A/N - No, I'm not dead.
I haven't posted in a while, I know. Life's just crazy and I'm out of the country too, but I managed to squeeze enough time to write this.
This fic is Post-IW, and I'm not planning for it to become a fix-it. More notes at the end.
Nature's first green is gold,
her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower,
but only so an hour.
So leaf subsides to leaf,
so Eden sank to grief.
So dawn goes down to day,
nothing gold can stay.
- 'Nothing Gold Can Stay', Robert Frost.
Thor felt Natasha walking up to him, but he didn't move.
It was too dark to make out her features, but her silhouette was outlined in pale starlight. She gracefully slid down next to him, back against the wall, hugging her knees.
Thor didn't bother wiping the tears off his cheek. There was no point in a facade of strength. Everyone in the universe was breaking, and Thor was not spared.
Thor hoped she was not going to do of her little 'friendly' chats, that eventually turned out to be an interrogation peppered with thoughtful lies. He was not in the mood for one right now.
The silence was deafening, but Natasha made no move to end it.
"How is everyone," Thor said at last, voice coming out in a hoarse whisper.
Thor felt rather than saw her humorless smile.
"As well as you'd expect them to be," she answered quietly. "Steve's wandered off somewhere, saying he wanted to be left alone. Rocket's locked himself in his room, and I doubt he's coming out anytime soon. And everyone else, Okoye, Bruce, Shuri, they're all in their rooms too, but I'd be surprised if anyone's sleeping."
"Rocket?" Thor forced out of a dry mouth, ducking his head and brushing the tear tracks off his face.
Natasha chuckled dryly. "Or 'Rabbit', as you call him."
As they once more lapsed into silence, Thor's thoughts drifted to his human friends. They, too, must feel grief. In a most un-Thor-like manner, Thor had entirely disregarded their own feelings.
Yet it was hard for him to compare their grief with his own. Steve, at least, he could understand somewhat. From what he knew, this 'Bucky' had practically grown up with Steve. There was some other complicated story about Hydra and the 'Winter Soldier' that no one bothered to explain to Thor.
These people were grieving at most forty years of friendship, but Thor was mourning fifteen hundred years of brotherhood and companionship, fifteen centuries of waking up in bed and knowing that Loki was going to come down to breakfast with him, that Loki would always be there, hovering at Thor's side.
And now he was gone.
Suddenly, Natasha's cool hand resting over his own startled Thor out of his thoughts.
"It's not your fault, Thor," she was saying, and Thor was once again brutally reminded of the fact that he kept trying to forget.
Thor had failed Earth.
He had failed the human people he had sworn to protect, he had failed Asgard, the Golden Realm, he had failed the universe. He had failed Frigga. He had failed Odin. And he had failed Loki.
Thor, the God of Thunder, had failed.
Thor stiffened, not bothering to stop the already forbidding grey clouds from gathering. His body cackled with electricity, and Natasha quickly pulled her hand away.
Natasha was rubbing his back soothingly and somewhat hesitatingly, murmuring soft words of comfort in a low voice.
Mind hazy, Thor suddenly envisioned Natasha holding his hand and telling him in a soft voice, The sun's getting down, big guy, it's getting real low, and resisted the urge to laugh hysterically. If this went on, soon, the Avengers would have another Hulk on their hands.
"It is my fault," Thor interrupted suddenly. "I could've thrown it at the head. It would've been the calculated, sensible thing to do. But I was too prideful. I wanted to gloat." Thor spat. "I haven't changed from that impulsive boy Odin cast down to Midgard."
Thor expected Natasha to say something along the lines of, We all make mistakes, but she didn't.
Natasha gazed at him keenly. "Why did you want to gloat, Thor?"
With the blood still hot and singing through his veins, the question drained the energy out of him and Thor's shoulders slumped.
"He killed my brother," Thor said in the barest hint of a whisper, and then he had to turn his face away, for simply saying 'my brother' was too much.
He wished Natasha would leave, because if she at least knew Loki the way Thor knew him, then there would be some comfort there. But all Natasha saw was a monster, a murdering maniac who slaughtered innocent lives.
Thor looked up to see Natasha still studying him intently. "You're judging me," he said bitterly.
Natasha shook her head the slightest bit. "No, admiring you," she confessed. "If even Clint betrayed me once, I don't think I can ever call him friend again."
"Well, come back when you've been Clint's sister for 15 centuries."
Thor regretted the words the moment they left his mouth. There was a reason he hid his actual age from the Avengers.
Inevitably, his age had come up in his conversations with the humans. After laughing over the story about Loki and the horse, and flushing after confessing that the myth concerning Thor and a certain dress held a grain of truth, Banner had asked the question. How old are you, Thor?
Thor had smiled and dodged the question, implying that he was nearly double the age of Steve. He didn't want the humans to treat him differently because of his age. The Avengers had accepted the answer. Even Natasha, as it turns out.
Only person had taught Thor to lie so well.
Ignoring Natasha for the moment, Thor gritted his teeth, eye stinging with pain. Loki. No matter how many times Thor tried to push away thoughts about his brother, they kept coming back. The lives of Loki and Thor had been so closely entwined that it was impossible to simply forget Loki.
Loki. His little brother. The shy, self-conscious child, to the sly, intelligent teen to the silent, brooding young boy to the broken man he'd been, covering up fears with arrogance, self-loathing with pride, and insecurities with rage.
Thor had failed. No, he hadn't simply failed to keep Loki from dying, he had failed to stop Loki from wandering down the path of cruelty and darkness, he had pushed away Loki in his youth and now Loki was too far to pull back.
"Excuse me," Thor muttered to Natasha, rising to his feet brusquely and walking back to his room. He couldn't stand being here anymore. He just wanted to bury into his bed and cry himself to sleep like a little boy.
On his way there, Thor no longer fought to keep his train of thought about Loki, but let his mind wander.
Thor would not be considered a fool for choosing to believe Loki had faked his death, yet again. Four times Loki had tricked Thor into believing he was dead, and two of them had occurred in his past decade.
The first one had been when they were still boys. Thor and Loki were playing in a stream in Vanaheim, and after growing angry with a number of Loki's tricks and taunts, Thor had pushed Loki underwater and held him there for a good amount of time. Loki had thrashed and kicked, and feeling somewhat guilty Thor had let Loki go, only to discover Loki had failed to rise to the surface, and was gone. The shock and fear had only lasted for half a minute, before Loki emerged from the water, laughing and saying he'd changed into a fish.
But the second, oh, the second time had been far worse. In their adolescence, Thor often left Loki out and went on 'adventures' with the Warriors Three. Loki never seemed to mind (Thor could only rue and curse his foolhardy now) until Thor invited Sif, a beautiful female warrior who's company Thor enjoyed very much.
Loki had lashed out, but not in wild anger as Thor would, but in cold, calculated cruelty. For all Sif's claims of being a 'warrior', she greatly prided her long, rich gold hair that fell past her waist, and Loki knew this. In the middle of the night, Loki teleported into her chambers with a long knife, and with a swift stroke he cut her hair short, and dyed the choppy bits remaining black with an irreversible spell.
Sif was inconsolable when she awoke, and hell, Thor was furious. He hadn't been on good terms with Loki, and with his blood boiling Thor asked around for Loki, who seemed to be miraculously missing. Thor flew around on Mjolnir, cursing that weak coward under his breath the whole while.
Loki was eventually found standing on the edge of a grassy cliff, smirking faintly when he saw Thor arrive, blue eyes blazing and promising wrath. Thor had yelled, Loki had answered mildly with amused, sarcastic taunts, simply fueling the fire of Thor's anger.
And Thor had simply snapped. He swung Mjolnir at Loki in a powerful swing, expecting Loki to simply dodge. Except, Loki didn't. Thor stiffened and Loki's face froze in horror for the briefest of moments, before he fell backwards and stumbled over the cliff.
Ice cold fear, horror, and guilt replaced the fire in his blood. Thor had jumped after Loki with Mjolnir in hand, but he was too late. Loki lay on the ground, bones bent at odd angles, face unnaturally white. Heimdall, who had seen what happened, sent for Odin, Frigga, and the healers. Loki, as it turned out, was not dead, but badly hurt and unconscious.
Sif's hair forgotten, Thor was in grief, heart twisting in guilty pain. He stayed by Loki's side without leaving for over a week, until thanks to the healers and Loki's own magic, Loki was healed.
Over a hundred years later, when that memory was simply a dull, painful memory at the back of Thor's mind, Loki had confessed to Thor that he'd wanted to fall. "I knew you'd find me," Loki said, dark green eyes glinting. "So I waited for you by the cliff. I knew you'd hit me without thinking, and I knew I'd fall. I wanted to."
"Why ever would you want such a terrible thing?" asked Thor in horror. Loki smiled faintly.
"I wanted you back, Thor," he said quietly. "And it worked."
That was Loki for you, thought Thor with a bitter smile. Loki decided what he wanted, and went to extreme lengths to get it. Loki's rather foolish plan had worked, after all. Thor had dragged Loki along with him everywhere for long after that.
When Loki had let go at the Bifrost, Thor had felt the same feeling of shock, grief and horror, the same twisting of heart and the same pain. When Loki 'died' in Thor's arms at Svartalfheim, it had been far worse.
But when Thor had heard the sickening crunch of bone when Thanos snapped Loki's neck, when he heard that fatal, final thump of Loki's lifeless body hitting the floor, that was when Thor truly knew grief.
He felt as thought a piece of himself had been ripped away, a part of his soul had shattered. Screaming Loki's name behind the metal gag, thrashing in his bonds and cursing the Norns, that was pain, that was true pain.
Shuddering out a sigh, Thor opened the door to his room.
And froze, as he saw the very object of his distress right in the middle.
Thor let out a strangled cry at the sight of Loki himself, dressed in his traditional golden Asgardian armor, complete with the horned helmet and flowing green cape. He was wearing his familiar lazy, amused grin, one eyebrow cocked almost elegantly.
"Why, hello there, Thor," drawled Loki, green eyes twinkling wickedly. "I almost didn't see you there. So how was—"
That was how far Loki got before Thor rushed forward and seized his brother's shoulder, heart beating frantically with hope.
His hand went right through Loki's shoulder.
Thor gasped out a choked yelp, tears smarting his eye suddenly. 'Loki' had been nothing more than a twisted taunt from his imagination, a hallucination. The Norns weren't content to snatch his brother right under his nose, no, now they had to fucking mock him now.
He stumbled to his knees at the edge of his bed, kneeling over and burying his face blindly into the overly plush pillow, sobbing. Oh, Loki, his sly, cunning, trickster of a brother. Arrogant and cruel but broken underneath, brittle when Thor carelessly shoved him aside, fractured beyond repair when Odin confirmed that Loki was adopted, shattered into millions of pieces when the words, No, Loki were uttered at the Bifrost.
Thor bitterly regretted the words he'd spoken after Loki revealed the Tesseract. You really are the worst brother.
Loki had said far more cruel things to Thor, going so far as to disown him. Thor knew that when Loki said such terrible, hurtful things, it was only to cover up the fact that Loki was hurting far, far much more. But when Thor would say something against Loki, even in jest, Loki would hold onto those words in his heart for a long, long time. Thor was sure those words had been echoing in Loki's head, even as he was taking his dying breath.
"Damn you, Loki, you fool," Thor cried out, voice thick with sorrow, anger, regret and affection. Loki, his little brother, his baby brother, so shy, so insecure, so broken and so secretive. Loki, oh Loki…
"If this is how you mourned for me last time," said a quieted, sober voice that held a ring of dry humor, "then I probably should've been more than honored."
Thor stiffened once again. "I know it's not you," he said, unable to face 'Loki', for fear it will bring fresh pangs of grief.
Lowering his gaze to the ground, Thor quickly turned around and put his fist through the illusion of Loki he knew would be there.
Except, his fist didn't.
Loki hastily danced out of reach with an agility and grace that Thor had always envied. "Stop it, you fool!" Loki snapped. "Valhalla is already displeased enough with this. If you keep touching me they might as well cut the visit short. I only have a couple of minutes."
Thor's heart thudded as he raised his eye and stared directly at Loki. "Loki?" he asked in disbelief.
"No," interrupted Loki cuttingly. "No, unfortunately I haven't faked my death this time, but unsurprisingly, there's been some confusion about my death. Supposedly I died "heroically", but then I've committed far too many crimes to be sent to Valhalla. You know the way I have with words—it took me some time, but I've managed to bargain a few minutes."
"A few minutes of what?"
"You idiot of an oaf, must everything be explained to you? Very well. I've bargained a few minutes of speaking with a living person, before being to Hel."
Thor's jaw dropped. Before this, he'd naturally assumed Loki was going to Valhalla.
Before Thor could rant and demand answers, Loki made a clucking sound with his tongue and held up a hand. "Ah-ah-ah," he said. "Take all those undoubtedly foolish, idiotic phrases and shove them back down your throat. I have some things to say, and if I'm going to be explaining every minor detail to you we're going to be here until Rag—" Loki stiffened slightly, then went on as if nothing had happened, "…until the next century."
"If you can listen without speaking," said Loki, "then do so now." He swallowed hard. "I'm sorry," and Thor remembered how hard it was for Loki to admit he was sorry, or he was wrong.
Before Thor could reply, Loki kept on speaking. "For everything, Thor. For usurping the throne, for New York, for your coronation. And I want you to know that-that whenever I'd say I wasn't your brother, I didn't mean it. Oh, Thor, I never meant it. I was always your brother, I longed to be your brother, I just said I wasn't your brother so I could say it before you would, to act like I didn't care that we were adopted, but I do, I really do, and…"
"I know, Loki," Thor interrupted softly, and that was when Loki started crying.
"I wanted to hate you so much, Thor. I don't know if you'll understand, but I hated you for not giving me a reason to hate you. Oh gods, Thor, I love you so damn much, brother. I can't explain it, it doesn't make sense, but I do."
"It makes perfect sense to me," said Thor, and suddenly he was crying too. He yearned to reach out and hug Loki.
That was when Loki's hands started to fade away.
Loki let out a frantic cry, dark green eyes widening with fear. "Thor," he cried out in a strangled voice. "Thor, brother, please, please don't let them take me."
Thor started crying harder. "Brother," he said, scared to touch Loki lest he fade away faster.
"I don't want to go, Thor, I can't, I'm not ready to go, please Thor," panicked Loki wildly. "I beg of you, Thor, please. Thor!" Loki screamed, and suddenly he was gone.
Thor's heart thudded wildly in his chest as he stared at the empty place where the ghost of his brother had been.
Thor, brother, please don't let them take me….I don't want to go, Thor, I can't…I beg of you, Thor, please.
Iron-hot bands of burning metal wrapped around Thor's heart. Loki, oh Loki….
And in an instant, the pain and grief were instantly replaced by resolve and grim determination.
When would the Mighty Thor back down from a fight? Especially when his family was involved?
Thor was going to get his brother back.
And damn the consequences.
A/N - I'm not sure if I'll continue this. It was fun to write, but it mostly depends on how many people want to see another chapter. But if I do add to it, at most it'll be a four chapter fic, filled with heavy angst and terrible things. Definitely not going to be a fix-it.