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Deus Ex

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The gods have a weakness for humans.

No one ever seems to look at it that way, but that's what it is. After the universe gave birth to itself, after the Mother gave birth to the Titans and the Titans gave way to the gods, the gods created the humans, and that was probably a mistake. Because the gods are very like their children, and so they remain constantly fascinated by the goings and the doings and the changes that are wrought upon the planet by these tiny, short-lived creatures who crawl upon it. Even after humanity moved on, after it gave up the worship of the many gods in favor of one petty screaming thunderer from out in the desert, even after most of humanity stopped taking that desert screamer seriously and moved on to worshiping itself and its own abilities, the gods still remain, watching and waiting.

In the stories, you can see this fascination if you look carefully. You can see it when Eros falls in love with Psyche; you can see it when Aphrodite falls in love with Adonis; you can see it when Artemis falls in love with Atalanta. There are many tales that tell of the gods falling in love with humans.

Somehow Eris always gets left out. You'd think, after Troy, people would stop doing that.

~*~

He came to her attention quite suddenly. She was flitting the way she liked to do during wartime; there was always such an electric energy, especially in the cities, and she loved it. She loved the potential , and the way that there always seemed to be such promise in the air. Not so long ago, the rhetoric stirring up all the sentiment had been all about the Hun; now it was Nazis and Japs. She'd flittered about on the other side, too, but there was something very wrong about the energy over there. Eris was the goddess of discord , not the goddess of torture .

So here she was. The night was bright, the humans were beautiful, and there was one standing up on a stage, demonstrating technology that he was so very, very proud of having almost invented. And then there was a glimmer. Almost like a shine out of the corner of her eye. She turned, her eyes searching through the crowd, and she caught sight of a soldier with a worried face. Was it him?

No, but it was close to him. She followed the soldier as he made his way through the crowd, and then.

There he was.

She gasped in delight. He was tiny, but so very, very fierce, and so determined to have his way even though it would most likely mean his death. So very determined to prove himself and his worth against a world that had discounted him and ignored him and left him out for so long.

She could really relate to that.

She listened as he argued with his friend, and as they came to accord and embraced; as the friend turned and left him to his chosen fate, she reached out and laid a hand on the uniformed arm. He didn't see her, but he paused in his stride for a brief moment, and in that moment, she laid her blessing upon him. He had seen; he had known. And he had called this one, this very special one, to her attention. For that, he deserved what protection she could provide. He would not die on the battlefields of Europe.

And then she left him to his fate, and she turned, and she followed the tiny, fierce one, letting her fascination overtake her.

She followed him through the nerve-wracking examination, and the interview with the German doctor. She followed him through the training camp. She laid a very special blessing on the woman in the training camp; that one was going to need every blessing she could get, with the amount of chaos in her future.

She could have guided his actions, but she didn't; she stood aside and merely watched as he showed his soul to everyone around him, time and time again. And she nodded when he was chosen to become the embodiment of the American Spirit. He was worthy.

Still, no man ever became the consort of a goddess without passing a test, and the capsule was his: could he withstand the suffering that was to come? Of course he could, and he did, and when he emerged, his soul was on the outside for everyone to see. Not that most of them appreciated it; the men who took her warrior and turned him into a dancing girl did not receive her blessing. But it was not for nothing that she had been fascinated by him; all it took was a nudge in the right direction at the right time, and he was proving himself to the world.

She watched, breathless, as he leapt out into the sky, falling to the earth and making his way into his enemy's fortress, single-handed like the heroes of Akhaia once had, valorous and brave and strong. She crowed as he released the prisoners, and she guarded him as he made his way through the stronghold, searching, searching, always searching.

And then.

There, lying on a table, the friend he had argued with, the one she had blessed. He wouldn't die on the battlefields, she knew, but he might die here – but not if her chosen had anything to say about it. Her tiny, fierce warrior lifted up his shield-brother and the two of them made their escape.

Oh, how she exulted in their freedom! Their bravery, their strength together, as they rallied the rescued men and marched back toward their own camps. It was so difficult, really, to choose between them. Now that she saw them both together, they were two sides of the same drachm, the light and the dark, and it was impossible to have the one without the other.

And so she knelt between them as they lay side by side in their encampment, and she placed her fingers on both of their foreheads, and she whispered her power into being, and she bound them together, and she made them her chosen, for all eternity.

And then they fell.

~*~

She consulted briefly with the sisters, the Moirai: Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. Spinning and weaving and snipping as they went, none of the three looked up at Eris when they spoke in their strange, three-sided manner.

The ones you seek - ”

- are not dead, as you well know - ”

- but the time will come for them to return.”

When this happens - ”

- it will be a time of great discord for all of humanity - ”

- which probably means you'll be right in the thick of things - ”

- and likely happier than you have been - ”

- since you gave that apple to Paris.”

She tapped her finger against her chin. “I'm tired of watching from the shadows,” she said. “Weave me in.”

Are you certain? It is - ”

- a treacherous path that you seek to walk - ”

- and one fraught with many dangers.”

I'm certain,” Eris replied. “Besides, I've got a few tricks of my own up my sleeve. They don't call me Discordia because I follow the rules, you know.”

We know,” they assured her in chorus.

Very well,” said the one holding the spindle – she thought it might be Lachesis today, but she wasn't sure, and it wouldn't do to ask. The clawed hand drew a shining new thread from the wool, and another clawed hand (Clotho's?) took it, introducing it to the fabric on the loom and weaving it in seamlessly.

There you are,” said the one holding the snippers, who she was almost certain was probably not Atropos. “The stage is set.”

Why, ladies,” Eris murmured, “all the world's a stage, haven't you heard? And all the men and women merely players.”

Yes, we've heard,” said the weaver. “We don't go in for the theater.”

~*~

The first time Steve Rogers met Darcy Lewis, she was dancing in the middle of the common floor, her earbuds in her ears. She was wearing a white button-up shirt, plaid Catholic-school skirt and black tights, and the way the plaid swung from her hips and around her thighs was entrancing. He watched her, feeling a grin stretch across his face even through the agony inside him, and he waited for her to catch sight of him. When she did, she gave a wholly undignified squeak of shock and clasped at her chest. “It's not nice to sneak up on people!” she exclaimed.

I couldn't help it,” he said. “You made such a picture.”

She pointed a finger at him and pouted her full lower lip. “You're a troll.”

Probably,” he agreed, “only I don't know what that means.”

You're a shit,” she explained. “You're a troublemaker and a problem-causer and you do everything you do with that little grin on your face that says 'who, me?'”

He smirked at her. “Who, me?”

She stalked over and poked him in the center of his chest. “I'm on to you, buddy.”

Steve Rogers,” he introduced himself, offering his hand. He studied her for a moment. “Have we met before? You seem really familiar for some reason.”

Nope,” she replied, popping the p. “I'd remember. Darcy Lewis.” She took his hand in hers and shook, grinning back at him and shaking her hips. “Wanna dance?”

I honestly don't know how,” he admitted.

Come on,” she said, tugging him off the stool where he was sitting. “I'll teach you. Help me move the furniture.” Bemused, he did so, and soon the furniture was all piled against the far wall. Darcy pulled Steve into the middle of the now-empty floor and stood beside him, bumping his right arm with her left shoulder. “JARVIS, my buddy, can I get you to pull my dancing playlist and start at the top?”

Certainly, Miss Lewis,” the AI replied.

Okay, Steve,” Darcy said, “this step is called a grapevine.”

Barely a minute later, drawn by the music, Clint Barton joined them in the middle of the floor and seamlessly integrated himself into their Electric Slide. Two minutes after that, Thor joined them just in time to learn the Cha Cha Slide. Natasha Romanoff suddenly appeared on Steve's left side halfway through the Macarena. Steve tried to sit out the Cotton Eyed Joe, but Pepper dragged him back into the mix. The one that made it to the Internet, courtesy of Tony and Bruce's precipitous arrival, was the one of Clint teaching Thor and Steve how to Dougie.

After the night of the Impromptu Dance Party, Steve found himself drawn to Darcy. There was something about her that he couldn't explain, something vibrant and real in a way that the rest of the world just seemed to lack. She was a balm to his tortured, ravaged heart. He often sought her out for explanations of modern phenomena, five-minute recaps of important historical context, or just to talk. She took to inviting him to her room for movie nights, which soon became dinner-and-a-movie nights, which soon became dinner-and-a-movie-in-the-background-while-we-make-out nights.

Steve was surprised when she didn't want to go any further; in his own time, plenty of girls didn't worry about waiting until marriage, and certainly sexual norms were much looser now than before. But the first time his hand slid under her skirt during a make-out session, she stopped him, pushing it back out again. “Sorry,” he said, taking his hand back and placing it safely on her waist.

It's okay,” she replied, smiling slightly and running a hand through his hair. “I just...” She paused, chewing her lip nervously. “I haven't ever.”

He blinked, his face going flat in surprise. “Never?”

She shook her head. “Not yet.” She studied him for a moment before pulling back slightly. “Is that... a problem?”

No, of course not,” he said, pulling her close again. “No, I was just surprised. It seems like everyone these days starts in high school, and so I just assumed...” He ran a thumb across her cheekbone. “I shouldn't have, and I'm sorry.” He paused, studying her eyes. “Are you waiting for marriage, or...?”

She shrugged. “I don't know. Not really? Just... I have a sister who's five years older than me, and when I started dating my first boyfriend, she sat me down and had a talk with me, and she told me about her first time and how disappointing it was, and she said, 'Darcy, it won't hurt you to hold off. Save it for somebody who's really special.' And I just... I don't know.” She shrugged, giving him a slight, crooked grin. “I'll know when it's time, and it just hasn't been time yet.”

I can respect that,” Steve said.

Darcy grinned. “I'm glad to hear it.”

And he did respect it, and for two more months they continued the pattern of dates in – and sometimes, dates out – that ended on one of their couches with a serious make-out session and a parting that grew more and more difficult each time. And then finally, one night in December, as she sat straddling his lap and panting against his mouth, Darcy said, “The hell with this.”

He raised an eyebrow. “I'm gonna need some context for that.”

She grinned. “I'll give you context,” she said, She slid backward off his lap and stood up, grabbing him by the hands and tugging. “I'll give you all the context you can handle.”

He let her pull him to his feet and followed, amused, as she led him back into her bedroom. He paused in the doorway, leaning against the jamb, and watched with no small amount of fascination as she marched herself to the middle of the room, turned to face him, and pulled her shirt off. “Darce?”

She smirked, letting her hands drop to her waistband, unfastening her jeans with nimble fingers. “What are you doing way over there?” she asked him.

He was in front of her in two paces, his hands warm against the soft skin of her belly and sides. “Darcy,” he said softly, staring into her eyes, “are you sure?”

If I wasn't sure,” she answered, lifting her chin, “we'd still be out on the couch.”

He leaned down to kiss her again, and it was softer and somehow more reverent than any kiss they'd shared before. “Let me do this right for you,” he murmured against her lips, his hands sliding underneath hers to take over the task of undressing her. “Let me make it good for you.”

You'd better,” she managed, vaguely threatening, but her voice was shaking and they both knew it. He straightened a little, grinning, and then he took a knee in front of her, leaning to press a gentle kiss to the skin just above her navel. She shivered at his touch, and then again when he repeated the kiss just below her navel, while his fingers drew her zipper down. She was already barefoot, so there was no obstacle to delay him from sliding her jeans off her legs, and then she was standing before him in nothing but a green bra and panty set.

Steve reached up, his fingers trailing across the satiny material that covered her hip. “If I didn't know better,” he said, in a tone that indicated he knew perfectly well better, “I'd think you planned this.”

Why, Captain Rogers,” she replied, her voice slightly breathless, “I'm sure I have no idea what you mean.”

He laughed, and then suddenly lunged forward and pressed a hot, open-mouthed kiss to her left thigh. She gasped, shuddering hard, and he grinned. He wrapped his hands around her hips and guided her back to sit on the side of the bed. He parted her legs gently, his fingers trailing up from her knees to the edge of her panties. He drew one finger along that seam, where her thigh met her hip. “Okay?” he asked her softly.

So okay,” she assured him, and he grinned, leaning down to lick that sensitive skin.

She gasped again, her hips arching up toward him, and he slid his hands underneath her, cupping her ass for just a moment before sliding up again. He tucked his fingertips under the elastic waistband and drew them down her legs, dropping them on the floor before turning and pressing a wet kiss to the front of her hip on the other side.

He could hear her breath coming fast, her lips parted just a tiny bit, and he grinned up into her wide eyes. Then he trailed his fingers along the seam of her lower lips, parting them just a bit and dipping into the developing wetness. She shuddered, and her hands came up to cup his cheeks. She leaned down and kissed him, warm and slow, gasping into his mouth when he slipped a finger inside of her. She whined his name softly as he pushed it all the way in, thrusting in and out gently to accustom her to his presence there before adding a second alongside.

His other hand threaded into her hair, holding her close to him, and when he released her mouth, he straightened her up just a bit and he murmured, “Watch.”

She opened her eyes, training them down on his fingers as they disappeared inside her, and she moaned softly. “Steve.”

He grinned again, kissing her warmly, and then he said, “Lie back.”

She did, raising her arms over her head in surrender, and he crowded in close, pressing a third finger in with the first two, stretching her wide, and leaning down to press his mouth to her throbbing clit.

She cried out then, her body arching toward him, and he tangled the fingers of his free hand with hers even as he worked her with his tongue, rubbing her clit with its wide, flat surface before curling it around her and sucking on her like a piece of candy. She broke apart beneath him, her muscles clamping down on his fingers, and chanted his name as she came.

He gave her slow, gentle licks as she came down, holding his hand steady inside her while her muscles fluttered with aftershocks. Once she caught her breath, he slid them gently out of her body, and her eyes widened when he slipped them, one after another, into his mouth, licking the taste of her off his skin. He grinned at her, and she grinned back, pushing herself up into a sitting position and reaching behind herself to unhook her bra. She tossed it at him and he caught it easily, dropping it onto the floor beside her panties.

He stood up and shucked his clothing quickly, then stretched out on the bed beside her, pressing his still-damp hand to the sharp line of her jaw and drawing her down for a hot, wet kiss. His other hand wrapped around her lower back and she stifled a moan against his mouth when he rolled them both so that she was straddling his body, his cock brushing against the thatch of hair at her mons. She ground against him, trapping his length between his stomach and her wetness, and he groaned, pushing his hips up against hers. “God, Darce,” he muttered against her skin. “God, you're so perfect.” He delved into her mouth again, both of his hands buried in her hair. Between kisses he whispered, “You still sure?”

Still sure,” she promised. “I want this. Want you.”

He ran his hands down her body, gripping her hips and grinding up against her. “Do you have...”

She wrapped her hand around his length. “I'm clean and on the Pill,” she said. “You?”

No Pill,” he replied, laughing softly. “But I'm clean. Can't catch or carry anything.”

She raised herself up on her knees, and his right hand joined hers around his cock, aligning him against her body. Then she sank down, lowering herself slowly onto him. A very soft, unidentifiable vowel sound escaped her as she slowly took him in.

His left hand came up to caress her cheek. “Is it okay?” he asked, his voice a low rumble in his chest.

S...so...” she managed as their bodies finally pressed all the way together. “So... so... very okay.

He chuckled, his thumb stroking her cheekbone. “I've been told the first time can hurt,” he offered.

She shook her head. “No... No, it's... it's good.”

He placed his right hand on her hip and ground against her. She shuddered hard, her back arching and her head falling backward. “Good,” he murmured. “It turns out I do know a couple of useful tricks.”

She shuddered again, her inner muscles fluttering around him, and then she raised her head, trying to focus on him with eyes gone glassy. “What does that mean?”

He grinned. “Well,” he said, “if it's not too tacky to speak of it, the girls on the USO tour taught me a few things about how to treat a woman.” He waited for her to indicate that it was all right to continue, and he explained, “That's where I learned that the first time, for a woman, can be painful. Doris and Martha are the ones who taught me how to avoid that.” He waggled his fingers at her.

She chuffed out a laugh. “Is that what you were doing? I thought you were just trying to render me incoherent faster.”

I never said there weren't secondary benefits,” he replied. Then he lifted her up by her hips and lowered her down again, rolling his own against her at the same time.

Her hands fell to his chest, bracing herself against him, and she followed his movements, rolling her hips in tandem with his. “Oh, God, Steve,” she moaned, her head dropping forward and her hair falling down around her face. “That's so good. Oh, God, you feel so good.”

They found a rhythm that worked for them, alternating slow and deep strokes with quick hip rolls and filthy grinds, murmuring encouragement and praise to one another, until Steve's hand spread out from across her hip, his thumb sliding between her folds and finding her clit unerringly. He stroked and teased it, drawing loud, high-pitched cries from her, until she arched above him, keening out her pleasure and shuddering hard.

He gritted his teeth through her climax, holding on and just working her through it, and when she collapsed against his chest, he wrapped both his arms around her and rolled them so that he was on top, his hips resting snugly between her thighs. He raised himself up on his elbows, leaning down to kiss her soft and slow, and then he started to push into her with hard, measured strokes. She cried out with every thrust, her body hypersensitive, and he bent his head to rest beside hers, whispering words of love into her ear, interspersed with warm, messy kisses. “You're gonna come for me again,” he told her, biting gently at her neck and making her arch and writhe under him. “You can do it. I know you can.”

Steve, fuck,” she managed, her hands gripping his back and shoulders. “Please, baby, please.”

He laughed breathlessly into her ear and gave a particularly rough thrust, making her arch and mewl. “That's right. You want it and I'm gonna let you have it.” He reached up and pulled one of her hands down from his back, pushing it between their bodies. “Touch yourself,” he murmured.

She did, her fingers drifting down between them. She circled her clit with the pads of two fingers, then slid them down to their joining, brushing against his cock as he moved in and out of her. He groaned softly, nipping at her bottom lip, and she went back to her clit. With a few short, practiced touches, she was flying again, her legs clenching around his waist and a full-throated cry bursting from her mouth. He kept going, pushing in and in and in even through her shudders and then, quite suddenly, he gave a shove deeper than any before. He groaned softly against her neck, his hips jerking against her once, twice, and again, and then she could feel the pulses of warmth inside her as he came.

In the silence that followed, he rolled onto his back again and draped her over him, still buried deep within her. She moaned and twitched with aftershocks and he chuckled, running soothing hands down her back.

After a few minutes, she raised her head, folding her hands across Steve's chest and resting her chin on them. He grabbed a pillow and propped his own head up, running his hands gently through her hair as they lay there together, not speaking, just reveling in their closeness. At last, she stretched up and pressed a gentle kiss to his lips. “Thank you,” she murmured. “That was perfect.”

He smiled. “Happy to be of service.”

Sometime later, as he lay asleep on her bed, Darcy slipped out of his arms and padded naked into the bathroom. She paused, stretched, and used the toilet in the darkness, then turned to the mirror. She washed her hands; then, with a touch of her finger to the wick of the candle on the bathroom cabinet, she lit a tiny flame. In the flickering light, she glanced up at the reflecting surface.

In the mirror, Eris smiled back at her. "I told you," she said.

"Yes, you did," Darcy replied easily, and was proud of herself for only blushing a little bit. "But I told you that I wanted to find out for myself. If you always guide my choices, Eris, then how am I ever supposed to grow as a person?"

The words were familiar. Many, many times in the past, a younger Darcy had asked her much older alter ego for guidance in decision-making, and Eris had often told her the exact same thing when she made Darcy choose for herself. I'm thousands of years old, she would say. If I make all the decisions for you, then I'm not living a human life, I'm just existing within a human shell. If I do that, what's the point of you at all?

Darcy smirked as Eris scowled. "Sucks to be on your end of things right now, eh?"

Eris made a face at her. "Go back to bed," she said sourly. "Otherwise he'll wake up and come looking for you."

"I'm going," Darcy said. She leaned over and blew out the candle. The room went dark, and she reached out to touch the lever on the wall, raising the light level just a bit. In the mirror now, there was only Darcy.

It was an odd sort of double existence. Knowing that you weren't alone inside your own head, that you weren't alone inside your own soul , was something that Darcy intellectually recognized as a strange thing. It was normal for her , of course, because for her, Eris had always been there in the same way that her shadow was always with her. But she'd learned very quickly that not everyone had the same experience.

Her parents, of course, had written off any careless childhood talk as the usual imaginary friend. Once Darcy learned, at around age six, that nobody else had a second person inside their head (or inside their mirror), she stopped talking about Eris, and everyone assumed she'd grown out of that phase.

That was when Eris started teaching her how to do magic.

Of course, Eris didn't call it magic; for her, it was simply the use of her natural abilities as a goddess. Darcy liked to call it magic, though, because she was still smarting over not getting a letter from Hogwarts. So when Eris began teaching her the ways of the elements, well, Darcy was motivated.

She smiled softly at the thought of those early days, even as she meandered back out of the bathroom and into the bedroom. And sure enough, just as her alter ego had predicted, Steve was rousing, just starting to look for her with sleepy eyes. "Hey, " she said softly, reaching out to slide her hand into his even as she slipped back between the sheets. "I just went to the bathroom."

"Couldn' find you," he mumbled, still mostly asleep. He pulled her close, spooning up against her back and wrapping his arm around her waist.

"I'm here now," she promised, resting her hands on top of his. "I'm not going anywhere."

His only reply was a soft sigh as he fell back to sleep, his warm breath curling through her hair and against the back of her neck.