evening_bat: Bat in flight, silhouetted against the moon. (Default)
[personal profile] evening_bat
Title: Brother of Winter
Author: [personal profile] evening_bat
Fandom: Thor
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: For the movie, though it takes an AU turn right at the start.
Warnings: Bit of violence but nothing worse than the movie itself.
Word Count: ~6600
Prompt: Loki didn't let the Jotun into Asgard, that was actually just a small group being stupid. And after the trip to Jotunheim, he goes into denial about the whole 'blue hand' thing. And when he says the peace depends on Thor's banishment he tells the truth. So Thor's stuck on earth.

But, eventually, his curiosity gets the better of him, and he demands answers. And gets them. He freaks out, and runs to Thor, who's, I don't know, doing the superhero thing as a badass normal, or is with Shield, but everyone thinks he's kind of nuts when he claims he's a god.

Cue hysterical little brother with crazy magic skills.


Brother of Winter


“You know they’re still watching us, right?” Darcy asked from her place beside the window, staring shamelessly at the rooftop across the street. “They’re not even being all that secret about it, for secret agents,” she added.

Thor’s hand clenched around his cup, eyes narrowing as he followed her gaze to the men observing them.

“Yes, Darcy, we know,” Jane replied absently, still staring thoughtfully at the hastily sketched map in her recently returned notebook.

“Well, they didn’t exactly believe the story with the fake ID,” Erik put in miserably. Apparently he was still feeling the effects of last night’s overindulgence. “It’s a minor miracle they let him go in the first place.”

Thor snorted. “They let me go to see if I’d lead them to any of the answers they want,” he said. He hadn’t been thinking clearly enough last night to assess the situation but it seemed obvious in retrospect.

Something in his voice must have given away how badly the situation was wearing at his restraint, as all three of them turned to stare at him.

“No,” Erik said immediately, overlapping with Jane’s, “Whatever you’re thinking, you should stop it right now.” Darcy didn't say anything but her hand inched towards the open mouth of her bag.

Thor ignored their warnings. “Almost a shame, really. I feel as if I should give them something to see, since they're so determined to watch,” he mused aloud.

Erik and Jane exchanged alarmed looks but before they could argue, Thor let his breath out in a deliberate sigh, forcing his irritation away to smile at them. Were he alone, he might have taken his chances but it would be poor thanks for his odd rescuers.

"But that would bring you yet more trouble that you don't deserve," he continued, "and I need to be on my way." He’d promised Erik, after all.

“What, you’re leaving? You can’t leave!” Jane protested, drawing everyone’s attention to her. Flushing at finding herself the focus of three pairs of eyes, she rallied enough to ask, “Where will you go?”

“This world is a wide one. I’m sure I can find some place to be,” Thor answered, hoping his shrug hid the homesick despair that still twisted his stomach. “I apparently have plenty of time to explore.”

He’d been cast out and Mjolnir did not respond to his hand. Thor had nothing but time.

Even after she’d reluctantly accepted that he was leaving, Jane insisted on driving him to the bus station. Thor wasn’t sure what a bus station was or why he was supposed to go there but he appreciated her kindness. Erik had taken the time to draw him aside and press some of the local currency into his hand, instructing him to travel to a place called Los Angeles.

“Anyone can fit in there,” he’d explained with a wry grin. “Even a thunder god.”

Thor had accepted the advice and the money. One place was much like another to him at the moment so he had no reason not to start at this Los Angeles. Or at least, he had no such reason before three sleek black vehicles glided into view as they reached the city limits.

“Oh, what do these guys want now?” Jane complained as she slowed her vehicle to a stop but Thor didn’t miss the strained note in her voice. The appearance of the soldiers from last night worried her.

“I’ll go find out,” he offered, opening the door. “You stay here.”

“I don’t think so!” she replied indignantly and he heard her open and close the door behind him, footsteps hurrying behind him until she reached his side.

Thor shook his head at her stubbornness but wiped the fond smile from his face before confronting the leader of the men disembarking from the vehicles. He kept his shoulders loose and his stride easy as he approached, not at all surprised to recognize his interrogator from the previous night.

“Something the matter?” he asked. “I’ve been keeping out of trouble today,” he added, a note of sarcasm creeping into his voice.

Coulson smiled blandly. “So you have but I’m afraid we’re going to have to ask you not to leave this area for the time being, Mr. Blake.”

“Oh? And why is that?” Thor returned. “I was under the impression that I was free to go.”

“We haven’t entirely finished with our investigation into your actions at the Mjolnir site,” Coulson explained smoothly.

“Mjolnir?” Thor repeated sharply, the name ringing in his ears as he straightened out of his casual stance. Maybe he’d underestimated these men.

“An oversized, rune-covered hammer fell out of the sky. No one can move it and it seems to attract thunderstorms. Are you surprised by the nickname?” Coulson asked blandly.

Jane shot him a worried look but Thor just snorted a laugh. So they didn’t have any idea of what they were dealing with, after all. “When you put it that way, it does seem an appropriate name,” he agreed.

“Now see, that’s interesting,” Coulson replied. “Given how sure you seemed that you could lift it.”

Thor’s jaw clenched but he remained silent. He had neither the ability nor desire to make these people understand how terrible a condemnation his failure had been.

Coulson hummed thoughtfully. “So if the hammer is Mjolnir, I suppose that makes you Thor?” The careful lack of inflection spoke volumes.

Thor stared at Coulson for a long moment. Oh, why not? he finally decided. It wasn’t as if the man believed what he was suggesting or understood the gravity of the matter. “I suppose it does,” he answered, a challenging grin flickering across his face.

Coulson considered that for a moment. “Your claim might be more believable if the hammer weren’t still stuck in a crater,” he pointed out.

Thor’s grin faltered as quickly as it had appeared, softening into something rueful. “I haven’t quite been myself recently,” he admitted.

“Now that, I have no trouble believing.”

Thor shrugged. After everything he’d lost these last few days, he almost deserved that slight. “Believe what you will.”

“We’ll do that,” Coulson assured him. “In the meantime, Mr. Blake - or Mr. Thor, or whoever you are at the moment - SHIELD would appreciate it if you’d remain in town. We may have more questions for you regarding the earlier incident.”

This time there was no humour in Thor’s answering chuckle. His temper, much subdued by Mjolnir’s rejection, was finally stirring at the presumption of these men. He took a step towards Coulson, ignoring the way Coulson’s escort suddenly had weapons in their hands, tracking to follow his movement. The anger felt good and Thor welcomed it as he took full advantage of his height to loom over the agent. A hesitant touch on his arm caught his attention and he glanced down at an anxious Jane.

“Look, it’s okay. You don’t want to fight with these guys. Come on, you can stay with us,” she urged quietly.

“I’d listen to your friend,” Coulson advised mildly.

Thor spared the man a glare before allowing Jane’s plea to sway him. “All right,” he agreed at length, briefly covering her hand with his own.

“As for you,” he said to Coulson, “you’d stand a much better chance of getting answers to your questions if you’d return her work.”

It was a mostly empty suggestion - Jane’s studies weren’t complete enough to explain the Bifrost and none here would be able to explain Mjolnir aside from Thor himself - but the hint of cooperation was all Thor had with which to bargain.

Coulson glanced between them, assessing the unexpected offer. “We’ll see what we can do,” he said at last.

It turned out that Coulson could do rather a lot. Within two days, Jane and her team had signed a blizzard of paperwork and been granted access to their equipment - and to SHIELD’s resources. Jane was so excited by the latter that she confessed to almost forgiving them for taking her research away in the first place.

Thor’s own situation was rather less defined. He was neither a scientist nor a soldier, to be recruited into SHIELD’s ranks. He wasn’t even a citizen of the country - of the world! Not that anyone really believed what few statements he’d made on the topic. If it weren’t for the fact that Mjolnir continued to react to his presence, he was sure SHIELD would have happily washed their hands of him. Instead, after some time spent in tense cooperation with the researchers studying the hammer, he discovered they were willing to go to extraordinary lengths to keep him close.

“I’ve been authorized to offer you a field position in our organization,” Coulson announced one afternoon, without preamble.

Thor nearly spat out the coffee he’d been drinking. “Are you serious?”

Coulson’s deadpan expression never wavered. “Keeping you out here doing nothing seems a waste of everyone’s time - and a lot of money. You have a problem with the idea?”

“Shouldn’t you have a problem with it? Aside from the fact that you people insist that I don’t exist, you’re all convinced I’m insane,” Thor pointed out. Finding the facts of his life so easily relegated to the realm of myth and delusion had been quite a surprise.

Coulson shrugged. “Creating an official identity for you is no problem. And as far as anyone can tell, you’re perfectly sane except when it comes to the topic of just who you are. We’ve observed you in action and we’re prepared to consider your...unique circumstances an acceptable risk. If you’re interested...?”

Thor was quick to accept. He’d been chafing under his forced inactivity - it gave him too much time to think. Working as a not-so-common soldier would be far from the life he’d enjoyed as a prince of Asgard but it was infinitely better than living as a near-prisoner. He far preferred to do something with his life, even if it was limited to a mortal span on Midgard.

“Returned from another round of playing hero?” Jane teased him one evening, when she found him lingering in the small room that had been built around Mjolnir in the more permanent facility SHIELD had constructed in place of the original, temporary structure. Visiting its resting place had become part of his post-assignment routine. “Damsels saved, dragons slain and good has triumphed?”

“I have,” he replied gravely, smiling at her briefly. “And while no dragons were slain, we saved the distressed ‘damsels’ and so we’re calling this one a win for our side.”

“Always good to hear,” Jane responded, moving into the room. “I thought you might be in tonight. Noticed the sky clouding over earlier.”

“My usual welcome back,” Thor acknowledged wryly. The hammer remained an immovable weight but apparently hadn’t entirely forgotten him. “Things ought to clear up shortly.”

Jane nodded agreeably, giving him a quick once-over. “Everything go all right out there?” she asked. “I heard some of the researchers talking about the mission reports and it sounded pretty crazy.”

Thor shrugged. “Not crazy so much as not scientific,” he explained. “For all their adaptability, SHIELD personnel still have trouble coping with anything magical.”

“I suppose you’d be the expert,” Jane agreed.

“Hardly,” Thor scoffed. “I recognize it when I see it but I’m no expert. It’s my brother you want to talk to if you’re looking for an informed opinion,” he added without thinking.

Jane gave him a curious look. “Your brother?” she prompted cautiously.

Thor considered his words for a moment. For all the disbelief he’d faced, he’d never gone back on his claims of (former) godhood but neither had he volunteered information about Asgard. He could accept being labelled a madman but having a mockery made of the home and family he’d lost would have been beyond bearing. But it was Jane who had asked the question and she was special, quite aside from being the person who came closest to believing him.

“My brother, Loki,” he finally said, with a nod. “Clever and sly and well on his way to becoming Asgard’s greatest sorcerer.”

“Loki?” Jane repeated. “Isn’t he - I mean, the myths make him sound like one of the bad guys?”

Thor chuckled, wry and fond. “Your stories aren’t kind to my brother,” he acknowledged. “I expect he annoyed the historian somehow. It would be very like him.”

“It sounds like you miss him,” Jane said.

“I do,” Thor told her sadly. “Him and others.” Sif and the Warriors Three. His parents. The dozens of familiar faces that had been part of the tapestry of his days for centuries.

“So what happened?” Jane ventured softly. “Why are you here, like this?”

“I made a mistake,” Thor replied simply. “And I was rightly punished.”

His time on Earth had shown him that much. His father had been right when he called him a selfish, cruel child. It had been a bitter lesson, learned far too late to be of any use.

Jane said nothing in response to his declaration but shifted closer, taking his hand and lacing their fingers together in silent support. Thor squeezed her hand lightly and sighed, still staring regretfully at Mjolnir.

It was almost a relief when the earpiece he was still wearing interrupted his unhappy contemplation.

“Something up?” Jane inquired as he dropped her hand and straightened alertly.

“Some kind of trouble in the lobby,” he explained, already moving. “They’re calling for backup - I’m going to see if I can be of help!” he called back at her as he hurried out.

There was a controlled rush of personnel in the corridors as Thor followed the reports calmly spoken across the comm channel. He exchanged nods with the soldiers he knew, allowing them to take the lead. Exchanges of small arms fire were not his area of expertise, so he hung back as the soldiers poured into the room, giving himself time to assess the situation.

He froze in sheer astonishment at the sight of the green-caped figure standing in the centre of the room, ignoring the shouted orders to surrender with haughty disdain.

Trust the Trickster to appear on the heels of a conversation about how he was missed - in the least convenient way. Much as Thor had wanted to see Loki again, these were hardly the circumstances he’d have picked for a reunion.

Be careful what you wish for, Thor thought ruefully as he took in the sight of a roomful of SHIELD personnel confronting his brother. Loki was empty-handed and outnumbered at least thirty to one. The soldiers were heavily armed elite troops, trained to be fearless and aggressive.

Thor caught himself grinning so widely it almost hurt. The soldiers didn’t stand a chance. He was about to tell them so when Loki’s patience ran out.

A sharp gesture flung a crackling arc of light towards the soldiers, tossing most of them to the floor in dazed heaps. The remaining few promptly opened fire at the intruder, gunfire stuttering to a halt when it became apparent that the bullets were having no effect, hanging motionless in midair in front of an outstretched palm. The metallic clatter of spent ammunition cascading to the floor was loud in the sudden silence.

“As I said before, I’m here to speak with my brother,” Loki announced evenly, a trace of irritation colouring the words.

“Fortunately for everyone, you’ve found him!” Thor broke in, striding into the room without a care for the demands the facility’s commanding officer was yelling at him.

Loki immediately turned at the sound of his voice, expression brightening. “There you are!” he exclaimed. “Quite the poor welcome, your friends offer,” he added, grin gaining a sardonic quirk.

Overjoyed to see him, Thor couldn’t help but beam back at Loki as he hastened forward to meet him. “Well, you haven’t exactly given them reason to greet you with open arms,” Thor pointed out mock-seriously, gesturing widely at the shaken soldiers just starting to stagger to their feet.

Loki merely sniffed at the comment, apparently pleased with the wary looks now being shot his way.

Thor laughed, unashamedly delighted, as he reached Loki and flung his arms around him, hugging him tightly. For once, Loki’s usual hesitation at displays of affection was absent and Thor felt his brother’s arms wrap around him as he returned the embrace. He was distantly aware that the SHIELD personnel had begun to stand down but spared them no mind, too caught up in Loki’s welcome, impossible presence.

“It is good to see you, brother!” he said, voice rough with emotion.

Loki stiffened at that, placing his hands on Thor’s shoulders and wriggling until Thor allowed him to push them apart. Thor released him reluctantly, letting Loki draw back only far enough to examine him, green eyes flickering over Thor’s face searchingly.

“And you,” he said at last, smile warming again. “I’m pleased to see you no worse for wear for your time here.”

“I have found a place for myself,” Thor allowed, a pang of homesickness going through him. “It’s not home but...” he added with a shrug.

“But what of you?” he asked, abruptly reminded of their circumstances. “How is it that you’re here? Father will have your head for disobeying him!” Come to think of it, how had Loki managed his appearance? Any activation of the Bifrost would have set off all manner of alarms at SHIELD.

Some unreadable emotion shadowed Loki’s expression momentarily before vanishing under his usual composure. “Father will have nothing to say,” he informed Thor. “He’s sleeping.”

“Sleeping?” Thor echoed, dismayed. Odinsleep? Now? With Asgard likely still in chaos and renewed hostilities with Jotunheim?

Loki nodded once, tightly. “He collapsed while we were speaking.”

While we were arguing, Thor automatically translated from Loki’s brief hesitation on the last word.

“A poor time to renew his strength but Mother will have things well in hand, I’m sure,” he said, squeezing Loki’s shoulders comfortingly. “And you’re more than capable of ruling in his stead until he recovers.” He swallowed around the hollow feeling in his chest.

Loki laughed, the sound joyless and bitter. “Oh, capable, certainly. Not welcome, perhaps, but capable.”

Not welcome? Thor wondered, distracted from his own troubles as he studied Loki in turn. What had happened in Thor’s absence to shake Loki’s self-assurance so badly? Loki, with his fondness for magic and trickery, may not have always been Asgard’s favourite son but he knew his own worth.

“What’s wrong?” Thor asked suddenly, concern deepening at Loki’s visible start. He’d been too blinded by happiness upon seeing Loki again to notice the signs that all was not right with his brother. Now that he was looking, Thor caught glimpses of his distress in the tight corners of Loki’s mouth, the stiff set of his shoulders.

You’re asking me what’s wrong?” Loki deflected dryly, sweeping a pointed glance over Thor’s merely mortal body.

“Yes, I am,” Thor responded, tightening his grip in warning. “Not that it isn’t wonderful to see you but why are you here?”

Loki smiled indulgently at him. “Well, it seemed a fine time to check on you, now that the only person who could forbid it is-” Loki started to explain.

“Loki,” Thor cut him off firmly. “A fine attempt at misdirection but you and I both know better. What’s really going on?”

Loki frowned at him, twitching free of Thor’s grasp. “I - damn it,” he said abruptly, shoulders hunching as he turned away. “This was a stupid idea. I shouldn’t have come.”

“What - no!” Thor protested. “That’s not what I-”

“No matter, it’s past time for me to leave,” Loki interrupted. “Take care, Thor. It is good to know that you’re all right,” he added as he walked away, the shimmer of magic already gathering at his fingertips.

Oh no you don’t! Thor thought, flatly refusing to let Loki go so soon and when something was so obviously not right with him.

“STOP RIGHT THERE,” he bellowed.

Every soldier in the room snapped to startled attention at the shout but more importantly, Loki hesitated and glanced uncertainly back at him.

Thor closed the distance between them in a heartbeat, hand clamping down on Loki’s shoulder. “You will not leave like this,” he growled. “Tell me what’s wrong.”

Loki whirled on him, knocking his hand away. “Why should I?” he shot back, anger creeping into his tone. “What can you possibly do to help?” he sneered.

Thor set his jaw and narrowed his eyes at the unexpected attack. Loki was never more vicious than when cornered and defensive but something in his tone spoke of self-directed anger.

“Apparently you felt I could do something,” he forced himself to point out calmly. “Else why come and find me?”

Loki gaped at him for a moment, mouth working at he searched for a retort. Thor felt vindicated even as his concern redoubled. No ordinary unhappiness would have been enough to still Loki’s silver tongue.

“Come now, Loki,” Thor coaxed, laying his hand back on Loki’s shoulder. “Haven’t we always been there to help each other?”

Loki shrank in on himself as he shook his head. When he looked up at Thor, there was raw misery in his eyes.

“That was before,” Loki said unhappily. “If you knew the truth, you wouldn’t be so eager to offer me your hand.”

“Before what?” Thor insisted, gentling his voice. “Loki, nothing could be so terrible that I’d refuse you aid. You’re my brother.”

“Don’t say that!” Loki shouted. “You don’t - oh no,” he breathed, eyes going wide and horrified at something he spotted over Thor’s shoulder.

Thor spun in place, staring in incomprehension at the crystalline patterns of frost spreading across the wall. “What is that?”

His answer was a bone-rattling crash as the side of the room shattered inwards.

Loki saved them from injury, darting forward with hands spread wide as a magical shield snapped into place around them, screening them from flying debris. Before the air had time to clear, another impact rattled the building and a section of the ceiling fell in, pulled down by an enormous, blue-skinned hand. Another pair of hands reached in and began tearing chunks away from the walls and within seconds, two Jotun had shouldered their way into the building through the gaping hole they’d opened.

Jotun? Here? How? Thor wondered wildly, looking to Loki for an explanation. Loki shook his head minutely, gaze fixed on the advancing giants.

“Did you really think you were the only one who could learn to travel the secret paths between worlds?” the taller asked Loki as they approached.

“To be honest, I wouldn’t have given you credit for having the intelligence to follow me,” Loki replied offhandedly.

“Follow you? Didn’t follow you into your father’s vault, did we?” snapped the other Jotun.

Thor drew in a sharp breath but held his tongue as Loki gestured him to silence.

“No, I suppose you didn’t,” Loki conceded softly, eyes narrowed in calculation.

“So what now?” The Jotun’s tone was mockingly reasonable. “You’re alone and very far from home, little prince. And your brother is sadly diminished.”

“Don’t worry - that’s our job. Get down!” someone shouted from behind them and Thor dropped without hesitation, grabbing Loki’s wrist and dragging him to the floor.

Gunfire erupted over their heads as Thor pressed them both to the ground, Loki swearing steadily in his ear. He didn’t think highly of the chances that the soldiers would be able to bring down a pair of frost giants but he wasn’t going to counsel them against trying. Angry roars from the Jotun confirmed his fears and Thor looked up to see the giants shrugging off the stinging impact of the bullets.

“Get back, get out of the way!” he yelled to the soldiers as the Jotun scooped up huge chunks of the debris littering the room.

SHIELD personnel scattered amidst cries of alarm as the giants hurled pieces of the fallen walls at them. Thor pushed himself upright, aware of Loki following suit.

“Jotun invaders!” Thor shouted, ignoring Loki’s hiss of disbelief, thinking only to give the soldiers time to escape and regroup. “What is the meaning of this unprovoked attack?”

The Jotun turned as one to face them, a sneer curling the lip of the lead giant.

“You, Odinsson, are a fine one to talk of unprovoked attacks,” he replied, gravelly voice heavy with menace.

Thor had time to think a single, particularly foul epithet as the Jotun attacked. Loki was quicker, reaching out and catching Thor by the arm even as the frost giants lunged. Asgardian strength and speed were enough to toss Thor clear of danger but not enough for Loki to escape himself.

“No!” Thor shouted, scrambling to his feet after the force of Loki’s shove sent him skidding out of reach.

Loki managed to twist out of the first giant’s grasp but the second swatted him to the ground, kneeling to pin him there with a massive hand across his chest while he lay dazed.

“Let him go!” Thor demanded, all too aware how powerless he was to force any kind of compliance from the Jotun.

Loki’s captor laughed unpleasantly, deliberately shifting his grip higher, icy fingers sliding over Loki’s armour and scraping over bare skin. Thor’s stomach rolled at the small, distressed sound that forced its way past Loki’s control, sickened by the thought of the frost-blackened skin he was sure to see spreading across Loki’s face.

“Well, well, well,” the standing Jotun said, sounding genuinely surprised as he leaned over his compatriot’s shoulder for a closer look. “What have we here?”

Loki struggled uselessly, twisting his head away from the examination and Thor steeled himself to meet his brother’s eyes without flinching.

The first thing he saw was blue. A trick of the light, his mind insisted, of the dust still thick in the air. A product of the Jotun’s penetrating chill, perhaps. But neither the lighting nor the dust could account for how Loki’s fair skin had faded into frosted blue, or why the fearful eyes that caught Thor’s were a brilliant crimson.

“What curse is this?” The question was an aghast whisper, quickly rising to an outraged shout. “What have you done to him?”

“No curse but the truth,” the lead Jotun replied, sounding torn between amusement and disgust. “It seems Odin’s raised himself a Jotun halfling.”

Not possible, Thor wanted to object but he couldn’t deny the evidence of his own eyes. Loki’s altered appearance did nothing to hide his shame as he turned his face away and that more than anything else told Thor that the Jotun’s words were true. He shook his head in fruitless denial, overwhelmed.

“All the more reason to kill him,” grumbled Loki’s captor. “Wretched little thing shouldn’t have lived this long.”

Loki bowed his head at the declaration and Thor’s heart clenched at the sight of his brother so hopeless. Loki should never look so defeated.

“No,” he found himself saying, “don’t kill him.”

“No?” The question was deceptively idle-sounding, the Jotun’s intention apparent in the way he ground his hand the heel of his hand against Loki’s chest. “And why not?”

Because having Jotun blood isn’t enough to warrant death. Because I would not see him die. Because he is my brother still. Loki may have been transfigured into something unfamiliar at the Jotun’s touch but he was the same little brother Thor had loved and protected all his life. Thor would not abandon him now, Jotun blood be damned.

“Because he is not the one who has wronged Jotunheim,” Thor replied aloud.

Thor knew he was probably beyond rescue. Two Jotun here, with Loki at their mercy and Thor without his strength or weapon made for an impossible dilemma. There was nothing he could do to save himself but there was still a chance for Loki and the human personnel. Someone would have called for help when the threat became apparent - backup was almost certainly already on the way. Machine guns were far from the only weapons in SHIELD’s arsenal. Thor just had to buy them enough time to deploy something stronger. If that meant facing his own death, well, it was his mistake that had set this into motion.

Thor lifted his chin and stared challengingly at the Jotun leader. “I’m the one against whom you have a legitimate grudge. Deal out whatever punishment you deem fit for my trespass and let Loki go.”

There was a beat of startled silence, then one of the giants let out a bark of surprised laughter.

Loki abruptly wrenched violently against the hand that held him still, freeing himself long enough to gasp, “Have you lost your mind? Don’t-!” before his captor renewed his grip, crushing the breath out of him again.

Thor clenched his right hand into a fist, missing Mjolnir more fiercely than ever at Loki’s strained wheezing. “Have we an agreement?” he persisted.

The Jotun regarded him thoughtfully. “You would offer yourself up to spare some worthless runt, not even of your people?”

“Without regret,” Thor responded steadily. “Who he is matters far more to me than what he is. And brother by blood or not, Loki is worth a thousand of you.”

He couldn’t help bracing himself against the fist that came swinging at him but of course, it didn’t help. He barely felt the impact that smashed him into the ground, only the searing pain that tore through him in response. He was dimly aware of someone looming over him but was unable to move, not even in response to the thin cry that cut through the buzzing in his ears. Loki, he thought distantly, that had been Loki’s voice. He really should be trying to fight - or to move at least - but his body flatly refused to obey his commands, excruciating pain erupting at every aborted twitch.

I’m sorry, he thought vaguely. I tried as best I could...just let it be enough.

The world went white and Thor wondered if this was the end of it. Then a deafening clap of thunder shook him down to his bones and his veins were full of lightning. Without quite understanding what had happened, Thor found himself on his feet, Mjolnir in hand. Wind howled around him as thunder rumbled overhead, lightning dancing through the clouds in blinding flashes. The familiar, welcome weight of his armour and cape hung on him and Thor threw his head back and laughed into the storm.

He spun, Mjolnir leaving his hand even before he registered movement. The hammer smashed into the attacking Jotun, throwing him off his feet and casting him to the floor in a broken heap. Thor turned, hand automatically grasping Mjolnir as it returned to him, seeking Loki and the second giant. A flare of yellow told him he needn’t have worried. By the time Thor readied himself to attack, he saw the Jotun stumbling away from Loki, looking distinctly scorched as his hands flew to the knife buried in his throat. Loki was already struggling to his feet, somewhat wobbly but standing on his own. He froze when he caught sight of Thor, relief warring with trepidation in his eyes.

“Hail and well met then, Thor,” he offered, nodding a deliberately respectful acknowledgement. “It’s good to see you safe and restored.”

“Is it truly?” Thor asked intently.

Yes. It is. If you believe nothing else I say, believe that,” Loki told him urgently, meeting Thor’s eyes for the first time since the Jotun’s touch had revealed the truth. The red was fading from his eyes, Thor was relieved to see, warmth flushing into his skin as it returned to its familiar hue.

“I believe you, Loki,” Thor said gently, “And I would have the rest of the truth.”

Loki pinned him with a long, measuring stare before giving in, dropping his eyes as he lifted his shoulders in a helpless shrug. “It happened when we went to Jotunheim, before Father cast you out,” he began reluctantly. “One of the giants caught me by the arm but it didn’t burn. My hand - it turned blue but it didn’t burn.”

He held a hand out before him, eyes fixed on the opening and closing of his own fingers. “I didn’t want to believe it,” he continued softly. “I told myself I’d just been seeing things. The Jotun had only touched my armour. It meant nothing. Then came your argument with Father and we all had larger concerns.” He shook himself and folded his arms across his chest as he looked up again.

“But I couldn’t forget it, no matter how I tried,” he said, words tumbling from him more quickly as remembered upset infused his story. “I knew it had to mean something but I didn’t know what and I was afraid to ask and you were gone but you had to stay here to preserve what peace we could impose and Father kept watching me, as if he knew there was something...” His words trailed off and he took a deep breath before continuing.

“He found me by the Casket of Ancient Winters,” he whispered. “By then the question had consumed me and I had to know, so I demanded the truth. And when he hesitated, I put my hand on the Casket.”

Thor winced in sympathy at the crack in Loki’s voice. He had only to look at the devastation on his brother’s face to know how horrible it must have been to learn this truth.

“What did Father say?” he asked quietly.

“Oh, he spun a pretty story about rescuing an abandoned Jotun babe the day of the final battle in Jotunheim, of bringing the infant home along with the other prizes he claimed,” Loki answered bitterly. “He tried to claim me as his son by choice alongside you, his son by blood, saying that you and I were equals when all in Asgard know the falseness of that. That he had a plan to use us to restore peace between the realms I could believe, perhaps even agree with, but I find it hard to forgive his methods of achieving that end.”

Another deep breath saw Loki to the end of his explanation. “We argued but the sleep had been nearly upon him for some time and it was too much for him. He fell where he stood in the treasury and I - I didn’t know what to do.”

So you came to find me, Thor completed, heart aching for Loki. Retreating to childhood habits in instinctive search for comfort.

“So I suppose my fate is now in your hands, my brother and liege,” Loki finished, wry tone almost covering the despair in his voice.

“Oh Loki,” Thor sighed, hanging Mjolnir at his waist before approaching his downcast brother. He ignored the way Loki tensed as Thor reached him but took some pleasure in the startled noise Loki made as Thor dragged him into a hard embrace.

“I did not save you from the Jotun to see you die at my hands,” Thor told him fiercely. “And you may be angry at Father but I will forgive him all of his machinations for bringing you to me.”

Loki stayed still, rigid in Thor’s arms. “For bringing you a monster to masquerade as your brother?” he asked and the self-hatred so plain in his voice made Thor want to shake him.

“You are my brother, no matter your bloodline,” Thor murmured against Loki’s hair, “and forever dear to me. Any who try to harm you or call you monster will answer to me.”

Loki’s breath hitched and a tremor ran through him as he sagged against Thor, leaning into his embrace with a desperate gratitude.

Thor’s eyes stung at the way Loki clutched at him, saying nothing but tightening his arms around his brother.

“Besides,” he continued, “you can’t possibly think that Father meant me to rule without your advice.”

That caught Loki’s attention and he squirmed free of Thor’s arms to stare incredulously at him. “My advice?”

“Who else?” Thor asked, keeping an arm around Loki’s shoulders. “You’ve been my voice of reason since we were children. Who else knows me as well? Certainly there isn’t anyone I’d trust as I trust you.”

“But I - I’m not -” Loki spluttered.

“You’re not the warrior I am, true enough,” Thor conceded, deliberately misinterpreting Loki’s words, “but you’re smarter and far cannier. If nothing else, being banished to Midgard has taught me that ruling involves far more than being able to hit the hardest. I would have your guidance in navigating the more intricate aspects of kingship.”

Loki shook his head slowly, disbelief giving way to cautious hope. “If you recognize that, then you’re already displaying more wisdom than I’d expected from you,” he replied with a creditable attempt at his usual hauteur.

“Then it’s decided!” Thor announced, clapping Loki on the shoulder. “Home to Asgard! The kingdom needs its rulers.”

Despite everything that had just passed between them, Loki faltered at that and for a moment Thor worried he’d have to convince his brother all over again. Then an incandescent smile spread over Loki’s face.

“Then it’s time we went home,” he agreed simply and the two of them stood amongst the debris and grinned at each other like idiots until movement at the edges of his attention reminded Thor that there had been witnesses to the confrontation.

He glanced over to find various people emerging from the depths of the building to join the soldiers already at work. Coulson had appeared from somewhere and already had things well in hand, Thor was pleased to see, ordering his men to get to work on the clean up. Jane had just stepped out of one of the still-intact doorways and she stopped in her tracks at the sight of him. The shocked and impressed look on her face was gratifying - as were the surprised and somewhat wary expressions on the faces of some of the people who’d scoffed the loudest at his “madness”. Thor only barely resisted the urge to smirk. He might have learned humility but he hadn’t entirely forsaken his pride, after all.

He started towards Coulson, drawing Loki with him. Loki seemed amenable enough to being steered, merely rolling his eyes when Thor looked over to gauge his brother’s reaction. Thor knew when he was being indulged and did not care. They were alive, he was restored to himself, Loki was being himself again and Thor was sure he’d spotted an actual expression on Coulson’s face. It was taking significant effort for Thor to contain himself and avoid an unseemly display of giddiness.

Coulson regarded them with his habitual steady composure restored as Thor halted in front of him, eyes darting between the wreckage of the building, the Jotun corpses and Loki at Thor’s side. “I don’t suppose you have an explanation for all of this?” he asked dryly.

“I’d be happy to tell you what I know but first, allow me to introduce myself properly,” Thor replied, shrugging his cape back as he propped Mjolnir on his shoulder. He smiled, the wide confident grin that he’d always flashed in victory to cheering crowds from the foot of his father’s throne.

“I am Thor, son of Odin. I believe my reputation precedes me?”


FIN

(Because I remain convinced that Loki could have been redeemed if someone had just given the poor guy a hug and told him they loved him.)


Response to a prompt on [livejournal.com profile] norsekink and originally posted there.

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