We were alone in the room. Well, except for the zombies, now busying themselves pasting the collected gold coins to the walls under Adam’s supervision. Bragi was pinching his nose as if it had been trying to bleed, and Thor had turned half-toward the closed door, his head cocked, his grip on the axe still white-knuckled.
“What?” I asked him.
He pressed a finger to his lips, silencing me, and his eyes narrowed. Thunder gods have better hearing than you’d think, considering all the thunder blasting out their eardrums, but if Thor was listening for something, I had no idea what it might be, and I didn’t see how he could hear anything over the zombies scrabbling about the other side of the room.
But apparently, whatever he’d been hoping to hear reached him, because his eyes flashed a brilliant blue-white, and he bared his teeth in a way I recognized as the opposite of a smile.
I was too late. In one motion, he had spun, grabbed Bragi by the collar of his shirt, and slammed him against the wall, the axe blade pressed against his throat, just below his ear.
A line of blood bloomed beneath the steel, and Bragi made a garbled noise, half-protest, half-shock. I wasn’t the only one staring. The zombies had all stopped scrabbling and pasting, their eyes wide.
“What did you tell her?” Thor growled.
“Thor,” I said again, catching his axe-arm by the elbow and trying to ease the blade away from his brother’s face. “Are you sure this is really a good idea…?”
Thunder gods are immoveable forces AND unstoppable objects, and Thor wasn’t in any mood to listen, besides. But the fact of the matter was, getting all defensive now would only confirm whatever suspicions Bragi had. Thor was making us look guiltier by the minute. Not that we weren’t guilty. And that was the problem, really, wasn’t it? Because once, years ago, in the very beginning of our relationship, before I had learned the rules of not ever being more than friends with a thunder god, Thor had expressed an interest, and I had expressed one back. Um. Physically.
Of course, we’d been interrupted before the most critical stage by the electrocution, and my heart stopping, and the resulting emergency jump start via lightning and Thor’s palm. We had both learned a valuable lesson regarding the fragility of the human body when large voltages of electrical current are passed through it, and needless to say, we hadn’t tested it any further. Thor had been too guilty to even look at me, and it was months before we so much as brushed shoulders during a movie. But that was why he’d learned to refine his life-saving techniques – even Thunder gods are guilty of wishful thinking, I guess, and there was always the off-chance I might get singed in a scuffle.
But if Sif learned the truth, how close we had come to, ahem, consummating our feelings, this nonsense with Asgardian gold and Bragi would be nothing compared to what she’d rain down on my head. Sif was a goddess of prosperity and foodstuffs, in the modern day, as well as the typical beauty with a touch of fertility just to keep from being left out, and what she could give, she could also take away. I’d find myself lucky to call a cardboard box my home if she didn’t kill me outright with some disturbing and painful disease – financial ruin and sickness were just two of many things a thunder god couldn’t fight, no matter how heavily muscled he was. And Thor definitely had muscle to spare.
“I know what Adler told you,” Thor said, ignoring me. “What I do not know is what lies you used for embroidery, as I do not believe for a moment Sif would pay good Gold for a tapestry of spiders.”
“Poetic,” Adam muttered, and the zombies all murmured agreement. I shot him a look of exasperation and he cleared his throat, whistling innocently as he urged the other zombies back to their crafting.
“Nothing!” Bragi said, his face sickly grey. “Nothing, I swear. I spoke nothing but the truth!”
Thor’s eyes narrowed, blazing blue-white again. “And that was?”
“I only told Sif that you loved her,” Bragi said, clutching at Thor’s arm, and craning his neck to remove the pressure of the axe. “And the bit about the spiders, of course. I imagine there will be a hoard of them in the apartment when she gets back.”
I groaned. “Only.”
Thunder snarled, lightning snapping and sparking off Thor’s skin. The zombies scattered, chasing the flares of light that tumbled across the carpet.
“Death would be too honorable an end to you, brother,” Thor said. “I will see you suffer for eternity in a tub of Jormungand’s venom!”
I sank down the wall, hugging myself. I’d be wishing for the easy death of Jormungand’s venom before long, I was sure. For a mortal, it would be quick, if not painless. What Sif had in store for me, I could only imagine.
“This is even worse than the truth,” I mumbled. “A stupid affair, leaving me jilted – that would have been one thing. She might have been satisfied by mortifying me. Making all my hair fall out, or giving me boils and warts…”
Thor dropped his brother, kicking him hard in the ribs for good measure – the better to keep him down – and knelt before me, taking my face in his hands. “I will speak to Baldur, find some way to defend you within Asgardian law. If Sif has taken insult, she cannot refuse payment, and once she accepts, she will be bound by the agreement, no matter what.”
Bragi laughed, a weird wheezing sound as he clutched his stomach, rolling to his side. “Sif would demand so high a price, you could never repay it. But think of the poetry,” Bragi gasped. “Your name will be made immortal, Thorskona. It will be Sigurd and Brynhild, come again! My greatest work.”
Thor growled, and the room flashed brilliant, burning white, the crack of thunder so loud I thought my skull would split in half. When I blinked back the afterglow of lightning etched behind my eyes, Bragi was charred black, still, and silent.
“I will speak to Baldur,” Thor said again, loud enough for me to hear over the ringing in my ears. The zombies were moaning, but picking themselves up off the floor free of burns. “And we will find a way to keep you safe.”
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