Marvel Cinematic Universe, post-Captain America: The Winter SoldierGenre:
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 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."
" 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.
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
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.
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."
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.
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?"
"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!"
," 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."
"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."
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
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.
" 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?
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'?"
!" 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."
" 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.
. . ." 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.
, 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.
" 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.
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?