He’s a child again, running through the halls of his father’s palace. Sometimes he’s alone, laughing and skidding around corners, carefree and joyful.
The rest of the time his brother is there, running alongside him, grabbing his hand and saying “Faster, faster,” while the walls around them blur and fall away.
Then it’s just them, racing beneath the Asgardian sky, sometimes on ice, but usually with the pulsing beauty of the Rainbow Bridge beneath their feet.
Loki is happier than he was as a child, no longer the solemn little boy that Thor had gotten in trouble countless times trying to cheer up. His laughter echoes through the empty universe, bright as bells against Thor’s whoops of joy.
Thor’s hand is sweaty and keeps sliding away from Loki’s, but they never quite lose their grip on each other. In the dream world, everything is perfect.
When they arrive in Asgard after Loki has unleashed terrible armies upon Midgard, Thor pauses before taking Loki to his cell.
“Brother,” he says, pausing even though Loki can’t speak through the strange metal gag SHIELD put on him. “I regret that things have turned out this way.”
Loki’s expression says everything. Thor cannot look at the angry, mad thing his brother has become without wanting to smash everything in their path. His fingers itch for Mjolnir, itch to try to smash away the gag and beg his brother to explain why he would do this terrible thing.
He does no such thing; Loki has made his choices, and Thor must honor them.
He stays with Loki long enough to ensure he is properly imprisoned. After, he returns to his chambers, but does not hope to dream.
Sif is on guard duty. Thor nods at her, then leans against the wall across from Loki’s cell. It is crafted in such a way that only the All-Father himself knows how to break it open, but Thor insisted that a guard be in place at all times.
It is not because he fears his brother falling into a lonely despair. Thor simply remembers how Loki manipulated the mortals, and does not wish to see a repeat of that.
“Thor,” Loki says from inside his cell. It sounds like his voice is very far away. Only a small window is revealed through the thick wooden door – Volstagg whispered that it was spiritually connected to Yggdrasil, while Hogun claimed that it was Yggdrasil – and Thor suspects that Loki is being kept somewhere far Asgard.
“Brother,” Thor replies, nodding his head, because he will not accept that they are not kin. Loki’s birth is incidental to him; it is their upbringing and camaraderie that connects them, not something as paltry as blood.
“I was explaining to the lovely lady warrior here how you plan to make a mortal queen of Asgard one day,” Loki says in that wheedling, silky way that he uses when he’s being clever. Thor remembers him using it when they were children; he remembers it even better from the days of their youth, when Loki would lead Thor into mischief.
Sif’s jaw is set in such a way that Thor hopes that it is the Tree of Life itself guarding Loki, otherwise he may well be in for one of Sif’s most wicked punches. “And I explained to the frost giant that it is of no matter to me who your future queen is.”
Thor understands suddenly; he is not deaf to the rumors that sometimes fly about Sif’s romantic ambitions. He knows it is false, that Sif does not pine for him, but rather it is the assumption that she is no true warrior but merely someone seeking a crown that angers her. Loki had been present during Sif’s struggles to achieve her status.
“Does your cruelty know no bounds?” Thor asks. “We all know that it is you that lusts for a crown, brother. Do not assign your own sins to others.”
“I am not your brother,” Loki hisses.
“No matter how far you fall, you will remain my brother until one of us is dead,” Thor promises him.
Sif looks as though she wants to argue, wants to tell Thor he’s being a moron, but she holds her tongue. Thor leaves before Loki can refute him.
Odin has discouraged Thor from visiting Loki, but Thor cannot stay away.
He still thinks that his brother is in there somewhere, hiding within this bitter, angry monster. Thor cannot think too much about the horrors that Loki unleashed upon Midgard, or the cruelties that he spewed to Thor himself. He knows he must eventually accept what his brother has become, but he keeps deciding, not today.
He watches Loki through the window of the cell. The door itself thrums with energy that Thor cannot bear to touch, and Loki does not touch it either. Thor wonders if the other side looks the same, or if Loki is staring at something utterly different. The walls inside appear to be stone, but Thor knows his father, and he doubts that it is anything that mundane.
This day, Thor is alone. He assigned himself a guard duty. His father would disapprove, but Thor has to have an opportunity to speak to Loki alone.
To know whether or not he should let go of his hope.
“Thor,” Loki drawls, peering out of his window. “They let you out without a watchdog?”
“I’m your watchdog tonight,” Thor replies calmly. He leans against the stone wall across from the door. “You may rest easy knowing you are safe.”
Loki snorts derisively. “It will take more than your hammer to keep me safe. They’ll kill me, you know. For what I’ve done. Can the great Thor Odinson handle watching his brother die?”
“They will not kill you,” Thor says calmly. He stood in on the councils himself. Death had been an option, but even Odin himself had been reluctant to speak of it. “You are of value.”
“Am I?” Loki’s head tilts, and his eyes flash dangerously. “What did you tell them? What lies did you speak?”
“None,” Thor says honestly. “The council have all known you since infancy, Loki. You are not a stranger in our midst, as much as you may wish to be.”
“Your love blinds you,” Loki says, and there’s a sharpness to it that Thor can barely stand to hear.
“Your anger blinds you,” Thor grits out.
“You of all people should know better than that,” Loki replies. He leans his forehead against the window. It must hurt. Thor can see the magic gathering itself and attacking in sparks and showers of light, but Loki does not move. His eyes are endlessly dark, and he whispers, “Look what it made of us.”
Thor does not leave. He has guard duty, and he will perform it.
Loki steps away from the opening, but Thor does not move closer to see what he does.
Tonight, Thor’s dreams are different.
They’re older now; no longer children but youths on the cusp of adulthood. Loki grows more whip-lean and narrow with every day, while Thor widens and grows bulkier and stronger. They no longer look like light and dark reflections of each other. They are as different as two men could be.
Their fights grow more vicious as Thor laughingly proves to Loki again and again that he is the superior warrior, his build now giving him the strength to defeat his brother easily. Loki does not take it well, grows angrier and more resentful, and his fighting style shifts to something trickier, relying on speed and slyness rather than strength and endurance.
And then – something changes.
Thor knocks against Loki and Loki pushes back with his full body, violence inherent in the motion but there’s an undercurrent… something else.
Thor’s body recognizes what it is before Thor himself, and his hips are against Loki’s as he pins him to the floor.
“Like this, is it, brother?” he pants, and Loki pushes up against him. Smirks. Thor is torn between pulling away so he can punch the smirk of Loki’s face or pushing closer and making the smirk bigger. And then Loki twists underneath him, rolls his hips, and Thor cannot do anything but thrust himself against him.
Thor doesn’t last very long, and as he climaxes, Loki pushes him over, slides on top of him, and whispers into his ear, “I win.”
Thor surrenders the battle, but prepares himself for war.