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Dangerous Territory

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Okay. Darcy was ready to admit that she was lost. Completely, utterly, out-of-this-world lost. Like, literally. Visiting Asgard was freaking amazing, but the place was giganto-mongous, and she had no idea where she was, despite the lengths she had gone to convince herself of the opposite.

She sort of felt like Belle in Beauty and the Beast, exploring the Beast's castle. It was massive, majestic, and so quiet, and she half expected the household objects to randomly start singing to her.

To make matters worse, by the time she'd broken down and confessed to herself the truth of her situation, there was no one around. The only other time she had given up on finding her own way, there had been a somewhat amused guard standing nearby who offered to escort her to meet the prince and Dr. Foster on the practice field.

This time, she had been so determined to find the dining hall on her own that she hadn't even noticed when she'd wandered into a part of the palace guards didn't go.

"Okay. Decision time:" she told herself. "Stay put and hope someone finds me, or keep going and get even more lost and hope someone finds me?"

The hallway she was standing in was completely deserted, except for a tapestry depicting an ancient battle on one wall and a single suit of armor against the other.

Darcy eyed the suit of armor. "Right. Keep going."

She wandered down three longer hallways and took two lefts and a right, eventually coming to a sort-of dead end. The path she was taking ran directly into a huge set of double doors, and the hallway that ran parallel to the wall with the doors ended about fifty feet from the doors on either side in an open balcony.

"Outside. Okay, that could help," she reasoned, and headed for the balcony on the left. It opened on a gorgeous view of Asgard, the Bifrost and observatory in the distance, with water falling majestically over the cliffs and into oblivion.

It was the same exact view as the one from the balcony in she and Jane's quarters. (Or really, her quarters, since Jane spent most nights in Thor's room.)

"I don't know why I thought I'd be able to figure out where I was by looking out a window," she muttered, turning back toward the intersection. She didn't even bother to check the other balcony; she knew she'd see the same thing.

She turned toward the doors with determination.

They looked like they were too big for her to breach without monumental effort, but to her surprise, they opened easily. The first thing that assaulted Darcy's senses was books. The sight and smell of old books everywhere.

Darcy blinked at the height of the shelves and the impressive collection of information.

"The library!" she exclaimed. "Awesome." Darcy knew for a fact that there was a back exit to the library, because she had been strolling with Queen Frigga two days ago in a garden, and she had pointed out a yawning entrance to the library from the other side of the fountain they had been sitting next to.

She ventured in, taking what she assumed would be the easiest path to the back of the place. Once she got to the garden, finding a guard or some other person who could tell her how the heck to find some lunch would probably be easy.

Except it wasn't. The middle aisle she had been following was eventually obstructed by a gigantic shelf that stretched out further than she cared to squint on either side, and Darcy had to sigh and pick a direction. The library beyond the humungo-shelf was a labyrinth, but Darcy plunged on, convinced that the way would have been exactly the same if she'd picked the opposite direction.

She wasn't quite sure how long she wandered. Sometimes she walked, sometimes she ran, sometimes she stopped and picked up a book, leafing through it even though she couldn't read the runes inside.

Eventually (minutes? hours?), she found herself in what was unmistakably a reading nook, with several overstuffed pieces of furniture, a large desk, and a gigantic table, empty of anything but a small lamp, a book, and a person, reading.

"Oh, thank god," Darcy breathed. She began to step forward, relief propelling her, when she realized who that person was.

"Come forward, then," he said, lazily waving a hand without taking his eyes off his book. "You have obviously been searching for me for quite a while."

"I... I didn't... mean to bother you;" Darcy said carefully. "I'm just..."

"Lost?" he provided, turning from his employment and bestowing her with a smirk. "It seems you have wandered into dangerous territory, mortal."

"Uh, yeah, like I said, I didn't mean to interrupt you or anything. If you could just point me in the direction of the garden? And then I can find somebody else to take me to the dining hall. You're obviously, like, ...busy. With stuff."

"And how do you know," he asked, "that you're not exactly where you're meant to be?"

Darcy didn't quite know how to respond to that. Her stomach did, though, growling loudly and breaking whatever spell the quiet of the room and the green of his eyes had been weaving.

His smile grew to Cheshire Cat level, and he stood, striding over to catch Darcy's wrist before she could take a breath.

And then they were standing in the great, shining atrium before the open doors of the noisy dining hall.

But all Darcy could see was Loki's smirk as he lifted her hand to his lips.

"Oh my god, Darcy! Where have you been?!" Jane cried, dashing to her from the side of a worried-looking Thor.

"I got turned around again," Darcy told her. "Luckily I stumbled into—" She turned to thank him.

But he was gone.