Thor looks genuinely surprised. Again. He's crying.
"Oh come on, a knife? Really? If either of us was going to do something so stupid, it certainly wouldn't be me." Loki does his best to sound completely condescending, and not sort of...happy. Thor is really excited to see him alive which is always a surprise no matter how often it keeps happening.
"A lot has happened. Our people have settled on Midgard, on land provided by Stark...it was not easy without you, Loki. I often found myself wanting your counsil, or your ability to keep the people calm. It's been...it's been years."
"I'm aware, Thor. I wasn't actually dead, remember?"
"Right." Thor pretends to focus on the wall. "Right of course. I knew that. I remembered that, actually. Because you just told me."
"Are you sure what's left of Asgard hasn't collapsed in my absence? Because this is not the most stunning display of leadership I've ever seen."
Thor bursts into laughter and pulls Loki into a crushing, uncomfortable, and well-meaning yet unwelcome hug. Loki wriggles his way out of it uncomfortably.
It's been hours and Loki is exhausted and bored and he isn't really sure why he doesn't just leave. "If we put three guards here."
"That's a waste." Loki says without waiting for Thor to finish what he's saying. "Put a few more big muscly one's up front here, have fewer, smaller, and better trained ones around back this way ready to attack if the head-on approach doesn't scare attackers off."
Thor beams at him.
Loki skips the next strategy meeting to have more clothes made. Thor will figure out that he's not coming eventually. It's strangely freeing to let Thor wait there for him.
He dreams about his mother. She's telling someone one of her favorite stupid embarrassing stories about Thor and Loki and some plot they came up with as children. He remembers that particular story. It was nice. He misses how he made Thor laugh. He wakes up missing his mother more.
"Loki," Thor calls "I know you're here somewhere. You can't just skip this next meeting. It's important...You're supposed to be helping me!" Thor sighs. I'm going to start boxing you in with allergens if you don't at least talk to me."
Loki sighs and steps out from his hiding place. "That's not very mature of you."
"Me? You're skipping a strategy session. You can't just skip that. It's important."
"I'm the Prince I can do whatever I want."
Thor laughs "This is how I always imagined us, growing up."
Loki disappears again.
One of Stark's parties. Loki has been allowed there only grudgingly, no surprise there, though to be fair he did throw the man out of a window, and apparently Thor demanded he receive an invitation. Thor is flirting, just a little bit with Pepper and she's giggling and nodding at whatever Thor is saying. Tony does not look happy about it, but is standing on the sidelines. "I've never understood the appeal myself" Loki says to him.
Tony startles then tries to cover it up. "We're not fucking friends."
Loki shrugs "Just making conversation."
"Go make conversation with someone you didn't try to kill."
Loki sighs and walks away.
"We should stay out of this."
"And just stand by?"
"Compromise;" Thor says "We send out minimal involvement, but you can have as much funding as you like for your latest theater thing."
They've been practicing fighting. It's odd, the movements are the same, but the atmosphere is so completely different.
"Why do you have my...helmet on your armor."
"I've had this for years."
"You know perfectly well why." Thor snaps "I thought you were dead."
"Does it matter?" Thor asks.
"You're in a terrible mood today."
"I'm aware." Thor says.
"Well at least it improves your appearance."
"How does a bad mood improve my appearance?"
"Not the mood. The armor."
"Yeah well it turns out you were alive you just didn't bother to tell me."
"Yes well I was a bit occupied with Thanos at the time."
"Yes, planning to take over the planet."
"Sure." Thor snorts. He sounds scared though, underneath that. It still pisses Loki off.
"You're scared? To scared to acknowledge all the ugly little truths, even if it might mean I was less to blame?"
"I'm not scared I'm just...I'm thinking...and considering all the...possible realities behind this." Thor is a terrible liar.
"No." He's honest now "I'm pissed off. I wish he were still alive so I could kill him again."
Loki rolls his eyes but he's smiling "How heroic."
"Yes well, I'm a hero." Thor says. "It's kind of part of the brand."
"Inspiring." Loki says, and manages to muster enough genuine annoyance to make it convincing.
"The Kid" as Stark refers to him, Peter Parker, is not technically, as per his mentors orders, supposed to be in this part of the compound. He visits regularly regardless.
"Woah, awesome! How does that even work?"
"It's magic." Loki says, grinning.
"Yeah but how."
"You sound just like Stark." Heimdall says with a laugh.
Even Valkyrie is smiling. Thor's happiness seems to go deeper than it's usual general bluster. They're sitting around a campfire, making s'mores at Thor and Peter's insistence. The s'mores are gross and sticky but it's actually nice.
There are a lot of humans visiting. It's some sort of political thing and it was actually Loki's suggestion but as nice as it is in theory, in reality he doesn't want to be here. Everyone keeps giving him nervous looks or ignoring him or getting ridiculously excited to see Thor. Loki glares in annoyance because Thor will be upset if he actually kills or even slightly maims anyone.
Loki has decided that he will not only direct, but also star in his latest plays. Stark and his not-quite-adopted-spider-child hover in the back of the audience. Stark does not look happy to be there but Peter is excited. The Black Widow is also there but she is hiding in the wings because she is only here so that she can ensure no-one dies, or that if someone dies, it is Loki and not anyone else. Peter and Stark see him after the show.
"That was...surprisingly good." Stark admits. "Man, you should totally have gone into acting instead of evil over-lording."
Loki wasn't intending to eavesdrop on this conversation when he came here. He just wanted to read. But as soon as Thor and Stark entered the room, he saw his opportunity to hide and listen and he took it.
"Did you have to bring him here." Tony sighs.
"Asgard is here." Thor says, as if this answers everything.
"Yeah, well so are the graves of all the people he killed." Stark's voice is burning.
"You're ignoring one important detail."
"And what exactly is that, Thor? What exactly am I missing here?"
"He's my brother."
"Oh he's your brother" Stark says sarcastically "Well that changes everything. I had no idea."
"Has he?" Stark asks "Or is he just playing you? 'Cause if he is, I'd prefer to be left out of it."
Loki will never allow anyone. Not Banner, or the Valkyrie, or even Thor, to find out that he has developed a taste for Midgardian rock. They've been telling him to give it a chance for far too long. It was just for a laugh, just curiosity, but if he admits to liking it now, he admits defeat and that will never happen.
It's a quiet evening. Thor is actually reading. "Is that a book? I'm shocked."
Thor glances up at Loki and laughs. "I am capable of reading. We had the same tutors."
Loki settles into his own chair with a better book. "Did you mean it?" Loki doesn't look up from the page.
"You thought the world of me."
"Yes, well, you always were easily duped, ever since we were children. Did it actually shock you, what I became."
Thor is silent for a moment. "...Yes. It did."
"I'm glad you're back...well...I mean not the same but you're...I mean it's like before in so many ways and..."
"Alright that's enough. You embarrassing yourself is only amusing so often before it becomes tedious again."
Thor huffs a laugh and turns back to his book.
Peter is taking a reading with some sort of device "Wow that...that doesn't even make any sense...that's so cool, Mr. Loki."
Loki isn't sure why it hits him the way it does. This idiotic mortal child gawking at his magic and literally jumping up and down, just slightly, ever so often but he feels strangely emotional.
"Mr. Loki?" Even the boy's concerned voice is overflowing with jumpy energy "Are you alright? You're crying, I think. Oh shi--uh shoot, did I...did I upset you or something?"
"I'm not upset." Loki says running a hand over his face and back through his hair. "What was that last question?"
"Wait, like you'll actually answer it?"
"Yes fine just tell me what it was."
"Look..." Stark is here. Why is Stark here?
"...Anthony? Why are you here?"
"Look...I mean...I may have...okay I didn't misjudge you because you were...I mean I was totally right at the time but...you really saved my ass with the whole Thanos...guantlet...thing and more importantly you saved Peter so...the press wants to do some stupid shit with the 'heroes of the infinity war' or fucking whatever. You should be there."
Loki, for the second time this week, can feel himself starting to cry "What?"
"Yeah I mean...you were...on the right side of this one and it was...kind of important...save the universe type of deal so...yeah, congrats."
Stark waits a few more moments before opening his mouth to make some snarky comment but before he can Loki blurts out, just quietly "Thank you, Tony."
They stare at eachother for a second.
Tony nods "Yeah well...um...yeah." He leaves. Loki composes himself.
"Yeah," Peter defends to the panel interviewer, "I mean he saved the universe, why does he get so much hate? He's really cool and-"
"I think it's all the murder." Tony jokes.
He's been testing out other missions with the Avengers. They're still working on cleaning up the remnants of Hydra. It turns out that "get help" works fairly reliably on Hydra agents. It's not so bad until Peter trains Thor to start yelling "YEET" at the final moment.