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Tall Tale or True

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“Loki!” Thor hit the door release button and hurried inside his brother’s quarters on the ship. There was very little inside the small room: a chair and footstool must be where Loki slept, when he slept, since there was no other bed or cushion, and a small table against the narrow window. The table usually served as a desk, but there was a large bowl on it now. Loki appeared to be washing, since he was wearing only trousers and he held a wet cloth in his hand as he looked out the window.

“Thor!” Loki snapped, turning his head to glare over his shoulder. “You could knock.”

But Thor wasn’t looking at his annoyed expression - his eye had snagged on the raised pinkish scars on Loki’s back to the left of his spine. When Loki turned around, there was a matching, bigger one beneath his breastbone. The pattern was vaguely round, and sunken in the middle, as big as Thor’s palm. It looked as if he’d been stabbed by something and it had healed poorly.

“What is that?” he asked, gesturing.

Loki glanced down, following the gesture with a frown as if he had no idea what Thor was asking. His fingers of his free hand hovered over the scar not touching it and he lifted his eyes to Thor, with some puzzlement. “Where Kurse struck me on Svartalfheim. You were there, as I recall? You even saw the play to refresh your memory.” A smile tugged at his lips of reminiscence, but Thor wasn’t interested in that.

“But-- you faked that. It was illusion,” Thor insisted. Ever since he had realized Loki was alive after all -- since he had seen the play and knew Loki had to be alive and it was only a second to realize he was right there -- he’d been sure the stabbing "death" had all been a ploy for his benefit. Some sweet words of death-bed confession to allay Thor’s suspicions and make him think well of the dead, before usurping Odin’s throne.

Loki’s smile vanished. “No. It was not.” He flicked a hand and his combat leathers followed a golden glow, hiding the scars again. He tossed the cloth on the edge of the basin, turning back to face the window.  “Why would I fake my death before Malekith was done? I wanted to avenge Mother, not escape .” His lip lifted on a snarl on the final word and he stared at his reflection in the glass. “But it wasn’t a choice. I’d ended Kurse, and I hoped I’d done enough good to see Mother again,” he murmured, a rawness in his voice that shivered across Thor’s skin and reminded him of his own grief.

Thor started to reach for Loki's shoulder, but Loki cleared his throat and said in drier tone, “Waking up was a rather unwelcome surprise.”

“How? How did you survive?" Thor demanded.

Loki crossed his arms, as if he could feel the chill air from Svartalfheim again. “I don’t know, His blood was on the weapon and then in me-- I presume my body was using its Kurse power to heal itself faster than it was dying. Or the Norns just won’t let me die,” he added lightly, glancing back with a shrug and smile on his lips as if it was all a marvelous jest. “Maybe they were afraid of our sister.”

But Thor ignored the attempted humor and shook his head, remembering that barren wasteland of Svartalfheim and seeing Loki fall, mortally wounded. He’d cast the memory in his mind as a well-done but painful illusion, ultimately false, but now had to remember it in his shock and horror again that it had happened.

“You didn’t tell me,” Thor protested, “that you didn’t fake it. You knew that’s what I believed.”

“I did continue the masquerade,” Loki reminded him steadily. “So you were right. I faked my death, if not at that moment.”

Thor had to admit that was true, and he might not have believed Loki’s protest that no, that part had been real, without seeing the scar and without seeing him return to Asgard to prove his real loyalties. But still, he wished he’d known the truth, and it seemed odd that Loki hadn’t tried to protest his innocence of that part, taking more blame than was truly his.

“It didn't heal properly,” Thor said and reached out to touch the spot on his back where the blade had emerged.

Loki flinched, but he chuckled to cover the reaction. “It was a bit difficult to see the Healers for a wound Father didn’t take. It’s all right. Makes me a little stiff in the midsection, that’s all.”

Thor didn’t believe that, not with the size of the scar that remained. Worse, it should have healed clean, not left vicious visible scars. he should have sought the Healers. “Was being king so important to you that you ignored your own health ?” Thor demanded in confusion and dismay.

“It had to be important to someone,” Loki shot back and twisted away, crossing to the opposite site of the table, but still within Thor's reach since everything in the room was two paces from everything else. “And no, it’s not anymore, if that is what you’re insinuating. It’s yours and I’m glad of it.”

Thor raised both hands, palms out to gesture him to peace. “That’s not what I meant. I was just .. you left it untreated. It must have pained you greatly.”

Loki frowned at him. “Not untreated. I bandaged it for the first weeks. It was easy enough to explain away my careful movements.”

Thor closed his eyes, remembering his first trip back and how Hogun had told him the king was ill. Loki-as-Odin had, of course, dismissed Thor’s inquiry as age and grief, and Thor had bought it, but Odin had definitely been moving more slowly and risen from his chair less on those early visits. “Loki…”

“What brought you in here in such a hurry anyway?” Loki asked. The attempt to shift the subject was so transparent, Thor just sighed.

“No more of that,” Thor said. “Dying. I can’t … Don’t make me think I lost you again, especially if it’s not true.”

Loki’s face softened and he glanced down, fingers coming together to rub his opposite hand in a gesture that reminded Thor sharply of their mother with a pang of loss. “I don’t know what it’s worth, but I promise,” he said, lifting his head again to meet Thor’s gaze, his own eyes clear and bright Then his lips twitched. “If I find myself dying, I’ll be sure to stay dead next time.”

“No! That’s not what I meant!” Thor exclaimed even while he knew Loki was teasing. “If you get a way out, take it. Just -- I want,” he cut off, knowing that making it a command wasn’t the right way, and found better words after the stumble, ”Let me know. I want to know where you are, if you’re all right. No more of this, okay?” He set his fingers lightly against the leather, above where the wound had been, but meaning not just the wound but the silence and the deception, hoping Loki understood that, too. 

He seemed to, as he agreed quietly, “Not again.” His hand rested on top of Thor’s as if to seal the promise of the words, and Thor smiled. After all the pain and destruction, and the loss of so many they hadn’t even begun to mourn yet, at least they were together, Odinsons united again.

As Loki moved toward the door, Thor wondered if it would last, but pushed the doubt away. Loki was here, now, and Thor had the proof that even if their paths diverged, they would come back together again.