Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Marvel-characters!

AN: Thank you so much for all the reviews! It was incredibly fun to read your thoughts and reactions. I think I have a gift for writing evil cliffhangers. They just are too much fun to write! But I apologize for them and I bring a new chapter. Enjoy!

Important AN at the bottom!

~ Shadows and Regrets ~

Chapter 18

"Loki?"

Thor blinked. He was certain he was dreaming, but when he pinched his own arm, he still found himself sitting straight in his bed and not suddenly awakening. But if he wasn't dreaming, then he was surely hallucinating! It mattered not because the moment would come when the figure standing at his window would disappear. So he knew he had to seize this moment. In the past few weeks, he had never been able to picture Loki so perfectly.

"Hello, Thor," Loki said quietly.

Loki looked surprisingly well. His skin had a healthy color (even though Thor could only see it in the pale moonlight), his eyes stood luminous and he wore a kind smile. Was this how he wanted to remember his brother? Was this the Loki forged out of his memories? Thor buried his face in his hands and inhaled deeply. This could not be healthy for his mind.

"Thor?" Loki asked with a hint of concern in his voice. "Oh, I see. You think you are dreaming or that you are imagining me. Let me assure you that I am real, Thor, I am here with you."

When Thor looked up, he expected to be alone in his room, but his brother remained. In fact, Loki's expression had changed. His smile had vanished to make place for a slight frown on his face. Also, he looked…irritated. That took Thor by surprise. Surely this wasn't how he would picture his brother? He would want him to smile like before.

"No," Thor said slowly. For a moment, he wondered why he even bothered speaking with the figment of his imagination. "You're dead. You were on an exploding spaceship as you saved earth and humanity. You died because I couldn't save you. So I assume that you are a figment of my imagination. I can't live without you so I am now imaging you."

It almost sounded pathetic. Thor hadn't known he had such a weak mind.

At that moment, Loki walked forward, his steps confident. Thor didn't understand what was happening until Loki made his hand into a fist and hit him hard on the shoulder. There would surely be a small bruise in the morning.

"Aw!" He rubbed the sore spot.

Loki smirked. "Was that a figment of your imagination?"

Thor said nothing, but looked like a hurt child. Loki's smirk only grew.

Pushing the covers away from his body, he got up from his bed. For a few seconds, he stared at his younger brother with his lips slightly parted. The silence made the situation awkward, but he just didn't know what to say. He should say something – anything – but his mind came up empty. Instead, he wrapped both his arms around his brother's thin and held him closely.

He purposely ignored Loki's struggling.

"Oh no, Thor," Loki protested, "let go of me! Get your big arms off! I demand you let me go. Now!"

Thor only obeyed after a long fifteen seconds. Loki, now sporting a scowl on his face, straightened the folds from his shirt. Thor watched in with awe, a large smile on his own face. He knew that smile would not disappear for a long time.

"I thought you were dead," he said. A new thought came to him, a darker one. This time, he said the words through gritted teeth, "I thought you were dead! How could you let us all think you were dead?"

He crossed both arms before his chest and pressed his lips together in a thin, white line. His expression demanded an explanation from Loki, but he somehow doubted Loki would grant him this pleasure. The trickster had never been one to reveal such truths.

Thor watched how his little brother inhaled deeply and lowered his gaze. This was new.

"I am sorry, Thor," he apologized, "for any grief I have caused."

Thor narrowed his eyes. He knew Loki well, but he could never tell whether or not there lay sincerity in his voice. It wasn't like him to apologize for something like this. Now that Thor thought of it, Loki had already pulled this trick once! He had fallen into an abyss many months ago and pretended to be dead back then! Their family had mourned as well, but Loki hadn't apologized for that.

But there he stood before Thor, his eyes averted and his voice soft.

Thor decided he did not like what he saw. This was supposed to be a cheerful occasion! It wasn't every day you discovered your brother lived, although it was starting to feel normal to Thor. "We must go to the Allfather and tell him this news," the thundered said happily, "and we must tell mother! She has been ever so sad and-"

"No!" Loki's eyes widened and his voice sounded strain.

It confused Thor.

"None can know of this," Loki said, gazing into his brother's blue eyes. His own green eyes had lost some of their luminosity. They stood more sincere, more dangerous. "Promise me you will tell no one of this news."

"What?" Thor breathed. "Why?"

Loki hesitated, staring at his fiddling hands for a short moment. When he looked up again, Thor swore he could see conflict lay in Loki's eyes.

"I've been running for so long, Thor," Loki confessed, "it makes me tired. It makes me exhausted. You cannot know what it feels like and for the first time, I don't blame you for that."

"Who have you been running from? The Chitauri? They are dead, brother."

Thor tried to recall a moment where Loki had been this honest with him, but he couldn't remember a anything. For the last few years, he had known a shade of his brother, an illusion cast by Loki himself. That realization pained Thor. He vowed to himself that he would seize this second (third actually) chance he had with Loki to get to know him again. He had already read most of his books so that was a beginning.

"Yes, from the Chitauri," Loki answered, "and from Thanos, but most of all, from Asgard."

Thor had no answer to that, only more questions. Dozens of questions! What did Loki mean by that statement? Did he mean Thor? Or Odin? Surely he could not be talking about their mother! Or every other Asgardian in this realm? Thor forced himself to stop overthinking it and decided to wait for Loki to explain it further.

"I felt I had so much to prove," Loki sighed and turned back to the opened window. It was understandable that Loki disliked looking at Thor right now. After all, he was revealing a part of his soul, something he hadn't done in so long. Certainly not to him. "I was the lesser son, the intruder. I wanted to show everyone that I was worthy, that I was good enough to be a prince of Asgard. Most of all, I wanted to prove it to you and Odin."

"You never had to prove-"

Loki spun around, his green eyes wide and cautious. "Yes, I did!" He sounded angry and Thor quickly closed his mouth. "You have no idea what is like to live in the shade of someone better than you, someone greater. Every day, I tried to prove myself, but nothing worked. I still felt…worthless."

"I am sorry," Thor said sadly.

"All my attempts failed," Loki continued as if Thor had said nothing, "there is so much you do not know about me."

"Then tell me now," Thor wanted to take a step towards Loki, but he instantly noticed his brother growing tense. "Please, tell me now, Loki. I am listening and I want to know. You are my brother, but I feel I barely recognize you anymore."

Loki sighed. "There's simply too much. I do not know where to start."

"At the beginning."

Loki scoffed. "Even that is greatly complicated."

"Try me," Thor urged.

"If you insist," Loki said.

Something changed within him at that point, but Thor couldn't quite put his finger on it. He felt like Loki was testing him, like his words would unlock a reaction and that reaction would tell the trickster everything he wanted to know. Suddenly, it was Thor who grew cautionate.

"I murdered my true father for Odin while he was succumbed to the great sleep. I wanted to show him I was his son and not Laufey's. I tried to destroy Jotunheim because you and father always said the frost giants were a monstrous race that were a threat to Asgard. I wanted to do you both a favor. It's safe to say none liked my actions."

Loki scrutinized every small emotion that flitted through Thor's gaze. There was mostly shock and horror. Clearly, the thunderer had not known of this before.

"Then I tried to subjugate earth," he continued in the same even voice, "because Odin once told us we were both born to be kings. Yet I had no kingdom so I decided to make one for myself. In the end, I would have brought peace to Midgard. I would have helped them even though they didn't see it that way. No one saw it that way."

Thor swallowed heavily. He had known of all these events, but never of their motives. At times, he had just thought his brother mad and greedy for power. Hearing Loki reveal what drove him cast a whole new light on that past. It was almost troubling because he had been so oblivious to it all.

"And then the running began," Loki added almost as an after-thought, "I was locked in a cell, here below our feet. It was mortifying. The guards weren't particularly nice either. And then there is that moment I came to you in my greatest despair. That is the moment I truly began to run. The Chitauri were after me and I didn't even know what Odin would do about that."

"We would have never handed you to them," Thor assured Loki.

"But The Chitauri are all dead now," Loki sighed, "that's something I suppose. There is another, more powerful creature out there, however, and if he knew I was still alive, he would eventually come after me. That and I'm still an escaped war criminal in the eyes of every Æsir in this realm. They would demand I am imprisoned again for my heinous crimes against Midgard if they knew I was still alive."

Thor could not disagree with him there. He had heard some of the elders talk about this. They had all said that Loki's death had been unfortunate, but that if he had lived, he would still be their prisoner. He would still have to carry out the rest of his imprisonment.

"So now everyone thinks I am dead," Loki concluded, "and it is for the better. There is none chasing my tail so the running has finally stopped. I am free, both physically and mentally, and I would like to keep it that way for now."

Thor could understand the physical part, but he was confused about the mental part. His mind had never been bound.

"Mentally?"

"As I said before," Loki clarified, "I felt I had so much to prove to you and Odin. I have done that now. I saved not only Midgard, but Asgard as well. There are not many who can say that. I was prepared to sacrifice myself on that ship. It was just a twist of dumb luck that I managed to escape."

Another mystery to the God of Thunder. "How?"

"I was connected to every Chitauri out there. You can't begin to imagine the power I had. I blew up everything I had a connection with. However, my magic was inexhaustible at that moment and I could teleport away just before the fire of the explosion reached me. I had a few burn marks afterwards, but it was nothing a few spells couldn't heal."

Thor smiled. "I am glad you are alive, brother."

"As am I," Loki replied kindly.

"But…" Thor took a step forward and this time, Loki did not react hostile towards it. So he continued to ask another burning question. "Why are you here? You want everyone to think you are dead, but you reveal the truth to me. Why?"

"Because I couldn't stand your wallowing!" Loki laughed. It was a divine sound to Thor's ears. "If it escalated like that, you would have started to cry yourself to sleep at night. That would simply be too ridiculous."

Thor smiled, revealed a perfect row of white teeth. "You felt empathy towards me."

"Don't go exaggerating this," Loki countered, yet there still lay clear amusement in his eyes.

"I am glad you've told me, brother," Thor said more seriously. He contemplated on hugging Loki again, but the trickster was onto him and raised one warning finger. Thor inclined his head, respecting his brother's wish. He decided he didn't want to scare away his brother. "I wish I could tell the realm about this, I was I could shout it from the rooftops on Midgard."

"I strongly recommend against it."

"This is my promise to you then," Thor said, "I will not tell a soul. I will respect your wish."

"Thank you," Loki smiled, and then added, "brother."

Now Loki was asking for it and Thor decided he could not be held responsible for any his actions. He moved closer to Loki and embraced him for a second time. Again, Loki protested, yet his threats sounded insincere. So Thor tightened his embrace – nearly crushing Loki's ribs - just before he let go of him.

"You'll see me around soon enough," Loki told him, "after all, I can't stay dead forever."

"Visit me at least," Thor asked, "let me know you are all right."

"I will."

Loki smiled one last time and then disappeared again.

It mattered not to Thor that he had gone so quickly. He knew his brother was alive and he felt his heart beat with joy. His hands even trembled slightly due to his excitement and he could not wipe the smile from his face. It would prove difficult to hide this truth from his family, but Thor knew he would succeed.

After all, he had promised…

…and he never broke his promises.

Especially not to his brother.

AN: I hesitated for so long about this chapter... But I really like it this way (even if it seems an abrupt ending). I feel it leaves certain things open and others neatly wrapped up. So yeah, I decided not to write a complete reveal that Loki is alive. Thor knowing felt enough for me and you that somewhere down the line, he'll show up again (probably yelling 'surprise' and giving his parents a heart attack).

So let me know what you think!

Thank you so much for sticking with this story all the way to the end. Thank you for the reviews, the alerts or making this a favorite. Simply put: thank you for all your support!

Cass