So, yeah. Technically this is the fourth fic in the series. It's actually set a few decades down the line from "A Night in the Moonlight", because Thor and Loki are basically immortal and that's okay with them. The third fic is in progress and takes place only a year or two later, but features the obligatory meeting between Loki and the Avengers and thus has proven really ridiculously complicated to write (because Tony keeps trying to take over the narration). There's one fic planned for after this one to close out this little series, which is at least a lot more planned out, if not yet written.
The plot of this fic at least proved a little more compact, if no less complicated, so it's being written first. I've already wound up trying a lot of different experimental things here, and I hope they work.
In the end, I know the entire issue of how in control of himself Loki was during "The Avengers" or how willing a participant he was is up in the air and probably always will be since Joss has apparently decided to drop the whole Thanos plot like a hot potato *grumbles*. But I think there are a few moments that give pretty solid evidence that Loki was not in his right mind. This fic is based on a big one, namely Thor and Loki's talk on the cliff just after he snatches Loki out of the plane. Loki pretty unambiguously says that, as far as he remembers, Thor *threw* him off the Bifrost. "I remember you tossing me into an abyss."
I think that's a pretty solid hint that Loki was no longer reading for the same playbook as the rest of us. We saw that the Other could get into his head, so who knows just how much of his life he really remembers as it really happened? And in the end, how do you deal with the idea that what you're remembering might not be what really happened? How do you trust someone else to tell you what really happened without falling into the same trap?
Basically, Loki is probably still a very unreliable narrator and I had some fun with that.
(As for the fighting that happens in the beginning of this fic, I think Loki is totally the kind of guy who would be willing to spend his one day a year helping stop interdimensional rabble from fucking with his home. He's gotten even more protective of it in recent years.)
Loki was not afraid of heights. Loki actually quite liked heights. The rush that came with seeing the world spreading out before you, small and manageable and distant, people scurrying around without any idea you were there…it was a powerful thing, and he'd always been drawn to it.
Loki was not afraid of heights.
Loki was terrified of falling.
This wasn't the Bifrost. This wasn't the Void. If he looked down, he could even see the ground, far too far below. He wouldn't fall forever, if he let go.
That didn't matter. Loki did not want to let go. He wanted to pull himself up, but the vast expanse of empty, open air seemed to suck at him, dragging him down, waiting to swallow him up before breaking him to pieces, and it was all he could do to resist the pull enough to hold on to the edge of the cliff. His body felt like it weighed tons, and his mind was a whirl of fear. Don't let go, please don't let go, I don't want to fall, I can't hold on, not again…
And normally, the sound of Thor's voice didn't fill him with fear anymore. Normally, he felt safe around Thor, and trusted him – not without reservations, but the trust extended to him wasn't without reservation, either, so at least that was fair and equal as they hadn't been for years before.
Normally, there was an unspoken agreement to just leave the past where it was. They'd both tried to kill one another in the past, they'd both taken advantage of the other being vulnerable to strike to kill, but things were different, now, they were brothers…
All the same, as Thor stumbled to a stop at the edge, staring down at him in wide-eyed horror, a surge of hot, suffocating fear bloomed in his chest and his nerveless fingers almost lost their grip. For a moment, as his gaze met Thor's, Loki was back there, at the shattered Bifrost, and the only thing keeping him from the cold embrace of the Void was Thor's grip on the shaft of the Great Spear.
He'd tried to pull himself up, he hadn't wanted to fall, he'd been trying with all his remaining strength to hold on. And then Thor had looked down at him and something in his eyes had become decided and Loki had had just enough time to feel his older brother shake him loose. Surprise and shocked betrayal had made him lose his grip, and Loki's last thought before the darkness swallowed him up had been that Thor would be able to claim it had been an accident…
Loki was jerked violently back to the present by Thor's hands, closing around his wrists. Thor was saying something, but Loki couldn't hear, couldn't understand over the roar of panic and the thudding of his heart in his ears. The only thought remaining in his head was that it was happening again, Thor had seen his chance to be rid of his mistake of a brother and he was going to take it…
But rather than being pushed, there was the feeling of being pulled, a brief rush of air up and then the ground, blessedly so solid beneath him that the impact of being settled safely on it left Loki breathless.
He felt dizzy. He didn't understand. What had happened, why hadn't he fallen…?
Thor's hands were on his shoulders now, shaking him. Loki staggered a bit, and heard himself whimper at the suddenly unsteady feeling. Feeling himself start to panic anew, the solid ground no longer enough, he tried to push Thor away. "Don't," he whispered, his breath coming in short sharp gasps that left him unable to raise his voice loud enough for anyone to hear him and help him, as though anyone would. "No, don't, not again…"
Thor didn't let him go. His older brother held his hands instead, clasping them both tightly in both of his. And Loki realized, after a beat, that his hands weren't the only ones shaking.
He didn't understand. When Thor's gaze caught his and held it, Loki saw a storm of fear roiling just beneath the surface, and he didn't understand that, either.
"No," Thor said quietly. "Not again. I will never let you go again, brother, I swear it."
Loki couldn't have said anything in reply if he'd been able to. There was still a battle to be won, and Sif and the Warriors Three could only keep the enemy off their backs for so long. Thor fought, and Loki fought, because even when turned to stone by fear there were a lot of things he would rather do than die, and with his hands free to wield a spear or throw magic around, there were a lot of things he could do, rather than die. With the six of them together, it wasn't long before the strike force lay dead, bodies scattered around under the cold sun, and they could return to Asgard for a report…and to return Loki safely to his cell for another year.
Loki didn't really register the next while. The aftermath of such paralyzing terror, the strangeness of what had happened next, Thor's behavior…in the end, he didn't admit it, he would never admit it, but Loki was glad when the door of his cell closed and locked, and he was able to sit and close his eyes and bask in the feeling of the castle, sturdy and safe and all around him.
He'd finally understood, after one particularly long battle had kept him away from Asgard for days, that his punishment wasn't just a punishment. It was a chance, a chance to reconstruct all his defenses and foundations that had been so cracked and shaken by his heritage, his fall, by the Tesseract, the Other. The foundations of the castle could be his foundations, at least for a time, while he rebuilt his own.
This was a cell, but it was safe. He'd learned long ago how to let any buildup of emotion leech out of him, into the stones, there to join millennia of sensations good and bad. It was a good feeling, like bleeding out poison. Whenever he felt his thoughts turning dark and tangled, he could sometimes keep them from turning in on himself. He could sometimes control himself, tucked away in the walls of this place that was his home.
He took advantage of that fact, now, trying to think about the events of the day without losing himself.
Had it been an apology? Of course, Thor hadn't admitted to pushing Loki off the bridge that night. And Loki had never tried to make himself believed, because who would believe him over Thor? But why had he lied right then, to him, when only Loki could hear him? When Loki had confronted Thor once before with the fact that he remembered what had really happened?
He'd thought Thor knew better than to try and lie to him, of all people.
Perhaps it hadn't been a lie at all. Perhaps, now that Loki was home, his older brother was simply feeling guilty. So guilty that he was trying to rewrite reality to avoid confronting what he'd done, trying not to remember that he'd been the cause of Loki's fall. Yes, that sounded about right. Loki could understand why Thor had done it. That hadn't made it okay, but…he'd understood.
But of course his sentimental fool of a brother wouldn't have been able to cope with himself. That was why he'd always needed Loki around, to take those unpleasant but ultimately necessary steps for him. Loki found himself smiling at the thought, feeling, of all things, a newfound surge of affection for his older brother.
They'd both betrayed one another, fought and hurt one another, piling vengeance upon vengeance for years worth of pain. It was a fact that they both acknowledged but didn't talk about anymore. The past could stay safely the past, and another two hundred or so years would put it even further out of mind.
A knock on the door brought Loki out of his thoughts. He started in surprise, blinking muzzily…and then he sighed, feeling tired all over again. Thor didn't even have to call out to ask if he was awake before Loki knew who was there.
The past could stay safely the past, provided Thor was willing to leave it there as well.