Disclaimer: Still don't own it!
AN: Final chapter! I want to thank everyone who stuck with me until the end. Thanks for reading and reviewing!
~ Family Ties ~
The Avengers had all been waiting for him in the SHIELD base, but Thor wanted nothing more than to find his brother and tell him of the events in Asgard. Of course, that wasn't going to happen. Nick Fury wouldn't allow him and Loki had probably long gone underground. There was no telling when or where he might resurface.
Still, Thor had to at least try to find him. He wasn't sure what he wanted to say or how Loki would possibly react, but Thor felt that this was his duty. After having explained all the events in Asgard, he turned to look at the Colonel.
"And now I ask of you," he said, "to receive permission to locate my brother. He must know of this as well."
Fury's one eye widened with disbelief and a bit with amusement as well. "You want to find Loki and tell him all this? What do you think he will do, Thor? Fall into your arms and beg forgiveness for his crimes?"
Thor growled slightly, but not because he felt angry. He hated that Fury was right. "These are his children," he said, "I should at least try to make contact. I have turned a blind eye in the past about this, but not any more."
"This will be entirely your responsibility," Fury said, "SHIELD can not be involved in this. He is still considered an enemy of this world and we can not make contact without at least trying to arrest him."
Inclining his head, Thor said, "Thank you."
He was just on his way to his personal chamber inside the SHIELD-base when Steve overhauled him. Thor wasn't sure what the Captain wanted from him, but it wasn't difficult to guess that this had something to do with Loki. Steve probably disagreed with Fury's decision.
"Is there something I can help you with?" Thor asked. If Steve wanted to say something, he had to do it quickly because Thor was anxious to start his search for his brother.
"I...euhm..." Steve struggled to find the right words and Thor became rather curious to hear what this was actually about. Steve glanced around, but found that no one was listening in. "I just wanted to say that you did the right thing."
Thor raised his eyebrows. "I don't understand-"
"With Loki's children," Steve explained, "you did the right thing by standing up for them. I don't like them - especially those twins, they are cruel - but they have rights, too. When I hear the stories, I understand why they are what they are."
"Thank you," Thor said. It was nice to hear someone support him. "Now excuse me, I must find Loki."
"That's another reason why I'm here," Steve said, "Tony ran some diagnostics and he found traces of Loki's magic. His theory is that the magic is only just returning to your brother so he isn't strong enough to conceal it yet."
"So you know where I can find him?" Hope fluttered inside Thor's chest. Perhaps things could be easier than he anticipated.
"Yes," Steve replied, "but you have to understand that we also have to inform Colonel Fury about this and he'll want us to make an attempt at arresting him. We can give you a few hours."
"That should be enough time," Thor said, "thank you, Steve."
Steve smiled. "It's no problem. I truly hope you find him, Thor, I think he deserves to know what happened to his kids."
Damn, damn, damn. Damn! Loki watched with awe and irritation as sparks flowed from the tips of his fingers. Finally, his magic was returning to him. Finally,the effects of SHIELD's device were wearing off, but he had not expected it to happen this way. What the hell was he supposed to do with sparks?
He couldn't defend himself, fight or even pose as a slight threat, but he knew he could be found now. He wasn't strong enough to shield himself from every eye and Loki needed to think. He shouldn't stay too long in the same place. In fact, he should collect his belongings and move.
There was no doubt that his cursed brother and merry band of dwarfs would come after him and Loki had enough self-knowledge to know that he could not fight them. At least not all of them. The idea of butting head with Thor made him smirk and he might not win the fight, but he would certainly land a few well aimed blows.
Just when he was about to leave his hide-out, Loki could sense it. His magic was weak, but it felt like it was already tuned into Thor's unique signature. Sensing his brother so nearby sent shivers down his spine and for a second, he panicked. If Thor was nearby, the others had to be close as well. Loki dropped his bag and located the nearest exit point. He hated the idea of running, but he had no other choice.
He moved as swiftly and quietly as possible and slipped out of the apartment. It appeared as though he had outsmarted his brother already, but he was stunned to find Thor stand before him in the middle of the street. He didn't have Mjolnir in his hand and he wasn't wearing his battle outfit. In fact, Thor looked human and his eyes showed humanity. No anger. No disappointment. No blood-lust.
Was he not here to fight? Loki glanced around, but found no one of the other Avengers. He couldn't believe Thor had come alone and he refused to believe that this was not a trick. He scowled when Thor took a step forward and the blonde man instantly raised his hands in a defenceless manner.
"I am not here to fight," Thor said, only sincerity in his gaze, "and I am not here to ask your forgiveness. I know you'll never give it."
Now Loki was certain of it; this was a trick. "Then what do you want?"
"I've gone to Asgard," Thor explained, his breathing quickening, "and I have done what I should have done a long time ago. I tried to help you children as best as I could, Loki. They're not entirely free, but their situation should improve."
Loki was faintly aware that his mouth hung open and that he wasn't breathing at all. His mind raced, however, and the thoughts that came to him were neither pleasant nor satisfying. "You think that absolves you?" He heard himself speak, but he wasn't sure where the words came from. "They have been trapped under father's tyranny for years, decades and some of them, centuries. Now you think they are happy? Because of you?"
"I didn't mean..." Thor inhaled deeply to steady himself. This was obviously not the reaction he had hoped for and Loki despised him for it. Did he think all would be okay again? That he would fall into his arms and call him the best brother ever? "I'm sorry, Loki, I just did what I could. I tried to help and I will continue to help them for as long as I can."
"Because I can't, right?" Loki snarled. The magic inside of him was still weak, but it grew turbulent. "Because I am just Loki, the little brother of Thor Almighty who can not even take care of himself? Because I am a traitor and a frost giant and therefore can't possibly have any dignity or superiority?"
Thor closed his eyes. "Loki."
"It doesn't matter actually," Loki continued, "you have never understood, Thor. I would give up everything for them. I would give my life for them. They are all that matters to me in the end and you think that by granting them a bit more freedom, that I am satisfied?"
"I would free them if I could," Thor said softly, "but as long as our father is king-"
"And there we have it," Loki interrupted, "always hiding behind daddy's skirts. You feel like you had a victory today and that might be true at some level. You won a battle within a battle within a war."
Thor looked straight into his brother's cold, green stare. "Then I'll make you a promise," he said, "I will free your children the day I become king. They shall have all the rights of a full-fledged Asgardian and I will personally see to it that they are respected and honoured."
Loki thought long about the words. For as much as he hated Thor, he could not help but like his words. The idea of his children being treated as respect, with dignity...it gave him a warm feeling. "How can I trust you?"
"I give you my word," Thor said, "I hope that still counts for something."
It actually did. They might not get along and fight each other every step of the way, but when it came to promises, they kept them. They both had a deep sense of honour and civility. That didn't prevent Loki from screwing Thor over, but it did prevent him from stabbing him in the back. It was much too cowardice.
"And what do you expect in return?" Loki wasn't sure what Thor would answer to his question, but it would hardly be surprising. "For me to leave Midgard? Stop all attacks on this realm? Or perhaps you want me to return to Asgard to face punishment for my crimes?"
An irritated growl escaped from Thor's lips and Loki smiled triumphantly. That was the brother he had grown used to after all so this was known territory. Loki felt safer now, like he had could say and do what he wanted.
"Why must you always be so difficult?" Thor snapped. "Can't you accept that I did this for you, for your children? I don't want anything in return. I merely wanted to help."
Mischief lay in Loki's eyes. "Well, then I should thank you."
"Forget it," Thor countered, "you mean none of it." He turned away from his brother and began to walk. For a moment, Loki considered calling after him, but he kept his mouth shut. He could see that Thor was offended by his behaviour, but what had he expected? That all would be forgiven and forgotten? Too much had happened between them.
"You should hurry," Thor called back, "SHIELD can be here any moment and I don't wish to see you captured again."
Now Loki rolled his eyes. This was too much. First Thor tells him about his children and now he warns him about his own friends? What would be next? Thor contemplating on joining Loki in his rule of terror?
"Why?" Loki yelled. He wasn't sure if Thor could still hear him, but the God of Thunder stopped. "Why are you really doing this?"
Slowly, Thor turned around and Loki wished they had still been standing closer. It would have enabled him to read the emotions in Thor's eyes, to see whether he would be giving an honest answer or not.
"Many reasons," he answered, "guilt is one of them. I realized you had every reason to be angry with me and the whole of Asgard. Then there is the possibility for redemption, for the both of us. I hope by this gesture you understand that I will do anything to protect you and your family. I also hope you take this opportunity to think about what you're doing."
Loki didn't like where this was going.
"You have a family," Thor continued, "and they love you. I'm not just talking about your children now, but about everyone. I still love you and mother loves you. A lot has happened, but I hope that this is the first step towards reconciliation."
"You still want that?" Loki asked. He couldn't believe that Thor still carried hope for him. "For us to be brothers again?"
Loki swallowed heavily. It was a sign of weakness, he knew this, but he figured that Thor stood too far away to notice. Besides, the look on Thor's face showed signs of weakness as well. Loki knew that if he attacked him now, he could probably win the battle. He shook the thought from his mind and closed his eyes for a short moment.
"They can be great," he said before opening his eyes again. Thor was still gazing at him. "They all have so much potential and Odin is keeping it all under his control. He's keeping them imprisoned and then everyone wonders why they all hate him. Everyone wonders how the prophecies could be true."
Thor remained silent.
"They don't have to be," Loki said, "if you keep your word and free them when you are king, they can be your most powerful allies."
"And you would be okay with that?" Thor asked, his eyebrows raising suddenly. "With your children working with me?"
"The day that happens," Loki answered, "is the day that I will become your ally."
A satisfied smile curled Thor's lips upwards. "I shall look forward to it then."
Loki raised both his hands and found that his magic no longer streamed from his fingers. It had become more powerful and Loki smiled when he found that he could control it better. With a quick whisper, he turned himself invisible, cloaking himself from Thor and anyone else who might be looking for him.
"I will see you again, brother," Thor said.
"That," Loki replied, amusement in his voice, "I do not doubt."