"Ok. So first we add the butter, then the sugar, then we cream it together until it looks like a grainy mixture of…well, butter and sugar. Then we slowly beat in the vanilla extract, right before adding our 2 cups of flour, and then we-"
Ophelia scowled; listening to Jody's incessant, cheerful voice giving baking instructions was enough to make any person—let alone a Goth—petulant. She held a mixing bowl in her hands as her blonde companion read from a dessert-themed cookbook. The particular recipe she was looking at was "Deliciously-Decorative Butter Cookies." This recipe she selected because it encouraged—if not required—the chef to use their ornamental skills on the cookies once they were done, which was something Jody couldn't resist.
Why they were doing this? Well, the perkier one of the two insisted they do something special for Marcus before he left, and somehow baking cookies as a farewell snack to eat on the way turned out to be a part of that. As for Ophelia's role in this, well…it was going less pleasantly than expected. …Ok it was downright annoying. Jody was exhausting: it was like she didn't even stop to breathe when she read out directions, and she expected the two of them to be done and get enough sleep to wake up and have enough time to bike to Marcus' place and give him the cookies once saying goodbye.
This was becoming so exasperating, Ophelia couldn't even remember what made her agree to this in the first place!
"Ok, you're making these now?" She irritably remarked. "When Marcus leaves in like, less than 24 hours?"
They both glanced at the clock: 10: 30 p.m. on the dot. Marcus and his family would be departing at approximately 9 a.m. that following morning. They still had to bake, cool, and decorate the cookies, and they'd barely started on the dough. Jody's cheerful expression faded slightly, but she did not seem unnerved.
"Well, between my sister's recital and Roger's hospitalization and getting ready for the pool party, I didn't have time until now." She explained.
Ophelia took this in and gave a sigh; it was understandable, especially since one of those was her fault. Realizing she might've been a little too harsh—in spite of herself—she set the mixing bowl on the counter, and voluntarily took out a large bag of flour.
"How many cups again?"
Jody smiled, "Two." As her companion scooped the amount into a measuring cup, Jody tapped a wooden spoon on her chin in thought.
"Y'know," she spoke as Ophelia got out a beater, "I wonder how June's going to spend the summer without Marcus."
"With us, duh." Ophelia replied, plugging in the appliance.
"I know, but, what if she's too depressed to have any fun?"
"Hey, if we can't make her as happy as she'd normally be with Marcus, then we should probably stop stinking so much as friends." The Goth girl simply replied, before setting the beaters into the bowl.
Jody smiled a little again, "I guess you're right. …NO! OPHELIA, YOU'RE-!"
In a breath's second the entire kitchen was engulfed with flour, the whirring of the beaters clearly heard within the haze. As the humming of the blades finally stopped, the flour seemed to disperse to a visible degree, revealing a ghostly-white Jody behind an equally pale Ophelia, both grasping onto the mixer. Jody's thumb could be seen on the "off" button.
Both girls were frozen for a moment, due to shock, until Jody finally parted away from Ophelia, who set the beater aside, and turned to her with a less-than-content look on her face. Jody flushed, a toothless, embarrassed smile on her face.
"…You're supposed to add the butter first." She finished.
That night in the Lee household…
June tossed and turned in her bed. What a day; first Marcus leaves for practically the whole summer, and—if she was lucky—she'd have to wake up in time to get to his house and see him off for what would be their last encounter for what felt like forever, then Ray Ray sees her in her underwear after a bad poker game, and to top it all off, Loki jr. pays her a visit.
Now she had to figure out what kind of appropriate payback to dish out to her brothers, see what could be done about Taylor's situation, if anything could, and most importantly—how she would distract herself enough to at least get her thoughts away from Marcus. It appeared she was already booked for summer vacation before it even started.
She almost wished she was back to fighting monsters 24/7. Thankfully, fighting evil doers was the least of her problems.
…Or so she thought.
Admittedly, even after duking it out with bad guys, experiencing frequent social discomfort and getting mercilessly ragged on by Melissa at school (causing the social discomfort), there was one thing June could give Orchid Bay credit for—the beaches. They were beautiful, and well-deserving of their name, as numerous orchid plants grew commonly within city limits. June sat in a red-and-white plastic fold-up chair, adjusting her purple sunglasses; a warm breeze caressing her hair, the sweet salty aroma welcoming her with each wave hitting the beach, faint yet relaxing seagull calls in the distance, silky white sand; she doubted there could be better seafronts anywhere in the world—magical or not. She leaned back to let the sunbeams tickle her skin, her dark hair in mid-fall from her shoulders.
It was the silence that alerted her first. June sat upright, taking her sunglasses away.
Everything had taken an unmoving, bleak tone—even the ocean was still. The seagulls had disappeared, the sky was gray and tepid, and the sand had turned into the color and appearance of dry oatmeal. Years of experience told her this could only mean one thing:
"Perfect…" She muttered, just in time to see a grouping of clouds descend toward her wake, stop in mid-air above the inert ocean surface, and fade to reveal some tall, goblin-looking thing with big ears, green skin, and a purple cloak with one scraper-high collar. He grinned down at her, revealing unimpressive yellowed teeth, with dull canines jetting up from the lower jaw.
June always counted off a list of three when bad guys were giving an introduction: first came the calm, then the big presentation, and finally, the evil laugh.
Bingo. June could've chuckled at this one however—guy sounded like he had a cold for the last ten years.
"Be frightened Juniper Lee! Be petrified where you stand! Unspeakable evil makes it way to-"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah—can't I even get some sleep anymore? Get outta my dreams!" She jerked her thumb over her shoulder.
The weird goblin-looking thing in a cloak glanced sideways at her. "But I haven't even told you the plan."
"It's always the same. Some joker with a wand who thinks he's the anti-Merlin comes into Orchid Bay, does a little scary light show, and then says how they're going to destroy or take over the world. Would it kill ya to deliver monotonous news in waking hours?"
This time, the beach was not so subtle. Thunder shook the earth and heavens, gales toppled buildings and piers and arose great waves; smashing into the beach front. Walls of water surrounded the city, carrying vehicles, floorboards, and even former domiciles into the air by minimums of 60 ft, before plummeting back to earth in a film of annihilation and disaster incomprehensible. Lightning penetrated the sky in savage, blinding formations, and strayed downward to the beach in an array of sparks. June jumped back as a shower of pain shot through her leg, falling off the side of the chair. She sucked in a breath and glanced down at the damage—hotly made glass shards courtesy of the lightning were embedded in her skin; hot and pointy—the bloodshed was definitely new, most bad guys just made threats. Any physical violence just left burns from energy blasts or something.
It was then June conjectured, with a sort of sick feeling, that maybe this was no rookie in the bad-guy business. What a way to fill up a summer…
A shadow grew over her. "I tried to be nice about this…"
Pushing the pain to the back of her head, June gazed upward and saw a towering, sinister figure, emerging from where the goblin man once stood. Lean yes, but vicious all the same: dark as a silhouette with eyes like fire, his claws were large and jagged, enough to compare a long sword to a butter knife. It was too painful to look up directly at his face—sand and debris were whipped into the air—but his smile…his, alteration of a smile looked as if it was purposely made to liquefy any ill-fated victims on but a glance. June had seen some villainous enemies in her day, but this…individual, had made it in the top 5.
That didn't mean it would stop her from kicking his evil butt though.
His voice trembled the earth with the calamities befalling it. "Now Juniper Lee, face the embodiment of all that is evil, as you cower before the forthcoming Lord of the World—Deagkoll!"
"Deagkoll?" She said, having made it to her feet, keeping as much weight off the injured leg as possible, "What kinda name is that?"
"It sounds like 'dead cold'."
"…Not really." She shook her head, all the while trying to keep her game face up: she couldn't let him know the injury in her leg was excruciating right now. Her hands were balled onto her hips.
"Well, no matter for names," The creature spoke, coiling upward in a motion that June associated with a cobra getting ready to strike. Only this cobra had arms, and he withdrew them in clawed fists…slowly glowing clawed fists, which grew brighter and brighter.
"Last time I checked," He smirked, "ACTIONS SPOKE LOUDER THAN WORDS!"
As he bellowed, both claws were thrown from his body to unleash boomerang-shaped, green formations of energy, soaring right for June. The Te Xuan Ze leaped back, diving right into a tidal wave of debris overflowing the city. The debris was no problem; she could bend a car like a pipe cleaner and punch her way through any other obstacles to the surface. Nor was the current an issue—super strength would aid her in backstroking out of there. The problem was the thousand-foot demon trying to eliminate her.
Before June knew what hit her next the body of water turned into a giant hand, one that gripped her above the surface, its wreckage dripping seawater. It flung her back onto the beach—the only dry space in all this chaos, and also the only place in perfect eyeshot of Deagkoll. She immediately braced herself for attack and struck a battle-ready pose. The devious creature merely laughed.
"I'm not here to harm you Te Xuan Ze: I'm here to warn you. Your efforts to protect this town while admirable, will soon be drawn useless. I am coming to overtake Orchid Bay Juniper Lee—and there's not a prayer for you or this city!"
Before June could retort, she found herself being pulled from underneath. With borderline panic she glanced down and saw she was ankle-deep in the glistening sand. Instinctively her gaze darted the area for anything in arm's reach to free herself with—as anyone would know, you never struggled in quick sand—even if there really was no point either way. She soon saw everything else being swept away by a final tidal wave, just before what was left of dry land, her position, was flooded along with the city. June kicked upward and grabbed for any passing remains of the town that could drag her out using the current, but the ocean tide had washed everything downwind of her, and now her chest was aching from loss of air.
In a last attempt, she tried to tell herself: "It's just a dream, wake up and you'll be fine." But the fear overrode this feeling and June felt herself sinking in even deeper, the water pressure starting to cave in on her.
And the last thing she saw was the watery image of Deagkoll observing her endangerment with another bone-chilling laugh.
A girl launched upright, taking in a great gasp for air. Her hair was matted to her face, misleading her that she was still in the nightmare. She flailed and by accident, knocked a lamp off her bed stand and sent it shattering to the wall. June whipped her head in the direction of the crash, expecting an assault from Deadbolt or whatever his name was, prior to reexamining her surroundings:
Once gathering herself, the Te Xuan Ze found she was in her bed; it was roughly morning by the looks of daylight coming through the windows; and not a single inch of the monster and that scrawny green guy were in sight. Realizing she was still panting, June tried to relax her breath, unsure if that was really a warning or her anticipations of what could happen in her break time were getting realistic. Her heart was pounding in her ears, but as she attempted to compose herself, something finally wormed into her head: What time was it?
She looked at the clock: 8:34. Shoot! She'd overslept! Marcus could be leaving any minute. Like any family the Connor's would be hauling it early to avoid seasonal traffic.
She leapt from the bedcovers, intending to rush for the closet…just before something else came into her mind. Her eyes moved to her pajama bottoms, and almost cautiously, she lifted up the left pant leg, looking down at her shin—no more gashes, but the pain was still lucid in her memory.
June's brain shouted in reminder that she didn't have time for recollections: she had to race against the clock if she wanted to bid her boyfriend farewell. Putting the thought away for now, she concentrated on the more important task at hand—picking out the right outfit for seeing him off.
"Darn it, I knew I should've pre-planned this."
"How could you? To your own father!"
Thor was getting filled in on the details about what exactly happened the second time Juniper and Loki butted heads—although he disagreed with Taylor's actions at first, he was impressed when informed the demigod had been the one who put a stop to it. And then surprised when told Taylor had developed feelings for the girl in the process; although, at the same time, finding it rather cute.
"Not a bad choice for a girlfriend, nephew. Not bad at all." The Hammerettes also "awww"'d at that particular news, making Taylor roll his eyes in annoyance.
"Yo Loki, if they got married, the next Te Xuan Ze would be like, unstoppable!" The thunder god pointed out with a grin, twiddling his beard.
"I'll be thrown to rabid snot goblins before I let that happen." Loki had crossly stated.
Taylor rolled his eyes again, "You were just using me to get revenge—on an 11 year-old girl." He emphasized, earning a chuckle from Thor and a few giggles from the Hammerettes.
"And you were just in on it to gawk at the supergirl in a bellyshirt." His father retorted.
Thor hissed, "Low blow."
The Hammerettes were sitting by comfortably, as aside from accompanying T-Money on missions and getting to help his work out, their lives were pretty uneventful. They of course hid this well by immersing themselves with their jobs, which, at the same time, contradicted that purpose.
"Oh c'mon! You never felt this way about mom? Another human girl?"
It was at that point Thor and the Hammerettes exchanged uncomfortable glances; Loki's affair with the human woman had caused quite a negative response in the magical community, and the deity one within it. The God of Thunder made a slashing motion across his throat, giving the girls the hint it was time to give the two some space. Neither bothered to acknowledge them going into the next room.
"At least I'm part-human!"
"Don't you dare bring her into this," Loki's nostrils were smoking with rage, but like Taylor could care.
"Like I could even care if she's your mortal enemy! Knowing the things you've done, including what she hasn't seen, I can't blame her!"
"Helloooo! If you haven't noticed, she's why I'm locked up!"
"No," His son smirked, "it's because of me."
"Well actually I did a lot of the wor-" Thor was about to point out, until the black-haired hammerette slapped a hand over his mouth as she and the other 2 gave a "shhh!" and continued to watch the show. True it was just a 13 year-old and a middle-aged demon god going through a midlife crisis of some sorts, but it was still better than "Melodrama Hour" on the most popular soap network in the magical world—Pixie Tear.
Loki had heard enough, and with an irate facial expression he drew his arm back as an orange energy orb, with black static licking about it, began to materialize in his gauntlet-encased hand. It was then Thor believed it wise to intervene.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" He exclaimed as he moved himself between his brother and his nephew, extinguishing the lethal magic with an energy volt from his hammer. Loki cringed and petulantly shook it off.
"Let's all chill for a second, mkay? Need I remind you little bro that we have a crisis at hand?"
"Tell you one thing—I don't like being kept out of the loop; especially when I'm in it. Nobody takes the King of Lies out of Banishment without a good reason." Loki stated.
"Maybe one of your trifling fans actually knows a thing or two about potions." The black-haired Hammerette suggested.
"Maybe we should get more information about this." The blonde advised. "Somebody must know who or what could be responsible."
"Well, we can't exactly mingle with the outside world—even if they could see us anyway. Which would be like, really bad." Thor added.
All eyes were now on Taylor, whose own widened.
"No way! I'm nobody's messenger boy!"
"Don't think of it as something like that dear, think of it as… Look we really need your ability to mingle with the mortals to assist with this matter, and the sooner we figure out just how this avoided the Te Xuan Ze's detection, the better." The redhead Hammerette stated.
"Just what would mortals have to do with this anyway?" He asked. "They don't know anything about us."
"Mortal non-magical beings, maybe."
"So why don't you guys ask them?"
"We're big guns, little nephew." Thor replied in surfer-boy/loving-uncle strange crossbreed of a voice. "If we go asking around saying there's something up, it might cause some wicked backlashes."
Loki chuckled at the idea.
"To avoid a panic, we're kindly suggesting you…help us out." The redhead added.
Loki grabbed the bars of his cage in mock-sorrow, "Please, do it for an old demon god with an appetite for destruction…"
Taylor rolled his eyes one final time, exhaling in annoyance. "Fine."
Taylor might've agreed to the Nordic Deities' arrangement, but he wasn't going empty-handed. The condition had been embarrassing but simple: no curfew, and no asking about where he'd went. If he had any information he'd tell them without sparing an inch, but other than that what happened when he walked out that deserted house's front door was his business to conduct alone.
Clueless about where to start, he decided he'd visit June's place again as it was the closest thing he had for getting potential leads, but she was probably asleep by now so it would wait until later. He wondered, if they did find out, what would happen next if they found the guy who did this. Thor didn't seem to have ill-intent, and his dad only looked suspicious, but if one of the Hammerettes was right and it was just a fan of Loki's eager to release him again…well, then they'd have to banish the delusional creature. No being was meant to have that kind of power to use for unleashing the likes of his dad. And then it was back to the void again he guessed. Even if he committed no actual crime (kidnapping the Te Xuan Ze was looked down upon, but would perhaps deserve an easier sentence than banishment if his hand in the revoke of her ensnarement was brought to light), he'd rejoin him; his dad was the only family he had left, and he had no other place to go. Uncle T-Money had his own life and nearly all other deities snubbed him as blood relation. For images of the all-knowing and moral fiber they were pretty exclusive.
Truthfully, he did have some family that treated him as a person and not a product of the forbidden; on both sides at that. He had another uncle, an older brother to his father, and an aunt who was a goddess…but they were both currently traveling the world at the moment, couldn't even make time to take care of their own kid. She was the reason they were doing this in the first place, but that was yet another dark tale in the bloodline of Oden. The relatives that like him on the mortal half…were now banished. His mom's brother Ted, "Teddy," and his wife, Gloria. Yup, only 2, but better than nothing. Taylor enjoyed spending time in the mortal world, actually, more than the deity one. It was his mother's idea to send him to a magical school, thinking it would make him feel like his other half was nothing to be ashamed about. There were non-human kids, just like him: only most non-human kids didn't have soul-eating, horrific, brutal, image-conceited, demon gods for fathers.
…Ok, maybe not soul-eating, but still pretty creepy.
And if they did have notorious villains for fathers, they were usually out terrorizing the world with them—not trying to pass "Netherworld History II" while trying everything and then some to not appear like a reflection of one of the most disreputable magical baddies in the world. It didn't work though, and Taylor's social life was basically numero uno. He often ditched school at lunch to do something else for a half an hour, besides eat at a vacant table. Weekends weren't really an event either, if he went to public places he would find the place deserted the minute he stepped foot on the premises.
He wondered if life was as hard for his mother while she was up in the mortal world running errands while her son endured semesters at a place nobody really wanted him at, including the teachers. And gods forbid if his gradework was suffering—but who would wanna fail a kid like Taylor Evermore? The heir of Mr. Dark Lord of Deception? But of course it couldn't have been a picnic for her either, raising a kid alone was costly these days in either worlds, and with little support she kind of ran herself ragged. Despite that, she'd always had a smile on her face, and from what his mortal family said when they thought neither of them could hear, she was very beautiful in her day. Still was up to her banishment—Loki didn't have to do a mind-wipe on her family once it happened because they actually didn't care, assumed she'd gone to live some fantasy or something—but she had a kind spirit to match her good looks. …Taylor wondered what the heck his parents saw in each other, or how they even knew each other long enough to like the other since Loki banished someone every 5 seconds.
He even remembered that one time the pizza guy was met with the horrid fate—it was during one of their "bonding" sessions. "I didn't order this with anchovies!" And boom: no more pizza guy.
He walked further down the street and observed the rows upon rows of houses, some belonging to monsters that went unseen and unbothered by the human domiciles. Green lawns, clean streets, and not a bad view of the ocean from this city. A quiet, kind neighborhood, one somebody would expect a person like the Te Xuan Ze to inhabit. He looked up ahead and observed one lone family actually out at these hours—but it explained itself when he saw the numerous luggage cases jumper-cabled on top of it. Vacationers probably. He faltered when he saw there were a few kids standing by it, and to his pleasant surprise he saw that recognized a few of them.
All of them were June's friends; Jody, the blonde in pigtails who talked a lot, Ophelia, the Goth girl with interesting taste in outward attire, a boy whose face seemed familiar but whose name he couldn't place, but he knew he often clung to Ophelia, much to her revulsion. And there was a 4th kid there too; judging by the similarities of him and the married couple loading up the car, he was the one leaving today. By this time he'd stopped walking and decided to just watch from a safe distance.
He was tempted to walk over and re-introduce himself, these same kids being the first to genuinely like him (excluding the other boy who, while he was attending Orchid Bay elementary, would give him dirty looks for some mysterious reason—that reason quickly figured out the day at the competition), but figured it'd be a better idea not to—he wasn't really part of this neighborhood anyway and given the situation, didn't look like he would be when it was over. Plus there was a good chance any of them could be in danger of this guy (or his dad) if they hung around him too much.
"Thanks Jody, these look great." Marcus smiled after he opened the tin filled with homemade butter cookies.
"Ophelia and I made them from scratch, in case you get hungry on the way there." The blonde said proudly.
"It was a formidable process so you'd better enjoy them…" Ophelia warned blandly, Roger cozying up to her side. She gave him a burning glance and he backed off.
The leaving boy looked happy to see his friends wishing him farewell but every once in awhile he'd gaze around the area like he were looking for something. Taylor saw Jody smile.
"Don't worry Marcus, she'll be here."
And just like that something was speeding towards them on a bike. Taylor recognized her too. June panted as she got off the bike, letting it lean against the picket fencing near his house.
"Sorry I'm late." She told everyone, specifically Marcus, supporting herself with her hands on her knees.
"Better late than never." Roger proclaimed.
"Better never late." June breathed, an apologetic smile on her face pointed to her departing boyfriend. Marcus smiled back, and after waiting for her to catch her breath, picked her up in a bear hug and spun her around making June laugh, Jody "aww", and Ophelia look off indifferently. Taylor had to look away too.
So, in all the time he was gone she now had a boyfriend, one she seemed to really care about. Not that he was too surprised; June was incredible. Any boy would be lucky to be with her.
His superhuman senses allowing him to hear them from afar, they were all bidding Marcus goodbye. June sounding the most disheartened.
"C'mon son, we gotta beat traffic!" Called Marcus' father, Malcom, from the front seat. Marcus gave his friends all sincere glances. June and Jody moved forward to give him a bear hug each (June's very watered-down). Ophelia didn't do hugs, and sent him off with a pat on the back and a handshake, which was as affectionate as Ophelia Ramirez got. Roger nearly mauled his buddy in a tight squeeze, Marcus giving his back a pat with his unrestrained hand. After giving June another hug, and some reassuring words, he boarded the car as all four of his friends moved out of the driveway.
The group waved to the Connor's, Marcus and his mother waving back while Malcom backed up from the curb.
June sighed as she watched them drive off, getting sympathetic glances from the threesome around her. No sooner had her friends left had her bracelet started beeping. She clenched her jaw and waited for the Connor's' car to drive off from the horizon at a snail's pace, then after checking to see if the coast was clear, sprinted into the nearest dense enclosure.
He heard her grumble something about a goblin as she made her way back in the direction of her house.
From all the complaining she did, Taylor assumed they both preferred the non-magical world over the magical; it was just too hectic. And oblivious beings were easier to get along with, nobody trying to zap each other, or take over the world unless they were in a corporate business. Mortals had it easy; never needing to worry about taking a place in a literally godlike community, proving your worth by exceeding your lesser half or disproving your past. Living amongst these guys, June was pretty lucky…
June and Taylor team up to defeat the wizard after the demon possesses him and begins wreaking amok on Orchid Bay using Loki's powers (something about freeing him from the void enables him to do it). They ultimately don't reach romantic status in this fic but do let by gones be by gones. Taylor assimilates to Orchid Bay, gets a taste of normal life, gets along well with June's friends, and contends with much female attention that doesn't come from the one he wants...
Marcus meets a girl named Jayra while at the reunion, which makes it a lot less boring, and they do begin to have romantic feelings, but also do not reach romantic status just yet. Jayra, turns out, is princess of a mythical world, which is only hinted at their meeting, but is revealed into young adulthood. June and Marcus break up, amicably, a few months after this particular summer, but remain on good terms.
Lila's crush on Taylor was more or less mean to add more meat to the story. She is a little saddened he already has eyes for June, but moves on, and their friendship doesn't suffer. I did toy with the idea of a relationship with one of June's brothers.
June and Taylor begin dating around the time she starts community college. They do eventually marry (with Thor and other Nordic gods keeping Loki's say out of it, everyone else is tickled/honored and he is the only one who has a problem with it), and have two children whose names never came to mind. A boy who looks like June (the next Te Xuan Ze) and a few years later a girl with the same hair color as Taylor's. Loki poses no danger, and is mentioned as the grandfather "they don't talk about."
June and Taylor, having two children with magical and deific abilities, live happily ever after.