Thor passes the next several days quietly. He spars with Sif and the Warriors in the mornings and sits with his father in the afternoons as they work on the new treaty. There are meetings to be held on Asgard, and an official state visit to Jotunheim to plan. Thor says little and watches much, and wonders if this is how Loki sees the world.
He calls Jane and sometimes Steve and trades missives with Loki. Loki’s desperate mischief seems to have calmed somewhat, replaced by a brief return to his old melancholy. There are several more adventure for the Avengers to partake in and Steve assures him repeatedly that participating in the missions is beneficial for Loki and that he is in no danger.
Thor spends a lot of his time thinking. It is not precisely that he never thought before - it was simply different then. These thoughts are strangely-shaped and do not fit in his head at first, but the more he becomes used to them the more quickly they seem to come.
“Volstagg,” he says one day, taking his friend aside. “I would like you to tell me what rumors you hear about my brother.”
Volstagg looks uncomfortable. “I am not sure you want to hear them,” he says hesitantly. “Some are very unkind.”
“Tell me anyway, please,” Thor says, and Volstagg does.
Some of the rumors are accurate, some outlandish. A disturbing proportion of them seem to revolve around Loki kidnapping Thor and stranding him on Midgard for a multitude of nefarious purposes. Thor listens quietly until Volstagg has run out of things to say.
“Why do you think they are so willing to believe Loki to be evil?” Thor asks. “You do not agree, do you?”
Volstagg sighs. “I do not think he is evil now,” he says reluctantly. “You must understand, for him to take power after your banishment - it did not look good. It looked like a power-hungry younger brother plotting to steal the throne. I no longer think this is true - someone had to take control and looking back now I can see that Loki was very upset at the time, but...” he shrugs. “Getting others to believe that may be impossible. As to why they are so willing to believe the worst of him? I think it is because he is different. No one understands him and so it is easy to think the worst.”
Thor tracks down Fandral next.
“Between the magic and the fighting style, he didn’t really have a chance,” Fandral admits. “He values such different things. You must concede that he has always been strange.”
“Did you love Loki?” Thor asks Sif.
She looks away. “Love him? No. I tried to like him, for your sake, and then I tried to tolerate him, but no, I never loved him. I still don’t. I’m sorry, Thor - I did try.”
“Good with a knife,” is all Hogun says. It seems to be tentatively positive, which Thor is willing to find cheering.
“Asgard was awful for Loki,” Thor says to Jane later. “I think the real mystery is why he did not break sooner and more irreparably. Tony was right.”
“I’m sorry, Thor,” Jane says sympathetically. “If it helps at all, I don’t think this makes anyone on Asgard bad exactly, they’re just... underexposed, I guess. I mean, think about it - you landed on Midgard, which you’d never visited, and met me, the nerdiest nerd who ever nerded, and then ended up in a - a physics-government conspiracy maelstrom in which you couldn’t rely on anything you used to count on. Nobody on Asgard’s really had that kind of experience. Loki stuck out like a sore thumb and that was bad.”
“We’re too insular,” Thor says thoughtfully.
“Yes, exactly. Look at it this way - Loki’s found a much better place for himself now, and he’s never going to be forced back to Asgard. That’s good, right?”
“You’re right, Jane,” Thor says. “You’re very right. That is good. Thank you.”
Thor watches more, and says little, and then asks for an audience with his father.
“I have a proposal for you,” he says. “I think we have become too isolated, too proud of ourselves. We need more exposure to other ways of doing things. I propose that for the forseeable future I spend one Midgardian month here and one there, with the understanding that a legitimate emergency in either realm takes precedent over scheduling. The Midgardians are an evolving people and they are becoming powerful. My service there will be seen as a goodwill gesture, and in return I will learn about their customs and gather intelligence. In addition,” he adds, looking the All-Father straight in the eye, “I will be able to keep an eye on Loki and to learn from his way of thinking. It was recently pointed out to me that I could stand to be a little more like him.”
The All-Father stares at him for a long moment. Thor, kneeling on the floor, dedicates a considerable amount of effort to not wavering.
“Politics,” Odin says finally.
“Politics,” Thor agrees.
“Very well. I accept your proposal.”
Thor goes back to Loki’s room and takes a picture of his bookshelf with the little cell device.
what do you want me to bring you when i return, he writes.