He could see it coming from where he hung in Thanos’s grasp, pained and defeated, as Loki moved closer and remorse filled his green eyes. The plans and schemes and gambles were so damn obvious on Loki’s face, in his eyes and every single line of his rigid body, as he held the Tesseract aloft. There was also a kind of heartbreaking hopelessness that was wrong. It wasn’t the kind of thing that Thor ever wanted to see in his brother. He had just gotten Loki back. They had just, finally, seemed to be getting on the right track. The future had been set before them, long and seemingly endless, as they headed towards Earth to settle into a new home.
So much hope.
So many possibilities.
All of it cast in a dark, cruel shadow that heralded their coming death.
It wasn’t a complete surprise that Loki had the Tesseract and Thor regretted his words the instant they had fallen from his mouth. Sending Loki down into the vault was always taking a chance, knowing that Asgard was doomed and the vault wasn’t protected, that his brother might take something from Odin’s vault. His brother was the God of Mischief, he thrived in chaos, and the Tesseract would have been too tempting. It had tempted Thor when he’d held it for the first time, an Infinity Stone calling out to a powerful being to take and to use, but he’d hoped that it would be gone with Asgard’s destruction.
Unfortunately the glow of it lit Loki’s face.
“…we have a Hulk.”
Loki slammed into him, arms curling around him as he rolled them so Thor landed on top, while the Hulk viciously attacked Thanos. He could hear the hitch in Loki’s breathing, feel the tremble in his limbs and knew his little brother felt nothing but fear. Loki was terrified and it had a low, burning rage starting to build inside of him. Despite everything, despite the betrayals and the fights, Loki was still all he had left. His only family. The little brother he’d known for the majority of his years. His brother whom he loved more than himself.
Never doubt that I love you.
The words from what seemed like centuries ago echoed in his head. He could still remember the truth, the sincerity despite him claiming Loki lacked sincerity, that filled those words as Loki had stood beside him while they waited for the start of his would-be coronation.
Their fights, their squabbles, were nothing. Just brothers fighting and grappling and scrambling for something as the centuries stretched on. They lied to each other even when the truth was more than evident in their actions. Loki repeatedly denying their fraternal relationship with lie after lie even when Loki kept coming through and never taking the killing shot. Thor, somehow, managing to look Loki in the eye after their Mother had died and telling him that his hope of his brother still being in there was gone...that he would ever be capable of killing Loki. They were brothers no matter blood and they would always be brothers. He didn’t doubt that the their rest of their lives could potentially be the same, struggles and tricks and obvious lies, but Thor was certain they would always end up side by side at the end of it all.
He had hope they would fight side by side again and again.
Thor felt Loki shift them and then his brother was disappearing into the shadows, something like regret filling his eyes when he glanced back, as Thor watched Thanos start to easily beat down the Hulk. It was horrifying and he tried his best to save his friend, wished for Mjolnir with a kind of ache that stole his breath, before he was wrapped in metal.
It was nothing but relief when Heimdall managed to send the Hulk away even though a darkly selfish part of him wished it was Loki being sent to safety. At least one more life was saved even though they were surrounded by the broken and battered bodies of half of the remaining Asgardians and their lives were still at risk.
A powerful, long-lived race reduced so drastically that Thor wanted to be sick.
He wasn’t expecting Heimdall’s death, though he should have because it had been in the look they’d traded, as his friend looked to him before he was stabbed through the heart and sent on to Valhalla far too early.
So many had been sent on far, far too early.
“You’re going to die for that.”
The metal that snapped around his mouth was an added insult to injury, forcing him to hold back the pain surging inside of him at another loss, as he was forced to witness Thanos claiming the Space Stone. The power was staggering, still softly calling out to him, as he struggled against the metal holding him in place and watched the stone snap into place.
His body ached, his wounds numerous, and the happiness of success from hours before seemed centuries past. It was a hollow, horrible feeling.
Then Loki stepped from the shadows, drawing all eyes to him, as he offered to be a guide. It didn’t feel like a betrayal and it should have because Loki stepping forward to offer such a thing would be betraying them all.
But it was another trick and Thor’s heart lodged itself in his throat.
No. No no no no no. Loki what are you doing?
“Almighty Thanos. I, Loki, Prince of Asgard…Odinson…” the look, the look, in his little brother’s eyes as he openly declared their brotherhood had Thor’s heart stopping. There was pain and apology in Loki’s eyes.
Pain and apology in Loki’s tear filled eyes.
Don’t. Don’t, Loki, don’t!
Because this, this moment right here where Thor could see and feel and hear a million apologies in that one word, felt like a goodbye. It felt as though he were watching a desperate gamble doomed to fail and he was bound in metal, gagged and injured without a hope to stop it.
“The rightful King of Jotunheim.” If nothing else that would have been an even bigger and more painful sign. Loki still hated his true heritage and Thor had long since learned not to mention it. “God of Mischief…” Thor watched in horror as a dagger —Loki, why are you always trying to stab things?— materialized in Loki’s hand, hidden carefully behind his arm, as he continued stepping towards Thanos.
The rest of Loki’s speech was drowned out by the overwhelming surge of pure, undeniable panic that suffused every last inch of his body. His very soul writhed and twisted, the storm inside of him building and building, as Loki thrust the dagger upwards.
Time stopped and Thor was sure the universe had ended in that very second.
The small part of him that was holding the storm building inside of him back, the fury that had started at the first hint of Loki’s fear, snapped as Thanos’s hand closed around Loki’s throat and lifted him, kicking and thrashing, off the ground as though he were nothing. The storm that Hela had managed to inspire had nothing on this storm. The lightning came from inside, twisting and reaching and dancing in powerful arcs, as the metal trapping him clattered to the ground and a bolt of lightning tore through the ship to hit Thanos in the chest.
It never touched his brother. Thor’s lightning and his storm would only ever protect his family.
Loki’s unsteady feet hit the ground, his body slumped as he landed on his knees and his ragged breathing filled the air, while Thor threw every last ounce of power he could into his storm. It started to tear apart the ship, bursting through metal and wiring, as Thanos turned furious eyes on him.
Thor didn’t care. He had gone past fear and right into pure, unbridled rage.
No one was ever going to hurt his family again.
Lightning danced along his body, curled protectively through his veins, as he stalked forward and threw another bolt that shoved Thanos back twenty feet easily while knocking his so-called children off their feet. Within seconds the gauntlet was raised and purple pulsed as the ship started to come apart around them.
“Fine. Then you both can die.”
A portal opened and then they were alone with the ship coming apart around them, breaking and bursting as the Power Stone destroyed, while Thor rushed to Loki’s side and his knees hit the floor by his brother. “Loki?” his fingers curled in Loki’s battered leathers.
There were marks around his little brother’s throat and Loki’s eyes were slightly red from where Thanos had choked him.
“Brother.” Loki’s voice was rough, wrecked and raw, as Thor dragged him in for a hug. He shoved his face against Loki’s shoulder, arms wrapped tightly around his brother, as the ship started to go.
“I’ve got you, brother.” Thor could feel shaky hands gripping onto him, the rough way Loki’s breath puffed against him as he struggled to breathe through his sore throat, before the ship exploded around them and darkness dragged him away.
Consciousness slammed into him suddenly, the black of space replaced with the inside of a foreign ship, as blind panic had his eye darting around. “Loki!”
“I’m here, brother.”
Thor’s head snapped to the side and the tension, the grief and terror and loss and guilt, disappeared at the sight of his little brother standing next to him with relief filling every single line of his dirty face.
He reached out, not caring about the strangers around them, to yank Loki in for a proper hug that he desperately hoped said everything he couldn’t quite say at the moment. His heart ached with loss and pain but the touch and scent and sound of his brother anchored him in a way nothing else could in that moment.
Loki was a lifesaver in a sea of loss and chaos.
They would avenge their people and they would protect the universe from Thanos. Thor had every single bit of faith that together, and with the help of his friends on Earth, that they would succeed.
He had promised Thanos he was going to pay and he had every single intention of making sure the Mad Titan paid in full.
But first he needed to get them to Nidavellir.