"A blink of an eye," Loki sighs dramatically. "Was that the Midgardian saying?"
Thor leans back against the pillar, narrowing his eyes at Loki. "What are you trying to say?" The pale, glorious expanse of Asgard lies before them, golden an d unchanging. The trees are lush as they always have been, if not as beautiful as the forests of Alfheimr, but still a lovely sight nonetheless.
It's not that he doesn't know what Loki is trying to get at with his sharp mockery, anyway. Years and years have passed for them, slow like the frozen rivers on the highest mountains, and the laughter, tears and friendships with the Midgardians seem a frenzied dream.
Fingers tapping impatiently against the curve of a balcony's chiseled railing, Loki returns his glance, challenging. "I told you to not get attached to them, did I not?" Softly, just a touch of cruelty. "I warned you, even as you held her in your arms, even when you fought with those mortals who perished within years of you knowing them. Years that were but the quickest time to you, years that covered their entire lifetime as they turned brittle and frail, and you... powerless to stop the claws of death coming for them, Thor."
He turns from Loki's words, cutting as ever, from the spoken knives of a Liesmith turned bitter by betrayal and disappointment. But here they are, in a world where they only truly have each other. Neither of them can leave the other, neither of them can truly look away.
"Denying it?" His not-brother's voice drops to a whisper, chilling. "You felt it when they died, you mourned. Centuries rolled by as they turned to bones, as you returned to the winding corridors of our castle with your heavy heart in tow."
"Let it be." It's not a request, not from Thor. The King of Asgard rarely asks, and he's not in the mood to be pleasant today with Loki's acerbic tongue reminding him of his failures. It wasn't as though he could've taken them to Asgard, Thor thinks with some regret, but oh, how he wished he could. How he would've staved off death for them, those wonderful warriors, who fought to protect those who needed them even as their inner demons tore them apart from within.
Loki laughs. "How can I? We've never really been able to let each other be. You didn't, when you came for me." He thumbs the edges of his lips, little scars that are barely there, an echoing memory of centuries past when the muzzle had been pulled so forcefully over his screaming mouth. He's never forgiven Thor for that, and it shows in the glittering green of his eyes. "You dragged me back here against my will, humiliated me and forced me to my knees before you to accept you on the throne."
Thor's hand snakes out like a whip, lightning-quick, as he pulls Loki by the front of his robes and stares him down, his eyes dark. "I did no such thing," he hisses, and Loki just smirks because he's gotten what he wanted, having provoked Thor into reacting to his words. Thor doesn't indulge Loki's games, not often, but he's sick of this happening year after year after lonely year. "Don't weave lies into your memories, you foolish thing. The way you're acting now, like a petulant brat, I'm thinking we've been too good to you. Hundreds of years after we welcomed you back into our fold, and this is how you want to see it, Loki?"
"Come now." Defiant, Loki tilts his chin upwards. "Look at how sweetly you're learning to lie with my leading by example. You know I do not belong, and that this was never my home."
Shaking his head, Thor lets go of him with a shove. He doesn't miss the way Loki's smirk morphs into a regret-riddled frown, but he grits his teeth and ignores it. Loki's games make him tired, so tired, in a way that only fighting for years without end can make you. Love and loathing are two tricky, intertwined things he's learned since they returned to Asgard after the last time Loki escaped, when Thor'd yanked Loki's chain so forcefully in his anger that he'd left angry slashes from the iron for days. He'd been so horrified at his own actions, but vindictively pleased, even as he felt the slow burn of shame from feeling so satisfied at seeing Loki being taught a lesson.
Push and pull, push and pull, like the warm tides on his kingdom's distant shores.
"Forget it, Loki." His cape flows from behind him, a resplendent red. "I'll see you at dinner."
"As you always do," Loki replies quietly, darkly, but there's a strange hint of longing in his voice. Thor feels his heart clench, wishing fiercely for their time together as youths, all recklessness and laughter. "As you always will."
Thor doesn't look back.