A/N – Um, guys? Part of this chapter is going to hurt. Just hang in there and trust me, okay? I promise I will make it better.

Chapter 16

Even from the highest reaches of the Asgardian palace, Loki can hear Thor calling to him from Midgard. Gungnir delivers the message to the king, though reluctantly, as if it can sense Loki has not been properly bestowed upon the throne.

Though Loki isn't certain how his brother has managed such astonishing mental feats, Thor has somehow figured out Loki is not dead. More disturbing than that, he's also discerned Heimdall no longer stands guard at the Bifrost. Thor now calls Loki out directly. It won't be long before he knows Loki is in Odin's place on the throne while the All-Father wastes away in the Odinsleep. That is, if Thor doesn't suspect it already.

Why can't his brother just leave well enough alone?

Unconsciously, Loki's hand moves to his neck, and he imagines furious fingers crushing the life out of him. Thor has sworn to kill Loki the next time he betrays him, and Loki sometimes thinks perhaps he wants him to. Maybe then it will finally stick.

On the third day of listening to Thor's increasingly uncompromising demands, Loki descends to Midgard to face him. It's early morning in the desert. Thor stands alone, his back to Loki, watching the sunrise.

"Brother," Loki says in greeting as his fingers tighten around Gungnir. He keeps his chin high, lips set into a smile. It's important to him not to appear daunted in the least.

As Thor turns to face him, it's quickly apparent just how far Loki has pushed him this time. Thor is so angry that he seems to shimmer with it. His eyes are a brilliant, unforgiving blue that sharpens the edge of Loki's apprehension.

Thor's lips are pressed together, trembling, and tears spill unheeded down his cheeks. "You are not my brother," he says, his voice pitched with emotion. "He died a noble death, protecting and avenging his family. I don't know who you are."

The words are like a blade slipping between Loki's ribs, even though he knows he's asked for each and every one of them. But not even that can phase his smile, for he needs it to shield his vulnerability.

Loki's chuckle sounds hollow in the morning chill, as if the life is sucked out of him. "I see you are no longer attempting to hold on to that little fool. You are correct in your assumptions, Thor. Your brother died long ago, lost in the Void."

"I mourn for him every day," Thor says. His brow is pinched in the middle, his cheeks red and tight as he struggles to keep his heartbreak at bay. "Do you?"

Loki's chuckle shifts into outright laughter. "Well, now you're just being insipid."

Thor's teeth clench together as he asks, "So what happens now?"

"What always happens." Loki smiles, his eyes dancing with a combination of insanity and a thin tendril of absolute fear. "We fight."

Unbeknownst to Jane, her phone calls to Erik Selvig have been under surveillance. And so instead of engaging in a private conversation with Erik about Loki's information on the Tesseract, S.H.I.E.L.D. has been alerted to the presence of two Asgardian princes on their planet.

A string of unmarked vehicles swarm into town within the hour, and men in suits escort Thor, Loki, Jane, and Darcy from the diner without offering explanation.

Loki is alarmed at first but takes it in stride without putting up much resistance. If he really means to seek out the Tesseract, he knows he'll have to make contact with S.H.I.E.L.D. eventually—though he hadn't anticipated being taken captive. That part unsettles him. He dislikes feeling trapped but has learned to hide it well enough.

Several hours later, they find themselves in a temporary base out further in the desert. Loki and Thor are placed together in a small room lit with clinical brightness. There is a mirror on one wall, which Loki understands is a window so that others can watch them. The walls and flooring are white with no lines or textures to soften them. A rectangular table resides in the middle of the room, two chairs on each side.

Jane and Darcy have been brought elsewhere and are separated from them. Though this makes Thor uneasy enough to pace, he says, "I've dealt with these people before. They are secretive and imposing, but they aren't hostile without reason. Well, except for the time I attempted to breech their security to reclaim Mjolnir, but even then, they let me go."

Thor has been forced to leave Mjolnir in another room, for no other agents could take it from him.

"Worry not," Thor says to his brother. "I can call my hammer through these walls if there's need. They should mind who they trifle with."

Loki hates how closed in he feels—almost as much as he fears the familiar rising tide of Thor's anger—but Loki forces the apprehension out of his mind. He stands in the direct center of the room with his arms clasped behind his back, refusing to lean on the wall for support or sit in one of the chairs. "Indeed," he says. "However, I'm not sure I would have admitted that out loud since I'm relatively certain they can hear us."

"Good," Thor mutters as he paces, his eyes on the mirror. "Let it be a warning. If they bring Jane to harm, they will come to regret it."

The windowless door opens and in steps Agent Phil Coulson, his suit and hair in perfect order, an electronic tablet in his hand. Just behind him is Clint Barton, who is armed with his bow but merely holds it at his side without a hint of expression in his cool gaze.

Loki's lips twist into a smirk as he turns away.

However, once they can no longer see his face, Loki's smugness melts away into something else. He feels sick. There is not a single person in this room he has not done something unforgivable to.

"Jane Foster is enjoying a cup of coffee with her lovely assistant, Darcy," Coulson says, addressing Thor's last comment. It's a confirmation of Loki's suspicion that their conversation was not private. "We're not in the business of hurting innocent people. What remains to be seen is if you two qualify as innocent yourselves."

"What do you think us guilty of?" Thor asks. "This is a peaceful visit. We have done nothing to elicit such a response."

Loki turns to eye his brother's posture with growing apprehension. Thor's shoulders are pushed forward, his fists clenched. It's like they're back on Jotunheim before Thor's banishment, when Thor had faced down Laufey and nearly started a war.

Coulson gazes back with unflinching calmness. "You're trespassing."

"How?" Thor bites back. "You were the one who brought us here."

"I meant that you're trespassing on my planet," Coulson replies. "Not this base. Have a seat." He gestures to the table.

Thor remains standing, his fingers contracting as if he's seconds away from calling out for Mjolnir. Loki comes up behind Thor and gently touches his arm to encourage him to stand down. "You must forgive my brother's passionate response," Loki says graciously. "He only worries for the woman's safety."

"Just the one?" Coulson asks, eyebrows raised.

Loki smiles tightly and waits for his brother to fill in what he is unwilling to offer.

"The Lady Darcy is under our protection as well," Thor says.

"See, to me it's the other way around," Coulson says. "Dr. Foster and Ms. Lewis are my people and are therefore under my protection. They're from Earth. You two, however, are from someplace else. I want to know how you got here, how you know about the Tesseract, and how you managed to pull that hammer out of solid rock when nothing else would budge it."

Coulson's eyes are on Thor as he speaks, disregarding Loki almost completely.

Foolish, Loki thinks. He almost smirks again but notices Agent Barton has plenty of regard for him. Barton watches Loki steadily, his gloved hands relaxed at his sides. The perfect soldier. Calm, unemotional, and alert.

Coulson unbuttons his suit jacket as he walks toward the table. He sets his tablet down and takes a seat. Barton remains by the door, watching silently. "You fell off our radar for quite some time after the hammer disappeared," Coulson says. "Please. Sit down."

Loki nudges Thor forward, and miraculously, the big brute chooses to listen to him for once. The brothers sit—Thor pushed back from the table, arms crossed over his chest, and Loki sitting with perfect posture, his hands clasped and resting on the table before him.

"I returned to my home," Thor says in reply to Coulson's comment. "The hammer is mine. I did not steal it if that's what you're implying."

"Here's a lesson about Earth," Coulson says. "We tend to consider anything that lands on our planet as something that belongs to us. You planning on dropping anything else on us in the near future?"

When Thor opens his mouth to reply, Loki can tell it's not going to be the most diplomatic of responses. He lifts a hand and says, "Thor, if I may? Agent Coulson, what we—"

Coulson's eyes shift to Loki now. "How did you know my name? I don't recall introducing myself."

Loki opens his mouth and then shuts it again. It isn't like him to be so sloppy. His mind and nerves are stretched thinner than even he realized. "My brother has spoken to me of meeting you during his first visit to your realm."

The lie is smooth, and he delivers it without so much as blinking. But Loki can now feel Thor's scrutiny on him. "Agent Coulson, please understand that if we wished to escape or do this place harm, we could do so with laughable ease," Loki explains. "We are here out of goodwill."

"Though you are quickly expending it," Thor adds.

Coulson smiles as his eyes shift between the two of them. "This good-cop-bad-cop routine you kids have going is just adorable. Forgive my alarm, but we take unknown persons of interest seriously, especially when they start asking around about something that's supposedly top secret. I want to know why you're here. During Dr. Foster's phone call to Dr. Selvig, she spoke of research you've compiled on the Tesseract. We were unable to retrieve it from her. What kind of research are we talking about?"

One side of Loki's mouth tugs upward. "Goodness, I seem to have misplaced it."

"If you want my trust and cooperation, you would do well to cooperate yourselves," Coulson says.

"A gesture of benevolence, then." Loki holds out his hand, and the notebook appears out of thin air.

Coulson hesitates before accepting it. Unlike Jane, he looks more wary than impressed. "Handy," he comments.

"You have no idea," Loki replies with a steady smile.

Loki's eyes dart to the right as he notices Agent Barton stepping closer to them. He comes to stand behind Coulson to watch them while his attention is otherwise occupied by flipping through the pages of Loki's research.

"How do I know this information isn't harmful instead of helpful?" Coulson asks.

Loki shrugs. "It is but ink and paper."

"That's funny," Coulson says. "So are most religious texts, and yet many have died over them. This is all you were planning to share with Dr. Selvig?"

"Among other things," Loki says. "But alas, the rest of it resides only in my head."

Coulson nods as he closes the notebook. "I get it now. This is the bait. You're the hook. Thank you, gentlemen. This was most informative."

Thor sits up straight in his seat as Coulson rises and refastens the button on his suit jacket. "What now?" Thor asks.

"Agent Barton here will escort you and the two ladies out of this base," Coulson says. "I'll be hanging onto this research. I have a team that can analyze it and determine if it contains any potentially dangerous content."

"Those pages belong to my brother," Thor points out heatedly.

"It's all right, Thor," Loki says. "Perhaps Agent Coulson will see the good in our intentions here. And as he has so eloquently pointed out, they know where to find more information should this prove to be helpful."

"Indeed we do," Coulson says. "Rest assured that we'll be monitoring your whereabouts for the remainder of your stay, and feel free to cut that stay short at any time. In the meantime, try not to give me any reason to aim a missile at your heads, okay? Have a nice evening."

Agent Barton delivers the four of them to a motel about an hour away from the base. Before he leaves, he reminds Loki and Thor that S.H.I.E.L.D. will be in touch. Loki feels a hint of lingering interest mixed with regret as he watches the unmarked vehicle pull out onto the dusty highway. Had he been able to build his army out of clones of Barton, Loki might very well be sitting on the throne of Midgard.

Though they secure a pair of rooms for the night, Loki chooses to remain outside. He strides a good hundred yards away from the motel, and stands and stares at the horizon until the sky begins to brighten with the promise of morning. His borrowed heart aches as he remembers the last time he saw the sunrise on Midgard. He doesn't move, not even when his legs and feet begin to throb. His eyes are dry from staring. Sand and salt cling to his eyelashes. His hair blows in the breeze, long enough now to obscure his vision at times.

He wonders again what he thinks he's doing. Already he has been met with such suspicion and opposition on this quest, both here and at home on Asgard—particularly with the All-Father.

Something feels different here. During his time as Asgard's king, Loki hadn't striven to change anything other than to prevent his own fall into the Void. He had only reacted to events as they changed around him rather than proactively finding ways to manipulate them to his benefit. He doesn't hope to gain anything for himself here on Midgard either—it is a gift to Thor in repayment for all Loki has done to destroy him. He's beginning to rethink his approach with the Midgardians. A more passive attitude seems to work the best. He must let others come around to his persuasion at their own speed—or not at all. He must also be willing to give up, if it comes to that. Loki is beginning to regret coming here at all, but to leave would only prompt more speculation as to what is going on in his mind.

It isn't as if Thor will forgive him anyway once he remembers the truth. Loki has long since destroyed any hope of that.

He watches the desert warily, not trusting it—not trusting himself—thinking yet again that it was very foolish indeed to return to this place.

Thor's footsteps crunch on the rock behind him, and Loki blinks and rubs his eyes, realizing how gritty and dry they are. "Unable to find rest?" Thor asks as he comes to stand beside his brother.

Loki ignores the question. He's tired of talking about his well-being. "I thought to watch the sunrise," he says instead.

Thor stifles a yawn into his fist. "Strange that such a dead and lifeless place could hold so much beauty."

"If you say so," Loki mutters.

They stand together in companionable silence as the sky continues to brighten. The array of colors is astounding. It's only after the wavering heat of the sun pierces the horizon that Thor speaks again. "Loki, how did you know Agent Coulson's name?"

Loki's shoulders were already tense before the question was asked. "As I already explained, you mentioned him when you spoke to me of your journey to Midgard."

"I have no recollection of that."

"Yes, well, you are getting on in years."

Thor sighs and kicks at the ground. "All you ever do lately is lie to me."

"Don't be so dramatic. That's all I've ever done our entire lives."

"That's ironic. You calling me dramatic."

Loki shoots his brother a dark look, silently demanding he drop it.

Thor complies, at least for a few moments. His hand comes to rest on the back of Loki's neck. It's a gesture once shared between them in their youth—something Thor did to demonstrate his protectiveness over his little brother, particularly whenever something or someone meant Loki harm.

Loki can barely breathe under its weight.

"Sif has already confirmed from you that you're in trouble," Thor says. "Does it have anything to do with the Tesseract or S.H.I.E.L.D.?"

"Yes," Loki lies, just to throw him off.


Loki brings a hand to cover his face. "I really think I might kill you, brother."

Thor chuckles at the threat—but Loki inwardly reels from it. He can't believe he said that. He bats Thor's hand away from his neck and takes a few steps to put some distance between them. His eyes close as he tries to concentrate on the workings of his lungs. The desert seems intent on smothering him.

"Let me think of how else you could have gotten yourself into trouble," Thor says, his tone light as if this is a game. "There's so many of your traits to choose from. It will have something to do with you mouthing off to someone important, to be sure. Are you cursed, perhaps?"

Loki snorts as he blinks away tears, careful to keep his back to Thor. "With an older brother who doesn't know when to give it a rest? Indeed I am."

"I'm serious, Loki."

"So am I. We are done with this conversation."

"I'm not even close to done." Thor's words no longer hold any trace of amusement. "Tell me something, brother, and do not lie to me. At least this once."

Loki stares at the sun, wishing desperately to escape there somehow. "Thor, why are you doing this? When will you ever learn to stop pushing?"

"Never, because I love you," Thor says. "Loki, tell me the truth. Are you adopted?"

Loki freezes—then he turns, realizing the time has finally come for him to fall. His posture seems to cave in on itself, becoming more defensive and feral.

"That's it, isn't it?" Thor says. "Or at least part of it. I suspected as much after walking in on you arguing with our parents weeks ago. Mother said something about knowing you were hers when she first saw you. And then there are things I remember from our childhood."

Loki's shoulders are heaving with every breath. "What are you talking about?" he says through his teeth.

Thor looks as if he wants to move closer, but wisely, he doesn't. "I remember when father brought you home," he says. "You were so small, but you weren't a newborn. Father said you were my brother, and I was too young to question it. But now that I look back, you were just suddenly there. He brought you back with him when he returned from the war with Jotunheim. Loki, where did he take you from? Are you . . . are you of Asgard?"

Loki hasn't blinked since Thor started speaking, but angry tears spill over onto his cheeks regardless. "You just couldn't leave it alone, could you? Dammit, Thor!"

"Why would I when I can see how much it hurts you?" Thor shouts back. "You are changing before my eyes. I hardly recognize you at times. Loki, you tried to kill yourself right in front of me."

"Would that I succeeded," Loki spits out. "You would be far better off in particular. Believe me."

Thor lifts an arm to point a finger of warning. "If I ever hear you say that again, I will shake the life out of you myself. You are my family, and I will defend that without fail. Where you come from, who your real parents are—that changes nothing between us."

"It changes everything," Loki all but shouts at him. "The monster revealed to the hero at last. Go ahead—shake the life out of me! Strike the monster down the way you've always intended. Do us both a favor, mighty prince."

Though Loki's words obviously anger Thor, the fight seems to drain out of him. His expression is grieved, almost exhausted. "You are no monster, Loki, though I see you attempting to play the part of one now. That mask doesn't suit you, brother."

Loki wants to draw upon every bit of hatred and anger inside of him and strike without mercy—but so much of the anger is now burned out of his heart. He's running on empty and has only enough rage left in him to stand there with hatred burning in his eyes. It's up to Thor to turn this into a fight, and so Loki decides to push harder.

He goes still briefly in concentration, and then his skin shifts and changes. The desert air is suddenly stiflingly hot, the sand scraping at his skin like shards of glass. As his unfamiliar eyes open, they filter the sun's light strangely—a reddish tint staining everything. His throat aches for ice to soothe it.

The level of Thor's tense shoulders drops as he stares.

"You are right," Loki says, calling up a smile. He's quite certain it's a terrifying sight in this form. "I was wearing a mask. Now you see me, brother. Don't be shy with your insults now."

Thor's lips press together, his gaze dark with sorrow. He looks exactly as he did in another time, when Loki had first challenged him to a fight at the Bifrost Observatory while Jotunheim was being ripped apart.

"Brother, please stop this," Thor says, his eyes filled with tears. "I beg you."

"Just who do you think you're trying to fool?" Loki says, taking a step in Thor's direction. "Call upon your weapon, hero. Slay the beast."

Thor shakes his head slowly, a tear slipping down his cheek.

Desperate for some kind of reaction, Loki gets right up in Thor's face as he shouts, "KILL ME!"

Thor is embracing Loki before he even has a chance to finish the words. "Never," Thor says, his mouth pressed to his brother's hair. He shakes him in an effort to make the word sink in deeper. "Never, Loki."

Loki resists the embrace at first, going tense as his brother's arms engulf him—but at Thor's words, something simply shatters inside of Loki's heart. It is the absolute worst possible thing Thor could have said to him. Loki cannot handle any more remorse.

His Aesir form returns, coaxed into place by Thor's warmth. Loki rests his forehead against his brother's shoulder, his breaths coming hard as tears stream down his face. "You must do it. You do not understand what I've done or what I am inside."

"I understand better than you do," Thor says, his hand coming to cradle the back of his brother's neck. "Do you really think I care where you come from or what you look like? Loki, you fool. And I am a fool as well. I understand your anger with me now. Forgive me, brother. I recognize how blind and cruel I've been. If you are indeed Jotunn, then I have been woefully mistaken about their worth."

"Go to Hel," Loki curses into Thor's shoulder. "I will hurt you, Thor. Or worse. There is nothing good inside of me."

"That is a lie. Gods, I feel sick. I cannot believe the things I have said to you." Thor draws back to look at his brother, gripping Loki's arms tightly so that he can't get away. "Loki, I am so sorry. I can't imagine what that was like to hear. You are my family. My irreplaceable little brother. I see nothing else when I look at you, and I beg you to stop trying to make yourself into some kind of monster. There is nothing further from the truth."

Loki's eyes squeeze shut because he wants everything else to fade to blackness, too. He would clamp his hands over his ears if he could manage it. "You don't understand what I've done, Thor. I have betrayed you. Once you realize it, you won't be saying any of this."

"How have you betrayed me?" Thor's tone is cautious but still far from angry. "Loki, tell me what torments you so."

Loki shakes his head, tears dripping from his chin. "I cannot say it."

Thor's hand touches the side of Loki's face, his thumb working to erase the tears. "Yes, you can. Let me prove your fears wrong, brother. That is the only way this is going to stop."

Loki can hear his borrowed heart hammering in his ears. He wishes it would give up already. Maybe Thor will finally give him what he wants if he just says it out loud.

Loki's eyes open slowly to regard his brother. Thor deserves that, at the very least. "I have tried to kill you, Thor," he whispers. "So many times."

(One time I even succeeded.)

His teeth grit as the resulting wave of pain crashes over him.

He has been in denial for so very long. Weeks spent biting his nails and encouraging the fissure in his mind to crack even further because he can't reconcile himself with the horrible truth.

Loki never thought he would succeed at hurting his brother. When he had come to face Thor on Midgard, they had fought differently than ever before. Thor did not ask him to come home. It was as if he had fully given up that there was any hint of his little brother left in Loki. And Loki just struck, lashing out with Gungnir—a spell meant to infuriate his brother so that maybe he would finally deal the fatal blow Loki has been begging for for years. He'd used Gungnir to fill Thor's lungs with water and laughed as he went down hard on his hands and knees, coughing and spurting up mouthfuls of it, the droplets of water and spittle soaking into the sand. Pathetic, Loki had said.

He'd left Thor there, gasping for air but seemingly recovering. Loki was satisfied that he'd proven yet again how much he simply didn't give a damn that Thor had given up on him. Though, in truth, that knowledge was what had broken Loki in the first place.

It wasn't until Loki returned to Asgard and felt the sudden silence from Midgard that he began to worry. He'd waited weeks, ignoring the rising panic in his heart, before Jane had called out to him. Only then, it was far too late to retreat from the denial. It had consumed him.

Thor still holds onto Loki, but he's stunned silent by the confession, his expression marred with confusion. "You what?" Thor says at last. "Loki, what are you talking about? You have never tried to kill me." He blinks several times, his eyes focusing a bit harder on his brother. "Have you?"

Loki gazes up at him, feeling absolutely numb and hollow inside. "I have been so angry for years, Thor. You cannot imagine the anger and betrayal I have felt, though one day soon I think you might. It fractured my mind into pieces, and the part of me that was your brother is dead, consumed until there's nothing left of him. I never meant for you to be caught up in the fallout from my madness, Thor. Not like this. Forgive me."

"I barely understand a word you're saying," Thor tells him. "What have I done to anger and betray you so? Is it because of my words and actions against Jotunheim?"

Loki laughs bitterly. "No. No, all of that I agree with most enthusiastically. I am not angry with you, Thor. I simply hate everything—myself most of all. I am in the midst of self-destruction, if you have yet to notice."

"You have been calling out for help, whether you admit it or not," Thor corrects. "And I do not think you hate me, Loki. You would not appear so grieved by this confession otherwise."

The base of Loki's spine tingles. Sometimes it hits him how very similar Thor is to Odin. Perhaps Loki has been wrong to underestimate his brother's mind all these years.

Thor's hands squeeze Loki's arms. "You must not have tried very hard to hurt me if I did not even notice the attempt. Do you want to kill me now, brother?"

Loki's vision goes unfocused as he considers the question. There is little doubt in his mind that had his anger not already burned out of his heart that he might have tried to kill Thor all over again. Sooner or later, it would have happened. He's now starting to understand why the witch sent him back so far into time to work out his many issues at the source. She must have known he wasn't yet capable of stopping himself. She'd given him exactly what he needed in spite of what he thought he wanted.

Loki's head shakes back and forth sadly. "No, Thor," he whispers. "I don't want to hurt you. There's nothing left inside of me anymore. I am empty."

The tiniest ghost of a smile pulls at Thor's lips, though his eyes are still filled with wary grief. He looks older, lines creasing the skin around his eyes. "Empty of some things, perhaps, but not of everything. I said you could tell me anything, Loki, and I meant it. You are forgiven. We have a choice before us. We can either let this tear us apart, or we can hold fast to each other. I know what my decision is. What is yours?"

Loki tries for a smile, but it's a shallow effort. "Can't you just strike me dead, and we call it a day? I think that would be the simplest option."

"I am not going to help you self-destruct, Loki, but I will help you heal if you let me be your brother again. Promise me you will stop pushing me away. We will figure this out together."

Loki's smile turns a bit more frank. What luck that Thor suspects this is the only source of Loki's troubles. He'll be able to hide behind that and finally be able to go to his death in peace without being hounded day and night.

"I will hold fast to the end," Loki swears—which is coming all too soon.

Thor's answering smile is hopeful. "As will I, brother."

It's a pretty thought, but none of it matters. Loki knows it will ultimately be Thor who lets go first, and try as he might, Loki can't blame him for that. He's surprised Thor held on to the monster who killed his brother for as long as he did.

To be continued.

A/N – So um. *gets ready to run* Way back in chapter 2, I gave a warning about Loki being an unreliable narrator, and well, I kinda wasn't kidding. When I decided Thor was going to die in this story, I spent about ten seconds considering who might have done it. Then I was like: "Oh. Loki did. Of course he did."

I'm really curious if I succeeded at surprising anyone. I feel like my hints have been rather heavy-handed, but then I tried to bury them so that they weren't too obvious. And Loki was in serious, serious denial at the beginning of the story, so much so that it drove him a wee bit crazy—so I was able to deflect suspicion that way because he was walking around in a daze, trying to figure out how Thor could have died because surely it couldn't have been him. When Loki sees Thor for the first time after he goes into the past—that's when the truth finally starts to sink in. After Loki's anger burns out after his screaming session with Odin, then the guilt hits him hard. The scene after that, where Thor asks Loki if he's in trouble, is when Loki is fully beginning to recognize what he's done, and he's utterly floored by it. Now you know why Loki is considerably crazier in this story than he was in the movies, why he feels so horribly guilty, and why the witch finds it so amusing that Loki keeps asking her questions about how Thor died. Pretty much she's been thinking "dude, you are seriously batshit" this entire time.

I will make it better, dear readers! I promise.

(Seriously though – did I surprise you? At what point did you figure it out?)