Episode Twenty-Two: Melee: Scene 31

Three days later I came out of a shoot to find Monica waiting outside. She looked almost transparent.

“I couldn’t stop it.”

“You contained it. I suppose…”

“Trying to stop something that’s been foreseen is hard, I think. You tend to subconsciously move towards it instead of away. Or try…”

“Try so hard to stop it you cause it.” She adjusted her scarf. “I think I need to learn that.”

“And what do you see now?” I couldn’t help but ask.

“Nothing you need to know yet.” She smiled. “Not every message I get is for you.”

“Of course not. Lunch?”


We repaired to a deli, but she had little appetite. She managed a salad…I had a half sandwich and a cup of soup.

“I don’t know how much longer I can do it,” she admitted.

I reached for her hand with my free one. “Nobody’s asking you to cling.”

“Not even you?”

“Especially not me. I might be too close, as some people are saying, but…”

“But you’re starting to get that…”

“That you’re very important, that Odin has something in mind, and if you can trust him this much, I can trust him…a little.”

She laughed, although it was weak, hollow not from lack of humor but from lack of strength.

The door opened and three men walked in. I ignored them as they pulled off hats and gloves – it was a cold day.

“I trust him to a point. I’m still Loki’s daughter and I still know all the stories.”

“I trust him with myself. I trust that he’s not doing this to be cruel, or to hurt me, but because it has some necessity to it.”

I nodded to her. We finished lunch talking about inconsequences. How the other girls were. How much people were praying for her.

I could tell the prayers were not going to be answered in the way any of them hoped. She was weakening physically, but she was also changing. Changing in a way I didn’t have words for.

Finally, she left, slipping outside. The three men did at about the same time.

I stayed seated until I heard a yelp. On my feet, I ran for the door.

No sign of them. No sign of Monica, but I thought I saw a struggling form in the back of a car as it drove away.

Episode Twenty-Two: Melee: Scene 30

And then, it was over. The snow had protected the grass, mostly. One of the vanir moved over to the burned patch, knelt, and it became green again.
She overdid it slightly – it was a small patch of spring in winter – but I recovered my breath and cleaned my sword.

“Thanks, Freya.”

“Get out of here,” was all she said, but with a smile.

She had a point. I walked away, Kanesha falling in next to me.

“Do you feel better?” she asked, almost thoughtfully.

“Not…not really,” I admitted. “I think the real reason revenge is best served cold is that it tastes better in anticipation.”

She managed a laugh at that. “You almost scared me.”

“I almost scared myself,” I admitted. “I mean…” I liked being good in a fight, I enjoyed it, but… “But I didn’t go berserker.”

“Good. I think one of the others did.”

I shook my head. “Giants are prone to it, I suppose. But I kept control. And Freya kept things contained.”

If Monica had really been there she was gone now. Which worried me. Either she was mad with me or…

Yeah, I was worried. “I need a drink,” I muttered.

“Thruor would probably sneak you one.”

“She probably would, but Mike would be mad with her. Best not to push it.” Which was true. I didn’t want to start a fight. “I’ll settle for hot chocolate. We have that.”

“We do.”

And as much as I wanted to sneak something into it, if I was living here, I had to play by the rules. And not let a valkyrie get me a fake ID.

Even if I was probably a lot older than the seventeen I saw myself as. In real terms. In actual maturity terms?

I’d admit to being a kid.

“Hot chocolate and packaged mac and cheese?” Kanesha suggested.

“That sounds good.” I didn’t want to deal with anybody else right now and, besides, I didn’t want to be seen with them until we were sure nothing had sneaked past Freya’s glamor.

Except maybe Freya. But she had vanished almost immediately. Back to whatever had been keeping her so busy, I supposed.

Being a goddess had to be a lot of work.

Episode Twenty-Two: Melee: Scene 29

In the arm, mind. It was clearly meant as a distraction.

It gave me what I needed. I reversed my blade and brought the pommel into his wrist. The hammer went flying.

“That was…”

“That was fair revenge for your friend joining in.” I swung around and stopped my blade an inch from his throat. “Are you going to acknowledge I’m the better fighter or am I going to have to kill you?”

I wasn’t surprised by the lack of fear he showed. I could kill him. He’d be back, those eyes said. I suppose I hesitated out of some sense of respect. “You’re a worthy opponent,” I said.

And killed him. He turned into ashes, and I whirled to see if there were more opponents. Angrboda had blood on her blade, although it too seemed to be burning off.

There were still others, though. Freya was still holding the shield. And I thought, behind Kanesha, I saw Monica’s pale face, but I only had a moment of breather before a giantess tried to enwrap me in a chain.

She partially succeeded, but I was stronger than she had anticipated. I pulled myself free, and spun her off with the end of the chain. She snarled like a wolf and swung it into me again, keeping me at bay for now.

But one at a time I could handle, and there were enough of us now to improve the odds. I wasn’t sure how many others had gone down, and I saw one of the frost giants shatter into ice.

I told myself it didn’t matter. This would never be conclusive except in showing who was better; and I planned on showing I was better.

I’d wait to get them for real, but for right now, I was getting them to back off. I grabbed at the chain again with my free hand, tugging on it. Pulling her so close, abruptly, that we almost kissed.

I knew it was a feint and twisted to avoid the blow to my groin that came from her off side.

This time she smiled, at least until I finished the twist to slam my elbow into her throat.

She tried to snarl again, but nothing came out. I followed up by running her through.

More fire and ashes. This was almost too easy. It was, in fact, almost fun. My blade was still glowing with flame.

Just as long as I stayed alive. I didn’t want the lecture.

Episode Twenty-Two: Melee: Scene 28

It already felt like a stand off. And then they were there. I wasn’t sure where they came from, except there was a rush of heat.

The original four. Then four more. A dozen. Angrboda grinned, grabbed her axe and charged.

Where was Freya and her warriors? There. Out of the air, a shimmer of rainbow as bifrost opened for them. Freya herself was mounted, on a grey steed. A foal of Sleipnir, I knew.

The others, armed, and on foot. I was aware of the soft blowing of the Valkyrie’s steeds.

All masks were down…for those of us within the circle the Vanir and warriors were forming. For those outside? I didn’t know what they saw.

I knew one or two would glimpse the truth, and one or two of that one or two might hold something in their heart that would turn into something, into a spark of power and desire.

I knew that. And I drew my sword.

I knew I couldn’t stay out of it. “Hold the circle,” I murmured to the others, then stepped forward.

Couldn’t. I was the one they wanted. To test or to destroy. Fire giant courtship. “I do not want to be here.”

He leapt at me. One of his friends was already engaged with Angrboda.

“I want my hammer back.”

“Steal it from the cops.” He had found another, but it wasn’t as nice as the one that had been confiscated. I couldn’t blame him for wanting it back.

I might, out of honor, have given it to him. The heavy weapon struck my sword, sending a shake through me.

If I hadn’t been wielding a good weapon, the blade would have shattered. I could see why Thor preferred a hammer.

I preferred a sword, and abruptly my blade lit on fire.

He half stepped back. Then he smiled. “You might be worthy after all.”

“Doesn’t matter. I’m not wedding Surtur.”

The smile…and then he struck low. I was forced to leap over it, and then twist to avoid a blade that came in from the side. For a moment it was two on one, and then an ice giant swordsman stepped between me and the other.

I didn’t have time to thank him. I was back to sword versus hammer, realizing that wasn’t entirely a fair contest.

Then Kanesha apparently decided that if they could go two on one she could cheat too.

She shot him.

Episode Twenty-Two: Melee: Scene 27

More likely I’d learn to vanish into flame. For a moment, I almost imagined how it could be done, but I decided it was the kind of thing that, if I could do it, was best done with an instructor or spotter the first time.

Maybe Loki would help with it. If I could draw them out.

I knew at that point for sure that I was about to cause the thing I’d thought I was going to be putting all of my effort into avoiding. It was actually really obvious.

Monica would…well, no. I’d explain to her. If I could. If she was still here to explain it to. So, instead of trying to vanish into flame I started to walk towards the Mall. My phone rang and I tugged off a glove to answer it.

“Where are you?”

“Just east of the Capitol. Meet me…meet me at the Smithsonian Castle.”


“I’m making an end of this. Gather the troops.”

I was done reacting. Getting Angrboda’s attention? I honestly didn’t care. I could get enough force without her to take four fire giants.

But I was confident she’d show up. She had a nose for trouble even more sensitive than mine, after all. Outside the castle, I made some more phone calls. I was going to get everyone I could. Just in case they brought more than four.

Four, I was sure I could handle with Kanesha and planning. More than that, and I was going to need help.
The snow fell more heavily, but I noticed that it seemed to be easing off around here, as if Skadi was pulling it away from this area.

Her contribution to luring them in, I supposed.

Kanesha showed up first, slightly out of breath and carrying a couple of guns inside her jacket. I hoped they hadn’t been spotted.

“I called the others. Not sure who’s going to come.”

“I don’t think we need to worry.” She pointed across the Mall, and I saw Angrboda leaning against a tree.

“Good eye.”

“I think I’m starting to get a bit of the ability to see auras or something.”

I considered that. “It’s probably just practice.” Or maybe Kanesha did have a trace of witchy talent after all. It didn’t matter…it would help keep her safe, and that was more important than the source.

It could come from me, too, somehow.

“Probably, but it’s handy.”

I lifted a hand, and saw Angrboda detach herself from the tree and start to come towards us. From behind me, I heard two bikes. Thruor, with Mike. And Kara, with, of all people, Seb.

“Clara’s on her way.”

I nodded. They couldn’t have gotten three people on the bike, and Clara was probably checking spells on the way. Witches took a bit longer to prep for combat, after all.

I hoped she had something useful against giants.

Episode Twenty-Two: Melee: Scene 26

I got home way ahead of Kanesha, of course. I locked the door and considered what to do.

Obviously, I had to be “sick” again. Maybe it wouldn’t be a bad thing if I got suspended – they might come into the school next time and I really didn’t want any more public brawls. I definitely didn’t want anyone else getting killed.

I wasn’t going to stay home, though, and sick wouldn’t cut it if I was seen around. So, maybe, just, not fight the suspension.

I geared up, left Kanesha a note, and headed out. I didn’t tell her where I was going – I had my phone and if somebody broke in I didn’t want them knowing where I was. At this point, I might just be a tiny bit paranoid. Maybe. It was already dark and the temperature was dropping.
And there was more snow. Now that would be an even better solution to the immediate problem. A snow day. I tilted my face upwards, grinning. “Skadi, if you can hear me, I need a couple of snow days.”

I felt the vague sensation that she was smiling back.

Would I have that sort of power, one day. The ability to kind of be more than in one place, to expand beyond the physical body. Which was probably a construct anyway.

Yes, I thought, I would. The snow fell harder. I enjoyed it, appreciated it. Cold? It wasn’t that cold.

But the fire giants wouldn’t like it. It didn’t bother me, with my mixed ancestry.

It would bother them. “Thanks.”

I heard the goddess’ laughter, bright and ringing. Then I saw her on the street corner opposite. I crossed carefully, wary of the inability of most people in DC to drive safely on snow. “Hey.”

“Hey. Still having fire giant problems?”

“Yes, but hopefully they won’t want to be outside in this.”

“They’ll just wait to catch you inside.”

There was no sign of the fyrhund either. He was probably curled up in somebody’s oven somewhere. “That’s why I was hoping for more snow. They jumped me outside school this time. Next time it might be inside.”
“And somebody might get hurt.”
“They’ve already shown willing to kill civilians.” Our eyes met.

“Might be time to deal with them.”

“If I can draw them out.”

“I might be able to help with that.” She grinned at me with a mischief that matched Loki’s, and then seemed to fade out into the snow fall.

Now that was a neat trick, and one I wished I could learn.

Episode Twenty-Two: Melee: Scene 24

Fortunately, it was a small handful of shit to start with. There was only one of them.

Unfortunately, he elected to jump me right as I was leaving school. I hadn’t been focusing on any kind of glamor or the like. Nor, of course, was I armed.

I managed to knock his first blow aside nonetheless. “Not here,” I hissed.

“Die,” was all he responded.

A teacher was starting to come over; I hoped she didn’t plan on intervening. I was trying to just defend myself, to get the warhammer he was using out of his hand. They probably saw a baseball bat again.

“You guys have no respect for the people who own this city,” I hissed again, trying to keep it quiet.

“What is the meaning of this?”

“It’s none of your business!” he yelled, trying to knock the wind out of me with his fists. I made use of the distraction to twist sideways and grab his wrist in a move I’d learned from Kanesha and put him on the ground.

“I don’t know, he’s just nuts!”

He was still trying to pick himself up, but I put my foot on him.

“I am calling the police. Young lady, violence is never an acceptable response.”

Which meant I was in trouble, even though it was obviously self-defense. I glared down at him.

He glared back, but didn’t try to get away until I stepped back to let him up.

Then he sprung to his feet, glanced around at all the people watching, and ran. Leaving the hammer behind.

I didn’t dare pick it up with the teacher glaring at me.

“I’ll have you suspended.”

“For self-defense?” somebody called. “She was supposed to let him beat her into a pulp with a baseball bat?”

I was glad somebody was sticking up for me, but mostly just wanted to disappear. Being careful not to want that too much, in case it actually happened, I just shook my head.

“Oh, very well. We’ll see what the cops have to say about it.”

“I’ll tell the cops that he attacked her unprovoked,” the same person said. It wasn’t a student. It was probably a parent, I thought, a heavyset man.

I would gladly stay until the cops got there. I leaned against the fence, the teacher still glaring at me.

When they did show up, one of them was a woman I’d met with Mike. “Not in trouble again, Jane?”


I could tell the teacher was about to go onto a rant about how I deserved to be at the very least suspended. Inwardly sighing, I remained silent.

Episode Twenty-Two: Melee: Scene 23

Freya managed to cheer me up. In return she got pasta. It was pretty much a fair trade – even if it was store bought pasta and sauce.

And she managed to leave right before Kanesha came back from hanging out at the community center, something I didn’t begrudge her.

“Here, there’s pasta. You might have to warm it up.”

“Did we have a visitor?”

“Freya. She’s going to help us contain if we can’t defuse.”
“Good. You going to help her or Angrboda?”

“I…don’t even know.” I sighed and turned on the television, wanting my mind taking off it. Fifty channels and absolutely nothing on. Kanesha warmed up her pasta then curled up next to me with the bowl.

“I understand that.”

“I want to beat them up. I also want to make sure they don’t hurt anyone else.”

“Well, I’ll help Freya,” she offered.

“Be careful.” I thought about reminding her she was fragile, then decided it would show a lack of trust in her capabilities. Fragile or not, she was more and more competent each day. And quite excellent at unarmed.

Maybe better than me without a weapon. I tended to be dependent on them. “How about we spar?” I suggested. “Unarmed.”

“Okay, but not right after pasta.”

I grinned agreement, then pulled her closer to me and clicked the remote again. I found the start of a very corny science fiction movie and we watched it quietly.

Being ordinary people. There were no bangs on the door, no interruptions. The snow had melted enough that school was open, for once. I knew Angrboda was still around, but it was quiet.

Too quiet. The quiet of winter and the quiet of people planning things. I didn’t like either of those quiets, really. Clara seemed back to normal when I caught glimpses of her. I hoped I could find something to do about the scar before short sleeves weather, though.

It wasn’t fair that she’d have to carry that for her entire life when it hadn’t, really, been a battle.

But I didn’t have the ability to remove scars. I wondered if Odin would, then considered the ones he carried.

No. He’d call it a badge of honor and her silly for wanting to hide it.

Too quiet, and that lasted for a couple more days before, of course, the shit started to hit the fan.

Episode Twenty-Two: Melee: Scene 25

The cop, Kerry, rescued me after only a few minutes. “I’ll do what I can.”

“She’s one of those who believes all violence is wrong and suspends the victim with the bully. I think the school admin are more reasonable.”

“It wasn’t on school grounds, either.”

We’d only gone a block away. She’d argued that she needed to talk to me off the street. The teacher, who’s name I now recalled as Blount, was satisfied by being able to imagine that I’d been arrested. I hadn’t, of course, but who was going to tell her that?

“That might help, but a lot of people saw it. Thanks for grabbing the bat.”

“It’s evidence.”

I grinned. “Just be careful. He’ll come and get it.”

“A baseball bat?”

I let it lie; she clearly wasn’t ready to know the truth.

“So, you do know him?”

“It’s the second time he’s attacked me, and the first time one of his buddies murdered four people.”

“Crap. What did you do to deserve it?”

“I’m not sure,” I lied. If she was still seeing a baseball bat, she certainly didn’t need to know about the politics of the Nine Realms. “But they’re determined to beat the crap out of me or worse.”

“Protective custody?”

I shook my head. “You’ve seen how I can handle myself. Besides, I can always hang out with Mike.”

She grinned. “He’s a good cop. Wasn’t he your foster father?”

“Briefly, before I got myself emancipated. Wasn’t over him…I didn’t trust the system.”

“It’s practically a pipeline to prison. Not so much for you.”

Kerry had plenty of melanin, although she wasn’t as dark-skinned as Kanesha. “Not so much for me, no, but it’s still not a good place to be. I’m happy to be out of it.”

“Well. Do you want me to drive you home?”

That offer I was quite willing to take. They probably wouldn’t mess with a squad car.

Probably. And if any of my neighbors asked I could…tell them a somewhat edited version of the truth. They’d respect me for saying I kicked the guy’s butt.

I did wish I could take the hammer, though. I wasn’t sure I wanted to leave it in police hands.

As Kerry drove me home I pulled out my phone, then decided to call Mike after I’d got back to the apartment. Even if she had left her partner asking more questions at the school.

She wasn’t ready and I had to respect that.

Episode Twenty-Two: Melee: Scene 22

I started to doubt whether he would not be almost right away, though. It was Odin. He did what was necessary, often regardless of who it hurt.

I knew that. I supposed what I didn’t understand, or didn’t want to understand, was why what was happening to her was so necessary. What we would gain from it.

Maybe I needed centuries of perspective to understand. “So…we can…”

“We can contain it.”

“And Kara can cover it up. Part of me wants to help Angrboda beat on them.”

“You certainly have grounds. I wouldn’t have interfered this time, but you were facing poor odds.”
“I appreciate it. I’m not feeling like getting my butt kicked today. But I also have a responsibility.”

“You have learned much responsibility.”

Did that make what Odin had done to me worth it? I rather thought it did. “Being surrounded by fragile people does that.”

Freya half-grinned. “Yes, it does, although I don’t think your Kanesha is that fragile.”

“She certainly tries not to be.” But no matter how tough she was, she was still fragile compared to me.

And I was fragile compared to the goddess who stepped into my apartment after I did. I knew that. Inexperienced, young. Fragile.

Freya made me feel all of those things in a way Loki, or even Odin’s messengers didn’t. Maybe I had a certain amount of desire to be like her. Maybe, if I was really honest, I had just a bit of a crush.

Obviously not anything I’d act on, but I was allowed my feelings. So was Kanesha. I wasn’t ever going to be the kind of girlfriend who tried to police my partner’s brain. Especially as I wouldn’t be surprised if we did develop telepathy one of these days. The more experienced and powerful gods certainly seemed to know what I was thinking a good part of the time.

“That’s because you think loudly.”

I laughed, but blushed a little. “Is it…”

“It’s a knack. And I don’t think anyone had taught you how to not be so loud. We should fix that.”

“I’d appreciate the lesson.”

She nodded. “I’ll teach you. I’m better at it than Thruor and you don’t want to trust Loki.”

I grinned. “He wouldn’t hurt me.”

“He would thoroughly embarrass you.”

I paused, then moved into the kitchen. “Oh, I could get plenty of revenge if he did that.”

I could see her lifting her hands through the corner of my eye. “Not getting involved in that.”

I laughed.