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Freefall

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Thor keeps his eyes closed until the ground under his feet has been solid and sandy for several paces. Loki has brought them to Puente Antigua, out in the desert where the Destroyer touched down. He stops walking, as if waiting for further instructions, and he does not release Thor’s hand.

“Come, brother,” Thor says, trying to sound cheerful. “We will go find Jane.”

The town is still being repaired from the Destroyer’s attack. Loki tenses immediately, and Thor has to put one hand over Loki’s eyes until they make it through the devastation. No one looks at them, which given their Asgardian clothing and unusual stance suggests to Thor that Loki is concealing them somehow. He is not sure whether to be relieved or unnerved by it.

They are still unnoticeable when they enter Jane’s headquarters and Thor has to remind Loki to bring them to the attention of the Midgardians. When they appear, Darcy drops what she is carrying and exclaims “Fuck!”, which Thor is fairly certain is not suitable language for a young maiden. It gets the attention of Jane and Erik, though, and that is good.

“Thor!” Jane says, hurrying towards them. “Oh my god, how did you get here? Did you repair the Einstein-Rosen bridge? We didn’t get any readings - “ she slows self-consciously as she notices Loki. “Oh! You brought a friend?”

Thor smiles for what feels like the first time in weeks. “Jane, it is good to see you! This is my brother, Loki.”

Erik, also making his way towards them, halts in surprise and apprehension. “Loki? As in - “

Thor gestures frantically for Erik to be silent. Loki is staring at the floor again and appears not to have noticed.

Darcy squints. “Is he, y’know, okay?” She wiggles one hand next to her head, which Thor presumes is supposed to indicate mental instability.

“He is... not.” Thor says with difficulty. “He is...” he gropes for a word that means ‘broken’ but doesn’t sound so irreversible. “Not,” he says finally. He smiles again at Jane, and this time it does not come so easily. “I am afraid we come in search of sanctuary.”

Jane returns his smile with one that looks uncertain but determined. “Of course, Thor. You know you’re welcome here.” She comes forward and embraces him, then pauses ever-so-slightly before embracing Loki as well. Loki stands stiffly until it is over.

“Thor,” Erik says. “A word?” His tone does not indicate that this is a suggestion, and the way his gaze lingers on Loki tells Thor that it should be a word held in private.

Thor wavers. He does not want to leave Loki alone, but he needs Erik’s cooperation if not his support. “Darcy,” he says. “Would you be willing to keep my brother company for a moment?”

“Uh, sure,” Darcy says, still looking unsettled.

Thor settles Loki on the couch near the window, makes sure there is nothing sharp nearby, and goes over to Erik.

“Look, Thor,” Erik says. “I understand that what I know about you and your family is extremely interpretational, but you should know that the stories we have here about Loki don’t necessarily paint him in the best light, and given that the last time you were here he tried to kill us all - “

“Yes,” Thor says, cutting him off. “Yes. I... he did. What he did before was - he didn’t mean - “ Thor stops and takes a breath. How to explain that Loki was not in his right mind? How to explain Loki’s agony to a man who has never met him, when even those who know him well refuse to listen? “That was not my brother. He was... betrayed.” It hurts, it hurts to say that about the All-Father, but in his heart Thor knows it is the most accurate way to describe the situation.

Erik’s expression softens, but only just. Thor attempts a different tactic. “I do not know the stories you speak of, but please believe that I would never willingly put Jane in danger.”

A quiet footfall heralds the arrival of the lady in question. Thor turns slightly to include her in the conversation, carefully keeping Loki in sight at all times. “I know that your experience with my brother does not incline you to be well disposed towards him,” he says. “I must ask that you trust me when I say he means you no harm and neither do I.”

Jane puts one hand soothingly on his arm. “I believe you, Thor,” she says. “And I get that we don’t have all the facts here, but your brother really doesn’t look too good.”

“He...” Thor finds it suddenly hard to breathe. “He... tried to...”

“Hurt you?” Jane prompts gently when it is clear that Thor cannot continue.

“Himself,” Thor whispers.

He can feel Jane and Erik exchanging glances, and cannot bear to look at them. Some decision must be reached, however, because Jane rubs his arm.

“We’ll help you look after him,” she says.

“He probably shouldn’t be left alone,” Erik says gruffly, and Thor chooses to believe this is more out of consideration for Loki’s safety than for everyone else’s. “And we’ll have to tell SHIELD you’re here.”

“I understand,” Thor says. “I pledged my protection of this world to the son of Coul and it would be dishonorable for me not to bide by it, whatever my other obligations might be.” Granted, he had not expected to have to honor that promise so quickly - and, in truth, had mostly made it in order to fulfill his previous oath to Jane - but honor it he will. Although Loki is in casual clothing Thor himself is clad in armor and bears Mjolnir still. He is ready for battle, as ever - on Asgard or Midgard, it matters little. It will be difficult to entrust Loki to the care of anyone else if the son of Coul calls him away, but he can do his best to limit his absence and if it is the price to pay for their sanctuary then so be it.

“Well,” Jane says in an amused tone, casting her gaze towards where Darcy is sitting next to Loki on the couch and placing a strange device over his ears. “If nothing else, Loki will come out of this with a thorough introduction to pop culture. Now,” her attention turns back to him. “Explain to me how you got here without the Einstein-Rosen bridge?”