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anyone who's ever had a brother

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"Brother," says Loki,the measured word falling like a stone in the silence of the Gallows, "You always seem to find a way to make my life difficult."

Thor had not thought he would see his brother again. Not after what had happened after his time in the Deep Roads, not when they had parted with Loki snapping, For someone who's not a Templar, you're as good as one of them. For all his strength, Thor could not make Loki stay, and afterwards he had come to realise that nothing in all of Thedas could have made Loki stay.

But soon after his return from the Deep Roads and Loki's departure, things change for mages in Kirkwall, and they change for the worse. More and more mages come to the Gallows each day, and their haunted eyes tell Thor more than a thousand rumours of Templar cruelty could ever convey. Fathers and mothers are hanged for the crime of sheltering their mage children, as is anyone guilty of aiding an apostate.

Every mage dragged to the Gallows makes Thor think of his brother, and all he can do is hope that Loki is far away from this, that Loki runs fast, runs far and is never caught, that Loki never comes back. As the years pass, in the empty eyes of the Tranquil, who fill the Gallows in increasing numbers, Thor starts to see the shadow of the ruin his brother could have been.

Thor finds himself glad that Loki had left when he did, and thinks that if he does not see Loki again, it is a small price to pay for the hope that his brother is out there in the world, free.

So it is a surprise, to say the least, when Thor finds Loki again on the streets of Kirkwall, as he, the Warriors Three and Sif flee the aftermath of the attack on the Chantry.

I heard that you've been stirring up trouble in Kirkwall, brother, Loki had said. And I couldn't stay away. Always you surprise me with your idiocy. You could have been Viscount, if you weren't always at Meredith's throat. You're nearly as bad as Orsino. And you aren't even a mage. Hardly what you'd expect of the Champion, wouldn't you say?

When Thor had finally asked Loki what he intended by returning to Kirkwall, Loki's answer had surprised him.

You've done more than I ever expected of you for mages here, Loki had said, and I don't intend to thank you by doing nothing while you start a war. Thor had not truly been listening, preoccupied as he was with seeking out the changes all those years away had wrought in his brother. Loki was thinner - Thor would not have expected anything less of someone who had been, presumably, on the run in the Free Marches for three years - though he did not look as if he had been living wild, and his eyes held a different look in them from when Thor had seen him last. Thor did not dare to hope, not with all he had seen, and not with what he knew of Loki, but if he had dared, he would have called it a measure of peace.

"Thor," Loki says, and it brings him back to the present, to the stone walls around them, to Meredith and the Templars drawing ever closer, to what is rapidly becoming the biggest fight of his life.

"May I," Loki says, as he gestures towards Thor's armour. Thor nods, and his brother's magic wraps around him, sinking into his armour and his skin and, he thinks, perhaps even his bones. He is surprised again (this has been a day of many surprises) by how it feels just the same, how this feels like every other time Loki has done this before every battle they have fought together.

"You were ever heedless in a fight, brother," Loki mutters, "I don't expect that's changed."

I wish Mother could have seen us like this, Thor thinks, and it's not until Loki turns to him that he realises he has said it out loud.

Loki is silent for a time. "As do I," he answers, eventually.

After that there are no more words for a time. There is much to do, after all: frightened mages to calm, wounds to tend to, a battleground to fortify.

There is not nearly enough time.

There are so many things Thor wants to say to Loki: how it feels right to have Loki by his side again, how he thinks this is where they should be, but everything he wants to say tangles in his head and chokes in his throat. Loki was ever the one who was better with words.

In the end there is really only one thing he needs to say to Loki before it's too late.

"Loki," he says, and Loki looks up from where he seems to be casting the final aspects of a spell on the Warrior Three's weapons and Sif's blades.

"I am proud to call you brother," Thor says, and this time the words do not stay trapped within him as they have before. "That's gone unsaid too long."

Thor had not realised how much he had missed Loki's smile.

Loki is still smiling when Sif races in from the forecourt.

"They come," she says, simply, and the ragtag warriors in the Gallows look up.

"Then we will face them together," Loki says, and he is looking at Thor when he says it.