For a short moment, when Loki uttered the words, „I’m here,” Thor felt a calming peace settle over him. The responsibility of finding a home for what was left of his people had become more and more crushing since they set foot on the ship and the realization set in that home was but a memory now. Then Loki had appeared in his room and just like that Thor knew that it would be alright. They had always worked well together when they put their minds to it and right now Thor needed that. He needed Loki to be there, to stand by him and counsel him when the time came for difficult decisions to be made. And Loki was, had escaped the destruction and chosen to be at Thor’s side of his own free will. It felt like the beginning of something good and gave Thor hope, something he was in desperate need of.
“I am glad you are,” he told Loki with a warm smile. Opening his arms, he stepped forward, intent on making true on his promise of giving his brother a hug, something he hadn’t done in far too long. It was the flickering of illusionary magic around Loki’s hand that stopped him dead in his tracks. Betrayal churned in his gut as he glared at his brother. “What is this new treachery, Loki?”
Instead of laughing in his face as Loki normally liked to do whenever he managed to fool Thor with one of his illusions Loki’s face paled and his body began to tremble. Wide, scared eyes met Thor’s. “I need you to get help.”
“What?” Thor asked, taken aback.
Loki took a staggering step backwards and leaned against the wall, using it to support himself. “Get help, Thor.”
Confused, Thor shook his head. “Loki, why would we do ‘Get help’ now? What is going on?”
Thor got his answer, but not in the way he’d thought he would. In the blink of an eye Loki’s glamour flickered and died, dragging Thor’s feeling of peace right along with it to the depths of Helheim. Thor hardly had time to process what he was seeing before Loki crumbled to the ground.
Thor was at his brother’s side in an instant. He wanted to touch, wanted to offer comfort, but there was no part of Loki that wasn’t in some way burned, bruised or broken. Loki’s clothes were even still smoldering and Thor tried his best to put out the flames as gently as he could.
“Get help,” Loki whispered again, obviously in pain.
Tears gathered in Thor’s eyes as he shook his head. “There is no one here to help, Loki. The healers – they died on Asgard.” A thought crossed his mind. “I could get Banner.”
With the last bit of his strength Loki shook his head. He looked afraid when he pleaded, “Not him.”
“I don’t know what to do,” Thor admitted helplessly. His eyes raked over Loki’s battered body. It was only the second time he’d seen what Loki was able to hide beneath his composed façade and he couldn’t help wondering how many more painful things his brother had hidden that way over the years. “I am so sorry.”
Thor didn’t know if he apologized for not seeing how hurt Loki was sooner, for sending him to the vault and thus ground zero in the first place or for never realizing how many masks his brother really wore.
Loki, despite everything, smiled at him. His teeth were red with blood. “It is not your fault,” he whispered and it felt like absolution. Letting his head fall back, he closed his eyes in exhaustion. “I’ll heal, with or without healers, in time.”
“You must be in terrible pain,” Thor said quietly, unable to tear his eyes from his brother’s broken body. “Is there anything I can do?”
Loki’s eyes opened and Thor nearly jerked back in surprise. They were as red as the blood staining his lips. “You might want to turn away,” Loki suggested through gritted teeth, barely audible. “I’ll need all my strength to heal and keeping up this appearance is … taxing.”
Thor’s heart broke a little when he saw the defeat and shame in Loki’s eyes that were so different now and yet still familiar. The fact that Loki still looked out for him despite the pain he must be in and wanted to spare him the sight of his jotun form made a lump form in his throat.
“I will never turn away from my brother,” Thor promised.
For a moment Loki stared at him wide-eyed. Then he turned his head away and closed his eyes. Thor could see the tears rolling down his brother’s cheeks as Loki’s skin slowly turned to blue. Intricate designs appeared on his body and Loki shuddered in relief when the transformation was complete. It made Thor wonder how much strength it really cost him to stay in his aesir form now that Odin’s original glamour was gone along with the Allfather.
“Better?” Thor asked quietly when Loki’s form stilled. He could already see some of the worst wounds begin to heal.
Loki’s agonized red eyes locked onto Thor’s. “It hurts.”
Without thinking, Thor reached out and took one of Loki’s hands in his, mindful of his bleeding knuckles. Under his touch Loki’s hand began to turn pale again and in his surprise Thor let go of it.
“Don’t,” Loki pleaded.
“Don’t let go?” Thor asked, unsure of what his brother meant. When Loki nodded Thor reached for his hand again and gently cradled it against his chest.
Loki let out a sigh of relief. “My body feels like it’s on fire,” he muttered as his eyes fell close once more. “You’re blessedly cold.”
The irony that Loki, in his frost giant form, found Thor’s touch cooling was not lost on Thor but he didn’t question it. He would do anything if it provided his brother some measure of comfort.
One by one, the worst wounds on Loki’s body healed. His skin knitted itself together and scabbed over until only minor burns and bruises were left. Loki let out a sigh and the hand Thor was holding became limp.
“Loki?” Thor tentatively asked.
“If I do anything more,” Loki gasped, “I will drain too much power.”
Thor knew enough about magic from his mother that he was aware of what that would mean for Loki. He squeezed his brother’s hand and leaned a little closer. “You have done enough, Loki. Let me take care of the rest.”
Loki only nodded, still gasping for breath. Mindful of his injuries, Thor gathered him up in his arms and carried him the short distance to the bed. Patches of pale skin emerged where they touched and vanished just as quickly the moment Thor placed him down. He freed Loki from the remnants of his armor and cleaned the blood, grime and soot off his body before he bandaged the wounds Loki didn’t have the strength to heal. He didn’t comment on the scars on his brother’s body, vastly different from the jotun markings. There would be time later to talk about what really happened to Loki after he fell from the Bifrost all those years ago. For now his brother needed rest and that was something Thor could give him, at last.
Pulling the sheets up over Loki’s body, Thor sat down on the bed next to him and put on a brave smile. “You can sleep now, Loki. Everything will be fine.”
Loki’s eyes were close, telling Thor that his brother was already on the verge of falling asleep. Somewhere within him, Loki found the strength to lift his hand from under the blanket and blindly reach for Thor who grasped it gladly.
“I never got that hug,” Loki mumbled.
Thor let out a choked laugh and squeezed Loki’s hand. “You will once you get your strength back, should you still want it then.”
“I shall,” Loki murmured, “when I’m back to my normal form.”
Thor’s thumb stroked gently across the markings on Loki’s hand that slowly started to fade under his ministrations. “There’s no need,” he reassured Loki quietly. “You are you, blue or pale. The color of your skin doesn’t make you any less my brother.”
Loki forced his red eyes open and stared at Thor, barely awake. “Do you really mean that?” he asked in a whisper.
“Yes,” Thor said simply. He smiled warmly at Loki. “Now rest, Loki. You must get your strength back.”
For a moment, Loki hesitated. “Will you stay?” he asked in a small voice. “Make sure nobody sees me like this?”
Thor’s heart broke a little more for his brother but his smile never wavered. He placed a cool hand on Loki’s brow and gently brushed some hair away.
“Of course, Loki,” Thor said quietly. “I will stay as long you need me to.”
He felt Loki’s hand squeeze his weakly before his breathing evened out and heard the unspoken gratitude loud and clearly.
“Sleep well, brother.”