“Would you like me to tell you the tale of how Lady Sif defeated a bilgesnipe all on her own and became the first maiden among Odin's mighty warriors?”
“No, you told me that yesterday.”
“What about the tale of - ”
“No, I don't want a story.”
Thor looked across the room at the little girl, who was leaning against the floor-to-ceiling windows of the library. He could continue to guess, or he could just ask. “What would you like to do?”
She looked at him over her shoulder. “You won't let me.”
He raised an eyebrow. “And how do you know this?”
“Because I do.”
Two could play at that game. “Well then, I suppose if you have already decided, there is no point in discussing it. Perhaps another tale, then?”
She stayed there at the window for a long moment, then turned and faced him. “I want to go outside and play.”
Ah. There was the crux of it. She was an active child, accustomed to running free and playing as he and his childhood friends had done, but she could not leave the tower because of the chance that she might say something untoward to someone, and bring down scrutiny upon them before Tony could repair the machine and restore her.
He considered, even as she strolled toward him. He could see that she was trying to be very casual, but his own brother was a past master of manipulation, and young Darcy had not had nearly enough time to study those ways. She was also far too dependent upon the natural charm of a small girl. He bit the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing at her when she stopped in front of him and leaned on his knees, giving him her widest-eyed, most guileless expression. And then he had an idea.
“Well,” he said. “You cannot go out and play, as you have already guessed. However, there is something we can do outside which, I shall wager, you have never done before in your life.”
And that had her - she was intrigued. “What?”
He smiled. “How would you like to go flying?”
She scoffed. “I flew one time,” she said. “We went to Chicago to see Granny's sister.”
“I do not mean in an airplane,” he said. “I mean flying.”
She cocked her head. “Like on a broom?”
He grinned. “Even better. Come. I shall show you.”
He retrieved his hammer by hand - after the first time he'd called it to him and it came through several walls, he'd stopped doing that indoors - and also a pair of stout leather straps. Then, with Darcy hot on his heels, he headed to the balcony off the kitchen level. Once there, he held out his hammer to the sky and called his armor to him, and Darcy gasped, staring at him in genuinely wide-eyed awe as his armor assembled itself on his body. “Wow!” she exclaimed when it was done. “How'd you do that?”
He grinned. “Your people call it magic,” he said simply.
“That was so radical,” Darcy exclaimed, reaching out to touch his breastplate.
He grinned, seating himself on the end of one of the lounges. He passed the leather straps between his breastplate and his chest, and then held out his hands to her. “Come here,” he said. She did, and he placed her in his lap, facing outward. Then he carefully strapped her to himself. “This is the most important part,” he said. “Try not to move around much.”
She watched as he passed one strap around her chest several times, and then the other around her waist, then around the tops of her thighs, making sure that she was securely attached and that she would stay that way no matter what. When he was done, he stood up and jumped in place a few times, just to make sure she wouldn't slide loose. When she stayed, he said, “Are you ready?”
She nodded enthusiastically. “Whee!” she shouted. “Let's go!”
He grinned. “All right. There are two rules. The first is, do not kick me. The second is, if you become frightened, tell me, and I will bring you back. All right?”
“Very well then,” he said. He wrapped one arm securely around her torso. Then he took Mjolnir in his hand, and he spun it in a circle to gain momentum, and then they shot into the sky with the wind whistling in their ears and Darcy's screams of joy nearly deafening him.
He flew her in a straight line going vaguely east, past the Statue of Liberty and out across the water. The ocean sparkled beneath them and Darcy shouted something about how beautiful it all was. Slowly he turned them, heading more to the south and back over land, and they flew over small towns and a couple of medium-sized cities and Darcy pointed at things and shouted over and over again with glee.
But flying was cold work, and Darcy was wearing a sundress, and it wasn't long before she was rubbing her hands against her arms to warm herself up, so with regret he turned them again, heading back toward the city, his inner senses seeking and finding his Jane like a lodestone finds true north. And within minutes they were making their way through the jungle of skyscrapers until they were aiming directly at the one with the huge A on its side, and just to make things interesting, Thor spiraled them around the building, up and up and up, until he landed them as gently as possible right back on the balcony they'd taken off from.
Darcy was panting and shivering, but also babbling about how amazing that had been, and he grinned broadly as he sat down to release her from the harness straps. She staggered across the balcony as he sent his armor back to its waiting-place, and they both laughed as she regained control of her legs. He wrapped the two leather straps around Mjolnir's handle and pushed the door open, guiding her back inside so that she could warm up.
And when he heard a small bell, he looked up just in time to see the elevator disgorge both his Jane and Pepper Potts, and they both looked furious.
He swallowed hard. Maybe the spiral up the tower had not been such a great idea, after all.