Several bruises and a scream later, an amused sword-spirit led Loki around the lee of a building; out of the rain, if not out of the fog.
Do not think bottom of the building, Loki told himself firmly. The building is standing. Gravity is below your feet. The clouds are moving sideways. Believe it.
“Yes, yes; your keeper has an appropriately twisted imagination,” Loki said dryly. “Once the bruises heal, I may even approve.” Out of the rain. Thank the gods. “Why do you only come in my sleep? If you know me, you had to know that would be taken as a threat.”
“Not your sleep.” Calm eyes regarded him. “Ichigo’s.”
Of course. “You’re his protector,” Loki said, half to himself. “If he’s awake, he might go anywhere. And he’s not truly safe anywhere outside these walls.”
“Just so,” the spirit nodded. “Here.”
Snow clung to walls and window-frames like chill lace; scattered diamonds of frost over glass. Where the rain was damp that cut to the bone, this was chill; an isle of moonlit winter, in a sea of autumn twilight.
His spells always had seemed stronger in winter. A pity he hadn’t truly thought about that before. “You can’t think this is wise.”
The sword-spirit stirred snow with his fingers, letting it clamber and tickle across his palm. “Why not?”
“It’s not human.”
“Ichigo is not human,” the spirit reminded him. “Not entirely. Those of jotunn blood have died and been reborn on Earth and Soul Society for centuries. Who’s to say this is not as much Isshin’s gift as yours?”
Loki crossed his arms, determined not to think of hugging himself. He wasn’t cold; not truly. “We both know better.”
“Other shinigami would not,” the zanpakutou stated. “Ichigo will be in no danger.”
“From them,” Loki all but spat.
Dark eyes narrowed. “That. Is. Enough.”
Nearby, thunder rumbled.
“Yes, you hurt us once,” the spirit bit out. “Once, when you tried to defend yourself, more dead than alive! Yes, you chose to do dark deeds, trapped in your anger and hate. I may not know what they are, but I am a zanpakutou. I know the feel of death-”
“I murdered my father.”
The spirit fell silent. Loki smirked, savoring the bitter, dark victory-
A dark-coated shrug. “Why?”
“Why?” Loki sputtered. “Why does it matter? He was my father, and I killed him. I enjoyed it.”
The spirit’s gaze never wavered. “You are not,” he said deliberately, “as good a liar as you think.”