Darkness. Panic. Desperation. He can’t breathe and he knows this is it, finally, he has cheated death too many times but if Thor escapes alive, at least—at least it will be worth it.
With the last of his breath, he chokes out, “You…will never be…a god—”
And the Titan’s fist closes.
Loki jerks upright, one hand flying to his throat as he gasps for breath. A dream, just a dream, he’s in his room in Maverick Dorm, as safe as anyone else at this ridiculous academy, and he can still feel that crushing grip on his throat. When he blinks his vision wavers, and for a moment instead of his room he sees metal walls and fire everywhere and corpses scattered across the floor—
Something moves in the corner of his vision, a large shape looming over him, and Loki’s magic bursts out of him almost without thought. The intruder goes flying and hits the wall hard enough to shake the whole building. Loki flings back his blankets with one hand and readies a spell with the other, his heart pounding in his ears.
“Ow,” a familiar voice says.
Loki waves the lights on and drops the magic pinning the intruder against the wall. “Oh, for the love of—Thor, what are you doing in my room?”
Thor picks himself up and brushes a little concrete dust off his sleeve. “I merely…wanted to see that you were well.”
“I was,” Loki says, “until my idiot brother barged into my room in the middle of the night and woke me up.” His pulse is gradually slowing down, but his hands are still shaking slightly.
Thor glances around with a faintly lost look in his eyes, as if he’s only now realizing that yes, it’s the middle of the night, Loki is still in bed, and they are both dressed in sleeping clothes. “I…yes. My apologies. I was…not really thinking.”
“Well, that’s hardly an unusual state of affairs,” Loki says. Thor just smiles weakly at him, and Loki sighs, pushing himself up to sit cross-legged on the bed. “Whatever is the matter, Thor?”
“You said…you were asleep? That is—peacefully asleep? I am—glad to hear it. I…should probably let you get back to that.” Thor doesn’t move to go, though, just stands there twisting his fingers in an uncharacteristically nervous gesture and gazing at Loki as if he hasn’t seen him in years, instead of the two weeks it’s been since he last went back to Asgard. His expression is a mix of disappointment, anxiety, and profound relief, and just looking at him is enough to make Loki nervous too.
“You should, yes,” Loki says, “but given that you apparently ran barefoot across the quad to see me at—” He glances at the clock. “—three in the damn morning, I would prefer to hear what was so important it couldn’t wait until a more reasonable hour.”
Thor looks down at his feet, blinking. Apparently he hadn’t consciously noticed his lack of footwear either. “I was going to wait. It was already late when I got in, and by the time Director Fury finished telling me about Thanos, I assumed you were in bed. But…” He trails off, flushing.
Loki frowns, an unpleasant suspicion starting to form. “You asked if I was sleeping peacefully. But were you?”
Thor huffs out a humorless laugh. “No. Not especially.” Loki waits, and after a moment Thor blurts out, “I dreamed Thanos killed you.”
Loki’s hands twitch into fists. That enormous hand around his throat, the shockwave of pain when his spine gave way with an awful snap— “If you talked to Fury,” he manages, “you know Thanos killed everyone, before. Apparently that is a good share of the reason we’re here at all.”
Thor is already shaking his head. “It—was not that. Not this world, or—what this world used to be, it was…somewhere else. We were on a ship. He—I saw you—” He swallows, hard. “I…needed to see that you were alive. It is…silly.”
Echoes of other lives, Loki thinks, feeling abruptly chilled. He would rather not think about it at all, the torment and death of another version of himself, but— “I was not, in fact, sleeping peacefully,” he says, before he can think better of it.
Thor looks up at him again, eyes wide. “We had the same dream?”
“Well,” Loki says, aiming for dry and not quite making it, “I rather doubt it was precisely the same. Perspective, you know.” He rubs at his neck as if that will banish the sensation of phantom fingers, only realizing he’s doing it when Thor’s eyes follow the motion. Loki jerks his hand back down and clears his throat. “But as you can see…I am very much alive.”
“He will not touch you,” Thor says fiercely. His fists are so tightly clenched Loki can see them trembling. “Whatever Thanos did to you in a past life, or another universe, or—whatever it was, none of that matters. This Thanos here, thinking he can attack our school?” He takes a step toward Loki’s bed, his eyes beginning to glow as lightning crackles up his arms. “He will not touch you.”
Loki stares at him for a moment, his silver tongue failing him in the face of his brother’s ferocity. “I will…keep that in mind,” he says finally.
Thor exhales and nods. “And I would spar with you, when it is actually morning. I know Fury will ask you to face Thanos’s minions, and you will not be alone when you do, but…if there is anything we might do to practice and strengthen your abilities before then—”
“I am perfectly capable of defending myself,” Loki says, not quite sharply. “In fact, I am widely considered one of the strongest fighters on this entire absurd campus. Ask anyone.”
Thor’s expression softens into a smile. “I know it. That is why I said Fury would ask you to fight. You have made a valued place for yourself here, brother, and I am…more glad of it than I can say. It is only…I would feel better having seen it for myself again. And perhaps we might find a way to combine your magic and my lightning to greater effect.”
“I suppose stranger things have happened,” Loki says. He heaves an exaggeratedly put-upon sigh and adds, before he can talk himself out of it, “I imagine next you will ask if you can stay in my room for the rest of the night because that would also make you feel better.”
“Yes,” Thor says, looking hopeful. “Yes, it would, very much so.”
“Well, I am not sharing my bed, because I know you kick in your sleep. But I have extra blankets in the closet, if you are not too good to sleep on the floor.”
Thor smiles at him again, digs out an armful of bedding, and makes himself a nest on the floor. “Good night, brother.”
“Good morning,” Loki corrects him, a little grumpily, as he turns off the light and curls up under his own blankets. He would never admit it, but with the nightmare of his death still fresh in his mind, he knows he’ll sleep better with Thor nearby. Even if his brother snores, it will be another reminder that whatever memories and echoes they might recover, whatever terrible things have happened to their other selves in other lives…they are both here now, together. That much, Thanos cannot change.
(Thor does snore, after about 15 minutes, and quite terribly. Loki chucks a pillow at him, but he still doesn’t tell him to leave.)