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Title: Family
Universe: Marvel Cinematic Universe, post-Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Genre: Romance/humor/drama/friendship/family
Pairings: Darcy/Loki, Thor/Jane
Rating: T
Summary: When an assassination attempt outs Loki as Odin's usurper, the Allfather decides not to waste his time harboring a wanted fugitive and simply banishes his rebellious Jotun son from Asgard. And Darcy Lewis just wanted breakfast, not for the psychopath who tried to take over Earth to come seeking refuge at the last place imaginable. Post-CA: TWS. Tasertricks! :D

Chapter 12

Lying in the post-coital mess of tangled, sweaty sheets on Ian's bed, Ian's arms wrapped tightly around her, Darcy stared up at the ceiling, eyebrows furrowed and a scowl on her face. With her lust now satisfied and the adrenaline and shock from the encounter with the Dark Elves worn off entirely, she found that all her raging emotions had ultimately boiled down to one: anger. She had just finished telling Ian what had happened with Loki the previous day and earlier this afternoon (conveniently leaving out the small detail that she had, for a moment, wanted to do him), which, in combination with the fact that her whole back had not long ago started killing her, no doubt thanks to her having been thrown against a giant ventilation shaft, had managed to make her even angrier.

Ian, having listened to Darcy's account in round-eyed silence, now pulled her to him even more tightly. “I've told you before, and I'll say it again, Darce:” he said fearfully, “You're not safe there. Living with Thor and Loki under the same roof is like . . . being a magnet for all this crazy, dangerous stuff. I mean, Dark Elves?”

Darcy winced at the added pressure on her back and then wiggled out of Ian's embrace altogether. She wasn't much of a cuddler. Being naturally very warm, she found that being in close proximity to another human being for an extended period of time usually made her feel like she was about to have a heat stroke. In fact, since she had started sleeping in the same bed as Jane, the Boss Lady had dubbed her the Human Space Heater.

“Oh, Dark Elves I can handle, no problem,” Darcy spat bitterly, crossing her arms over her abdomen. “It's Loki who's driving me up the wall. Again. Even the thing with the Elves was technically all his fault.”

At this, Ian looked confused. “How so? I thought the Elves were looking for Thor, not Loki?”

Darcy scoffed at him. “Come on, Intern. I say one little thing and he freaks out at me, then he turns into a goddamned drama queen and trespasses on the roof, forcing me to go look for him, and then we run into the fucking Elves. Then he tells me he's my king and that I'm kneeling at his feet and . . . .” She broke off, trembling with fury. “If we weren't up on that rooftop, the Elves might've never even found us. Oh, no, wait—it's even better than that: If His Princelypants hadn't been a baby from the start, I would be hanging out with fucking Iron Man right now.” She turned to Ian and added quickly, “No offense.”

“None taken,” he said honestly, a flash of jealousy in his eyes, and Darcy knew he wasn't jealous of Tony, but of her. “And yeah, I guess I see your point. But I think I know the solution.”

“Oh?” Darcy asked. “Know where I can get some colorless, tasteless poison for cheap?”

Ian blinked at her. “No . . . ?”

“Damn. So what's your solution, then?”

Ian looked away shyly. “Well—and don't freak out on me, Darce, please—I want you to move in with me, here, okay? I've already talked to my housemates about it and they said they're fine with it. I don't care, I'll pay your share of the rent and all our groceries—I can afford it, I get paid well enough at the office.”

Before Darcy could stop herself, she burst out laughing. “Holy shit, Intern, are you serious? What on Earth gave you the idea that I'm ready for a commitment like that?”

Ian turned back to her, looking disgruntled. “I dunno, Darce, the fact that I'm ready? Look at it this way: We're both done university and have full-time jobs—although I'm guessing you might wanna find a new one, after what happened with the Dark Elves—you know, the international-affairs sub-office is currently looking for an American to join their team, I can put in a good word for you—uhhh—right—then take the fact that we've been dating for almost seven months, are clearly in love, and that moving in together just seems to be the logical next step forward. I mean, if we're gonna get married someday, we'd better get used to living under the same roof, right?”

It was the response Darcy had been dreading. She had long since stopped laughing, and now swallowed heavily. “Is this what you want, truly? Is it important to you?”

Ian smiled at her rather confusedly. “Well, yes. Of course. I love you, Darcy Gabrielle Lewis. I think . . . . I think I wanna spend the rest of my life with you.” At this, Ian smiled an excited, embarrassed grin. “So, what do you say to making me the happiest bloke alive?”

But for the first time in the 22 and a half lengthy years of her life, Darcy had no idea what to say, because try as she might, she could not picture a future of domestic bliss with Ian. Even an eternity of fighting Dark Elves with a mouthy Loki at her side seemed like a far more desirable alternative. But if Ian wanted the opposite, what was she supposed to do? Say yes, move in with him, and be miserable? No, that wouldn't be fair to her. Say maybe and keep him holding on to the hope that one day she'd change her mind, when she knew full well that she wouldn't? No, because how in the hell would that be fair to Ian? Darcy felt a sinking feeling in her stomach as the third and final option became apparent. She would have to answer no and then see where the chips fall.

“Ian, I love you, too, but . . . .” she began awkwardly.

Ian's excited grin faded immediately. “'But' . . . what?”

Darcy squeezed her eyes shut, thinking of how to best word this without insulting Ian. Once she had decided what she was going to say, she took a deep breath and opened her eyes again. “It's just . . . we have such a great thing going right now, why would we wanna compromise it by moving in together?”

“But how do you know moving in together will make it worse and not better?”

“I just know,” Darcy said. “I'm sorry.”

Ian sighed, and although it was evident he was trying, he couldn't hide the disappointment in his voice when he said, “It's all right. We'll just have to wait until you're ready, that's all.”

A burning sensation settled just behind Darcy's eyes, and she couldn't blink it away. “But that's the thing, Intern . . . . I'll never be ready . . . . At least, not with you . . . .”

“What . . . . What're you saying, Darce?” Ian asked, his eyes suddenly wide, his lips parted in apprehension as he stared at her.

But even Darcy herself didn't know what she was saying. She loved Ian, of course she did, but, she realized dejectedly, she would never want to commit to him permanently. And what was the point of continuing a relationship that would never become that strong, when that was exactly what the other half wanted? It wouldn't be fair to Ian, and the guilt would eat her alive. She knew, then, what she had to do, but she also knew, with the whole of her being, that she didn't want to do it. But just when she found herself ready to give in to her doubts and to actually reconsider her not wanting to move in with Ian, she was overcome by a memory, the memory of the dream she had had last night. She had known that Derek had been in it—his face had been the only thing she had remembered, up until now—but now, she remembered the rest. She had dreamt of the worst moment of her life, when Derek had gotten down on one knee and asked her to be his wife, though, for all the sincerity in his voice, he might as well have been asking her if she wanted to do his taxes. But then, Derek's face had slowly morphed into Ian's, and shocked, Darcy had woken up.

Now, the memory of the dream helped her steel herself to do what she knew was necessary, and so, feeling her bottom lip quiver despite her newfound resolution, she looked Ian evenly in the eyes and said, “I think I'm breaking up with you.”

The look on Ian's face just about broke her heart, but she forced herself to keep holding his gaze, using every remaining ounce of her will to keep the tears threatening to spill for the second time today at bay. Don't cry, Darce. If you cry, you'll only make it worse.

“Don't do this to me, Darce, please,” Ian said, his own eyes welling with water. “We just need to give it some time. I'll wait for you. I can wait . . . .”

“I can't ask you to wait for me forever,” Darcy said, feeling her face break. Don't cry, Darce. Whatever you do, don't cry. “Not when I know I'll never feel about you the same way you feel about me.”

“Is it something I did, then? Something about who I am? Just tell me what is it, and I swear, I'll change. Whatever you want, I'll do it.”

Darcy smiled miserably, her heart breaking all over again. “Ian, you are the kindest, sweetest, most caring, most loyal guy that I have ever met. A girl would be stupid not to want to be with you. But I'm . . . I'm not like other girls. I'm kind of . . . crazy.”

Ian smiled back at her, just as miserably, two tears escaping the pools of his eyes. “I know. Why do you think I fell in love with you?”

Her lip quivering uncontrollably, Darcy realized that there was nothing more she could say that wouldn't only make things worse. So, getting out of bed, she picked up her clothes from the floor beside it and got dressed, in silence. She couldn't bear to look at Ian, not until the very end.

When she was ready to leave, she turned to Ian one final time. He was sitting up in bed, watching her. His eyes were wet.

“Goodbye, Intern,” Darcy said quietly.

“Bye, Darce,” said Ian, and his voice was strangely cold, his gaze dismissive.

Suddenly feeling sick to her stomach, Darcy ran out of the room.

She left Ian's town house feeling very numb. She didn't want to go home, because it was only early afternoon and Jane, Thor, and Erik wouldn't be home until late evening, and the last thing she wanted right now was to be alone with Loki. But she didn't have anywhere else to go, nor any of her things on her. No wallet, no bus pass, no cell phone. So she just started walking. Somewhere. Anywhere.

After an hour or so, she made it to the River Thames, just on the opposite side of the Palace of Westminster. She walked halfway across Westminster Bridge and stayed there, watching the river and boats below, the neverending traffic beside her, and the crowds of people around the great, beautiful palace in front of her. All the noise and activity was oddly relaxing.

Soon enough, however, the cold and her hunger—Darcy hadn't eaten all day—had become impossible to ignore, and Loki or no Loki, Darcy knew that she had to go home.

By the time she got back to her apartment building, she was exhausted. Physically and mentally drained. All she wanted was a warm meal, a large mug of herbal tea, and, then, a long, uninterrupted rendezvous with her pillow. But right off the bat, she was presented with a complication: Having left her keys back in the apartment, she had no way of getting inside the building.

She was about to buzz the apartment—she still didn't want to talk to Loki, but she didn't see how she had any other choice—when a middle-aged man checking his mail inside the lobby took notice of her, standing just on the other side of the glass door. He looked concerned by her appearance, and Darcy realized that she must look like a train wreck right now. But surprisingly, that actually managed to work in her favor, as the gentleman then went and kindly opened the door for her.

“You okay, dear?” he asked, as Darcy stalked past him gloomily.

“Yup,” Darcy lied, going to summon the elevator.

The gentleman didn't ask any more questions and allowed Darcy to take the elevator up in solitude, which she was grateful for. Finally reaching her apartment door, she found that it had been left unlocked, and so, with a huge wave of relief, she pushed it open and went inside.

Darcy!” screeched a voice, when Darcy had barely taken one step inside the apartment. Jane was rushing at her, and before Darcy could even understand what was happening, she had thrown her arms around her and was squeezing the life out of her. “I was so worried!

Darcy looked around the room in utter confusion. Both Thor and Erik were there, as well as Loki. But Jane, Thor, and Erik hadn't been supposed to return until much later tonight . . . .

“Jane, what're you guys doing back already?” Darcy wheezed, feeling like her lungs were about to collapse.

Finally, Jane let go of her. “Stark,” she said. “As soon as Loki called us and told us what happened, Stark had us flown back here by his personal jet.”

Darcy gaped at her. “You didn't tell him about the Elves, Jane?

“Fear not, Darcy,” said Thor, stepping forward. “We made sure to provide Tony with a different reason for the need of our urgent and immediate departure.”

“Unfortunately . . .” Jane began, suddenly looking very sheepish, “. . . the best we could come up with was that you'd fallen down the stairs and broken your leg.”

“Gee, thanks,” Darcy said sarcastically.

“But it's hardly worse than what actually happened!” Jane cried out, and before Darcy could protest, she was squeezing the daylights out of her again. “Can you imagine! Dark Elves? Here?

“Jane, it's okay,” Darcy choked. “I'm all right, really.”

But when Jane let go of her again, she didn't look convinced. “Loki told us you almost died, Darcy,” she said, and Darcy realized that there were actual tears in her eyes. “And then when he said you just walked out . . . . Where did you go?

“Ian's,” Darcy said quickly. Where I proceeded to break his heart. Proceeded to throw away possibly the best thing that's ever happened to me.

She remembered too late that her face had always been an open book, because the next moment, Jane was asking, “Did . . . . Did something happen at Ian's?”

“He asked me to move in with him . . . .” Darcy answered.

“Oh!” Jane said, with a smile, though Darcy was able to catch the momentary shadow of disappointment on her face. “That's . . . great! And . . . . And what did you say?”

But once again, Darcy found herself unable to speak. Jane, Thor, and Erik were all watching her with bated breaths, and surprisingly, it appeared that so was Loki. Completely against her volition, her bottom lip began to tremble again.

I broke up with him,” she spluttered suddenly, as the pain she hadn't even known she'd been harboring washed over her in an unprecedented wave of emotion. An onslaught of spontaneous tears cascaded down her cheeks, and she wiped at them angrily.

“Oh, sweetie . . . .” Jane said, and Darcy found herself being hugged for the third time in ten minutes, though much more gently this time.

And for a good thirty seconds, Darcy could do nothing more than sob uncontrollably into Jane's shoulder. She was aware that a warm hand had come to light on her arm in that time, and was now squeezing it gently, but since her eyes were shut tight against her own tears, she didn't know who, other than Jane, was comforting her.

Once she had stopped crying, however, feeling, she had to admit, immensely better, she opened her eyes to Thor's deeply sympathetic, solemn gaze.

“I am truly sorry, Lady Darcy . . .” he told her somberly, “. . . but if I am being perfectly honest—and I think that I speak for everyone here—I am also madly happy that you are not leaving us.”

“You got that right,” said Erik, who had also approached Darcy and was now smiling at her kindly.

It was exactly what Darcy had needed to hear. She grinned at Thor and Erik, and then let go of Jane and smiled around at the three of them.

“You know how much I love you guys, right?” she asked, looking blearily from Jane to Thor to Erik and continuing to smile. “I know I don't show it much, but you guys know, right?”

Of course we do,” Jane said, while Thor and Erik nodded. “And what's this nonsense about not showing it?”

“Oh, please, Jane,” Darcy said, and her smile turned slightly guilty. “I can so be a selfish bitch sometimes, and you know it. But I'm gonna work on it.” And even before Jane could answer, Darcy had an idea. “And I'm gonna start off by giving you and Thor your bedroom back,” she said firmly.

Jane and Thor stared at her in surprise, a mixture of happiness and confusion on their faces.

“But . . .” Jane began uncertainly, “. . . where're you going to sleep?”

“I'll move into the not-living room,” Darcy said quickly, before she could change her mind.

“But that is our entertainment room!” Thor exclaimed immediately. “You love that room, Darcy!”

This was true, and Darcy knew that Thor loved it, too (not that he obviously wouldn't love sharing the master bedroom with Jane again even more), and this was exactly why Darcy had already thought of the solution.

“Don't worry, Thunder Wonder—I have it all figured out,” she said, and then turned to Jane. “You know that money we've been saving up for beds for Thor and I?”

“Of course,” Jane said. “In fact, I think we should have enough for one now. So if you're seriously willing to move into the living room, we can go get you a bed as soon as tonight. If you want.”

The corners of Jane's mouth twitched, and Darcy knew she was holding back one hell of a grin right now. And no wonder, considering that originally, back when Loki had first arrived at their apartment, transforming the not-living room into a bedroom had been Jane's idea. Darcy had just been too stubborn back then to realize it would've actually been the smartest call to make.

“That's perfect,” she said to Jane now. “Except for one small thing. I don't want a bed. Not a regular one, anyways. Get me a sofa bed or a futon instead. I'll have it folded up during the day, so Thor and I will have our entertainment room, and at night, it'll be my bedroom.”

Thor looked excited. Jane looked undeniably pleased.

“Yes, of course,” she said. “You can put anything you want in your room, Darce.”

“Are you absolutely certain of this, though, Darcy?” Thor asked.

Darcy grinned at the thunder god's slightly worried face. “A hundred percent,” she said. “Maybe now you'll start hanging out with me in the mornings again, instead of going to Jane and leaving me all alone. I miss my Thor time.”

Thor looked simultaneously guilty and flattered, and, deciding she's embarrassed him enough, Darcy continued. “And yes, I wanna go get the sofa bed or futon today, if that's okay with you guys. I think it'll help us us take our minds off everything that's happened today. But first we need to decide what to do with the five, uhhh, guests we have suntanning up on the rooftop. We can't very well leave them there for management to find.”

“Actually, Darce . . .” Jane began, with an oddly sickened expression on her face, “. . . the bodies have already been taken care of . . . .”

“Huh? How?” Darcy said. As far as she was aware, they didn't have garbage bags that big. Or a chainsaw. Or a bathtub-ful of acid.

“Loki . . . teleported them . . . .” Jane continued, looking even more sickened.

Darcy gaped at her. “Teleported them where?”

“To the bottom of your River Thames,” Loki informed her conversationally from the other side of the room. “Their armor should weigh them down nicely until they have decomposed sufficiently enough so as not to float to the surface.”

Darcy now understood why Jane looked so disgusted. Trying to force the mental image of five rotting, slimy Elf bodies lying on the Thames riverbed out of her head, “That's . . . awesome,” she said queasily. “And highly disturbing.”

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

“It's rude, you know, to run out on somebody mid-conversation.”

Darcy, who, having finally eaten, showered, and changed into clean clothes, was busy spreading fresh linens over her new sofa bed in the old not-living room (now her new bedroom), looked up and turned toward the source of the voice behind her.

Loki stood in her doorway, leaning against the doorframe, his expression unreadable. If he was trying to get some extreme reaction out of her, she was simply too exhausted to give it to him.

“It's also rude to flirt with a girl who's taken,” she pointed out dully, returning her attention to her bedsheets.

“Yes, but you aren't 'taken' anymore, are you, Little Mortal?” Loki asked, and there was something akin to triumph in his voice.

Darcy froze, clutching the edge of her comforter so hard, her hands trembled.

“Sorry,” Loki said immediately, to Darcy's immense surprise. “I did not mean to—”

“I'm not in a good talking mood right now, Jazz Hands,” Darcy said, cutting him off. “And I'm going to bed.” To bring her point home, she plopped down backward onto the unfolded sofa bed and shut her eyes.

“You may dislike me more for saying this,” she heard Loki's voice several moments later, “but you ought to know that your Ian sounded painfully boring and utterly bland. He was not worthy of you.”

Darcy snorted, continuing to keep her eyes closed. “Oh, yeah?” she muttered bitterly. “Then who is, according to you? And for the love of all that is holy, don't say yourself.”

When Loki's silence had lasted for more than thirty seconds, Darcy opened her eyes and lifted her head from her pillow. But the room was empty. Loki had gone, shutting the bedroom door behind himself. Darcy took off her glasses and put them on the bedside table, turned off her bedlamp, crawled underneath her comforter, and then let her head hit her pillow once more. The most glorious sensation washed over her as her sore, tense, tired body finally relaxed, and in mere moments, she had fallen into the sweet repose of deep, dreamless sleep.
Title: Family
Universe: Marvel Cinematic Universe, post-Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Genre: Romance/humor/drama/friendship/family
Pairings: Darcy/Loki, Thor/Jane
Rating: T
Summary: When an assassination attempt outs Loki as Odin's usurper, the Allfather decides not to waste his time harboring a wanted fugitive and simply banishes his rebellious Jotun son from Asgard. And Darcy Lewis just wanted breakfast, not for the psychopath who tried to take over Earth to come seeking refuge at the last place imaginable. Post-CA: TWS AU. Tasertricks! :D

Chapter 11

If Darcy had thought that by dinnertime, Loki would have forgiven her for her earlier abysmally poor expression choice, she had been gravely mistaken. As the family sat down for a meal of spaghetti and meatballs, Loki remained in his bedroom, not having vacated it for four hours now.

"Is our resident megalomaniac not eating tonight?" Erik inquired, after having watched Thor roll one meatball around his plate for the past five minutes, his mind clearly elsewhere.

"I do not know," Thor replied, worry etching lines into his face. "He would not answer me when I called him to the table."

"You can always try asking him again," Jane suggested gently.

"Yes, that is a good idea," Thor said, before getting up from the table and walking across the living area to his and Loki's bedroom. Slowly, he opened the bedroom door. "Brother?" he asked, peering inside. But at that moment, the door slammed shut, very nearly hitting him in the face.

A surprised and uncertain silence descended over the living area, interrupted only by the sound of Darcy devouring her spaghetti and meatballs like her life depended on it.

"My, my," Erik said finally. "Didn't know Frost Giants have a time of the month."

"Erik," Jane hissed, as Thor returned to the table, frowning.

"He has not been himself since you and I returned from acquiring provisions, Jane," Thor said, sitting back down in his chair heavily. "Something had to have happened while we were gone to make him act like this."

Her face almost literally in her plate as she ate, it was only thanks to her peripheral vision that Darcy could tell that three pairs of eyes had slowly turned and were now looking at her expectantly. But it wasn't until Jane had cleared her throat pointedly that she knew without a doubt that she'd been made.

"Okay, okay, I admit it, it was my fault!" she said, throwing her hands up in surrender. "Now can the three of you please stop staring at me?"

"By the Allfather, Darcy," Thor said bewilderedly, "what did you do?"

"Well . . ." Darcy began, with an awkward, guilty laugh, ". . . it's not so much what I did as what I said . . . ."

When she didn't continue, Thor raised his eyebrows at her.

Darcy cringed, knowing there was no escaping this now. "Loki and I were just playing around, having fun, and then . . . I may or may not not have made a bad mom joke on his behalf."

Thor looked utterly surprised by at least part of what Darcy had said.

Jane looked horrified. "Darcy! That's terrible! How could you do something like that?"

"It was an accident!" Darcy cried in self-defense. "It just slipped out!"

"It always does," Jane huffed. "Did you at least apologize?"

"Yeah, like a thousand times already!" Darcy snapped. "But Queen Elsa over there won't let it go!" She jerked her thumb back in the direction of Thor and Loki's bedroom.

"Who is this 'Queen Elsa' to whom you compare my brother?" Thor asked, perplexed.

"Uhhh," Darcy said, not quite sure how to go about answering this one. "She's from a movie. Frozen. You should get Loki to watch it with you sometime. I think the two of you would find it relevant to your interests."

To Darcy's surprise, Thor appeared to make a mental note of this, mumbling, "Frozen," to himself quietly.

"Perhaps the boy just needs some time alone," Erik suggested, shrugging. "This wouldn't be the first time. Or has everyone forgotten that he spent practically his entire first day here alone out on the balcony?"

"I do not know, Erik," Thor said, looking worried again. "This time seems different."

"I think Erik's right, Sweetheart," Jane said, squeezing Thor's arm comfortingly. "I bet by the time we get back tomorrow, he'll be back to his same old friendly, approachable self."

This actually managed to procure a smile from the mighty Asgardian. "I suppose you two are right. Let us give him the night to feel better, then."

"Sounds like a plan," Jane said, with a nod.

And for a while after, Thor really did stop fussing over Loki. But then, at around nine o'clock in the evening, as Erik and Jane prepared for tomorrow's trip in their respective bedrooms, he approached Darcy in private, and Darcy could tell from his face alone that his apprehension had never truly left him.

"You okay, Thunder Wonder?" Darcy asked, an uncomfortable feeling settling in the pit of her stomach. "You look . . . overcast." Always attempt humor when trying to eradicate a feeling of guilt.

"It is Loki, Darcy," Thor said, looking slightly guilty himself. "I know Jane and Erik said not to worry about him, but I cannot help it."

"It's all good, big guy," Darcy said, smiling in what she hoped was a reassuring way. "What's on your mind?"

Thor rubbed his arm uncertainly. "Not many people other than myself and my father know this, but Loki and our mother cared for each other more than they did for anyone else in the nine realms. She had always been the light in his darkness, even after New York. After she was gone, he was devastated. Her death broke him. I was there. I saw it. And now . . . . If he is . . . . I am afraid he is experiencing what he experienced the day that she died, and the last thing I want is for him to feel that pain again."

If anything could make Darcy feel even worse about what had happened than she already did, it was definitely this. "Oh, my God. Thor, I had no idea they were this close. I actually feel like a big ole pile of shit now . . . . Is there anything I can do to help make it better? Other than apologize for the twentieth time?"

"Unfortunately, I do not think there is anything we can do for him just yet, no. I think it will be best to give him his space and wait for him to come to one of us of his own volition, whenever he is ready. Having said that, however, I would very much prefer not to leave him completely alone in the dwelling tomorrow. If he is ready to talk, I would like someone to be here to listen."

Darcy felt guilty for a whole different reason now. Not only was Loki more than likely going to go back to being an asshole because of her, but now she was also going to prevent Thor from visiting his friend. "Oh, God, I'm so sorry, dude. I know how much you look forward to going to see Tony."

Thor shook his head. "Actually, Darcy, I was hoping you would be the one to stay."

Darcy blinked. "Me? I'd assume I'd be the last person Loki'd want to talk to, wouldn't you?"

Thor shook his head again, smiling. "Did you yourself not say that you and Loki were having an enjoyable time together earlier today?"

"Well . . . yes," Darcy stammered. "But I don't know, he was probably pretending or something . . . ."

Thor's smile grew wider. "Do not underestimate yourself, Darcy. Your personality—the very way that you are—I believe that if anybody is capable of drawing my brother out of his shell, it is you. If you are up for it, of course. I am in no way obligating you to stay. But you did ask if there is anything you can do to help, and I genuinely believe this is it."

It took Darcy a couple of moments to digest everything Thor had just said. She still wasn't sure she believed him, but if he honestly thought her staying with Loki would help, then stay she would. "All right," she said finally, "I'll stay. But if my staying somehow manages to make things worse, I officially forbid you from placing the blame on me, mmkay?"

The last thing Darcy had expected to get in response from Thor was a giant bear hug. (Not that Thor hugs were ever unappreciated.) "Thank you, Darcy," Thor said above her head somewhere. "I am honored to call you a true friend. Remember that."

"Don't get sentimental on me now, Thunder Wonder," Darcy said, unable to hold back a grin. "You know I'm not good at expressing all those raging feels inside of me."

"You are not the only one," Thor said, letting Darcy go and nodding in the direction of his and Loki's bedroom.

As he walked away, Darcy understood a little better.

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

Jane, Thor, and Erik's flight was scheduled to leave at seven o'clock in the morning. Seven. Fucking. AM. Jane's alarm went off at three, with the most ungodly sound Darcy had ever heard in her life. She startled awake from a strange nightmare the memory of which vanished immediately somewhere into her subconscious, though an image of a face remained, a face she hadn't thought about in years.

Jane pressed snooze on her phone as soon as she had located it by fumbling around for it blindly in the darkness—no surprise there. But Darcy stayed wide awake, her entire body abuzz with negative energy left over from seeing the face in her dream. At that moment, however, she became aware of a clanging and musical humming in a voice she recognized all too well coming from the direction of what she was pretty sure was the kitchen. "Oh, God, Jane," she said, shaking the little scientist by the shoulders. "Get up. I think Erik's attempting to cook breakfast all by himself out there."

"Duly noted," Jane said, her eyes snapping open immediately.

As the Boss Lady got out of bed and left the room, Darcy could distinctly hear Erik say, "Good morning, Jane! I'm making us bacon-cinnamon crepes for dinner!"

Jane, Thor, and Erik left the apartment at half past four, which was unfortunately also around the time that Darcy was finally able to fall back asleep. When she woke up next, groggy and covered in sweat, she immediately knew she had overslept. Checking her phone, she found the time to be 11:52 AM. Well, better late than never, she thought to herself, stretching and mentally preparing herself to face the day and, more importantly, face Loki.

If she knew him well enough, she knew he would be up for about an hour now. So she was more than a little surprised to find the living area, the kitchen, the not-living room, and the bathroom completely devoid of life. She sighed, realizing that Loki was probably still cooped up in his bedroom, and decided to go check on him, for Thor's sake.

She knocked timidly on Loki's bedroom door. "Jazz—Loki? It's just me. I just wanna make sure you're all right." After receiving no answer, she tried knocking again, louder this time. "Loki? You okay?" But the room remained silent as ever. Finally, "Loki," Darcy said, before pushing the bedroom door open herself.

The room was empty.

Darcy reeled.

Oh, no . . . .

No way I just lost a fucking prince of Asgard.

Darcy thought about all the places she hadn't checked yet, and realized that only Erik's bedroom remained. But what the fuck would Loki be doing in Erik's room? Does it really matter? a little voice inside her head asked. Just check. Holding on to the slightest sliver of hope, Darcy opened the door to Erik's bedroom, but the room turned out to be as empty as her hopes had evidently been. She felt a shadow of panic brush against her chest, but quickly fought it back, although two things remained perfectly clear: One, she'd really done it now, and two, Thor was going to kill her.

What now? Call up Jane with what was quite possibly the worst news ever? Although, Erik would most likely be ecstatic. Erik. Something Erik had said yesterday was now nagging Darcy at the back of her brain. When Loki wouldn't come out of his room the night before, Erik had said that he was behaving like he had his first day here, when he wouldn't come in FROM THE BALCONY. RIGHT.

Flooded with relief, Darcy ran out of Erik's room, through the living area/lab space, and then into the kitchen, where the door leading onto the balcony could be found. It had been unlocked from the inside: the first good sign. Darcy sprang out, and—

Her stomach dropped.

Not a soul was out on the balcony.

This time, panic actually managed to grab a momentary hold of her, and in that moment, she assumed the worst, rushing toward the balcony parapet and casting her gaze downward. But thinking the situation over logically, she realized she was overreacting. Loki came off as simply too self-loving to be the suicidal type. Besides, would a fall like this even kill an Asgardian? Especially one who had survived getting fucking Hulk-smashed? Darcy thought not. Drawing away from the parapet, she wrapped her arms around herself against the piercing-cold gale that whipped through the city today, trying to rack her brain for any and all other ideas as to where Loki could've disappeared to. And that was when she noticed it: The door to the balcony's small storage . . . er, shed, or whatever it was, was opened slightly. And as Darcy got closer, she realized that the padlock that had, until now, kept the shed inaccessible to anyone other than building management was currently lying on the ground, having been literally torn from the latch.

"What the . . . ?" Darcy mumbled to herself, opening the door of the little "shed", only to discover that it wasn't a shed, at all. It was, in fact, just a small space that housed a total of one rusty ladder leading up to the ceiling, where a trapdoor opened onto the roof of the building itself. "Hello?" Darcy called up at the trapdoor, strongly doubting her voice could make it anywhere useful in the wind. "Loki?" No response. "Fuck this shit. No way am I going up there without at least shoes and a jacket on."

Darcy returned to the apartment and geared up, putting on a pair of old Converse and a bright-purple windbreaker.

Climbing up the ladder, knowing full well that she was trespassing, Darcy emerged onto the windblown roof. She'd only ever been on the roof of Jane's old New Mexico laboratory before, and this rooftop was definitely higher, vaster, and . . . scarier. The first and most important thing Darcy noticed was the complete and utter lack of railing or parapet around the rooftop's perimeter. (Because safety last, kids!) Next it was what was actually there: mostly the end parts of giant ventilation shafts, extending out of the floor of the roof two or three feet and then curving downward to prevent rain, snow, and other crap from entering the shaft. Outcrops of TV antennas and satellite dishes of various sizes also sprung up around the rooftop, in no pattern Darcy could discern. Some construction materials, seemingly abandoned, lay in piles here and there. And there, in the middle of it all, lay the cause of Darcy's pain and frustration: one solitary mischief god.

Darcy let out a groan of simultaneous exasperation and relief, before making her way over to the pain in her ass lounging on the roof.

And Loki really was lounging. Stretched out comfortably with his ankles crossed, he lay on his back in the middle of the rooftop, one arm folded under his head and the other currently occupied with lazily spinning an empty beer can, a handful of leaves, and an old receipt paper in an endless circle several feet in the air above his head. He wore his boots and his long black-green-and-gold overcoat over his usual garb.

"There you are," Darcy ground out, coming to a stop beside him. "Do you have any idea how worried I've been?"

"Why would you worry about me?" Loki asked blankly, without looking at her.

"Oh, I wasn't worried about you," Darcy huffed in response. Great. Now he probably thinks I actually care about him. "I was mostly worried about Thor killing me because something had happened to you on my watch, or Jane killing me because you had run off and were trying to take over the world again."

Loki looked unconvinced, so Darcy snapped into offensive mode.

"What're you even doing up here, anyway? Other than putting on a magic show for the pigeons? You know that lock on the door meant we can't be up here, right? We need to leave, now."

Loki clenched his hand into a fist, and above him, the leaves, beer can, and receipt paper compressed into an entity no larger than a golf ball, which Loki then simply flicked away.

Darcy could not see where it landed.

"Try to escort me, Miss Lewis," Loki said, his voice dangerously quiet. "Please do."

Darcy sighed, recognizing the futility of her endeavor. "I'm obviously not gonna fight you, Loki. You wanna be alone? Whatever. Just tell me what you're doing up here, and I'll go."

Loki looked at her for the first time since she had come up on the roof, contemplating. Then he looked away. "I was thinking of my mother," he said, after a beat. "The last time she and I had touched."

"Aaaaand that's my cue to leave," Darcy said, turning on her heel and beginning to walk away. She was surprised by how quickly her anger with Loki was replaced by the all-too-familiar guilt.

"Wait," she heard Loki's voice say behind her.

She froze, then turned around slowly, hoping her face wouldn't betray her emotions.

But Loki still wasn't looking at her. "You may stay," he said. "If you wish."

It is said that the smallest decisions can have the most significant of outcomes, without us even realizing it. But had Darcy Lewis known that her next decision would save a life, that it would bring her the greatest joy as well as the greatest trauma she had ever experienced, and that it would, eventually, define the fate of the universe itself, would she still have made the same choice? Nah, probably not. She probably would've gotten the fuck off that rooftop.

But luckily for everyone, Darcy had no idea what she was getting herself into, and so she answered, "All right."

She returned to where Loki lay on the ground, unsure of what he wanted her to do now that she'd elected to stay. When he didn't move or say anything, she sat down on the concrete next to him, and then lay all the way down, putting her hands under her head. Her elbow came to rest against Loki's right shoulder, making her stiffen, expecting him to jerk away, but when he didn't, she relaxed, slowly allowing herself to get used to the idea of being this close to him.

But why had he asked her to stay? Was the God of Lies ready to have an honest conversation, for once?

"Thor told Erik, Jane, and I . . . ." Darcy began, but trailed off, because her voice was hoarse and making her sound like a seventy-year-old human male who had been smoking cigarettes since childhood. She hadn't realized she was nervous. She cleared her throat, gazing up into the gray, cloudy sky, before trying again. "He told us that Frigga came to visit you in your cell, shortly before she was . . . ." Darcy could not finish her sentence.

"Killed?" Loki finished for her. "Murdered brutally, protecting a woman she had just met, because it was the right thing to do?"

"Yes, that," Darcy answered quietly.

"Frigga never visited me in person," Loki said. "I was dangerous. I am . . . dangerous. She came to me as an illusion."

"Huh?" Darcy said immediately.

Loki sighed impatiently beside her. "How to explain magic to a layman . . . ."

"Try science," Darcy suggested.

Loki's shoulders shook with a single chuckle. "All right, Little Mortal. Then imagine piloting a remote-controlled holograph of yourself."

"Awesome! I didn't know that was one of your mom's abilities."

"Yes. One I was lucky enough to have passed down to me. But that is not the point. The point is that while that final visit did give me the opportunity to see and talk to my mother, I could not physically touch her. The privilege to do that one last time had been granted me years earlier."

"Wanna talk about it?" Darcy asked gently.

"My brother put you up to this, didn't he?"

"Yup. But that's not why I'm doing it. So, wanna talk about it?"

"All right, let's talk, to ease my brother's worry," Loki said, and there was sudden poison on his tongue. "The last time I touched my mother was immediately following my murdering my biological father, the king of the Frost Giants, Laufey. My mother saw this, and she threw her arms around me in gratitude, because she thought I had done it simply to save Odin's life. Little did she know that I had been the one to let Laufey into the palace to begin with, or that I had attempted to take the life of her beloved son Thor earlier. Oh, I do not think she would have embraced me had she known. Do you?"

Before Darcy could answer, Loki continued, his tone growing more bitter by the second.

"And despite this, despite everything I had done and everything I would go on to do in New York, she still begged with the Allfather to have him spare my life, the daft woman. Good thing I reminded her of who she truly is to me before her death. Why, our final conversation was the most honest I had had with her in my entire life! I rid her, once and for all, of the delusion that she is my mother. Can you imagine the relief she must have felt upon hearing that she is not?"

"Loki . . . ."

"Because to me, it was truly freeing. If it were not for our conversation, I might have even regretted giving the Kursed Elf the directions for the quickest way out of the dungeons. And when he would later come to stab and kill Frigga, I might have even felt pain, and more guilt and self-hatred that can be put into words. But I did not. I did not. I did not."

"Loki."

He turned to her and met her stare. "'Loki' what?"

Darcy had no idea what her face looked like right now. She had no idea what she even felt, other than a near-overpowering burning in her chest. "Did you love her?"

He turned away again, before answering, "Yes."

"And do you think even your most powerful illusion could've tricked her into believing otherwise?"

Loki remained silent for what felt like a long time, but finally, Darcy heard him quietly say, "Thank you."

But because Darcy was about as good at providing comfort as she was at playing softball (meaning she was abysmal), her only other instinct was to silently reach out and place her hand on top of Loki's wrist. But it was better than nothing.

They stayed like that for a while, watching dry leaves and various pieces of garbage get blown around them by the wind.

"I haven't talked to my parents in almost five years," Darcy said, before she could stop herself, before she could consider the size of the can of worms this would open. She regretted it immediately, grimacing and shutting her eyes, and hoping Loki somehow hadn't heard her.

He had. "Why?" came his almost instantaneous question.

"Uh, never mind. Forget that I even said something."

"Your saying something is what tells me that you wish to discuss it."

"I don't . . . . I mean, I can't . . . . I've never . . . ."

"Talked about it before? Like I had never disclosed to anyone the nature of my last conversation with Frigga?"

"You wouldn't find my story worth listening to, trust me."

"How about you let me be the judge of that?"

Darcy turned and looked at his face, and saw no trickery in it. And if she was being completely honest with herself, she had needed a listener for the past five years now. "All right, fine. The thing is that I come from a very conservative family. Like, picture the most Republican voting, church going, Jesus worshiping, pasty-faced group of people you can. And then take me."

"I take it your views and the views of your family differed considerably."

"'Considerably' is an understatement. But I have no problem with that! I'm all for different ideas and freedom of expression and whatnot. But unfortunately for me, my parents were not. They were more my-way-or-the-highway kinda people, and their way was actually pretty fucking horrible."

"Sounds like it. I mean, you did say they worshiped the Jesus deity over their one true god."

"Let me guess—that would be you?"

"Of course."

"Do you even realize how not funny you are?"

Loki chuckled for the second time since Darcy had started talking to him on the rooftop. "My apologies. Do continue."

Darcy rolled her eyes, but smiled, nevertheless. "Anyways. I was the only child—a girl. Which somehow managed to make things even worse. My parents expected me to be their vision of the perfect daughter, and for the first seventeen years of my life, I really did try to make them happy. I'd gone to church for as long as I could remember, always acted like a proper Christian young lady, and even when I hit puberty and my mom began dolling me up every morning before school and making me wear low-cut shirts and tight dresses and talking about husbands and the importance of marrying while I was still 'in my good years', I went with it. That's not to say that I didn't follow my own interests on the side. And in secret, unfortunately."

"Why did your parents disapprove of your interests? Surely you didn't wish to conquer worlds and command armies, did you?"

Darcy smacked Loki on the ribs. "My dad had always found it cute that I'd watch the evening news with him, until at around age twelve I began having and winning serious political debates against him. Honestly pretty easy thing to do when arguing with a man with so narrow a worldview. But anyways, that was about the time that he put his foot down about me watching the news with him, saying, 'Proper young ladies shouldn't bother themselves with matters best decided by men. Why don't you spend this time learning how to do your hair up all pretty instead?' He had forgotten that I had a laptop and an Internet connection.

"At fifteen, when I was already looking into colleges with the best poli-sci programs available in the US, my parents introduced me to Derek. He was three years older than me, the son of some friends of the family. When our respectful parents set us up on our first date, I hoped he was a kindred spirit, so I tested the waters, laughing at the antiquatedness of the whole thing and insinuating my desire to just be friends. That was when he turned to me and coldly informed me that his parents had told him he would not inherit the family business until he got married."

"So you were a means to an end," Loki said derisively. "I know the feeling. I imagine you were not impressed."

"Oh, sure, I was hurt. At first. Until I realized that I'd take disinterest over having to fight off unwanted advances any day of the week. Then I was actually kinda happy. I mean, yeah, our parentally ordered so-called 'dates' were painfully boring, but I had more important things to worry about, anyways, like keeping my grades up and thinking of the best way in which to introduce my parents to the idea of me going to college. I had decided on Culver University by then.

"I finally told my parents about my aspirations six months before I would graduate high school, explaining to them where I wanted to go, what program I wanted to take, and why it was so important to me. I then asked if they'd be willing to help me out with money, seeing as, even though my mom didn't work, we definitely didn't have any problems in the department. They listened to me patiently and without interruption, and then told me they'd discuss it and get back to me. I'd never been so nervous in my life. But then, the following day, completely opposite to my expectations, they happily let me know that I was in for a big surprise, but that I'd have to wait until after I'd graduated to find out what it is. Very excited, I went ahead and applied to Culver, as well as several backup options.

"I didn't get a response from Culver until a week before graduation, but bitch, apparently all my hard work in high school had paid off, because not only did I get accepted, but I got accepted on full fucking scholarship. Know what that is?"

"Not the slightest idea."

"It's when the university pays everything. Tuition, books and supplies, housing. I even had an amount allotted just for miscellaneous living expenses!"

"On Asgard, education is free for everyone."

"Oh . . . well, that's just great," Darcy said, her sarcasm meter scaling off the charts. "I am so relieved to hear that on some pancake-shaped planet halfway across the galaxy, education is free for everyone."

"Yes, as am I," Loki deadpanned, earning himself a glare from Darcy. He smirked. "I also have a prediction to make: Your parents could not care less about your accomplishment."

"Actually, they never found out."

"Why in Helheim not? I would've rubbed it in their faces."

"And in retrospect, that would've been the right thing to do. But unfortunately, I was still very nice back then, and didn't wanna one-up whatever surprise my parents had planned for me. So I decided to wait until after they gave me their surprise to present them with mine. And boy did my surprise ever end up being great. It just wasn't what I had had in mind originally."

"Something tells me your parents' surprise didn't quite match your expectations, either."

"You have no idea," Darcy said, and as the memory came back to her in sharp relief, she felt queasy. "The night following my last day of school, my parents held a soirée in my honor. I was flattered. It was literally the nicest thing they had ever done for me. Most of my family was there, and some of the closest family friends. Derek and his parents were among them, of course. And then, in front of everyone, my father announced that it was time for the big surprise. He led me to the center of the kitchen, and said, 'My dear, when you told your mother and I that you plan to go to college, we realized how important it is to you to secure your future. And then we wondered where we had gone so wrong as to make you believe we hadn't already secured it for you. Because we have, my little angel.' That was when Derek got up from his chair and strode over in silence, then got down on his knee and smiled, and then, with no emotion in his eyes whatsoever, asked me to marry him."

Loki let out a sickened scoff beside her. "Every seventeen-year-old's dream, no doubt."

"Jazz, I wanted to puke," Darcy said, experiencing some of that desire even now. "But I was also so relieved. Finally, I knew without a single doubt that if I were to stay in that house any longer, I would die. So I left."

"You just left?"

"Yup. I still owed my parents a surprise, remember? And I think leaving Derek kneeling in the middle of the kitchen floor with no answer was the best one that I had ever given them. I went straight to my room, packed a suitcase, and then just left. Ended up sleeping in a motel that night, but the following morning I was on the first bus to Willowdale, West Virginia. Found myself a part-time job at a diner to get me through the summer, and then school started and my scholarship got me through the rest."

"Did your parents search for you?"

"Nope. Didn't even leave a message on my phone. Which is one of the many reasons I have yet to regret leaving."

"My family thought me dead, and yet my mother still searched for me . . . ." Loki said solemnly.

"Because she loved you, despite everything. You're so lucky to have had her in your life."

"Darcy, I am sor—"

"No need. Honestly. They aren't even worth being acknowledged with a "sorry". They're a long-forgotten fragment of my past, and I'd like them to stay that way. Because guess who I meet at the end of my second year at Culver? Jane. And she's been like a sister to me ever since. Not sure if you know this, but she's lost her folks, too. Mom had breast cancer that spread to her liver, and then her dad died from carbon monoxide poisoning four years later. But we're there for each other, through thick and thin. And let's not forget about the rest of our little family! Motherfucking Thor. Crazy Erik. Ian. And hell, you can be our criminally insane adopted cousin!"

"I'm flattered," Loki drawled.

Darcy grinned. "As you should be!"

"Mhm, yes, to be part of a family comprised of an oaf, a scatterbrained scientist, a mental old man, a faceless stranger, and a rude, loudmouthed wench."

"I'm rude and loudmouthed?"

"Oh, to the core."

"Oh."

"I'm sorry, is this news to you?"

"You kidding?" Darcy said, snorting loudly. But then her self-confidence waned a little. "But it does make me wonder sometimes."

"Wonder what?"

Darcy sighed and bit her lower lip. Of course she had had to go and open her big mouth again. "It makes me wonder if this is who I really am, or if I only turned out this way because I was desperate not to end up like my parents."

Loki shrugged. "No one can answer that question for you other than you, Little Mortal," he said. "But for what it is worth, I hope that the rude, loudmouthed wench I have come to know is the true you."

Darcy turned and looked at Loki in complete surprise. He looked back at her evenly, and she felt the distinct desire to reach out and touch his wrist again, but didn't.

"Loki, would you like to come inside and have some lunch now?" she asked instead.

"Yes, I think I would," Loki answered.

They rose from the concrete—Darcy was feeling a little sore now—and began making their way back toward the trapdoor that led down to their balcony. Darcy was certain that things between her and Loki would be all right now.

Halfway to their destination, Darcy was startled by the sound of several dozen whistling, beating wings. It was a sound she knew had once warned her ancestors of nearby predators, and so, instinctively, and with a strange, involuntary feeling of dread, she turned to look in the direction of its source. A kit of pigeons was hastily flapping their way through the air, away from the opposite end of the roof, where they had been perched. And then, Darcy saw the cause of their distress.

A head appeared above the side of the building, which confused Darcy greatly until she realized that there must be a fire escape there. Next came a pair of shoulders, and as Darcy recognized the familiar armor and mask, her stomach lurched.

The rooftop visitor was a Dark Elf.

"Uh . . . Loki?" Darcy said, watching as one, two, three, four more Elves climbed onto the roof behind their leader.

Suddenly, the god was at her side. Reaching an arm across her chest, he forced her back a couple of steps.

"Remain very still," he told her.

Darcy didn't think she could move even if she tried. So many questions were running through her mind: Where did these Elves come from? Why were they here? Why didn't they just use the elevator? (Well, okay, that last one kind of answered itself.)

It turned out Loki had similar questions on his mind. "Who are you and what do you want?" he asked unceremoniously, addressing the Dark Elf Darcy had assumed to be the leader.

"Mortals!" bellowed the Elf. "We are the last of an ancient, noble race, and we are here for no reason other than to exact revenge on the one responsible for our demise! Is this the residence of the one they call Thor?"

So, they're Greenwich survivors, Darcy thought. Lovely.

"Captain," said the Dark Elf standing to the leader's right, "I am unsure of the female, but the man before you is not mortal. He is Loki of Jotunheim, an ally of Thor. I saw him fight alongside the thunderer when Malekith claimed the Aether on Svartalfheim."

"The female is part of the thuderer's cohort, also," said another Elf. "She fought with him on this forsaken realm."

"It appears we are in the right place, then," said the Elf captain. "Kill them."

All five Elves set off across the rooftop, and Darcy jerked backwards, prepared to run. But then she realized that Loki showed no sign of intending to move.

"Darcy, I need you to return to the apartment now," he said, without talking his eyes off the rapidly approaching Elves. "Do not remain there, however. Take the stairs down to the ground level and leave the building. Go somewhere you know is secure. Once you are safe, contact Jane and Thor."

"Yeah, and you're gonna come with me, right?" Darcy demanded.

"What, and miss the opportunity to slay these foul creatures where they stand?" Loki asked, undeniable excitement in his voice. "Where would be the fun in that?"

"There're five of them and one of you," Darcy pointed out, feeling altogether uncomfortable with the idea of leaving Loki to fight these monsters all on his own.

"I fought and killed four of these vermin unassisted before," Loki retorted matter of factly. "Surely one more won't make much of a difference."

"Loki, you're unarmed!" Darcy cried out, eyeing the Dark Elves' blades apprehensively.

Loki turned to her then, and there was a huge, mischievous grin splitting his face. "You may not know much about me, Little Mortal, but this is something I think you could've figured out even by yourself: I am never unarmed."

Loki removed his arm from Darcy's chest and flicked his wrist, and a small dagger appeared in his hand. The whole thing happened so fast, Darcy wasn't able to tell if the dagger had been hidden up the sleeve of Loki's tunic this whole time or if it had just now appeared out of thin air.

"You're gonna fight them with that little thing?" Darcy asked incredulously.

"It is not the size that matters," Loki said, winking. "Now run."

And before Darcy had another opportunity to retort, Loki charged at the Elves, immediately knocking the closest one onto his back with a telekinetic blast aimed by his left hand.

"Fuuuuuuck," Darcy hissed, then turned on her heel and began to sprint in the direction of the trapdoor. But she didn't even make it twenty feet before a small voice began a monologue inside her head:

Really, Darce? You're just gonna leave the guy when he's outnumbered five to one? Who do you think he is, Thor? This is the quiet, nerdy brother, remember?

Swearing at her conscience like a deranged sailor, Darcy skidded to a stop and turned around, half expecting Loki to be dead by now. But to her surprise, Loki appeared to be doing quite well—very well, actually—for himself.

One Elf Darcy could only assume was dead—he lay on the ground in a heap, a puddle of dark stuff pooled around his body. The remaining four, meanwhile, took turns frantically swiping at Loki with their knives, while the mischief god dodged every strike with the light-footedness of a dancer. Darcy had thought his thinner frame would prove to be an inconvenience when fighting the slightly bulkier enemies; she hadn't realized how quick and agile it made him.

But now, Darcy realized, Loki appeared to have no way out of this circle of death that the Dark Elves had trapped him in. Until, that is, as an Elf took yet another swipe at him with his knife, instead of dodging it or blocking it with his dagger, Loki snapped his fingers, and the weapon simply vanished from the Elf's hand. With the speed of a striking snake, Loki plunged his own dagger into the side of the Elf's neck, where his armour looked thinnest. The Elf stumbled backwards, clutching at his neck in a vain attempt to stop the steady stream of blood now gushing from his wound, but before Darcy could cheer, the remaining three Elves plunged their daggers into Loki's back.

Darcy screamed. One Elf looked up at her, but the other two were staring at their own weapons in what looked oddly like confusion. And then, if a flash of white-green light, Loki vanished.

What the fuck just happened? Darcy thought to herself, now feeling about as confused as the Dark Elves looked. Did Loki just teleport? Was he hurt, or did the Elves simply stab an illusion that looked like him? Loki had said he could control his holographs from a distance. Could he also turn invisible?

Darcy's questions were answered (somewhat) when Loki, looking quite unharmed, appeared, as if from beyond a dissolving, invisible wall, behind the largest of the surviving Elves and finished him off as he had done his previous victim.

Now only the Elf captain and one other Dark Elf remained.

With a roar of pure, unrestrained rage, the Elf captain lunged at Loki and tackled him to the ground, Loki barely able to keep the Elf's blade from plunging into his unarmored chest. Darcy threw her hands over her mouth to stop herself from screaming again, but her attention was quickly usurped by the other surviving Elf. He stood a ways away from his captain and Loki as they fought down on the ground, and the black, unblinking eyeholes of his mask were fixed unwaveringly on Darcy.

Darcy felt the hairs stand on the back of her neck, and a deep, stomach-turning sensation of being prey consumed her. Oh, God, please, no . . . .

But seeing as the only god currently in Darcy's vicinity was a little preoccupied with not dying himself, no one stopped the Dark Elf as he began to stalk steadily toward Darcy. A chilling fear descended upon her, and, blinded by instinct and a rush of adrenaline, she turned and bolted in the opposite direction.

It wasn't until she heard the thunder of the Dark Elf's rapidly approaching footfalls over the rush of her own blood that she realized her earlier decision to run would most definitely prove futile. The Dark Elf was much taller than her, with far longer legs, and the trapdoor was still some distance away. She'd never make it, and even if she did, she sure as hell wouldn't get away on the balcony or in the apartment. Her only option, she realized as her head cleared, was to stop and give up a fight. But first, she needed to find a weapon.

Unless her ears were deceiving her, the Dark Elf was mere feet away when she spotted a pile of old building materials lying beside a massive, protruding end part of a ventilation shaft. Her eyes immediately fell on a rusty old metal rod, about six feet long and no more than half of an inch thick. She lunged toward it, grabbed it up into her hands, and spun around, aiming the opposite end in front of her.

The impact that occurred immediately afterward threw Darcy onto the ground before she could even understand what had happened. She landed heavily on her tailbone, and was pushed several feet backwards until she slammed hard into the side of the ventilation shaft. Winded, disoriented, Darcy found herself having trouble making sense of her surroundings.

One thing she was aware of was the fact that she was still holding the rod. The end in her hands had been forcefully jammed against the exact spot where the side of the ventilation shaft met the concrete ground. The opposite end, however, pointed up at a thirty-degree angle, though Darcy wasn't the one holding it up. And then she remembered the Dark Elf. Squirming, she contracted herself into her closest imitation of a ball, though she knew it would do nothing against the deadly blow that was surely coming. But it never came. And then, Darcy became aware of something else entirely.

Something sticky and cold was oozing onto her hands. Slowly prying open her eyes, she looked up at where her hands clutched the rod in a death grip and saw a black, syrupy liquid trickling down the rod and onto her pale fingers. Shaking with anxiety, she followed the length of the rod upward with her gaze, and then jolted and froze as her wide-open eyes met the dead, unseeing gaze of the Dark Elf who had tried to kill her. Though very much not alive anymore, his wide, unnaturally pale-blue eyes were frozen in an expression of immense surprise. And no wonder, considering there was a long metal rod currently perforating his throat clean through. Darcy shrieked and let go of the rod, and the dead Elf toppled from his sprawled kneeling position onto his side.

Dangerously close to going into shock, Darcy stared at her blood-blackened hands, and then began wiping them frantically on her windbreaker. She continued doing this as if in a haze, until a pair of powerful hands wrenched her off the ground and held her up on her feet. Her vision clearing slowly, she found herself looking into the worried crystal-blue eyes of Loki.

"Are you all right? Are you harmed?" he demanded immediately, and the urgency in his voice sounded less like impatience and more like apprehension.

"N-No," Darcy stuttered.

Loki held her away from him at arm's length, scrutinizing her from head to toe for damage.

"The Elf captain—" Darcy choked out.

"Dead," Loki assured her, then, apparently satisfied that she wasn't hurt, he let go of her shoulder, straightened to his full height, and grinned. "Had me in a chokehold for a good several seconds there. His lackey would've surely finished me off had he not chosen to come after you instead."

Darcy wobbled, and Loki was forced to put his hand back on her shoulder to steady her.

"I do apologize for that, by the way," he said, though only half seriously. "It appears four Elves at a time is truly my limit."

"Four," Darcy repeated dully. "You just took four lives."

"Impressed?" Loki asked, with a smug smile.

"More like terrified," Darcy mumbled.

"Well, by the looks of it, you fared quite well for yourself." Loki shoved the Dark Elf Darcy had killed with the toe of his boot.

Darcy felt a sudden and uncontrollable urge to explain. "He ran into the rod—He just ran into it—"

Loki looked absolutely delighted by this revelation. "Are you telling me he impaled himself? By the Allfather, these Dark Elves must be duller than Thor . . . ."

As Loki continued marveling humorously at the fact that the Dark Elf had accidentally run into Darcy's rod, thus killing himself, Darcy found she didn't share any of his delight. In fact, she was feeling quite the opposite, as a gruesome, sickening realization settled slowly in her belly.

"Jesus Christ, I've killed someone one," she whispered, without even realizing she was talking out loud.

"Pardon?" asked Loki, bringing his attention back to her.

But she hardly heard him. The mind-numbing adrenaline was wearing off, and as it drained from her system, the reality of what had happened was finally beginning to sink in. Involuntary tears sprung up in her eyes, and her stomach turned and rolled in a threatening manner.

It appeared to have finally dawned on Loki that Darcy wasn't all right. "Darcy?" he asked, his tone going deathly serious. "What is the matter?"

She looked up into his face, which was a huge mistake, because as soon as she looked into his eyes, which looked back almost kindly into hers, it all spilled out. The tears came first; she felt them run down her cheeks, first hot, but cooling quickly in the sharp wind. And then, before she could stop herself, she was saying everything she felt might tear her apart.

"What's the matter? What's the matter? I KILLED THAT ELF, LOKI. I'M A MURDERER. HOW COULD I DO THAT? HOW CAN I CALL MYSELF A GOOD PERSON NOW THAT I'VE TAKEN A LIFE? I'M A MONSTER."

She broke down and looked at the ground, sobbing. To her surprise, she immediately felt Loki's cool fingers under her chin, forcing it upward until she was looking into his eyes again. But any kindness she might have seen there before was gone now.

"Never regret taking the life of another if it means saving your own or that of a person you love," the trickster told her coldly. "The price of hesitation is far too high, trust me."

Darcy considered his words, and, surprisingly, felt slightly better. Loki was right: If she hadn't chosen to fight and kill, she would be the one lying dead on the ground right now. And then a whole new realization washed over her: She had almost died just now. But like a boss, she had stood her ground, and fought, and had motherfucking survived. And the odds had definitely not been in her favour, that was for sure. Which was proof of one thing and one thing only: She was one badass mothefucker. One badass motherfucker who was very much alive. Suddenly feeling as euphoric as if she had just taken ten espresso shots, Darcy marveled at how wonderfully amazing it was to be alive, and not dead like the Dark Elf lying in the concrete dust at her feet.

"Dawn on you yet?" Loki asked, removing his fingers from Darcy's chin. Then his hand kind of froze in mid-air. "There is blood on your chin," he said, reaching for Darcy's face again. "Let me check if you have a cut."

But Darcy pulled away, her eyes widening as she stared at Loki's hand. "Dude, you're the one who's bleeding! Look at your arm!"

Loki looked down at his right arm with an expression of mild surprise, which quickly turned to one of slight irritation, as if the fact that both his hand and the sleeve of his tunic were currently drenched in blood from a long gash running down his forearm was only a minor inconvenience to him.

"Damn," he said flatly, rolling up his sleeve to take a closer look at his wound, which, once uncovered, looked even deeper and more horrifying than before. "Should've killed that dullard of an Elf captain first."

"Jazz, not to freak you out or anything, but you need to go to the emergency room, like, now," Darcy said, freaking out herself. "I've taken first aid and CPR, and if you don't get stitches, you can, like, bleed out from a cut like that."

Loki was looking at her like she had just told him he was about to sprout fairy wings. "I do not require stitches, Little Mortal," he said haughtily. "This wound will close up on its own by tomorrow. In a week, I will have no trace of it left."

And then Darcy remembered something Thor had told her, Jane, and Erik many months ago, when he had accidentally just about chopped his thumb off while cutting onions for dinner one night, something about Asgardians being able to regenerate much faster than humans. She now supposed that Frost Giants must have a similar ability in their repertoire.

"We should go back inside," Loki told her, trudging off in the direction of the trapdoor.

"Yup," Darcy said, beginning to follow him. "I have a particularly wonderful phonecall to make."

Darcy had never felt so relieved to be inside their perpetually messy apartment in her life. Throwing off her bloodied windbreaker, she immediately went to look for her phone, all the while thinking of how best to tell Jane the news that there were now five dead alien bodies on their rooftop, but then noticed that Loki's arm was still dripping blood, despite his earlier assurances that he didn't need any medical help.

"Dude, let me at least bandage that for you," she said, looking disapprovingly at the trail of crimson Loki had left across the kitchen floor.

Loki sighed impatiently. "As I already said, by tomorrow—"

"Yes, I know," Darcy said quickly, cringing as yet another thick droplet hit the floor, and wondering how long it took for blood to stain linoleum, "but I'm not letting you bleed all over the place until then."

Before Loki could protest, she led him into the bathroom and sat him down on the edge of the bathtub. Washing her hands, she took a first-aid kit from the cupboard under the vanity and placed it on the bathtub beside Loki, before crouching down on the floor and taking a closer look at Loki's arm. The cut looked even nastier up close.

"I'm gonna have to rinse it out," she said. "This might sting a bit."

Loki watched, seemingly unfazed by the promise of pain, as Darcy ran lukewarm water from the shower head and then held his arm over the bathtub and carefully rinsed his wound clean of blood and dirt. She dried his arm with a small hand towel.

Next, she opened the first-aid kit and reached for a bottle of rubbing alcohol.

"This is definitely gonna sting a lot," she warned.

But Loki remained as nonplussed as ever as Darcy poured liberal amounts of alcohol over his wound, the pungent fumes wafting across the room. When she was done, she dabbed the excess alcohol from Loki's skin with the hand towel, while the rest evaporated on its own.

"You do realize how stupid it was of you to try fighting all those Elves on your own, right?" Darcy asked, laying Loki's arm down on top of his knee and beginning to wrap it in a length of gauze bandage. She was acutely aware of the complete lack of personal space between them, and, for the first time, felt excited by it. "Should've just run together like I wanted," she added.

"Mmm, yes, I agree," Loki said, suddenly smirking at her mysteriously. "If I'd run, at least I wouldn't be getting called stupid by an ungrateful mortal right now."

Darcy scoffed at him, although his smirk and his teasing had gone straight to the mounting tingling between her legs. "And what exactly am I supposed to be grateful for, hmm?" she asked cockily. "Almost dying?"

"It is not my fault you couldn't simply run on your own," Loki pointed out smugly.

"And it's not my fault you couldn't just run with me!" Darcy retorted hotly. "Had to stay behind and prove your macho godliness or something. Nearly got both of us killed in the process."

"Is that what you think I was doing?" Loki asked, his eyes glinting with humor as he raised an eyebrow at her. "Proving my 'macho godliness'?"

"Uh, yeah!" Darcy said, getting more worked up by the second. "Burning off extra testosterone or whatever it is you men idiotically like to do!"

"I see," Loki said, his eyes practically sparkling with amusement now. "But have you actually considered what would have happened had we both run?"

"Yeah. Right about now, we'd be hunkering down somewhere safe, unhurt, calling Jane and the fucking God of Thunder to come to our rescue."

"Actually, that would just be me," Loki said, grinning in immense satisfaction. "You, on other hand, would be lying dead somewhere, probably with a knife in your back."

"Excuse me?" Darcy spat. "And why in God's name would I be dead?"

Loki looked at her like the answer to her question was quite obvious. It was.

"How quickly can you run, compared to an Elf?" Loki asked.

Darcy felt that the implication behind the question was truly rather scandalous. "Why, I never—! I don't see how—? It shouldn't—!" Then, in a smaller, quieter voice, she said, "All right, so maybe not very fast . . . . But so what? You saw what happened to the Elf who attacked me!"

"It was one Elf, and you got lucky," Loki said, his eyes not quite so amused now. "Now imagine trying to fight off five of them."

Darcy opened her mouth to speak in outrage again, but then closed it. Loki was right, of course. But she wasn't about to let him win their argument this easily.

"Yeah, but you would've protected me, wouldn't have you?" she asked, looking up at him with an expression of mock innocence and batting her eyelashes very obviously.

But Loki looked back at her with a grim expression on his face. "In a tight space like the balcony or this apartment, not very likely. Not unless I wanted to end up dead, too. On the wide-open rooftop, however, where I could engage all five Elves at once, keep them occupied, give you time to run . . . ." Loki trailed off, looking as though he was surprised by something he himself had just said.

They fell quiet, Darcy reeling a little from what she'd just learned. So Loki had stayed to give her a fighting chance, not to let off steam. Why the hell did he do that?

"But you knew you could die," she said, when she couldn't take not knowing any longer. "You said it yourself: If I hadn't stayed, the last two Elves would've probably killed you. Why would you risk your life like that for me?"

Loki looked at her pensively, but then, suddenly, his face lit up with a smirk so wicked, Darcy didn't know whether she wanted to smack it off or kiss it off.

"Well . . ." Loki drawled, his voice like molasses, ". . . a king must always be protective of his subjects, must he not?"

And that was when the emotional dam holding back all of Darcy's tension and irritation just burst.

"AW, HALE, NAW," she intoned loudly, suddenly channeling the fat, sassy black lady who lives inside us all. "YOU ARE NOT MY KING, MISTER."

"And yet here you are . . ." Loki purred pleasantly, his eyes on fire, ". . . kneeling at my feet . . . ."

Darcy gasped like somebody had just insulted her to the core to her being, and sprang to her feet at once. She had actually forgotten that she'd been sitting at Loki's feet doing absolutely nothing for several minutes now. Flustered to the point that speech had become impossible, she just stood there, opening and closing her mouth uselessly and shooting daggers at the God of Mischief. Loki, meanwhile, seemed utterly elated by her frustration; his face was screwed up in silent, uncontrollable laughter, and his smirk had been replaced by a full-on devilish grin.

Seething with a volatile mixture of rage and lust, all Darcy wanted was to think of something, anything, to say to the dickhead in her defense, and so, completely unsurprisingly, she ended up spluttering out the very first thing that came to her mind:

"Yeah, well, next time you expect me to kneel for you, you better be buying me some dinner first!"

She felt her face flush as soon as the words had left her mouth. Loki stopped laughing, and all Darcy could do was pray to any gods there might be that he had not understood her euphemism.

"I do not know any restaurants in London, unfortunately," Loki said, gazing at Darcy with the same intensity that he had devoted her that very first time he had truly looked at her, "so perhaps it will be better if you choose one instead, and then I do the kneeling? What do you think, Darcy?"

What Darcy was thinking, other than that her face had probably just flushed fifty different shades of red, was that Loki was never, ever allowed to say her name in that voice ever again, and that if she didn't walk away now, she would simply jump the asshole now and here. So, without giving Loki an actual answer, she promptly turned on her heel and stormed out of the bathroom.

"And where do you think you are going?" Loki called after her, as she headed straight for the apartment door.

"OUT," Darcy roared, without looking back.

She walked out of the building and into the chilly, windy mid-May afternoon. Wrapping her arms around herself against the wind again, she set off down the street, heading nowhere in particular.

"Stupid sexy Loki," she muttered to herself angrily. Why was it that near-death experiences always made her feel so damn horny? That was how she and Ian had ended up getting together, and it was annoying as hell.

She should've probably been less surprised when about half an hour later, her wandering brought her right to the door of Ian's town house. With a sigh, she banged hard on the whitewashed wood.

Ian opened the door, looking as cute and innocent as ever, and absolutely delectable in Darcy's ravenous eyes.

"Darling!" he said, smiling happily at her. "What're you doing here?" Then his eyes darted down to her chin and took on an expression of concern, and Darcy remembered that Loki's blood was still on her face. "Darce, are you blee—"

"Are your housemates home?" Darcy interrupted huskily, her body aching.

"No," Ian said, now looking confused. "Darce, are you o—"

"Good," Darcy growled, then flung her arms around Ian's neck and devoured his lips, and the two of them stumbled back into the town house.

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

Standing on the balcony, Loki watched the loudmouthed one walk away down the street below him in immense satisfaction. Never in his filthiest fantasies had he imagined getting the feisty Little Mortal this worked up this easily. Not that she hadn't, unwittingly, reciprocated the favor, as the pressure in the mischief god's trousers told him only too clearly. Nevertheless, it was an interesting little experiment, and Loki was more than satisfied with the result. He wondered where Darcy was headed off to. To visit her little boytoy, perhaps?

As he walked back inside the apartment to finally make the all-important phonecall to Jane, he decided to ignore the slight pang of jealousy he had felt when thinking of the Little Mortal's paramour. It was easy, considering he was already ignoring something far more alarming: his refusal to give an honest answer to the Little Mortal's previous question, even to himself. If she truly meant nothing to him, and since he was not responsible for her in any way whatsoever, why, then, had he been so willing to lay down his life for her up on the rooftop?
Title: Family
Universe: Marvel Cinematic Universe, post-Captain America: The Winter Soldier AU
Genre: Romance/humor/drama
Pairings: Darcy/Loki, Thor/Jane
Rating: T
Summary: When an assassination attempt outs Loki as Odin's usurper, the Allfather decides not to waste his time harboring a wanted fugitive and simply banishes his rebellious Jotun son from Asgard. And Darcy Lewis just wanted breakfast, not for the psychopath who tried to take over Earth to come seeking refuge at the last place imaginable. Post-CA: TWS AU. Tasertricks.

Chapter 10

Darcy knew no better cure for a rainy Sunday afternoon than video games. With Thor and Jane gone grocery shopping and Erik working privately in his bedroom, there really wasn't much opportunity for socialization, and so Wii it was, more specifically the ridiculously fun and outrageously adorable platform game known as Kirby's Epic Yarn. Sitting comfortably on the sofa in the not-living room, Darcy was having a blast collecting beads and fighting off baddies, until an uncomfortable prickling at the back of her neck alerted her to the fact that she was being watched.

By the time she looked up, Loki had already looked away. Darcy sighed. The creeper was home, of course, not that Darcy considered him to be an option as far conversation and regular human interaction was concerned. He was sitting at the kitchen table, reading over the report he, Jane, and Erik had prepared for the briefing at Tony Stark's New York building tomorrow. But he had been looking at her just moments earlier. Darcy sighed again. They hadn't said two words to each other since the whole glue-in-the-shampoo-bottle incident, and Darcy had to admit, things had gotten kind of awkward between them. Well, more awkward than they had already been. And considering she and Loki were forced to be around each other on a daily basis, the awkwardness was seriously beginning to drive her nuts.

And gods knew Loki wouldn't take the first step in fixing . . . whatever this thing going between them was. So, shutting her eyes momentarily to compose herself for what she was about to do, she called out through the open living-room door, "Hey, Jazz Hands!"

Loki looked up at her with an expression of utter disgust. "Is that one going to stick, then?"

"Hey, if I'm Little Mortal, you're Jazz Hands, that's just the way it works," Darcy replied, with a casual shrug.

Loki looked about as amused as a little kid at the dentist. "What do you want, Little Mortal?"

"Just wanna know if you wanna play Kirby with me. There's a two-player mode."

"What in the nine realms is a 'kirby'?"

"Well, why don't you come here and find out?"

After a long moment of consideration, Loki put down his report and got up from the table. He was dressed in—yup, of course—a green tunic and black leather pants (seriously, can't Thor, like, lend him some other clothes or something? Or he probably has and Loki just doesn't wear them, the stubborn dick).

Once Loki had entered the not-living room, Darcy patted the sofa cushion beside her. "Sit."

Loki did as he had been told, and Darcy handed him a Wii controller. The trickster examined it closely, but did not appear to have the slightest idea as to what it did.

"So," Darcy began, "Kirby is a video game. Or rather, it's a series of video games, all with the same main character: Kirby. The game I'm playing right now is called Kirby's Epic Yarn." Darcy nodded at the TV screen, where the cutesy round creature known as Kirby currently skipped a rope in lack of having anything better to do. "Basically, you use the remote I just gave you to make your little character walk, overcome obstacles, collect beads, and at the end of the last level of each land, there's a boss you have to fight." Darcy proceeded to demonstrate by using her remote to make Kirby walk around and then jump into the air to collect beads.

"Appears to me to be a mindless waste of time," Loki remarked.

"Oh, it is," Darcy said sincerely. "So, wanna play?"

Loki didn't answer, but Darcy could tell by his face that he was considering it.

"Or, you know," she said, shrugging again, "you can go back to being a mopey loner sitting all by yourself in the kitchen. You decide."

"Fine," Loki said. "I mean, it is not as if there are more productive things to be done with you."

"Nope," Darcy said, deciding to take this as a win even if it came along with what was clearly a thinly veiled insult. Returning her attention to the game, she ended her current session and opened the game's main menu. "I suppose I should go over what all the controller buttons do before we begin."

"Not necessary," Loki said. "I am sure I will be able to learn the rules of your silly mortal game as we play. I am a god, after all."

"Or you know, just an alien of a different species," Darcy said, rolling her eyes. "By the way, who do you wanna play as?" She pointed at the TV screen, from which the two playable characters currently waved happily. "You can either be Kirby or—"

"I am not playing as the pink one," Loki snapped.

Darcy smirked. "Yeah, I figured you'd wanna be the grumpy-looking blue prince instead," she said, earning herself a scowl from Loki. "Prince Fluff you are, then." She started the game and selected two-player mode, but skipped the introductory backstory video, deciding that Loki deserved going into the game knowing as little about it as possible. She also completely skipped the first land, the walk-through, going straight into Grass Land, the second, slightly more complicated land. "All right, Fluff, here we go."

They began with the first level of Grass Land—Fountain Gardens—and to Darcy's greatest annoyance, Loki mastered the game controls almost immediately. Even more annoyingly, he appeared to have absolutely no interest in collecting beads, instead making Prince Fluff zoom through the level like a maniac and forcing Kirby to be carried after the prince against his volition.

"Jazz Hands, slow down," Darcy said, finally having had enough. "You do realize that gathering beads is, like, a major point of this game, right?"

"I have no interest in collecting useless trinkets," Loki said. "Besides, you told me there would be something I could fight at the end."

Darcy sighed in exasperation, and just like that, the level was over. Their score was abysmal, not that it prevented them from continuing on to the next level.

"Look, Your Princelypants—you even look grumpy when you're doing your happy dance!" Darcy said, as Kirby and Prince Fluff celebrated their victory. "Oh, and by the way, when Thor and I play, we make sure to collect literally every bead. So you can suck it."

"I cannot care less about what my brother does and how he does it," Loki said, the irritation on his face disproving his words at the very time that he said them. "Attempting to draw comparisons between he and I will never achieve the desired effect. Only the opposite."

Apparently Loki wasn't kidding about that last part, because as soon as he and Darcy began level two, he sped off on his own again. But this time, Darcy was prepared. She set off in pursuit of Loki's character, and, as soon as she had caught up with him, made Kirby use his yarn whip to capture the prince and hold him in a ball of yarn on top of his head.

Loki began mashing buttons, which achieved absolutely nothing.

"What?" Darcy said cockily, now collecting beads with Loki on top of her head. "Can't run ahead now, can ya?"

"What is this witchcraft?" Loki mumbled under his breath, still pressing all the buttons on his Wii Remote pointlessly.

"Maybe you should've taken me up on my offer to go over the controls with you before we began," Darcy continued, in the same tone of voice. "Oh, wait, I forgot—you're a god, and gods don't take lessons from mortals, am I right?"

"That's right," Loki answered through teeth gritted in concentration, as he continued trying to set his character free. "Make an effort not to forget it again."

"Stop embarrassing yourself, Your Ethereal Godliness," Darcy said, holding back a smirk. "Tell you what, you promise me that you'll stop running off on your own and will actually help me collect beads, and I'll let you go. But if not, then by all means, keep trying to free yourself. It's quite entertaining to watch."

"Then perhaps I shall stop entertaining you," Loki said, and put down his controller.

Really? Darcy sighed, and then made Kirby release Prince Fluff. "Gee, Lokes, didn't think you were such a bad sport."

"And I did not think you would fall for that," Loki replied, then grabbed up his controller and made Prince Fluff speed away in the shape of a car.

"You son of a bitch!" Darcy exclaimed, launching herself into hot pursuit. And then she saw it, for a flash of a second: a smile on Loki's lips. But it wasn't malicious, or sadistic, or fake. Definitely mischievous, but genuine, and Darcy realized—holy balls—Loki was having fun. With her. Had she seriously just managed to set them on the road to recovery?

Thanks to her preexisting knowledge of the terrain and obstacles, it only took Darcy a second to catch up with Loki again, and just another second to catch him in a ball of yarn again. But this time, instead off carrying him around, she went and tossed him off the nearest precipice.

"Mortal!" Loki hissed, and there was that smile again.

"Oh, I'm sorry," Darcy cooed, pouting her lips. "Was that . . . inconvenient?"

Loki emitted a low growling sound from the back of his throat. "You better run, Little Mortal."

"Oh, shit," Darcy squeaked, making Kirby transform into a car and zoom away as fast as he could. Unfortunately, however, the game was designed in such a way that the two players could never be separated from each other, so wherever Darcy went, Loki was carried along, too.

It wasn't long before Darcy accidentally drove into a dead end, which was where Loki cornered her.

"A taste of your own medicine, perhaps?" he suggested, with disconcerting calmness.

"Bring it on," Darcy challenged icily.

They proceeded to engage in the most intense—and only—yarn-whip battle of Darcy's life. But with whips flying in all directions, neither of them could actually manage to grab a hold of the other. That is, until in a daring feat of acrobatics, Darcy leaped over Loki and then tied him up from behind in a surprise attack.

"Got ya, ya dickhead," Darcy said triumphantly, proceeding to throw Loki off the cliff they were currently on.

To her surprise, Loki grinned, muttering something to himself that definitely wasn't English and probably wasn't PG rated, either.

Out of nowhere, Darcy burst out laughing. And then it hit her—she was having fun, with Loki, of all people. And then, in true Darcy fashion, she spoke, without thinking first: "You kiss your mother with that mouth?"

Loki's crystalline eyes darkened instantly. Slowly, he lowered his remote to the sofa. "Not anymore," he answered emotionlessly, before getting up from the sofa and walking out the door.

It took Darcy a full three seconds to make sense of what had just happened. The realization came all at once, accompanied by a tidal wave of guilt. Darcy sprung from the sofa and ran to the door. "Loki!" she called after the Asgardian's retreating back. "Loki, I'm sorry! I didn't mean it like—" But it was too late—Loki had disappeared into his bedroom, shutting the door behind him lightly.

Darcy slumped against the doorframe of the not-living room, mentally kicking herself in the head. Great going, moron. Just up and ruin whatever chance you had of repairing your relationship with the guy. Fucking genius. What's next, gonna make a joke about the fact that his biological parents abandoned him? Might as well go all out with 'Your father doesn't love you because you're a Jotun'. That'd make for quite the punchline, don't you think, Darce? Guilt flooding her relentlessly, she wondered if she should go talk to the latest victim of her verbal diarrhea, but then decided against it, judging it best to allow him some time before subjecting him once more to her awesomely inarticulate verbalizations. She turned around with a sigh, catching sight of the TV screen out of the corner of her eye. On it, Kirby and Prince Fluff were high-fiving for no reason whatsoever. Well, if they can kiss and make up, then maybe the Lokester and I can, too . . . .
Title: Family
Universe: Marvel Cinematic Universe, post-Captain America: The Winter Soldier AU
Genre: Romance/humor/drama/adventure
Pairings: Darcy/Loki, Thor/Jane
Rating: T
Summary: When an assassination attempt outs Loki as Odin's usurper, the Allfather decides not to waste his time harboring a wanted fugitive and simply banishes his rebellious Jotun son from Asgard. And Darcy Lewis just wanted breakfast, not for the psychopath who tried to take over Earth to come seeking refuge at the last place imaginable. Post-CA: TWS AU. Tasertricks.

Chapter 9

"Loki, are you listening to me?"

The sound of his name brought his attention back to his work partner. Jane Foster, sitting beside him at the computer bar, looked at him expectantly.

"Of course, Miss Foster," Loki answered coolly. "You were saying that S.E.E.R. appears to be responding well to the search parameters we have given it to allow it to identify Tesseract-like radiation."

Foster blinked, clearly taken by surprise by Loki's perfect recital of what she had said just before inquiring if the god was listening. Loki raised an eyebrow at her smugly, before returning to the previous source of his attention: The loudmouthed one, as well as the old man and the oaf, were in the process of having breakfast at the kitchen table in front of him, and it was proving to be more entertaining than one would expect.

The trickster's own breakfast stood on the bar beside him. It was identical to Miss Foster's, as she had been gracious—no, respectful enough to cook for the both of them that morning. It was a fried scramble of poultry eggs accompanied by four strips of fried, salted, fatty pig flesh, and Loki had to admit, of all the foods he had tried in his times spent on Midgard, this was by far the most agreeable to his palate.

Picking idly at his plate in an attempt to make the meal last longer, Loki watched his embarrassment of an adoptive brother heap brown goop onto a halved wheel of bread called a bagel from a jar labeled "Nutella". Loki did not know what Nutella was, but seeing as his brother clearly favored it, he suspected he would find it repulsive.

"These waffles are delicious!" announced the old man through a mouthful of pan-fried batter cake.

"Erik, you're eating a pancake," the loudmouthed one corrected. She herself was in the process of pouring herself a bowl of the sugary breakfast cereal known as Lucky Charms, one she appeared to worship as one would a deity. A few of the cereal pieces missed their mark and tumbled onto the table and then onto the area rug underneath, and the loudmouthed one bent to get them, unintentionally presenting Loki with an unobstructed view of her generous bosom.

Her one redeeming quality, Loki mused, trying hard not to smirk at his own brutishness. But oh, yes, there was no denying that the girl was beautiful. So bountifully adorned in all the right places, how could she not be physically attractive to him? How unfortunate, however, that her personality left much to be desired. Even her name, Loki found, was ugly and crude. Darcy Lewis. He allowed it to echo around his mind, watching its owner as she sucked every last bit of milk from her spoon, her full lips moving in concentration, completely oblivious to how closely she was being watched.

"Oh, no," the scientist to Loki's right muttered suddenly.

Loki turned to her, about to ask what the problem was, but one look at the S.E.E.R. computer answered his question for him. The screen currently displayed a map of the world, as was one of its primary functions, but on the map appeared five pulsating red points, scattered across the globe. Atop the screen ran a repeating message: "POINTS OF INTEREST DISCOVERED".

"Either we did something wrong, or there are currently five Tesseracts on this planet," Jane said, making a face.

"Or perhaps it is a problem with your machine," Loki suggested coldly, not one to accept a simple explanation for any kind of failure without a grain of salt.

The scientist shook her head. "Impossible. The test run was successful, remember? S.H.I.E.L.D.'s radiation detectors are still in place and transmitting to the available satellites, and the satellites are transmitting to us. Unless you don't recall, S.E.E.R. was able to correctly identify New York as the location of Stark's clean-energy reactor in just under two hours."

"I do recall it," Loki answered, wondering why Foster so severely underestimated his memory. "However, it does not explain the issue we are currently experiencing."

"Unfortunately, the only other explanation is that our search parameters aren't specific enough. There are many science and technology facilities around the world that could be emitting the same specific mixture of radiation as the one we're looking for."

For a moment, Loki was speechless with disbelief. He then slowly placed his head in his hand, and said, "Perhaps you should have told me this before we rose early and then waited for two hours for S.E.E.R. to complete its search, Miss Foster."

Jane's normally good-natured face hardened, and Loki realized that perhaps he may have come off as somewhat rude. "I didn't know the facilities would emit our mixture, did I?" Jane asked defensively. "Besides, you yourself said that if we made the search parameters too specific, we would miss the Tesseract altogether."

The mortal has a point, Loki admitted to himself reluctantly. "All right, but this"—he motioned at the S.E.E.R. computer screen—"is of no use to us, either. We must make the search more specific." Loki looked down at the tablet Jane had lent him, currently showing Midgard's largest database of existing radionuclides, which, over the past two weeks, he had been carefully comparing to the Tesseract and its properties. "Molybdenum-99," he said, after several minutes of perusing the database.

"Is that what you would like me to add to the search parameters?" Jane asked.

"Yes."

"All right," Jane said, and began typing the new data into the computer, before giving S.E.E.R. the command to initiate a new search based on the new criteria. "Okay, done," she said.

Together, she and Loki watched as, one by one, the points of interest began to disappear. The last one lingered perhaps a second longer than the rest, before it, too, vanished into oblivion.

"I think that did it, I think we'll now be able to track the arrival of the Tesseract on Earth, if it ever arrives," Jane said, leaning back in her chair. "I'll start preparing the report for Stark."

Yes, Jane, that "did it", Loki thought to himself, far from satisfied. Forget that we have not even began working on the Aether, or that it still takes two hours for S.E.E.R. to complete a search. A lot can happen in two hours. A planet can be destroyed in two hours.

At the kitchen table, breakfast was coming to an end as the old man finished off his pancakes and the loudmouthed one scraped her cereal bowl clean with her spoon. Only the oaf appeared to be hungry still, preparing himself another bagel, this one topped with creamed cheese.

"If no one objects, I will go use the shower now," said Erik Selvig, getting up from the table.

"Go ahead," the loudmouthed one said in response, watching the oaf with a curious expression meanwhile.

Selvig gathered the empty dishes from the table and deposited them in the kitchen sink, before disappearing into the bathroom.

"Hey, Thunder Wonder," Darcy said, a mischievous fire playing in her eyes, "I bet you can't fit that whole bagel in your mouth."

If there was one thing Loki knew about his brother, it was that he never backed down from a challenge, even the most ridiculous one. Gods, Thor, don't fall for this one.

But Thor was already looking at the loudmouthed one with hard-set determination on his face. "And what if I can?"

"Then you get my turn for choosing the movie for movie night. For two whole months."

Thor narrowed his sky-blue eyes in contemplation, but then held out his broad hand. "All right, Lady Darcy, I accept your challenge."

"Excellent," Darcy said, taking Thor's hand, a tiny smirk curving the corners of her mouth.

They shook on it, and Thor returned his attention to his bagel, currently cut in half with both halves covered by a considerable amount of creamed cheese.

"May I take the creamed cheese off?" Thor asked, looking like he was already regretting having accepted the challenge.

"Nope," Darcy said, her smirk becoming more defined.

Loki was beginning to find that the spectacle unfolding before him was becoming painful to watch.

Setting his jaw, Thor picked up the two bagel halves and stuck them together to form a whole. Then, as the loudmouthed one and the mischief god watched with undivided attention, he opened his great maw and laboriously stuffed the whole bagel in.

Darcy grinned and gave Thor a double thumbs-up. Thor returned the gesture.

Moments like these make for a wonderful reminder of why I am truly happy not to be related to . . . that, Loki thought, shaking his head.

Thor was now trying to get the bagel out of his mouth, which was looking like it was proving to be a brand-new challenge in and of itself. In fact, the wheel of bread appeared to be well and truly stuck between Thor's jaws. Rather than help, the loudmouthed one pulled out her little communication device and pointed it at the struggling idiot.

"Sorry, Thor, but I definitely gotta film this. For science."

It was not until Thor started full-on choking that Darcy finally put down her device. Getting up from the table, she went around to the back of Thor's chair and began pounding the oaf on his massive shoulders. Except, that did not appear to help.

Loki had seen his brother nearly die too many times for comfort. "Uh, Jane," he said, turning to his brother's paramour, "should we not . . . do something?"

Jane looked up from her typing for the first time since she had begun her report. "Hm? Oh. Nah. I say they got into this mess themselves, let them find a way out of it themselves."

"But . . . ." Loki began, before realizing that he and Jane were currently coming off as two parents watching over their misbehaving kids. Worse still, Loki was the concerned parent in this scenario.

At the kitchen table, the fight for Thor's life reached its crescendo as Darcy grabbed a frying pan from the stove and brought it down full force against Thor's back. Finally, the bagel from Hel shot free of Thor's mouth, landing on the floor far across the room. Both Thor and Darcy heaved for air, before Thor slammed his fist down on the table triumphantly.

"How many times do I have to tell you, Darcy? I can fit just about anything in my mouth!"

And then it was Loki's turn to choke.

He was shocked to find Jane patting him on the back.

"You okay?" she asked, genuine kindness in her eyes.

Loki nodded, more than slightly surprised by such unexpected concern.

"Good," Jane said, and went back to her work.

"Jesus, Thunder Wonder," said Darcy Lewis with a snort, watching the video she had just filmed on her communication device. "This is so going on Facebook."

Thor slumped in his chair and groaned, and Loki could not help but smirk slightly in amusement. So Darcy Lewis is a trickster, same as I. Perhaps there is hope for the girl yet.
Title: Family
Universe: Marvel Cinematic Universe, post-Captain America: The Winter Soldier AU
Genre: Romance/humor/drama/adventure
Pairings: Darcy/Loki, Thor/Jane
Rating: T
Summary: When Loki, now a wanted man thanks to his failure in the eyes of Thanos, is outed as Odin's usurper, the Allfather decides not to waste his time harboring a fugitive, and simply banishes his rebellious Jotun son from Asgard. And Darcy Lewis just wanted breakfast, not for the psychopath who tried to take over Earth to come seeking refuge at the last place imaginable. Post-CA:TWS AU.

Chapter 8

Jane’s alarm went off painfully early, even by Darcy’s standards, so Darcy wasn’t at all surprised when the Boss Lady immediately let it go to snooze. On any other day, Darcy would’ve been happy to let Jane laze around in bed for as long as she liked, but today, she had a trickster god to prank, so the sooner Jane, Thor, and Erik got out of the apartment, the better. So, pushing any and all consideration aside, Darcy shoved Jane in the back with her knee. Jane groaned and stirred slightly.

“Jane, wake up,” Darcy said. “Something tells me Stark won’t be too happy if you guys miss your flight to New York.”

“What time is it?” Jane mumbled, her face half buried in her pillow.

Darcy picked her iPhone up from her bedside table and checked. “Seven thirty-two, Jane. That’s what happens when you decide to make a round trip between two continents on a Sunday.”

Jane groaned even louder, rolled onto her back, and rubbed her eyes. “Well, fuck,” she declared, before finally sitting up in her spot on the bed.

Darcy raised her eyebrows at grumpy morning Jane’s choice of vocabulary, while the latter yawned and stretched extensively. Next thing Darcy knew, Jane had plastered the back of her hand to Darcy’s forehead.

“How’re you feeling today, hon?” Jane asked, her brown doe eyes filling with concern.

Oh, right, I’m supposed to be sick, Darcy thought to herself, feeling rather stupid for forgetting. But it wasn’t like it was too late to resume the act. So, with a long, wet sniff, “Not much better, I’m afraid,” she told Jane.

Jane’s face fell. “So you’re staying home, then?”

Darcy nodded, forcing a cough.

Jane frowned, but from the resigned expression on her face, Darcy knew she wasn’t going to argue. “Well, it doesn’t feel like you have a fever,” Jane said, removing her hand from Darcy’s forehead. “Still, I’d recommend you take your temperature, just in case. And yeah, just take it easy today. I’m not too happy about leaving you alone with Loki, but traveling while sick would be worse. Or rather, probably be worse. Let’s just hope he doesn’t bother you too much.”

“It’s okay,” Darcy said. “Think of it as me keeping an eye on him until you guys get back. And if he tries anything funny, well, my Taser’s probably collected enough dust by now.”

Jane made a face. “Careful, Darce. Physical confrontation might make him like you. Also, you do remember you’re not legally permitted to have that Taser in this country now that you’re no longer a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, right?”

Darcy shrugged. “Until someone actually comes and confiscates it from me, it’s mine.”

Jane shook her head. “If you get arrested, I’m not testifying in favor of your innocence.”

Darcy grinned. “Is it even possible to testify for my innocence?”

Jane smiled back. “At this point? Probably not.”

Catching a second look of the time, Darcy shoved Jane in the butt with her foot. “Get up, lazy bum. You have a plane to catch.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Jane replied, but clambered out of bed, nonetheless.

After Jane had left the room, presumably to go wake Thor and Erik, Darcy pretended to fall back asleep. In reality, however, she remained fully awake, and kept both ears tuned to the sound of the activity happening in the rest of the apartment. She heard Erik and Thor get up, listened as everyone took showers, and then heard plates and cups clinking as the departing trio sat down for a quick breakfast. And it was about two hours after Jane’s alarm had first gone off that she heard the bedroom door open and Jane’s voice say her name.

“Mh?” Darcy said in response, pretending to be half asleep.

“Hey, sorry to wake you,” Jane said, “but I just wanted to let you know we’re leaving now.”

“‘K’,” Darcy mumbled. “Say hi to Tony, Pepper, and J.A.R.V.I.S. for me.”

“Of course,” Jane replied. “See you tonight. Feel better.”

Darcy heard the bedroom door close shut, then a final clamor in the living area as the trio double- and triple-checked the integrity of their baggage, and finally, the sound of the heavy apartment door closing with a thud, and the click of the deadbolt being pushed into the locked position. Darcy waited a couple more seconds, listening as three sets of footfalls retreated down the hallway outside the apartment, and, finally certain that she and Loki had been left unquestionably alone until the evening, she sprung up in bed. She checked the time on her phone. 9:27. This gave her roughly an hour and a half to prepare the chili before His Princelypants got up, and considering she was making the chili from scratch, she knew she needed every minute.

So, wasting no time, Darcy jumped out of bed, ran to the kitchen, and got to cooking.

It was 10:54, and the kitchen was filled with the rich aroma of fresh, hot chili con carne, which Darcy was still stirring idly in its pan, over low heat. She noted with high satisfaction that, had she not cooked it herself, not even she would’ve been able to tell with certainty if the thick, brown, chunky stew might contain dog food or not. Which gave her high hopes that Loki would be even less certain.

It was at 10:56 that Loki finally gave some sign of life from within his and Thor’s bedroom, as Darcy heard bedsprings creaking, like a heavy form was getting out of bed. Taking this as her cue, she turned off the stove completely, grabbed a bowl from the dishes cupboard, and started ladling in chili.

By the time Loki emerged from his bedroom, Darcy was sitting pretty at the kitchen table, her hands folded unthreateningly in her lap, facing the mischief god with a big, friendly smile on her face. Across the table from her, just where an empty chair stood waiting, sat the bowl of steaming, hot chili.

“Good morning!” Darcy said.

Loki, dressed in his leather pants and green tunic, as always, stopped and looked her up and down, before raising an eyebrow. “You look rather animated for one who claims to be ill,” he remarked.

“Oh, I’m feeling much better, actually, thanks,” Darcy said, still smiling. “Turned out I just needed a good night’s sleep.”

“Looks to me like you’ve done more than merely sleep this morning,” Loki said, looking pointedly at the kitchen, still messy and cluttered after Darcy’s cooking spree.

“Ooh, yes,” Darcy said, “remember that chili I was talking about making yesterday?”

“No,” Loki said, suddenly looking like he had become disinterested in the conversation.

“Oh,” Darcy said, she herself trying to look as innocent as possible. “Well, I made us some for brunch and you should probably eat yours before it gets cold.” She nodded at the bowl sitting across the table from her.

“I see,” Loki said, coming over. “And may I inquire as to where your portion is?”

“Oh, I already ate mine,” Darcy answered quickly, patting her belly for emphasis.

Loki eyed the chili uncertainly for a couple of seconds, and then, to Darcy’s greatest surprise, sat down at the table. He picked up the spoon Darcy had provided him with and began prodding the chili. “What is in this, exactly?” he asked.

Darcy found herself too dumbfounded to answer, until she realized that saying nothing at all was probably making the situation worse. “Uh,” she finally managed, “there’s beans, chile peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and, um, beef.” Shit. He totally knows it’s the shampoo.

Loki scooped up a spoonful of the chili and deliberately brought it up to his eye level, and Darcy could literally feel her ingenious plan crashing and burning in a miserable heap of epic fail. But then, with no warning at all, Loki let the spoon fall back in the bowl, the handle and everything. Sauce splashed onto the tabletop. Darcy couldn’t help but jump slightly in total surprise.

Loki leaned back in his chair, the smuggest, most satisfied smirk twisting his mouth. “You disappoint me, Little Mortal,” he announced. “And to think that I actually expected you to be more creative than this.” He motioned at the chili. “But alas, you’ve proven yourself no brighter than the mortals I’ve already encountered. So let the dogs enjoy your cooking, but only the dogs.” With that, Loki got up from the table, turned on his heel, and started walking away, triumphant.

It only took Darcy a couple of seconds to gather her wits again. “Wait, what?” she called after Loki’s back, feigning shock. “I seriously have no idea what you’re talking about.” AWW, YISS.

“Of course you don’t,” Loki answered, without turning around. He continued walking until he had reached the bathroom and disappeared inside.

Several seconds later, Darcy heard the shower running, and she couldn’t help but grin until her face hurt. Holy shit, Darce, I think you did it. Loki had fallen for the chili hook, line, and sinker, and if Darcy’s calculations were correct, he had absolutely no reason now not to trust the shampoo. Perhaps he would even use it now. Darcy got out of her chair and pulled Loki’s chili bowl toward her, then fished out the spoon and replaced it with a clean one from the kitchen. Settling back down in her seat, she dug into the chili, with gusto—no need for perfectly good chili con carne to go to waste.

Darcy was surprised when she heard the shower shut off. The water had been running for all of five minutes, definitely not enough time to get any proper showering done. Now there was nothing but still silence, and Darcy felt the excitement she had been experiencing until now become quickly replaced with dread.

And then, suddenly, the bathroom door slammed open, with a bang loud enough to make Darcy jerk so hard, her chair slid, screeching, several inches back from the table. Loki stormed out at her, his blue-gray eyes dead as stone, his face whiter than paper, gray, almost, and before Darcy could even realize what she was doing, she had jumped out of her chair in utter terror, the chair tipping over beside her, and, acting on pure instinct, backed away until she had flattened herself against the refrigerator door.

Loki strode across the living room, around the kitchen table, around the chair lying on its side on the floor, his eyes locked with Darcy’s, and she couldn’t look away, even if she tried. When he was within two feet of her, Darcy looked away long enough to make a move toward the apartment door, but her progress was quickly hampered as Loki’s long fingers, icy, wrapped themselves around her throat, not hard enough to choke her, but hard enough to keep her, incontestably, in place.

Loki leaned toward her, until his face was mere inches from hers. “You think you’re funny, don’t you, Little Mortal?” he breathed. His voice was barely above a whisper, and yet it sent the most uncomfortable shivers down Darcy’s spine.

“I—I—” Darcy stammered, writhing rather unflatteringly in the alien god’s grip. Oh, how this situation called for the use of her wonderful Taser. Although, now that she thought about it, there really was no reason for her to be in this situation, to begin with. Prank war or no prank war, Loki simply had no right to be manhandling her or pinning her against a wall right now. Anger stirred in the pit of her stomach like molten lava. Bracing both hands against the arm pinning her, “Let go of me,” she said huskily.

Loki stared her in the eyes for several long moments, before finally doing as he had been told. Darcy shoved his arm away, and he took a step back, giving her breathing room. After having taken a couple seconds to calm her shit, Darcy was finally able to think clearly again. And more importantly, see clearly. And the first thing her eyes glued themselves to was Loki’s chest. His bare, wet, hairless, leanly sculpted chest. And then she realized Loki was wearing naught but a white towel wrapped around his slender waist. Feeling telltale heat flash across her skin, Darcy quickly brought her eyes back up to Loki’s face, which is when she noticed something altogether abnormal. There was no glue in Loki’s hair. In fact, his hair didn’t even look like he had gotten it wet. Darcy just stood there, blinking, confused out of her mind, and then Loki’s hair kind of . . . flickered.

Oh, right, Darcy thought, master of illusions and disguises and blah blah blah. “Dude, if you don’t let me see the damage, I can’t feel bad for what I’ve done,” she said, not very remorsefully.

Loki let a long sigh escape his lips, before waving his hand in front of his face in a smooth motion. The illusion vanished in a flash of white-green light, and Darcy had to throw her hand over her mouth to stifle the huge snicker that immediately erupted from her throat. But the attempt to control herself proved futile, and she ended up dissolving into uncontrollable, manic laughter. Loki’s hair was well and truly butchered. Or a good part of it, at least. Thick, white globs of glue adorned his coal-black locks in masses. His ends could now only be described as a mess of dangling hair clumps. And it was utterly horrible. And hilarious. And Darcy couldn’t be more sadistically pleased with the result. All her work, paid off, and how.

Had she had it her way, she probably would’ve stood there and laughed for ten minutes straight. But she was feeling it again, that same raw power she had felt coming off Loki on the balcony when he had repaired the door with magic, and so she decided she better cease her giggling, lest she be turned into a toad. If Loki could even do that. Not wanting to find out the answer to that, Darcy finally quit her cackling, then rolled her eyes and said, “Dude, stop looking at me like that. You know you totally had it coming. Or have you never lost a prank war before?”

Loki’s hands balled into fists, and Darcy could swear white-green light flashed between his fingers for a second.

“All right, all right!” she exclaimed, throwing up her own hands in surrender. “You’re touchy about losing, I get it. I won’t mention it again. Go magic the glue out of your hair, and I promise I won’t prank you again.”

“I can’t,” Loki said, his voice so low, Darcy barely heard him.

“What?” she asked automatically.

“I can’t,” Loki repeated, louder this time, and this time, Darcy heard his voice shake with restrained fury.

She swallowed. “Oh.” Oh. . . . OH. . . . Oh, fuck. Suddenly, she understood what had set Loki off. So, Loki can’t get rid of the glue with just a wave of his hand. That’s just great. She hadn’t considered this possibility, let alone prepared for it. But she could now definitely understand Loki’s current state of mind. If someone had put glue in her hair that she couldn’t just get rid of with magic, she’d be out for blood, too. However, this now raised a number of questions. “Wait, what?” Darcy said. “Why not? You offered to take the crap out of my hair when you pranked me, didn't you? Unless that was just a bluff and you’re actually an even bigger dick than I thought.”

“I did not lie to you, Miss Lewis,” Loki said, his voice steadier now, presumably thanks to his realization that Darcy had underestimated her prank. "I could have easily shifted the mess from your hair, same as I had put it there."

"Then what gives?" Darcy asked. "How is this any different from what you did to me?"

Loki exhaled patiently. "You do not know the laws of magic, little Midgardian. When space-shifting an object . . . ." Loki trailed off, in response to Darcy's completely dumbfounded expression. "You call it teleportation, but in my realm, it is referred to as space-shifting, Miss Lewis. The point is, an object can only be space-shifted when it is being shifted as a whole. You cannot space-shift a part of an object. It just wouldn't work. Now, it appears that the glue that you so craftily tricked me into putting in my own hair is very much at one with my hair, so were I to attempt to space-shift the glue—"

"You would end up taking your hair with it," Darcy concluded, with a shudder.

"Precisely," Loki said. "Which thus begs the question, what am I to do about it? And what am I to do to you as revenge?"

"Uh, how about nothing . . . to that second part . . . yeah," Darcy said, side-eyeing the mischief god distrustfully. "And as for the first part, pff, we'll figure something out, no biggie."

"Really?" Loki asked, raising an eyebrow. "Do grace me with your ideas, then."

"Well . . . uh . . . um . . . ." Darcy began, trying to think fast. "How about I take you to a barbershop? I'm sure they'd be able to cut away the glue clumps, without ruining your hair as a whole."

Loki scoffed. "Do you really expect me to present myself in public like this?"

"Good point. And if you were recognized, Jane would kill me, I'm sure."

"So? Any other ideas?"

"I could cut your hair for you."

"Oh?"

Shit, Darcy thought to herself, I really should've thought a little better about that one before blurting it out. God damn it. "Yeeeeaaah . . . ." she said, hoping her tone didn't completely betray her utter lack of conviction.

"Have you ever cut hair before, Little Mortal?" Loki asked, looking skeptical.

Well, there's no going back now. "Yeah, I do it all the time." Once. Her own bangs. In high school. It had turned out awfully.

Loki appeared to consider this for a couple of moments. Then he shrugged. "All right."

Darcy cringed internally. This is just great, Darce. Volunteer to cut the hair of a god and if you don't do a decent job, you'll probably die. Good going. Nevertheless, she maintained her outside composure, and said, "Great. Bring a chair into the bathroom and I'll meet you there."

While Loki did as he had been told, Darcy went into the kitchen and procured a pair of scissors. Regretting this idea more and more with every passing moment, she proceeded toward the bathroom.

Loki had placed a kitchen chair facing the bathroom mirror. Darcy immediately judged this to be a bad idea—the last thing she needed was Loki watching her as she failed miserably.

"No," she said, nodding at the chair. "Other way."

Loki lifted an eyebrow, but nevertheless complied and turned the chair around.

"Sit," Darcy said curtly.

Loki now raised both eyebrows at her, and the slightest of smirks was on his lips as he sat down.

Darcy put her scissors down on the vanity counter, then grabbed a towel from the bathroom linen closet and draped it over Loki's chest, shoulders, and around the back of his chair. Picking up the scissors again, Darcy found herself suddenly uncomfortable holding this potentially dangerous object. Not that she didn't trust herself using it. No, the problem was that she didn't trust Loki being in the same room with it. Of course, by this point, that couldn't be helped. So, deciding there was nowhere to go from here but forward, Darcy began cutting the larger clumps of glue from Loki's hair.

"You know," she said, after a few minutes of this, "it actually isn't as bad as first glance would make you believe." Loki remained silent, so after a beat, Darcy continued. "It looks like you've managed to rinse the majority of the glue down to your ends before it solidified. Which means I won't have to take nearly as much of your hair as I initially thought. Couple of inches, max, I think."

Loki responded with a complete lack of reaction.

Frustrated, Darcy stopped cutting. "Hello? Aren't you happy?"

"That I will let you know once you have finished."

Darcy sighed. "Okay, Jazz Hands, fair enough."

The haircut resumed in complete silence, but despite how much Darcy wanted to hate giving it, by the end, she had surprisingly gotten rather into it. Even more suprisingly, she was actually pretty damn pleased with the final result. Every last glob of glue had been removed, and yet Loki's hair didn't look half bad. Darcy now finished the job off with brush and hairdryer, making sure to work out any knots and kinks. Even after she had finished brushing and blow-drying, she continued working through Loki's hair with her fingers. She had to admit, his hair felt nice, far softer and smoother than Ian's wiry curls, that's for sure . . . .

"Are you quite done fondling my hair, woman?"

Jolted back to reality by the question, Darcy immediately dropped her hands to her sides. "I'm done. I mean, with your hair. I mean, cutting it."

"Good," Loki said, then, unwrapping the towel from around his shoulders, stood up and turned around to face the mirror.

Darcy found herself holding her breath, as she awaited his reaction.

"It is short," Loki observed finally.

Darcy exhaled, relieved. Seeing as Loki's hair was still so long that the ends just brushed his shoulders, the mischief god was clearly nitpicking, which meant he had no real issues with Darcy's work. Still, she managed a guilty smile at his reflection in the mirror. "Yeah, a little. But look on the bright side: Now you no longer look like Bono the drug-dealing hobo who lives down the street."

"How sweet," Loki said through bared teeth. His eyes then bore into Darcy's in their reflection. "You saved your skin this time, mortal. But try anything like this again, and I will not be so lenient."

Darcy scoffed in disbelief, holding Loki's steely gaze fearlessly. "Yeah, if you don't pull anything on me first."

Loki gritted his teeth, clearly displeased with this ultimatum. Darcy raised her eyebrows at him expectantly. "You have my word," the trickster said finally, and then, without another word, he left the bathroom.

As soon as Loki had disappeared, Darcy slumped against the vanity counter, suddenly overcome by the realization of how close she had come to being in real, big shit. Too close for comfort, that's for sure. But then she thought about that image of Loki, fuming, helpless, and with glue streaking his hair, and she couldn't help but think one thing: So worth it.

Jane, Thor, and Erik came home at 2:42 AM that night. Darcy, having stayed up waiting for them, greeted them at the front door.

"Darcy?" Jane asked, looking surprised at the sight of her reasearch assistant. "What're you still doing up?"

"What, you expected me to go to bed before finding out how the trip went?" Darcy asked, with lighthearted disapproval.

"Do not worry, Darcy," Thor said, treating her to a warm smile as he walked past her with the luggage, "the trip went well."

"Like, well well?" Darcy demanded. "Did Pepper and Regularman approve our proposal?"

"Oh, yes," Erik replied, with a grin. "Better yet, they want us to start on the work immediately. S.E.E.R. will be arriving to the UK by express post sometime tomorrow."

"They also say hi back, by the way," Jane added. "J.A.R.V.I.S., too."

"Oh, well, that's great!" Darcy exclaimed. "But, uh, they didn't get suspicious, did they? They believed the ideas were coming from just you and Erik and not some outside source, right?"

"As far as I could tell, I don't think they suspected anything," Jane said, with a reassuring smile. "By the way, how're you feeling? Any better than you were feeling this morning?"

"What? Oh! Yeah, much better. I made chili."

"Oh, thank goodness. And ooh, can't wait to have some." Jane suddenly took a step closer to Darcy, lowering her voice. "And Loki, he didn't give you any trouble, did he?"

"Nothing I couldn't handle," Darcy said, with a satisfied smirk. "Didn't even have to bust out the ole Taser."

"Good," Jane said, placing a hand on Darcy's shoulder and squeezing it lightly. "I hate to say this, but we need him now more than ever."

Darcy made a face. "I know."

"Brother!" Thor thundered from across the living area, making Jane, Erik, and Darcy turn to the sound of his voice. The thunder god stood in front of the door to his bedroom, staring at the one he called Brother with something akin to shock on his face. Loki, clearly roused from evil slumber by the commotion of his flatmates coming home, stared back at him as a cat would stare at a dog attempting to climb a tree. "Your hair!" Thor elaborated finally.

"What about it?" Loki hissed.

"It is shorter!" Thor, Grand Master of Observation, remarked.

"And?" Loki demanded, his tone growing more icy by the second. "What if it is?"

Thor appeared to finally catch Loki's obvious resentment, and held up his hands in goodwill. "Oh, nothing! It's just . . . you look healthy! And youthful!"

Loki squeezed his eyes shut and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Thanks, Brother," he said, in probably the least genuine manner Darcy had ever heard, and disappeared back into his bedroom.

Jane turned to Darcy, looking utterly confused. "Loki cut his hair?"

Darcy was just trying not to laugh out loud at the exchanged that had just occured. "Yeah, something like that . . . ."

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JuliaPie's Profile Picture
JuliaPie
Jules
Canada
Current Residence: Ottawa.
deviantWEAR sizing preference: Medium.
Print preference: *shrugs*
Favourite genre of music: ALL OF THEM.
Favourite photographer: MEEEEE!!!!!!
Favourite style of art: Mine.
Operating System: Windows 7.
MP3 player of choice: iPhone 4.
Shell of choice: Shell? What? Conch?
Wallpaper of choice: Whatever interests me at the moment.
Skin of choice: OMG, RACIST. Jk, jk. =P
Favourite cartoon character: Too many to list.
Personal Quote: "Always bring a rubber boot to a party. Boots are good."
Interests
First off, approaching four thousand pageviews!? HOLY SHIT!!! You guys have no idea what a hard time I have believing that. I can't thank you enough.

Secondly, I APOLOGIZE FOR DISAPPEARING FOR ETERNITY. MY LAPTOP DIED, AND UNTIL TWO DAYS AGO I HAVEN'T HAD THE MONEYS TO REPLACE IT. Thankfully, I now have Bender, my shiny new HP G62. He's operating smoothly so far.

A lot has happened since my last journal entry. I'm attending university and majoring in English just as I said I would; but I have also moved to the city. I'm renting an apartment with one of my best friends from high school, :iconlostxfreakx42:. We're the awesomest roommates ever. We share our apartment with our cats, Simon and Zipper, and my budgie, Sparkle. I also had a betta named Captain Hammer, but he died two days ago.  :tears:

As you may have guessed, I was unable to keep my job at Subway. Thankfully, I was hired about a month ago at Booster Juice, a juice and smoothie bar. I'm enjoying the job so far, because I really can't complain about getting free smoothies.  ;)

Though I haven't had access to a proper computer in months, I've made an effort to keep drawing. Over the next few days, I will post a couple of things that I drew during this time. I also wish I had the files from my old laptop transferred to the new one already, so I could continue working on Sanity Is Relative. Yes, what I said in my previous journal entry about letting SIR die did not end up being the case. I feel like I must bring the story to its intended conclusion, and I will do my best to finish it.

Now it is very late and I am very sleepy, so I must leave you with this.

Also, I MISS LOST SO MUCH I LOVED THE FINALE I CAN'T WAIT TO DO A REWATCH ONCE I GET AN HDTV AND THE SERIES ON BLU-RAY.

HAPPY EARLY HALLOWEEN!
  • Mood: Tired
  • Listening to: Sparkle chirping in the background. GO TO SLEEP.
  • Reading: Some anime and some Russian health book.
  • Watching: A lot of things.
  • Playing: Nothing.
  • Eating: Nothing.
  • Drinking: Nothing.

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:iconnatashow:
Natashow Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2014
Hey thanks for the watch
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:iconjuliapie:
JuliaPie Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2014
My pleasure! I love all your Doc/Susan stuff! :)
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:iconnatashow:
Natashow Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2014
Thanks have read any of my fanfics on  fanfiction.net?
Reply
:iconjuliapie:
JuliaPie Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2014
I'm actually not sure, LOL. What's your username on there?
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(1 Reply)
:iconrae8892:
RAE8892 Featured By Owner Jun 15, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Tag! --> [link]

You DO NOT have to do it! the pick was random!
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:iconjuliapie:
JuliaPie Featured By Owner Jun 16, 2013
Sorry, but I don't have the time! :(
Reply
:iconrae8892:
RAE8892 Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Don't even worry about it dearie, this is just for fun
Reply
:icondaughter-of-rome:
Daughter-of-Rome Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2013  Student Writer
Hi, you might not remember me but I was Katniss1029, I couldn't get on my old account due to some issues with my family and stuff... hope you remember me!
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:iconjuliapie:
JuliaPie Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2013
Of course I remember you! :D Sorry to hear about your old account though. :(
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:icondaughter-of-rome:
Daughter-of-Rome Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2013  Student Writer
Thanks,and yeah:(
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