„Loki, please, you have to help us, it’s an emergency!” Jane’s voice on the phone sounds shrill and tinny. An unpleasant combination.
“You must have me confused with our neighbor, Wilbur the Wizard,” Loki drawls.
“Seriously, we need you! I promised Magni there would be a magician at his birthday party!”
“You have told me several times not to perform magic in your son’s presence and now you ask me to do it not just in front of him but all of his friends, too?"
“Not your usual tricks. Nothing dangerous! Just the traditional stuff with the rabbit and the hat and all that, you know what I’m talking about.”
“I have no idea what you are talking about. And I would like to remind you I am a true sorcerer, not some Midgardian charlatan.”
“I’m aware Loki, but the guy who was supposed to do it is sick and all other professional magicians are booked up. You are our only hope. Please!”
Loki pinches the bridge of his nose and lets out several heavy breaths.
“If I do this for you, you have to grant me access to all your current Bifrost experiments.”
“Of course!” The relief in Jane’s voice is palpable. “Anything you want. I’ll see you tomorrow at five. Don’t worry about clothes and equipment, we've got everything prepared. Thank you so much!”
Loki puts the receiver down and covers his face in his hands. Through the cracks of his fingers he looks down the hallway of the apartment he shares with his wife. Where is she, he needs her.
Darcy giggles, plucking at the brim of his black pointy hat. “You look adorable. Like a superhot Dumbledore.”
Loki gives his wife his most intimidating glare, but she keeps grinning, looking him up and down.
“I am not wearing this repugnant object,” he snarls.
They are in Jane and Thor’s bedroom, the only room in the house that is not contaminated with confetti and balloons. Loki walks around the bed to take a look at himself in the long mirror. He is wearing black pants, a black robe and a dark green scarf. Everything from the neck down is perfectly acceptable, but the ridiculous hat needs to go.
“But all proper magicians wear hats," Darcy says, wrapping her arms around him from behind.
“I am a proper magician and I have never worn a hat in all my life.”
“No, you prefer a helmet”, she says into his back. “With horns. It’s very sexy. But we don’t want Magni and his friends to be turned on, we want them to believe that you’re a wizard, so please leave the hat on.”
Her hand glides down his front to palm his crotch. “I promise I’ll reward you tonight.”
“Stop this, or I won’t be able to perform at all”, he grumbles, pulling her hand from his pants.
“You can tell them it’s your magic wand. Every magician has a wand.”
In a corner of the garden, between rose bushes and a large bamboo, Jane has set up a little stage for him, made up of a long wooden table, a wicker chair and a box filled with rings, scarves and other equipment. She has given him a list of rules, too. Fire, ice and dangerous animals are a no-no and he is not supposed to perform tricks that are beyond the capabilities of stage magicians. That rules out all the interesting stuff as far as Loki is concerned but for once he will do as he is told.
He glances to the side, where Darcy, Thor and Jane are seated on plastic chairs. The sight of them makes him nervous so he directs his gaze to the children. Which makes him even more nervous.
They appear to be playing some kind of Midgardian ball game and haven’t noticed him yet. Loki clears his throat to get their attention. “Good day, children”, he says. And then again, with magically enhanced volume, because his voice is drowned by shrieks and laughter. “Good day, children. My name is Loki and I am a mage.”
The clamor dies down and a dozen tiny faces turn towards him.
“Hello Loki!” The children chant.
Magni beams. “That’s my uncle! He can do real magic!”
Loki gives him a warm look. His nephew looks like a small version of Thor, but he is smart and he has Frigga’s cheeky smile. Loki cares for him very much.
“Quite right, Magni. Now please kneel before me, all of you, so that I may introduce you to the secrets of sorcery.”
When the last child has settled down on the grass, a skinny boy in a purple sweater, Loki takes a few steps forward and spreads his arms. “Magic,” he says, “is an ancient power that permeates each and every atom of the universe. Gifted individuals such as myself possess the ability to channel this power and wield it in whichever way we please. Watch closely as I summon a living creature from a remote corner of this planet.”
He yanks the hat from his head, reaches inside and pulls a fluffy grey rabbit from its depths. According to Jane this trick is very popular on Midgard and the children’s excited screams prove that she is right. Loki does not understand why. Pulling a horse out of a hat, now that would be a feat, but a small rodent? The rabbit seems equally unimpressed. It deposits a handful of brown pellets on the grass and hops over to Magni, who starts petting it excitedly.
“Where is it from?” he asks.
“It's a French rabbit," Loki replies. "From Paris." Actually, he conjured it from somewhere in the neighborhood, but that’s a minor technicality.
“You’re lying," the boy in the purple sweater says haughtily. “The rabbit was in your hat the whole time.”
Loki frowns at him. “I assure you it was not, or my hair would not look as good as it does.”
Running a hand through his hair, he turns back to his props. “Now, as some of you may know, magic cannot just make things appear. It can also make them vanish.” He takes a few beanbags out of Jane’s box and starts juggling them in a circular motion. Although he never misses a catch, one by one the balls disappear until his hands are empty. It is not a very imaginative trick, but it has the desired effect. The children gape at him, eyes wide and mouths drawn into perfect Os.
Except, one mouth rather looks like a lopsided S. “There are pockets hidden in your sleeves," the boy in purple whines.
Loki feels an angry vein ticking in his temple.
“My robe is entirely free of pockets, please come forward and see for yourself!”
“I don’t have to! I know they are there!”
Holy stepmother of Odin. This one is a difficult case. Loki’s lets his eyes roam over the props, stopping at the small wicker chair. At first he had no idea what to do with it, but now… Yes, that might work.
“I am sure the next trick will baffle even the strongest sceptics among you," he says, placing the chair in front of him. “The flying chair! Who dares to give it a try?”
A small girl with frizzy brown hair volunteers. When both chair and girl soar into the air, the children gasp and Loki smiles, drinking in their stunned faces with grim pride. Surely, none of his spectators will doubt his magical capabilities now that the evidence floats right in front of them.
He is wrong. The monster in purple has gotten to his feet and points his finger at him, his face an angry grimace.
“There is an elevator under the chair! It’s right there, I can see it. Those are stupid tricks for children and you are not a real magician!”
Lately, Loki has become quite good at coping with insults – you have to when you are married to a woman who regularly calls you Mister Magic Pants – but this is too much. Anger flares up inside him, his Seiðr, which so far has been compliant and easy to control, starts seeping through his pores, reaching out for the source of the offensive words and before Loki knows what is happening, he has teleported to the boy’s side.
“You think I am a fraud?” he growls, his hand gripping the boy’s thin arm. His face is just inches away, Loki can see the green specks in his blue eyes and smell his sweet candy breath. “How about now!” A giant green balloon grows out of the boy’s nostril and explodes in his face. “Or now!” The boy’s pants turn into a pink skirt. “Or, how ab- “
Someone tugs firmly at his sleeve. He whips around to see Darcy giving him a steely gaze. Loki swallows and his grip on the boy slackens. The child lets out a pitiful sob and darts into the house, the tails of his skirt flying after him. It is quite a comical sight, but Loki does not get to enjoy it, because Darcy grabs a handful of his robe and drags him back to the stage.
“Thanks for your attention, ladies and gentlemen," she says. “I’m sure we all agree this was very entertaining so far. I’m Mage Loki’s assistant Darcy and together we now present to you the last trick of today’s show!” She smiles and makes a dramatic pause. “Mage Loki is going to saw me in half!”
Loki looks at her. He is going to do what?
Darcy’s smile grows wider. “Yes, you heard that correctly, I’m going to be sliced in two right before your eyes.”
“This trick is done with virgins. You are not a virgin," Loki mutters while she climbs onto the table.
The look she gives him makes his insides curl up protectively. “Just do it!”
Deciding it wise not to aggravate her further, Loki approaches the table and gets to the task. The illusion spell he casts on Darcy is quite simple, similar to the one he used when he chopped off Thor’s hand in Svartalfheim, but the children’s reactions prove much more satisfying than Malekith’s. They scream and gasp, watching with bulging eyes as Loki’s large (and illusionary) blade cuts through Darcy’s belly and the table underneath, and when he pushes both halves of the table apart and steps into the gap, there is collective moaning.
“Is this real?”
“I think he killed her.”
“She was so pretty!”
That last outcry has his wife grinning. She raises her head and looks down at herself.
“Woops. I seem to have lost my legs! That’s cool but pretty impractical.” Her eyes turn to Loki. “Mage Loki, can you put me back together?”
Stroking his chin, Loki slowly walks around her. “I am not quite sure, Lady Darcy. Mending bones is much harder than severing them.”
“Maybe you just need some help. The kids could push at both ends while you work your magic in the middle.” Her full lips draw into a pout. “Please, great master.”
Loki takes his time, drawing out the tense silence as everyone waits for his answer. At last he nods. “I suppose it is worth a try.”
More quickly than he could say the words “Thor’s hammer is a penis extension” the children are crammed around Darcy’s body, pushing and shoving, determined to realign her lower with her upper half. Loki waits until both her parts are connected and then lifts the spell, revealing her to be whole and lovely again.
Locking his hands behind his back, he watches as Darcy slides from the table and gives each child a kiss on the cheek. They stare at her as if she's a goddess and Loki realizes that she has stolen his show. Or saved it. Or both. It doesn’t really matter. All that matters is that this is over and that they can go home now. He grabs her hand and together they take a little bow.
“Thank you, young ladies and gentlemen," he says. “I hope you enjoyed this magical performance. And special thanks to my beautiful assistant:
Later that night, when he emerges from the bathroom, Darcy has already turned off the bedroom lights. Loki’s heart constricts. After the show was over, Jane gave him an excruciatingly long dressing-down for what he’d done to the “poor little boy”. And he is quite certain that Darcy is angry, too. She was very quiet on their way home. Quietness is not one of her typical traits.
Changing into his sleeping pants Loki tries to think of something that will win him her affection once more. A neck massage. Waffles in bed. Or he might let her wear his helmet while pleasuring her with his...
The bedside lamp has come on, illuminating Darcy’s naked body, stretched out on top of the covers. She smiles at him, her white teeth gleaming.
“I promised you a reward," she whispers.
Loki stares. “But. I failed you. I –“
“Shhh. Come here.”
He almost bumps his shin against the bedside in his haste to obey her. His eyes follow the movement of her curves as she gets on all fours and crawls towards him. “You were awesome," she purrs, reaching up to cup his cheek. “That little idiot insulted your magic. You could have turned him into a toad, but you didn’t.”
Her tongue circles his bellybutton, making Loki shudder.
“I did not transform him into an amphibian only because you were there," he mutters. “You saved me.”
She grins, hooking her fingers into the waistband of his pants and giving them a little pull. “I’m your wife, it’s my job to keep you on the right track. Now get in the bed, I want to show you some of my own magic.”
He lies down on his back and she climbs on top of him, making the bedstead squeak under their combined weight. It feels like a sandwich made in Valhalla, the softness of the sheets against his back and the softness of her against his chest. When she drags down his pants and takes him inside her, Loki lets out a groan. Darcy lowers her head and traces his opened lips with her own.
“I can make things disappear, too, you know," she mumbles against his mouth.
He looks between their bodies. “Yes. You just did.”
She smacks his shoulder. “Not that. I mean stuff one can't see. The stuff in your head.”
“You can make invisible things disappear? Impressive.”
Another smack. “Just focus on me," Darcy instructs.
That’s an order Loki gladly follows. Pressing his head into the cushions, he watches the softly undulating marvel that is his wife riding him. And then he understands. Because with each rise of her hips the world around him ceases to matter a little more. He forgets all about angry sisters-in-law and purple monsters and French rabbits until there is only one word, drawn from his lips in a reverent whisper.