Thor looks up from where he’s been tracing senseless patterns onto the hard wood of the table.
There was a small cluster of spilled flour and sugar, now somewhat resembling a palm tree, from where Heimdall made them pancakes earlier and he’s been lost in thought for the better part of breakfast just feeling the gritty-smooth texture under the pad of his finger.
He doesn’t know at what point Loki managed to get his hands on the old blender Heimdall keeps high on the shelf, or how he even got it working without it making a racket, but there are two perfectly blended smoothies in two tall glasses right there on the table waiting for Thor in all their grey-green glory.
“What’s in them?”
They smell a lot worse than they taste but Thor chugs his down without complaint and then watches quietly as Loki makes a face after each mouthful. He’d make a comment about Loki sticking to concoctions of the non-consumable type for his practice but he doesn’t feel much like joking lately.
Loki has made a smoothie for them every morning after Heimdall leaves for work except on Sundays. Then he scrambles eggs with chewy sausage, cheese and spinach, or whatever else he can find in the old fridge with the heavy door or the small plot Heimdall keeps in the back.
Heimdall had protested some the first time it happened, the second Sunday after the twins were dropped off at his cramped, old house, but Thor could tell that he was quietly relieved. They all know that he is horribly out of his depth and that he is trying his best, but even ten year olds can only stand to eat cereal for two meals out of three so many times before it started to grate.
“Are there nuts in this”
Loki finishes his drink with one last grimace and a heartfelt ugh.
“I thought almonds were sweet.”
“They were supposed to be.”
They’re both quiet after that and Thor can see the regret at the very back of Loki’s eyes. He doesn’t have the energy to be angry lately, either.
Their mum woke them up early one Saturday morning with a kiss to each of their foreheads and sat with them for a slow, long while. Thor can still feel the way she brushed his hair, blonde like hers, out of his face and tucked it neatly behind his ears with a gentle threading of her fingers, Loki tucked into his side. Green eyes following every pass of her hand and it almost felt like he was touching Thor too.
She had a surprise for them she said, and had reached into the pockets of her quilted robe to pick out a small velvet pocket.
That was what had finally gotten Loki up from where he had been dozing off again, lulled by their warmth.
Thor had held it open and Loki had reached inside to pull out two identical charms set on simple leather tongs. An early birthday gift they’d both thumbed with wide grins.
Blue lace agate, Loki had whispered to him as their mother left the room to shower. For secrets and trust. They took turns tying them behind each other’s necks
It turned out, that wasn’t the last surprise of the day. The sky still lingered on the edge between night and dawn when they were instructed to pack their favourite clothes and anything they would like to take with them so long as it was small enough to fit in their bags.
They’d left the house with two pieces of luggage each- matching duffle bags in shades of green and red and two small suitcases-, and the bubbling excitement of an impromptu holiday so early into the school year. A taxi was idling by just across the street as they were wont to do whenever they needed one, no need to call or hail it down.
It wasn’t unusual, on the contrary. Just another of the myriad of helpful little coincidences that followed them wherever they went. A simple kind of magic that spelled convenience and good luck.
It had only seemed a little odd then that mum had smiled all the way to the train station and throughout the hassle of carting their heavy bags to and from the collection window and their assigned platform.
Thor had missed the announcements through the PA system and received only a wink when he asked his mother where they were going. Loki, yawning, only huddled deeper into his too-large coat, unconcerned.
Thor could felt his brother, warm and familiar, pressed to his side, and figured that they’d know when they knew and left it at that.
Their small coastal town got little enough traffic and, that early in the morning, their carriage was almost empty. They claimed a table for themselves and arranged themselves as they usually did, Thor by the window, Loki at his right, and their mother across from them both. They’d stored their smaller bags overhead by force of habit rather than taking advantage of the fourth seat to their mother’s left.
Before, Frigga would have pulled out a book and read for the entire length of their journey, only taking breaks to chime in or for lunch. It had been their father who had taken the opportunity to spend however many hours talking with them to make up for all the hours that he was gone throughout the week for work, or so Loki liked to quip about in private.
However true that was, Thor knew that he enjoyed those few hours of undivided attention and the treats Odin would “sneak” to them under the table before lunch while Frigga pretended not to notice and his her smile behind her paperback. They both did.
Now, the empty seat beside their mother was a glaring reminder that there would be no more completing the morning crossword with his father while mum and Loki dozed against the window.
Frigga had a new paperback with her, but it stayed closed for most of the journey.
She talked with them, instead.
Mum asked them about school (it was fine) and whether they missed dad (they did). She thanked them for all their help with chores in the past year and for being patient with her.
(There had been days, Thor recalled, when she wouldn’t, or likely couldn’t, sleep in the bedroom she’d once shared with Odin. In the morning they would find her in the living room or, once or twice, curled on the floor by her bedroom floor.
“I’m too tired, my loves,” she’d tell them when they tried to get her to stand.
Those had been long days.)
The sun rose quickly after the first few hours of the morning passed by. People began to steadily trickle in and out between stops while a woman’s voice read out stops and destination in a pleasant accent.
When it was time for lunch their mother sent them away to find the food cart with enough money in their pockets for a sandwich each and two bags of chips to share.
Her eyes had looked red and puffy when they returned, but she had quickly smiled and distracted them with a fresh batch of cookies safely stored away in a Ziploc bag, somehow kept out of sight- and away from greedy fingers- until that very moment.
They had ended up polishing the chips by themselves as their mother tore half-heartedly at her sandwich, something about it making the back of Thor’s mind itch.
Loki’s hand had found his under the table and squeezed.
Something is wrong, the gesture said.
I know, Thor had squeezed back.
It had felt like an eternity had gone by before they stepped off at a large, busy station to change lines.
Frigga warned them about the longer trek ahead of them before sending them off to burn off the sugar, cautioning that they had only a little less than two hours to explore the station.
“Carefully!” she had yelled after them as they sprinted away to and old tone-deaf piano they’d passed on their way across the station.
They messed their way through a (very) stilted, four hand rendition of the first half of Für Elise, cheered on by a couple with a baby and an older woman, before ceding their spot to a somberly dressed teenager who was patiently hovering nearby. They sat, enthralled, for two songs, and cheered at the end of each.
They probably would have spent the rest of their remining hour there were it up Loki, but Thor had spotted an ice cream stand and dragged his brother over for double cones paid for with the last of Thor’s pocket money, found when it brushed against his fingers like it had always been there in this coat. Thor couldn’t remember the last time he’d worn it.
They watched people come and go, with vanilla cones that only half melted in the cold weather; thighs pressed together and shoes knocking back and forth where they sat on a café’s low window ledge.
Switching seats on the way back, Thor got to lean on the window and watch as the world turned from the warmth of late afternoon to the purple shades of dusk.
Loki, meanwhile, had claimed to have counted every hair on Thor’s arm twice before his mother took pity on him and handed over the shiny, new paperback she’d bought while they were busy fooling around the station. Loki didn’t say a peep after that, engrossed in romance and purple prose.
By the time it was pitch dark outside Loki was asleep, book resting on his chest and head lolling forwards.
The carriage was dim-lit and half empty, mostly men on their own, no families in sight save for their own. Thor had wondered if they’d be back home in time for school on Monday, and if any of the other children they had seen scattered around the train stations were also skipping school on a Friday to go on an impromptu holiday.
Loki’s head lolled forward besides him again, thin neck looking frail against the weight of his thick, black curls. Thor could feel the strain on the back of his own neck and shifted on his seat to better support his brother’s lanky frame and keep him from doing himself a mischief by sleeping the rest of the way like that.
He had noticed their mother was watching them, smiling back at Thor when he offered the forgotten paperback back to her.
She’d taken it with a shake of her head, dogeared the page Loki had dropped off on without having to look.
An hour before dawn they stood on the front steps of an old, thin house that stood three stories high without counting the squat, little window of what seemed to be an attic.
The way the house was built you would expect it to be slotted between buildings in a storybook street, and yet it stood lonely in the midst of green bushes and climbing ivy, flanked not by stone but by two large oak trees that were almost of a height.
Almost the second they had set their heavy bags on the damp pavement, the lights came on from behind the thick curtains of what Thor had, correctly at the time, guessed to be the living room.
Heavy steps, then the sound of a lock being hastily unlocked, and a tall man stood backlit for a moment before stepping forward, just enough so that Thor could make out handsome features and the surprised twist of the man’s expression.
Their mother squeezed their shoulders reassuringly and guided them a step forwards.
They had not been expected, and Thor had wondered at the fact while they were being ushered into the house, narrowly escaping the persistent drizzle that seemed to have followed them at every stop they made along the way like an omen.
The twins had been split into bedrooms facing each other across a narrow hallway, despite some initial resistance on their part. The was not a bed large enough in any of the guest rooms for them to share, but Heimdall had offered the compromise of leaving both their doors open and, too tired to continue arguing about it, they had agreed.
Thor had spent a long night, curled on his side and on the very edge of the bed, trying to catch a glimpse of his brother across the hall. All he had managed was to make out the shape of Loki’s calf under the sheets, a silver of his arm from the way he was sprawled on the bed.
He’d woken up sometime shortly after having falling asleep to the sound of whispering across the hall but he couldn’t remember making anything out before falling back asleep.
Their mother was already gone next morning, when they woke. Her suitcase left behind.
“Heimdall says we’re going back to school next week,” Loki says with all the aplomb of a ten year old who is trying to sound older than he is. “That we’ll have a week to catch up before classes start, and then we’re going to a real school.”
Loki makes an expectant pause, looking at Thor for validation.
Thor just shrugs.
“I heard him.”
“You don’t mind?”
“We’ll have to catch up anyways. It’s just a week.”
Loki makes the same face he made finishing the vile smoothie.
“We don’t need to catch up.”
“We know everything we need to know.”
“Not to go to school here we don’t.”
“The school back home was fine enough,” Loki snaps. “You used to think so too.”
“I changed my mind.”
Loki looks bewildered.
“Changed it into what? ”
“Into thinking that Heimdall is right.”
Loki’s mouth makes an angry click.
“You said you wanted to go home yesterday.”
“Why not?” Thor has only rarely heard Loki raise his voice. “What’s so good about being here that you don’t want to go home?”
“You don’t mean that!”
“How do you know that I don’t?” Thor asks heatedly.
“I always know,” Loki’s voice is firm. “Besides, mum said-”
“I know what mum said! But she’s gone Loki! That’s why everything is going to change now, because she left us!”
A glass shatters, falling from where it was teetering on the ledge of the sink, cutting him off.
The silence that follows is heavy.
Outside, life bustles on in a noisy way that they’ve never had to get used to before, so different from their small coastal town.
Thor rubs at his eyes and sighs, resting his elbows on the table. When he drops his hands back down, Loki is looking at his lap with wet eyes.
They’ve never disagreed over anything that really mattered before, and it’s jarring to realise that they can.
Thor is so very angry at Frigga and he doesn’t know what to do about it.
They should not be having this conversation, should not be trying to find their feet away from home, intruding on Heimdall’s life. Loki shouldn’t have to be learning how to cook for them because he feels anxious about their diets and about being an undue burden to a man they barely know, had never even heard of before.
Frigga must have known, must have imagined how they would struggle at the very least. She always knew everything so in Thor’s mind, that she still went through with it means that she simply didn’t care.
Loki’s lower lip twitches.
Years later, this will be one of the clearest memories he’ll have of Loki. His twin sitting across from him fighting down tears because they are both afraid and Thor doesn’t know how to be afraid without being angry.
He stands without a word and goes to deal with the shards of glass by the sink.
A moment later there is the quiet scrape of a chair as Loki joins him setting sticky plates and the two tall glasses, still intact, into the sink.
They don’t talk as they move about the kitchen, keeping busy with small chores they’d rather ignore.
When the kitchen is passably clean they head upstairs.
Loki walks into his assigned room without looking back. He would have shut the door or found another way to make it clear that Thor wasn’t welcome but, as it is, he doesn’t say anything when he curls into his pillow.
Thor crawls in after him and settles just a handspan away.
It’s some time before Loki speaks, and when he does, it’s almost at a whisper.
“I’m angry too.”
Thor doesn’t say that he knows; he only shifts closer.
Loki turns to him and takes the hand Thor has at the ready for him, laying palm up on the white sheets.
“I want to go home, Thor.”
Thor squeezes his hand.
I know, the gestures says. So do I.