Episode Twenty-Eight: Graduation: Scene 12

The thought that the conversation left me with, though, was a bit of a sad one.

If everyone decent I knew had screwed up parents except Seb and Clara…that probably meant more parents were screwed up.

Or, maybe, it meant having a messed up family pushed you into our kind of craziness. I decided that was the real answer and to stop worrying about it. Besides, the more people around the more firepower.

And the more people who might die. I shook my head at that thought, heading home before it could take me over into melancholy. If nothing else, home had chocolate.

Home also had a tired-looking Kanesha. We curled up together on the couch.

“I’m a little worried,” she said, finally. “I think I’m being followed by fire giants.”

I tensed. “You…probably are. I can come dissuade them.”

“I can probably do that, if it’s only one or two of them, but it’s making me worry that Surtur’s about to try something.

“If he touches you…” If he did, I might forget about the consequences of killing him.

If I could.

It wasn’t my task. Did that mean bad things would happen if I did or did it mean I didn’t have the right skillset to do it? Probably the latter. I was pretty sure I knew which of us would win in an out and out fight.

It wasn’t my task. That didn’t mean I was sure I could resist the temptation to try if he so much as cut a braid from Kanesha’s head.


“I won’t do anything stupid, but he needs to know he won’t get away with it.”

“It might also be people who don’t want you as queen protecting me.”

I laughed. “Well. Again, if you need help chasing them off, just let me know. I will.”

“I know that. I think I can handle them.” She didn’t sound sure, though.

She had a decent weapon, but she couldn’t conceal it the way I could. She could only really carry it when we were actually hunting.

“Might be best to get them on our own terms, though.”

She turned towards me. “I don’t mind being bait.”

“Don’t put it that way. It makes you sound helpless.” And I didn’t want to ever see her as that, think of her as that. Because she wasn’t. She most emphatically was not helpless.

“Got a better way?” A pause. “Let’s worry about it tomorrow.” She reached to pull me into a kiss.

I wasn’t about to object, and things most definitely went in interesting directions from there.

But my last thought before dozing off was that I had signed her up for this and I had to make sure nothing happened to her.

Nothing bad.

Episode Twenty-Eight: Graduation: Scene 11

At least the efreet himself didn’t show up to make things awkward. Not telling him about his father?

I could and could not get behind that. The more I thought about it, the more unfair it seemed, but at the same time, he didn’t need a father like that. Not at all.

Nobody did.

It was sad that I sometimes seemed to be the person with the least crazy father. You know, the daughter of the chaotic trickster god.

I reminded myself Seb and Clara had perfectly sane parents. So did Thruor. I didn’t know about Zaid. They hadn’t talked about their family, which made me wonder if they’d been rejected for being non-binary.

Some parents were pretty cruel about things like that. Actually, some parents were pretty cruel period.

Sometimes I thought the people without them were better off. Or maybe it was the people who’s parents had chosen them who had it best.

You couldn’t choose how your kids would turn out. If I ever had them, I would have to remind myself of that.


I wasn’t sure I wanted them. But Derek’s mother was messed up and his father was, well, even more messed up.

No wonder he was messed up and vulnerable, but I hoped we could get him on a straight path now.

I corralled him after school and we went to the subs place I used to work at. I could bring myself to eat their food again now.


“So, we know people want to turn you evil. That’s way more than half the battle with this kind of thing.”

He nodded slowly. “My mother…why did she lie to me?”

I paused, then, “Because your father’s a total jerk and she didn’t think you needed anything of him in your life.”

He frowned, but didn’t look surprised. “Or she was worried I’d turn out like him.”

“You’re already much nicer. I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Not that bloodlines don’t matter, but some of the best people I know have fathers you wouldn’t want to invite to the table.”

He laughed. “Fair enough. Then again, I’m not sure I’d invite yours.”

“He’s actually fun at parties.”

“When he’s not…”

“…sliding whoopi cushions under the butt of the most pretentious person there.”

Derek laughed. “Would he actually do something that petty?”

“Yes. Although he’s normally more creative. The point is, though, you don’t have to be like your parents, but you do have to acknowledge what of them is in you.”

He nodded. “And what of my father is in me?”

“I can’t tell you. I’ve already pushed the edges. Your mother asked me not to give you too much information.”

“Still afraid I’ll turn into him.”

I couldn’t answer that. Not yet.

Episode Twenty-Eight: Graduation: Scene 10

“So,” she said, studying me. “I talked to Zaid.”

“I suspected as much.”

“I kept my son from knowing the truth because I knew he would be…fragile…about it.”

“And now he’s mad with you for not telling him.” I reached for my coffee. “I understand both sides of it.”

“I was worried he’d end up in Hell.” A pause. “I still am.” She said it so casually that I had to take a peek at her soul. As best I could.

“We won’t let that happen.”

“And can you keep him from getting himself killed?”

“We can give him the tools to keep himself from getting himself killed,” I said quietly. “I’m…I can’t tell people want to do. I can’t tell him to stop.”

“Why not?”

“I suspect you know.”

She laughed a bit. “I don’t know, but I definitely suspect. Not angel, not demon. Other.”

“Right, and if I interfere with him…” She was his mother. “But when I first saw him he was shooting fairies with cold iron because he couldn’t tell the difference between them and demons.” My eyes challenged her.

“I did not…”

“That’s the problem. You didn’t teach him, so he went out and tried to teach himself, and got tricked by a fake Guardian Angel.” I was trying not to be angry.

“And you…”

“No, this isn’t on me.” I sighed. “It’s on him and on you. And maybe a little on his father for not being around.”

Zaid had been very quick to stop me from… “You were pretty young,” I added. “When you met him.”

“Too young.”

“I…think I may have met him, if he’s kept those tastes.” I made a face. “Was he…”

“His father does not know about Derek. If you have met him, please keep it that way.” Her tone went tight.

“Don’t worry. If it’s that one…” I shuddered. “I mean, my dad can be an embarrassment, but he at least waits for them to fully grow up.”

She studied me again. “I know about embarrassing parents. But embarrassment is one thing, wanting to arrest the guy for stat rape is another.”

Which, looking at her and thinking about Derek…it had probably been. Too young for a normal guy, let alone efreet, who lived far longer.

How long would Derek live? Not long enough if he couldn’t protect himself.

“Zaid’s the one who told him anyway.”

“With my encouragement. But we were too far into the conversation to stop without driving him crazy.”

“Does he still have the anti-fairy gun?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t seen it. He probably should.”

“Or not.”

“I think he can be trusted to use it now.” But would she trust my judgment?

“I want to see that for myself.”

I decided I didn’t like her much, but I definitely respected her. But I wondered at how cold she was.
Was it the fault of Derek’s father?

Episode Twenty-Eight: Graduation: Scene 9

I didn’t have time to do much over the weekend, with shoots both days and a party Saturday evening put on by one of the other models.

A nice little interlude of some kind of normalcy. Of course, I couldn’t get away with drinking at the party. I could get away with taking Kanesha. The hostess, Diana, was very gracious, and she hired good caterers.

“So, the new guy…”

“…is apparently part efreet.”

“I hope that doesn’t mean he’ll hit on Clara.”

“Seb would punch him.”

Kanesha grinned. “No. Clara would hex him.”

“Point. Seb knows she can look after herself.” I leaned back in the chair I was sitting in, relaxed, half-watching the party.

“More than, half the time she’s the one looking after him.”

I still wished I could do something about her scar, but Kanesha was right. Clara was quite dangerous when she wanted to be. She wasn’t going to get any more like that in a hurry. “Good point. Anyway…he’s in good hands with Zaid.”

“Confused, I’d imagine.”

“I think Zaid got across to him that he’s not a demon, not a monster, and doesn’t have to abandon his faith. So he should be good.”

I hoped. And I was still wondering about that fire escape. “I talked to the other guy,” I added. “Dreadlocks guy. Hunter from New Orleans. Came to check on rumors of me.”

“That’s gonna start happening, isn’t it.” She smiled. “Let’s stop talking business.” She stood, offering me her hand. “Let’s dance.”

I took it, and let her lead – for everything superior about me, she led better than I did. Smarter, a better dancer…I grinned inwardly as I started to list her good qualities. It was a habit, but a good one as far as I was concerned.

If you didn’t know all the ways the person you loved was better than you, then you loved the wrong person. So, we danced, and everything went smoothly.

I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, in terms of the next thing being a ranking demon coming after Derek.

But it didn’t that night, or the next day. No, it actually waited until Monday, and then it came in the form of a phone call.

“I know you don’t know me, but my name is Marlena.”


“Derek’s mother. Can we talk?”

I knew instantly that Derek had gone to her to take up the matter of his heritage, and she’d been hiding it from him, and was mad…but why call me, not Zaid?

Unless she’d already yelled at Zaid about it and was now working down the list. “Alright.”

Or maybe she was mad about something else, like him hunting, which she hadn’t known before and was blaming on me.

She named a cafe not far from Dupont Circle. Not really in the full-blown alternative zone, but close.

I put on a nice blouse to meet her. Maybe she thought Derek had a thing for me.

But I knew she wasn’t happy and I wanted to fix that, wanted not to be the cause of conflict between a mother and her son.

Episode Twenty-Eight: Graduation: Scene 8

Zaid did not give me Samson’s number – that would have been rude. He gave me the address of his haunt. Then he headed off with Derek.

Whom I was determined not to leave alone until we found him a decent weapon and got him some real training. It was hard to believe this was the same guy, though. We’d at least got him thinking straight.

Assuming he was. So, I went hunting Samson, but warily. Those two demons might decide to try me on for size now I was alone. And, of course, the address?

The community center I’d once hung out with with Kanesha. Heck, maybe I’d even seen the guy back then and not noticed him. As it had been, I was one of only two or three white faces.

“Jane!” somebody called.

“Yeah, sorry, I took up modeling, got high class, stole Kanesha and disappeared.” I grinned – it was Pansy, whom I remembered from before.

“Modeling.  That’s either fun or boring.”

“Both at different times,” I informed her. “But I’m looking for Samson.”

“What do you want with him?” She stuck her tongue out at me.

“What, is he boring too?”

She shook her head. “No, he’s kind of cool, but also more than kind of weird.”

“So am I,” I pointed out.

“He’s…oh wait, I think he’s in the garden.”

I headed back there and found him checking on the herbs. I’d almost never gone back into the little garden. It was supposed to let people practice their green thumbs.

As most of the kids lacked that facility, it was usually half dead. “Samson?”

“Oh…oh, it’s you.”

“He’s with Zaid.”

“And still alive? I’m surprised.”

“Did you…”

“I did not throw him off the fire escape. He fell off the fire escape all on his own.”

I sensed a ring of truth there. “So, what did you work out about him?”

“Mixed breed. Efreet, at a guess.”
“Zaid confirmed that. And he’s a loose cannon. We did convince him not all supernaturals are demons.”

“Fall probably knocked some sense into the kid.” He stood up. “What do you want from me?”
“I’m just curious. How…”

“I’m new in town is how you haven’t met me before.” He grinned a bit, then offered a hand. “Samson, but you know that.”

I paused, then. “Siglaugr. But Jane is…”

“Far easier to pronounce for those who don’t speak Old Norse.” A pause. “You’re the one all the rumors are about. Random half-trained Norse goddess.”

“I am…” Then I laughed. “…very random.”

He laughed too. “And I…” He shrugged. “Just a hunter. Been in New Orleans.”

“You came here to find me.” Not a question.

“I was curious.”

I hoped it was nothing more than that. I had a feeling he would end up needing or wanting something from me.

And I wasn’t sure I believed him about the fire escape, except he knew Zaid. Zaid would have warned me if he was evil.

Episode Twenty-Eight: Graduation: Scene 7

“So, they just came out of nowhere?” We’d found a cafe. Fortunately, almost all of the blood on Derek wasn’t, well, his, and demon blood doesn’t stick around once you’ve got rid of the demon.


“We need to know why Hell wants you so badly.”

Zaid was studying Derek with his eyes slightly wide. I didn’t push them for an immediate answer.

“Could be you have natural talent.”

“Next to…”

“Don’t compare yourself to us. Zaid’s been doing this for years and I’m a goddess. You’ve got a solid fighting style, you move well…”

“…that’s not it.” Zaid blinked, and their gaze returned to normal. “That’s emphatically not it.”

“So, what is it?” Derek asked, frowning.

“How well do you heal?”

Oh no.

I didn’t think Derek could take being told he was supernatural. Worse, what if he belonged to a God other than the one he had chosen?

“Pretty…” He tailed off. “Am I human?”

I wasn’t about to answer that. I could tell Derek had a soul, but whatever scrying Zaid had done wasn’t something I could duplicate with a glance. With time, sure. I knew he wasn’t anything to do with Asgard.

“Derek…” A pause. Then I glanced at Zaid. “Tell him.” Because it was already too late to hide this and it was too late to have him be left in some kind of limbo.

“Not entirely. Recent efreet blood, I’d say.”

“I’m not a demon!” He started to rise to his feet, then slowly sat down.

Good. He had himself under control.

“Oh, not remotely a demon. Efreet have souls, have free will, are very much like men. Just stronger.”

“We need to track that one down who fancied Clara, even if he did have a taste for…”

Zaid shook their head. “I can find one who isn’t halfway to being a pedophile. Leave it with me. It might take a bit.”

“And the demons…”

“Mixed breeds are rare. Derek’s soul is…a bit of a prize. Heaven and Hell will both want him.”

I looked at Derek.

“Well…I’ll try and stay on the Heaven side of the line.” He narrowed his eyes. “Do you…”

I shook my head. “No, and besides, Thruor’s the one who harvests souls, not me.” I’d seen her do it. I almost thought I knew how.

You will never be my sister.

“Am I safe from her?”

“As long as you want to be.”

Mike. I mourned inwardly for a moment, then shook my head. “That guy in the dreadlocks. I need to find him.”

“Why?” Zaid asked. Not which guy in dreadlocks.

“I think he knew what Derek is. Which makes me wonder what else he knew.”

“Dreadlocks his most defining feature…I wonder if you bumped into Samson.”

“Is that his real name or does he keep his strength in his hair?”

Zaid laughed. “You know? I don’t entirely know for sure.

Episode Twenty-Eight: Graduation: Scene 6

I’d made sure Derek had my number and Thruor’s. I wasn’t surprised to get a call that just had an open line. While at lunch. I glanced at Zaid. “Got to go. Want to come?”

They grinned. “Let’s go.”

I broke into a run, knowing Zaid would have some means of following me. They were a good enough magic user that I knew I didn’t have to wait for them.

And I had my sword. It was funny how people never noticed it until I wanted them to. Even easier than it had been with the one Thruor had loaned me.

But, well. I ran. I wasn’t sure where he was without listening, but I got clues from that. Crap. He was by an airport, and I also thought I heard the river. Which meant he was on the far side of the river.

I was never going to get there on time. He was going to be killed or abducted and I was…

…but I wasn’t the magic user. I sensed Zaid’s presence go from behind me to way ahead. They hadn’t suggested they take me, which probably meant whatever teleportation spell they were using was limited in weight. Or that who and what I was would cause problems.

Either way, he had a better chance of getting there than I did, but that didn’t mean I was slowing down. The river. The bridge.

I still wondered if I could somehow get hold of a valkyrie’s steed, even though I wasn’t one. Or maybe, like the sword, mine was waiting for the right moment for me.

Forged for me before I was born.

Of course, the valkyrie steeds were all foals of Sleipnir. Awkward. Okay. Pulling my thought back from that, I realized I was on the bridge.

Then I saw a flare. Magic flare. Zaid. Making sure I had the right location, I was sure. I ran faster, if possible.

They were holding off half a dozen war demons, but hadn’t managed to damage them. Derek had managed to get or steal a baseball bat from somewhere and was using it to defend himself reasonably well.

I drew my sword and charged. Not the most original approach, but they were still looking at Zaid’s flare.

The first one I hit went down to my blade with one blow. A second turned, and Derek cracked him over the back of the head with his bat.
Zaid had changed tactics, or changed back, and was throwing ice at the others. They didn’t go down, but it seemed to slow them.

Probably what they had been doing until they sensed I was close enough to benefit from a signal. I spun to plunge my blade into the one staggering from Derek’s blow.

“I need one of those!”

“Sorry, they’re not that easy to come by.” A little bit of flame flickered along the blade. Fire beings or not, the demons didn’t seem to like that very much.

I could, though, probably find him some kind of sword. It looked like he was going to need one. Or maybe a good axe, the way he was fighting with the bat.

Looked like that might fit his natural style better, and I dropped another demon. There were two left standing.

They fled.

One was on the ground, but dissipated into fire and brimstone slowly. The other three were already gone.

“You need to stop making a habit of being beaten up,” I told Derek.

“I didn’t start it this time!”

I believed him.

Episode Twenty-Eight: Graduation: Scene 5

Derek promised to be careful. I thought of Mike, and hoped he could even be careful enough.

When the best of us…

But he had also chosen this.

Or been maneuvered into it. That thought came nastily to mind. What better way to get somebody out of the picture than to push them into fighting alone, without proper training or gear, against all comers.

He’d been encouraged to hunt by the being he’d thought was his guardian angel, but as soon as Will had got his hands on him, he’d not even recognized that being straight away.

Which…meant he’d been befuddled. Demons couldn’t…but no, they couldn’t touch his soul, they could certainly mess with his head. Likely they’d managed to taint his soul too, but not likely enough that he wouldn’t recover.

If I could keep him alive.

No. If Will and Seb could. I wasn’t the one to train him, and I had enough on my plate. Will, Seb, and Zaid. I pulled out my phone and called the last named.

“Been a while,” they answered. “I’m assuming not a social call.”

“Got a kid who could use some pointers. Can I send him your way? Christian, mind.”

A laugh. “Sure. Now, could I maybe also have a social call?”

I laughed in return. “Sure, we can do…lunch tomorrow?”

“Works for me.”

I thought a moment longer. “The taco place on P street.”

“Very much works.”

Zaid liked spicy food as much as any middle eastern stereotype said he should. Almost as much as I did.

Which made me wonder idly if fire giant cuisine matched, well, their nature. Our nature. Would explain a lot.

The next day was also hot. Very hot. Too hot for most people, and Angrboda had gone back to Jotunheim threatening not to return until water was actually liquid again as opposed to just hanging in the atmosphere.

That was a rather picturesque description of DC’s famous humidity, but entirely on the nose. This was definitely one of those days when you thought you were breathing water. Which meant I walked right past the outdoor seating area and found Zaid inside.

“Even we’re hiding from it?” they quipped.

“Nobody’s sitting outside in this. I don’t want to stand out.”

A grin came from the androgynous form. “I can see that. So, tell me about this find of yours?”

“Tricked into hunting alone, with no gear, and with no discretion, by a demon.”
Zaid whistled. “I’ve seen that before a few times. They usually end up dead.”

“I think I can keep this one alive. I hope so, anyway.”

I had to try.

Episode Twenty-Eight: Graduation: Scene 4

As he turned to leave, though, I thought I spotted something. “Careful.”

“Careful what?”

“On that bench.”

“What…oh, I think…”

He had enough of the Sight to spot it, as I’d suspected. “Let’s just walk casual.”

“And not start anything…”

“Too many people.” De-loose-cannoning Derek was going to be a tough job.

“…alright. But…”

I didn’t like the idea of letting a minor demon go either, but…it wasn’t doing anything right this second, so there was no sense starting a risky fight.

Until it got up and followed us.


I shook my head. “Wait. We’ll lead him somewhere and find out what he’s up to before sending him home.”

The hard way. He wasn’t significant enough, I could sense that. I probably wasn’t his target. I turned down a side street.

The demon followed. Derek was starting to relax. He wanted a fight. A nice, straightforward fight.

He was going to be disappointed – this wasn’t that type of demon. Once we were off the street I stopped, turned, “Did you think I wasn’t going to notice you?”

“This isn’t any of your business, Asgardian.”

My lips quirked. “I’m here.”

“You’re losing your way, Derek.”

Derek looked at me. Looked at the demon. “You just admitted she’s not one of you.”

“But she’s not an angel either.”
This was the little voice that had told Derek to hate everyone. This was something that had influenced him.

“No, she isn’t, and I don’t entirely trust her, but I know what you are now.”

I grinned. “Derek, was he pretending to be your guardian angel?”

“Yes. He told me it’s…”

“Very difficult for a novice to tell the difference. Which it is.” I grinned back at the demon. “Time to give up.”

“Don’t know why I put in so much effort on a worthless kid anyway.”


I put my hand on Derek’s arm. “He’s trying to rile you now you’ve seen through him. They do that.”

The demon shrugged. “Alright. I’m going home. But the next one to show up won’t be nearly as nice to the kid.”

And he vanished in a poof of brimstone.

“That was too easy,” Derek complained.

“He was trying to get you killed and in trouble. He might just have decided I’m likely to do that job for him.”

He looked at me, then he managed a short, harsh laugh. “Maybe. I’ll probably do it myself.”

At least he acknowledged that he was in danger. But it had been too easy. We hadn’t seen the last of that one.

Or, as he’d promised, worse.

Episode Twenty-Eight: Graduation: Scene 3

The next time I saw Derek, he was cleaned up, but still limping.

“I hope you got…”

“I got checked out properly. Nothing broken. Not sure how.”

“Maybe your guardian angel caught you.”

He seemed to consider that. “Okay, look. I don’t get it. If all the different deities are real, how come you aren’t warring over souls all of the time?”

“Because that isn’t really how it works.” I let out a breath. “We can’t touch anyone’s soul unless they agree. We don’t war, we…”


“And I’m not wanting to recruit you. Not when you’re happy where you are.”

He considered that. “Let me guess, it’s easier to go after agnostics?”

I nodded. “Much easier. Besides, this way we don’t end up fighting each other much, and you really don’t want that.”

“But there’s still…”

“Evil, yeah. But few entities are really absolutely evil. Genuine demons. Some giants. Not all. Some are just trying to live their lives.”

“I suppose…”

“You can not be evil and do evil stuff. Or you can do stuff that looks like it’s evil until you get some distance from it and it starts making sense.”

He hesitated. “Like doing something to teach somebody patience?”

I nodded. “Right. Or…dwarves consider stealing and counter-stealing perfectly acceptable forms of negotiation.”

“So…I need to learn to tell the difference.”

“And be careful of fairies. They’re not good or evil, they don’t really have morality at all. Most of the time whatever they do is funny to people other than them, but not always.”

He nodded slowly. “So…”

“The one who made the dragon illusion needed to be asked to stop, because people were panicking. But it didn’t warrant a physical attack.”

“What if they don’t stop?”

“Sit on them. Oh, and never accept anything from a fairy without being sure of the price. You don’t want to end up owing one a favor or accidentally trading five years of your life or something.”

“Is that a worry for you?”

“They’d try to get a favor out of me.” I was pretty sure of that, anyway. If I was a fairy, it would be what I’d go for. “Now, occasionally they’ll make friends, and friendship trumps, but it’s rare.”

“So, that’s why you don’t eat or drink in Faerie.”

“Exactly. It’s not the food or drink itself. It’s the obligation and what they might demand in return.” At least we were having a civil discussion and he seemed to have been convinced that I wasn’t evil.

“So, just fairy culture. I think I can get behind that. What about them taking kids?”

“That’s a myth, but they have been known to take and keep adults…or children old enough to fall for their tricks.”

“No sleeping with them either, I’d guess.”

“I suppose that would depend on whether they thought it was an even trade.”

He blushed, then nodded. “That’s kind of sinful anyway.”

“Better to find a nice person and stick to them anyway.” Thruor would disagree, but Thruor wasn’t there.