Okay, guys, last chapter! It... bothers my OCDness that I'm ending on the ninth installment, since it's not an interval of five or two. Well, then again, this is Norse mythology: there are supposed to be nine worlds, so yes. I've just justified it to myself. Carry on.

Also, I've just enabled anonymous reviews, since... I didn't realize they were disabled, ahahaha. ^_^;

So This is Goodbye

"You do not have to leave."

Loki paused at those words, lingering in the doorway. He flexed his injured hand, pleased that the muscles had finally slid back into place and that he could do all those annoying little things he had taken for granted, like being able to zip up his pants. He was well enough to dress and feed himself, to walk for some distance – if at a painfully slow pace – and, in his mind, to be on his own again, out from under Thor's shadow, his concern, and – most painful of all – his debt.

"And what?" Loki replied, turning to look at his brother. "Stay here? Renounce my 'evil ways', don some tights, and become one of your precious Avengers?"

"I saved your life," Thor snapped. "You could be more civil."

"I did not ask you to," Loki replied. "I do not need you to fight my battles for me!"

Thor scowled. "By blood or not, I'm still your brother, Loki."

"Well, in that case, I neither need nor want your concern, 'brother'," Loki snarled, folding his arms across his chest and lifting his chin at a haughty angle.

Loki watched as the irritation bled from Thor's face. Loki wanted to punch him if only to see the rage he deserved reflected in those storm-blue eyes again. "I could never claim to understand you," Thor said, speaking slowly as though weighing each word. "It has taken me all these years to realize that it's not my place to. You do need me, whether your pride will let you admit it or not... in the same way that I need you."

Loki scoffed at first, then paused when Thor spoke those last words. Thor had always been his better, had always been larger than life. "You've never needed me," Loki said defensively.

Thor closed the distance between them and placed his hand over Loki's newly bandaged one. Loki looked askance at his brother then down at his hand, tensing to move away at the slightest provocation, but he allowed Thor to keep that small point of contact. "You were always so much like Father," Thor said. "So composed and wise. You always knew what to say and how to act. I was never good at those things, but with Mjolnir in my hand, I felt invincible." Thor paused to swallow. "You may have been my little brother, but in some ways you always seemed so much older than I. I merely wanted to make you proud the only way I could."

Loki could not match the open honesty in his brother's eyes, so he dropped his gaze with a heavy sigh. He was not lying, Loki knew. Thor had always been content with the truth where Loki never was. And now he was staring at the trickster with child-like hope in his eyes, as though looking for validation.

The mighty Thor had just revealed a chink in his armor, Loki realized. All he had to do was plunge the knife in, and, after all the damage that Abaddon had wreaked, he would finally regain the upper-hand.

Loki stared his brother in the eye and opened his mouth to give the coup de gras, to tell his brother that he was a fool and that Loki had always hated and resented him. In that moment, three words were all it would take to sever the tattered remains of the bond between them. Three words and Loki would be free from the burden of family.

The words died on his lips.

"I should go," was what he said instead, neither indulging nor destroying the hope in Thor's eyes. Just this once, he decided, he would not be cruel.

In Loki's mind, that made them even.

"Goodbye, my brother," Loki said, throwing one last bone.

Thor smiled a bittersweet smile at the epithet and nodded. "Goodbye," he said.

Loki swallowed the lump in his throat and briskly walked away, forcing himself to face forward and to not throw one last glance at his brother.

At the last moment, he decided to make a small detour before leaving the mansion.

Brooding, Thor poked at his food, wondering where his brother was at that moment. He hadn't the slightest clue.

He missed how things had once been, when they were children and he would share his every waking moment with his wily younger brother. Back then, Thor thought that the Frost Giants would be his greatest foes and that his brother would always be at his side.

Never for a moment had he ever considered the possibility of Loki not being beside him, let alone fighting against him. But just now, for the briefest moment, everything had been back to what it was supposed to be, only for Loki to walk away again. Was the brother he had once loved even still there?

The sound of Tony stamping into the room interrupted Thor's ruminations. His face was beet red, and the veins in his forehead looked fit to burst.

"What's the matter?" Thor asked, instinctively reaching for Mjolnir.

"My underpants."

Thor blinked. "Pardon?"

Tony closed his eyes and drew in a shaky breath. "All my underpants have been replaced by leopard-print thongs."

Thor opened his mouth to say something, only for his jaw to just hang there uselessly. "Then... what are you wearing now?"

Somehow, Tony's face turned even redder. He grumbled something under his breath and then slunk away.

"Jarvis!" Thor heard him call out from the hallway. "I need boxers!"

Thor chuckled to himself, knowing that, wherever he was, Loki was probably feeling deeply pleased with himself.

(Not) the End

A/N: So a sequel it is by popular demand! Thanks for sticking with me through this, guys. You all have my undying love. I would bake you cookies if I could hand them to you through the screen.

-tries and fails- Awww... T_T

Firstly, though, I'll be needing to take a short break from this so I can step back and figure out where, exactly, the story is going. And by a "short break" I just mean a day or two since I'm currently obsessed with this fandom, haaa.

So yes. Words and stuff.