Chapter 1: finding you
Slowly surfacing into consciousness, Loki’s thoughts are a jumbled mess. His body, which lay prone on top of something cold and hard, is aching and shivering with pain. A vice like grip seems to strangle his throat, barely willing any air to fill his lungs.
He feels heavy, as if distant from his muscles to prevent them from working, but still so very present to know the agony they’re screaming in. Sluggishly beating in his chest, his heart is forcing itself to pump blood into his veins, demanding the very life he’d sacrificed for Thor to enter into him again. It’s nauseating. He’s never been dead before, despite what his brother seems to have thought.
He’s been to the brink, yes. Many a time, especially in Thanos’ hands.
With great difficulty, he struggles himself upright, his limbs screaming in protest. Blinking his eyes open, he holds his breath as his throat wheezes pathetically in a futile attempt of gathering air in his lungs.
‘’Oh almighty God of mischief, we thank norns that you have blessed us with your presence,’’ a voice says somewhere near.
Squinting against the lowly lit room, he takes stock. There is a dark elf on his knees before Loki’s asylum, his head bowed deeply as he kneels. There are markings on the elf, swirls of crimson sigils painted on his armour, his skin, as well as the room surrounding them both.
The altar which Loki notices he’s laid upon, is made entirely of stone and bones, the same intricate symbols decorating it. They’re deep inside some kind of cave or a mine, with fires made of seidr giving them barely any light to see.
Since his trachea seems to be crushed, Loki merely blinks in acknowledgement of this creature. His seidr is a fluttering, tiny thing, keeping him alive as well as it can, though it is not strong enough to truly heal him of the multitude of injuries he sports.
The elf chances a look up, and immediately bows back when he sees Loki watching him.
‘’Please, your highness,’’ the elf rumbles. ‘’I have summoned you from beyond the veil of Valhalla, from the clutches of Hela of Helheim, to plead your aid in a war to conquer that what is rightfully ours. For yours is the chaos we desire, your powers far beyond our imagination. For compensation of your assistance, your highness may ask for anything that it is in our hands to give.’’
Not caring one way or the other for the speech of the pathetic creature, Loki deems his state well enough to be moving around. It’s unpleasant, with fires burning all around his weakened mortal body, but not at all comparable to the scale of torture he went in Thanos’ hands that he’s easily able to ignore his injuries.
He stumbles off the altar, bared to the world to see, and crouches in front of the elf. There are multiple bodies littered across the cavern, slayn and offered as sacrifices to bring back a single soul from beyond the realm of living. Taking one of the daggers no doubt used to slaughter these beings, Loki strucks the blade into the throat of the elf and snuffs the life out of him.
He wonders what year it is. How long he has been gone.
The fight with Thanos must be over, if the Dark Elves have made themselves a nuisance again, for he remembers the way Thanos and his minions enslaved almost the entire race with the mind stone.
The way he enslaved Loki once too.
Shivering, he looks around. There is not a single place in the universe where he might safely recuperate with how weak he is. He has no idea what realm he is in, and how he’ll be able to get out. Everything around him is just dark and oppressing, danger lurking in every shadow, every deep corner.
He needs the sun. He needs light, and strength, and buzzling life around him to be able to gain back his own seidr, to nurture the core of his magic. He needs to be shielded from the madness of his own mind, chase away the dark, unworthy thoughts of his own self. There need be someone that trusts him almost implicitly, that knows how his thoughts dip low and deep and treacherous, and is able to nudge him into the right path of recovery. To protect him.
He needs Thor .
‘’I mean,’’ Bruce says, shifting his coffee cup closer to his chest, ‘’The amount of electricity you wield is unbelievable. You could probably power up an entire country for a year with just one blast of Stormbreaker. Or Mjölnir, depending which one you’d be handling at the time. But it might cause everyone more trouble than it’s worth.’’
‘’For if I am able to help, why not offer my aid?’’ Thor asks, leaning back in his chair. ‘’Your technology is formidable for a race so young such as yours, but your realm is suffering the consequence of your fast advancement. It is not sustainable for even such a lowly seidr wielder as I can feel your nature perishing at a frantic rate. If offering my powers to be used to utilize waste free electricity for humanity, I would gladly have you take it.’’
Bruce makes a face.
‘’Look, buddy,’’ Tony sighs, ‘’As much as we’d be grateful for it, you have to know that us, puny humans, are not the most agreeable sort. We already have a clean energy source for all of the humanity to use called solar panels , but for some reason, we just cannot figure it out between ourselves on how to distribute it equally. You know, where on desert to build, who’s land, who pays who, which country wants the biggest advantage, blah blah blah. You’d be assassinated before your first day was out.’’
Thor quirks a humored brow. ‘’I’d just, assassinate them back,’’ he says, enjoying his friend’s exasperation. ‘’But truly, if you do not wish it, I will not do it. I merely hate to look at all of these people out there, struggling in poverty when there need not be such.’’
‘’Well, maybe not in this magical Asgard of yours, but this is earth . We don’t play fair with anyone, least of all ourselves.’’
The mention of Asgard makes Thor deflate. The ache of loss in his heart is still far too great to bear. It’s been three years since the defeat of Thanos, and the return of their people, but the land lost cannot be replaced. His people have retired here, in Midgard, though they are still greatly struggling with it. Thor, as their failure of a king, should be out there in the realms trying to build a new kingdom for Asgardians, but. . .
His heart is not in it. For Loki is not by his side, his brother lost once and for all just so Thor could live, and rebuilding their home realm without his heart is not something he can do. There is an empty space in his chest which cannot be filled with anything. His love and hate for Loki has always been the core of him, the foundation he has built himself on, and to have lost his anchor in such cruel, unjust way. . . He does not hope for his heart to ever recover.
Someone slaps the table near him. ‘’ - Thor? Are you even listening to me? Great, we’ve broken him. Good job, Bruce.’’
‘’Hey,’’ Bruce says mildly, not at all upset.
‘’Hm?’’ Thor looks up at his friends and Tony staring at him with a humoured quirk of his eyebrow. ‘’I’m sorry, I got caught in my thoughts,’’ he says apologetically. ‘’Where have you lost me?’’
Tony doesn’t even get to open his mouth before Dr. Banner holds his hand up to motion him to stop. ‘’Uh, Thor?’’ Bruce asks with sudden hesitance, and Thor looks over at him. Dr. Banner’s eyes are trained on Thor’s chest. He himself snaps his eyes down to see nothing amiss. ‘’What?’’ He asks, gazing both of his friends. ‘’What do you see, my friend?’’
‘’Is your, uh, chest supposed to be glowing?’’
‘’Glowing?’’ Thor frowns, and looks back down. Oh. Indeed, his chest does glow. Or rather, the necklace he never takes off is emanating a strong light from within. He jerks the neck of his shirt and grabs the warm piece of jewelry. ‘’Huh. I do not think it is supposed to - ‘’
Before he can end his sentence, the light quadruples in size, filling the entire room in cold blue. He can hear his friends swearing and squeaking in alarm, chairs clunking as they’re shoved backwards, though he cannot focus on anything else other than the blinding light. For as the light starts subduing, dying as fast as it had born, the glow crawling back into the necklace, a familiar weight settles upon his lap, his arms coming to support the slack shape automatically.
With horrid recognition, Loki’s face is the first he sees, as the light recedes, his brother’s eyes closed. His entire face is pale and gaunt, his mouth parted softly as he breathes heavily. There is a sheen of sweat decorating his skin, purple and blue and red adorning his features, in the exact same places that they have been in Thor’s nightmares.
‘’ What the fuck - ‘’ Someone swears from afar. A mechanical alert starts, robotic voice warning of an intruder.
Thor doesn’t pay them any mind. He lets himself look further. There are the sickening bruises of Thanos’ hands on his brother’s delicate neck, the column of his throat bend inwards from the crushing blow that ended his life. They’re a terrifying contrast to the ashen pale color of his skin, making all of his bruises stand out.
‘’Oh my god, is that Loki ?’’
‘’My blood pressure. . . I - This is not. . . ‘’
But his brother is breathing, Thor notes, in detached shock. Loki is taking shallow, wheezing gasps of air, brows furrowed in pain. His inky black hair is matte with blood and gore and god knows what, old trickles of blood stilled where they’d spilled from his mouth and nose and eyes.
And then there is his pale, white body that is closer to skeleton than anything resembling the healthy muscle Loki once had. There are so many horrible scars painted on his skin that for a moment, Thor isn’t sure he’s staring at actual skin . There’s barely any smooth space left in the midst of scar after scar, craters and mountains of disfigurements on the skin. Usually their kind don’t scar, truly Gods with the amount of power they wield, unless they’ve used their seidr so much it’s in danger of being snuffed out altogether.
Which, coincidentally, is exactly what Loki did, when he sacrificed himself.
‘’Loki,’’ he whispers, cradling at his brother’s cold body. He’s unaware of the quiet tears that have started to drip from his cheeks, a grief so great it’s almost all-consuming. ‘’Loki ,’’ he repeats thickly, pulling his brother up into an embrace the man cannot even return in his unconscious state.
His brother is cold and small in his arms, vulnerable and weak and hurt . For all intents and purposes, Thor never thought his brother would come back to him. He thought him dead, truly dead this time, for all the people that had perished by Thanos’ slaughter had returned with the time stone, except for a few. One of them being Loki, who hadn’t turned to ashes, but crushed to death by the mad titan, and even when Thor did wait. . . For six months, he’d sat upon the Stark Tower, praying the Norns to return the only thing that mattered to him, only for his prayers to impotently disappear into the wind.
And yet .
‘’How ,’’ he croaks, his face gently pressed against Loki’s hair. He doesn’t know where to put his hands so he doesn’t hurt his brother any more than necessary. There is barely any space where he isn’t injured in some way. The healthy and powerful, mischievous little brother he left with from Sakaar is no longer.
Thor should be throwing himself to the altar to thank the Norns for their generosity.
A warm hand settles onto his shoulder. Looking up, Thor sees Banner giving him a wan smile.
‘‘Wonders never cease, huh?’’ he says gently, crouching in front of the God of Thunder. The human doesn’t touch Loki, though he seems like he definitely wants to, just to affirm to himself that this isn’t an illusion. For their short trip in that huge spaceship, Bruce has come to know Loki’s particular need for his own space, just as he’s come to appreciate a fellow scientist in Loki, his intellect and knowledge far exceeding that of both him and Tony. Though he also knows that Loki wouldn’t begrudge him of it, since a lot of the time science offers a need to touch their subject.
‘’No,’’ Thor sobs in agreement, ‘’This is a gift from the Norns, for our suffering has been so great. I am sure of it. A miracle, truly .’’
‘’What is going on in here?’’ A guard bursts in, followed closely by Shuri and T’Challa. They’re all ruffled at the sudden break in their defenses, apart from Shuri, who looks more excited than concerned.
‘’Ah, well,’’ Tony starts, backing up when the fierce warrior marches further into the room, ‘’It seems that Reindeer Games here has risen from the dead.’’ He pauses. ‘’Again.’’
‘’Reindeer Games?’’ T’Challa asks in confusion.
‘’It’s the God of Mischief!’’ Shuri exclaims. ‘’Another broken white - ‘’
‘’My brother is far from broken ,’’ Thor says tightly, tightening his hold. ‘’Please, Princess Shuri. Loki - Loki is - ‘’
‘’Hurt,’’ Banner cuts him off smoothly. ‘’Gravely injured, by what I would hazard is a rather inconvenient side-effect of being dead.’’
She moves closer, her eyes widening at the state Loki is in. Tapping at her wrist device, she commands the system similar to Tony’s JARVIS to scan both Gods. ‘’I am sorry,’’ Shuri says, noting the tense jaw of Thor’s, the way he’s unconsciously leaning Loki away from her. ‘’I can take a look at the damage done to him and fix him. Okay?’’
Thor nods gratefully, not bothering to wipe away his tears. ‘’Thank you, my friend. Loki is. . . He means the world to me. I thought I’d lost him - ‘’
‘’But he’s back now, and we’re gonna get him all healed up and back to mischief in no time, okay, big guy?’’ Tony says easily, resting his elbow on Bruce’s shoulder. When Thor nods again, Tony clicks his tongue, and points to the God’s hands. ‘’Cool. Then how about we all relax, and you put away those cute little sparkles from your hands, hm? Wouldn’t want to zap your brother accidentally.’’
‘’My thunder won’t hurt Loki,’’ Thor says, but blows a huge breath as his powers snuff out. ‘’Just as his magic cannot hurt me. It’s why he was always so quick to stab me.’’
Banner shakes his head in exasperation.
‘’Alright,’’ Shuri claps her hands together, gesturing towards the medical bed one of the warriors is wheeling in. ‘’Let’s hear the results as we head up to my lab. I’m afraid I cannot let you in there with that electricity you’re wielding, lest you jeopardize my system, but I’ll keep you updated.’’
Acquiescing, Thor stands up with Loki still in his arms. ‘’I can carry him there. I won’t stay for longer if you do not wish me to, but I would gladly take my brother to the healing chambers myself. To. To make sure he’s. He’s well taken care of,’’ he says.
‘’Well, you can carry him, but it would be better to lay him down. If he has a broken spine, moving it needlessly might make him paralyzed from the waist down.’’
Banner gently places his hand on Thor’s stiff back. He reads the indecision and fear in Thor’s expression and says quietly, ‘’I know you don’t want to let him out of your arms in fear that he’ll disappear, or that you’ll think all of this an elaborate dream. But you must trust Princess Shuri in this. She’ll know how to help Loki,really help him. Get him the medical assistance he needs to stay alive. To wake up to have you there for him, to recover. Isn’t that what you want?’’
‘’Yes,’’ Thor croaks, staring at Loki’s pain-laced face. Memorizing it, in case it’ll be the last time he sees it. ‘’I want him healthy. Happy. I want him back to me. I want to say I’m sorry, for - For my harsh words in the end. I do not - I do not want him to think that I hated him when he died, I -’’
‘’And he’ll get to know all this after he wakes up. And for that, you’ll need to put him on that bed and let Princess Shuri’s team take care of him.’’
Expression twisted with grief, Thor looks up at the young woman. ‘’You won’t hurt him?’’
She salutes him with her Wakandan pose, somberly. ‘’I promise.’’
With great effort, he maneuvers his brother onto the bed, taking off his shirt to offer Loki some form of modesty. After that, they wheel him away, leaving Thor watching after him as the doors close behind the team, disappearing deeper into lab that Thor is allowed no access to.
And then he goes out, collapsing onto his knees under the sun and prays for the Norns again.
Shuri cringes, taking in all the red areas of the scanned torso. There is almost no inch of body that isn’t in some way in critical condition. So many broken bones, bruises, fractures. Internal bleeding in multiple organs, his brain scan the most terrifying of them all. It’s a miracle that the man is still breathing, even without the problem of the entirely crushed trachea.
‘’How is he still alive?’’ she wonders out loud, baffled.
Dr. Banner offers her a tired shrug. He’d promised Thor to help Shuri’s team, should his input be of importance, and to make sure nobody hurt Loki. ‘’His magic, I’d wager. He is a pretty powerful God, after all.’’
‘’Yes, but this is ridiculous,’’ Shuri shakes her head. ‘’He has so many critical traumas that I don’t know where to start.’’
‘’Well,’’ Banner sighs, sadly staring at Loki’s brutalized body, ‘’How about we start from the place he needs the most to survive.’’
She gives him a quizzical look. Banner smiles at her lopsidedly. ‘’His heart.’’
Chapter 2: in your arms
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The slow, constant drip-drip-drip of a saline bag echoes in Thor’s ears. It’s been his companion for nine days, seventeen hours, and thirty six minutes. It’s reassuring, in its monotony, for it means that Loki still breathes.
With a sigh, he looks up from his new tablet, something he learned to use a few days ago, to gaze at his brother’s slumbering face.
It is only thanks to Loki’s seidr that he didn’t perish prematurely from the multiple surgeries the healers did under Princess Shuri’s observation. The reconstructing of Loki’s trachea had been a great battle, Thor heard afterwards from Bruce, something nobody had actually been sure they could safely do. Everything else, apart from keeping Loki’s weak and tremulous heart beating, had been something of a routine work.
Well. Except that, since there were so many complications at once, Thor suspects that all of it wasn’t as routine as he’d been explained to. Most likely Bruce had just wanted to save Thor from the fear of the worst, and had smoothed out the rough truth into something kinder.
Thor isn’t sure he likes the white lies, covering the unhappy truth, but nonetheless, he feels partly grateful for it. He has always been straightforward in all he does, whether it is in confessing his love, outlining battle plans or speaking his mind truthfully. It’s a life he’s lead so far.
Thanos though. The titan thought him to hide the truth, forced him to keep secrets from those he trusts the most. He will not, if he doesn’t have to, but facing such maliciousness, such evil has made him grow in ways that he never thought he would.
The ascent to kingship has strengthened those feelings. He acts chipper and hopeful for his people now, even when things are not as such. There is no way for him to lose himself to grief now, like he did before, when all of the people of Asgard are looking up to him for guidance.
When Loki needs him to be strong.
‘’Are things still looking quiet on the Western front?’’ Tony asks, stepping through the door.
Thor gives the man a wan smile, humoring him. ‘’All fronts undisturbed.’’
Pushing a plate of. . . Thor isn’t actually sure what it is, some long, worm-filled looking dish, into Thor’s arms, Tony claims a seat from the window sill. ‘’Roger that,’’ the man of iron says, resting his head against the wall. He waves his hand and explains, ‘’That’s fried noodles with some chicken and vegetables. Pepper made it.’’
‘’Ah,’’ Thor nods in aquisense, grabbing the fork laid on the side. ‘’I shall thank Lady Pepper when I next see her.’’
‘’You do that,’’ Tony agrees. He scrutinizes Thor for a moment. He seems disturbed at what he sees, for Thor thinks that he does not make a very beautiful picture right now with dark bags under his eyes. ‘’Have you been sleeping at all?’’
Rubbing a hand over his face, Thor huffs out a breath. ‘’Not much, no, I’m afraid.’’
‘’Yeah, no wonder you look like shit. Shuri has also been informed that you haven’t been eating regularly. Or rather, you haven’t been eating at all. ’’
‘’My hunger evades me, it seems,’’ Thor says tiredly. ‘’My sleep is filled with awful things that follow me to the waking world, and my stomach feels tight and uncomfortable. The food here is different from Asgard, and I find that trying new things makes me rather queasy.’’
Tony scratches his eyebrow. ‘’I know how that feels, buddy. But the harsh truth is that if you don’t eat, you’ll waste away faster than your incapacitated brother. And that’s a rather impressive feat. If I remember correctly, Loki is one of those people who’d rather not show weakness, right?’’
‘’That is correct.’’
‘’Well, you wouldn’t want him to wake up to see you all skin and bones and too tired to even hold yourself up? Because I distinctly remember someone promising to their bother that he’d protect them from now on,’’ Tony says, not unkindly. ‘’And if you can’t even stand, or hold that massive axe of yours, I rather think Loki won’t feel safe at all. Especially since he’s, you know, right in the middle of the compound of his past enemies. I mean, I’m just saying, I wouldn’t feel comfortable if I got dropped into wherever Loki usually lurks when he’s not actively causing trouble.’’
Thor mulls this over for a moment, finding Tony’s counsel to be right. ‘’Your words are wise, my friend,’’ he sighs, looking down at his untouched plate. ‘’I will heed your warning, for my brother is rather capricious. Especially when threatened. I want him to feel secure with me, so that he will not try to escape and run right away when his seidr returns to him.’’
‘’I can set FRIDAY to remind you to eat at certain intervals if you want. She’s programmed into that tablet of yours. There’s also always food in the kitchen, and if you ever feel up to it, you can ask any of us to dine with you. I know Bruce hates to eat alone.’’
‘’I thank you, Tony. You are a valuable friend,’’ Thor says gratefully. A prickling of something shudders down his spine, and he thinks of his nightmares. ‘’May I - May I ask something of you, friend? A favour, perhaps?’’
Tony shrugs. ‘’Shoot.’’
‘’I may sleep better by my brother’s side. I know Princess Shuri has graced me with my own chambers, but I would rather find my slumber more easily when I can feel Loki near me.’’
‘’Done and done,’’ Tony promises, immediately taking out his phone. ‘’I’ll make sure they bring you another bed here. Anything else you’d need?’’
Thor shakes his head. ‘’It seems that I am deeply in your debt already. I am content with what you have given me.’’
Tony shrugs his concern away. ‘’No debts, Point Break. You’ve saved humanity more than once in the past years, so we’re more likely in your debt.’’ Seeing the troubled face of the other man, he points at him. ‘’ Call it even, if you want. We’re all friends here. Mi casa es su casa and all that.’’
‘’Thank you, once again,’’ Thor bows his head slightly. It seems it’s all he does these days.
There’s a moment of silence before Tony asks, ‘’So. How’s the tablet?’’
Looking down at the rectangle device which rests upon his knee, Thor slides his finger against the dark screen. ‘’It is fascinating. A very impressive source of information. Loki will no doubt have a great time studying its machinations.’’
Thor blinks. ‘’What of me?’’
‘’Do you like it? Is it easy to navigate? I didn’t put in any credit cards so you probably can’t access some sites with it, but is it simple enough to swap through the apps? We’re still improving some of the features in it, so I made sure to keep it plain, but useful, so that first-time users can learn it swiftly and upgrade to other, more complex versions of it.’’
‘’Oh, uh. I have merely read some news that you left open for me. I apologize for not dwelling further into it,’’ he says.
Tony looks disappointed, though he tries to cover it. ‘’Oh, that’s fine. You can do whatever. I mean, you should definitely keep it and if you do use other apps in it, please do give me some feedback for it. There’s no tech that doesn’t need a little improvement.’’
‘’Thank you. I will tell you if I find delight in this small screen. And I’m sure, once Loki wakes, he shall be giving you his thoughts on it as well.’’ He thinks that Valkyrie would also like such thing as this, for it seems that the humans reach each other quite easily with smaller versions of his tablet.
‘’Great ,’’ Tony says with a small quirk of his mouth. ‘’If you need me to explain any of the features, you know where to find me.’’
Thor eats a little of the noodle-food and agrees. The taste is rather bland, not at all like the mead and meat his people can spice up, but he likes it nonetheless. It doesn’t make his heart ache with grief of longning of his long-lost home.
Once he’s finished, he gently settles the plate on the side table and takes Loki’s hand back in his. Tony seems content enough to just sit and tap at his own device in silence, so Thor doesn’t engage him in conversation. Instead, he lets himself get lost in his own thoughts, caressing Loki’s palm unconsciously, as time slowly slips by.
Thor opens his eyes to a dark room. There’s an unusual hush in the building, the long corridors devoid of life and sound. The machines Loki has been hooked into are quiet and stable, all screens black in sleep.
A full moon has pooled into the room, the shine softly caressing all that it touches. Tiny particles of dust are slowly dancing in the air, swirling, smoothing through the light. Loki’s face is painted with its pale kiss, his brother almost ethereal within the moonlight.
Like stars against midnight sky, there is unreal beauty in Loki. His dark hair is brushed neatly to his shoulders, his white clothes contrast to its ebony shine. Lips partly open, they are chapped and ruby where Thor has gently rubbed balm to them. The air in the room is cold, to accommodate Loki’s Jötunn body as not to overheat it, but as trapped as he is in his aesir form, his cheeks have flushed red like roses.
Thor breathes quietly, reaching over the gently caress Loki’s face. Their bodies are as close as the two beds allow. There’s a low metal rail separating them from each other, and Thor yearns to draw his brother to his embrace.
‘’I am sorry,’’ he whispers into the still night, gaze sweeping over peaceful features. ‘’I have failed to protect you in the past. But I will not do same mistakes twice.’’
Reaching down, Thor lets his hand drop from Loki’s face and onto his chest, feeling the heart underneath beat in steady rhythm. It’s a relief, to feel it. He’d never felt such agony as he did when Thanos dropped his brother’s body unceremoniously into the ground, and when Thor had finally crawled to him, to help him, save him, something, anything -
The heart had been still, Loki’s eyes wide open and unseeing. Vast and empty, like the space around them.
The memory hurts. It has plagued his dreams for years, sometimes following him as ghostly reminders of his brother’s death into the waking world. Warm tears pool into Thor’s eyes, spilling over to his cheeks. ‘’Please,’’ he moans quietly in anguish. ‘’Please stay with me this time. Loki. Brother .’’
Loki remains silent, but his heartbeat stays strong. Thump-thu-thump-thu-thump . Thor swallows with difficulty, keeps his sobs quiet. ‘’I love you,’’ he murmurs, tasting the salt of his tears.
The words disappear impotently into the vast darkness of the room, fragile and hushed. Thor lets the ache in his chest tremble away with his tears, as he cries away his grief.
He doesn’t crawl to Loki’s bed, because they wouldn’t fit in such tiny cot comfortably, and his brother needed space to heal. But he sneaks both his hands to Loki’s side, ever so carefully placing them just under his brother’s neck, the other hand clutching almost desperately at the thin tunic over Loki’s heart. Making sure he’s alive and real .
Not an illusion. Not a dream.
‘ I am here ,’ Loki had said back in Statesman. He had been warm and the words certain, filled with affection Thor didn’t have time to return in kind. ‘I am here, ’’ Loki had reassured him, for he knew Thor is always afraid of his depart.
‘’I am here,’’ he whispers then, and hopes they reach his brother, wherever in his dreams he wanders.
‘’Hey,’’ Bruce says, sitting down next to Thor. In his hands the human holds a couple delicious-looking sandwiches. It makes his stomach rumble. Though he did just finish two entire bowls of broth, he finds his appetite growing the more he eats.
‘’Good evening,’’ Thor responds, eyeing hungrily the goods. ‘’How are things?’’
Probably taking note on the gleam in Thor’s gaze, Bruce slides one of the BLT’s to him, keeping the plate to himself. ‘’Good. We’re getting more positive readings from your brother’s condition. His healing has sped up rapidly after we gave him some antibiotics, though the dosage was rather tricky to count. It’s. . . Odd, drugging up your brother like a horse. He seems so small right now, but the amount of medicine he requires to keep him sedated and healing is unbelievable .’’
Tearing into the food, Thor nods. ‘’He does surprise you in many ways. In battle, many a warrior has underestimated my brother’s strength, for his lithe body hides the muscles very well.’’
‘’Yeah, I bet,’’ Bruce agrees. ‘’But, he is getting better. Against all odds. So we’re thinking, with the Princess and her team, that it’s maybe time to, you know, start waking Loki up. He’s getting stronger by the minute, so we’re gonna need him to start moving soon, to make sure his muscles don’t start deteriorating.’’
Stopping in the middle of taking another bite, Thor looks hopefully at the doctor. ‘’Truly?’’ he asks breathlessly. ‘’We may awaken him soon?’’
‘’Yes. Depending, of course, if we can keep his condition stabilized. The biggest concern is that once we get him conscious again, that he’ll either try to escape, or start murdering people in his attempts at escape.’’ Banner stops. ‘’Uh, no offence.’’
‘’None taken,’’ Thor reassures him. ‘’Loki does not usually take lives needlessly, though I understand your reservations for it, given your past interactions with him. I will take care of it. Make him understand what is the best course of action.’’
Banner grimaces. ‘’And, uh, how - How are you going to do that? Exactly?’’
‘’He did come to me, did he not?’’ Thor murmurs warmly. ‘’He was in such awful state, so close to reaching the gates of Valhalla, and yet he evaded its call, and found that the safest place for him was in my arms. No doubt my brother was hurt, and scared, and yet he came to me .’’
‘’And that, uh, that makes him gonna stay and listen? And not just, dunno, stabbing you and spiriting himself away?’’
Shaking his head, Thor puts his sandwich down, turning properly to the doctor. He places his hand against his heart, his thumb ghosting over his necklace. ‘’Loki has always been my steady compass, as I have been his safe haven. Though he thinks my trust in him is foolishly misplaced, he knows my love for him is unwavering. He knows he can trust in me, when his hour of need is most dire. I have hurt him, yes. There has been quite a lot of pain between us in the recent years, most of which causes have roots in misdeeds of our father. But there is peace, now. No Thanos to strike fear and pain in him, no father to drive him away from home, away into madness. He will stay. I believe he will.’’
A little dubious, Bruce side-eyes him. But shrugs all the same. ‘’If you say so.’’
‘’I do,’’ Thor says confidently. ‘’Have I ever led you astray, my friend?’’
‘’Well, there was that one time in Sakaar - ‘’
Gently pushing Banner away from him, Thor grins. ‘’Alright, alright. I’ll show you yet. Loki deserves me at my best, so that is what everyone will get.’’
Rubbing his hand over the spot on his arm Thor had punched him, Bruce shakes his head. ‘’I hope you’re right. For all of our sakes.’’
It takes another five days before Shuri decides it’s safe to start weaning Loki off of the sedative. Watching his brother gain strength every day, Thor has been doing the same. He’s always loathe to leave his brother’s side for anything, but he knows he must.
T’Challa has kindly taken to spar with him, seeking him out whenever he is free. Shuri has taken great delight in testing new pieces of technology with Thor and T’Challa’s help, sometimes the days ending in embarrassing blundering.
He’s not sure what it means when the king asks his sister to delete the footage after such blunders, but the gleam in her eyes solidifies his belief that her and Loki will be a terror duo.
He can’t wait.
Other times Bruce comes to take him to eat with him, and sometimes Stark brings over the spider-child.
‘’I’m spider- man ,’’ the child always huffs, which makes Tony make sarcastic cooing noises.
Peter, as the kid later introduces himself to Thor, is just as much of a genius as Loki was in his age. They play quite a lot of games with him, sometimes in Loki’s room, and sometimes outside where they do minimal damage to any property. Thor has taken an interest in Peter’s books, which he calls homework , which in turn made Tony upload a bunch of apps into Thor’s tablet. They’re almost the same as the books, but all of it is inside the tablet, fascinatingly, and so Thor starts one school book, and finishes another.
‘’It’s basic education, though I’m quite impressed how fast you went through college level mathematics,’’ Tony says off-handedly, to which Thor just smiles.
‘’Books were always more of Loki’s thing, but I have always excelled in numbers. It is history and heavy duty readings that bored me back to the fighting range quickly.’’
‘’That, oddly, makes sense,’’ Tony seems to agree.
So when the day finally arrives, Thor is almost vibrating out of his skin. He can’t wait to show his brother all that he’s learned.
‘’Alright,’’ Shuri says, sliding her nimble fingers through a couple screens. They’re in her lab, finalizing the treatment plan and doing last minute checks that Loki’s body will be able to handle everything. ‘’So, the minute the sedative stops flowing into his veins, his system will go on emergency mode. It shouldn’t take more than ten to twenty minutes for him to wake up, so if there’s something you need to do before he wakes up, I suggest you do it now. You’ll probably not wanna leave his side once he does.’’
‘’There is nothing. I only wish to finally see my brother again. To speak with him,’’ Thor says, rubbing his hands together.
‘’Awesome. Here we go then,’’ Shuri grins, tapping at the screen some more.
‘’Sedatives deactivated,’’ a robotic voice says.
‘’Go on then,’’ the princess shoos him off. ‘’If what everyone’s been telling me is true, Loki may yet surprise you and wake up quicker than we think.’’
With a spring in his step, Thor bows to the young woman and hurriedly excuses himself.
Loki’s room is as undisturbed as it was when he left it. Thor doesn’t separate the beds, because even when his brother wakes, he’ll want to be close to him. He wasn’t lying to Tony when he told him that he slept better with Loki by his side. It has always rang true, even when they were just tiny little godlings.
He climbs up to his own cot, scooting right next to the rail. Sitting cross-legged, he reaches for his brother’s hand and watches intently at Loki’s face. He’s still pale and gaunt, but there is a healthier glow to his skin. Loki’s seidr has also grown stronger, for Thor can almost taste it in the air now. He has always thought that their respective strengths have complemented each other.
Where Thor has always been a god of fertility and thunder, manipulating the elements to his favor, calling upon seeds to grow, Loki’s powers lay in shapeshifting and healing arts. Both of them can call upon natural seidr in nature, but only Thor has elements like weather to respond his emotions.
True to her words, it isn’t even five minutes before Loki starts to restlessly move. Thor grips at his hand, making sure to keep his touch gentle but firm, lest his brother lash out in panic. Their surroundings are, after all, far from familiar.
‘’Loki?’’ Thor tentatively tries, trying to scoot closer and cursing at the metal when he cannot. ‘’Brother?’’
Loki’s eyes twitch, his brows furrowing. His breathing has become irregular, the machines starting to beep with it, feeding into Loki’s unconscious panic. Thor can feel his heartbeat thunder under his palms, as his brother’s hands ball into fists.
He has no idea what battles Loki is fighting in his dreams, but they seem far from pleasant. Even in Statesman, the few hours Thor caught Loki resting, his brother seemed to always be caught in unpleasant memories. He hadn’t had the time to ask in their brief encounter before, of what happened to Loki in the years between. For it seemed that no matter the course of action his brother took, the universe was always cruel and unjust to him.
Suddenly feeling the situation escalating out of his control, Thor throws caution into the wind and climbs into the tiny bed with his brother, laying onto his side and pulling the man in his embrace. As he does, he starts humming their mother’s lullaby, the sweet, soft tune reverberating in his chest. Loki trashes in his arms, still trapped in whatever awful dream keeps him under the surface.
As he starts singing, voice pitched low and soothing, Loki’s struggles slowly lose the violence. Their mother’s words of love and comfort pooling into his sleep.
‘’Once you had
A sweet faith of a child
Your hands you clasped in prayer
‘’Now lay me down to sleep,
I pray Father for my soul to keep
So secure in your faith, you prayed.’’
He begins to caress his brother’s back, crooning softly into his ear. A tremulous breath leaves Loki’s mouth as he seeks Thor’s warmth.
‘’Whilst searching for happiness
You were led astray
The world bestowing only pain and sorrow upon you
‘’The way back home is long
And in secret you would cry
Recalling the sweet happiness of your childhood home.’’
He hasn’t thought of the words of their lullaby for years, but oh, how painfully accurate had his mother been. With tears threatening to spill once more, Thor swallows tightly before he continues with a voice that shakes a little too much for him to be able to honor his mother through the song.
‘’As a child you were happy
In your mother’s hem
As she sang you about the land of heaven
‘’If only with a humble heart, you pray
You’ll return your childhood faith
Such treasure, your happiness a pleasure
‘’The joy is great
When the one led astray, returns
From the great, distant world, to back home.’’
As Thor’s words fade into the quiet, Loki heaves a huge breath, finally spasming into consciousness. He looks wild, breathing harshly through his repaired throat, his eyes pinballing through the room. Assessing for enemies that are not there. His body jerkily moves as he grits his teeth, forcing himself to check everywhere for any signs of threat. Thor can feel him shake with the fear of it. When he seems certain Thor is the only occupant, his wide, terror-filled gaze locks into Thor’s face.
Not letting him away, Thor soundlessly brings Loki back tightly to his chest. Holds him gently close, pressing a kiss to his forehead. Safe , he wants to reassure him. You are safe here. But he finds that all his carefully planned words have evaded him.
There’s a couple beats of stunned silence, before Loki’s arms come to hug Thor back. His brother moves slowly, still in horrible pain, Thor surmises, but he is here now. Alive, and awake, and so, so warm.
‘’Loki,’’ Thor breathes, burying his face into Loki’s dark locks. He sobs, for the relief is too much for his heart to handle. It’s almost as if his grief is finally bursting from the seams of his body.
‘’I am here,’’ Loki whispers, his first words in many years, burrowing deeper into Thor’s arms. Trembling with the effort.
There is nothing left for Thor to do but to finally break.