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Special thanks to my beta Notes from the Classroom. Check out her latest, "Running in the Dark" for Star Trek Into Darkness action, humor and drama. It's in my faves.
Fairy God Relatives and Happy(ish) Endings
Darcy stands behind Loki. He is sitting on a chair in the dining room before a low mirror. All Loki had for hair care products was a canister of dragons milk - it was thick, goopy, gelatinous and disgusting. Darcy suggested he give it back to the baby dragons. She'd managed to find a little vial of moisturizer, the kind that they give out in hotels, beneath the sink of his opulent bathroom. She has the tiniest bit on her hands.
He's scowling at her and sitting very tensely. "Dragons milk is a common hair care product in Asgard; what you are using is for skin."
Massaging the frizzy mop that reminds her so much of her own, she says, "Relax, I know what I'm doing."
She could ask Jarvis for help in acquiring something more suitable, but then Tony would find out. Tony asking questions, or making jokes about her and Loki, would make her uncomfortable. And she's already feeling uncomfortable. She looks at Loki's reflection. Without the greasy helmet he's really beautiful. He's also her relative, if distantly...very, very, very, distantly. It sends her brain's internal hamster wheel spinning.
"Okay, one more pass and I think you'll be done," Darcy says, rubbing a little more moisturizer on her hands. Thankfully, Stark tower gives its guests the good stuff; it's not too greasy and the sandalwood scent is light but not feminine. Pulling his bangs back from his eyes, she stands back and surveys her work. Goodbye frizz, hello glossy black curls!
Loki tilts his head and narrows his eyes. "It's still curly."
Darcy pops the cap back down on the moisturizer and grins. "Oh, stuff it; it looks great! You look hot!" And then she realizes what she said. She catches her reflection in the mirror. Her eyes are wide, and her mouth has gone slack. Loki's expression mirrors hers.
Darcy puts a hand to her face. "Ugh. I think I just squicked myself out."
Loki winces. "I think I take your meaning." He straightens in the chair. "You know...perhaps...all things considered..."
There is a swirl of green, he shimmers, he shrinks and narrows...and sitting in front of Darcy is a woman. But not just any woman. She takes a small gasp. The moisturizer slips from her hand.
Loki spins in his chair. "Oh, come, now, you know I'm your obaasan. Surely this form doesn't shock you." There's a hint of annoyance in his -her- voice, and her, eyebrows are slightly drawn together.
Darcy's lower lip trembles. Loki's eyes are still green. His face is smaller and narrower, and it makes his eyes look bigger and rounder. He - she - looks young, younger than Darcy remembers from real life, but not younger than the face she's seen in countless pictures of her mother and father's courtship.
"You...you...why do you look so much like my mom? You know she's dead! That's mean!" Darcy says. She suddenly wants to withdraw her invitation and bolt from the room, but she stands frozen in place.
Loki's eyes soften. In a swift motion she stands from the chair; and then she isn't really Darcy's mom anymore. She's too tall and her breasts are too big...but still, her face...Darcy blackmailed Odin, threw herself onto Thor's back, and bit Thor's ear without fear, but she can't meet Loki's eyes.
Slim arms wrap around her, and Darcy feels herself pressed against a soft frame, a small hand smoothes Darcy's hair. A voice, too much like her mother's, but British says, "I'm sorry. This is my default female form...I didn't think..." and then he - she - goes into this long discussion of genetics and epigenetics, and recombination, and how the genes in her mother must have expressed themselves just so. It reminds Darcy of Jane's sciencey-babble, and she's not really listening, she just bursts out, "Could you just change yourself back?"
There is a swirl of green, the soft frame becomes firmer, and taller. "Of course," says Loki, his masculine form and voice back. He doesn't let her go, which is maybe good, because she might fall over.
Biting her lip, Darcy looks up at him. He looks like he's holding his breath. It was an accident and Darcy has to fix it. Sniffling she says, "Well, on the plus side I'll probably never think you're hot again."
He tilts his head and says softly, "Understandable." He sucks in a slightly strangled breath. Kissing the top of her head again, he says, "And probably for the best."
Sighing, she leans into Loki and he pulls her in for a firmer hug. Just to talk of anything, anything at all, she says, "So I'm guessing, the bit in the Japanese fairy tale, where you threatened Minokichi's life if he hurt the children...that might have been overblown."
He pulls away just a little bit and smiles down at her wryly. "Oh, if he had hurt the children I would have killed him, but he knew that. There was no need to threaten him." Pulling her in again, he says, "No, the threat was for someone else."
He holds her a beat too long, and squeezes her a bit too tightly. Releasing her awkwardly and not meeting her eyes, he tilts his head towards the kitchen. "Come, I'll tell you about it."
x x x x
"What!" bellows Thor, his voice echoing beyond the Masada's courtyard and to the mountains beyond that surround the village. The volume hits Yuki like a physical blow. Minokichi steps closer to her side, palming the hilt of the sword he made for Yoshida still hanging at his hip. She'd forgotten how very loud the Aesir can be. Even the samurai didn't voice their emotions so loudly.
"Those are the terms, Thor," she says, her wooden sandals sinking into the ground left muddy by Thor's storm.
Thor strides towards her. "You are in no position to bargain with me."
Yuki smiles. In Asgardian she says, "Actually, I am. If it was known your brother lived as a human woman, it would taint your reputation."
Thor tilts his head. "Your honor would be tainted more than mine."
Yuki laughs. "When have I cared for honor?"
Thor stares at her, his eyes narrow, and then he looks away. "Very well," he says.
He speaks in Asgardian, but beside her, Minokichi says, "He has agreed." It doesn't surprise Yuki that Minokichi picked that up. The Japanese are masters of the things unsaid - and Thor's meaning screams in his tone, and in his eyes averted in defeat.
From the house Aiko cries. Yuki looks at the ground, her eyes stingin. "What will you tell them?" she whispers.
"That their mother's people came for her," Minokichi says quietly.
Yuki bites her lip. "I want to look at them one more time, but I'm afraid if I do I could never leave." Her voice cracks, her eyes go blurry as she tries to fight back her tears, and her legs almost fall out from beneath her - maybe they do. But Minokichi catches her and pulls her to him. Her head falls against his cheek...and it's wet. She looks up and sees he is crying as much as she is. In Japan a man is allowed to cry about such things. In Asgard she'll have to hold it all inside...She lets her tears fall this once, clinging to Minokichi, and pressing her face to the corner of his shoulder.
"I will take care of them, Yuki," he whispers. "I will, I will. Of everything we have our children are the most beautiful."
"Loki, we must go," Thor says in Japanese.
Yuki pulls only away from Minokichi so she can meet his gaze. His eyes are so brown they are almost black - their children's eyes verge on gold and hazel.
"Loki," Thor rumbles.
"I..." Yuki says.
In the middle of their courtyard, in front of servants, and Thor, Minokichi kisses her. It is only a quick peck to the lips but she freezes in place. Minokichi has never kissed her in public, or even held her hand, in all their time being married together. It used to bother her...or maybe it still does...not that it matters now.
He pulls back. Behind her she hears Thor cough. She swallows. "I think that you just made my brother very angry."
Minokichi's wet, red rimmed eyes narrow. Leaning in, he kisses her again. This time long, and to any Japanese person looking on definitely lewd - and this time Yuki responds. Twisting her fingers in the fabric of his kimono, anger and love pool in her core as tears fall down her face.
She hears the slosh of Thor's boots in the mud. "Loki, we really must go," Thor says again, and this time his voice is thick with embarrassment.
Yuki and Minokichi part and press their foreheads together. "Go, Yuki. Please. Before I change my mind."
Nodding, unable to meet his gaze, she backs away, bowing Japanese style, as she does.
From the house comes Mutsuko, a satchel in her hands. Running through the mud, she hands it to Yuki. "To remember us by," and then she bows as well.
Sighing, Thor snaps his fingers and the horse he rode gives a whinny and steps over to him. "Come, Yuki," he says, slipping into the saddle and then leaning down to offer her an arm. Yuki takes it, and Minokichi helps her up behind Thor.
"Ki o' tsukete, Yuki," Minokichi says, as the horse begins to walk away. Take care of your spirit, it means. Yuki can think of no more apt words for goodbye. "Ki o' tsukete," she whispers back, eyes on him, as the horse reaches the gate.
A servant is just beginning to open it when Minokichi runs forward, startling the horse. As Thor curses, Minokichi unfastens the scabbard with the sword by his side. "Yuki, I never gave you your sword!"
Yuki stares at it. She'd almost forgotten - she first come back to him for a blade - but they'd sold her blade when she became pregnant to fund his business. That was so long ago. Yuki swallows. "But this is the sword for Lord Yoshida."
Holding the sword up to her in two hands, Minokichi says, "If our plan works, he will not ask for it."
Yuki stares at the gleaming metal.
Bowing his head, Minokichi says, "Please, Yuki, your people are at war and I won't be there to walk in front of you."
With trembling hands, Yuki takes the sword and pulls it to her chest with one hand. She hears the sound of her Masao and Aiko crying. Wrapping her other hand around Thor, she says, "Ride, Thor, quickly."
Thor kicks his heels, and they set off into a bouncy trot. Thor kicks again, and the horse lunges into a canter. As they ride through the town, people come out of their houses and stare. Yuki hopes that it will be enough.
Just outside of the town they turn onto the main road - Thor had wanted to go in the other direction, towards the Bifrost bridge. But on this route, as Yuki - Loki - had hoped, they encounter Lord Yoshida and his men on the road. Thor lifts his hammer and the samurai and their horses dive into the forest as lightening courses down their path. A few of the samurai raise their bows and their swords, but Loki turns their arrows and blades into snakes, raising Yoshida's sword in the air just in case. No one attempts to apprehend them.
Minokichi watches as Yuki rides away, her frame slight and small against the beast that is her brother.
The children are crying. His mother stands at the doorway to their home. She holds a bottle of sake in her hand. It is time for the second part of their plan. He hates it, it makes his stomach shrink inside, and his anger flair. The baby's wail rises up above the sound of the other children. And then the voice of Kenichi, their eldest rises above the rest, "Hiro-chan, shhhhhh...shhhhhh."
His mother looks to the house. "There is a woman, a bit further into the mountains, her baby just passed away two days ago. I will send a servant to ask if she will be a wet nurse."
Minokichi nods duly. He looks at the bottle of sake in his mother's hands. He does this for his children, and for Yuki who will not be able to die. Uncorking the bottle, he splashes the sake over his clothes, drains what is left in the bottle, and then walks towards the gate of the courtyard, affecting a drunken swagger.
He is walking down the main street towards the local inn, when Nakumura, the kindly bookseller, puts his hand on his shoulder. "We all saw what happened to Yuki," the old man says. "Come let me buy you a drink."
Minokichi nods. Soon, it is not just Nakumura in the inn with him, it is nearly every man in town. Outside the inn, their wives whisper. When he hears the sound of horse's hooves outside, Minokichi pulls himself up from the floor, staggers out - this time it isn't an affectation, and falls down to his knees in the middle of the main road and cries. The town folk try to pull him back, saying, "The lord is coming! The lord is coming!" But Minokichi will not budge. As the lord and his entourage draw closer on their horses, Minokichi expects that the townsfolk will scatter. Some do...but others kneel down in the mud beside him, men and women both.
The horses draw up short, afraid to break their legs. Looking up to the sky, Minokichi wails, "My wife, my wife! Her family have come and taken her away, and it is all my fault!"
Pulling to the front of the entourage, Lord Yoshida bellows, "Wood cutter! What are you talking about!"
Rubbing his nose with a sleeve, Minokichi says, "She was a spirit, and her brother has taken her home...all because of me."
"It's true!" cries Nakamura's wife. "We all knew she was a spirit! She never aged!"
"And she even bewitched her mother-in-law into liking her!" shouts a woman.
Among the lord's men, Minokichi hears, "That explains the lightning giant!" An older man on horseback approaches Yoshida and says, "I would urge you to leave this matter alone, Sir."
But Lord Yoshida keeps his eyes trained on Minokichi and shouts, "Explain yourself!"
So Minokichi does. He tells the story of his first night in the hut with Yuki, but says that she took the life of his master with cold frigid breath, and then made him make an oath of secrecy and promised to kill him if he ever broke it. He tells how not one year after he met a beautiful woman going to Edo to be a servant, and not recognizing her, asked her to be his wife.
"And then this morning," He sniffles. "I said how much she reminded me of that snow woman! She flew into a rage and said the only reason she did not kill me was because of our children!"
"Oh, she did love the children!" an old townsman says. "Yes, yes," echo some of the men and women in the mud.
Nodding, and wiping a genuine tear from his face, Minokichi says, "She held the sword I was making for you, honorable lord, at my throat. And she told me if I was ever to hurt our children she would come and kill me!" He would love to say that she promised to kill Yoshida himself if anything happened to the children, but such a statement would be too directly threatening, and might get Minokichi killed. Instead, he merely implies that Yoshida's life will be at risk.
There are murmurs among the townspeople of, "A mother's love is a ferocious thing."
Biting his lip, Minokichi drops down into the mud. To him the tale seems preposterous - how could he not notice that Yuki was the same woman he met in the hut? And if she had killed his master how could he ever deemed her worthy as a wife?
The horses shift nervously. He hears the voice of Lord Yoshida's advisors. "We saw her hold the sword...and the snakes. Leave this man alone!"
There is absolute silence. Minokichi dares glance up at Lord Yoshida. His eyes are wide and he looks pale. Without another word he pulls his horse's reins and turns the creature around. Minokichi watches as they go. He notices that as soon as they reach the edge of town the lord and his entourage break into a gallop.
"Will we see her again?" Nakumura asks.
Minokichi shakes his head. "Her family has taken her home."
Shaking his head, Nakumura sighs. "So it is with humans and spirits. There are no happy endings."
Minokichi picks himself up from the mud; the townspeople follow suit. He goes home. He bathes. And he goes back to work.
For a long while, Minokichi thinks that he was right when he told Nakumura he would never see Yuki again. Oh, sometimes when the snow falls and the wind blows, he thinks he sees a reflection of her, but she is not there, she is not solid. And famines sweep through Japan, but they seem to pass by their little town...still...it isn't the same.
But as the years pass, and his grief fades, he watches his children grow. They are all strong. His boys tower over him, and even his daughter has a few finger widths of height on him. They are all clever and sharp. Their eyes are light brown, almost gold, except for Aiko's whose are almost on green. They are all healthy. At the end of his life, when he lies on his futon, with his children and their spouses all around, he can't help but think how lucky he is - it is a rare man that doesn't have to endure watching a child die, but he's made it to the end ahead of all of them. He hears the rush of wind outside, and Aiko takes his hand in hers. It is warm and soft, solid and real - and Minokichi feels like he has had the most important part of Yuki with him the whole time.
x x x x
"So it was Minokichi, my great-great-great-grandfather who came up with the whole, 'Yuki will kill me' if anything happens to the children thing?"
They are in Loki's kitchen at a high counter. Loki is pouring a cup of tea from an ancient earthenware pot. "Yes," he says quietly, taking his own teacup. It looks like it has been cracked and mended.
"Huh," says Darcy. Taking the cup in her hand, she grins. "So I get my sneakiness from both sides. Excellent!"
Loki rolls his eyes, but he smiles.
Darcy blows on her teacup. "You never went back?"
Loki's face falls. "I...no." He closes his eyes. "Not as Yuki, not in corporeal form. I visited a few times in the guise of a wandering peddler. I watched over the town...I blackmailed Thor into making it rain a few times when the country was in drought...but no, never as Yuki. Odin was suspicious at that point.
"I followed my children, and their children for a few generations...but there were wars here, and in Asgard." He shrugs.
Darcy takes a long sip of her tea, wishing she knew what to say. Then she catches sight of the clock. "I better get ready to go."
Loki blinks. "You promised to wear the clothes I got you if I accepted your hair styling."
Darcy grins at him as she slips off the stool. Striding towards and the boxes of clothes in the other room she says, "Yeah, and I will. You have good taste in clothes, but it was just weird. Now that I know you're practically my fairy godmother..." Her voice trails off. Does he know the implication of fairy? Would he care? Okay, granted, he seems to like guys when he's in girl form, but in guy form...and Asgardians are so weird and prejudiced. She looks cautiously over her shoulder. Loki is smirking at her; he's given himself to semi-translucent green wings and a ridiculous green glass wand. He flicks his wrist melodramatically and green glittery stuff goes everywhere. Darcy cackles. Of all the gods she could be related to, she's got the trickster.
x x x x
Darcy picks out a tight V necked cashmere sweater, brown pencil skirt, and brown boots out of the 'fairy booty.' And then Loki insists on conjuring up a jacket 'more suitable for a young lady than the sleeping bag she insists on wearing.' Instead he gives her a white, unbelievably thin, yet warm down coat that hits just above the knee. Darcy's never been one to be particular about her clothes, but she does look nice...and it does feel good, the clothes...and looking nice.
She's in a wonderful mood, but as they step out of Stark Tower into the crisp November air, Darcy notices Loki's face is a little pinched. He almost looks...nervous. She remembers how tight he held her last night and this morning.
It's not much, but she holds out her arm to him. Loki takes it.
Darcy smiles up at him. "This is kind of nice. Like having a brother again."
"Again?" says Loki, looking slightly alarmed.
Darcy shrugs. "Yeah, well, you know it hasn't been quite the same since he got one of those pesky wives."
He squeezes her arm as they walk to the corner to hail a cab. "Well, I am happy to serve."
It strikes her that she's never seen anyone but Thor touch him. Trying to take over the world, even if you do it under the control of a psychotic space Titan, probably puts a few people off. She doesn't want to think of that stuff though, and probably he doesn't either. So Darcy says, "Of course, there is the benefit of the neice."
At that Loki actually smiles. "Yes, we can get her all riled up and hand her back to her mother!"
Darcy snorts. "And you told me there were no happy endings!"
Loki's face pinches, and he narrows his eyes, but she can see him biting back a smirk. "You did put up quite a good fight," he says.
She shrugs. "This is the land of Disney, happy endings happen here!"
A cab pulls up with a screech, and Steve gets out. His mouth drops at the sight of them. "Uhh...Darcy," he stammers, his eyes roving up and down. She wonders what that's about. But this is her and her fairy grandmother's moment, so she just nods at Steve and smiles. She turns to Loki and sees him gazing at Steve with narrowed eyes. She doesn't know what that is about either, but she yanks Loki into the cab and gives the driver the address.
As he closes the door she says, "You know, I don't think you're so much my fairy grandmother."
Loki raises an eyebrow at her as he closes the door.
"Yeah," she says, putting a finger to her chin, "It's more like I'm your fairy granddaughter."
Loki just grins. It's only when she's stepping out of the cab and her wings get stuck on the door that she notices she's got them. Yep. Trickster gods are awesome.
I'm not sure where Darcy's wings went between here and "5 People." Maybe Loki just conjures them for special occasions. (Maybe he doesn't want them to be permanent because he doesn't want Darcy becoming an Avenger because, you know, dangerous job).
Anyway, if you enjoyed this little story (it's a bit of an angsty oddball, I know), you will LOVE "I Bring the Fire". There is an excerpt in "My Stories."
Already read "I Bring the Fire - Part I"? I recently published Part II. It's called "Monsters", and it's available for Kindle, iBookstore, and at Lulu. Links to buy are in my profile.
Also, if you have a Nook and are waiting to buy "Monsters" or "Murphy's Star" for the Nook, PM me! I'll let you know as soon as they become available.
Thanks for reading, everyone!