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Can We Please Go Back To The Way It Was?

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Loki couldn’t pinpoint when exactly Thor stopped looking at him, his brother always got caught up in his own perfect, little world leaving Loki struggling to keep up all the time, but he knew something changed. And maybe that’s what made things worse, even though Loki had never imagined that to be possible.

Father sent them on a mission to stop someone known as the Mad Titan. He had an army and used them to conquer planets and commit mass genocides. Loki and Thor, with an army of Asgardians that could rival the ones sent to fight the Frost Giants centuries ago, were sent to stop him. They knew of the horrors that Mad Titan was capable of. And yet they treated it as any other mission, and it cost them greatly. They underestimated this being known as Thanos.

Loki and Thor went face to face with the titan, but even Thor’s strength wasn’t any match for him. Loki could only stare in horror as for the first time in his life, he watched his strong and proud brother be bested in battle. And it looked like the titan had every intention of making it a battle to the death. They had been running out of options, so Loki did what he did best. Bargain.

Admittedly, it wasn’t one of his best tricks but the situation was dire so he had to take a gamble. If he had done nothing, Thor would’ve died. So he stood before the Mad Titan and offered his allegiance. He swore his loyalty before him, while materializing a blade behind him.

There was no way it would work, but one glance at his brother, bound and eyes filled with fear and confusion, he knew he had to at least try.

He was right; it didn’t work. Thanos caught his arm with one hand and snorted. Loki could only imagine the fear written in his expression before the titan raised his other arm and everything went black.

He didn’t know what happened afterwards. He woke up at his room, with minimal injuries and a terrible headache. Later, he found out he was out for days and immediately went to see Thor. He wasn’t in his room, so he went to the healing ward, putting up an invisibility cloak since he wanted no one telling him he should rest or something. No, he needed to see if Thor was okay.

As a prince, they gave him his own chamber at the healing ward and the warriors three and Sif were already there. But Thor was unresponsive. They were trying to joke with him, telling him stories and whatnot but Thor kept his gaze on the window. Eventually, they exchanged worried glances and left, leaving him with a basket of food and the promise of returning soon.

Once they left, Loki released the invisibility spell. Thor finally shifted, eyes landing on him before lying down on the bed, on his side and facing away from Loki.

“Brother?” he asked, but there was no reply. He had hoped that even if his friends hadn’t got him to speak, Thor would at least speak to him. Loki was his confidant and ever loyal adviser. It had been such ever since they were children.

“Not even going to ask about my wellbeing?” Loki snorted, trying for a different approach. “I’m doing quite well, by the way.”

Still nothing, Loki was growing worried. “Thor? I hadn’t asked the healers anything, so I don’t really know why you’re here.” If they had allowed Loki to stay in his room, then that must mean something serious happened to Thor if he’s being kept under Eir’s surveillance. “Are you hurt? Did… did anything happen after..?”

No reply. Loki stepped closer, hoping to at least get a reaction out of him. At this point, it would be a relief to hear Thor shout at him to go away. “Thor...”

He paused and huffed once he got closer and realized that Thor had fallen asleep. Well now, that was just rude. Here he was, worried sick, and Thor has the audacity to fall asleep on him.

Well, at least that was in character for his brother, in contrast to this whole silent business. Loki left the room and walked around the healing ward. Strangely enough, no one was there. He soon found the file on Thor, probably Eir’s. Reading it, he discovered that Thor had suffered minimal injuries. But ever since coming back, he has eaten little which is very concerning, so they kept him there to monitor him.

Loki frowned, his concern growing. Later, he would learn why there weren’t any healers around. Their attack on the Mad Titan resulted in half of their army killed, while the other half was severely injured with most still recuperating even after months since the battle. There was not enough space in the ward, so they instead used the ballroom and stepping in, Loki could hardly believe how full it was and how much blood was splattered around. He was fairly certain one group was conducting a surgery at one corner, covered only by a thin sheet they propped up around them. It was amazing that they still had to tend to so many soldiers even after almost a week.

At one point, Loki spotted Eir and, as if sensing someone looking at her, their eyes met. She held his gaze for a moment before going back to treating one warrior. Huh, he expected a scolding. But then again, he felt fine so it must be okay. That meant he no longer had to keep up the invisibility spell. If anyone asked, Eir gave him the okay.

Still, he made his way back to his room, after that and thankfully encountered no one. He spotted a few servants who definitely weren’t healers at the ballroom, so everyone is probably being enlisted to care for the wounded. Loki dreaded to found out the extent of the damage, especially the one on his brother’s mental state.

Thor has never once lost a battle, and although they were lucky that this one didn’t result in his death, it still cost them the lives of hundreds, and all because they underestimated their opponent. Even Loki was guilty of this. It was an amateur mistake for sure. And yet, Loki couldn’t find it in himself to care because at the very least, Thor was alive.

But Thor wouldn’t think the same. The fool was much too sentimental for that. He’s most likely blaming himself for all this. And Loki was right. For the next few days, Thor remained at the healing chamber, speaking to no one and rarely eating. It wasn’t until their father had a private conversation with him did he get up from his bed and force a smile out to everyone who asked. Others still looked at him worriedly, but Loki always knew that his brother was stronger than most. He always bounces back.

But even then, even when Thor started talking to people again, Loki was left behind. He can’t understand it. The smiles he gave others were fake, only to reassure, and it would make sense that Thor wouldn’t bother to give one to his brother since he knows Loki would be able to see right through it. Maybe that’s it? Thor had always said that it unnerved him how Loki always managed to read him- even though it’s his fault for being an open book. Does Thor feel vulnerable? Is he uncomfortable looking at Loki, since he knows he’ll be able to see the weakness Thor is trying so desperately to hide?

But then, why the nightly visits? Days after Thor’s conversation with Odin, Thor barged into Loki’s room, not even bothering to knock. Loki would shout at him for not respecting his need for privacy, but given the circumstances as of late, he thought it wise not to. Thor stood there for who knows how long, just looking around the room with a blank expression. It almost unnerved Loki. He was about to snap at him when Thor finally moved to take a seat on the bed, beside Loki. He kept his eyes trained to the ground, still not looking at his brother.

Loki frowned. “Thor?”

He didn’t answer, but Loki didn’t miss the way his shoulders were trembling. Loki got up to kneel in front of his brother and isn’t that so ironic? The proud and cunning trickster kneeling before his brother who was now a broken man with blood in his hands, and not the kind he was used to either. But for all of Loki’s desire for their father’s approval and all the times he felt envious of Thor, he had long ago accepted his brother to be the future king. He had always seen the man his brother can become, underneath all the arrogance and recklessness. Underneath all of Loki’s insults and jabs at Thor, is a man who looks forward to kneeling before a King who he has no doubt would bring the prosperity of Asgard.

But none of that matters right now, because his brother needs him. He’s broken in ways Loki might not fully understand and he’ll be damned if he let his brother pick up all the pieces alone.

“Thor?” Loki placed one hand on Thor’s shoulder. Thor was hunched over, arms resting on his knees with his hands clasped together where he rested his forehead as if in prayer. His hands and his hair covered his face, but Loki didn’t need it to know that Thor was sobbing. The broken sounds coming from his brother and the way his entire body shook are clear indications.

“Loki.” Norns, he sounded like he was in so much pain. Loki didn’t know what to do.

“I’m sorry, brother.” Thor sniffled. “I… I couldn’t sleep. I know you don’t like having people in your room but…”

“It’s alright, Thor.” Loki hushed, because honestly. How could he ever mind with Thor in such a state? He wrapped his arms around Thor. It was a bit awkward because of Thor’s position on his bed, but Loki couldn’t find it in him to care.

Thor only sobbed harder. “I’m so sorry.”

“Shh…” Loki embraced him tighter. “I’m here, Thor. It’s okay.”

Thor cried himself to sleep that night and Loki didn’t mind one bit. When he woke up the next morning, Thor was gone. But he was noticeably more cheerful that day. After that, Thor would come to Loki’s room whenever he couldn’t sleep. Sometimes, he would sleep at Loki’s chambers for weeks straight; the longest he’s gone without doing so had been a week. Sometimes, Thor would speak, letting his heart out about everything that’s been going on as of late. His guilt on losing to the mad titan and losing so many men, doubts concerning his worthiness to lead, worry over his friends, etc. During these moments, it felt like the best course of action was to listen so that’s what Loki did. But sometimes Thor won’t say anything at all for the entire night, so Loki filled it with his own stories, all made up, trying to make them as cheerful as he could even though he wasn’t entirely sure if Thor was listening. Either way, every night Thor spent in Loki’s chamber ended the same way, with him crying himself to sleep and being gone by the time Loki awoke.

Loki considered asking his parents to speak to Thor, but they were both busy. The threat that the Mad Titan posed was still very present, and they’ve been communicating with other Realms on ways to deal with him. They make a point not to mention the Mad Titan in front of Thor though, seeing how badly affected he was about the last incident. Even his friends, the Warriors Three and Sif, avoid the topic at all costs.

Loki figured that they expected him to be the one to cheer Thor up and get him back to his old, loud self. No one knew Thor as well as Loki did, after all. But even he was at a loss on what to do.

Months passed, and Thor eventually returned to his old self. The night visits didn’t stop, but they were reduced to once a week and the issue concerning the Mad Titan was still a sensitive topic, but he was smiling again.

And yet, Thor ignored Loki.

During every mission, it was like he might as well not be there. Thor talks to everyone but him, and he stopped asking for his advice on matters too. Every time he speaks, he gets ignored. Every once in a while, Thor and Loki’s eyes would meet but those moments would last a few moments at most before looking away.

Not that he wasn’t used to being ignored. He knew that he was nothing compared to his strong and charismatic brother. But at least in the past, he had Thor. Thor looked at him and smiled at him and talked to him. He didn’t look at him with disappointment like Father would whenever he thinks Loki wasn’t looking, nor look at him with pity as Mother would. No, Thor only ever looked at him with love and fondness; never disgust or hate.

Sometimes, after hunts or missions when they finally managed to slay the beast or caught the criminals, with Thor and the others overjoyed by their success. For a split second, that grin that had always been as bright as the sun and those eyes filled with joy would turn to Loki. And for that split second, Thor was happy with his brother, like the good old days when it was just the two of them, happily playing together and Thor wasn’t always busy preparing for the crown that was never meant for Loki.

It was always gone in a flash. As if registering who he was looking at, Thor would always look away immediately, his smile falters and the joy disappears from his eyes. It was during those moments that Loki wanted to scream, cry out and ask his brother what he did wrong. He wanted to know so he could make it right. He’d do anything to have things go back to the way they were.

Was it his attempt to deceive the Mad Titan? Surely his brother knew that he had no intention of ever serving Thanos. He was just doing what he does best, tricking people to turn the tide in their favor. Surely, Thor wasn’t stupid enough to not see that?

… Unless he accidentally made things worst. He remembered nothing after Thanos knocked him out and he couldn’t really ask Thor about what happened after, since it was still a sensitive topic. No one else had been there when he and Thor faced off against Thanos, so there’s no one else he could ask. Was Thor mad at him? But no, Thor wasn’t the type to silently hold grudges. He was the type to scream his grievances for all of Asgard to hear.

Loki wanted his brother back, and he’s not exaggerating when he says he’s willing to face off against the Mad Titan again if it meant that they could go back to the way they used to be.

Even if the way things used to be wasn’t that good to begin with.

Loki had already been at his wit’s end trying to figure out what to do with Thor when she arrived. Their darling older sister they never even knew existed who their wonderful and faultless father had humorously forgotten to mention. Oh joy.

She didn’t appear in Asgard, but instead decided to perform a miracle. A warrior died after contracting some disease. He was pronounced dead for five whole hours before he got up once again, wound completely healed. He gave the embalmers quite the scare.

He immediately requested an audience with the king and well, given the circumstances Odin couldn’t refuse regardless of how busy he was. The warrior claimed to have been to Hel and brought a message from its queen. She said she could help.

Apparently, the queen of Hel is their sister, Odin’s firstborn from a time before he even married Frigga. Loki was shocked, confused, betrayed, and enraged all at once.  How could their father keep something like this from them? After all that talk of one of them someday ruling Asgard, now it turns out there was someone out there who has a more rightful claim to it than either than them.

Loki had long ago accepted that he’ll never be king, how could he when he was going against the perfect and powerful Thor? But he still felt angry, on Thor’s behalf. He always believed his brother would make a fine king someday, as their father had promised. Was that all lies? As Odin informed them that Hela, the Goddess of Death (of all things), will arrive to Asgard soon to discuss their temporary alliance against the Mad Titan, Loki glanced at Thor expecting him to snap at their father. He expected fury and betrayal. There was none of that, Thor’s expression was blank yet there was a raging storm behind his eyes. One that even with Loki’s centuries’ worth of experience in reading people and predicting them, he still couldn’t decipher. Loki’s worry increased tenfold.

After Odin dismissed them, it seemed like the others had similar thoughts. Sif was the first to speak up.

“Thor?” she said. Thor’s pace was quick despite Loki knowing damn well that he had nowhere to be. Their parents decided after their previous encounter with the Mad Titan that he needed some time to cope with everything.  He was acting a lot better lately but with the current revelation, it looks like they’ll have to give him a little more time. “Are you honestly alright with all this?”

“If my father believes it to be our best chance in defeating Thanos then yes, I have no objections.” He said simply.

“I don’t think that’s the point.” Fandral muttered, both Loki and Sif shot him a glare which immediately silenced him. They’ll deal with the elephant in the room later; right now there are more pressing matters to address.

“Then you must realize that your father must have banished her for a reason.” She argued. “We can’t possibly trust her. Who’s to say that she won’t take advantage of the chaos Thanos leaves in his wake to overthrow Asgard?”

“If that happens then I’ll deal with her myself.”

“Thor-“

Thor stopped in his tracks and turned to them, making them all freeze. His expression was still unreadable, and he took a deep breath before speaking. “If it’s alright with you all, I’d like to be alone for a bit.”

They looked at each other before Volstagg stammered. “Of course, my Prince.”

Thor gave them a tight smile before walking off in silence. They exchanged concerned looks, but ultimately none of them knew what to do. Loki sighed before running after his brother.

“Thor!” he called out and was ignored. When Loki caught up to him, he found that there was really nothing he could say, not when he didn’t even know what Thor felt about the whole situation. Sure, he said that he was fine with it but there’s no way that was the entire truth. Loki ended up trailing behind Thor silently, so it didn’t take him long to realize where Thor was headed.

Thor entered Loki’s room and slammed the door shut, almost shutting Loki out of his own room if he hadn’t been fast on his feet. Thor paced around the room and Loki could see his composure dropping, being replaced by the fury he had expected earlier. It made him feel guilty of how in such a dire situation, Loki could only think of how nice it was to see Thor in his room with him during the day, instead of ignoring him as per usual.

“Thor-“ he was cut off when his brother slammed his fist against the wall, making Loki flinch. He could practically hear Thor’s blood boiling from the other side of the room.

“He lied to us.” He said, voice breaking. “He lied to us, Loki.”

“I know.” He said, keeping his tone as soft as he could.

“He could have told us from the beginning!” he snapped. “Why did he have to lie? Did he even intend to tell us the truth at any point? Did he intend to crown one of us whilst keeping us ignorant to all the sins of his past?”

He intended to crown you.’ Loki thought, deciding it was wise not to say it out loud. There was never any doubt about that, even from Thor himself. He spent his whole life training to be a great king, to live up to the legacy and expectations of their father. But now they it’s revealed that everything they knew was a lie. Thor is not Odin’s firstborn, so he does not have the rightful claim to the throne. Their father built the golden kingdom of Asgard, their peaceful and beautiful home, on death and destruction with the help of his daughter, the Queen of Hel and who knows what her true intentions are for offering her allegiance in defeating Thanos.

Oh, how the Norns have been so cruel to his brother as of late. Loki had always thought it would be great if Thor could have a taste of defeat every once in a while, just to get him out of his high horse, but definitely not like this.

Thor kept rambling, screaming, cursing at their father and Loki found himself at a loss for words. Thor who had always held their father in such high regards and had even assured them earlier to trust in his decision was now expressing genuine hatred for their father without any inhibitions.  Loki could only sit on his bed and listen patiently as his brother screamed his heart out, knowing well that even though he agreed with him, he couldn’t voice his thoughts as it would be of no help to the situation at hand. And it certainly wouldn’t help matters if he contradicted his brother, since even Thor would be able to see that he was lying and that would only make things worse.

“I don’t even think he has a plan! He’s most likely gone senile with all the years and Hela would take advantage of that leading to the fall of Asgard!”  he growled, moving to sit beside Loki. He rubbed his hands on his face while taking deep breaths in what Loki recognized as an effort to calm himself. If there’s anything that they’ve gained in their clash with the Mad Titan, it’s that Thor has, in a way, become wiser. He doesn’t let his anger get the best of him anymore and he thinks before he acts now. Not much, but it was still progress.

“Norns, Loki…” his voice was muffled through his hands. “I don’t know what to do…”

Hearing him sound so broken coupled with how this was the first time he ever admitted to being at a lost broke Loki’s heart.

“Don’t worry, brother…” he said and was surprised at how genuine his words were. “We’ll figure this out.”

 


 

 

When Hela arrived, the entire army of Asgard greeted her, or what was much of it could fit in the palace’s throne hall. She transported herself there. The Alfather informed them that Hela derives her power off of Asgard and the reason she couldn’t return is because of a banishment spell that Odin cast on her. He agreed to lift it on the condition he cast a different spell on her while she’s in Asgard, one that prevents her from drawing strength from Asgard. It doesn’t mean she’s not strong though, hence the army. Everyone agreed that it was a necessary precaution.

Hela’s eyes immediately landed on Odin and she smirked. “Father.”

“Hela.” He greeted back. Her gaze wandered to the others who stood by Odin’s throne. First off was the Allmother, who stood nearest to him, then Thor who stood with the Warriors Three and Sif on one side while Loki stood on the other. They were all tense, hands twitching towards their weapons. One wrong move from Hela and they would be prepared to defend their king.

Hela’s gaze lingered on Loki, longer than it had on Thor, and she looked at her differently. When she looked at Thor, her gaze was cold and cruel. But Loki? She raised an eyebrow at him. She looked curious even though she looked at all the others with either simmering hatred or lethal indifference. It made Loki shift uncomfortably, and if he did so in a way that he moved closer to Thor, well then that was nobody’s business.

Hela looked around, observing the countless soldiers surrounding her and she snorted. “This really is no way to welcome back your lovely daughter, now is it, Odin?”

“I remember that conventional ways weren’t applicable to you.”

“Well, you didn’t use conventional ways in raising me now, did you?”

Loki sighed, not missing the way Thor tensed up, most likely fighting the urge to scream indignantly at their sister. It was going to be a long day.

After assuring that Hela’s powers were under a secure spell, Odin took her and the rest of their little family for a private meeting. Loki noted that Odin didn’t bother to introduce his two sons to the Queen of Hel so it was either she already knew them both from a time in their youth far beyond their memories or Odin was trying to protect them from her in some obscure way.

Hela’s gaze kept wandering to him, it was unnerving. Occasionally her eyes would flicker to Thor for a moment before returning to him and he wasn’t sure if that was better or worse. Their parents seemed dead set on focusing on the task at hand while Thor looked intent on looking at anything but their sister (or Loki) so he didn’t let it bother him too much

Hela explained that there was a natural order of things. Creatures from all around the universe are born, they live, and then they die. Once they do, their souls are brought to the afterlife by Hela’s undead vassals where they’re taken to Niflheim. The souls are either damned to wander the dark and icy lands for eternity, or they can be lucky enough to be  allowed entry to Helheim where they will serve under Hela as another of her undead servants. From the sound of it, either option isn’t that great. But still even in the afterlife there’s order and Thanos threatens it.

It takes time to integrate souls into Helheim and with the amount of victims Thanos constantly slaughters in his conquests; Hela’s having a lot of trouble keeping up. The wandering souls of Niflheim are constantly pounding at Helheim’s gates, demanding shelter from the hellish landscape and should that many souls succeed to enter without due process, Helheim would rot in a matter of days, maybe hours before crumbling and succumbing to the cold winds of Niflheim. Helheim was built by Hela through her magic; it’s connected to her very soul, should Helheim fall so would she.

When you put it like that, it’s understandable why she’s willing to put her grievances against Odin aside to help defeat the Mad Titan. So Odin, with no other options, chose to trust her to bring Thanos down.

Surprisingly, Thor didn’t speak a word throughout Hela’s explanation. He had no questions or accusations despite the doubts he screamed at the top of his lungs in the privacy of Loki’s room. Once it was decided that Helheim will be assisting Asgard, Odin turned to his two sons and told them he wanted to speak to Hela alone. Even then, Thor had no complaints and just nodded, walking out. Loki obediently followed and was surprised when their mother left the room with them.

“Will you not stay by Father’s side, Mother?” Loki asked. “Surely it would be wise not to leave him alone with someone so… unpredictable.”

“Your Father will speak with Hela privately concerning our… situation.” Frigga said, although she kept her eyes on Thor. “I imagine she’ll have her work on the matter alone, alongside her undead army.”

“Aye, I suppose it’s the wisest decision to be made.” Thor nodded, not looking at her.

Their mother frowned. “Thor… you know you can talk to me about anything right?”

“Of course.” He gave her a tight-lipped smile. “Will they be there long? I’d like to speak with Hela.”

“What?” Loki asked dumbly.

Frigga paused, looking equally shocked. “Why?”

“There’s something I’d like to ask her.”

“And it’s something that you cannot ask me?”

“No,” he smiled sadly. “I’m afraid not.”

Frigga paused, looking at him intently before sighing. “It might take them awhile, I cannot be sure.”

Thor nodded. “I’ll wait out here then.”

“Are you sure? Perhaps you should rest in your room? I’ll have the guards call for you once they’re done.”

“No, it’s alright.” Thor said. “I’ll wait here.”

Frigga looked like she wanted to protest but Loki placed a hand on her shoulder. “Mother, it’s alright. I’ll make sure he doesn’t pick a fight with her. You go rest.”

She looked at him, looking as if she wanted to say something, her mouth hanging open. Her eyes seemed searching, yet at the same time had a faraway look.

“Mother?” Thor frowned, looking curious. “Is something wrong?”

Frigga opened her mouth, but whatever she was going to say, she must’ve decided against it because she shook his head. “Nothing.” She smiled at Thor. “Don’t push yourself okay?”

He smiled reassuringly. “I won’t.”

Their mother didn’t look convinced but nevertheless nodded. She threw one final concerned glance at Loki before walking off. Loki watched her go before he turned to his brother.

“Thor?” he asked cautiously. “What exactly do you want to ask her?”

He didn’t get a reply.

 


 

 

“Sister.” Hearing the word coming out of his brother’s lips was odd, to say the least. It almost sounded wrong. Their whole lives, it had always just been the two of them, against the worlds. But now a sister was thrown into the mix. Loki would be the first to admit that he didn’t particularly care about her as long as she was of no threat to Asgard, but he doubts Thor feels the same.

Hela turned to them upon Thor’s greeting. Her eyes lingered on Loki once again for a second too long before turning back to Thor, raising an eyebrow.

“Brother.” She greeted, tone borderline mocking.

“If you would permit it, I would like to ask for your time to discuss certain… matters.”

Hela scoffed, for a second she looked like she was about to brush him off and walk away but changed her mind at the last second. “If it’s about what happened during your last encounter with the Mad Titan, don’t bother. Odin already informed me of everything.”

She leveled Thor with an unimpressed look. “Or rather, everything he knew.”

Thor’s jaw clenched and Loki frowned, glancing at his brother in concern. It seems like Thor still hasn’t confided to anyone about what happened after Loki passed out, not even to their parents. Loki’s surprised that Odin hadn’t demanded answers by now, especially considering how grave the situation’s become.

“It’s somewhat related to that…” Thor said, sounding hesitant for the first time in centuries. “I wanted to discuss your methods of… getting into contact with father. It was sorcery, was it not?”

“You mean the peasant?” Hela snorted. “I must say, I wasn’t entirely sure if it would have been enough to get Odin’s attention, luckily it was the only corpse I needed to revive.”

“So it’s true then.” Thor’s expression hardened. “You have the power to resurrect the dead.”

There was a beat of silence. Hela’s expression was blank while Loki looked horrified. He should’ve tried talking Thor out of this when he had the chance. There was a reason why such a thing was considered to be forbidden magic, Hela shouldn’t even possess such powers in the first place. Such magic was said to have been lost even before Bor’s reign.

“Brother, I don’t think that’s-“

“I know that I have no right to ask you anything, especially since you are already helping us despite the Allfather’s crimes against you.” Thor said, ignoring Loki. “But if you were to grant me this one boon, I would be indebted to you for the rest of my life.”

“Thor!” Loki hissed, glancing at their sister to make sure she wasn’t getting any bright ideas. Strangely enough, Hela seemed thoughtful. A stark contrast to the sadistic glee Loki had expected her to feel at the prospect of having Odin’s eldest son in her debt.

“Say I grant you this request…” she said curiously. “And I ask for the throne in exchange? What will you do then?”

“I shall relinquish my claim to it.” Thor didn’t hesitate.

“Thor!” Loki cried out, earning an annoyed glance from Hela although he could hardly care less. “Have you gone mad?!”

Hela turned her eyes back to Thor. “Just like that?”

“I am aware that I am not making a reasonable request, so I did not expect a reasonable price.” Thor’s voice was hard, almost unfeeling yet his eyes were flooded with emotion. “If it is within my power, then I’m willing to do whatever you ask.”

She raised an eyebrow, crossing her arms. She looked Thor with contempt and he looked back with the headstrong determination Thor has displayed all his life.

“And if I ask for your head.”

“Then it will be yours.”

Loki wanted to scream at Thor but even when he opened his mouth to speak, no sound came out. What was there to say?

“I will allow you to have my head.” He said. “Upon the condition that you allow me some time to appreciate your most gracious gift. It need not be long, a few minutes would suffice. Surely you would not deny me of such a small request? I would not even mind it if you insist that I not leave your sight.”

Hela paused. “No, I suppose I won’t.”

She looked thoughtful, regarding her brother carefully. And Loki knew that she realized that Thor’s words were sincere. You don’t have to know him long to understand how brutally honest and honorable he is.

“Sister, please forgive my brother’s foolishness. He hasn’t had enough rest.” Loki hurriedly tried to salvage the situation. “Disregard everything he just said. We should be going anyw-“

The cold look she gave him was enough to send shivers down his spine. It wasn’t necessarily a glare, but Loki knew he didn’t imagine the spike of seidr in the atmosphere. She was bound by her temporary allegiance with Asgard so surely she wouldn’t attack one of its princes… right?

“Odin informed me of your mental state, but I had not realized you have gone completely mad.” She laughed haughtily. “As tempting as your offer is, dear brother, surely you realize that one life isn’t a fair exchange to raising half an army back from the dead, even if you throw in a nice crown.”

“Not an army.” He said quietly. “Just one.”

Loki’s mind blanked. Nothing was making any sense. Why would Thor give up everything for one person? He can sort of understand wanting to bring back the ones slain in their last mission, no matter how foolish it was. But for one person? There is not a single being in the cosmos that was worth giving up Thor’s life for.

If push came to shove, Loki thinks he’d probably allow the Mad Titan to succeed and kill off half the universe before he even thinks of losing Thor.

His brother has gone mad with guilt, and Loki wonders if he lacked in providing him support through such a difficult time in his life. But Thor always bounced back right? How could it possibly come to this? And who, pray tell, does he plan on giving his life for? He must know that if he goes through with it, Loki would probably kill him, anyway.

Was it a warrior who left behind a starving family? A friend that Thor made recently who would’ve been a great addition to his little band of warriors? Someone who saved them from the Mad Titan after Loki was knocked out? What is going on?

Hela had paused and then snorted. “Yes, I figured.”

“So you understand,” He nodded. “I need to bring him back.”

Loki was missing something, something big and he didn’t like being in the dark. How was it that Hela knew something that Loki didn’t? How could they have reached an understanding while Loki was still struggling to process what was said? He wanted to snap at Thor and maybe stab him. Maybe the indignation would knock him back to his old self and he would realize how foolish he’s being. But Hela’s seidr was starting to surround him, and although it was not doing any harm, it was preventing him from moving. Paralyzing him on the spot and even closing off his vocal chords. She did not want them to be interrupted and Thor was too engrossed in their staring contest to realize what was happening to his brother.

“Is Father aware of what you intend to do?”

“Father has nothing to do with this.” He snapped. “This decision is mine and mine alone.”

Loki struggled against his invisible binds. He couldn’t let this happen, he’ll knock Thor out and lock him up if he had to. But with a flippant gesture from Hela, he felt it pressing heavier down on him, not enough to suffocate but enough for him to feel a tad light headed.

“I imagine he won’t take it well once he finds out I’ve taken his golden child’s life.” Hela scoffed.

“I’ll explain that I sold it to you.” He said. “They will understand, so long as you keep your end of the bargain.”

“Will they now?”

He nodded. “They may not like it, but they will understand why I did it.”

She hummed thoughtfully, glancing back at Loki who was still struggling. He glared at her, and probably would’ve growled if he had access to his voice.

“So we have a deal then?” his voice was steady, fitting for a man about to walk towards his own death.

Hela’ eyes met his steadily. “No.”

“What?”

She released Loki’s bindings, and he fell to his knees, panting. “I refuse.”

He stammered. “Why?”

“It goes against the natural order of things.” She said, walking away. “The dead are meant to stay dead, brother. It is foolish to try chasing those who don’t belong with us, the living.”

“But you’ve done it before!”

“And rest assured I plan on collecting that peasant’s soul and bringing him back to Hel once I’ve settled everything with the Mad Titan.”

Loki got back up to his feet and glanced at his brother who looked shocked and lost.

“Surely after being imprisoned in Hel for all these years, you desire the throne of Asgard more than anything!” he called after her. To Loki’s horror, he realized that his brother was trying to bargain with the Goddess of Death with his life. “Is one life not a small price to pay for Asgard and for the chance to have my head? Surely you despise the man who took your birthright from you. Father had intended to leave you to rot in Hel for all eternity whilst I ascend the throne and roam these golden halls that you’ve fought and built for him all those years ago!”

Her head snapped back at him, eyes murderous and jaw set. Thor paid no heed to the danger that he was obviously goading and walked towards her.

“You were to be buried as one of his dirty, shameful secrets; to be forgotten despite your loyalty to him. Meanwhile, I reap all the benefits you sowed from serving Father. I wield the mightiest weapon of Asgard, which Father had first gifted you. I am celebrated all throughout my days for my triumphs in battles that are mere child’s play compared to how you helped conquer the Nine Realms. And I am the one whom Odin calls his firstborn; he loves me and calls me worthy of ruling this mighty realm, as he once did with you. Sister,” he was face to face with her and whispered, with a tone almost mocking. “You must despise me.”

Her jaw clenched and yet Thor continued on.

“You want the throne. You want revenge on those who’ve wronged you. You want revenge on me, for being your perfect replacement.” He scowled. “Here I am, offering it all to you on a silver platter, and you refuse because it’s against the rules?” his tone became incredulous. “Sister, surely you realize that this bargain would hardly grant me a passage to Valhalla. If I were to die by your hand, I would end up in Hel, to serve you for the rest of eternity. What reason could you possibly have to pass up such this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?”

For the longest moment, Hela said nothing and Loki wondered if she was considering just killing him right then and there.

“I will have my revenge in due time.” She said, her voice steady. “But not yet. You can say whatever you want, it will change nothing. So I suggest you back off, brother.”

Thor’s face hardened, his grip on Mjolnir tightening. “You’re a coward.”

“And you are a suicidal fool!” She snapped, hands twitching for a weapon. “One loss and it has reduced you to this pitiful state? Don’t you realize that you already have everything that anyone could ever desire? Why can’t you just be content with it, you spoiled brat?!”

“Content? You think I could ever be content with anything, after what I witnessed back in that madman’s ship?!” he growled.

“Oh, boohoo! Do you expect everyone in this bloody palace to baby you for the rest of your days?” wh3 scowled. “You’re a Prince of Asgard! A fierce warrior, if the myths are to be believed. Surely, you’ve seen worse than whatever it is you’ve experienced at Thanos’ hands.”

“What would you know?! You weren’t there.” He growled grabbing her by the collar and she materialized a blade in one hand, although kept it on her side. Her grip on it was tight, ready to raise it should Thor take any further action. “You think I wanted any of this to happen? You think I want to spend the rest of my days being haunted by my failure? Every day I have to look at Mother and Father in the eye, knowing they fake their smiles through the grief that my failure has inflicted on them. Every day I try to trick myself into believing that everything is normal until I remember that-”

His voice cracked, grip tightened on Hela yet she made no move. His eyes shone with unshed tears and he bowed his head in shame.

“Please.” He said quietly, voice barely above a whisper struggling to be heard through the tears. “If you can’t bring him back then at least let me see him again, one last time.”

Hela’s cold expression fell and was replaced with confusion being mirrored by Loki’s own.

Something was wrong, that was the only thing that was going through Loki’s mind. Something was very wrong andnothingwasmakingsense-

It felt like nothing did, not since the incident with the Mad Titan.

“I’ll give you anything you want.” Thor continued to plead. “All I ask for some time, even for just a moment, please give me my brother back.”

A hand on his throat. He couldn’t breathe.

His body, struggling, spasming, trembling. He could hear Thor’s muffled cries.

His consciousness was fading. “You will never be a God.”

Thanos’ unimpressed look.

Snap!

He gasped as everything came back to him, tears sprung from his eyes and his body was trembling. OhGodOhGodOhGods-! His hands flew to his neck where he could feel the phantom touch of the titan’s gargantuan hand slowly squeezing the air out of him.

Hela’s eyes turned to him, searching for answers and she seemed to have got them since her confused expression slowly morphed into realization.

“By the Norns…” she whispered, eyes wide. And Thor, despite his grief, seemed to have sensed that something has happened.

He frowned, ignoring the way his voice cracked as he spoke. “What?”

She opened her mouth, looking at a loss of what to say before turning to Thor and his heart fell.

“I don’t think our brother knows that he’s dead.”