Some days Darcy loved being the Avengers' odd job girl. She was still technically an intern, which meant she would never get saddled with any of the odd jobs that decided who lived and died, or any job which put her life in danger. She got all the cool jobs, like sourcing kitten calendars for the green anger monster, or overseeing trick arrow research and development. Awesome.
Other jobs were less awesome. For example, if the Avengers managed to capture an incredibly dangerous trickster god, a god who looked like he'd been through some kind of mincing machine and were forced to pump him full of painkillers... it somehow became Darcy's problem. As in, her entire job became about checking in on him and assessing whether he was lucid enough to be interrogated and/or arrested.
Darcy would be annoyed, except that Loki on painkillers was hilarious.
Eventually she picked up her tablet and iPod and sat next to his bed. He spent the first hour or so trying silently to attract her attention to something on the ceiling while they waited for his morning dose to wear off. Darcy was about eighty per cent sure there was nothing on the ceiling, but she was definitely not going to look.
After giving up on poking her elbow, Loki subsided into staring at the side of her head. He regained the power of speech. "You. Mortal."
"What?" Darcy didn't look up.
"You have to help me think of a plan to get out of here."
"I do, huh?"
"You do. You most certainly, absolutely, certainly..." he blinked like he'd forgotten the word, "do. Ask me how."
"How do I gotta help you?"
"You stand there and let me talk at you until I have a plan. Now sit down."
Darcy looked down at the chair she was currently sitting in. "I thought I was supposed to be standing up."
He scowled. "You're not here to be clever." Darcy didn't bother to hide her smirk. She wondered for a second whether she should be recording this for Youtube, but her survival instinct vetoed that idea.
"One of us has to be."
"Ssshhhh." Loki flailed a hand, then struggled up onto his elbows, looking distressed. "Where's my spleen gone?"
Darcy reached out to gently press him back to the bed before he pulled his stitches. "It's in there somewhere." He shrugged her hands off his shoulders.
"Are you sure? I should check." He shoved down the covers, tugging at the surgical dressing on his stomach. Darcy winced. Luckily he came up against the restraints that kept him on the bed. For his own protection, the SHIELD doctors had said, and this was the first time Darcy had ever known that to be the truth. His wriggling did dislodge the bandage a little, lining the edges with still-wet blood, and Darcy thought about calling someone to sedate him.
"Ew, dude, don't go digging in there," she said instead, and he settled down almost immediately.
"...Lewis?" he asked slowly, "Why are my hands in metal?"
"Those are handcuffs." She reminded him. There was a short, pensive silence.
"Oh," he said. "Because I'm a supervillain?" He made a face at the ceiling, testing his range of movement. "That word always makes me sound marginalised. I don't think I like it."
"So stop blowing shit up."
Loki rolled his eyes at her. "I like being a supervillain. Just don't like being called one."
"Tough." She hesitated, since Loki was pretty much the god of short attention spans right now. But it was Loki, and everyone learned their lesson about underestimating him pretty quickly - if she had a chance to get information out of him, she should take it. "So, do you have a plan yet? To get out of here."
Loki blinked, letting her know that he probably had forgotten to come up with anything. He licked his lips. "I think... boom."
Darcy couldn't help the quirk of her lips. "Boom?"
"That's your plan."
"It needs some detail. My spleen hurts. I think."
Darcy took pity. "If you press the button here, the pain goes away."
"Oh, thank fuck." He pressed his thumb down over the button and held it there. Darcy let him drug himself back to sleep, and stayed at his bedside.
Darcy had turned her back on Loki at some point in the night. She wasn't sure why, but it might have had something to do with how weird it was to watch him sleeping. He looked kind of... peaceful. Which is how people were supposed to look sleeping, but on him it was just incredibly weird, and Darcy thought she'd be a much more useful babysitter-slash-guard if she was looking at the door. No supervillain was getting past her if she was watching the door, no sir.
Then she fell asleep. What? He was asleep, it was fine.
Less fine when she woke up to the feel of his hands in her hair. Her own hands twitched to reach for her taser, but for some reason she stuffed the urge down and blinked until she was sort of awake. Which was when she heard the slow sssssnip behind her ear and something floaty fell down her shoulder.
What the actual fuck?
She still didn't move, but now it was because she knew there was a homicidal maniac holding a blade next to her head. "Is that my hair?"
The scissors paused. "Lewis!" said Loki brightly. "I didn't know you were awake. Did you sleep well?"
And something inside Darcy just gave a little shrug and rolled over, like, why not? "Not bad, for hospital-chair sleep. How are you this middle-of-the-night?"
His fingers went back to raking through her hair, holding it out from her head and snipping away. "Still high."
"I would never have guessed."
"Sh, sarcasm is for the weak. I think I like this morphine." Darcy wondered if she should bring up the whole 'addictive' issue. Tomorrow, maybe. "I just woke up, see, and I thought there's Lewis. Her hair is too long."
"Didn't ask for an explanation, dude."
Behind her, Loki laughed, and Darcy found she liked the sound. It was different than the laugh he used in the middle of his heists. Less maniacal. "No," he agreed, "you didn't. And that is why I love you, Darcy."
"Oh, Loki, Loki, Loki, I am so going to remind you of that when you sober up."
"Why would you do that?"
Darcy tried to give him a look without moving her head. "What, you think I wouldn't embarrass you in front of your brother?"
"I believe you perfectly capable of that sort of malice. Another reason for the deep enduring love I have for you." He leaned in close enough for his breath to tickle her ear, teasing. "What I'm saying is, escalation is a talent of mine. Do you think this course of action would lead to a situation with me embarrassed and you smug, or would we just end up having sex?"
Darcy didn't want to let it, but his obvious ploy sent a little shiver through her as she started to picture things. Then Loki placed both his hands on her skull and shook, ruffling up her hair. There wasn't much of it left. "Look at me." Darcy met his eye hesitantly and he experimented with the placement of her parting. He made a few more cuts, concentrating deeply with his tongue between his teeth, and then grinned. "There. Much better. Enhances your cheekbones and makes your eyes look less beady. You look fantastic."
Before Darcy could decide which part of that to react to, he handed her the nail scissors which he had obviously pulled out of thin air at the same time as he slipped the cuffs, and threw himself back on the bed. Automatically, he tapped the morphine button and his grin widened. "I'm bored. Going back to sleep."
"Right." Darcy ran her fingertips along the ends of her hair, testing its length. "Sleep tight."
"Mm. Darcy?" His eyes were closed. "Can I put my hand under your shirt?"
"Thought I'd ask."
Thor dropped by in the morning, and looked at her new haircut strangely. Darcy was a little offended. She'd checked herself out in a pocket mirror, and Loki had been right. She did look fierce. He didn't ask how it had happened, but Loki answered anyway, she was just like that when I woke up, Thor. I think there's ghosts! Ghosts who stole my spleen!
Eventually Thor left, satisfied that his brother was still in no condition to be questioned, and Loki went back to trying to convince Darcy to let him fleece her at poker. Darcy knew he was still at least a little high, because when he cheated she spotted it. That was her excuse for not telling Thor he was faking.
"Been talking to Sif about my haircut," said Darcy as she came into the room. Loki was sitting up, reading a book that no one had given him. Darcy didn't recognise the language on the cover.
"Bananas," he said promptly when he saw her, and she rolled her eyes.
"You're not even putting any effort into pretending to be impaired any more. That's pretty weak, dude."
He smiled into his book. "You're the only one in the room, Lewis. And really, at this point it's all about giving you an excuse not to tell." He flashed her a charming grin. "Beyond the reward of my company, of course."
Darcy groaned. He was ruining it all. Difficult to be in denial when the god of dickishness was feeling talkative. "Yeah, well 'bananas' is totally unconvincing. Need a better excuse."
"Would it help if I declared my love for you again?" Said without a hint of embarrassment.
"Nuh uh. I could call Director Fury right now..."
Loki rolled his eyes and vanished the book between his hands (and Darcy had that feeling again, the one that said Loki was only still there because he wanted to be and they could never, ever hold him). He rolled over, bright-eyed, and plucked at Darcy's sleeve. Darcy didn't miss the way his wrist passed straight through the cuff. "Darcy!" he gasped, "Darcy, I've realised that I'm a vampire! But, I... not a blood vampire, a vampire for adjectives."
"Adjectives?" Darcy unwrapped his fingers from her sleeve, and he held her hand like a vice.
"Exactly... I suck all the adjectives out of people to live. Darcy!" He pulled her closer to the bed and she tried not to laugh. "Give me all your adjectives!"
Darcy worked to remove her hand from his until she realised he was watching her expectantly. "Uh..." Suddenly, horribly, every adjective in Darcy's vocabulary was just out of reach. Loki's eyes widened in horror and just a little bit of triumph.
"It's happening already! Oh, Darcy! Your adjectives were too good for this sinful world!"
"All right, shut up. I was talking to Sif about--"
"Have you got any adverbs I could have? I'm so hungry..."
"Annoyingly." She flicked him in the face and he broke away laughing. Darcy realised the more likely reaction from him would have been murder, but by that time he was already laughing so she didn't panic or anything. "Sif told me that... after you've cut my hair, if I insist you buy me a wig then you'll go out and get yourself mutilated for me. Is that true?"
Loki pulled a face. "Sif has a big mouth."
"Yeah, and you have a hair fetish."
He scowled, but it wasn't the dangerous scowl so that was fine too. "Not a fetish. I've only done it twice. You simply reminded me of Sif, purely by virtue of being willing to put up with me."
Darcy stopped short, weirdly touched by the sentiment, and totally flattered by the comparison to Sif the Badass. "And that equals haircut to you?"
"I admit, my method of gaining Sif's attention left something to be desired, but we were quite young at the time and it did spiral somewhat beyond my control. Besides, you seem to be enjoying short hair more than she did."
Darcy preened a little, running a hand through her hair. "I am saving a bundle on conditioner..."
"There. That's worth it, then." Loki smiled at her. It wasn't the doped-up-to-the-gills smile, or the thinking-evil-thoughts smile or even the I'm-crazy-enough-to-laugh-at-my-own-pain smile or any of the smiles she knew. But she liked it, and stored the memory of it for when he went back to being evil again. Loki seemed to realise what he was doing, and moved to toy with the morphine dispenser.
"I think my clicker's stopped working," he said, pressing the button.
"Yeah, or your body's just getting used to the metric ton of drugs you've been putting through it. Do your injuries even hurt anymore?"
"Not for a while," Loki muttered, distracted. "Wait, what? My body 'gets used' to this stuff?"
Darcy bit her tongue. "Right, yeah... I've got some literature, been meaning to give it to you..." She turned and dug through her purse for the pamphlet she'd brought over from the clinic down the street from Avengers' Tower. "Here. You might wanna read it carefully."
"Morphine Dependency and You," Loki read incredulously. "Dependency?"
"Right!" Darcy said brightly, "I'm just gonna... leave you with that... for a little while. I'm gonna get a coffee, you want coffee? Tea? Mead?"
Loki was reading into the pamphlet. Darcy watched his eyes widen. "Addiction? I'm addicted?"
Darcy was not too much of a hero to run like a coward.
He pulled the needle out of his arm the minute he finished reading. Offered alternatives, he declined them all and threatened the doctors' lives until they left him alone. Darcy watched him from the window as he snarled at men and women who were trying to help, and finally remembered the kind of man he was. Aside from being violent, cruel and creatively angry, he was also pitifully scared of being tethered. Thor had told them all how Loki valued his freedom. And Darcy had forgotten to say a thing about it because she thought he was funny when he was artificially happy.
She stood at arm's distance as withdrawal kicked in and tasted acid in her throat.
Twelve hours saw her sitting right back at his bedside while he ground the bones together in her hand and muttered feverish death threats.
"...should've warned me..." he hissed through clenched jaw. "I swear, Lewis, I will... tear out your gallbladder through your eyes."
"You don't have to do it like this," she whispered for the hundredth time. "There's drugs they can give you to get you off the morphine--"
"No! I won't... Won't be dependent -- they'll keep me, tell me lies like--" his breath came out in a long shuddering gasp, and his voice dropped to a fragile thread. "Hurts. This is. Oh, damn it."
Darcy clutched his hand. "I'm sorry."
"...kill you for this, Lewis."
"Okay." She brushed the damp hair back from his face. "Sure."
The fever finally broke, and Loki woke up alone. His palm itched, and he closed empty fingers over it, glancing at the lights outside to test his sensitive eyes. Painful, but bearable. The worst was past at least. He took a deep breath, clearing out the stiffness in his lungs, and stretched out his limbs as subtly as he could around the handcuffs. He wasn't naive enough to think there was no one watching him in the SHIELD detention medical bay.
Thirty seconds after he sat up, the door opened. He looked up with his favourite blank expression, but it wasn't even Darcy. Agent Coulson stepped in with a small pile of folders. One of them was lever and arch - possibly Loki's criminal record.
"No Darcy Lewis?"
Coulson sat in her chair at his bedside and arranged his folders. "We're very protective of our personnel," he said blandly. "You've already had one set of blades closer to her throat than we'd like."
"Shame," Loki sighed, burrowing into the thin hospital issue pillow and turning his head away. "I liked her. She was... shiny."
"In light of the death threats over the last few days, we thought it best to reassign her."
Irritable, Loki waved a hand vaguely. "Wouldn't have followed through," he slurred. "She was... a very talented straight man. Jus' like Agent Coulson, but better, because... Coulson has breasts."
"There's not much point in pretending to be impaired right now, mister Odinson. I'm aware you're no longer on any drugs."
Loki opened his eyes with a short laugh. "Ah. Of course. Damn. It was a good excuse while it lasted."
"It was one of the better ones. Now. There are some questions raised by your latest appearances in New York, I'd like us to talk about those..."
"I suppose I owe it to you, if only for the medical atten--" Loki coughed drily into his shoulder, hands still cuffed by his sides. "Any chance of some water before we start?"
Coulson's eyes flicked to the restraints, and then to the saline drip that Loki'd had Darcy confirm three times was nothing but saline. "Wait right here."
If Coulson thought that three ounces of metal and a bag of salt water could keep the god of mischief in one place, he would be sadly disappointed. Loki made sure to straighten the sheets before he left.
Darcy hung her coat on the back of the door and crossed straight to the breakfast bar in the kitchenette, and dumped her netbook on the counter. This was her life - in the time between leaving work and arriving home, there would be at least one or two new problems in her inbox that needed her attention. Better to sort through it once or twice in the evening than wake up in the morning to a mile long list.
She settled at the bar with her inbox, and thought about beer but thought better of it. The first unread email was from Coulson - his scheduled seven P.M. thanks for today email that Darcy still loved even after how long she'd been working at SHIELD. Her boss was a total gentleman. She grinned. He'd be totally mad at her if he saw her right now - walking straight into a room and sitting down with her back to the door. She kind of liked the paranoid cloak and dagger at work, but left it there when she went home.
She choked on the tolerant grin when cool fingertips trailed along the recently exposed nape of her neck. She fell off her stool in scrabbling for her purse and her taser, and whirled around to find Loki watching her with a mirthful twinkle.
"Evening, Ms Lewis."
"Breaking and entering? Seriously?" Darcy shook the purse free of her hand, and snapped the taser up to point at him.
"I haven't broken anything." Loki shrugged, and leaned in conspiratorially. "And if we're being perfectly technical, I didn't 'enter' in any fashion covered by mortal law. I didn't exactly step over the threshold. Put that thing away, Darcy. This relationship has already weathered you getting me addicted to morphine - I don't think my ruined heart could handle it if you were to shoot me."
Darcy made a noise, and even she didn't know if it was a snort of derision or a laugh. She didn't drop her aim.
Loki shrugged, and then in the blink of an eye he was right in her personal space, insinuating himself past the taser and grabbing her elbow in one movement. He tapped her wrist, and her fingers just let go with a brief tingle. "Ah!" she protested, "Dude!" but he used the hand on her wrist to cross her arms over her body, spin her around and pull her tight against his chest. She struggled, but only for a second as he pulled just tight enough to hurt.
"Much better," he purred in her ear. "Calm down, you're perfectly safe."
Darcy tried to calculate just how much force she would need to use stepping on his foot before he would let her go. "Right," she said. "Who's panicking, let me go, let me go-"
"Not just yet. I believe there was some talk about killing you for what you did to me?"
The floor dropped out under Darcy's feet. She twisted in Loki's arms to try and ram an elbow into his gut, but he dragged her back against him so hard her feet left the ground. "Ah-ah," he breathed casually. "I did ask for calm. And I do recall, Darcy, that when I suggested the idea your response was something close to... okay. Sounds like a gentleman's agreement to me. And you know I take those seriously."
"You were out of your head, I was just trying to be nice!"
Loki gave a genuinely delighted laugh. "You were! It was quite touching, really, just how nice you were. You thought the nice thing was to agree to be murdered in revenge?"
"What can I say, I know what you like." She bit her lip, cursing her habit of saying stupid things, but Loki was still chuckling.
"I do like a little vengeful murder. And when it's offered so politely..." Without warning, he swung her around so that she fetched up against the counter hard enough to rattle the cups. He swept in before she could even catch her breath and caged her in with his body. "...I find it very hard to resist."
Darcy squeezed her eyes shut and swallowed before looking directly at that terrifying gleam in Loki's. "Please." She said, voice steady.
Loki turned away, grinning. "Oh, don't beg, Lewis, it's boring. No, I said resisting would be difficult - not that it wouldn't be rewarding. Perhaps there's another revenge... I could take from you." Darcy said nothing. Loki seated himself on the stool Darcy had just vacated, one leg crossed over the other, hands folded on his knee, and now his ever-present smile was just wicked. "Spend some time with me, Ms Lewis. Outside the remit of your job. I can admire dedication to your work, but sometimes you need to take a little time for yourself."
Darcy learned a few new meanings for the word surreal. "Are you... Are you trying to ask me on a date?"
He grinned at her like she'd just pulled off a clever trick. "Precisely."
She blinked, leaning on the counter for life, and stared at him. And unbidden, she remembered that smile, the smile that hadn't been for anyone but her. And she wondered if maybe she didn't mind being cheated at poker and threatened with death, if it brought more smiles like that one.
"There's an Ethiopian restaurant just opened downtown," she said at last. "It's expensive, it's public and I like Ethiopian food. You will take me there, pay for everything - including cocktails!"
He smirked like he was holding in a laugh. "How progressive."
"I'll pick up cab fare. If there are clubs afterwards, then you will keep your hands to yourself and we will not go anywhere where there are less than five normal people looking at us at any one time."
"Four. Don't haggle with my safety, douche."
And now he didn't bother holding in the laughter, but Darcy was laughing a little too, feeling like the world's easiest mark and liking the taste of it. "And what happens," he said, "if I agree to your terms?"
"Then I..." Darcy gathered her dignity around her, "will consider you for a second date. But I am not putting out."
"Hm." Loki grabbed her coat off the back of the door and offered it to her like a perfect gentleman. "We'll see."
In the end, after Ethiopian food, they wound up in a tavern on Vanaheim where Darcy accidentally started a brawl and Loki deliberately made it worse. It turned out that Loki had a different definition of 'normal'. So Darcy could give herself some slack on her own definition of 'not putting out'.