Okay folks, time for some ultra depressing AU.

Some serious warnings on this fic. Character death, mentions of rape and bullying. Reckless behavior and mentions of same sex relationships.

You've been warned. Read on, if you dare, lol.

Light without Shadow

The first time Thor ever notices difference in his little brother, he is eight, and Loki is five.

Loki is small for his age. And shy.

He clings to Thor ceaselessly, his tiny hand always curled round the older boys larger one, and around other children, the younger never speaks a word.

Loki is bright too.

Exceptionally so.

It's been determined already he's too advanced for kindergarten, and has skipped ahead to the third grade.

Or, at least, he had.

The other kids in his class had been picking on him mercilessly, and eventually, it had gotten so bad, their parents had pulled Loki out of the school.

And now, he wasn't in school at all.

Hadn't been for a few months, their Mother deciding to home tutor him.

Loki has no friends.

He tells Thor constantly…

"I don't need any friends. You're my friend."

And then he hugs Thor, and Thor hugs him back. And everything's okay.

And then one day they move, into a neighborhood with other kids Thor's age.

Growing up, he and Loki are close.

Inseparable, really.

Thor swears to break the bones of anyone stupid enough to hurt his brother, and when he's around, no one is stupid enough to try.

Sometimes, the older boy thinks it's odd, how different he and Loki are. He's big for his age, strong and healthy.

Loki is fragile, prone to sickness and weak.

No one else ever believes it when he tells them they're brothers.

Thor's seen Loki cry when this happens, and he gets angry, and defensive, and runs whoever said it this time off.

And Loki hugs him again and tells him he's the best brother in the world.

This had all been in the past though, the last, couple years.

And something is wrong now with Loki.

Thor notices it one day when they're out on the street in their new neighborhood, and one of their neighbors comes out to meet them. A tall girl named Sif. She's nearly as tall as Thor himself, and simply towers over Loki.

Loki clings to Thor's hand and refuses to look up and meet the girl's eyes.

"Hi!" She begins loudly, confident. "I'm Sif! I live over there!"

She points to a house a couple down from their own.

"Who're you?"

"I'm Thor." Thor answers. "And this is my little brother, Loki." He tugs gently on Loki's hand, encouraging the younger boy to say hello.

Loki only presses his face to Thor's side.

Sif glances briefly at him before returning her gaze to Thor, smiling brightly.

"We just moved in." Thor explains.

And Sif nods.

"Uh huh." She says. "I know. Hey, I was wondering, me and some friends are building a fort in my backyard, and we wanted to know if you wanted to come and help."

Thor stares at her bemusedly a moment, mind taking a moment to register the request.

"… Um…" he starts slowly, and then he feels Loki's hand in his tighten, and pull, and he looks down at his brother, meeting his large, green eyes, staring up at him pleadingly.

"I don't wanna Thor." He says quietly, voice almost too soft to hear.

Sif glares down at him, lips curling into a frown.

"We weren't inviting you." She says.

Thor looks back up at her, his own frown twisting his features.

He can see the dislike already in the girl's eyes, and it bothers him.

Everyone seems to react to Loki in this way, and Thor doesn't understand why. Loki's just about the nicest kid he's ever known, but it seems like he rubs other kids the wrong way or something.

"You're too small anyway to build a fort. You'll get hurt." Sif continues.

Loki dares to look up at the girl.

He reaches a hand up, clumsily pushing some loose strands of his long hair back from his face.

"I'm not too small!" He insists back, voice small but solid.

"Yes you are. You're too small and you'll only get in the way of us big kids."

Loki, apparently, has nothing to say to that, his eyes dropping to the ground.

The girl glares back a moment, before she looks again to Thor.

"So?" She asks. "You wanna come?"

Thor hesitates a moment, before slowly shaking his head.

"… I better stay with my brother." He answers.

Visible disappointment crosses Sif's features.

"Aw, come on! Can't you leave him with your Mom or somethin'?"

"I'm supposed to take care of him." Thor replies.

"And what, you always do what you're told?" Sif asks. "Come on, it'll be fun! You can meet my friends! They're totally cool!"

Loki shifts his gaze between Thor and the girl, brow lined in questioning.

"… I dunno." Thor says uncertainly. He glances down at Loki, and Loki looks back.

Loki can see it in Thor's face. He wants to go with this girl and play with her friends.

And Thor's been with him all day.

He thinks, and he realizes he doesn't want Thor to be unhappy. Or angry at him for ruining his fun.

And one time couldn't hurt anything anyway. Right?

Thor was his friend, and he was Thor's, and better than that, they were brothers.

He didn't like this girl already, but she couldn't mess that up. She couldn't steal Thor away.

Gradually, Loki loosens his grip on Thor's hand, letting it go completely, his eyes falling to the ground and mumbling softly…

"… You can go Thor."

Thor looks at him, unsure.

"Really?" He asks.

And Loki nods silently.

Thor hesitates a moment, thinking.

"Do you wanna come?"

A shake no.

"You sure?"

Loki nods again.

Another, few moments pass, and finally Thor breaths out, sighing.

"Okay. If you're sure."

"I'm sure." Loki replies.

"You'll go back to the house. Right?" Thor presses.

And once more, Loki nods.

"Uh huh."

Thor turns back to the girl then, and she grabs his hand, and Loki watches as they run off together, down the street, disappearing a moment later behind a gate.

Loki stands there a few minutes, arms coming up and wrapping round himself.

He feels wrong without Thor there.

Almost like he isn't wearing any clothes.

Finally, he turns, and stats back towards their new house.

It'll be okay, he thinks. Thor would never leave him.

/

One day, Thor decides to take Loki to meet his new friends.

Their names are Fandral, Hogun and Volstagg, and they're all older and bigger than him.

Loki is nervous around them, but he doesn't say so to Thor. He doesn't want Thor to be sad.

They're gathered in Sif's backyard again, and Thor and the rest of them are playing swords.

Loki sits away from them, too small for that kind of game. He's gathering dandelions, tying them together and making bracelets with them.

Quietly he hums to himself, a song his Mother sings to him each night.

He doesn't notice the boy Fandral staring over at him, frowning.

"Your brother's weird." Fandral remarks to Thor during a break in their game.

Thor grabs Fandral immediately and shoves him, hard.

"No he's not!" He snaps.

Fandral's eyes go momentarily wide in fear, throwing his hands up in surrender.

"Okay, okay!" He relents. "Sorry!"

Thor glares at him a long moment, making sure the other boy understands, before finally he turns away.

He looks over at Loki, oblivious to the fight which just broke out.

Loki sits, singing to himself, and he's so small.

His shirt sags off him at the shoulders, and he has to wear a belt tight to keep his pants from falling down.

His hair is black and long and his skin pale as snow.

And Thor thinks, traitorously, he is strange.

But it's a beautiful strangeness.

Loki is beautiful.

And it doesn't matter if he's strange, Thor determines. It doesn't matter, because that's what makes his little brother special.

/

Loki makes dandelion bracelets for all of them, and he gives them the creations after their game is over and before they all go back to their own homes.

Thor beams and accepts his with a smile.

Loki doesn't miss the odd looks the rest of them give him, and then the bracelets, before muttering out thank you's.

Loki smiles shyly at them, before Thor wraps an arm round his shoulders and leads him back to their house.

/

Thor keeps his dandelion bracelet and wears it for a week, before the weeds finally fall apart from rot.

The next time he brings Loki with him to Sif's house, Loki finds the other bracelets, discarded and forgotten in her yard, broken and rotted and trampled over.

Loki pretends not to care.

/

Years go by, closeness wanes.

Thor spends more and more time with Sif and the other three. They all attend the same school together, and they hang out at each others houses, doing projects and homework and playing.

When Loki turns nine and Thor is twelve, he asks their Mother to be put back in public school.

Frigga is hesitant. But Loki begs.

He would be in the same grade as Thor, he argues, since he had skipped three grades ahead.

Thor doesn't realize until years later why. Until… after.

Finally, Frigga relents. Odin takes some convincing, but eventually, he too agrees.

/

When Loki is nine and Thor is twelve, it's the first time Loki's difference begins to affect him.

/

They have different schedules, and only share two classes together.

Loki tries sitting with Thor, but it's assigned seating, and the teacher tells him to move.

They have the same lunch period, and Loki finds Thor in the cafeteria, at a crowded table.

Loki sits at the table, watching.

It takes a few minutes before Thor notices him, and when he does, Loki smiles at him, relieved.

Thor stares a moment, not returning the expression, before turning back to his friends and talking to them.

Loki feels some kind of sick weight against his chest. He doesn't know what it is.

Thor doesn't speak to him, and finally, Loki leaves.

Thor doesn't realize until after lunch is over, and his little brother is nowhere to be found.

/

When he sees Thor in the hallways, for the first couple weeks, Loki tries talking to him.

But Thor is almost always surrounded by friends, and usually, when he is, he ignores Loki.

/

Loki stops trying to talk to Thor in the hallways.

/

He stops seeking his older brother out in the cafeteria.

/

One day, Thor goes to the library during lunch, needing to check out a book for an assignment he has for his history class.

He's browsing the shelves, looking for it, when he hears a sound like someone crying, and he moves around the shelf, peering into a corner behind.

It's at the back of the library, hidden and secluded from the rest of the place, and he sees a small boy with black hair, sitting in one of the cubicles, his face buried in his arms, sniffling and crying quietly.

It's Loki.

Thor feels his chest tighten, and carefully, he approaches.

"Loki?" He asks softly.

Loki starts in surprise, rocketing up, frantically wiping at his face.

Thor comes closer, moving around to look at him.

Loki doesn't look back.

"Loki, what's wrong?" He asks, concerned.

"… Nothing." Loki answers, voice barely audible and shaking. "I'm fine."

He keeps wiping at his cheeks and eyes, trying to hide the evidence of his tears.

Thor frowns.

"You're not." He insists. "Tell me what's wrong."

Loki swallows visibly, exhaling a shaky breath. Several, long seconds pass, before finally he dares to look up at his older brother.

His eyes are red and puffy, like he's been crying a while, and nervously, he pushes a hand back through his hair.

"It's nothing." He repeats. "Just…" he hesitates. "some kid called me a mean name, that's all."

Thor doesn't feel convinced.

"… Who is it?" He asks. "I'll take care of them for you."

Loki shakes his head.

"No Thor. It's okay. I… I'm okay."

"Loki…"

And suddenly Loki is standing, and wrapping his arms around Thor, pressing his face to Thor's chest and holding on to him tight.

He's trembling, Thor notices, and without thought, the older boy reaches back, holding his little brother against him.

Loki is crying again when he speaks.

"I miss you Thor." He mumbles into him.

Thor frowns, face lining in confusion.

"But I'm right here Loki." He says.

Loki nods, not looking up.

Thor's frown deepens.

Loki is holding onto him as though his very life depends on it.

"I'm not going anywhere." Thor reassures.

Loki's arms hold tighter.

"Promise?" He asks. "Promise you won't leave me?"

Thor's hand reaches up, cupping the back of Loki's head, hair soft between his fingers.

"I promise Loki." He says. "I promise you."

/

Loki gets bullied in school.

He comes home with bruises and torn clothes.

Frigga and Odin want to pull him out again. Thor demands to know who's doing it.

But Loki says he wants to stay, and he won't tell Thor.

/

When Loki is twelve and Thor is fifteen, they enter high school.

His younger brother starts dressing weird. He gets his ears pierced and a nose ring, and wears dark clothes and makeup, eyeliner and black nail polish. It makes his white skin stand out even more, and he's tall and skinny and awkward.

And Thor realizes for the first time Loki's difference is dangerous.

He's moving through the halls to his next class three weeks into the new school year, when he's stopped by a gathered group of students, yelling and hollering and chanting.

Thor forces his way into the center, and his heart nearly stops.

Loki's there, and some other kid.

The other kid has Loki pressed up against some lockers, and is punching him in the face.

Loki hurls cutting, sharp insults at the other boy between the blows, and spits in his face.

The boy hits him harder, and Thor intervenes.

He grabs the kid and throws him back, yelling at him to leave his brother the hell alone.

The boy looks startled and scared, and Loki pushes himself up to his knees, wiping the blood from his mouth with the back of his hand.

Thor turns to him to see if he's alright, and he's met with fury in those large, green eyes.

"Loki, are you…"

"Leave me alone Thor." He says flatly, struggling to his feet and turning away.

Thor is taken aback, confusion lining his features.

"What?" He asks.

Loki whirls on him, hands clenched at his sides, shaking.

"I said LEAVE ME ALONE!" He cries, voice breaking with the intensity of it. "Go away! I don't need your help! I don't need you to protect me!"

Thor stares, dumbfounded.

Without thinking, he reaches a hand out to his brother.

"Loki, I…"

And Loki turns again, beginning to walk away.

"Just leave me alone." He mutters.

The crowd disperses, until Thor is the only one left standing in the hall.

He doesn't know what just happened.

He doesn't know what he did wrong.

And he wonders, suddenly, what happened to his little brother.

What happened to the sweet, shy little boy who used to hold onto his hand and follow him around everywhere?

What happened to him?

/

When Loki is fourteen and Thor is seventeen, Loki brings someone home for the first time. And for the first time, Thor realizes Loki's difference scares him.

It's late, and Loki hasn't come back home yet.

This has been happening more and more frequently lately.

Loki not coming back after school, staying out, going only he knew where.

Somehow, he still manages straight A's.

He doesn't walk to or from school with Thor anymore, not like he used to.

When he does come back, it's after midnight, and he comes stumbling through the door loudly, laughing and giggling, trying to hush whoever else it is with him, kissing them sloppily on the lips.

They make it two steps into the house before the light comes on, Frigga and Odin and Thor waiting there for him.

Loki freezes, staring.

The boy with him stops too, looking wide eyed and scared.

Odin's arms are crossed over his chest, standing rigid and firm. Wearing the same expression that would have sent Thor and Loki running when they were younger.

"Where the hell have you been?" He asks, and his tone leaves no room for anything but an honest answer.

Loki doesn't reply for a few, long seconds, seeming to sway where he stands, before abruptly, a grin slides over his face. His eyes are glassy and bloodshot, and they can all smell the alcohol on his breath from here.

"Out." He answers, voice slurred. "Just out… with Tony." He gestures back to the boy standing behind him, and then moves to sling an arm lazily across his shoulders.

Thor tenses.

He knows Loki likes other boys.

They've all known it, for about a year now.

They accept it. It's okay.

It's still hard to swallow sometimes, though, when he acts like this.

"You're drunk." Odin states flatly, hiding none of the growing fury in his voice.

Loki's smile widens, and again, he laughs.

"Mmm, it would seem so." He says.

"Loki, sweetheart, you're fourteen." Frigga speaks, voice thick with pain and confusion.

His eyes move to her, slow and deliberate.

"… So?" He asks.

Tony begins to fidget nervously, eyes casting down.

Odin moves towards his youngest son, threatening.

"Don't you talk to your Mother that way!" He snaps.

Loki looks up at him with feigned confusion.

"What way?" He asks, and Thor mentally groans.

Oh, Loki…

"Don't you play dumb with me boy!" Odin sticks a finger in his face, features twisting in anger. "This is the last time Loki! You're not to leave this house for the next month except to go to school! Do you understand me?!"

Loki's arm drops from Tony's shoulders, and he glares up at Odin, angry.

"You can't tell me what to do." He says.

"I very well CAN!" Odin shoots back. "You'll do as I say Loki, or so help me, I'll…"

"You'll what?" Loki cuts him off. And he straightens, standing as tall as he can, though Odin still towers over him by inches. "Ignore me some more? Because you've done a marvelous job of that so far, Dad."

He steps closer, right in Odin's face now.

"Oh, I know I'm not the star quarterback of the football team like Thor, I know I'm just such a disappointment to you, being so scrawny and weak. But you could at least spare a moment to even notice I'm here, Odin, you could at least do that. But you're so damn self-absorbed and selfish, you never even see! You never…"

CRACK!

Loki's cut off mid sentence, voice dying in his throat as Odin back hands him across the mouth, so hard, it knocks the boy backwards and off his feet.

Frigga gasps. Thor goes rigid, and Tony freezes to the spot, horrified.

Loki's hands come up over his mouth, face turned down, still.

Odin is breathing hard, and his gaze flashes up to Tony.

"You." He points at him. "Leave."

Tony doesn't hesitate, scrambling backwards and out the door in a matter of seconds.

Odin returns his attention to Loki, still on the floor.

"You are a disappointment Loki." He says, voice low and cold. "But not for the reasons you think. You're a disappointment as a person. You compare yourself to Thor because you know he's what you can't be, and it makes you angry and jealous. And then you take it out on all of us by acting like a spoiled brat. You only have yourself to blame for all your problems boy. It's time you faced up to the reality and stopped living in a fantasy world."

Loki says nothing through Odin's chastising. Doesn't look up. Doesn't dare to move a muscle.

He just stays there, on his bottom, holding his face and keeping it turned away.

Thor can see blood seeping between his long, thin fingers.

Odin glares at him a long moment more, before finally he straightens and turns, moving away and disappearing into the kitchen.

A tense silence falls over the room, stretching for what seems forever.

And then Frigga moves, rushing towards Loki, arms outreached, wrapping them around his hunched form.

But Loki shrugs her off angrily, pushing himself quickly to his feet and bolting, rushing up the staircase, into his room, slamming the door shut behind him.

Frigga cries.

Thor doesn't know what to do.

/

Later, Thor stands outside Loki's bedroom door, palms pressed against the wood, forehead leaning into it.

He can hear Loki in there, crying.

"Loki?" He calls through the door. "Loki, will you let me in?"

No reply.

The sobbing abruptly ceases.

"Loki?"

A few seconds pass without answer.

And then Thor sees the light underneath the door go off.

Loki doesn't come out of his room for the next, three days.

/

Loki is fifteen and Thor is eighteen when they graduate high school. Thor has been accepted into UCLA on an athletic scholarship, and will be moving to the west coast at the end of the summer. Loki has applied to several schools and been accepted into all of them, including several Ivy Leagues.

He tells them after their graduation ceremony that he's decided he doesn't want to go to college.

He and Odin get into a huge shouting match, right there on the field in front of their entire class.

Loki storms off and they don't see him again until that night, past one in the morning.

/

Thor tells his parents it's alright, that Loki will come around. That he's only going through a phase, and when he's past it, he'll go back to school.

Frigga smiles and hugs Thor. Odin shakes his head and mutters about what a disappointment his youngest is.

/

Thor moves to California.

He doesn't see his family except during Holidays and summer.

Odin threatens to throw Loki out of their house if he doesn't go to school. Frigga talks him down, explaining Loki still isn't legally old enough to be on his own.

/

Loki is seventeen when he moves out.

He doesn't tell his parents where he's living, or how he has the money to afford it.

He calls Frigga every day and talks to her on the phone, and drops by every weekend to see her.

He and Odin are no longer on speaking terms.

/

Thor sees Loki for the last time during winter break.

/

It's three days since Loki's called.

He's never gone this long without contact of some kind, and Frigga is starting to worry.

"He's probably out causing trouble. Don't worry about him." Odin dismisses her concerns.

/

When Thor comes to visit for Spring Break, it's been over a week since any of them have heard from Loki.

/

By the tenth day, there's a thick tension which has settled over all of them. Unspoken fear.

And then there comes a knock at the door.

And Thor understands for the first time all the mistakes he's made.

There's two police officers standing there, and immediately, Frigga begins to cry.

"Mister and Missus Odinson?" The one of the right asks.

"Yes." Odin answers. Frigga has her face buried against his shoulder, and Thor is standing stiff, nausea already starting to work its way up in him.

"It's about your son." The officer says, and Frigga's sobs turn loud and uncontrolled.

The officer tells them they should go inside and sit down.

They do, taking their places at the dining table.

Thor hears the policeman talking. Hears the words he's saying. But he doesn't understand.

Not really.

Loki is dead.

He says they found his body, left in an alleyway in some rundown, derelict part of the city.

He tells them Loki was raped and then beaten to death, by two men.

He tells them Loki died from blunt force trauma to the head. That he had most likely had some object taken to him, like a baseball bat or a crowbar. They'd found him with several bone fractures, broken ribs and a shattered femur and left arm.

The worst had been done to his face, he says, multiple fractures, shattered eye socket and cheek bone, skull caved in. That was what had killed him, the officer tells them.

Odin asks in a detached voice how they know he was raped, and the man says Loki was found half naked, with his pants and underwear pulled down to his ankles, and significant tears and bruising to his rectum, two samples of semen found.

He says there were visible signs of a struggle. That Loki had fought.

There had been blood caked underneath his fingernails, he says, and the policeman assures them that they've already got blood and semen samples at the lab, and that they're going to find the men who did this.

He tells them Loki was last seen at around one in the morning eleven days ago, exiting a dance club downtown with two men. He tells them witnesses say Loki was drunk, and seemed to go with the men willingly.

They have descriptions of the men, and they're out looking for them now.

The officer promises it won't be long before they catch them. That it will be alright.

But that's a lie.

Nothing's alright.

Nothing will ever be alright again.

Frigga is sobbing viciously, uncontrollably, clinging to Odin, and Odin repeats over and over, "Oh God, oh God…"

Thor doesn't hear anymore after that.

It fades to white noise.

He shoots to his feet, vaguely aware of his Mother grabbing his hand.

But he pulls away from her, and is stumbling towards the front door.

He throws it open and staggers outside.

He makes it three steps before he collapses to his knees, dry heaving. Once. Twice.

Until finally vomit forces its way up from his stomach, up his throat and out his mouth. It lasts several seconds before he's empty.

And then he begins sobbing.

No…

No, no, no, no, no…

This can't be.

It can't.

Loki…

Loki

His brother…

His beautiful, sweet, little brother.

This can't be happening.

This can't be real.

Thor buries his face in his hands, and weeps.

This can't be…

Loki…

Good, sweet Loki…

He died.

Oh God, oh God, he died.

And suddenly all Thor can think about is Loki alone, and scared.

Oh God, Christ, he must have been so scared.

And he should have been there.

He should have been there to protect him. To save him!

He promised he would.

He promised!

He should have been there for his little brother.

But he wasn't.

And now Loki is gone.

/

A week later is the funeral.

Closed casket. The undertaker did what he could, but Loki's face was too badly beaten to salvage.

Loki's face.

Loki's beautiful, delicate face, with his fine and handsome features.

/

Afterwards, Thor sits in Loki's old room by himself.

Along Loki's old bed.

He gazes, listless and unfocused around the space.

There are books lining the walls, dozens and dozens of them.

Loki loves to read.

… Loved…

There are stacks of papers, cluttered along his desk, writing and drawings, poetry.

Thor has never known another person as creative as his brother.

Has never known anyone so smart.

He sits there, and he remembers.

A boy. Too small to defend himself. Singled out for being different.

He remembers a child, so kind and sweet and shy, clinging to him, following him everywhere as though they were joined at the hip. Looking up to him with awe and admiration, telling him… telling him he wanted to be just like him when he grew up. Just like his big brother.

He remembers Loki sleeping with him at night, even after they'd gotten too old to share a room together, and his baby brother would sneak in in the middle of the night and crawl into bed with him.

Sometimes he'd be crying, telling Thor about his bad dreams.

He remembers Loki there with him in school, trying to talk to him.

Remembers ignoring his brother in exchange for his friends, all people he no longer sees.

No longer knows.

He remembers Loki drifting away.

Remembers him changing, becoming distant and depressed and self-destructive.

Remembers thinking he tried everything to help him, and nothing worked.

Knows now that is a lie.

That he never tried.

Not really.

Not really…

Loki is gone.

His other half.

His life.

His joy.

And Thor knows he is gone too.

For what is light without shadow?

Nothing, Thor thinks.

It is nothing…

/

AN: So, I don't know why I wrote this exactly. I can't BEAR for Loki to die in fics, but I just got this idea in my head, and decided to write it.

If it makes you feel better, you can just imagine Loki is a god, being reborn again and again in different forms and lives. You know, that whole Ragnarok cycle thing.

Hope I didn't depress you too much, and you got something out of this story. Let me know what you think, and thanks for reading!