The pitch of the zombie mob changed, the shouts resolving themselves into acclamations instead of accusations, and I felt sick. They must have been congratulating the zombies who had succeeded in overpowering Thor, at last.
Only because he let them, I reminded myself. He could have turned them all into meaty pulp if he hadn't promised me not to fight them anymore. I kicked at a stone in the grass and sent it skittering. I had tied his hands, and watched him be swallowed whole by the mob, and I hadn't even fought to try and free him.
I glared at the sign for the bus stop. The real bus stop, rather than a zombie bus. A bus that would actually get me to the mall at last. Of course it had just pulled away when I finally got here, so I was in for a thirty minute wait. I couldn't see the quad anymore. There were too many buildings in the way.
Mia had left me with a completely disinterested Tyler as an escort, to be sure I got on the bus safe and sound, then gone skating back with Adam and the rest of her glitterati to see what she could do about Thor. I sighed dramatically, but he only rolled his eyes and looked away. I think he was straining to hear what was happening in the quad too.
"C'mon," he said suddenly, grabbing my arm and dragging me back the way we had come. His hand burned hotter than Thor's, and I grimaced.
"Adam said I was absolutely not to enter back into that fray no matter what I heard," I objected. "That's why you got stuck babysitting me."
"Yes, well. Adam didn't count on this." Tyler started to jog, and I had to run to keep up. He had a weirdly graceful lope for a zombie.
We rounded the corner of the last building and Tyler stopped without warning. Somehow I managed not to run into him, just. "What--"
The words died on my lips as I realized what I was seeing. Thor sat on a makeshift throne on the barely repaired stage, a crown of feathers, glitter, and blackened-frost-giant-ice on his head. His face was beet-red. I couldn't decide if he it was embarrassment or fury, but either way I didn't think it was good for the health of the zombies who were showering him with more glitter and feathers and shouting hip-hip-hooray!
I choked on an unwise laugh, covering my mouth before another escaped. One does not laugh in the face of mortified thunder gods without regretting it. Forgiving they might be, but thunder gods don't like it at all when people don't take them seriously.
I pulled my arm free of Tyler's grasp and started weaving through the mob, muttering apologies as I pushed through zombie after zombie, heedless of the drool and the glitter. Thor. I just wanted to reach Thor. And if we were lucky, we could still make it to the bus.
Then I was through the crowd, and stumbling up the stairs onto the stage. Thor saw me and stood, a cascade of glitter and feathers falling off his body with the movement. I didn't even hesitate, I was too busy throwing myself into his arms.
He caught me and laughed, and whether he had been furious or embarrassed before, all I heard in his voice was relief now. "The glitter will stick in your hair for weeks."
"I don't care," I said into his chest. "I don't care about anything except that you're not being crushed under the weight of a thousand zombies all trying to eat your flesh."
"Their teeth would break if they tried."
"Let's go, quick, before they change their mind about you as their hero, or another Frost Giant shows up. I just want to get to the mall, buy some glitter-repelling shampoo, and go home."
"Trophy!" a zombie gurgled much too close to me for comfort. "Prize!"
Thor let me go, and I saw it clearly for the first time. The first place trophy looked like it had been assembled from paperclips, buttons, and frosted with melted crayons in a brown-soup of poorly mixed colors. The zombie shoved it into Thor's hands, and the crowd roared.
We both stared at it for a long moment, and then Thor cleared his throat.
"I am most... honored?"
The zombies roared again and I spotted Mia at the bottom of the stairs with her glitterati. They had formed their crowd-piercing wedge again, and Mia was waving urgently at us.
"C'mon!" I grabbed Thor by the hand and made for the steps. "We're going to miss the bus if we don't get out of here."
"Ohhh!" Mia said. "I can't believe you won first place! That's the best trophy I've ever seen at the pageant, too!"
Thor grimaced and I pressed my lips together to keep from smiling. "If you can get us to the bus stop, your team has earned it," Thor said.
The glitterati perked up appreciably, eyeing the trophy.
Mia clapped her hands. "Let's go!"
The zombie-wedge began to skate for the other side of the quad, and Thor and I ran with them. We broke through the chaos of the pageant and made it to the buildings, then around, and then the bus stop was in sight. I breathed a sigh of relief, until I realized the bus was bearing down and if it didn't see anyone waiting, it wouldn't stop. We were going to miss it again.
"Here," Thor said, thrusting the trophy into Adam's hands. "With my thanks."
The thunder god grabbed my hand, and the familiar feeling of static skating over my skin sunk into my bones. My vision blurred. "What--?"
"Do not release my hand," Thor said.
And then the world dissolved into lightning and the zombies around us disappeared. I clutched his fingers and swallowed a scream. Everything came back into focus in less than a heartbeat, and we stood at the bus shelter, the bus hissing to a stop in front of us.
The door swung open and Thor tugged me with him as he climbed the steps, steadying me when I nearly tripped up them. He fed my bus pass into the scanner, though when he'd gotten it from me, I wasn't entirely sure, and the machine beeped acceptance before spitting it back out.
My head spun as Thor led us down the aisle to a seat, and I fell into him when the bus lurched forward before we'd found one.
"Careful now," he said, when I thought for a moment I was going to puke. Or faint. Maybe both. He pushed my head down between my knees. "It's the shock of teleportation. One very good reason I should not carry you along when I do it, even if it were not forbidden."
"I feel sick."
"Yes." I heard the smile in his voice. "And the longer the distance, the sicker you would be. By the time we get to the mall, you’ll have recovered."
I groaned. The last thing I wanted to do now was go shopping. I felt like I had a herd of elephants stampeding through my head.
"We will move quickly," he said, and I heard the sizzle of glitter and feathers turning to ash on his skin. "Heelys, shampoo, and that book you insisted you absolutely had to have on its release day."
"Next time I'll pay the shipping to have it delivered," I croaked.
"Fewer Frost Giants that way, to be sure." The bus slowed, then stopped. Thor helped me up. "The mall, at last."
We clattered down the steps. Thor hesitated though, drawing me to a stop beside him as he stared at the passengers climbing on board. I made out a lumpy-head among them.
"Don't even think about it," I said, and jerked him forward, all but shoving him through the doors and into the mall. "If you so much as wave your hand anywhere near that hammer to smite another Frost Giant while we're out today, I will never, ever, ever forgive you."
At least he had the grace to look embarrassed. "Of course," he murmured. "You have my word."
Did I mention earlier? Thunder gods and public transportation should never, ever mix. I learned that lesson the hard way.