“Just one thing before I send you both to Odin.”
“You want to bargain with me?” Thor frowned, not sure if he should be angry or not. So far, Stephen Strange had been polite, if not particularly warm. With Loki as a brother, he knew not to underestimate those who could use magic.
“Think of it as more of an exchange of services,” Stephen suggested. “I'll send you to Odin, but first, you need to do something for me.”
“I will agree to nothing before I get my brother back,” Thor stated.
“I quite agree, especially as my request involves him as much as you.”
Before Thor could ask for clarification, a portal opened in the air and Loki fell through it, landing on the floor. He pushed himself up and immediately turned on Stephen. “I have been falling for thirty minutes!” he ground out.
Stephen eyed him, apparently unaffected by the sight of an angry god, and spoke to Thor. “That exchange of services I mentioned....”
“You made a bargain with this third-rate...magician?” Loki spat the word out as if it were an insult of the highest degree. He turned to Thor. “You don't need his help to find Father.”
Thor looked at his brother...and for all the conflicts, tension, lies between them, that was still what Loki was...and asked, “I should trust you? When you've lied to me for so long and abandoned our father alone to his grief? No, Loki. I will listen to what Doctor Stephen Strange has to say.” He made eye contact with the man. “What exchange of services did you have in mind?”
“When your brother last visited this world, he was responsible for the deaths of a great many people and the loss of homes and livelihoods for others,” Stephen said. “I will open the portal to where your father is. My price is that you give your brother a true punishment for his crimes against my world and my people.”
“You? You think I should be punished, you ignorant child?” Loki drew his daggers and went for Stephen.
Thor stepped between the two of them, placing his hand on Loki's chest. “No, Loki. I will hear him out.” He half-expected to get stabbed for his trouble. It wouldn't be the first time, after all.
Instead, Loki glared at him, scowling ferociously. He didn't put his daggers away, but he did lower them.
Somewhat reluctant to give his brother his back, still half-expecting to find a dagger in it, Thor shifted so he could see both Loki and Stephen. “It's hardly my place to punish my brother. We are equals,” he said, ignoring Loki's scoff.
“And that is my price,” Stephen replied. “I can just as easily open a portal to Asgard and send you both through.”
“Don't think you can blackmail me!” Loki growled, moving as if to lunge at Stephen once more.
“What kind of punishment did you have in mind?” Thor asked.
“A spanking.” Stephen's answer was given without hesitation, as if he'd rehearsed what he planned to say.
Loki laughed, but there was a bitter edge to it. “You're trying to force him to punish me as a child? Compared to me, you are the child.”
“And yet, of the two of us, the one whose behaviour is the most childlike is yours,” Stephen commented. “I've researched your people. Considering how long you live for, I wouldn't be surprised if you're still considered a teenager by their standards.”
Loki was spluttering indignantly, but Thor ignored the protests as he looked consideringly at his brother. Stephen was right. Loki's behaviour was much like that of a destructive child's. Thor thought he could probably be assigned a portion of the blame for how Loki felt. Maybe, if he punished his brother, it would help to mend the rift between them.
Thor knew the instant his brother saw the decision on his face. Loki stopped his indignant protests and took a step back.
Before he could do anything else, Stephen's red cloak soared over Thor's head and wrapped around Loki, trapping his arms against his sides. The cloak didn't stop him struggling, though. He opened his mouth, shooting Thor a look that was a mixture of anger and fear.
“Don't,” Thor said quietly, holding eye contact with him.
Thor didn't expect Loki to respond favourably to him, but although his brother narrowed his eyes, Loki didn't make any attempt to escape. And when Thor reached out to gently grasp his brother's shoulder, Loki relaxed and slanted towards his hand.
Turning back to Stephen, Thor paused when he saw a chair between him and the other man that hadn't been there before. When he looked at Stephen, though, the man merely raised his eyebrows and nodded to the chair.
“Don't you dare,” Loki muttered from his other side.
“Doctor Strange is right, Loki.” Thor stepped over to the chair and sat down. The weight of his hammer-turned-umbrella had changed and he glanced at the object he now held in his hand.
The handle he grasped was made of a smooth wood. The same smooth wood formed a flat rounded shape and shone as if polished. Thor ran a finger over one of the whorls and asked, perplexed, “What is this?”
“The Midgardians call it a paddle, brother,” Loki sneered.
Thor smiled, but there was no humour in it. Loki had been arguing and protesting verbally, but they both knew he could easily break free of the cloak wrapped around his torso. “Come here, brother.”
“This prank of yours has gone far enough, Thor,” Loki said. “Enough of this foolishness. Tell the Midgardian to release me. We don't need his help to find Father.”
“And you know all about pranks, brother,” Thor said softly. “I won't ask again. Come here.”
“Or what?” Loki demanded, only to then let out a startled yelp as the cloak flexed and jerked him forward. He fought and struggled the entire way, but the cloak was relentless and Loki ended up bent over Thor's lap, his pants and underwear pulled down to expose his pale bottom and thighs.
Loki lay still over Thor's knees for a few seconds and then began to struggle, thrashing around in a futile bid to free himself. “Let me up!” he demanded. “I mean it, Thor!”
The tantrum only served to further convince Thor that Stephen was right about his brother. He didn't need to hold Loki in place, but he wrapped his arm around his brother's waist to pull him tight against his stomach. And then he raised the paddle and brought it down, snapping his wrist to allow the smooth wood to bounce off Loki's bottom.
Almost immediately, Loki's body jerked and he yelped, increasing his struggles. A slight pink mark in the shape of the paddle appeared on his bottom and Thor couldn't help but wince at the sight. However, he lifted the paddle again and snapped it down a second time, leaving a matching mark. He knew his own strength and was careful to hold back, flicking his wrist each time he brought the paddle against Loki's bottom, so he wasn't using too much force.
Even so, Loki reacted like he was suffering through the worst torture imaginable. He tried to catapult himself off Thor's lap; and when the cloak puffed up like an angry cat, he fought to tear his arms and legs free.
Thor landed a few strokes from the paddle against Loki's thighs and sit spots, bringing louder yells from his brother, and then paused. Even though he wasn't using much force, Loki's entire backside was splotched pink down to his thighs, bordering on red in places.
Letting the paddle drop to the floor, Thor gently rubbed over Loki's heated bottom. He heard a faint whimper and a hitched breath and his brother slumped a little, his struggles becoming less intense.
“You haven't told me what you suffered when you were gone,” Thor said. “But I can imagine you suffered. I know you do not truly believe we aren't brothers.” He delivered a sharp smack to Loki's bottom, making his brother jump, and then repeated it.
“Stop!” Loki protested, his voice breaking.
Thor didn't know if he meant the words or the swats, but he didn't pause either, feeling the heat rising from Loki's bottom every time his palm landed. “You are my brother. No matter what your crimes have been or what you try to claim.”
“We...are not....” It sounded like Loki was struggling to get the words out. He gave a quiet sob. “Thor, please.”
“Please what?” Thor asked, continuing to bring his hand down in the firm smacks, covering Loki's entire bottom down to his thighs. “Don't call you my brother? Don't love you? Don't take you in hand when necessary, like this?”
“I'm sorry!” It sounded like the words were ripped from Loki's throat. “I'm sorry I hurt you,” he continued, in a softer voice. “I'm sorry I fought with you...attacked you...killed so many people....” He slumped, boneless, over Thor's lap and began to sob hard.
The tears tore Thor's heart and made him wince. He stopped the spanking and let his hand rest on Loki's lower back, looking at the red flush covering Loki's entire bottom. “I forgive you, my brother,” he whispered, rubbing gently. “I love you, Loki.”
For a few moments, the sobs increased in force. The cloak released Loki, but he didn't try to push himself up off Thor's lap...and Thor was reluctant to force him to move before he was ready, continuing to gently rub Loki's back.
Finally, the tears slowed to quiet sniffles and hiccups and Loki began to lever himself up off Thor's lap. He quickly tugged his clothing back into place and then stepped closer to Thor as he stood, leaning into the arm Thor wrapped around his shoulders. He swiped at his eyes and then focused on Stephen. “I hope you found that satisfactory.” His tone lacked the attitude that had marked him earlier and he stepped a bit nearer to Thor.
Stephen didn't say anything as the cloak settled back in place around his shoulders. Instead, he opened a portal in the air in front of the brothers and nodded to it.
Thor didn't let go of Loki as he guided his brother through the portal. Loki was quiet and subdued, leaning on him to the extent that Thor could feel the tension in his body as they approached Odin, who was standing with his back to them, looking out over the cliffs.
“Father,” Thor said, pausing just behind Odin, his arm still wrapped around Loki. He didn't look at his brother's face, but he could hear Loki's quiet sniffling.
“Father...I'm so sorry,” Loki whispered, his voice damp with tears.
“My sons.” Odin turned fully to face the two of them. He looked tired...but when he looked at them both, all he did was wrap his arms around Thor and Loki, drawing them both into a tight hug.
Thor didn't really need to feel their father's affection, but he knew Loki did. His brother wrapped his arms tightly around Odin and took a deep breath. “I'm sorry,” he whispered again, sounding lost.
“I forgive you, son.” Odin hugged him just as tight in return.
Thor let his hand gently rub over Loki's back as his brother tightened his hold and, once more, began to sob...but this time, his tears sounded more relieved than anything else.