Disclaimer: I do not own the Avengers.
Waiting in a cell for his not-Father to decide his punishment was decidedly dull but it was preferable to what was now breaking that precious silence. Namely, Thor's boots thundering through the mostly empty cell block towards Loki.
He wondered what it said about him that he could distinguish Thor's footsteps from those of others. Most likely nothing. Most likely Thor just thundered everywhere he went with no concept of stealth. And he wondered why Loki had never let him tag along when he needed to be quiet.
He rose and stood calmly waiting for what was to come. He wasn't quite sure how it would go but the odds were good that he would rather that it didn't happen.
"Loki!" Thor exclaimed happily as he burst into view, as if he had half-expected that Loki wouldn't still be there. Oh, if only.
Loki did not deign to respond aside from glaring at Thor. It would seem that Thor still hadn't gotten the message that Loki had no intention of returning to the way that things were (if that were even possible and honestly he rather doubted it). On the one hand, it annoyed him that Thor wouldn't just give it up already. On the other, he suspected he would be even more irritated if Thor ever did stop trying. Just because it was a futile effort was no excuse for Thor to give up on the man he still insisted was his brother, after all.
"Father has decided what is to become of you," Thor announced.
Loki started at that unexpected bit of news. "I've only been back for two hours."
"That is true," Thor agreed. "But we have been thinking about this since we first heard word that you were still alive."
"So what is it going to be?" Loki demanded. "Am I to be imprisoned forever? Stripped of my powers and banished as you were? Is my mind going to be destroyed? Shall I be outright executed?"
Thor had been listening with growing horror. "No, of course not! What ever made you think that?"
"Do I really need to recite the litany of my crimes?" Loki asked, raising an eyebrow. "You seemed to have a good grasp on them earlier before I was escorted here."
"Well, yes," Thor conceded. "You did a great deal of damage. Still, you're my brother and our father's son and so allowances must be made."
"Aren't you even going to pretend you're not engaging in blatant nepotism?" Loki asked, pinching the bridge of his nose and glancing down.
Thor blinked. "I don't see why I should. It is obvious that if you were anyone else then you would be punished far harsher. Everyone knows this and accepts it as perfectly natural. It would be insulting of everyone's intelligence to pretend otherwise."
Loki supposed that that had always been the case when they were younger. If he had been anyone else he would have been banned from the palace and virtually everywhere else he had cared to go. There had even been an incident with some dwarves once who had completely overreacted and wanted to sew his mouth shut until Thor had shown up and started smashing things. He could always be relied on to do that. Even when he had refused to help Loki destroy Jotunheim he had been amenable to smashing things though the Bifrost was a rather unfortunate target.
"This is a bit more serious than anything we've done before," Loki told him.
Thor shrugged. "The same principle still holds. Some people were a little surprised that we were even punishing you at all."
Loki just stared at him. "You're not serious."
Thor scratched the back of his head awkwardly. "Your scheme to destroy Jotunheim was surprisingly popular with the people, as was your killing of Laufey. And they were not particularly concerned about Midgard, either. Earth."
Well that was certainly interesting. He chose to ignore the unexpected popular support in favor of focusing on what he considered to be the relevant part. "So I see they would like to see all Jotun killed. Can you not understand why I would not want to return here?"
"It's like we're having two different conversations," Thor marveled. He sighed. "Come now, Brother. You're the one who actually sought genocide. They just…don't disapprove. Besides, they don't know about…that."
"Why not?" Loki asked flippantly. "They seem to know everything else."
"It just somehow never came up," Thor said uncomfortably. "If you want t hem to know then they can but we'll leave that decision up to you."
Loki nodded curtly, knowing that he would never do any such thing and Thor and Odin had to know that. "Oh, I understand. You're more ashamed that I'm a Frost Giant then about anything else I've done. I can't say that I think much of your priorities."
Thor winced. "That's really not-"
"Though, to be fair, I suppose I can't blame you," Loki continued as if Thor had not spoken, "when you're a monster it follow that you do monstrous things."
"I am highly concerned by your constant referral to yourself as a monster, Loki," Thor said seriously. "That seems like it would be very psychologically damaging."
"All I'm doing is not being a hypocrite," Loki claimed. "I know all Frost Giants to be monsters and I myself am a Frost Giant. The logical conclusion is that I'm a monster. Unless you think that your love can 'save' me in which case I'll have to advise you to get over yourself, Thor."
"That sort of stereotyping is troubling, too," Thor added.
" 'That sort of stereotyping'?" Loki repeated. "Who are you and what have you done with my br-with Thor?"
If Thor had noticed his slip-up then he didn't mention it and that only annoyed Loki more. He didn't need Thor treating him like a child. "I learned much from my time on Midgard."
Loki rubbed his forehead tiredly. "Thor, you were gone for three days."
"You had an identity crisis and went crazy in those three days," Thor pointed out.
"That was different," Loki sniffed. "I had found out that I was a monster. Under the circumstances, I believe that I reacted almost admirably."
"There are no circumstances in which your reaction was even remotely sane," Thor said flatly. "Besides, I thought that I had killed Father."
"I had meant that he was dead to me," Loki claimed. "Did you really not get that?"
Thor rolled his eyes. "Well thank you so much for clarifying that after all this time! I had really been distressed thinking that he was really dead all this time."
Loki shook his head. "Sarcasm doesn't suit you."
"I think it suits me just fine," Thor disagreed, crossing his arms.
Loki decided to let it go. "I thought it was implied that he wasn't really dead," he said instead. "But you've always been lousy at subtext."
Thor looked like he wanted to argue the point but then closed his eyes and shook his head. "I'm also concerned that you keep using your unfor-your birth as an excuse for your actions."
"And why is that?" Loki challenged. "Isn't it better to be upfront about these things?"
"There are a lot of Frost Giants who don't do the kinds of things that you do," Thor replied. "And you never used to do those kinds of things, either, so it would follow that merely being a Frost Giant is not the reason."
"The average Frost Giant merely does not have the power to do what I did," Loki said contemptuously. "Do not take their impotence as proof of their virtue."
"But you're never going to stop being part Frost Giant!" Thor protested.
Loki rolled his eyes. 'Part'? Oh yes, Thor was still in denial. "At last you begin to get the picture."
"Are you really going to claim that you have no choice in the matter and your fine Asgardian upbringing stands no chance against your biological heritage, Brother?" Thor demanded, a hint of smugness in his tone. He knew that Loki would never be able to say that.
Loki growled in annoyance. "Don't call me that," he ordered abruptly.
Thor blinked in confusion. "Don't call you what? Loki? The last time I checked that was your name. Has that changed?"
"No, it has not changed," Loki told him. "After so many centuries, changing it now would be ridiculous."
"Almost like trying to disown your family after just as many centuries," Thor muttered. "Well, if your name is still Loki then am I just not allowed to call you that?"
"Far from it," Loki assured him. "I really wish that you would call me that."
Thor frowned. "Then I'm afraid that I really do not understand."
"You didn't call me Loki," Loki informed him, exasperated. "You called me Brother."
Thor blinked again. "Oh, did I? The words 'Loki' and 'Brother' are practically synonymous to me."
"But I'm not your brother," Loki cried out.
Thor shook his head disappointedly. "Loki, we've been over this. Remember that time that I accidentally broke your first staff? You can't just decide that we're not brothers anymore."
The only way that had been an accident would be if Thor had suffered some sort of head injury and really thought that Loki's scepter was the sword he was using it as.
"Oh, I quite agree," he said silkily.
Thor eyed him warily. It would seem that he was learning at last. "You do?"
"Oh, yes," Loki continued. "It's not a matter of not being brother anymore but rather us never having been brothers at all."
"That's even more impossible," Thor objected.
"The only 'impossible' thing is our being related at all given that we are from two wildly different species," Loki bit out.
"I have been talking to my human friends about the concept of adoption, which is much more common on Midgard than Asgard given our lengthier lifespans and advanced healing. They agree with me that you're still my brother. They tried to commiserate with me about it but they still agreed," Thor announced. "You seem to have a shockingly narrow definition of 'family.' It's not like you see Laufey as your family either."
"That's because he abandoned me to die," Loki answered promptly.
"So actions can determine whether someone is family or not!" Thor cried out triumphantly. "And you've been one of us for years."
"What kind of 'family' would throw me into an abyss?" Loki demanded, narrowing his eyes.
"A terrible one, I'm sure," Thor replied blandly. "But Loki, you know that's not what happened!"
"I know nothing of the sort," Loki argued.
"You let go of me!" Thor exclaimed. "I was horrified! You didn't even lose your grip or anything; you just let go!"
Loki tiled his head curiously. "Now why would I do that?"
Thor shook his head helplessly. "I know not. I wish that I did. And I don't even believe your really don't see me as your brother anymore or our parents as our parents."
Loki coolly raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"
"If you did then why would you keep trying to correct me?" Thor asked reasonably. "As my brother, you know me well enough to know that you won't ever convince me and if you were that sure then it wouldn't matter what I thought."
Thor did have a point about his own hard-headed nature but Loki refused to consider his words beyond that.
"You said that a decision about me has been reached?" Loki asked instead, bringing them back to the original point of their discussion which had been lost amidst all of their perpetually unresolved business.
Thor appeared thrown by this sudden change of topic but he quickly recovered. "Yes, it has."
Loki waited but Thor did not seem inclined to go on. That meant that Thor either had a problem with Loki's sentence or he knew that Loki would. "Well?" he prompted.
Thor took a deep breath. "We're going to redeem you."
Loki had had a lot of time since Thor had thrown him into the abyss to think about all of the possible punishments he might face if he was ever caught. He could honestly say, however, that this one had never occurred to him. "Sorry. What?"
"We're going to redeem you," Thor said again, more confidence in his voice.
"You can't just order someone to be redeemed!" Loki protested.
"We just did," Thor pointed out.
"Well, fine, I suppose that you can," Loki conceded. "But you can't expect it to work. Or you shouldn't, at any rate."
"Why not?" Thor asked blankly.
"Because you can't force someone to become redeemed!" Loki burst out. "They have to want to."
"Why wouldn't you want to be?" Thor asked, still confused.
"I haven't done anything wrong," Loki insisted.
"You attempted multiple genocide," Thor reminded him.
"I don't see your point," Loki said coolly.
"My point is that genocide is…" Thor trailed off, searching for a strong enough word. "Bad. It's bad."
"Why?" Loki inquired innocently.
"Because killing people is something that should only be carried out when absolutely necessary so killing a large group of people unnecessarily is even worse," Thor tried to explain.
"You assume that I accept that killing people is wrong," Loki said flatly.
"You don't?" Thor asked, flabbergasted.
"Explain to me why it's wrong," Loki requested, ignoring the question.
"Well…I…" Thor was floundering at having to explain such a basic concept. "Would you like it if someone killed you? That's why we know that it's wrong to kill others."
"Those Frost Giants and pathetic humans could never kill me," Loki said disdainfully. "And let's not pretend that your 'Avengers' are typical human specimens."
Thor sighed. "I see we have a long way to go."
As it happened, despite what he had just managed to convince Thor of, Loki did fully acknowledge that murder was a problem and he was – as a general rule – against it. He just only viewed the deaths of Asgardians as murder. The Jotun were monsters and the humans were but ants. How could killing them possibly be wrong?
"It's never going to work," Loki said confidently. "Thor, I won't stroke your ego and soothe your conscience by allowing you to 'redeem' me."
Thor eyed him sadly. "This isn't about me, Loki."
"That would certainly be a change, wouldn't it?" Loki asked flippantly.
"I'm going to prove you wrong," Thor vowed, a familiar fire burning in his eyes.
Loki smiled coldly. "You can try."