"I finally caught up to you," Thor smiled and tugged on the chain of the handcuffs that Loki was still in. "Hmm, you cannot run away either."

"How kinky," Loki drawled. He flashed him a flirtatious wink mockingly and fixed the blond with a cruel grin.

"No," the blonde said, face disgusted. "Please don't jest that way - we are brothers."

"Are we now?"

"I will see to these getting removed soon," Thor went on, electing to ignore Loki being a sarcastic ass which was his usual mode when around the blond. "I'm sure we can find a sorceress capable of cutting this device on Asgard - "

"That is not necessary. I simply need a key to unlock it," Loki interrupted. "And I am not going to Asgard with you."

"But you need to."

"No I don't!" Loki shuffled away until a good two feet was between them. "I don't know what you want with me, but I'm sure it isn't pleasant."

"It's not entirely..." Thor shrugged. "But Loki I need - "

"To throw me into a cell?" Loki growled.

"No, you are mistaken - "

"Oh, then I suppose you wish to have me tortured instead? Or are you and your father going to use me as a bargaining tool? That is why the old man - "

"I would never!" Thor reached out with a hand only to have Loki back away like a wounded animal. "Loki, listen! I am sorry for my actions. I do not want to cause you any further harm, can you please believe me?"

"I can't." He shook his head. "No. I won't."

"I saved you just now," Thor reasoned. "I - "

"We both know you weren't there to save me. You just happened to run into some competition."

"Fine, it wasn't my first plan - "

"Then don't say you saved me! Don't expect some credit - "

"But I did. I could have just left you to your fate," Thor had trouble maintaining eye contact. "But I didn't want to make that mistake again."

"It would be harder to break into SHIELD's facilities - "

"Damn it Loki! Can you stop being so cynical for a moment?" He huffed. Thor took a second to breathe, his breath coming out too heavy. He was looking too old again, as if stress was causing him to age faster than he should. "Fine. We don't have to go to Asgard. If it means I'll earn at least an ounce of forgiveness then I'll drop you off at whatever your destination was and leave you."

"You can't be serious."

"I am. I don't have time for this," Thor crossed his arms. "I need to get back to Asgard soon, with or without you."

"What do you want from me?" Loki said slowly. Thor was looking down at him the same way a father wold when scolding a son. It was pissing Loki off.


"Other than that."

"Will you allow me to speak? Or do you want to spend more time bickering?" Thor scolded, leaning against a tree to wait for Loki's response. After a beat of silence, he went on. "Asgard is currently not in its greatest state."

Loki opened his mouth to say a snide comment but decided better to remain quiet. But Thor's expression made it so tempting to be childish.

"Word spread about your banishment, not just amongst the citizens, but also to other realms. Of course this did not cause too much concern, as you weren't quite..."

"Liked," the frost giant supplied. "There was celebration I am sure."

"A few weeks later, we held a conference with the other leaders of the realms. Just the usual discussions of treaties, trade, touching basis, so on. You are aware of how all of that goes on."

Loki nodded.

"Things were not going too smoothly for us. There were reports of bandits and thieves coming into our lands from Aflheim. They were looting and destroying villages on the outer ring of our territory, not to mention they were also disturbing trade. Father blamed the elves and demanded something be done about it, however, he was not satisfied with any of the solutions that were proposed. I urged him to accept a proposition where we would be compensated for our losses and the elves would send more enforcements to the area. In my opinion, the issue was not too big at that point in time and his obsession with that border was petty."

"Your father must have some ulterior motive," Loki said. Thor nodded in agreement.

"My thoughts exactly at that time, brother. He did not listen to my reasoning and threatened war. The elves were not pleased and decided to place an embargo on Asgard. He then ordered an attack on the elves before falling into Odinsleep. For the time that he was asleep, I had to manage Asgard's defense against a counterattack. It was brutal.

Hours before father awoke, I discovered that he did indeed have a motive for courting war. He had offered the Mad Titan Thanos the lives of the elves in exchange for Asgard's safety from his wrath. He had also promised our lives for reassurance that Thanos would skip over Asgard. It was not honorable and I seized power from father. I could not allow the war to go on for that purpose nor could I allow him to trade us off."

"Where is your father now?"

Thor looked at him warily. "In your old cell."

"No," Loki nearly gasped. "No you didn't."

"Aye, I did," he shrugged. "I charged him with treason. I finally realized just how cruel he had been and it seemed fitting."

"I can't believe this," he shot Thor a shit eating grin. "The favorite son of Odin turned again him."

"He turned against me, Loki. Against us. Against Asgard," Thor's gaze bore into his. "I had to protect us all."

"What happened after that?" Loki would admit that Thor's explanation and story was actually interesting him. He still did not want to go to Asgard though. Hell, why would he after all of that?

"Ever since I had him arrested, I have been struggling to keep the kingdom in order. There was panic when news of Odin's arrest leaked out into the public. I had to deal with a few revolts, the threat of Thanos now that his deal with Odin is void, and the war."

"Hm, you shouldn't be here. You should be commanding your army."

"But I need you."

"You actually are risking the state of Asgard to retrieve me?" Loki narrowed his eyes. "You must want a favor from me. Natasha did say that you were planning on using me. What for?"

"I need you to speak with the elves. You always had a good reputation with them and you have a way with words that I do not possess. I tried to negotiate with them but I have had no success. They will not listen to me but they might listen to you if you can convince them."

"So that is all?"

"I would request that you fight with us if they refuse."

"No," Loki smiled. "I will not assist you. I rather watch Asgard burn to ashes. I think I have a good seat from here."

"Loki..." Thor sighed. But they weren't done talking.

"You're leaving something out. You have been vague throughout this whole goose chase, and I want to know what it is that you are hiding from me."

"I don't know if I can trust you with everything." Thor admitted, unhelpfully.

"You'll need to if you expect my help," Loki said. "I'm not going to try to kill you again, Odinson, unless you give me reason to."

"I don't know about that," Thor responded.

"I no longer have a desire for revenge," Loki said. "Well, maybe against Odin, but then again there will always be hatred in my heart for him."

"And not for me?"

"Only indifference."

Which was a lie. But Loki wasn't going to admit that.

Thor looked him over, debating in his head whether or not to tell him the full picture. He weighed the pros and cons, tried to predict how Loki would react, and decided to go ahead.

"Mother was injured in an attack and it is uncertain whether or not she will recover."

Loki stared and blinked. "What?"

Thor simply looked away, waiting for what he predicted.

"What?" Loki repeated.

"She's fatally wounded."

"What?!" Loki yelled this time. "What do you mean fatally wounded?!"

"I mean she might die. She is not recovering well."

"Why was she injured?!"

"Loki," Thor sighed. "A band of elves made it to the castle and tried to win the war by seizing it. Mother fought valiantly and risked her life to protect it. She managed to defeat them but at a price..."

"Surely the healers can save her?" Loki demanded. "You will not let my mother die - "

"Our mother. I have tried to have her looked after, but we are currently in short supply. So far we are at a standstill with the elves, but another attack from them will ensure our defeat. Mother has asked for wounded soldiers and citizens to be looked after instead of her own person since we only have so few. I'm trying my best to convince her - "

"Your best isn't good enough!" Loki snapped. He couldn't handle the news. There was no way he mother was hurt and close to dying. He couldn't imagine his mom dead. She was the only person he truly cared for on Asgard all those years. She taught him all he knew about magic, had showered him with love, and understood him. Though everything was rather rocky between him and Asgard, his mom was always that one person he was fine with. She was his weakness.

Thor watched him quietly.

"Why didn't you tell me she was hurt at the beginning of all of this?" Loki said roughly. He clenched his fists as best as he could with the hand cuffs on.

"I knew you'd blame me and I was concerned that it would push you away further."

"When will you learn that telling me the truth prevents so many problems? I could have saved her a while ago." He was barring his teeth now. "When will you see that withholding information from me incites my rage?"

"Come on now, you've always been so angry for the past few years!" Thor snapped back. "It's ridiculous! You're so unpredictable and mad nowadays that I can't just tell you everything like I used to when we were children."

"That is not true!"

"Do not lie! If I told you upfront that Asgard was in peril and mother was on her deathbed, you would've taken your anger out on me and maybe even innocent Midgardians. I was simply trying to delay the destruction it'd cause. I just needed some time to find a way to explain."

"No!" He pulled on the chain that was connecting the cuffs together. He wanted to punch something. He wanted to use some magic to kill something. Or someone. "I would have agreed to come with you and resolve the war without a fuss."

"Please, I hope you stop lying to yourself."

"Fine. I would have killed all the elves. Every last one of them for hurting mother. I think I shall, actually."

"No," Thor shook his head. "Please do not."

"Well I need to do something now!" He was back to yelling. "Mother - "

"Does not wish for father's plans to be carried out. That would only help the Mad Titan and it'd be easier for him to take Asgard. Genocide is not the answer and we have already established that before this mess."

"I know," Loki said quietly. "But I want to."

"Save your energy for Thanos," Thor said firmly. "He's a threat to everyone, every realm. We need to put an end to this pointless war and aim everyone's attention to him instead."

"You only want me to speak with the elves?"

"Yes," Thor said. "Please without any hatred. They are only reacting to Odin's attack."

"Will you allow me my magic?"

"Yes. I can grant you it right now if I see you are worthy. I have that privilege as king. But do you promise to perform your part - "

"Of course I do. I'm only speaking with them because this war needs to end so we can have some more people look after mother. Actually, I think I'll help her recover myself." He gave Thor a pointed look. Thor just shrugged.

"Thank you."

"Don't," Loki snapped. "It's not for you. I hate you...less than I did before, but I still hate you."

"I suppose I will take that as forgiveness?" Thor offered.

"I tolerate you. Nothing more."

Thor's arms were suddenly around him, pulling him in for a hug. He was warm and had that distinct smell of metal mingled with sweet ginger. It was so familiar and it surprised Loki that he hadn't changed in that aspect. He was willing to work with the blond once again, just like the days before their relationship went down the drain, but they were never going back to the way things were before.

He must have said that out loud because Thor drew back and nodded solemnly.

"I know. I promise you I will pardon all of your crimes, and you will be free to do as you please."

"Fine with me."

Thor nodded, putting his helmet that he had left resting against a tree on his head. He picked up mjolnir and grabbed the chain between Loki's cuffs with another hand.

"Let's go end this, shall we?" Thor said.

A week.

A week had gone by since it was reported all across the news that Loki was last spotted at an airport in some state (Tony couldn't remember because that wasn't important). Something had happened, apparently the FBI was involved in trying to arrest him (It was really SHIELD undercover) and they were damn close. But then some civilians got few seconds of footage of Thor swooping in. There was another video of him flying away straight through some glass with Loki in tow.

And that was it.

No other word or sign of either of them.

Fury had been furious. He had called Tony, spent a couple of hours screaming at how incompetent Stark was for not plotting Loki's direction accurately, and then let him know that the hunt was over. SHIELD had decided to leave the Loki situation alone and declare it a mission complete even though he wasn't in their custody.

They resolved that he was obviously in Asgard's prison once again where he belonged. It was out of their hands.

And it was out of Tony's.

Tony didn't cry the first two nights - his eyes were just leaking. He didn't spend his days rolling around on the beach sand trying to feel some warmth in what he was passing off as a heart. He also didn't down drink after drink nearly nonstop to the point where Steve had to drag him to the hospital from alcohol poisoning.

Of course that didn't stop Tony from drinking once he got back to the mansion.

Poor Steve tried hard to cheer Tony up in every way he could. He tried teaching Tony how to paint, showed him some movies, even offered to do science with him. But Tony refused and elected to just lay on the sand, his skin tanning to golden goodness. Of course, it didn't burn because Steve would spray him with sunscreen as he lay there, staring up at the sky.

Steve wanted him to be happy. It really bothered him just how sad Tony was. Tony blamed himself for Loki being taken away and for his failure in protecting him. So, in an attempt to tie up loose ends and try to figure out what exactly happened, Steve managed to get in contact with Pepper and Natasha.

Natasha was pretty upset her self, also feeling at fault for losing him. But she assured them that wherever Thor had taken Loki, the frost giant wouldn't be harmed. She didn't think he would at least. She hoped not. Pepper was also sorry for their lost (as if Loki had died) and brought them a few gift baskets.

Of course Tony had raved angrily at both of them. He was drunk and waved his arms animately as he complained about everything they did wrong. To Pepper and how she shouldn't have agreed to Loki's twisted plan.

"Damn it Pepper, the guy is only five years old!" Tony exclaimed, to everyone's confusion. Pepper tried to urge him to lay down but Tony kept on spewing. He talked about how he felt so betrayed and how he only wanted to help Loki. And then he insisted that Natasha could have stopped him and returned him home. As if he was some lost puppy, which he is according to Tony. He even had some things to yell at JARVIS and told him he was going to dismantle him and toss him into the ocean.

"It's over JARVIS!" he rambled at the ceiling. But a second later he said quickly, "No, no I don't mean that buddy. I love you, JARV."

"It's fine, sir." JARVIS said.

"I didn't mean it buddy." Tony repeated before collapsing on the floor. He was out for about twelve hours.

Pepper had moved on to take care of some business as usual while Natasha stuck around. Her excuse was that she was staying under the radar for a while to let things cool down. SHIELD knew of her involvement and was pretty suspicious about her. But they accepted her excuse that she was chasing after him on her own and just got caught up in the fray.

But they were watching her.

It was late at night when Tony dragged himself inside through the door and flopped down on a sofa in the living room. A few bottles of whiskey were already lodged up in between the cushions. He popped one open with ease and it pressed to his lips when a flash of green appeared before him eyes.

He nearly dropped the bottle on himself.

In front of him something materialized slowly, enveloped in green light. Soon there was a pair of legs, a torso, arms, and a face with a smile that he knew too well. He was wearing armor, a slight variant of the set he wore during the invasion, but it was still recognizable as his. This time he didn't have a pointy helmet on and his dark hair flowed freely to his shoulders. He still had those bright green eyes.

His lips quirked, a new more teasing smile appeared on his face.

"I thought I told you to quit that drinking habit of yours?"

Tony couldn't breathe. He stared at Loki - that was Loki, right - with an open mouth. He wedged the open bottle back into the couch and stood up.

And he stared. Loki stared back, his expression still teasing but pleasant. He looked relaxed and relieved. There were faint dark circles under his eyes as if he didn't get enough sleep.

Tony moved forward until he was looking up at Loki, arm's distance between the two. And then he drew his arm back, aimed, and punched straight at his face.

His fist extended into nothing but air.

He could hear a soft chuckle besides his ear and a pair of arms wedged under his and wrapped themselves around him softly. Loki rested his chin on top of Tony's head, the iron man's hair rubbing against his skin.

"I knew you'd do that," Loki mumbled.

"You could've gotten yourself captured by SHIELD or killed or worse! And I didn't know where you were!" Tony said, his words rushing out all at once. "And then Thor, and you just disappeared, and now you're back?! With your weird getup so I assume you're not dead? Did you defeat the big bad lightning storm? Did you grow a few inches?"

"I can't...understand what you are trying to say," Loki said, raising a brow which he knew Tony couldn't see. "But I'm home."

A/N: What a monster to write. I'm not done yet. I hope your theories weren't too off? I hope I didn't disappoint? I didn't take too long to update this time did I?

What will our heroes do next? What went down in that mysterious gap between events that authors often include in stories? What will Tony do? What will Loki do? Can I even write romance? Will they do the sideways vertical diddly doo yet? Can I even write the smut? Will you ever get someone to look over and fix all your typos? Will my tea ever cool down in time for the next update? /asks fifty more questions/

Stay tuned for another episode of How Cold Have You Become.

Thanks for the reviews as usual!