Episode Five: Exes: Scene 11

The cops had a few questions for me. I handed the gun in – I had another, after all. It took some fast talking, though.

“Martial arts” wasn’t an explanation they wanted to hear, but they did at least believe me when I said he’d attacked me and gave a description. I wasn’t worried about him hurting the cops per se. Well, a little, but he wasn’t really competent enough to be a real danger to them.

No wonder Thea found him unattractive. Once I escaped, I headed right home and locked myself in my room for a while. I needed it, and one of the last of the cayenne brownies. They’d vanished remarkably quickly, and I was pretty sure people had been raiding. I didn’t mind so much, not the way I had when I didn’t have money to buy more mix.

I thought of attempting them from scratch, but I did enough food preparation as it was, for myself and other people. Gods did I want to quit that job.

And get out of high school. And…well, I wasn’t sure, then. How could I really make plans when I kept being pulled into fights, in this case other people’s fights?

I wanted to disappear, in that moment. I wanted the normal life I felt had been taken away from me. No. I reminded myself, firmly, that I had never had one, that I was not normal and never could be normal. That I was something else.

But I still wanted that normal life, I wanted what I saw other people around me having. Prue. Barry Clark. They would grow up, get married, have children…and I would, what?

Fight to save the world or to destroy it. I wasn’t even sure which. But I reminded myself that if I wanted anyone to have a normal life…and did I?

Yes. I was jealous, but that didn’t mean I wanted to burn the world. I knew where the thought of burning and fire came from.

Surtur and fire giants. He wanted to burn the world and Loki was tempted. Well, I had a thought on the latter. He liked me, maybe…

I was out the door before I finished the thought. Locking myself in my room might feel good for a while, but it was heading for boredom territory very quickly and I would not wallow.

No normal life, but I thought of Thea, and figured maybe I could try for a fun one.

“You okay, Jane?”

I turned towards Kanesha. “I had to beat up Thea’s wannabe ex again, that’s all. And the cops got involved.”

“Ugh. Well, they didn’t arrest you.”

“I’m more worried about them getting beaten up by him. But no, they believed me. I only roughed him up a little and took his gun.”

“Good work.”

“I had to turn it in, though. Probably for the best.” I flickered a grin at her.

Yeah, it probably was.

Episode Five: Exes: Scene 10

Lugenia needed more help, I was finding, than just getting rid of her ex for her. She was bitterly convinced she was useless and worthless. Kanesha had taken her to the community center and I suspected there was punching bag therapy involved.

For that matter, I could use a bit of that myself. Especially as skinny guy was hanging around again.

I caught his gaze with my own, tried to send the firmest go away message I could with my eyes. He ignored it. I was probably going to have to beat him up.

Maybe I should just use him for the punching bag therapy. He deserved it. Beneath her in every way.

I suspected one of those ways was blood. If the gods were nobility, then were there ordinary people in Asgard? Commoners? People who were not mortal but had not earned the title of deity. It made sense, and it made sense that he might have a crush on Thea, princess and valkyrie.

As long as he didn’t transfer it to me. But the only looks he’d given me were faint disgust. Maybe I’d beaten him up before.


Maybe I was an ordinary person too. But that wouldn’t explain how important I was.

Then he made a gun motion at me. I narrowed my eyes. If he had a gun? Well, maybe he wouldn’t know how to shoot it.

I was careful, though. Until I had to head home. The bullet that went past me was so wide I came to the immediate conclusion I would have been in more danger had he been aiming at somebody else.

I whirled, but I still had no weapon. Damn metal detectors. A second shot. Shooting at me. “You know, shooting me will just make her madder with you.”

“Maybe, maybe not.”

My lips quirk. “She likes me, you know. And be lucky I’m not armed.” I ducked around a corner. A third shot passed me, striking an extremely large man in the street. But not well enough to slow him down.

Popcorn? I didn’t have any, but the approach of the big guy to the skinny guy warranted it. He was bleeding from a flesh wound, but he was still twice the other guy’s size.

And, judging by Thea, about half his strength. Time for that punching bag therapy. I let the big guy go past me. If he needed rescuing by a girl, best it be in the alleyway where nobody could see it. Men got dangerous when their pride was threatened.

Another shot. That would be four of six, maybe seven, and it hit nothing. The big guy growled and charged like a linebacker. The skinny guy wasted the rest of his ammunition, even missing at what should have been point blank range.

“It takes talent to be that bad!” I yelled, trying to get his attention. He threw the big guy away from him, into the wall, against which he fell slumped, barely conscious.

Yup. Definitely stronger. As I, for whatever reason, wasn’t. But I knew I could take him. I followed up with my own charge, but relying on a flurry of blows before darting away. And yes, I hit him below the belt.

He tried to hit me back, missed, but on my next approach I claimed the gun, sticking it into my belt. “For my collection. Go home. She’s not interested in you and violence won’t make her like you more.”

“Sure it will,” he said, but then he turned and fled. Approaching sirens probably had something to do with it. Somebody’d called 911 and actually got an answer.

For once.

Episode Five: Exes: Scene 9

In the interim, we worked out a schedule that would make sure Lugenia was never alone. Which meant that I walked her to school the next morning. She stayed close to me.

“I’m not sure why you’re doing this.”

“Because they shot at me.” She’d believe that over any kind of altruism, I thought. And it was at least partially true. If I hadn’t been shot at I wouldn’t have known any of this was going on.

“Mm-hmm.” She studied me. “So you’re going to risk them shooting at you again.”

I didn’t even have a gun. The school had metal detectors. “I don’t think they’ll do it in a more public place.”

“The social worker’s pissed. But she says she can’t do anything to help.”

They’d boarded up the window. That was all. The police had taken notes, sniffed around, and basically told us they’d keep their eyes open.

It wasn’t a priority for them. I knew that. And Lugenia’s issues certainly weren’t, although they had said she should be able to get a restraining order on Carlos or Marcos or whatever his name was. It was some -os name. I wasn’t about to ask. That would be giving him too much dignity and, potentially, too much power.

Besides, getting it wrong might annoy him into screwing up. “Of course not. They didn’t even threaten to move you.”

“I’m eighteen next year, then not their problem. Then I can starve or get murdered or…you’re better off. You’re white.”

I heard the bitterness in her voice. I didn’t agree that I was better off, and Kanesha was doing just fine. But maybe she really felt that way. And maybe I had to remember Kanesha was exceptional.

“Oh crap.”

“Is that him?” He did look vaguely familiar. Waiting at the school gates with his hands in his pockets. He looked like the dropout he was.

“Yeah. That’s him.”

“Ignore him. Walk right past him like he’s not there,” I instructed.

“Lue!” he called.

She did what I said, but her cheeks turned scarlet. I maneuvered until I was between the two of them.

“Just come home, baby.”

Home? They hadn’t even been living together. The occasional night, maybe, and I found myself glad that at least Lugenia wasn’t pregnant.

To her credit she ignored him. He moved towards us. I body-checked him away, feeling as I did that he had a gun on his right side. Left handed, then. I’d remember that if it came to a fight.

“Get out of the way, white bitch.”

“No.” I said, very quietly. “Back down or get hurt.”

“By you?” He laughed, but he didn’t press things. For now.

I was surprised to find I was glad to be underestimated.

Episode Five: Exes: Scene 8

Our council of war was held at a picnic table in a park in the Maryland suburbs. Thea’s idea.

Around the table – myself, Thea, Kanesha, and Lugenia.

“Femme force,” Kanesha quipped.

“Yes. I’ve noticed how everyone remotely useful is female too,” I said, punching her arm.

“We need some guys around here.” Lugenia’s voice was really quiet.

“Why?” Thea asked, laughing. “Okay. So, Lugenia’s ex is causing trouble.”
“And what about your wannabe?”

“Him too, but I can deal with him. He’s just a loser. He doesn’t have friends with guns.”

She had a point. Odd how the mortal was more dangerous than the supernatural. Or maybe it happened that way. None of which I could voice.

“So, how do we get rid of the friends with guns? The cops aren’t much more than useless.” I glanced at Kanesha, who was often good for ideas on these things.

Kanesha hrmed. “The cops aren’t much more than useless, but it still might be worth getting them involved. At the very least they’ll get in the way and more in their way than ours.”

She had a point. I glanced at Thea, who nodded.

“Okay, Lugenia. You file a complaint. I’ll back you up on the smashed window. That’s not going to please certain people anyway.” Namely social services. Of course, it was insured.

“They might move me.”

“That might not be a bad thing.” Thea leaned on the table. “Look, this guy is serious. He might kill you. And if you defend yourself, you might end up in jail. Happens all the time. We need to put so much of a scare into him that he moves on.”

Or, I knew, Thea would take him out and make it look like an accident. Or I would. Shouldn’t be that hard. I couldn’t believe I was contemplating murder, but if the guy deserved it?

More like we couldn’t do this the right way, which would be to call him out and then kick his butt clear to Hel’s Realm. Which I meant quite literally. As duels were frowned upon, we’d have to be more subtle.

“I’ll defend myself. Better jail than dead,” Lugenia said, quietly. “And I know about jail. It scares me, but I still don’t want to die.”

I forced my dark thoughts out of the way. No. I wasn’t going to kill this guy in cold blood, no matter how much I wanted to. “Do you know how to use a gun?” I asked her.

“That would land me in jail for sure.”

“I meant his gun.” I smiled a little. If you had a gun it could always be taken away and used against you. If we did this right…

Episode Five: Exes: Scene 7

First step, quiz the rest of my housemates. I started with Lugenia, who I knew had been dating a Columbian boy until very recently. She seemed the most obvious candidate for having Hispanic gangsters blow out the kitchen window.

Finding her was the challenge. Kanesha headed to check the community center. I went out into Northwest after calling her phone.

Voice mail, and she’d never even updated the message from the default, which made it very likely she wasn’t even bothering to check it and never had. I was amazed it wasn’t full.

But I had some thoughts as to where to look. Loki, of course, had vanished. Taking with him more of the cayenne brownies than I had planned. So, I headed through northwest, looking at hairdressers.

Lugenia was very proud of her hair and I’d noticed her roots going through. She was going to have to get it relaxed again soon and that might be where she was. Kanesha thought she was silly spending all of her money on that.

I was kind of on Kanesha’s side. I wouldn’t spend that much on my hair. But…

…and I found her. She was sitting in the waiting area of one of the salons. I got stared at when I stepped inside – the salon specialized in the needs of black girls and I was pretty close to as white as you can get. “Lugenia.”

“What…what are you doing here?” The emphasis on the you was clear and understandable.

“We need to talk.” I dropped into the seat next to her. “About your ex.”

“What about him?”

“Bunch of guys threw a rock through the kitchen window and tried to shoot a friend of mine. I think they might have been friends of his.”

“Oh, hell. I didn’t take him seriously. Maybe I should call the cops.”

“Meaning he threatened something like this.”

“He threatened the usual if I can’t have you nobody can crap. That’s why we split. He was an asshole.”

Abusive, then. “The cops would give you a restraining order. He’d ignore it. I know somebody who can help with this.”

It made me a vigilante, but I didn’t care.

“Help how?”

“Scare him so much he won’t stop running until he hits the Beltway, if then.”

From the look on Lugenia’s face, the possibility definitely appealed to her.

Episode Five: Exes: Scene 6

And then the back kitchen window blew in. I grabbed Kanesha and pushed her under the table, trusting Laura to look after herself. Or at least to be able to take being hit by a few bits of glass.

The word I used wasn’t repeatable. “Tell me these are your enemies.”

Laura brushed glass dust out of her hair. “I…”

“So, they are yours.”

When I picked myself up, she was Loki again, and he had moved to one side of the window, peering out. “Not sure. Maybe they’re Kanesha’s.”

Kanesha, emerging from under the table, squeaked a bit.

“Or maybe they aren’t any of ours.” I made it to the other side of the window, and outside were a group of Latino gangsters. A large rock lay next to the table, no doubt the missile that had shattered the glass. “Unless somebody’s setting kids on you now.”

One of them finally moved, up to the window. He drew a gun.

“Oh, come on,” Loki said. “Guns. So trite.”

“This isn’t a laughing matter,” I said as the bullet flew into the room, narrowly missing Kanesha and burying itself in the fridge. Which started to leak coolant. Great.

“Sure it is.” And he tossed a knife which hit the kid in the hand. He dropped the gun.

I felt distinctly unprepared, but was ready to move. The kid backed off.

“Why did you come here?”

No answer. In lieu of one, a second kid tossed a knife at Loki. It grazed him in the arm, but he didn’t seem bothered. Kanesha was diving for the kitchen cabinet, a good source of weapons. I did note they must have climbed the fence to get into the yard.

I took the opportunity of the two front guys being momentarily without weapons to launch myself into the middle of them, throwing blows with hands and feet. The rest backed away.

“Whoever sent you to bug us, they aren’t paying you enough for this, right?”

Still no answer, although there was a string of rapid-fire Spanish. I caught the occasional word of it, and it implied we weren’t the droids they were looking for.

In fact, they turned and ran.

“Well, that was interesting.”

“They didn’t seem to be even looking for us.” Great. Now I’d have to find out what was going on with that. And I’d rather hunt monsters than men.

Episode Five: Exes: Scene 5

Confident in that, I felt able to relax without looking over my shoulder for the skinny guy. Not that I couldn’t take him, but he had been a bit of a drag on my life.
Crimping my style. The money from the shoot came in. I put most of it in savings, but did buy myself ice cream, a new tank top, and the makings for cayenne brownies. The fairy was still hanging around off and on, but restricting its pranks to occasionally tugging on my hair. I threatened it with the cayenne for that and it fled, giggling.

In other words, life was actually good, and I was almost able to forget the fire giants. Maybe they were just giving me space.

Maybe they were plotting the best way to court me. You can guess who showed up when I baked the brownies, though.

On the doorstep, looking younger than normal, and looking just a bit pathetic. “They’re not quite done yet.”

He laughed. “Can I come in?”

“You look like you got picked on at school.” I glanced around, noting that Ros was wandering past on the far side of the street. She rolled her eyes. “Did your nephew toss you in a pond again?”

“No,” he said a little shortly, but he did follow me inside.

“Careful. We aren’t really supposed to let adult males in here.”

“Not a problem.” And when I looked around again, he was a red-haired teenaged girl.

“That’s even freakier.” I knew it wasn’t an illusion, either. I was sure I would have felt that, sensed it, seen through it a little. Right now, he was a red-haired girl of about my age.

“Thank you,” she said, curtseying as if to accept a compliment.

I started to laugh. Kanesha came down the stairs. “Who’s this?”

“Laura,” I introduced without hesitation. First female L name that came to mind. I was hoping to clue her in without being obvious. Or at least so obvious that it revealed things to anyone else. “I think she somehow smelled the kitchen from the street.”

Laura twitched her nose. “I did.”

Kanesha laughed. “Are they done yet?”

“They’re the evil ones,” I warned.

“I know.”

Which was how, a few minutes later, the three of us ended up sitting in the kitchen munching on cayenne brownies and cheering ourselves up. Mostly.

Episode Five: Exes: Scene 4

He didn’t mess with me on the way home anyway. And when I got home there was a note for me on the table. I wasn’t sure who put it there.

I tore it open. It was from Thea. So, she was back in town, and I’d just missed her. Now I had to warn her about her ‘friend.’ If he hadn’t attacked me, I’d have assumed he was an actual friend.

Idiot, I thought. The note just said that she was back and suggested meeting at a certain all age club. I didn’t respond, just checked the date on it. Tomorrow, when I didn’t have to work. She’d either remembered my schedule or called and checked.

Assuming it was actually Thea, but I put that paranoid thought out of my head. The meeting place she’d suggested was too public for somebody who just wanted to get to me to pick.

So, the next evening I put on more suitable clothes, such as I had, and headed for the club. I’d been there before. It wasn’t a bad place, although it always had that vague second class feeling to it. The feeling that everyone there was just killing time until they could go to the real clubs.

Which would be forever, I thought, wryly. More time than I remembered, a lifetime. And I probably wouldn’t still be here. One way or another.

She was leaning against the bar, sipping a Shirley Temple, as I approached. “Hey. No alcohol?”

“I always feel bad drinking around so many people who can’t.”

I laughed a bit. “That just makes you a decent person.” I glanced at the barkeep. “Get me a Shirley.”

They did sell alcohol if you had a card, but I also knew the barkeep here had some amazing virgin versions of, well, just about anything. Then I turned back to Thea. “Do you know a skinny guy, dark hair, blue eyes? Apparently you have a history.”

“Oh gods. Him.”

“I’ve been telling people he’s your annoying ex.”

“He’s…” Thea let out a breath. “He fancies himself as my annoying ex. Ex would mean there was ever a current. He’s way beneath me in just about every way.”

“Beneath you?” I flickered a grin. “You mean you only date guys who can kick your butt?”

“I only date guys who can keep up. He can’t.”

“He tried to snatch me to get you to talk to him. I roughed him up a bit.” Which probably made Thea’s point for her, but…well.

“I’ll deal with him.”

Episode Five: Exes: Scene 3

I kept my eyes open for the guy – and warned Kanesha – all week. I even saw him hanging around, but he didn’t come close to me again. Probably hoping that if he watched me for long enough, Thea would show up.

For all I knew he was a disgruntled ex. Thea didn’t strike me as the celibate type, despite the fact that some of the legends insisted that valkyries were virgins. But other stories contradicted that.

I was going to assume that everything was vague and not quite right until proven otherwise. That was the way to keep my sanity.

On Wednesday, he swung by the sub store while I was working. I was looking forward to, finally, the possibility of ditching that job. “Have you seen her?”

“Like I said. You made sure I won’t tell you. Either order a sub or get out.”

He ordered a sub and sat down in a corner, watching me with smoldering eyes. “Who’s that?” my coworker, Ben, asked.

“Friend’s disgruntled ex who thinks I’m going to tell him where she is.” The suspicion made a good cover story, accurate or otherwise.

“Ugh. Let me know if you want me to walk you home. He looks like the type of idiot to do something stupid.”

“I took up martial arts,” I told him with a smile. “But I’ll think about it.” I didn’t want to involve Ben, but his presence would probably dull this guy’s ardor.

Under the cover of cleaning the toaster oven, I watched him, and tried to focus on my other senses. As unreliable as they were, they might be able to tell me something about this guy.

I was right. He wasn’t human. Or not entirely, anyway. Which didn’t mean he wasn’t a disgruntled ex. Or an idiot. I’d already got the impression that supernaturals, even deities, could be just as stupid sometimes as the rest of us. I sure as heck could be, whatever I was.

He eventually got up and left and I relaxed a bit. “Hopefully he won’t wait for me outside.”

“So, what did happen to his ex anyway?”
“She skipped town. Possibly to get away from him, although she did say she’d be back.” She just hadn’t been clear as to when, and I wasn’t sure that when was going to amount to any time soon.

I was missing her a lot more than I thought I would, and if I had to beat up her enemies as well…

“Eh. He doesn’t seem quite skip town worthy.”

“He is,” I said. “Don’t mess with him, okay?”
“And you should?”

I grinned. “Martial arts, remember.”

Episode Five: Exes: Scene 2

It was worse when it didn’t last. The next day was Sunday, and I got my homework done before heading out into the street. I didn’t have anything to do but wander aimlessly, which seemed to be the story of my life.

At least the shoot had taken up a day I hadn’t been sure what else to do with. I wanted Thea to come back. I was also itching for a fight, if I was honest about it.

Maybe that was the worst problem I was having. I was the kind of person to get almost addicted to violence, and part of me hated myself for it. A pretty big part of me. I wasn’t sure I was a very nice person.

But, about it not lasting. I turned down a street close to Capitol Hill and got jumped. Rolling to the side, I managed to avoid being pinned down by the guy who had jumped me. Yeah, I mean jumped literally. Springing back to my feet, I aimed my fist at his sensitive parts.

He oofed, but not as loudly as he should. Bastard was wearing an athletic protector. So, instead, I went for twisting my leg around his and forcing him to the ground. “Tell me you’re just after my wallet.”

“Bitch,” he snarled back.

“Tell me what you want.”

I was really hoping it was my wallet. Then I could just…do something superheroish and tie him up and call the cops.

“I want to find Thea.”

Now, that was a switch. “She’s out of town. And clearly you aren’t her friend or you would have just, you know, asked.”

“I figured she’d come back if you were threatened.”

I slowly let him up, ready to put him on the ground again. “Well, you’ve just made sure that I won’t tell you where she went.” Nope. He’d definitely ensured that I had no intention of telling him.

“Fine,” he snapped. “I’ll get you another time.” He headed off, limping. I felt gratified by the limp and hoped I’d done enough damage that he’d end up needing to, at least, walk with a bandage for a while.

Then I took stock of any damage he had done to me. Minimal. Now to find Thea and warn her. Or not. If he had any sense, he’d expect me to do just that.

Where was she, anyway? I wanted to know as badly as he did, but I wasn’t going to let him know that.

Him or anyone else who might be looking for her. Unless it was her dad. Him I’d talk to.

But I hadn’t seen him since he’d gone after Loki over Sif’s bracelet, so…I didn’t think he was about to show up.

I did wonder how many of them would before this was over, if it ever was.