By the time Steve was finished patching up Loki's back and shoulder, the God of Mischief was definitely wilting.

It was another new experience for Steve. Never had he imagined seeing Loki actually show fatigue. But then again, never had he thought he'd be offering the supervillain sanctuary, or wondering if gods got pregnancy cravings, or exactly what was involved when a god who was to all outward appearances male gave birth.

It was amazing that his brain wasn't smoking.

But if one thing had been drilled into his head during his upbringing, it was hospitality. "Come on, I'll show you to the guest room so you can take a rest. You look beat–er, no pun intended," he added quickly.

Loki laughed as he wearily stood to follow Steve. "A shame, that. As puns go, it wasn't bad."

Steve allowed himself a smile in return. Another amazing realization–when Loki wasn't trying to blast Steve's kidneys out his ears, he was actually quite easy to get along with. When Thor had first joined the Avengers, he'd spent more than a few hours trying to figure out why he still seemed to hold such affection for his wicked younger brother, but now Steve could at least begin to understand it.

What he couldn't understand was why that patient, steadfast affection had suddenly run out.

"Right in here," he said, pulling his mind away from those thoughts as he opened the door to the guest room. "It's not much," he added, thinking of Thor's descriptions of Asgard and all its luxuries, "but it's yours until we can find something better. You can rest as long as you want and I promise, no one will bother you."

Loki paused in the doorway, staring at the small room. Steve fought the urge to fidget. It really wasn't much–double bed with a quilt his grandmother had made by hand, a simple dresser, bedside tables with mismatched lamps, and old-fashioned lace curtains framing the window–the room hadn't seen many guests, and certainly wasn't fit for a god. "I'm sorry it's not better," he said uncomfortably when Loki still just stood there, staring.

That broke the god out of his immobility. He glanced back at Steve with such raw emotion in his eyes, it was hard for the Captain to hold his gaze. "It is a lovely room, and it is far more than I deserve from you, Capt–Steve," he corrected himself, speaking softly, his tone almost totally emotionless in contrast with the wellspring of feeling in his eyes.

Steve felt the heat in his cheeks that meant he was probably blushing again. "It's just a room," he muttered, looking away in embarrassment.

A gentle touch on his elbow, fleeting and gone. "It is much more than that," Loki said, still in that strange tone. "Thank you." And he entered the room and closed the door gently behind him, leaving Steve confused and alone in the hall.

Instead of returning to the living room, Steve went down the hall to his little office. Tony Stark had taken it upon himself to teach the Captain some of the technology he'd missed out on during his long sleep, and now he fired up the computer and logged onto the internet. Loki's children, he typed into Google, and settled down to read.

It wasn't long before the roar of a motorcycle alerted Steve to Clint's return. He wasn't sorry to turn off the computer. Everything he'd read had confirmed what Loki had said–all of his children had suffered horribly at the hands of the Æsir. No wonder he feared what would happen if Odin discovered this child was on the way! Steve remembered the terrible grief and rage in those green eyes as he'd told them what had happened to his children and his gut clenched.

The motorcycle screamed to a halt in Steve's driveway and the roaring engine cut out. A minute later, the archer slammed through the front door as if it had done him personal wrong. "Those goat-fucking assholes," he snarled, throwing his helmet down with such force that it bounced off the hardwood floor and skidded down the hall. "Those goddamn miserable pricks!"

"Hey, hey, keep it down!" Steve waved his hands desperately. "Loki's resting, you'll wake him up!"

Clint closed his eyes and took several deep breaths, his fists clenching and unclenching at his sides. "It'll probably come as no shock to him that his brother's a fucking bastard," he said, but his voice was quieter now if no less angry.

"Yeah, I'm sure he's noticed. I take it you talked to Thor?"

"Him and Fury," Clint said, nodding. He threw himself down onto the armchair so hard it almost bounced him right back out. He slammed a fist into one of the arms. "I told them that I ran into Loki and found out we're not arresting him anymore. Fury thinks the whole concept of Loki being pregnant is hilarious, real or not. Bastard just doesn't give a damn, which is pretty much what I expected. But Thor knows that Loki's not faking this. He confirmed that he's all but helpless while he's pregnant, and that he knows Doom and his cronies would love to take Loki apart piece by piece. And he's just fine with that. Can you believe that shit?" His voice was rising again. "He called Loki the Mother of Monsters and even said the world would be better off if the poor kid never took its first breath! Of all the fucked up–"

"Shh!" Steve hissed, glancing over his shoulder at Loki's still-closed door. Then what Clint said finally sank in and his jaw dropped. "Wait, what?"

"You heard me," Clint growled. "All this time, I've known Thor's a dumbass, but I never knew he was the biggest bastard in the known universe. This is his brother's kid he's talking about!"

Steve sank down onto the unbloodied end of the couch. Damn, if he hadn't been determined to help Loki before, he definitely was now. "I just don't get it, man," he said, shaking his head, all but flabbergasted. "How many times has he argued Loki's side, begged us to give him a chance? Loki's even fought on our side before, and while he's never been exactly loyal, I haven't forgotten the times he's saved our bacon. And now that he actually needs Thor's help, he pulls this stunt?"

"Fury's been teaching him about tough love." Clint spat the words as though they tasted foul. When Steve didn't get it, the archer said, "Oh, yeah, forgot you slept through that. Basically if you have a family member who's a fuck-up, or on drugs, or breaking the law, you cut them off. Let them face the music without any help. It's supposed to wake them up to what they're doing wrong and make 'em want to change."

Steve frowned. On the surface, it didn't sound like a bad idea. However… "But it's not just Loki we're talking about here. There's a kid involved–a kid who hasn't done anything wrong."

"No shit." Clint jammed his hands through his hair and sat back with an explosive sigh. "It boils down to this–Thor's got his thumb up his ass and doesn't seem likely to pull it out anytime this century, so it looks like it's up to us to keep Doom and Odin out of the picture. So where are we gonna stash our god while he incubates his little stranger?"

And Tony Stark stuck his head around the corner. "Might be I can help you guys out with that."