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Let's Meet In the Middle, You and I

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The rainbow bridge was as spectacular as ever. The feet of the two princes left trails of sparkling light everywhere they stepped. When they arrived by Tesseract, Thor had greeted Heimdall with a curt nod and Loki had barely glanced his way.

The muzzle was annoying Loki to no end, but he made no gesture that would alert Thor to the fact. Even so, as they reached the point where they could see the end of the colorful road, Thor stopped his younger brother.

"Loki, if I remove the muzzle, will you behave yourself?"

What, has he read my mind? Loki thought, brows furrowed for a moment, but he quickly put on an indifferent mask and shrugged noncommittally, as if bored.

Thor took that as a 'yes' and reached around to unsnap the metal device. It quickly fell away and Thor caught it before it hit the ground, tucking it away somewhere along the back of his belt.

Loki rolled his eyes.

"Loki?" Thor half-glared at him in warning.

The trickster only stared with feigned innocence and a raised eyebrow before finally conceding with a sigh, "Yes, Thor, I will behave myself." He couldn't help a small sneer at the end, but Thor seemed satisfied.

.

The long walk was tedious and irritating for the mischief god, and he wondered if he could convince Thor to remove his shackles as well. But he knew he wouldn't; the infernal things were designed to stop his magic, and Thor knew Loki wouldn't be able to resist using it if he were suddenly free. What was worse, Thor insisted on keeping at least one hand firmly on the trickster's shoulder or arm.

Loki sighed.

The citizens of Asgard gawked and pointed, but did little else. Loki wondered if that was because they feared him, or if they feared Thor. Or perhaps they were just confused; Loki had no idea how much the All-Father would have told the general populace.

Thor didn't even seem to notice any questions directed at him, and the two passed by in a strange silence.

.

The palace was reached, finally, Loki thought, and once they had passed a certain point, Loki began to wonder where Thor was leading him.

"Thor," the thunder god didn't stop, but seemed to be listening. "Where are you taking me? The way to the dungeons was back there, and the throne room is in the opposite direction."

The older god turned a little to speak, but did not stop walking. "We are not going to the throne room, or the dungeons, I am taking you to your chambers."

Loki furrowed his brow, confused. "Why, exactly?"

Thor stopped then turned fully toward his younger brother, a hand still on his shoulder. "You can't very well go before father looking like that."

The trickster stared at him, 'looking like that'? Loki stared at Thor. "I..." he raised one eyebrow. "You...want me to...freshen up?" It was a ridiculous notion, and surely Thor knew it. Loki was a war criminal and Thor was acting as though they were meeting their father for dinner.

"Yes," said Thor, as if it were the most obvious answer in the world.

Loki kept staring. "But-"

"I will also cut your hair, and you can take a bath." Again, Thor looked as though there was nothing strange about this.

Loki narrowed his eyes but continued staring, "You...what? My hair? Why would you..." He shook his head, "Thor, don't be ridiculous, that's-"

"It's not ridiculous, brother, now come along..." Thor started walking again, but Loki held back. The younger god suddenly didn't want to cooperate. This was ridiculous, he thought. He had just caused untold destruction on Midgard, on his precious humans, tried to kill Thor, multiple times, had tried to destroy Jotunheim, attempted suicide...what else was there? Loki thought, looking up at the ceiling, but Thor's voice interrupted him. "Come, we are almost there." But Loki shook his head and crossed his arms indignantly, refusing to move. Thor moved back toward him, "Loki, we are going back to your room,now." Thor ordered, a hand on the younger's shoulder.

But still, the mischief god stood adamant, refusing.

The two princes stood for a moment, staring in a stalemate, but Thor had other ideas. "Fine," Thor grumbled, then grabbed Loki's right wrist and began dragging the trickster down the corridor.

Loki was caught off guard at first, but was now trying his best to resist. "Thor," the trickster all but growled, "stop. I...let me go-" But Thor wasn't listening. Loki tried his best to dig in his heels, to halt their movement, but to no avail. Thor didn't exactly seem angry, just...determined. Maybe a bit annoyed. And he certainly wasn't about to stop. The younger god next tried to pry the older's fingers from his wrist, but his grip was bruising. No such luck. Loki sighed, then finally gave up trying to halt the thunder god's movements, since it was obviously futile.

Loki tried his best to glare and allowed himself to be dragged along like some errant child. Quite a few servants, and some guards, stared at the two, but none said a word. Loki mused that it actually wasn't that strange; Thor had, in fact, done this exact same thing on several occasions throughout their lives, although not recently. He was glad he hadn't asked Thor where they were going before they had reached the palace.

.

Loki's room was still the same, piled high with scrolls and musty old tomes. Candles remained unlit since last he was here, although the bed was made, and the dust cleared daily. Loki couldn't help but be surprised, he was sure someone would have cleared it out by now. In fact, he was surprised he even still had a room, despite Thor's insistence on dragging him here.

"You seem surprised, Loki." Thor said, letting go of his brother as he closed the doors behind them.

"Well...I am." He hated to admit it, the words slipping out. There was no real reason to lie, anyway, even Thor could decipher the confusion on his face.

"Did you think you would no longer have a place here?" Thor asked, tilting his head slightly, facing his brother.

Loki shrugged, uncertain what to say. What is there to say? Should he be grateful or annoyed? Were they expecting him back, that he would just fall back into their arms after all that's happened? All is forgiven? No harm done? 'You're my brother, you're my son, let's just forget everything'? He unconsciously shivered at the thought.

Thor was moving across the room. He opened a large wardrobe, then started perusing.

Loki shook himself from his thoughts. "Thor, what are you doing?" he sighed.

"I told you already, brother, you are not going before father wearing..." he gestured toward Loki, "...that."

Loki took a step closer, looked down at his leather armor, then back at Thor. "What's wrong with 'this'? I happen to like this armor." He did. It wasn't like his other clothes or armor, it felt...darker, more powerful, menacing. It separated him from his old life, made him different.

"I don't care if you like it, brother. You'll wear this one." Thor fished out one of Loki's leather oufits- one of Loki's favorites, the trickster couldn't help but notice -but no, he wouldn't wear it. What was Thor doing? Picking out clothing for him like he was a child?

And that's what was so humorous about it, Thor did used to help Loki get dressed when they were younger. Being the baby in the family, Frigga often spoiled him with a little too much attention. At ten years old, Frigga still insisted on dressing the young god, even when Odin protested. So Loki had thought nothing of it, enjoying the attention. Unfortunately, it also meant he didn't know how to dress himself. Thus, when once Frigga was away on a diplomatic mission, Loki was left alone without his mother to help him. Certainly there were many servants that were assigned to aid the young prince, but he screamed and ran them all off, even going as far as putting snakes in their beds or coloring their hair brightly if they refused. He was the god of mischief after all, and besides, no one was allowed to even touch him...except Thor. His big brother was there to help, never once complaining. Thor had helped him pick out clothing, even making a game out of it. He also stayed with him the entire time Frigga was gone, even though it was unnecessary since Loki always followed his big brother around anyway.

But after a while, of course, Loki learned to dress himself, and quite expertly, the trickster mused. He was always commissioning the seamstresses to create new outfits for him, many of his own design. He also liked wearing armor, although he never wore anything bulky, since his sorcery was easier to control if he had freedom of movement, and his fighting style, besides, was more agility than strength.

Thor laid out the brown and green leathers on the bed, then placed the matching boots on the floor below.

"I'm not wearing that, Thor." Loki heard himself say, still halfway lost in thought.

Thor sighed. "You will wear it, brother, or I will make you wear it." Well that's not very nice, Loki smirked. "The armor you wear now," Thor again gestured toward him, "it is...inappropriate. You look like a pirate."

Loki couldn't help it, he burst out laughing. "A pirate?" It was actually an accurate description. What else was he, anyway? He answered to no one, scoffed at authority; no laws to hold him, no one to call dear. Yes, Loki supposed he was a pirate. And what kind of pirate lets someone tell them what to do? "I think I like this 'inappropriate' pirate armor, Thor." He smiled his most devious smile. Thor started toward him, and Loki took a step back, two hands up in surrender. "Alright!" Thor stopped. "Alright, brother, I will do as you ask." Loki's smile hadn't faded- perhaps he liked being a pirate, but he still didn't want Thor undressing him.

Loki glanced down at his shackled hands then back at Thor, an idea growing.

"Thor," he said innocently, "I can't very well change while I'm bound," he held up his arms toward Thor, "perhaps you would-"

Mjolnir was suddenly flashing in front of his face, swinging down on to the connected chain. Loki let out a cry when, instead of breaking the chain, he was sent crashing to the floor in an undignified heap.

"Thor!" he screamed. Loki felt like his hands were nearly ripped off, fortunately, they seemed mostly intact.

The thunder god winced and leaned down on one knee. "Loki...I am sorry, I thought-"

"You thought?! And when has that ever turned out well, brother?!" Loki cringed at the slip of the tongue, but was too busy nursing his bruised wrists to scold himself properly. "You nearly broke my wrists! That-" hurt, he wanted to say, but held his tongue. It wasn't the first time his older brother had hurt him by accident, and it probably wouldn't be the last. How irritating it was; being hurt intentionally was annoying but expected, but being damaged by accident, that was insulting- it made the attacker look stupid and the recipient weak.

Thor shrugged with one shoulder apologetically, "I did not realize the Midgardians had such strong metals, brother."

Loki sighed in exasperation, "Did you ever consider," he righted himself and kneeled on the floor, "that it has less to do with the metal and more to do with the laws of nature?" Loki grabbed Thor's shoulder to keep the thunder god from standing up, even as he was looking sheepishly at the younger god. The trickster shook his head, Thor's mind was as blunt as Mjolnir and barely half as quick. Loki placed his shackled hands on the floor, pulling the chain taut and hoping Thor's aim was as good as he remembered. The thunderer nodded and broke the chain at the center with a loud clang, leaving two chains dangling.

It didn't free Loki, of course, the cuffs still blocked his magic, but it did give him freedom of movement, at least- or as much as he was allowed for the moment.

.

Thor insisted that Loki take a bath. It would do no good to change if he wasn't at least clean first. The mischief god had protested, as he was expected to, but in truth he wanted a bath more than anything. So he begrudgingly acquiesced to Thor's irritated command, smirking all the while, and stepped into the washroom, leaving his big brother waiting in his room. The water was warm- but not too hot, he never could handle hot baths -as it soothed his remaining injuries, some of which he hadn't realized he had.

After what felt like a little too long, Loki dried and dressed himself, in Thor's chosen outfit, no less, then stepped out to greet the thunder god, who was sitting at Loki's desk.

Loki walked up to his obviously bored older brother, "Now there we are. Happy?" Of course Loki would never admit he was happy, too. He always enjoyed baths.

"Yes," Thor stood up. "You smell much better, too."

Loki snorted, "Don't be ridiculous, I always smell wonderful."

Thor eyed him, "You smelled like the Chitauri." Loki only glared at him, wondering if it was true.

"And I suppose now I smell like a dewy meadow."

"You smell like you." The trickster narrowed his eyes and wondered what he smelled like. It was strange how he had never asked Thor about it; he resisted the urge to ask, it wasn't important, after all.

Thor was walking again, and this time he was dragging the chair he had been sitting on behind him. He settled with the chair somewhere around the center of the room and stood behind it, one hand resting on the back. It wasn't until now that Loki noticed the pair of scissors in Thor's hand.

Oh wonderful...

"You can't be serious, Thor."

The thunderer looked almost confused. "Of course I'm serious, brother, I did mention-"

"Yes, you did. But I thought..." Loki wasn't sure what he had thought, "...I thought you meant it in jest." It was a stupid answer, and Loki knew it. Of course Thor had meant it. The big oaf is incapable of dissembling.

Thor narrowed his eyes but did not move. "Sit, Loki."

The trickster only shook his head. What am I doing? Loki thought. He had tolerated Thor's ridiculous requests long enough. First dragging him through the palace like some pet, then forcing him to change into clothes that Thor had picked out for him, taking a bath, and now, cutting his hair? This was moving beyond ridiculous and fast approaching insanity.

What did Thor think this was, play time? Clip the bird's feathers and watch it struggle? Tame the beast? Welcome it home and shine its coat? What would Thor do next, give him a massage? Loki shuddered at the thought- ridiculous though it was.

Whatever the reasons, Loki refused. Changing his clothes was one thing, cutting his hair was another. Much too invasive. He wasn't even his brother anymore, cutting his hair was too...intimate.

So Loki continued shaking his head when Thor told him to sit down.

"Loki, we are not leaving here until I cut your hair."

"Good. Why should I want to leave? Am I not to receive my punishment from the All-Father in the throne room?" Loki crossed his arms, rooted to the spot.

"That is not the point..." Thor pinched the bridge of his nose. The trickster smirked at the motion.

"I don't care what the point is, Thor, you are not cutting my hair." Even if Loki didn't know what Thor's point was, he was going to make his own. Thor couldn't just bring him back here and insist on doing all these familial things after all that had happened. It was perversion. Thor should have locked him up or taken him to the All-Father immediately. And anyway, Loki liked his hair, it went with- or at least it usedto go with -his armor. The look was wild and dangerous, it wove insanity into his features and warned others to be wary: here was a man you should fear.

"Loki," Thor's voice was low, his head tilted toward Loki, "I am cutting your hair whether you want me to or not."

The god of mischief growled at him, refusing to move. He glared at the thunder god, the thunder god glared back.

Thor's gaze was adamant, unyielding. Loki felt his hairs stand on end, no, not cutting my hair. But before he could properly react, Thor was lunging toward him. Loki sidestepped the pursuing god, then scrambled toward the door. What an idiot I am, where am I to go? If the guards saw him running away from Thor, they would strike him down without hesitation.

While Loki was distracted, Thor jumped on him sending him crashing to the floor on his stomach.

"Thor! Get off me!" Loki shrieked, but the thunderer only sat on his back, careful not to crush his brother.

"No, I told you I will cut your hair, and that is what I will do." Loki was seething, furious. He struggled, even when he knew it was pointless.

After a few moments, the trickster calmed down somewhat. "Thor...this is undignified, let me up."

"You should have thought of that before you decided to run, little brother."

Loki growled at him again. "Let me up!"

Thor shook his head and leaned down with the scissors, as though he was going to cut his hair right here. But before Loki could react, Thor stopped. A thoughtful look came across his face. "Hmm," Thor said.

The smaller god eyed the older as best he could from his position. "What, 'hmm'?"

"Nothing."

The next thing Loki knew, he was being hoisted up by an arm around his waist, then being carried to the bed. "Thor, what are you doing?" he asked, confused. He couldn't even think to resist.

"Well," he plopped Loki face down on the bed, "it's not very comfortable on the floor, is it? And it's cold."

"I don't care about the cold, Thor, I'm a frost giant, remember," Loki spat as though the thunderer were stupid.

"Perhaps," Thor sat on Loki's back again. "But it's still not comfortable."

The younger god sighed, exasperated. "And what? You are going to cut my hair whilst pinning me down, is that it?"

Thor nodded, almost cheerfully. "If you will not sit in the chair, and if you insist on running away...You leave me little choice, brother." He snipped the scissors a few times, as though to test them.

"I'm not your brother," Loki grumbled under his breath.

"So you keep saying, but we both know that is not true," Thor said plainly. Loki wanted to argue, we are not brothers, but he knew it was pointless. Thor would not listen, and there was no way to change his mind. Brother, Loki scoffed. Some brother... But now the scissors were nearing his head and Loki had almost forgotten that he would fight Thor at every turn on this. No more! So he grasped the back of his head with his shackled hands and buried his face in the green covers.

"Loki! Remove your hands!" Thor commanded. Loki shook his head into the sheets. "Loki..." Thor's voice was deep, meant to be intimidating, but Loki knew better. Thor would sooner cut out his own eye than hurt his little brother, especially when he lay helpless.

"No," came a muffled, yet surprisingly defiant, response.

"Please, brother, I will not hurt you."

Loki moved his head just enough so he could speak, "I'm counting on it, Thor! Now get off me!"

Thor gave a long-suffering sigh, and for a moment Loki thought he had won. But instead he felt strong fingers prising his own fingers from his head. Blast! The trickster let out a long frustrated sound as his hands were painstakingly removed from the back of his head.

"Damn you, Thor," Loki grumbled after his hands were completely removed. The older god then held both Loki's wrists with one hand behind the younger's back.

Loki let out a breath and rested the side of his head on the silken sheets, suddenly tired. Trying to actively resist Thor for any length of time was exhausting.

Suddenly there was something both cold and heavy being laid on Loki's hands. What-? The trickster strained to look at what it was, but already knew by the weight of it. "You cannot be serious!"

As Loki suspected, Thor had placed Mjolnir on his hands and back to keep him in place. Thor shrugged, still sitting on Loki, "I apologize, brother, but you bring this on yourself."

"Bring this on my-" Loki wanted to explode at Thor, spout angry, vicious words, sting the thunderer to the core- but it didn't matter, did it? He had lost and Thor had won, as always. He couldn't even make a little point like this; Thor's point, again, whatever it was, came out on top. Typical.

So Loki just lay there quietly while Thor snipped away his hair, the black locks falling all around the trickster's head. Loki didn't care to mention that it was more comfortable on the bed, especially if Mjolnir had to be on his back. Nope, he wasn't going to mention it.

.

While Loki listened to the soft snips of the scissors, he couldn't help but drift off into sleep. He was so very tired, and he couldn't even remember the last time he did sleep, sometime before Midgard, was it? He dreamt of a time when they were children, bright-eyed and carefree. Loki would get into trouble, as he often did, with their father, and he wouldn't be let out of his room for days. Thor would sneak in and bring Loki snacks and treats, then they would share them together while they sat giggling on Loki's bed. If someone happened by, Loki would magic the treats away while Thor hid, then when the intruder left he would return while they both smiled at each other mischievously. Nothing in all the nine realms came between them, and no one meant more to the two than each other. When did they start to drift apart?

"There, all done." Thor's voice woke up Loki with a start. "I am sorry, brother, I did not know you were asleep."

The pleasant feeling of soft memories and distant giggles faded as the weight of Mjolnir sank into Loki's back.

Thor was now sitting cross-legged beside Loki's head, combing his fingers through the younger god's shorter hair. "Were you dreaming?" the thunderer asked quietly.

"No," came Loki's curt response.

Thor nodded, accepting his answer.

The trickster suddenly remembered why he was lying face-down on his mattress, and he was sure Thor was done. "Well, are you going to let me up, Thor, or is there some other purpose to my laying here?" Loki stifled a chuckle at Thor's suddenly embarrassed face as the thunder god quickly removed the hammer.

Loki helped himself up and off the bed, while he flexing and massaged his stiff muscles. Thor walked up to him. "Are you sore, brother?" he asked with genuine concern.

"Shut up."

Thor clamped his mouth shut.

Loki sighed at the mirror. He looked...remarkably like his old self. He quickly decided he didn't like it.

.

Since there was no way to repair the chain of Loki's shackles without paying a visit to the blacksmith, Thor made his brother swear he would not attempt escape. Like it matters, Loki thought, amused. There was no where for him to go, and it still remained true that running would only mean getting pummeled by any pursuing guards. And anyway, his magic was his true strength, and without it there was no point in even attempting escape. Well, not yet, anyway. For the time being, Thor would remain ever by his side. Oaf...

The way to the throne room seemed longer than usual. They passed several servants on the way, as well as some guards that eyed Loki's broken shackles. They said nothing, though, with the golden prince escorting the prisoner.

Loki stifled a yawn.

"Are you still tired?" Thor asked. The trickster shrugged. "You will have plenty of time to rest after your sentencing."

"Of course, Thor," Loki mumbled. "I'm certain my cell will have a wonderfully comfortable bed."

"Loki," Thor stopped and the younger god was forced to stop as well. "You committed grave crimes, what do you expect?"

"I expect," Loki spat, "the All-Father to treat me as he should: as a prisoner, a war criminal. He certainly wouldn't coddle me as someone else has been." He glared at the floor.

Thor nodded twice, "Then you are still angry with me." It wasn't a question. "Would you have preferred I take you straight to the dungeons before meeting father?"

"Yes!" Loki's eyes jumped to Thor's, suddenly angry. "What was all that, Thor? What am I your puppet now? Your toy? Are you playing at dolls now like some girl?" He narrowed his gaze, unable to look away from Thor's face. "I tried to take over a whole realm, Thor! And I tried to destroy Jotunheim! I tried to kill you! Why are you acting like...acting like- like-"

Thor raised his brows, waiting, almost taunting. "Like what, Loki?"

"-like I'm a child!"

The thunderer said nothing for a moment, he just stared at his younger sibling. Loki breathed, Thor stared. Then, the god of thunder spoke, "Isn't that what you're acting like?"

Loki was incensed, he narrowed his gaze dangerously, "What?!"

Thor didn't look away, he didn't even blink. "You are acting like a child, so I am treating you like one. I thought it was obvious."

"Obvious?!" Loki couldn't find his words, "You-you think I've been acting like...like a child?!" Thor nodded once and perked his lips. "Trying to take over worlds," Loki said flatly, "killing people, trying to killyou. That was child's play, was it?"

The thunderer tilted his head, "I am not denying the gravity of what you have done, I am simply saying that you did it all out of a childish need for attention."

Loki felt like his head would explode, "Childish need?! What- you-" he took a deep breath, trying to calm himself. "You think I did all that for attention?"

Thor nodded again, "Yes. For father's."

That was it. Loki wanted to rip out Thor's throat, scream at him until his throat was bloody, rip at his flesh, but instead, all he could do was lunge at the thunderer in a rage. Thor seemed ready for it, though, since he grabbed Loki's wrists with both hands, keeping him in place. "Let me go, you oaf!" Loki shrieked. He hated that his own uncharacteristically high voice seemed to prove Thor's point.

But Loki wasn't about to give up yet. He kicked at Thor's shins with everything he could muster, which caused the thunder god to stumble, but not let go. Then, Loki did something he regretted the second he did it: he kneed the god of thunder in the groin. Thor doubled over and Loki made even himself wince, even as he was set free. Loki grimaced at the sight before coming to his senses. Oh no...bad idea... So he half-stumbled, half-ran away, only to be stopped almost immediately by a strong arm around his mid-section. He would have protested verbally, but it didn't seem like a good idea to further antagonize the angry god.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" Loki screamed, "Truly, Thor! It was a mistake, I didn't mean it!" Thor only growled at him and gripped him on the nape of the neck with a harsh hand.

He then proceeded to drag Loki along, still with a hand on the back of the younger's neck, forcing him to walk- rather briskly -while bent over at the middle. Loki grabbed for Thor's arm with one hand, trying to free himself, but to no avail. It seemed Thor had had enough, and just wanted to get it over with by literally dragging his younger brother before their father.

They passed quite a few servants and guards on the way, each one stopping to gape at the sight, but again, saying nothing. Loki glared at them as best he could, but found it both difficult and somehow less than effective in his current position. It was also much more difficult to walk-run while practically facing the ground, he had to trust Thor not to run him into any walls or doors along the way.

Finally, they reached the throne room. It was the longest walk Loki had ever experienced, even if they were practically running.

Loki couldn't exactly see Odin's face, but if he could, he would have seen first confusion, then disappointment.

As soon as the two princes stopped before Odin's throne, the eldest forced the younger to his knees, just as he knelt himself. Thor clearly wasn't about to let Loki disgrace himself by refusing to kneel and Loki's frustration and tension at the situation prevented him from even thinking it. And anyway, he was already bent over in such a disgraceful position, what was the difference?

The moment Thor stood up a guard approached as though to take the burden of the prisoner from the eldest prince.

Loki hissed at the intruder without even glancing at him, "Touch me and I'll melt your skin off." His voice was low, dangerous, he looked at the guard. "And don't think for a moment I require magic to do it." The guard stared at the younger prince, then backed off, clearly unnerved. Thor also seemed somewhat taken aback, then hesitated before slowly helping Loki stand up. The trickster glanced boredly at his brother then moved his gaze to Odin.

They both looked to the All-Father, who stood with Gungnir in hand, sorrow etched on his weathered face.

.

The corridor seemed dimmer, less lively than before. Thor and Loki were again walking side by side, except the thunderer refrained from placing a hand on his younger brother. They both walked in silence most of the way, until Loki spoke, "I do not understand."

Thor was lost in thought, "Hm? Understand what, brother?"

Loki had a blank look, staring off at nothing. "Why give me this sentence...it's...it's not even a sentence..."

"Yes it is, Loki." Thor glanced at his brother, who continued looking at nothing.

The trickster shook his head, "I don't think so, brother, I...do not deserve it..."

Thor raised a brow at the epithet, but decided not to mention it, "Why do you say that?"

Loki snorted lightly, "You know very well why, Thor." The older god sighed but said nothing, Loki's room was just around the corner.

After they stepped inside, the door closed behind them, Thor finally spoke, "Loki..." The trickster stopped in the center of his room then turned to face his older sibling.

"What, Thor."

Thor sighed internally, he was hoping Loki's use of the word 'brother' was not just a slip of the tongue, "Are you...well?"

The trickster shrugged, "Why? Am I acting childish again?"

Thor almost thought he saw a slight curve in Loki's lips, but if it was ever there it was gone now. "No. In fact you are now acting quite mature."

Loki scoffed then tilted his head back a fraction, "Oh the day when Thor Odinson is the one lecturing me on maturity."

"Exactly," Thor said.

Loki's furrowed his brow, "What's that?"

Thor shifted closer while looking down at the ground, then looked back at his brother when he was an arm's length away. "You were always the responsible one, Loki, what happened?"

"Responsible..."

"Well, on any important matters," Thor chuckled lightly. "You had your mischief, of course, but you never meant any real harm by your pranks...When did we trade places?"

Loki shook his head, "Does it matter?"

"Of course it does," Thor stepped closer. "I want to know, brother... I need to know. Will you tell me?"

The trickster god looked at the floor, gaze distant. He finally nodded his head lightly, "Perhaps..." Thor began to light up, "But...give me a few days, yes?"

The thunder god's smile lit up the room as he nodded once. He put a reassuring hand on the side of Loki's neck and the younger god didn't pull away. Loki half-smiled at his brother then put his mask back on a second later.

"Loki?" The trickster perked an eyebrow, "Perhaps I...overreacted to the... when you attacked me-"

"Perhaps," Loki interrupted him, nodding, then halfway through inclined his head and winced. "Or perhaps not so much," the trickster conceded, a small twinkle in his eye.

Thor smiled a moment then let his gaze slip a bit and headed toward the door.

He stopped when halfway there then turned to face his little brother. Loki was still standing there, staring at him. Even behind that practiced mask Thor could see his confusion. A thought lingered behind that pale face that said 'Why show me mercy?' and 'Is he really my father' and finally 'How can I go on?' Loki seemed so certain he would receive a severe punishment, and thus, he didn't know what to do with the unexpected mercy.

The All-Father wasn't letting Loki go without some sort of punishment, it just wasn't any of the ones Loki was expecting. His numerous punishments over the last thousand years became increasingly harsh, it was any wonder Loki hadn't exploded sooner.

But now...after he had done so much worse than anything before... It didn't really make any sense. At least not to the god of mischief.

But Thor knew. Or, at least, he hoped he did. Odin wasn't the best father but perhaps... perhaps that was something he was trying to remedy now.

Thor walked out the door and closed it quietly behind him. He rested his back on the handles for a moment, then smiled and walked down the corridor, all the while thinking of snacks and treats he could bring to his little brother while he was confined to his chambers.