Chance, not wicked plot lead Loki to run into his brother in floating Asgardia one dark night. It could not have been wicked plot simply because the young liesmith was not even looking where he was going and the running-into was quite literal. He backed off and braced for a pounding, but once he looked up into the face of the god of thunder he could relax. Rubbing his nose where it ached from bouncing off armor, Loki tried not to think about how weak he must look before his brother.
“Ah, brother,” Thor greeted him, quietly in light of the darkness. “Just the soul I have been seeking.”
“I am?” he asked.
“Yes,” his brother replied. He set a massive hand over the curve of Loki’s shoulder and swallowed half his arm in warmth with it.
“I have something for you,” Thor said.
“You do?” Loki asked.
“I do,” Thor said. At least Loki’s humiliating lapse in wit gave rise to amusement, going by the soft laughter that rose in Thor’s chest. It did not feel mocking, but Loki had to steel his face not to flinch all the same. He only wanted to make Thor laugh when he wanted to, not on accident. But Thor’s laughter had a way of warming him, like his hand moving around to his back and shoving him forward, even if he didn’t want it.
“I have been distracted by matters bother personal and for the All-Mothers' rule,” Thor said. “But how have you faired?”
“As well as I might be expected to,” Loki told him. “I find work to do.”
“Where?” Thor asked. “For whom?”
“Oh, you know, here and there,” Loki answered. “For those who need my help.”
Thor’s blond eyebrows stayed lifted high as he stared down at Loki, who kept his gaze on his brother as steadfastly as he could stand. He spoke the truth, but couldn’t keep himself from smirking all the same. It must make his honest answers look false, but eventually Thor just sighed.
“I wish you would keep out of trouble,” he said.
“I wish the same,” Loki told him.
They moved into a quiet armory, not Thor’s quarters. But, of course, the Lady Sif would be there, wouldn’t she? Loki found a quiet armory absent of skilled warriors with vendettas against him suited him just fine. He hopped up on a rack and tried not to get himself buggered with a pike while Thor leaned back against a wall of shields.
“I have failed in protecting you,” Thor admitted, so quietly that Loki felt certain he hadn’t said it at all.
“What?” Loki sputtered, but somehow it came out as scoffing after a moment. Then laughter.
“This is not one of your jokes, brother!”
For a few moments Thor tried to reckon with him, but that just made it worse until Loki felt himself in quite a bit of danger if he couldn’t get a hold of his laughter. Wetness creased in the corners of his eyes by the time he could do that and Thor’s sorry sadness had been written over with frustration and an angry flush of color in his cheeks. Loki scrubbed his face with both hands and failed to look contrite.
“You have done more than right by me,” Loki tried to assure him.
“I missed Yule with you,” Thor countered, “Left you through the winter in a land that would have spared no hearth for you.”
Loki swallowed the thickness of spit in the back of his throat.
“Cold is no trifle for me, brother,” Loki said. “I had no shivers.”
“What of celebrations?” Thor asked. “There is no day to celebrate the feats of Loki, for too many of them are traitorous. Your acts for good, even those most recent, go unsung.”
“Not forever,” Loki said, pouting. He could not even brag to Thor of his deeds, and he found he didn’t wish to brag to anyone else.
Thor laughed again, without Loki wanting him to.
“You have much patience for…”
He trailed off in laughter and Loki guessed at what he might say. For himself? He had thought it was his dead self who had the patience, or Ikol had lead him to believe as much. For a youth? He never quite felt like a child, besides he was a god. Millennia of misdeeds would take millennia to clean up, even his great deeds might take millennia to clean up let alone accomplish.
“For a son of Odin,” Thor finished, brushing his blond hair from his face.
Loki’s mouth fell open slightly and he didn’t get it shut quickly enough to avoid Thor stepping over and pulling back his hood to ruffle his hair. When he pouted, at least, Thor smoothed it back down as best he could. Loki kept his hood down all the same, there was no point in trying to fit his hair beneath it again and he’d left his headpiece in Leah’s sad little hole in the ground for Thori to gnaw on. Or rather Thori had tackled him to the ground and he’d use the headpiece as a means of escape.
“I got you a present,” Thor told him. “For the Yule that I missed.”
Loki frowned, which made Thor scowl at him.
“I didn’t get you anything,” Loki said. “And you can’t have my phone.”
“I do not want your Starkphone,” Thor told him. “Or any Starkphone, I promise you.”
“Promises, promises,” Loki teased. “If you knew what power it proffers, you would not be so quick to dismiss the Internet from satellites.”
“It is a small present, Loki,” he said. “It need not be considered in your strange tally of fraternal affections.”
He felt oddly exposed at that, but, no, Thor must understand that he acted not to even a score or prove himself but out of true affection, because…
It did not matter. Now, was not the time. He could give Thor his life, his world, and a million Starkphones all on a silver platter and it would still be understandable if his brother did not trust him. Love could be given freely, but trust had to be earned. He would have a hundred thousand years of bloody work to do for it.
“It is small, but I have been assured it can also be adjusted,” Thor said, pulling something from a pouch on his belt. “It has no magic, but no teeth or temperature could destroy it.”
The gift looked like a ribbon in the width of Thor’s palm, but when Loki picked it up he knew it immediately — a green collar made of mail so fine it could be jewelry. A brass tag dangled when he held it just so and he lifted it closer to his eyes in the dark.
“Thori Hel Pup,” the tag read on one side.
“If found please return to Loki or Thor of Asgardia,” read the other.
The metal held the warmth of Thor’s hands, warmer than Loki’s skin.
“He will hate it,” Loki said, smiling.
“But what do you think of it?” Thor asked.
If Loki had not known better, if the tone of his question had come from anyone but Thor Odinson, he’d have said he sounded nervous. Loki’s smile grew into a grin.
“I love it, of course.”