Warriors parted and Thor's worry overcame his fascination. They would deal with Hoenir in due time, but right then his blue eyes sought out through the thinning crowds until he saw where the magic had collected in the end. It had stopped the source of the chaos, but had left both Amora and Loki sprawled out on the hard floor.
Thor pushed his way through the last of the guards and stumbled towards his brother. He could feel the weight of Hoenir's gaze as he fell to his knees next to Loki and grabbed the slender shoulder. His brother's name fell from his lips in a hushed mumble, the only sound now in the hall. Thor shifted Loki into his arms.
"Loki? Can you hear me? Are you alright? Loki?" His eyes burned and he did not know if it was from blood or tears. Fingers fumbled against the cool skin of Loki's neck, searching for a pulse.
"Explain this." Hoenir's voice boomed dangerously across the hall.
Lyall stepped forward. "Father, please, listen, the witch is responsible for all of this. The sons of Odin are good men..."
"The sons of Odin? Tell me, Lyall, what you know of the sons of Odin? And tell me what you know of Odin?"
Loki was still in Thor's arms and the blond could feel the dark creeping in at the edges of his vision. He ran his fingers through the dark hair, and hot tears fell onto Loki's forehead. "Loki? Loki," he whispered.
"Father, forgive me, but what do you know of them?" Lyall answered. He glanced back to where the proud crowned prince of Asgard cradled his adopted brother. "You've explained to me my whole life that those of Asgard would hate me because of something out of my control. That Odin bred nothing but disdain in his people for the half-bred sons and daughters of the Vale." He took a breath, steadying himself. "Perhaps his silence was not hatred after all. Perhaps he was just protecting someone that had become dear to him."
Loki gave a small groan as his eyes fluttered open, blurrily looking up. "Thor?" he croaked, his mind moving slowly.
"Here," the elder prince promised and managed a smile. He turned then, blue eyes finding Hoenir's.
The king stood proudly and unmoved by his son's words. "They've deceived you, Lyall," he spoke, not entirely in anger. "Between the two of them they hold the halves of a stone that could destroy our entire realm."
Thor blinked. "This?" he asked, reaching deeply into his pocket. "Please, take it. We never wanted the cursed thing."
Hoenir crossed the distance and snatched the stone from the Asgardian's hand. His eyes fell onto the younger prince, still held closely in his brother's careful arms. Neither would give any fight, nor did they have any left in them at this point. They stared up and the king glared.
"I have every right to have you both executed." he said.
Thor glanced down at his brother before giving Hoenir a tired smile. "Just make sure that the killing blow takes us both at the same moment."
Loki closed his eyes and pressed his face against Thor's arm.
Hoenir's eyebrow lifted, the only sign of surprise on his face. "Give me the other half of the stone."
"In my vest." Loki murmured.
Thor found the pocket and pulled out the matching half of the stone. "Here."
Loki's eyes flew open and he grabbed Thor's sleeve. "Thor, Amora..."
The prince looked up to see the sorceress had made it to her knees, the attack already leaving her hands. Thor moved instinctively, releasing his brother and standing. He realized that the attack was not aimed at either one of them and stepped in front of Hoenir. The magic struck him in the center of his chest and the force threw him back, knocking over the Vale's king and sending the half of the stone skittering across the floor. Thor did not rise.
"Thor!" Loki screamed and scrambled to his knees. He didn't notice that the guards had taken hold of Amora or the fact that she was shouting every curse she could think of. It didn't matter.
Lyall hovered between his father - unharmed but still seated firmly on the floor - and the brothers. The Warriors Three, Darcy and Sif circled around, keeping their distance and yet still trying to see.
Whereas Thor had held Loki the roles were now reversed. The broad god of thunder looked a bit strange in his smaller brother's arms, but Loki clung to him, pulling any spell he could into use. Finally, he looked up to Hoenir. "Please," he choked out, eyes wide and almost haunted. They cut it too close. They always cut it too close and someday they would misjudge just how close they were taking it to the edge. "He saved your life. Please help him. I can't... I can't do anything for him."
"Then his sacrifice will spare your life," Hoenir stated, standing and brushing off his robes.
"Father!" Lyall protested.
"No. Odin will learn. He will learn regret and the pain that comes with-"
"What did he ever do to you?" Loki demanded, feeling anger rise within him. A very small part of him realized just who he was defending and the fact that he believed each word that tumbled from his lips. He hadn't realized just how far they'd come. "You think he shunned your people in your time of need out of spite? Out of disgust?"
"You would know nothing of it, boy," the king growled.
"But we can pay the price for your imagined slights!" the dark haired prince answered back. "Odin has never had a love for the Frost Giants, this is true. Which one of us has? Even so, I can personally guarantee that his silence in regards to your land's plight had nothing to do with some silent judgement."
"You know nothing of-"
"He was protecting me!" The declaration echoed through the hall and Loki took a shuddered breath, feeling the panic of the meaning behind the words settling in. He clung to the only one he knew he could trust and willed himself to follow if Thor died there. He could feel the eyes of all of those that had thought him so different growing up and understanding seemed to set in.
Only Sif did not seem surprised and she stepped forward. "King Hoenir, please, what can we..."
"Stay back," Hoenir commanded.
Sif did not take another step, nor did she step back. Hoenir turned his eye back on the distraught prince and watched him cradle the side of his brother's face in his hand. It was well known in the realms that the young son of Asgard was a trickster, a master of illusion and lies. Hoenir could see no lies in the grief before him, no illusion in the heartbreak, but he had never been one to trust in emotion alone.
"So you are Jotun." Hoenir said.
"Yes." Loki said softly, not taking his eyes off Thor's still face.
Darcy leaned close to Volstagg. "Why is that bad?"
"It...it's a long story, love." Volstagg murmured.
"Whose son are you, then, Loki?" Hoenir asked.
"I am a son of Odin, prince of Asgard and brother of Thor." Loki licked his lips. "I was born of Laufey."
It was silent in the hall, all eyes trained green and black clad figure hunched over Thor. Hoenir watched them for another moment before looking at the faces of the other Asgardians who showed nothing but concern and fear for their princes, and the pleading gaze of his own son.
"Guards. Take the Asgardians to the lower east quarters and do not allow any of them to leave without my permission. Take the body of the crown prince to the healing rooms. I will send for Odin and we will discuss what should happen next."
Hoenir's head guard motioned to Loki, who still had not looked away from Thor. "And him?"
"Take him to the quarters with the others. Make sure if any of them are injured that they are seen to. There are enough rooms to accommodate them all. Make sure the kitchens send them a very good meal."
It wasn't until Loki felt hands on his shoulders that he struggled. "No! He's not...there's still something that can be done. Get your hands off of me!" He had not enough strength to push them away with magic or anything else. The guards hauled him away from Thor, fighting and screaming until he could no longer see his brother. By the time the guards had ushered the group into a short hall of living quarters guarded by both men and magic, Loki had fallen completely silent.
"You can wash in the room at the end if you like. The rest are bedrooms. This area is reserved for royal prisoners of war. If you need anything, alert Gryfor. A healer and food will be sent to you. Your king is being summoned."
With that they were left. Late afternoon sun spilled in through high windows, warming the place where they stood. Sif reached out and touched her hand to Loki's shoulder.
The trickster simply stood, offering no indication he had or could hear her. His green eyes stared through her, but he swayed dangerously. Sif gripped him more firmly.
"Darcy, help me get him into one of the rooms. Fandral, send me the healer as soon as they arrive."
King Hoenir stood with his son at the side of the bed where Thor's body lay. Hoenir touched Thor's forehead and murmured softly. Lyall watched with his arms crossed and the healers stood behind them. Hoenir leaned back and nodded.
"Not dead, then. Just as well. It would have been damned difficult to tell Odin his golden son had been killed saving my life."
Lyall straightened. "I will tell Loki and the others."
"No." Hoenir said.
His son stared, not understanding. "But Father, Loki will be..."
"Fine. He will be fine in time. This is my edict, Lyall. Do not disobey me. We have two days at the most. Odin will come as soon as he gets the message. I would like to make sure I return his son in one piece and not give the other false hope in case this does not work."
Hoenir pulled a satchel out of his pocket and dropped the two halves of the jewel that had caused so much trouble into his palm. He murmured over them and the pieces merged into one, creating a glow that spread out from Hoenir's hand and covered Thor. Lyall held his breath as the seconds ticked by. His father started to tremble. Another thirty seconds passed and Lyall reached to intervene when Thor inhaled deeply. The glow vanished and the jewel split back into two halves. Hoenir smiled.
"Maybe you should have more faith in your old man, son."
Two days later, the guard Gryfor reported to his king that the Asgardian prisoners were completely stir crazy save for the Prince Loki, who had barely eaten and had not spoken since screaming for his brother. Lyall had kept his word and had not gone to speak with his new friends, although he had not been pleased with the arrangement.
Hoenir's head healer entered his chamber. "My lord, Prince Thor is awake. He has bathed and eaten the equivalent of three meals. He is asking for his brother. It is my opinion that he will make -if he hasn't already- a full recovery. We have also been apprised that Odin is approaching the castle. He will be here in less than two hours."
"Thank you. I will speak with Thor now."
Thor was standing at the window when Hoenir arrived, dressed in loose black pants and a simple white tunic. He turned when he heard the king approach.
"King Hoenir. I have been made to understand I owe you my life and I wish to express my heartfelt thanks." Thor greeted.
Hoenir smiled. "A favor repaid in kind, my young crown prince. I owe you my thanks as well."
"Perhaps we can have peace between us, then."
"Yes, with your father's blessing. He should be here shortly. Lyall has drafted a treatise for us."
"I should like that very much. Where is my brother?" Thor asked.
Hoenir did not miss the dangerous edge in Thor's voice with the question. "Your brother is well. My finest healer's saw to his recovery after your battle with Amora's turned men. Young Thor, there is something I would wish to ask you before your father arrives and before you are reunited with your brother."
"As you wish, my lord."
"Your brother is Jotun."
Thor's eyes widened and he stepped away from the window, halting as if he realized he had nowhere to go. "That isn't...you...how have you come to know this? If you have laid one finger on him, Hoenir, I swear,"
Hoenir held up one hand. "Peace, Thor. Your brother volunteered this information in defense of your father's character. No harm came to him after your battle. You knew of his heritage, then."
Thor nodded slowly. "Yes."
"And it matters not to you."
"No. He is my brother."
"And you love him, your Jotun brother?"
Thor stood straight. "With everything that I am."
"And you were never taught differently than that?"
"What?" Thor demanded, head tilting to one side. "No." He looked like he might have said more. He wanted to say more. He wanted to explain all of their troubles and their struggles. To explain how Loki might have felt as if they were raised differently, but all that was in the past. They had grown past it and left those feelings behind in much, much darker days. He wanted to say all of it out loud, to explain, but Loki never did want their private lives aired out for all the Nine Realms to see. That had made his declaration that much more sound.
"Thank you, Thor Odinson," Hoenir stated softly, seeming to read the turmoil behind bright blue eyes. "Your father shall arrive shortly and you will be reunited when your brother at that time."
"Then we are all to go home?"
The aging king gave a small smile. "Your younger brother is well known throughout all the realms for his quick wit and silver tongue. I am more inclined to believe the god of thunder than the god of mischief and lies. Thank you for your truths. You will all return home." With that he left Thor alone with his thoughts.
The Lady Sif had been strangely protective over the younger prince of Asgard in his brother's absence. She had known his secret, and he had known that she knew. It had been, for quite some time now, an unspoken truce between them. It didn't matter who he was, as long as his loyalty lay with Thor, she would have no reason to use anything against him.
Though everyone had begun in one room, cautious of their sudden treatment, they had lost their ability to sit still very quickly. She had eventually shooed them out of the room they had put Loki into, claiming that they would disrupt his rest with their chatter.
"I don't think he can hear us, love," Fandral had said quietly, casting a saddened look in the direction of the dark haired trickster.
Sif had thrown him out anyway, possibly for her own sanity. Now she sat curled in a chair next to the prince's bedside, no longer entirely unnerved by the vacant stare. She didn't pity him, he would never want that, but she couldn't help... something. Some small part that knew that they both deserved a little better after all they had been through.
The door opened without warning and Sif startled, limbs stiff from the awkward position she had curled herself into. Her dark eyes widened when they came to rest on the Allfather, filling most of the doorway in his royal garb and head held high.
"My king," she murmured, rising immediately to her feet and bowing.
"Lady Sif. Are you well?" Odin asked, noticing that his son was not standing, nor even looking in his direction.
"Yes, my king." She glanced at Loki. "Physically we are all well. King Hoenir has treated us kindly and with generosity."
"I am glad. Would you allow me a moment with my son?"
Sif hesitated for only a moment, not knowing how much of the battle with Amora Odin had been told, not knowing what to say about Thor. "Yes, of course." She left with only one backward glance at Loki.
Odin crouched in front of his youngest son after Sif had gone. He placed his hand on Loki's knee. "Loki, can you hear me? Loki, I've come to take you all home. We have reached peace with the Vale and it is time to go."
Loki blinked and looked at him, and Odin felt a tightening in his chest at the hollow expression in his boy's eyes. Odin stood and rested his hand on the top of Loki's head briefly. "Come. There is something you should see."
Odin took Loki's elbow and led him from the room. They walked through the castle, curiously devoid of servants or guards. Odin led him to the opening of a long covered walkway that cut through one of the palace's lush gardens. He glanced at his son, who was focused intently on the ground and did not see the two figures at the other end. Thor and Lyall shook hands and the prince of the Vale waved to Odin before disappearing back into the castle.
Odin nudged Loki. "Loki, look."
"Loki!" Thor called across the space, his voice carrying all the joy he felt.
Loki's head snapped up and his breath caught. He looked at Odin who only nodded before turning back to the sight of his brother -very much alive- walking towards him. Loki felt his eyes burn and the tears fall as he whispered Thor's name. He blinked rapidly, trying to clear his vision and found himself moving quickly to meet his brother halfway.
Thor scooped the smaller god up, laughing and pulling him off his feet into a tight hug. Loki returned the embrace, fighting to keep back the sobs that threatened. After a moment the elder prince released the younger and Loki's thin fingers searched out each wound that had been left on his brother from the battle just a couple days before. He had new scars to add to old, but he seemed wholly intact and Loki broke out into a relieved smile. "I thought you dead," he rasped, voice rough from disuse and emotion. Too close, too often. How many times would they lose each other before it became truth?
"Did you mourn?" Thor murmured with a wide grin and received only a harsh jab to the arm for his efforts at a jest.
"Don't be cruel. Are you alright?"
"I am now."
Thor nodded, seemingly please with that response and slung an arm around his brother's shoulders. "Come on then. The others will meet us at the Bifrost site and Lyall has said he's gone to collect the final member of our party."
Loki gave a questioning look as they rounded a corner that led from the gardens into the hallways. Lyall was clearly visible at the end, with a much smaller individual speaking to him with animated gestures. She stopped suddenly, turning dark eyes down the hall. Thor looked ready to race down the corridor, but he seemed to realize that he had ahold of his brother at the last second and stopped himself, merely grinning. The trickster gave a small snort of laughter. "Well what are you waiting for?" he demanded.
Thor looked at him steadily, eyes showing that someone had alerted him of his brother's less-than-healthy response to his supposed death. Loki snorted at this, moving free of his grasp. "Go on then," he urged.
Thor suddenly pulled him into another hug, leaning down close to his ear. "I love you."
Loki briefly squeezed him in return. "And I you. Now go, please, I beseech you."
Thor backed up as Loki pushed him away, both grinning and the golden prince turned and jogged towards the young woman at Lyall's side. She shrieked with laughter when Thor spun her off the ground and kissed her mid air. Thor held her while they exchanged words, and finally she turned and caught Loki's gaze. Jane carefully extracted herself from Thor's embrace and moved down the walkway towards him.
Loki quickly tried to pull his thoughts together to have something charming to say and put her at ease when she reached him, but she said nothing and simply walked into him and wrapped her arms around him. He stood there for a moment, speechless, before he saw Thor over her shoulder motioning for him to hug her in return. Loki considered shaking his head, but wrapped his arms around Jane.
"I am so, so sorry, Loki," Jane whispered.
"Well, at least your near-destructive misleadings led to some form of a truce," he fumbled, trying to make light and failing miserably.
Jane laughed and shook her head, giving him another quick hug before releasing him.
"How... was the truce reached? I fear it's a bit blurry, because I seem to remember you taking the blow for the Vale's king not changing his mind." Loki looked between his father, brother, Jane, and Lyall. He realized, after a moment, that the only conscious one present at the end of all of that had been Lyall and turned a steady gaze on him.
"You really don't remember?" Lyall asked carefully, eyebrow quirked in such a way that caused Loki to think he was trying to figure him out on some level.
"Wouldn't be asking otherwise," the worn mage snapped back. He sighed as his hand went to his face, a gesture Thor well knew to say he was tired and frustrated.
"You told my father that you were Laufey's son," Lyall answered.
All the colour seemed to drain from Loki's face and he felt his father reach out to steady him. The blurred memories seemed to come back very slowly and the words seemed familiar, even if from a lifetime ago. He had blurted out his true parentage in front of a hostile nation and some of the most revered warriors of their own realm. His eyes darted to Odin.
Odin offered him a small smile. "It would seem that Asgard and the Vale have much in common. Thanks to your bravery, my son, we can now be at peace with our brothers."
"Talk of parentage is not taken lightly here. As far as we are concerned, your business is your own. We respect our mutual heritage, but that is the past. Who we are now is more important." Lyall said.
"Sif will kill anyone who says anything against you at home." Thor said with a grin.
Loki quirked an eyebrow.
"After I have finished with them of course." Thor amended.
"Well, this will certainly be different." Loki mused softly.
"I am proud of you, Loki." Odin said. "I am proud of both my children. That being said, I think we should delay our return to Asgard no longer."
"My father wishes to see you off. He is waiting at the Bifrost site." Lyall said.
The trip to the Bifrost site was filled with mostly happy chatter and Lyall's plans for visiting Asgard. He had heard so many tales over the years that he was sure at least half of them must be true. Grand meadows and horses with eight legs. He wanted to see it all, and since he had no younger brother to play the diplomatic role, he would just have to be forced to visit himself. For the good of the truce, of course.
Loki shook his head, listening to the other prince babble on with an occasional input from either Jane or Thor. The others had gone on ahead of them it would seem by the smoking ground and the lone figure that stood and waited. The king had no guards with him, but a small smile perked his lips when they approached. He and Odin spoke lowly, the three princes and Jane watching the interaction with curiosity.
"So I'll be seeing you and your friend again, right? You won't be going back to Midgard to stay or anything like that?" Lyall asked with a wink to Jane.
She laughed somewhat awkwardly. "I do have quite a bit of work at home, but..." She looked back to where Thor tried to appear busy with anything else but listening to her answer. "But I make very regular visits to Asgard to see Thor. I don't think that's going to change any time soon. I mean, unless they kick me out for causing too much trouble." A small smile perked her lips. "But they still let Loki hang around, so I don't think that'll be too much to worry about."
"I heard that," Loki grumbled with a feigned glare.
Jane smiled at him.
"Excellent. Then I shall see you again quite soon." Lyall kissed her hand and Thor shooed him away with a laugh.
Odin motioned to them. "We are ready."
Jane and Darcy hugged as they moved the the group before Thor put an arm around her waist and his other arm around Loki's shoulders. He grinned at his brother.
"We did not cause a war," Thor pointed out.
"True." Loki agreed.
"We lived to tell the tale." Thor said.
"Not without some difficulty," Loki grumbled.
"And we're going home heroes." Thor finished.
"Questionable." Loki said.
Thor smiled at him. "And we are going home together."
Loki smiled in spite of his effort not to as the Bifrost called them home.
A/N: So, this is the last Avengers/Thor story on our queue for a bit, but I'm sure some other plot bunny with come at us sooner or later. I think that Skyfall (007) and Person of Interest are the next on our list after working on our own story a bit.
I hope all of our American readers had a fantastic Thanksgiving with your families. I was just coming out of my turkey coma when I went to a birthday lunch with my folks today... So full...