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Short story: “Bruises and Earl Grey”

Another story fragment featuring my urban fantasy character, including Loki. One day I hope to have enough material to weave into a full length novel.

***

Loki had to admit that he’d not thought this through properly. It wouldn’t be the first time he started on a scheme without thinking it through until its most likely conclusion. One of those…unexpected twists had resulted in Sleipnir, which all things considered hadn’t been all that bad in the end (bloody inconvenient though). But this…This was something he should have seen coming.

The elderly gent had seemed safe enough, but Loki should have known by now that things were not always what they seemed. Perhaps he could blame that he had not entirely educated himself on other branches of mythology and faith. Really, why had he never thought of making himself a huge body-guard out of clay and making it come to life?

As the Golem took another swing at him, sending Loki’s hair aflutter and narrowly avoiding his face, he caught sight of the old man, still sitting in his chair, tenting his hands.

Oh, that was a warning sign right there. Any mortal performing that gesture was never good news, or at least that was what Loki had learned from their moving pictures.

He’d tried apologizing, that he really had meant to just…look at the old man’s collection of old artifacts. Loki had certainly not come to take some of them, nope, not at all. But the old man seemed deaf to Loki’s words. Not even telling him who he was and assuring him that if he was willing to let bygones be bygones he’d have a faithful (snort) ally in a deity far older than the silly old thing he currently played homage to seemed to have helped.

“I really think you are taking this the wrong way”, Loki said, annoyed at how much effort he was expending to stay away from the Golem. “If you just let me go I promise to forget this ever happened.”

The old man gave a crooked smirk that reminded him of Odin before battle.

“You are welcome to try and get away”, he said. “My Golem has strict orders to ‘take care of’ any intruders.”

Loki offered the old man a grin of his own, though it did feel rather strained.

“Can’t fault me for asking!” he said, sounding more chipper than he felt. Was this how far he and his kind had fallen, if some clay monster could keep him thus occupied?

And then the Golem was there, mouth open in a soundless roar.

***

Charles had had a long night. The night after his last transformation always left him a right mess, his body tense as a wire and preventing all attempts at sleep. It was like jetlag, or how Charles imagined jetlag must feel, because he’d never been on a plane, let alone traveled all that far from the town of his birth. There was only one way to survive nights like this, and that was several cups of tea and a good book to pass the time.

The others knew not to bother him around this time of the month, so when he heard the knock on the door he could feel the beast growl deep in the back of his head and he fought down a wave of annoyance as he yanked open the door.

“Ah…I’d hoped you’d be up”, Loki said and staggered inside, nudging his way past Charles into the room.

The Old Norse God looked like he’d been dragged under a bus for a couple of miles, his normally sleek hair matted and messy, and his face bruised and swollen. His fine clothes were torn and in complete disarray.

“What in God’s name have you been up to now?” Charles asked, curiosity overriding his annoyance for the moment.

“Pfft, Gods have nothing to do with this”, Loki said, waving his hand and leaning heavily against the table where they normally held their meetings. “I just…made another miscalculation. A small one.”

“A miscalculation that got you beat up?” Charles asked, cocking an eyebrow.

“Something a bit like that…” Loki murmured, wiping blood, the same red as his hair, from the corner of his mouth.

“That’s funny…I really didn’t think you could get hurt”, Charles said making sure the door was properly locked before he ventured over to the old God.

Loki’s smile was pained. “We might be more powerful than you mortals, but we are not invulnerable. At least not to…Certain things.”

There was something else that Loki wasn’t telling, but Charles didn’t feel like pushing the subject. Instead he headed towards the bathroom to find the first aid kit before he rejoined Loki. The God had commandeered one of the plush chairs in the corner, what Charles called “the reading nook”, though he was the only one using it.

He had to admit that Loki really did look a right mess in the light from the lamp he’d left on and he felt a swell of pity for him. The God didn’t even object when Charles soaked a pad in antiseptic and began to clean out the cuts and scrapes on his face. Loki made very little noise, though his contorting face revealed that he could not only get hurt, but he could feel pain as much as any normal man did.

“I’ll heal on my own in the morning”, Loki muttered, but did not stop Charles when he continued his administrations. There were more scrapes and bruises where the God’s clothing had torn and Charles made sure those got properly cleaned too. After he had applied some bandages to the worst of the cuts Charles packed up the kit and sat back in the other chair.

Loki was leaning back heavily in his chair, his eyelids drooping closed. The sight stirred something within Charles that he did not want to think about and his mind instead drifted towards his last cup of tea, certainly cold by now. He dragged himself up from the chair and cleared his throat noisily.

“How about a cup of tea?” Charles said and Loki’s eyes opened to give him an odd look. “My mother always made me tea when I felt out of sorts.”

Loki smiled, a gesture about as similar to his standard grins as an elephant to a mouse, then nodded.

“I’ll try your mortal cure, if you insist”, Loki said, peering up at Charles with eyes the same color of a deep forest, like emeralds twinkling with curiosity. And was that a hint of gratitude?

“Two Earl Greys coming up then”, Charles said, with perhaps a bit more enthusiasm than what was really called for. “With milk and none of that lemony rubbish.”

Loki barely finished his cup before he was sound asleep in the chair, but Charles didn’t have the heart to wake him.

***

As Loki has hinted, the God looked far better the next morning, with barely a blemish left to be seen on his face, though there was still something subdued about the grin on his face, as he asked Charles not to let anyone know about last night.

And If the God seemed more affectionate than normal…Well, Charles chalked that up to whatever he’d been up.

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