One day, I may write something that, firstly, doesn't become a massive ball of angst and sadness, and, secondly, isn't from ~norsekink.
That second statement is a lie.
The first time Loki holds his hand, Thor is three and Loki is just a baby. He is small but strong, and his little fingers wrap around one of Thor's hard and tight enough to almost hurt. Thor doesn't tell Mother this, though, because he doesn't want Mother to think he's small and weak.
Instead, he suffers the indignity quietly, a smile on his face as he faces Father's court and Father announces that Loki is their new prince. He is too young to understand the glances the courtiers exchange, and he is too young to understand the meaning behind the whispers. When Mother tenses beside him, he presses closer to her and grins. Her smile is quick and fleeting, and he wonders why she doesn't really smile, like she does when they're alone.
Mother never smiles when she stands in front of Father's court.
Thor lifts his hand, the one attached to the finger that Loki strangles with his tight grip, and he makes Loki wave to the assembled people. Some of them smile and laugh, but their expressions of gladness are timid and reserved.
And even though Thor doesn't understand all of it, he knows enough to know something is wrong.
The second time Loki holds his hand, Thor is five and Loki is two, and they are walking through the halls of Asgard together. They have just shirked their minders, and they make their way down a hallway toward Mother's gardens. Thor would much rather sit with Mother and her handmaidens in the gardens then try to read with his tutor.
Loki didn't seem to want to be there either, so when Thor's tutor wasn't looking, he bundled up his brother in his arms and snuck out. But Loki is too big for Thor to carry, so he had to set him down. Loki is too small to walk on his own, so Thor held out his hand, and Loki took it, and now they walk together, slowly.
Thor likes to run. He is an active boy, the kind who throws himself into everything with all he is inside. He likes to do things until he is covered in mud and dirt and dust, or in paints and ink. He likes to move and act.
But he doesn't mind slowing down for Loki.
"Too fast," Loki complains.
Okay, sometimes he minds. But not that much, because Loki is his brother, and Thor loves his brother. It is, in Thor's mind, that simple.
"Sorry," Thor says, and he takes smaller steps. Loki toddles alongside him, his hand so tight around Thor's that it hurts. Thor doesn't say anything, though, because he is Loki's big brothers, and big brothers are supposed to be strong.
The third time Loki holds Thor's hand, Thor is twelve and Loki is ten, and they are both very sure they are going to die. And if they don't die, Father and Mother will probably kill them.
"Don't let go!" Thor shouts, gripping Loki's wrist tightly, clinging to his brother as Volstagg and Fandral cling to him. Thor hangs over the edge of a cliff, his friends holding desperately to his legs, and he closes his other hand around Loki's arm.
Loki's eyes are filled with water, and Thor does not know if the liquid is tears of fear or simply the product of wind-stung eyes. He does not care "Thor!" Loki sounds panicked, terrified, and his face is white. "Thor, I'm slipping! I—"
"Don't let go!" Thor's voice is ragged with fear, almost cruel with it, and he grits his teeth as his muscles strain. He can feel Loki slowly sliding from his grip, his palms damp with perspiration. No, no, no, he thinks. I will not lose him! No!
And then he is being dragged backwards by Hogun and Sif, and they grab Loki and haul him over the edge of the cliff as well, and everyone collapses onto the ground, shaking and boneless and exhausted. Thor is on his back for only a moment, his relief making him nauseous, and he throws himself on top of his brother, dragging Loki into his arms.
Loki's arms wind around his neck, and they're both crying.
When they stand before their father and mother later that evening, quiet and contrite, shoulder to shoulder, Thor's hand finds its way around Loki's behind their backs. They are scolded soundly for being in a place that was forbidden to them, and Thor does not let Loki explain their presence. Loki had wanted a plant that grows on the edge of the cliffs, and the ground had crumbled beneath him. Instead of relaying that story, Thor tells Father he wanted to impress a girl by acquiring one of the plant's flowers.
Father probably doesn't believe him, but he punishes only Thor.
The fourth time Loki holds Thor's hand, Thor is fifteen and Loki is thirteen. They no longer share a room, but their rooms are still connected. The door is hidden behind tapestries and is meant for servants, but that doesn't stop them.
Loki slips into Thor's room in the middle of the night and crawls into Thor's bed, and Thor wakes slowly, yawning. "Loki?"
"I had a bad dream," Loki whispers in the darkness.
Thor wraps his arms around his brother, enfolding Loki in his embrace. Loki is plagued by nightmares. They come to him well past midnight and he wakes from them bathed in sweat and shaking. Thor hears him call out in his sleep from time to time, but he does not go into Loki's rooms. He allows his brother his pride. But most of the time, Loki comes to him.
"Tell me," Thor implores, but Loki shakes his head.
"No," Loki says. "No." He reaches for Thor's hand, winding their fingers together. There is just enough moon- and starlight pouring in the half-opened drapes that Thor can see Loki's tear-streaked face. He turns his gaze from Loki's face to their hands, and he places his other hand over their entwined fingers.
Loki never tells Thor about his dreams, and Thor doesn't need to know. Not really. Because there is nothing Thor can do for his brother. The mind is Loki's realm. Thor is powerless there, and he cannot help but think it is wrong that he cannot protect his younger brother.
The fifth time Thor holds Loki's hand, Thor is thirty-nine and Loki is thirty-seven. They are arrogant princelings, assured of their positions in their world, beloved by all. Recently returned from a sortie in Jotunheim, they ride through the streets of Asgard in a carriage gilded with gold and precious stones. They are dressed in finery, their armor polished so much that the light reflecting from it is blinding.
They both wear wide smiles as they wave to their people, and behind them, Lady Sif and the Warriors Three ride with frost giant heads on pikes.
The cheers are deafening, and they lift Thor's spirits, making him feel strong and invincible. He reaches for Loki's hand, and Loki tries to pull it away. Thor does not allow it, his grip closing strong and immovable on Loki's wrist. Loki glares at him, his smile vanishing for only the barest of seconds before he replaces it.
"Let go, brother," he says, his words distorted by lips stretched in a taught smile.
"The people will cheer all the louder for us," Thor returns, and he lifts both his hands, and Loki's with them, and as he predicted, the people of Asgard let out a mighty roar.
The sixth time Thor holds Loki's hand, all of Asgard celebrates Thor's five hundredth birthday. He is drunk and mindless, laughing as he stumbles through the halls to his quarters. Loki trails after him, and Thor can feel the weight of Loki's judgment on his shoulders.
"You are displeased, brother," he says, his speech slurred as he trips over nothing and careens headfirst into a wall.
Loki allows him to crash against a marble pillar, and Thor frowns. "You're supposed to protect me," he says.
"I will not protect you from the consequences of your actions," Loki responds, but all Thor hears is Loki's tone, which is whiny and annoyed.
So he responds in kind, sticking his tongue out.
Using the wall for support, his shoulder sliding along it, he staggers the rest of the way to his rooms, and Loki follows. "It's my birthday," he says as he all but falls through the door.
"Yes, it is," Loki agrees, catching him by his arm. Loki's hand closes on Thor's and he drags Thor to bed.
Falling across his bed, Thor refuses to release Loki's hand, tugging Loki down next to him. "Stay with me," he commands.
"Why?" Loki asks, sounding petulant.
"Because. You didn't get me a present."
"I told you that your present isn't ready yet."
Thor does not believe his brother, and tells him so, and then he yawns and stretches and drapes his arm across his eyes. Loki's knuckles brush against his cheek as Loki says, "Thor? Thor, let go of me. Don't you dare fall asleep."
But Thor is already asleep, and it takes only a few minutes for Loki to realize that, even in sleep, Thor is not going to release him.
Thor watches Loki grow more and more distant, separated from Asgard by some strange distance that Thor cannot understand. He tries to build a bridge across the gap, but Loki refuses all his attempts.
No. No, that is not true, and Thor feels a bit foolish for trying to place all the blame on Loki. It is, he thinks, that Loki's likes are his own dislikes, and his likes are the things that Loki dislikes, and there is little similar between them anymore. They are like night and day, like the bright, burning sun and the dark, unrelenting storm clouds.
So it is impossible to reach his brother. They share little, and what they do share is somehow tainted. Thor does not understand everything, but he knows enough to realize the nature of their relationship is changed.
And it hurts him.
And it cuts him.
And when Loki lies to him about their father, when Loki nearly destroys their world and betrays all of his trust, Thor thinks his heart has been torn from his chest.
He knows there is much he cannot comprehend. He is not a man of learning. But Thor understands that he has, somehow, failed his brother. Surely something he did is what brought Loki to this point as they hang over the edge of the rainbow bridge, their hands separated by Gungir's golden length.
Thor reaches for his brother, terror a cold knife against his throat. But Loki is not looking at him, he is looking at their father, and when Odin says no, Loki lets go.
And Thor's hand, the one that so desperately reached for him, is left empty.
The years pass. The world ages. Time is nothing if not unrelenting, and when Thor meets Loki once more, it is on the field of battle. There is something in Loki that has twisted, and he is broken and wrong.
Thor cannot help but hate him.
He hates Loki for letting go, for abandoning him. He hates Loki for being so selfish, for thinking only of himself in those final moments on the rainbow bridge. He hates Loki with everything he is because he loves him so much, because he was hurt so much, because he is just as broken and twisted and wrong without Loki as Loki is without Thor.
They are merciless. They have no pity. When they meet in battle, they are not playing: they try to kill each other.
Loki, Thor thinks, hates him, too. There are no cruel taunts on Loki's tongue when he fights Thor, only silence, and the silence is brutal and vicious. It cuts deeper than any knife, and it leaves wounds that fester and will not heal.
They are trying to destroy each other.
And neither cares.
If, in the heat of their battles, their bodies touch, if they cross the invisible wall understood to be between them, neither comments on it.
If, when Thor reaches for Loki with the intent to grab and tear and rip but instead brushes his hand across Loki's face with tenderness, they do not acknowledge it.
If Loki throws Thor to the ground and pins him there with his legs and his arms, if he holds Thor down and hovers inches from his face with nothing but desperate, shattered love in his eyes, they say nothing of it.
Their hands touch, their fingers brush, and for the first time in his life, Thor pulls away from his brother instead of reaching toward him. Loki has brought this on himself, and Thor feels no remorse.
He stands at their memorial, at the Avenger's memorial, in downtown Washington, D.C., and he is given a wide berth. He does not mind the distance. Since Rogers' final, immutable death, he has felt alone. He has felt like there is no one left.
They are all gone, now, all his friends. Their bodies aren't in the ground at the memorial site, but locked away in some government bunker, kept safe from desecration. He appreciates that.
He closes his eyes and bows his head, and in the silence, for there is always silence surrounding the Avenger's memorial, he hears footsteps. He thinks he recognizes those footsteps, but he does not dare look up. He does not dare to check his guess.
"Forever assembled." Loki reads the simple inscription on the base of the memorial, written in letters nearly as tall as he stands, in a disaffected tone. "Appropriate."
Thor says nothing. He does not open his eyes. He does not look at Loki.
"You must hate me," Loki says, "for killing Rogers."
Yes. Bitterly. Hate does not begin to touch on how Thor feels.
"You have lost all your mortal friends," Loki observes, and Thor can feel Loki's presence at his side, can feel how close they stand. If he shifts his weight, he will brush against Loki's shoulder.
They have not seen each other in at least fifty. They have not touched in many more, even in battle. They have, each of them, held themselves aloof from the other, giving nothing.
Thor wonders if there is anything left to give. Loki may not know it, but he gave Loki everything he had in him years ago. And so while he will always harbor hatred for Loki, Thor knows that he only hates his brother so well because he loves him so much.
There is a brush against his hand, flesh against flesh, and the shock of Loki's skin against his makes his eyes fly open. Very, very gently, Loki slides his palm against Thor's and slips his fingers around Thor's hand. For a long time, Thor doesn't move. Midgard could have burned around him, and he would have remained still.
And then, just as gently, he takes Loki's hand in turn, and the thrill of his brother's hand in his is love enough.