Episode Twenty-Six: Prom: Scene 21

Seb showed up a few minutes later and took over patching up the fairy.

I didn’t exactly sit on hunter guy. “Okay. So, what’s your story?”

“Vampire killed my best friend.”

I flinched. “Vampires are vermin. Why not stick to hunting them?”

“I was looking for the dragon.”

“The dragon was a prank,” I informed him.

“Right, and I dealt with it.”

I fixed his gaze. “Continue on the way you’re going and you’ll be dead within a few weeks. Maybe a few months, if you’re better than you showed today.”

“I still want to know what you are.”

“It’s not important. Or you’d be making a distinction between evil and merely mischievous. You’d understand not everything that isn’t human is a monster.”

“Maybe I should…”

“You know you can’t take me. Look, you got four choices. Carry on the way you’re going, and I won’t protect you. Join us and get some proper education. Go back to a normal life. Or leave town.”

“I’ll do fine.”

He stalked away.

“Just letting him go?”

I shrugged. “You really think he’ll last five minutes here with his attitude.”

Seb scooped the frail form of the fairy into his arms. “I’m taking her to Bruce’s place.”

That struck me as the smartest thing to do. “And?”

“He’ll last a few weeks. He’s good with the throwing blades, right?”

“And lousy hand to hand, and pissing off people who could be his allies. He’ll last a few weeks, if he’s lucky.”

I didn’t want the guy to die, but it was his choices that would put him in the ground, his choice to be an asshole.

Maybe I’d said something that would get through to him. Maybe not. Either way, I knew I couldn’t save people from themselves.

Couldn’t save myself from myself either, I thought wryly. I didn’t always make the best decisions.

But I knew better than to indiscriminately attack supernaturals…and not just because I was one.

In other words? I had absolutely no sympathy for the fool.

Episode Twenty-Six: Prom: Scene 20

She bled green when I pulled the knife out. I put pressure on the wound. I couldn’t worry about the perpetrator.

I couldn’t even call Seb. Truth was, I had no real idea what to do other than wrap it and pray.

Clara would be so useful right now, but I couldn’t call anyone while I was keeping pressure on the wound.

“Why are you interfering?” the hunter snarled.

I also couldn’t fight anyone. Not without letting her die. But if I didn’t…

Cold iron wasn’t poisonous to me, but being stabbed with it would sure as heck hurt. “I don’t let murders happen on my watch.” I informed him.

“If it’s a monster it’s not murder.”


Hard line hunter. I twisted slightly to look at the man. Dark skinned, dressed casually, a second cold iron knife ready in one hand.

He wasn’t getting his first back. Except maybe the hard way. “I suggest you leave. Now. Before my backup shows up.”

Seb would come and investigate, but he was the other side of the river. It was a trek.

“If you had backup, they’d already be here. Step away or I’ll assume you’re a monster too.”

I couldn’t help but smile. “Go ahead.” I thought I had the wound wrapped enough that she wouldn’t bleed out in the two minutes or less it would take me to take care of this guy.

I stood up, gracefully, between him and the fae. “Make your funeral arrangements first.”

He laughed. “A teenaged girl.”

A hardcore hunter with no good magic sense. Of course, if he did, he’d probably be able to tell the difference between different kinds of monsters and know who was really a threat.

“A warrior.” I shifted my stance. “Leave or I will hurt you.”

I wouldn’t kill him. He was probably salvageable. The fairy groaned a little.

I had to ignore her for now, because he threw the knife at me. I twisted and it only hit me in the arm. “Thanks, I’m collecting those.”

With a snarl, he closed in on me. I aimed a punch at his jaw, pulled so I wouldn’t actually kill him. It hit and he staggered.

“That’s right. I hit like a girl.” Then I followed up with a bullrush, trying to put him on the ground. Maybe I could tie him up.

“What are you?”

“I’m not telling you. Work it out for yourself.” I had him on the ground, spun him over, pinned him in a half nelson. “Do you yield?”

He growled, but then, “I yield.”

“Do you promise not to hurt her any more?”

“While you’re here.”

I’d have to take that for now. I released him. I wasn’t giving him back his knives, though. Spoils of war.

Episode Twenty-Six: Prom: Scene 19

Some people were staring. The sane ones were running and screaming.

I was narrowing my eyes and regarding the beast. And talking into my phone. “Seb, do you think it’s real?”

“What makes…oh. It’s not. The ripples are going the wrong way.”

Relieved, I let out a breath. “Somebody’s idea of a prank. Not my dad’s.” It wasn’t subtle enough for him. It felt kind of childish.

I hung up on Seb and raised my voice. “Nice work, but your ripples are going the wrong way and real dragons have scales that are more shield-shaped.”

The dragon vanished. “Aww,” came a voice from nearby.

“Still nice work, though.” I looked around for the voice. “Ooh, invisibility too.”

The air shimmered and a fairy appeared.

Of course.

“You gave me a moment, though. I left my dragon slaying gear at home.”

The fairy giggled. “It’s fun to play with the mortals, too. And then pick out the interesting ones.”

“Those would be the ones running and screaming, no doubt.” Not that there was any more of that going on.

“Exactly.” The fairy looked androgynous, but the voice was definitely female. It wasn’t sidhe, it was some lesser type but, I suspected, old and experienced to make a glamor that size. She grinned at me.

“Sorry to spoil your fun, but again, ripples.”

She made a face at me. “You Aesir are no fun at all. Except Loki.”

“Oh, Loki’s a lot of fun. You know he likes chocolate, right?”

“No…I’ll remember that.”

I was trying to hide the laughter. Of course, I’d probably done something horrible giving some random fae with a sense of humor the best way to attract my dad’s attention. I’d have to stand well back now.


“Anyway, I’m going to go somewhere with no meddling goddesses.”
The fairy started to fade out. Then she reappeared, abruptly, and crumpled to the ground.

There was an iron knife sticking out of her back. Hissing, I dropped to my knees next to her. Normally I’d leave a knife in, instinct had told me to do that.

But cold iron is poisonous to fairies. If I was going to save her, I had to act now.

Episode Twenty-Six: Prom: Scene 18

Which left me with the feeling that the other shoe was going to drop. Part of one did – somebody scrawled “Dyke” on my locker.

I rolled my eyes and scrubbed it off. I knew there was no sense reporting it with the current administration, so I pretended it didn’t get to me. They’d probably go away if thoroughly ignored. People like that usually did.

Then I got shoved against the locker. I restrained myself from putting whoever it was through the opposite wall.

“You need to learn to appreciate a good man.”

I put my knee in his crotch. “I know how to handle men.”

“What’s going on here?”

“She attacked me!” he squeaked.

“He started it.”

I knew I was going to be suspended. I didn’t really care. He started it wasn’t a good enough excuse.

“He did.” It was Clara’s voice. “He shoved her into the lockers and was threatening to, well…”

So, back to the Vice Principal’s office. He decided to suspend both of us for two days rather than sorting out who hit first.

I couldn’t entirely blame him, as it was very much into he said she said at that point.

Entirely. It gave me two days to work on other stuff. Except, of course, everything was quiet, Kanesha was busy, and I hadn’t seen a fire giant in a week.

I wound up hanging out in the history museum, which was air conditioned, vaguely interesting, and gave something of an air of normalcy.

I was still going to graduate, at least. And then I’d be done with all of this crap. I’d have other crap to deal with, of course.

But I’d be done with one set. For good.

Then I felt a disturbance. Sensed magic ripple across the city.

A big disturbance. I was on my feet and out of the building before any conscious thought entered into the matter. Then I tugged out my phone. I texted Kanesha. She was probably in class. Clara would be at school with her phone off.

I hesitated, then called Sebastian.

“I’m already on it. Localizing it to…just by the airport. The park at the end of the runway.”

I knew where he meant and frowned. I could run there…yes, probably faster than taking the bus, for me. For a normal person it would be another matter.

I ran for the river. And then I saw that the river was roiling and churning. “No, Seb, it’s in the Potomac.”

“Great, what, a sea serpent? I’m already in Arlington.”

“Maybe. I can’t tell yet. Maybe a dragon.”

“Same thing, really.”

I wasn’t about to argue with him.
Especially as a dragon head rose out of the water. A big dragon head.

And me, of course, without my sword.

Episode Twenty-Six: Prom: Scene 17

Faced with the ACLU screaming at them and bad publicity, the school backed down. I was now a little worried something would happen at prom, though.

Surtur trying to ruin it. Or protestors. I found a good dress for Kanesha – it had belonged to a fellow model who had no real need for it.

She looked spectacular in red and me in blue and silver, and nobody was saying anything when we walked into the room.

Well, except some looks of jealousy in my direction. “If that’s what professional modeling will get you…”

I didn’t disillusion the girl who had spoken. “You should try it. You’re even tall enough for catwalk.”

She looked shy and turned away, though.
Well, I probably shouldn’t be trying to recruit.

“You girls look fantastic.” A glass was raised to us. Sparkling cider, of course.

I grinned. “We worked hard on it.”

“I’m betting that dress came from a designer you work with.”
Again, I didn’t disillusion him. His name was James, and I didn’t know him well, but I did know he wasn’t looking at me like that. “I’m rather pleased with it.”

“I wish I knew what my career was going to be.”

I shrugged. “Some people need more time to find their calling.”
“Some people never do. I’m afraid I’ll be one of those people. Not like I can afford college even with a scholarship.”

Maybe one day that would change. All I could do for now was make sympathetic noises. Kanesha, though, stepped over. “I’m going to talk to James for a bit.”

Which left me with James’ date, Marcy. “So…I was…I kind of want to talk to you.”

“What about?”

“You’re a model. And…” She blushed. “I want to learn to do better makeup.”

“I can hook you up with somebody who’s even better than me and loves to teach,” I offered.

Normal stuff. Normal girl stuff. It couldn’t possibly last.
And didn’t. About five minutes later some asshole pulled the fire alarm.

Fortunately, the sprinkler system didn’t go off. We milled around outside until we got the all clear, but there were quite a few creative threats being voiced.

I stored up the best of them for later possible use. In fact, I added one of my own, “Replace their vitamin pills with caffeine pills.”

“Ooh, that’s a nasty one.”

“Well, I’m betting they’ve interrupted people’s sleep with that prank. Laxatives would be good too.”

But we got let back in fairly quickly and back to the party. Nothing more went amiss.

Episode Twenty-Six: Prom: Scene 16

I had more support from an unexpected source – some of the other models. I was pretty sure they were all straight, but some of them seemed to think I deserved high fives and “You go girls” about it. Especially when it broke in some local papers.

The school was being put under pressure. Sadly, it was in both directions. Some people thought it was quite reasonable to ruin things for a number of people to stop us being “unnatural.”

If Odin didn’t care, why should they? Of course, they thought their god cared, but I hadn’t gotten any indication from his servants that he did.

It was probably all some kind of weird mistranslation. Or just an excuse. They weren’t comfortable with us, they didn’t want to go to the effort of learning to be that way.

And even some of the fire giants seemed to think I was doing good.

There were protests outside the school when I left. A larger one in our favor. A smaller one opposed, but one of the women from it…she looked likely somebody’s mother…stalked over towards me.

“How dare you.”

I flinched inwardly, but tried to walk past, ignoring her.

“How dare you flaunt your lifestyle and demand it be accepted in front of my kids?”

I’d rather deal with fire giants, I decided. I continued to ignore her, deciding that was the classiest thing to do.

“Nothing to say for yourself?”

“Leave her alone,” came a very familiar voice from nearby. I wasn’t entirely grateful. I still thought ignoring her was the best thing.

I glanced over at Loki. He winked at me.

“She needs to learn to be a real woman.”

“Oh, she’s more of one than you are.” A smile, and then he brushed past her and walked away.

I wondered what he’d either lifted from her or planted on her. Something entertaining, no doubt, but I wasn’t sticking around to find out. Head high, I walked away, ignoring her.

Maybe she’d find herself dealing with…and then he circled around ahead of me before I could get to the bus.
“What did you do?”

“Switched her vitamin pills for caffeine pills. She likes to take them before bed.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “Oh dear.”

Somebody wouldn’t be sleeping tonight. Or maybe several nights before she realized what happened. “I was trying to be classy and ignore them, though.”

“That’s no fun.”

He had a point there. “I’d rather fight fire giants.”

“Of course you would.” He grinned at me.

“You approve, though.”

“Of course I do. I approve of girls in tuxes.”

I laughed. “And boys in dresses?”

“That too!”
“We’re all way too young for you.”

“Oh, I can wait ten years or so.”

He was impossible and I just shook my head and stuck my hand out to make sure the bus stopped. He didn’t follow me further.

Episode Twenty-Six: Prom: Scene 15

At least I didn’t get more than verbal harassment. The strength and apparently growing predominance of people who wanted peace, even if it was just so they could rebuild or whatever, heartened me, though.

So, I suppose, I didn’t mind it at all.

There were three messages on my cell – they let us have them again, but I now kept mine turned off, so I wouldn’t get accused of anything. One was from Kanesha, saying she was going to be studying late. One was from Sarlac, asking if he could do anything at all to help. The third.

The third was hate mail.

How had they gotten my number? I hoped they hadn’t also sent it to Kanesha, given the racist and homophobic content.

How had they gotten my number? I’d have to change it after this, I supposed, as annoying as that was. Not until it was over…I didn’t want to have to do it multiple times.

It was my fault for making a target of myself.

It ended with ‘You should have died in that hospital.’

Yeah, they knew too much about me. But they also hadn’t disguised their voice. It was vaguely familiar. Male.

I ran through names and seized on a possibility…a photographer who’d hit on me despite being nearly fifty. Ugh. That explained how he got the number, although he might hand it to his friends.

I made sure not to delete it in case I needed it to get a restraining order. Then I called the agency, informed them I wasn’t working with him again and telling them exactly why.

He hadn’t called Kanesha as well, as a quick text exchange confirmed. Which only meant he didn’t have her number.

I knew there would be more, but when I got home, somebody had slipped a letter under my door.

It was a note of support. I didn’t know how whoever had sent it – it was as anonymous as the horrid voice mail message – had found my address.

Ups and downs. That was the way things were. But maybe I could do some small thing for the people who couldn’t…

Couldn’t what? I couldn’t escape this while Kanesha lived and we were together. We might stay together for the rest of her life.

We might not. I wasn’t stupid enough to think that a teenaged relationship would necessarily get a happily ever after. Especially this one.

I was hopeful enough to know it might. But this was important to everyone who wanted to break the rules.

I was, perhaps, trickster enough to care about that.

Episode Twenty-Six: Prom: Scene 14

The fire giants might not have invaded my meeting with Kanesha. No, they just waited to jump me when I left school.

Metaphorically jump, that was. They didn’t attack, just fell in, one on each side. “So, she’s important enough to you to fight for?” That came from the woman on my left, her hair caught in complicated braids that made it look, no doubt deliberately, even more like flames than it did naturally.

“And I will send anyone who touches her home in the most painful way I can.”

“I don’t intend to touch her.” A pause. “You aren’t going to give her up even to be queen. Of course, Surtur might offer her a position at court…if mortals could survive in Muspelheim.”

I shrugged a bit. “Which implies that could be fixed.”

“There’s enchantments that could, some kind of item, even a spell on her. It’s been done before. She’ll still fade and die, though.”

“And?” I shrugged. “She’s who she is, and I wouldn’t love her if she was a valkyrie or something.”

“But you could bring her with you.”

“To be, what, a lady in waiting?” I shrugged. “She isn’t interested. Neither am I.”

“Even if it were part of a truce?”

“Do you want a truce?”

“Badly,” she admitted.

“Then you don’t want to push for this. As soon as Surtur has me he’s going to attack. He’s told me. He’s told everyone.”

“Maybe he’ll listen to you. If he starts a war, even if it doesn’t trigger Ragnarok…we can’t take it. We want one, it’s in our nature, but we know we can’t.”

Did Surtur? “Then he needs to think things through. Or is it that he’s not capable.”

“If he wasn’t capable, we’d have killed him and replaced him centuries ago. No…he really thinks this is the best course of action.”

I nodded. “Maybe it’s time to replace him.”

She laughed a bit. “Nobody wants the job.”

I managed a grin at that. “I certainly don’t want it.” Or were they, some of them, hoping I would? Waiting for me to marry Surtur and then take him out, make it look like an accident. “If I marry him…”

“You’ll be next in line until you produce an heir. Unless he’s assassinated.”

“By somebody other than me.”

“You’ve considered it.”

I nodded. “But I know I can’t. Remember who my mother is.”

“That’s not important. It’s who you are that matters.”

I wasn’t sure I knew. Not in the sense they meant it. “I’m not going that way.”
And really, Muspelheim wasn’t my responsibility. Neither was Surtur.

Not my responsibility at all.

Episode Twenty-Six: Prom: Scene 13

Of course, it landed me in the vice principal’s office.

“You’re making too much trouble for this school.”

“And more will be made if you change the rule. I have support.” Which wasn’t coming from the GSA so much as from a couple of other people who were affected by it.

“I strongly suggest that you back down and pick a more suitable date.”

“I’m not going to do that.”

“You think because you’re emancipated and have already started on a career that…”

“No. I think that the First and Fourteenth Amendments protect me.” The lawyer had given me some advice, explained the precedents.

“We’re changing the rules to protect our students from predators.”

I laughed. “If you think my seventeen year old girlfriend is a predator…she was at this school. You know.”

“She thinks she’s going to teach, doesn’t she.”

So, he was going to… “If you try that, well, neither of us has any real reason to stay in Washington. We don’t plan on it long term anyway.”

“I’m sure I could make it difficult for her even so. Pushing to…”

“We’re the same age. And of age as far as DC’s concerned.” DC was a sixteen jurisdiction.

“Which you know isn’t the point.”

“If it was the point, then you wouldn’t be discriminating. Changing the rules is legal. That doesn’t make it right.” Especially as they’d promptly change it back once I’d graduated. I knew that for sure.

“If you press on this…”

“I’m almost graduated. You going to stop me from walking?” I dared him to make the threat.

“I’m sure I can find something on you to embarrass you.”

That threat bothered me. “You deserve to be fired.” I wasn’t content with just stopping the rules.

This vice principal needed to be fired. I wondered what the actual principal thought, but she was a non-entity checking off the days to retirement. Maybe she would do something.

Most likely she wouldn’t.

Episode Twenty-Six: Prom: Scene 12

“So, we’re talking to the press. It’s a bit risky.” Kanesha frowned. “I mean, obviously the right thing to do, but what if fire giants invade?”

“Then we fight them off without mussing our hair.” I sighed. “I agree with you, but this is important too. My dad agrees.”

“And we have the ACLU and a senator on our side.”


“Which is exactly why I predict fire giants invading.”

She…had a point.

Then, she changed the subject. “The blue shirt or the yellow-green?”

“Yellow-green, I think.” I had a better sense of color than she did. I wasn’t going to mess with her hair, though. I didn’t have the skills to do good stuff with black hair.

Mine looked pretty good, and hers did look good as we headed to meet with some journalists. Unarmed, because I knew my concealment tricks might not work on cameras. Which made me nervous. I always felt nervous without some kind of a weapon.

We were led into a room with a couple of journalists, a photographer, and a lawyer. The last stood up and shake hands. “Ms. Rudi. Ms. Clem.”

Kanesha flinched and murmured, “If we get married I’m taking your name.”

I murmured back. “You can just change it.” Even if I was rather flattered by that.

Catching the awkwardness. “Simon Lawrence, Washington Post, and we can use first names.”

“Thanks,” I said with a smile. I moved to sit down.

“So…how long have you been together?”

“A…bit over a year.” I had to do some mental math.

“About that,” Kanesha agreed.

I could feel something, a presence I didn’t like. I was pretty much daring whoever it was to mess with us. This was important.

“And you met…”

I looked embarrassed. “In a foster care group home.”

“That’s a new one, but I think I might gloss over it. It would distract from the issue to go into foster care and its…issues.”

He’d used the word issue twice, but I didn’t press him on it. “Okay.”

He asked a few questions about my modeling career, Kanesha’s college life and plans to teach in the inner city. I could tell we intrigued him – maybe he didn’t think we quite went together.

Maybe he could tell Kanesha was the brains of the party here. I didn’t mind.

We were going to embarrass some bigots and that was just fine by me.