Author's Notes: All characters in this fic are, in slightly different forms, copyright the Norse Mythology (No! Loki's mine! I want him!). For all of you who don't know anything about Norse Myths, Aesir is the race of Gods, and Asgard's the place they live. I'm really proud of this thing, even though its taken me FOREVER to finish the first chapter. Unless lots of people review, which has never happened, the next chapter will go up…whenever I get through the eight different projects I'm SUPPOSED to be working on (hehe).

Isn't that strange? When writers are procrastinating writing, they…write.  Anyway, you know the drill. You read, you review, I don't send Loki after you. By the way, probably expect a higher rating some time later, if I do decide to continue this madness…er, story. PLEASE critique me. Please? Oh, and I went back and noticed some mistake, so this chapter has been edited.

Chapter 1

Alive

"It is doubly pleasing to trick the trickster" Jean de La Fontaine

            An unearthly glow bathed the room, though it did not touch the darkest corners, splaying shadows across the walls and ceiling. It lit the face of the man who stared so intently into it, illuminating a brow furrowed in concentration. Lips moved silently, as though in some ancient incantation, but no audible sound emerged. A shadow crossed the face, darkening the features and giving them a malevolent cast. The smile the lips had formed took on a darker twist, closer to a smirk than any gentler expression. The head swayed in time and occasionally the eyes closed, as though caught in the rapture of the silent prayer that poured from its lips.

            The shadows, too, shifted eerily, as though stirring in response to some outside stimulus. The glow cast over the room, all the more obvious because of the sheer darkness of the night, did nothing to slow their movements. The form turned its head a little, letting the light flash off of unnatural copper red hair and ears pierced multiple times, little hoops of gold that glinted even in minimal light. It smiled into—no, at—the shadows. Eyes that were at once mocking and cynical matched that smile, and this time, it was no trick of the light. Those eyes revealed the true nature of their owner, and it was a nature with little humanity in it.

            The owner of those eyes turned back to the source of the light and touched two fingers to it, in a token obeisance. The glass that met his fingers was as hard and unyielding as it had always been. It was smudged from many such touches, but the words behind it were still legible. As the figure seated next to it touched a key, its light was extinguished and the young man closed his eyes, his lips still moving. The moon, emerging from behind a cloud, provided an alternative source of illumination, displaying the headphones perched atop copper hair.

            He had once been called Loki bobbed his head in time with the rhythm of the Savage Garden song he listened to, mouthing the words, his mind off in another dimension. The computer at which he sat, legs curled beneath him, was one of the newest models, a beautiful sculpted tribute to the powers possessed by engineers and designers. Even if they have little magic, one cannot help but feel that in many ways, they make up for it. Loki touched his keyboard possessively, stroking the silky keys.

            No touch of the caffeinated drinks or sugar-filled chocolate he lived on now touched it. It was almost as new as the day he had purchased it. It rested on a desk of the finest wood, one that looked out of place in the apartment where the Trickster now spent his days. Take the room he now resided in, which passed for both bed and computer room. The floor was unrecognizable as such, covered as it was by an assortment of comic books, unwashed clothes and dishes, candy wrappers and soda bottles carelessly tossed aside when he had finished with them. The computer desk was the only spotless place in the room, an island of cleanliness, isolated from the world surrounding it. Even the bed was covered with books, clothes and one long, sharp ceremonial dagger.

            I've come down in the world. Loki laughed outright at that, the sound filling the room. It was a soft laugh; almost hypnotic in the soothing quality it held. There were many who had been entranced by a single laugh from those dark, full lips. But then, it was a strong human man or woman who was not hypnotized merely by the sight of the Trickster in his current form. Dark strands of copper red hair—silky in a way that artificial moisteners could never achieve—fell across a face that would have done Shakespeare's Puck proud. High cheekbones and a slender, aquiline nose, coupled with dark mahogany eyes and full, promising lips had overwhelmed common sense many a time.

            Loki rose, bare feet kicking aside the junk that lay in his path. He stretched once, a yawn touching his lips as he started to try and make his way across the floor. He noted with amusement that below the top layer of junk was a very thick, comfortable carpet. If he hadn't been standing on it, he would never have known. He stepped around a copy of a racy romance novel, carelessly kicking aside a movie he didn't remember buying.

            The body that did these seemingly normal actions, though, did them with such a grace and lithe ease that each action seemed as graceful and flowing as any dancer's onstage moves. Loki's body, in many ways, fulfilled the promises made by the face. He was slender and shorter than average, though the dark red shirt he wore was tight across the shoulders and stomach. He moved like a dancer or an acrobat, each move calculated for its style and aestheticism. Muscle tightened, then loosened, with each step he took. In some respects, it was much like watching a panther walk, muscle and danger inherent in each step, as well as animal magnetism.

            Loki reached the bed and climbed onto it, not even bothering to slide out of the skintight blue jeans he wore even around the house. He looked at the state of the bed with annoyance. Oh, in Odin's name… With an absent wave of one hand, the bed was clear, and the junk lay neatly piled on the floor. He would deal with it in the morning.

            Perhaps it is time to take a lover for more than one night. Preferably, one who knows something of the arcane arts of cooking— he paused to grimace with distaste—and cleaning. Definitely someone who knows much of cleaning. This place is starting to decompose. Loki sighed and leaned back into the embrace of silken sheets and a velvet bed comforter. It was, perhaps, too hot for the velvet, but he felt a need for the soft caress of it against his skin. He suddenly felt pleased that none of his brethren knew of his current state of living. Even for someone so notorious for his scorn of other's opinions, he didn't really want to caught acting so…human. But what is better? To be down here, where the opportunities for mischief are so plentiful one barely needs exert oneself or there, where I must tolerate the hot breath of Odin down my neck continually?

            Loki stared up at the ceiling of the small, cramped bedroom and tried to convince himself that his way was the best. After all, it was true that the world of humans was rife with opportunities for mischief and trickery and often on a grander scale than he had ever managed in Asgard. He smirked to himself, remembering that little trick with the televangelist and then there was that little embarrassing secret that had slipped out about a prominent politician well on the road to the presidency. No, there was no denying that he enjoyed himself. And yet…

            There is no amusement in tricking mortals. That was the crux of the matter. No matter how grand or elaborate he got, they were still simply…humans. Now tricking Odin, staying one step ahead of Thor's hammer…ah, that was a…what is the chemical the humans blame for their excitement? Adrenalin, that was it. It was an adrenalin rush, laughing at all of them, so haughty in their righteous wrath. A pang of something that could only be described as homesickness passed over Loki, so strong that it made him clench his fists. With a snarl of anger, he raised his hands. The pile of junk exploded, flames rushing to consume it as they fed on the strength of his rage.

            For a moment, the heat felt good, beating against his skin, heightening his passions. Flames sprang up around the room, melting the plates, food, comics and anything else that got in the way of his anger. Loki laughed; this time, though, there was nothing hypnotic or soothing about it. This was The Trickster, in his full-blown persona as such, maliciousness printed across his features, a mocking, insane smile stretching his face into a twisted parody of the human he pretended to be.

            But he could not maintain such a display of passion for long and slowly, one by one, the fires went out and he slumped back into the bed, feeling cold and emotionally drained. He stared at the wreckage of his room, the carpet matted with ash. Well, that solved the problem of having to clean up. He smiled mirthlessly, and slumped back into the bed. He wished he dared pound the beds and rail against the Fates, as so many mortals did. It certainly seemed to help them. But when one knew the Fates on a personal level, ranting against them only made them slightly annoyed. And even Loki, who dared Odin's anger, knew it was a bad idea to piss off a Fate.

            I can't go back. He had put off thinking about his home in the halls of Asgard for over a hundred years, because it brought unpleasant memories home to roost. They are rotting from the inside and they know it not. Perhaps it was the steady decline of worshippers. Perhaps it was simply that battles were no longer fought on the criteria of a warrior's courage and strength, but rather which country had the biggest guns. But there was no denying that the hall of Valhalla sat in disuse, that Thor's courage had turned to a temper and that Odin buried himself in his always-filled horn of mead and memories of past battles.

            And only Loki saw it. Those who he had tried to speak to about it had laughed at him, thinking it only some trick of his. Asgard was no longer the home of the noble and courageous, but of the spiteful and…dared he even think it? Why not? I dared much more before. Asgard is the home of the petty, of those who think only of themselves, much like that Greek harlot, Hera. Lot shook his head and turned over to bury his head in his pillow. As much as he hated to admit it, much which had been good in the world had started to slowly leak away with the downfall of Asgard.

            Bravery. Honor. Responsibility. Family love. The community above oneself. Duty.  It shouldn't have upset him so much…after all, many of those values, he himself had worked to undermine. He never would have believed that he would have reason to regret the downfall of Asgard, not when he himself had worked so hard to bring it down. But something about seeing Odin brought so low made him turn his face away in shame. He who is my blood brother… even I, who mocked him and hurt him so many times, even I mourn his fall. No. ONLY I. They are blind to how far they have fallen.

            Loki grabbed the sheet, jerking it around his body with angry ferocity. That, coupled with inhuman strength, tore it and he stared at the half a sheet in his hand, his expression comical in its shock. He dropped it after a moment, and curled up in a fetal ball on the bed. Just forget. Sleep. Forget. It was a mantra that had worked many times, when his thoughts had tended in disturbing directions. He closed his eyes and willed it to take effect. Forget. Just…forget.

            And it might have worked, as it had done so many times before, washing away the excess emotions and homesickness that sometimes plagued Loki in the dark of night. It might have soothed him to sleep…had not something else decided to interfere.

            The wind outside of Loki's small apartment swirled intensely, tossing loose garbage against the windows. They pounded against the windows and Loki moaned, pulling his pillow over his head. Outside, the streetlights flickered once, as though some deity had flicked a gigantic light switch. Those few who were desperate enough or simply hopeless enough to be out on the street at this time of night huddled together, taking comfort in each other's presence. The wind that blew was a warm, soothing wind, wholly unnatural for this time of night. It flowed around and over buildings, loosing none of its strength. As it blew, it bought with it a sense of comfort, a sweetness that touched the soul.

            Leaning against a lamppost, a girl with dark hair felt the wind as the comforting arms of the mother she had never known. In an ally, a druggie felt it stir his long hair and for the first time in years, breathed without the longing for his White Beauty tearing through his gut like fire. Walking along a street, a mugger felt the wind like a reprieve against his very existence, and he whimpered, running through the streets, trying to escape the sweet, sad touch the wind bought with it.

            But curled in his bed, with all the windows shut and locked, Loki only heard the wind. He snarled angrily, burrowing deeper under the covers. It was an incessant pounding against his window, great gusts of wind slapping against the glass like waves at high tide. The more he tried to ignore it, the more insistent it seemed to get, demanding his attention. Loki waved one hand, commanding it to go away. It did not obey him, and that should have alerted him to how unnatural this wind really was. But at 1:30 AM, even the God of Mischief wasn't too awake.

            But he most definitely noticed when the window shattered and a warm wind swirled triumphantly into his room. It was soft and silky against his skin, and all together too aware. As Loki sat up, cursing angrily and rubbing at his eyes, the wind increased suddenly to hurricane velocity, pinning Loki helplessly against the headboard of the bed. He snarled viciously, but for the first time in two centuries, The Trickster was held against his will. Slowly, the debris the wind had picked up seemed to shift and slowly it seemed to form an outline of a man. The outline started to glow, and this time it was no electric light from a computer monitor. This was the radiance possessed only by a divine creature and Loki put up one arm to shield his eyes from the glow more in fear of whatever should emerge from it than from a worry about the damage it would do to his eyes. But one part of him couldn't help but hope…. Odhinn? Are you again the warrior, brother?

            "You have fallen far indeed, Trickster." The glow dimmed, then died, revealing who stood in it's wake. The voice that spoke was filled with overtones, a beautiful melodic voice any singer would have killed for, a voice that held infinite sadness but forgave despite it. Loki had not heard that voice in millennia upon millennia, but he could not have forgotten it. Nor had he forgotten the form that stood in his bedroom. Even in human form, Baldur was the most beautiful of the Gods, and while some of that could be attributed to the air of innocence and gentle patience that surrounded him, at least some of it was due to Baldur's chosen physical form.

            Gorgeous blonde curls and a face with a strong chin, beautiful intense blue eyes and skin so bronzed and smooth it could only belonged to a God; all of these were characteristics of a man many Greek sculptures sought to imitate. A tall, muscular body, with broad shoulders rippling with muscles and smooth legs that would have impressed a Spartan runner completed Baldur, the God of innocence and light, the most beautiful of all Gods.

            Loki flinched, his very human heart beating hard in his chest. The last time Loki had laid eyes on Baldur, he had…I tricked his brother into killing him. Somehow, I think even the sweetest and gentlest God will hold a grudge for that… "Baldur… I thought you were…" He said, stopping as he realized he was at a loss for words. Somewhere along the line, Loki had lost control and he had no way to regain it. Baldur just shook his head slowly, blue eyes twinkling as he paced across the floor, heading toward Loki. No flecks of ash clung to the woven sandals he wore. Loki felt petrified and angry with himself for being so. Have I fallen as far as the rest of the Aesir, that I cannot even muster my tongue to my defense?  

            Baldur stood next to the bed now, and he tilted his head to one side, lifting one white-blonde eyebrow in a questioning expression. Come now, Trickster. What fear controls thee? Loki flinched a little at the probing voice in his head. That was what he had always hated about Baldur; the deity always knew far more than he should. He had also been the only God ever able to make Loki feel guilty. So, then, sweet Baldur, you stood not so tall when your brother's dart pierced your heart, did you? Loki thought, snarling softly, remembering how sweet it had been to direct Hodur's hand so that the dart of mistletoe, the only plant not sworn not to harm Baldur, pierced his great heart. And they all blamed the blind brother. Nary a one of them thought even I was a cruel enough to kill the 'most beautiful of them all'. Fools!

            That felt better, and he stared at Baldur with defiance in his eyes. The brown of his eyes had faded and now they burned a dark red, giving his features a reddish cast that made him look even more maniacal. Baldur looked at him for a long moment and Loki met his gaze. Baldur lowered his eyes slowly, and the voice in Loki's head murmured, I had hoped you would have stopped hating me, Trickster. Loki blinked once, startled out of his gloating by the wistfulness in those words. Hate? The idea made him want to laugh.

            "I don't hate you." He said dismissively, waving the idea away with an elegant hand. "Then why?!" Baldur's tone was agonized, and he raised his head to Loki, his face contorted with an expression Loki had never seen on the god who had always been smiling, always willing to forgive every slight. Suddenly, his reasoning seemed just a little bit paltry.

"Because…because…" But before he could muster a suitable defense, Baldur leaned forward and put one finger to his lips. The god's smile was back, gentle and forgiving, with only a trace of the childish wistfulness Loki had heard earlier.

            "No, Trickster. It is I who am in the wrong. It is your nature and no god can deny the nature he is created with. But I have come a long way to speak with you and I have little time." Baldur's voice was back to its normal, melodic tones and Loki felt oddly comforted. Somehow, he always manages to soothe even those who would be his enemies. No wonder all the world seemed to weep when he died. Well, almost all, anyway…

            "How DID you get here? I thought Hel kept you close in her cold embrace." Loki asked, lounging indolently back on the bed. Now that they had gotten past the little matter of Baldur's death, Loki's incessant curiosity had sprung back full force. "I am dead, still, if that is what you wish to know. But we are in the world of humans, Midgard, and in this world, the spirits of those dead may emerge on certain days…" Baldur raised an eyebrow at Loki, almost chastising. Loki blinked at him, then cursed and dived out of his bed with a curse, and snatched the calendar on the dresser, flipping through it and locating the date.

            "Samhain. Oh, dear gods… I thought that was a druidic holiday, not…" He trailed off and looked up at Baldur, who was laughing heartily. "It is simply the night the spirits roam, Loki, whether you call it Samhain or All Hallows Eve, or whatever other ridiculous names have been dreamed up for it since. It has been so since the day the world was created and will be so until Ragnarok." Baldur said, with such amusement that Loki's rage again boiled up. Baldur seemed to feel the increased tension in the room, because stopped his laughter and his beautiful features took on a more serious cast.

            "Come, Trickster, come and listen. I have only until the first light of dawn to speak with you." Baldur's voice was gentle and soothing, and almost against his will, Loki walked over to him. Gracefully, he claimed a spot on the edge of the bed and then, ruining the image, sprawled back, hands behind his head. Baldur smiled a little at him.

            "All right, speak. I would not make Hel wait to take you in her arms again." Loki said, his voice full of withering contempt. It didn't seem to affect Baldur at all, if indeed he noticed it. "Loki, how long has it been since you have returned to the halls of Asgard?" Baldur asked, his voice distant. Loki detected a hint of grief in his voice, but he shrugged dismissively. "About…two hundred and fifty years, perhaps? Does it matter? I hope you know it's changed a bit since the days of legend." Loki said, and this time the scorn in his voice was not for Baldur, but for the gods of old. "I know. That is what I wish to speak to you about. It has become worse, not better, since you started this self-imposed exile." Baldur was no longer looking at him, which was never a good sign. Since Baldur couldn't lie, anything that made Baldur nervous was probably bad news for Loki.

            "How much worse?" Loki asked, even though he knew it was foolish even to seem interested. Baldur, of the all the gods, is the only one who could make me override my common sense. Loki valued his common sense and his ability to keep his skin intact. "I can't even describe it. Come, Trickster, I will show you what has become of our beloved companions." Baldur reached for Loki's hand. What the—oh, no, no… I am not going to Asg—            Baldur's hand closed around Loki's and in a flash of light and gentle swirl of wind, they were gone.

            But they were not in Asgard. Confused, Loki looked around. They stood in the center of an upscale L.A. restaurant. He recognized it only because he had lived in LA when it had been founded. The flow of gossip, much of it malicious, was like music to the Trickster's ears, and he started to relax, taking in the waiters in their tuxes and the waitresses in their dresses. The smell of an assortment of delicacies caught his attention and he inhaled, reveling in the scent of garlic butter. He glanced at his companion, who was shaking his head slowly, as though condemning the men and women who sat there, dressed in their jewels and elegant satins. Loki smirked at him, sticking his foot out to trip a passing waiter.

            The startled man gasped as he went flying through the air, hitting the ground as his tray of goodies went flying through the air. People shrieked or grimaced and a man who was probably a restaurant manager ran into the crowd, grabbing the waiter and cursing at him in French. Loki smirked, snatching a shrimp out of the air and downing it whole. Baldur just rolled his eyes, and sighed, looking so exasperated Loki had to laugh. Is it just possible that you might be able to keep your mind on the business at hand, Trickster? Baldur's voice was not stern, but rather resigned. Loki raised an eyebrow. You still haven't told me why we're here.

            Baldur looked like he was tempted to reply, but he thought better of it and took Loki's hand in his. Together, they walked across the restaurant, invisible to sight. People were often startled when Loki "accidentally" bumped into them. Once or twice, they looked around wildly, not seeing anyone close enough to touch them. One old man simply muttered an apology to the air. Loki barely noticed when they had arrived at their destination, he was so busy snatching people's wallets and dropping them into other people's pockets, all without either party noticing.

            TRICKSTER!! Loki jumped, and turned on Baldur, shooting him a glare that could have killed, if Baldur hadn't already been dead. Whaaaat? He realized he was whining, but he disliked being startled. Look. Loki looked in the direction Baldur indicated and blinked, taking in the scene before him with some confusion.           

            The woman who sat—no, lounged—in the chair, elegantly sipping her wine, looked much like many of the restaurants other patrons. She was, perhaps, a little younger, appearing only in her twenties and she was by far one of the most gorgeous. Blonde tresses fell across a face so gorgeous it didn't need makeup to amplify its features. Full, sumptuous lips purred each word, and her dinner companions, a handsome young man not yet out of his teens, who sported an adoring look and an elderly matron sporting more jewels than Zales, hung on to everything she said. The woman was now imparting some juicy bit of gossip, and her long, red nails made each gesture negligently.

            Loki gaped as the woman laughed, a tinkling sound that was cloying and empty. T-that can't be. He knew that face, even placed in a fragile, human form. As the woman reached for her glass and sipped, calculatedly making sure her diamond rings caught the light and flashed, Loki stared, trying to find in those empty blue eyes a trace of the woman he saw in her face. He tentatively touched her mind with his own and was flooded with trivial concerns. If he hadn't been so dumbfounded, he would have done something nasty to this woman just because it would have fun to watch her perfectly structured life fall apart.

            Look deeper, Trickster. Normally, Loki wouldn't have obeyed anyone's commands, much less Baldur's, but he was so deep in shock that he simply did as asked, pushing past the top layer to dive deeper into her mind and there he found what—no, who—he had been looking for. But what he found, deep in the depths of the mind of that blonde beauty made him throw back his head and howl. Glass shattered, in the windows, in the finely made goblets and in the wine bottles.

            To the skies above, Loki The Trickster screamed one word

FREYA!!

            He was back in his room, curled up on the bed and slamming his fingers into the bed, shredding the expensive black velvet of the comforter. By the Thor's hammer, by Odhinn's blood…what's happened to her? She's suppressed herself so deeply there is almost nothing left of the Freya I knew. She is…human. He shuddered. While Loki liked human society, enjoying the freedom it gave him, the idea of Freya the bold, Freya the beautiful, lowering herself to that level made him want to be sick. It also made him want to kill someone. Sinking his head into his hands, he rocked back and forth.

            Do you see? They have fallen so far they no longer know they are divine. This is what I wished you to see, Trickster. Loki snarled and batted viciously at Baldur. The tall god sidestepped the intended blow with ease. What does this have to do with me? I left them! Loki ignored the mental image the denial bought with it, of Freya, her blue eyes empty as she sipped at her full wine glass. I can't help them! I am Loki, the Trickster, not Thor or Hermod. Loki said it more to convince himself than for Baldur's sake, though he had no doubt the other god heard every word of it.  Baldur shook his head silently. Still not convinced. With a gentle sigh, he reached down and scooped up Loki in his arms like a sack of grain. Before Loki could protest to the insult to his pride, they were again gone.

            Loki's first impression of this new environment was of hundreds of voices raised in screams. For a moment, he wondered if he was in the midst of the massacres. But slowly, as he blinked once or twice—to clear the smoke from his eyes—he realized the sounds were not indicative of pain, but of encouragement. As he glanced around them, he was assaulted by the hot stink of sweat and the smell of spilled beer. He grimaced in disgust; no matter how long he lived in their world, he still wasn't used to how much these mortal stank.

            The area was packed. That was what he noticed first, the claustrophobic press of bodies. He shuddered a little, edging closer to Baldur. He noticed that he was standing, and no longer being held by the stronger god. Good. I can't believe he did that in the first place. Loki tried to feel outraged, but mostly he felt… upset. He couldn't remember the last time he had been taken by surprise. It left him feeling off-balance, and that was not a feeling he liked.

            To try to get his mind off how quickly Baldur had turned the tables on him, Loki scanned the area. He finally pinpointed his location and then he shook his head, bewildered. Why are we in a wrestling arena? Loki turned to glance oddly at his companion, and found that Baldur's eyes were closed and he seemed to be mourning. Look closer, Trickster.

            With a sigh, and a muttered oath, Loki turned his eyes to the ring. He quickly dismissed the first wrestler as unimportant, despite the fact that he was a heavily built man with dreadlocks and a sneer that must have taken years of practice. The second one, though… Loki felt his heart beat faster. The second wrestler was a giant of a man, with a snarled mess of red hair. He had a long beard of red hair, as well; He was continually trying to keep it out of his opponents reach. He was belted into a costume with a hammer emblem across its chest, and as Loki watched, he picked up his opponent, and with a roar, dropped him and leaped onto him. Loki moved to touch his mind, but he was stopped by a touch on his shoulder. Questioningly, he turned to glance at Baldur.

            You already know what you will find. Loki stared helplessly as the redheaded man was declared the winner. That is Thor!! He thought, watching as the strongest of the Gods pumped his hand in the air in the sign for victory. It was Thor. Now it is simply a wrestler known as Hammerhead. Baldur turned mournful eyes on Loki. They have all fallen, Loki. Each and every one of the Aesir, every one of the old Gods. Only you can be human and still retain knowledge of your godhood. Baldur's intensely blue eyes stared relentlessly into Loki's, asking, telling, begging.

            Loki looked away. Why? Why have I not fallen as they have? He asked partially because his curiosity demanded to know, partially so he could avoid answering the plea in Baldur's eyes. Baldur dropped his own gaze, and when Loki changed a look at him, he was smiling serenely again. This is not the place to discuss such things. Baldur reached over and took Loki's hand gently in his. There was something in his eyes; almost an apology. Loki looked away, and then they were gone.

            Loki glanced around as they appeared at a small, outdoor café. Only a few people sat there now, sipping frozen cappuccinos as proof against the heat of the day. On either side of the tables that were strewn artfully around the plaza were two miniature waterfalls, each artfully designed to resemble the real thing. Baldur had chosen a seat next to one of these, on a stone bench carved artfully with graceful swans and beautiful cherubs. Loki snorted disdainfully and clambered up to sit on the edge of the waterfall. It was a precarious perch, but he curled up on the smooth stone with catlike grace.

            "Well? I'm supposing that you're going to tell me what you came to tell me now." He spoke out loud. It was the more comfortable form of communication. He wondered when that had happened. Oh, not everything has a deeper symbolism. It's just easier to lie when you speak out loud. He smiled softly. That was certainly the truth. Of course. The one person I try not to lie to is myself. "Yes…the reason is twofold. One, because you were not in Asgard at the time of the Fall and two, because you are the Trickster." Baldur's speaking voice was a gentle, melodic bass designed to soothe the listener. Loki closed his eyes. "Speak on, Wise One…" He muttered, sarcastically. But it wasn't loud enough to interrupt Baldur's story.

            "The Fall, as I'm sure you've guessed, is my name for the event you've just witnessed. Odin and all of the Aesir, the Gods of legend, became spiteful, petty and easily driven to rage. Slowly, each and every one of them fell from the halls of Asgard to the Earth below, forgetting their divinity and wandering, lost, as mortals." Baldur shook his head, as though still unable to believe the events he described had actually happened. Loki, for once, empathized with him. It was almost unbelievable, that in so short a time they could have descended to such depths.

            "Its seems, as humans can gain divinity, so too can Gods lose it. But you…you were not infected by the poison that spread through the halls of Asgard. It seeped into their veins, a slow but fatal toxin, turning their thoughts against each other. They fell so low that Thor himself turned his hammer on Odin, his father." Baldur stopped, as though the words had taken something from him, and he had to pause to regain his strength. Loki stared at him, eyes hard, but heart fluttering in chest. …No.

 "How?" Loki asked, suddenly. He had to know what the cause of those two inseparable companions turning on each other. Even I knew that I could not break those two apart, father and son who loved truly and deeply. How could they have changed so much?

            "A drunken brawl…well, no matter. Something…shattered, in that moment. I cannot describe it, only that even in the depths of Hel's cold embrace, I felt The Fall, and my heart broke as never before. All the Aesir, Loki, all! The halls of Asgard are deserted! Sleipnir's neighs shatter the sky, hoping for his master's swift return. He does not understand. I do not understand. How could…how could they have fallen so low?" Much to Loki's embarrassment and annoyance, Baldur lowered his face and put his head in his hands, crying unashamedly. Loki looked away, pretending no relation to the crying spirit.

            "Oh, shut up." He said suddenly. Baldur looked up, startled from his tears. He stared at Loki, and for a minute, Loki could see the pain-lines etched into his still-beautiful features. They were deep, and long, as though an artist had carved them there using far too much pressure. The eyes were worse, speaking of more unhealed wounds than any being should have had to cope with. Loki recoiled, looking anywhere but Baldur's eyes. He turned to face the waterfall, eyes studying the small, multihued coins scattered in its bottom, while his mind tried to reconcile what he had just seen with his own opinion of Baldur.

            I am sorry, Trickster. I did not mean to…A pause, as though even Baldur wasn't precisely sure what he was apologizing for. Loki smiled contemptuously, brought back to himself by the very humbleness of Baldur's apology. Fine, so he is a fool in pain. That does not make him any less of a fool, in my eyes.

            "You were going to tell me why this Fall thing didn't effect me." Loki said, turned with lithe grace to face Baldur. The most beautiful God, for his part, once again looked serene and undisturbed. Baldur nodded, though he did not look at Loki as he spoke, as though afraid of what condemnation he would see in the Trickster's eyes. Looks like even Baldur's changed. He never would have feared my judgment before. This is one change I can enjoy, anyway.

            "Ah. Correct. You have always been the most human of the Gods, Loki. Things that for the others are great sins are the faults that make you…unique among the Gods." Baldur said, diplomatic as always.

            Hah. You mean, they make me The Trickster who is so evil that he thinks nothing of tricking one brother into killing the other, Loki thought proudly. Yes. That was what I meant, Baldur's voice whispered into his mind, and for the first time since this fiasco had started, he seemed amused. Loki considered glaring, but could not find anything to really be insulted about.

            "So let me get this straight. I haven't turned human and lost my powers because I really am petty and evil and I don't live in Asgard. Right?" Loki said. Baldur looked away, seeming embarrassed by hearing it put so bluntly. Loki smiled. Words were as much a weapon as any other, and one that was as subtle in its way as an assassin's knife…

            "Please, good Sirs, can you spare a couple of dollars?" The voice was stiff with disuse, and rough, probably from a lifetime of taking things that were better used to kill rats. Loki grimaced with disgust; he hated beggars with a passion. If they came near him, he normally made sure they regretted for the rest of their slimy lives. He raised his hand to do something interesting—like the give the old man a heart attack—when he saw Baldur's expression of horror and pity and the fact that his eyes were fixed unerringly on the old man.

            Loki's neck snapped around so fast, if he had been human, he would have been in the hospital for whiplash. The old man stared back at him, eyes empty except for the kind of desires that reduced men to beasts, thinking only of their own survival. But those eyes were a shade of blue never seen outside of perfectly made jewel and what Loki saw in that face, and those eyes made something inside him break, as he recognized the face behind the dirt, the face that did not belong on this twisted, fallen member of the species humanity.

NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

The cry rent the air and carried with it a love cleft, a love never admitted until now, when it saw the object of that emotion broken into something unrecognizable. People screamed as glass cracked and for miles around, things exploded, as the uncontrolled emotion of Loki, The Trickster washed over the city.

ODIN!!

…Brother…

            Loki opened his eyes, eyes that were filled with tears. He was sobbing as openly as Baldur now, but the flood of emotion had not stopped yet, and he was not embarrassed, not even when he realized the arms holding him tight were none other than Baldur. It had been bad with Freya and Thor, like a series of minor upsets, but in comparison  to Odin, they had been trivial indeed. Not Odhinn, who led the toast at Valhalla, Odin the strong and wise, the patriarch of Asgard. Loki's blood brother, who he hated and despised and loved and needed. He needed Odin to be there, needed him to stand strong, so that Loki could do what Loki did best, destroy. It was as though the world's very foundations had revealed themselves to be made of rotten wood.

            You had to see this. I am sorry, though, that I dared not warn you. You MUST restore them, Loki, Trickster! The fate of the race of the Aesir…Baldur raised Loki's chin with two gentle fingers… rests on your shoulders and in your hands.

            Yes. No. What Baldur asked was too much, but even villains can be heroes if they have no other choice in the matter. Loki nodded, once, roughly. What other choice was there? He could not live with the memory of that broken wreck where once there had been a proud warrior. I'll do it, he said, purely mentally. I swear by Thor's hammer and Odhann's eye. I will do it.

            Loki saw an expression come over Baldur's face, as it was bathed in light, of pure rapture, of a great burden being taken from his shoulders. He looked like a man who could go to his death in peace, content with knowing that all would be right with the world. He trusts me so much…but I don't even know how to do what I have promised.

            Loki looked down at his hand, composing a question in his mind. He noticed that the appendage was bathed in rays of golden light and he snapped up with whiplash-inducing speed for the second time that day. He was too late, of course. The area where a second ago, Baldur had sat, was empty except for the lances of light that coated it. Loki stared at it disbelievingly, and then sank back against the bed, staring at the open air.

"God Damnit!"

            A pause. Then the rest of the tenants of Loki's apartment building were treated to the sound of hysterical laughter, echoing eerily off the walls and only getting louder with each repetition.

The Trickster was alive again.