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Together the Light

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Asgardia. The new land on Midgard set aside for the remains of Asgard was a small parcel of land, just announced as their own, a gift to them from Norway. It hadn’t been an easy thing to achieve, but as Thor looked out on the gathered crowd on the shore, he felt a stirring of pride. They’d done it; they’d succeeded and here they were, safe and sound.

Now that they had found their new home, it was time to say farewell to the old one.

Night fell, lit by stars and a whisper of aurora to the north and a sliver of a moon to the east. The breeze off the water was brisk, but pleasant..

Loki stood at his side, wearing the same black Midgardian clothes he’d worn in this place as their father had died. He looked tense, as if he didn’t want to be here, either at the memorial specifically or Midgard at all. Thor had made it clear Asgardia was sovereign territory and Loki was under his protection, but neither of them believed all the mortals would be held off forever.

But for now, there was no danger from outside, when Heimdall gave him the nod that all was well.

Every Aesir, and their special guests, held an unlit paper lantern, the best they could do for everyone.

Thor nodded to Loki, who held up one hand and called fire into his palm. A hush fell over the gathering, watching as he brought his hands together above his head, shaping the fire into a ball, and spinning it. As it spun, the lantern in Thor’s hand sparked to life, then Sif, Heimdall, Brunnhilde, one after the other, spreading to everyone, with accompanying exclamations of amazement as the gentle glow lit everyone’s faces.

Thor smiled at him for the theatricality of it, but it was an impressively delicate working he’d never seen Loki do before.

But the smile faded and he drew breath to begin. “Asgard is a people, not a place. But that makes the loss of place no less painful, especially with the loss of so many of our families and friends. So tonight, in our new home, I think it right that we say goodbye to those we lost, so that we may embrace our new home with open hearts. Speak aloud, or speak not at all, whichever you choose, but remember all of those who now feast in Valhalla with the heroes of old.

“I say farewell to Odin Borsson, All-Father of Asgard, who passed on from this very place.” He wanted to say he would strive to be a better king and better father, but said simply, “Goodbye, Father.” He lifted the lantern over his head and let the breeze carry it to sea.

He turned to Loki, who held no lantern or light and shook his head, so Sif followed, with her own tribute to Fandral.

One after another spoke their farewells, some through tears, and others launched their lanterns in stony silence. It was nearly dawn, when the last light wias launched, a river of brilliance rising into the sky. Thor lingered to pay his respects.

Loki had vanished at some point in the middle, but as the crowd dispersed, Thor saw him standing out on the rocky promontory, his tall lean silhouette against the stars recognizable. Thor was curious what he was doing, since he hadn’t gone back in the ship.

Thor picked his way across the rocks to him. “What are you doing out here alone?”

“To be alone,” Loki snarled. “Go away.”

Thor wasn’t sure he wanted to push, when the night had already been so emotional and Loki’s foul moods rarely ended well. But he spied the glowing light Loki had formed between his palms, turning it restlessly within the cage of those long fingers. “Do you want to launch another?” Thor asked quietly. “Is there one you wish to recognize yourself? You could have said--”

“Everyone already did it,” Loki snapped. “Except me. I couldn’t. I wanted to, I wanted to stand on the shore and remember, but I couldn’t. Because Odin already did it.”

Thor frowned, not understanding what he was talking about, until Loki said, his voice raw, growing more ragged as his straining breaths forced out the words. “I didn’t get to say goodbye. The last time I felt her touch was when she hugged me after Laufey fell.”

Something clenched tight in Thor’s chest, as he realized.

Frigga. Loki was talking about their mother.

Loki kept talking, staring with glistening eyes out to sea, as his voice shook with the urgency of his words, “And then-- then it all went to shit, and I tried to pretend it didn’t matter, but it did. I would have traded my life for hers. I still would. I would make that bargain right now, and I hate that I can’t.”

He heaved another unsteady breath and turned his back to Thor. “Just leave me alone,” he muttered miserably.

Thor let the torn, despairing words drift into the silence with the respect they deserved. He recalled the illusion dissipating in the cell to reveal the depth of his grief and rage, even if afterward he’d clung to indifference and an enraging flippancy. But then he’d “died” and, in the mask of Odin, had to grieve as Odin, not as himself. He hadn’t said farewell. “I will leave if you really want me to, but I would mourn with you, if you let me,” Thor offered, keeping his voice low and careful.

Shaking his head, but not to deny Thor’s offer, Loki didn’t look at him. “That’s why I did it.” Loki murmured. “Because he kept me in that cage and wouldn’t let me say goodbye. So I took his memories and I took his throne, but it didn’t make me feel better. None of it meant a fucking thing in the end. They’re all dead.”

He held up the glowing sphere of white light between his palms. The light was so bright it made his skin look like ice and his hair like shadows. “And I wonder why I’m still here and they’re not.” The glint in his eyes was like shards of glass, as he stared into the orb of remembrance as if he could see all the dead within it. “Something terribly wrong about that,” he whispered.

A shiver of unease slipped down Thor’s back and with a convulsive movement, he reached out to grip Loki’s shoulder. “No,” he declared. “There’s nothing wrong with that.”

Loki twisted free with a sharp laugh. “You’re the only fool who thinks that.”

The manic look on his face was familiar and terrifying. Last time it had presaged Loki falling into madness and nothingness. Thor could only hope he had better words this time. “Loki, stop,” Thor pleaded. “Don’t do this. You are a prince of Asgard, admired and loved. Don’t throw it away because it hurts.”

Loki flinched, as if the words cut too deeply. “You don’t know.” Thor tried to wait him out, to see if he would explain, but instead, Loki’s hands twisted together. The orb vanished. “It doesn’t matter,” he said, voice sounding distant in the sudden dark.

He turned, to go back, but Thor stepped forward, blocking his path. “Loki--”

“Get out of my way,” Loki bit out in cold threat.

“No, you talk to me.” Thor put a hand against his chest. “What do you mean it doesn’t matter? Of course it does. Why won’t you launch the light?”

Loki shoved his shoulder. “It’s stupid. It’s a superstitious ceremony representing the rise of the soul to Valhalla, and it’s all a fucking useless lie. Leave me alone.”

Thor shifted back into his way quickly, not letting him leave the rocky peninsula. “No. You came out here to say goodbye, and now you won’t. Why?”

“Because I can’t,” Loki snarled at him and slammed both hands into Thor’s chest. “Move. Let me by!”

Thor only stumbled back one step. “Of course you can. So why won’t you?”

Loki got right up against him, glaring into his face, eyes alight with a rage that was coming from something deeper and more hurtful. “She’s dead because of me! I don’t deserve to honor her!” He pushed again, clearing enough space to try to slip past. Thor grabbed his shoulder and spun him back to face him again.

“That’s not true! And you know it’s not true!” Thor insisted.

“It is! It’s true!” Loki tried to hit Thor in the face, but the wild punch was too clumsy and slow. Thor was able to snatch his wrist and yank him off balance, sweeping his feet out from under him.

He fell to his back with a thud. Thor ended up kneeling beside him, waiting for him to attack again. Or disappear. But the flash of temper was finished. Loki didn’t move, looking up at the Midgardian night sky and all the distant unfamiliar stars.

“It is true,” Loki said, calmer now. “I said she wasn’t my mother. And then she was gone. The last thing I said to her was to deny her.” His voice choked in his throat, but his eyes looked dry. “She wouldn’t want my prayers.”

Thor shook his head in denial. “She would. She loved you. She loved us both, and she knew we loved her. No matter what stupid thing you might have said, she understood. She wouldn’t want you to be like this, not for anything, but especially not for her.”

Loki’s eyes shut and he barked a laugh. “You sound like her.”

“Good. Maybe then you’ll listen?”

Loki snorted, and Thor had to smile, because no, of course not. But he still had to try. “Nothing about it was your fault” he reassured him and added heavily, “But it was mine. She protected Jane for me.”

Loki countered, his voice dull with weariness, “She would have protected anyone, Thor, to keep the aether from Malekith. That it was your wench hardly mattered.”

Thor stiffened, offended by the slur against Jane, but relaxed again with a sigh. Loki was right that Frigga would have protected anyone, whether she’d been known to Thor or not. But in acknowledging that truth, Loki was still blind to his own. “Then how could it be your fault any more than that?” Thor returned. “It’s not.” He regarded Loki for a moment, turning over his words. “How much are you blaming yourself for? Not just Mother. For Father? For Asgard? That’s why you’re still here. You think it’s all your fault.”

“Isn’t it?” Loki returned with a bleak laugh.

Thor had wanted to blame Loki for all of it, but he knew the blame was unjust. He’d accused him of throwing Odin to Midgard to die; and of calling the Bifrost like a coward, which had let Hela reach Asgard. But after some time to consider, he figured the Bifrost had been the right call. Had Hela been left on Midgard, she would have killed far more, unstoppable against the armies of the Earth, and he had no idea how he might have defeated her without the Eternal Flame and Surtur.

“No, it is not,” Thor told him firmly. He stretched out beside Loki, the bare stone hard beneath his back, but the view of the stars extraordinary above them. “Hela did it of her own will. And if any share blame with her, it’s Father.”

It was hard to say, even to think, how different Odin once had been. On the journey, he had gotten drunk and told Loki what Hela had told him, confessing another family secret. Loki had not been surprised.

“Father had been dying a long time,” Loki murmured, looking up at the stars in the sky. “I see that now. He forced himself to stay because he was afraid we would become her. He feared whatever taint he bore that had made her, carried to you.” He barked a laugh. “How ironic that the one most like her shared no blood with him at all.”

“You’re not like her,” Thor insisted quietly, and Loki snorted.

“Wears black and green, and has an insatiable desire for power. Who does that remind you of most?”

“Where did you misplace this insatiable desire for power?” Thor taunted. “Because outside of a statue and a bad play--”

Loki twisted up on one elbow to glower at him. “That was not my idea!” he protested. “Should I have denied the request?”

“Watching your own self-aggrandizement?”

Loki rolled his eyes and flopped down on his back. “Please. As if you haven’t told tales of your glorious exploits for very appreciative audiences as far back as I remember. I did it my way, that’s all. A little recognition….” After a moment, he added, his tone shading to bitterness. “I only had to die first.”

Thor inhaled a deep breath and held out a hand, to touch Loki’s arm. “You have it now, for your deeds in life. Don’t poison what you have, brooding on what’s gone.”

Loki didn’t answer, but hopefully he was considering Thor’s words. He didn’t free himself from Thor’s hand either, allowing the connection, as the distant thunder of the waves against the cliffs below became the only sound.

His voice was low when he finally spoke. “Sometimes, I was glad to look on that statue and remember who I was. I knew I wasn’t him, but I spent days forgetting I was me. It was too easy to lose myself in it.”

Thor tightened his grip. “Then I’m glad to have freed you from it. You are Loki, and believe me when I say I would rather have no one else at my side.”

Loki hesitated, as if perhaps he intended to argue, but when he spoke he said only, “You are absurdly sentimental, brother.”

Thor grinned, knowing that was Loki’s way of returning the sentiment, without saying it. “But not wrong.”

Loki heaved a theatrical sigh. “Always.”

Thor thought the mood had softened enough Loki was ready to continue. Thor sat up and shifted his grip, ready to pull. “C’mon, get up.” Loki resisted, but not as much as he could have, ending up on his feet next to Thor at the cliff’s edge.

“Dawn’s coming,” Thor observed, glancing back over his shoulder. The sky was not yet lightening, but he could feel the air stirring as the world turned this face toward its star. Loki faced the water, subdued.

“Form the light,” Thor nodded down at Loki’s hand. “Let’s say goodbye to Mother.”

Loki didn’t do it, at first, looking down at his hands as he raised them. The doubt that he should do this, remained painful to see. Thor laid his hand atop both of Loki’s and sent the tiniest crackle of power against his palms. “Send her our love,” he urged Loki. “All the things you want to say to her, send them.”

Loki nodded faintly, so Thor pulled back. Loki cupped his hands together, a sphere of golden light forming between his palms. He raised it higher, and though he said nothing, Thor had the impression he was putting all of his regret and his love and his grief into it, as he stared into its depths.

The light brightened, and the sphere expanded beyond his hands, hovering before him. In the glow, the tears on Loki’s cheeks glimmered. Thor had wipe one hot tear stain from his own cheek.

The orb of light floated higher, drifting outward. It was bright enough to reflect from the sea, golden fire spreading across the dark surface.

Since Loki seemed incapable of speech, with his throat jumping and lip quivering, Thor murmured for him, “We say farewell to Frigga, All-Mother. Queen of Asgard. Our mother, who dines in Valhalla and watches over her sons.”

Loki choked back a sob, chest heaving. Brow knotted, he stared at the sphere, as he whispered, “I’m sorry, Amma. I’m so sorry... ”

Heart aching at the stricken words, Thor stretched an arm around Loki’s shoulders, pulling him close. Loki let Thor embrace him but didn’t turn away from the western horizon. He calmed slowly, wiping his cheeks with the back of his hand.

The sphere rose higher, the reflection in the water fading away like embers.

Thor expected Loki to push away but he didn’t try to move at all. Giving a slow exhale, he sounded exhausted but content, and when he tipped his head against Thor’s shoulder, Thor relaxed. The cracked and desolate places in Thor’s own heart filled, mending in the cleansing silence of their shared grief.

Together, they watched the light rise toward the heavens. It rose and rose, higher and higher, until it was one of many distant stars. Neither moved and the silence lingered, as first light brightened the sky. The stars faded from view, and when they were gone and the air had begun to warm from the coming dawn, Loki stirred and murmured, “Thor. Thank you.”

Thor turned his head to press a kiss to the wind-tangled raven hair. “Always. Brother. Always.”