A/N: I'M OBSESSED WITH LOKI AGAIN Y'ALL! Two years of trying to distance myself from Marvel and all it took was one (1) trailer to suck me right back in. I've missed my Asgardian children
Tumblr prompt: Every time you look at me, I feel invisible.
Every time you look at me, I feel invisible.
Thor was thrilled to have his brother back. He was. The night Loki had come home, uncertain and guarded but blessedly, beautifully alive, had been, without a doubt, the most joyous moment of Thor's long, long life. He wouldn't trade these last weeks for anything.
Things just… weren't going quite as smoothly as he had hoped.
Taking a look around the party and realizing Loki was nowhere to be seen, Thor excused himself from his conversation with Sif and Valkyrie and slipped out to search. It wasn't difficult – it was a cloudless night, so all he had to do was find the palace's most remote balcony, and lo and behold, there he stood, brooding and silent beneath the stars.
"You missed a wonderful opportunity to team up with Valkyrie to mock me," Thor said.
Loki responded only with a noncommittal grunt.
Thor leaned on the railing beside him, trying to ignore the cautious glance Loki shot at him, the way he leaned slightly away. "You would've jumped at that once."
"Jumped at which part?" Loki asked drily. "To mock you, or to team up with Valkyrie?"
It was still odd, to put it mildly, to hear Loki say her full name with no hint of fondness in his tone. They had known each other so painfully briefly, and yet… "Both, I suppose," he answered. "You loved mocking me almost as much as you loved her."
Loki set his jaw, looking away. "I didn't love her. He did."
Thor nodded, closing his eyes against the sudden memories of Loki's death. "My mistake."
"Yours and everyone else's," Loki muttered.
Thor furrowed his brows. "What does that mean?"
"I-" He stopped, shaking his head. "It doesn't matter."
Thor recognized that hesitation, that way of silencing himself. He hadn't for centuries, and he had regretted it for years. "Things are different now, Loki," he pushed gently. "Whatever you're feeling, it matters."
Loki studied him, eyes narrowing slightly, glittering in calculation as he weighed his options, but beneath that veneer of the Loki he had encountered in New York over a decade ago, he saw the man he just been beginning to become after Sakaar, the one who yearned to trust the only family he had left.
As the silence stretched on, Thor offered jokingly, "You could always punch me, if that would make opening up easier for you."
Loki rolled his eyes. "I don't want to punch you. Usually."
"But you're always happy to stab me?"
"Stabbing is entirely different," he defended instantly.
Thor laughed, and much to his relief, Loki cracked a little smile. In that moment, it may just have been the most precious sight Thor had ever witnessed. "I thought I'd never see that again."
"You smiling. A real smile, not one of your lies or illusions."
"Careful, brother," Loki warned. "One might think you've gone soft."
Thor let out a faintly nostalgic little huff, looking up at the stars shining overhead, the stars he had never taken the time to appreciate them in his boyhood. He had never appreciated how beautiful they were. How powerful they were.
How fragile they were.
"That is not the insult it once was," he murmured.
Loki didn't answer for a long moment, studying him once more. "No," he eventually said. "Perhaps it's not."
Thor pulled his attention back to his brother, relieved to notice that the space between them had diminished. "You and I have had many, many… many differences," he said. "But I assure you, we put them behind us. We-"
Loki sighed, shaking his head. "There was no we, Thor. That's exactly the problem."
Thor stopped, mouth hanging open, anything he'd been about to say dying in an instant. "What?"
Loki hesitated, starting to pick nervously at his palm. He looked away, took a breath, and finally admitted, "When you look at me, I feel invisible."
"When you look at me," Loki overrode him, speaking a little too quickly, as if trying to get the words out before anything – or anyone, a voice in the back of Thor's mind whispered – could stop him, "you see that Loki. The one that helped you defeat Hela. The one that died for you."
Thor fell silent.
He wanted to protest. He had only been trying to pave a smooth path forward, after all, trying to make whatever mess this was easier for the both of them. But even if he could speak without jeopardizing the tentative trust Loki was placing in him… he had no defense against the truth.
He's right. He's not the Loki I lost.
"It's not only you," Loki added. "Valkyrie sees the man she fell in love with. Most of the humans see the man who attacked New York. Bruce – Hulk – whomever he is now – sees some combination of the two. But I'm not-"
He paused, considering. "Well, I suppose I amhim, in a way, up to a certain point. But beyond that point, I am my own man. I am not the same Loki who invaded Earth, but neither am I the same Loki who decided to save Asgard, and ever since my return, no one has seen that. Everyone sees the person they expect to see – the person they want to see – and as a result, no one sees the person I am."
We don't, do we?
Thor scoured his memory, casting about for even a single moment when someone had acknowledged this most basic fact, and couldn't find one.
There was only one thing to be said in response.
Loki whipped his head around to stare, eyes wide. "You are?"
Of course I am.
But Loki – this Loki, the person standing beside him, the brother he now had – wouldn't know that. He couldn't. He hadn't lived through anything that would prove Thor spoke the truth. He remembered only the arrogant prince, not the humbled king. He remembered only the selfish brother who trampled over everyone else's wants and needs to get his own way.
And in ignoring that, Thor had done nothing to convince him anything had changed.
It's time to learn from my mistakes.
"I am," he said. "Because you're right. You have your own past, your own story, and that's forged a new man. I was in such a hurry to pick up on the life I thought I would have with the other version of you that I ignored that, and it hurt you. For that, I am genuinely sorry."
"You are," Loki repeated slowly. He tilted his head. "You truly are sorry."
It wasn't a question this time.
"Perhaps you really have changed."
"I'd like to think I have." Thor straightened up, offering his hand to his brother. "And from this moment forth, I'd like the chance to prove it."
Loki began to reach out, then stopped, hand hovering in midair. "What if you don't?"
"Then you're free to go," Thor said, even as the mere thought of the possibility threatened to tear his heart to shreds yet again. "I won't hold you against your will – gods know you've known more than your fair share of prisons. New Asgard will not be one of them."
At long last, Loki nodded, clasping his hand in a firm shake. "You have your chance, then, brother."
Loki's lips quirked into a smirk. "You have five minutes."
Thor laughed, throwing his arm around Loki's shoulders, steering him back to the party.
Loki let him, laughing with him for the first time in too many years.