When Balder came back, he'd used his cloak as a makeshift water carrier. I lapped it up eagerly, glad to have something ordinary to do. After his cloak was empty, he rubbed my soaking nose. "You have no idea how good a creature you are," Balder whispered. "Though you're a fatalist."
I nuzzled him, still unable to find something to say. Everything that had happened had shrunk my list of living people I loved most in the world to a mere two. One of them was my father. The other was enveloping my head in his warm embrace.
A hawk landed nearby, and we both glanced over. Without warning, the bird erupted into my father. He joined Balder by my ears, scratching them the way he knew I liked to be scratched. "I'm sorry, kid," he admitted.
"Not your fault," I whimpered, rubbing up against them both. "Its not anybody's."
Balder simply stroked me in silence, apparently aware that I didn't want to blame anyone for this. It hurt too much to. Father, however, never minded expressing not-too-welcome opinions. "It's the majority of the Aesir's fault kid," he told me. "But it's not yours."
"I can't help but think there's some ways it is," I moaned.
"It's not," they both said simultaneously, neither stopping scratching me for a moment. They both seemed to know that I needed to feel them, to know they were there. They also seemed to realize I needed them both enough to ignore the fact that they usually fought like a cat and a dog.
"Loki, what are you doing here?" Balder asked.
"Did you think for a moment that I was going to sit back and watch my son be taken advantage of?" Father snarled. "I know I didn't do anything, but. . . ."
"Then you saw it, too."
"Saw what?" I asked softly. I needed some assurance that I'd done the right thing, especially after biting a man's hand off. Balder was the last man I expected that from, but right now I wanted to accept it from anyone.
"Saw that you weren't willing to expose them to Wyrd's wrath, no matter what it did to you," Balder told me softly. "No matter what, you love them."
"It was stupid, but you were determined," Father admitted. "I can't convince you when you're as determined as you were."
"There's a fine line between stupidity and nobility, Loki," Balder announced softly.
"Call it what you will," Father grumbled. He continued to scratch my ears; Balder my neck. "At least you stood behind yourself. . . . From my stoic of a son, that's the best I can ask. You're more honest than I ever will be. It'll be a virtue in the end."
"Even if they fear you," Balder added.
"I did try to scare them more than once," I admitted, rubbing up against them. I let the tears out then, something I had sworn at fifteen I would never do again. "Is this goodbye?"
"No!" they both exclaimed simultaneously. "It's probably the only time we'll be here together, but it's far from the end of us being here for you," Balder added. "We don't get along that well, as you've noticed."
I nodded, nuzzling them both softly and licking them, squeezing all the emotion I could out of the moment. "I love you both."
"We love you," Balder whispered. "I'll see you in a week or two, okay?" He turned to my father. "Loki, do you want me to wait in the boat for you?"
Father nodded, and he walked off. Then the Trickster turned back to me. "I'm sorry, kid," he muttered.
"About. . . ?"
"Everything. I wish it didn't have to be this way, and maybe it didn't. I dunno, and I guess we never will. Maybe it was me, maybe it was you, maybe it was Odin, maybe it was the Norns. I dunno that either, and I'm afraid of the answer. But I'll miss coming home to you on the porch."
I nuzzled him, ignoring the fact that he admitted to being afraid of something. "I love you, Papa," I told him, using the name from my puppyhood.
"I love you, too, kid," the Mischief-Maker whispered, hugging my neck. I felt tears- the only tears I ever knew my father to cry. Then he followed Balder to the ship.
Both of them had precious little time to be true to their promise, and I had precious little time to promise them it would pass in return, because it didn't. I said the beginning of my downfall was the beginning of Father's as well, and he managed to drag a not entirely unwilling Balder down with him. They visited me occasionally for about two-hundred years- a short time for an immortal.
But I'll see them again at the Ragnarok, and the first words from my lips will be that I still love them.
. . . . And who knows; Father often said the Norns might be wrong. . . .

(Whew. . . . finished. I'm not sure whether to moan or express joy at this. I loved writing this, but I was kinda ready for it to end. I want to thank everyone who reviewed it, and if you have any further comments about revision I'd appreciate it. You all are awesome! I'm also starting Dark Fate, which will chronicle Loki's downfall. I'd love it if you checked that out!)