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“No! No no no!” Tony’s voice echoes down the hallway outside of his laboratory. “I don’t care what kind of advanced mystic technocrap you’ve got, there are certain laws of the universe that are unalterable!”

“What should I care of the ramblings of a Midgardian scientist barely a quarter century ago?” Loki says, his tone bored.

“Three quarters! Three quarters of a century!”

“Oh, I do apologize. How progressive of you.”

Thor leans cautiously around the doorway, prepared for a hasty retreat, but Loki and Tony are merely conversing and appear to have no potentially dangerous objects to hand. “Brother? May I interrupt?”

Loki sniffs, clearly at his most outrageous. “Please do. The level of intelligence in this room depresses me.”

“Hey!” Tony says, outraged. “I’m not the one breaking things with no regard for consequences! Oh, wow, I’m not, that’s weird...”

“Brother, what did you break?” Thor asks in an undertone as the depart the lab. He may not understand what all Tony’s devices are supposed to do, but they do look very fragile.

“Reality,” Loki says smugly.

Thor gives his brother a concerned look, and decides that he will tentatively assume Loki is joking. If his brother had actually broken reality, surely he would have noticed by now...?

“What do you wish to discuss?”

Thor sets those concerns aside. “Yes, of course. Let us go to the roof, brother. The view is most excellent.” He is stalling, he knows - and from the quick glance Loki casts in his direction his brother is aware of it as well. He is not sure how Loki will take the news of the Bifrost’s repair - there were always so many other things to worry about, or take care of, that it was all too easy to push this topic to the side. For the first time in a very long time, Thor feels he may be justified in accusing himself of cowardice.

“It is a lovely view,” Loki says evenly. “Now tell me what is on your mind, Thor.”

Thor scuffs the roof with one boot. “I talked to Jane today.”

Loki is very still beside him. “Oh?”

“She says she is ready to attempt to connect to the Bifrost.”

“I see.” His tone is hard, although his words are neutral.

“It may not work -” Thor says desperately.

“You know it will work,” Loki says, cutting him off. “You will be able to return to Asgard, which I am sure will be a great relief to you, and they will have their golden prince back, which I’m sure will be a great relief to them.” His voice trembles.

“I am needed there,” Thor says softly. “And I do not wish to leave you - “

“I no longer require a nursemaid. You may leave with your sense of responsibility intact.”

Thor winces. He remembers throwing that word at Loki, back in the bleak first days in Puente Antigua. He should have known that Loki would keep it close. “Brother, I - “

“Do not call me that!” Loki snaps. “We both know it isn’t accurate.”

“Loki, let me speak!” Thor admonishes, but his brother vanishes before he can continue.

Thor growls in frustration and dents the brickwork wall at the edge of the roof with his fist. Words are Loki’s battleground. He should not have expected to win that fight. He should have expected it to be a fight.

Loki does not reappear that day. Thor lets the rest of the team know that they have had a misunderstanding and asks them to watch out for his brother, but if Loki makes contact with any of them he makes their silence on the subject a condition. That night Thor pointedly opens the door between their rooms so that he will hear Loki return and Loki will see that Thor wishes to speak with him.

He does not think Loki will harm himself - he hopes Loki will not harm himself - but he sleeps only a little and that fitfully, and rises in the morning feeling exhausted. The only sign of his brother’s presence is that the door between their rooms has been just as pointedly shut and locked once more.

Thor leaves for the site of Jane’s device in the late morning without seeing his brother. He had asked Coulsson, tentatively, if the device’s use could be postponed, but Coulsson refused and Thor felt too guilty about delaying Jane’s triumph to pursue the matter. It is not Jane’s fault that she is brilliant, and it is wrong to punish her for his and Loki’s shortcomings.

Jane and Erik are too busy with the device to notice Loki’s absence or Thor’s preoccupation, although Jane gives him a very nice welcome which does make him feel a little better. Darcy sidles up to him at a pause between demands for help.

“No Loki, huh?”

Thor shakes his head, and Darcy pats him sympathetically on the arm.

The activation of the device goes well, and Jane and Erik seem very excited by the data they get. It is unimpressive by Thor’s standards, used to the glorious Bifrost as he is, but he also knows that the purpose of this test was not to create a stable bridge but to connect for a brief time to Heimdall’s observatory. He pounds Erik on the back and swings Jane around in celebration.

They sit down to wait for Asgard’s response. There is no telling what shape the Bifrost is in or how long it will take for Asgard to make sense of their contact, but none of them are willing to leave. It is a nice afternoon, for all the uncertainty and harsh words that surround it, and reminds Thor fondly of a simpler time when all he worried about was finding Mjolnir and returning home.

If things have gone badly in Asgard, if Loki was right to vanish and protect himself from reparations... well. It is only a matter of time before those things become clear, and there is nothing Thor can do about it now but be vigilant.