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Previous parts can be found here

“That didn’t end well.”

The man in the white make-up was staring with a look of deepest disgust at the bars of the holding cell in which he was currently locked. Loki had never come across someone whose very being screamed chaos as loudly as this one did, and he was utterly entranced. Silently, he stepped through the bars, invisible to mortals, and regarded the murderer in the rainbow-hued clothes.

“Well?” the man said, looking directly at him. “What do you want?”

Loki had the distinct impression that he might have been opening and closing his mouth like a fish for a moment, a distinctly unroyal activity, before he collected himself fully.

“You can see me,” he said, a firm statement that Loki was trying to convince himself of as much as confirm from him.

“Yeah,” he said, wiping his mouth in an oddly doglike movement and leaving a streak of red face paint reminiscent of blood on his hand. “What of it?”

Loki raised an eyebrow curiously.

“Just who exactly are you?” Loki asked.

The man grinned at him unnervingly, and had he been capable of being in danger of his life, Loki knew he would have found that a very threatening gesture.

“Wanna know how I got these scars?” he asked.

“No,” he answered, for once honestly.

“Well, that’s refreshing at any rate,” he said with a shrug. “What’s up with the getup?”

“As though you should talk,” Loki replied.

“True enough,” he said, “but even I know enough not to wear that hat. Seriously, there is a point where it’s too much, and you, Mr. Billygoat, have hit it.”

Loki raised an eyebrow at the mortal’s blunt assessment of his crown. He was considering killing the criminal, but a strange warning was pulling at the back of his brain.

“What? Too rude?” he said, snorting. “I get that a lot. Well, rarely from the same person twice, if you know what I mean, but I guess there must be something off-putting about me. Still, compared to a grown man who dresses as a giant bat, I think I’m doing okay.”

“Comparatively, possibly,” Loki said. “This is a very strange city.”

“True,” he said, smacking his lips and staring through the bars at the officers walking past, almost as though he were considering eating them. Loki noted they backed up and avoided eye contact, and for Gotham, that must have taken a lot. “I don’t suppose you could get me out of here, now could you, pal?”

“I am not your pal,” Loki said, saying each word distinctly.

“Teammate, then,” he said, shifting his gaze back to the other figure. “I see your kind once in a while. I don’t think anyone else here can, though. Probably think I’m bonkers.”

“Perhaps you are,” Loki suggested.

“Maybe,” the man said, tipping his head to one side like a curious dog again. “Or maybe you are. Or maybe the whole city is. I’m not sure, but whoever’s crazy, I just want to keep enjoying things.”

“Is that what the stunt with the boats and the bomb was about,” Loki asked.

“Well, yeah, it was fun,” the man said, laughing gleefully.

“And will anyone ever find out that the buttons were connected to their own ship?” Loki asked.

“Aw, well darn, now who told you that?” the man said, pouting.

“No one,” he said, “but it would have engendered the most chaotic outcome, so I assumed.”

The prisoner laughed again, and the officers nearby drew a little further back.

“Hey, you don’t happen to like magic by any chance, do you?” the man asked.

“More than you can probably guess,” Loki said with a smug smile.

“What do you say we have a little contest then?” he said, grinning again, what remained of his white paint cracking off in flakes. “If I can do a better trick than you, you let me out of here.”

“And if I win?” Loki said.

“Hmm, hadn’t considered that option,” the man said, looking thoughtful. “What do you want?”

“You tell me who you really are,” Loki said.

The man considered that for a moment, then nodded, saying, “Fair enough. And I won’t even lie. You first.”

Loki considered the multiple possible “tricks” he could play: making any of a number of horrifying beasts appear in the cell, producing fifty clones of himself, reversing the rotation of the earth. All of them seemed either boring or gauche. Finally, he settled for a small but effective bit of magic and began to cast a glamour.

In the middle of the cell, a tiny crack appeared in the floor. From it appeared the green leaves of a tiny plant. The man lay down full length on the cement and stared at it.

“Not bad,” he said.

“Not finished,” Loki replied.

The plant continued to grow, increasing in size, gaining leaves and buds, adding tendrils and branches, becoming wider and taller until the other man was forced to stand up, but still it kept growing. The plant filled the entire cell, vines coiling up the bars, green as thick as a jungle, each one laden with flowers about to burst open.

“How…?” the man said in astonishment, but Loki motioned for silence.

He moved his hands in a quick, deft movement, and all the buds opened at once, but these were like no other flowers anyone had seen. They screamed as they unfurled, each one producing the face of a ravening wolf snapping its jaws and spewing foam, their eyes wild. The man, surrounded by the creatures, dropped to the floor again in a protective crouch, but just as suddenly, the plant disappeared, leaving no trace that it had ever existed. Slowly, the cowering man lowered his arms from his face and stared up at Loki.

“Well, a card trick seems like kind of an anti-climax after that,” he said. “What was that?”

“I’m not sure,” Loki said, considering. “It just felt like the right thing to conjure up at the moment. I may have to try that again at some point. So, do you concede my victory or would you like to try your own?”

“Nah,” he said. “I’ll give you that one.”

“So, who are you? And no lies,” Loki added quickly. “I’m quite good at telling when they are spoken.”

“I’ll bet,” the man said, looked over shoulder at the police furtively, then motioned Loki closer. “C’mere. Nobody else can know.”

Loki realized there was nothing the mortal could actually do to him, but he still moved cautiously. The man cupped his hands together at Loki’s ear, and started to whisper.

“You wanna know who I am?” he said. “Look in the mirror. I’ve always been there.”

With that, he was suddenly gone, leaving Loki standing, still invisible, in the middle of a vacant cell. As the officers rushed up to the door with keys jangling, yelling and screaming, wanting to know what idiot had let the Joker slip though their fingers, Loki remained perfectly still wondering what all of it could mean.

Then he laughed, long and loud, and dissolved into ether.
“That didn’t end well.”

The man in the white make-up was staring with a look of deepest disgust at the bars of the holding cell in which he was currently locked. Loki had never come across someone whose very being screamed chaos as loudly as this one did, and he was utterly entranced. Silently, he stepped through the bars, invisible to mortals, and regarded the murderer in the rainbow-hued clothes.

“Well?” the man said, looking directly at him. “What do you want?”

Loki had the distinct impression that he might have been opening and closing his mouth like a fish for a moment, a distinctly unroyal activity, before he collected himself fully.

“You can see me,” he said, a firm statement that Loki was trying to convince himself of as much as confirm from him.

“Yeah,” he said, wiping his mouth in an oddly doglike movement and leaving a streak of red face paint reminiscent of blood on his hand. “What of it?”

Loki raised an eyebrow curiously.

“Just who exactly are you?” Loki asked.

The man grinned at him unnervingly, and had he been capable of being in danger of his life, Loki knew he would have found that a very threatening gesture.

“Wanna know how I got these scars?” he asked.

“No,” he answered, for once honestly.

“Well, that’s refreshing at any rate,” he said with a shrug. “What’s up with the getup?”

“As though you should talk,” Loki replied.

“True enough,” he said, “but even I know enough not to wear that hat. Seriously, there is a point where it’s too much, and you, Mr. Billygoat, have hit it.”

Loki raised an eyebrow at the mortal’s blunt assessment of his crown. He was considering killing the criminal, but a strange warning was pulling at the back of his brain.

“What? Too rude?” he said, snorting. “I get that a lot. Well, rarely from the same person twice, if you know what I mean, but I guess there must be something off-putting about me. Still, compared to a grown man who dresses as a giant bat, I think I’m doing okay.”

“Comparatively, possibly,” Loki said. “This is a very strange city.”

“True,” he said, smacking his lips and staring through the bars at the officers walking past, almost as though he were considering eating them. Loki noted they backed up and avoided eye contact, and for Gotham, that must have taken a lot. “I don’t suppose you could get me out of here, now could you, pal?”

“I am not your pal,” Loki said, saying each word distinctly.

“Teammate, then,” he said, shifting his gaze back to the other figure. “I see your kind once in a while. I don’t think anyone else here can, though. Probably think I’m bonkers.”

“Perhaps you are,” Loki suggested.

“Maybe,” the man said, tipping his head to one side like a curious dog again. “Or maybe you are. Or maybe the whole city is. I’m not sure, but whoever’s crazy, I just want to keep enjoying things.”

“Is that what the stunt with the boats and the bomb was about,” Loki asked.

“Well, yeah, it was fun,” the man said, laughing gleefully.

“And will anyone ever find out that the buttons were connected to their own ship?” Loki asked.

“Aw, well darn, now who told you that?” the man said, pouting.

“No one,” he said, “but it would have engendered the most chaotic outcome, so I assumed.”

The prisoner laughed again, and the officers nearby drew a little further back.

“Hey, you don’t happen to like magic by any chance, do you?” the man asked.

“More than you can probably guess,” Loki said with a smug smile.

“What do you say we have a little contest then?” he said, grinning again, what remained of his white paint cracking off in flakes. “If I can do a better trick than you, you let me out of here.”

“And if I win?” Loki said.

“Hmm, hadn’t considered that option,” the man said, looking thoughtful. “What do you want?”

“You tell me who you really are,” Loki said.

The man considered that for a moment, then nodded, saying, “Fair enough. And I won’t even lie. You first.”

Loki considered the multiple possible “tricks” he could play: making any of a number of horrifying beasts appear in the cell, producing fifty clones of himself, reversing the rotation of the earth. All of them seemed either boring or gauche. Finally, he settled for a small but effective bit of magic and began to cast a glamour.

In the middle of the cell, a tiny crack appeared in the floor. From it appeared the green leaves of a tiny plant. The man lay down full length on the cement and stared at it.

“Not bad,” he said.

“Not finished,” Loki replied.

The plant continued to grow, increasing in size, gaining leaves and buds, adding tendrils and branches, becoming wider and taller until the other man was forced to stand up, but still it kept growing. The plant filled the entire cell, vines coiling up the bars, green as thick as a jungle, each one laden with flowers about to burst open.

“How…?” the man said in astonishment, but Loki motioned for silence.

He moved his hands in a quick, deft movement, and all the buds opened at once, but these were like no other flowers anyone had seen. They screamed as they unfurled, each one producing the face of a ravening wolf snapping its jaws and spewing foam, their eyes wild. The man, surrounded by the creatures, dropped to the floor again in a protective crouch, but just as suddenly, the plant disappeared, leaving no trace that it had ever existed. Slowly, the cowering man lowered his arms from his face and stared up at Loki.

“Well, a card trick seems like kind of an anti-climax after that,” he said. “What was that?”

“I’m not sure,” Loki said, considering. “It just felt like the right thing to conjure up at the moment. I may have to try that again at some point. So, do you concede my victory or would you like to try your own?”

“Nah,” he said. “I’ll give you that one.”

“So, who are you? And no lies,” Loki added quickly. “I’m quite good at telling when they are spoken.”

“I’ll bet,” the man said, looked over shoulder at the police furtively, then motioned Loki closer. “C’mere. Nobody else can know.”

Loki realized there was nothing the mortal could actually do to him, but he still moved cautiously. The man cupped his hands together at Loki’s ear, and started to whisper.

“You wanna know who I am?” he said. “Look in the mirror. I’ve always been there.”

With that, he was suddenly gone, leaving Loki standing, still invisible, in the middle of a vacant cell. As the officers rushed up to the door with keys jangling, yelling and screaming, wanting to know what idiot had let the Joker slip though their fingers, Loki remained perfectly still wondering what all of it could mean.

Then he laughed, long and loud, and dissolved into ether.

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