he gets is a raised eyebrow. “I don’t really need an assistant.” The eyebrow stays raised. “I was told it was your call and I’ve been trying to meet with you to talk about it.”
That earns him a large smile with too many teeth. “Why didn’t you say so? All you had to do was have your assistant schedule a meeting.”
So that’s the game we’re playing . “Well Sir, it seems like I did a fine job of getting a meeting with you on my own.”
The smile falls and Fury scowls at him. “Just be at your appointment.”
He still has to see the psychologist and he is still stuck with an assistant, but Steve decides to think of this encounter as a win. If only because of the way he clearly irritated the Director. He watches Fury leave and then turns to David. “Schedule an appointment with Fury. The soonest he has available.”
The look that passes over David’s face comes and goes too fast for Steve to decipher it. “Is there an issue?” Steve asks.
“Um… look I didn’t want to say anything, but your other assistants weren’t reassigned.”
Steve can feel his stomach sinking, but surely SHIELD wouldn’t…
“Pulling this assignment is a sure fire way to end your career.” David looks apologetic and gives a strained smile as though trying to lessen the blow.
“You can’t be serious.” Steve really hopes he isn’t serious. But he can’t take that chance. “I’m going to talk to HR. They can’t do that.”
“No!” David’s hand shoots out to grasp at Steve’s arm. “You can’t. I shouldn’t have told you that. If they find out, they’ll get rid of me too. And I need this job.” The pleading tone in his voice is enough to make Steve back down. For now.
To: Dolores Jenson
From: Steve Rogers
RE: Cynthia Brennen
Can you please tell me what department Ms. Brennen is currently assigned to? I found something of hers in my desk and would like to return it.
Steven G. Rogers
To: Captain Steven G Rogers
From: Human Resource Manager Dolores Jenson
RE: Cynthia Brennen
Ms. Brennen was promoted and is currently assigned to the records department located on the third floor.
Human Resource Manager
Steve steps off the elevator on the third floor and strides up to the young lady at the reception desk.
“Good morning. I’m looking for Cynthia Brennen.” He flashes his sweetest smile, the one that used to get him out of trouble with his Ma all the time when he was younger.
“Of course. If you’ll just have a seat, I’ll ask her to come up front.” The receptionist gives him a quick look up and down and Steve has to resist the urge to cross his arms in front of his body.
Luckily he doesn't have to wait long. "Captain Rogers. What can I do for you?" Cynthia is all polite smiles and professional attitude.
He quickly explains what he needs while Cynthia listens attentively. And is relieved when she doesn't ask why. He figured asking HR about one assistant that he actually liked wasn't too suspicious, but asking about three was probably pushing his luck.
"Congratulations on the promotion. You deserve it," he tells her as he heads towards the elevator.
It is only a matter of hours before Cynthia gets back to him.
To: Captain Steven G Rogers
From: Cynthia Brennan Records Department
Susan Chambers is with the data analysis department.
Jeremy Scott is assigned to Agent Brock Rumlow’s team.
Steve pushes back from his desk slowly. Getting angry isn’t going to help matters. He can be angry later, at home. Right now he needs to think about how to use this information.
The morning air is crisp with only a mild chill. It feels good against Steve’s skin as he runs. After spending a chunk of his evening thinking about what to do with David, Steve was no closer to a solution that didn’t involve some type of bodily harm. And while that was entertaining to think about, it isn’t really an option.
He spends the next hour enjoying the simple sensation of his lungs expanding and contracting with each breath, the warmth of his muscles as they flex and move and the way his brain quiets, allowing him brief moments of peace.
The shrill tone that comes from his pocket catches him off guard and it takes him a second to recognize it as the emergency ringer on his SHIELD issue phone.
“Rogers,” he answers.
“We’ve got a situation Cap. First American Bank. I’m sending you the address. Several hostiles, possibly as many as a dozen, unknown origin or affiliation. Reports suggest they may be enhanced. There are civilians in the building.” Fury’s voice is as calm as ever.
“Back up?” Steve asks.
“I’m sending in a strike team, lead by Rumlow, but you’re closer.”
That bothers Steve, but he pushes that thought aside for now. He’ll worry about how they're tracking him another time.
“I’ll need to get my shield.”
“David will get it and meet you on site.”
Steve frowns and hopes that Fury isn’t about to say what he thinks he is because the thought of SHIELD having access to his home makes his skin crawl. “It’s at my apartment.”
But he does. “We know. David will get it and meet you on site.”
Steve clutches his shield close to his chest. He had forgotten how much he hates this part. That isn’t to say that he enjoys any of it, but this part, the aftermath is always the worst, when the adrenaline drops and you have to face reality.
The bank is almost a total loss, but he couldn’t care less about that. It can be rebuilt. The part he hates are the sounds of the innocent. That is what makes him feel like a hole has been ripped in his chest. Makes him feel like he failed. The twenty seven lives he saved are overshadowed by the one that he didn’t. It hurts. It always does. And it always will.
He finds David leaning against a wall. There is blood on his hands and down his pant leg. “You alright?” Steve asks as he approaches. He keeps his voice low and calming. He's seen this look before, even if it has been almost seventy years.
David doesn't answer so Steve leans against the wall next to him. "When I was seventeen, I had this job at the local grocery store. Mostly just cleaned up in the evenings before closing. Pulled out the fruits and vegetables that were turning. It wasn't much, just a few hours a week, but I liked it well enough. And we needed the money, me and my Ma."
Steve glances over at David who has pulled some tissue from somewhere and started trying to wipe the blood off his hands.
"It was a Tuesday and the owner, Mr. Richards, was counting down the cash drawer. I was in the back finishing up so I didn't hear a thing, but when I came out front, Mr. Richards was laying on the ground, bleeding from his stomach and the cash was gone. He died before anyone could get there to help.
"That was the first time I saw someone die." Steve looks down at his own hands. He can still picture the way they shook, covered in Mr. Richards blood. "I blamed myself for a long time. If only I had been with him. If I had heard something. If I had been able to stop the bleeding. Anything. It took a lot of years for me to finally accept that there was nothing I could have done to change what happened that day. It took an even longer time to understand that as hard as I try I can't save everyone. Doesn't make it any easier or hurt any less though."
"How did you get over it? Your boss?" David finally asks as he gives up cleaning his hands.
"I don't think I ever really got over it. You just have to keep going and hope that maybe next time…"
David looks at Steve and asks, "does it get easier?"
He wishes he could lie and say yes. He wishes he could tell David that it does get easier. But he can't. In truth, Steve remembers every single one of them. Every one he couldn't save and every life he took in hopes of saving more. Logically he knows that his eidetic memory makes it that much worse, but he has the feeling, even without it, they would still haunt him.
David seems to take Steve's non response as an answer. Which it really is. "Did you know that HR offered a bonus to anyone who could last a month with you?"
Whatever Steve had been expecting David to say, that wasn't it. "A bonus?" Not only is Steve insulted, but he's also kind of hurt.
"And they didn't fire any of your former assistants," David admits.
"I know." Steve really isn't sure what else to say.
"Of course you do." David almost sounds amused, but Steve can tell it's just a cover for whatever else is going on in David's head. "I don't think I can do this," he finally declares.
"What? Be my assistant?"
"All of it. This. You. SHIELD. All of it. I don't think I'm cut out for this."
To: Captain Steven G Rogers
From: Human Resource Manager Dolores Jenson
RE: David Crawford
Mr. Crawford has chosen to resign from SHIELD effective immediately. We will restart the search for a new assistant.
Human Resource Manager
It’s not as though Loki is stalking the blond man. At least that’s what he tells himself. But he has picked up on the man’s routine and when the blond abruptly stopped in the middle of his run and left the park, Loki was curious, to say the least.
So naturally, he followed. Unobtrusively, at a safe distance, of course. The scene at the bank was certainly not what Loki expected. He watched as the blond man took control of the situation. Watching him fight with nothing more than a brightly colored shield was fascinating. And just one more reason for Loki to believe he is more than human. He also learned his name; Captain Rogers.
When the bank was secured Loki followed Captain Rogers and listened as he spoke to one of the men from his team.
"How did you get over it? Your boss?"
"I don't think I ever really got over it. You just have to keep going and hope that maybe next time…"
"Does it get easier?"
Loki has lived long enough and borne witness to so many deaths, so much fighting that he knows the difference between someone who has been battle tested such as the Captain and someone who has not, like his companion.
“Did you know that HR offered a bonus to anyone who could last a month with you?"
The Captain looks upset, hurt by the other man’s words. And the way he stands up straighter, tries to hide his reaction, makes Loki think Captain Rogers is familiar with those emotions.
"And they didn't fire any of your former assistants."
There is so much conveyed in those two simple words and the flash of emotions that play over the Captain’s handsome features. Resignation, irritation, sadness, exhaustion.
"Of course you do. I don't think I can do this."
"What? Be my assistant?"
"All of it. This. You. SHIELD. All of it. I don't think I'm cut out for this."
It’s enough, more than enough to give Loki the excuse he was looking for to find out more about Captain Rogers.
Chapter 3: Steve Rogers vs Natasha Romanov
Chapter by Annerp
This chapter has Steve in a relationship and also includes a past Steve/Bucky memory.
Steve cannot believe how long it took to find a coffee shop that wasn't StarBucks. But he did, finally. A little shop with mismatched furniture and regular black coffee on the menu beside all the fancy drinks people seemed to like these days. There is a sign on the wall proclaiming they have wifi, which would be helpful, if Steve had a use for it. But he doesn't. His bag still houses his sketchbook and a set of nice colored pencils that he treated himself to.
He waits by the counter for his drink to be ready, with his eye on one of the small tables on the sidewalk outside.
Drink in hand, he is almost to his chosen spot when a tall blonde woman sets a bag down on his coveted table, pulling him up short.
"Oh! Were you going to sit here?" She asks with a disarming smile.
"It's okay. I can sit somewhere else." Steve glances around at the four other tables that were empty just moments before, but are now inexplicably full.
The woman gives him an apologetic look. "We could always share. If that's okay with you," she adds with one hand held out. The gesture is placating and calming.
Steve has to think about it. His intention was to sit outside, maybe sketch a little and do some people watching. He wasn't planning on having to make small talk with a stranger. But she seems nice. And it feels like it would be rude to turn down her offer, so he accepts, offering a smile that is only half way fake.
"Thanks Steve, I'll be right back."
Steve freezes midway from setting his bag down, eyes flicking up to the blonde woman and then quickly over his surroundings. "How do you know my name?" The question comes out low, but firm. The tone that would snap even the most insubordinate soldier back in line. It's a voice Steve tries not to use anymore.
"Your cup," the woman responds, eyes wide at the sudden change in his demeanor. "It's on your cup." She points to where his fingers are wrapped tightly around the waxy cardboard cup in his hand.
He can feel his cheeks burning in shame and wants to crawl under the table or slink down the street. "I'm sorry. It's been kinda a long week. And I just... I'll go and you can have the table."
"It's fine. Really. I totally understand." She smiles brightly and sticks her hand out to shake. "I'm Sharon by the way. Sharon Philips."
Steve scrolls through the contacts on his phone until he comes to Sharon’s name. He had walked away with no intention of keeping her information when she slipped him her number with a quick “call me sometime.” He certainly was not planning on calling her. Or going out with her. And yet here he is, sitting on his couch tapping out a text message, erasing it, and tapping out a new one. Repeatedly. Until he finally works up the nerve to hit send.
SR: Hi its Steve
After ten minutes with no response he starts to feel foolish. After thirty minutes he tries to look up ways to unsend a text message. Apparently that’s not an option. After two hours he wonders if he can ask someone at SHIELD to hack Sharon’s phone and erase it. After four hours he has put his phone in a drawer and walked away so he doesn’t have to be reminded that his first attempt at possibly considering attempting to ask someone out has spectacularly failed.
He’s picking at a plate of pasta that night when he hears his desk drawer vibrate. It takes him a few seconds to recognize the sound, but when he does he bangs his foot on the coffee table in his rush to get his phone.
SP: Hi Steve
SP: Sorry it took so long to get back to you. My phone battery died and I just got a chance to charge it
Steve grins like an idiot as he taps out a reply.
SR: its no problem
SR: I wasn’t worried. I figured you must be busy.
SR: or something
He paces around his living room trying to work up the nerve to ask Sharon out. Before he can, his phone buzzes again.
SP: would you like to meet for coffee tomorrow?
SP: my treat
By the time they set up a time and place to meet Steve is practically vibrating with excitement.
The Triskelion is an awfully pretentious name for a building in Loki’s opinion. It looms tall and imposing and near impenetrable, but not for a mage who can cloak his presence at will. Or for someone in possession of one of those little plastic cards with their picture on it apparently. For now, Loki decides to forgo the plastic card in favor of having unfettered access while he gathers information.
He spends an entire day wandering around learning about SHIELD, but nothing about Captain Rogers. Same with the second day and the third and the fourth. But on the fifth day he almost trips over his own feet when the man himself walks into the lobby.
Loki follows him to his office and watches as he sits at a desk and turns on his computer. The dark haired god has been on Midgard long enough that he fully understands, with the help of his magic, exactly how these devices, along with tablets and cell phones work.
Because he is intrigued by the Captain, Loki settles in to watch him work for a while. The blond man doesn’t talk much, but he does give the occasional frustrated sigh. He also looks directly at the corner where Loki has sat himself on the ground several times which Loki finds interesting, a little frightening and a lot exciting. This man is no mere mortal.
He decides to delve a little deeper, get to know more about Captain Rogers. Loki is intrigued. His curiosity is peaked. The fact that he is attracted to the blond plays no part in Loki's decision. At least that's what he tells himself, but first, he has to deal with another tall muscular blonde.
Loki doesn't want to go back to Asgard, but it can’t be helped. Thor has grown bored even with the seemingly endless string of women and the occasional man that make their way in and out of his hotel room, sometimes in groups of twos and threes.
There is one positive note though when he speaks to his mother about his intentions to return to Midgard.
“How long do you plan on staying?” Frigga asks as she blows across the top of her tea to cool it down.
“I’m not sure. There is something that I want to look into and it may take awhile.”
Loki shifts in his seat, unable to meet his mother’s eyes as his hands smooth out imaginary wrinkles from his pants. Nervous gestures to be sure. Frigga just smiles over the rim of her cup before taking a sip.
“So what is this thing you want to look into?” The way she says it makes Loki frown for a second, followed quickly by a wry smile and a dusting of pink across his cheeks. “I see,” Frigga says when Loki doesn't actually respond. She gives him a knowing smile. “I hope you will be more discerning than your brother.”
Frigga stands and holds her arms out to embrace her younger son before leading him to the door of her sitting room. “Go. You have duties to attend to before heading back to Midgard. The delegation from Vanahiem will be here next week and the Allfather expects you here during the entirety of their stay.”
Loki’s heart sinks at the thought of having to stay on Asgard for any longer than necessary. “How long will they be here?”
She looks at him sympathetically. Frigga can tell that her son is anxious to return to Midgard. “Three weeks at least.” The frown that creeps over Loki’s features has her hastily adding, “but once your duties have been completed, you can return to Midgard.” She gives him a sly smile. “Perhaps before you go, you will tell me more about him? Hmmm?”
Steve’s first coffee date, he’s pretty sure it’s a date, with Sharon goes well. She’s funny and smart and even though as a blonde she isn’t his usual type he finds her attractive. And it’s good. Good enough that Steve works up the nerve to ask her out to dinner. Which she readily accepts. They make plans to meet up in a few days, when her busy nursing schedule allows her the time.
Dinner is nice. And the lunch date after that. And also the outing to the movies the next week. He likes her. He does.
He just wonders if maybe he should feel something stronger for her. He isn't sure. It doesn't feel like his time with Peggy during the war. And it certainly doesn't compare to how he felt about Bucky. But Steve has only willingly kissed two people in his life and he thinks maybe it's time to make it three.
“Don’t do anything stupid until I get back.” Bucky’s smile is warm and soft and it breaks Steve’s heart just a little more.
“How can I? You’re taking all the stupid with you.” The response is automatic and easy, rolling off his tongue when what he really wants to say won’t make it past his own self doubt.
He has loved Bucky Barnes since he was fifteen years old. He always had strong feelings for Bucky, but that summer everything changed. He can’t pinpoint the exact moment and maybe there wasn’t one. Maybe his feelings just grew over time. Steve doesn’t know and doesn’t really care. What he does know is that he can’t let Bucky leave without finally telling him the truth.
When Dr. Erskine eventually lets him leave the recruitment center, Steve searches the expo frantically. He was actually accepted! He is going to be able to do his part! He has to find Bucky. Has to tell him the great news and finally, finally tell Bucky just how he feels.
When he finds Bucky he pulls him away from the expo main stage, his excitement leaving him with no patience and riding high on the thrill of finally being accepted into the army, Steve needs to do this now.
He kisses him. Steve actually kisses Bucky. The man he loves. The man who has been there through everything. Pulling him out of fights, nursing him through his many illnesses, working extra shifts to afford Steve's medication, helping Steve grieve for his mother. Bucky has been there for Steve as long as he can remember.
Steve kisses him. And it is everything he dreamed about. Better than he imagined. It is perfection and when Steve finally pulls away, dragging his fingers out of the hair at the base of Bucky's neck, he is breathing faster than usual and can feel the flush covering his face.
"Steve." Bucky sounds shaken and vulnerable. Steve takes no small amount of pride in that. He smiles up through his eyelashes at Bucky and the brunet sucks in a deep breath. "Steve, we can't." He doesn’t meet Steve’s eyes. "Stevie, this can't happen. You know it. What if this gets out? You know what happens to guys like that. You can't hardly take care of yourself as it is. You don't need to be borrowing trouble. Especially not when I won't be here to protect you."
That's the moment when Steve's heart breaks. Everything Bucky says makes sense. Sure, he knows all the reasons. It doesn't make it any less devastating.
Steve wants to argue. Mostly he wants to know why Bucky bothered to kiss him back. So he asks.
"God Steve." Bucky runs his hand through his hair adding to the mess that Steve already made of the back. "It doesn't matter why."
"Of course it matters!"
"I'm your friend Steve. That's all we can ever be."
Steve opens his mouth to argue again, but Bucky cuts him off. "It doesn't matter what we feel. Guys like us? It doesn't work out the way you want." Bucky is quiet for a few seconds before he continues to break Steve's heart. "You need to find yourself a nice gal. Settle down. Have a family. Stop trying to enlist. Stop trying to fight the world. And stop this."
It’s been two weeks since David quit, so when Steve finds the petite redhead sitting in his chair with her feet up on his desk, he is only surprised by how long it took HR to assign a replacement.
This one is interesting, different than the rest. From her jeans and striped long sleeve t shirt all the way down to her cool demeanor, Steve can almost hear the alarm bells going off in his head. This woman is dangerous. The thing is, so is Steve.
“You my new babysitter?” he asks as he pushes her feet off his desk and onto the floor.
She doesn’t jump to her feet like he expects. Doesn’t really react much at all, other than a slight twitch of her lip, that he may well have imagined. He can feel her gaze travel over his body, but he doesn’t have the urge to cover himself, not like he usually does. She is taking his measure, pure and simple. When she finally speaks, Steve can’t help but wonder what she saw.
“I’m afraid babysitting Captain America is a little beyond my pay grade.” This time Steve is sure he sees her lip twitch. He’s also sure she let him see.
Out of anyone else, Steve would have expected to have a name and at least one rambling apology/ explanation for being in his office. But this woman hasn’t offered either. And that has Steve’s curiosity peaked. Not enough to ask, but still, he’s curious. He’s also stubborn.
“I have work to do, so if you plan on staying, get out of my chair.” Steve works to keep his voice steady, perfectly willing to play a little office chicken with this woman. He leans against his desk and crosses his arms over his chest, completely prepared to wait.
He smiles triumphantly when ten minutes later she huffs and moves to one of the chairs opposite his desk, reserved for visitors that he never gets and assistants he doesn’t want. Steve barely spares her a glance when she sinks low in the chair and props her feet up on his desk again.
He checks his email, reads the news, searches for a restaurant to take Sharon to, and looks over the reports from the bank incident. The entire time the woman just sits there. It’s maddening, but Steve is determined to win whatever this is.
When lunch time rolls around Steve gets up from his chair and stretches his back before heading for the door. “You comin’?” He asks over his shoulder on the way out. This time she smiles. It’s brief, but there is no doubting what Steve saw.
The redhead takes up position slightly in front of Steve and starts to lead him down the hallway away from his office. He knows he doesn’t have to, but he follows behind her willingly, too curious to back off now. And also very aware that this means he has lost the game. He doesn’t mind.
He follows her down to the parking garage and gets in the passenger seat of what looks to be a ridiculously expensive sports car. She has the car out on the street and merged in with traffic before he figures out how to use the over complicated seat belt.
“This is some car,” he says, just to make conversation.
She glances over at him and smirks. “Thanks. It’s not mine.”
“Did you steal it?”
“What if I did?” She keeps her eyes on the road and the little smirk on her face.
“I’d make you take it back.” Steve’s reply is calm and matter of fact. Which results in a raised eyebrow from the redhead.
“You think you can?”
Does he? Normally the answer would be an emphatic yes, but with this woman...“I can be pretty persuasive.”
They fall into a companionable silence while the woman maneuvers the car through traffic. He doesn’t know anything about this woman, including her name, but he already likes her. Maybe this one won’t be so bad. He can always hope.
The small diner she parks in front of looks a little shabby and run down, Steve likes it right away. It has none of those fancy signs or logos outside, no blaring music and lines of people out the door. The place is clean, but decidedly not modern. There is a familiarity in the shape and style of the booths lining the walls, the design of the light fixtures and the worn laminate counter that Steve is instantly drawn to.
“They have the best burgers and shakes here,” the woman remarks as she slides into a booth at the rear of the diner, keeping her back to the wall.
One bite of the mammoth burger placed in front of him and Steve has to agree.
“I didn’t get the normal email from HR telling me you were assigned to me,” he comments when he is halfway through his lunch.
She dips a fry in her milkshake and eats it before answering. “I’m not assigned to you.”
Steve can feel his lunch sitting heavy in his stomach as he assesses his situation.
“Relax. I’m not here to hurt you.” Steve has no doubt that she probably could. Especially since he just followed along as she led him away from SHIELD. Idiot .
“Okay. Then why are you here?” he asks to buy time. There are nine other customers, a waitress and at least one cook in the back. A rear door that may or may not lead outside. A possible exit through the kitchen. Bathrooms to his right. And the front door leading out to the side walk. It’s not ideal, but he can make it work. It would be better with his shield, but he left that sitting in his office, unwilling to leave it at home anymore.
“You know who Tony Stark is?” she asks as she swipes another fry through her milkshake.
“So you’ve met him.”
Steve’s eyes casually sweep around the diner, still on guard. “Only heard of him.” She just looks at him, waiting for him to continue and that makes Steve feel like he needs to talk to fill the silence. “It’s kind of hard not to hear about him. I don’t...why are we talking about this?”
“Tony’s a little much, but he’s someone you want to know,” she tells him cryptically. “He does some stuff for SHIELD occasionally. Contract work on tech stuff. I’m sure you’ll see him around sooner or later.”
Steve’s eyebrows draw together as he tries to figure out what she is telling him. After a few seconds he decides to go for the direct route. “Why are you telling me this?”
She snags a fry off Steve’s plate and dips it in his milkshake before popping it in her mouth. “Because sometimes the good guys aren’t really the good guys Steve.”
“And are you one of the good guys?” He asks as he pulls his milkshake closer to himself and out of her reach. The question actually earns him a smile. Steve thinks it may even be genuine.
“I don’t think anyone has ever described me as good.” Her expression sobers for a brief moment, before returning to the relaxed look she had previously. “Now hurry up and finish your lunch. I need to get you back before your afternoon nap grandpa.”
Steve snorts a laugh and picks up the remains of his burger feeling more at ease than he probably should with this woman.
The drive back to the Triskelion is quiet, until Steve breaks the silence. “So can you recommend a good restaurant for a dinner date?”
She looks over at him and bats her eyes. “Why Steve, are you asking me out?” He stares at her open mouthed, unable to come up with a proper response and briefly thinks about how a date with this woman would go. He can feel the heat creep across his cheeks as he fails to stop his tratorious eyes from sweeping over her body. “Oh my god. I’m kidding. Why don’t you cook dinner at home.”
He considers the suggestion, thinking through the logistics. “That’s not a bad idea.”
Instead of driving into the parking garage, she pulls up to the sidewalk. “Steve,” she holds his arm, stopping him from getting out, “just remember what I said.”
“It’d probably be easier if I knew who you are,” he tells her with a smile that contradicts the hard tone of his voice.
She answers with a smile of her own. “Natasha Romanov.” She releases his arm and he starts to climb out. “I’ll see you around Steve. Say hi to Stark when you see him.”
Steve shuts the door and heads back into his office without responding.
Natasha takes a moment to check her reflection in the rear view mirror. “It's definitely him.”
“Hol-ee shit.” Tony’s voice emanates from the car speakers. “Wonder what the old man would say now.”
Natasha maneuvers the car back out into the street. “Howard would probably say that Cap looks pretty good for his age.”
“No doubt about that. When I saw him on the news fighting with that shield, I thought I was going to have an embarrassing situation in my pants.”
“Somehow I doubt that.”
“You’re right. That wouldn’t have embarrassed me at all. But you pretended to work for me long enough to know that already didn’t you Natalie?”
“I told you not to call me that.”
“Can’t help it. I’m still traumatized that you were spying on me. And for SHIELD no less.”
Natasha can hear the pout in his voice and knows it’s fake, so she doesn’t feel a bit bad about ending the conversation.
Despite Natasha’s recommendation, Steve holds off on cooking dinner for Sharon for now. Having her over to his apartment feels personal in a way that he isn’t quite ready for. He does however, take her out for a ride on his Harley, the first and only large purchase Steve has made since coming out of the ice.
He had imagined the feeling of having Sharon pressed up tightly against his back, her arms wrapped around him. He thought about the way she would rest her head against him, the way she would grip him tighter in the turns or when he would open the bike up and speed down the road. In his mind it would be intimate and special, sharing this with her, the feeling of freedom and peace that he gets when on his bike.
In reality it was nothing like that. Sure she wrapped her arms around his waist, but instead of feeling warm and special, it feels stilted and awkward. It’s not like he was expecting some profound experience as they sit on a park bench watching the last vestiges of sunlight dip below the horizon. But when he turns to her and leans in a little, ready to share their first kiss, she looks away, pointing out some bats flitting around the street light.
He tells himself that she must not be ready. He must have been pushing too hard. And chooses to ignore the little twinge of relief in the back of his head that makes him wonder if maybe he isn’t ready either.
The moving truck sitting outside his apartment building when he gets home isn’t really a surprise. One of the tenants down the hall from him moved out the week prior, so he assumes this must be the new one.
He deftly dodges the movers with their boxes and pieces of furniture as he makes his way up the stairs to his own unit. He smiles politely and tries to stay out of the way thankful that SHIELD set his apartment up for him, right down to the furniture since he had no actual possessions of his own. Even after all these months, he still hasn’t done much to personalize the space.
He is unlocking his door, but his hand freezes when he hears a woman’s voice. “Steve?”
Looking in the direction of her voice, he can’t believe what he’s seeing. “Sharon?”
Sharon gives a little laugh. “When I told you I was moving to be closer to work, I had no idea this was your building.”
“Yeah, small world.”
The pause between them can only be described as awkward. Steve is glad when Sharon gestures back over her shoulder. “I should probably get back to it.”
He wonders why he feels that way once the door closes behind her.
He takes Sharon to an art gallery. He had seen a flier for it earlier in the week and thought it sounded like something they would both enjoy.
Steve does enjoy it. There are several artists featured and although he appreciates the depth and complexity of almost all of the pieces displayed, there is one in particular that catches his eye. The image is abstract and for all its gray tones, reminds Steve of sunlight glinting off ice. It is not beautiful in the traditional sense. There are no clean lines, no graceful curves. This piece is harsh and cold, only warmed by a slash of orange bleeding to red in the upper corner.
It is stunning and he wants it. When he asks about purchasing it, he feels momentarily guilty for how long he actually considers taking the piece home despite the hefty price tag. Out of the corner of his eye he watches Sharon text on her phone while he talks to the gallery manager. Her phone rings and she walks outside as she answers it.
That’s when he realizes their date to the art gallery is over, whether he wants it to be or not. But thinking about Sharon’s less than enthusiastic reaction to the gallery, he’s okay with that. If he decides he really wants the piece, he can always come back by himself when he can take more time to appreciate all of the pieces in the gallery fully. He tries to tell himself that he isn’t disappointed. And then tries to ignore the part of him that is partially relieved.
Between their outing on his bike and then the art gallery, Steve is feeling a little nervous about sharing anything else that he cares deeply about. So he decides to fall back on what has worked for them so far. Food.
This time he decides to try Natasha’s suggestion and cook.
Steve somehow managed to not burn dinner, or at least only a little, even with his nerves all in a tangle. The food is decent, if you ignore the crispy portions, and he can’t help being a little proud of that. The bottle of wine that was recommended to him tastes fine. He really has no point of reference for that, but Sharon complimented it, so he assumes he must have done alright.
It shouldn’t feel like such an accomplishment. He used to cook for Bucky all the time back when they lived together. Although, that mostly consisted of boiling whatever he could get his hands on. But somehow this does feel different. He wonders if it’s because he knew Bucky for so long. Or because they were living together. It could have been because he was so completely in love with Bucky. Or maybe because he knew that no matter how much Steve loved him, they could never be together.
Steve doesn’t love Sharon. He knows that. It’s too soon, this thing between them too new. He also isn’t really sure if that’s what he’s looking for right now. And after his last two date attempts, he really needed a win.
After dinner, Steve puts on a movie that Sharon selects from the small cabinet under the TV for them to watch, citing it as a classic. The 1988 release date on the box for Die Hard almost makes him snort, wondering what that makes him at almost one hundred years old. He is incredibly pleased with himself for figuring the DVD player out with only having pushed a few unnecessary buttons while also refusing to acknowledge the flashing 12:00 on display that he hasn’t quite figured out yet. Then spends the next few minutes vacillating between sitting next to Sharon on the couch or playing it safe and sitting in the chair.
Ultimately he decides to throw caution to the wind and sit next to her. Close, but not too close. But then he worries about his hands. Where does he put them? On his thighs? Will he look too stiff? In his lap? Or is that just awkward? He debates really going for it and putting his arm up over the back of the couch, but talks himself out of it.
The movie is… something. Vulgar and harsh. There is a violence to it that he has to force himself not to flinch back from while reminding himself that this is the world he exists in now. Violent and harsh and vulgar. He looks around his apartment to settle himself with something familiar. But the SHIELD-issued apartment and furniture, dishes, garish artwork, music, movies and even his clothes are not familiar in the way he needs. For the first time, he admits to himself that he hates it.
He can feel a low level of anxiety creeping through him, starting as a knot in his belly, rising through his chest making his heart beat just a little faster. He wants to believe it’s anticipation and not dread. Steve seizes that feeling, channels it and before he can overthink it, leans in and catches Sharon’s lips in a kiss.
When he walks Sharon to the door some ten minutes later Steve doesn’t have it in him to give her a kiss goodnight. He can’t ignore the roiling in his stomach or the sense of wrongness settling in his chest.
Chapter 4: Steve Rogers vs Sharon Carter
Chapter by Annerp
This chapter has a lot going on.
CW for some medical testing that SHIELD does to Steve. Nothing graphic.
Also there is another flashback. This time to Steve's time selling war bonds.
Please see the end notes.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Steve purposely picks a different coffee shop than the one where he first met Sharon. He really likes that one and doesn’t want to associate it with this. This being the words that have been locked in his throat for the past ten minutes. He takes a gulp of his coffee, wincing at the way it has turned cold while he sat and dithered.
“Steve, is something wrong?”
Sharon’s voice startles an answer out of him. “Yes. I mean No!” He brings his hand up and rubs his eyes while audibly blowing out a breath. “There is actually,” he says, lowering his hand back down to his lap. “I’ve been thinking. About us. And I think we should just be friends.”
There. He said it. There isn’t time for him to examine the way the knot in his stomach loosens before Sharon has her mouth open to respond.
And there is even less time to consider what she might say before his phone sounds a shrill alarm that he recognizes as an emergency call from SHIELD. It’s not too loud to drown out the exact same tone coming from Sharon’s phone on the table.
The pieces start to fall into place and Steve feels like he might vomit. “Aren’t you going to answer that Agent Philips?” He snarls as he fails to bite back on his anger. Steve knows that whatever SHIELD is calling for must be big if Fury is willing to blow her cover.
“Agent Carter...actually. Peggy is my Aunt. And I think it’s safe to assume I’ll be sent to the same place they’re sending you.” She doesn’t even have the decency to look sheepish.
And that’s a lot to unpack. More than Steve is willing to deal with right now. Later though, when he’s taken a long drive on his bike and has time to wrap his brain around it, but not now. His mouth pinches into a grim line as he turns his back and answers his phone.
It’s aliens. Because it’s 2012 and apparently there are aliens. The upside to an attack, if there is any to be found, is that it keeps Steve’s mind off anything else. If he’s punching aliens, he can’t think about Sharon, or SHIELD, or about the good guys not actually being the good guys.
When the number of targets in his area starts to dwindle, Steve’s mind does begin to wander, but only until a human shaped hunk of red and gold armor streaks by calling out, “hey Cap!” blaring something that Steve assumes is supposed to be music as it slows and lands beside him.
“Stark,” Steve greets when the face mask retracts from the armor. He may not have met Tony in person before, but it’s not hard to recognize his ‘Iron Man’ armor from the news.
“Fury brought out the whole gang for these guys,” Tony remarks as he scans the area for any active aliens.
“What gang? Other than the strike teams, you’re the only other non civilian I’ve seen so far.” He purposely chooses to ignore Sharon, who he knows is with strike team one.
“So I’m thinking shawarma for lunch. How’s that sound? Have you ever had shawarma? Not even sure what it is, but I’m dying to try it. Jarvis? Where’s the nearest shawarma joint?”
“There’s one four blocks east. Best in town.” Steve jerks and turns to the new voice. “Clint Barton,” the newcomer introduces himself as he gestures to his chest with the bow in his hand.
Tony claps his armored hands together drawing everyone’s attention back to him. “Great! Where’s Romanov?”
“Her sector is still active. So she’ll meet us at the restaurant.”
Up to this point, Steve has been watching Tony and Clint talk, trying to figure out what is going on, but now he interjects. “Shouldn’t we go help?”
Clint breaks out into a huge grin and claps Steve on the back. “That’s a good one!” His smile falters after only a moment. “Oh. Oh shit. You’re serious.”
Lunch is an event. Tony orders everything on the menu and insists they eat family style. He is just as brilliant and chaotic and generous as his father and Steve relishes that familiarity. Watching Clint, Natasha and Tony tease and pick at each other reminds him of the Howlies. And the overwhelming nostalgia leaves him speechless with a warm feeling in his chest.
“Hey.” Steve feels a jolt against his chair leg and looks around for the culprit. “You okay? You’re being awfully quiet.” Natasha asks when his eyes land on her.
He shrugs his shoulders and tries to smile. By the look on her face, Steve is fairly certain he failed. He opens his mouth to tell her he’s okay, but instead ends up blurting out, “did you know?”
Watching Natasha’s expression shift until her face is blank and unreadable is fascinating. Steve wishes he had that skill. “Did I know what?”
Steve has to clamp down on the surge of anger that tries to erupt out of him. “About Sharon!” He tries to keep his voice down, but knows he failed when Clint and Tony stop talking and look at him. “Answer me,” he demands when Natasha doesn’t respond.
Her placating tone just makes him angrier. “You said ‘the good guys aren’t always the good guys’. Is that what you meant? Did you know that they sent her to...to-”
“I knew they assigned her to you, but that’s it.”
“What are we talking about?” Tony asks, his usual boisterous demeanor subdued in light of the tension surrounding Steve and Natasha.
Natasha keeps facing him, but flicks her eyes over to Tony and then Clint. “Fury sent Sharon Carter to seduce Steve to keep an eye on him.” Her eyes shift back to Steve. “Is that what they did?” She asks him.
Steve jerks his head with an affirmative nod.
“Not helping Tony,” Natasha chastises.
Steve reaches out and places a hand on Natasha’s arm. He can tell just by the shift in her posture that the only reason his hand is still there is because she is allowing it. “Swear to me that you didn’t know.” He looks at Clint and Tony in turn. “All of you. Swear it.”
It’s Clint that answers for the group and for some reason that makes it easier for Steve to believe. “We didn’t know Cap.”
Steve takes a day to decompress and process his anger. He has to. Especially after having a SHIELD agent knock on his door shortly after arriving home with instructions to take Steve in to the Triskelion. The poor agent was probably going to get in trouble for not bringing Steve in, but he didn’t expect Steve to climb out a window, onto the fire escape, and then up to the roof to get away.
When Steve sees the two black SUV’s parked outside his apartment building and the half dozen agents waiting outside, he doesn’t feel a bit bad for giving them the slip.
He ends up in a guest suite in Stark Tower contemplating Tony’s offer to just move in permanently and questioning his choices up to that point.
It took way too long in Loki’s opinion for him to be able to return to Midgard. But now that he’s here, he goes straight to the Triskelion to look for the Captain. Loki finds him in his office, jabbing away at his computer keyboard. The way he sits, back ramrod straight, knee jumping, telegraphs the man’s mood and Loki is deeply curious about what could have caused it.
Naturally when the Captain lurches to his feet and storms out of his office, Loki follows. A tense elevator ride later where the blond only glares at anyone who tries to talk to him and then they are walking down a hallway. Or rather Loki is walking and Steve is storming, clearly on a mission.
Ahead of them is a desk with a young woman sitting at it. “How can I help you today, Captain Rogers?” She asks.
“I’m here to see Fury.”
The girl doesn’t flinch back from the Captain’s tone and Loki is actually a little impressed. “I’m sorry, but Director Fury is in a meeting right now and cannot be disturbed. You can have your assistant-”
The look that comes over the Captain’s face can only be described as rage, but he still manages to moderate his tone. “Don’t,” he hisses with a finger held up as though he is scolding a child. “Don’t start that with me again. I’m going to see Fury now.”
“I’m afraid I can’t let you do that.” Her mouth is open to say something else, but she stops when the door behind her desk opens and a blonde woman steps out.
The blonde looks startled for a moment, but recovers quickly.
“Agent Carter,” the Captain growls.
“Captain Rogers,” she says in return and then shoulders past him to the elevator.
He takes that opportunity to dart around the receptionist and into the office beyond the door with Loki hot on his heels.
There is a dark skinned man with an eyepatch standing in front of a wall of windows. He doesn’t bother to turn around when he speaks. “Captain Rogers. I didn’t see an appointment scheduled with you today on my calendar.”
Loki can see the way the Captain bristles. “Why did you order Sharon to…” He can’t seem to bring himself to complete the sentence.
“Get close to you?” The other man supplies.
The Captain glares, folding his arms in front of his chest and snaps, “exactly.”
“Agent Carter was assigned to keep an eye on you since you seem to have an aversion to your assistants and also to prove a point.”
“I don’t need a babysitter!”
“I have to disagree Captain. The greatest strategic mind of a generation and yet you fell for something as basic as a Honey Pot. Clearly you cannot be left to your own devices.”
Loki watches all the anger drain from the Captain’s face. His shoulders slump and a flush creeps over his skin. In any other circumstances Loki would find the blush attractive, but here in this setting, he is angry on the Captain’s behalf.
“I have a meeting on my schedule so if we’re done here…? HR will be emailing you with the details on your new assistant. I suggest you keep this one.”
And there is it. Loki’s opening. He reluctantly leaves the Captain’s side and goes in search of an empty office. He has some information to look up, an employment record to forge and some emails to hack.
First he sends a message to Human Resources.
To: Human Resource Manager Dolores Jenson
From: Director Nicholas Fury
RE: Captain Steven G. Rogers
I have personally assigned Captain Rogers new assistant, Loki Odinson. Please update Mr. Odinson’s employment records to reflect this change.
Direct Nicholas Fury
Next he sends a similar message to Director Fury.
To: Director Nicholas Fury
From: Human Resource Manager Dolores Jenson
RE: Captain Steven G. Rogers
As per your request, a new assistant, Loki Odinson, has been assigned to Captain Rogers.
Human Resource Manager
And finally one to Captain Rogers.
To: Captain Steven G Rogers
From: Human Resource Manager Dolores Jenson
RE: New assistant
Your new assistant, Loki Odinson, will report to your office at 8am tomorrow.
Human Resource Manager
With that sorted, Loki goes back to his hotel to get ready for his first day of work.
Steve won't deny that he's mad at Sharon. Mad is really an understatement. He is livid. She made her choice and accepted the assignment. More than anything though, he is disgusted. He knows what it's like to have your superiors treat your body as just another tool at their disposal.
"We've got Mrs. McDonald here tonight. Rosslyn, give Rogers the rundown."
The stage manager turns his back and gestures for the rest of the girls to follow him backstage.
"Who's Mrs. McDonald?" Steve asks as he pulls on his gloves in final preparation for the show.
"Wealthy widow." Steve furrows his eyebrows needing a bit more explanation. "We girls spend a little extra time with the big donors after the show. You know, giv'n 'em some personal attention. Let them know how much we appreciate how they're helping with the war effort."
Steve can feel his stomach twist. This sounds… it sounds a lot like what Skinny Shirley used to do down by the docks on Friday nights when times were tough. Which to be fair, times were almost always tough.
Rosslyn must see it on his face because she raises a finger preemptively at him. "Don't you go gettin all angry on our behalf Steve. We're doing something good here. Helping with the war effort. Actually contributing something. And all it costs is a little bit of our time."
"But nothin! You can spend your time kissin babies and posing for pictures to take a dollar that some poor housewife, whose husband was shipped overseas, managed to scrape together. Or you can make an old widow feel good about opening her pocketbook and sharing some of what she's got."
He doesn't know what to do. When she puts it that way, it almost makes sense. Almost makes him feel like maybe he should be trying to get more money out of rich widows like Mrs. McDonald. Instead of taking it from a woman trying to get by while her man is gone to war.
"What do I need to do?" He asks, hoping it won't be as bad as he fears.
"You don't hafta do anything you're not comfortable with, but the more you do…” She lets that sentence trail off, but the meaning is clear enough. “Just keep reminding yourself that it's for a good cause." She lays a hand on his shoulder in a gesture that he is sure is meant to be comforting, but feels more like a condemnation. "You never know, you may even have a little fun."
He was always left with the taste of cigarettes and cheap wine on his lips, some cash in his pocket and a need to scrub himself clean from their touches. More than once he was left with the telltale signs of bruising at his collar bone and on one memorable occasion, chafing around his wrists.
At 8:00 AM sharp there is a tap on Steve’s office door. He hasn’t really been doing anything, just glaring at his computer screen. He simply calls out, “its open.”
The door cracks open and in steps a man that has Steve taking a sharp inhale of breath as his hand jerks and knocks the cup holding pens and pencils on the floor. He curses himself for being so clumsy, especially in front of this guy. Not only because he’s certain this is his new assistant Loki, but also because with his dark hair, pale skin and incredible green eyes he is one of the most attractive people Steve has ever seen. His perfectly tailored black slacks and dark green button down shirt with sleeves rolled up to his elbows certainly don’t help.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.”
Steve has to forcefully keep himself from groaning at the man’s accent or the way he kneels down at Steve’s feet, deftly scooping up all the spilled writing utensils. "It’s fine. You didn’t.”
The man quirks an eyebrow at Steve, not calling him out on the obvious lie as he pointedly places the cup, now once again full of pencils and pens, on the corner of the desk. He seems to think better of it and slides it further away from the edge with a smirk. Steve knows this guy is going to be trouble.
“I’m Loki, your new assistant,” the man says as he rises and brushes his hands over the front of his slacks.
Steve can feel the frown threatening to creep across his features and tries to stop it. Judging by the look on Loki’s face, he is only partially successful.
“I have been briefed on your unique situation and SHIELD has provided me with a detailed description of my job duties and responsibilities.” Loki sits in one of the guest chairs and continues. “To better prepare myself for this assignment I may have accessed some files that were not strictly within my clearance level-”
“You hacked my files?” Steve asks somewhere between impressed and irritated.
Surprisingly Loki doesn’t look guilty or nervous about his admission. “Yes.”
His answer is so matter of fact that Steve actually cracks a small smile. He leans forward and asks, “can you teach me?” He may or may not be testing Loki.
Loki returns his smile and nods. “Certainly Captain Rogers.”
“Steve. Call me Steve.”
Steve's newfound access in SHIELD'S files is a heady experience, but he is mindful of Loki's warning to be cautious. Even so, he dives right in to his own personal file.
Two hours later he lifts his head, rubbing at his eyes only to find that he is alone, Loki apparently having left at some point. He stares at the wall for a few minutes until his phone chimes with several messages.
LO: go home
LO: eat something
LO: get some sleep
LO: don't forget to log out the way I showed you
LO: I'll be in around noon and I'll bring lunch
LO: think about how you want to spend your afternoon
Steve reads over the messages. And then reads them again. He rolls his eyes and makes a sound that could almost be a laugh, if anyone were around to hear it.
It's strange, this feeling that Steve has about Loki. He has only just met the man and yet there is something that Steve can't quite find a word for when he thinks about him. Resigned definitely. Steve knows he has no choice other than to accept SHIELD'S requirement to have someone assigned to him. Relief almost certainly, that Loki made him feel at ease in a way that no one else at SHIELD has before. But there is something else. Fondness maybe? It's only been a day, but Steve is hopeful that maybe this time it won't be so bad.
True to his word, Loki shows up at noon with lunch. His presence is a welcome distraction after Steves's mandatory meeting with SHIELD'S psychologist. The session had been tense with too many questions about how Steve feels about the 'incident' with Agent Carter. The way the psychologist kept saying 'incident' grated on Steve’s nerves, as though what SHIELD did was not the incredible betrayal and violation that it was.
"Any thoughts on what you would like to do today?" Loki asks, drawing Steve out of his thoughts.
Steve pauses for a moment. He really hadn’t given much thought to how he would spend his afternoon. “Not really,” he says, “do you have any suggestions?” Steve is actually very interested in what Loki suggests. He might be testing Loki again.
“Well, based upon our time yesterday, I am going to assume that you have already caught up on events since the 1940’s.” Steve nods in agreement. “I don’t suppose SHIELD has any upcoming missions for you?”
“Nope,” Steve tells him, sitting back in his chair and folding his arms over his chest.
Loki looks a little perplexed. “May I ask exactly what it is that SHIELD expects you to do with your time here?”
Steve uncrosses his arms and makes air quotes with his fingers. “Acclimate.”
“Acclimate,” Loki repeats. “That’s not terribly helpful, is it?”
“Nope,” Steve replies with a grin.
“I don’t see a whole lot for you to acclimate to here." Loki mimics Steve’s use of air quotes and the blond snorts out a laugh. "So I think it may be useful for you to go acclimate elsewhere.”
“Elsewhere huh? Where should we go?” Steve asks. Which may possibly be another test.
“We? I’m not sure what your other assistants were doing, but I’m not here to babysit you. You don’t need that.”
That throws Steve for a loop. Loki is the first person to say it and Steve didn’t realize just how much he needed to hear it until now. Still though, the last time he ventured out by himself he ended up with Sharon. So maybe having Loki along wouldn’t be such a bad idea. At least for a little while.
And even though it’s only been a day, he already kind of likes Loki. He’s smart and funny. A little rebellious and above all doesn’t treat Steve like an idiot that needs to be saved from himself. The fact that he’s easy on the eyes doesn’t weigh into his assessment at all. At least that’s what Steve tries to tell himself.
“I don’t need babysitting,” Steve agrees. “But I wouldn’t say no to having someone come along and help me pick out a new chair for my apartment.”
“A chair?” Loki quirks an eyebrow at Steve and tries to hide a smile.
“Yeah. Why not? You seem pretty opinionated.”
Chair shopping with Loki was a big mistake. A fun one, but still a mistake. Loki had something to say about every piece of furniture Steve liked. Some things were helpful, such as ‘the fabric will be hard to keep clean’. And others were just ridiculous. ‘If you ever get a calico cat, this will clash with her.’
Which then led to an entire discussion about hypothetical future pets. And somehow that turned into Steve purchasing a new couch, chair, bed and dining room set. All of which are being delivered today.
Sitting and waiting for a furniture delivery is boring. Especially since Steve is by himself. He expected Loki to come wait with him, since he is supposed to be Steve’s assistant. But instead Loki reminded him that since he is in fact, not Steve’s babysitter, it was unnecessary, and also likely to be extremely dull. So Steve is bored waiting for the delivery truck while Loki is apparently off enjoying his day. That both pleases and bothers Steve at the same time.
One of the great things about the future is the availability of information. It is also one of the worst things. For now though Steve is indulging himself in one of his new favorite activities.
Steve finds browsing the bookstore relaxing. He knows Loki is around somewhere looking at who knows what, which gives Steve the chance to wander the aisles of the huge space at his leisure. He’s already been here for two hours and has a stack to purchase which will make their home in his rapidly filling book case. A few more trips to the bookstore and he may have to venture back out furniture shopping again. With Loki, of course, but only because he may need a new book case of his own since the last time Steve saw Loki in the aisles, he had his own collection of books to purchase.
He has just finished selecting a couple of books from the history section and has turned the corner to fiction when he comes face to face with Agent Coulson.
“Captain Rogers. You missed your appointment with medical this morning.”
Steve freezes and immediately looks around for Loki as his stomach drops. He knew about the appointment, but had no interest in sitting through having more blood taken or another series of tests designed to measure his strength and stamina. Steve thinks he has been more than patient with the medical team, but the last two times he went in for testing they decided it would be good to know how quickly he is able to heal from injuries.
It hadn’t been that bad. Just some cuts and a couple of burns. Still, it isn't something Steve wants to keep doing. They know he feels pain, but they seem to have forgotten his humanity in their quest for knowledge. It's disconcerting and depressing. Steve is also a little worried about the tests escalating. At what point will they be satisfied? When they break his bones? Or worse?
“I canceled that appointment this morning,” he replies, keeping his voice steady and firm. Not quite his Captain’s voice, but close. He looks around again for Loki with a sense of dread. Steve never bothered reporting where he spent his time when not at the Triskelion and other than the one time Director Fury showed up at his apartment after he missed his psychologist appointment, no one ever seemed concerned. Did Loki tell SHIELD where they were? Steve wants to trust Loki. Desperately. And that is something he is going to have to examine later in private. Especially on the heels of the Sharon fiasco. Right now though he wonders if he made another error in judgement regarding the trustworthiness of his assistant.
Agent Coulson gives him a bland smile that Steve guesses is supposed to look sympathetic. He opens his mouth to say something, but snaps it closed when Loki walks around the corner with a book held out in front of him and a smile on his face.
“Steve, look at this!” Loki stops and pulls the book back, holding it to his chest, the smile falling from his face. “Agent Coulson,” he says, acknowledging the other man. “To what do we owe the pleasure?”
“Captain Rogers has an appointment with medical.”
Loki’s back straightens minisculely making him look even taller than he is. “We cleared his schedule for today.” His tone is brusque. “How did you even locate him?” Loki asks. There is something accusatory in his voice that untangles the knot of dread in Steve’s stomach.
“The Captain’s appointment has been rescheduled for this afternoon,” Coulson answers, completely ignoring Loki’s question.
Steve can tell that Loki is about to dig his heels in just by the way he narrows his eyes and squares his shoulders. He shouldn't find that as attractive as he does. And that's another thing Steve will have to examine later tonight.
“Cancel it.” Loki says. His voice is low and calm, but the authority underneath it sends a shiver down Steve's spine.
Coulson gives another one of those bland smiles. “I’m afraid I can’t do that. The medical team has some tests set up for Captain Rogers.”
“I see.” The look on Loki’s face makes even Agent Coulson take a step back. “Are you aware that the last set of tests involved inflicting second degree burns on the Captain’s legs and a four inch laceration to his bicep, just to see how quickly he heals?”
The way Coulson blanches makes Steve believe that he didn’t actually know what the medical team was doing. Loki doesn't give him a chance to answer. “The medical staff’s treatment of Captain Rogers is inhumane. And based upon the terms of employment spelled out in the Captain’s personnel file, he has the right to refuse any testing or examinations that are not considered medically necessary.” Loki pauses to let that sink in for a moment before continuing. “Captain Rogers will not be submitting to any additional testing. I will see to canceling the appointment myself, to ensure that it is done. If there’s nothing else, we’d like to get back to what we were doing.”
Again Loki doesn’t wait for a response. He simply reaches out and guides Steve away by the arm. Now Steve has even more to think about when he gets home. Namely, the way his skin tingles where Loki touched him and more pressing, the fact that he’s half hard just from the way Loki handled the situation. Which is both weird and a little alarming.
They end up in a coffee shop a few doors down from the bookstore. Once Loki has ordered for both of them, he reaches his hand out. “Let me see your phone.”
Steve hands it over with no hesitation and watches as Loki taps away on the screen. He frowns as he looks at the small screen. “They’re tracking you with your phone.”
It shouldn’t surprise Steve. Of course SHIELD has been tracking him. It makes perfect sense now that he thinks about it. Doesn’t make him like it though. “Can you stop it?” He asks.
Loki hands the phone back with a self satisfied smirk. “Already done. I’m sure it won’t take them long to figure out they can’t track you that way anymore, but for now it’ll have to do. At least until I can come up with a better way to deal with it. In the meantime, you feel up for a little phone shopping?”
A little phone shopping turns into three hours of picking out and setting up a personal phone for Steve. This is after they went back to the book store and purchased everything they had set aside before Agent Coulson’s arrival.
Don't be too mad at Sharon. We're not done with her yet.
And Steve reacts different to Loki for a couple of reasons. Loki is the first person at SHIELD who comes across as genuine. He doesn't treat Steve like a child and isn't overbearing. Plus Steve is attracted to him and even though he is still reeling from Sharon, he's lonely.
Chapter 5: Steve Rogers vs Nick Fury
Chapter by Annerp
Lots of things happening with Steve and Loki this chapter.
They're hanging out again. Technically they're working. Loki is showing Steve how to program the clock on his DVD player and other very important stuff like that, such as using the popcorn button on his microwave. Steve hasn't been back into the Triskelion for a few days. And since he refused to submit to any additional medical testing, no one from SHIELD has bothered him. It's been a nice couple of days.
But then Loki says it. "You have an appointment with the psychologist tomorrow morning.”
Steve tries not to let his shoulders tense and rise up as he pours himself a glass of water in the kitchen. "I thought we canceled it."
Loki twists around on the couch to face Steve before just getting up and walking into the kitchen to stand next to the blond. "We didn't."
"Well then we should. I don't want to go."
He sets his glass down on the counter harder than he means to, some of the water sloshing out over his hand. "You said I don't have to go to any appointments I don't want to." He knows that's not really what Loki said, but he's hoping the man won't call him out on it. Steve isn't so lucky.
"You know that's not what I said." Loki asserts gently, but it still makes Steve feel like he's a kid being scolded by his mom again. Somehow he doesn't think giving his best innocent smile is going to work on Loki like it did his mom. He goes for his second best move. Sulking.
Apparently Loki is impervious to sulking. "Steve, you should go." Loki raises his hand to stop Steve from interrupting. "I know you don't want to, but I really think you can benefit from being able to talk about what you've been through."
Steve crosses his arms over his chest defensively. "They report everything I say to Fury. I don't like that." He's apparently moved on from sulking straight to pouting.
Loki hums to himself. "No. I don't suppose you would." He steps close enough to place a hand on Steve's arm. "Let me figure something out."
His breath catches and Steve has to swallow hard. He tells himself it's only because Loki's hand is cold.
"Why aren't you ready?" Loki asks as he breezes past Steve into his apartment.
"Um. Good morning." Steve is still facing the now empty hallway while Loki has already moved into the kitchen and is pulling food out of a paper bag that Steve missed him carrying in.
"Eat. Then get ready," Loki instructs as he starts the coffee maker.
Steve wants to protest, but how can he when a breakfast sandwich is thrust into his hand as soon as he closes the door and turns around. He stands there, gaze shifting between Loki and the food in his hand. Shrugging his shoulders, Steve takes a large bite of his sandwich. “Did you bring orange juice?” He asks around a mouthful of food.
Loki pulls a bottle of orange juice out of the bag and hands it over with s smug look on his face.
"Did you come here to ply me with food so I'll go to my appointment?" Steve asks. He doesn't actually stop eating, but he figures he should ask on principle.
The way Loki smiles makes the corners of his eyes crinkle and Steve has to look away so he doesn't spend too much time thinking about the way his stomach flutters at the sight.
"I'm not here to ply you with anything. I would never manipulate you like that. And even if I were to try, you're way too smart to fall for it." Loki’s tone is teasing and Steve is fairly certain he doesn't mean to make him feel insecure by reminding him of the way SHIELD has manipulated him at every turn.
Steve chuckles to hide his unease as he finishes his sandwich. "I need to take a shower and then we can go."
Narrowing his eyes, Loki tells him, "you're being a lot more cooperative than I expected. You seemed very much against going last night."
"You said you'd figure something out." Steve's right shoulder lifts in a half shrug. "I trust you." His mouth snaps closed as he thinks about what he just said. "I, uh, better get in the shower." He does need to shower, but he also needs a few moments to contemplate this new revelation. Because he realizes that he actually does trust Loki. He just hopes he isn’t making another mistake.
With Steve in the shower, Loki takes the scanner he liberated from SHIELD and starts walking through the apartment. It doesn't take long to locate the bugs. No cameras, which frankly surprises him, but he finds listening devices in every room that will have to be dealt with.
He's almost grateful for the distraction so he can keep his mind focused on the task at hand and not on Steve naked and wet in the shower.
Steve stares at the sleek black sedan that Natasha is sitting in and then looks at Loki, eyebrows drawn together in confusion. “What’s going on?”
“I’m here to drive you to your appointment. And then you can buy me lunch afterwards.”
Loki gestures to the car and so Steve gets in the passenger seat. He leans in the window, body almost pressed against Steve as he hands Natasha a slip of paper. “This is the address. His appointment is at 10:00.”
He starts to pull out of the window, but Steve grabs his arm. “What’s going on?” He asks again.
Placing his own hand over Steve’s Loki tells him, “I told you I would figure something out.” He withdraws his hand and pulls the rest of the way out of the window.
“You’re not going with me?”
“I have some business to attend to at the Triskelion today.” He nods to Natasha and then straightens up as she pulls the car away from the curb.
They drive for fifteen minutes before either one of them speak. It’s Natasha who finally breaks the silence. “He found you an independent therapist and asked me to vet them, then Tony pulled some strings to get you in this morning on short notice. Loki went in to notify SHIELD that as part of your employment agreement you’re exercising your right to choose your own practitioner.”
Steve doesn’t reply, choosing to look out the passenger window instead to hide his smile.
“You like him.” It’s not a question.
Steve is immediately put on the defensive. “Well yeah. He’s a likable guy. We get along. You know.” He crosses his arms over his chest and huffs out a breath as he leans back against his seat.
Natasha’s lips twitch into a smirk for just a second. “He’s cute. And he likes you too.”
Steve hums noncommitedly and goes back to looking out his window, refusing to think about that. He may trust Loki, he might even consider him attractive if he were to really think about it. Their relationship may have shifted a little past strictly work, but that’s as far as it goes. Steve isn’t going to make the mistake of getting tangled up with another SHIELD employee. Now if only he can keep the corners of his mouth from creeping up while he thinks about Loki.
The appointment to meet with Director Fury popped up on Steve's calendar the day before. He knows he didn't set it and when he asked, Loki said he didn't set it either.
Now they are being led into Fury's office by his secretary who doesn't bother to hide her displeasure with Steve over the last time he showed up unannounced and barged in. He would say he was sorry, but really, he's not.
The Director, sitting behind his enormous desk, tilts his head towards the pair of chairs opposite his desk, indicating that Loki and Steve should sit down. He wastes no time getting to the point as he slides a file across the desk to Steve. "Since you seem to have so much free time on your hands, I've decided to give you something to do."
It's Loki who reaches for the file and begins looking through it, but Steve is the one who puts on his innocent face and says, "I'm not sure what you mean."
The disbelieving look on Fury's face almost makes Steve snicker, but he knows better than that.
"In recent weeks you have been furniture shopping, seen six movies in the theatre, gone clothes shopping twice, grocery shopping twelve times, purchased more books than you can possibly read in a year-"
"I don't-" Steve begins before being cut off.
"You've gone to the same hardware store four times, eaten at eleven different restaurants, one of them seven times. You visited two museums and the Harley Davidson shop where I assume you purchased parts for your bike. All on company time."
Fury pauses, clearly waiting for Steve to respond. He doesn't, but Loki does as he continues to go through the file, not bothering to look up. "I have it down as five trips to the hardware store and three times clothes shopping, if you count the sporting goods store where the Captain purchased new workout gear." He looks up at Steve and continues. "He also got new sunglasses last week." Finally he turns and addresses Fury directly. "Captain Rogers has been doing a commendable job of acclimating as instructed."
Steve can see the way Loki's fingers twitch and he is willing to bet Loki wanted to make air quotes when he said 'acclimate'. He almost wishes Loki had. Just to see the look on the Directors face.
"Have you been tracking my location Director?" Steve asks a little cheekily.
Fury just gives him a blank look before responding, "you should take your phone down to have it looked at. It may be malfunctioning."
"Hmmm. I'll get right on that." Steve gives the Director a blank look of his own. They both know the tracker was disabled on his SHIELD issued phone. The question now is how far is Fury going to take it. Steve figures he'll find out at some point since he has no intention of getting it fixed. "So what was it you wanted me to do?" Steve asks to move the conversation along. He has plans to go to a music store as soon as the meeting is over.
Loki passes the file to Steve who opens it and starts looking over the papers inside.
“Those are the profiles for potential members of Strike Team Three. You are to look them over and provide your analysis on each one detailing their suitability for this kind of work. Then you will design a training program to be implemented upon final selection of team members. If, and that's a big IF, this goes well, I may find it in my heart to give you other things to do with your time."
Steve glances over at Loki whose expression is unreadable and tries to mimic it. That’s a skill he needs to keep working on. “What’s the timeframe for having this done?” He asks, pleased with himself for keeping his excitement over finally having something useful to do out of his voice.
Loki stands and heads for the door. “That’s perfect. You can start first thing in the morning and we can still go to the music store today after lunch.”
Following behind, Steve chooses to ignore the Director’s dramatic sigh from behind him. He’s glad his back is to Fury so the man doesn’t see the grin on his face. As soon as they are safely out of the office and past the secretary, Steve lets out the laugh he has been holding in. “Why’d you hafta go and say that?”
“What is he going to do? Fire me?”
Steve decides that the mischievous smirk on Loki’s face looks entirely too good. This is also the moment when he realizes he finally had a real meeting with Director Fury and he failed to bring up the fact that he doesn’t need an assistant. It doesn’t bother him as much as he thought it would.
At his therapist’s suggestion and Loki’s insistence, Steve has been spending time with Tony and occasionally Natasha and Clint when they aren’t out on missions. For all that he likes Clint and Natasha, their ties to SHIELD still cause him to be cautious around them. Tony on the other hand is an anomaly much like his father. He works with SHIELD as an independent contractor on his own terms and he answers only to himself. Steve finds himself envious of that arrangement.
It’s baseball season and Steve wants to go to a game. His beloved Dodgers may have defected to California, but they’re scheduled to play a short stint in New York and he wants to attend at least one game. He wants a hotdog, or maybe four, and a couple of beers. What he doesn’t want, is to go by himself.
Phone in hand he scrolls through the few contacts he has. Anyone at SHIELD is not even a consideration, with the exception of Natasha and Clint who are both out on a mission. Stark is around though.
SR: I was thinking about catching the Dodgers this Saturday while they’re in town
TS: you need tickets? i think i have box seats or something
SR: do you even know where they’re playing? you don’t have box seats at every stadium
TS: yes i do
Steve gapes at his phone then shrugs. It’s entirely possible that Tony does have box seats at all the stadiums in the area.
SR: So you’ll go with me?
TS: I don’t really do baseball
TS: but the seats are yours to use when ever you want
The offer for the seats is nice, but Steve was really hoping for some company. He's not even going to wonder why Tony has box seats, but doesn't watch baseball.
SR: that’d be great. thanks tony
TS: anytime capsicle
Steve smiles at the nickname. He would never tell Tony, but he actually likes it. That little friendly teasing makes him feel not quite so lonely. For now though, it's back to scrolling through his phone. On the second pass through his thumb hovers over Loki’s name. Steve would be hard pressed to consider a Dodger game, hotdogs and beer on a Saturday night as SHIELD mandated 'acclimation'. But then again a lot of what they do together doesn't either so after a moment of hesitation Steve decides, ‘why the hell not?’
SR: would you be interested in going to a baseball game with me on saturday?
SR: ive got box seats
SR: its okay if you’re busy or something
SR: I understand if you are
SR: no pressure
SR: I’m sure your busy
SR: its no big deal
LO: calm down. I’d love to go.
LO: ill admit I know nothing of the game, you’ll have to teach me
Steve grins down at his phone. He really shouldn’t be so excited about this. But he tells himself that it’s because he hasn’t been to a game since waking up from the ice and has nothing to do with a certain dark haired man that will be accompanying him.
The game is amazing. A no hitter that has Steve up and down out of his seat, compulsively folding his Brooklyn hat in his hands and shouting triumphantly in turns. Loki is less enthusiastic, although he does grin at Steve whenever the blond looks over at him. Which even Steve is willing to admit is a lot. But he’s only doing it to make sure Loki is enjoying himself.
It’s late by the time they get back to Steve’s apartment. Riding high on the win, Steve drags Loki inside by the hand. “Tony said I can have the seats when ever I want them. So if you had a good time we can go again. It won't be the Dodgers, but it'll still be fun.” He stops and turns back as he realizes he’s getting ahead of himself. “Did you have a good time?” Steve starts to pull his hand back, but Loki tightens his grip and pins him in place with a look.
“I had a wonderful time tonight Steve.”
Loki holds Steve’s hand and his gaze for slightly longer than would be considered just friendly and the warmth that spreads in Steve’s belly makes his mouth run before his brain can catch up. “It’s late. You should stay with me tonight.”
He cringes as soon as he hears the words out of his mouth. Steve is smart enough to know there is no graceful way out of that, so he decides to commit and hope for the best. “You can sleep in my bed and I’ll sleep out here on the couch. You can go home in the morning."
The emotions that flicker across Loki's face are too fleeting for Steve to make out. Except for the last one. Regret. "I think it's best if I go home tonight. I'll see you on Monday."
When Loki slips out the door a few minutes later, Steve wonders if he can see the disappointment and confusion that he's sure are on his own face.
Loki is sitting on the couch focused intently on the movie, one of those ridiculous romantic comedies that he loves, while Steve is focused on the man's profile. He eyes trace the angles of Loki’s cheek bones, the line of his nose, the soft curl of his hair at the nape of his neck.
He isn't quite fast enough to look away when Loki turns to him, lips parted as he starts to ask a question, "did you ever-" he pauses and watches as Steve's face starts to pink at being caught staring.
Furrowing his brows, Loki asks, "is everything alright?"
For just a moment Steve is lost in those beautiful green eyes. And oh....
"Fine. Fine. Everything's fine," he chokes out, jerking up from the couch.
He walks to the kitchen and pours himself a glass of water, gulping down a drink while Loki looks at him quizzically over the back of the couch. Loki gets up and follows Steve until he is standing directly in front of the blond.
Steve takes another drink to stall. But Loki reaches up and gently takes the glass out of his hand, placing it on the counter. His hand brushes across Steve's as he does and the blond's brain seizes for just a moment. Oh. OH!
Steve looks at the counter, the clock on the wall, the refrigerator behind Loki. Anything but at the man himself. When he finally does, he is face to face with those intense green eyes again and one perfectly arched brow.
He takes an involuntary step back, hitting the counter behind him when Loki steps in to set the glass down. They are so close, it would be nothing for Steve to reach out and draw the other man forward into a kiss. And oh... oh no...
"I'm ah... kinda tired," he squeaks out. "I think I may lay down."
Loki frowns, "it's the middle of the day. Are you sure you're feeling ok?"
Reaching a hand up, Steve rubs the back of his neck and then crosses his arms over his chest, shoulders hunched in just slightly forward.
"Yeah, uh, just um..." he trails off, unsure of what to say.
"If you desire, I can run and pick you up a coffee from that place you like?"
"No! No need." Steve definitely desires something, but it’s not coffee.
"If you prefer, I can make you some coffee here."
It's almost a question. For just a moment Steve waivers. He wants... he doesn't know what he wants. He chooses not to acknowledge the lie he tells himself.
As soon as Loki is gone, Steve pulls out his SHIELD phone, opens up his email and starts typing.
He pauses, debating with himself, finger hovering over the button to delete the email, just like the last 3 he typed.
To: Dolores Jenson
From: Steve Rogers
Request for transfer:
I want to initiate an immediate transfer of Loki Odinson. I do not need Mr. Odinson's services. I respectfully request that no other assistants be assigned to me at this time.
Captain Steven G Rogers
Taking a deep breath, he frowns and hits the send button. Almost immediately he regrets it.
Loki's phone chimes with an alert and he opens the intercepted email. Request for transfer. His first instinct is to respond right away to the redirected message, but he knows it will have to wait until morning to be believable. Even so, he can't help but feel a little pain of hurt.
To: Captain Steve Rogers
From: Dolores Jenson
Request for transfer:
Your request to transfer Loki Odinson has been denied.
Human Resource Manager
Loki signs them both up for some Intro to Cooking classes at the local community center, emphatically declaring Steve’s attempts at cooking to be subpar at best. He is kind enough not to mention last weeks tiny, in Steve’s opinion, kitchen fire that necessitated replacing his largest fry pan. Despite this Steve is hesitant to go after his recent private revelation regarding the feelings he might have inadvertently, against his own will, somehow possibly developed for his assistant.
Loki justifies it by explaining the benefits of additional social interaction. He also points out that Steve's therapist would approve. Surprisingly, that holds more weight than Steve initially thought it would. And Steve is amused by the fact that Loki charged the class fees to SHIELD.
During the first class they giggle their way through chicken breast with a lemon cream sauce. Prompting several glares from the instructor. They are told at the end of class that their station is being moved to the back so they don’t disturb the other students with their antics.
At the second class they both try to be more serious. It goes well and they manage to make a soup that looks remarkably like the one the instructor prepared. Everything is fine until Loki lifts a spoon up for Steve to taste and he does, allowing Loki to feed him while they stand behind their messy station. Steve can still feel the blush on his cheeks as he types out the request to transfer email to HR.
The third class is a complete disaster. Steve is exhausted after having just returned from a short mission with Natasha. While he was happy to get out in the field and actually do something, he found himself thinking more and more about getting back home with each passing minute. Getting back home and seeing Loki. Somehow they manage to burn their pasta and also undercook the vegetables. They spend several minutes sniping at each other in frustration. But only because they take pride in what they're doing. Not because they want to be better than Janet and her husband Doug over in kitchen two. Steve is too tired to send out another email to HR when he gets home from class.
During the fourth class Steve silently watches Loki chop onion, carrots and celery. His movements are precise and elegant. He’s pulled out of his thoughts when Loki asks, “Are you planning on helping or are you going to just stand there and look pretty?” Steve’s never been called pretty before. He’s not sure how he feels about it. There is already an email denying his latest request for transfer in his inbox by the time he makes it into the Triskelion the next morning.
The fifth class marks new territory when Steve’s brain shuts down as he watches Loki lick frosting off his fingers. He’s in too much of a hurry to get home and out of his suddenly too tight pants to even think about sending any emails.
During the final class Steve realizes he's going to miss this time with Loki. He doesn't request a transfer when he gets home. Instead he lays in bed thinking over his options and trying to figure out what he really wants.
Chapter 6: Steve Rogers vs the Tesseract
Chapter by Annerp
CW for depictions of injuries, thoughts of death, near death experience, depression.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"There's this art gallery…" Steve trails off when Loki looks up from where he is reading his book, one long leg thrown haphazardly over the arm of the oversized chair in Steve's living room.
Loki is looking at him expectantly and Steve realizes he hasn't finished his sentence. "I was thinking… it would be nice to go. Maybe this weekend?"
Pulling his tablet out of his bag, Loki starts tapping on the screen. "Where's it at? I'll check the hours."
Steve gives him the name and location and within seconds Loki tells him that the gallery will be closed on Thursday and Friday in preparation for a new opening that Saturday.
"I'll need to secure you a ticket if you want to go to the opening on Saturday, but that shouldn't be too hard."
That sets Steve in a bit of a panic. He doesn't want to go to the new exhibit and if he doesn't go tonight he may not get another chance. "What about tonight? How late are they open tonight?"
Looking down again Loki scrolls across the screen. "Until 8:00."
Steve glances at the clock and grimaces. 6:48. "We can just make it," he says as he grabs his shoes from under the coffee table and shoves his feet into them.
Once they are tied he looks up at Loki who is just staring at him. "We can just make what?"
"The gallery. If we leave now we can make it before closing." He stands and grabs his keys and wallet off the table by the front door.
Steve knows he doesn't imagine the pleased little smile on Loki's face before he bends and puts on his own shoes.
Riding through the streets with Loki pressed up against his back is as exhilarating as it is distracting. The feeling of Loki's arms wrapped around his waist will surely stay with him for quite some time. The warmth shared between their bodies is indescribable. When Loki shifts slightly pressing them somehow even closer together before resting his head against Steve's back, the blonde has to force himself to focus on driving.
They make it to the gallery with fifteen minutes to spare. Steve is grinning when he grabs Loki's hand and pulls him through the doors. He weaves them through the displays slow enough for Loki to get a look at each piece but only stopping when they are in front of an abstract painting in gray tones with a slash of orange bleeding to red in the upper corner.
"What do you think?" Steve asks breathing out a sigh of relief that the painting is still there.
He's nervous to hear Loki's thoughts and can feel his hand starting to sweat where he is still grasping Loki’s.
"It's beautiful." Loki's answer is hushed as he steps closer to the painting pulling Steve along with him.
"I thought about buying it."
Loki turns quickly to look at Steve. "You should. Steve, you absolutely should buy it."
"I actually talked to the gallery manager about it. The price is…" Steve releases Loki's hand and rubs at the back of his neck. "Technically I can afford it."
Furrowing his eyebrows, Loki looks back at the painting. "Then what is holding you back?"
"I don't know."
Steve can feel his cheeks heat as he looks down at his feet to avoid looking at Loki any longer.
"When you look at it, how does it make you feel?" Loki doesn't wait for Steve to answer. "Does it make you happy? Whatever you feel when you look at it, does it make you want it?"
"Yes." Steve's heart is beating too fast, too loud. Loki has to hear it. There’s no way he can’t.
"Then you know what you need to do."
He does know what he needs to do. But first, he has a painting to buy.
They’ve just finished arguing for ten minutes about where to hang the painting. But finally it’s up. In the spot Loki chose. Of course.
“What do you think?” Loki asks, gesturing to the painting and its prominent position in the living room where they stand side by side to admire it.
Steve’s eyes however remain fixed on Loki’s profile. His cheekbones, the arch of his perfect brows, the fullness of his lips. “I love it.” His voice is soft, almost a whisper.
Loki turns his head to look at him and it's too much. Steve timidly reaches his hand out, grasping Loki's gently, intertwining their fingers. This isn't the first time they've held hands. Usually it involves dragging one or the other around. Nothing like this.
This is warmth in Steve's belly, the beating of his heart, the tingle where their skin touches. An electric rush, pulsing between them, solid and strong, alive and beautiful. Full of promise and potential. And Steve loves it. Steve loves him.
Steve pulls slightly on Loki's hand, excited and nervous at the same time. When he comes willingly Steve can't stop himself from reaching with his free hand to cup Loki's cheek, lean in and bring their lips together.
The first one is a test. The second is a question. The third is a promise. The rest an exploration.
Waking up next to Loki is… Not what Steve envisioned. Especially since he woke up underneath Loki rather than next to him. It's as if the dark haired man has decided that Steve's perfectly nice memory foam mattress isn't good enough to sleep on so he chose the next available thing. Now Steve has six feet of lean muscles and cool skin sprawled over him like the world's clingiest blanket. Clearly Loki is a closet cuddler.
Even with Loki's hair tickling his nose, the mess between them that they fell asleep before cleaning up and his lack of mobility, there is no where else he'd rather be. It would be perfect if not for the way his body has decided that it wants a repeat of the previous night and has proceeded to press insistently against Loki's hip.
SR: I'm back
LO: how did it go? Are you well?
SR: meet me at shield
LO: I can be there in 20min
LO: if you haven't already, take a shower and get out of your uniform.
LO: I'll bring food
LO: I missed you
SR: missed you too
True to his word, Loki is there in just under twenty minutes with a bag of take out from Steve’s favorite diner. If he wasn’t sure that SHIELD is monitoring his office, he would allow himself to take comfort in Loki’s arms, his scent, his strength. But since that is not an option, Steve nods his head in an awkward acknowledgment, grateful when Loki gives him a soft smile, letting Steve know he understands.
Loki’s eyes flick over Steve’s body. This isn’t the heated look Loki gives him when they are alone. This look is appraising, measuring. Checking for injuries. Steve appreciates the concern and maybe later he’ll let Loki take a closer look since he skipped out on going to medical, claiming he was fine, but for now he has more important things on his mind. He picks up his personal cell phone and taps out a text message to Loki
SR: I need you to help me find everything we can about any energy based weapons shield has. I want to know how they power them
Out loud he says, “I need you to upload my mission report." Steve tries not to use his Captain’s voice on Loki, but he’s so rattled that he finds himself falling into that role to help himself cope. He takes a breath and tries again. "I'm having trouble uploading my mission report. Can you help me with it?”
There is no hesitation when Loki pulls a chair over to sit next to Steve at the computer. “Of course. You go ahead and eat and I’ll take care of it for you.” His deft fingers are already moving over the keyboard as he talks.
Just that is enough to loosen the knot in Steve’s stomach by a fraction. Without looking away from the screen Loki slides the bag of food over to him.
“I could have gotten something from the cafeteria,” Steve tells him for no other reason than to start shit, knowing that getting Loki riled up will distract him from what he is afraid they’re going to find in SHIELD’S files. Playfully bickering with his opinionated lover is his second favorite thing to do with him and since his actual favorite isn't an option right now...
He’s not wrong about getting Loki riled up, but the distraction only lasts until the first time Loki frowns at the computer screen. Loki presses his leg against Steve's, shifts his arm so he brushes casually along Steve's own. The touches are light and surely would look innocent if seen by anyone else. But Steve knows them for what they are and it makes his heart grow warmer even as the knot in his stomach grows colder. Until even Loki's reassuring touch isn't enough to calm the increasing dread that Steve feels.
Since Director Fury has finally decided to start using Steve in the field more often, they have established a post mission routine. Usually Loki heads to Steve’s apartment and joins him in the shower making sure he is entirely relaxed before feeding him. It’s a good routine.
Over the past couple of months he has greeted Steve as he returns from increasingly complex missions and Loki is used to seeing Steve keyed up as he has to come down from the energy required to get through whatever situation SHIELD throws him into. This time is different. Rather than meeting Steve at his apartment and helping him come down post battle, Steve’s usual text telling Loki he is back was brief, almost terse. And the request for Loki to meet him at SHIELD instead of at home, is unusual enough to cause a little fissure of concern.
Loki can feel the way Steve radiates tension as soon as he walks in the blond’s office. What he wants to do is pull Steve into his arms and kiss away the frown on his face. He settles for scrutinizing what he can see of his body, checking for injuries. He doesn’t see any obvious signs of injury, but resolves to do a more thorough check later in private.
Logging on to Steve’s computer and using the tricks he has for accessing high clearance files, Loki starts his search for energy based weapons while Steve opens the bag of food and starts to eat, complaining about how he was capable of getting his own food the entire time. If it weren't for the stiffness of Steve's posture and the set of his shoulders, Loki could almost believe that Steve is actually relaxing into their normal good natured banter which oftentimes turns into a kind of verbal foreplay.
Loki presses his leg against Steve’s and brushes his arm over the blond's. Out of the corner of his eye he can see the way Steve’s shoulders drop down slightly at the contact. It isn’t much of an improvement, but it’s all he can offer at the moment.
He quickly sends a copy of all the files he finds to a secure email and then erases his electronic tracks before sending in the actual mission report that Steve had already typed up.
"Alright. It's sent," Loki says as he pushes his chair back from the computer. "Is there anything else you need to attend to here?"
Steve shakes his head. "No. I'm ready to head out."
They end up leaning against each other on Steve's couch as Loki pulls the files up on the tablet he insisted Steve buy a month ago. The blond starts to talk as they read.
“Fury sent me, Natasha, Clint and two strike teams to Florida. He even called in Stark. There’s this group calling themselves A.I.M. Advanced Idea Mechanics. The briefing notes said they’ve been around for decades. Mostly creating advanced weapons and selling to the highest bidder. Usually the government or foreign countries.”
Loki frowns as he reads. He can feel Steve lean in, pressing their bodies closer.
“They developed a knock off version of the serum that I have. Theirs causes the subjects to become unstable. Violent. Uncontrollable. But apparently they were still intelligent enough to work together and take over the facility."
The more they read the more Steve's voice starts to waiver. Loki can feel the way his body thrums with tension.
"I get why Fury sent us all. It was an absolute shit show. The strike teams… they had these weapons. Just like back in the war. But instead of Hydra having them it was SHIELD."
Loki opens another file on the table and Steve stiffens when he sees the images. Luckily he didn't seem to notice the way Loki's own body spasmed against him.
"It’s the cube. SHIELD has it and they're using it to make weapons, just like hydra." Steve's voice is a cross between trepidation and anger. "I saw them and I didn’t want to believe it. The last time I saw that thing, it was falling into the Atlantic ocean in 1945."
Loki stays mostly quiet as they look through the rest of the files. Only offering the occasional comment when prompted while his mind races.
When he finally shuts the tablet off and insists they go to bed, Loki lies awake waiting for Steve to drop into a deep sleep.
Steve wakes up and knows right away that he's alone. It's not the first time he's woken up and found Loki gone. But he hates it every time it happens. He rolls over to look at the clock and is surprised to see that he has slept past 9:00am. Grabbing his phone from the bedside table, Steve taps out a quick text message to Loki before getting up and starting his day.
“Can you meet me for coffee?”
Steve relaxes, allowing his heart to slow back down from where he scrambled to get his phone before it stopped ringing. He hasn’t heard from Loki all morning and even his texts were going undelivered. “Yeah, of course. Where at?”
“The usual. Meet me in an hour.”
And that’s it. That’s the end of the conversation. Now Steve is sitting at a small table in the patio seating area of his favorite coffee shop. When he sees Loki making his way towards him wearing the fitted black on black suit that does things to Steve’s insides, his breath catches a little. Just like it does every other time Steve sees him.
Taking his seat, Loki smiles as Steve pushes the coffee he already ordered over to him. Steve waits until Lok has taken a drink before saying anything.
“I haven’t heard from you all day.” He doesn’t outright ask a question, but it’s definitely there.
Even though he can hear it, Loki ignores it. “Steve, we need to talk about something.” He opens his mouth to continue, but snaps it closed when a couple walks by to sit at a table a few feet away.
Loki wraps his hand around his mug of coffee and Steve’s attention is drawn to Loki’s slender fingers. He keeps his eyes there as he tries to push down the anxiety that threatens to bubble up. Steve knows nothing good ever comes from the phrase ‘we need to talk’. He swallows hard and just nods, not trusting his voice.
Shifting forward in his seat, Loki brings his left hand over so he is holding his cup with both hands, elbows resting on the table. Steve is torn between wanting to reach out, hold Loki’s hands, make himself feel better or getting up and walking away from what he fears is about to happen.
It’s only an instant, just a split second when the hair on the back of his neck stands on end and he looks to Loki with a question in his eyes. And then he is gone. The mass of glass and steel and dirt that engulfs Steve makes it impossible to see beyond a few inches.
There is screaming and crying. The groans of metal straining to hold together. The patter of broken glass falling like rain.
He has to help. He takes a step towards the nearest voice. Only to find that he’s on his knees in a pile of debris that used to be the table he was having coffee with Loki at. As the dust settles he can see the remains of the table, pieces of glass that once held his drink, the legs of the chair Loki had been sitting in. A single napkin still rolled around silverware.
But no Loki.
He brings a hand up to wipe sweat from his brow and then stares at the mixture of blood and dirt he comes away with. He’s bleeding and people are shouting and he can’t see Loki.
He needs to get up. Needs to find Loki. Needs to help. But he can’t get his legs underneath himself to stand.
He can’t get up. He’s bleeding. People are shouting. Sirens are wailing, closer and closer.
And finally there is Loki. Like an apparition, Loki seemingly untouched by the explosion kneels down in front of Steve, wearing green and black leather with bronzed armor plating on one shoulder and across his chest. That both comforts and upsets Steve at the same time. He reaches a bloody hand out and opens his mouth to speak Loki’s name. He means to. He tries, but Steve can’t get the feel of his name around the coppery taste in his mouth.
He tries again. This time he feels it. Not his lover's name easing out from between his lips, but the pool of blood that runs down his chin to drip and mix with the crimson mess that used to be his favorite plaid shirt.
“Steve!” It's a whisper in his ear, shouted from Loki’s lips. “Steve stay with me!” And then even the whisper fades.
Coming awake is not the slow gentle process of hazy morning light, soft linens against skin and a warm presence pressed to his back. Coming awake is like plunging into dark icy waters, gasping for air, disoriented and terrified.
Steve lurches up to sitting only to be met with a cacophony of shrieking alarms, searing pain in his chest and the sound of footsteps running towards him.
He was sixteen years old the last time. And he remembers hushed whispers of pneumonia. The harsh wheeze of each strained breath from his too weak lungs. He remembers the way Father Christopher stumbled away from his bedside when he jerked upright with the last of his strength and a shouted denial of death on his lips.
This time there is no comforting presence of his mother's voice, her fingers stroking through his sweat soaked hair. There are no relieved voices and encouraging murmurs.
This time there are shouts and harsh lights. Needles pricking his skin. Noise and chaos and too many bodies crowded around, touching, testing, prodding. He closes his eyes to shut it out and longs for his mother and Father Christopher to be back at his bedside easing his way from this world to the next. And not for the first time, he wonders why at sixteen, he fought it so hard.
Steve can't say if he's relieved or nervous when he wakes up next and finds Director Fury sitting in the chair by the window. He's leaning towards nervous.
"Where's Loki," he croaks out from his parched throat.
Fury doesn't visibly react to Steve's question. Although he rarely seems to react to anything in Steve's experience. "I was hoping you could tell me. It seems your assistant has stolen something of great value and I'd very much like to get it back."
Steve's mind races, as much as it can for as bad as he feels. "What do you think he took?" It's not true. There's no way Loki took anything. There's no way he would leave Steve. Despite his certainty, Steve can feel a ball of dread forming in the pit of his stomach. When Fury doesn't answer Steve repeats himself a little more forcefully. "What do you think he took?"
Fury sighs and stands up. He paces back and forth a few times while Steve waits for an answer. "He took an incredibly powerful artifact. We've been studying it for years looking for a way to harness its energy."
Steve can tell the Director is being purposefully vague, but it's easy to parse together what Fury must be talking about. "You mean the cube. The thing you were using to make weapons."
Fury's jaw clenches a little tighter, but only for a second. "I need to know where Loki took it."
Pursing his lips together, Steve crosses his arms over his chest, leveling a glare at the Director.
Director Fury walks over to look out the window. He keeps his back to Steve when he speaks, but watches his reflection in the glass. “I know this isn’t easy to hear, given the nature of your relationship.”
Steve can feel his cheeks heat and he drops his gaze as he picks at the blanket over his lap. “How did you know?”
Throwing a glance over his shoulder Fury gives Steve a look that he thinks he is supposed to interpret as sympathetic. “Just tell me where he is son.”
The room is dark when Steve stirs awake. His eyes feel itchy and dry and he rubs at them with his left hand. With his right he reaches over and pushes the button to turn the bedside light on. He sucks in a breath and covers his mouth to stifle the sound that tries to escape.
Steve’s heart clenches hearing Loki whisper his name. “They’re saying you stole the cube. That you used me. That none of it was real.” When Loki doesn’t answer Steve throws his blanket to the side and lurches to his feet. “Loki. Please. Tell me you didn’t do it." He’s stopped from moving too far by the IV line in his hand so he grabs the tube and pulls, ignoring the blood that oozes out of the wound. “Say it! Tell me they’re wrong!” Steve drops back down on the side of the bed, but leans forward desperately searching Loki’s face for any sign, any indication that Fury is wrong. He doesn’t find it. “Loki-”
“I took it.”
“What?” Steve jerks as though he’s been struck.
“The tesseract is too dangerous to be left in the hands of mortals. I took it home, back to Asgard, where it can be safeguarded.”
“Asgard? I don’t understand. What do you mean ‘mortals’?”
Loki leans forward in his chair as though to reach out, but stops when Steve flinches back on the bed. He sounds pained when he speaks. “I am not of your realm.”
Steve frowns because it’s 2012 and there are aliens. And apparently sometimes they appear as tall, dark haired men with piercing green eyes and the ability to make a complete and utter fool out of Steve. He takes a deep breath. And another. And another. It does nothing to slow down the pounding of his heart. “And you came to steal the cube.” Steve crosses his arms over his chest to stop his hands from shaking.
“No! I came…” Loki’s expression flicks through several emotions and ends in a pinched look that Steve can’t decipher. “I came because my brother was bored.”
Steve tries to stop the incredulous laugh that bubbles up from his chest. He is only partially successful as a strangled huff escapes his lips in its place. “You were bored? So what was I? A convenience until you could get the cube? Just something to pass the time?” He blinks several times against the burning sensation in his eyes. He refuses to cry. At least not until he’s alone. “I slept with you! I loved-" He cuts himself off, unwilling to reveal the depth of his humiliation. "You used me.”
Loki is shaking his head in denial. “No. Steve. I wasn’t using you. I came here with my brother, but I stayed for you.”
Steve’s heart stutters painfully. He wants it to be true. God how he wants it. “Liar,” he hisses as the first tear falls.
Loki feels like the air has been sucked out of his lungs. He can't draw in a breath past the ache in his chest. "Please. Steve."
"No." Steve's eyes are rimmed red and Loki can tell he Is holding himself together by sheer force of will. "You don't get to do this to me. Not you too."
Truth be told, Loki feels just as shattered. "I'm not. I wouldn't! Not to you." Loki can feel the small scrap of happiness that he managed to carve for himself starting to slip away. And so he clings to it desperately. "I need you to believe me."
"Why? Aren't you through using me? Maybe you want one last fuck before you go?" There’s a hysterical edge to Steve’s voice as he goes so far as to start pushing his hospital issued gown off his shoulders. The sight makes Loki's stomach twist painfully.
And that word sounds so disgusting coming from Steve's mouth like that. Loki never thought of the times they were intimate as fucking. Steve was not a conquest. He was a lover. The only one Loki has ever felt so strongly for. The only one that can break him this way.
"Please stop." Loki can hear the desperation in his voice increasing as Steve keeps pulling at the gown. Finally he jumps to his feet and grabs both of Steve's wrists in his hands. "Steve. Stop! Just listen to me. I need you to listen to me."
Steve's body tenses, but he doesn't pull away despite the way his skin burns with familiar longing at the touch. "And I need you to get out of my room."
Loki releases Steve's wrists and steps back, watching as the blond's chest heaves with each breath. "I was going to tell you. Everything. Where I'm from. Why I came here. Why I stayed. I was going to tell you about the tesseract."
Steve laid in his hospital bed and listened as Director Fury explained that Sharon Carter was being assigned to him again. If he had the ability he would have laughed. Instead all he managed to do was stare blankly at the rough texture of the hospital blanket clutched to his chest.
Now though, having her here feels like a fresh wound over all his others, new and old, that haven't begun to heal.
He listens as well as he can as she explains what they know about the attack, catching pieces of information before his attention drifts back to his apartment and Loki’s books that migrated on to his shelves. His favorite coffee cup with the chip in the handle. His hair products and body wash and toothbrush that have taken over Steve’s bathroom. The pillow on Steve’s bed that carries his scent.
In his head Steve goes through the process of removing Loki’s presence from his life and knows he won’t be able to do it in reality. Just the thought of packing up his things and getting rid of them sends a fresh wave of grief over him. He finds himself hoping that SHIELD will be true to form and have already gone over every inch of his apartment, taking anything of Loki’s with them.
His attention is drawn back to the blonde woman sitting in the chair by the window. Steve can see the pity on her face. At any other point in time that look would stir something in Steve. Anger, defiance, determination. Now it only adds to the resignation, grief and humiliation he is already drowning in.
He hums softly to let her know he’s listening. At least until his mind wanders again to jet black hair and bright green eyes. Long fine boned fingers, cool skin and insistent touches.
“A.I.M. figured out you were alive after the mission in Florida. Since their version of the serum failed, they went direct for the source.”
And that makes sense. Of course it does. Steve’s worth is tied to the serum. Always has been. “Civilian casualties?” He asks, trying to wrestle his voice into not sounding like he wants to crawl under a rock and disappear.
Sharon either doesn’t notice or at least doesn’t comment on it. “No fatalities. Some injuries, lacerations, broken bones, one woman with internal bleeding. You took most of the damage.”
At least he can be good for something.
The laugh that escapes Steve’s lips is anything but funny. Every inch of him is damaged. Not one part of him has been left unscathed. He feels like he may shatter apart at any second, only held together by the geometric pattern on his hospital gown. Idley he wonders if he will simply break along all his fault lines when he takes it off.
"We have two in custody. Captured at the scene." Sharon's eyes flick to Steve and then away quickly. He can tell there's more to it than that, but doesn't bother asking. "Barton and Romanov are following up on a lead to get the rest."
Steve nods numbly to show he's been listening, figuring he doesn't have anything useful to add anyway.
He's not sure how long he sits there. The pattern on his gown hasn't changed so it cannot have been that long. He tries to remember when he traded out the gown with the block patterns into this striped one.
Sharon is still there. Or there again. Not that there's a difference.
"We expect you should be ready to go home in about a week," she announces when she catches him looking at her.
That should make him happy. He hates hospitals. But he hates the idea of going back to his apartment without Loki even more.
"I'll be moving back down the hall from you so I can be close."
Of course she is. The apartment down the hall from his has been empty ever since Sharon's cover was blown. It only makes sense to have her move in now that she has to watch Steve again. That knowledge does nothing to quell the surge of anger that washes over him.
He doesn't say anything out loud. Instead he starts counting the stripes on his gown trying to keep from lashing out or break down in tears. He forgets what number he's on when she speaks again.
"I knew what the assignment was when I took it." At first Steve doesn't understand. "I knew who you were. I grew up hearing all about you."
Part of him isn't sure he wants to hear this, the rest is positive he doesn't. He doesn't try to stop her.
"I thought it was better if it was me rather than someone else. I could control things, not let it go too far."
Steve flashes back on his first failed attempt to kiss her and his cheeks flame with embarrassment. What's worse was the second successful attempt. If hearing that is supposed to make him feel better, it only hurts more.
Tony shows up with a new tablet for Steve. He isn't sure why. At least not until Tony pulls up a security camera feed from the coffee shop where Steve was injured.
"Their security recordings gets uploaded to an off-site server," Tony explains as the video starts to play. "Laughably easy to hack."
"Tony…" Steve doesn't want to watch it. He watches any way.
"He saved all those people. He saved you."
Steve's eyes start to burn, but he refuses to give into it.
It's been five days since Steve's life fell apart again and Natasha has been by for lunch three days in a row. She doesn't say much which suits Steve fine. On her second trip she dropped off a replacement for his personal cell phone. He turns it off and puts it in the drawer next to his hospital bed when she leaves.
After the third visit he pulls the phone out, powers it up, and taps out a text message.
SR: Sharon is babysitting me now.
He deletes it before typing out another.
SR: I just want to understand. You could have taken the cube at any time. Why spend so much time on me. And why save me
He deletes this one as well.
SR: I miss you and I hate you
And this one.
SR: I hate myself more
His finger hovers over the send button for awhile on that one.
When Steve comes out of the tiny box the hospital has the nerve to call a bathroom, he does not expect to see Tony Stark sitting next to his bed. Or for the man to be flipping through the notepad Clint brought him so he could draw a little to pass the time.
"Capsicle! Glad you could join me!" Tony's voice is upbeat, but his body language is fidgety. More than his usual.
"Well, it's my room…" Steve takes a moment to acknowledge the relief at finding Tony instead of the ever present reminder of his failures in Agent Carter.
Tony jumps to his feet. "Right. Except it's not. You've been discharged. So let's grab your stuff and get out of here." Tony makes a show of looking around the room. "Do you have any stuff?" He picks up the flimsy plastic water pitcher next to the bed and holds it out to Steve. "What about this? Are you taking this?"
"What? No. I'm not taking that. Not taking that either," Steve snaps when Tony starts to unplug the blood pressure machine from the wall. "What's going on?"
"I told you. You're being sent home. I've managed to convince Sharlene at the nurses station that you don't need to be wheeled out in a wheelchair, but if we don't leave soon, Janet will be back from lunch and she'll insist on following hospital policy."
Steve just looks at him incredulously, but doesn't argue as he grabs the athletic shoes Natasha left for him when she dropped off the T-shirt and sweatpants he's currently wearing the day before.
Once his shoes are tied Tony is headed for the door with Steve right behind him. As soon as the elevator doors close and they are headed down to the lobby Tony pulls an envelope out of his jacket pocket. "I tried to find information about Loki and where he is."
Steve stiffens at Loki's name and he tries to hand the envelope back even without knowing what it contains. "I didn't ask you to look. I'm sure SHIELD is working on it."
"Of course they are. Just like they've been looking over your apartment, going through your personal stuff. Were you aware that none of the listening devices in your apartment have been working properly since Loki started as your assistant?"
When Steve doesn't answer Tony looks at him wide eyed. "Holy shit. You didn't even know SHIELD had your place bugged did you?"
"I didn't … look, I knew they were tracking me. And I wondered, but… You think Loki disabled them?"
Steve thinks about all those moments in his apartment. Their first kiss. The first time Loki brought Steve over the edge with those skillful hands. The way Loki sounded when he entered Steve for the first time. The way he sounded at the same time. At least those memories were still his alone.
Including the first time Steve whispered that he loved him when Loki was deeply asleep.
Tony holds up a hand to stop Steve from trying to hand the envelope back again. Steve can feel it in his gut that there's nothing but heartache in there. How can it be anything else.
"The list of high clearance files Loki accessed at SHIELD is surprisingly short."
"How do you know?"
Tony just gives him a look to convey how silly that question is. "SHIELD'S system is good. Loki was better. But I'm better than him."
"If he's so good how did SHIELD know he took the cube?"
He forgets his question when the elevator doors open to the lobby and Steve spots Agent Carter talking with Coulson. There are a handful of other SHIELD agents with them. He's struck by how badly he doesn't want to go with them.
"This way," Tony tells him as he leads Steve down a side hallway, away from the main exit. They cut through a lab and an employee lounge before ending up in the emergency department. Outside is a familiar black sedan with Natasha behind the wheel.
Chapter 8: Steve Rogers vs SHIELD
Chapter by Annerp
This chapter features my favorite scene from the whole story and the fantastic artwork Mystrana created for it.
Steve expects to be taken to Stark Tower. He’s stayed there a few times before. Tony even gave him his own suite to use whenever he wanted. In his weirdly generous way, Tony had enlisted Loki with all his ridiculous opinions about everything to decorate the space to Steve’s liking. It was such an unexpected surprise and just so Tony. He wouldn't even allow Steve to thank him properly, waving him off while changing the subject.
He’s actually relieved to not be going to the Tower though. As nice as his space is, it reminds him too much of Loki and the few nights they shared there.
What he doesn’t expect is for Natahsa to park in an underground garage beneath an apartment building in Brooklyn.
He takes the bag she hands him from out of the trunk and follows her inside up to the second floor where she unlocks a door and leads him into a spacious apartment.
The couch, chair and dining room set are identical to the ones he first picked out with Loki all those months ago. When he recognizes the small tear on one of the throw pillows he realizes they aren't just identical. There are shelves filled with familiar books and on the wall is a painting that he can't look at right now.
It hurts and he's sure he's going to be in for a long night surrounded by painful memories, but somehow all of his stuff looks better here than it ever did in his SHIELD apartment. He wonders how Tony managed to pull it off then decides it doesn't really matter.
Natasha, who has patiently watched him take it all in, stretches up on her toes to press a kiss to Steve’s cheek. As she does, she slips her hand into the pocket of his sweat pants and pulls out the envelope he hastily shoved in there when he got in the car.
“Read it,” she tells him, gently placing it in his hand.
“I don’t know what I’m supposed to do now,” he admits as he looks around again.
Steve turns back to her. “But what about-.”
He’s alone, Natasha apparently having slipped out while his back was turned. "Now what?" He asks the ceiling, startling when the ceiling responds.
"If I may suggest, Sir has ensured the refrigerator and pantry are fully stocked, however, Agent Barton has offered to come by with beer and pizza."
"Thank you Jarvis." Because of course Tony would have installed his A.I.
"You're welcome, Captain Rogers. Would you like me to convey your acceptance to Agent Barton?"
"No. I'll do it."
Steve pulls out his phone and scrolls to Clint's name, tapping out a quick message. His finger slides through his contacts hovering over Loki's. Steve doesn't know why, but he types out a message before he can think better of it.
SR: I'm out of the hospital. Tony set me up at a place in Brooklyn
He hits send, closes out the text app, pockets the phone and forces himself not to look at it again.
"Jarvis, does SHIELD know where I am?"
"I don't believe so. The last entry in your personal file, made by Director Nicholas Fury, reflects that you have been placed on Administrative leave."
"Does it say why?"
"There are no specifics, but I would assume it is a result of your leaving the hospital earlier today based on the timestamp of the entry."
"So what now?"
"Following SHIELD protocol, your access to all facilities and files has been revoked."
"There was an attempt made to freeze your assets, but Sir's attorneys have handled that matter. However, I would suggest refraining from using any of your accounts for the immediate future so as to not give your location away."
"He isn't going to get into trouble is he? Or Natasha and Clint?"
"According to SHIELD mission files Agents Romanov and Barton have both been on assignment in Northern Siberia under radio silence since yesterday morning and are not scheduled to return for at least two weeks. So they are unaware of your current situation."
Steve chuckles at that. "And Tony?"
"Sir is currently focused on helping a close friend. And is unconcerned with SHIELD activities at the moment."
Steve won't admit that he's using Clint to avoid opening the envelope. But that's exactly what he's doing. Clint is easy going, a little goofy and totally unassuming. He doesn't ask Steve questions beyond if he wants another beer. And he doesn't try to break up the silence with anything other than random commentary about the football game on TV. It's nice and Steve can feel the tension in his body slowly start to uncoil.
Clint has been gone for an hour and Steve has spent the entire time staring at the envelope. He left it sitting on the coffee table, trying to ignore it, but his eyes kept drifting over to it until he picked it up.
He's been turning it over and over in his hands trying to work up the courage to look inside. Finally he works his thumb under the seal and opens it. Inside is a list, presumably the files Loki accessed. And also a letter. He puts the list aside and focuses on the letter.
I didn't know if I should start by telling you that I love you or by saying how sorry I am for how I hurt you. Hurting you was the last thing I wanted to do. From the first moment I saw you I wanted to know you. And as I began to know you, I could not help but love you.
I told you I am not of this realm and I think that is where I need to start. I am from Asgard, one of the nine realms bound through the branches of Yggdrasil. My brother and I often travel throughout the realms. I was being honest when I said we came to Midgard (Earth) because Thor was bored. I was also being honest when I said I stayed for you.
I faked employment with SHIELD and assigned myself to you. But I need you to know that every moment we had together was genuine.
I had no idea that the Tesseract was on Midgard. You have seen first hand just a fraction of the power it contains. It is both foolish and dangerous to meddle with something this powerful. Misuse of the Tesseract could lead to the destruction of worlds. I had no choice except to take it to Asgard and secure it in the AllFather's vault.
My intention that night was only to verify the cube was in fact the Tesseract. I was not going to take it without telling you the truth first. But I was careless and didn't realize it was safeguarded with Skrull technology until it was too late. I was seen and I had no choice. I had to take it then.
I came back to tell you everything. That's why I wanted to meet that afternoon. I needed to come clean to you. And you needed to know what SHIELD was doing.
I had no idea A.I.M. was having you followed to get their hands on your blood. If I had known, I could have done more to prevent the attack. I should have known.
I wish this had gone differently. I wish I had been honest with you from the beginning. I wish I had the chance to hold you and tell you I love you. And I wish that you find it in your heart to forgive me despite all I have done.
Steve swipes at the tears on his face and presses his fingers over his eyes to try and stop more from falling. He feels as though he has been scraped raw, inside and out.
Fumbling for his phone, Steve opens his text app.
SR: I want to forgive you. I just don't know if I can
Steve stares at the undelivered message, too numb to do anything else.
Steve wakes up stiff and sore from falling asleep awkwardly on the couch. Loki's letter has fallen to the floor and he picks it up, smoothing it out. He rereads it, again. And then once more before grabbing his phone.
SR: I need time to think
He doesn't look at the list until after breakfast and a shower.
"How's the vacation going?" Tony quips as soon as he answers Steve's call.
"SHIELD has a super soldier program?" The question is out of his mouth the second he hears Tony's voice.
Tony drops the humor, which Steve appreciates and finds distressing at the same time. "Finally looked at the list?" He doesn't wait for Steve to respond. "SHIELD was experimenting on your blood to try and recreate the serum from the moment you were made. The program was largely dormant for over forty years until you came out of the ice and they were able to get new samples of your blood."
Steve feels like his lungs are being squeezed and he struggles to slow down his breathing. "How far did they get with it?"
"Not far until someone got the brilliant idea to mix in a little power from the glowing cube of destiny."
Steve hasn't felt panic like this since he found out most of Bucky's unit had been captured. "We have to-"
"Already handled," Tony cuts him off.
"What? How?" Steve can already feel the knot in his stomach starting to unravel and the stranglehold around his heart begin to ease. Because he knows. Without a doubt he knows.
"Your boyfriend was thorough. And to be honest I'm a little bit jealous and a lot turned on. No one has ever destroyed decades worth of research for me."
SR: Tony told me what you did
SR: thank you
Steve knows the messages aren't going through. But he sends them anyway.
SR: I talked to Nick Fury today
SR: it's funny how quickly my call was put through. I kept expecting to be told to have my assistant schedule an appointment
SR: I was a little disappointed
SR: I'm still on leave but he offered to allow me to come back with no disciplinary action
"SHIELD isn't your only option. They don't own you and they don't own Captain America. Really, I checked." Tony shrugs at Steve's look. "It's SHIELD. You never know."
The smile Steve gives him is probably the most genuine one he's had in weeks.
"I'm just saying you have options. And if one of them is to spend your days having hot alien sex, who am I to judge?"
"Tony," Steve sighs as he rubs his eyes.
“It’s hot though right? It has to be.”
Steve rolls his eyes and tries to keep a straight face. “I’m not discussing this with you.” He may not want to discuss it, but he will certainly think about it later that night as he touches himself while fighting the urge to text Loki about it.
“C’mon. You gotta give me something here. Just blink if the sex is mind blowing.”
For the first time since all this started Steve actually grins. And then closes his eyes. Because he decides that fucking with Tony Stark is a good time.
“Steve I need you.”
He has to admit those aren’t the words he expected when he answered Tony’s call.
“That’s nice, but I really don’t think it would work out between us,” Steve has to fight not to smile.
“Ouch. You wound me. You could do a lot worse than me. I’m smart, have a lot of money, I’ve been on Time Magazine's list of most eligible bachelors for ten years running. We would be very happy together.” Tony actually sounds like he’s pouting and Steve finds that pretty funny.
“You know what. You’re right. I think we would be happy together. I know its sudden, but let's get married,” Steve deadpans.
“Smartass. Everyone knows you only get weak in the knees for tall, dark haired aliens."
Steve can only roll his eyes because he knows it's pointless to deny it.
"Look, I’m starting a boy band and I need you to play the straight laced boy scout to my sexy bad boy.”
“Alright. I’ll play along. Who else is going to be in your boyband?”
“Clint. He’s the lovable goof and Natasha, of course, as the stand-offish mysterious one.”
“Natasha’s not a boy,” Steve points out needlessly.
“Are you gonna tell her she can’t be in the band?”
“No way!” Steve laughs. "So what are you planning on calling us?"
He can actually hear the smile on Tony's face. "The Avengers," he says dramatically.
"I changed my mind. That's a stupid name and I don't want to be in your band."
"Too late Capsicle. You're already in."
SR: The power went out last night. I can’t figure out how to reprogram the time on the DVD player.
SR: My first instinct was to text you.
SR: Then I realized I couldn’t
SR: and yet here I am doing it anyway
SR: When you first told me I was devastated.
SR: and angry
SR: You know what happened with Sharon. You know how she faked our relationship. For her job.
SR: I came out of the ice and everyone is telling me that I need to adjust. that I need help. Like I’m not capable on my own.
SR: The thing with Sharon just proved them right
SR: And then you came along. And I fell for it again.
SR: except it wasn’t quite the same
SR: Sharon faked wanting to be with me for her job
SR: you faked the job because you wanted to be with me
SR: and that is the weirdest, creepiest, most unbelievable thing anyone has ever done. For me.
SR: truth is, I miss you
SR: I wish we could start over.
SR: I wish we had met some other way. Like in one of those movies you love
SR: Maybe we would meet at a cafe and it would be love at first sight.
SR: or we could have bumped into each other while shopping and mixed up our bags
SR: Or you could have been my new neighbor coming over to borrow a cup of sugar
SR: I don’t even have any sugar
Three light taps on the door draw Steve’s attention away from his phone. He starts to toss it down on the counter, but then thinks better of it now that he doesn’t have Loki to help him if it breaks. Instead he slips it in his back pocket and scrubs a hand over the stubble on his face as he debates the merits of actually answering the door. Last night had been rough, dreams of Loki leaving him tired and lonely.
A second set of taps, these slightly more insistent, finally propel Steve across the kitchen, his coffee left abandoned on the counter. He doesn’t have the will to force a smile on his face as he opens the door.
Or the ability to hide his shock.
“Hi. I’m your new neighbor. I hate to impose, but can I trouble you for a cup of sugar?”
Chapter 9: Steve Rogers vs the Furniture
Chapter by Annerp
This chapter is just smut. Be warned.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Chapter 9 Epilogue
Steve's back is pressed tight against the front door. He's not exactly sure how he ended up like this. He vaguely remembers kissing Loki where he stood out in the hallway and then stumbling backwards through the door with his fingers wound in Loki's hair and their lips still sealed together.
"I don't have any sugar," he mumbles, unable to articulate more than that with Loki mouthing at the side of his neck.
“Good thing I don’t need any,” Loki responds as he clamps his mouth over Steve’s pulse point and sucks.
Steve feels like his knees are about to buckle, but Loki has him pinned in place with his thigh pushed between his legs. His body is on fire everywhere Loki touches him. And his pocket is vibrating. Which is both distracting and weirdly stimulating given the circumstances. He lets go of Loki’s jacket, only now realizing that he was clutching it so tight that he actually ripped a hole in the shoulder, and reaches back to pull his phone out.
It’s Tony. Naturally. He’s about to reject the call when Loki swipes across the screen to answer it and put the call on speaker.
“The Captain is busy,” Loki says before dipping his head back down to resume working on the bruise he had started sucking into Steve’s collar bone.
“I’m calling an Avengers meeting. Everyone has to come.” Tony’s voice is loud in the apartment, the only other sound being Steve’s sharp exhales and the soft little noises that escape as Loki continues to work at his skin.
“Tony.” Steve pauses to clear his throat and try again. “Tony. Is there an emergency?” He's panting, trying to focus on forming actual words and not just making embarrassing needy sounds.
There is a slight delay before Tony answers. When he does his voice is full of glee. “Only the one in your pants Capsicle.”
Steve groans, partially at Tony’s comment and partially from the way Loki’s hand has crept lower, apparently to check on his ‘emergency’.
“Stark,” Loki warns and Steve whines at the loss of Loki’s mouth on his skin. He leans forward to slot their mouths together, free hand creeping back up to tangle in Loki's hair. Dimly Steve notes that it's longer now, so much better for getting a grip.
“Fine. How long do you need? Fifteen minutes? Twenty? We can still have Avengers movie night if you hurry up.”
Steve can’t tell if Tony is joking or being serious. Doesn’t change his answer though as he pulls back. “A week. A week at least.”
Loki plucks the phone from Steve’s hand. “Goodbye Stark,” he says over the sound of Tony’s sputtering. He ends the call and with a hand gesture the phone disappears.
“What did you just do?” Steve stammers. Followed closely by, “I’m going to need that back.” And then a hushed, “alien,” as realization sets in.
“Mage actually,” Loki corrects as he pulls at Steve’s belt, guiding him away from the door and further into the apartment.
Steve comes along willingly enough, but Loki can practically see the questions ticking over in his mind. “Do you wish to discuss this now? Or can it wait?”
It only takes a second to drag his eyes over Loki’s body to make his decision. “It can wait.” Steve's hands pull at Loki's jacket, his belt, his shirt. He fingers are uncoordinated and he makes a frustrated sound when he can't get a single piece of clothing off Loki. He gives up and works on exploring Loki's mouth with his tongue instead. A thought occurs to him and he pulls back just enough to ask, "were you holding back? Before. When we…" He makes a slightly crude gesture to indicate what he means.
The smile that comes over Loki's face is positively predatory. "Were you?"
"Yeah, of course I was. I didn't want to hurt you." There is a charged silence between them for a beat. "Don't hold back," Steve orders.
"Are you sure?" Loki's voice takes on a low teasing tone that makes Steve's heart thump in anticipation.
The velvet soft sound of Loki's voice has Steve wondering if he can get off on that alone. Now isn't the time to experiment with that though. Now is the time to test the structural integrity of the bed. In the interest of thorough research they may need to test out several other surfaces as well. And maybe the wall. Possibly the shower.
In retrospect telling Loki not to hold back may not have been one of Steve's smartest ideas. Or it could possibly be the best idea he's ever had. The fact that he may not be able to walk tomorrow is a problem for future Steve. Current Steve however has a mouth full of pillow trying to muffle the obscene sounds that he can't seem to stop making.
Loki drapes his body over Steve's, pushing the blond lower until he is almost flat on his belly. He has one hand gripped in Steve's hair and the other tightly wrapped over his shoulder. There will be bruises. Steve has a second to be excited about that before Loki starts to grind his hips, brushing his cock over Steve’s prostate again and again.
Steve stops biting the pillow long enough to let out a breathless moan. “Please.” His voice is just a whisper. “Please.” He isn’t sure if Loki hears him or not. It doesn’t matter though as Steve has no more control over what he is saying than he does over his impending release. “Don’t stop. Please.” He really should know better. Because of course Loki stops, still deep inside him.
He can feel Loki’s fingers trembling against his shoulder though and knows his lover won’t be able to hold still much longer. To speed things along Steve starts to wriggle around under Loki. He moves his hips just right and his vision blacks out for a moment. “Fuck!”
That’s all it takes for Loki to let out a loud groan and start moving again. Steve’s own movements start to become uncoordinated beneath Loki as he gets closer and closer to tipping over the edge. He can feel the sweat between their bodies, slick and warm. His own breathing is harsh in his ears and when he opens his mouth another plea comes out. “I’m so close. Please.”
He's so close. So very close. And then Loki pulls out, sitting back on his heels. Steve has to bite back the curses that threaten to erupt from his mouth as he twists around to look behind him.
The sight is almost worth it. Loki's body is covered in a light sheen of sweat, his normally perfect hair is in disarray and there is a blush that spreads from his high cheekbones down his neck and over his chest.
Loki's soft smile morphs into something more mischievous as he leans down and snakes an arm under Steve's stomach and lifts him with ease.
"Shit." Steve's head spins at the sensation of being manhandled like that.
And dammit if he doesn't like it. Loki settles back on his heels and pulls Steve's body so that the blond's back is pressed tight to his chest. He gives a light tap to the back of Steve's thigh and Steve rises up automatically then sinks back down until Loki is fully inside him.
Steve is able to grind down on Loki's cock taking his pleasure. Loki has one hand stroking along Steve's length and the other against his chest, keeping their bodies pressed together. His mouth moves along the sensitive skin of Steve's neck as he murmurs in his ear.
"That's it love. It's all you. Take what you need."
Steve's orgasm takes him by surprise as he shouts his pleasure. Instinctively he tries to curl in on himself, feeling exposed as Loki continues to coax his release from him while supporting his weight with one hand.
"Loki…" He tries to keep moving, tries to help Loki get there. He is rewarded when Loki gasps, pulls him impossibly close again and stills beneath him. Steve can feel the warm pulse of Loki's seed inside his body and moans at the sensation.
Oh so carefully Loki shifts them both forward until Steve is on his belly again. He slowly pulls out and lays down partially on top of the blond not quite ready to be without contact.
Loki strokes a hand down Steve's side as he listens to his breathing as it slows. "You know I love you right?"
Steve turns his head so he can look over his shoulder at Loki. "Yeah. Yeah I do. Also, I'm thinking we try the chair next," Steve tells him with a grin.
The answering smirk Loki gives him does things to Steve. Things that will get him up and to the living room real quick. "Are you sure you're up for that? Don't you need a break?"
"Nah, I've been holding back."
He laughs the whole time, but he's hard again by the time Loki has carried him out to the living room and has Steve straddling his thighs. They move together slowly, a gentle rocking as they breathe each other's air.
"I don't think I told you before," Steve whispers as he rolls his hips, "but, you're fired."
Loki snorts out a laugh. "Good. My boss was an asshole."
Steve pulls Loki into a kiss, murmuring against his lips, "I love you."
That's it for our Captain America big bang 2019 collaboration!