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Once More With Empathy

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Thor wasn't sure what he expected when he returned to the barren world of the Dark Elves. He had convinced himself that there was nothing there to be found. Because, after all, his brother had faked his own death before. He had most likely done so again. His illusions were always convincing. His ashen color and the blood that had stained the dirt had most likely been further tricks. His brother was far too clever, far too angry, to allow himself to die for Thor. Truly, Loki must be laughing at him for buying it for even a moment. Thor would be angry about it later, after he found wherever his brother had run off to and given the Trickster a hug mighty enough to break ribs, the cad.

As the mighty God of Thunder reached the top of the rise, Mjolnir slipped from his hand to impact heavily upon the cracked surface of the planet. A small noise, half-strangled and far from worthy of a God, escaped his throat without him even realizing it. It wasn't... wasn't possible. Loki had tricked him. He had. His brother hated him, he would never have done this in truth. Not for him. Suddenly, Thor felt a jolt through his knees and he realized distantly that he was no longer standing. He put a hand to the ground to help brace himself as he stared at what he had convinced himself he would not see.

Loki.

His little brother.

His skin had turned unmistakably sapphire and his eyes, fixed unblinkingly on the desolate sky, were a clouded over red. The illusion used to mask his true species was no longer needed. Thor felt as if he had been punched straight in the gut so hard his lungs would not expand properly. Thor reached out almost without realizing it. A dark stain was spread out beneath his brother where his blood had seeped into the ground. "Loki..."

No. No, it could still be an illusion. Truly there were no lengths his brother would not go for his tricks. He could still be alive somewhere. It was possible... He would have to be nearby. But it could be...

"Loki!" His voice echoed through the barren landscape and was answered only by the distant rumble of thunder. "Loki! Brother, this joke has gone much too far!"

Fear started to clamber in his heart as no answer came. Thor looked around for any sign of a hiding place. There were rocks nearby, jagged things that ripped through the ground at strange angles. There was no shimmer, however, to tell of his brother hiding there. "Loki!" Thor pretended to not notice the crack in his voice.

There was nothing. No answer. Thor's eyes scanned the wasteland around him again, searching for any sign of a green shimmer. Any hint of magical concealment. Because there must be some. There just had to be. Another distant rumble of thunder echoed as Thor's eyes disobediently shifted back to the form in front of him. It was an illusion. It had to be. Once he touched it... it would fade. Just like the other illusions. He was positive.

Thor hesitantly touched his brother's far too inanimate face with one hand. He was ice cold and stiff. Nothing at all like he should have been. His smile, ever irrepressible even with madness driving it, was entirely too absent. Tears that Thor had been sure wouldn't come (his brother wasn't really dead, after all) seeped from his eyes without his permission. Finally, his need for air overwhelmed the strange hole in his gut and he was forced to drag in a ragged gasp. He moved closer, avoiding the dried blackish stained ground as best he could, to brush back the lanky strands of ink black hair.

He wasn't sure how long he sat there trying to process something that he'd convinced himself had in no way happened. Lightning cracked nearby in the grimy clouds but he barely noticed. Guilt clawed at him. This was all his fault. His brother, his baby brother, had saved him. Despite all the history between them, all the bitterness and ill will, Loki had saved him. And Fair Lady Jane. He'd had no reason to. None. And yet he had. And Thor had repaid such an act poorly. He'd repaid it not at all. Another bolt of lightning streaked from one cloud to another before splintering into a dozen white hot veins. He hated how his fingers trembled as they moved across his bother's face to close his eyes. He should have done that before. His brother should not have been lying here so long left exposed to the elements. Thor could only be glad this world truly was devoid of life for it spared his brother's body the dishonor of being desecrated by wildlife.

"I am sorry, Brother," Thor rasped as he bent over Loki. "I should not have left you here. It was ill done of me..." He hadn't had much choice at the time but he could have returned sooner. He should have returned sooner. Another snap of lightning split the sky.

Despite his reputation as a God, it took Thor far longer than usual to gather his strength to stand. Loki was still too stiff in his arms and far too cold. Thor had never had such a difficult time walking before. Even when freshly mortal and dazed from falling to Midgard he had not had such trouble. His eyes were blurred and burning and the weight of his brother's body seemed to drag him down. But somehow he made his way to the skiff that he had taken and carefully put his baby brother in the bottom.

The pain suddenly became too overwhelming and Thor had to brace himself against the side of the skiff as he struggled to breathe. He stared at the dirt beneath him, drained of richness and dry as sand. The sign of a dead world. Lightning cracked overhead and drops of water finally started to fall. Thor blinked as he realized spots beneath his head were wet from droplets that had fallen in the midst of the dry silhouette of his bowed head where no water should have been. It took him several minutes for him to realize the droplets had come from his own eyes. His hair hung around his face in dripping strands and his cape was plastered to his back from the pouring rain.

He had to take several moments to take a deep breaths until he could lift his head again. The rain had rinsed the dirt and blood from his brother's body slightly but it certainly didn't help much. Thor swallowed thickly before getting into the skiff. He felt far too large and far too awkward. A bumbling lummox like his brother had accused him of being. He hadn't realized he'd failed to breathe properly until the pain in his chest forced him to take another harsh gasp. He grabbed the rudder of the skiff but did not do anything further. He sat there in the rain and struggled to gain control of himself. It took several long moments of sitting there and letting the lightning crack with little pause while the rain came down in punishing sheets. Thor automatically pulled his cloak from his back and laid it across his brother even though both were already soaked. He shook and told himself it was the cold of the rain.

He stared for several moments at nothing before blinking it all away and forcing himself to focus on piloting the skiff. He wasn't the best pilot ever. He would need to pay attention to what he was doing.

The trip was a complete blur. Despite trying his best to pay attention to what he was doing he couldn't seem to manage. He must pilot better when he was in a daze, though, because he didn't hit anything and he still managed to get back. The sky was dark when Thor managed to finally reach the docks of Asgard. The violent storms had been left behind on the dead world but already clouds were forming above Asgard to block out the twinkling of the stars. Thor tossed the rope around one of the moorings to keep the skiff in place but then could only sit there and try yet again to process something he thought he'd never have to process again.

The clouds above had quickly darkened and already a fine mist-like rain began to fall. The precipitation was nothing like the harsh pelting force of the rain before but it was constant. Thor had just managed to gather hold of himself and left the skiff with his brother's body cradled in his arms. He heard hurried footsteps but barely bothered to pay much attention to who it was that approached. He heard Sif call to him but then, abruptly, gasp.

"Is that..."

Thor didn't even glance at Fandral but nodded some in answer to his question. He couldn't voice the truth more than that. All he could manage was a slightly choked, "I go to my father." His friends did not try to stop him, for which he was immensely grateful. He didn't think he could manage any sort of conversation at the moment.

The walk back to the palace seemed to stretch endlessly but Thor wasn't about to let his brother be carried by anyone else. He had left Loki on that planet alone but he wouldn't disgrace his brother further by not even carrying him inside their home. The rain was still misting over the whole of Asgard as Thor ascended the steps to the palace. He was distantly aware of his friends following behind but they continued to say nothing. He could tell they were worried but his only focus was on where he was going. He didn't worry about the water that he trailed through the palace or the servants that rushed out of his way. He knew that at least one person would tell his father what was going on. If he didn't already know.

Sif and the Warriors Three stopped outside in the hall as Thor entered the small chamber where his mother had been prepared for her own funeral so terribly recently. Thor felt another pang go through him at the thought. This room had been used far too much lately. Far, far too much. Thor laid his brother carefully on the plinth and took his cloak away. His fingers felt inordinately weak as he dropped his cloak over a nearby chair. He tried to take a few breaths to center himself as he reached over to brush some of the wet hair out of his brother's face.

Thor didn't hear him enter but he was suddenly aware of his Father in the room. Thor looked up at his Father. Odin's expression was entirely unreadable but Thor could tell from the white of his knuckles around Gungnir he was not as passive as his face would lead one to believe. The quiet was nearly oppressive and finally Odin closed his eye. Thor wanted to scream at his Father, to yell and rant and rave like a child, because it wasn't fair. It wasn't. And Odin should be doing something. Anything!

And then Odin opened his eye again and Thor was honestly taken fully aback by the wetness there. The unusual expression on his father's face made the tears form in Thor's own eyes instantly. "I... I did not think-I didn't believe that..."

Odin reached over and put a large but gnarled hand on Thor's shoulder. "It is not something we ever want to think about," he said, his own voice strained with grief.

"I should not have left him there."

"You did what you had to. And Loki would be glad that you went back for him," he said, though Thor thought it brought little comfort.

Thor looked down at his baby brother again. It still didn't seem real. How could this have happened? "We failed him, Father," Thor managed, tearing his eyes back up to Odin.

"Thor..."

"We did!" Thor said harshly. "We failed Loki. He thought we didn't care about him! That he wasn't truly part of our family! He died thinking that and it's our fault!"

Odin was silent for several long minutes. "You are right... he did not have to think such things and it was my mistakes that lead him to think it in the first place. I thought I was doing what was best for him but clearly not..."

Thor closed his eyes tightly and shook his head. "It wasn't just you, Father. I was not the Brother I should have been." Looking back with a bit more experience and wisdom he could see things had not been as good as he'd thought they'd been for some time. He'd simply ignored the tension because it was easier to do. Before, if people had a problem with him, Thor simply ignored it. He was allowed it for the luxury of his birth. He was Prince and didn't have to deal with anyone he didn't wish to. Avoidance was a habit he still had not fully shaken, for he had stayed distant from Loki even while the younger was locked away. Because it was easier to do. At least until he'd needed Loki's help.

The Allfather sighed heavily and put a hand on his adopted son's icy forehead. The markings of his blood relations were strange to feel under his palm after so long feeling nothing there but smooth skin. "I am sorry, Loki," he murmured. "I should have done much differently with you... I see that now."

Thor thought he'd never heard his father's voice so strained. He had spoken little after Frigga's death and now it sounded as if someone had tried to squeeze the very life from him just moments before. Odin closed his eye and Thor could not bear to see the tear that had managed to escape. "Father... can't we do something?" Thor asked as he focused instead on his brother's hand that he had cradled between his own. It was cold and seemed so small despite Loki being full-grown.

"No, Thor. I'm afraid not..."

"But Father-"

"No, Thor," Odin said firmly. "We must respect the sanctity of death. If we change the fates now, are we not being cruel to others who have lost loved ones? If we bring back Loki... then we start down a slope we cannot return from. Gods we may be, but sometimes we must know when to not use our powers," Odin managed though by the end his voice was even more strangled than before. Thor opened his mouth to protest but did not get a chance. "Do you think I do not wish to do so? That I did not wish to do so with your mother before? We cannot dishonor their sacrifices... no matter how much we wish them back."

Thor closed his eyes against the hot tears building there. He knew, on some level, that his father was right. That they couldn't just go around changing who died and who lived on their own selfish whims. But... but it was his brother. His baby brother. He shouldn't have died on that rock. Not for Thor -a brother that was less than he should have been.

The silence lingered for several more moments. "Come, Thor, help me with your brother..." Odin said softly. "Difficult our relations may have been, he is still yet a Prince of Asgard. He deserves to be sent off as such." All the God of Thunder could do was nod.

It was not as he thought it would be to prepare his brother's body for funeral. Before, they'd had no body to prepare and he had not prepared his mother's. It was far harder than he imagined it would be. Especially when he saw the massive slice straight through his brother's chest exposed for the first time. Thor had seen many serious wounds before but it was different when the wound was what had taken his brother from him. For the first time in a long time, his hands shook as he helped his father wash the blood and dirt away.

The funeral was set for the next day and despite Odin managing to coax Thor to go to his room and not linger over Loki's body, the Prince of Asgard did not get any rest that night. He tried as his father bade him to, but only half-heartedly. The rain kept up all night along with his melancholic mood while he stared at the ceiling and remembered better times.

He didn't eat the next morning and Odin didn't urge him to. It was if he knew it would be useless to try, which he probably did. The Warriors Three and Sif came to try and cheer the Thunder God but Thor was not in the mood to be cheered. His friends seemed determined to not let him stew over his sorrow but their efforts had little in the way of results. Thor found it hard to allow himself to be cheered up when he knew what was to take place later on. It didn't help that he now realized Loki had not been as good of friends with them as Thor had initially thought. In fact, he couldn't quite remember the last time Loki had friends of his own. Certainly it was before they were fully-grown. Just how blind had he been? Why could he have not have seen such things before?

The day, strangely, seemed to both crawl by and speed along at a frightening pace. Each minute seemed to slow to a crawl and leave Thor far too long to think and miss his brother but then suddenly it was time to go to the docks. Thor very nearly panicked. It couldn’t possibly be time already. It just couldn’t! He wasn’t ready yet. He couldn’t face something so horrible. He didn’t even have Jane here to help him through this time. How was he supposed to stand there and be a perfect stoic warrior when he watched his baby brother drift towards the edge that he’d once fallen from before? He couldn’t. He just couldn’t.

A hand landed on his shoulder and Thor was ashamed to admit he jumped in surprise. Turning his head he saw his Father standing there with a familiar sadness in his eye. “It’s time, Thor…”

“Father…”

He wanted to say it. To say he couldn’t. He wasn’t ready for this. He hadn’t been ready for Mother but somehow this was worse. He was the older brother. He was supposed to look after Loki. And he didn’t. He’d failed and it cost Loki his life and Thor couldn’t even say sorry to him. “I know,” Odin said and Thor forced himself to breathe again. If only to try and ease the knot in his chest. “But we must.”

Thor swallowed hard before nodding. He followed numbly as his Father led the way to the docks. The people had come out, far fewer than had come out for Frigga. Thor barely noticed them. Thor could barely even glance at his brother laying in the boat in his finest armor. He looked a proper prince again no matter what color his skin or the strange lines over his body. It took every effort Thor had to simply stand there and breathe as the boat drifted through the water.

He didn’t catch sight of the arrow that lit the funeral bier but it ignited with no difficulty. Thor struggled to remain silent as he watched the dark shape in the middle of the boat quickly become consumed by orange flames. His eyes struggled to make out the shape of his brother through the flames, wanting to keep him in sight for just another second longer if he could. The sparks seemed to glow green and purple as they escaped the top of the inferno. Thor supposed it was fitting, in a way, for even the flames to respond to the chaotic nature of his brother and fan and wave in different colors. God of Tricks. God of Fire. Even in his funeral he had to make things theatrical. Thor tried to smile at the thought. So like his brother. The tears in his eyes ruined it and made it more of a grimace than anything.

The boat fell away into the nothing of space just after Odin smote the ground with Gungnir. The sparks, a whirlwind of colors that shimmered like frosted crystals, floated into the air towards the stars and Thor tried to find comfort in the thought that perhaps finally his brother was at peace.

Slowly the funeral procession left for home but Thor stood there for much of the night just looking at where he’d last caught sight of the whirlwind of shifting color and shape that had been his brother. “Goodbye, brother,” he choked out after even Odin had left him to his silent vigil.

The hour was late and despite doing nothing all day but wait for night, Thor was more tired than he could recall ever being. Sorrow weighed on his shoulders and made his movements sluggish. Even still he had no real desire to sleep. He trudged along with no real destination in mind. His thoughts were a circular mess of regrets and where it had all gone wrong to lead them to this.

Odin was right. They couldn’t just bring Loki back. Especially if he had found some measure of peace in the afterlife. It wouldn’t be fair to anyone. It would be selfish and Thor was done being selfish at his brother’s expense. He had done it far too much. If he had done it less then his brother would still be beside him.

Thor walked aimlessly for most of the night and when he saw pink light on the horizon knew that he should at least head back for his rooms. As he made his way to the side door of the palace, which was the closest entrance, he heard a racket coming from the nearby stables. Slightly concerned, Thor veered off his path to come to the large entrance doors to the royal stables. Inside, at the back of the long building and in the largest stall, several hostlers were within trying to calm the grandest of their charges.

The golden hooves of the stallion slammed into the walls of his stall and noises of pure fury were exploding from his barreled chest. His sleek black mane and tail thrashed as his eight legs easily kept the Asgardians trying to contain him away. “Sleipnir…”

Without waiting to see if the hostlers could handle things, Thor stepped forward and let himself into the stall despite the danger. “Sleipnir! Calm yourself,” he said as he reached for the stallion’s tossing head. Thor cast a quick glance at the hostlers, who took the unspoken command and left. Sleipnir tossed and kicked at Thor angrily as he bellowed and shouted his distress. Thor stayed near the door with his hands up and open. “Easy, Sleipnir, it is me, Thor,” he said in the most soothing voice he could manage.

Sleipnir snorted and his blood red eyes were anything but calmed. He reared up to his massive full height and pawed at the air with another challenge. “Sleipnir!” Thor cried as he dodged those hooves that could easily crush skulls within their helms. “You must calm down!”

The stallion did no such thing and went from upright to kicking the stall again with his powerful back legs. Thor cursed and took the chance to dart forward to grab at the massive black head. It took all of his strength to hold tight and keep the head bigger than his torso nearer to the ground as Sleipnir tossed and fought against the grip. “I am sorry, Sleipnir,” Thor said harshly into his laidback ear. “I am sorry I could not bring him back to you!”

Sleipnir paused, huffing mighty breaths and eyes rolling in maddened grief. His tail whipped at nothing and his golden hooves stamped. “I will miss him too,” Thor said, trying his hardest to not choke on his own words. Sleipnir let out a much softer noise somewhere between a cough and a baying noise and Thor realized it was the closest the hot-blooded young stallion could get to a sob. Slowly Thor loosened his grip from a restraining one to something more comforting and ran his fingers through Sleipnir’s bangs. “It’s alright, Sleipnir…”

Thor nearly buckled under the weight of Sleipnir’s head and neck but kept standing despite that. The truth behind Sleipnir and Loki’s relationship was shrouded at best. Thor was very sure that his brother had not actually bedded a stallion. In any form. But the mortals seemed very enamored with that story for some unfathomable reason. What was clear though, was that, despite Loki’s usual ambivalence to horsemanship, Sleipnir had been the exception. The Trickster God had doted on the stallion almost as if they were blood, which was perhaps the reason the mortals came up with their fanciful version of events. Thor was more inclined to believe Loki’s original tale of making Sleipnir with his magic and accidentally giving him too many legs. Considering Loki’s age at the time, such a mistake seemed likely. And since both Sleipnir and Loki were oddities in Asgard (formidable oddities but oddities true enough) they had a particularly strong bond.

Thor ran his fingers through Sleipnir’s mane and murmured nonsense to him until the horse seemed to calm down fully. The sun was fully in the sky by the time Sleipnir pulled his head away and shuffled into the corner of his stall to lower his head and seemingly slip off to sleep. Thor wasn’t sure if he was really asleep or not but it seemed to be his signal to leave. He decided it would be foolish to press his luck with things how they were currently.

With one last glance at the magical horse, Thor silently left the stall and relocked the door, although if Sleipnir really wanted to get out no lock would stop him. He told the hostlers to leave Sleipnir to himself for the day and to not push him for the next several. If Sleipnir truly saw fit to do so, he could easily kill someone and Thor would rather not push the distraught stallion into such a thing through lack of patience.

Thor started for the palace again but then paused. No doubt Odin had told Sleipnir about Loki on his way up to the palace after the funeral. But… Sleipnir was not the only one who needed to be told. The Thunder God stood in place for many moments before going to his room to retrieve Mjolnir. He would not neglect his duties. No matter how painful they were. No matter how much he didn’t wish to do them. He was not a spoiled prince any longer. He knew he could not simply ignore that which he didn’t want to do.

It took longer than Thor thought to reach the valley. The hidden valley was in the middle of nowhere and -much like that horrid dead planet- was filled with cracked earth, jagged rocks, and little else. Although, Thor saw bones scattered about. Some were gnawed upon others shattered to tiny shards. Thor couldn’t quite tell what all the different species that had contributed to the mess were, but he supposed that didn’t matter much. Thor swallowed his unease as he stepped closer to the yawning cave at the end of the valley. Massive stalactites and stalagmites wreathed the entrance to give the appearance of a mouth full of fangs. “Fenrir!” Thor shouted. “Fenrir, I must speak with you!”

Several long minutes passed but Thor stood his ground and simply waited. In the cave he heard something large moving. Chains clinked together and rattled as the ground nearly shook beneath Thor’s feet. Thor shifted his grip on Mjolnir and did his best to remind himself he was not here to fight. The ground rattled again. And again.

Fur as white as snow brushed through the teeth at the top of the cave when the massive wolf stepped forward. Yellow eyes blazed with the fires of Ragnarok itself as Fenrir snarled. Thor couldn’t quite help but feel guilty at the chains keeping the towering predator restrained. Truly, Fenrir hadn’t done anything. Yet. So perhaps the restraints were unnecessary and perhaps overly harsh. Blood stained his pure white fur where the jagged spikes affixed to the chain around his neck had dug deep into his flesh. Another chain wrapped somewhat more loosely around each of Fenrir’s paws and the last chain was locked around the wolf’s massive head, preventing him from opening his mouth too wide. He could still eat but nothing too large. Of course, when one was the size of a small house too large became somewhat subjective. What do you want, Odinson?

Thor was slightly taken aback. He had not expected the wolf to be able to speak within his mind. Perhaps he should have known better. “I bring news of my brother. Loki.”

Fenrir snarled and came another step closer but halfway through a second the chains brought him up short. What of him?

“He… he is dead.”

Lies!

Thor couldn’t help but jerk back at the snarl and how Fenrir slammed himself to the end of the chains. The wolf snarled and tried to bite but Thor was just out of reach. “I tell you no lies,” Thor said as he slowly straightened to his full height again. “I was there.”

He tricked you!

“I wish he had, Fenrir. But I swear to you that he is with your Sister,” Thor said. Fenrir threw his massive weight against the chains again, drawing fresh blood and ripping tufts of fur from his coat.

You lie! He cannot be dead! He cannot!

Thor was quiet for a moment and forced himself to hang Mjolnir on his belt. He did not want to appear threatening. “Fenrir… I would not say such things if I were uncertain. He was my brother… I do not want him to be gone either,” Thor said as peaceably as he could while the wolf thrashed and fought against chains that were meant to never break.

Father would not leave me! Fenrir roared. Even to be with Hela he would not leave me here alone!

Suddenly, despite the earth shaking depth of the voice in Thor’s mind and the snarling house sized wolf thrashing in front of him, Thor could hear only a scared, broken, child. Thor swallowed hard. “You will not be alone, Fenrir. I am your Uncle. I will make sure you are taken care of.”

Fenrir’s burning eyes fixed onto Thor. I bite my Uncles, he threatened as he strained against his chains again. Thor remembered the mangled mess of Tyr’s hand and shivered. Now leave, liar! I have no use for you!

“Fenrir, I know you can tell when someone is lying and when they are not. Loki would not have failed to teach that to you. I promise. You will not be alone,” Thor said with conviction. He may not be able to bring his brother back but he could at the very least visit his distraught son.

Fenrir snarled one last time before turning. I will believe that… when I see it, Odinson. Now leave. Before my Father returns and turns you into something unpleasant.

Deciding there was little left to do here if Fenrir would not even listen to him, Thor began to swing his hammer by his side. He would return when Fenrir was perhaps in a less hostile mood. It would probably take a few visits. As Thor sped through the air he heard an ear splitting howl and closed his eyes against the guilt and pain that hearing it caused. Fenrir might growl and snap and threaten but just hearing that desolate howl and knowing that Loki would not be able to come… it broke Thor’s heart all over again.

Thor needed to leave this realm. He could not stand it any longer. Hela would already know of her father’s fate. She would have his soul safe with her in her own realm. She could wait to be visited. Midgard however was where he needed to go. Both to find the last that needed to know of Loki’s fate and to curl up with his beloved Lady Jane again. Perhaps such a thing would help mend the broken heart that continued to bleed poison into his self.

Midgard was a very large place. But there were only so many places that Jormungand could dwell without being disturbed and the giant serpent preferred his privacy. At least, from what Thor remembered of him, which was admittedly not much.

The shore was silent this late at night at least. Thor was glad for that. But, he also had no idea if he was in the right spot. Nor how, if he were in the right spot, that he would contact Jormungand. He studied the fairly calm surface of the inky black water thoughtfully. He had a feeling if he wielded magic this would be much easier. Very much indeed. Then again… He did have some magic. He did not control it with the skill of his brother or even have the amazing versatility that Loki had. But he did have something else almost as important.

A way to focus it.

Thor closed his eyes and lifted Mjolnir into the sky. Clouds swirled above and quickly darkened as lightning jumped from place to place. He continued to build the storm, causing the wind to chop up the surface of the water into rougher and rougher waves.

Lightning split the sky in half and slammed into Mjolnir’s head before Thor threw the bolt back up into the sky. Electricity ricocheted through the clouds and then down into the water with several smaller bursts of light to call up a fantastical show unseen in nature. He waited for a moment before unleashing the power of lightning again, this time waiting until the electricity running through Mjolnir was even more concentrated.

Thor continued this for several hours until he had to fall to the ground to catch his breath. Sweat streaked down his face and the wind whipped his damp hair back. He was certain at least some of those light shows had to have attracted attention. Was he being ignored? Or was this just the wrong spot? Perhaps he should have checked something like that before he threw so much into the effort… He knew it was a possibility but he hadn’t been patient enough. Now, he had exhausted himself and he might not have even done anything worthwhile.

You throw tantrums like my brother, a silky smooth voice whispered into his mind. It was impossible to really place if it was a male or female voice as it was ranged somewhere in the middle of the spectrum but it had a certain cultured aloofness that Thor couldn’t help but be reminded of Loki at his most charming and diplomatic.

Thor’s head snapped up and he looked around but he couldn’t spot any sign of Jormungand, for that was who it had to be. Perhaps he was still under the water? “Jormungand. I must speak with you,” Thor said as he pushed himself to his feet and looked around again as subtly as he could.

I gathered from the incessant flashing. What is it, Thunderer?

“I… I bring unfortunate news,” Thor said as he couldn’t help but spin in an effort to try and find the massive snake. How could something reportedly so large hide entirely? He didn’t particularly like not knowing where the person he was talking to was. And Jormungand could, like his brother, easily swallow Thor with a single bite. He had to still be in the water, but Thor was surprised that the massive snake could project its voice so far.

There was a vaguely interested hum in the Thunder God’s mind. Very few people bring me news… do tell me what it is.

“It is about Loki.” Thor found himself faltering there. He still had no idea where Jormungand was and he’d rather know that before telling him what had happened. Unlike Fenrir, there was nothing to keep the serpent from eating the bearers of bad news.

Yes? the voice questioned with what sounded to be utter patience. What about my Father?

Thor swallowed hard. “He’s dead.” He still hadn’t thought of any way to suitably soften the blow.

There was silence.

“Jormungand?”

Suddenly, the sand beneath Thor’s feet shifted and he had to scramble back to try and stay upright. He took one step back too many and tumbled down as a massive tapered head lifted up in front of him. Cold water rushed into the crater left behind and Thor had to half swim half claw his way out of the quickly filling pit onto nearby boulders. He stared up in slight shock as the sand fell away in great rivers to reveal black scales, the smallest of which were the size of shields. Golden rosettes ran along the snake’s back, which disappeared into the depths. Green eyes slit through with gold and black focused on Thor even as Jormungand reared up to tower over the God.

Thor, for his part, had not expected Jormungand to be as large as he was. His eyes drifted to the beach and quickly took in just how large of a hole had been made from the serpent moving. One of Stark's cars could have fit in the hole easily and still have room to spare. Movement caught the corner of Thor’s eye and he turned to see a huge coil of black and gold scales break the surface of the water what seemed to be at least a mile down the coast. His eyes darted back up to the serpent’s tapered face. “I am sorry, Jormungand. But Loki was killed in battle,” Thor said.

My father was an excellent warrior.

The sentence wasn’t really a question or even an argument really but Thor scrambled for an answer anyway. “He saved my life… and killed an enemy many times his own size! It was not for lack of skill that he perished…”

There was silence. When?

The God of Thunder blinked. “When?”

When did this happen? Jormungand clarified. How long has it taken someone to see fit to tell me of my own father’s demise?

“T-the funeral was only yesterday. I knew you hadn’t been told and came as soon as I could,” Thor answered. “We have no ill will towards you, Jormungand.”

No? the giant reptile asked lightly. He sounded amused but there was a dangerous edge hidden within that Thor could only hear because he knew Loki all his life. No ill will you say? And what, precisely, is stranding me here on Midgard without even my siblings nearby? Exile to a land full of foolish mortals to spend my life in hiding like I am some shame to the Gods is hardly what I would call ‘good’ will.

Thor tried to come up with some response to that and failed. He failed miserably. Words were not his strong suit. Jormungand gave a strange sounding snort and turned away. You have delivered your message, Thunder God. Now leave me… unless you are now here to kill me without my father here to protest.

“I would never-!”

Then I do not need your company and your fragile little lungs would collapse where I retreat to. Thor wasn’t about to comment on the slight tremble that had entered the serpent’s voice. Jormungand slipped beneath the dark waves and the God of Thunder could only sit there and stare after.

Thor had to admit he had never thought much on Jormungand, or Fenrir, or the others either. They were a part of Loki’s life he hadn’t paid much attention to, mostly because the only one he saw at all was Sleipnir. But… now that Loki was… gone. What would become of them? Guilt built up in Thor’s chest and he tried his best to not drive him to do something entirely irrational. There would be no Loki to tell a guard to warn their father this time. No. Loki wouldn’t be doing that ever again. Or seeing his children.

Loki had made mistakes. But, they had led his brother to those mistakes. This fate should not have been his. But Odin was right as well. Thor couldn’t just demand that Loki be brought back from death. And it was too late now anyway. Without a body he would have to be reincarnated and who knew where he would end up then.

No. That was simply not an option. He would have to think of something else. Surely there was some… work around he could find. He knew from Loki that magic was full of loopholes if you knew where to look. Thor didn’t. But… perhaps he could find someone who would know where to look.