There was a sort of inevitability to what happened, Darcy decided much later. A kind of cosmic karma, or maybe a cosmic "fuck you", because she'd been teasing Jane for weeks about the Thor thing and then...yeah.
The day started out so well. So normally. So innocently.
Darcy grumbled under her breath as she pulled on her rubber boots--the ones with fat little pigs on, naturally--and trudged out to the field to check on Jane's equipment. It had been the routine for the last month: she got up stupidly early to check the first readings before the sun came up, while Jane slept in and pretended she totally wasn't having morning sex with Thor.
The pretty cottage in Devon was old, with thick walls and doors, but it wasn't exactly big. And when you've got a guy like Thor around, there aren't many things that stay private. Just saying.
Jane was totally having morning sex with Thor, as regularly as they could manage it.
Darcy stomped across the muddy field and crouched down to check on the equipment. There was a fine drizzle in the air, just enough to ensure that her hair was damp and frizzy without fully committing to raining, so she couldn't justify her umbrella. It was a good thing she had a lot of hats. Autumn in Devon was really incredibly soggy, and Darcy missed the desert in New Mexico for the first time in her life.
A crack of thunder overhead should probably have been her clue that something weird was going on. Drizzly rain didn't usually produce electrical storms, even when Thor was in the vicinity. Not unless Thor was deliberately causing them, and apparently he could be pretty single-minded when he was alone with Jane in their little attic bedroom, so he rarely rattled the skies despite what Darcy sometimes told Jane.
Unfortunately, Darcy was too intent on the weird readings cycling across the screen in front of her to notice the thunder.
Those readings should probably have been a clue, too, but Darcy was barely half awake and the sun wasn't up yet. She didn't put the pieces together. After all, Thor was back at the cottage, so why would an Einstein-Rosen Bridge be opening?
When she reflected on it later, Darcy could have kicked herself for her lack of attention. In all fairness, though...nope, nothing. There was nothing fair about it. She missed the signs, and that was how a Bridge opened three feet away before she had any chance to do anything sensible, like run.
Running probably would have been a great idea.
It would have given her a head start on the giant ice demon crazy thing that fell through the wormhole.
But as it would also have taken her away from the woman who followed it through a minute later, not running wasn't all bad. The first few minutes, though, those were bad.
Epic on the badness scale.
Pro-tip: do not be within claw range of giant ice demon crazy things when they get dumped on a new world by an angry Asgardian. They are not happy ice demons. And their claws are sharp.
Darcy dropped to the ground, flat on her stomach, just as those sharp claws whistled through the air where her head had been. It was an instinctive reaction to unexpected bright lights and big things moving nearby: drop first, check it out later. She might have been embarrassed about coating her beautiful new coat and jeans with mud if it had turned out to be a false alarm.
Unfortunately, it wasn't a false alarm.
She swore under her breath and rolled, spreading the mud more liberally, just before a huge foot came down where she'd been lying.
That was how she missed the Bridge spitting out a second body. Darcy was too busy scrambling away from the thing with sharp claws and fucking huge teeth, holy shit. The arrival of something else was, to be fair, totally not a high priority for her attention at that moment.
A couple of years of hanging out with Jane, and her tendency to attract trouble, had taught Darcy a few things. Things like "'always keep a Taser accessible" and "the sharp stakes that Jane uses as secure anchor points for equipment can be weaponised". It was probably a sign of the life she'd led with Jane that most of what she'd learned was self-defence and when to run, instead of science. The technical stuff she still felt pretty vague about most of the time.
At the moment, though, all the self-defence instincts she'd developed seemed way more useful than the technical stuff. As she scrambled sideways, she grabbed one of the equipment stakes and yanked. It came out of the soft ground more easily than Darcy expected, and she overbalanced, toppling over and rolling just in time to scoot out of the way of another attempt by the ice demon to stomp on her.
There wasn't time to reflect on her luck. The creature tried again almost immediately, but Darcy was ready for it. She raised the pointy end of her equipment stake, held on tight, and the demon impaled its foot on it.
With a howl of pain, the demon reared back, pulling the stake out of its foot. Shards of crusted ice rained down on Darcy, opening tiny cuts and grazes on her hands and face, but she barely noticed. She was too busy dropping the stake and pulling her Taser out of her pocket, aiming carefully.
The prongs embedded in its hip, and Darcy pressed the magic button. Several thousand volts of electricity surged through the wires into the creature.
It didn't even seem to notice. She could have been shooting it with water, for the effect it had.
A shiny, bloody sword tip suddenly appearing in the middle of its chest did catch its attention. It stared dumbly down at the blade.
The tip withdrew, and a gout of something too cold and blue to really be called blood erupted from the hole. Some of it hit Darcy's coat, sinking into the fabric and chilling it fast. She didn't notice the drops that splashed on her face.
Darcy was too busy watching the woman in shining armour who seemed to own the sword. It was a long, double-ended blade, way cooler than Thor's hammer, and she wielded it like a pro.
Which, given the armour, was probably a pretty accurate description of what she was. A professional fighter, accustomed to slicing up giant ice demon things and looking gorgeous while she did it. Darcy didn't like to say it was love at first sight, that was too corny for words and way too Jane-like, but it was definitely lust and intense interest at first sight.
Despite the blood gushing down its chest, the ice demon tried to fight back, but the woman was ready for it. She danced around it, opening up dozens of tiny cuts all over it. Blue liquid dripped from its limbs and splattered onto the mud, turning into chunks of blue ice on contact. The woman grinned fiercely and laughed with each hit she made. Something about the joy she took in the fight and her long, dark hair seemed familiar to Darcy, making her think of fire and dusty desert.
It was only when the woman plunged her sword through the creature's throat with a delighted shout that it came to Darcy.
The warrior woman who had appeared at the lab in New Mexico.
An Asgardian had saved Darcy's ass from a weird ice demon. Darcy would have face palmed if she hadn't been so completely coated in mud. After all those months of teasing Jane about her boyfriend, vowing that no Asgardian would ever make her weak-kneed and silly, she'd been saved by one who seemed even more reckless and over the top than Thor. Darcy couldn't even pretend that she hadn't needed the help. Her trusty Taser might work on thunder gods, but apparently it was useless against huge ice creatures. Fighting wasn't really Darcy's thing.
She'd always thought of herself as a lover, not a fighter.
And wow, her brain went to cheesy places when she was stressed and frightened.
Sif yanked her sword out of the demon's throat and glared up at it. "Why won't you die?"
"Maybe it's still thinking about how to do that?" Darcy said, surprised at how calm her voice sounded. "It doesn't seem that smart. It might take a while to work out that it should be dead."
Sif whipped her head around, seeming to notice Darcy's presence for the first time.
Darcy really wished she wasn't currently sprawled in a big patch of mud, looking like she'd been rolling around in it. Then she mentally slapped herself for the thought, because Sif might be gorgeous, but Darcy wasn't in the market for an Asgardian in her life. Definitely not. Nope.
The momentary distraction wasn't good. The creature was starting to sway at last, as though the idea of death might finally be penetrating its tiny brain. It wasn't down, though, and it had enough strength to swing around and side-swipe Sif, sending her hurtling through the air to land a few feet from Darcy with a clatter of metal.
Sif groaned, and Darcy swore. Getting her potential saviour thrown out of the fight was not a good idea.
Darcy rolled over and grabbed the abandoned equipment stake, now slightly bent in the middle and icy cold to touch. As the ice demon rounded on them and took a step forward, she knelt up and thrust the stake at its foot.
The metal stake shattered on impact.
Darcy dropped the remains and swore again. She had to scuttle to get out of the way as the ice demon clumsily tried to kick her. It was moving more slowly now, so it missed by a big margin and stumbled as its foot slipped in the mud.
Miraculously, Sif was back on her feet with her sword in her hand. She darted in behind the creature, swiping at its thickly muscled legs. Her sword cut through cleanly, and the creature screamed. Whatever she had hit must have been important, because its leg buckled mid-scream. It staggered to the side, hung there for one long moment, and toppled to the ground.
Right on top of the remaining bits of Jane's equipment.
There was a crackle-fizz sound and the creature jerked, grunted, and went still.
After a minute, Darcy asked, "Is it dead now?"
Sif stalked forward, sword raised. She cautiously prodded the creature's ankle with the tip of it. There was no response.
"I believe it has finally understood its death," Sif said.
"Good. Can you kill it some more, just to make sure?"
Sif chuckled. "That may be unnecessary, but I can remove its head. If it will comfort you."
"Chopping off heads sounds messy and disgusting," Darcy said. "Do it."
She turned away while Sif complied. Even though she wanted to be really, really sure the thing wasn't going to get up and kill them later, that didn't mean she had to watch.
Lover, not fighter. That was kind of important to her right now.
"It is done," Sif announced.
Darcy breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank you."
A soft swishing sound came, which Darcy interpreted as Sif cleaning her sword. She wasn't going to turn around to look. When Sif moved into Darcy's field of vision, her sword was sheathed on her back, and the only sign of the fight was the mud daubed on her neck and streaking the front of her armour.
Darcy felt like the muddiest, most drowned rat in the history of ickiness. Sif's mud made her look noble and powerful. It was totally unfair.
"You seem familiar," Sif said. "Have we met previously?"
Darcy's self-confidence melted a little more. "A couple of years ago. That destroyer thing?"
Sift grinned. "Ah, yes, I remember now. You aided us in the battle."
"I mostly helped people run away, but yeah. I was there."
"You did not run away, as I recall," Sif said. "You remained with Jane Foster and the old man, even though we told you to leave."
Darcy narrowed her eyes. "You lied. You totally recognised me."
"I was not sure whether you recognised me," Sif said, looking surprisingly sheepish. "It seemed to be an unusual sort of day for you."
"Like I could forget the tall gorgeous woman who stabbed a fire breathing robot through the back of the neck."
Sif's smile widened.
"And it's not that weird anymore," Darcy said. "Actually, with hindsight. I've had weirder since. Like today, because most mornings do not start with giant ice demon things almost landing on me."
"I apologise for that," Sif said. "I expected to bring it to Thor, who has dealt with these creatures before and knows their weaknesses. Heimdall must have been mistaken when he opened the Bridge."
"He wasn't that far off." Darcy pointed to the little cottage tucked under some trees just beyond the field. "Thor's over there. With Jane. Um."
"Ah," Sif said knowingly. "I understand why he did not come to our aid now."
"Yeah, he was probably too busy boinking to notice a huge fucking monster. Wait, bad word choice."
Sif almost choked on her laughter. "I see Jane Foster is not the only one who is straightforward about these matters."
"I don't want to know what she did on Asgard. Don't tell me, it might make my brain explode."
"It would be a pity to make that happen," Sif said.
She looked like she might suffocate from the effort of not laughing or saying anything, but Darcy appreciated the attempt.
"Do you want to say 'hi' to Thor?" Darcy asked, nodding to the cottage. "Or do you have to take that thing somewhere else?"
Sif nodded, looking thoughtful. "It probably should not be left to rot where anyone might stumble over it. These creatures become toxic to many species when they decompose."
Darcy tried not to look disappointed, although she probably missed by a mile. "Yeah, I can see that. I guess it's goodbye, then."
"However, Thor may wish to be informed of what happened," Sif added blandly. "There is no reason both can't be accomplished." She raised her voice. "Heimdall?"
The beam of multi-coloured light that shot down from the sky probably shouldn't have taken Darcy by surprise, but it did. She jumped, stumbled back, and only stayed upright because Sif caught her around the waist. If she didn't move away very fast--or at all, to be more precise--that was only because she was still a little jumpy.
Sif didn't seem to be in a hurry to push her away, so it was totally cool.
The light surrounded the corpse in a wash of scintillating colours. Darcy squinted into it, trying to see the moment when the Bridge took up the creature, but her eyes watered painfully and she couldn't make out anything. Jane would be disappointed. The Bridge dissipated, leaving behind the familiar scorch marks in its place.
"You didn't go with it," Darcy said.
"I did not," Sif agreed.
"Huh." Darcy paused, wondering what the protocol was for inviting an Asgardian to breakfast. Then she decided to screw protocol. "Come on. If Thor and Jane aren't awake, I can make you breakfast. Or pour some cereal, anyway, because Agas are too weird, and I've burned enough bacon already on this little research trip. I'm never letting Jane choose the accommodation again."
"Food would be welcome," Sif said, a small smile hovering at the corners of her lips.
"Great. I make a mean bowl of Shreddies."
Darcy didn't complain when Sif kept an arm around her as they walked across the field. Strictly speaking, it was probably unnecessary, because her knees had stopped wobbling about ten second after the Bridge faded way. She suspected Sif knew that it was unnecessary, but she wasn't about to say anything and potentially make Sif go away.
There was definitely some kind of karma thing working here. She could feel the urge rising up to act all giggly and goofy like Jane did around Thor. If she let that happen, she would never live it down.
Jane would have ammunition for the next ten years.
Sif was very nice to look at, though, and she had that whole Xena thing going on, with the armour and the big sword. Darcy had always kind of had a thing for Xena.
The cottage was still dark and quiet when Darcy unlocked the front door. She couldn't even hear movement upstairs, which she gave a silent "thank you" for. The little front hallway was floored with slate, which was cold against her feet when her socks escaped with her boots when she pulled them off.
Sif politely propped her sword up in the umbrella stand and tugged off her boots. It didn't make her look less fierce.
Darcy winced when she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror at the end of the hallway. Her hair was hanging down in wet straggles and there didn't seem to be a patch of clothing that wasn't liberally coated with mud. Even her face was covered.
"Can you wait, like, ten minutes for the gourmet breakfast?" Darcy said. "I should clean up before I cover everything in mud."
Sif glanced down at her own mud-streaked armour. "Should I also 'clean up'?"
"Eh, you're probably okay. Armour wipes clean, right? And we only have the one shower here." Darcy firmly cut herself off there, before she could offer to share the shower. "I'll be right back. There are dishcloths in the kitchen?"
Without waiting for a response, she retreated upstairs to the bathroom, showering fragments of dried mud in her wake.
Scrubbing the mud out of her hair took longer than she anticipated, but there was still no sound of movement up in the attic when Darcy emerged from the bathroom.
Hopefully it meant they were sleeping due to sex exhaustion, not dead due to excessive sex. Both were definitely possible.
Darcy threw on jeans and a huge old sweater and trotted downstairs.
Sif had removed her armour to clean it. Her hair hung down and hid her face as she polished the breastplate with a rag. Dressed in just a padded red vest and grey leggings, she somehow looked softer and stronger all at the same time. Darcy's stomach did a weird fluttery thing, and she had to swallow hard before she spoke.
"So, hey, I think we might have Cocoa Pops, too," she said, trying not to sound breathless. Her heart seemed to be doing little loop-the-loops in her chest. "And I know how to use the coffee maker. What do you want?"
Sif lifted her head, and a small frown creased the skin between her brows. "Are you well?"
Darcy patted her damp hair self-consciously. "Considering I nearly got squished by a monster a little while ago, I'm pretty good."
"Your face," Sif said.
"What?" Darcy frowned. "What's wrong with my face?"
"Are there always small red marks on it?"
Darcy scrubbed at her face with the sleeve of her sweater. Now that she thought about it, her skin was stinging a little, as though she'd burnt it in places. The mirror in the bathroom had been too steamed up to see. "Better?"
"No," Sif said. "The marks are still there. Do they hurt?"
"The creature's blood must have splashed you. I apologise. Do you have salve for burns?"
"Pretty sure we've got a first aid kit somewhere."
It was under the sink, buried under a box of cleaning products. Darcy sorted through it and extracted a tube of burn cream with a triumphant smile.
"Sit, and I will help you," Sif said, plucking the tube out of her hand.
Darcy shrugged and complied. Sif pulled up another chair, sitting so close that her knees nudged either side of Darcy's. At this distance, Darcy could see a tiny splash of mud near Sif's hairline and a hint of pink staining her cheeks. Sif smelled of metal and clean sweat, with just a hint of lavender.
"You smell good," Darcy said, before she could help herself.
Sif squeezed half the tube of cream onto her fingers.
"Sorry," Darcy said quickly. "Just ignore me. Pretend I'm not here, saying weird things and freaking you out."
There was a long pause, while Sif stared at her with wide eyes and the flush deepened in her cheeks. Darcy hardly dared to breathe.
Eventually, Sif seemed to collect herself with a visible effort. She put the tube aside and dabbed a bit of cream onto the tip of her finger. Lifting her hand, she waited until Darcy nodded before carefully smoothing it over a stinging patch on Darcy's cheek.
"Despite the time Jane Foster spend in Asgard," Sif said, without meeting Darcy's eyes, "and the amount that Thor has spoken of her, I am unsure of Midgardian courting rituals. Is there any formal rite I must follow?"
Sif daubed some cream onto another burn, beside Darcy's nose. Her fingers weren't smooth, but they were gentler than Darcy had expected.
"Is there any task I must complete before I may approach you?" Sif asked. "Some gift I must present, or perhaps a beast I must slay."
"Oh," Darcy said, as the words sank in and started to make sense. "Oh."
"Have I said something wrong?"
"No!" Darcy said. "It's just...no one's ever offered to slay a beast for me. Not that we have beast slaying courting rituals, and you've pretty much covered it anyway even if we did, but nobody's ever offered before." She smiled, trying to project assurance and not desperation. "I'm never going to refuse flowers or chocolates, just saying, but gifts aren't actually required, either. Totally optional. Usually, we just ask someone out. Or if we're Jane, we slap the Asgardian and then we kiss him. I'm not into the whole violence thing, though, so you should just ask. I'll probably say yes, if you're nervous."
"I'm not nervous," Sif said, as she carefully applied more burn cream to Darcy's chin. "I have faced ice demons and great monsters of stone."
"I did not wish to offend you by missing some ritual." Sif's thumb swept lightly over Darcy's lower lip. That touch definitely wasn't a burn cream application kind of touch. "May I kiss you?"
Darcy nodded, all her words drying up before they could reach her throat.
Sif's thumb rubbed across Darcy's lip again, and again, rough patches catching on the sensitive skin and sending tingles down Darcy's spine.
When Sif leaned closer and replaced her thumb with her lips, Darcy sighed into the kiss. She lifted her hands and twined her fingers in Sif's hair, unconsciously anchoring her right where Darcy needed her. Not that Sif made any attempt to pull free; her hands dropped to the chair on either side of Darcy's hips, allowing her to lean even closer.
Darcy opened her mouth and wordlessly encouraged Sif to lick inside and taste her, sucking on Sif's tongue lightly until she was rewarded with a soft groan.
It was a really good kiss.
For a while, Darcy was lost in it. Lost in the warmth spreading through her body, the heat building low in her gut. Lost in the wet press of Sif's mouth, the silky strands of Sif's hair in her hands.
When someone cleared their throat just behind her, Darcy was too kiss-dazed to do more than reluctantly free one hand from Sif's hair and flip off the intruder.
There was a muffled discussion somewhere behind her, before the kitchen door closed with a loud clunk. That sound seemed to finally distract Sif from her attempts to steal Darcy's breath through the power of awesome kissing. Darcy immediately resented the loss of Sif's lips against hers. The strange little whimpering sound she pretended she hadn't made probably told Sif how much she didn't appreciate it.
Sif didn't pull back far. Her eyes were sparkling with laughter. "Should we apologise?"
"Nope," Darcy said cheerfully. "You would not believe how many times I've walked in on them making out."
"Are you hungry?"
"Not for food."
"Awesome." Darcy tugged Sif's head down. "Kiss me again. If Jane is going to tease the shit out of me, better make it worth it."
And Sif did.