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That night Thor lies facing Loki, his hand on Loki’s side, as was their habit as children. He cannot see Loki’s face in the dark, but he can feel his brother breathe and knows Loki is not yet asleep.

“I have been reading, Loki,” Thor begins, and feels foolish because of course Loki knows this already. “About Midgardian psychologies. Jane was hopeful, I think, that I would find some answers there, but I believe I have found mostly questions.” He pauses, conscientiously allowing Loki a moment to respond but not really expecting anything, and continues when it is clear that Loki does not wish to participate. “One of the books said that those who wish to die think that their deaths will solve something that cannot be solved in any other way and I - I am not sure if this is accurate. I have heard things, about our last days on Asgard and about our childhoods, but I have heard none of them from you and I don’t know... I’m not sure what you are thinking, Loki, and I admit that I really never have, but this time I cannot simply ask you to explain and I find that... I am lost, Loki, brother, and I need you to help me find the way.”

Loki’s breathing shallows for a moment, then resumes its former rhythm. Thor cards his fingers through Loki’s hair, as Frigga did when they were young and fretful, and then rests his hand back on his brother’s side.

“Mother told me that Odin All-Father took you from Jotunheim as a baby in the hopes that one day you could unite our realms. She said that Odin refused to tell you the truth and that you found out on your own right after I was banished.” Thor’s voice cracks a little - he cannot help but imagine what Loki must have felt then, bereft of his brother, with Odin in the Odinsleep and a Jotun in Asgard. That the Jotun was Loki himself, Thor knows, was the most horrific part.

“You have always been too clever, brother.” The lighthearted tone is forced but the fondness is genuine. “Sif told me you sent a guard after the All-Father when I took us to Jotunheim. You have always known when I am about to cause us trouble! Did you intend for me to be banished? I am not angry, if you did - it worked out for the best. Sif said you did not want me on the throne, and I must confess that before my banishment I was not ready. So if that was your plan you succeeded admirably, brother, and I thank you for it.”

Telling him the All-Father was dead, though... that had been unnecessary. Thor frowns. He is straying from the point. “I can see, Loki, that from your perspective there have been some things in the last few days that you may not be proud of it. That is one of them, although hopefully a minor one. Your plan to invite Laufey into Asgard and then kill him and the rest of his realm was...” Thor struggles. “I will not lie, brother, it was not one of your better plans, although I am certainly not in a position to make much judgement about it. I have tried to think of it as you would, and I think your ultimate goal may have been to prove your Asgardian nature to be dominant over your Jotun one? I am not certain. I am not certain such a demonstration was necessary, for the rest of us at least... but I do not mean to bring your spirits further down, brother, I - “

He stops, irritated by his own inability with words. “It would be better if our positions were reversed, brother. I am not suited to battle with words. If this could be solved by a quest or a mighty battle, I would travel all the realms and endure whatever hardships or dangers, I would sacrifice whatever was asked of me - “ he cuts himself off. This is not helpful. “Loki,” he whispers. “Brother. I do not fully understand what problem you are trying to solve, but you have helped me on so many of my quests I would beg - I would beg you to allow me to help you with yours. I do not think there is a problem in the world that could be solved by your death.”

Loki’s breath shallows again. Thor tightens his hand on his brother.

“I suspect... I think that possibly one thing that may be distressing you now, Loki, is your very being, and I cannot imagine how painful that is. You are not Loki Laufeysson, and if you do not feel you can be Loki Odinsson, would you consider being Loki Thorsbrodir? It is not conventional, I know, but I would claim you, brother, for we are neither of us perfect and I cannot imagine surviving without you.”

Loki does not answer, but neither does he pull away. After a moment Thor tucks Loki’s head under his chin and holds him close. He does not know if Loki sleeps, but when Thor wakes up in the morning he is still there and still alive.