Author's note: Did ya miss me? I want to start with an apology first of all, for leaving this story hanging for so long. I've had this chapter written for ages, but somehow just never brought myself to the point of posting it. There was supposed to be one final chapter after this, but... Something's changed in my head. I no longer have a sense for the voices of either Grainne or this incarnation of Loki. My recent attempts to write that last chapter have been terrible, so I tweaked the ending of this one a little and here it shall end. I feel kind of bad about it, since it's not entirely staisfactory an ending, but ti appears to be all the ending it's going to get. For now at least. Maybe Grainne will pop back into my head one day and demand her final say.
I do have a new story I'm working on, the basics of which got written over a fairly traumatic weekend in a massive brain dump and is now being edited to be fit for reading. It's heavier on the smut, and surprisingly (because it wasn't what I intended when I started writing it) heavier on the philosophy. First chapter's up today and more should follow by the weekend. You'll find it in my profile.
Anyway, I've kept you waiting long enough and you're not here to listen to me yabber. On with the show!
The meeting took place three days after his memory returned. In hindsight, Loki realised that he should have expected it. After all, Odin had always kept an awareness of where the pieces fell after he'd cast them. At the time, however, he wasn't thinking beyond the surge of conflicting emotions caused by the appearance of the once-more-familiar face. Hiding his disquiet behind a bland mask, he looked over his adopted brother in silence. Thor was dressed appropriately for Midgard, he noted, but then again he too had ties to this realm.
Thor was watching him in turn, and Loki wondered what he was seeing. He'd always considered the blonde warrior his intellectual inferior (with a certain amount of justification, he felt), but with a newfound insight he recognised that Thor's emotional nature gave him an understanding of people that was different but no less valid than his own more clinical observations. It made the scrutiny an uncomfortable one in light of their recent history, and after a few minutes he turned back to stare out to sea as he had been before his attention had been caught.
"We've missed you," Thor said at last, his voice quiet and heavy.
Loki shot him a sour look. "Who is 'we'?" he asked bitterly. "The same people who cast me out with nothing but my name?"
"That was Father's doing, Loki, not mine. If it had been up to me, this would never have happened!"
A disturbing thought in itself. Loki thought back to Grainne's words of a few days before, about how if he hadn't been stripped of his memories and sent into exile they would never have met. It wasn't the first time he'd replayed that conversation in his head. As always, it left him feeling confused. He was angry at what had been done to him. Of course he was. And yet... Grainne was the delight of his life, and she and Greg and Liz had offered him acceptance and friendship beyond anything he'd ever known. How could he truly regret that? His expression softened. "And who of us can challenge Father's will successfully?"
He'd intended the question to be rhetorical, but Thor grinned. "I thought Mother might manage it. She was extremely displeased when she found out what he'd done. I've never heard such language from her lips!" He chuckled, then his face fell. "Father forbade her from interfering, though. So we've been waiting and hoping... What happened, Loki? He said the enchantment was broken days ago! We've been expecting to see you march into the Great Hall to demand a reckoning ever since!"
Loki bit back an automatic snarky response and shook his head. "I've no wish to return to Asgard," he said instead.
"Ever?" His brother's voice held a note of incredulity that brought a smile to his lips.
"Well, perhaps one day," he conceded. "But not now." He looked up with a sad smile and indicated with a jerk of his head that Thor should sit beside him on the stone sea-wall. "I'm tired, Thor. My memories of Asgard hold too much pain these days. I need a rest. A time to recover from everything that I've seen and done and..." He trailed off and shook his head once more. "I wish to remain in this realm for a time. It has a lot to recommend it."
Thor had settled beside him as he spoke, and now looked at him with surprise. "I remember a time when you had nothing but disdain for Midgard," he said.
"As did you," Loki countered with a wry grin. "And then Father exiled you here for a time for your own transgressions. What happened to you while you were here that changed your mind?"
"I learned something of their customs and beliefs," Thor replied after a moment. "I learned to respect their quest for knowledge and understanding and for something greater..." His brow furrowed as Loki looked at him expectantly and wondered if he'd need to spell it out. Finally, his brother's eyes widened as he said, "I met Jane Foster..."
"You've met someone special? Brother, that's wonderful!" Thor grabbed him in a rough embrace that, as always, left him feeling as though he'd been trampled. Struggling free, he scowled as he smoothed his hair and adjusted his clothing. The warrior, as usual, was cheerfully oblivious. "Will I get to meet her?"
"Perhaps." The short reply covered a sudden wealth of turmoil brought on by the spontaneous hug. He'd spoken a lot with Grainne and occasionally the others about his history over the last few days, and one of the conclusions he had come to was that Thor really couldn't be held accountable for more than being thoughtlessly arrogant and somewhat naive. He hadn't known of Loki's origins or the lies that had been woven to keep them secret. He hadn't known Odin's long-term plans for his adopted son. But he had always been there for his younger brother, had always offered friendship and affection, albeit of a rough-and-tumble sort.
Loki thought back to that first afternoon, when he and Grainne had discussed how to deal with troubled family relationships, and made a decision. This was going to be one of the hardest and most humiliating things he'd ever done, but he sensed somehow that it was necessary. Taking a deep breath, he put his hand on Thor's arm and said softly, "Thor, I... owe you an apology." His voice sounded stilted to his own ears, his usual smooth delivery choked and awkward. Still, he forced himself to continue. "I have let my anger and jealousy and hurt rule me for a long time, and in doing so caused you grave injury. Can you forgive me... brother?"
Tears welled in the blue eyes in front of him and for a moment he thought he was about to be seized in another bone-cracking embrace. Then Thor placed a hand over his and gave him a beaming smile instead. "You have always had it, brother," he replied. "And for anything I have done to cause those feelings, I too ask forgiveness."
Feeling his own eyes suspiciously moist, Loki nodded. "It is yours." They sat like that in silence for a few moments. He felt oddly better now. Far better than he'd thought he would. And yet Thor's words to him at their last reunion had been true. They had indeed played together and fought together - alongside each other, he amended with an inward grin - for a long time now. There was a bond there that had never truly been broken, no matter how hard he had tried. Now that the words were spoken, forgiveness asked for and given on both sides, perhaps he could start to move past those years of bitterness and frustration.
And as a bonus, he thought, Grainne would be so proud of him!
At last Thor cocked his head to one side with a grin. "So," he said. "Your woman... she is pretty?"
Startled into laughter, Loki ran one hand absently through his hair. "Ah, Thor, you have no idea," he sighed. Suddenly, he missed her fiercely. This reunion had left him feeling off-balance and he needed her calming influence. Pushing himself to his feet, he said, "Come, if you wish to meet her. I should be getting back anyway. They'll be starting soon." At his brother's puzzled look, he added, "Musicians. She and her brother and his wife. They've all been... very good to me since I came here." Which was possibly the understatement of the century, he thought.
"Then I'm sure I will like them," Thor replied, rising and falling into step beside him. Which, thought Loki, was probably true. It was so very, very 'Thor' to be ready to like someone just because they'd been nice to his younger brother.
Taking a deep breath, he prepared to introduce the two halves of what was an increasingly complicated family. If nothing else, his life was certainly not looking like getting dull any time soon.