They reappear in the motel room in a violent burst of light, and for a moment, both for Jane and Thor, the world tips sideways, sickening nausea turning in their guts.
Jane thinks the floor has somehow come out from under her, the sensation of falling ratcheting up through her insides.
But then there is a strong embrace around her middle, and she's being pulled gently back against something warm and solid.
She forces her eyes open, a minute panic screaming at the back of her mind to let herself see.
At first, all her mind registers is a spinning, drably decorated room, but then she glances aside, and she sees Thor, sat down and slumped back against a wall, though he's obviously coherent and okay. And then she sees the long, thin fingers of Loki, the flesh of them even more obviously pale against Thor's golden skin. He's touching the tips of them to his brother's temple, and a murmured "shhh" comes from behind her. And then the sensation of cool tipped fingers are against her own temple, and slowly, the nausea and spinning slips away.
She slumps herself in relief, a hushed sigh escaping past her lips, and the arm is again around her waist, holding her securely.
"I apologize." And that's Loki's voice, close behind her, smooth and reassuring. "Are you alright?"
"… Yeah." Jane mutters, even as Thor is already pushing himself up again to his feet.
"Loki, you should give warning before you teleport others!" Thor scolds, though there's no real anger in his voice, just exasperation.
"I know." Loki says, finally releasing his hold on Jane and helping her to stand up. "I'm sorry."
"It matters not to me, but you bring discomfort to Jane when you…"
"I said I was sorry!" Loki snaps suddenly, voice snarled out.
Instinctively, Jane flinches back, stepping away, and neither she nor Thor notices the way Loki flinches back the same, as though he'd startled himself.
His gaze drops almost immediately to the floor, his hands tightening to white knuckled fists at his sides, and for a long moment, he stands there, silent, frame vaguely trembling.
"… I'm sorry." He finally grinds out again. "I'm sorry, I…"
"Loki," Thor steps forward, reaching out without hesitation and placing a wide palm along his brother's shoulder. Jane sees Loki stiffen at the touch, but otherwise do nothing. "it's alright." Thor says.
Loki doesn't look up, still standing there, wound tight, as if he's trying to keep himself from exploding. There are tiny sparks of green light flashing between his balled fingers, and Jane feels an awful tension.
She thinks, suddenly, that maybe her presence is making it worse, making Loki… nervous even. In front of Thor, after what happened between them earlier, and Loki's reservations, his fear of somehow betraying Thor through his attraction to her.
"Listen," she starts, hoping this is the right move. She's worried about leaving Loki alone, but then, Thor's here, and the truth is, she's starting to feel pretty damned exhausted after the last few days. "I'm pretty beat." She says. "And it's getting late, or early, depending on your take." She pushes a lock of hair behind her ear. "Anyway, I think I'm gonna head to bed now."
Loki glances up, and she feels a sudden relief seeing the same in his own eyes, knowing she's made the right decision. It's almost funny, she thinks, some girls would be insulted by that, by the guy they like wanting them to go away. But Loki isn't just some guy, and she knows he's got some issues to work out here. He needs to talk to Thor, she thinks.
"That is well Jane." Thor says, turning towards her. And in his eyes too, she sees clear gratitude.
They've been needing to talk a while.
"Just as long as you two promise not to kill each other while I'm sleeping." She smiles tightly.
"Thor is too good to be killed." Loki mutters, crossing his arms over his chest and glancing away.
Jane laughs nervously at that, unsure if she's meant to or not, and Thor only turns towards his brother and punches him none too gently in the arm.
"I mean it you two." She says, pointing a finger at each of them. "I need to sleep, so keep it down."
"We shall respect your rest Jane." Loki looks to her again, and it's all seriousness in his features.
Something aches inside her at the sight.
This isn't going to be easy, she thinks. In the back of her mind she understands Loki is a mess. He's a broken… heartbroken mess.
When she sees the sweetness in him, underneath all of that, sometimes she thinks she might suffocate from how much it hurts.
"Okay." She says. "Okay."
She hesitates then only a moment, before she shoves it away, and steps towards Loki, closing the distance in a few, short strides, throwing her arms around him and squeezing him tight.
She feels him stiffen a moment, unsure. But she doesn't care, only holds him tighter, before letting him go and standing up on the tips of her toes, pressing a light kiss to his cheek.
"Don't run away again." She says, looking up into his stunned expression. He blinks down at her a few, long seconds, before finally he nods, almost absently.
She moves to Thor then, also embracing him and kissing his cheek, before excusing herself for the rest of the night and retreating silently into the bedroom.
He can't look at Thor.
His golden, shining brother… not his brother… not really… never was…
They sit across from one another at a small table in the room's main area, and have been so for the past, several minutes, neither saying anything.
Loki's hand twist together, held in his lap, his face turned down, sight fixed on some indistinct spot of the floor.
He tries telling himself that he can tell when a person is lying to him, and Jane hadn't been lying when she'd told him Thor had given his blessing towards the match between them. Still, that does little to quell his gnawing doubt.
Fantasies flit rapid fire through his head, Thor disgusted by him, viciously, even violently angry at him for again, again, betraying his trust. For endeavoring towards something so base, so foul as to steal another's woman.
But he did not intend such, he thinks frantically. He never meant for it to happen this way. But oh, Norns, he's never meant for anything to go the way it has, but he is a wretched, wicked thing, and everything he touches turns to ruin.
He starts abruptly, violently as he feels the sudden weight of a hand upon his shoulder, and Thor's solid voice.
"Loki." He says, and Loki looks up at him finally.
Thor stares back with a creased brow, frown tight across his lips.
"Calm yourself, little brother." And he says it with all the sureness and experience of an older brother who's so many times had to coax a sibling away from panic.
As Thor had done so many times for him when they were children, and Loki had been so prone towards such attacks.
"Just breathe." He goes on. "Deep and even. You remember?"
Loki nods, and suddenly, he sucks in a breath, sharp and hard. He hadn't even realized he'd been holding it.
"That's it." Thor says. "That's good."
And Loki continues to inhale then, one, two, three, inhale, one, two, three, inhale, just like Thor had taught him. Just like…
"That's my little warrior." Thor smiles then.
Thor had used to call him that. He'd used to, when the other children would laugh at him and call him weak and tell him he'd never be a true warrior of the Aesir… Thor had…
"I'm sorry." Loki blurts out suddenly. "I'm sorry."
The smile slips from the Thunderer's broad, handsome features, brow creasing.
"Why?" He asks.
"Jane, I…" Loki starts, then stops, eyes flitting away, face heating in shame. "I never meant… she… she assured me you took no offense, but I should have… I should have asked your blessing first and now…"
He stammers uncharacteristically over his words, panic again beginning to take firm hold.
"Loki, it's alright…" Thor tries, but Loki doesn't seem to hear.
"We kissed." The younger god says, and he forces his eyes up to Thor's then, certain he'll see only rage and indignation. The fury of a jilted lover.
But he doesn't want to be a coward. He doesn't want to run away when…
Thor is laughing.
Why is he laughing?
"What?" Loki asks, features creased in confusion. "Why are you laughing?"
"Loki, it is alright." Thor says, more firmly this time. He reaches out, pulling Loki's hand up from his lap and taking hold of it. "I've known of your infatuation with Jane for quite some time." He smiles warmly, reassuringly. "And the truth is, the both of us decided many months previous that we should simply remain friends." He gives his brother's hand a squeeze. "And another truth for your ears. I've thought long on my courting of Jane, and in that thought, I've come to realize that when first we met, I found myself drawn to her because she reminded me so much of you Loki."
Loki's eyes widen for a moment, staring, almost uncomprehending on Thor. He says nothing, and Thor goes on.
"She had that same, inquisitive and clever mind that you do Loki. A… a sensitivity and intelligence that made me think of you. She made me feel safe in a way because of that, made me feel… made me feel home."
The Thunder god breathes out, his eyes finally casting away.
A long moment passes in silence, and Loki doesn't know what to say, what to even think.
He'd been so angry at Thor then. He'd been so angry, and he'd hated Jane because he'd thought… he'd thought she had done something he'd tried for so, so long to do himself and was never able. She'd changed Thor, he thought. And so she must have meant more to Thor than he ever had… he'd been so certain that's what had been.
"Are you ever coming back home Loki?" Thor asks suddenly, drawing Loki from his thoughts. The older god lifts his eyes to him then, naked pleading clear in them.
"… Home?" He whispers.
"It feels empty without you brother." Thor says. "I've thought of you, of your return for months…"
Loki looks away, shaking his head.
"Asgard is no longer my home Thor." He finally says, voice almost too soft to hear.
"Loki, do not say that…" Thor begins to plead.
"But it's true, is it not?" Loki interrupts, looking back to him. "I am unwanted Thor. You know now how I am regarded there. I never was well loved as you, and now they only have reason to openly spurn me. You can hardly blame them either, look at what I am."
"Loki, you are their Prince."
Again, the Mischief god shakes his head.
"You are." Thor insists, refusing to give up. "And whether they choose to acknowledge it or not, it is known throughout the Realm how you saved Asgard from ruin. Without you, it is unlikely we ever would have beaten back Malekith and his forces. You paid whatever debt you might have owed to the city and her people a thousand fold. Please Loki, you must believe that."
Loki's eyes turn away, and again, he shakes his head.
"… I do not belong there Thor." He says after a moment. "I never have…"
"Father came to me…" Loki says suddenly, and Thor stops, eyes widening. Loki glances at him briefly before again looking away. "While I was sequestered to that human healing hall. He came to me, he… he tried to tell me he was sorry, that he'd… that he hadn't…" he pauses, and Thor doesn't miss the way he swipes at his eyes.
"I want to believe him Thor." He finally starts again. "I wish I could, but…"
Thor's brow crumples.
"Father loves you Loki."
Loki shakes his head, again wiping at his eyes.
"He's never treated me like he does." He says, voice wavering only just. "He's never told me so…"
"… I know." Thor replies after some seconds. "I know he was harsh towards you Loki. He was harsh towards me as well, but more so towards you. I think… I think he was simply afraid, because you were so different, he didn't… he didn't know what to do, and there's few times that the All-Father has ever found himself faced with something he couldn't solve."
Loki's arms come up round himself then, and he seems almost to shrink against the seat he's in, face turned down.
"… He used to say to me…" the smaller god swallows visibly, thickly. "he used to ask me why I couldn't be as you. He would ask me that, and then would tell me I would never amount to a true warrior if I couldn't be stronger."
Thor feels his chest tighten, throat constricting, a vicious sting at the backs of his eyes.
"Oh, Loki…" he shakes his head, reaching out again and squeezing his brother's arm.
"He would be so disappointed in me, when he would train me, when he would knock me down and I… I tried… I would try so hard to get up again, but sometimes I couldn't… I didn't… I wasn't strong enough, and he would look at him with so much disappointment, and I…"
He lets out a shuttering breath then, again wiping at his eyes.
"I felt like he hated me." He finally whispers. "I felt like he hated me my whole life."
He looks up at Thor then, eyes searching, almost pleading.
"Did you ever feel that way Thor?" He asks, and he sounds so much like a little boy.
Thor hesitates then, his throat tightening still, his brow crumpling, because he knows the answer, and he doesn't want to give it. He doesn't want to shatter his little brother further.
But Loki is staring at him desperately now. He's looking back to him for something, some kind of answer, some kind of hope.
And Thor can't lie to Loki. He can't lie to him like that.
He shakes his head.
"No." He finally pushes out. "No."
Loki's eyes fall away from his face then, like he knew already. Like he's always known.
He's silent for a long, few moments. He says nothing.
Until finally Thor hears him breathe out, voice barely more than an exhale.
"Asgard is not my home Thor." He says. "It isn't mine. And I'm nothing to it."
AN: Hey guys! I'm SO sorry for the huge wait on this chapter. And I'm sorry also that it's not very long. But I hope you enjoyed it anyway, and now that things are back on track, hopefully I'll be able to start updating with more regularity. If you have a chance, let me know your thoughts, and thank you so much again to all of my readers and reviewers!