Faint breathing filled the dark-bathed room, silence buzzing in his ears. Just like his brother liked it. Thor crawled into bed, mindful of where he put his weight to not wake Loki again. He assumed his previous position, chest pressed against his brother's back.
For awhile, Thor had feared that the night would end with him being kicked out of his brother's chambers, so he nodded along to whatever Loki said without listening. That afternoon had been a mistake, the implicit accusation that Loki had been whoring around hitting too close to home. For both of them. As suggested by their mother, Thor had not pushed Loki. Their mother had warned Thor that Loki's temper might spark with even more ease than usual, so when Loki declared that he did not want Thor near their child earlier that night, Thor had strived against what his mind told him to do. This was a passing thing. When Loki was calmer, he would see that Thor's anger had not been directed at him. And it must have worked for Loki did not ask Thor to leave. Instead, Loki had whined in protest when Thor stood from the bed.
“Where are you going? I didn't tell you to leave now.” Loki frowned, pushing his food around with his fork.
“I don't see the point in staying if you do not want me near you or the child.”
A little snort escaped Loki. “Don't pretend to care for the child now, brother.” Loki's brow furrowed further. “We both know what this is about.”
Thor took a deep breath, trying not to snap at his brother. Did Loki know, though?
“And you forget, brother dear, that I do not like the smell of food in my bedchamber.” Loki brought a piece of meat to his mouth and chewed slowly, watching Thor with his puckered brow.
Thor relented. It was his duty to ensure that Loki ate enough, and… Thor had the rising suspicion that this was the most he had spoken with his brother in months.
When Loki declared he was done and Thor deemed it good enough, Thor took the food tray from his brother and left to hand it over to a maid. But not before watching Loki sink back into his collection of pillows and place a hand over his rounded stomach with a contented sigh.
His brother was beautiful like this, splayed out on the bed, raven hair tousled from sleep, pale lips parted, and belly swollen with their child, but ever so stubborn.
When Thor returned to the room, Loki was back to being curled on his side. Thor, convinced of his Loki's deep sleep, brushed his fingers over his brother's abdomen. He didn't believe he would have the chance to feel the child move despite how big Loki had grown. Instead, it was those filthy, vile…
Thor pushed the quilt away from them and brought his face as close to his brother's middle as he dared. “I wonder what Loki speaks to you about,” he whispered and felt heat rise up to his face. It was the first time Thor spoke to the child within his brother's womb, and if Loki woke, Thor would never live it down. “I have nothing to tell you.” Thor's fingers began stroking. “But you're mine, mongrel. Despite the displeasure I have caused your mother-" Thor cut himself off and frowned. “No, perhaps Loki will not let you call him ‘mother.’” And then Thor's eyes widened. Could that had really been a poke from inside?
Thor poked back.
A groan startled Thor and then his head was being pushed away by his brother's hand.
“Not again, Thor,” Loki said on the verge of sleep and struggled to get the quilt back over himself.
Thor hurried to lay back down, heart racing from being caught red-handed, but hand still pressed to Loki's belly. Of course Loki hadn't been as deeply asleep as Thor had thought.
He was so stubborn.
“Did you know that in your beloved Midgard, convicts are allowed to see their children?”
Admittedly, Thor didn't know how the Midgardian prison system worked nor was he interested in it, but he doubted that any human in recent years had attempted to do what Loki had. The Avengers had tried to explain it, but Thor would have none of it. His brother would have his trial on Asgard and complete his sentence there, where their father could hopefully pass a more lenient sentence than that one dealt by the humans. But that leniency did not extend towards having visits from Vali. Asgard’s dungeons were no place for a young child. Moreover, Vali believed Loki to be dead, and Thor preferred their son to remember his mother as he was before than how he was now.
But, could Thor say that the Loki presented to him now amidst a destroyed cell, more unkempt than ever before in their lives, and bleeding from a foot was not the Loki from before? It seemed his brother was aware of their mother's death, and it was something. Just something… good. Because this was not about them or Vali as things had been for years now. It was about their dead mother and the Dark Elves responsible for her death. And Loki seemed to understand that.
His brother seemed to understand that it was not Thor's fault, accepting Thor's offer to extract revenge. Thor needed Loki to get off Asgard, true, but this was also
his their chance to act like brothers, be brothers on a shared quest like in the past for one last time. This was what Thor needed to move on.
While his brother had been gone, railing up an army, Thor had been left behind to care for Vali, a child to whom everything in the world was wrong unless it was Loki who did it. Visiting the Bifröst, or what remained of it at the moment of his visits, gave Thor a reprieve from his constant mistakes fueling Vali's displeasure. Thor had missed Loki, perhaps not to the extent their son did for it was an altogether different kind of love, and found that the visits to the Bifröst, the monitoring of its reconstruction, was a necessity of sorts. A need for what, Thor didn't know. What Thor did know was that as much as he loved Vali, as much as he was grateful for his son, he only missed Loki as a brother, no longer as a lover. His few days spent banished in Midgard had helped him break away from the cycle that was his relationship with Loki with the help of Jane. Jane, whose determination reminded Thor of Sif’s own to become a warrior, and yet they were so different. What was it about Jane that so captured Thor's attention? That left in him genuine curiosity, a need to know what she was up to? Could it be Jane's own curiosity for the worlds beyond her little blue planet? Yes, her search for knowledge that was almost…
Jane was wonderful, indeed. The way she spoke to his father… no one on Asgard or on any other realm would have dared do the same. And it wasn't from lack of information, no. Even knowing that he was the king of Asgard, Jane did not cower from his father. It was a feat worthy of admiration. The memory brought a fresh smile to Thor's face.
But it wasn't Jane standing by his side right now. It was Loki with his wonderful and not at all distracting commentary as Thor flew the Dark Elves' ship out of the citadel. It caused Thor no small amount of satisfaction to throw Loki out of the ship. And his brother wasn't even mad about it. Just like he didn't try to snap Jane's wrist after she slapped him. Instead, Loki had proclaimed that he liked her. It was almost like having the old Loki back.
Almost like when Sif used to pin Loki to the ground after a sparring match and Loki would crane his neck up and say, “I like you,” or whisper, “Beautiful” with awe in his voice or “Again” with a smack of his lips.
Almost, because Thor could have continued to pretend that this was like old times, that Loki hadn't tried to conquer Midgard, that Loki hadn't tried to destroy Jötunheimr, that Loki had never gotten pregnant, if Loki had refrained from asking his one simple question.
“Do they know?”
Thor looked at the desolate landscape of Svartálfheimr before looking at his brother. “Know what?”
Thor knew, of course, what Loki was talking about, but he wouldn't admit it.
Loki rolled his eyes. “About Vali?”
“And who would be ‘they?’”
“The Warriors Three, Sif, the Avengers, Lady Jane. Do they know that you had a child with your brother?”
“Vali is just my nephew as you wished.”
“Oh, really?” Loki arched a brow. “I was told that you made Vali your heir. Or was that a lie? Or perhaps you have changed your mind already?” Loki gave a tight-lipped smile and muttered, “Norns forbid that the child of a Jötunn whore sits on the throne of Asgard.”
Thor stared at his brother. “I have apologized countless times for calling you that, Loki.” Thor hunched his shoulders and rubbed his hands together. “You have not asked the right questions.”
“Which would be?”
“How about, how's Vali? Is he alright? Was he harmed during the attack?”
Loki did not blink before replying. “Have I reason to worry?”
Thor frowned. “As always, you miss the point, brother.”
“So…” Loki inclined his head towards the sleeping form of Jane. “Does she know?”
Thor didn't reply.
“I shall take that as a no.”
No, Thor had not told Jane he had a son. He might have made a passing comment about having a nephew; Thor wasn't sure. But if that was the case, then the humans surely thought that Loki was Vali's father. Thor's comment, “My nephew Vali. He misses his mother,” to someone in response to something couldn't possibly have led the humans to think Loki was Vali's mother, much less make the actual connection between Thor and Vali. Yes, the humans must have thought Loki a father for Thor had also said, “No, it is just Loki and me,” when asked if he had any more crazy siblings to worry about.
No, Loki wouldn't shame Thor. Not like this. It was Loki who had wanted it to be this way, so who was he to shame Thor? And the conversation could have ended there, but Loki began meddling with that which did not concern him. Primarily, Jane's lifespan. That was for Thor to worry over and only Thor. And bringing their mother into this? That should be a low even for Loki who, as always, blamed everyone but himself.
There was no point in pretending.
Sometimes (more like often lately), Thor thought that his brother had no regards for his own safety. Loki had often chastised Thor for barging head-first into battle, but Thor thought that Loki's mentality of ‘come what may’ was more worrisome. His brother would shrug and push onward, heedless of the consequences. Naturally, Thor was grateful that Loki pushed Jane out of harm's way, but Loki, trained in the ways of battle all his life, should by now know how to make decisions in the crux of the matter. It was as if his brother couldn't care to react to potential harm, as Loki proved latter when he let himself be impaled by the Kursed.
Loki could have moved out of the way. He could have done one too many things he never cared to do. Thor knew it.
“Tell… tell Vali I'm sorry.”
Yes, Thor could do that. He could grant Loki this if nothing else. Loki had died with honor, but there was no funeral to be held. They had to keep moving, and carrying Loki's body, which once held enough life to create another, would slow them down. They were short on time and Malekith had the Aether as Jane reminded Thor. They didn't have the time to stop to carry Loki's body. At least, Thor thought, he could find solace in the knowledge that Loki would now be with their mother.
Vali would have no such luck.
Their son thought Loki to be dead for months now, that much was true. An unbidden thought entered Thor's mind. Had Loki known that Vali thought him dead? He must have. Their mother had had no option but to explain to Vali what it meant to be dead after weeks of Vali's pleading to be moved back to Loki's chambers.
Thor frowned on the way to his chambers after following through with his decision to abdicate the throne. Surely, he couldn't have been doing that poor of a job as a father. Even though his decision to relocate himself and his son to Midgard was doubtful at best and mad at worst. Vali was displeased, of course, throwing a fit as he was wont to do when forced to move to a different realm. But it was for the best. His father would be better left to mourn on his own as he preferred, and what better way to move on for Thor than by moving to Midgard? It wasn't the safest of the Nine, but that's what made it perfect. Thor could honor his oath of protecting the realm and Vali would learn to value the humans and their ideals, their resilience. Moreover, they would not be starting from scratch (Nor being reminded of mother or Loki at every turn of the corner). Thor trusted that his new comrades would help him with the process and when presented with how adorable Vali could be when he wished, they would overlook the fact that Vali was Loki's son.
But would Jane be able to overlook the child attached to Thor?
The Bifröst touched down on Jane's terrace and Thor lost no time in bringing his lips to hers and a hand up to caress her cheek. Behind them, Vali cleared his throat, and Thor turned to see his son shifting on the ball of his feet, looking away from them. The perfect picture of innocence. Thor removed his hand from Jane's cheek, who was looking at Vali with wide eyes and open curiosity, to gesticulate towards his son.
“Jane, this is Vali. My…” Nephew? Son? “Nephew.”
Yes, nephew. This was another, final thing that Thor could grant his brother: Loki's last won battle.