Kali was a warrior. Defeat in battle she could accept; in battle there must be a winner and a loser, victory flying to the side better trained or better disciplined or who had simply courted luck more successfully. With the dust settled she could see they'd perhaps been foolish to strike when the energies of the world were so firmly bent towards the angels and their nameless, merciless God. Perhaps that was the way of things. Perhaps if they were instead locked in the cycles of Ragnarok even that buffoon Odin would be mighty.

So victory in battle Kali could accept without quarrel.

Theft, however, she could never abide.

She circled the body on bare feet, stepping over the wings scorched into the floor. It had been a simple thing to persuade the mortals to leave him here, among his own or close to it. It had been even simpler to persuade the other gods to leave them. And those who hadn't left quietly, well, she could live without being invited to their soirees in the future.

She traced the tip of one finger down his face, along the curve of his jaw, under the edge of his lip. Long had she wondered why he'd never revealed his true face, even with his joy at playing trickster. She was torn between despair at being tricked and admiration for his ability to maintain the ruse so long. "Gabriel, Anansi, Loki, Coyote, Cagn," she whispered. "How many names have you had? Who else have you been?"

She rubbed the black ash of his wings between her fingers. Black was her color, the word her very name was derived from. Death and war, blood and the color black, all tied into her very essence. She hadn't been strong enough to hold back their Apocalypse, it was true.

That didn't mean she was without power.

She mixed the ash with his blood, chanting old words. She applied the mixture to her forehead, her throat, the tip of her tongue, the soles of her feet, across her hands like henna.

Then she began to dance.

Dance was power. Dance was prayer. It held power far older than the narrow-minded angels could understand, power that came from the core of the world, that marshaled wind and rain and thunder. She whirled, faster, faster, the energies rising up around as she placed her feet in the intricate steps. Other battles rose in her mind, other dances, blood-drunk dances with the bodies of demons under her feet. She felt her true form slip past the glamor she wore, limbs spinning and twisting. She danced faster still, spinning on the balls of her feet with a speed that could crack the earth.

She felt the fury rise up and gave herself to it, gave herself to the wildness, dancing until the world stopped turning, energies building to a point keen and sharp. No force could stop her; in her whole existence there had never been any who could match her wildness.

Save for one.

A soft gasp behind her broke through the fury and ended the spell. She whirled around and dropped to a crouch, savoring the look on his face. It wasn't often one could completely astonish a being of tricks and lies. "I..." he stammered, one hand moving to the sword wound through his heart, now healed. "How did you...?"

"When I killed the demon Raktabija and feasted on its blood I danced over the corpses of the slain. The only sound that could stop me was the voice of my husband Shiva, calling from among the dead." She leaned forward. "Was that you, even then? Has it always been you?"

"I've been a lot of people," he said. From him, it could almost be an apology. He looked at the wings scorched into the floor, the still-drying blood. "You..." She saw him swallow hard. "Why?"

Because my blood froze when I saw you still and empty. "I need a consort. And I'll not be robbed of mine by an angel's petulance." His hand was still pressed against his chest, as if he expected the wound to reopen under it; she reached out and took it in hers, pressing his palm to her cheek. "You've bled for your brothers enough. Stay where you belong. Where you've always belonged."

"And you still...want me to?" he said, one eyebrow raised as he gestured at the wings on the floor. He looked at her as if he wasn't quite sure she wasn't actually planning on eating him. Which she supposed was fair.

"As long as you can answer one question." She waited a long moment, wanting to see if she could make him squirm and gratified that she couldn't. "After the demon was slain Shiva and I were alone on that vast battlefield. What did we do?"

His lips curled up into a wolf's grin, a glint coming into his eyes that quickened her pulse. He kissed her with enough force to split the heavens, laying her down on top of the ash and blood, his hands tracing memories onto her skin as he murmured apologies and explanations and promises sure to be broken.

And Kali smiled.