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The Big Sleep

Description:  The City was cold poison, like the martinis and champagne that Loki downed every night. Always returning for more. Hard and beautiful, glittering like a diamond on Frejya's arm or the heady flush from rolling dice in one of the rip out your heart rooms at the 'Smoking Mirrors' with Huitlipochli. The things a giant had to do to keep himself in the godlike lifestyle to which he was so accustomed. But the gods of the City played for keeps, and Loki wasn't the only one playing with loaded dice.
Rating:  NC17 for sexual situations and language
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Noir, Norse Mythology, Meso American Mythology

~~~~~~

The rusty springs of the old metal frame bed squeaked with their steady rhythm. But she was quiet. Just panting to the slap of his hips against her bounce-a-dime firm butt. She breathed like a marathoner as he pushed in and out of her wet squeeze.

This wasn't that kind of a race. He wanted her screaming in their by-the-hour room.

Loki gripped the sharp bones of Sekhmet's hips tighter and went hunting. Steady hard jabs, but it was all about what you did with it. Rotated his hips just that little bit.

Sekhmet clawed at the stained threadbare sheets, ripping the soft fabric. Growled and hissed over a tawny shoulder. Damn, but the lioness head was a turn on.

A drop of water so cold that it burned dripped onto his face. Loki glanced up at the dark stain on the ceiling above. The white flickering bulb. The smoke stains. He kept pounding in and out and around as Sekhmet yowled like a cat in heat.

There was a pounding on the paper thin door.

"Fuck," said Loki, jumping back. Dick slick and shrinking. Pretty sure he was about to die.

Sekhmet said, "Relax, Tiger. Set's out of town all month." She rolled off the bed. She threw on a short green silky robe over the sort of toned muscles that came from hours in the gym, personal trainers, and ripping people limb from limb. She walked, no -- prowled, over to the door.

Loki swiped a cigarette from her aggressively micro purse, lit up, and enjoyed the view.

Sekhmet opened the door and drawled, "Were we too loud?" then she moved back a step, "Oh, you again."

Loki could almost see a woman around Sekhmet's body. More an impression that there was a woman in the dark hall. The impression of a woman whispered something, but Loki couldn't hear. Didn't care.

"For the last time, I haven't seen your husband." Sekhmet slammed the door in the woman's face and muttered, " Stupid cow."

Loki sprawled back against the gray streaked wall and nursed his cigarette. Thought a moment and said, "If Set's out of town, why didn't we meet at your place instead of this dump?"

Sekhmet took the cigarette out his hand. Breathed in. Exhaled smoke slowly in thin streams through her wide flat nostrils. "Because when I realized that Set is screwing around on me with that Ethiopian bitch, I realized that I had to do something." She walked over to the grease and pigeon shit spattered window and looked through the wire reinforced glass at whatever neon flashing Girls, Girls, Girls view lay below. "I don't care what crap Nepthys puts up with, but there are some things," she turned around and looked at him, "up with I will not put."

She tapped the cigarette out in the windowsill. Shrugged off her robe. She stood there a moment looking at him with her golden lion eyes. Small high breasts. Left nipple pierced with a ruby stud. Concave stomach. A golden body for a goddess of warfare and destruction. Then she walked her long piece of fine ass back across the industrial puke carpet. Licked her thin lips. "I decided," she crawled up onto the foot of the bed; it dipped with her weight, metal grinding on metal, "to screw the brains out of the sickest," she pushed his legs wide, "most disgusting fuck that I could think of," scratched her blood red manicure along his inner thighs, "in the vilest most degrading place that I could find." Bent down and gave his balls a rolling lick with her rough pebbled tongue.

She grinned sharp teeth at him. "And you are that disgusting fuck."

"Wait," said Loki. He pushed her back and said, "You're not going to tell Set about this are you?" Not much he could say about the disgusting fuck part. She had met him after all. Though if she thought that was actually a condom he was sporting, she had underestimated this sick, disgusting, shape shifter.

She wrapped her hands around his ankles and pulled him down. Away from the wall and flat on the bed. Springs poked up into his back and butt and knees. He stared at the dripping ceiling. She said, "Do you want me to stop?" Then she took him in her mouth and he was glad he was so good at shape shifting as he felt every rough roll and lick of her mouth and teeth and tongue.

He said, "Puts a whole new spin on putting a man's head in a lion's mouth." Didn't even mind when the ceiling dripped ice fire water on his face. Mainly because given their position, he could pull her up on top of him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

He wasn't sure, but he thought the man in the rust and duct taped Gremlin might be following him.

He didn't think much about it when Sekhmet finally decided she was done degrading herself, and kicked him down to the curb. The Gremlin wasn't the only piece of shit car on the street huddling in the fog.

Loki had smirked and kicked aside a pile of ash where some idiot had tried to jack his little fire engine red Jupiter Jowett convertible. Huh. There was also some slag from a car boot. Loki sighed. That was going to cost a bundle in bribes.

Course, technically, it was his wife's car. Technically, everything down to the suit he was standing in was.

He really should head on home. The little woman would be worrying. And she had been so understanding about him getting knocked up by a horse for the last nine months. So, sad and sweet and understanding.

A saint. If you know, Loki believed in that sort of thing.

Loki didn't even think much of the Gremlin while he was blasting along down the freeway interchange. Top down. Yelling along with 'I Did It My Way.'

It seemed unlikely that they'd both get a jones for irradiate your innards chilies and a chocolate martini pick-me-up. But when he pulled into the garage under "Smoking Mirrors", he lost the Gremlin and gained a Rolls Royce Silver Wraith.

It was driven by a dark man in a brown suit who clearly couldn't afford the Rolls dashboard, much less the car.

Loki smiled at the little man in the parking garage. He patted his baby, in case she got jealous, and said, "Nice car."

The man grinned white teeth in his angular face and started to strip out of his brown suit. Not the usual reaction. He said in very careful English, "I just got it."

By the leather breach clout and style of "it snows here" footwear, Loki had him pegged. "Iroquois?"

The man nodded and pointed to himself. "Mani." Cute, Mani the man.

Mani waved at the elevator up to the club. But Loki shook his head and said, "I never pay a cover charge if I don't have to." and led him to the service elevator. Loki grabbed a plate of chilies on his way through the kitchen. Within seconds he could hardly taste his own tongue. He could swear even his eyes were sweating.

Mani was attractive enough, but Loki had a policy against hooking up with the first person he saw. He ended up loosing Mani in the crowd and that was okay too.

It was around one a.m., so the place was wall to wall tattooed Aztecs, pierced Mayans, and your odd branded Toltec. Everyone in leather, feathers, and not much else. Loki could see his own reflected pale face glowing in the black light from behind the bar. Well, that and his hair was on fire.

Loki sipped his icy martini of love and went to stand by the rail over the dance floor as he breathed in the smell of marijuana and clove cigarettes.

Black mirrors on every surface and a floating pyramid that gave off dry ice fog. The randomly rotating, revolving, however you describe it dance area; where somehow you always started out bunny hump dancing on the floor with a topless hottie and ended up with a guy with a fish bone through his penis on the ceiling.

Although. by the time he drank enough to end up on the dance floor, Loki didn't much care. Surrounded by mirrors and the beautiful mutilated. The world was a pretty happy self-referential place.

Except by that point, he didn't use the word self-referential all that much.

By then it all sort of dissolved into a haze of spicy food and cold drinks and black lights playing on skin.

Loki may have slipped out to play craps with Huitlipochli and his cholos in one of the private rip out your heart rooms. Wall to wall red vinyl and stone mirrors. A grate in the middle of the stone floor. A smoke blackened iron hook on the ceiling.

Loki may either have lost ten large or screwed Huitlipochli's tight little humming bird ass strung from the hook like a present in the middle of that black reflective room. He may have said, "Wonder if Coatlique knows where her little boy is?" And Huitlipochli may have said, "Fuck you," or "Fuck me," and then did, or rolled the dice, which Loki may have switched for loaded dice, because then Loki may have won twenty large, which he might have then blown buying enough party favors to keep the whole crew celebrating.

Loki'd given birth to an eight legged horse that morning and he was in the mood to party. Pregnancy had been a bitch and a half. Always was.

He may have snorted lines on a mirror that might have actually been Tezcatlipoca, who may have then screwed Loki against the glass wall overlooking the club, like being slammed by splintered fog into open space, or that last one may just have been the result of mixing too many depressants and stimulants.

All Loki knew was he woke up in his car sometime around eleven the next morning with his tailored Armani pants twisted around his ankles. Feathers and scales in his mouth. With a headache the size of end of the world.

And he got his Gremlin back.

It followed him all the way over the Rainbow Bridge onto the landfill island of the gods. Although Loki did finally manage to lose the bastard in the lunch time rush. Some people just didn't have the stones to drive down stairs.

His 007 done for the day, Loki drove up a leafy little street where all the houses sat primly behind discrete little walls. Nothing too palatial. Just discrete.

Loki drove up the sandstone driveway of his unnamed house and clicked the magic of automatic garage door open sesame.

There was a horrifically earnest Solar powered car parked in his spot. Wasn't the only thing Balder would like to park there. At least it didn't take up much space. Pretty much like Balder.

Loki parked his baby and tried not to inhale. The garage was sparkling and smelled of bleach. Loki sighed. Someone had been up all night cleaning. Great.

Maybe he'd get lucky and find Sigyn and Balder in a passionate cleanser embrace among the trembling dust bunnies. But he doubted it.

Loki carefully swung open the overwrought brass door and stepped into a white art deco explosion. Home sweet retina burning home. He didn't take off his sun glasses.

In the living room, Sigyn, dressed in layers of white silk and feathers, sat on a white instrument of torture looking mournfully at her hands. She was still wearing pink rubber gloves -- the only splash of color in the room.

Except for Balder. His yellow suit of earnest light sitting on a white stool at Sigyn's knee. Speaking urgent earnest words. Loki couldn't see his face. Didn't really want to. But as Loki quietly headed for the tortured copper staircase, Loki imagined Balder's long imploring face. Nothing could be important enough to be quite that earnest.

At the top of the stairs, his son, Vali, slumped his way down the landing wearing his own sunglasses. Course, Vali never actually took his sunglasses off; it went with the cargo pants of the unwashed and ripped shirt thing he had going.

Loki glanced down the stairs and whispered, "Hey, don't you have something for your old man?" Vali tossed him a small rattling bottle. Chewable aspirin. Bacchus was a genius. Loki said, "Thanks," and crunched down some aspirin.

Maybe he should set Vali up with Huitlipochli, but he'd probably just get a "Daaaaad," and the kid would disappear in his room for a week. Plus, hummingbird ass was a bit out of Vali's weight class.

Downstairs, Balder's kept droning; while above Loki's nose hair's continued to be assaulted by cleaning products. The coast seemed clear and very shiny.

Then Narfi, his preppier son, came out of the library and gave Loki a half lidded smile and leaned against the door frame, arms crossed. Loki didn't bother to try to shut him up. Narfi said, "Mother. Oh, Mother., Father has returned."

Loki headed for the nearest hair of the dog. Not fast enough.

"Loki!" Sigyn ran up the stairs and flung herself at him with her typical octopus in love hug. Tiny white feathers flew off her marabou lined dressing gown, and hot tears practically seared a hole in his wrinkled gray suit.

At the foot of the stairs, Balder glared.

If Balder were Ra, Apollo, or Huitlipochli, then Loki would be dead right now. But he was only Balder, so Loki's suit was merely well lit and Sigyn's blond hair had a Saint's glow. Wound tight into a braid and wrapped like a crown around her head. Sigyn's seduction hair. Hours of sunlight and it wasn't even mussed.

Sigyn had progressed to saying, "Loki, it's you."

Loki coughed and pushed her away from him. "Yeah, it's me." He waved at Balder. "What a surprise to see you here. Shouldn't you be off saving orphans one cup of coffee at a time?"

"I took the day off when Sigyn called," said Balder. Baring his teeth in a not smile.

Sigyn looked uncertainly down at Balder. Glanced down at her hands.

Pulled off her gloves with soft pops. Clutched at them like a chicken she was trying to strangle. She said, "Oh, Balder is here, he's here because I called looking for you." Another wring of the gloves. "I was so worried. I thought... " she shook her tidy crowned head, "I didn't know what to think."

Balder stood with one foot on a beaten copper stair looking up, but didn't start to climb, which was Balder all over.

Loki considered tossing the bottle of aspirin at him, but it would have just bounced off like everything did. Anyway, it was Loki's aspirin. Some things had to be sacred.

Loki shrugged and walked around the landing towards the Entertainment Room of deco inferno.

Sigyn leaned over the rail, but didn't let down her hair. She said, "Thank you for coming. I...I'm fine now. You're a dear friend."

Then she trailed after Loki. She whispered, "Where have you been, Loki?" as she wrung at her poor dead gloves. You didn't come home all night and I was so worried. I just sat by the phone waiting for the police to knock on our door to tell me that you were dead or in the hospital."

"As you can see, I'm fine," Loki replied as he poured himself a whiskey and soda. It was after noon, practically night time.

Sigyn walked toward him a little trail of feathers and fluttering silk layers. Dressed for romance and clutching her pink rubber gloves. Sweet distress. But she still managed to close the door behind her. They'd played this scene before. She said, "But where were you all night? I called your cell, why didn't you answer?"

He swallowed some whiskey, " It was on vibrate."

She said, "I called everyone I could think of, but no one had seen you and..." She drifted in a figure eight around a spare white couch and an improbably green credenza. "It's just...last night we were going to celebrate, and I made your favorite dinner," She blinked her water works at him and said, "Where were you?"

Loki tossed back the rest of his drink, "Out."

Sigyn's face crumpled. "Oh, I don't know why I put up with this. I must be crazy." She spun another infinity in another cloud of tiny feathers. Where did they all come from? You'd think she'd run out eventually. "You come home stinking of liquor and, everyone says that I should just leave you."

She clutched his drinking arm and said, "If only you'd give me some little sign that you loved me."

Loki dropped the heavy tumbler to the glass bar top with a heavy crack. "Everyone meaning dear sweet Balder, the best beloved." He twisted his drinking arm free. "What he doesn't realize is that's not what you want at all." He walked towards her. She backed away. "As long as you have me as your screw up, then everyone can think you're perfect..." He walked slowly towards her until her knees hit the couch. "...while I know the truth."

She trembled a little, but didn't say anything. Just dropped her gloves to the geometric tiled floor. He leaned forward. She fell back onto the couch.

He whispered, "Now call me a liar."

Sigyn closed her pretty little eyes and her pretty little pink mouth parted. He heard that little catch in her throat. The things a giant had to do to keep himself in the godlike lifestyle to which he was so accustomed.

He wondered briefly if Balder was still waiting, one foot on the stairs.

Then he gave Sigyn what she wanted in the room with the cold art on the walls.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

But every day couldn't be a party. For one thing, his head would explode. There was only so often he could wake up with his gear shift grinding a hole in his back, or his knees loosing circulation over the car door, or his ass... well, even Loki had his limits. Although he'd lie if anyone asked him.

Days passed with a more reasonable level of debauchery. Punctuated by the occasional appearance at work.

But that was the dull haze of days. This was the brisking night.

Loki's bed was wide as the sea and covered in fire proof satin. He fell back on it in a back slap fall to feel its waves. If he was going to have a water bed, he wanted an old fashioned roll.

Sigyn preferred narrower, firmer rests. All the more reason to sleep on the sea.

But that night, Loki was storm tossed. He dreamt fractured dreams of melted butter used as database storage and naked bearded dwarves rolling in it splayed in Playboy poses. And bowls, he dreamed he was looking at the underside of a silver bowl that was the sky, and he was sinking under the sea far away from his mountain home. Gripping his own tail and alone. Lonely walking the paths of the under earth. Ripped from her mother's hall. And chained. An impossible ribbon looping him down. A sword stabbing his mouth open so he couldn't even howl.

Finally Loki got up to sit and stare at the moon. It wasn't too late to head to "Smoking Mirrors", or " Pele's Flaming Tiki", or a half dozen other places. He could bathe in champagne and have beautiful mortals beg to lick it off. Fly up on cocaine. Drift on hash.

He didn't want to drift.

He sat in his windowsill, one long leg resting on the window frame opposite, and the other tasting the wind.

Tonight it felt like ice. Cold as the mountains.

He wriggled his toes, all the better to taste it. Then without a thought, he leaned forward from his window and fell. Flew into the night. An owl. Not as if he needed to borrow a cape of feathers to fly. He'd only done that to get into Frejya's Snori tight pants.

Felt the cold wind under him as he flew over the Rainbow Bridge. Freshly painted for Pride week and decorated with flags.

Course that was before he'd known Frejya was more interested in carat and cut and clarity than daring tricks. Though she wasn't picky about hard or soft. Any sparkle would do.

He glided on the updraft of the drowsy hills. Clustered with condos swallows nested down to the dark bay.

Course that was years ago, when he was a rube with ash and frost behind his ears. Coming down to the great big city to steal golden apples and a girl for someone else. He could hardly imagine it now.

Never even seen a god before. Or strings of street lamps that blinked below him. Or hills scattered with spider perched homes clinging to the incline. Windows blinking with the first pink of day. Gambling that the mud wouldn't slide. That the Titan's chained under the earth would sleep. That the dragons would continue to slumber. That Gabriel would never blow his horn. That One Earthquake would never come.

He flew past all that.

Flew into the past.

Up over the Ironwood in the sharp mountains east of the city. Past where the troll women lived. His solitary daughters. Never eat a burning woman's heart. Huitlipochli might know the trick of it, but Loki had vomited trolls for weeks. But then, as so many were so fond of reminding him, he wasn't a real god.

Didn't matter.

He fucked them all.

He flew past the tree line and up into frozen ice. Into the Jotunheim. Where the Frost Giants lived.

Ice flows that burned with churning black lava. Red cracked and steaming in the snow. Flurries of dry powder that would never stick. Always wander on the Kelvin breeze.

He landed in the snow before his wings could freeze. Walked the rest of the way through blue sculptures carved by the winds. His bare feet melting the ice with each step. His breath the only burning moisture.

He walked to the hall of his first wife. His Frost Giant wife. Hewn ice and carved snow. Loki carefully went in the front door. " Angrboda. Are you here?"

He ducked. An axe went flying where his head had been. She was here. Although he'd hoped for more than an axe. This was a bare token of affection.

He spun it absently in one hand. Looked at Angrboda standing in the middle of the hall. His Distress Bringer. Her hair wild in long curls of white and black. She said nothing. Just looked at him with her grey eyes of falling snow.

He looked around the hall. The ice walls were still not softened by tapestries or paintings. But there, stabbed to the wall with a knife over the black ice mantel, was a dried out stick. His first love token. He'd been so young.

He walked over to it and said, "Imagine you keeping that old thing." But he didn't reach to take it down.

Angrboda said, "It is mine. I asked for a sacrifice and you gave it. Tied a rope around your dick and played tug of war with a goat."

He'd been hardly more than a boy. Spurted blood on her snow white face all to make her laugh.

She touched his arm; her fingers were winter. The silk of his pajamas froze at her touch and cracked and fell away. She said, "Why are you here?"

Then he took her hands. "Do I need a reason to visit my best beloved?" and danced her around the vast empty hall.

It had been full once. Long ago. A glacial age.

Danced her till she was laughing and breathless, and then he kissed her as a fire might lick at the frosty moonlight. She melted for a moment and then pushed him away. Said, "A man who does not know himself cannot have a best anything."

Loki spun himself to the music in his head. A waltz. A jitterbug. A marimba. "I know exactly who I am. I'm Loki. The Trickster. The Shape Changer. The Sky Traveler."

Angrboda stared at him with her winter eyes.

So he kissed her to stop her gaze, as lava might kiss the snow. She whispered sleet, "Have you decided then? Then let us go now. You can trick the chains from our son so he can howl at the moon and eat the sun. Lift our other son up from the deep to crack the city with his coils. Go to our daughter and set sail on her ships of dead men's nails. Make a new world big enough to hold us."

Loki hissed that last cry of a coal before it goes black, "But then we all die."

Angrboda stepped away from him. A circling avalanche. "The future is written in ice, not stone. If your little Frigga can hold back the death of her son with promises, then I say let us melt what is written and write what we want."

He shook his head. Whispered, "Frigga didn't bother to ask the mistletoe. It was too unimportant." Backed away from his first beloved. Wondered why he had come here at all.

She watched him go. Said nothing. Stood in her empty hall that was once full and let him leave.

Outside, the sun had risen. He became a falcon and stooped on the wind toward the city below.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Loki's work schedule was what you might call elastic. And possibly not what you'd call work.

The Aesir and Vanir had their temples, of course, but Aesir Shipping was where the money to mead all those dead warriors came from. Not to mention fast cars, cold champagne and Dior barely dripping of lights of love.

But that was the shining night, and this was the dull day.

Loki's title was Senior Vice President of Copernican Geometry. No one quite knew what that meant, and that was good.

Loki had an office with a view of the glittering glass and stone canyons that humans built. When he chose to show up and put his shoes on his steel and glass desk, he spent most of his time making paper airplanes with odd trajectories.

At that moment, the Senior Vice President of Copernican Geometry had his feet up on the All Father's desk and was folding a magenta piece of paper that smelled of the sweet old fashioned perfume of mimeograph.

"Stop that," said Odin snatching the paper airplane that was never to be. This decade, Odin was going for the genial professor look. All blue cardigans, and tweed with brown leather elbow patches, and a glass eye with a rune for the day.

Today's rune was Fehu for wealth.

Odin smoothed the paper out. It might be forged paperwork for goods damaged at sea, all the better to get paid for them twice. Or it might be investment papers for goods that did not exist But it would never be a plane.

Odin said, "What's wrong with you? Post partum depression? You should be over it by now."

Loki shrugged and shifted his feet to smudge another section of Odin's desk.

"You're avoiding the question." Odin tapped his fingers on his desk. And for his next trick, Professor Odin would recite some Tolkien.

Loki puffed his cheeks with a sigh and looked out at Odin's 360 degree view of the city. Which isn't to say his head spun like an owl's, his chair spun just fine. Came to rest his feet again on Odin's desk and said, "Because I don't know the answer. Word is Set just blew back into town with seventy-two of his closest friends and minus the brother that he was throwing the big out of town bash for." He picked up another piece of paper idly. "Now that Osirus has..."

Odin smirked, "Put on cement galoshes and gone to live with the fishes."

Loki folded another forged document. "Better to say that Set sent Osirus on a long vacation." He crimped a wicked rule line on the paper. "From what I hear, Isis is putting up a pretty thorough search for Osirus." A hard under crease. "But then she has to."

Odin tapped his face next to his glass eye. "The Egyptian Underworld isn't all that equal opportunity."

Loki make a couple of cruel folds. " Unlike ours." Spun again to show that he wasn't holding a grudge, and said, "Set will probably keep things on a steady course, not shake up any existing deals or relationships until he knows what he's taken over. And you never know, Isis might be able to raise Osirus from the dead."

"Here's to hoping that he stay's missing." Odin gave Loki that look. The one Loki didn't trust. "I hear Set likes redheads."

That was going a bit too far for Loki. Actually, it wasn't, but Set wasn't even good looking. Not that they'd met at more than a distance. Sekhmet had sought Loki out, but, still, no. Maybe.

Loki spun the view again. It was still the same city. Then he said it. "I need a bigger percentage."

Odin's eye lost that professorial look. Even the glass eye was hard.

Glass was always hard.

He smiled thin lips in his little English Professor's beard. "You already get paid plenty for your level of responsibility."

Loki let the paper plane fly its avaricious spirals until to came to rest molesting a rubber plant. "Yeah, well, you're not the one with post partum. And I didn't even get to keep the horse." Picked up another piece of paper. "But that's the way it works around here."

Odin pulled the airplane out of the wilting plant and put it in its folder to continue its low pulpish ways. "Don't start that again." He pushed Loki's feet off his desk. "Or are you looking for your own set of cement over-shoes?"

Loki shrugged. It was an empty threat. Odin didn't have Loki's flair for elliptical mathematics. Said, "Maybe you could have Balder take over my job. He could fit cooking the books and lying to accountants in between saving puppies and charity telethons."

"And I'm Father Abraham with many sons." Odin sort of laughed, and walked around his desk. Wrapped his long fingers around Loki's chin. "No. You're useful for now."

Then Odin kissed him. The way he'd kiss a thrall. Grinding lips and empty of even the slightest desire.

Loki let himself enjoy it. Nothing much else to do. Then pulled away after he'd shown it didn't matter.

Odin sat back down on his silver chair with its view of the world. Or at least of the city's man made canyon tops. He said, "Now go do some creative Geometry."

Loki smiled sourly, " Yvol All Father." Clicked his heels together and left whistling Wagner as he went to go lie to some Auditors about some irregularities that weren't irregular at all.

He put jaunt in his walk, but he really wasn't feeling it. For a moment, as he passed a bank of LCD screens showing the World Tree grow, he thought he saw the reflection of the Iroquois from the club, but it was just wishful thinking.

He jaunted off to the roots of the building for a different kind of seduction.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Loki came suddenly awake.

Someone was holding his dick, which tended to get his attention. That someone was also holding a knife to it, which really got his attention.

The darkness shifted and the faint light from Loki's hair cast shadows on Set's dark ugly ass what the hell was that face. Speak of the Devil. Set's gravely voice whispered, "I feel like you're disrespecting me."

"What?" said Loki trying to keep the squeak out of his voice. "I'm not. I'm full of respect." He tried not to squirm as the knife pressed into the base of his cock...

"But how can this be? I do not feel this respect." Set sat on the bed, and Loki felt the ripples under his back from the weight of Set's body. Set whispered, "First you cheat my boy out of his payment for his work on the Asgard Estate's walls... even when you knew that he was my boy." The grip on Loki's dick tightened, which was followed by, sadly, the inevitable result. Loki tried to think about Set's face, but it was dark, and Set did have a certain reputation.

Loki licked his lips. Sweat was beginning to trickle down his forehead in the cool air. He said, "Eh, yeah, sorry about that, but I'm sure I can make it up to you." He could think of several ways.

Set chuckled and patted Loki's belly. "I let that slide because you got pregnant doing it and personally," Set's fingers brushed back down, "this amused me." The knife slid up Loki's hardening dick. The fine edge scraping along the sensitive skin. Set whispered, "Although, my boys, they worry about the example this brings. They say 'Set, you gotta do something about this joker.'" The knife brushed over the tip, a whisper of a touch.

This wasn't the first time Loki had been about to lose his dick. Fuck, the first time he yanked it off himself, but he preferred to keep it attached. "Yeah, that was pretty funny." said Loki.

The dark shifted again. The knife drifting down the other side. "But then you distracted Brokk and Sindi when they were supposed to working on a little project for me. One with a tight deadline." The bed swayed beneath them as Set shifted. "Pretty smart offering to pay them with your head, and then reneging because they couldn't have your neck." The knife lightly cut the skin just below Loki's little head. "Course, that wouldn't have stopped me." The knife lifted briefly. "But when they sewed your lips shut, you made me laugh."

Loki tried to think, then said, "So we're all good. I mean, what with you being a god of redheads and foreigners, and my being a redhead, and not Egyptian." The bed moved and Loki realized the movement wasn't coming from Set. Loki was grinding his own ass down into the mattress, causing it to gently ripple. Tried to lay still. Smiled even though Set couldn't see it, because smiles were important. "Why, we're practically family! Blood brothers even," said Loki, really wishing that knife would keep up what it had been doing.

"But now, I am not laughing," whispered Set, his voice a soft cement mixer. The knife trailed up Loki's stomach, the tip scratching across his sternum. Loki tried to remain very still, hands flat on the satin sheets. Didn't squirm at all. Set whispered, "I come home from a very hard month taking care of some family business," Loki swallowed as the knife scraped past his heart and rested at the base of his neck. Set said, "and what do I find when I come home?"

"Err," said Loki. This didn't seem the time for a smart remark. Or for that matter a stupid one.

The knife did its drift across the skin of Loki's neck. Set said very softly so Loki had to strain to hear him, "I find that you have been dicking around with my mistress. And this, it makes me feel very disrespected." The knife pushed harder into Loki's skin.

"It was Sekhmet's idea. She, um," the words she seduced me just couldn't come out. Also, the knife was beginning to break skin. It wasn't very sharp, but it wouldn't need to be. The world narrowed to the cool air on Loki's skin, the gentle movement of the bed under his back, the point of Set's knife. Loki licked his lips and let loose his tongue. "I can help you."

The water bed had a tsunami as Set leaned forward. "I'm listening."

Yeah, take the bait, said the fly to the spider. Loki said, "Your family problems. Seems your brother Osirus has gone missing."

Set didn't move. His voice was non-committal. Almost uninterested, but Loki knew better. "A tragedy."

"Yeah, yeah, anyway, your sister Isis, as long as she keeps looking for her brother-husband Osirus..." Loki had never had understood the whole brother sister fucking thing. It just seemed...sure, it was perverse, but kind of boring. "...you can't really take over the family business."

The knife turned to lay flat against Loki's skin. Cool and hard. His cock waved hello at it. Set whispered, "And how can you help me with that?"

Just reel it in. "I'll get her out of your hair." Concentrated on the feeling of smooth under his naked not squirming ass. "I can keep her busy. Convince her that Osirus has finally taken off for good. That he couldn't handle being the King of the Underworld. Then you could step in and show your sister that you can rule anything."

Sweat was trickling burning salt into his eyes now, but Loki didn't move. Just focused on Set's voice asking, "You can do that?"

"I can be very convincing." Loki smiled. He had him hooked. Reached up and put his hand around Set's. Pushed the knife away from his neck. "Shall we...ah, shake on it?"

"No," whispered Set. His faint shape shifted, even though the bed didn't make a move. "Helping me with Isis will show my boys your respect for our family, but it does not deal with your personal disrespect for me." The knife began to drift back down. Set said, "Roll over."

Loki shivered and turned over on the bed. Felt the waves as he struggled for balance on his knees. Felt the hard cold metal of the knife resting against his thigh.

Set whispered very close to his ear, a warm brush of dry desert wind, "When I'm done, you will be full of respect."

Loki swallowed and said, "Yeah." But Loki couldn't help asking, because he never could shut up. "So where is Osirus?"

Set patted Loki's butt and whispered, "In thirteen pieces at the bottom of the Nile." Reached between Loki's legs and touched him. "Except for his penis." Loki could feel the warmth of Set's body, but could only see darkness, " That I ate."

Loki swallowed, and closed his eyes. Hot burning sweat trickling down his face, he stretched to accommodate his respect.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Loki was fishing.

His ass was sore. His throat was sore. His back was a pretzel. The big soft kind, like you could buy at the mall covered in garlic butter and salt. His stomach growled. He scowled at the murky brown Nile. He wasn't sure he'd want to eat anything that came out of that river.

But Loki was fishing and Isis had better show up soon. He was getting bored.

Actually, he'd reached bored an hour ago, but what with his extreme respect for Set, he wasn't leaving this spot until Isis showed up to ask if any of the poor little waifs along the river had seen her husband.

Today, Loki was a poor waif. A little red headed bastard with freckles living in a barrel by the Hesiod overpass. Fishing for his next meal in the Nile river. Personally, Loki thought the " Kaos Rulz" graffiti to be a nice touch. He was particularly proud of the flames coming out of the letters. In the right light, they'd flicker.

"Excuse me," said a rich whiskey voice. Loki looked up into the deepest pair of Earth brown eyes that, huh, who know brown was deep. Green, sure, blue, well, of course, but why had no one mentioned that Isis was a complete and utter Cafe au Lait and whipped chocolate cream Betty. She was wearing this sort of thin cotton sheet. He could see her nipples and, looking down, he could tell that she was completely shaved. "Excuse me," she held out a wedding photo. She and her green husband were smiling in their thin cotton pectoral...damn she was fucking hot.

Isis said, "Have you seen this man?"

Loki cleared his throat and reminded himself that he was supposed to be a poor little waif who hadn't hit puberty yet. But, clearly, this called for a change of plans. Loki took the picture. Looked at the smiling faces in the photo. The sad beautiful woman in the mud spattered see through cotton dress. Made up his mind.

He nodded yes.

Isis smiled. Blah, blah, it was like the light from a flight of angels getting it on with a gaggle of Valkyrie at a dingy bar in Soho, Gabriel'd do anything once you got enough jello shots into him, or possibly the sun just came out from behind a cloud, but Loki's muddy spot by the underpass lit up. He might very well be in lust at first sight. Really, really, powerful, this was a very bad idea, lust.

She leaned swayingly forward and said, "Where? Where did you see him?"

Loki handed her back her photo. Slightly sticky from his hands. He said, "Yeah, lady, I saw a box." Okay, nice start, where should he go with it? Isis looked puzzled. He said, "It had this man's picture on it." Yeah, sure, now what? "It was floating down the river." He pointed down river. Good enough. That would give him a little time.

Isis sighed out and even her breath smelled wonderful, like Myrrh and bitter almonds. She brushed his shoulder lightly and said, "Thank you." She gave him a gold coin and began to lusciously walk down river. He wanted to run after and give her a bite.

Loki bit the coin thoughtfully, before throwing his fishing rod into the river with a muddy splash. He was going to need some help to pull this off.

Shortly after he turned into a hawk and flew away, a stocky figure in a wrinkled brown suit stood up from his place among the reeds. Efficiently put the cap back on his camera, and headed back to his Gremlin.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The air at " Joker's Wyld" was full of smoke and smirking laughter. Loki slid into a free seat across from where Raven was dealing from a deck of utterly and completely marked cards.

Coyote rattled some loaded dice. Lolled his tongue and said, "Looky what the dog dragged in," cackled at his own joke before licking himself. As if Loki hadn't heard that one before.

Anansi rolled all several hundred eyes and called out to a passing waitress, "Another round. Loki's buying." Anansi leaned forward, "Story I heard was you took Susannoo-no-mikoto for all he was worth the other night."

"Ha, ha, ha," said Loki. But he paid. He'd swiped Raven's wallet coming in, which turned out to be his own wallet on inspection. Never trust a Corvidae. Loki said, "So, Raven, Coyote, and Spider come into a bar and Raven says, I'd like some change please." Picked up the cards and rifled them, palmed three and added a French Postcard. Said, "So, have we gotten past the bad jokes part of the evening?"

"What's got your dick bent out of shape?" said Raven, who -- damn it --, had already re-swiped Loki's wallet.

Loki held out his hand and stuffed his wallet down his pants. At least that way he'd enjoy the next theft. Raven gave good beak. Loki said, "I need your help."

Coyote lapped up some beer and said, "Must be Tewsday." Another lap of beer. "Or Wodan's day." Lap. "Or Thorsday."

"Frejya's day," said Anansi, who was smirking somewhere in all that black fur.

Loki grinned into his beer. Good times. But, been there, done that, rode that horse hard and went wet to market.

"What's in it for us?" said Raven. He laid out his cards. All Kings. All five of them. All King of Hearts.

Loki looked at his hand of topless Queens and said, "Hey, it's not as if I haven't helped all of you."

"True enough," said Anansi, "Your daughter's a hideously attractive woman, but I'd have hated to have her sit on me for all eternity." Then he shrugged eight times, "But that was yesterday."

Coyote rolled his dice. Elevens. "I'm in." He smiled slyly into his beer. "You're always good for a laugh."

Loki handed Raven the shiny button that Raven kept hidden under a stone beneath the branches of a restless tree in the middle of a hungry forest at the end of unreachable valley. Loki said, "You can play the infant."

Raven tapped at his shiny button and said, "Done."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

But first, Loki would need a box.

Loki stood in front of the heavy Rowan wood door. Looked at the dark stained sign in red gothic letters hanging from gold chains by the door, " Bilkskirnir."

He muttered, "Seriously, what kind of asshole names their house," and knew he was stalling. He rang the doorbell.

There was a scramble behind the door and it swung open. Sif stood in the doorway, one white hand clutched the dark stained frame. The golden hair she'd cried for fell in long sheets to the dark hardwood floor. The hair went with the full teen kitten breasts, lush pouting lips, and the wide Baltic hips in her little white tennis outfit, and all about as real. She breathed in and out. Said in that put on movie starlet voice of hers, "Loki, you shouldn't be here. If Thor sees you he'll kill you."

Loki put his hands in his pants pockets. "And he might see me, if he weren't off smiting trolls." Smiled and put a little twinkle in his eyes. "Relax. I'm just here to borrow something."

She toyed with the upper button on her prim school girl shirt. Prim on a B cup maybe. On Sif, not so much. She tapped a perfectly white tennis shoe against a knot in the floor. "Why should I give you anything?"

Loki flipped back a lock of her fine golden hair and walked into the house. Looked at the deer heads arranged randomly on the dark paneled walls. "Thor's still decorating in early stuffed I see."

And the top button was down. Sif licked her candy apple lips, which Loki had good reason to know tasted that way too. At least until the lipstick was gone. She said, "You shouldn't be here Loki." She fidgeted with the next button.

Someone needed to un-stick the loop button. At least put the thing on random. Loki said, "Do you still have that Egyptian sarcophagus end table in the attic?"

"Why?" and the second button was down. Um, he didn't want to have sex with her in it. Not again. He almost couldn't get out the last time.

"I can't exactly go buy one. Someone might notice." Loki looked at the bear skin rug on the floor snarling at him with glassy eyes. The giant lacquered fish above the stone fireplace. The elk looking bored by the doorway. The partially open front door, and the sunlit garden with its red hatted gnomes beyond. What kind of asshole did that to gnomes? Sure, they were annoying little bastards, but still.

"I don't care what it is you say you want," Sif took his arm and pulled him softly towards the bear skin rug. "I want you to leave."

Fine, but he was only doing this for the poor little stuffed gnomes in her front yard. He grabbed Sif by the arms and threw her down onto the bear skin rug. He said, "I'm taking the sarcophagus."

The third button was toast and her front closure bra had popped open. Damn, she was good. Obvious, but good. She pushed herself up onto her elbows, chest forward, one leg bent at the knee, and said, "I'll fight you." and then heaved her chest a few times for emphasis.

Loki said, "Somehow I doubt it." Shifted. Grew taller and broader and a good deal more dull looking. Boomed, "Why would you want to fight your own husband?"

He didn't bother to take off any of his clothes, although by now she was practically falling out of her shirt. Just ripped off her little girl underwear and tossed it on the bored elk.

He went on safari under her pleated tennis skirt through curling golden jungles and into the warm valley below, while she sort of writhed around, and breathily whimpered, "No!" twist and turn, "No!"

Then he got serious. Enough theatrics already. Lied with his tongue until she keened long and high. One of the maids came in, took one look, and quickly left.

Anyone could come in at any time. Thor. Sif's tennis instructor. The pool boy. Odin. Wouldn't that make a party. Loki couldn't bring himself to care.

He kept on until Sif was crying for Thor to punish his bad, bad girl with his mighty hammer.

So he flipped her over and gave the forge birthmark on her rounded butt something to be pink about. A fast hard spanking to make everyone feel better, while she worked him with her soft little hands and asked for another. Then he slammed her mewling ass back into the rough bear that Thor had killed.

Tangled tongues with her cherry stem trick. Swallowed all her words and smeared her candy apple away until she was just a woman. Sobbing on a dead skin on a hard wood floor.

Lay in trembling in the moment, and then vaulted out of there. The gnomes had had their show.

She looked up at him as he tucked himself back in and lit up a cigarette. There were tears trembling in her pale blue eyes. "Why do I let you keep doing this to me?" One perfect tear rolled down a peach petal cheek. "I feel so disgusting."

He breathed out a blue stream of smoke. He might have believed that a bit more if she wasn't sprawled in a Lana Turner pose from the poster in her dressing room. He said, "I seem to have that affect," and went to go get his end table, and a few other things, for time spent. The gnomes would want it that way.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Since it'd be a day or so before Isis worked her way down the river, Loki went home. Always a mistake. But really, Loki's dick wasn't the only stick he had in the fire. Although, okay, that was an unpleasant image.

But not entirely inappropriate for the evening.

Sigyn picked lint off his suit as they waited for the front desk at " Aegir's" to do their credit check. She was wearing a simple high necked white wool dress. White wool princess coat. Elegant. Restrained. Not a hair out of place. Hard to believe an hour before she'd been bucking on the waves, sinning for her penance. She picked another piece of lint.

At least there was alcohol. And after that, the hangover.

After being suitably sniffed at by the wait staff, Loki made it to the doorway of the latest thing in stick up your butt dining. Hell frozen over. Loki said, "I should call Hel for her birthday. Any idea when that is?"

Sigyn flushed and said, "Loki. Please. How can you talk to me about your children by another woman?"

Loki looked up at the acrobatic floor show flipping across the ceiling. They were pretty good. Said, "Actually, I only mentioned one of them, but we can discuss my son, the world ending wolf, or my... giant snake."

That was better. Sigyn turned white to match her outfit. She looked around to see if anyone had heard them. As if anyone was close enough to hear.

The place was an enormous cavern with slabs of ice floating on an cold blue lake. Dotted with levels of tiny little white tables for the beautiful people to look at each other.

Also, for some reason, there were puffins marked with little signs and balancing trays on their little heads. Loki guessed penguins must be last season now that everyone was doing them.

Loki jumped down onto the first ice flow to float on by. Sigyn hung onto him and whispered, "Please be careful this evening. Just don't..."

Loki scooped a Sex on the Beach (yeah, he wished) off a passing puffin tray. "Don't worry, I'll be good, or good at it." He winked at her. Sigyn put on her smell a fart suffer face.

Loki looked around.

Everyone was here, and, traveling by ice flow, you had to pass everyone to get anywhere.

He even spotted Set sitting at a table in a dark corner, naturally, with a cow headed woman who had the most enormous tits that Loki had ever seen. Sekhmet wasn't going to be happy about that, which on the whole, could be a good thing.

Aphrodite was holding court on an iceberg with her beautiful little mortal toy blinking next to her. Seems it was Adonis' sweet sixteen. Apparently, that was old enough for Aphrodite to finally admit she wasn't exactly playing Adonis' mommy, but still be coy about it.

Sigyn kissed her hellos while Loki wondered if slipping the kid a birthday kazoo in the restroom counted as being good. Then again, given the arctic in Aphrodite's ice flow stare, he decided that he wasn't crazy enough to mess around with a love goddesses' chew toy.

Plus, Loki wasn't really into breaking things in. Well worn with a full bag of tricks was much better.

Loki drank his sex and scooped up a passing Sidecar. At this rate, he'd be comfortably numb by the time they flowed on by.

Loki kicked a slow puffin wearing the sign, "Hello, my name is Fimafeng," and turned when he heard Huitlipochli laugh. The young sun and war god was sitting next to his mother, who was sipping a Bloody Mary with one head and nagging Huitlipochli with the other. Kid was wearing a tux, but his hair was spiked into the club form of the night. By midnight, Loki knew Huitlipochli'd be back at the "Smoking Mirrors" in next to nothing. Rolling his dice of the night.

High above, on one of the aery ice perches, Lucifer was feeding florescent jello shots to a giggling Gabriel. That looked like fun, but that wasn't his table.

Odin stood up as they approached. All Father Knows Best at the high table with his trophy wife, Frigga. She looked like she'd been knocking back Valium since before Noah's little cruise and was feeling fine with it. A set of his sons by all his trophies tuliped around the high table, with a few other lucky mushrooms, while the rest of the Aesir and Vanir perched at tables with their necks elegantly craned for scraps on their little iceberg.

Everyone looking perfect and beautiful. The best of friends. Netted in diamonds and bound with ties.

All the usual suspects, except Thor, still banging trolls with his short hammer no doubt.

Sigyn rushed forward and blinked at Odin, and the only empty seats at the high table. They'd need to sit for their scraps like all the other good little boys and girls. She said, "We're late. I'm so, so sorry," and gave Loki the sort of look that made him want to jump up on the table and sing show tunes.

But then there was the question of Porter or Sondheim, and so he never did. Except that once, and he'd deny none of it. Most of the rumors were better than what happened anyway.

So instead he sat down in the empty chair next to Sif, who shifted uncomfortably. As well she should.

Loki slapped his hand against his leg in three short sharp cracks and watched Sif turn pink. Bite her collagen lips. Squirm.

Blind Hod, being blind, settled for saying, "What?" While Balder was cat and canary smiling at Loki, which since he was a puppy meant he was about to do something spectacularly stupid.

Meanwhile, back with the all Father, Odin was saying, "No, no, my dear. For Loki, this is early." He patted Sigyn on the back. Sigyn smiled soft as butter and went to sit down in the empty chair next to Balder.

Balder flung himself out of his chair to seat Sigyn, not as if any of the puffin wait staff were rushing to do it. Balder's wife, Nanna, sat there and went into her own mini-ice age.

Just a happy little family outing.

Loki reached across the table, grabbed old One Hand's Martini and gulped it down. Tyr's lips did some sort of almost smile. Said, "Glad to share."

Loki said, "I was sure you would be," and winked at Tyr's frisky little mouse of a wife, who flushed. As well she should.

Odin beamed avuncular and pater familias at the gods and his one flaming giant. Said, "Now that everyone's here." He raised his glass for a toast. "To a very profitable third quarter." Ringed hands clicked against cut glasses dutifully raised for that profitable two bits of a year.

Balder cleared his throat of canary and said, "Before we toast, I'm afraid that it seems..." Loki sipped Tyr's Martini. A little too much vermouth. He wondered what if they made a better Gimlet. "It's just that -- " Balder turned to Sigyn and said, "I'm sorry to have to do this in such a public place, but events have gotten away from me."

Pissed off professor Odin, his rune gleaming Ingawaz for god, bit like branding a dog, dog, or Zawagni, said, "My boy, don't keep us in suspense, or Loki here will finish Tyr's drink before the toast."

Tyr tapped the fingers of his fake hand on the table. "Wouldn't want the V.P. of Euclidean Math to miss out on leaching onto anything."

Loki took another too much vermouth sip. "S.V.P of Copernican Geometry to you, Handy, and I think you'd be surprised at where I've been leaching."

Tyr opened his mouth to say something really boring.

Balder smugged another smile and said, "Don't bother Tyr. Loki's already in plenty of trouble for his mathematics." Balder flipped his dial back to earnestly looking at Sigyn.

Nanna was just loving that. Another minute and she'd be pulling a Mad Juana of Castile on Balder without the anesthetic.

The gods started quivering at their own floor show. Although for Loki's money, the triplets in the golden cage on the ceiling had better legs. But no one asked Loki.

Balder was laying it on thick and oblivious to anyone not Sigyn. He said, "I thought if I could show you physical proof that, that you'd finally..." He took a deep breath, "I...I hired a detective to follow Loki." He placed his hands flat on the table next to his Robish Roy Gingery Rogers.

Hod hunched in his chair, said, "Oh, Balder." and closed his sightless eyes.

"You did what?" said Odin, looking ready to pop his glass eye out. Frigga was stepping off her Valium cloud and starting to look anxious. She'd better pop a few more with her next martini. No, make that a Sidecar. She'd be better off.

Odin glanced at Loki, who shrugged. Depending on how long the dick had been following him, actually about a day would be long enough to see all sorts of interesting dipped in chocolate and given sprinkles fun. He wondered if there were pictures. He wondered if the dick was attractive in a hard brutal sort of way. A Private Dick. Although, for equal opportunity, he'd also take a sultry long legged wise cracking broad. With his luck, the sort of dick Balder would hire was a perky blonde from the burbs.

Balder was shaking his head. All proud puppy piddling on the carpet, as all the assembled Aesir and Vanir stared at their god of innocence. "I had expected depravity, but I was not expecting to learn the Loki has been running wholesale fraud at the company." Balder looked at his father sadly. All justice in his eyes, "I'm afraid this may not turn out to be such a stellar quarter after all."

Odin put his hand on his son's shoulder, lightly so as not to hurt the little bastard. "You are going to call your detective off right now."

Balder puffed up all the more. Stage two. Young Lochinvar. Too bad he didn't have a horse. An electric car just wasn't the same. He said, "It's too late for that. The authorities have already been contacted." He looked again at Sigyn. "I just didn't want you to be too shocked when they arrived." He moved his hands a little closer to her. "Your family is here for you..."

Sigyn made a little gasp in her throat, not unlike when Loki was fucking her the Davy Jones into the water bed.

Loki grinned at Odin, although by now it was hard to feel his lips as the alcohol made its sad lonely way through his blood. He said, "Bet your wishin' you'da cut me in for more accounty-bily now. Blood brother." Then he stood up. This took some coordination, so he did it slowly. He said, "Gotta take a leak." Counted one, two, three. Odin was whispering urgently to Balder, looking pious. Sigyn was having a wring hands fest. Yeah, her family were certainly there for her all right.

The other tables began to buzz with loving conversation.

Loki somehow managed to make it to the bathroom and keep from tipping over into the cold blue water. It looked uninviting.

Bathroom wasn't much better. Full of flat fat asses and cold walls.

He wondered how much of the third quarter profits would go to making the naif's initiative disappear. Or maybe they'd all be in prison in time for Christmas. Although, from the sound of things in the aerie, the angels on high were progressing rapidly toward spreading some really good tidings of comfort and joy.

At least Huginn and Munnin were having a good time.

Loki liberated another drink from yet another puffin and watched the triplets in the golden cage shake their fringe things.

Then Set's cow-headed woman yanked him back into an ice fissure with mood lighting and the faint whispers of people passing on their way to the john.

Not that he minded the sudden privacy, given that the woman's udders were straining for papa out of her scrap of nothing dress, but he'd spilled his drink. And there was never a good reason for that. Unless it involved licking.

He looked at the cow-headed woman. Hard to tell if this involved licking. Maybe he should become a Minotaur. But that wasn't as much fun as it seemed.

Loki tried to pull his alcohol drizzled thoughts together and said, "Don't know what Sekhmet told you about me, but um, hi." He drank what was left of his drink to protect it from her evil drink spilling ways.

And none too soon, as the woman hit him in the shoulder. She said, "Sharp thinking Trickster. Sekhmet is Hathor's vengeance godhead."

"Oh," said Loki. Egyptians could be confusing even when he was sober. Brothers who were nephews and their own grandpa. "So, um, yeah." Stared at her chest. "Feeling like being degraded? I may be looking at really hard time soon," and tried to wiggle his eyebrows. They felt like they were three feet out from his head.

Hathor-Sekhmet, whoever the hell she was today, crossed her arms, which had the interesting result of squishing her breasts out. She said, "Get serious. We've got a problem Tiger," then cocked her broad delta butt South and looked, really, really cold. An Egyptian in the Arctic freezing... not that he was going to suggest she wear more clothes. Then he honed in on the key words. "I'm knocked up and since Set's firing blanks, we have a big problem."

"Heh," said Loki, feeling simultaneously terrified, pleased, and iced to the hairline drunk. "I'm cross pantheonic. Pantheonish. Pantheon-fucking-cuceiform." He needed another drink. Or possibly a good hard screw in an ice fissure. Maybe Set could join in and it'd be a whole fucking party.

She punched his shoulder again. "I'm glad you're so happy. We need to come up with a plan. Set is going to..."

"What, have a cow?" Mmmm...cows with women's bodies. Really built women. He might never go back to his iceberg. Just live in a world of icy nippled cows and slow moving puffins. As long as she stopped spilling his drinks. She started to shiver. Excellent. Oldest trick in the book. He said, "Here," and pulled her close to him, "Just for...a...warmth."

"And I suppose you have a bridge to sell me." But she snuggled into him. Enormous firm breasts, cold and puckered, pushing against his chest; she pinched him. "Pay attention, Tiger. Unless you want to be castrated, we need to figure out what to tell Set?"

Loki shrugged, which by no strange coincidence rubbed him against Hathor interestingly. Then he closed his eyes, because blurring and multiplying cow heads were distracting and said, "Eh, he ate Osirus' penis, after you, uh, know. Just tell him he's unes-pec-tadaly, um, virile." Loki rubbed the part under discussion against her hips so she'd get the point.

"Really!" Hathor pulled away from him, and looked strangely pissed.

He stared at her and her twins. "If you're feelin...um...parti-icula-ly pissed at him, I could, um degrade you some more."

She looked at him for a long moment, and then said, "Nice try Sport. I'm a cow, not an idiot." she looked at him with her big cow eyes. "Do you think our son will be a divine spirit of vengeance and retribution?"

Good question. He said, "Fenrir's jaws can scrape the sky and Jörmungandr's wrapped all the way round the World, hmmm," He thought about that, "and then there are the trolls and Hel, and I gave birth to an eight legged horse." He fussed for his wallet, "Wanna see some pictures?"

"I'll take that as a yes Tiger." Hathor might have smiled at him. It was hard to tell. She sauntered her delta out of their crack of ice.

Loki closed his eyes and tried to pull himself together. Nothing for it really. If there wasn't going to be degrading sex in a public place, he'd have to do the next best thing. He burned down the level of his perfectly good drunk to a more useful buzz, and left his uselessly private fissure.

Hathor was apparently not only stacked, but amazingly fast. She'd slipped all the way back to her table with Set none the wiser. Too bad.

Loki went to talk to the Head Waiter, puffin wrangler. The man sniffed until Loki slipped him a few Franklins and then he went a bit more Nutrasweet. Loki said, "I'd like a box of paper."

"Certainly, sir," said Mr. Cancerous Sweetener. "Any particular flavor?"

"Mmm...should be mistletoe pulp. Anything else won't do." Waited for his box and a bottle of Cristal, because if you can't knock back the bubbly with family, who can you celebrate with?

He made his way back to his iceberg; the cavern illuminated by sudden flashes of angelic light. A bottle in one hand and the box of paper under his arm.

Odin was throwing a spear at Balder. That was one way to get the tension off. The ground was littered with glasses and cutlery. Frigga smiling proudly as the spear bounced off her son. No River Styx for Frigga. She'd gone to each and every thing, and asked them not to hurt her precious boy. Her little doomed bouncing god of light. Except poor little mistletoe.

Wasn't Balder special. Preening and asking Sigyn to throw a knife, which she never would.

Nanna seemed ready for some knife throwing though. But Odin was a traditionalist. Always with the spearing.

Loki dropped his box of paper with a flat smack on one of the tables south of the salt, and gave Idunn a pinch. "Miss me?"

She sat there innocently and glared mascara at him. Didn't say a thing. Must not have missed him.

Balder definitely hadn't. But he didn't threaten Loki with John or Dick law.

Loki got busy with un-caging the cork on his champagne. He said, "Odin, are you my Blood Brother?"

Odin picked up the damned magic spear that Loki had given him and said, "Yes, of course I am. I've spoken with Balder and assured him that this has just been a horrible misunderstanding." Odin-wolf smiled meaningfully at the assembled gods. "Come back to your place at the table and we can have our toast."

Loki twisted the cork carefully out of the bottle with as nice and sweet a pop as anyone could wish. Only a spiff sent a cork flying. Wasted bubbly better poured in a glass and raised, "To the third quarter." Loki drank a healthy swallow. Tasted like chocolate and honey and tiny bubbles fizzing his spine.

Threw an arm over Bragi's flinching shoulder. "But we're all brothers in arms here." Took another swallow of liquid paradise and pulled in little apple pop tart Idunn for some of the action. Let her taste some champagne and splashed a little on her golden apples, because a lick was all it ever took to get her wriggly. Then let her go and said, "Wait, no. Even I have standards. Thiazzi said you were a good fuck, but someone who'd screw her brother's killer while the body was still warm..." He gestured with his champagne glass, "That's just cold."

Odin said between gritted teeth, "Enough, Loki. Sit down and be quiet. We've all agreed to be friends here." He was still gripping Gungnir, his magic spear that never missed. Yeah, friendly.

Idunn whispered, "Yes, Loki, please stop." She trembled into her chair, golden apple dress stained with champagne. Glanced at her fellow gods, all watching her with hungry eyes; the ice flows beyond, watching the show. Frejya leaned into her brother and whispered. Freyr laughed.

Idunn whispered, "I'll give you anything if you stop."

Balder looked like he wanted to say something, but Nanna and Frigga were hissing steadily at him.

Loki grinned. "That's not what Thiazzi, or Grefjon, or Nirdir, or Freyr, or for that matter Frejya said." Loki started to pour himself some more Cristal, then skipped it and went for a quick suckle at the source. Smiled at his next silk and diamond lambs. Said, "So, Frejya tell me, what is the appeal of fucking your brother? Following family tradition, or did he give you a bit too much Cartier for your birthday and you just forgot yourself. You can tell us. We're all family here." Loki pulled out a piece of paper and decided to go with a triple wing back.

Handsome Freyr put a protective Attic Flowers arm around his beautiful sister. Said, "I think that's enough, Loki."

Tyr called out, "Shut up, Loki. Freyr is the best of all of us."

"Hear that, Balder? Your status is slipping." Loki made another fold. "Course if Tyr spent a little less time concentrating on the best of all of us, and a little more on his wife, two blonds wouldn't be raising a red headed son. Or are you finally wondering about basic biology?"

The mouse gasped, and she and Try began to speak carrying whispers.

Meanwhile, back in the land of uncomfortable sibling touching, Frejya finally shrugged off her brother's arm and hissed at him. Darted her empty sky eyes at her friends and family. Then she opened her purse with a snap. "Perhaps if I write you a check Liar, you can teach yourself not to spread false rumors."

Loki finished his first plane and threw it at Balder. It looped through the air and skidded into Frigga at the high table. She was so pickled, she hardly noticed.

Loki plucked a floating feather out of the air. Loki said, "No. While the devil has his fun, I think I'll tell the truth."

Odin stepped down to Loki's level. "Blood brother, come back to your seat." he said as he all but crushed Loki's shoulder with a vise grip. Muttered through his beard, "Stop it. We can renegotiate your cut after we deal with the Balder's little mess." Odin smiled genially at his gods.

Loki picked up his paper and champagne and followed Odin, like a good dog with teeth. Said, "Maybe I should hang a few more men." Loki sat in the empty chair next to Hod. Cute musical chairs. "That is how you like to decide who wins and loses battles. Isn't it?" Loki pulled out another piece of paper and began to fold sharp cutting lines. "You're like a woman. Putting out for whoever begs the most."

Odin remained standing at the head of the table. " At least I've never been pregnant, living in the underworld, milking undead cows."

Nirdir laughed, while Balder went with a quiet beam. Tyr was still arguing with his wife.

"Meow," Loki scratched the air. Muttered. "Wish a cow were milking me right now." He finished another paper airplane and let it fly. It lofted straight at Balder, then veered at the final moment for a fateful crash into the blue water. Better luck in the next life weary wanderer.

Loki said, "You're right Odin. You're nothing like woman. After all, when Frigga thought you were dead, she had to marry both of your brothers into her bed to replace you. Frigga, did you fuck them at the same time, or did they take turns trying to live up to the All Father."

Frigga's smile got extra special frozen and she reached into her bag and pulled out several little green pills and washed them down with a Gimlet look. Odin sat down.

Loki said, "Funny how we don't see them at these little family get togethers anymore." Held up another airplane and let fly. It circled all the way around the iceberg and disappeared into the mist. Farewell wayward traveler.

Hod whispered, "Loki, stop. The next time something goes wrong, they'll all remember." Clutched his drink and stared sightlessly at the air. "They always do."

Loki said, "Maybe I don't care anymore. Let's see who is next." and he tossed another airplane.

Sif snatched it from the air and laughed breathlessly in her little girl lace party dress. She walked around the table. Eyes a little too bright for just champagne. Sank to her knees next to him and offered him her martini.

She bit her lip and said in her false voice, "Since I'm offering you the glass of peace, you must treat me well."

She really needed to stop acting in home movies. "I've been nice enough to you today, but from where you are, you can return the favor." Loki spread his legs and cupped himself.

There was a moment while she processed with that over bright smile. She threw the martini in his face and flounced her lace back to her seat. He licked the cold stinging drops. Still too much vermouth. Washed it down with champagne. Said, "But then I can see where you'd want some more nice. Thor, big on thunder, not a lot of lightening."

There was a laugh from behind him. Loki said, "I wouldn't laugh, Frejya, I'm not done with you yet."

Hod whispered, "You should be nicer Loki."

Loki folded another wicked swooped plane. "You're right. I'll start now. You never get to throw anything at your dear brother Balder." He flipped a spoon at Balder. At least that hit target. Even it bounced. Loki put the plane in Hod's hand, " Throw this."

Balder stood up, but didn't come around. He said, "Leave him alone. He's blind, he can't hit me."

"Then in my new helpful role, I'll guide him." Loki drank down a long sweet swallow of sparkle."Want to try, Hod?"

"Maybe," said Hod. Whispered, "Will it hit him do you think?"

"Hard to say, but we can give it a try." Loki put his hand around Hod's and then pointed him in the right direction.

Hod let the plane fly. Loki wasn't sure if it was the angels after glowing softly above, or the cranky Aztec war god on the next iceberg, or Odin gripping his never miss spear and smiling blandly at him, but the airplane went straight as a die. Hit Balder right between the eyes, and the glowing self righteous bastard fell down dead.

Frigga screamed. Rushed to her baby.

Loki said, "Guess you should have talked to the mistletoe," and had another drink.

Hod said, "Did I hit him?"

"Yeah, you hit him all right." Loki handed the champagne bottle by the neck to Hod. "You might need this."

Odin was saying in a loud voice to Frigga. "Don't panic. We'll just ask Hel to release his soul, and he'll be back before you know it."

"Good luck with that," said Loki.

"What's wrong?" said Hod. Twisting his neck, as if he could see if he just strained enough.

"Drink your champagne." Loki stood up. Then everything went black. Mostly because he was standing in the shadow of Thor in a shoulder straining tux. Then everything went blue, as Thor threw Loki into the water. It was freezing and cold and a merciful end to the evening.

As he sank, Loki wondered what Hel would wring out of Odin for the favor. Happy birthday Sweetie. Not that this was the gift she really wanted. But he was a terrible father, so this was what she got.

Loki turned into a mighty salmon of un-justice and swam down the drain.

Time to poke at his other sticks in the fire.

~~~~~~~

Isis walked down the river all day and past the night. Past the point where the Nile ran into the river. Past the monstrous dockyard machines loading and unloading the great boats that carried the goods of the city into the World. Past the point where the great river delta ran past the city and into the Sea.

But nowhere along the river, although she looked in every patch of weeds, did she find the box containing her beloved. But Isis would not rest until she found him.

In a small parking lot overlooking the ocean, she met two laughing brown eyed boys playing jacks. She held out her photo and asked them if they had seen Osirus, if they had seen her beloved in his box floating down the shore.

Oh, who was he kidding. It played out like this. Isis ran into Coyote and Raven jacking around like good little plants by the sea shore.

Coyote practically peed himself when he saw Isis, and Raven was very, very happy to be the baby. They directed Isis to where Osirus' "box" had ended up, sprouted a tree, and been turned into column in the house of the Great Astarte. Happily out of the city being pummeled into shape at the Lamia's spa.

Blah, blah. Raven got to be the baby nursed back to health. Coyote got his hair braided. While Anansi over played Astarte like the ham he was. Loki almost came out of the box several times to hit them. But hey, whatever worked.

Isis flung open the box that he'd been crammed into for the last several hours and grasped him to her breasts weeping. "I didn't think I'd ever see you again. I was so worried." Loki almost felt guilty, but seriously, her husband was in thirteen pieces at the bottom of the Nile. Except for the piece Set ate.

And well, Loki still had that part.

Which he put to good use in Astarte's bed like the sky. Soft pillows and down. Velvet and Isis. Shed of her stained see through cotton and tangled softly with him. Whispering sweet words as she touched him. Told him that his kisses were like sweet summer wine that she rejoiced to drink. That his lips were her cup and his eyes were her soul. That her heart, was his heart beating rapidly in her breast like a dove.

Soft full breasts that swayed above him. Ripe pomegranate fruit. Now he was a poet.

Because she told him that his loins were a fountain and his phallus like a cedar of Lebanon. The spear of the sun that pierced the sky. That she was the dark sweet earth and drank the river's bounty, as she rode up and down over him. Soft as myrrh and bitter almonds. Her tears falling on his face like a hot rain. Burning and beautiful.

It was the most fucking spiritual sex he'd ever had.

Loki wasn't quite sure he should do it again, but then he did. Rubbed all over with dampened barley, while she told him that he was her world. The sky spread over the land. The hot sun pounding down into the longing earth. The water rising from the river and melting into the land.

Until Loki wasn't sure he could do it again. But then they were. Spooned around her. Small, tiny movements. The lap of water on the shore.

Until Loki wasn't sure where Isis ended and he began. Twined limbs and hot juices in a stolen bed.

Seemed Isis was a fertility goddess.

It went on forever. Days. A week. Hours. It was difficult to tell. Sweet and soft and stolen.

But Astarte was going to come home eventually, or so the urgent knocks on the door said. So Loki led Isis down to the night time beach. Told her that Set had tried to kill him, which was true in a way. That she should be careful, true enough. That she should tell no one that she'd found him, definitely true. That she should go now.

She told him to meet her in the Butterfly House in the park tomorrow night, at moon rise, and then pulled him down into the sand, still warmed by the sun to bid him goodbye. He got sand in places where sand should not go. He wanted to do it again.

Lay back staring at the night sky after she left him. Wondered if midnight had always been that deep a blue. If the Milky Way had always been that milky? If he were fucking crazy? Seriously. The plan was screw her once and then suggest a five way with Queen Astarte, her handmaiden, and a groomsman, previously unseen.

She'd flounce off, or, damn the sky was beautiful.

Raven settled into the sand in a flurry of wings, while Coyote curled up around him and said, "No five way, huh?"

Astarte dropped down onto the sand. "Yeah, that was my favorite part," she plumped her breasts, "but I see you had other favorite parts in mind."

Loki sat up, "Oh, take that off."

Astarte said, "Look who's talking," and then melted into a spider. A spider with a tiger's giant dick. Anansi shrugged. "I wanted to be prepared."

Raven looked at Loki with a black whirling eye. "Crap," said Raven.

Anansi snapped off the tiger's dick and put his tiny one back on. "I could not agree more."

Coyote whined and licked himself.

Then his friends left him there, laying and lying on the beach in his borrowed shape and skin because they were complete and utter assholes.

But then again, he wasn't one to talk. Oh, who was he kidding. He was always one to talk.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk.

Dusted himself off. Took a shower in Astarte's bathroom of the stars. All those black and white faces staring out at him from their gold frames. Eyes twinkling over bold signatures. Beautiful. Dead. And now upside down. With mustaches.

Except Errol Flynn. Loki gave him a stack of pretty starlets to shuffle with in Astarte's bed like the sky. Smelling of sex and sweat and fermented barley.

He put the casket in the back of his car. Pulled out just as Astarte wafted down on a cloud.

Loki waved.

Drove the long way back into the city. Along Hwy 1's twist and purr turns. Dumped the casket in the bay because he certainly wasn't returning it.

Then kept on going over the series of bridges that linked the islands of the Delta.

Erector set rust and suspension reaching glories. Kept on driving past the toes of the city down the coast to let the wind give his head an enema.

He'd just reached the Devil's Slide heart stop cliff. Sea breeze and his baby grinding the curves of the early morning blacktop.

Which was about when his car blew up.

Which really pissed Loki off.

He'd loved that car. He put his foot down to keep from sailing off the edge and sat in the burning seat for a moment. Then he got up. Stood there naked by his burning beautiful baby. Gone too soon.

"Either someone's trying to tell me something, or they're an idiot," said Loki trying to make a mental list of all the people who might want to kill him. This might require a relational database, three attractive data entry personnel of indeterminate sex, and who was he kidding? He'd loose interest before they reached B for Balder, dead as a doorknob. The real question was who had access to his car. Not that he'd been watching it, but no one knew where he was.

It was a puzzle. A sad burning puzzle by the side of the road. He shifted into some appropriate black clothes on and gave his baby a Viking funeral push off the cliff and hummed the Ride of the Valkyries.

Turned into a hawk and flew back down the coast. Over where the river Van, which meant Hope, spilled into the river. He could have flown up to the headwaters of the Van, to his slavering son, to Fenrir, chained under the earth with an impossible ribbon, but he didn't. He did what he always did.

Flew over the rainbow to the fucking beautiful emerald landfill island where the Aesir lived. Landed on his driveway. No baby in the garage.

Sigyn was standing in the living room, holding onions under their son's heads. Naturally they were crying. They'd been at it for awhile. There were streaks in Vali's white makeup.

"Hey, dad," said Vali, sniffing melancholy bored tears.

Narfi shook off the onion and said, "Mother, why don't you give it to Father."

Sigyn turned her own tear stained at Loki. She waved a newspaper at him and said, "Loki where have you been. Odin's asked for a city wide period of mourning. Everyone has to cry or Hel won't let Balder come back."

"Huh," Loki smiled, "And it's not even my birthday." He walked toward the stairs.

Sigyn rushed at him with an onion. "Loki, you have to cry."

He grabbed the onion and tossed it at the wall with a splat. "I'm not going to cry for Balder. I didn't even like him."

Sigyn looked at the onion and her sons. Said, "We don't have to use an onion. I could give you wasabi. Or, or, you could go to that club you like so much for hot chilies." Vali perked up at that, but the kid was going to have to find his own way there, because Loki had decided. Finally. To get the hell out of Dodge. He could take Isis up the coast. Be Osirus full time. It'd be easy as a lie, and he was good at that.

Turned on his toe and walked back out the door, while Sigyn pleaded after him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So he went to the park. Full of sobbing children, crying because someone pretty in a picture had died.

He stole a paper and read about the crescent of flowers that well wishers were leaving at the gates to Balder's humble little solar mansion. There were pages of memorials describing Balder's charities and good works. How the city could finally give back to one of their most shining sons.

Loki laughed, sort of, wadded the paper up and threw it in a trash can overflowing with picnic garbage.

He went to a spare wooden tea house in the cherry blossom and burning maple end of the Park and had tiny formal women serve him green tea from a steel pot that tasted like barley.

Smoked a cigarette and strolled off his angles. Went into a mirror and gilt temple of massage. Had a beautifully serious young man in an orange robe twist him into a pretzel, like the hard kind you get on planes when you don't fly first class.

Bought a mild curry from a cheerful weeping vendor and sat in the Botanical gardens. Threw paper airplanes at the cedar trees, until they looked like airplane Yule. Then he set one on fire in celebration.

Walked along the Lake, as the sun went down. Lanterns were lit one by one. Reflecting in the water. The moon hadn't risen yet, but he couldn't wait to begin.

He made his way to the Butterfly House, put on his stolen face, and went in.

It was hot and the air was soft. Ropes of butterflies were sleeping on hanging vines, while violently pale moths brushed by him in the dark. Lantern light peered through the thousands of panes of glass. Like a thousand doors onto the city.

She was sitting on the lip of a box, one long leg swinging back and forth. Isis smiled when she saw him and said, "Hello, Tiger."

She smiled, and he almost didn't notice, but he did.

At first he thought she was sitting on his box, but this wasn't an end table that you could buy on sale at Macy's.

This was beautiful and golden. Gashed with ugly scars, and the stains of the river. He touched a deep cut in the wood and said, "Where did you find that?"

"Oh, Loki, the question isn't where, but when." She laughed like husky whiskey and the dark earth. Took his startled borrowed face in her hands and kissed him like she was tasting him.

He said into her lips, "I'm Osirus."

She nibbled her way across his cheek and whispered, "Do you think I don't know the taste of my own husband, like the perfume of Punt." She pulled him down onto the lip of the box, teetering on the edge. "You taste like smoke and frost." Her soft hands touched his chest. She whispered, "You're early, so we have a little time, but I think you should know, I called your blood brother. You're a little sweetener for his upcoming support in my family troubles." She kissed him. "For my help in making his problems disappear."

Loki pulled away from her. He should leave, right now. Become a butterfly and blend, or a bird. Smash out of a window and away.

He sat on the edge of the box. Looked at her. "Why?"

Isis ran a strong finger along his eyebrow and said, "Because I'm a goddess of fertility. I know Ra's name and I can bring the dead back to life, but even for me," she reached down and touched his phallus of Lebanon, stupid thing, even now hard for the soft earth, "There are limits."

She pushed him back, down into the high walls of the golden box with its gouges on the walls. "Do you think our son will be a divine spirit of vengeance and retribution?"

Loki swallowed. "Probably."

Isis pealed off her cotton dress. Stood there naked and brilliant in the dark. She said, "You can go if you want. Run now." She climbed in with him. Kissed his face like the rain that never fell on her river. Said, "Or you can stay for one more time."

Loki laughed, because he was in love. And between Set and Isis, Loki had a lot more respect for Isis. She'd fucked him over much harder, and with a hell of a lot more poetry.

Reached up and tangled his fingers in her hair black as the night that spread over the sea, smelling like myrrh and bitter poison almonds. Kissed her lips that were his cup of heady mead. The draught of which he'd never get his fill. Kissed her pomegranate breasts, consumed their dark seed tips. Her soft cries like a dove, like the sea washing over him. Until he didn't know where she ended and he began. Until he knew exactly where he ended, driving into her center, as above them moths fluttered in the shadows of light. Drove down her road until they came to the end, the cliff at the edge of the sea, and he drove off. On fire, and flying. Until he drowned.

She whispered, "Thank you. That's what I needed," and kissed him one last time. The length of a moth's brush, and then she stepped off of him. Out of the box and into the dark.

Somewhere a million miles away, there was a smashing at his glass walls. Seems the relatives were dropping in. Sold up the river of the Nile, but he smiled.

Loki jumped into the pool at the foot of the fake waterfall and swam down the drain a salmon, but there was nowhere to go. It was a closed system in a Butterfly House.

Wriggled in the net he'd once made and struggled at the slick ropes that bound him.

Blinked.

Woke.

Looked at the silver bowl of the sky and remembered.

Sigyn said, "I'm sorry, Loki, but I have to go empty the poison. I'll be right back. You know I'll always take care of you."

"I know," he said, and he did. Struggled at the slick bonds that were their son Narfi's intestines. Felt the stones under his back and ass and knees.

Then the sky moved away and he saw the snake over his head for an instant. The long slow drip of the poison beaded from its fangs, like pearls on the pricks of dead men. An eternity and then it spattered in his face and he screamed.

Somewhere deep beneath the earth, he struggled against the slick and slippery ropes of his son. Trembled the landfill of the gods and tried to shake down their towers.

Somewhere, far away, his son Vali, transformed into a wolf by the gods, ran beneath the moon and howled. Ripped apart anyone that got in his way. As he had his brother. As he did the night. Hard beautiful brutal Private Dicks chased after him, and he was so lost to himself, he never even knew it.

Somewhere, deep below, his son Fenrir growled around his gag and from his endlessly open mouth, ran the river Van. The river called Hope.

Somewhere, blue-black and lowering fierce, Loki's daughter Hel clipped the nails from the dead to build her ships to sail to the end of the world..

Somewhere, his son, Jörmungandr, Midgard serpent, coiled around the World and dreamed of reaching into the sky.

Somewhere, his first wife Angrboda sharpened her axe and waited for her shape shifter, her Trickster, to decide to slip free of from his slippery ropes, and help remake the world.

Somewhere, Isis bitter almond nursed their little monster and taught him all the tricks he would need.

Somewhere, Loki screamed and shook the earth, until Sigyn returned with the bowl over his face. She said, "I'm so sorry. But it's okay, Loki. I'll always be here for you."

And Loki laughed, because he was a liar and a trickster, and today he closed his eyes.

Heard the rusty springs of the old metal frame bed squeak with their steady rhythm, as the burning acid of the snake's venom dried on his face, and he raced to make Sekhmet come before Isis knocked on the door.

~~~~

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