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One Eye For Wisdom

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After the battle is over and Loki has surrendered, he is placed in a holding cell deep underneath a land-bound Midgardian facility. Fury is understandably apprehensive about the idea of containing Thor’s erstwhile brother, but Thor explains that although he did bring restraints capable of binding Loki’s magic it will take all of Loki’s energy to heal himself from his injuries. For the time being Loki is harmless, or at least as close to harmless as he ever is.

When they reach the facility Thor takes the time to make sure his companions are well looked after and then goes in search of his brother. He finds him in a new sort of glassed-in enclosure, guarded by a contingent of vigilant soldiers. Loki is slumped against the far wall, looking pale and drawn. Despite everything, Thor has to fight the urge to hurry in and comfort him. Loki has fallen far, but it is not a simple matter to discard a lifetime’s worth of protective elder brother instincts.

Thor steps into the enclosure slowly instead, circling the room until he is an arm’s length away from his brother’s corner. He crouches down but remains alert, ready to leap back or attack at the slightest warning.

Now that he is here, he can think of nothing to say. What Loki has done - what Loki has become - is so far beyond anything Thor would have thought his brother capable of that he is utterly at a loss. He stares at Loki instead, trying to reconcile this vengeful creature with the fond memories of his clever, watchful sibling.

Loki, of course, is never burdened by a failure of words. “Thor,” he says, as calmly as if they had just happened to pass each other on the street. “How nice of you to come by. Do you wish to see that I am no threat, or do you wish to ensure it?”

“I will not start anything if you do not,” Thor says. Loki’s smile is sharp and predatory.

“A politician’s answer,” he says mockingly. “My, you have been learning at the All-Father’s knee. Be careful, Thor, that you do not become better at it than he is. He does not take kindly to being outmatched.”

Thor gives his brother a hard look. “Is that what you think, Loki? Is that what you think happened? I am afraid I must disillusion you. You brought this retribution on yourself through your own actions. You cannot blame Odin for it.”

“Can I not?” Loki asks. “Tell me, did the Midgardians discover my agreement with the Chitauri or did you bring those glad tidings from the All-Father yourself?”

Thor eyes his brother narrowly, expecting a trap. “The All-Father sees much, Loki, as you well know. As far as the Midgardians have come they cannot yet penetrate so far.”

Loki’s hand snaps out. Thor starts, but it is too late. Loki seizes Thor’s arm and hangs on with more strength than Thor would have expected.

“Watch and be educated, brother,” he hisses.

Agony explodes in his chest and travels up his spine. It goes on and on, long past the time his body should have been capable of sustaining such pain, until there is no thought, no memory, no knowledge beyond unending torment.

With a snap he is aware of his surroundings again, gasping for breath and staring out into space past the glistening, ghoulish faces of the Chitauri.

“What say you, Asgardian?” one growls.

“No,” Loki sobs. His voice is cracked and thin from screaming. “You cannot... control me...”

“Still so stubborn?” it asks, grinning. “We have all the time in the universe for this sport.”

The pain returns, worse than before because he knows what to expect. It is not physical pain. It is nothing he can run from, nothing he can fight or outthink. It is inside him, tearing at him, living and breathing and screaming in every cell in his body, and there is no him, there is nothing left, there is nothing but agony and it will never end, it will never, ever end, make it end make it end MAKE IT END -

Thor hurls Loki away from him, staggering to his feet. Loki laughs, high-pitched and broken.

“I ask you this, Odinson,” he says. “If the All-Father sees so much, why did he not care about that?

Thor flees from the cell, the door slamming shut behind him. The sound of Loki’s gasping, demented giggling cuts off abruptly, but he stares at Thor through the window, pale eyes glittering.

Loki is wrong. Of course he is. Odin could not have seen that torture and stood by to let it happen. His justice can be harsh, yes, but it is not cruel, and Loki is his son, in deed if not by blood. Odin had mourned Loki. They all had. The funeral rites had been small - tastefully, tastefully small - and the sense of victory over the Jotun invasion had been emphasized, but that was only because the pain of Loki’s death was too great, too private to share. It had not been - it had not -

What possible purpose could it have served to let Loki be tormented so? Why in all the realms would Odin have wanted to let Loki become this thing, twisted by hate and rage and pain, broken and insane? Even if, as Loki claims, he has always been loved less than Odin’s true child, why would Odin have let such destruction be visited on a neighboring realm when he could have easily prevented it? Dark energy could have brought Thor and his companions to Loki’s rescue and then Loki himself could have brought them home. There was no need to unleash him on an unsuspecting and nearly defenseless realm.

“Sir?” One of the guards approaches him tentatively, weapon at the ready. “Are you all right?”

“I am unharmed,” Thor says, breathless with confusion and the aftermath of Loki’s remembered pain. “Keep your distance from him.”

It cannot be true. Loki’s mind has been overthrown - Thor recognized this from the beginning. The ravings of a madman, however persuasively presented, cannot be allowed to overcome reason. Odin could not - Odin did not know about Loki’s torment.

Did he?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

When Loki is removed from his cell and taken to Asgard, he is gagged and his magic bound. It is only prudent.