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Because Thor has learned several important things from his banishment, most particularly how to control his temper and stop to think before he acts, he waits until the next morning to storm into his father’s chambers and start shouting. Odin is less than amused.

“I will not speak to you in this state,” he says, and Thor knows by the iron in his voice that he will be immovable on the subject.

He deliberately sets Mjolnir down by the door and takes several calming breaths.

“Mother tells me that Loki is being blamed for both attacks on Jotunheim,” he says, his voice even.

“That is correct,” Odin says, watching him narrowly.

“That’s not the truth.”

“No,” Odin agrees.

Thor turns his back until he can control his expression.

“You banished me so I would learn responsibility,” he says tightly. “This would seem to contradict that.”

“This is a new lesson. This is about politics.”

Thor’s teeth grind. “Mother said the same thing.”

“Your mother is very intelligent,” Odin says. “If you can control yourself for another few minutes, I can attempt to explain it to you.”

Thor breathes carefully through his rage. “Please.”

“The Jotuns saw you attack them with Loki at your side,” Odin says. “They also saw your brother come to them and boast about letting them into the armory during your coronation. He then made a deal with Laufey to kill me. From their perspective, Loki’s hand was visible throughout the entire disaster, your part included.”

“But Laufey’s dead,” Thor says. “Surely - “

“Yes.” Odin inclines his head. “The new king is fortunately less militant. He longs for peace and a chance to rebuild, and from that we can make a true alliance, not one that is based on us keeping them subjugated and powerless.”

“And the price for that was Loki.”

Odin breathes for a moment. “Yes.”

“The son you haven’t even asked after,” Thor says, choking on it.

Odin’s eye narrows. “I have asked Heimdall and I have asked your mother. Just because you have not seen it do not assume that it does not exist, and do not presume that you know how I feel about my own child.”

“You sacrificed your child!” Thor shouts, unable to be still any longer.

“I sacrificed one to avoid sacrificing both!” Odin roars. “Pray that you never have to make that choice!”

Thor stares, stricken. “Did you choose me because Loki is Jotun?”

“No, Thor,” Odin says heavily, “I chose you because no one would believe you to be the mastermind behind this mess.”

“Because I’m an idiot and Loki is clever,” Thor says numbly.

“Because you are open and easy to read,” Odin corrects. “Because you believe the best of all you meet and because Loki never trusted anyone, and they could tell.”

Thor leaves quietly, mind and heart too full to make sense of anything. He goes back to Loki’s room and lies down on the neatly made bed. The pillows do not smell like Loki. Nothing in the room does.

i miss you brother, he writes. i do not think i can do this alone.

There is a long pause.

I am still here, Loki says.