The intern—Ian, Darcy reminded herself. No wonder this isn’t working out—shuffled his feet, clutching her carry on like he meant to hold it hostage. They were standing outside of the security check point at the London City Airport and this was fast becoming one of the most awkward breakups she’d ever had to divvy out. She pushed her glasses further up on her nose and gave a tight smile, hoping he would get the idea and hand her luggage over. He hugged it to his chest though and sighed, glancing at a passing couple before looking at her again with hurt eyes.
“You’re sure you won’t stay?” He asked again, for probably the tenth time since they’d left Jane’s mom’s apartment where she’d been staying since her London adventure first began.
“Aw, you know I would if I could buddy.” Was it okay to still call him buddy after sex or was that weird? “I was only staying this long for the post portal-craziness-cleanup. You know that. I can’t stay here forever.”
“I could come visit?” He offered the suggestion tentatively and Darcy really wished she hadn’t kissed him in the heat of adrenaline, twice; or had sex with him later; then kissed again; and well the sex went on for the few weeks she’d had left, but seriously, Darcy figured she deserved a little Southside TLC after almost dying again. She dared anybody to argue, especially since Jane was sure as hell getting her some good old fashioned God lovin’; Darcy at least deserved something as a consolation prize for surviving another possible apocalypse.
“Well yeah, maybe.” She didn’t want to be a bitch about it, but at the same time she really didn’t want to get his hopes up either. By some miracle the conversation was ended when the loudspeaker announced her flight would be boarding soon. “Look Ian, I’ve really got to go. I’ll e-mail you or something okay?”
She reached out for her bag, and he gave it over reluctantly, a pout still marring his cute, little intern-features. He hadn’t been a bad lay but jeeze, clingy much? It had only been a few weeks and he was following her around like a lost puppy. Woman needed her space! Her ticket out of the country couldn’t have come any sooner, especially considering the fact that it was a little weird saying with Jane’s mom without Jane actually being there. Poor guy; but he’d get over it. They always did. Darcy gave him a beaming smile as she shouldered the bag.
“Take care of Erik will you?” He gave a nod and she leaned in for a quick hug, slipping away before he could tighten his hold and try to kiss her. “See ya!” Darcy waved as she turned away from the intern and threaded her way through a crowd of people before hitting the security line. Well, that was done and over with. New York deep dish here I come.
After the whole alien attacking the world and darkness devouring it all thingy—Darcy still wasn’t sure what it was all about, only that Jane had been pretty freaking vague on the details of what had happened during her time on Asgard—Jane and Thor went back to New York while Erik and her stayed behind to make sure there were no more anomalies. Things had gotten back to normal, whatever that was these days, and Darcy was happy to be heading back to the old U.S. of A. She enjoyed London, but there was just something missing, not to mention Ian had been laying it on thicker as each day went by. It was definitely time to head home, or rather in this case, to New York to join Jane and Thor and something about a tower and energy particulates.
As Darcy stared out the window of her flight she contemplated how strange things had become in her life. Ever since the heavy metal-man in New Mexico tried to kill everyone it seemed like nothing was simple anymore. She’d only been assisting Jane for school, but somehow that got extended into getting shipped off to Norway and then London, and somehow she still hadn’t qualified for those damnedable six credits. What the hell right? She got the feeling the mystery men in black—cough-SHIELD-cough—who’d stolen all their stuff had something to do with it, but nobody at Culver University was talking. Those asshats couldn’t even tell her how much longer the internship had left before she qualified for graduation. They were holding her degree hostage and for what, just having seen an alien, tasering him a little, and almost getting blown up? Darcy leaned her forehead against the dirty window, her beany protecting skin from grossness, and let out a heavy sigh. Maybe she should have just gone with a Liberal Arts degree.
When her flight landed Darcy turned her phone back on only to be bombarded with a slew of text messages and several voicemails. Ninety-five percent of them were from Jane, the other five a mixture of Ian, her dad, and one of her old classmates asking about some psych final as if she’d actually been on campus in the last year. Seven missed calls from Jane. That was never good. She wasn’t even getting paid for this level of harassment. Darcy listened to the first message while she waited in her seat for the plane to empty out.
“Darcy hey, it’s Jane. Great news!” There was a long stream of scientific babble after that, the kind that made Darcy want to cross her eyes and give up this foolish notion of graduation. There was always McDonald’s. “So after I sorted out the algorithms it all just came together. I really think we’re going to have a breakthrough really soon! Call me when you land!”
She deleted the message and closed her eyes as the second one started. “Darcy hey, it’s Jane. It turns out I forget to account for possible loop quantum gravity. Disregard the last message.”
Delete. Next message. “Darcy hey, it’s Jane…” She went through four more messages about project progress and failures until at last one of the messages made her sit up and shake her head. “Darcy hey, it’s Jane. I was looking through some of the printouts here and noticed some of equations didn’t match up with the radial levels. I was—” Blah blah, scientific garble. “—Erik confirmed and needs you back stat. He refuses to leave his apartment with pants and there’ve been some problems with the police and Ian isn’t answering his phone. We need you to check out some of the locations and see if these are really anomalies or just false data readouts. I’ve already got you a ticket. Call me when you land!”
“What! No!” Darcy groaned. Her ass was already numb from the flight, the idea of turning around and doing it all over again was deplorable—oh yeah, 19 points in Words with Friends, take that Lynn. She dialed Jane.
“Hey!” Her boss answered, and Darcy could hear the woman tapping away at a keyboard. “Did you get my message? I e-mailed you the flight information already.”
“Jane I just landed!” Darcy whined. “You can’t really expect me to just hop on another plane back to Her Majesty’s island!”
“Of course not.” Jane answered then said nothing more, the typing continuing now at a furious pace.
Darcy waited a full minute before clearing her throat, “Jane, hello? Of course not: so I don’t have to go right?”
“Oh, no, no, there’s a three hour layover till the flight out. Plenty of time for a snack and land based bathroom break. I’ve already had the equipment you need shipped back priority so it should be there a day or two after you get there. It’s going to Erik’s this time. Oh, and Thor says hello! Call me when you get there so I can forward you the coordinates! Bye!” Jane hung up the phone before Darcy could get another word in.
“What has my life become?” She asked the empty seat next her to. Darcy was beginning to feel like a jetsetter, only without the jets or money or glamor. Okay so maybe not a jetsetter, but what the hell else could you call somebody who was about to spend a consecutive—or damn near it anyway—twenty four hours with her ass jammed into economy seating sized chairs?
Bleary eyed and cranky, Darcy banged her fist against Erik’s front door, her shoulders hunched under the weight of lugging her carryon through miles of terminal. She did manage to get in an hour’s worth of sleep on the trip back to London, but then some snot-faced kid two seats ahead decided that screaming his head off was a better idea than watching Dora on his mother’s laptop. She could still hear his screech ringing in her hears. Momma Darcy was a no go for the immediate and likely extended future, unless of course somebody invented an infant ball-gag that wasn’t all shades of illegal. She banged again when nobody answered.
“Erik come on!” She complained, hoping he was home and not arrested again for public indecency, “Let me in! It’s Darcy!” He opened the door a few moments later wearing nothing but a white t-shirt—was that a gravy stain?—and a pair of matching tighty-whities minus the stains, which was good because otherwise she’d a called it quits right there. Yep. It was good to be back.
The next day the equipment arrived as promised, and as Darcy nibbled on a pop tart she put it together with Erik’s help. Whether Ian knew she was back in town or not was a mystery, but she counted herself lucky that he hadn’t tried to call her again. That was the last thing she needed on top of the headache of running more tests on supposed anomalies in the area, anomalies mind you, that they’d already spent the last three weeks looking for and writing off as a finished event. She would have betted her Starbucks gift card that they’d find nothing, making this trip pointless and exhausting, and she wasn’t even getting any skymiles out of the deal.
Once it was all ready to go Erik shoved the handheld scientific-device thingie at her—phase meter was such a boring name—and started waving her to the door. “Jane has already sent over the coordinates she wants you to check out. I’ll keep an eye on the readings here as well.”
Darcy smiled at her banana balls friend as she slipped into her jacket, “One of these days you’ll have to learn to think while wearing pants again you know, I can’t just fly back here every time you need field work done.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.” Erik said, turning away from her to play with the dials on the machine they’d just assembled. “Of course you can. The university is covering all the costs.” But are they? Darcy couldn’t help but wonder about that. Private schools never seemed all that generous in the past.
Rolling her eyes, she slipped the device into her pocket. “So not what I meant homeslice. Just sayin’, you seriously got to get out more; you’re starting to look like Casper, only with more legs and less ectoplasm.”
“Just hurry back.” The older man urged before getting absorbed with the string of numbers flying across the monitor.
Darcy input the coordinates into the handheld device—it really needed a new name, maybe anoma- spectrometer; yeah that had a nice rhymey ring to it—then hailed a cab and started giving them directions. She ended up at the Greenwich Maritime Museum first, the damage from the final fight with Malek-whatever his name was still keeping most of the area cordoned off. Was a shame really, she didn’t have any time to do sightseeing before what with dodging death and keeping Ian’s sheets warm; maybe she could find someplace else to go total tourist before heading home again. Her blog was looking mighty bare ever since New Mexico, and for some reason—read SHIELD—every photo she did try to upload promptly went missing. What the hell did they have against pictures with debris, and why was it okay for other people to post crap online but not her?
Bundling her jacket up and pulling her hat down a little further to fight off the wind, Darcy strolled around the area with her anoma-spectrometer in hand, the readings steady as she goes which was A-Okay in her book because almost dying once a year was more than enough adventure. For thirty minutes she grinned at all the people—not that there were very many—giving her odd stares as she shuffled through the broken courtyard, head bowed to watch the data flow, but she escaped the scrutiny after ducking under some yellow tape blocking her way. In and out, easy peasy, she recited as she slipped into one of the buildings.
Broken glass crunched underfoot as she walked past a row of damaged desks and bookshelves. It was crazy to think that just a month ago this place was full of people instead of rubble. Just goes to show you what crazy aliens bring to the table. Why couldn’t they just stick to eating cats or drinking through their fingers? After making a complete circuit of the building, Darcy was on her way out when the squiggly lines on her anoma-spectrometer started to spike and the circular thingamajig just below it swelled in size. Right, so that meant something not good, and definitely reminded her of the initial readings that had brought them to London in the first place.
“You could always just ignore it Darce.” She schooled herself, even as she turned back around and started to edge closer to whatever was making the readings go crazy. “Just tell ‘em you saw nothing. Erik’s probably schlepping around the kitchen by now getting his ravioli on, so really, who could say otherwise?” Despite her vocalizations to turn away and head home, Darcy continued to follow the signal, the spikes getting higher with every step.
A few feet later her phone rang. “Yellow.” She answered, still inching onward.
“Darcy, I’m getting high gravimetric levels in your area—are you seeing this too? Is there anything there?”
“Yeah my little lines are doing a dance, looks the same as when Thor fell—” Did it hurt falling from Asgard? Is Asgard even above us? “—but I’m not seeing anything.” She circled around one of the bookshelves. “Maybe it’s just a—” She didn’t get a chance to finish her sentence when the bottom of her world dropped out from under her feet, blue sky replacing the roof as the walls around her blinked out of existence.
Darcy screamed as her arms started to pinwheel in the air. She was definitely not in the maritime museum anymore. In fact she was definitely, probably not even on earth anymore if the glimmering city of gold in the distance was any indication. She didn’t get long to check out the surroundings however because she was falling and falling fast. Her phone slipped right out of her fingers, but oddly enough she kept a good grip on the anoma-spectrometer, even as her body went rigid with shock when she crashed down into a roiling body of freezing water.
She slipped beneath the surface, gasping in a good mouthful of water that brought an instant burn to her lungs and filled her with sudden panic. Darcy flailed, struggling for the surface, her limbs heavy from the biting chill of the water and hard to move with her sweater, jacket, gloves and scarf tangling around her body. She broke above the water just long enough to get a single breath in before the waves pulled her down once more. Thoughts were scant as Darcy fought against the current, but somewhere in her mind she noted that Jane would be pissed about water getting on the equipment, and that her lost phone was uninsured. Spitting out a mouthful of sea as she resurfaced, her water laden hat falling over her eyes to blind her quite completely, Darcy only hoped she survived long enough to hear Jane yell at her again.