Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Marvel-characters!
AN: This story begins with the battle in Jotunheim, but it ends differently. Very differently. There are two songs I listened to while writing this: 'Down' by Jason Walker and 'Losing Your Memory' by Ryan Star. You should check them out. They are really wonderful and set a good mood for this story.
I hope this short story will be enjoyed. Forgive me for writing it.
~ Your Ghost ~
Loki looks at the leader of the Frost Giants with large eyes. He has heard many tales of him, but he has never seen him from this close. He can actually see the lines in that blue, old face. He can see the sharpness to giant's eyes. It is impressive and rather imposing.
"You know not what your actions would unleash." The voice of king Laufey holds regret and remembrance. "I do. Go now, while I still allow it."
Thor – the ever so stubborn and impulsive God of Thunder – moves to step forward. His shoulders are tense and his grip on Mjolnir tightens. His face sports a feral scowl and Loki knows he has to do something at this point. If he doesn't interfere his brother will actually start a war with Jotunheim. That has never been the intention.
Loki quickly steps forward and grabs Thor's arm. He can feel Thor's furious gaze land on him, but Loki keeps his eyes firmly on the king. He only shows a reserved and calm composure.
"We will accept your most gracious offer," he says politically.
Thor growls. At that moment, he seems nothing more than a spoiled child that hasn't gotten his favorite toy; said toy being 'war' in this case. Loki only tugs at his brother's arm and pulls him away from the gathering Frost Giants who all come to stand before their king.
"Come on, Brother," Loki mutters. He truly doesn't care whether Thor feels slighted in any way or whether he feels irritated with him or not. The most important task at this moment is getting them all safely back to Asgard.
When Loki turns around, he can see the faces of the Warriors Four ever so clearly. They looked almost…thankful. Well, they should since Loki had just averted a war. If Odin ever finds out what has happened here-
"Run back home, little princess."
Loki closes his eyes for a split second and sighs.
There will be no stopping Thor this time.
All hell breaks loose and Loki – as well as the Warriors Four – has no other choice but join the battle that has erupted. Thor is knocking aside Frost Giants as if this was his favorite game while the Warriors Four are merely trying to survive this battle. Loki doesn't exactly know what he is doing. He is fighting, but his mind isn't truly there. He keeps thinking of his brother and how he should have ended his idiocy the moment they arrived in this Godforsaken place!
A little to his right, Loki hears Thor roar, "At least make it a challenge for me!"
He nearly eye-rolls at his idiotic brother, but then another Frost Giant comes at him and Loki is forced to throw a series of daggers at him. The Giant falls down, but another quickly replaces him. There will always be another to replace a fallen soldier. Loki does his best to stand his ground, but after a few easy kills he turns to his second favorite weapon: magic. He easily fools a Giant into falling into an abyss. Frost Giants have never been the cleverest creatures in the nine realms and tricking them is almost child's play. Yet Loki makes himself no illusions: not every Frost Giant is so easily conned.
Again, he can hear a scream and he whirls around to see Volstagg pulling himself free from a Giant's grasp. The skin of his arm looks black and necrotized. It is a gruesome sight and Loki is worried for his friend at that moment, but Volstagg fights on.
"Don't let them touch you," the round warrior warns.
Loki wants to reply, but he is attacked by two Giants and he needs all of his concentration to get rid of them. Another moment passes and Loki suddenly realizes that the Jotun King has not joined the battle. It is well known that Laufey enjoys a good fight. Certainly he can't pass on the chance of fighting the mighty Thor himself?
Knowing that something more is going on, Loki spins around. He lets his eyes fall on every Jotun around him and finally lets his gaze land on the King himself. Laufey grins as he looks up to what appears to be a large statue of an ancient creature.
The realization hits him too late.
With frightening awe, Loki watches Laufey summon the statue to life; the statue which has never been a statue to begin with. The beast is big, bigger than a house and Loki feels his breath hitch in his chest. There isn't a chance in the nine realms anyone can fight off such a magnificent, powerful beast. Loki almost admires it…if it wasn't coming at him at this precise moment.
"Thor!" He yells, instantly catching his brother's attention. "We must go!"
"Then go!" Thor yells back.
Only when the massive creature roars does it catch the thunderer's attention. For a second, Thor's blue eyes widen, but then a grin breaks free on his face. Loki can't believe Thor actually thinks he can kill it! This is madness, but clearly Thor only sees it as another challenge. There truly is no end to his brother's arrogance. That should not be so surprising!
Loki runs to join the Warriors Four as they move to escape this dead land. They have to reach safe ground if they want Heimdall to open the Bifrost for them. It won't be easy, however, since hundreds of Jotuns are chasing after them and Fandral appears to be injured rather badly. The blond warrior slows them down, but none think of leaving him behind.
They are loyal friends after all and none would ever abandon one another.
Behind them, the unknown and brute creature roars again. Loki can't help but turn around to face it.
"Get to higher ground," he tells to the warriors Four, "bring Fandral to safety!"
"What about you?" Sif asks. Her voice is strained and she is out of breath.
"I must help my brother!"
Loki doesn't have a mighty hammer to help him, but he has always believed his magic rather powerful. Once he veiled them all in smoke so that they could escape the dangerous realm of Nornheim. Thor will not ever admit it, but if Loki had not done so they would not have made it out alive. It is a pleasant memory, but Loki has no time to reminisce.
The beast quickly approaches and the ice cracks under its weight.
"Thor?" Loki yells, not knowing where his brother is.
A hammer knocks against the creature, making it lose its balance. It sways dangerously to one side, but quickly finds its balance again. It simply continues to storm towards Loki who knows he is running out of time. He raises a hand and casts one simple spell. Thick clouds form themselves around the beast's head and it suddenly skids to a halt, thinking it has gone blind.
"Good trick, brother," Thor cheers as he runs towards Loki. He holds his hammer again and moves to throw it at the beast a second time.
Loki is surprised that fighting this creature is actually not so difficult, but there are still another hundred Frost Giants thirsting for their blood. Loki goes to stand with his back to Thor and repeats his spell on the many enemies. Some of them fall down, others bump into each other. It's almost a comical sight were it not for the beast that freed itself from the clouds.
It storms forward, quickly gaining speed.
Loki swallows heavily. He fears his trick won't work a second time. It cannot be that stupid.
"Let me," Thor says with utter arrogance as he pushes Loki aside.
The thunderer swings his hammer and aims it at the beast's head. It hits him in the eye, but the beast continues to charge forward. Thor's attack clearly made it angry and Thor has no choice but jump aside. However, the beast swings out one of its giant paws and before Loki understands what is happening, he feels the force of the beast's paw hit his head. It sends him flying back until he hits the ground a few hundred meters away.
It is strange and terrifying to hear the crack of your own skull. It is even stranger to see the edges of your vision blur into darkness as it tries to consume you. Loki gasps for air, but finds that it never reaches his lungs. The fall causes a few of his ribs to crack and break and Loki feels himself drown in his own blood. It is disgusting and horrifying and he forces himself to keep his eyes open.
Darkness calls to him, however, and Loki feels himself go limp. He cannot breathe nor move his limbs. He cannot turn his head. He can only watch the darkness swallow him whole.
"…Thor," he manages to choke.
Then he is gone.
~ o ~
Thor spins around just in time to see his brother getting hit by the giant beast. He can only watch with shock in his eyes. For a short moment, he loses his grip on Mjolnir. It is absolutely petrifying to his little brother thrown back so far only to fall down like a ragged doll and not move anymore. He can see Loki's green eyes widen for a second – even from this distance – and a word falls from his lips before blood trickles down.
He can't be sure, but he thinks Loki whispered his name. Watching those green eyes disappear behind their lids somehow calls Thor back to reality. His gaze shifts away from Loki and towards the Warriors Four. They are only a few meters away from his brother they and are already making their way to the fallen prince. It isn't easy, however, since Fandral has difficulty moving.
Anger surges within Thor and he raises his hammer, calling forth thunder and lightning. With a swift movement, he brings down his mighty weapon and directs the forces of nature directly towards the creature. It is large, wild and at this point frantic, but not even something as imposing can withstand getting struck by lightning. Thor repeats the process, tapping into his anger and fear as he strikes the beast again, together with a dozen Frost Giants.
A clear pathway appears before him and Thor seizes his chance. He runs for his brother and when he reaches his side, he kneels. Mjolnir falls to his side, discarded and already forgotten. The thunderer doesn't even have eyes for the quickly approaching Jotuns. They still want to six Asgardians dead and they are now more vulnerable than ever.
"Loki…" Thor whispers as he reaches for his brother's weak and unmoving form. When he places a hand underneath Loki's head, he instantly finds it warm and wet with blood. It is a sickening feeling and Thor pushes aside the urge to wipe the blood from his hand.
"Thor, I don't think we're getting out of here," Sif says desperately.
Sif – along with Hogunn – is supporting Fandral's weight. The normally dashing warrior looks pale, but Thor has no eyes for him. He only sees Loki until he hears the deafening thuds. They sound like drums and Thor is forced to look up. He sees hundreds of Frost Giants approach. Most of them are smirking, knowing they have trapped the invaders like flies in a web.
For a split moment Thor panics, but then he simply does not care anymore. He lowers his gaze and sees the blood on his hand again. He sees Loki's deathly face and his gray skin. He sees the blood dripping from his white lips, forming a small, red stream. He barely sees the rising and falling of his chest.
It is now or never.
"Heimdall," he shouts, looking up to the filthy grey sky, "open the Bifrost!"
With so many enemies nearby, Thor doubts Heimdall will actually listen. Opening the bridge now would open the realm to hundreds of Jotuns. A battle would follow and many Asgardians would die. It is all Thor's fault. His stubbornness. His pride. His arrogance. He deliberately put his friends in danger and look where they are now! Volstagg's arm looks black and dead while Fandral is rapidly losing blood due to a nasty shoulder-wound. The worst is him cradling the nearly lifeless body of his brother.
He needs to get Loki back to Asgard. Odin's best healers can still safe him.
There is still time.
"Heimdall!" Thor shouts, his voice wavering.
The sky remains unmoved and Thor lowers his head. He buries his face in Loki's hard shoulder.
He assumes this is his end.
A deep rumbling alerts him. A bright light flashes down and cracks the ice where it hits. Only a second later does the Allfather appear as he rides his most powerful steed. Sleipnir neighs and rises on it behind four legs. It is an impressive sight, but Thor only notices the cold and calculated look on his father's face. He can tell Odin has never before been so furious.
Laufey steps forward, the ice underneath him rising so that both kings can look each other in the eye.
"Allfather," Laufey says mockingly, "you look weary."
"Laufey," Odin breathes hard, "end this now."
"Your boy sought this out!"
"You're right," Odin says compliantly, "these are the actions of a boy, treat them as such. You and I can end this here and now before there's further bloodshed."
"We are beyond diplomacy now, Allfather," Laufey sneers, "he'll get what he came for. War…and death."
Something changes in Odin's demeanor. He looks less calculated and his coldness disappears in an instant. His eyes fall on his sons and he swallows heavily. For a short moment, he appears more as a father than as a king. Thor doesn't know if that is good or not.
"So be it."
Odin raises Gungnir, his mighty spear, and summons back the power of the Bifrost. The energy surrounds them and Thor can feel the familiar pull of traveling through space. He only holds onto Loki and when he can no longer feel the biting cold of Jotunheim, he dares to look around.
They are back at the Observatory. Odin stands beside the core of the Bifrost and angrily pulls out Heimdall's sword. He tosses it to the gatekeeper.
Whatever Thor expected to happen now did not happen. There came no shouts or vicious accusations. Odin merely comes forward. Thor still holds on to Loki as he watches his father kneel down before him. Odin's right hand finds its way to Loki's pale cheek. He whispers something, but it is too quiet for Thor to understand.
"I am sorry," Thor hears himself say. His voice cracks at the end, but he does not care. He doesn't want his father to see a strong, confident man. He wants him to see a completely and utterly terrified and vulnerable brother of Loki. "I couldn't protect him."
Odin calls Heimdall forward as he stands.
"Bring my son to the infirmary," he orders. He looks strangely composed and Thor doesn't understand. How can a man see his son so broken and not shed a tear?
"You cannot even protect you brother. How can you hope to protect an entire kingdom?"
This was something Thor did not expect. When had this suddenly become about him or his ability to protect a realm? They should be focusing on Loki! Thor is too shocked to feel Heimdall lifting Loki from his lap. He is too shocked to notice that he is trembling violently. He only sees the blood on his hands that has turned a shade darker than a few moments earlier.
Odin's words sting him and he can't help but think about them. How is he supposed to rule Asgard and the other realms when he can't even keep his family and friends safe?
"Go to your chambers," Odin commands, "you are not to leave them until I say otherwise."
"You've done enough!" Odin bellows. It is the first sign that he is not as composed as he makes everyone believe. "You have done enough."
Thor sucks in a sharp breath.
"I must go to him, father," Thor tries, "I must sit with him while your healers work."
Thor hasn't noticed to dozen guards entering the Observatory. He is too shaken to notice anything really. He barely registers the fact that two guards seize his arms and hoist him up. They do not let go of him once he stands on his own accord.
"Thor Odinson, you have betrayed the express command of your king," Odin begins. He looks like an old and tired man as he speaks and Thor can't find the strength to oppose him, "through your arrogance and stupidity you've opened these peaceful realms and innocent lives to the horror and desolation of war. You are unworthy of these realms. You're unworthy of your title. You're unworthy of the loved ones you have betrayed."
Thor feels tears sting his eyes as he understands all too well what this means. He has betrayed Loki in a manner. He asked him to accompany him to Jotunheim. He clearly remembers Loki trying to save the situation using diplomacy, but because of his stupidity he threw it all away. It is his fault Loki is harmed so severely.
"I now take from you your power," Odin adds, "in the name of my father and his father before."
With those words, Mjolnir – which had simply stood near Thor's feet - flies into Odin's open hand. Thor doesn't protest. He can only think of his brother. He is more overcome by the fact that he is not allowed to see him than by the fact that he has just lost most of his power.
"Make sure my son does not leave his chambers," Odin says quietly, "I will deal with him later."
Thor doesn't struggle as the guards escort him to his chambers. He only cries silently and prays for his brother's recovery.
~ o ~
Odin makes his way to the healing chambers. He knows he'll meet his wife there and he knows she will have tears running down her cheeks. There will be no consoling her. A mother can never be alleviated when her child is suffering. Hopefully Loki will be all better in a few hours' time. The Royal Palace does have the best healers in the nine realms.
The guards respectfully bow their heads when their kings walks by, but Odin pays them no attention. He walks on, his chin raised high and his shoulders as broad as possible. He feels tired and ill and he knows it is time for another long sleep, but times do not allow it. Now more than ever does Asgard need its king. Thor's childish and foolish actions have endangered them all.
When he finally reaches the halls of the healing – a part of the palace he rarely visits – he can feel a sense of dread come over him. It is because of the silence. One can hear a pin drop. Only his steps echo through the golden hall which gives the entire scene something ominous. Odin tries to shrug away the feeling, but it lingers in the back of his head.
Just before he enters Loki's healing chamber, a healer exists the room. His white linen shirt is stained with blood. It is a gruesome sight and it turns even more appalling when Odin remembers that blood belongs to his youngest son.
"How is Loki?"
He hears his own voice and it surprises him that it sounds soft and caring. Of course he loves both his sons, but he has never shown it to his people. They need their king to be strong and just at all times. Sentiment is not fit for a king. Showing love, showing that he does indeed have a soft spot for his boys could lead to others questioning his methods.
The healer is not surprised to hear Odin's delicate voice.
"I am afraid we have done all we can."
Odin feels a claw move around his heart. He thinks it is the big sleep calling for him, but he pushes aside the feeling. He reminds himself that he cannot leave his family now. However, this grave news does nothing to help his situation. Odin stares into the healer's kind eyes. He finds them compassionate, but unwavering.
"What are you saying?"
"My Lord," the healer begins, folding his hands before his stomach, "we know of your son's true parentage. He is not of Asgard, but of Jotunheim. We have tried everything to heal him with our magic, but his body reacts differently to our spells than a normal Asgardian's body."
Odin lets the news sink.
"Will he live?"
"We cannot tell," the healer replies, "the prince's body has been broken, but for as long as his mind fights, there is still hope. Only time can heal his wounds. We must pray to our forefathers that the prince finds the strength to pull through."
Odin nods. At this moment he is not a king – he certainly doesn't act like one – but he is a father. And he has just heard terrible news. It unsettles him, makes him feel powerless and Odin sighs heavily. He lowers his head in a manner of defeat and utters a faint prayer to his forefathers.
He pushes past the healer, knowing full well that none will stop him if he wants to sit at Loki's bedside.
When he enters the chamber, he lets his gaze slide around. He fears for what he'll see once his eyes fall on the figure of his youngest son. The walls are covered with a thin layer of gold and a large window allows yellow sunlight to enter. It casts the entire room in a soft glow and fills it with natural warmth.
In the middle of the room stands a bed. It is made of Asgard's finest metal and wood. It looks ancient and powerful. In the bed lies Loki, his face deathly pale and his arms, hands and fingers unnaturally thin. Odin walks towards his son and places his warm hand on Loki's cold one. It feels as if his spirit has already abandoned his body, but Odin quickly sheds that thought.
All those millennia ago, he took a small, blue child from Jotunheim's wasteland after The Great Battle. He had stumbled across it by chance, having heard its loud, shrieking cries. It had felt as if a force of nature had pulled him towards the small, coiling creature. The moment he had picked it up into his warm arms, the child had seized its cries. It had looked almost…pleased and when it had looked into Odin's one good eye, it had gurgled the most unnatural sound. In that moment Odin had known the boy was a survivor.
Loki is a survivor.
"Fight, Loki," he whispers as he lets his eye fall on the thick bandage covering his son's head, "I know you can hear me and I want you to fight. Come back to your family."
The door swings open and Frigga storms inside. She has no attention for her husband and Odin cannot blame her. She hurries to the other side of her son's bed and takes his still hand into her own. Her usually affectionate, brown eyes are now filled with tears. She looks torn and pained.
"He feels so cold," she murmurs.
Her gaze rises to meet Odin's.
"Why does he feel so cold?"
"The healers have done their best," he replies, knowing that his answer will not satisfy her, "Loki's body is different and he reacts different to their magic and balms. He will live, my love, because he is strong."
Frigga looks worried. She trusts Odin more than anyone else in the nine realms, but this time she appears skeptical. Her eyebrows rise when she says, "Can you promise?"
Odin wishes he could, but at this time, he refuses to lie.
Frigga merely returns her gaze to the still features of her son.
~ o ~
Thor's previous shock and dread has vanished. All that he feels at this very moment is anger. No, it is more than anger; it is fury, outrage and part confusion as well. Never before did he find himself in a situation like this. His fingers itch to grab something – Mjolnir – but he does not find the power that usually connects them. He feels useless and he can only think of his brother.
Most of his wounds would be healed by now. There is even a possibility that he already regained consciousness. He wonders if Loki will blame him. He has cause in the end. Thor did put them all in jeopardy. He wishes he could apologize to his brother. He wishes he could tell him that in the future, he will listen more to his wisdom. Yet there is a small voice in the back of his head that laughs: you are too stubborn to listen to Loki, it says, and you are certainly too proud to hear his wisdom.
Thor smiles and then the image of Loki's bloody face flits before his eyes. His smile vanishes in an instant and he sighs. He feels tired and weak. He can already imagine the moment when Loki will walk through the door before him, laughing with the fact that Odin technically grounded him. He is Thor, God of Thunder, wielder of Mjolnir and future king of this realm…and he has been grounded. It's mortifying and Loki will marvel at it.
There are three short knocks and Thor frowns. For a moment he thinks it will be his brother, but then he remembers Loki never bothers to knock. Thor rises from the edge of his bed and considers who could be there.
The heavy wooden doors open slowly and reveal Sif. She enters swiftly and turns around, pushing the doors shut again. She looks distressed and her hands tremble. Never before has Thor seen the warrior-woman in this state, not even when trapped in Nornheim. He wonders what could have startled her like this and his mind shifts to Fandral who received a heavy blow as well today.
"What's wrong?" He asks.
Sif inhales deeply, never unlocking her eyes from Thor's. She looks apologetic and Thor does not like it at all.
"Thor, your brother…" She hesitates and Thor can tell she is here as his friend, not as the fierce warrior she wants everyone to know and see, "Loki is not doing well."
This is impossible. Healers have brought back people from the edge of death. They managed to save those who had gone without a pulse for minutes. They worked miracles and magic and they were the very best healers in the nine realms, but Loki… Could they not save Loki?
Thor swallows heavily, not completely understanding what Sif was telling him.
"Healers worked their best on him," she explains softly, "but something seems… Loki isn't reacting to the magic and spells like they hoped he would. I'm not even supposed to be here, the Allfather himself forbade it, but I felt you had to know."
"Had to know what?"
"The possibility-" Sif sucks in a sharp breath. She seems undone. "The possibility that Loki might be dying. None know whether he'll pull through or not."
Thor feels all sense leaving him. He cannot feel his legs and they give out. He drops down on his bed and he lowers his head. He stares at his lifeless hands resting in his lap. They are clean. He washed away Loki's blood the moment he entered his chambers, but now he can suddenly feel it again. It is sticky and filthy and he begins to rub his fingers across his skin.
Sif sounds ever so quiet, but she doesn't move towards him.
"Thank you," Thor hears himself say, though he doesn't feel in control of anything he does, says or thinks, "thank you for coming to me."
The doors swing open and four guards enter. They are all carrying weapons and they appear quite impressive. Sif instantly turns to look at them, but Thor keeps his gaze on his hands.
"There is none allowed in here, my lady," one of the guards says, "we must ask of you to leave."
Sif looks over her shoulder at her friend and Thor raises his gaze to meet hers. He wants to smile, he wants to show her that he will be all right, but he cannot. He simply doesn't have the energy to put up a façade. The anger, fury and confusion he felt earlier is gone now. He feels defeated, lost and alone. He wants to be with Loki, he wants to see him. He wants to see him open his eyes and grin. It will be a conniving smile that lets Thor know Loki is aware of something he isn't aware of. Loki always looks like he knows something…more.
Thor sighs and closes his eyes. He can hear Sif and the guards leave and the closing of the doors is deafening. He allows himself to fall back onto his bed and gazes up at the ceiling. He sees the ever so familiar patterns. He always stares at them when he cannot sleep. Even those pointless, meaningless patterns make him think of his brother.
How could this be happening? Is he responsible for his all this?
A part of his says 'yes'. Yes of course he is responsible! He made Loki come with him to Jotunheim. He failed to protect him and he had his blood on his hands while he did nothing.
Another part says 'no'. He is not guilty because he did fight to the best of his abilities. That beast had simply been too strong. He also didn't want to feel guilty because then how is he supposed to carry on? How is he supposed to get up from his bed?
The answer is simple: he isn't supposed to get up from his bed. He rather lies there and wallows. He rather closes his eyes and prays to his forefathers. He begs them for help, but there comes no reply. It seems he is on his own for this one and Thor knows that he must do something.
He inhales deeply to steady himself and forces himself to stand up. He walks to the doors and pulls them open with much force. Four guards instantly block his path and Thor thinks for a moment. He could fight them, but that would cost precious time. He doesn't have the same strength anymore and Mjolnir will not help him now. He could still take on four guards, but he could simply miss the turmoil. Instead he thinks of what Loki would do. It isn't easy to do so since there is never any telling what goes through the trickster's head.
"I must see my brother," Thor says after a second of awkward silence, "go to my father and ask permission."
Two guards bow their heads in respect and leave. Thor cannot help but smile when he is now only faced with two guards. Loki would be proud that he actually schemed something. Thor turns to the two remaining guards; he punches one in the face and tackles the other one. They never saw the attack coming. Both of them fall to the ground, all air knocked from their lungs.
They will not be getting up in the next five minutes.
Casually, Thor steps over them and heads towards the healing chambers. He must and will see his brother. None shall stop him.
~ o ~
When Thor enters the room, he finds it still. He instantly sees his brother lying motionless in the midst of a broad bed. Then he finds his mother sitting next to him. She is holding his hand and that sight hurts Thor more than anything. Tears come to him and he feels his mouth go dry. He wants to say something – anything – but he seems to have been converted to a mute fool.
"Thor, come in," Frigga says.
For some reason, Thor hadn't expected her voice to be so strong. He is dumbfounded and he has forgotten the ability to walk. He just stands there, staring at his pale little brother who just this morning ate breakfast with him. This was to be his day of triumph, his coronation, his feast and his glory! The day turned out quite different. Instead he is looking at the most bizarre image.
He feels detached somehow, like he sees everything through a glass. He feels none of this is real and for a moment he thinks this is one of Loki's most vile tricks. At this moment, Thor prefers this all to be a scheme. He wants Loki to jump up and yell 'surprise, I really got you now, didn't I?'. He knows that will not happen. This is real. He keeps repeating it over and over again.
This is real. This is real. This is real.
Frigga lets go of Loki's hand and walks towards her eldest son. Thor feels guilty that she had to leave Loki's side for him, but he is also grateful. When he feels his mother's touch on his cheek, he leans into it and accepts her warmth and love. He finds her sad eyes and sees that they are empty of tears. She probably cried more today than ever before in her life. Her tears are empty.
"I know this is frightening," she says, "but you must stay strong. Loki needs us to be strong."
Thor should say something. He should at least try and acknowledge the words, but he still hasn't found his self-control. He is like a statue, frozen into place and into the same emotion. At this moment, Thor doesn't even know what emotion that is.
Fear? Anxiety? Distress? Despair?
"Come," Frigga says in hushed tones. She takes Thor's hand and guides him towards Loki. She pushes him into the chair that stands beside the bed and walks around so she can retake her own seat. For a moment, she smiles though it never reaches her eyes. "We can just sit here for a while."
"I…" Thor clears his throat and forces himself to finish his sentence. Now is not the time to be a coward. "I shouldn't be here, mother."
"I know," she replies. Her hand is already holding Loki's again. She squeezes it gently as if to let him know that she is still with him. "Odin forbade you from leaving your chambers, but the situation has altered. Your place is here, with your brother."
"Where is father?"
"He is speaking with the healers," Frigga sighs, "he hopes there is something they have missed."
"There must be," Thor says angrily.
His mother shoots him a warningly glance, telling him to keep his voice down, but Thor has no control over his emotions right now. He must let them out before they swallow him whole.
"The healers have saved countless of people before. They even brought back those without breath, but Loki… They can't help Loki?"
Frigga blinks and suddenly averts her gaze.
Thor has never been good at reading people, but he does know his mother and he recognizes concealment in her eyes. Loki would probably be able to tell what the concealment is, but Thor is on his own right now and he cannot figure it out.
"Mother, what are you not telling me?"
Frigga shakes her head and closes her eyes for a moment. "It matters not."
"Of course it does," Thor protests. Now is not the time to keep secrets from each other. Thor has enough worries to deal with so he certainly doesn't want to mull over what his mother could possibly be hiding. "Mother, what is going on?"
"It is difficult," Frigga begins. She finally raises her gaze and Thor is surprised to see them fierce and confident. She holds onto Loki's hand and finds comfort with him. "Loki is different from us, Thor, but he is my son and he is your brother."
"Of course he is."
"A long time ago," she continues, "Odin found a child in the wasteland of Jotunheim. It had been left to die and Odin could not bear to leave it behind to suffer. He brought the child back, knowing that it was Laufey's bastard son. We raised that child as our own. Loki is Jotun which is why our healing spells do not work on him."
Thor doesn't know what to think. His brother isn't his brother? Loki isn't even an Asgardian? The thought is surreal. It feels alien. Thor's gaze lingers on the still form of Loki and he expects to find a different person. He expects blue skin and flaming red eyes. He expects a venomous grin and a tense body. All that he sees, however, is his little brother.
Loki is still just…Loki.
Thor inhales deeply. He is confused and his head hurts.
"Why weren't we told?" He asks after a long silence.
"We never wanted Loki to feel different," Frigga explains and Thor believes her, "the Frost Giants are considered monsters here and if Loki found out he belonged with them…"
"He isn't a monster."
"Of course he isn't!" Frigga places a hand over her chest and forces herself to calm down. "He is my son. I love him like I love you. Seeing him like this-" When she looks at Loki now, tears break free. "-it pains me more than anything else in the nine realms."
Thor wishes he could stand up and walk towards her. He wishes he could embrace his mother and tell her all will be well. He can't, however, because he might be lying. Instead he sits there and waits. He waits for Loki to wake.
He's willing to wait a very long time.
~ o ~
Thor doesn't know how many hours have passed. Guards came and tried to remove him from the room, but he had refused to cooperate. It was his luck that his mother had been present. As queen she held enough authority to send the guards away. No one was to disturb Loki's rest and Thor had been allowed to sit with his brother.
Now Frigga had stepped outside as she was in need of fresh air. She would use the opportunity to speak with the healers again. They were still placing their best spells on Loki's body, but it was all in vain. The spells did nothing and only time could heal the injuries. It was starting to become clear that time was not on Loki's side.
A heavy sigh escapes Thor lips. He promised his mother that when she returns, he will go out for some air as well. He knows he won't be able to keep that promise. He simply cannot leave his brother alone. He doesn't even dare to remove his gaze from Loki's face. He doesn't know what he expects to happen should he close his eyes for a moment. Maybe he's afraid that when he opens them again, Loki will be gone.
It's a childish thought, but Thor can't help but believe in it.
"I look really awful."
Thor is startled by the soft voice and his head whips around to find the origin of the sudden sound. It is simply impossible and he thinks he has gone mad. Perhaps he should have gotten some rest last night instead of forcing himself to stay awake. He cannot even remember the last time he had some proper rest.
Loki stands on the other side of the bed. He is wearing his usual outfit – black leather pants, a green shirt, a leather coat which falls all the way to the floor and black boots. This is how Thor remembers him and for a moment he wonders if he is hallucinating. He shifts his gaze back to the still Loki in the bed. Underneath pale eyelids, his green eyes are moving and Thor is growing tense.
He has absolutely no idea of what is happening. He looks at the standing figure of his brother once more and he grows hostile. He feels deceived and outraged. His hands ball into fists as they lay on the softness of Loki's blanket.
"What is this?" He breathes hard and he has trouble controlling his rage. He simply cannot believe Loki would do this to them, that he would scheme something so wretched. He rises from his seat and walks around the bed. "This is a trick! You are playing a trick! We thought you were-"
He wants to grab Loki's shoulders – he wants to shake them angrily – but he finds that his hands shift straight through his brother's body. Thor stumbles back and swallows heavily. He thinks of what this means, but his mind is running in circles. None of what he thinks makes sense at this moment.
"It is a trick," Loki murmurs as he raises his own hands and stares at them, "I am the trick."
Loki bites down on his lip, something he hasn't done since his childhood and Thor knows what it means. Even Loki can't exactly explain what is happening.
"The healers can't help me, can they?"
Loki asks the question so softly that Thor is struck down by it. He wants to run towards his brother and hold him – he wants to hold him so close – but he can't. He will run straight through him as if he is a ghost. Thor can't bear the thought that Loki is actually a ghost. That would mean… No, he cannot even think it. Loki will be fine, he tells himself, he will be absolutely fine.
"You will be all right," he says in a strong voice, "you are here now, aren't you? That means you are growing stronger. Just a few more days and you will wake."
"No," Loki says, looking deep in thought, "I can feel…myself fading."
"Don't say that," Thor whispers.
"It's so strange, brother," Loki's breathing quickens and Thor can see he is starting to panic. Truly, he wishes he could hold him. "I could hear everything that happened in this room, but lately they have turned to distant whispers. Faint echoes and I cannot understand what they say."
Thor grows aware that he is about to cry and he wants to force the tears away, but the battle is pointless. Perhaps he should show Loki just how upset he is. Or maybe not. Maybe he should stay strong and formidable. The last thing he wants is to burden his brother with this.
"But you are still fighting, aren't you?" Thor licks his lips. "You're not giving up, right?"
"It's not a matter of fighting," Loki replies steadily, looking thoughtful, "one moment you are there and the next you're not. It doesn't matter whether or not I fight. I'm just…fading."
"No," Thor lifts one warningly finger, "you are not fading. You are not…"
Thor cannot stand the word.
"I could feel warmth," Loki says, frowning, "but not anymore. I don't feel anything really. I miss that."
Thor doesn't know why he does it, but he returns to Loki's bedside and reaches for his bare arm. He places both hands on his pale skin. He squeezes it as if that will force Loki to feel him. He wants him to feel warmth and kindness and love all at the same time. He needs Loki to understand that people are missing him.
"Oh," Loki smiles weakly, "yes, I can feel that."
Thor laughs happily even though he supposes this situation is anything but a laughing matter. But when he laughs, Loki's smile broadens and his eyes light up a bit. Thor enjoys that and he is willing to do anything to keep his brother happy. As far as they can be happy right now. He thinks he should be grateful that he has a chance to talk to Loki like this and he vows to make the best of the opportunity.
"I am sorry," he says, needing to lift a terrible weight from his chest, "I am sorry I did not protect you in Jotunheim."
"No," Loki shakes his head, "it was a dreadful accident. Nothing more."
"But I am the one who dragged you to that godforsaken land," Thor argues. A small voice tells him to stop it. Now is not the time for petty arguments and stubbornness, but Thor ignores it. He needs Loki to understand him. "I am the one who put you in such danger and it is because of me you are lying here, barely breathing."
"Ah, but it was me who manipulated you into going in the first place." Loki appears almost proud that he achieved that. "I was an envious brother and I wanted to spoil your big day. It was me who let the Frost Giants into the weapon's vault and it was me who manipulated you into defying father."
Thor has no answer to that. Loki was telling the truth, that much he knows, but does that take away his guilt? Was it not his decision in the end, no matter how much Loki manipulated him? Was it not he who started the battle? He clearly remembers his brother trying to stop him. No, it was definitely his fault.
"It matters not," he decides, "through my arrogance and stupidity I risked all of our lives."
"You sound like father."
Thor supposes he does.
"I am afraid," Loki admits.
The trickster starts to fiddle with his fingers. Again, it is something he has not done since his childhood. Or perhaps Thor has never truly paid him much attention lately. For these past decades he has been incredibly self-obsessed. He wanted to be the best son, the strongest and the most powerful. It isn't that he wanted to be better than Loki, he just wanted…to proof himself to the Allfather. He wanted to prove he could be a strong and wise king. As it turns out, Loki has always been more suited. His actions in Jotunheim prove that. Thor had favored war where Loki had favored peace.
"As am I," he admits in return, "I have never seen you so still, so pale."
Thor's eyes fall on Loki lying in bed again. He realizes he still has his hands on his arm. He is pinching it roughly and he wonders whether Loki feels it as pain, but he shrugs the thought away. Loki does not look pained. Thor keeps his hands in place as he only wants his brother to feel his warmth. He hopes he somehow transfers some of his strength into Loki's cold skin.
"The magic is slipping away, brother," Loki says. He sounds distressed and his green eye widen.
"You must stay!" Thor can feel tears sting his eyes. He blinks a few times, wanting to blink them away, but he merely lets the tears pour freely from his tired, red eyes. "You cannot leave me behind, brother, I will be lost!"
Loki shakes his head and swallows heavily.
"I fear I have no choice." He steps forward and his entire body shimmers. He quickly halts and his green eyes fill with fear and uncertainty. "Why are you crying? You know death is not the end for us. I am going on a new journey. A new adventure."
"One I cannot undertake with you," Thor replies angrily, "you are leaving me!"
Loki blinks. Thor believes he would cry if he could.
Yet Loki begins to smile. For a short moment, he looks at peace and Thor doesn't understand.
"We have been brilliant, haven't we?" Loki's smile doesn't falter. "We are brilliant still. Not many get the opportunity to say goodbye. We are lucky."
"I am not saying goodbye!"
It is Thor's stubbornness that kicks in again. He truly shouldn't be shouting like this and he should learn how to control his tears. He grows angry not only with Loki for saying those forlorn words, but with himself.
"I am sorry, brother," Loki sighs, "but I am."
Thor rises from his seat and he is about to walk towards his brother when Loki lifts a hand to stop him.
"Hold onto me," he says, "your warmth is gone and everything feels extremely cold right now. I don't enjoy that feeling. Please, Thor, just sit with me."
Thor nods and does as Loki asks of him. At this point, he is willing to do anything for him. He would lay down his own life if that meant his brother would open his eyes for real. He would travel to the end of the universe to bring him back. He places his hands back on Loki's arm. He has touched that patch of skin for minutes now but still it feels chillingly cold. It is unnatural.
"I wonder where I'll wake," Loki says. He keeps his eyes steadily on Thor. "The unknown is terrifying."
"I will miss you, brother."
"And I you."
Loki's body shimmers again, longer this time and Thor holds his breath as he hopes Loki will not disappear. Not yet.
By the Gods! Not yet!
Another shimmer and his brother disappears.
Thor isn't sure what he should feel now. Numbness fills his veins. Tears do not run down anymore and his breath does not hitch within his chest. His eyes are trained on Loki's rising and falling chest. He expects the blow will hit him any moment now. In a moment he will comprehend that he won't be talking to his brother anymore, but right now, he feels…nothing.
He sits there, his hands holding onto Loki, and he realizes he is actually waiting.
He is waiting and waiting and waiting until it finally happens…
Loki's chest doesn't move up and down anymore.
Life has left his body.
Thor closes his eyes and forces himself to keep breathing. He forces himself to keep his eyes open and most importantly, he forces himself not to break apart. It is difficult and he wants to smash something. He wants to destroy everything and he wants to shout and scream and rage. Most of all, he wants to cry so he does just that.
He feels alone and empty and he allows the misery to settle.
"Goodbye, brother," he whispers through his tears.
He stands, looks at Loki's empty face one last time and turns around. He leaves the healing chamber, his footsteps echoing loudly through the massive room. It is unsettling and Thor craves silence. He pushes on, however, and opens the doors which creak painfully. Why does everything sound so loud suddenly? Why is the silence so favoring?
Thor finds Sif standing in the hallway. The Warriors Three stand beside her. They all look at him with high expectations in their eyes, but they quickly understand what his expression means. They become cheerless and serene. They place their hands over their hearts and bow their heads and Thor despises it. This is their way of showing respect, something he should appreciate, but he doesn't want is. He doesn't want their compassion or sympathy. He doesn't want to see grief in their features because he is already drowning in his own.
He cannot breathe and when his eyes fall on the frail figure of his mother, he feels himself break down on the inside. He feels himself die a little and he knows it is a part of himself he can never regain. Frigga's brown eyes turn watery and she covers her face with both her hands. Soft sobs escape through her thin, old fingers.
There are healers present as well, but they do not hurry inside. They understand full well what has happened. Their magic has failed and they gazes turn apologetic. Thor looks at them accusingly. He wishes he had the energy to shout at them. He wishes he could blame them, but he is the only one guilty here.
His gaze shifts away and turns unfocused.
"My brother is dead," he says.
He walks away.
And he does not look back.