Six months after his arrival on Earth, Loki sat in a deck-chair on the sand, sunglasses shading his eyes from the bright sunlight. He was considerably more tanned than he had been six months earlier – he’d finally begun adjusting to the warmer temperature – and dressed in a pair of shorts and a brightly-coloured Hawaiian shirt that Lilo had picked out for him. It was rather garish, and not something that Loki would have picked out for himself, but rather than hurt Lilo’s feelings Loki had resigned himself to being seen in it.
Sitting on a beach towel next to him, Stitch was wearing his own pair of sunglasses, enjoying the heat. The two of them watched lazily as Lilo ran around in the surf in her swimsuit.
Nani and David were both working today, but it was Loki’s day off, which meant that it was his responsibility to ensure that Lilo and Stitch didn’t get into too much trouble; Jumba and Pleakley did their best, but they just weren’t as good at babysitting as Loki was. Lilo had insisted that she wanted to go to the beach, and Stitch had felt the same, so Loki had agreed that a walk down to the beach was in order.
Stitch snickered gleefully as a large wave drenched Lilo. Loki leaned forward in his deck chair, concerned for Lilo’s welfare, but relaxed when she emerged from the water, spluttering but unharmed. She looked up, noticing Loki’s gaze, and smiled, waving at him.
Loki returned the smile, and waved back. Overall, Loki was enjoying a pleasant morning, which was no doubt why the fates chose that moment to interrupt the domestic idyll.
“Loki!” A voice bellowed from the near distance, and Loki’s heart almost stopped.
No… it can’t be…
With a mixture of anticipation and dread, Loki slowly turned his head, to see a familiar armoured figure bounding across the sand.
“Brother!” Thor roared, nothing but honest delight and joy on his features, and before Loki could react, he was being pulled up out of his deck chair and relentlessly hugged.
Loki stood stiff with shock, trying to pull his scattered wits together.
“Thor?” he asked faintly.
Thor moved back a little, his hands resting on Loki’s shoulders, and beamed at him.
“Loki! You are alive!”
“Of course I’m alive,” Loki retorted, his mouth running on autopilot, his mind still moving in stunned circles. “Thor–”
Thor pulled him back into another hug.
“We believed you dead,” Thor said into Loki’s neck. “Heimdall searched the realms after your fall, but did not find you until this morning. I came at once.”
Loki was momentarily lost for words in the face of the genuine emotion in Thor’s words.
“I… but what of the Bifrost?” he managed. “Surely…”
“It is still broken,” Thor confirmed, looking at Loki as though his eyes couldn’t get enough of the sight. “But Father knows of other methods of travel, and used one to send me here.” Thor smiled, a deep gladness in his expression. “It is good to see you alive and well, Loki.”
Loki took a step back, bumping into the deck chair, shaking off Thor’s hands.
“Thor, have you forgotten what I did, the last time we spoke?” Loki protested. “You act as though nothing has passed between us.”
A look of pain crossed Thor’s face.
“Your actions were misguided, but I know you meant no real harm,” he insisted, and Loki let out an incredulous laugh.
“Meant no real harm? Thor, I let Frost Giants into Asgard, I slew their king – I would have destroyed all of Jotunheim had you not stopped me–”
“But I did,” said Thor, grabbing hold of Loki’s shoulders again and giving him a gentle shake. “I know not what madness entered your head, but–”
“I’m Jotun,” Loki blurted. Just like that.
Thor’s brow furrowed in confusion.
“Odin found me, abandoned, as an infant, at the end of the war with Jotunheim,” the words tumbled from Loki’s lips, “and adopted me, to further his schemes. He dreamed of a puppet king on the Jotun throne, loyal to Asgard alone. I am not your brother, Thor. I am not even of Asgard. I am Jotun.”
To emphasise the truth of his words, uncaring of the human tourists all over the beach, Loki pushed Thor’s hands away and let himself shift into his true form, all blue patterned skin and red eyes.
Thor looked horrified and shaken.
“This – this is some trick–”
“No trick, Thor,” said Loki, the desire to laugh bubbling up in him. He gave way to it, his laughter bitter and a little desperate. “Behold, my true self.” He spread his arms in display, so that Thor could see him better.
“Since when are you blue?” a childish voice asked.
Loki and Thor both looked down, to see Lilo standing in her swimsuit, frowning up at him. She reached out a curious hand, as though to touch one of the swirls that decorated Loki’s skin, and Loki hastily reverted to his Asgardian form.
“I told you that this is not my true form,” he said, crouching down to better meet Lilo’s eyes. “When I am truly myself, I am blue. But you must not touch me when I look that way, because my skin will burn you, do you understand? Promise that you will not touch me when I am blue. Promise me, Lilo.”
“I promise,” Lilo agreed, still frowning. “Is that why you used to think you were a monster? Because you’re blue?”
Loki’s smile was pained.
“Yes.” He ruffled her hair. “But you and the others have convinced me that being monstrous is not in my nature, no matter what my parentage. As Professor Dumbledore says, it is our choices which show us for what we truly are.”
“Who is this Dumbledore?” Thor rumbled. His eyebrows were drawn together, but he looked thoughtful rather than angry. “He sounds wise.”
Thor’s words surprised a laugh from Loki, and he straightened up. Thor looked at him, his expression still shaken and uncertain, but free from the anger and disgust that Loki had expected.
“I did not know of your heritage, Loki. But you must know – this changes nothing. You are still my brother. Please. Come home with me.”
Loki felt warmth spread through him at Thor’s words, but he shook his head, smiling a little ruefully.
“No, Thor.” He held a hand up before Thor could protest. “Asgard is not longer my home. Earth is. But if you wish, I will introduce you to my friends.”
“Friends?” Thor repeated, and the surprise on his face was a little insulting.
“Yes, Thor, friends,” Loki replied, allowing irritation to enter his tone. “People who enjoy your company, whose company you enjoy also.”
“Brother, I apologise – I did not mean–”
“This is Lilo,” Loki interrupted, before Thor could put his foot in his mouth even further. “Her family has offered me their hospitality during my time on Earth. Lilo, this is my adopted brother, Thor.”
Lilo stared up at Thor, looking a little shy.
“Hi,” she said, offering a small wave. She tugged on Loki’s shorts, and Loki crouched down so that she could whisper in his ear:
“Is he a prince too?”
“He is,” Loki agreed solemnly. “What gave it away, the golden good looks, or the armour and cape emsemble?”
“Both.” Lilo stared up at Thor again. “You’re even taller than Loki, and he’s really tall.”
“I suppose he is,” said Thor. “But to me, he will always be my little brother.”
“He’s your big brother?” Lilo asked Loki. “Is he worse than Nani?”
“Much worse,” Loki agreed, enjoying the look on Thor’s face at the exchange. “He’s awfully bossy.”
“Bossy – I am not bossy–” Thor looked affronted.
There was the sound of someone clearing their throat. Everyone looked around to see Stitch still sitting on his beach towel, regarding them over the top of his sunglasses in a manner so reminiscent of Cobra Bubbles that Loki’s lips twitched as he repressed a laugh.
“And this is Stitch, Lilo’s closest companion,” Loki added, gesturing towards Stitch.
Stitch looked up at Thor, appearing unimpressed.
“Hi,” he said finally.
Thor looked disconcerted, but inclined his head politely.
“Greetings… Stitch,” he said, somewhat uncertainly.
“I’m happy here, in a way I never was in Asgard,” said Loki, and Thor looked back at him. “I have no intention of ever returning, not when I am accepted here for who I am.”
Thor’s expression showed only bewilderment, and Loki felt a little sorry for him. But only a little.
“So you will not come home,” said Thor.
“As ever, you have a keen grasp of the events around you,” Loki said sarcastically.
Instead of losing his temper as Loki was used to him doing, Thor only sighed.
“I do not understand,” he said honestly, “but if you are happy here, I shall not attempt to wrest you away from that happiness.”
“Thank you,” Loki said with dignity.
There was an awkward silence as the two of them looked at each other.
“You should hug now,” Lilo whispered loudly.
Thor broke into a laugh, bright and amused, but followed her advice, pulling Loki into yet another hug. This time Loki hugged back, and admitted, at least to himself, how much he had missed Thor.
“You must tell me of your time here,” Thor ordered comfortably, as they broke apart. “What have you been doing with yourself? Up to mischief, as usual?”
Loki was about to deny it, when a few choice incidents flashed through his mind. His lips twitched.
Suppressing a smile, Loki began to recount some of his experiences on Earth, while Lilo and Stitch chased each other into the water.