Thor finally locates his brother in one of the mansion’s little-used rooms, seated by the window. He has his legs pulled up and a mug of tea clutched in both hands, his attention focused on the scene outside.
Thor enters quietly. He is certain that his brother is deep enough in thought that Thor’s normally exuberant approach will not disturb him, but he is loath to intrude on this calm place that Loki has found. Living at the mansion has been a good change, Thor is certain, but it can on occasion be a very exciting place. Thor adores the energy of it, but he respects his brother’s desire for solitude even if he does not always understand it.
He settles himself on the chair next to the window seat and puts one hand on his brother’s knee.
Loki blinks and turns, startled.
“I am sorry to disturb you. It is time for dinner.”
Loki frowns. Thor smiles indulgently at his brother. “You have been in contemplation for a while, I think. Have you seen anything interesting?”
Loki glances back out the window as if only just noticing that there is something to be seen. “Not particularly.”
Thor squeezes his brother’s knee. “Well, come then! Dinner awaits. I believe it is Bruce’s turn to provide tonight.”
He claims the mug so that his brother can arise from the window seat without incident. The tea is quite cold - Loki must have made it some time ago.
Thor frowns, carefully concealing the expression from his brother. Loki is much improved from his state of mind when they first arrived on Midgard those many weeks ago, but he is still... fragile, Thor supposes. He speaks seldom, mostly only to Thor, and is prone to episodes like this one. They seem to come in waves - unpredictable in frequency, but with a gradual build and release.
Thor keeps his hand on Loki’s back as they walk up to the kitchen. Loki does not shrug off the contact, which tells Thor that he is either too preoccupied to notice or he is in need of the comfort. Thor feels his frown deepen.
The kitchen is a riot of activity. Loki claims a corner as out of the way as he can manage, and Thor obediently places himself between his brother and the rest of the room. Initially meals had been handled on an individual basis, but Steve had expressed a longing for the companionship of group meals and Thor had supported him. They have tried a number of dinnertime strategies since - the current one is that each member in turn is responsible for a night. The results have been unpredictable but entertaining.
Tonight Bruce has created a feast of something called grilled cheese sandwiches, which Thor finds to be tasty but very small. Loki gives most of his to his brother, which sounds another note of warning in Thor’s mind.
“Oh, excellent, I took too many,” Tony says cheerfully, shovelling the contents of his plate onto Loki’s. Loki gives Tony an annoyed look, but Tony has already turned his attention to bickering with Clint.
Loki’s friendship with Tony is somewhat mystifying to Thor. At any given time they seem to be either in complete accord or utterly disgusted with the other’s very being. The fact that Loki rarely speaks and Tony rarely stops seems to have no bearing on their ability to communicate. It is nothing at all like the friendships Loki used to have with Sif and the Warriors Three, though to be fair, none of their Midgardian companions are noticeably Asgardian in temperament.
Across the table, Clint and Tony’s bickering devolves into violence and Steve and Natasha are forced to intervene. Thor changes his mind - contests of arms during banquets are an honored Asgardian custom. There may be hope of civilisation for these Midgardians yet.
During the commotion, Loki slips away from the table. Thor lets him go - he consumed most of his meal and the all-seeing Jarvis has been tasked by Tony to aid Thor in watching over him. On Jane and Erik’s advice Thor is attempting to trust Loki to know what he needs and to pursue it, although taking a less active role has been difficult.
That night as he lies in his bedchamber, attuned to the sounds of Loki sleeping next door, Thor dreams that his brother is weeping and in pain and Thor cannot reach him. In the morning, Loki is red-eyed and withdrawn.