A/N: I'm going to regret posting this... I've gotten into a habit of either waiting until the story is finished or nearly finished to start posting so that I can put the chapters up with some regularity, but here I am, wanting to post this with only the first chapter finished... It's a shame our day jobs get in the way, or Gabrielle Day and I might have one of these stories knocked out in a day or two. I think, after the day I've had, I just need to lose myself in Asgard for a bit. We'll see how this goes.

This is a sequel to "Drown the Echoes." You should probably read that before reading this one.


Breath of Life

They had been in there for hours and Thor was becoming restless. It had been weeks since their return from Midgard and Loki had been proven not-at-fault for his actions that had landed him in a cell on their own Asgard. It had been weeks and the Allfather had made it a habit to summon his younger son at odd hours - on his own terms - and do what he saw best to reconcile the rift between them. Thor had attended these meetings in the beginning, but Odin had found his elder son incapable of simply sitting by to observe and lend silent strength, so he had called for Loki's presence alone this time.

"They've been getting louder," the god of thunder murmured at the sound of footsteps.

Frigga gave a half smile in response. "They are both stubborn. It is a trait that you both carry from Odin."

"Neither can see the other's side. How will they reconcile?"

"They will, my son," Frigga promised, leaning down to kiss him on the top of the head before taking a seat next to him. "Loki is hurt deeply and your father is prideful and set in his ways. They will work through this."

Without warning the large, ornate doors to the chambers slammed open, causing mother and son to leap to their feet. Loki barged through, never turning to look at them as he passed, anger and frustration rolling off of him in waves. "Loki?" Thor called, but received no verbal response.

The dark haired god merely waved him off and disappeared around the corner, looking to be on his way to the nearest exit.

From inside the hall Odin's voice boomed after his youngest son. "You dare walk away when I am speaking to you? Return here immediately! Loki!"

Thor looked to his mother who sighed softly. "I'll deal with your father. Go on."

He nodded and quickly followed after his brother's retreating form. He caught up with Loki in the empty banquet hall, where Loki had come to him after his failed coronation. "Loki?" he called again.

"Go away." Loki growled.

Thor did not stop his approach. "You could always disappear if you did not wish my presence."

"I don't know why I should have to go to all the effort. It is clear that no one in this kingdom respects my wishes or even deigns to hear what I have to say. Why should you be any different?" Loki said, fury practically pouring off of him in waves.

Thor sighed at this. "If you would have me go, then I will go, brother, but... I would much rather hear what troubles you." He turned to leave and Loki visibly deflated.

"If you were anyone else, I would think you were trying to manipulate me, but damn you, Thor. Come back."

The sun shining at noontime couldn't have been brighter than the smile that his elder brother gave off as he turned on his heel and returned. Loki still glowered at him, but it did not hold quite as much anger as it had before. After a moment the younger sank to the steps, burring his face in his hands. "I can't do this anymore, Thor."

"It's just-"

"No, it's not a matter of time. It's... It's every pain clawing at me. Every horrible thought as a child made real. He never did love me like he loved you, and now I know why. No, don't look at me like that. I don't blame you for it. Not anymore. I can't even put the blame entirely on him, though don't ever speak a word to another soul. How could he love me? I'm a relic that has lost its use. Worse, I'm a relic that's turned poisonous in its stay here. I only proved myself the monster that I feared."

Thor's eyebrows drew together and he frowned reaching towards his brother. "That is not true. You are no monster."

"Oh no? Do you not remember how I deceived you? Tried to take the crown? Look how well that turned out. Do you not remember how I tried to take your precious Midgard? That turned out just as smashingly. I can't even succeed at being a monster." Loki said darkly.

"You were doing what you thought best. I was not fit to rule then, nor have I reached the full potential of a king. And you were not yourself with the Tessaract."

Loki stood and stalked away, turning furiously back. "How do you know that? How do you know that is not exactly what I am?"

Thor titled his head as if the question was the most foolish he had ever heard. "Because you hesitated." he said confidently.

"It was so much easier when I could just hate you all," the dark haired prince murmured brokenly, sinking once again to the floor. He sat unceremoniously down and dug the palms of his hands into his eyes. He had been working through the raging emotions to the best of his ability since his return, but he couldn't help the blinding rage one moment that was replaced by a horrible longing for the familiar the next and then shifted back to hurt and betrayal only moments later. It exhausted him to even think about it and he simply shut down in the end. Usually this happened at the end of his and Odin's "talks" and he would either stare blankly ahead of him or storm out as he had done on that day.

"It will get better," Thor vowed, giving him his space and never moving from his place a few feet away on the steps. "And I will be at your side, brother. I always will be."

Loki looked up, hands falling to the marble floor. His words were cut short and he looked down, face contorting in confusion. He placed his hands palm-down on the floor and stared as if he expected it to change suddenly. "Do you feel that?" Thor mimicked his brother's actions and shook his head. "It's cold," Loki explained.

"It's marble."

"Of course... No. It's colder."

Thor sank his palms all the way against the floor. It did feel cooler than it normally did. Thor looked to Loki. "That is strange. It is not yet the season for this kind of temperature."

Loki shook his head. "It wouldn't change that much in here. Not unless..."

"Unless what?" Thor asked, watching as Loki stood suddenly, tense and alert.

The blond god hoisted himself to his feet as well. "What's wrong?" he asked. When his brother still did not reply, Thor went to him and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Loki."

Loki shook his head, but did not brush off Thor's hand. "Do you not remember this cold? We have surely felt it before." he murmured.

Thor gave him a blank look and Loki resisted the urge to pop him on the back of the head. "I suppose you were a bit too busy throwing a temper tantrum." "My coronation!"

The brother's locked eyes. "The vaults!"

If either of them had thought to alert Odin to the potential situation they did not, but raced down the corridor together towards the vaults that lay deep below. As they sank deeper into the palace the halls grew colder until ice began to appear. It edged the walls, snaking in patterns around doors and creating slick spots on the floor. They reached the bottom level to find that they were not quicker than their father. Odin stood with his staff in hand, one good eye surveying the damage. Nothing had been stolen and what was left of a Frost Giant was scattered across the room by the repaired Destroyer.

Odin turned, as angry as he had been when Loki had stormed out minutes earlier. "Tell me this is not your doing and tell me truthfully or so help me I'll-"

"You'll what?" Loki challenged, cutting him off. "Throw me off the bridge?"

"He had nothing to do with this." Thor said, eying the Destroyer.

Odin breathed in deeply. "Your vouching for him continuously is touching, but seeing as how you are so quick to believe every word that falls from his mouth I'm afraid, my son, that it doesn't always have the affect you wish."

Thor colored with anger, but his retort was lost to the green-eyed god as something stirred within him. He titled his head, seeing nothing but knowing something was out of place. Something had been missed. Movement caught his eye and he cried out. "Thor!"

The magical barrier flew up just in time as the spears of ice came for the crowned prince's head. Thor stood with wide blue eyes as the shards crumbled and shattered against the invisible shield and their attacker took off down the corridor.

"You plan to just stand there and let him go free?" Loki demanded of his elder brother.

"Of course not," Thor answered and took off after the Frost Giant without a second thought.

The younger prince was only a few steps behind, staff growing easily from his fingers in a now-practiced motion. It shimmered upon completion and he grabbed out for Thor as they neared a doorway. "There're more of them than just the one," he warned.

"How do you know?"

"I can sense them."

"A valuable ability." Thor murmured.

"We'll celebrate it later. I can sense three, maybe four." Loki said. Thor nodded. He gripped the handle of his hammer tightly in his hand. He smiled briefly at his serious brother. "And you said it could never be like old times."

Loki failed to resist the temptation of rolling his eyes. "Yes. I was so terribly wrong. Frost giants running amok in Asgard again. This is much better."

They approached the doorway and Thor pulled his hammer back before charging forward, Loki just behind him. Odin strode after them, staff still in hand, anger now redirected. It seemed his eldest son had wisely placed his trust in his brother, not that he would admit as much out loud. He watched as both disappeared beyond the doorway.

Thor always appeared to enjoy battle more than his younger brother. Loki's movements were of strategy. They were well placed, sly, and deceptive to his foes. Two of the three large giants came at him, looking for a weaker target to attack. They found not just one Asgardian prince, but a multitude appearing one right after another, a smile beginning to stretch across each face. He had them as they swung angrily around at the blurring images, shouting and cursing. He appeared behind the larger one, driving his staff deeply into the creature's back, receiving a howl of pain that was cut off as he withdrew and magic took him down. He turned to see the other coming for him, but it was thrown back as a hammer slammed into its thick skull, killing it swiftly. Thor grinned widely as he recalled his weapon to him.

"Did you do away with the forth as well?" Loki called.

"You said there were three."

Green eyes rolled in exasperation. "I said-"

"Loki!"

Loki sensed the danger in the moment his brother's warning cry left his lips. He feinted deftly to the right and the blow missed by inches. Loki pulled his magic together, the end of his ice staff glowing faintly and swung around to take the fourth through the heart. To his great and everlasting surprise, the point of his staff hit nothing and a split second later pain ripped through him, threatening to pull him apart from the inside. His staff fell from his fingers, shattering on the ground below. Loki tried to draw in a breath and found he could not. He looked down to see the source of his pain and a sneer curled his lip in appreciation of the irony. A staff through the heart was both wrong and somewhat appropriate, he mused. A second wave of pain washed over him and with it the lance of fear. He heard Thor scream as he fell to his knees.

He was sure that the Frost Giant was dead, but he never saw or heard exactly what had become of it. Thor caught him before he fell all the way to the ground, easing the descent as best as he could. Loki tried to focus, to speak, to breathe, but he could do nothing but tremble in his brother's arms, and even that involuntary motion seemed to sap every last ounce of strength from his horribly injured body. His lips moved, but no words came from them and he tried to reach a hand up for Thor. He needed to tell his brother not to panic. Everything would be just fine. He just needed to get to the healing rooms and –

Another wave of pain hit him and he gave a small choking sound that might have been a cry of pain at any other time. The world began to fade around him, darkness hedging his vision.

"Stay with me, Loki. Loki?" Thor called to his brother, cradling him tightly, one hand over the wound in his chest. He knew it could do no good. There was blood everywhere, staining Loki's shirt and Thor's tunic and pooling on the floor beneath them. Loki's bright green eyes were fading quickly and terror swept through the thunder god. "Loki please don't..." Thor breathed.

Loki lifted a hand and twisted his fingers into the fabric of Thor's tunic near his collarbone, watching his brother, lips moving soundlessly. Thor couldn't understand him but couldn't bring himself to shush him. "You'll be fine. I'll take you...you'll be fine. This isn't supposed to...not...Loki..." Tears welled and spilled down Thor's face.

One thin finger made it to his face, doing little to wipe the tears away, but merely caught them for a moment as the brothers' eyes locked. Loki looked as if he were trying with everything he had to get something across to Thor, but the other just couldn't grasp it. Then those expressive green eyes rolled back and his body that had been so tense with pain went entirely limp in the elder god's arms. Thor clung to him and a wail escaped him. He screamed his brother's name so that it echoed throughout the halls of the palace and out into the city. Outside, clouds began to form and lightening crashed dangerously.

Odin moved to the center of the room where his sons were. He placed a steady hand on one broad shoulder. "Thor."

"He's gone," his eldest sobbed. "My brother is dead."


TBC

A/N: So there's going to be a bit more Loki-whump in this one, I think. Mostly because we tend to take out our aggressions against characters. When we were discussing the general outline of this story last weekend, I told Gabrielle Day that I was thinking of doing that scene *points up to the last scene* but I wanted to do some things further on and thought it might be pushing it a bit far. She thought we should kill Loki. XD Oh the angst. Oh the whump. We love it, we really, really do. I know you will be on the edge of your seats to see how we're going to get the boys out of this one =P