The God of Thunder lost track of time of how many hours he had been staring at the white ceiling up above. Was it day or night? Thor wouldn't know. There was no window in here - wait, there was, in fact, one small window on the door, but it was one-way which meant every time Thor looked at it the only thing he saw was his own worn out face staring back at him. Only people from outside could watch him anytime they'd like - like he was some sort of a zoo animal. He was exhausted, yet his body refused to give him any proper sleep. And when he could gradually drift off he would always wake either by the sound of other patients from other cells screaming, scratching at the walls or a nurse coming in his cell to study him, give him whatever drugs the Norns knew as if he was a lab rat.
Thor never took the med they gave. Once the nurse left he would spit them out, hide them underneath his pillow. It wasn't that he didn't want to get better, to eventually be discharged. It was that Thor didn't believe there was anything wrong with him to begin with, and most importantly, he fear he could no longer see Loki, if he were to take the med.
Yes, Thor was locked up in the asylum because he saw a ghost of his dead brother. Because, according to them, he had officially lost his mind. According to them, he had gone mad.
┈┈ ❋ ┈┈
It first started after Thor's failure. Well, it wasn't something Thor took pride of, but he knew he had a lot of failure - he failed as a king, failed as a brother. This particular failure, however, was when he failed to go for the head. After Thanos snapped his fingers and wiped away half the universe the guilt and the shame made Thor push everyone away. He wouldn't accept a word of comfort. A room Tony provided in the Avengers compound became Thor's sanctuary where he could hide, lick his wounds and drown in his sorrow alone. That's when he first saw Loki's... ghost.
It was only by the corner of his eye. A shadowy figure standing in the dark corner, but Thor knew his brother and he remembered him anywhere. Though the second Thor turned to look it was gone. Just a trick of the light, that's what Thor told himself back then, that he imagined it since he wanted so badly for Loki to be here, since he missed Loki so much even though he tried so damn hard not to think about Loki at all (in which he failed. Just like how he failed at everything else)
Still what he saw was enough to haunt his thoughts for the rest of the day. For the rest of the day Thor thought about the shadow, the sadness in its eyes (but shadow wasn't supposed to have eyes, yet Thor felt it; the way it looked at him ; there was so much grief, so much regret)
"You okay?" His trance was broken. Thor turned to his left and Steve was giving him this look of pity (Thor didn't need anyone pitying him, but he wasn't a fool, he knew how pitiful he was)
"I'm fine," Thor said, then his mismatched eyes returned to his lap, opened no room for further conversation.
Late that night Thor picked up Loki's helmet; the last token he had left of his brother. He held it so dearly in his hands, looking down at his own reflection on the object. "I know I disappointed you," Thor said, as though the helmet was the brother he lost. "I'm..." Thor closed his mouth, not knowing what to say, not knowing what he was doing; speaking to himself like a maniac, perhaps. After a moment of silence he said, "I'm sorry." And he almost - almost - put it down when he saw another reflection in the helmet walking up to him from behind; dishevelled hair as black as he remembered, green eyes, chapped lips, pale skin and dark bruise ringing his throat. Thor dropped the helmet and whipped around to be met with thin air.
He wasn't crazy, Thor told himself, he knew what he saw; Loki's face, looking at him as if he wanted to say something, to cry for help. Loki... Loki looked just the moment of his death; in pain and suffering.
"Loki," The name unconsciously left his mouth. Thor hadn't spoken his brother's name in so long it almost looked like Loki's name was something forbidden, some unholy chant that needed to be avoided, but here Thor was looking around his room, panting, eyes widening, forehead covering in sweat, as if he expected Loki to suddenly appear in front of him and tell him it was all his little hoax; what happened on Statesman was a hoax and he faked his death again. But nothing happened. Thor waited, not daring to move, but Loki didn't show up. It was just him and the moon in the skies.
For the rest of the night Thor refused to sleep. Couldn't. He didn't know what he was expecting, didn't know if he was losing his mind for good, but he kept his eyes open. Be it his own imagination or Loki's ghost really trying to communicate with him, he wouldn't be asleep should his brother made an appearance. For the rest of the night Loki did not appear.
Until the following morning.
Thor meant to remain in his room, it was the space rabbit, now making a stay in the Avengers compound with the rest of the survivors, who dragged him out of his comfort against his own will. He didn't put up a fight, but his murderous face made it clear he wished to be alone. It was when he sat at the dinning table with a bottle of beer (he was the only one consuming alcohol while the rest just had normal breakfast) that Thor saw him again; his brother.
Loki was standing there by the window with his back toward Thor. This time it wasn't just a shadowy figure, this time Thor could make out details of his clothing, the same one he wore on Statesman when Thanos ended his life. Though the sunlight flooding inside the building made his body appear translucent Thor could see through him. And Thor watched, stared unblinkingly, mouth hung open, stunned, while everybody else was doing what they were doing. No one seemed to see anything... unusual (a ghost counted as an unusual thing)
Thor dropped the bottle on the ground, and that caught the Avengers' attention.
"Look, I know you're upset," said Rocket, "but dropping stuff on purpose so we could clean up the mess you made is straight up childish.... Thor?" Rocket called his name when he realised Thor may did not drop it on purpose, and when he realised the Thunderer probably didn't hear a word he said at all for Thor's eyes glued to a particular spot by the window, and Thor looked... shocked.
"Is everything okay?" Natasha asked, sounding a bit worried.
Thor's eyes never left the spot, for he was too afraid Loki would be gone if he were to look away for one second, but he spoke slowly and in a husky voice, "can't you see,"
"See what?" Rocket asked, now all eyes were on the spot Thor was staring at, but they saw nothing.
Loki, Loki's here, Thor wanted to scream, but all voices had been sucked out of his lungs, leaving him speechless, when Loki slowly turned around until their eyes met. It was Loki's horrified face, blood that ran down his eyes and his slightly parted lips (though he made no sound), that haunted Thor the most. Thor screamed, jumped up on his feet, and it was as if the sound scared Loki away for the ghost (or whatever it was) disappeared into thin air in the blink of an eye.
"What the fuck is wrong with you?" Rocket half yelled - half asked as Thor panted, back pressed tightly against the wall and face as pale as death.
"Didn't you see it? Didn't you fucking see it?!" He screamed back the second he caught his breath.
"See what?" Steve asked, the rest of the Avengers wore masks of confusion as they looked at Thor, back at the now empty spot where Loki stood second earlier, then at Thor again, "what did you see?" Cap repeated the question when Thor remained mute.
My brother. I saw my dead brother, Thor wanted to say, but couldn't bring himself into forcing the words out. It all felt so surreal, felt like his mind had come undone. "Nothing," the God shook his head, voice hoarse, "I - I need to go," then he quickly walked away, spoke no more word.
When Thor reached his room he locked the door behind, slid down on the floor with his back against the door, face hidden in the palm of his hands as he let warm tears soak his skin. It wasn't because he was sad (he was, in fact, always sad) this crying; this crying, however, was for the frustration and rage devouring pieces of his heart.
He needed to let Loki go. Easier said than done, but Thor knew he had to. Loki wasn't here. Loki was far far away in Valhalla with Frigga and Odin and Heimdall and his people; everyone Thor had ever loved. They weren't here but at peace for eternity. They weren't here and Thor was the one to blame, because if Thor was a better son, better king, better brother, they would all still be here.
And they wouldn't have wanted him to drown in sorrow. Loki would have wanted Thor to move on, and Thor was going to do just that.
The first time he came out of his room by his own will, Thor thought he would ask Korg for a round of Fortnite. It was almost as if his friend knew Thor was going to depart his so-called hiding spot for Korg was already there on the couch in the lounge with two controllers in which he wordlessly offered one to Thor with a smile before Thor could open his mouth to ask if the man-made-of-rock was down for a game. Thor, however, thought it was because Korg knew him better than Thor gave him credit for, Thor just nodded, took a spot on the couch next to him. Then they began playing.
It was... good, to have some distraction after everything he'd been through. Thirty minutes into the game Thor smiled for the first time in, perhaps, forever. "I'm so beating your ass," he teased, eyes on the screen but he still saw Korg glancing at him sideway with a small smile.
"Not so fast, brother," said Korg, and Thor's breath hitched.
What did you just call me. Thor didn't ask the question out loud, despite how he was called took him off guard and it somehow angered him, you are not my brother. I hav - I had only one brother. Don't you ever refer to me as such, Thor didn't say any of those words, instead he swallowed them down his throat with a groan. He didn't mean it, Thor told himself, it was only a harmless reference. Do not ruin this. You have to move on. You are moving on. Thor spoke no word as he shifted (or he tried to) his attention back to the game.
Neither of them said a word after that. Until ten minutes later Thor's phone rang. He answered it with one hand, without looking at the caller ID, the other hand still holding the controller, the game continued.
"What is it?" said Thor, his eyes glued to the screen in front of him, trying to beat Korg.
"Hey, Thor," when the person on the other side of the line spoke, Thor froze. His hand, on the controller, came to an abrupt halt. Thor knew that voice.
"Korg?" He said to the person whom he was talking with on the phone, it was definitely Korg's voice.
"It is me," said Korg from the other side of the line, "Miek and I are out grocery shopping and I was wondering if you wanted me to bring something for you?"
Thor didn't say anything. Couldn't because he was at a loss for words. He dropped both his phone and the controller. And slowly he glanced at this... other Korg sitting next to him.
There was no one here. The spot beside Thor now empty. The only thing confirmed Thor he wasn't crazy (yet) was the controller on the couch where whoever-it-was sat second earlier.
Thor didn't say anything. Didn't runaway. He just remained where he was, wide eyes on the now empty spot, not being able to look away.
Whatever it was, it called him brother. It did. Thor wasn't crazy, he knew what he heard.
After that horrible crack of his brother's neck, after the body was dropped, like a rag doll, in front of Thor it felt as though part of Thor was ripped away, out of his chest, broken in a way it could never be mended.
Thor crawled toward Loki's corpse, clinging to his chest as the ship trembling down around them. Loki's eyes remain open. Then he heard footsteps approaching over the commotion. When Thor looked up he saw Loki standing tall over him and the lifeless body in his arms.
Loki's body remained in Thor's longing embrace, standing there was Loki's ghost.
The ghost was looking down at him, and Thor had expected it to be angry about his failure, about him not being able to protect it when it was still alive. It turned out the ghost wasn't angry, if anything it looked sad. Lost and sad. And Thor wished it would be angry because this, seeing Loki's ghost look so broken hurt him more than he thought he could take. He wanted Loki to scream at him, take all the anger out at him, but Loki just looked so sad.
"Brother," Thor stuttered, voice cracked, his bloodshot eyes glued to the ghost while he held its recently-dead-body closer to his chest.
The ghost shook its head slowly, then it said in the voice of Thor's brother, the voice Thor missed so much, "I can't escape, Thor. You have to set me free,"
"You... you can't escape what?"
"I'm cold. So cold,"
"Help me, please." Loki's voice so quiet and weak, like speaking took great deal of strength it didn't have.
"How? How can I help you?" Thor was growing desperate, his eyes widened when he noticed the edge of the ghost's body started to get fuzzy; it was fading away. Loki's ghost was fading away. "Loki, how can I help you?"
But the ghost just looked at Thor, at the second before it was eventually gone, it mouthed, "save me,"
Thor woke with a start, bolting upright and panting hard. He looked around his room but it was just him, no sign of Loki. Still some part of him told him it wasn't just a dream. Loki needed his help.
"Can I talk to you?"
Steve was a little bit taken aback, he didn't expect Thor to suddenly leave his room, let alone be the first to start a conversation after he spent a great amount of time avoiding everyone, but Steve wouldn't say no and risk the chance of Thor disappearing again. He nodded, and hided the surprise in his face as best as he could. "Of course. What you wanna talk about?"
Thor sighed, he looked in thoughts, like he was debating what himself if he should just say forget about it, turn around and pretend like none of this happened. After a moment he nodded at the long couch, "have a seat," he said, Steve didn't reject.
When they both seated across from each other Thor asked, "do you believe in ghosts?"
Captain was quiet for a few seconds, calculating his answers. "Do you?" He asked back.
"I was a nonbeliever." Thor answered after a brief moment of silence.
"Was? What makes you a believer now?"
Because I'm haunted. My brother's ghost is haunting me and I don't know what to do, Thor wished he could speak those words without it looking like he was going crazy. Or maybe he was. Maybe all the pressure pushing at him was too much and Thor was losing it for good. The problem was that Thor didn't know which was the case.
"Never mind," Thor said eventually, "I shouldn't be talking to you about this. I - I should go,"
"No, wait!" Steve called without thinking, stopping Thor in his track before Thor could get up and walk away. Then Steve gulped, knowing he was walking on thin ice, still he asked regardless, "is this about Loki?"
Thor didn't respond. He was too still it was, somehow, scary considering how emotionally unstable he was lately. Thor, did you see your brother's ghost? Steve wondered, but didn't press it. He waited until Thor spoke on his own.
"I'm not losing my mind," said Thor in a hoarse voice, "he was... he was here. He is here, he never left."
"Loki's here. I saw him. I keep seeing him, in my dream, when I open my eyes. I see him everywhere."
"But that's not possible," Steve carefully said, "Loki is," dead, no, Steve couldn't say that and trigger Thor, "Loki is not here."
"So you're saying I'm crazy," there was an edge in Thor's voice, and Steve caught it.
"No, I'm just saying you've been through a lot. It's understandable if you'll sometimes -"
"See things that aren't there?" Thor cut him off.
Steve sighed, "If you need someone to talk to -"
"I am talking to you, but apparently you think I'm crazy,"
"I said no such thing,"
"No, but you don't believe me when I say Loki's here, asking for my help."
"Because we both know that's not possible. Loki is dead and ghosts aren't real," that slipped before Steve could take it back. He shut his mouth, mentally cursing at himself, but it was too late.
He expected Thor to lose his temper, but Thor didn't. Instead Thor only said, "this conversation's over. My apologies for bothering you." then he stood up and walked away. Thor heard Steve said sorry from behind, but didn't look back.
It reached the breaking point when Thor refused to talk to anyone, refused to come out of his room, refused to eat anything. It'd been going on before Thor started seeing a ghost, but it got worse, it got to the point his friends had to do something, and by doing something, the only thing they could think of as to help was by admitting him to a psychiatric hospital.
Thor fought at first, but after the first injection of strong drug jabbing into the vein in his neck combined with the straightjacket wearing him down, he fell into unconsciousness in no time at all.
When he woke in a white cell, cold and alone and still in the jacket, he didn't struggle for he found no point in fighting, in living, in doing anything at all.
Loki needed him, needed his help, but locked up in here there was nothing Thor could do. Just like when he was on Statesman, when Thanos laid his hand on Loki, there was nothing Thor could do to save his brother. And Thor never felt more disgusted with himself.
"How are you feeling?" Asked his shrink, and Thor was sick of it; sick of the same question he was asked everyday during the therapy session.
"Fine," Thor said with no emotion in his voice. He was anything but fine.
He paid no attention to everything that was said, absentmindedly thinking about the way Loki looked last night, last night he saw his brother's ghost again; Loki was in his cell, looking as sad as always, and Thor found it almost impossible not to flinch at the strangulation mark around his throat, standing in stark contrast to his pale skin.
"Beg your pardon?" Thor brought himself back to the present, clearly he missed his doctor's question.
"I said do you still see your brother's ghost?" she asked again.
Yes. Every day. "No," Thor replied. "No, it seems I stopped seeing him."
"That's wonderful. It means the meds, we gave you, works"
But Thor never took the meds, he always spat them out and stuffed them underneath the pillow.
"Now, could you say this with me; I've moved on, and I've learned that ghosts aren't real," the doctor leaned forward a little, hands folding on the table separating the two of them.
"I know it's hard to let your brother go, but if you wish to go home, I'd have to know you understand the truth and that is there's no ghost, they're only in our imagination. Your brother isn't real anymore."
No no, how dare she, Thor thought, anger seeping through his bloodstream, how dare she to say Loki isn't real, Thor knew if was going to lose it, and right now, he was going to lose it. Without being able to contain himself he lunged at her, his arms torn the straightjacket apart so easily and his now free-from-restraint hand found her throat in no time at all. He could break it like a chopstick if he wanted to, and oh did he so want to.
She screamed, and the next second two guards rushed into the room, pulling Thor away from his fearful psychologist, and before Thor knew it he felt sharp pain jabbing into the side of his neck, then everything turned black.
He woke in his cell, not knowing how long he'd been out cold, but when he looked upon himself he learned besides from the straightjacket, they now chained him up like a deranged hound.
"Thor," he heard a voice calling his name, a voice so familiar he could break into tears right there and then. Thor looked and there Loki stood picking at his thumb; a gesture so familiar to when he was alive, something he got from their mother; both Loki and Frigga did this every time they were nervous, and Thor felt tears threatening to fall. He knew now that this wasn't just in his head. It was real. Loki's ghost was real.
"Loki," if Loki's voice was full of sadness then Thor's was just the same, "I'm sorry."
"For what?" Loki tilted his head to the side a little.
For letting you die, "for not being able to... save you."
Loki was silent for a while before he said, "It wasn't your fault."
It was, Thor wanted to argue, everything was my fault, I should've tried harder, fought harder. You should've been alive! "You said... you asked me to set you free,"
Loki looked down at the ground, suddenly he looked so small, "I just... want to be with you. For once. It's so cold here where I am."
"Where - where are you? Tell me where you are and I'll set you free. Just tell me,"
"I don't know." Loki looked back up at his brother, "I just know that I'm cold and I'm hurt. Everything hurts so much. It feels like I'm trapped in."
"What do you see? Can you tell me your surroundings?"
Loki closed his eyes and after a moment he said, "I see a house, some sort of farmhouse,"
"There's a field of... something, corn, I don't know. It's a... landscape. No other house, no other building."
"There's a clear sky, I see the sun but I can't feel any warmth. I'm... I'm so cold, Thor." Loki sounded afraid, sounded so much like his younger self who got scared of thunder and lightning, and Thor hated himself even more for not being able to do a damn thing. Loki was trembling now, how heartbreaking this was for Thor to witness the ghost of his brother; the lost soul who was taken away too soon, died a gruesome death, only to be suffering even in the afterlife.
"Can I touch you?" Thor asked, his voice broke.
Loki opened his eyes and didn't say anything, but after a moment he walked to where Thor sat; on the hard, tiny bed they provided. Then he sat next to him and simply rested his head on Thor's shoulder. No, Loki didn't 'rest' his head there because then it would've gone through. He simply leaned his head until it was just above Thor's shoulder.
It may be the lack of warmth of Loki's imaginary touch, the fact he could never hold his brother in his tied up hands, that made the ache in his heart double. But Thor closed his eyes and leaned into the ghost, pretending they were in each other's arms and everything was alright like when they were children.
The door opened and a guard walked in, time for his meds, and when Thor looked at his side Loki was nowhere to be seen.
On the next day they informed him he had a visitor. It was no surprise; his friends - the Avengers - all took turn visiting him, even if Thor already made it clear he wanted to be alone, maybe just so they would feel better about themselves for sending him in this pit of the earth in the first place.
When a guard escorted him to the visiting area he saw Nebula. She visited him before, once or twice, mostly it was either Steve or the rabbit. But Nebula was a familiar face, too.
"Thor," she said as a greeting after the guard made him sit on a seat across from her, said guard had already left, and now it was just the two of them.
"It's so nice to see you," Thor gave her a small smile, as a matter of fact, Thor didn't want to see anyone but his brother, but at least he appreciated his friends still coming to see him (he did not appreciate them sending him here, but he knew they meant well; only wanted to help but didn't know how)
"Do they treat you well?" She bluntly asked because she wasn't sure what she should be saying. Nebula wasn't good at chitchatting nor was she a professional at giving people comfort, but she tried. At least she tried, and that was enough.
Thor wasn't wearing the straightjacket at the given moment, but he still felt a bit tipsy by whatever drug they injected him with earlier. "Could be worse," he shrugged with a wry chuckle.
"Are you still seeing your brother's ghost?" Her next question made him swallow down that chuckle. Thor looked sadder, now not even his fake smile could convince anyone he was happy to have a friend come by for a lovely visit.
"I - yes, actually. Loki came to me last night." He admitted because he didn't see the reason to keep it a secret from her.
Nebula nodded her head slightly. If anything she never judged. That was one of the things Thor liked about Nebula; she wouldn't judge you. Then she said, "sometimes I'm envy you. I wish I could still see my sister."
Thor didn't know Nebula's sister very well, but he knew that, just like his brother, Thanos killed her. Both Thor and Nebula lost a sibling, the only family they had left, to the Mad Titan. "I'm sorry for your loss." He said eventually.
Nebula didn't say anything for a long while, but before it got too awkward she spoke up again, "did he talk to you? your brother... Loki,"
Thor knew he could lie and say Loki said nothing so he wouldn't have to talk about it and have himself hurt even more, but for some reason, he felt her pain; the pain of losing a sibling to the monster, and Thor felt bad for her. She seemed... eager to just hear what Loki might have said so then she could picture what her sister would've said to her.
"He said he was cold," Thor spoke softly, "he asked me to set him free."
Nebula didn't interrupt, just listened, and Thor continued, "I asked him where he was so I could go and save him, but he didn't know. So I asked if he could tell me his surroundings... Loki described a farmhouse with a field and the sun, but even then he was still so cold. I just... don't understand."
"Thor," Nebula furrowed her brows, "you said he was somewhere he didn't know, but it was a farmhouse?"
"Shit," she murmured under her breath. It was the look on her face that startled Thor; there was something she didn't tell him, then she said, "I think I might know where he is."
┈┈ ❋ ┈┈
After the snap, after it costed him everything, Thanos did as promised with himself; he retired. Lived a simply life as a farmer in a normal cabin on some abandoned planet.
It was just him alone during the first three days, on the fourth he saw a flash of light coming down from the sky over past the barn, and something inside him told him it was just the start.
Thanos walked through his cornfield until he reached the spot; there was a body laying face down on the grass. Oh, you've got to be kidding me, Thanos thought because he knew, from the black leather clothing, who it was. He reached down and flipped the body over, Loki's unseeing eyes staring blankly at him.
The Titan sighed. Part of him wanted to laugh at it all because wasn't it hilarious that he choked this cockroach with his own hand just less than a week ago, saying there was no resurrection this time, fully believing he finally got rid of the cockroach, and now the cockroach somehow found its way back to him. Again. But it was a sad cockroach, Thanos thought, because, looking at Loki's face he looked kind of... miserable; extremely pale face, broken blood vessels in his bloodshot eyes, dry blood trickled down the side of his chapped lips, and those bruises around his throat; Thanos' own work.
Thanos wasn't a monster, or at least Thanos didn't see himself as one. He only did what had to be done; the universe needed to be in balance. Poor cockroach shouldn't have died, if it hadn't stepped in his way. After a moment of debating with himself Thanos reached out and closed Loki's eyes.
Only when his fingers dragged gently down Loki's face did Thanos notice the slight movement of Loki's chest. That sure caught Thanos off guard; the cockroach was still alive.
Well, getting rid of Loki completely seemed harder than Thanos thought, after all.
After he examined the supposed-to-be-dead God (a cockroach) it appeared Loki was healing himself (of course) slowly, but he was healing.
"What do I do with you?" Thanos said because this time he was genuinely clueless. End the cockroach's misery, said a voice in his head in which Thanos actually considered it; it would be so easy to raise a stone and end Loki's pain. But there was this other part of him, the more decent part, that said if Loki was healing himself then he'd recover, and it was only the right thing to do to maybe clean off the blood on his hand. Loki wasn't a threat, Thanos never saw Loki as a threat, and with him already achieved his greatest purpose there was nothing Thanos had to worry about what a healthy Loki was capable of.
The Titan sighed, and he carried Loki back to the cabin with him.
It's been weeks of Loki trapping in his coma in Thanos' cabin. And it wasn't like Thanos nursed him or took care of him or anything. The Titan only checked daily to make sure Loki was breathing.
Today was supposed to be a typical morning, him having a quiet breakfast, but then the wall shattered inward with a loud boom, the unexpectedly impact sent Thanos to the ground. The Titan didn't have time to prepare himself when he found Thor's deranged face only a few itches away from him, the sharp blade of Thor's axe pressed against his throat with pressure just on the verge of tearing skin open; Thor held him against the wall, snarling like a wild animal.
"Where is he?" The God of Thunder hissed. After Nebula told him about where she thought Loki might be, about Thanos telling her he would retire and live a simply life in a farmhouse, Thor summoned Stormbreaker and made his journey here, he knew he couldn't wait. Loki couldn't wait.
"Haven't you hurt him enough?" This time Thor's voice cracked, the anger in his eyes replaced by sadness. "Haven't you heard me enough? Where is my brother's body?"
"Body?" It was until now that Thanos realised; Thor thought Loki was dead.
"Where is it?" Thor roared, thunders in his eyes, the edge of Stormbreaker pressing tighter, tightening to break skin. Even now Thanos felt that glimpse of satisfaction; Thor didn't know. It was Thor's unknown that made Thanos feel as if he held the upper card, it was Thor's sorrow of spending all these time thinking Loki was dead that pleased that fucked up part of the Titan.
"Let me tell you this, Asgardian." Thanos gave him a ghostly smile, "your brother is not dead."
"What?" Thor dropped Stormbreaker. He stumbled backward. No no this can't be, he told himself. Thanos was only messing with him. Still there was this little part of him that wanted to believe Loki was alive despite how that crack of his bone still echoed in his head. Thor wanted so badly for Loki to be alive that he wanted to believe what Thanos said.
"See it for yourself," said the Titan. He nodded towards a room and Thor followed his gaze. This could be a trap, warned a voice in his head as his legs unconsciously, slowly, took his body towards the closed door. Loki - Loki was so close to him he could almost see his brother from here. You could be walking right into a trap! Thor ignored those voices, continuing his steps until his fingers wrapped firmly around the knob.
He swung it open and momentarily forgot how to breathe when he saw his sleeping (or dead?) brother laying limply on the wooden bed. Thor let out a sob and didn't care if Thanos heard him. He entered the room and approached Loki. His shaky hand reached out and pushed a strand of hair out of his brother's face, tugging it behind his ear.
"I'm here," Thor said in a voice only above a whisper. "I'm here now." His heart almost ripped out of his skin when he saw the rhythmic raising of Loki's chest. He's alive. His brother's alive.
And it was as if Thor's voice reached Loki because Loki started moving, whimpering incoherently. His eyelids flickering and it looked like he was struggling to come back to his senses.
"Follow my voice, brother." Thor said, kept on stroking Loki's scalp until, finally, Loki blinked.
Few seconds later his focus landed on Thor and he turned even paler, "Thor?" Said the younger brother as though he wasn't sure whether Thor was really here or was this only his hallucination.
"I'm here," Thor said, pulling Loki into a hug so tight. Words could never come close to describe the joy and relief in his heart for this time, this time, Loki didn't go through him. This time Thor could finally touch his brother and hold him close in his arms.
"You - you came," Loki stuttered between his sobs, and Thor hugged him tighter
He didn't think he was ever going to let go.
"You're taking him home," Thanos said, more of an acknowledgement statement than a question.
"I am," Thor spoke, Stormbreaker in one hand, the other holding Loki's arm protectively. If Thanos were to even think about laying a hand on Loki again, Thor wouldn't hesitate to go for the head.
(Loki didn't so much as look at Thanos. His eyes glued to the floor and he made sure he stayed as close to Thor as he could - it was as if they were children all over again; Loki seeking his big brother's protection)
There was a moment of silence where no one said a word. Then Thanos opened his mouth, "I do not wish to see you or your brother again."
"May our paths never crossed," Thor said. When he raised Stormbreaker, thunderbolt zapped down at the spot the brothers stood. The next second Thanos was once again alone in his house, the only evidence the Odinsons were ever here was the burnt mark on the floor.
Thanos chuckled. He knew he would think about this weird living arrangement he once shared with Loki for quite a long time.
They returned to Earth, built a new kingdom somewhere in Norway where Thor would rule with his brother by his side.
Loki was still pretty much fragile. He was healing and he was doing well, but he wasn't fully recovered yet.
Thor entered their shared room (because Loki didn't want to be apart from Thor, and Thor didn't want to be apart from Loki anymore. They didn't particularly say it out loud, but they knew, after all that happened, they were too afraid of losing each other to spend an hour out of each other's sights) and saw his brother sit against the headboard with his knees pulled up to his chest, hugging himself, looking surprisingly tiny. The Thunderer made no comment about it. He only walked over, and once he sat on the spot next to Loki, Loki reflectively leaned towards him. His head rested on Thor's shoulder, and this time, this time Thor felt the touch.
This time Thor was able to save his brother. For once he didn't let Loki fall.