The blankets were pulled up to his neck, his body curled onto his side with his head cushioned into the soft pillows that littered his bed. Loki had no desire to get out of bed, had no desire to eat or to sleep or to move around or do anything for fear of having another attack, for slipping into his nightmares and terrors, for falling helpless again, for having to be rescued again, for needing Thor and needing his mother and needing to feel that security, because he couldn’t find it himself. Loki had refused seeing his mother for the first week and had outright told Thor that he didn’t want to hear about Sif, didn’t want to know how she was doing or what she was thinking about him – if she was even thinking about him, but it was a foolish point, because he knew that she was. He couldn’t handle that, couldn’t stand to see the tears in her eyes or the desire to heal him or fix him, because it wasn’t going to happen. Loki was too damaged, too ruined to be repaired. The old Loki was gone, being replaced by one that he couldn’t even recognise. His entire being was ripped away bit by bit until a shell was all that remained, and they moulded him and made him into something that was weaker and more inclined to kneel and submit.
He could barely breathe half the time and the only times he could relax was when Thor was around or Frigga. Their calming, soothing presence was enough to keep the fear and the hallucinations at bay long enough for Loki to get a grip on them, to remember that he wasn’t actually there, that he was safe from the pain and the torture and the unbearable agony that had been with him for so long. He was so exhausted and he was so tired. Sometimes Loki cried, unable to keep the despair and the desperation and the hopelessness under reins, unable to pretend as though he would be okay, as though there was a solution, a way to heal his broken body and mind. Thor was there for him then, being a constant presence that shielded him and held onto him and made everything better – or at least more manageable. He briefly thought back to the time just a few weeks ago when he had been brought back to Asgard in chains and a muzzle. Oh, how he had hated Thor, wanting nothing more than to hurt him for all that he had done to him, for being the perfect son, the light to his darkness, the one that everyone adored and admired and strove to become. But now he hated himself for ever thinking that way, because if there was one thing that came from his own anguish, it was the fact that Thor was there with him now. Despite everything that they had been through together, despite all of the hurtful words and the fights that left them both battered and bruised, Thor was there, holding him and comforting him, and taking care of him when Loki neglected to do it for himself.
Loki forgot half the time of the toll that it must take on his brother, of the worry and the stress that must be on his shoulders. Slowly rolling around, turning his body the opposite way, Loki stared at the sleeping form of his brother. He was taking up half the bed, his arms and legs spread out in all different directions, his golden blonde hair a halo around his head, lips parted just barely, enough for Loki to see wisps of his hair fluttering with each exhalation he gave. The sight alone made Loki relax some. Thor looked so young and so at peace, and it was enough for Loki to melt deeper into the soft sheets and blankets that covered the bed, because if he couldn’t find that peace in himself then at least he could try to take some of it from his brother. He could remember times when they were younger, how he would always sneak into Thor’s room late at night after a nightmare. He could remember how Thor would scoot over with a tired smile on his face and an arm held out, ready and waiting to take him in his arms and hold him for the rest of the night. The memory, so warm and so deep, was enough to bring tears to Loki’s eyes, made him wrap his arms around himself to keep from waking Thor, because he needed that and he wanted that and he would do anything to see that tired smile on Thor’s face, to see him open his arms and pull him close. He knew that Thor would do it, too, in a heart-beat. But that was the exact reason why Loki couldn’t, because he couldn’t keep living like that. He couldn’t continue to rely on Thor to keep the nightmares at bay. It wasn’t right and it wasn’t fair to put that type of pressure on Thor.
Exhaling slowly, Loki closed his eyes and listened to the sound of Thor’s heart-beat, listened to the steady rhythm and worked to match it. Perhaps if he did, he wouldn’t feel as restless, wouldn’t feel as though at any moment, something or someone would take hold of him and drag him down, return him to the hell he had finally escaped from. He kept his eyes closed and thought of Thor, thought of his smile, thought of the feelings that he developed and clung to whenever Thor was close by. It took longer than he would have liked – and he had started to doubt that he would ever be able to find comfort – but finally, Loki could feel himself start to settle, could feel his limbs unwind and ease in a more soothing position. Loki could feel his entire body finally responding to the exhaustion, could feel how shifting closer to his brother tired him out more than anything had in over a week. And it was a good feeling, one that Loki craved, because if he was too tired to even move anymore, he would be too tired to dream, to remember past horrors, to relive nightmare after nightmare, terror after terror. He needed that. He needed that more than anything. With one last effort, Loki forced himself to reach out, to gentle take hold of Thor’s right hand and keep it close. If, by chance, he was unable to keep the creatures from haunting him, perhaps Thor – saviour, beacon, brother, brother, brother – and his warmth and comfort and protection could guide him through it and bring him back to consciousness. So he listened to Thor’s heart-beat and allowed it to lull him to sleep.
His entire body felt as though it was floating and, for a moment, Loki didn’t know if he was even alive or not before he heard the voices drifting towards him. Clinging to those voices, he followed them, not knowing who they belonged to just yet, but knowing that they sounded familiar and safe and reassuring and heartening and Loki wanted, wanted, wanted. He could feel the pull and when he realised that he was starting to wake, Loki tried to retreat, because where he was, it was a place he didn’t want to leave just yet. He wasn’t afraid there, wasn’t worried or anxious or paranoid or startled. The floor wouldn’t open up under him and take him away and the movements all around him wouldn’t shift too quickly, snapping him back to a place that only offered pain and misery. But the voices, they felt good, and Loki finally stopped the struggle to remain in the cocoon of blissfulness and allowed himself to be drawn to them, and as he got closer and closer, their voices grew until Loki could recognise them – mother, Thor.
“How is he?” Frigga asked. She sounded near, as though she was sitting close. Loki felt a pressure on his arm and for once, he didn’t flinch, didn’t pull away in fear of pain following. Her voice sounded full of worry, though, and Loki felt a soft pang deep, deep down, because he knew that he was the cause of her concern. “He does not speak much to me now,” The sorrow in her tone was slight, as though she understood the reasons and knew of the state he was in, but was ultimately upset at being kept in the dark. The pang grew to a low pulse, but he was still floating about between the brinks of sleep and wakefulness, and could not think much more of what that meant.
But Thor was speaking now and Loki could feel the overwhelming weight of warmth and heat and safety and his heart was swelling and – Thor, Thor, Thor – he revelled in it as the voices moved farther and farther away. “I fear I do not know much, only that he needs me,” Thor said. He was quiet, not wanting to talk loudly for fear of waking Loki, but Loki was there and needed to hear him, needed to feel the vibrations his voice sent. It was a beautiful sound that brought about a sense of wondrous contentment. “I wish I knew,” You don’t, Loki wanted to scream, wanted to wrap his arms around his brother and hold him, protect him from what he’d been through, because the horrors would hurt him and break him just like they did Loki. His body jolted some and he could feel an arm wrap around him, pulling him up the bed and against a heavy frame, one that produced such heat that Loki didn’t need to open his eyes to know that it was Thor.
They were quiet for a long while after that and Loki wished to know more of their conversation, to hear their voices, but the silence and the heat was starting to pull him back into that blissful haven that kept his despair and fears away. But just when he felt the claim of sleep, his mother’s voice drifted back. This time her voice sounded nostalgic and sentimental, as though she was speaking one thing, but her mind was elsewhere, living in a memory that brought happiness and filled her with such love. Loki wished he could feel that again. “Even when you were younger, you both knew to protect each other,” The grip she still had on his arm tightened some, and Loki could feel himself wishing control over his body so he could lean into her touch. “I only wish that I could end his suffering.”
“He will heal, mother,” Thor said and the conviction in his voice was enough to make Loki want to cry, because even though he wanted to believe it so badly, he knew that it would never happened, because he was too damaged and broken. But Thor believed it, so Loki could pretend. “I know that he will. And we will be there for him. I will not abandon him again.”
And Loki knew that he wouldn’t, not ever.
“He will never be the same, Thor,” Mother spoke. The pain was evident; Loki could feel it even in his state, so he knew that Thor could, too. “Whatever happened to him … it broke him, traumatised him. We must be patient and accept who he has become now,” Her grip on his arm tightened once more, as though she could feel him pull from sleep, as though she could feel the swirling of emotions that were starting to take over again. She was right – she was always right. “I need not have to ask, but promise me that you’ll never leave him, Thor. Promise me that you’ll protect him and save him from himself should he not find his way. I cannot –” Frigga stopped abruptly, and Loki could hear an intake of breath, as though she could not even say the words that were on the tip of her tongue. His hand twitched, sleep surrendering to his will, relinquishing its grip from him. “I cannot bear to lose him again. I will not survive it.”
Shifting his head some, Loki buried his nose in the crook of Thor’s neck. It calmed him, relaxed him, helped him process what was being said better. He did not wish to open his eyes, did not wish to see the look of worry on their faces, the tears that no doubt stood in their eyes. Thor’s arms around him tightened, drawing him closer. Thor rocked him gently, as though hoping to lull him back to sleep. “On my life, brother, I promise to keep you from harm. You will get better, you will get past this. I promise you,” He whispered and, for a moment, for that one moment, Loki believed him, too.