Chapter 25

At first, everyone had freaked out over Jake's sudden appearance, but after seeing how pissed off I got at their reactions, they stopped.

I'd taken Jake to the place I'd lived in when I was still living in Lecridge as my main home; a huge house that had yet to be bought and was a convenient place for me. There were already two beds and everything there, remnants from when I still lived with Ben. That thought made it so much more awkward as I carried Jake into the house, making sure that no one had moved in while I was gone. People must've figured out that this house was not for sale.

Jake was actually pretty heavy, and I was grateful to dump him on the mattress that Ben had once lain in.

"You're heavy," I told his unconscious form, frowning. "Lighten up your diet. Seriously."

He cannot hear you

"I know," I said, rolling my eyes and walking over to my corner of the basement, which was actually pretty neat. I had a habit of keeping things organized, until I got distracted by something more pressing. Then my cleanliness changed into something approaching a natural disaster strike. At least I didn't need to wash my suit; that would be ugly. Speaking of which, there was an icon flashing in a corner of my suit's HUD.

Incoming call from Jillian

"Well, might as well answer."

A picture of Jillian I'd gotten at some point expanded in one corner while I continued organizing the basement, actually cleaning it, something I'd had to do only rarely.

"Alex!" She yelped. "You've gotta come over here! Carter and Josh - they're about to fight Andrew!"

"What? Why?"

"Does it really matter?" She asked, and I detected the frown in her voice. "Just get over here! Ashley and I can't stop them - we've tried."

"I'll be there in a few minutes. Stall them," I ordered, giving Jake's still form one last glance before sprinting out of the basement, already tired of today. Why couldn't my life just take a break?

About three minutes of hard running later, I was pounding on Carter's door, knowing that the look on my face was something approaching murderous. Ashley yanked the door open, her expression scared, and yanked me inside.

"They're in his room!" She hissed, pulling me along. I shook off her grip, but kept pace with her until I heard a loud crash emanating from Carter's room. The door was shut, but I practically pulled it off its hinges, hearing it creak in protest.

What I saw only fueled my anger. Josh and Carter were across the room from Andrew, who was closest to me. Andrew had a cut under his right eye, another one on his arm, and a tear in his shirt. There were the broken pieces of a chair next to him, probably where Carter or Josh had thrown it at him. All three of them were breathing heavily, though Andrew looked more annoyed than anything, while Carter and Josh were definitely pissed.

"Someone better tell me what's going on," I growled, making sure that my pistol was in my hand, "or they're going to walk out of here with one less head."

They stared at me for a moment, probably out of shock. Most likely, they'd assumed I was gone, tending to Jake. Yeah, right. Andrew eventually took charge, wiping away the blood that was dripping down his face as he did so.

"Carter and Josh . . . uh, we were having a disagreement." His British accent was stronger, I noted, when he was stressed.

"Really," I drawled, sarcasm coating each syllable. "I never would've guessed." I made eye contact with each of them, trying to get the answers out of pure will. When that didn't work, I sighed, letting some of my anger fade. "Can one of you just tell me why you were about to have a fight?"

"Andrew started it," Josh muttered, and got himself a spot on the receiving end of my death glare.

"If you want to blame someone," I snarled, "you can blame yourself. I want a story, not a bunch of children pointing fingers at each other."

It was weird being the adult for once. Each one of them looked offended at my comment, but I kept a straight face, daring them to challenge me. The weapon in one of my hands lended to my current authority.

"Josh and I were wondering about that guy," Carter muttered, looking away from me. It was obvious that by "that guy", Carter was referring to Jake.

"'Wondering' is one word for it," Andrew scoffed, crossing his arms. "You two were doing something a lot less innocent."

"You wanna get hit again?" Josh snarled, taking a step forward. In a heartbeat, I was in front of him, the barrel of my pistol pressed right between his eyes.

"Take another step," I hissed. "I dare you."

Josh, much to my disappointment, backed off.

"Wondering is all we were doing," Carter said, crossing his arms. "Nothing else."

"Yeah, right," Andrew scoffed. "Wondering what his insides looked like."

"We were not!" Josh interrupted indignantly. "You're making that up!"

"Am not!" Andrew retorted.

"Are too!"

"Am not!"

"Are too!"

"Am not!"


"SHUT UP!" I roared, startling everyone into silence. I took a few deep breaths, calming myself. "Obviously, this argument is stupid. Andrew, you should've realized that Carter and Josh weren't doing anything that bad. Carter and Josh, you guys should've realized that Andrew was just blowing off steam. Right now, Jake is at my place, and will stay there until further notice."

Something is not right here. You are being toyed with

"Obviously," I muttered under my breath, rubbing my forehead.

No. As in, I am picking up on traces of something I also picked up on around Jake

I froze, then walked out of the room, not needing to seem any crazier to the crowd.

"Are you saying that Loki is here?"

Just saying his name made my blood boil.

Yes, and that he is messing with your friends, as I am getting strange readings from them. Their brain activity is . . . unusual

I took a deep breath. "Is there any way to fix it? Stop Loki from messing with them?"

I do not know

"So Carter's . . . admission of love earlier," I mused, still remembering that, "was probably because of Loki. Same with all of the fighting going on."

That seems more plausible than the original analysis

"The god of tricks can mess with emotions. Great."

With one last annoyed sigh, I walked back into the room, taking everyone by surprise, especially the boys, because they looked like they were about to rip each other's heads off.

"You guys aren't going to believe this," I said, managing a small smile to try and diffuse some of the suffocating tension in the room, "but I think you're all being manipulated."

Way to be subtle

The fact that my AI learned sarcasm so quickly was more than a little bit disturbing.

" . . . What?" Jillian eventually said, the disbelief evident in her tone. The sentiment was echoed by almost everyone there, except Josh, who just rolled his eyes and scoffed.

"Well, y'know how I was talking about Loki earlier?" I said, making eye contact with each of them. Andrew nodded.

"Yeah. So?"

"I think he can manipulate emotions," I stated, deciding that beating around the bush wouldn't get me anything but more confused and/or disbelieving looks.

I was getting plenty of those looks already, and Ashley let out a small, nervous laugh.

"Say what?"

"You think we're being . . . manipulated?" Carter asked, his eyebrows shooting up and most of the hostility gone from his tone. I nodded, rolling my eyes.

"Isn't that what I just said?"

"Sorry," Andrew responded, his arms crossed, "but it's kind of hard to believe that some god cares enough about us to go to the trouble of manipulating our emotions, not including the fact that nobody even knows for sure if he can do that."

Josh scoffed, something he seemed to be very fond of at this point. Pinching the bridge of my nose, I forced myself to stay calm. Shouting wouldn't get anything done.

"Would you rather try and find him," I growled, the anger staying despite my best efforts to force it down, "or stay here and fight? Because one of the two is getting something done, and the other is just fucking stupid."

You're so blunt when you're angry. You should see someone about that

"I don't need a therapist," I hissed, thankful that my friends - well, the people that might still be my friends - were ignoring the whole I-talk-to-myself-thing by now. "And since when do you care?"

I am simply trying to lighten the mood

"Well, stop."


A small laugh made me freeze, the tone slightly too off to be completely human. Turning, I saw Josh smiling widely, his teeth flashing.

"Took you long enough," he laughed, shaking his head. "I was starting to get impatient."

"Josh, what's going on?" Carter asked, backing away slightly.

"Don't move," Josh told him, his tone remaining light and mocking, "it's a little insulting." Immediately, Carter stopped moving, the panicked expression on his face telling me that it wasn't his choice to freeze.

"Let him go," I growled. "If you wanted to screw with me, you didn't have to bring my friends into it."

"But they're so entertaining!" Josh laughed, looking at everyone in turn. "It's so . . . refreshing!"

"Alex, what's going on?" Andrew asked, his eyes wide, not seeming to realize that he was repeating what Carter had said seconds earlier.

"Everyone," I seethed, realizing that I was glowing again, my anger pouring off of me in waves, "meet Loki."

Josh all-out laughed, doubling over.

"Alex," Ashley stammered, "that's Josh."

"No, it's not," I growled, activating my suit, finding a kind of comfort in the familiar feeling of my armor. My knife was in my hand a second later. "Trust me."

When does anyone ever trust someone when they say that?

"Alex," Josh sighed, "we've done this before. We both know how it ends."

"That's not happening this time," I snarled.

There was a rush of movement, and then Ashley and Jillian were frozen, just a foot outside of the door.

"You two are worse than Carter," Josh muttered. "In fact, you're all annoying, listening in on a private conversation."

"It's kind of hard not to considering that you won't let us leave," Andrew snapped. I gave him an appreciative look; it takes guts to stand up to a god, especially one who is somehow in control of your friend.

"You're right," Josh admitted. With a wave of his hand, everyone except him and I dropped to the floor. Instantly, I tensed, but Josh sighed.

"Relax, Alex. They aren't dead. Just . . . sleeping."

"Involuntarily," I added, my tone acidic. "You forgot that part."

I am running scans on Josh, but he seems normal except for one reading I can't identify and enhanced brain activity

"So Josh is . . . possessed?"

As far as I can tell, yes

The boy in question did nothing but level me with a cool stare, barely even blinking. It was actually more than a little bit creepy.

"Can you, you know, get out of my friend's head?" I asked, shifting my knife from hand to hand, feeling the thrill of a fight running through me, but I couldn't fight Josh. Not when it wasn't him in control.

"Gladly," Josh replied, his right hand coming up. It began glowing.

Readings are going off the charts

"I can see that," I muttered, backing up, seeing the levels of something rising through my HUD. Josh was grinning, and slowly the light increased until I could barely see anymore and I was forced to shut my eyes, even with my HUD adapting to the light levels. When I opened them, I wanted to close them again.

Is that . . . it is

"Great. Looks like you got your stick again!" I called sarcastically. "Congratulations! Now leave!"

"Can't do that," Josh laughed. In his right hand, there was an all-too-familiar scepter. The fancy gold affair that was etched into my memory. Five feet long, the snake seeming to hiss at me through the green gem in its mouth.

"Don't move," I growled, my grip on the knife tightening. The last time that scepter had touched me, I'd apparently ended up slaughtering Asgardians. That wasn't happening again.

"You should've learned by now that you can't trust your eyes, Alex," Josh mocked, vanishing. Instead of moving backwards, as my senses were telling me to do, I took a step towards where he had been and turned, my knife at the ready.

"Impressive," Josh complimented, standing near the door. "Most people usually fall for that one."

"I'm not most people."

"Evidently. That's why I'm interested in you, obviously."

"Great," I replied sarcastically. "I'm so happy about that. Really. You can practically see my excitement."

"Your sarcasm is nice," Josh snapped, "but it's not what I'm looking for. Don't resist."

He vanished again, and I instinctively rolled to the right, passing inches from an unconscious Carter as the scepter passed through the space where my head had been.

"What's not nice is the fact that you're trying to kill me!" I yelled back, sheathing my knife and pulling out my pistol, the grip fitting comfortably into my hands.

"I'm not trying to kill you," Josh's voice said, coming from right behind me. Ducking, I turned and fired, only to see a hole appear in the wall.

"Tsk, tsk. You've lost a step, Alex." His voice seemed to come from everywhere.

"Shut up," I growled, looking around.

I can't track him. He seems to be disappearing and reappearing - behind you!

Spinning, I made eye contact with Josh right as he put a hand on my helmet. My whole body froze, my muscles locking up and refusing to move.

"There we go," Josh said softly, his expression softening. "Put your pistol away."

Against my will, I holstered my pistol. When I tried to speak, I found that my jaw was locked. All I could do was shoot daggers at Josh with my eyes, though really I was shooting daggers at Loki, who was in Josh's boy - actually, I'll just say I was glaring at Josh. It makes it easier.

"You are a very difficult person to track down, Alex," Josh said conversationally. I could only glare. He continued talking, taking his hand off of my helmet. When he did so, my armor retracted into my watch, but I still couldn't move.

The same readings I am getting from Josh are beginning to come from you as well and there is nothing I can do to stop them. Not even your shield made a difference when he touched you

I noticed, I thought, seeing Josh walking around the room, kicking at my unconscious friends.

"I was originally not going to use poor Josh," Josh was saying, absently spinning his scepter, "but the idea of one of your friends being turned against you was too sweet. Not that I ever meant to really hurt you," he added hastily, giving me a smile so sweet it made me want to throw up. Instead, I rolled my eyes, the effect not quite the same without the disgusted expression I would usually have on my face.

"Now, of course, Josh here is beginning to burn up a bit."

My eyes widened as Josh held up his arm, revealing the skin that was blistering and red.

"Usually I don't like using you people as . . . bodies, I suppose. I can switch like a change of clothing, of course. Maybe Andrew. Or . . ." He gave me a long look, " . . . Carter." Whatever he saw in my eyes made his calm expression change to one that looked more angry. "Yes. I think I will use Carter."

The helpless fury I was feeling suddenly exploded, allowing me to gasp out one word.


Josh spun to face me, his eyebrows going up.

"Impressive. Not many can resist that."

My anger spent, the only thing I could do was once more communicate all the ways I wanted to kill him through my eyes. It seemed to be working.

"So you don't want me to kill little old Carter, is that it?"

Josh waved a hand, and suddenly I could speak.

"Listen here you divine piece of shit," I growled, "the second I-" I couldn't speak anymore.

"Answer. The. Question," Josh ordered, a tone in his voice I didn't recognize.

"Yes. Don't kill Carter," I found myself saying. Josh smiled at me.

"See? That wasn't so hard."

My gaze went down to Josh's neck and I saw that it was beginning to burn and blister as well. He sighed.

"Josh is running out of time," he mused. "I need someone else."

He apparently does not have enough energy to fully bring himself to Earth, or he would not be "wearing" your friend

The energy readings I was getting from Josh were definitely lower than I was expecting for a guy possessed by a god, no matter how much of a jerk that god was. I had to agree with my AI on that point.

"You know," Josh said, walking over to the window and looking out across the street, "I think I know who I'm going to use."

My eyes narrowed as he turned back to face me, his whole face going red as Josh burned from the inside out.

The readings from you are getting stronger. I-

My AI's voice went to static and then silence in my mind, much as it had in Asgard.

"I think I'll use you," Josh said, suddenly standing right in front of me. I was helpless to stop him as he reached out and placed a hand on my forehead, and everything turned to black.

My last thought was wondering how the hell I was going to stop Loki from doing anything to Jake.

So I haven't updated this thing in a looooooooooooooooong time. As in, I wasn't planning on updating it at all until Kevin is done. Unfortunately, this new chapter doesn't mean that I will be updating again soon. This chapter was mostly already written, I just hadn't finished it.

The nice anonymous review was part of the reason I updated this, so good on you anonymous person. Also, a few other people wondering about this story also contributed, so good on you people too.

Until next time (which probably won't be for a long while in this story),