You all are wonderful people, this pairing holds my heart in a way that hasn't happened in quite some time, and I really like the thought of all-you-can-eat coupons.

Also, Thor's reason for his despondency for the second part of this chapter will be unveiled next.


Day 4: Snowflake

Chapter 4: It Reminds Me of Christmas, What About You?

To be fair to himself and anything that came from such self-aware fairness, Steve hadn't counted on falling asleep anywhere aside from his own room. When was the last time that he fell asleep on anything other than his mattress in his apartment, or the room that Tony so graciously offered him as living quarters for when he was too tired to ride back to the home that wasn't really a home? Never.

That was why it had come as such a shock to him to wake up with his face in Thor's stomach, waking up on account of one clogged nostril all but rammed against the skin of the god's thick-muscled abdomen. He snorted suddenly, springing up and nearly rolling off the bed due to how shocked he was, and how little he could recall of the previous night.

What had happened, he thought frantically as he checked if he was still wearing clothing, nearly falling off the bed a second time in the process. Had something actually happened between them without him remembering? With what little he knew about sex and the act itself, you weren't just supposed to forget a coupling unless it was something you waved off with your hand on account of it not having been eventful or a waste of a night.

That was when he remembered what had taken place, the conversation that resulted in him falling asleep on Thor's shoulder, watching the glitter of nebulae ensconce the room in a celestial embrace, stars dancing at his fingertips and beyond his sights. They had talked, listened, and furthermore and most importantly, got somewhere.

A race, pasta, and a chat could certainly lead to interesting circumstances that he was living through.

Steve ran a hand through his hair, scratching his scalp with his fingertips, wondering just how long Thor had sat with him in the darkness, watching the twist and turn of science-born gadgetry project something recognizable and comforting to the god. Three truths came about from the memory of the device and the impossible beauty it provided: Tony was a good guy, Thor more than likely missed the skies of his home world more deeply than he was letting on, so much so that he had asked for a Stark-built gizmo of familiarity so that he could feel at home in a world that wasn't his own, and he hadn't fallen asleep around someone in years.

Regret and propriety spoke of how he should have tried harder to stay awake, but he had a hard time feeling guilty over how deeply he had managed to rest, and how genuinely good he felt right now because of it.

Falling asleep next to someone so pure of heart - and romantically interested in you at that - could make you forsake still-fresh anxieties for the birth of a new day, that much was for certain.

One way or another, he thought with a smile as he looked to the slowly-waking god on his left, he was paving a way in this new world, fumbling with his feet and tripping on his own shortcomings the whole way, but it was working nonetheless.

After all, he had managed to talk to the guy after he had unintentionally avoided him for a full day after the fateful pasta dinner.

Thor rolled to his right, his hand coming to rest two centimeters away from his thigh all of a sudden, fingers barely grazing the fabric of his pajama pants on the way. The god mumbled something unintelligible, his eyes opening to the sights of Steve shifting away from the hand that could have, potentially, groped either his backside or inner-thigh.

The god nodded sleepily to him, retracting his hand with a sheepish quirk of his lips, eyes unfocused but smiling still, a smile that could be called an elated beam.

"You stayed. I feared I would awaken to the chill of sheets."

Steve reached forward to pat the god's shoulder, the act showing him that it was alright, that he knew Thor would never make him feel uncomfortable on purpose. "I wouldn't do that. You're warm and you were nice enough to let me share your bed, and even open your door for me at such a late hour without expecting a thing in return. I should be thanking you."

Thor chuckled, the laughter throaty and for him alone, which gave way to the rise of heat to his arms and the churning in his gut that let him know that he elicited such a display from another person. A kid from Brooklyn could make a god laugh, who knew?

"Let me treat you to breakfast. Tony gave me a coupon for an all-you-can-eat diner a few blocks from here."

The god lifted himself from his place against the pillow, stretching his arms over his head and yawning hugely, the flash of white-teeth and pink throat reminding Steve of a contented tiger after a good night's rest. Thor blinked several times, his eyes focusing on Steve's face, and for all the world, he looked like the happiest man on the planet.

Thor placed a hand on Steve's shoulder, squeezing gently, all strong fingers and a heated palm. "I would be honored to accompany you to an endless feast." With the way the god had leaned close, still in the early stages of waking up and off-balance due to drowsiness, their proximity level sky-rocketed within five seconds. They were pretty close right then, inches apart, and it would have cost him little effort to extend his neck and press his lips against Thor's, simply because it felt right, good to do so.

But he just couldn't. He just couldn't, out of his own hesitancy to turn his head, to do anything more than meet the god's eyes and exchange a smile with him. He'd gotten a handle on his feelings just fine last night, but that didn't mean that he was ready to act on it quite yet.

And with the perceptive glint in sky-blue, in eyes with such limpid depth he nearly lost himself looking in, he saw nothing but understanding. They were eyes that stated that Thor would be as patient as he would like, that even if by next Christmas he still was unwilling to kiss him or act on what was taking place between the two of them - stirring, he felt it then in his chest and skin - Thor would understand.

If by next Christmas he couldn't kiss the guy under the mistletoe or by a fire or under the tree or something, then there truly was something wrong with him.

It was all unspoken, this flitting of evenly-met gazes that revealed an unending amount of forbearance and willingness to understand that this would take time. And if building and creating wasn't part of the journey, to a destination that both unsettled and thrilled Steve to consider between him and Thor, he didn't know what to believe.

"I'll go get ready. Take your time. And really, thank you. I could have spent a night wandering around with a bowl of chicken noodle soup or milk, whittling away the midnight oil." Thor's lips parted, eyes narrowing in a tangible question that colored his gaze with inquiry. "Ah, it's an expression, using energy in the night."

"I never knew. Midgard has copious amounts of expressions and dialects, it will take me many years to master these terms." Steve couldn't help but smile at that, his tension evaporating from post-chagrin to last night's events to what would take place between the two of them today.

"Tell me about it. I'm seventy years behind. We could teach each other."

Thor sat up, and Steve wondered if he was going to bound off the bed at the thought of learning more about the Realm that was under his hand of protection. Instead, he just squeezed his shoulder one final time, meeting his gaze evenly.

"It would please me to no end to learn with you, Steven. That means only that you wish to spend your time with me, and assures me of your sentiment, solidifying the words you spoke to me last night."

Thor released his hold on Steve's shoulder, rising from the bed in a balanced move of legs and arms, stretching his neck and shoulders with a practiced, fluid motion of his hands. And once again, Steve found himself staring/not staring at Thor's physique, admiring the way the god had obviously built himself to look this good, all muscles and sculpted planes of his stomach, pectorals and bulging biceps that made his own arms look wimpy in comparison.

"I meant what I said. I'm just having a little trouble acting is all. Don't get me wrong though, I want to, I just can't seem to do it. I was even going to kiss you last night, but I just couldn't." For the third time that day, Steve felt like he was going to fall off of an unfamiliar bed because of something that happened that was more or less, out of his hands. What he really wanted to do was roll off the mattress and hide under the bed, or run out of the room and mumble something about Thor meeting him at the diner, because he just couldn't face him right then for admitting something so intimate, especially when the god had been nothing but compromising.

If it was possible for Thor to smile any wider, he managed to break his own record then, his mouth a flash of teeth and pink lips, his eyes dancing. He didn't, as Steve feared, call him out on his lack of guts and personal courage for being unwilling to be intimate with him, because that just wasn't who Thor was. He was patient, humble, and very willing to attempt an understanding, even if he didn't know what the hell was going on around him half the time.

He was the most patient person Steve had ever come across.

"When the time is right. I will force not a thing from you, in my silence and in my words. I will wait fully for you, when you feel it is appropriate for you to act." Thor pressed a fist against his chest, his tone austere and eyes narrowed to show that he meant every word, that never would he place Steve in a situation where he didn't feel comfortable, even if it was what Thor had longed for, this connection and the physical accompaniments it came with.

Steve might have been ungainly and inexperienced, but he knew desire when he saw it. For all he knew in Thor's mind, the god had wanted nothing more than to entwine their limbs together earlier, burrow under covers and sleep through breakfast and lunch. And yet Thor resisted his own wants for Steve's comfort, comfort for the customs in which he saw fit to follow, the old-fashioned mantra that he just couldn't seem to shake.

"I...thank you. Thank you, really. For being so patient with me. I'm still not too sure what you see that you're willing to wait for if I'm being honest, but I take one look at the way you're looking at me, probably right now, and you look as if I'm the greatest thing since sliced bread."

Thor padded over to him, and before he could give birth to half-formed protests that it was really alright, he wasn't berating himself or anything, just blind to what Thor saw that insisted his own patience, taking his hands in his own. Had his hands always been trembling like this, his palms sticky and slick with sweat?

"You are magnificent, Steven. I strive to have such a sense of honor and nobility about me as you do all of the time. You give me someone to look to on this earth, someone wholly human and filled with an inner-sense of reason. If you granted me the time, I would orate until my voice grew hoarse about your tact in battle, the kindness that you give to all, as well as the way you conduct yourself with a propriety that I could scarcely hope to emulate. I will not leave your side in all of what you go through, because in this brief time that I have known you, you have touched me far deeper, speaking to a side of myself that screams for the betterment of my soul."

Steve averted his gaze from Thor's to the carpet, to his legs, settling at the last on their entwined hands, at the fingers that steadied his own from his own proclivity to shy away from praise. How did one respond to that? How could anyone form words that would match such a good-natured speech with anything more than a weak attempt at gratitude? You couldn't just say "thank you" to something like that.

He opened his mouth and honest to God tried, tried to find eloquence and something appropriate to say back, retorting in a way that let Thor know that he was grateful, that he was so grateful and flattered to the highest extent of his being for being the product and inspiration behind such sweet, thoughtful words.

But nothing worked, no word or many words would fix this speechlessness, lest he clumsily ramble once again.

He supposed he waited for the right moment far too often, for the right time to intervene on a conversation and give his two-cents to something that he wanted part in, the right time to act. It all began with him, with what felt right.

That was what caused him to separate their hands, only to tilt the god's head up with a silent twist of his wrists, catching expressive pupils and drowning in their blue before his lips met Thor's in a press of his mouth.

He felt the god smile against his mouth, his lips settling against his in gentle segments of pale-pink and beard-stubble, of grappling hands that found his shoulders and his hands that buried themselves in Thor's hair for a full minute, a minute of ignition and fire, of intimacy and the heat it could provide to any amount of frost the near-winter day would surely evoke.

They separated as easily as they had come together, their breaths ragged, chests heaving and hands - his hands, not Thor's - shaking.

It took him a few moments to be able to speak, but he figured he had to speak, say something about how good that felt. "That felt right. That felt right and good. And I just wanted to thank you in some way. I give speeches, sure, but they pale in comparison to your own, and I didn't want to half-ass my gratitude."

Thor smiled at him, his eyes alight. "You have shown me how deeply your gratitude lays, Steven." The god reached up with his hands, tracing Steve's lips with his thumb and index finger, wonderment in his eyes, enchantment palpable and thriving, as if all of his questions, wishes, and assumptions on how this moment would go, of how he would taste and feel had been answered right then. And, if Steve was being honest, Thor enjoyed this far deeper than any half-imagined fantasy. "Many times I wondered what it would be like to kiss you; this is far better than futile attempts at imagination."

It was Steve's turn to smile, to smile at the thought of this god, of this almighty deity wondering what it would be like to kiss him, him of all people. It was his turn to place his hands on Thor's shoulders and squeeze. "Go for it. I think I just broke my own rules anyway."

Thor shook his head, his eyes reflecting mounting desire in lapis depths, that profound blue that stole Steve's breath. "I fear if I kiss you now, we shall never leave this room."

This made Steve shift a little, his movements urging a deep peal of laughter from Thor. "Ah, well, ah, I'll go get ready now, yeah. See you in twenty or so."

He could still hear Thor's laughter all the way down the hall. It was always a good thing to hear the god laugh, to know he gave him amusement by just being himself, no matter how socially inept he was at notions of romance.

ststststst

As accustomed as he was becoming to assimilating in the belly of a tailspin, rocking to and fro with the changes thrust upon his person, there seemed to always be a surprise around every corner. Aliens for one, because they existed, aliens with ugly teeth with giant scales, skeletal space ships that served as a type of mother for heinous, lust-drunk creatures spawned from Hell, wishing ill upon Manhattan. Secondly, there were gods, actual gods from another planet - because there was more than the Earth, a frightening and mentally jarring concept - complete with gold horns and a frightening capacity to yell and wish for humans to kneel to some tyrannous, worldly debilitating rule, gods with red capes and battle-ready hammers that could control storms. Technology, television, tablets and new and improved ways to hold information, or gain it at lightning-fast speed.

Steve supposed the point in this was to just go with the flow - so to speak, because that meant that he was floating, however proverbially - and let events just happen. For now, the world was safe, his team was happy, and he was starting to figure a few things out.

One of those things being the god he had currently asked out, asked out into a day that he had thought would be fairly warm, no matter how close to winter Manhattan was.

He had known it was winter, or close to the end of the seasons in large part to the television and the local forecast. In all of the ecstatic excitement and personal chaos such frightening joy gave him these past two days, the weather had become the least of his worries. During the days before the serum, before his health was something he never had to worry about again, his bones had always ached with an inner-chill, his chest throbbing and kneecaps sensitive to his movements, every ligament and joint in his body protesting the change of seasons, the thought of snow and the disturbingly cold winters granting him no amount of all-encompassing warmth.

Now, the thought of the cold didn't bother his skin, but he figured it best to blend in with the common-folk and wear a jacket, and maybe a hat.

"I'm going to grab a coat. Don't you need one?"

Thor pressed his hands against the glass of the window, all sand-tones and thick fingers, his eyes set on something Steve couldn't see, something beyond the window. Perhaps in a world altogether different than this one, perhaps where the snow sang on sentient, ancient voices in gold clusters instead of white, feather-soft and freezing.

"It would do well to blend in. Yes, I shall gather a cloak." The god's tone was playful, but a dark undertone settled against the words, the shadow-form of a double meaning and all of the twisted inspirations it could dawn settled upon the two sentences, stirring Steve's curiosity.

Exactly what had Thor been thinking about when he had found him downstairs, watching the snow fall?

"Coat. Though, a cloak would be neat too."

The god turned his head, his smile easy. There was still a contemplative light in his eyes, blue pupils and the mind of a deity far from here, stilling when he blinked several times, the haze lifting from his vision.

It could have been nothing. But Steve knew when there was something, when the smile didn't quite reach the eyes of those prone to light-natures and easy grins, and when there really was nothing.

He also knew better than to push; if Thor could grant him such a luxury of not prying or asking too many questions that filled his throat with the gall of shame and pain alike, he would give him the same honor.

"Quite right you are. Excuse me for but a minute to prepare." Steve expected for Thor to bow his head, duck at the waist or kiss his knuckles or something akin to the days when knights proclaimed their love for ladies in song.

Instead, Thor nodded to him, walking from the foyer with quick, even steps, his determination set to get some form of appropriate weather gear. The god could have easily walked outside in little more than his undergarments and he would have been fine Steve presumed, and as uncomfortable and hot as it made him to consider such a vision, he knew that to be true. After all, the guy could control and govern the storms with his hammer's will; who was to say that he fostered the limitations of winter and the chill it inevitably brought?

And, above all, Thor had gotten a coat on his will and his gentle insistence. He could have refused with that big, open smile of his and marched right out the swinging doors with his head held high, proclaiming that never had he seen such a winter, such a white-washed land that colored the world a radiant, silent tapestry.

But he hadn't. He had turned around without protest and done what he had asked, no matter if it was just a simple request.

That made him fidget in his own coat, the hands jammed into his pockets tightening with a sequence of a release and clench of his fists. A god adhered to his power, instead of the other way around. Wasn't there some cosmic rule that said that such backwards logic shouldn't have been allowed?

Perhaps. But Steve didn't believe it for one moment. Thor was hardly the type to regulate such an archetype of rules stating that humans should bend at the knee before his very presence, and the truth presented itself in the very snug, form-fitting jacket Thor entered the room wearing.

"Tony has excellent taste." Thor closed the distance between them in a few quick strides, fiddling with the olive-green collar of the coat all the way, as if he both enjoyed the feel of the jacket and was not used to being clothed by such foreign garments altogether.

"Indeed he does." Steve reached forward, adjusting the collar and the satin-smooth cloth, wondering just how much Tony was secretly providing the two of them with. Tony Stark, genius billionaire playboy philanthropist cheerleader of all things hinting at romance, who knew? "It suits you. Red suits you too, as well as your armor but this is nice, real nice."

He was talking too fast again, his tongue fumbling over his words, tripping over simple sentences that were meant to be compliments on how earth-tones favored the god's skin tone. The green brought out the lighter hues in Thor's eyes, contrasting against the wheat-gold of his hair in the best way possible, accentuating his features instead of hiding them.

But there was no way that someone like Thor could simply hide.

Thor's eyes never strayed from his, and there was no inkling of a distracted, faraway pain in his gaze any longer. There was only him then, only he and Thor alone in the lower sanctum of the tower, without interruptions, without Tony Stark's appetite for strange things at odd hours of the night and his own doubts, both thankfully forgotten and pushed to the corners.

"You're handsome. Really handsome. I'm going to have to fight to keep the pretty waitresses from slipping you their home number." Thor's eyes, honest to God, twinkled, dark lashes brushing his eyes in gentle tones of cerulean, coating the god's sight with something Steve recognized, a step past fondness: un-filtered, without bounds, adoration.

"Rest assured Steven. I have eyes for only you." Skepticism and a vanishing inner-diatribe set aside that this was happening too fast, that it all was too much far too soon, Steve placed his gloveless hand in Thor's, entwining their fingers, the initiation of the act coming as easy as breathing, as picking up his shield, as doing something he had been doing his entire life.

"I can tell. You're pretty open that way."

Thor's head tilted, eyes settling on his first before averting towards the door. "This glass and steel threshold is a mighty step; are you prepared to walk in tandem with me, our hands never parting and shoulders against the chill of elements both tangible and transient?"

Steve had to hand it to the guy, he really had a way with words, with finding a way to hit the point, no matter how superfluous or wordy it sounded to outside ears. Outside, yes, outside where other people could see them holding hands, where other people could see them engaging in the conduct of two people who were slowly becoming committed to one another in regards to romance. Yes, outside of his comfort zone, breaking his rules to fragmented smithereens, blazing past them towards something better than his own misgivings and fear to move forward had ever proved to be.

Some things were more powerful than fear, than the solitude that came with waking up to a world forever changed. Some things, he reminded himself as Thor squeezed his hand with a subtle, soothing pressure of strong digits, were worth waking up to: the truth that he was alone no longer, that despite what he had to get through, understand and find some way to cope with the loss of years and people in his life, he wouldn't have to endure without a god at his side.

Figuratively, literally, metaphorically, whatever.

"A big step," Steve began, his steps light and easy, unburdened and purposeful, tugging Thor's hand forward to the doors "that I'm more than willing to take. Besides, this is more about getting to know one another and filling our stomachs than it is making a statement."

This seemed to please Thor, for his face was all exhilaration, his eyes bright and contented. He'd made the guy look like this, but more so, he felt good about it.

Everything felt right about this, about intertwining their hands, free from gloves because they were unneeded, his hand fitting neatly against the thunderer's own. Not too big or too small, just right.

When he began comparing holding hands with Thor to the tale of Goldilocks, he figured he had either stepped off the deep end into teetering sanity, or he had found something more than the thought of engaging in war, of the sacrifice that had stripped him of such innocent, painfully child-like notions.

He'd found someone. It was better than falling into the too-easy trap of his own sorrows, far better to spend his time walking forward into the crisp, biting winter air, snowflakes coating his lashes and the cold stinging his ears than spending his time cooped up in his apartment, whittling away the time until the next mission, the next time when he could prove himself valuable, that he was still of use, not outdated as a man and as the hero he had been created and strove to be all at once.

Flurries roved in a silent, delicate dance of frost, the sky a pewter smear with the nimbus color of the clouds. A colorless, all-colored world, washed by the purity of what the season brought: freshness, winter winds scattering banal, stagnant thoughts, a new beginning here and now. And Christmas.

There were people around, bundled up business women going about their business with hats, scarves and leather boots, carrying leather briefcases, men in simple jeans and jackets handing out colored pieces of paper, advertising some sort of musical event that was taking place later that month. Children, elderly, cabs and the commotion of a city that baffled him, intoxicating him with the dizzying sights of colors and electric, translucent screens that changed their pictures like a television screen, surrounding him with the plunge into change, his head under a water that clogged his throat, filling his vocal cords with something far thicker than water and blood could create together.

The brush against his palm let him know that he was held afloat somehow, in the midst of this ever-twisting and unfavorable tide. He found his center, a reserve of inner-docility that he hadn't had in God knew how long.

There was a loss of power here, of control, the thought that he had followed through on a duty that had cost him far more than he ever dared consider. There was time here, a day, the morning and evening his, the twilight hours and the time before dinner his to take, to form and seize in any way he wanted.

He had found purity in the thick of the maelstrom, amongst the bedlam of strange faces and traffic horns, against the crazed swirl of the triad emblem he had made his namesake and title.

Beating the odds no matter the costs had always been his modus operandi, hadn't it?

"Steven? I desire to grant you what you have already bestowed unto me earlier this morning." Thor brushed the pad of his thumb over Steve's, and the look they exchanged was met in equal parts by a flicker of heat against his skin, as if someone held a match to the muscles and tendons of his bones, his body a live-wire of thrumming, stimulating energy.

There was no inner-chill here. Especially when a god wanted to kiss him.

There were people around, people weaving around them in the streets, all apathetic and busy with their own thoughts. No sneering at their fingers, no tongues speaking vilifying and all-together cruel statements about how they were sweet, how it was unnatural, against God's will.

Quite frankly, Steve figured God wanted him to be happy and keep doing what he was doing for his fellow man. And since love came from God - not that he knew if this was love yet, for his attempts at it had been juvenile at best - the opinions of who was around him ceased to matter.

Perhaps, Steve wondered as he gave the god a nod, granting him the right to step closer, to place his hands against his shoulders and press their mouths together, there was a reason behind not knowing a thing about romance.

He'd just been waiting for the right partner.

This was kind-of a dance, the snow fluttering around them in a quiet song of solace, the heat of the one who initiated this dance wrapping him in an embrace that enveloped him in the warmth of promise, of searing passion that had yet to be

This kiss had power behind it, the knowledge of knowing how to kiss and kiss well, all lips and a gentle nudge of Steve's face with Thor's nose. A grand, brilliant force, leaving him for the lack of a better term once it was over and he'd grappled for his bearings and breath, weak in the knees.

He nearly stumbled forward, his heels rocking on the concrete that seemed to have turned to water in the expanse of the moment of impact and connection of their second kiss. Theirs, a word he never thought he'd be able to say, not for a long, long time.

The hand that he had never released held him at bay, steadying him with a press of warm hands against his shoulder, electric eyes alive, heated with a current of irrepressible pleasure for what had just happened, for what had taken place. With the way the god was looking at him then, it appeared as if he had made his day yet again, just by being himself, by letting himself get kissed.

It felt so, so right to just let himself be, without being expected to give anything lofty of himself in return.

"I don't know about you, but it's starting to feel a little more like Christmas." Thor's eyes narrowed in that gentle way of his when he didn't understand something, all crinkled skin around the edges of his eyes and pupils ablaze.

"I do not understand that reference. Over our feast, please impart me with the knowledge of this "Christmas."

"It's a good thing, I promise."

Promises, Steve figured, had a way of turning into something wholly beautiful, especially when it was directed at very literal meanings of self-progress.

And if it was one thing Steve would always do, it was keep his word.