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At the end of it, Loki clawed himself upright, breathing raggedly and barely keeping his feet. His body screamed at him with every movement, begging him to lie down and rest, head spinning. He spat out a mouthful of blood and reached for his magic to get away from this place and lick his wounds, but it only fizzled like trying to start a fire with wet wood.

Oh, he thought, wonderful.

Thor and his friends were still busy, distracted by this latest catastrophe, but they wouldn’t be for long. Loki tried again, but only met the same result. And this wasn’t even his fault, not this time at any rate, genuinely a case of wrong place, wrong time, not as though anyone would believe that.

Loki reached for his magic a third time and his head spun wildly. He half fell to his knees, grabbed at a ledge to support himself, and felt something shift inside his body with a bold of white-hot pain that squeezed a yell from his throat.

When his vision cleared, his breathing loud and harsh in Loki’s own ears, his head was hanging down and he noticed the spar of metal driven through his chest, a good three fingers in diameter.

“Oh,” he said, with faint surprise. His head felt suddenly very light. That didn’t seem good.

Loki felt the ground shake with the impact of Thor’s landing. “Loki!” he said, voice strident and firm. “What is-”

“Get away from me,” Loki snarled, though his voice slurred unnervingly. Damn. He needed to get out of here, his magic wasn’t answering him, and there was a metal rebar through one of his lungs. And now Thor. Loki planted his palms on the ground and forced himself to stand through the unnerving wrongness of cold steel caressing his insides.

Thor’s eyes widened almost comically, and Loki wanted to laugh. His unwilling snort came out as a spray of blood and only rewarded him with a spasm of pain that doubled him over again, and then his damned br- damned Thor was catching him.

“You are wounded,” he said. Loki shoved his hands away and took a stumbling step back.

Keenly observed. I will not submit to your – futile-” Metal grated against bone, and Loki swallowed a scream. He needed the thing out, then his body could heal and he would be able to get away from here before things got any worse-

He wrapped his hands around the rod protruding from his chest, and pulled, even as Thor lunged forward with a frantic, “Loki, do not-”

The spar slid slickly free and the world blinked out for a moment with the sheer agony. When it came back…

He’d expected to feel better. He did feel a whole lot worse. His hands felt drenched in something wet and warm and slippery that he identified vaguely as blood. Thor was looking down at him, and seemed decidedly displeased. “You idiot,” he said, loudly.

“I don’t want your help,” Loki tried to say, but it came out something more like ‘Iiidon’wan’yrhelp’ and somehow that seemed much less convincing. Thor glanced over his shoulder, and then his arms slid under Loki’s knees and behind his back and Thor simply scooped him off the ground like a child. “Put me down,” Loki tried to protest, but that was even less effective, and his magic still…

The world was starting to grow fuzzy. He did not…he did not feel well at all.

“No,” Thor said simply. “I will not. I am finished watching you do this to yourself.” Loki’s arms were tangled up and didn’t seem to want to cooperate with his wishes. This could not be happening. His thoughts were muddled, and he could feel consciousness slipping away, hard as he clung to it. “I am going to take care of you,” Thor said, in a tone of absolute certainty, and oh. Oh no.

This isn’t happening, Loki thought hopefully, one last time, and then everything was gone.

He woke up feeling warm, safe, and absolutely wretched. His whole body felt like he’d been pounded repeatedly by Mjolnir and all the nerves on the entire left half of his torso were on fire. He made a quiet, ragged noise of pain before he could bite it back.

Someone guided a cup to his mouth, the liquid inside wetting his upper lip. “Drink,” said a low, familiar voice, vibrating in his bones, and Loki took a cautious sip that changed to eager gulps at the welcome flood of water into his parched mouth. The cup pulled away too soon, and Loki made a noise of protest.

“You can’t have too much, yet. It’ll just make you sick.” A warm hand rested heavily on his forehead. “You are still feverish, brother.”

Oh. Loki fell still. He wasn’t certain who else he thought it would have been. Maybe he was just that much a fool. Loki reached cautiously for his magic before answering. It barely responded to his call.

“What do you think you’re doing,” Loki demanded flatly, concentrating on trying to stir himself from lying flat on his back. It wasn’t going so well as he wanted it to. He made it up to his elbows and had to stop, panting with the exertion, and only then did he realize that his surroundings were neither cell nor Asgardian, but rather some kind of…hut. “Where are we?” He added.

Lie back, Loki’s body urged him. Rest a while. No need for a fuss. He ignored it in favor of focusing on Thor, who was looking at him with a frown.

“You should lie back,” Thor said, in lieu of answering his questions, and to spite him Loki pushed himself the rest of the way to a sitting position, though his arms trembled at holding himself up and his stomach lurched ominously, suddenly churning.

“I hardly think,” he said nonetheless, making his voice caustic, “that I need listen to your-

“Lie back,” Thor said, this time more of a growl. Loki’s arms gave out and he fell limply back to the – couch, was it? - and told himself firmly that it was because his arms had tired. Thor’s eyes narrowed. “And stay there.”

Loki wanted to be more furious than he was. The fact was, he simply didn’t have the energy to be. He summoned a sneer. “What is this supposed to be?” His voice rasped over a dry throat, but he would be damned before he asked Thor for anything. “Am I your captive? Why, then, the lack of a cage?”

Thor hesitated, but only for a moment. “I am helping you.”

Helping!” Loki’s voice rose sharply, though he regretted it at once for the stab of pain it caused him. He covered his hiss with an attempt at a laugh. “How exactly-”

“By keeping you safe while you heal,” Thor interrupted, this time without hesitation. Loki blinked at him. He wasn’t sure what he had expected, but it wasn’t that. “You were sore wounded-”

“Hardly the first time,” Loki said, and Thor’s expression darkened.

“I am aware, and that is precisely why – I have tolerated your refusals of help until now, but I am done watching you cause yourself injury while I stand by and do nothing in order to appease your damned pride. Do you hear me?”

The prepared argument fled, and Loki stared blankly at his…at Thor, momentarily at a total loss. He recovered himself quickly, though, and arranged his face into a sneer. “You cannot be serious.”

“Oh,” Thor said, his mouth set and everything in his bearing radiating stubbornness. “I am. I do not expect you to change your mind. I do not expect you to be happy with me. But I will not watch you run off to bleed alone in some dark lair-”

“I am not a child,” Loki said, though just saying it made him feel like a child, and the way Thor was looking at him just made that worse. Not to mention the fact that he was helpless as a fish flopping on land just now. He wasn’t going anywhere, and they both knew it.

“Plainly not,” Thor said, with some asperity. “Sometimes I think you had more sense when you were.”

Loki hissed with wordless wrath, his face heating. “Whatever you think you’re going to accomplish-”

“Must everything have an ulterior motive with you?” Thor said, his voice rising. “Can you not simply let me tend your wounds and leave it at that?” Loki could himself tiring quickly, and fought to hold onto scraps of energy flowing out of him like water through a sieve.

A faintly sensible voice at the back of his mind noted that he could simply wait until he was stronger and slip away then. It seemed risky, though, to cease fighting for a moment. “I will not thank you for it,” he hissed.

“I do not expect thanks!” Thor exploded. “Someone needs to take care of you, and it plainly isn’t going to be you!

Loki blinked at him, a little dazedly. His head was starting to get foggy again, and he didn’t like that statement but was having a difficult time working out how to argue with it. “I do take care of myself,” he said, eventually, but it sounded horrendously feeble the moment it was out of his mouth. Thor’s expression softened slightly and that seemed a bad sign as well.

“You may say that with more credibility when you have not nearly bled yourself dry,” he said, again with that slight note of asperity. Loki wanted to object to that, but he was fading fast. He settled for defiantly closing his eyes.

Perhaps when he next woke resistance would be easier.

Thor wasn’t there when he opened his eyes next.

Loki cast his gaze carefully around where he could see, but he wasn’t sitting anywhere within view, and he couldn’t hear any noise from nearby. He’d left, then, no doubt to do something or other important. Loki exhaled quietly.

“Thor,” he said, at middling volume, but only silence answered.

Loki sat up, slowly, hissing at the stabbing pain through his torso. He pushed through it, though, until he was upright and panting, shoved the blankets piled on top of him to the floor, and swung his legs carefully until his feet – bare, Loki noted, with slight displeasure – were resting on the wooden boards. He took a moment there to breathe deeply, waiting for the pain to ebb to a tolerable level, and then pushed himself slowly to his feet. For a moment he wobbled there, his body protesting fiercely, but he gritted his teeth and fought the reaction down, keeping his footing.

He thought he heard something in the next room and glanced over quickly, but there was still no sign of Thor. Loki turned his head back and fixed his gaze on the door, and began to hobble towards it. It wasn’t graceful, and it certainly wasn’t dignified, but if he could get out of here then…

He wasn’t certain about next steps, but getting away from Thor would do for a start.

His chest began to ache by the third step, pain shooting through his torso with every impact of his sole with the floor. He started to feel light headed by the fifth. He was barely a foot away from the door when his knees buckled and he fell, a short drop punctuated by a sharp scream when he hit the floor and his chest exploded with pain. He swallowed it quickly, but attempts to get back up proved fruitless, and he could only lie there, panting, trying to force his body to respond.

His body seemed to be performing a mutiny, however, and was decidedly noncooperative. And he could taste blood at the back of his throat; whatever healing he’d done seemed to have been at least partially undone.

Loki lay there, everything throbbing with pain, for what felt like an eternity before the door opened. Past Thor’s legs, Loki caught a glimpse of rolling, snow-covered hills, and wanted to bang his head against the floor.

Thor looked down at him, and Loki clenched his hands into fists and said nothing, teeth gritted. The silence stretched out. “Where were you,” Loki asked, at length.

“Speaking with my friends,” Thor said. “So that they knew all is well.”

All is not well, Loki wanted to snap. Nothing is well. “I’m sure they were delighted to hear that you are still wasting your time on a futile project.”

Thor shook his head. “Loki…” He trailed off. After a long silence, he sighed and knelt next to him. “What were you going to do if you got outside?” he asked. Loki bared his teeth.

“It didn’t matter, as long as I was away from you,” he shot back, and then coughed a little spatter of blood on the floor in front of Thor’s boots.

Thor sighed again. “You are no fool, and I don’t understand why you insist on acting like one,” he said. Loki yelped as Thor scooped him off the floor like a blushing bride and tried to struggle, but he’d started to shiver too hard for it to be effective. His not-brother deposited him on the couch again and replaced the blankets on top of him.

“Leave me be,” Loki snarled, through clattering teeth. He did not feel well. The ache in his chest had spread, reaching tendrils deep in that sparked with sharper pain, and he couldn’t stop shivering. Thor tucked the blankets around his shoulders.

“No,” he said, firm and implacable.

“I hate you,” Loki said. He felt like an utter fool, covered in layer upon layer of blankets and still shivering, weak, pathetic.

“So you keep saying,” Thor said, his eyebrows still pulled together in that stupid frown. “So frequently that I sometimes wonder who you are trying to convince.”

Loki did not have a good reply to that. He closed his eyes and turned his head away in lieu of responding.

He came thrashing and yelling into wakefulness from some dream he (probably thankfully) didn’t recall, clawing at the blankets tangled around his body in spite of the agony that movement brought. Or at least, he did until someone (Thor, of course it was Thor) took the expedient of holding him down. Not, of course, before something tore anew in his gut.

Panting, in pain, and his mouth dry as parchment, the best Loki could manage was to glare balefully at the oversized oaf. “You’re still here,” he rasped, when he trusted his voice, though his heart was still pounding. Thor’s expression was a thunderous frown, rather than the soppy sentimentality Loki had expected.

“Indeed I am.”

Loki closed his eyes and let his head fall back, since it seemed the only way he had to respond with appropriate disdain. He reached for his magic, just in case, but could only just brush power before it ebbed away again. “I was hoping for otherwise.”

“Drink,” Thor said. Loki opened one eye to see that a glass of water was being shoved in his direction. Loki considered simply refusing it, but his throat was parched and he still felt like he’d been wrung out like an old rag. He tried to disentangle an arm from the blankets, but before he could manage it Thor had simply put the glass to his lips and Loki had to open his mouth like a child or have it spill all over his front.

He licked his lips when the glass was pulled away, and said, “your friends won’t be pleased that you’ve absconded with their prisoner.”

“They will understand,” Thor said, setting the water aside. Loki’s eyes followed it. His mouth still felt painfully dry, but he was loath to ask, and the water he’d already had sloshed uneasily in his stomach like it might not stay there. He narrowed his eyes.

“Will they.”

Thor looked at him for a moment, expression startlingly serious. “If they do not,” he said, after a moment, “they will pretend to, so as not to upset me.”

Loki blinked, slightly startled. That seemed more perceptive than he would have expected of Thor. Trying to cover for his surprise, he sneered. “And how does the mighty Thor feel about nursemaiding for a villain?”

He felt a small pulse of satisfaction at the way Thor’s mouth tightened, but the answer was a disappointingly mild, “the mighty Thor will manage.”

Will he, Loki wanted to growl, but making even an implied threat would be absurd given that he was still stuck flat on his back like an overturned beetle. The most he would be able to achieve would be a well aimed spit in his face, if he could work up the moisture for that. Perhaps later he might be able to free his arms in order to claw out his eyes. Ignoring him seemed the best option, but with his massive presence right there…

“Are you simply going to sit there?” He burst out, finally.

“Is there something else I should be doing?” Thor asked. “If you were hungry…”

Loki’s stomach lurched at even the suggestion of something heavier than water, and for a moment he thought he would heave. He was decidedly surprised that he didn’t. “No,” he said quickly, “though your solicitousness is touching.” Which was true. To a certain extent. “You cannot seriously be intending to lurk in whatever backwater you’ve dragged me to until I gather the strength to get away from you – which I will. Don’t you have responsibilities?”

“You are my responsibility,” Thor said, and Loki hated that he could just say that, with such perfect sincerity, as though it were a fact and not his hero’s burden. His lips peeled back from his teeth.

“Because my life has only ever been an extension of yours.”

Thor frowned. “I made no such claim.”

“Well, it only matters insofar as it belongs to you, does it not? My life is spared because it is your responsibility. It has little to do with me.”

Thor’s frown deepened. “You twist words until they make no sense.”

“Or else you were just using them incorrectly all along.”

Thor’s expression darkened, but then he took a deep breath, visibly calming himself. “You are trying to make me angry,” Thor said, his voice deliberately measured. “It is not going to work.”

Loki gave him his best sharp, nasty grin. “It always works. You’re so dependable that way.”

Thor looked at him, for a long moment, and then stood and just…walked away. Loki just managed not to sputter at his back, but couldn’t keep from staring incredulously after him. He couldn’t just do that, walk away when Loki was helpless and immobile and yelling after him would make Loki the fool and-

Damn him.

Loki seethed for a good while, but ultimately he didn’t quite have the energy to sustain it, and let himself slip back into healing sleep. The sooner his body mended, the sooner he could be done with all of this.

He felt somewhat better, the next time consciousness returned. At least, his head was a little clearer.

Loki woke with his stomach growling and a delicious smell in the air. He inhaled deeply – though he had to stop midway through for the pang in his chest – and felt his mouth start to water. It smelled so good, and it took him a moment to remember that it must be Thor. Cooking.

What a novelty.

As if summoned by thought, the lout appeared. “Are you hungry yet?” he asked, almost seeming cheerful. Loki’s own mood darkened.“I am making a stew, and can help you eat some if you would like.”

A conflict of interests appeared. He needed to eat, Loki was aware, if he wanted to recover, and he did want to recover, preferably quickly. And the food did smell delicious. But accepting a meal from Thor only seemed likely to encourage him, and the possibility that his body wouldn’t accept the nourishment was a deterrent.

His stomach made a startlingly loud noise, and Loki grimaced. “Yes,” he said, finally, “but I can feed myself, thank you.”

“I think it would be best if-” Thor began, and Loki cut him off.

You think. Note, Thor, that I am not you.”

Thor’s expression flickered toward a thunderous frown, but he retreated, presumably back to the kitchen. Loki exhaled in relief. It was much easier, he decided, to sound in control when he simply laid back and accepted his weakness, but that did not remove the fact that it was, indeed, weakness.

Still. It was better than lying on the floor, quivering like a lump of useless flesh, as he probably still would be if he were alone. The thought was bitter, but no less true for it.

Thor reemerged moments later, bearing two steaming bowls. He offered one, and Loki inched his way up to prop himself against the pillows, moving carefully, and reached for the bowl. He took it successfully, but as he brought it over his lap a quiver of weakness ran through him, his hands shook, and some of the boiling hot liquid spilled down his front.

Loki yelled in surprise and pain and tried to jump up, only to fall back at the fierce bolt of pain like he’d been impaled anew, breathing shallowly and painfully, his chest burning and his fingers burning and-

The bowl was removed firmly from his hands and Thor was mopping up the mess with a damp towel he’d pulled from somewhere, murmuring vaguely soothing words. The coolness felt blessedly good and Loki sagged as the burn eased.

“Are you all right?” Thor asked. Solicitous. Calm. Like this was normal, like he had every right to act as though he were still brother and protector, like he’d ever wanted to be that before. Loki’s shoulders shook.

“No,” he said, through his teeth. Thor’s eyebrows furrowed.

“Are you burnt? Would ice…”

“That is not. The problem.” Loki felt like he was going to start vibrating, perhaps out of his very skin. Thor frowned, and Loki felt his hands curl into fists. He leaned forward, Loki’s bowl still in his hands.

“Then what…”

“Stop,” Loki gritted out.

“Stop what?” Thor said, with his stupid frown and his stupid eyebrows and his stupid-

Loki felt something snap, and this time it wasn’t mending tissue. “Just stop!” He lashed out, blindly, knocking the bowl from Thor’s hands and spilling it all over the floorboards. “Stop pretending this is – supposed to help anything, supposed to fix anything, as though you acting like my brother will make it so! You are not – we are not blood, and I will not accept your nursemaiding simply because of your misplaced guilt-”

“Guilt!” Thor broke in. “Is that what you think-”

Isn’t it?” Loki could feel his breathing quickening, and knew he was working himself into a frenzy, but couldn’t stop it. “Your false kindness, your false care, you hope to bring back what is gone, do you not? Make up for your mistakes and set it all right, you hopeless fool. I am not yours-”

“You’re wrong,” Thor rumbled. Loki sneered at him, wild and vicious.

“So you don’t think you will accomplish anything? Then why bother-”

“You are mine.” Loki’s voice strangled in his throat, forgetting what he’d meant to say, aware only that it had been scathing, probably.

When he regained his voice, it was only for a slightly strangled, “How do you imagine that to be the case?”

“Because it is.” Thor’s voice was the low vibration of thunder, and full of the perfect certainty that was infuriating in its refusal to brook disagreement. “You are my brother, whatever you believe, and whatever venom you spit at me I will take care of you and I will treat you with kindness, and at least for the moment you must just be silent and accept it!” His voice climbed with every word, until he was nearly shouting, and Loki could only stare at him and blink helplessly, too taken aback to react. Thor glowered sternly, and added, “if you are going to insist on hurting yourself, I am going to insist on looking after you, and that is not a matter for argument.”

“I will not,” Loki managed, after a moment of silence, but his voice sounded weak and reedy in comparison, and Thor cut him off with a firm, “Hush.”

He stared at Thor, not quite fuming. Mostly because he was too damn startled to fume properly. Thor appeared satisfied with his silence, though, as he nodded firmly and picked up the other bowl of stew, the one not lying on the floor. “Well, then,” he said, “do you want some stew, or not?”

The look on Thor’s face strongly suggested that it was either be spoonfed or go hungry. Loki’s empty stomach was beginning to voice its displeasure somewhat vociferously.

He opted for spoon-feeding, and tried to ignore the suspiciously fond look in Thor’s eyes, and the hollow feeling it brought somewhere in his chest that had nothing to do with his injury.

 “All you’ve done,” Loki said, watching Thor putter around the little hovel with disgusting domesticity, “is ensure that I will be more careful in my future plans.”

“Good,” Thor said. “That is my hope.”

Loki narrowed his eyes at Thor’s back. “You realize I’m simply doing my best to avoid you.

Thor turned around, his expression somewhat more serious. “I’d rather that than arrive too late and lose you altogether.” Loki glanced quickly away, unable to hold that earnest gaze, and scoffed. He could almost hear Thor frown. “Truly. I thought…this time…”

“Spare me,” Loki said. If Thor launched into one of his soliloquies now, Loki thought he would crawl out of his skin. “Plainly I am still alive, as you are here fussing over me.” He caught a glimpse of Thor’s face and wanted to groan.

“Sometimes you sound so much like yourself it is as though nothing has changed,” Thor said, with a crooked smile.

Everything has changed, Loki meant to snap, but what came out of his treacherous mouth was, “Who else would I sound like?” and the way Thor chuckled made his chest feel uncomfortably warm. Damn you, Loki thought, and wasn’t sure if he meant Thor or potentially himself. It was so easy, sometimes, to forget, settle into old rhythms and just be…comfortable. Remember what it was like when he’d believed in warmth and love and family, and that he could have any of it.

Loki lapsed into silence so he didn’t make any further errors, though of course that didn’t last long.

“What were you doing?” Thor asked. Loki turned his head too quickly, and bit back a hiss.

“Doing when?”

“When…” Thor made a vague gesture in Loki’s direction, and Loki grimaced. “It did not seem like one of your…tricks.”

“You noticed,” Loki said, slightly flatly. He knew Thor wouldn’t take the hint, but a part of him couldn’t help but hope nonetheless.

“Well?” Thor pressed, and Loki exhaled through his nose.

“No,” he said. “It wasn’t my idea. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. That is all.”

“To do what?” Oh, Loki was going to kill him. Strangle him in his sleep, and he wouldn’t feel the least bit guilty.

“I was…visiting someone.” He closed his eyes and turned his face toward the ceiling. “An old woman. She is blind. I ran into her when I was buying plants. For my…living arrangements.” Conspicuous silence. Loki wasn’t sure what he had expected, so he opened his eyes and glanced over. “What?”

Thor was giving him an odd look. “Why visit her?”

Loki shrugged one shoulder, feeling slightly defensive. “Why not? She is blind, it is not as though she can give away my identity, and I can hardly just sit alone and scheme for the entirety of every day.” The look Thor was giving him made him want to growl, so he looked away instead. “It doesn’t matter.”

“It does,” Thor insisted. “Was she unharmed?”

Loki half closed his eyes. “I have no idea.” She ought to be, seeing as when the trouble had started Loki had taken the liberty of sending her a safe distance away, but he didn’t intend to mention that. Thor didn’t need further encouragement.

“So she is, then,” Thor said, sounding very faintly amused. “I expect you saw to that.”

Loki scowled at nothing in particular. “You’re a fool.”

“Have a care, Loki,” Thor said, sounding like he wanted to smile. “Someone might think that you do not truly mean it.”

Damn him, Loki thought, and tried to convince himself that the lack of proper rancor in the thought was due only to his lingering exhaustion. As soon as he was recovered fully, it would all fall back into place. It would. Surely.

It was shameful how unconvincing he sounded, even in his own mind.

He swam slowly out of a deep and, for once, restful, sleep. At some point he’d cocooned himself so thoroughly in blankets that he was nearly mummified by them, and Thor was…petting him.

Loki lay perfectly still for a few moments, but no, Thor was definitely petting his hair, like he was some kind of cat or other small, furry animal, his fingers putting just enough pressure on his scalp that it felt blessedly good.

This could not be tolerated. Thor could not possibly think that he would accept this kind of proprietary treatment of his person simply because he was injured, and tired, and had perhaps been somewhat less than outright hostile the last two times they’d spoken. It was just that Loki knew when to pick his battles, and sometimes it wasn’t worth trying to argue with Thor’s implacable determination.

“Loki?” Thor murmured. He could almost feel his voice in his bones.

Loki considered. He could struggle and fight and snarl, push Thor’s hand away and rip open that soft heart that the oaf kept so exposed. He could strike now, use all the anger and resentment in his heart, fill himself up with that and thrust daggers at Thor’s soul until he gave up at last, or else didn’t, and simply hunched his shoulders and labored on at his foolish work under the delusion that there was a point to extending a hand to someone who could not be saved.

Loki’s chest twinged.

Thor’s thumb pushed a strand of hair carefully away from his face, tucked it behind one of Loki’s ears.

It was…nice, Loki had to admit. Not to have to fight his way through his own pain, to force water down his own throat, to sleep shivering and wake alone. To have someone make him stew and gather him off the floor when he tried to stand too soon. To take care of him.

A little twisted knot in Loki’s chest hated that, more than anything, but Thor’s fingers in his hair felt...very pleasant. He didn’t really want them to go away.

Loki sighed, very quietly, and gave in. Just for now, he promised himself, and relaxed, letting his mind slip back toward sleep, Thor still stroking his hair.

“All is well,” Thor said, which it wasn’t, and it wouldn’t be, though some small part of Loki wished that he could believe as he had when he was younger that Thor could simply make it so, by willing it. If anyone could alter the way of things by simple faith, he thought vaguely, it would be Thor.

Loki opened one eye, focused his gaze on the blur that was his brother. “Hush,” he said, mimicking Thor’s earlier injunction to him.

Just before his eyes closed, Loki caught Thor’s smile. Bright and blinding, like the sun, and he was never going to get away from that gravitational pull.

That thought should have horrified him. For a moment, though, in the haze between sleep and waking, it was almost a relief. With all that force tugging on him, maybe this time he wouldn’t have to fall.