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stolen fire to heat your bones

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Turn left outside of Albuquerque, turn left again, then again, and again, miles and miles out into the New Mexico grasses and chaparral. There's an old adobe church, the windows boarded up, the door hanging on broken hinges. The windows' glass scatters around the edges as if the church was struck by holy light and lost its eyes.

This is where Loki comes to hide. He likes to drive out there, at night, without headlights, disappearing in his pickup as the other guys play cat-and-mouse, hiding in alleyways, hoping their idling engines don't spark a chase.

This is where Loki comes to feel the dirt in his fingers and watch the children of the earth scuttle and burrow, those mutant insects, and he thinks it's appropriate their other name is Jerusalem crickets, that they've come to huddle around the ruins of the church. It's his pilgrimage too.

He sits in the broken doorway, tilts his head back against the warm adobe and stares at the stars. He picks nights when no one else is out there, racing their cars and throwing beer bottles at the scrub brush.

He listens to the coyotes, their Father the trickster of this land, and he smiles. He caught a pup out here once and wanted to keep it until his brother accidentally scared it away during a lightning storm.

A rumble in the darkness and he hopes Thor isn't coming to track him down. Thor can find him, rain or shine, as if Loki leaves behind painted arrows wherever he goes, scuffs in the dirt.

One night, he fell asleep inside the church, curled on a sun-bleached pew, and he dreamed that he turned into a coyote and when Thor chased him with his pickup, lightning in its headlights, he let Thor catch him. Then he bit him, sharp trickster teeth sinking into his brother's thigh, and Thor didn't cry, his eyes bright as turquoise, silver in his mouth as he said, Loki, stop, brother, please.

He woke, hard and shaking.

When he comes out here, he wonders what he's supposed to do.

Something screeches out in the grasses, a night cat with a desert mouse, and a rattlesnake slithers by, scale points little lights in the moonlight, its tongue easing out to taste the air. It stares at Loki and Loki scuffs a boot at it, he wants to see it strike, catching the leather of his ankle in its mouth. Maybe he can keep it.

It stares at him and doesn't rattle, then it slowly curls away.

Some nights, Loki will sit here until the sun comes up, he listens to the voices on the wind, and a girl once told him if he hears the voice in the church, the long-dead preacher reciting the words of the long-dry prophecy, then he has coyote blood. Sighing, he snaps his fingers and a flare of fire appears and overhead, he sees a comet streak across the Milky Way.

For a moment, he can hear the dying star screaming through space, through the endless black where it's falling, been flung across the worlds, and--

Tires crunching over rocks and dirt and there's Thor's pickup, lightning in its headlights, and it catches an errant coyote in its sights, a rabbit caught in the coyote's bloody jaws.

Loki comes out here to be alone, but Thor can always find him. He snaps his fingers again, a small flare and a burst of air, then the truck door slams and Thor says, "Brother?"

A kick of glass and Thor stands tall, hair like blonde fire in the lights and the taillights look like blood sprayed on the burrograsses. "Loki?"

"Here, Thor."

He thinks of when he turned into a coyote, biting his brother on the thigh, blood on his jaws, and a scorpion skirts his hand as he pushes to stand. He wonders if it will really happen, tooth and claw, then Thor is next to him, a hand on his neck, pulling to kiss him.

So Loki bites him and Thor laughs and a wind whistles through the boards on the church windows, a rumble growing louder in the distance.