Thor never finds out what Loki said or did that angered their father so. Thor had been away with Sif and the Warriors Three on an adventure but Loki had claimed he had studying to do.
There had been a bright gleam in his brother's eyes and a devious curl to the corner of his mouth that made Thor suspect studying meant mischief but Thor had been chafing under the new responsibilities coming of age had brought him. He had been eager to return to Asgard for Loki's brand of entertainment.
The chaos he returned to was not the delightful sort.
There was no laughing brother with knowing eyes directing the flow of pandemonium to his liking from the shadows.
Loki was just... gone .
No one would tell him anything. (Years later, he will realize it is likely because no one has anything to tell him. They are and were as in the dark as he. At the time, however, every demurely murmured My Prince had felt like a slight.)
"It's between your father and your brother," his mother tells him later, as she brushes his hair from his brow. (And he wonders later if she, too, doesn't know or if she does and has kept it from him.)
"Loki is clever," Father says. "He will learn what he needs to and return."
"Loki is stubborn!" Thor shouts. "He will believe you have slighted him and refuse to do as you ask purely to countermine whatever plans he thinks you have!"
"Just wait, Thor," Father says, too calmly.
Thor does not wait.
Thor has not the patience for it.
He storms to the Bifrost and demands to be sent to his brother.
"By order of the AllFather, I cannot," Heimdall tells him.
Thor cannot help it. He collapses to his knees before the empty doorway. Then he feels a hand on his shoulder and Power such as he has never felt fills him
Thor stands in cold stone room, mortals surrounding him bowing to a fat man in ridiculous clothes. All the mortals wear the same style of ridiculous pompous clothing. Thor almost doesn't recognize his brother with the way his hair falls around his face. He has been so careful, even around his family lately, to keep it slicked back and straightened.
"Loki!" Thor shouts but no one, not even his dear brother turns an eye.
"We are Watchers only," Heimdall warns.
"But Loki can always tell when you're watching him," Thor says feeling small, like he is having the very foundation of his world shaken.
(It was already shaken when he came home and found himself brotherless.)
Heimdall doesn't answer but the hand on his shoulder guides him closer. His brother has aged centuries in the years since their father banished him.
"He has aged decades in mere months," Thor whispers.
"He is mortal. Mortals wither."
Between one blink and the next, Thor is back in the Observatory.
"I cannot send you to him, but I can allow you to look in on him," Heimdall offers grimly. "For as long as he lives."
His precocious little brother, dead before he'd even reached his majority.
The thought makes Thor choke.
"You seem upset," Heimdall says flatly, drawing away and returning to his post in the center of the room. Thor nearly snaps at him until he continues, "Perhaps you should seek comfort from your aunt."
"What?" Thor chokes out but Heimdall ignores him, already turning his golden gaze beyond the room.
Thor's only nearby aunt is-
Thor's eyes widen.
Aunt Idunn invites him into her home and serves him a foul-tasting tea. He waits for her to turn her back before he spits the drink back into his cup.
"Aunt Idunn," he starts, hearing his arguments up in his head and trying to remember every lesson Loki ever tried to teach him (mostly without success). "I need a Golden Apple for Loki."
"By order of the Allfather, I cannot," she says without turning back towards him.
She turns and cuts him off with a look over her shoulder. "I cannot give you a Golden Apple for Loki, Thor. The Allfather has forbidden it."
Her eyes dart to the container of tea leaves she'd left open on the table next to him. For some reason, the corners of her mouth turn down in that way that means she’s annoyed with him.
He hasn’t touched it. The tea is disgusting, why would he want more?
Loki always made tea out of dried leaves, not fresh ones. He said they stored better. The only reason to make tea from the fresh leaves would be if you had the plant-
Thor looks out the window to tree that sits in the center of his aunt’s garden, full and ripe with golden fruit. He looks back to his aunt with her pursed lips crossed arms. He looks at the open tin she’d pointedly left open for him to steal from.
“I suddenly feel poorly, Aunt Idunn,” he says.
“Oh my,” she says flatly. There is an edge of sarcasm in her voice. It reminds him of Loki. “How unexpected.”
“Ye-es,” he agrees slowly. “I find myself feeling poorly, aunt. Could I have some leaves to make tea for myself later?”
Her face takes on an exaggerated frown as she shakes her head sadly. “I’m afraid the leaves of the Golden Apples, though weaker than the Apples themselves are medicinal in nature and must be acquired from Eir herself. I certainly can’t just let you pick the two leaves you’d need for your tea off of the tree. I’m going to send you home with a sandwich in this preserving cloth. If you choose to eat the sandwich in the garden before you leave, just keep the cloth and use it for yourself.”
Thor wonders if this is how Loki felt when he plotted and arranged his schemes. It is an exhilarating kind of terrifying and the only compatible feeling he can think of is the night before a battle.
Thor curls his fingers and lets the unfamiliar rush curl through him.
Stealing the leaves from the tree is surprisingly easy when it's for his brother.
The problem Thor runs into is that he has no way to get the leaves to Loki. Heimdall is forbidden from opening the Bifrost and Loki would have been the next obvious choice. He considers asking Mother but she has set herself firmly at Father's side.
Thor must do this on his own.
Without Loki himself to help, Thor's best option is to sneak into his brother's rooms. There he is bound to have books on how he does his tricks. Thor will never have the same affinity Loki did (does, will again), Mother said so many years ago, but Thor can study when he puts his mind to it.
He just never had the proper motivation to learn about magic before.
He'd always had Loki.
(He thought he always would have Loki.)
Loki had always told Thor he relied too heavily on his lightning.
As Thor stares at the burned husk of corn he tried teleporting across the room, he is forced to agree with his brother. Without knowing what he's doing wrong, without some kind of teacher and merely the words in a book and a few handwritten notes in the margins, his only recourse is to just keep trying.
He walks back to the stone table and puts another ear of corn from the bag right in the center.
Then he walks back to the other side of the room and holds his hand out. The corn is in my hand , he tells the universe. It's already there. You don't have to-
Lightning shoots from his palm to the corn.
It brings it to him but, once more, he is left with a burned husk.
A delicate hand reaches over his shoulder and, with a wave, two ears appear on the table.
"Don't tell the universe what not to do, Thor," Mother says gently. "That puts the image in your mind as surely as saying do this does."
"Like all beginners, you speak aloud when trying to work your spells," she laughs before becoming stern and walking to stand next to him.
"Hand out," she orders with her own palm flat in front of her. Thor mimicked the motion. "Focus on your ear of corn. It is already in your hand. You are already holding it. "
I am already holding it.
I am already holding it.
I am already holding-
The corn appears in his hand whole and unburnt.
"Mother!" he delights, holding the corn up for her to see.
"Yes, I see. Good job, Thor," she says.
Suddenly he feels exposed. She is on Father's side in this, he remembers, not his and Loki's. If she knows what he is attempting, she could stop him or tell Father, and Father will stop him.
"I-I was just-" Thor was never the brother known for his silver tongue.
"You were attempting to feel close to your brother during a difficult time," his mother says. "It is understandable. You might try practicing with a bit of extra gold as well. I'm sure no one will notice a bit of misplaced gold."
She turns to one of Loki's bookshelves, running her fingers along the titles before she finds a specific one.
"This is a skill of some difficulty your brother cultivated. He had always hoped you might share his interest."
"Yes, Mother," Thor answers automatically before looking at the book she handed him.
Skywalking And You: A Beginner's Guide to the Secret Paths of Yggdrasil
How not to fail at Skywalking: Helpful Tips and Tricks so you don't die a horrible death in Yydrasil's Branches - from your perfect younger brother whom you should be thanking right now
He huffs at the ridiculous scratched out title and runs a thumb over the writing below it. It bunches towards the end and nearly takes the entire space of the cover. How old had Loki been when he had bought this? He'd never shared it with Thor.
"I'm sure Loki will be pleased you're taking an interest in his library when he returns to us," she says, hands folded in front of her stomach regally.
"Or he will stab me for daring to invade his privacy," Thor laughs, but it is a sad one. A desperate plea for normalcy.
"Perhaps both," Mother agrees with a hint of amusement. "When he returns to us."
She smiles at him, warm and loving, and puts her hands on his cheeks to guide him down so she can kiss his brow.
"Do not worry, my son. Your brother is clever. I wouldn't put anything past him if he thinks it will bring him back to us."
She kisses his brow again, runs her thumb along his cheek with a comforting smile then slips out the door as quietly as she had come.
"When he returns," Thor repeats to the empty room. " When ."
Thor will make sure of it.