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Freefall

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Thor decides to give his brother some time to think about their New York offer, and does not badger him about it. Another day passes quietly - Jane’s project seems to have sorted itself out, and Darcy has run out of children’s entertainments and accordingly starts Loki on something Erik refers to as ‘science fiction’. It appears to involve a lot of characters running down hallways.

Thor watches them from the kitchen and wonders, for the first time, if his brother is bored.

He lies awake later that night, thinking. There are many rooms in the New York building, so they would have a place to stay if it came down to it. The reclusive Jarvis seems very dedicated to overseeing his charges, so Thor might even be able to let Loki out of his sight on a more regular basis, which Thor is sure they would both appreciate. He loves his brother, but he knows that Loki has ever been a solitary creature. The constant attention must be wearing on him, for all that he gives no sign of it.

“Thor, did you look around at all while we journeyed here from Asgard?”

Thor’s entire body tingles with shock. “No, brother,” he says, proud when his voice is even. “I had my eyes closed and I followed your lead.” He turns his head towards Loki as unobtrusively as possible, but all he can see is the faint outline of Loki’s profile.

“There are strange things to be seen on the secret paths,” Loki says quietly. “Other worlds. Other realms. Places where events have gone differently and different outcomes have been achieved.”

Thor waits for a moment, barely breathing. “I am not sure I understand,” he says finally.

“I have seen many versions of this world. I have seen ones where you did not catch me as I fell from the Bifrost. I have seen worlds where we are enemies, caught in endless battle. I have seen you hold me down so the dwarves may sew my mouth shut, laughing as they worked. I have seen worlds where I bring about Ragnarok, where I birth monsters, where I murder members of our family I have not even met. Mother of Monsters, they call me. The world breaker. The father of strife, the god of a thousand masks, Heimdall’s bane. The unquiet thought.

“You asked what problem I was trying to solve. I think I am trying to solve myself.”

Thor rolls over to face his brother. “You think these things will come to pass here?”

“I tried to end an entire realm, Thor,” Loki says wearily. “I am worried I will do something worse.”

“You were not yourself,” Thor says immediately. “You had been betrayed, it was understandable - “ he can feel his brother pulling away, for all that he remains still. “Listen. These things you see, these worlds, they are infinite? They show all possible outcomes?”

“Yes.”

“And you have never seen one where we are companions, where we fight together against fearsome enemies and protect others?”

“No.”

“Then, brother,” Thor reaches over and puts his hand on Loki’s face, turning his head so they are eye to eye. “Do you not see? This must be that world.”

Loki makes a distressed sound. “I do not think the world works the way you think it does, Thor.”

Thor gives his brother a little shake. “Can you prove me wrong?”

Loki gives a broken little laugh. “Given time?”

Thor presses his forehead against Loki’s. “When have you ever let others determine your path for you, brother? You have always walked your own way. Why should this be different?”

Loki’s hand curls around Thor’s arm. “Maybe,” he says finally. “Maybe.”

They lie like that for a moment. “Loki,” Thor says eventually. “Did you feel... unappreciated? On Asgard?”

Loki shudders. “Yes.”

Guilt floods Thor. “I am sorry.” He tugs Loki close and wraps his arms around him.

“You have become entirely too fond of physical affection since we came here, brother,” Loki complains, his voice muffled by Thor’s shoulder.

Thor laughs and hugs him harder.

The next morning Loki curls up on the couch, gaze half-focused and vague, as is his recent custom. He does not speak, or give any sign that the conversation of the previous night ever took place.

But he had packed all of their things before Thor even woke up, and he follows Thor willingly to the plane after breakfast. He stays awake all the way to New York.

Thor is content with that.