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better stop and rebuild all your ruins

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Loki lowers the trinket, considers it, turns it from palm to palm and then twists it in his hands, sending it back to the table Thor had taken it from. Neither brother yet moves toward the promised embrace.

"You pushed me away," Loki says, accusing but understanding. Pained but resigned. Thor can't help but chuckle at the obvious hurt on his face - not because he revels in it, but because he knows Loki thinks those thoughts hidden from him. The most valuable lesson Thor has learned of late isn't of humility or worthiness or kingliness, but how to read his brother's true feelings. He long thought that Loki kept them hidden, and placed the fault for the seeming inscrutability on him. He sees now that his own blindness is at least equally to blame.

He touches the eyepatch again, still unused to the sensation. Odin's words linger in his thoughts. Perhaps he will see twice as much with one eye, now - he must see all the better to make up for the loss. Was that the source of his father's wisdom? He cannot ask now.

Loki's expressed darkens with Thor's amusement, but he says nothing, instead moving out of Thor's sight to look out the window at the stars. Thor sees his motivation clearly: the swallowed hurt, the attempt to hide, the deliberate slight - a minor revenge - as Thor is forced to turn to keep an eye on him.

"But I knew you would come back."

Loki makes a noncommital sound, neither agreement nor disagreement, and folds his arms in front of him. Thor actually laughs aloud at this, and stands behind his brother, clasping him on the shoulder and watching Loki's eyes in their reflection. Loki startles at the touch and the sound, then frowns deeply.

"I understand your language now, Loki. But now you don't see that I'm trying to speak it back."

More silence, but an eyebrow raises. Loki's head tilts, and his chin juts out, just a little. Stubbornness. Defiance. Questioning. This, at least, Thor has understood since they were children: well?

"You have always been different, brother," Thor begins, and already he can feel the tension in Loki's shoulder, see a mirror of his expression from their ride in the elevator: Loki is bracing himself. "If ever we failed to communicate, it's because I assumed we spoke the same language."

A tired sigh. "We do, the All-tongue is literally-"

A warning squeeze. "We've been speaking past each other since we were children. Let me finish."

An annoyed silence. Thor takes the moment of peace to contemplate his words. He can imagine Loki's response to this rare act - clearly the eyepatch has made him wiser already. "I am - straightforward." ("Brash," Loki's reflection mouths at him. Thor pinches him.) "Forthright. I am frank with my opinions."

"Even when nobody asked for them."

"Maybe so."

"Definitely so."

"But you," and Loki shuts his mouth at that, "are not. You are..."

Loki stays quiet, letting him wallow in his search for the right word, a grin tugging at the corners of his lips.

"Indirect," Thor settles on. He draws away from the window to sit and is glad to see Loki turn to face him, to continue the conversation - he's actually listening. A small victory. Thor leans on his elbow and traces the edge of his eyepatch. From their father's telling, Odin lost his eye in the war with Jotunheim - and he gained Loki not long after. Thor can only hope for the same luck.

"When I was a child, I assumed that all children were like me."

"You would," Loki interjects with little venom; he begins to pace the room, hands clasped behind him, a slow circuit around the furniture.

"If I was happy, I laughed. If I was saddened, I cried, When I was angry..."

"... then you threw a tantrum and kicked the Einherjar in the shins." Loki casts a look over his shoulder, a glance that carries innumerable thoughts with it: curiosity, annoyance, fondness, impatience, nostalgia. "What are you getting at, Thor?"

Had the Norns come to Thor after's Loki's fall, even after Loki's so-called death, Thor would have gladly given both eyes and more to get him back. But having Loki by his side would not have returned his brother to him. Even now, in the same room, they may as well be on different planets.

"I am honest, and I have always expected everyone else to be. You lie," Thor says, tired now, the pad of his thumb numb from rubbing the fabric of his eyepatch. "And you assume the same of everyone you meet."

His remaining eye has closed, but he can hear the scuff of Loki's boots against the floor stop.

"You hid your sadness and your anger. Why, Loki? Perhaps mine were so large that you felt there was no room left for yours. But I... assumed. I assumed that if you hurt, you would say so. I took your silence for truth. I assumed that when you pushed me away, it was because you wanted me to go."

Feebly, lost in the corner he's worked himself into, Loki shoots back, "I did."

"No, Loki," Thor sighs, and he sounds so much like their father that the loss of him hits again, strike, strike, strikes him to the pounding of his heart. Thor has to lower his trembling hand to the armrest to still it, to ground himself. "I was quick to trust as a child. I trusted that you loved me, and that was enough. You have always... carried fear with you. Who gave it to you I do not know. You are cautious, and so you could not take my words for truth. You pushed me away to see if I would come back."

Loki's breath hitches, a whip-crack in the still air, and Thor opens his eye to see him pale and shaking, staring at Thor as a stranger.

"You--" he begins, and Thor watches as he slots each piece of the puzzle into place, until suddenly realization strikes like a lightning bolt, lightning his features into something like stunned awe. "You tricked me."

Thor breaks into a wide grin and pushes himself from the chair. He can count on one hand the number of times he has been able to play Loki at his own game. He understands the appeal; it's immensely satisfying. "The Midgardians call it reverse psychology."

"You - you--"

Thor knocks any further protestations out of him with a tight hug, and Loki returns the gesture fiercely, half-laughing and half-crying into Thor's shoulder.

He pulls back when he has calmed somewhat, eyes sparkling with mirth behind the tears. "If I had known the eyepatch would make you wiser, I would have put out your eye ages ago." Loki touches the edge of the eyepatch with reverence, running the same path that Thor has been worrying since he put it on. His smile turns rueful. "So you still believe in us after all, brother. I am not a hopeless villain."

"I love you, Loki." Thor squeezes his shoulders, trying to push the words through his skin and into his very bones. "Do not doubt it, even if I or anyone gives you cause to do so. I am your brother, and I will always give you another chance, because--"

Loki jabs him in the eye with his thumb.

"That'swhatheroesdo," Thor grits through his teeth, reaching for his eye with one hand and grabbing for Loki with the other. Loki dances out of his grip, cackling giddily. Thor manages to catch a handful of his hair, but Loki disappears before he can yank on it in revenge. Thor can hear him laughing on the other side of the door.

"Loki!"

"I was convulsing for thirty minutes, Thor. Maybe skip that part next time."