It's maddening, seeing Loki captured and bound, and it's more than Thor can possibly take.
He takes his anger to one of Tony and Bruce's workshops, smashing the delicate glass instruments with Mjolnir and delighting in the chaos that it brings, flipping the table over and watching the computer shatter on the ground.
It's maddening and Thor can't think of a way to save his brother, can't process how Loki was caught and deposited in the glass case deep in the basement of SHIELD.
If Loki is harmed or studied or made to bow to them, Thor is not prepared, will never be prepared. Loki will always be a part of his life, even if they are no longer brothers - Loki will always have a place in his heart, no matter what he does.
The thought that the moment where Loki made eye contact with him might be the last time that Loki sees him, really sees him, makes him stagger to the ground in the midst of the rubble that the laboratory has become.
The question that has been asked of him so many times, by so many people, comes unbidden to his mind - "What are you prepared to do?"
What is he prepared to do?
Certainly not watch the man he has come to love over the millennia be retained in what is a cage, like a bird so longed for, ans he certainly won't let his brother become like so many people that SHIELD has had to "put down" like a common dog.
No. He is not prepared for that.
Mjolnir drops from his hand and thuds dully, reflecting his mood. He cannot think, cannot function; he wants Loki out of his glass cell and at his side, as he once was, as they should be.
Maybe not as brothers, though, no; his attempt at love with the Lady Jane indicated that love was not to be found in the arms of women for him. He allows his head to drop back against the wall and wallows in his sorrow, in his pain and anguish and pure misery.
Clint pokes his head in from across the room and doesn't bat an eye at the destruction. "I don't suppose I should ask if you're going to be all right?"
"Now is not a wise time to be in my presence, my friend. It would do more harm to you than good."
Clint nods, as though he understands the ache that sparks through Thor's chest at the thought of leaving Loki at the hands of mere mortals who do not understand the power that Loki really has.
"Well, if you need to break more things, you can always break my room so I can avoid having to clean it before Fury's inspection."
Thor doesn't answer, just stares at the wall wondering how he could possibly fix this mess, how things could possibly be made better.
"All right then. Oh, damn, look what I dropped ..." and something slips from Clint's hand as he leaves Thor to his thoughts and Thor lets it lay there before getting up to see what Clint dropped. He knows that Clint did it on purpose, of course; the archer is not so clumsy as to drop something in his possession unless highly intoxicated.
It's an all-access security pass. These passes open every door in the SHIELD compound.
The move was for a reason. Thor would like to know what it is. The archer has his own reasons for his actions, but what motivates him now?
Why would Clint want Loki free from his prison?
Thor approaches the glass cage cautiously. Though Loki's bound by his hands, Thor knows that Loki could easily break the bindings as well as the glass itself. The reason why he hasn't escapes Thor, until he notices the water that pools to Loki's ankles, keeping him just wet enough to dull his magic to nearly nothing.
"Dear brother, I should think that you are not allowed in this area of the compound in which I am being kept prisoner."
Thor flinches. Loki is not the best tracker, but Thor has not been trying to keep his actions as silent as he normally would. Loki turns to face him and Thor bristles to see a bruise blossoming across his temple, down to his cheekbone, darkening slowly.
"Who has harmed you?" The question bursts from his lips before he can stop it, low and deep.
"Oh, this?" Loki motions at it with his shoulder. "That, I believe, is from your dear Iron Man. The one across my back," - and here he turns to show Thor the gash that shows through his tattered armor - "came from Captain America and his wonderful shield."
Loki turns back around, shrugging his shoulders minutely. Thor knows that Loki kept track of who hurt him, and this nonchalance is just an attempt to anger him. "But at what price victory, I suppose. Do you think they'll kill me before or after they start dissecting me to find how my magic begins?"
Thor closes the gap between him and the doors in a few long strides, wrenching the card through the slot and the doors open, and he doesn't even take note of Loki's surprise before his hand is wrapped around Loki's throat, but not enough to hurt him, never enough to hurt him.
"I would die before I let them touch you, Loki."
If he could take a picture of Loki at this moment, lips parted and eyes wide, face flushed and full of wonder, it would fit perfectly in the dictionary next to the word "speechless".
His hand slips to Loki's upper arm and he shuffles Loki through the water and, hefting Mjolnir over his head and clasping Loki to his chest, he breaks Loki from his glass prison.
He keeps Loki bound even after they arrive at his private home, hidden in the far north wastelands where few ever venture. No one at SHIELD knows of the location, save Lady Darcy and Lady Jane, and they would not breach his trust.
Loki lets him.
He watches as Thor gathers healing salve and clean bandages, and lets Thor slit his ruined armor off his chest to clean the wound on his back. He doesn't protest as Thor gingerly pokes and prods at his chest, finding the worst of his cuts and bruises and rubbing the salve into them. He doesn't protest as Thor snaps his bindings with one hand, but rests Mjolnir on one hand, pinned to the table, as Thor rubs the feeling back into them in turn.
Once Thor is done with his ministrations and drapes a blanket around Loki's shoulders, he sits down next to Loki at the table.
"Should you wish it, you can leave any time that you wish, Loki. I will not hold you here - as long as you promise not to harm any mortals, as long as you pledge to not hunt the Midgardians as sport."
Loki just looks at him, silent, chewing on his bottom lip as though they were children again and Thor was coaxing Loki to go explore the apple orchard right under Idunn's nose. "Why do you care so much for these mortals?"
Thor knows his words can break Loki. He has always known this. People think Thor and Loki of different amounts of intelligence, but Thor understands more than he lets on. It works more in his favor for people to think him a little slow-witted, more in tune with his heart than his head.
"Because I care for them, Loki."
Loki snorts, eyes narrowing. "I saw as much, you and your lady -"
"She is not my lady, Loki, she never was."
Loki slams his fist down onto the table and is back on his feet, for once towering over Thor. "Do not think that I did not see you with her! Do not think to tell falsehoods to the God of Lies, for I can see through them!"
"Then you saw only what you wanted to see! Had you watched and really seen, you would have understood that there was nothing between us after my return from Asgard here to Midgard. I care for her not in that way, Loki. I - I care for no woman in that manner." Thor bows his head and closes his eyes to the noises of Loki sitting on the edge of his chair.
They are silent for a long while.
"Why can you never say what is in your head, Loki?"
"Why must you always say what is in yours?" Loki retorts, tone biting and acidic and Thor hears the warning but he cannot heed it, never has heeded it.
"Because I always hope that by hearing what I say, you may let me hear your thoughts."
"Why do people always demand that I speak?" Loki screeches, up again, hands and arms shining blue and he begins to tear at his hair and Thor worries that he is actually going to rip chunks from his head, but before he can stop him Loki continues. "Everyone is forever telling me to speak, to use my silver tongue, and perhaps I do not wish to, perhaps for once I wish to remain silent and simple! I have thoughts that are my own, but people are forever plaguing me with requests to tell them!"
He whirls to face Thor and his eyes are wild and wide, feral, and they flash red, red as rubies as he speaks. "If I have thoughts in my head, they are mine until I wish to tell them to the populace! If I wish people to know that I would rather be with you than with all others, I will tell them as such! If I want people to know that I hate my true father, I will tell that to them. What does it matter that I do not speak my thoughts? Am I just a mouth, to say things and not have thoughts about them?"
"If I love you, I will tell you when I wish it and not a moment before," Loki finishes, ice spiraling from his fingertips and cascading to the floor, uncontrollable manifestations of his power and his Jotun heritage. "If I love you, you will know it."
Thor gets up slowly, so slow, so scared that at any moment Loki will flutter from the room with his magic but he doesn't. He lets Loki approach him like a skittish colt and Thor's hands hover over his face, his Jotun face with the scars and markings, until they rest gently there, fingertips on his cheekbones.
The cold is so brutal, chilling, and Thor can feel his fingers beginning to ache, to burn in that way that extreme cold injures and kills. He doesn't move, no matter the pain, because he loves Loki in any form, every form, even his female shape. It doesn't matter, because under it all, under all that magic, it is still Loki.
The blue fades in patches and blotches, until Loki is chalk-pale and nervous, cheeks pinked from his exertion.
Wisps of brilliant orange magic curl over Thor's fingers and then they heal, pink and perfect once more, not a mark on them.
"If I love you," Loki repeats, voice a whisper, "you will know it," and presses his lips to Thor's palm.
"Then I will wait for you to tell me."