"Life inside a bottle all alone,
All alone,
The bottles gone.

What's life inside a bottle if it's gone?"

~ Pour Me, Hollywood Undead

Loki and the Cycle Starts Again

Loki was abysmally disappointed with the human race. Less than two thousand years since his people's last great jaunt on the planet and they had already forgotten the power of their gods.

The power of any gods, it seemed. Oh, he had seen references to Olympus on their image-capturing devices and every man and their dog had heard of Anubis, but the gods that had saved them from certain annihilation were forgotten almost entirely.

But for him.

He hastily shook away the thoughts of his brother. They would only anger him, he knew, and Heimdall was watching; it would not do to start breaking things in the middle of a city he had already partially broken before, glamour or no.

He wondered what Odin would do if he were to skip out on the human-interaction portion of his punishment and take a vacation on an island, far from everyone. The old man seemed to be of the opinion that sending him to this purgatory, full of humans to interact with, would do him the same good that it had done his brother. He was of the opinion that the All-Father was going senile.

Loki wandered aimlessly, unrecognisable to the masses, through New York. He was bored almost into insensitivity – did humans do nothing fun at all? He had half a mind to turn someone into a rainbow penguin or something, just to spice things up a bit.

His still-green eyes flickered about, reading all manner of signs and flyers as he walked. No Parking read one, another said No Standing. Hm, humans were stranger than he had thought; how did they expect people to get past that stretch of path then, crawl? He defiantly walked through the area that the sign presided over – no human could tell him what to do.

Another sign caught his attention, this one advertising a mead hall. "The Dragon's Tongue", it was called. Loki chuckled darkly; he doubted the owner of the establishment would have named it such a thing had he ever met a dragon face to face.

His curiosity, however, was aroused, and Loki was never one to ignore the prospect of knowledge, however trivial, and so he entered with the intention of finding out the story behind the name.

On walking inside, the first thing that he saw was a dimly lit entrance hall that contained a staircase going down, one going up, and not much else. To his immediate left was a door to a brightly lit room, filled with patrons milling around the bar and the singular barkeep.

Loki found himself suddenly thankful for his glamour; so many people altogether were not deadly, but mobs had a bad habit of starting riots. He knew from experience that being set on fire by an angry mob hurt, and he was in no hurry to do it again.

He stood for a moment, silently conjuring a wallet full of the strange paper money these people used, and approached the bar.

On the counter, once he'd managed to squeeze through the crowd, was a drinks menu, which he opened. The barkeep smiled at him and probably would have said something, but was distracted by another group of people ordering.

"I'll have a Frigga's Prophecy," one woman said, and Loki started at the sound of his mother's name, "and my friend will have... Yeah, she'll have a Hathor's Kiss."

"Coming right up," said the barkeep, pulling out a variety of different bottles from different shelves. What they ended up with was one golden cocktail and a layered baby pink and pastel yellow one. The latter turned out to be the one named for Loki's mother, and he smiled ever-so-slightly as he agreed with its creator's assessment of his mother's colours.

A tiny glass of green liquid was placed before him, and he looked up in surprise.

"On the house, since this is your first time here," he was informed, the statement accompanied by a large smile.

"What is it?" Loki asked, pulling the glass towards him and taking a sniff; it smelled like a strange mixture of peppermint and smoke.

"Down it in one and I'll tell you," barkeep said with a grin. Loki smirked back. Alcohol on Asgard was much stronger than human fare; if the barkeep was trying to make him splutter, he had another thing coming.

"To the All-Father," he intoned – because he was a respectful man that way – and knocked back the shot.

He blinked at the fiery feeling that invaded his mouth, and opened his mouth to comment. A surprised look adorned face instead, when it felt as if he had tried to drink of the water from Jötunheimr.

"What is this?" he asked, examining the few drops left in the glass.

"It's called "Loki's Breath"," barkeep informed him, and Loki's eyes turned up to meet his.

"Interesting choice."

"I thought you'd appreciate the irony."

Loki did not gape at the barkeep's back as he returned an elegant green and gold bottle to the shelf, because princes of Asgard (or Jötunheimr) do not gape or give away weakness so plainly.

When next the barkeep came towards him, Loki said, "I'll have an Avenger, please."

Barkeep smiled knowingly, "You want a lighter with that?" he asked quietly, making sure no one else heard.

Loki scoffed; "No, thank you. If I wanted to light it on fire I'd do it myself."

"Which translates to "I won't"," he said, as if he knew Loki's thoughts. He would have said something snarky in return, but he knew that it would be pointless; he wasn't going to set the drink alight.

Said drink, shimmering silver-white, was placed before him a moment later.

His night continued thusly; every time the barkeep came around he would stop and chat with Loki as he prepared his next drink, and then he would be dragged away by other patrons looking to try one of his insane concoctions.

Now here was a mortal that Loki could appreciate, mostly because the man appreciated his people. Almost every prominent name in Asgard was represented on this menu, though Odin's was in a somewhat round-about fashion, and even Hel and Jötunheimr got a mention.

Certainly the other Pantheons that humans had invented were mentioned, but the Celtic and Norse gods were the most rounded-out. Loki couldn't figure out whether it was because the barkeep had started with them first or because he liked them more. The latter was more gratifying, really.

And then, eventually, the other customers began to trickle out. Eventually it was just the barkeep and Loki, and he took advantage of this to ask, "And how is it that you know my name, human?"

The barkeep smiled, "Your eyes. They have that certain glow to them that no human could ever hope to imitate."

Loki preened slightly, and the barkeep chuckled. Loki let a tiny smile part his lips before it disappeared and he stood to leave.

"It was a pleasure to meet you, Loki Whoeversson," he said flatly, and Loki laughed.

"Odinsson will do. And you, mister..?"

"Harry Potter," Harry said with a very over-done bow.

The smirk that split Loki's face was positively devilish; "The name whispered all across Hel."

"I'm sure Hela has told you all about me."

"Indeed. Goodnight, Master of Death."

"Goodnight, Doer of Good and Doer of Evil."

Loki disappeared with a grin and a swirl of magic.

Teddy stuck his head around the doorway; "Did you seriously just exchange banter with Public Enemy Number One?" he asked incredulously.

"He got through the wards, didn't he?" Harry asked calmly, starting to clear up the tables and chairs. Teddy grabbed a cloth from behind the bar to help out.

"Yeah, but he's a god. Do the wards affect gods?"

"Have a little faith, Teddy," Harry told him, "Sometimes people just need to be seen for who they really are."

"A psychopathic megalomaniac with daddy issues?"

"Teddy," he scolded gently.

His son, ever the mature one, sighed, "What are you going to tell Steve?"

Harry shrugged, smiling, "Thor asked me not to tell anyone."

"You planned that?" Teddy asked incredulously, "Thor planned that? Is the world ending? Should I tell my friends that Ragnarök is coming?"

Harry laughed; "I don't scheme and tell, kiddo. Rest assured though, that if Ragnarök was coming, I would tell you."

"I just- you- ugh!" he choked, turning and stomping up the stairs.

"Clean your room!" Harry called after him, receiving an innarticulate scream in return.

"Teenage angst, huh?" Steve asked from the door as he made his way inside.

"Yup," Harry shrugged, "I'll grow out of it eventually."

Steve snorted, "So, what are you making me drink today?"

"Tonight, you are having a Quetzalcoatl," Harry informed him grandly, bowing before he poured a large glass of green and amber liquid, the two colours swirling lazily around each other inside.

"Which is?" he asked as he slid onto a stool.

"Wind and learning. Oh, and dawn."

Steve shot him a look; "I get the feeling that this is significant somehow."

"You have no idea, mate," Harry smirked, raising his own glass of the same liquor, "Drink up."

Author's Note:

This was actually the second chapter that I wrote; I suppose that tells you all you need to know about how short this story was supposed to be!

Thank you all for your support (and I suppose thank you to the nasties that made me stiffen up my spine a bit). I wrote this story for you guys, so even if it didn't go the way you were hoping I sincerely hope you enjoyed the ride.

Special thanks to Phantom Feline for being a good little stalker, and to Johnny Napalm for giving me the warm fuzzies no matter where I decided to go with this!

And to every one of you; all of my considerable love,

~ Runaway