Loki has always been one for shadows, for not being found when he doesn't want to be, but it is the silence, the unfamiliar hopelessness in his brother's eyes that Thor finds worrying. It is nothing like the Loki he once knew, and even less like the Loki he has come to know again. Thor finds himself forever watching for Loki, trying to find him amongst the crowds of Asgardia at meals or haunting the corridors because he hardly ever sees his brother anymore. Something has changed; Thor is not so slow that he doesn't know it. Loki is withdrawn in a way Thor's never known him to be before and it looks to Thor like grieving. Thor knows it all too well. Felt it for Loki, like an emptiness in his chest that no distraction could take away from. Loki no longer jests with those around him. Barely responds when Volstagg tries to engage him in conversation. Volstagg looks to Thor over Loki's head and all Thor can do is shrug because he doesn't know.
Now, Loki speaks to Thor almost as little as he speaks to anyone else, and that stings most of all.
When Thor had first brought Loki to Asgard his brother would often seek him out with questions and news or just to be there, close, like a shadow. There was joy in him, a stubborn optimism that Thor admired in his little brother. More than admired; was envious of. Something has happened to take that away and the thought makes Thor rage, filled with a very great desire to find and throttle whatever has taken that from Loki. To destroy what has caused Loki to no longer seek Thor out at all times of day, to laugh with him and tug on his arms and climb up on his shoulders, sure of his welcome. Thor misses it, the same as he misses his brother. Like he's always missed his brother.
So instead of Loki seeking Thor out, Thor is driven to seek out Loki. But unlike Loki, Thor can rarely find his brother who somehow knows every hiding place and every hidden path in Asgardia and far beyond. There are times when Thor suspects the only time he finds Loki is when his brother wants him to.
Those times Loki lounges against Thor as he's always done, but speaks of less than the nothing he usually chatters on about. When Thor asks, "Where have you been?" and "What have you been doing?" he replies, "Nowhere, " and "Oh, nothing," and smoothly changes the subject. It's all lies, Thor is sure of it, but he has the impression that Loki is lying to himself as much as anyone else. Trying to forget, perhaps. Trying to pretend nothing has happened. It's as frustrating as it is infuriating because words have always been Loki's domain and Thor has never had any skill with them. He cannot make Loki speak. He cannot persuade Loki he can help, he would help, if only he knew what was wrong. Thor would do almost anything.
There is a cold, old part Thor whispering that Loki would never believe it anyway, just as Thor should not believe whatever misery Loki has got himself into is not of his own making. Thor ignores it. Things have changed. Things are better.
Now he considers it Thor has to admit that whilst that is true for himself, it may not be so for Loki. Powerless, hated and shunned- and worse- living in Asgardia with the shadow of the evil, cruel thing that was his old self hanging over his head cannot be easy. Thor wonders if he has paid enough attention to his little brother. If he has missed something terrible that he should have known about, seen coming. But there is no blame in Loki's eyes and his words when they speak. There is none of the bitter resentment Thor saw so much of before.
It was selfish, Thor knows, to bring back his brother. He's only ever thought of it in terms of how Loki's resurrection might affect others, not what Loki himself might think of it all. Not whether his brother wanted to be brought back at all. Not whether Loki was better off in this life or in his old one. The thought burns in Thor's stomach, uncomfortable, and he resolves himself to be a better brother, to hold to this responsibility which can only be his. His brother. His magic which resurrected Loki. His fault.
If he cannot fashion his words, if he does not have the skill to convince Loki of his honesty (and who knows honesty better than Loki?) then Thor will have to find other ways.
Action has always been Thor's strength and it is in his deeds that he hopes Loki will see the truth: that Thor is there. That Loki need not fear him. That Thor loves him more than almost anything in all the realms. That Loki is not alone.
So Thor searches for Loki harder, not resting until he has scoured the entire grounds and pleaded with Heimdall to use his Sight to reveal his brother, and even gone so far as to climb his way up into Loki's tower. He never lingers there, ignores the books strewn about the floor Thor knows Loki is not supposed to possess. Studiously ignores the imaged on Loki's computer screen pushed into a corner, well-used and always switched on. It is a mystery to Thor both where he acquired such a machine and what he powers it on in a city without power lines.
When he does find Loki, those few times, Thor listens. There is the usual nonsense- spun, improbable tales- and talk of human things that Thor does not entirely understand but suspects have to do with the internet, but among all the words there is a lot more Loki is saying than Thor ever realised. Thor learns that Loki spends very little time in Asgardia (which explains why Thor can rarely find him) and he learns that Loki enjoys a disturbing number of television shows. He learns- though he had always suspected- that his peers are even more unmerciful to Loki than the adult population.
Once, Loki tells him offhandedly, "I am only Loki after all," as though it is the most natural thing in the world for others to be so cruel to him. It leaves Thor cold and he finds himself covering his discomfit with bluster, swinging Loki up onto his shoulders, taking to flight because it always pleases Loki in a way that little else does.
Strangest of all Thor learns that Loki speaks with the All-Mother, alone, and about what he never even hints at.
There is a taste of a test to the way Loki weaves truths into his words, as though he speaks with the expectation that Thor will not hear. Thor reflects that, perhaps, for a long time this has been the reality of their conversations; one-sided. Regard bleeding down to apathy. Loki, Thor has learnt, wants a reply and he doesn't really seem to care what form that reply takes.
So: Loki speaks of the newest model of Stark phone and Thor persuades Stark to hand one over to give to his little brother.
Loki tells Thor a story of nightmares and sleeplessness and hell-spawn sons and Thor sits with him until he sleeps.
The sadness never goes away, even though it has been days long turned to weeks since Thor first noticed the tired slant of his brother's shoulders and glimpsed the loneliness in his eyes. As time passes, Loki might become absent less often but he is never really with them, and he might smile more but it is never a real thing.
Then there is the day when, the sun still high and Asgardia restful with peace and good fortune and Loki has bruises around his throat, half-hidden by the neck of his clothing, and across his cheek that he can't hide. His brother says nothing and Thor has learnt that these are the worst times, when Loki has reached a point where he has given up even trying to pretend he is anything other than miserable. There is little consolation in the fact that Loki will allow no one but Thor to see him this way.
It is too much for Thor to bear. Thor cannot watch his brother suffer this way, not when he only recently got him back after so many centuries of enmity turned to bitterness and violence. Over the years he and Loki have hurt each other countless times and Thor is certain that neither of them have ever gained anything from it. No victory possible where neither of them are- were- willing to strike a killing blow.
This Loki seems more interested in riding upon Thor's shoulders than killing him. Often he seems happy just to sit beside Thor, as he does now, leaning against him with an easiness Thor does not ever remember there being before. He's tapping away at his new Starkphone, concentrating so hard his brows are drawn together in a frown.
It is one of the few times Thor can remember when they have both been still, both content to stay as they are. There are a hundred other things to do, a hundred other more exciting things Thor could be doing, but he will stay here in this quiet corner of the palace which is Thor's and he will watch over his little brother because that is what elder brothers do.
Thor catches a glimpse of an image on Loki's Starkphone and thinks, There are other things elder brothers must do also.
"I hope," Thor says slowly, "You are not viewing anything inappropriate on that."
Loki scoffs. "Everything is inappropriate on the internet."
"Then perhaps you- we- should do something more productive."
"I won't spar with you." Loki leans away from Thor unhappily. It is an argument they have had many times and one that has never ended on good terms. The Loki of before revelled in fighting with Thor, honing their fighting skills on one another. Thor does not think for a moment this younger Loki's reluctance is because Thor is so much older. Indeed, he refuses to spar with anyone. The boy has no taste for blood at all and Thor supposes he should be thankful for that, except that it leaves Loki defenceless. No magic. No martial skills. It leaves Thor nervous every time Loki is out of his sight.
Thor does not like the way Loki curls away from him either so he puts an arm around his brother's shoulders and tries, "Then would you like to go to the human town? You have told me often how much you have developed a taste for- milkshakes." Thor says the word carefully, hoping that he has it right. "Perhaps we can go and enjoy this delicacy of yours."
To Thor's surprise Loki shrinks away even further, his face shuttering to something cold and hard. Thor wonders if he has pronounced the word wrongly. This, he thinks, is why he avoids words.
Loki says, "It's fine. Here is fine. I don't want to go anywhere."
"I have said something wrong." Thor is sure of it now. From the sorrow in Loki's voice. From the stiff set of his shoulders and the way his brother will not look at him, his attention focused entirely and unconvincingly on the screen of his human technology.
"You haven't." Loki shakes his head, turns away and Thor decides then that something must be done. He must know what makes his brother so miserable. Thor has been patient enough. He must make it right.
"I have, Loki, and I shall make it up to you," Thor promises.
He picks Loki up easily, holding him tightly around the waist as his brother squirms and protests the treatment. Every time he does this Thor is struck by how easy it is; how light and small Loki is now. How quickly Loki gives up fighting him, sighing dramatically as though Thor is an annoyance to be tolerated. Thor suspects that his brother doesn't really mind the manhandling. Even when he slings Loki over his shoulder and refuses to answer his demands to know where they're going, what Thor is up to, why in the name of Odin's hair does his cloak smell so bad.
They need to get away from Asgardia, Thor thinks. They need to spend time being brothers and nothing more. Loki needs to get off his Starkphone, come out from whatever dark place he has hidden his thoughts in, and see that Thor is there.
So he flies, and Thor feels Loki sigh again, exaggerated and unconvincing.
There are many places he could take Loki; to amusement parks or into the mountains or to dusty libraries where he'd lose Loki for days. They need the sun, though, away from the shadows Loki lingers in too much. They need somewhere away from other people, somewhere unfamiliar to them both without distraction. Or cell phone coverage.
"Could you make it up to me," Loki calls over the sound of wind whipping past their ears and thunder booming around them, "by dropping me off at an internet cafe?"
It's the first time since Loki became reclusive and angry that Thor has heard him joke and it lightens Thor's heart.
"I could drop you, certainly, " Thor retorts.
"And I could pull your hair out, but I choose not to," Loki scoffs loftily. It is as close to Loki saying I know you won't drop me as Thor is ever likely to hear, but it is more than enough and Thor smiles.
"Aye, little brother," he says. "You could."
A long stretch of coastline passes below them now, green sea and white sand surround by great cliffs. Loki is tapping impatiently at Thor's back as though he were bored, or else just trying to be irritating, and Thor decides that this is the place, this deserted beach in some remote part of Midgard that Thor does not know the name of. He has seen human children enjoying playing in sand and sea, has heard his human friends speak of the joys of bathing in the sun and swimming and burying their friends (though that is strange, and Thor does not intend to bury Loki). They might not be human but they require rest and they seek joy just as humans do. And this Loki is so young, but Thor suspects he has known neither rest nor joy in that short life.
Thor comes to a stop on the shoreline, the soft wet sand giving easily under his boots, the roar of his thunder dissipating along with the clouds that cloak him. He lets Loki down and is unsurprised by the unimpressed look on his brother's face.
"Is this torture because I threatened to pull your hair?" he asks.
"No, brother," Thor finds himself tutting, gently pushing Loki towards the sea. If his armour were the metal of humans it would rust in the salt-smelling atmosphere of the beach but it is made of stronger stuff and it will not tarnish. "It will be fun. We will swim!"
Loki looks down at his sodden boots then up at Thor. There is a familiar mischief in his eyes. "Well, you do need a wash."
On any other day Thor might frown at his brother, or cuff him lightly, but today there are only miles of empty surf and no one to see and the temptation is too great. Thor grins instead, and it makes Loki raise his eyebrows and tilt his head in surprise and uncertainty.
"Perhaps I do," Thor agrees and Loki must see what Thor is planning because he backs away, his hands held up in supplication.
"Oh no," he says. "Thor. No. You know I don't like-"
It is perhaps unfair to manhandle his brother this way, but Loki does not fight that hard when Thor picks him up again and this time tucks him comfortably under his arm. Even this small, Loki has his tricks and he has his words but Loki doesn't so much as pinch Thor. Or perhaps he just never gets the chance before Thor is striding into the sea, his brother's legs already dipped into the water.
"A wash!" Thor announces.
"We're clothed!" Loki argues.
"You said my cloak smelled bad," Thor points out. The water swirls around his legs, the material clinging to his skin. His cloak is heavy at his shoulders where the currents of the water tug and pull the heavy fabric.
Loki prods Thor in the side. "But I don't."
"So you say, little brother." Thor shakes his head, but he's smiling. It's strange but despite the weight of the water washing around him it's the lightest Thor has felt in many days. He hopes Loki feels this too.
Loki tries, "I can't swim, Thor," and sounds sufficiently distressed that Thor adjusts his hold to lift Loki higher out of the water, to get a more firm grip on his brother.
"I won't let you go," Thor reminds him, then adds thoughtfully. "Though do we need to breathe? I forget."
"That's not the point." Loki squirms. "It's the principle of the thing."
Thor wades deeper into the sea. It's oddly warm, reminding Thor of long passed hot summers when Thor and Loki, young and fearless, hunted through the long grass on the plains west of Asgard. Old, glorious, lost Asgard.
"There is a principle?" Thor asks.
Thor notices his brother does not explain what that principle might be. Instead, Thor can feel his brother straining against his hold but not to get away, rather to lean in closer to the surface of the water. "Brother," Loki says. "I see fish."
"Fish in the sea are indeed a sight, Loki," Thor agrees, and feels another vicious prodding at his side.
"You have become very droll in your old age, I find."
Loki's tone is thick with sarcasm but there is a fondness beneath it, and when Thor glances down at his brother he is sure he sees something like the beginnings of a smile at the corner of his mouth. The first he has seen in too long that is more than a forced, untrue thing.
"You have become very taken with fish in your youth, I find," Thor smiles serenely.
It is easy- perhaps too easy- for Thor to slide back into this teasing, playful way of talking to his brother. It is something that has been absent for years beyond measure. Not since Loki turned away from Asgard has he felt this. Not since Loki returned as a young, hopeful thing have they found this again together. Thor had thought it long lost; almost forgotten and it is like having a part of himself returned. Some aching, empty coldness restored to warmth and light and Thor cannot imagine losing this again now. Cannot imagine how he did not go mad from the loss of it the first time.
"I was commenting on the cleanliness of the water," Loki sniffs. "Surely we're not on Midgard. All the waters I saw there were brown. In-" His brother cuts himself off abruptly and in an instant the tension in him has returned. His face is turned away.
So, whatever happened to Loki it happened on Midgard. It is perhaps reflective of how relaxed Loki had been that he revealed even that much. Even if Loki's whole attitude has changed. Even if he is unnaturally still under Thor's arm now, Loki has told him something and it feels like a victory. Like a start. Thor just needs to encourage Loki to tell him more- to confide in him- and that might be the hardest part of all.
The direct approach rarely works with Loki but Thor has no skill with subtlety and can think of nothing to say but the truth. What he should have said, perhaps, years ago.
Lifting Loki so the boy can climb up onto his shoulders- which Loki gladly does- Thor turns back to the shore. He does not want Loki to feel trapped, like Thor is holding his answers to ransom.
Thor says, "If you would speak to me, if you tell me what has happened, perhaps I can help you, brother."
As Thor wades into the shallows Loki is silent for so long that Thor is convinced he isn't going to reply when he finally says, "There is nothing you can do." A pause and then Loki seems to flop against him where he is sitting on Thor's shoulders, his cheek resting wearily against the top of Thor's head. "It does not matter, anyway."
He sounds so defeated and all Thor can do is hold onto his brother's legs more tightly where they dangle against his chest.
"It matters that you are unhappy, Loki. I would not have that."
This time Loki doesn't reply but he does wrap his arms around Thor's neck in what might almost be an embrace.
"This is enough," Loki says when they are back on shore, soft white sand clinging to Thor's sodden boots. They face a wall of grey stone, sheer cliffs surrounding this little cove. Thor cannot decide if he should insist they stay or if they should go. There is, as least, some peace in this place, so far removed from their worlds. There is very little to be found in Asgardia, especially for Loki. Maybe this is enough.
"But if you wish to tell me," Thor assures Loki. "I will listen. And I will do what I can, even if it is nothing."
Loki tuts, leaps down nimbly from his perch on top of Thor. "That makes very little sense," Loki points out, but then waves his words away, cutting off any reply Thor might make, and instead looks around them, assessing. He tugs at the collar of his clothes.
"It's hot here," he says.
"Aye," Thor agrees. He doesn't want to leave, doesn't want to leave behind the calm and the closeness he feels here but if Loki does not like it he will gladly take him somewhere else. "Do you wish to leave?" he asks.
Loki shakes his head. "I have no pressing engagements." He looks up at Thor and his eyes betray discomfort, concern. "Unless you do?"
Thor hurries to assure his brother, "No, no." He laughs. "Even if I did I would rather be here with you."
It is heartening to see the way Loki ducks his face away, to catch sight of Loki's small, pleased smile. His brother kicks at the sand with the toe of his boot and for a long moment they both stand awkwardly, unsure what to do. What to say.
"I have heard on Midgard," Thor tries, watching Loki making mounds and troughs in the sand, "that it is customary to build castles on the beach."
Titling his head and squinting up at Thor, the sun in his eyes, Loki says dryly, "I'm afraid I failed to bring my pneumatic drill and concrete mixture."
"I meant in sand."
"That's a terrible building material."
"No," Thor huffs. "A model of a castle. Out of sand. On the beach."
Now Loki looks curious. "For what purpose?"
Thor shrugs. "For fun? That part was always unclear to me, too."
Regardless, for a long time as the sun climbs to its highest point, Loki helps Thor build a miniature Asgardia in the wet sand near the shoreline, complete with half-ruined spires and a tiny Heimdall guarding the Gates.
"We could improve upon the City," Loki suggests as he recreates the palace and Thor builds up the outer defensive walls. Fine work is not his strength.
"Perhaps add a movie theatre. A casino. Replace the Old Quarter with shiny, glass apartment blocks."
"It would not suit Asgardia," Thor replies.
"It would not suit Asgardians, you mean."
"That also," Thor agrees.
"At least a new shopping mall, surely. Where the palace is." Loki frowns and his tone is darker, less playful when he adds, "We can evict the All-Mother."
It is instinct, a reflex, to chide Loki for disrespecting their Queens. "You should not speak of them this way, brother."
"I speak of them how I want. It's all I can do, after all. Speak of them. I can't do anything. Even if they- you- everyone thinks I can."
The vehemence in his voice surprises Thor, full of anger. Thor is certain this is connected to Loki's recent behaviour; his sadness. It is driving Thor to madness that Loki will not just tell him. All he will give him are these glimpses. These hints at something larger, something profound enough to turn Loki from optimism and hope to cynicism and bitterness. Thor holds his tongue this time, though, hoping that Loki will fill the silence- as he often does- but with more of what is bothering him. With something that will make Thor understand.
Loki is not so blind. "I can tell what you're doing," he says. "You want me to say something."
Unlike Loki, it is not so difficult for Thor to remain silent.
"It's a very sneaky tactic, you know. Using my own love of talking against me. I told you there was nothing you could do. It doesn't matter what happened."
If it didn't matter, Thor thinks, Loki's eyes would not be so red and he would not look so pale even in this sun-filled place where the colours of the sea and the sky are so deep and crisp they seem like blocks of colour sweeping across a canvas rather than water and air. If he did not want to speak of it Loki would not have brought the subject up again.
Loki scowls at Thor like he knows exactly what Thor is thinking, squishes the part of the palace with his finger where Thor's chambers reside. "It doesn’t," he repeats. "Not to any of you anyway."
Thor sighs and shakes his head helplessly. "I wouldn't know if it matters or not, when I do not know what it is."
Another long pause, enough time for Thor to think he has said the wrong thing again- that he has pushed too far and asked too much of his brother. Enough time that Loki has put the finishing touches to his own tower and is looking at it strangely, the edges of the slanted roof breaking off as the sand dries in the hot sun. There are no clouds, no shade. Thor is hot in his armour and Loki- never one for heat- can be no better off but he doesn't complain or even seem to notice. Thor wishes he'd brought water with them, worried his brother will be over-thirsty.
Finally, in a voice so quiet Thor must strain to hear him over the gentle lapping sound of the waves against the beach, Loki says, "She used to watch me sleep. Creepily."
Thor blinks at the non-sequiter but Loki is distant, talking to himself more than Thor. Remembering.
"Thori was scared of her," he goes on. "She asked me if I really believed we could-"
Loki cuts himself off sharply and crushes his carefully constructed tower with the palm of his hand.
She used to, Thor hears, She was, and then the anger and the hiding himself away make sense.
"What was her name?" Thor asks as gently as he can. Grief is something he understands well. Every time he looks at his brother he remembers how much it hurt not to have Loki there, not to know he was alive somewhere.
For the first time Loki looks up and meets Thor's eyes, narrowing them suspiciously and Thor wonders what it is that Loki is suspicious of. That Thor would ever use this information against him? That this is some sign of weakness? That somehow Loki will pay for speaking this truth? It is trust, Thor knows. And just as none in Asgardia can trust Loki, so he can trust no one in return. Having seen the way Loki is treated in what is supposed to be his own home Thor should not be surprised at his mistrust. Even though Thor is his brother. Even though he would do almost anything for him.
And why should he? Even Thor has made it clear he does not trust Loki.
It is a habit made of thousands of years. One that Thor is not sure he will ever truly break; if he will ever be able to look at Loki and not wonder if there is some untruth in his words, some hidden machination, some spite. He is not proud of it but it is not something he can easily change. Loki must know this. But Thor also knows trust works both ways.
Loki says, "Leah," and sits back on his knees in the sand and looks lost and alone and young.
As much as Thor wants to know what happened to her, he knows asking that would be too much. And much too soon.
Instead he says, "Your dog,"- Thor cannot bring himself to call it by its name- "He didn't like her?"
"He burnt her dress a lot. I think it was a sign of affection. He waits for her to come home."
For a hellhound mutt, Thor can't help but wonder at what this Leah- this friend of Loki's- must have been like to win its love.
Loki continues, "She's not coming back." His eyes are wide as though he's only just realised the truth of it. Maybe it's the first time Loki has admitted it to himself. Loki's eyes are wet and distant and Thor wishes he had known this child who had meant so much to his brother. He wishes he knew what to say.
With no words and with Loki curling in on himself, hiding his face behind his arms, the barrier of their sandy miniature Asgardia between them, Thor can think of only one thing to do.
He stands, walks around their creation and engulfs his brother in his arms, pulls him close, holds his head and runs sandy fingers through dark hair. Loki lets himself be held, goes limp in Thor's arms and though he makes no sound his brother heaves great breaths, shivers despite the warmth, and Thor knows Loki cries. He says nothing and they sit this way for a long time; long enough that the sun begins to set around them casting long, cool shadows across the beach and into the sea. It reminds Thor of giants, and any other time he would have said so to Loki, perhaps told him of the time when he was younger and Loki was older and they defeated the greatest, most ferocious giant to ever live together. Thor will tell Loki later, when his brother isn't clinging to him as though his life depended on it, his knuckles white from gripping so tightly.
The shadows and the afternoon breeze have lowered the temperature now and so Thor wraps his cloak as well as his arms around his brother to keep him warm, and tries not to worry when Loki does not respond. He lets himself be moved, leaning limply against Thor, and Thor gathers him closer. He wishes he could see his brother's face but Loki keeps it hidden, never looks up, turns away from Thor.
Thor wants to tell him, There is no shame and, I wept for you, but it seems a wrong thing to break this strange silence. To interrupt Loki's grief.
Eventually, the tide comes in so far that it washes at their toes, at the edges of Thor's cloak and Thor must do something before they are both washed away. The seaward side of their sand-built Asgardia has long since given way to the incoming waves.
"Our model city falls," Thor says, keeping his voice low and gently stroking his brother's forehead, wiping away smudges of sand.
"Let it," Loki replies. He sounds exhausted.
"We too shall be in the sea soon," Thor tries. "I do not think we need another wash." The dried salt from their first wade into the ocean already itches against his skin.
That, at least, causes Loki to lift his head. He looks at the ruins of their work. Thor is not surprised to see the redness around Loki's eyes. He leans his head against Thor's bicep.
"I do not want to go back there," he says, so quietly that Thor is not sure he was supposed to hear.
It hurts that Loki cannot see Asgardia as somewhere he can be safe, can be himself, in the same way that Thor can. It hurts because Thor has in so many ways put his brother in this position; brought him to a place that should be his home but where instead he is treated as an enemy. As an outsider.
There is one place, though, they will both be welcome.
"We shall go to Volstagg's," Thor decides. "I heard he is looking after your pet."
"Thori. Yes," Loki nods. "Thori likes it at Volstagg's. He feeds him a lot. Probably to stop him burning the house down. Or eating his children."
"Then we shall visit your- Thori-" Thor forces himself to say the hellhound's name and is glad he did when the ghost of a smile passes across Loki's face. "And Volstagg. He will look after us too."
"You are not busy? You have no great feasts to attend?" Loki asks, and Thor can hear that what his brother is really asking is, Will you stay with me?
It is interesting, Thor thinks, that Loki does not doubt Volstagg. Does not fear his reception at Volstagg's door. He might, Thor considers, be jealous of his brother's faith in his friend.
"If I were," Thor tells his brother, "If I did, I still would not leave you."
Loki nods once, scrubbing at his face and smiling uncertainly. He willingly takes Thor's hand when Thor stands, allows himself to be pulled up onto his feet and then picked up and settled on Thor's shoulders.
"Home then?" Thor says, raising Mjolnir. He is showered with sand and splutters.
Loki laughs quietly and pats Thor on the head. "We shall be finding sand in our shoes and our clothes for evermore, brother. You only have yourself to blame."
"Aye, it's true," Thor agrees. He can already feel the sand inside his armour. He wonders how welcome they will be when Volstagg realises they have brought half a beach with them.
"It was a good day though," Loki assures Thor after a pause. "And yes. To Volstagg's."
It is no surprise that Loki will not call it home, but he sounds more content than he has in days and that is enough for Thor. He pats his brother's leg, and then flies, and Loki holds on to him tightly.