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Thor is very quiet on the trip back to Jane’s headquarters. Erik casts worried glances in his direction, but respects Thor’s desire for silence. When they enter the building, he diverts Jane and leaves Thor to his own devices.

Thor paces restlessly. Coulsson’s offer will not leave his mind. His obligation is to Loki, but he did also promise to protect this world. What use is he, sitting around fretting over his brother while Jane and Erik work? It clearly is not helping Loki any, nor is it helping Thor.

Running off to play at war games with Coulsson’s warriors will probably not help Loki any either.

Finally, frustrated, Thor collects his brother from Darcy’s care (“But Loki’s never seen How To Train Your Dragon! It has Vikings!”) and departs for the flat, dusty area just beyond Jane’s trailer. He finds a wooden pole that Loki can use for a spear, and carries Mjolnir in one hand.

“Come, Loki. We will spar.”

He places the pole in Loki’s hands and steps back, readying himself.

The pole falls in the dust.

Thor frowns, then forces himself to smile.

“We may spar with magic if you prefer. I should have asked.”

Loki stares at the ground. Thor grits his teeth.

“Of course. It is unfair of me to be armed if you are not.” He tosses Mjolnir aside. “Very well, Loki. Let us begin.”

Loki does nothing.

Thor scowls. “Loki, I know this is not your area of expertise, and I am sorry to ask it of you. I need to think and as you always remind me, I think with my muscles instead of my brain, so please. Let us spar.”

That had sounded too sharp. Thor clenches one hand and struggles to retain his patience.

“I cannot spar with the mortals here, Loki, I will cause them harm. I must fight with you or not at all.”

Loki stares at the ground.

“I am not asking you to speak with me!” Thor snaps. “I am not even asking you to look me in the eye! I have given up Asgard for you, I have given up my friends and my family, I have become your nursemaid, all I am asking is for you to look at me and react, damn you!

Thor’s blow hits Loki in the chest. He tumbles over backwards, automatically breaking his fall and absorbing the impact as they were taught in childhood. For an instant, Loki’s shocked gaze snaps up to meet Thor’s own.

And then he looks away, and deliberately goes limp.

Thor throws himself down next to Loki and shakes him, hard. “Look at me again! Look at me again, Loki, damn it, look at me! Why will you not acknowledge me?”

Loki lets himself be abused. Thor shakes him harder. “Is this one of your tricks? Is this another one of your games? Are you trying to drive me mad?” His breath comes shakily in his chest. It is hard to get all the words out. He lets Loki fall back into the dust and sits back on his heels, trembling, his face in his hands. He cannot look at his brother. He cannot take another instant of that blank, hopeless face. He... he cannot.

“Loki...” he tries, voice muffled by his hands. “Loki, you...” he cannot finish. He does not even know what he had planned to say.

It is some time later that Thor collects himself enough to pick them both up and go back inside. He leaves Mjolnir behind in the dirt.

Jane, Erik, and Darcy are in the kitchen area, beginning dinner preparations. Jane looks up in greeting and stops, eyes wide.

“Thor, what happened?”

He knows what they must look like. Loki is dirty and disheveled, Thor is red-eyed and distraught. Thor pushes his brother in their direction and continues on through the room.

“Take him. Please. I - I must go bathe. Just take him.”

He glances back once, as he enters the bathroom. Erik is gently brushing dirt off Loki and setting him to rights. Jane is speaking quietly to Darcy, their heads together.

Thor shuts the door behind him and turns on the shower. He deposits his dusty clothing on the floor, steps into the water, and weeps, shamefully.