“Beloved, what is ‘Trick or Treating’?”
Tom looked up from his book and raised an eyebrow at the god sitting opposite him on the sofa. Loki looked up from his tablet, a small frown on his brows. Usually Loki would just look questions like this up on the internet, but Tom supposed that it must be easier to just ask him since he was right here. “On Halloween, children go door to door in fancy dress asking for sweets. We don’t really do it here, it’s more of an American thing.”
“Ah.” The god nodded and pushed a lock of long black hair behind his ear. “And the ‘trick’ part?”
“Ostensibly if they don’t receive ‘treats’ - or get ones they don’t care for - the children will play tricks on the person who refused them.”
Loki looked up sharply. “What kinds of tricks?”
Tom was starting to have a bad feeling about this. “Um, I’m not really sure. As I said, we don’t really do the tradition here in the same way. We’re more likely to burn things five days later.”
The god raised an eyebrow at “burn things”. “It seems I must research this on my own.”
The actor rubbed his temples. This was not going to end well. Living with the God of Mischief was generally fairly tame, as far as actual mischief went. Tom thought that Loki probably got most of his chaotic impulses out by trolling people online, which left their homelife remarkably stress free. The god had never pranked him, for whatever reason, nor used their nearly identical appearance to cause trouble. Tom was grateful for the peace, but right now it felt like the calm before the storm. “You’ll like Bonfire Night, I think. The fireworks can be spectacular.”
Loki shrugged. “Gunpowder can be put to good use, I suppose.”
Given that the god could just use magic to recreate any sort of display, Tom supposed it wasn’t too odd that he had utter disdain for the mortal invention, so he let the subject drop and went back to his book.
A few minutes later, Loki spoke again. “Could we not have a fancy dress party?”
“The weekend between Halloween and Bonfire Night, could we have a party? Most of your friends haven’t seen the new house yet, so it would be an excellent opportunity for them to do so.”
Tom gazed at the god evenly. The other’s eyes were wide and innocent, which made him instantly warry. However, it was actually a pretty good idea, and Loki always did better when he had a project to work on. It would keep him busy. “Alright, but you’re planning it.”
Loki grinned. “Of course.”
Tom’s eyes narrowed further. “You’re up to something.”
“Why would you think that?”
“You’re always up to something.”
The god laughed. “Then this will be no different.” He got to his feet, kissed the top of Tom’s head, and walked out. The hapless human sighed and rubbed his eyes, readjusted his glasses, and went back to reading. Whatever Loki was up to would come out eventually. Hopefully the house would still be standing once the dust settled. They’d only just finished unpacking, after all.
As a fifth large box was delivered to the house, Tom reflected that he probably should have given Loki a budget for the party. He really didn’t have the heart to stop his partner at this point; Tom hadn’t seen the god this excited since he’d started decorating the new house. At least the boxes were disappearing into Loki’s workroom rather than cluttering up the foyer or the sitting room.
Loki insisted on paper invitations (“Propriety must be observed, beloved.”) and their mail was filled with RSVP cards from Tom’s friends - and a handful of Loki’s - who were planning on coming. Hopefully they could keep the paparazzi unaware, or at least away. Tom did have to admit that the invitations Loki had designed were beautiful and most of their friends seemed enthusiastic. This wasn’t the sort of thing that Tom would have ever done on his own, but deep inside of Loki’s damaged shell was a young prince who’d once enjoyed near-constant court functions, and above all, the chance to be terribly impressive.
Loki’s mobile rang from where it sat on the coffee table, and the god sprinted into the room from the kitchen. “Hello? Alvin, thank you for calling me back.” Loki’s tone was a combination of his “mere mortal” (as opposed to “idiot mortal”) voice - the more educated speech pattern he used for his human persona - and the Silver-tongued cortier. The resulting combination made him sound a bit like Stephen Fry: terribly posh (which he was) and rather gay (which was debatable). “Yes, yes of course, I completely understand. We’d be ever so grateful.” He glanced over at Tom and winked. The human rolled his eyes and shook his head. “Of course, you’re welcome to come. We’d be honored.” Loki paced back into the kitchen and hopped up onto one of the bar stools. “I can certainly stop by to discuss the menu. Tomorrow? Perfect. I’ll be there. Thanks terribly. Goodbye.” The god set the mobile down on the bar and giggled.
“Who was that?”
“Yes, beloved, catering. I don’t have the time to cook everything myself.”
“I thought you were planning making pumpkin biscuits?”
Loki scoffed. “That’s hardly sufficient.”
“I suppose not.”
“I may have promised Alvin an autographed photo for his niece in order to have him be willing to cater for us.”
Tom scowled. “Really?”
“Yes, and he’s coming to the party, but he’s really quite interesting.”
“Oh god. The next time you want to plan a party, remind me to tell you ‘no.’”
Loki chuckled. “Oh absolutely. I shall recall to do that most faithfully.”
Tom sighed and shook his head. It would all be over in a few weeks.
“I’m not going to the party naked.”
“But it’s a perfect costume!”
“You could wear a mask.”
“Very well, I’ll come up with something else.”
“What on Earth is that?”
“An inflatable spider.”
“It must be over a meter wide.”
“It's your colors.”
“Obviously. I'd hardly get the red one, would I?”
“I suppose not.”
“Here, you're not getting the full effect. Let me turn it on.”
“Dear god, did it just move?”
“Where would be the fun in a stationary inflatable spider?”
“I'll already been a vampire, love, I don't need to do it again.”
“But you look wonderful with black hair.”
“I look like you when I have black hair.”
“I'm not going to the fancy dress party as you either.”
“You're an actor, you're supposed to love costumes.”
“When I'm working, certainly. But yours is exceptionally uncomfortable.”
“Adam doesn't wear leather armor.”
“What about Prince Hal?”
“... I'll consider it.”
“What are you planning on wearing, by the way?”
“It's a surprise.”
“You're not going as yourself, are you?”
“Where's the challenge in that? No, beloved, I'm not even going as one of your other characters.”
“That's probably for the best.”
“Please tell me?”
“May I have a hint?”
“Oh very well. It's appropriate.”
“That could mean anything.”
The week of Halloween saw the flurry of activity ramp up even more. Loki decorated every room of the house. Tom had drawn the line at his office and their bedroom, and he suspected that Loki's workroom was mostly a staging ground at this point, but the whole ground floor was slowly being inundated with decorations.
“Seriously Ben, is like it house has turned into Hogwarts or something.”
“Your house was already Hogwarts, mate, you live with a magician,” Ben replied, the amusement in his voice not even a little disguised by the unusually poor mobile connection. “Your boyfriend is an alien-slash-god from another universe, who's teaching you magic, so Hogwarts is completely appropriate.”
Tom sighed. “I just didn't expect him to be quite so… enthusiastic.”
“What do you mean?”
“The library looks like an abandoned Victorian mansion, the sitting room looks like the Gryffindor common room, and there are hyper-realistic fake rats hidden all over the kitchen.”
“At least they're fake. And clearly it should be Slytherin.”
Tom laughed. “True.” He rubbed his collarbone meditatively. “He still won't tell me what his costume is.”
“You're worried that he'll do something… mischievous?”
“God of Mischief, so yes.”
“You think he'll go as himself.”
“He said that there wasn't any challenge to that, so no, probably not.”
“Then what's the problem?”
Ben sighed. “He's happy, he's got a project to keep him busy, and you're going to have the best party of the season. I'm failing to see a downside.”
“Ben, do you know what he did at the comic convention we went to in June? While I was busy? He walked around cosplaying as himself.”
A soft thud indicated that the other actor had dropped the phone, he was laughing so hard. He was back a moment later. “Oh that’s amazing. Did anyone figure it out?”
“He says not.”
Tom shook his head and chuckled. “This is certainly a turnabout.”
“What do you mean?”
“I distinctly recall trying to talk you into trusting Loki not that long ago.”
Ben huffed a small laugh. “It’s been nearly a year, and he’s not a bad guy once you get to know him.”
“I’ve been saying this for years.”
“Don’t get me wrong, he’s still a narcissistic arse, but a nice one.”
Tom burst out laughing. “Will you and Sophie come a little early so I have moral support?”
“Thank you darling. I’m going to need all the help I can get.”
A small band of Chinese men in pristine white chef’s coats arrived at 4:00 PM the day of the party. Loki graciously showed them to the kitchen where they set up, pulling tray after tray of odd looking food out of a series of insulated bags. They were gone again by 5:00, and Tom snuck into the kitchen to try one of the small raspberry tarts he’d seen go by. He nearly spit it out again.
“What the hell? What is this?”
Loki grinned. “It’s salmon.”
Tom examined the small tart. It certainly looked like fresh raspberries and creme pat, but a cautious sniff said smoked salmon and creme fraiche. “Why does it look like raspberry?”
“It’s called molecular gastronomy, beloved. One of the things that it does very well is make foods look like different foods, or something altogether inedible.”
Tom thought for a moment. “Dear god, you hired the edible condom bloke.”
Loki laughed. “I did.”
“How much is this costing?”
“Not as much as you might think. He’s a fan of yours.”
“Celebrity does have its advantages at times.”
The god wrapped his arms around the mortal. “You don’t take advantage of that enough.”
“That’s what I have you for.”
Loki chuckled. “Indeed.” He kissed Tom’s cheek and disentangled himself. “Now I must go get dressed, as should you.”
“Are you going to hide until the guests start arriving?”
“As you’ve oft pointed out before, I do have a flare for the dramatic.” Loki grinned over his shoulder and disappeared up the stairs. Tom sighed and followed. The god had locked himself in his workroom by the time he got up to the first floor. Tom headed into their bedroom and burrowed into the back of the wardrobe to find the appropriate clothing. The leather and linen felt like old friends on his skin, and Tom started to relax. Exchanging his specs for contacts only took a minute, and the human contingent of the household was ready.
Tom stood outside the door to the workroom, tapped on it, and spoke. “Love, I’m done, I’m going to head downstairs.”
“Very well, I’ll be down shortly.”
Tom frowned and padded downstairs. He’d half expected Loki to click his fingers and have on an illusionary costume, or do whatever it was that he did to magically change his clothes (and banish them), but it seemed like he was determined to do this “properly”. Tom had time to pour himself a glass of wine before the doorbell rang. It was Ben and Sophie, early as promised. They were both in full Victorian garb, Ben looking very much like the classic version Sherlock Holmes he’d once portrayed.
“Tom, you look wonderful,” Sophie enthused. “Where’s Lucas?”
“He’s upstairs still,” Tom replied. Unlike her husband, Sophie had no idea who Tom’s boyfriend actually was. The only other of Tom’s friends who knew was Chris Hemsworth, who’d been told - by Ben - when the god first appeared nearly a year ago. “You two look amazing, did you nick those costumes from the Sherlock set?”
Ben laid a long finger over his lips. “Don’t tell anyone.”
Tom laughed. “I can keep a secret.”
The older actor grinned. “Don’t I know it.” The three drifted through the sitting room. “Wow, you weren’t kidding about it looking like Hogwarts in here.” Ben walked over the the mantle. “Is that a real skull?”
“Oh probably.” As far as Tom knew, Loki might have already had a human skull somewhere. “Like I told you, he’s has really gone all out on this.”
“Has he shown you his costume yet?” Sophie asked.
“No. I’m honestly a bit worried.”
Ben wrapped his arm around Tom’s shoulders and squeezed. “I’m sure it’s fine.”
Tom raised an eyebrow and Ben grinned.
“This is quite a spread.” Sophie was headed for the breakfast bar, which was covered in the odd food.
“Be careful,” Tom warned, “they’re not what they appear.”
“You’re not to tell anyone else that, beloved,” Loki said from the hallway. “That’s the whole point.”
Tom pivoted. The first thing that struck him was purple. Then his jaw dropped.
Ben spoke first. “Isn’t that a breach of contract or something?”
“Whatever do you mean?” Loki tilted his head to the side.
“You’re Marvel, you can’t just be DC.”
Tom cleared his throat and glanced at Sophie. She had come back and was examining the cuffs of Loki’s deep violet suit with curiosity and didn’t seem to have noticed her husband’s slip. “I’m fairly certain that I’d be allowed to wear a DC based costume for something like this, let alone my boyfriend.”
“This is beautiful material.” Sophie stroked the soft looking velvet of the jacket.
“Thank you, I had it made especially.”
“Where did all your hair go? You didn’t cut it, did you?”
“Surely you needn’t ask that. A good wig is an amazing thing.” Loki patted the bright green mass of curls swept up on top of his head and back into pointed wings. Tom suspected the god had actually just shapeshifted to shorten his hair and color it, but wasn’t about to say that. Loki grinned at him across the room. His bright red lips contrasted sharply with his teeth and the stark white makeup, making his usual slightly mad grin turn full out maniacal. Somehow he’d managed to wear physical makeup on his real skin, and also make it look like the illusion he wore in front of other people was also wearing makeup. “What do you think?” The god spun in place, showing off the bespoke purple velvet suit.
“It’s impressive,” Tom replied. “What made you want to do the Joker as a costume?”
“I found that I rather identified with the character,” Loki replied with a sly smile.
Tom stifled a laugh. “Of course you did.”
“Oh, can you do the laugh?” Sophie’s eyes sparkled.
The god’s eyes glittered in reply. “Which one?”
“The one from the old cartoons, obviously.”
Loki pursed his lips and lay a finger over them - for a moment looking very much like himself - then he laughed. It was eerie how much like the cartoon character he sounded. The hair on the back of Tom’s neck stood up. Loki sounded completely mental.
“Wow, I think you might be able to rival Tom at mimicking voices,” Ben said.
Tom smacked him. “He’s certainly better than you.”
Ben growled at him.
“Chewbacca is cheating. Don’t make me talk like Owen Wilson all night, because I will do it.”
“At least Star Wars is owned by the same company as our Lords and Masters, unlike Mr. DC Villain over there. Besides, I would pay good money to hear you recite Shakespeare with Owen Wilson’s voice.”
Sophie and Loki giggled hysterically, leaning on one another for support.
Tom held out a hand. “Fifty quid and I’ll do it.”
“Please don’t.” Loki bent over at the waist, laughing so hard he could barely speak. “I cannot stand that horrid American accent.”
“My American accent is flawless.”
“That’s the problem.”
Things just devolved from there.
The sneaky canapes were a great success to the point where people would linger in the kitchen just to watch newcomers try them. One of the American guests - a writer friend of Loki’s - explained that in the States, “gross foods” were common at children’s Halloween parties; peeled grape “eyeballs”, gelatine brains, and spaghetti made to look like worms being the most common items. Tom suspected that this is where Loki got the idea for his trick foods, though honestly the notion of such odd items would just appeal to the god anyway.
Alvin, once the chef arrived, told a small group of the more foodie guests about a dessert he’d had in Spain which was a chocolate cigar flavored with actual tobacco, and a foam which melted on the tongue, leaving nothing behind but the flavor of pear and brie.
Loki drifted through the party, chatting with everyone, the perfect host. Tom occasionally heard his hair-raising Joker laugh from across the room as the god showed off this new skill for their friends. There were a handful of people there that Tom hadn’t seen in ages, mostly actors whose schedules never seemed to line up with his own. At one point a small clique of the local Marvel actors formed, which Loki assiduously avoided, despite Tom Holland’s attempts to engage him.
The younger Tom had taken a liking to Loki’s human persona when they’d met a few months ago, but Loki - having never actually seen more than a few minutes of any of the Marvel movies - felt uncomfortable talking to the other MCU actors. Ben and Hayley Atwell were exceptions. Tom wasn’t certain how Hayley and “Lucas” had become friends - they’d also met at Ace Comic Con this past summer - but they regularly spent time together. If Loki was out and about without Tom, he was usually with Hayley. Tom suspected that she was probably the god’s closest friend, other than himself.
Tom had been leary of Loki’s inclination towards chaos affecting the party, but so far nothing too bad had happened. The inflatable spider - which was on the front stoop - caused a few people to jump as they came in. There was an intricately carved pumpkin which screamed at if you looked at it too closely. Something in the library stirred under the sheets that covered their furniture and there was something in the downstairs loo which was making people scream, then laugh, though Tom hadn't seen it himself. The mischief was at an acceptable level, all in all.
He was chatting with Ken - who Tom hadn’t seen in ages - about Shakespeare when he noticed Loki rushing through the room towards the front door. Tom excused himself and followed.
“What is it?”
Loki stood beside the closed door, eyes shut. “Someone who shouldn’t be here.” The god opened the door and peered out into the darkness. A sneer turned the clown makeup even more sinister. “Paparazzi.”
Tom sighed and leaned against the doorframe. “I suppose it was too good to last.” He hated the attention reporters were determined to give his personal life, but Loki seemed to take it as an insult to his honor, not just a nuisance. “Nothing we can do about it.”
“Oh can’t I.” Loki started out the door, but Tom laid a hand on his arm.
“Lok- love, don’t. No good will come of this.”
The god turned to him and grinned. “Don’t worry beloved, they’ll never know I did anything.” Loki stepped into the shadows outside the house and vanished.
“Damn.” Tom rubbed his forehead and went back inside the house. Once Loki got it into his head to do something, there was nothing he could do about it. Well, he could sit back and enjoy the show. The god would just see that as encouragement, as tacit permission to do it again. But how would he know if Loki kept his word if he didn’t watch? But he couldn’t do that from here, that would be too obvious. He headed back through the party, up the stairs and into the unlit guest room which overlooked their front garden.
It was dark enough outside that it would be impossible for most people to see the front garden. However, Tom wasn’t most people. Ben hadn’t been kidding when he said that their place was Hogwarts. Loki had spent most of their relationship teaching Tom to use seidr, the magic inherent in the world, to affect his body and mind. He healed faster than a normal human, got sick less easily. If Loki was right, his lifespan might be as much as ten times longer as well. None of that was important now. What mattered at the moment was that Tom was able to adjust his darkvision.
The photographer was hidden behind one of the massive trees that dominated the garden taking pictures through the windows. Tom felt his lip curl. Was there no privacy in this world? He’d never quite forgiven the press for the mess they’d made of his life a few years ago; exposing what should have been a private matter to the whole world. Yes, now he’d stepped back into the spotlight again, by making his relationship with “Lucas” public, but that was no excuse. If someone had been caught taking pictures of most people’s parties, they would have been arrested, but he wasn’t most people. Besides, even if he called the police, the photographer would be long gone by the time the authorities got to the house.
There, one of the bushes moved, just a little. Tom couldn’t control his darkvision and see through Loki’s illusions at the same time, but he hardly needed to. Something moved along the ground, slow and stealthy. Then another. And another. Snakes. Loki must have conjured them; the November night was far too cold for a reptile to be active.
The photographer was obvious to the movement; he was intent on getting the best shots of the myriad celebrities in the house. Tom watched as the snakes coiled around his feet, then wound around his ankles. Apparently his boots were thick enough - or he was thick enough - that the photographer didn’t notice. One of the snakes remained settled over his feet while the other two climbed up his legs.
It wasn't until they got above his knees the the photographer cottoned on to the fact that there were snakes using him as a tree. He shouted, dropped his camera - which was on a long strap around his neck - and tried to run. The serpent at his feet tightened and the reported dropped like a felled tree. Tom winced, then chuckled. The hapless photographer was batting at the snakes on his legs with the camera, but he kept missing and hitting himself instead. One of them wound itself around the man’s arm and he screamed again. The snake hissed in his face, and slithered off. The other two followed, and the photographer took to his heels and ran.
A moment later, Loki joined him in the guest room.
“How did you know I was in here?”
The god just raised an eyebrow and sat next to him in the window seat. Tom wrapped his arm around the god’s shoulders. “Thank you for not hurting him.”
Loki smiled. “There was no need. A good fright was all that was called for.”
“Pity he got some pictures before he left.”
The god chuckled. “I think he’ll find that his memory card is unfortunately quite corrupted.”
“I could have broken the camera instead. It would have been easier.”
Tom laughed. “I admire your restraint then.” He kissed Loki’s curly green hair. “Why didn’t anyone notice what was going on outside?”
“An auditory shield. Easy enough.”
“But you let me hear.”
Loki grinned. “Of course. I do require at least a small audience, after all.”
Tom laughed again. “I’m always happy to be your audience.” He leaned in and kissed the god chastely on his bright red lips.
Loki smiled and wiped Tom’s mouth with his thumb, coming away with a crimson stain. “Shall we go back to the party? We do have more of an audience that just one another today.” He pulled a black silk handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped the makeup away.
“Oh probably.” He got to his feet and offered a hand to Loki.
The god twined their fingers together rather than getting up himself. “I am sorry.”
“It’s alright. I understand why you felt the need to take care of things. You known that I hate the attention, and I appreciate you not dealing with the situation violently.”
Loki snorted. “I know better than that, beloved. You are very tolerant, but not that tolerant.”
“Still, I know that’s your instinct. And I appreciate that you don’t act like that for my sake.”
The god nodded and looked down at their joined hands. “There are times I truly wonder how a man such as yourself could have been chosen to portray a creature such as myself.”
“That’s what acting is all about, love. And apparently, I look a bit of a villain.”
Loki chuckled. “If it were not for your other villainous roles, I would say that you look like me, but your point is well taken. Perhaps it is your innate goodness when transformed into villainy which is so striking.”
Tom scoffed. “Every villain is a hero in their own mind. If I didn’t understand that, I wouldn’t be much of an actor.”
The god’s lips twitched. “Perhaps.”
“I know you don’t consider yourself a hero, but everything you’ve done felt justified at the time, yes?”
Loki tilted his head. “Yes. Often less so in retrospect, but at the time, yes. I would not have acted in such a fashion otherwise.”
“That’s exactly my point. It’s a rare villain who thinks of themselves that way. Even the Joker doesn’t, most of the time.” Tom nodded to Loki’s purple suit. “He might do things for revenge, or to get attention, to point out something the rest of the world has missed, or just to cause chaos, but the motivations aren’t ‘I’m evil’, mad though he may be.”
“Is it madness to embrace one’s nature?”
“How well do most people really know their own nature?”
“I do have at title, beloved. My nature is rather what it says on the tin.”
Tom laughed; it always amused him when Loki incorporated idioms into his regular speech. “But you’ve tempered your mischief. Yes, you’ve embraced it, but this party is an excellent example of what being the God of Mischief can mean in other contexts. You’re a storyteller, an entertainer, like me. This has been a wonderful evening, full of just the right kind of mischief.” He smiled down at Loki. “I would never have done anything like this on my own, but it’s been great fun, and I’m happy you did it.”
The god smiled - a sunshine smile, like Tom’s - made utterly surreal by his makeup. “Thank you, that means a great deal.”
Tom leaned down to kiss him, but jumped as a shriek came from below. That first shriek was joined by a chorus, then more. Loki’s smile altered so that he rather looked like a cat who’d successfully eaten the goldfish.
“What did you do?”
The god grinned. “I believe the stasis spell on the rats has worn off.”
“Come beloved, let’s assist our guests.” Loki scampered out of the room giggling.
Tom rubbed his forehead and followed. “Oh lord.”
God of Mischief indeed.