One month later.

It was a warm and beautiful day near the end of May, four weeks after the raid in the night that had thrown the life of the school into chaos. Much had been healed since then; the front wall of the girls' dormitory had been repaired, along with the cracked and shattered tiles from where the helicopters had set down upon the school grounds. People, too, had healed since then; most of the students had suffered no worse than a few sprains or bruises, and shaken nerves that the forceful rebuff of the raid had done much to bolster. The return of Xavier to the school, and the X-Men, also did as much to soothe the frightened students as the ripening green and softly blooming heat of the oncoming summer.

The sun was lowering, but the soft humidity in the air made it prone to hold its warmth, and Loki was glad to be back in his Asgardian form for it. The effects of the serum had faded over time, as Xavier had promised, and he could shift skins with ease once more. He had become much more comfortable with his Jotun skin over the past few months - and even more so the past few weeks - but today, for this, he wanted to be in his Aesir seeming.

The fine weather was especially welcome, for today the last monday of May was a festal day - Memorial Day, the others called it. Mostly it seemed to be taken as an excuse to take the day off from class and from teaching duties, to pour out of the stuffy halls and dormitories and lounge around on the lush greens, basking in the sun. Portable outdoor stoves and ovens were being set up, too; apparently this holiday had a feasting component to it as well, which seemed amusingly Asgardian to Loki.

He had a good view of the festivities from his current perch - the top of the lecture hall, a small flat plateau at the very pinnacle of the arching dome. There were no stairs or maintenance hatchways up this high, making it a difficult vantage to reach for those without extensive ladders - or the power of air-walking. (Or teleportation, or flight, which actually included a fair amount of the student body.) Right now, though, he had the place to himself - with one exception.

"Are you sure?" Kurt asked, his voice soft with concern. "I can go back down, if you'd rather be alone for this. It is a ceremony of your people, after all."

"No," Loki said. "No, you can stay. -Please," he added.

Kurt nodded wordlessly and sat down to perch on the edge of the dais, watching quietly. Loki found himself drawing support from his presence even so - just knowing that he was not entirely alone.

He stood facing east so that the setting sun was behind him, casting a long shadow across the roof. Before him, the eastern sky was already darkening to twilight, the horizon vanishing into powder-soft blues and greys.

Loki held out one hand and sent his thoughts down into the atrium below, where he had spent so many hours lecturing, teaching, performing to the students here. He called forth the image of Yggdrasil that he had cast many times, its shimmering twisting form hanging half-manifest in the air even once he had stopped maintaining the illusion. That was often the way of it, with images of the Tree; they tended to take on a life and substance of their own, since in a way they were always there, in every place, simply waiting to be revealed by the right eyes.

This time he kept going, not stopping the growth of the illusory Tree until it reached the pinnacle of the dome and pushed right on through the roof. The result was a shimmering, ghostly branch of the Tree that sprouted before him on the roof like a shrub; under the direction of his magic, Winter passed to Spring all at once. Colorless flowers bloomed and faded, delicate leaves unfurled from every twig, and at last the swelling calix nestled at the heart of the branch opened and gave a shimmering globe of white light into his hands.

Loki reached out and took the globe in both hands, hovering just centimeters above the skin of his palms. He released the spell and the rest of the Tree faded away into glitter, but the globe remained, pulsing white and perfect in his hands.

He took a deep breath and shut his eyes, and summoned his earliest memories.

Warmth, golden, light, softness, dark and light, dark and light, golden hair curled in his fist, wide-arched corridors, decorated ceiling so far over his head, the sweep and fall of skirts, fall, cry, unfair, Mother, gentle melodic humming, sweet smell of perfume, softness of her hand, the shape of her face, Mother, her smile, the color of her eyes, Mother Mother Mother -

Once he had started he found he could not stop; it was like opening a floodgates inside him, bursting forth with the force of hundreds of years of pent-up emotion. He had guarded himself against the remembering for so long that the pain of letting-go, the pain of unclenching himself from around the memories was almost as great as the loss itself had been. But this was what was needed, he knew, as much as he shied away from that knowing. The letting-go.

As the memories poured through him, chaotic and unstoppable, he found his mind suddenly and strangely clear - a pool of calm deep water inexplicably found between two rushing currents. He found that he was even able to shape words to the occasion, to speak them out in clear and steady voice from his heart.

Mother, he called into the nothingness. Today, I remember you.

They say this is a day for honoring sacrifice, but I do not honor your sacrifice. It was not your death that saved the Realms, it was your life. Your strength of will, your bravery, your wisdom and power. I will not honor your sacrifice because that would be to say that your death was necessary, that your death had purpose, and that is a lie so vile that even I spit out the taste of it.

No good has been brought to the universe through your death. The worlds are poorer without the wealth of your wisdom. The worlds are darker without the light of your beauty. The worlds are colder without the warmth of your kindness.

But they are still there. Because of your triumph, your great victory, the Tree still stands. Because you lived, the sun still rises; and so long as the sun rises, new life is born, new beauty can grow. Because you loved me, because you took me in, I am alive. I am your son. I live, and every day that I live, I will strive to be a son who would make you proud.

He opened his eyes at last, and a choked half-laugh gurgled up from his throat. Because the glowing sphere of light in his hands, the one born of his own magic and infused with his own memories, was not the vivid green of his own magic. It was blue, pure and clear, the exact shade of his mother's seidr that he had never been able to perfectly mimic.

He took a deep breath, filling his lungs past the burning in his throat, and tipped his head up to the sky. There was no funeral boat, no archers to loose the flame-arrows, but he needed them not; when he held up his hands and opened his palms, the bright ball of magic and memories took flight from his hands like a bird, upwards and away into the sky.

Mother, I love you.

Mother, I will not forget you.

Mother, good-bye.

With his head tilted upwards, the tears did not fall. He stayed where he was, watching the bright globe of light rise towards the darkening sky until the first stars began to prick through; until even his sharp eyes could no longer distinguish the glimmering point of magic from the stars behind it.

Then he turned away. Kurt was still there, watching the sky along with him; when Loki moved, he looked up at him and smiled. A cool gust of air blew across them, bringing with it a snatch of song. Loki walked over to the edge of the roof beside him and looked down over the campus. A group of people had gathered on the open green below them, in the long shadow cast by the auditorium. A hundred points of light glimmered from the crowd, candle-flames held between careful hands, and Loki was reminded that many at the school had beloved dead, as well.

In this way as well as so many others, now, he was not alone; no matter how bereaved and lonely, he was no longer alone.

From elsewhere on the campus he caught a whiff of smoke, rising from the barbecues and grills that had been set out in the plaza: the smell of roasting kine, and pork, and lamb met his throat when he inhaled deeply. They were fitting, he thought, for funeral meats, the feast that the living partook in honor and celebration of the dead.

"Come," he said to Kurt, who stood up and dusted off the legs of his trousers. "Let us go down, and feast with the others."

~the end
(actually this time)