Thor's voice booms across the hall as he bids the others goodbye. He enters his bed chamber, dropping Mjolnir at the foot of his bed, and it lands with a jarring thud on the ground as he releases his grip on the handle. The god sinks into his pile of furs, pulling off his winged helmet and greaves, discarding them carelessly as he addresses his sibling, stood at the opposite side of the room beside his own large bed.
"That was an admirable effort, brother, but next time perhaps you should leave the Bilchsteim to Volstagg and I. They are far too large for you to handle alone."
Hands taking knives from a thousand hidden pockets in his tunic, Loki places them carefully in the chest at the foot of his bed, and scoffs,
"Nonsense, Thor, I can take care of myself."
"Of course, brother, of course," the thunder god laughs heartily and rises, slapping his brother on the back as he moves to the end of the room, and the smaller god jerks forward at the strength behind the blow.
Loki's fingers curl around the hilt of another blade, as he hisses,
"Do not patronise me."
Setting down his helmet in shelves ornately carved in the shape of the World Tree on the far wall, Thor turns to look at him, perplexed at the sudden change in mood.
"I was not- I did not mean to- Loki, come now…"
"Oh don't fall over yourself, brother," the smaller god snaps, sliding another knife back into a pouch in the lid of the chest. He removes his thick gloves and folds them, leaving them on top of his furs.
Then, he reaches into a long pocket at the small of his back and removes a different knife. It is a slender blade, curved, with a long black handle polished to a brilliant shine; his favourite. He flips it once in the air, eyes on the blade as it spins, then catches it between two fingers.
Thor sighs, placing his greaves on the shelf beside his helmet.
"Loki, if this is because I stole your kill on the hunt today, then I am sorry. You know I would not undermine you in battle, not on purpose."
Loki snorts again, indignant, "Oh no, of course not, not on purpose, and yet every time we hunt you manage to do so. Do you think me so weak? So incapable?"
His voice is soft as silk-clad steel as he asks, "Do you have any idea what I can do with a blade?"
He turns the knife in his hand, watching it glint in the firelight. When Thor does not answer, the smaller god's eyes betray a dark smile that his lips do not show, and he murmurs,
"Well then, allow me to demonstrate."
And before Thor can blink, Loki throws the blade.
With the smallest flick of Loki's wrist, it hisses through the air like the wind itself, faster than Thor could have believed, and embeds itself in the wooden carving of Yggdrasil behind him, millimetres from the side of his face.
Severed strands of golden hair float downwards to land at his feet, spiraling in the disturbed air, and a wedge of newly-shorn locks brushes the top of his ear. Thor's breath is stuck in his throat.
Loki curls his fingers, beckoning, and the knife, buried almost to the hilt in the wood, slips from it like it was soft butter, drifting point-down back into Loki's waiting hand.
He regards the stunned thunder god with cold eyes.
"I never miss, brother," he warns, softly, and sheathes the knife at his belt, not returning it to the chest; then he turns, leaving the room without another word.
. . .
Thor swallows the last gulp of mead from an obnoxiously large drinking horn and slams it down against the table top, empty again.
"ANOTHER," he roars at the serving girls, who hurry to his side to refill it.
Fandral regards him coolly, before pushing his plate away, a huge leg of lamb mauled but unfinished.
"What troubles you, Thor? You drink as if there is something you wish to forget." He nods at the horn being refilled, while Hogun chews a strip of meat in silence beside him, and asks, "That is your seventh, is it not?"
Sif takes a sip from her own drinking horn and looks over it to meet Fandral's eyes, nodding in silent affirmation. Volstagg, sat opposite Hogun, is thoroughly buried in the belly of a pig, meat and fat clinging to the thick bush of his beard. He hears none of the conversation, entirely engrossed in demolishing the delectable animal in front of him.
Thor does not meet Fandral's eyes, nor Sif's, but simply holds up the short hairs cut squarely above his ear in mute answer.
"And may I ask how that happened?" Sif inquires, wiping a stray drop of sweet wine from her mouth with the back of her hand, "A vengeful paramour, perhaps? Which poor wretch is it this time?"
Thor grunts, and stuffs a handful of meat into his mouth, chewing furiously, clearly reluctant to answer; and for a moment, he doesn't. Sif raises an eyebrow, expecting Thor to name some peasant girl from outside the palace, or a previously unsuspecting maid within.
Horn back in his hand, refilled, Thor waves it, sloshing mead across the table in front of him, already on the wrong side of drunk, and mutters,
"It was Loki."
Sif blinks in shock, mouthing "Oh?" as the others stare, horrified. Thor waves away their misunderstanding with an impatient hand and the four of them exhale in relief as he shakes his head "no".
His mood is black, eyes dark to match, and he swallows another mouthful of meat before he explains.
"My brother thinks we cheat him at our sport. He thinks I do not believe that he is capable of fighting his own battles."
The god pauses to take a huge slug of mead, and continues loudly, "But it is not so! There is no better marksman with a knife than Loki," He lifts the short hairs again in evidence, "He could have taken off my ear with that blade of his without a moment's pause."
The others exchange a look, and Fandral mutters quietly "He could have taken off more than that", though Thor does not hear him.
Bowl of broth in his hands, Hogun says, "Loki is blind to any such praise," and Volstagg nods in tacit agreement, mouth full.
"He thinks he needs prove himself to you, Thor," Sif adds quietly after a moment, "To the Allfather also. You are the eldest, destined to rule. Odin favours you, and Loki knows that."
She puts down her horn, and says softly, "Ever has he lived in your shadow."
Thor growls in outrage and slams an open hand against the table, voice raised.
"But I do not mean for that to be so! I try to include him, Sif, you know this to be true! Fandral, Hogun, you as well!"
The warriors slowly dip their heads in assent, and Thor sighs, rubbing his forehead with stiff fingers.
"Loki is my brother. No man knows him better than I. For years we have played and fought and drunk together and yet still he distances himself from me. I want only to protect him, though he may profess not to want or need my help."
Quieter now, he rolls the horn in his hands and addresses the group, "For as long as I have known you, have I not tried to make him one of us, one of our company?"
Sif nods, as do Fandral and Hogun.
"Time and time again I have tried but he will not accept the hand I extend to him, and Gods but I am tired of trying to explain that we do not slight him in his absence. We do not make jest, we do not criticise or make mockery of him, and yet he does not see that. It seems he cannot."
The god drains his horn again and motions for it to be refilled as he turns to his comrades. Shoulders slumped, he asks, tone softer,
"Do you think me patronising, friends? I beg you, speak plain."
The warriors exchange another look, and it is Fandral who speaks first, albeit hesitantly.
"You do not mean to be so, my friend, it is not your intention, by the Nine we all know that, but Loki, he just…" the warrior pauses, "he cannot see it any other way."
Then he sighs, guiltily, "Though my tongue would lie if were to say that I had had no part in treating him much the same."
Sif runs her fingers over the metal band on her arm and says quietly,
"But he is different from us, Thor. Surely you can see that? His gifts are not like ours. His power, his strength, is his mind; he hones his intellect as we do our swords. He is no warrior, not like the other Aesir. His methods are strange, alien to us…"
Hogun interjects when she pauses.
"Loki is cunning, and he plays his tricks on friend and foe alike. It is not that he does not know honour, but sometimes …" he trails off as Thor looks at him questioningly, "Sometimes it seems that he is not bound by it as we are. It does not hold him as it holds us. And though no harm has come of it yet, I fear that someday it may." He pushes a hunk of bread through the broth in front of him, eyes downcast, as he says, "It troubles me."
Fandral picks at his plate.
"Hogun is right, though it pains me to say it so bluntly," he mutters, "but you did bid us speak true, and so I shall." He looks up at the thunder god, "We are warriors, Thor, honour-bound. That is our calling, it is in our blood. But Loki, he is, different. He does not do as we do. He is not like us, and he never has been. He does not share in our jests, takes no part in feasts or celebrations, but sits on the outskirts of everything, merely watching."
Strangely, Fandral lowers his voice.
"Your brother… he has spent his years in the study of sorcery, of magicks and the laws of alchemy. The Aesir have no need of such knowledge, it is not our way. While we sparred with wooden swords in the courtyards, he shut himself in the library, with naught but dusty tomes and darkness for company. He chose ink and dry paper in place of flesh and racing blood, books over battle. He would rather read than fight."
Seeming almost disgusted at the notion, Fandral pulls meat from a bone as he carries on, "The Aesir protect the Nine realms with shield and steel and we live and die by the code of warriors. That is the way of Asgard. We hunt and quest, and Loki…? Well," He pauses, "Do you remember the long winter when the trolls fell on the towns of the West?"
The others nod.
"That was the winter the nights and days bled together in an endless darkness, no sun or moon to cast light on the world below. The trolls, done with the Allfather's peace, came creeping from the edge of the world in the long dark night, and at the far reaches of the realm they took our people, slaughtered them in droves when they had no warning. They spread like plague in the darkness. It took days for word of it to reach the palace, and for days we rode to reach them, through towns bathed in blood, desolate ruins, a waste stretching into the horizon like some nightmare. All of us were spent long before we reached the field of battle."
Voice quiet, he says, "The fight was long and bloody, and the souls lost that day will feast eternal in the halls of Valhalla, but we held the trolls until help came, and then we sent them scuttling from our lands, back into their holes."
Then Fandral looks at Thor with hard eyes.
"And where was Loki?"
Thor clenches his jaw, and Fandral presses the question.
"Where was your brother, Thor, when our need was great?"
The god replies tightly after a long moment, then drinks deep from his horn.
Hogun keeps his eyes on his bowl, and Sif nods,
"He was nowhere to be found. He promised us magicks to turn the tide of the battle, binding spells to hold the attackers, mists to cloud their senses and make them stupid, and yet, when we looked for him as we struck camp that morning, he was simply, gone."
Hogun fidgets at the increasingly dark mood emanating from the thunder god, and neither Sif nor Fandral speaks further. Volstagg is on his second pig now, though his pace has notably slowed.
After a long silence, Thor speaks.
"That he was not there to fight at our side that day does not mean he cannot fight as Aesir."
Fandral looks down at the table, concentrating on scraps of meat and bone in pools of cooling grease, and he speaks quietly.
"Thor, we know that, but that was not the only time such a thing occurred. Many times has Loki's absence been noted in battle."
"Loki may be different from us, Fandral, but it is his manner, not his heart," Thor protests, "His way differs. He fights with strategy, with clever plots and-"
"And magicks," the warrior stops him short, "With tricks and sorcery that are strange to us as warriors. We fight with honour, not illusions or low trickery. Not deceit."
And Sif says softly,
"Think of the countless times he has lied to us, Thor. Sometimes I fear…" she chews her lip before she continues, "I fear that he cannot be trusted. You know what the others call him."
Thor growls and slams his horn down.
Hogun stirs his broth, and speaks quietly.
"Say it, Thor. You know the name of which she speaks."
Thor looks like he will not, face set in a grim mask, but then, though he does not look up, he spits the word.
Sif and Fandral share a look, and she pushes on.
"And the other?"
Thor growls, and mutters, "Trickster."
Fandral turns away, and Sif holds her tongue.
Hogun picks at his supper. Then, in a quiet voice, he speaks.
"There is talk among the elves, the dwarves, the Aesir, all. A prophecy foretelling the doom of Asgard."
There is silence.
He discards a bone, and says,
"And it is Loki who will bring the fall of the gods; Ragnarok."
Thor's fingers clench into fists as Sif looks at him solemnly.
"The Norns do not lie, Thor."
There is a pause, and then Fandral murmurs, "There is… another name."
But Thor does not say it, cannot, will not, merely grits his teeth and presses his mouth into a hard line.
It is Sif who give voice to it, barely above a whisper.
The thunder god suddenly leaps up and slams his fists down against the table, roaring,
Fandral, Sif, Hogun, and even Volstagg now, all jump back at the outcry.
The hall falls abruptly silent around them.
Hogun folds his hands on the table and Volstagg is sat with a pig leg halfway to his lips. Fandral says nothing.
Sif lifts a silent hand to placate and suddenly Thor looks down at her, true anger in his eyes.
She recoils as he leans forward, palms on the table top. His voice is low, rumbling with deep menace, the air around them thick and close like a gathering storm.
"You will not speak another word of this, this nonsense, these foul lies. Loki is of Asgard. He is my brother and your prince," Thor spits, "And you will pay him the respect he is due, on your honour."
He turns to leave, and over his shoulder, he growls, "You will not speak to me of this again, do you understand?"
When they nod, the god marches from the hall, long red clock billowing behind him.
For a time he paces the halls in a haze of anger, uneasy, wheels in his head turning. Then, with a curse, he makes a decision, and stalks towards the library.
. . .
He finds his brother there, as he suspected.
Calmly smoothing that slender knife of his with a whetstone, he sits alone, as always, with a teetering pile of books at his back.
Loki does not look up as he enters.
"Come to mock me again, brother?" he asks quietly, stone brushing against metal, shick shick.
Thor collapses down next to him, ripping his cloak from his back and throwing it in a bundle at his feet.
Loki notes his silent anger, the crackling in the air above them, and he quips,
"You know, Thor, if you don't calm down, you're like to make it rain in here, and I would not be best pleased if you did that."
Thor merely scowls, leaning on his knees, and stares unseeing into the rows of bookcases.
Loki puts down his whetstone, waiting for a response, and balances the knife on the backs of his fingers. When he is greeted with nothing but silence, he clucks his tongue inside his mouth in annoyance.
"Are you just going to sit there or are you going to tell me why you are here? You never come to the library."
"I knew you would be here," comes the growled response.
"And why have you sought me out?" He asks, quietly, eyeing what appear to be real storm clouds gathering above his head; inside no less.
"Thor, please, lightning will burn everything in this room, and I will have to kill you if that happens."
At that comment Thor whips round to face him, eyes wide, wild.
And Loki simply laughs, bemused.
"It's just a turn of phrase, brother," he says, brow furrowing as he tries to understand, "I was merely stating that if you were to ruin the books, I would not forgive you."
"What has happened to you to make you so thoroughly agitated?" he asks, perplexed.
Thor's eyes flick from the floor to Loki's own and back again.
The silence stretches, with the thunder rumbling in the cloud above. Loki looks up at the ceiling again, concerned now.
"Thor. Please," he asks softly.
So quietly that Loki strains to hear it, Thor mutters, "It's the others." He pauses, before he says through gritted teeth, "They think you are…different."
And with a sigh, he says, "I fear they do not trust you."
Then the thunder god growls and clenches his hands, talking as much to himself as to his brother as he mutters, "But they are our friends, how can they be so… so…"
"No, Thor, I think you will find that they are your friends, not mine. I have no friends, remember?"
And with a self-deprecating smile, he looks at his brother and says, "Save you."
The look of pain Thor sees flicker so briefly in Loki's eyes pulls at his heart.
But the dark-haired god coughs, whether to clear his throat or to hide what may have been a strangled sob Thor cannot tell, and the moment passes. He watches his brother stand and flex his fingers around his knife.
"If that is all you came to say then I shall take my leave of you now, brother." Loki says quietly, eyes on the floor.
Thor blinks as Loki starts to walk away.
"Loki, wait!" he shouts, and the sound is so loud in the silence of the library that it clatters deafeningly around the cavernous room.
He sees Loki pause, the knife turning in his closed fist.
"What?" the smaller god asks, through clenched teeth.
Thor presses his lips together, unsure of what to say now that he has his brother's attention, for a moment unsure even of why he has come at all. Surely he hadn't meant to tell Loki what the others had said? How could he be so stupid? He knows well enough that his brother has always been different, but that has never mattered to him, never, not in all their long years. He has always done his best to include Loki, to protect him, but he knows that the others have had their doubts, once even questioning his brother's true lineage in Thor's hearing.
That had been a mistake. The thunder god's rage had been so terrible that it was heard throughout the palace and far afield, even in the furthest reaches of the realm. It had lasted for days, echoing in the storm clouds overhead, huge forks of lightning striking at random and thunder crackling through the sky, day and night.
Thor had stamped out his friends' ridiculous notion as soon as he'd heard it, because no brother of his would have their ancestry questioned in his own hearing. It was an outrage. Thor had not spoken to the warriors for nigh on a month after that day, forgiving them only on the condition that they would never voice such vicious slander against his brother again.
He has tried so hard to shield Loki from these things, from snide comments and cruel jibes, from mocking looks and disdain for something different, and yet for all his efforts he knows he must have failed him. He sees that now, with his brother's retreating back turned to him in the archway. He looks so small.
So Thor hesitates.
What the others had said has hit a nerve in the younger god. He can see that clear as day, in the tension of Loki's shoulders, the twitch of his mouth, the tremor in his voice. Surely now, knowing the warriors' doubts and fears, his brother, ever quiet and reclusive, would be even more isolated, even more withdrawn, and Thor does not want that. He doesn't want Loki to feel alone.
Everything his friends had said may be true, and yet Thor does not care one whit about Loki's differences. Different or not, all he knows is that he wants his brother by his side. Always. In times of war and in times of peace, at feasts and burials, in sickness and in health, as they grow old through the centuries, he wants Loki stood beside him through it all, and when the day comes for him to take the throne in the Allfather's stead, as King of Asgard, Loki will be with him, at his side.
All that he is, Thor will accept, because in spite of their differences, Thor would do anything for him. He exhales slowly, and as he looks at his brother he realises something.
That whatever comes, he could never love him any less.
His brother's voice cuts through his thoughts, wavering, the thunder rumbling quieter now above their heads.
And eyes closed, Thor simply says,
"I am sorry, brother."
He hears him turn, then the softest reply,
He cannot raise his head for fear that Loki will see the weakness in him as he speaks,
"Loki, I am sorry. For all that they think, and for all the wrong I have done you. For all I have said that has hurt you, that has made you feel weak or below us, I am truly sorry. I never meant for it to be so. I would never hurt you, brother. You know that, don't you?"
His voice is a pleading rush, and he suddenly finds that his eyes are full of tears.
He wipes at them clumsily with the back of his hand, before Loki can see, and the armour plating of his gauntlet catches on his brow, dragging across the skin and cutting it open, leaving a smear of blood on skin and metal both.
"Ah-" He pats at the cut with awkward fingers, coming away wet with red, and all of a sudden he feels Loki's own slender hands wrap around them, stopping him, though he did not hear his brother move closer.
Loki kneels beside him, and Thor looks up, ice cold cobalt meeting tear-clouded azure. Loki holds his gaze in silence for a moment.
Then he sighs, a weary sound, and places two fingers at the torn skin of Thor's temple. He murmurs something that crackles in the air between them like electricity and Thor gasps as he feels his skin knit together under Loki's fingers.
"What-" he asks and Loki shushes him, voice quiet.
"Your skin will remember, though you do not," the smaller god says softly, "I have used this magick before, both on you, and on the others when they had each suffered mortal wounds."
Thor frowns in confusion as his mouth opens to question, and Loki shakes his head in answer, "I have never told you."
He is silent for a moment, fingers still pressed to Thor's brow, and then he speaks again, quietly, "They were wounded, Sif and the Warriors Three, some time or other, separated from the group. That is how I found them. Separate occasions all."
Loki smooths the freshly healed skin on Thor's temple with a thumb, and satisfied, he bends to sit opposite him, folding his hands together in his lap, and speaks softly.
"During a hunting trip, Volstagg was rent open from hip to sternum. A boar had made short work of him. Sif was bleeding out from a severed artery in her leg. The wound was made by an enchanted blade, and it took me far too long to reverse the spell. That was in Svartalfheim," his eyes flicker up to Thor's and down again as he confesses, "I nearly lost her then. Had I been but a moment later and I would have, though Fandral was worse. For him I had to dissolve bones and grow back part of his lung," and he pauses, "But Hogun…"
Loki exhales heavily, "Hogun I found in a truly sorry state during the final battle of the long winter. Trolls are dull, ignorant creatures, but their teeth are so foul that they can turn a wound to festering pus in a matter of hours. Their bite is deadly as any finer poison, if left to bleed into the wound for long enough."
He fidgets as he adds, "But I saved him, despite his condition."
Thor stares up at him, disbelieving.
"And you," Loki says, voice quiet, his eyes not leaving the floor, "I would not talk about the things I have done for you, brother, the things I have seen."
He pauses for a moment, jaw tight.
"I have done all that, and so much more," he murmurs, blue eyes finally meeting Thor's, "And yet I do it my way. With those tricks and spells you all detest so much. Weeks of planning and waiting and you never see the half of it, brother, none of you ever do. You take it for granted, the magicks I use to keep you safe."
His eyes are hard as chips of ice, and Thor feels the coldness in them; the injustice done over years, the hardening heart below Loki's pale skin.
The younger god speaks again, softly, "Countless times I have turned a blade from a fatal cut, blown an arrow off course, stayed a hand that sought to harm you, and never have I asked for thanks."
"Not once have I spoken out against your cruelty, your indifference," he hisses.
"Brother…" Thor whispers.
Loki breaks the gaze, and lowers his eyes, but Thor has already seen the tears there, and the smaller god speaks so quietly that Thor can barely hear him.
"I asked for nothing. All I ever wanted was for you to notice, to know how hard I try to help you. You, Sif, the Warriors Three, all of you. I only wanted you to see me."
He sighs angrily, and his voice wavers, catching in the barest echo of a sob.
"I have tried so hard to be like you, but I am not," Loki chokes out, spreading his hands in a gesture of submission, of admittance, with a pale imitation of a laugh sticking in his throat.
"I could not compete; not at hunting, not in the arts of war, not at the skills prized most amongst the Aesir. Strength is lauded, intellect is not. I had stealth, I had cunning, I had knowledge; that you all prize so low. You who praise strength and brute force, of which I have none. You who hail bravery, honour, a bold charge headfirst into terror and danger and for what?"
His eyes glitter in the dim light.
"For glory. The glory of Asgard and the Aesir."
He laughs again, a cracked, mocking sound, "But I am none of that, brother. I possess none of the traits that make Asgard's great so mighty. I could never compete with Sif and the Warriors Three, with you yourself, when I have none of the strength you prize so highly."
With eyes full of anger he spits out, "How could someone like me ever fight you on equal footing? How could I ever stand beside you and not feel your inferior? How could I ever reach your heights, to stand on the same ground you stand, equal in father's esteem?"
"How could I ever do that when I am nothing like you?" he shouts, breath short.
"All I could do was protect you," Loki snarls, and with another horrible self-pitying laugh, he says, "and sometimes I could not even do that."
Thor grimaces, knowing full well that Loki is recounting the bloody struggle with the wolf Fenrir, when Thor had barely escaped with his life.
It had been a dark day for Asgard indeed.
Then, Loki's voice cracks, as he spits at him,
"All I ever wanted was for you to see me."
And as his eyes flicker down to meet the thunder god's, the tears finally fall.
His voice breaks, as he asks, "Or was that too hard a task?"
Thor cannot form a single word. Nothing he can say will erase the pain Loki has felt, nor sooth the rage in him, and the salt tracks of tears, falling alien across his brother's pale cheeks, testify as much.
But they are a lie, the slights Loki has suffered. Thor never meant any of them, his brother had to know that. Or had he been so careless, so thoughtless, that all these things had slipped by unnoticed as he charged into battle after battle in his quest for blood and glory? How many years had Loki kept his silence, kept his watch over them, as they fought on, drunk on their pride and their bloodlust, in total ignorance of his actions?
The thunder god's voice is quiet when he finally speaks.
"All these years, brother, and you did not speak a word of this. Why?"
Loki shakes his head fiercely, tears flying, too overcome to speak, as Thor asks again, "Why would you only tell me this now?"
His brother seems to recover himself a mite and recoils, wrapping his hands around his arms, hugging himself tight.
"I could not. Before, I… You would only have laughed at me."
He rocks, and Thor has never seen him look so utterly fragile, the barest threads of his composure a veneer as brittle as thin ice, and just as easily shattered.
"Brother, no-" Thor starts, but suddenly Loki makes an angry sound as Thor reaches a hand out to him, and then, the moment is gone.
"Yes, brother, you would have! " Loki shouts, "You know what I say is true, I can see it in your eyes! You cannot lie to me."
And in Thor's mind, something quietly whispers Liesmith, but no words come.
"You were always hunting, questing, drinking, making merry with the warriors," Loki spits, venomous, "when did you ever have time for me or my troubles? Would you have listened to me, had I asked you to hear them?"
And suddenly there is a hardness in his face, a bitterness carved in his eyes, as he answers his own question.
"No, I think not."
His eyes are cold and set as he snarls, "I am not like you, nor will I ever be."
Angrily he brushes the tears from his cheeks and abruptly stands.
The dark-haired god looks shaken, and suddenly too small, too slender, too sad. His skin is too pale against the black and green he favours above all other colours, and the gold of his belt and gauntlets lend a translucence to his pallor. He straightens, and the long knife is there in his hand again, silver, cold, and razor sharp, and he rotates the hilt in his palm.
Loki turns his face away, recollecting himself, regaining his composure, breathing slowly.
His voice is hard, quiet and clipped, when he next speaks.
"Leave me, brother, and forget all that I have told you. I have said too much."
Thor stands, slowly, awkwardly, and again the words will not come. Those that do are wrong, clumsy and incompetent, cumbersome. He wills his sadness, his repentance, and his confession, to show through his eyes, communicated in his silence, as his strangled tongue cannot find the power to speak.
Instead, the younger god mistakes this inability as arrogance, as disdain, as the indifference he hates so violently.
When Thor sees him flick the knife blade upwards, he recoils, assuming attack.
But Loki only emits a small strange hiccup, an anguished sound, more a sob than a snarl, and grits his teeth.
His lips move in a language Thor doesn't know, hands turning in the air, and suddenly black smoke curls around his feet, rising, swallowing him.
And in a moment, Loki is gone.
. . .