"I would hug you if you were here."
He didn't look up as he tossed whatever was nearest at his younger brother, unwilling to watch it phase through him. He was tired. Tired of hoping for something that would never happen. That's why he had stopped. He had told himself, when he found Loki again, posing as their father, that it was the end. No more hoping, no more expectations. No more disappointments.
He had slipped a few times, with Loki, but he always caught himself in time, and crushed it down. Because he just.. couldn't, anymore.
But then, something unexpected- no. Something impossible happened. He didn't hear the clatter of metal against the floor, or feel the slight shimmer in the air that was often present with Loki's magic. All he heard was Loki's deep, velvety voice say, "I'm here." All he felt was his heart jump against his ribs as he looked up to see his brother standing next to him, smiling gently.
It wasn't the usual smile, the sharp, acidic, haughty smirk that he usually wore. Instead, the corners of his mouth softened and rose, and the corners of his eyes crinkled lightly. It wasn't the grin that Thor remembered from their childhood, but somehow, it was better. It's rarity made it all the more valuable, and seeing sincerity in the eyes of his beloved trickster was something he knew he wouldn't ever forget.
He felt his face morph into what he knew was an embarrassing smile, but he didn't care. He knew as he wrapped his brother in his arms that he would get mocked for being sappy, but he was used to his brother's barbs.
And, sure enough, Loki, muffled against his shoulder, informed him that he was a sentimental fool, and he should release him immediately. But Thor could hear the softness hidden in his brother's usual harsh tone, and only squeezed him tighter.
He thought of all that had happened. When he thought his brother had died, six years before, the crushing guilt had overtaken him. The questions, wondering if he could have done something different, if he could have changed what happened; if only he had been better- a better brother, a better friend, a better man. He knew it was his fault.
And when he found him again, his beloved brother was so much changed he hardly recognised him. Gone was the gleeful trickster, the laughing prankster, and in his place was a dark, unhappy soul, tortured by things Thor couldn't understand.
He wanted so badly to rip apart the walls between them, to hurt whatever it was that had his brother trapped, held away from him. But he could not. Even he could understand that this wasn't an enemy that could be defeated by force. That maybe it wasn't something anyone could fix- anyone except for Loki, that is, and Loki didn't seem to want it fixed.
Thor knew that Loki never understood. His brother had been so upset when he had learned that theirs was not a blood bond. What Loki didn't seem to grasp was that that never mattered. Blood was nothing next to what they shared.
Growing up, all Thor wanted was to make his brother laugh. His baby brother's smiles lit up the whole room, and he worked constantly to maintain them. Whenever Loki got hurt, it strengthened Thor's resolve to grow into the strongest, fiercest warrior in any realm, strong enough to protect him from anything that might ever want to harm him. Whenever Loki cried, Thor did his best to be the gentlest, most loving person in the world, to kiss away the scraped knees and hug away the tears. When Thor saw his little brother admiring him, he became determined to become someone who deserved admiration, someone who would be a good example for his brother.
Thor was happy when his brother was happy, and troubled when his brother was not.
Frigga often teased that Loki was the center of Thor's world, and that Thor would stop the tides and halt the winds for his beloved brother. She wasn't wrong.
When Loki died, Thor's world came to a screeching halt. When it happened again, Thor thought that he wouldn't be able to go on. He did- he still doesn't quite know how, but he managed to trudge from one day to the next, settling down to pretend to live until it was time to join his brother.
When Thor regained his brother again, he felt only anger and confusion. Did his brother not understand? How could Loki not see?
Loki pretended that he was unloved, that he had no one. Was Thor no one? Perhaps his love was not worth the world to his brother the way it was to him, but surely his brother could at least see that he would always have Thor beside him.
As Thor pulled back slightly to look down at his brother, who had given up struggling and was now pretending not to enjoy the closeness, he could see that it was starting to sink in. Loki was finally starting to see that they belonged to each other in a way no mortal could comprehend. Theirs wasn't the bond of brothers, or friends, or lovers, or comrades, or enemies; it was none of those things because it was more. Their lives were each other's.
Loki did not care for himself the way Thor could- did- and so it was better that he was Thor's- Thor's to care for, to feed and love and hold and support and sometimes burden, but always willingly. And Loki knew that Thor was not clever the way he was: smooth-tongued and diplomatic, analytical. He needed someone time look out for him, to talk his way out of scrapes and into benefits. Someone to consider, when Thor would otherwise just act.
Together, they were a perfect match, two sides of a silver penny, completing one another. The action with thought, the tenderness with hardness, the valiance with selfishness. They balanced each other, and so one could not exist without the other.
And finally. Finally, Loki was starting to see that. To see how Thor needs him. And Loki so needed to be needed.
"I would hug you if you were here."
He heard the something in Thor's voice in that moment that scared him. It almost sounded like Thor had given up, given up on him.
No, it was the only thought he had, scared more than he ever thought possible. Loki had lost his family, his home had disappeared. His mother was dead, his planet burned to ashes. His heritage and history deleted in a moment. He had no allies, despite all his work. But that was one thing Loki had always had- Thor.
Since this whole mess started six years ago, Loki had always had Thor running after him, begging him to come back home, telling him he loved him, stretching out his hand. Loki wondered absently if that was part of the reason he ran so hard, to watch Thor follow him, to revel in the knowledge that his brother would go so far for him. He didn't think on it too long. Instead, he spoke.
The look on his brother's face made it feel like everything was worth it. As he was wrapped in his brother's arms, he could feel his body unconsciously relaxing, and mentally rolled his eyes. His body always did that around Thor. He mumbled something about sentiment and squashing, but his heart wasn't in it. It was in his throat instead, pounding so hard it felt as though it would explode.
How long had it been since he had been held by Thor like this?
Too long, he decided as the warmth of Thor soaked into his perpetually cold bones.
Loki remembered how Frigga used to tease Thor that Loki was the center of his's world, and that Thor would stop the tides and halt the winds for his beloved brother. Loki remembers thinking as a child that that made sense- if Loki was the center of Thor's world, his childish brain had supplied, then that made Thor the sun. Bright and warm and shining and fierce- it fit. And he was sure his brother was mighty enough to stop the tides, strong enough to halt the winds. His elder brother was the strongest man he knew.
And Thor's gentleness seemed only to expand his great brother's strength, instead of reduce it. Seeing his strong hands cradle a bruised shin, his big arms lift him up when he was hurt, only impressed upon him the control that resided with the power. It changed the way Loki saw things- the so-called "mighty warriors" that hurt those weaker than them, that took advantage of the less fortunate, were suddenly much weaker in his eyes. All Loki ever wanted was to grow up to be like his big brother, his equal.
Loki breathed deeply as he was held by his brother, who pulled back a bit to look into his eyes. He could see him thinking, his brother's thoughts had always been clear on his face ever since they were children.
When had he started running from his brother? Loki thought that perhaps it was when he felt that first distance between them. When he found out his true heritage, there was suddenly a gap, and he hadn't known what to do- there had never been any space between the two of them. Having it there so suddenly triggered a fight-or-flight response that Loki was helpless to fight. Something that he had never even thought of or considered before was suddenly his greatest fear, and sent him scrambling across the universe to avoid facing it.
Well, he had had six years to see the lengths his brother would go to to stay by his side, to keep him safe. Now the space between them was one of his own making, and he was tired. Tired of running, of fighting, of refusing to hope.
Thor was one of the most hopeful people he had ever met. And hadn't he always wanted to be just like his big brother?
If this gap was of his making, then that meant he could fix it. And Loki found that he wanted nothing more.
He looked into his brother's eyes, and he had mercy, on both of them. Enough running, Thor had been tortured for six long years. He had earned peace.
And Loki would work to earn it, too. He knew here would be a journey ahead of them- regaining trust, relearning each other. But it was a journey he wouldn't mind making, as he would be doing so with his beloved big brother.
He smiled, and watched as Thor's face lit up, he way it had whenever he smiled ever since they were children. Loki missed that smile. He determined that he would see it more often from now on. He missed being the reason Thor smiled.
His own smile grew sad as he looked up at Thor, and bared his soul.
"I'm tired, Thor. Tired of running. Tired of fighting. Of making you distrust me. I want to make amends. I want you to love me again."
Shock was clearly spelled out on his brother's face as he looked down at him, and Loki felt trepidation as he awaited his brother's sentence.
As Thor's smile grew and softened even more, Loki felt a bit silly for worrying. He should know by now that Thor wouldn't let him down. Thor loved him.
He smiled back, and let the relief show on his face, before burying it back in Thor's shoulder. He never wanted to leave his brother's arms again.
They were strong enough to hold him, and Loki would protect his brother from there, speaking and working from inside the safety of his brother's embrace. They finally completed one another, and they both determined never to let the other go again.