Two years. It had taken them two years to repair the Bifrost. Two years of non-stop work, hundreds of labourers, all volenteers eager to get out into the Nine Realms again.
None more so than Thor, but it was not Earth he longed for. His skin would not stop itching, the emptiness in his gut could be filled by neither mead nor boar, and his mind was fixed on the stars. He had had not a moment of rest since Loki's fall, and the Allfather looked on him with sympathy and gave him reassurances that they would be the first through the Bifrost to look for him.
Thor knew Loki was alive.
When, after an eternity of waiting, the Bifrost was finally ready, the Allfather said there was only one place they could look, and that Thor had to be patient a few more days while Odin saw to it. Thor did not understand, and he fumed silently in his rooms, his hands growing calloused as he gripped Mjølnir to sooth himself.
Finally, Odin came to Thor and told him they could begin the search.
'Where are we going?' Thor asked as they traversed the Rainbow bridge.
'The place Loki fell to,' Odin replied.
'And where is that?'
'Jotunheim.' Thor stopped short from entering the Bifrost. Odin turned to him and explained.
'I have negotiated with the Frost Giants. They will let us search for one day.'
'They haven't found him themselves?' Thor asked.
'They haven't been looking, and I may I have misled them in what we are looking for. They believe Loki dead. Should they find him before us, you can be sure they will kill him for his treachery.'
The pair entered the Bifrost and travelled to Jotunheim. Thor's insides were in a great knot. Where on Jotunheim could Loki be while hidden from the Frost Giants? Thor tried not to think how Loki could easily survive in the coldness, because this world was his. He was Thor's brother first, anything else was unimportant.
Only a few people on Asgard knew the whole story of how Loki fell, and they had all been sworn to silence. The Allfather had commanded them not to speak of it, and told them that Loki had suffered from a moment of insanity from the shock of knowing the nature of his birth.
The last part had been Thor's theory. He wasn't sure if Odin believed it, but he had to.
The winds of Jotunheim were bitter and pushed against them as Odin led them out into the wilderness. Their horses liked the cold even less than they, but the beasts endured. Thor wasn't sure what sort of path Odin was following, but he put his faith in the Allfather.
They followed an old path through a mountain range, where they on occasion got a respite from the wind. The horses set the pace for a while as they rode through a pass. Beyond lay a vastness Thor's eyes could not see the end of, all of perfectly flat ice and snow. The only thing distrupting the flatness was a wide gorge about ten miles out. It was huge, stretching from north to south as far as Thor could see. It was difficult to judge at a distance, but Thor guessed it to be at least half a mile wide. He realised it was the remants of the Bifrost's destruction.
They made their way down the other side of the mountain. It took them no more than an hour at most, but Thor was still anxious about how much time they were using. They had been allowed only one day to search.
Once they reached the sheet of ice, Odin looked both ways, uncertain for the first time.
'North or South?' he asked. Thor looked around as well, but he felt no bolt of inspiration for either direction. And what of the other side? Were they to search along the whole gorge?
'North, I think,' Odin said after a pause. Thor felt a sudden relunctance.
'No, south,' he said. Odin turned on his mount to gaze on him. Thor kept staring south, the feeling growing stronger. 'Yes, south,' he repeated.
'Very well,' Odin said. They started up again, Thor taking the lead by several meters. The feeling only grew, and his speed with it.
Along the great gorge he spotted a large block of ice that had been thrown up by the impact from the Bifrost. Unlike the countless other blocks along their route, however, this once was entirely square. Thor jumped from his horse when he was close and ran up to it. He placed his hand on the ice, wiping away a thin layar of snow. The block was about four meters long, two wide and came up to just beneath Thor's shoulders.
The ice wasn't clear, though, and Thor cursed as he failed to see within its depths. There was something there, surely? He felt certain he could see a dark shape.
'What do you see?' Odin asked as he came near.
'Something, I'm sure of it,' Thor said. Odin peered into the ice.
'Yes, you have found him.' Thor's heat lept into his throat. 'Use Mjølnir, gently,' Odin commanded. Thor nodded and grasped the hammer. He touched Mjølnir gently to the side of the ice block, hammering just enough for him to feel the vibrations through the ice. He stepped back and planted his feet, then with a measured strength, he hit the side of the block.
The top half of the ice cracked in a straight line through. Thor and Odin immediately lifted the half off and Thor threw it with great force into the gorge. Revealed underneath, with arms folded across his chest as if lying on a bed of silk, was the peaceful shape of Loki.
He looked serene and as himself apart from the blue skin. Thor did not let it bother him. He understood Loki's body no doubt changed to protect itself from the cold. Odin stepped up and leaned over Loki, listening, but not touching.
'He lives,' he proclaimed and Thor gave a great sigh of relief. A weight heavier than Mjølnir lifted itself from his shoulders. 'His heart beats very slowly. We will take him home and warm him.' Thor stepped up, ready to take his brother home. 'Be careful not to touch his skin while it is like this.' Thor needed no reminder and took great care in lifting Loki. He did it as he would a woman, for he felt it would be even more indignant to carry Loki over his shoulder.
Loki's head came to rest against his chest. Odin came to them and arranged Loki's hands, careful not to touch the skin, before wrapping him in his cloak. No one would see what they had come to retrieve.
Thor kept Loki in his arms all the way back, never once tiring of holding him. Loki was in his arms, and though his body was as cold as the ice they had taken him from, he kept Thor warmer than he had felt in years.
They took the Bifrost home and Thor did not stop until he was in Loki's chambers. Frigga was waiting for them when they arrived and hovered close all the while. Odin was right behind them. The Allfather lit a small fire while Thor placed Loki on the bed. He removed the cloak. Frigga hovered, eyes wet with tears. She leaned over Loki, clearly desperate to touch him.
Loki's face was unchanged. Thor almost reached out and touched his cheek, before he stopped himself.
'He will awaken,' Odin said with certainty. Thor nodded.
'I will stay with him until then,' he said. He knew his father wanted to argue, but in the end Odin left silently while Thor sat down by his brother, ready to wait to the ends of Asgard itself.
Frigga stayed for a long while as well, until she left to go to Odin for the night. Thor was glad, for his mother looked sicker by the hour sitting by Loki's side. Odin kept her away, saying Loki would not want her to see him like that. Thor was left by Loki's side alone.
For three days there was no change. Thor sat vigil over Loki day and night. Loki's skin remained blue. On the third day his heartrate sped up slightly, but the healers knew nothing of the condition, and were of no help at all.
Thor grew more frustrated hourly. He stared at Loki's face, willing his brother to awaken. He tried speaking to him, he tried shaking him once, but nothing helped. He could tell during his father's visits that even Odin was losing hope. Had they gone through all this only to have him remain unresponsive?
No, Thor decided. He would not lose hope so easily. One night, as he sat by Loki's side, staring as was his wont by now, he found himself reaching out. He stopped when his hand was just a finger's width from Loki's cheek.
He didn't know what possessed him to do it. He just knew that if Loki was never going to awaken, then he would touch him one last time at least.
His fingers carressed Loki's cheek, and Thor held his breath as he waited for the sting of frostbite.
Nothing came. Loki's skin was cold, too cold for someone in such a warm room, but it wasn't painful. Thor's eyes widened and he placed his whole palm against Loki's cheek.
'Brother,' he whispered. 'Loki, please, wake up.' He knew there was desperate hope ready to burst forth inside of him. He brought his other hand forth and cupped Loki's other cheek, but his brother was still as the grave. Thor felt a powerful anguish wash over him and squeezed his eyes shut lest it overtake him completely. 'Loki,' he breathed raggedly. He released Loki's face and groaped blindly for one of Loki's hands. He brought to his chest, and then, as tears started to fall, he pressed the back of the hand to his lips.
He remained like that for a long moment, just feeling Loki's cold skin against his lips. His tears fell freely now. Eventually, he pulled away, giving a sigh.
When he opened his eyes, he saw that something had changed, but his mind could not immediately understand what he was seeing. The skin on Loki's hand, where he had kissed it, was paling, turning slowly the pale colour Loki usually wore until there was a round spot covering almost the entire back of the hand.
Thor stared at it with incomprehension. Then he slowly turned the hand over and pressed his lips to the palm. He pulled away much quicker this time. There was another spot of pale pink appearing. Thor tried to keep calm as he pushed Loki's sleeve up and kissed a point on his forearm. Again, a pale spot was left on the skin. Thor turned his attention almost instinctively to Loki's face.
He leaned down and kissed Loki's cheek, lingering longer this time, feeling the softness. He pulled away just enough to get a look. There was a pale spot there, but it wasn't enough. Thor couldn't possibly kiss away all the blueness. His eyes settled on Loki's lips and he felt himself move forward. In hindsight, he would be certain some outside force made him do it. He kissed Loki softly, barely a brush of lips, and a jolt of emotion raced through him. It was a mixture of anguish, excitement, hope and lust. He adjusted his position so that he lay more comfortably beside his brother. Suddenly, he could feel Loki's whole body warming up. He pulled away.
Loki's face was perfectly pale and beautiful, filling Thor with wonder. Thor looked down Loki's body and saw that the unkissed hand was pale as well. He let out a breath - of relief or disappointment he wasn't sure. What now? He looked back at Loki's face, and his brother stared back.
'Loki!' Thor gasped, overwhelmed. He could not contain himself and hugged his brother to his chest tightly, and felt like crying again when he felt Loki hugging him back.
'Brother,' Loki whispered, his voice filled with confusion. 'What's happened?'
'It matters not,' Thor babbled, 'you are awake.'
'But why was I asleep?' Loki asked. 'And for how long?' Thor pulled back enough so that he could gaze upon his brother's face, keeping his arms around him. Loki was all confusion, a rare sight.
'What is the last thing you remember?' Thor asked. Loki looked away, and Thor could see the wheels turning, searching for the answer that clearly lay deeply buried. Finally, Loki looked back, an expression of deep fear and remorse on his face.
'Father- I was confronting him-' Loki could not keep Thor's gaze. 'I confronted him about my true heritage and he… collapsed.' Thor blinked in surprise. Loki had lost so much. Perhaps, Thor thought hopefully, it was a sign that all that had transpired after that event was a result of Loki's temporary madness.
'Father is fine,' Thor reassured him first. 'And now you are as well. Everything else is in the past. You shouldn't bother to remember it.'
'Thor-' Loki began, but the doors to his chambers opened, and Odin strode in, followed quickly by Frigga. Both sons of the Allfather sat up abruptly, and Loki made to stand, but his usual grace was gone and he could not manage it.
'Remain seated,' Odin ordered as he came forward. Loki appeared so shocked by the loss of control that he did as asked, plopping down on the end of the bed. Odin sat down beside him and hugged him tightly. 'My son, you are back.' Frigga sat by his other side and pulled him to herself next, tears falling as she murmured 'my son' over and over again.
'Back from where?' Loki demanded even as he embraced them. Thor did not like to hear the fear in his brother's voice.
'You do not remember falling?' Odin asked, looking him over.
'Falling? From where?' Loki asked, more bewildered than ever, turning his gaze from father to mother. 'Please, this is intolerable, tell me everything from the beginning.' Thor knew well how little Loki enjoyed being on the wrong side of a conversation, and winced in sympathy.
'Patience,' Odin ordered gently. 'Take it slowly, it may yet come back to you. A lot has happened, and a lot is best forgotten. You should not burden yourself with it.'
'Did you try and erase my memory?' Loki asked. 'So that I would not know my true nature?' He glanced briefly over his shoulder at his brother. 'Does Thor know?'
'Yes,' Thor replied. 'But it doesn't matter.' Loki gave a huff of incredulousness.
'I have awoken in a mad world,' he shook his head. He looked at his father sternly. 'Tell me all,' he pleaded. Odin sighed.
'It will only trouble you. To us it is long over, and all is forgiven.'
'Two years,' Thor told him.
'I have been asleep two years?' Loki was not one for repeating things unecessarily, but he was clearly in an unusual state. 'Tell me all, now.' Odin nodded and placed one hand on Loki's head, pulling him forwards carefully until he would whisper in Loki's ear. Thor knew they were more than just whispers, however. Loki's eyes fluttered close as his mind's eye saw the events he had forgotten.
After about a minute, Odin let go. Loki gasped and reared back violently. Thor caught him, holding him to his chest. Frigge rose so that she could help him, but Thor held him firmly, pulling him backwards so he lay more comfortably.
'Loki?' He tried to get Loki to look at him, but his eyes were squeezed shut.
'So cold,' Loki muttered. 'So cold.' Thor could feel it too - the coldness was seeping back.
'He is remembering the years in the ice as well,' Odin said. Thor shifted so he lay as he had done before. Loki was still muttering about the cold.
'Please go,' Thor asked. 'I will keep him warm.' Frigga had her hand over her mouth. Odin put his arm around her.
'His skin may turn back,' Odin warned.
'I will take my chances,' Thor snapped. Odin and Frigga left. Thor held Loki, and after a moment the muttering died down. The cold was not so bad as before, and his skin did not change back, but still Thor's lips found Loki's.
He could not say how long he kissed Loki, but at some point Loki started to kiss back. The coldness receeded. One of Loki's hands was holding Thor's head, and somehow Thor was nearly on top of him.
Loki started to push and Thor lifted his head. Loki's eyes were glassy, regret and confusion mixing with anguish.
'I- I tried to kill you-'
'Shhh,' Thor emplored, shaking his head. 'It's long forgotten. A momentary madness, all of it.'
'How can you say that?'
'It was as much my fault as yours, even father knows that, though he won't say it to my face.' Thor had never spoken these words out loud, but his soul knew them to be true.
'Your fault?' Loki's hands were splayed on Thor's chest, and for the first time Thor realised he had never taken the time to remove his armour. Loki must be uncomfortable beneath him, yet neither moved.
'It was my arrogance that drove you mad,' Thor confessed. 'I behaved unbrotherly to you half my life. When I thought I had lost you, I was sure I would go mad myself.'
'You are mad,' Loki told him. Thor smiled for some reason.
'Then let us me mad, both of us.' He leaned in for another kiss, too full of lust to realise what he was doing, but Loki held up a hand. Slowly, he turned it over, as if inspecting it, and it turned blue before their eyes.
Thor knew his brother's game, however, and grabbed it quickly.
'No!' Loki yelled, but Thor did not need to heed his warning. He pressed the blue hand to his mouth, feeling nothing but a slight coldness. Loki watched with wide eyes. Thor kissed his way down the arm to where blue met pale pink, and then looked up.
'How is that possible?' Loki said with wonder.
'There are many things I would like an answer to as well,' Thor confessed, 'but I have learned patience in many areas.' He let go of Loki's hand to caress his cheek. 'But not this.' He leaned down swiftly, and Loki did not protest, either too shocked or finally willing. In any case, he kissed back. Thor gave a moan of relief.
Had he known he had wanted such things from Loki, perhaps he would have been able to control it all better. As it was, he felt like a inexperienced warrior on his first campaign. He kissed Loki desperately, trying to get the robes open, and his armour, but his brain could not decide which to focus on, so neither got done.
'I have missed you so,' Thor confessed as he pulled away to rip at Loki's robe. Loki reached up and waved his hand down Thor's side. His armour fell away, falling off the bed to the floor with a great clanking noise. Thor pressed himself to Loki, finding the pale throat as tasty as a feast.
'You have a new way of showing it,' Loki gasped, eyes fluttering close. He clawed at Thor's back when a particularly sensitive spot was reached. Thor sucked at it. 'A snake.'
'What?' Thor hardly heard Loki - he was too busy with Loki's tunic. A very fine piece of clothing, soon to be in tatters. Never had he felt so overcome with desire, but Loki sounded almost pained so Thor contained himself and looked into Loki's eyes. They were distant.
'It died, in the cold,' Loki muttered. 'It was in…' he lifted a hand to his head and closed his eyes. 'I could not escape the cold. I wasn't strong enough. I am not good enough Aesir, nor Frost Giant.'
'You are Loki, my brother,' Thor told him fiercely. Loki turned his eyes on him, cupping Thor's face.
'We have not behaved as brothers for a long time,' Loki told him softly. 'Let us not start now.' He pulled Thor in for a hard kiss. Thor groaned into it. 'You are so warm,' Loki gasped. 'Help me.'
'I will,' Thor promised. 'I will keep you warm.' He ripped open the tunic and slid his hands all over Loki's chest.
'Yesss,' Loki hissed, his head falling back against the pillows.