Darcy should have seen it coming. She couldn't hang around the spandex crowd forever and not end up with a great big target painted on her back eventually. She was just surprised it took Loki so long.
To be fair, he seemed just as surprised as she was. He'd been expecting Jane to be in Jane's apartment, wearing Jane's bathrobe and eating Jane's Pop-Tarts. One mortal being much like the other, he didn't seem to notice he'd got the wrong one until it was too late.
So now she was sitting in the middle of a rooftop in New York in her pyjamas and Jane's flannel bathrobe, barefoot and clutching her messenger bag to her chest while Loki paced back and forth, wind catching at his green cloak and whipping it around his body.
"So, like, are you gonna kill me?" Darcy finally asked and Loki turned to look at her as if he'd forgot he'd just yanked her out of her best friend's apartment and deposited her on a gravel-covered roof however many blocks away.
He peered down at her, smiling faintly. "I might."
"Okay." Darcy started braiding her hair to keep it from blowing in her face.
Loki gathered his cloak around him, and stared down at her with a faintly puzzled expression. "Why aren't you afraid of me?"
"Are you kidding? I'm totally freaked out. I mean, you killed like four S.H.I.E.L.D. guys last week. One of them was Dave, the guy I bummed smokes off, even. One day, I'm buying him a pack of Reds, the next day he's crushed underneath an SUV in Midtown. There's a part of my brain totally stuck on 'Oh God oh God please don't kill me' but I popped a Xanax when you first took me hostage."
"What is Xanax?"
"It's an anti-anxiety med. I have a stash left over from when I was defending my thesis. You are scary, but trust me—so was the head of my department. The Xanax was pretty much the only way I got through it. So the only reason I'm not curled up in a foetal position sobbing right now is 'cause I'm medicated."
He regarded her like a very clever toddler who had mastered using a spoon for the first time. "You are a strange mortal."
"Pretty much. So, what's your deal, anyway?" Darcy was getting a crick in her neck from staring up at him. She'd never realised from the news footage how tall he was. Or maybe it was just the ridiculous helmet. "I mean, nobody wakes up one morning and says 'I am going to be a supervillain!'"
"Your puny mortal mind cannot compre—"
"C'mon—there's no-one else here." Loki actually blinked at her, caught mid-insult. "And you're probably gonna kill me anyway, so why not just monologue for a while? I'm a very receptive audience, what with the kidnapping and drugs and all."
"And why should I tell you—a silly mortal girl—any of my secrets?"
Darcy shrugged. "Who else you gonna tell?"
The look on his face, Darcy figured she was a goner. She clutched her bag closer to her, as if it were a talisman. She wished she still had her taser. The S.H.I.E.L.D. guys wouldn't let her keep it in her bag (Coulson had said something about Class A misdemeanours and conceal carry laws in New York), so it was currently sitting under her bed in her studio apartment. Not that she would have tried to tase Loki. It was one thing to totally tase a human Thor that one time. He'd been yelling at her. Also, human. But she figured Loki would just shrug it off, and then rip out her spleen or something.
"What if I told you that one day I woke to find out I was not Loki Odinson at all?"
"What do you mean?"
"My father stole me for his own. I bear not a single drop of his blood. Thor is no more my brother than I am yours. And no-one thought to tell me the most important fact of my existence."
Darcy stared at him, eyes narrowed.
"Get. Out. Seriously? That's your thing? That you're adopted? I'm adopted, and you don't see me trying to take over the city."
Loki's face—not exactly easy to read even on a good day—went blank. Then he sat down cross-legged opposite her. Darcy had to stop herself from scooting backward out of reflex.
"Did your parents hide your foundling status from you?"
"Of course they did!" Darcy actually laughed, which she pretty much chalked up to the combo of nerves and drugs. "I mean, I knew since I was in the sixth grade. We had that chapter in bio about genetics, and I pretty much figured it out since my folks both have AB blood, and mine is O and that's, like, seriously impossible. But they sat me down and told me when I was sixteen. Blah blah was I mad, blah blah did I want to find my birth parents, you know. All that stuff. Whatever."
"Did you not hate them for their deceit?"
"What? No. They're still my parents."
"How can you say that?" Loki asked, and he sounded genuinely mystified.
"I dunno. 'cause it's true?" Darcy shrugged. "Mom is still the one who changed my diapers and stuck Band-Aids on me when I got scraped up, and grounded me for sneaking out, and taught me to ride a bike, and the difference between Socialism and Marxism. We're cool."
He appeared to digest this, the corners of his mouth twisted in a frown.
"What about your mom?" Darcy asked.
Loki's frown deepened. "I have not thought of my mother in a very long time."
"I bet she's badass."
That made Loki smile. "When Laufey and the jötnar invaded my father's chamber while he slept, she fought one of them off herself, in her gown and all her jewels."
"I knew it!"
His smile faded again, so quickly she thought she had almost imagined the expression of fondness. "She would not have had to, if I had not tricked them into the heart of Asgard so I could slay their king."
"Okay, so... I can see why you're conflicted," Darcy tried to channel her therapist Dr Cunningham, instead of gibbering in terror and possibly losing control of her bowels.
"'My King', she called me when they brought me Gungnir. She said it with such pride, and in that moment I wanted to please her so much. To be the king my rash, impetuous brother could never be. A king Asgard would be proud of."
He gazed off into the distance, a muscle in his jaw twitching.
"I would never have let them harm a hair on her head! They should have known—they should have trusted me that much." His voice dropped from an angry shout to a whisper. "But no. The second my brother returned, she looked at me like a monster. For doing what he wished to do, and was banished for trying! For destroying our enemies and protecting the Nine Realms."
Darcy didn't know what to say to that, so she didn't say anything. The only noises on the rooftop were distant traffic sounds from below, and the creak of Loki's leather gauntlets as he curled and uncurled his fingers into fists. His head was bowed, and so she couldn't see his eyes. Only watch his chest rise and fall with each breath as he composed himself.
"So, did you ever... you know, find your birth parents?" Darcy asked finally, trying to keep her tone conversational.
"My father killed my blood-mother in battle, then stole me as an infant from where I been left, exposed, to die. Then I killed my blood-father myself."
Darcy's mouth dropped open in shock. "Wow, that's harsh!"
Loki shrugged. "He was jötunn—my father's greatest enemy. I did it... I did it to prove that cuckoo or not, I was Odin's son. But it was too late." There was the creak of leather again as he steepled his fingers. "My mother, father, my brother... they all reviled me for what I was. What I had no part in choosing—my choice was made for me when Odin took me from the Jötnar and claimed me for the Æsir."
"Oh Em Gee. So you had an existential identity crisis? That's why you totally tried to kill Thor in New Mexico with an evil Transformer? Couldn't you just go on a bender or become a forest ranger or something? No, you gotta raze a small New Mexico town to the ground by fire?"
"It seemed the thing to do."
"That's what I mean. I find out I'm adopted, my Jewish parents totally cave and let me get a tattoo out of guilt. You raze a town to the ground by fire. Again, I ask you... why supervillain? Everybody thought you were dead—why not go with it? Have a fresh start here in Midgardtown?"
"I was raised a Prince of the Æsir. I was raised to rule."
"So why couldn't you rule a desk job, or become a movie star, or whatever? You have mad shape-changing skills! You would totally rock in Hollywood. And you'd never need Botox. But here we are—on a rooftop in... Jesus, are we in Queens? In Queens because you were gonna snatch your brother's girlfriend and got the wrong girl."
"And I am already regretting my mistake. Do you always talk so much when you are in mortal danger?"
"Pretty much, yeah. Look. So your mom and dad lied to you. It totally sucks. I get that. But doesn't the fact that your dad chose you mean anything? I mean, he could have left you to die, right?"
"Would that he had."
"Seriously, Marilyn—you don't need to take over the world. You need therapy. Like, serious face-time with a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist. And possibly psycho-active meds would not go awry. Has it ever occurred to you that you might have Seasonal Affective Disorder? I mean, you could get one of those lights—"
"Do not presume to tell me what I need!" Loki roared, fury coming off him in waves, and Darcy flinched.
"Okay, and now we're back to me wetting myself. Awesome."
Darcy stared at him, sitting there with his cloak wrapped around him, her reflection in his shiny horned helmet distorted and pale. A muscle twitched in his jaw, and she fully expected one of those spinny knife things to flash from his hands and bury itself in her chest. But he didn't move.
"Look, if you're gonna kill me, then can you get it over with? Because I'm gonna be needing more therapy at this rate. And S.H.I.E.L.D.'s medical coverage probably doesn't cover PTSD from getting my dumb ass held hostage by gods."
The fury drained away, and Loki was watching her again with that weird sort of amused smile. "You're funny, little cuckoo."
"That's me—the funny sidekick. I just never realised being Jane's research assistant would make me Robin the Boy Hostage with her boyfriend's crazy brother. Go, me."
"Do you truly think I'm mad?"
"I don't think going around kidnapping people is particularly sane." She wrapped Jane's flannel bathrobe tighter around her as a gust of wind grabbed at the loose braid and blew hair into her mouth. "So... you're adopted. Is that, I dunno, normal in Asgard?"
"Fosterage? Not uncommon. Fosterage of a frost giant child? Unheard of. I was raised to believe they were monsters. Worse than monsters; unfeeling, inhuman beasts."
"So... not only were you adopted, you're not even the same, um... species? But you look, well, not so frosty and no so giant to me."
"I was left to die—an abomination even to other monsters."
Darcy's mouth dropped open in shock, and she snapped it close with a click of her teeth. She wasn't supposed to feels sorry for the dude, but she almost did. "Wow. Harsh."
"And you? Why were you abandoned?" He turned his green-eyed gaze on her, the intensity of his stare making her want to squirm.
"Oh, it was totally an open adoption. My birth mother was some teen who gave me up for adoption, and my parents picked me from like a line-up of white kids or whatever."
"Do you know who sired you?"
"Nope, but I could find out if I wanted to. If, like, I needed a kidney or some poor bastard knocks me up or something, I probably would want a complete medical history. But until then?" She shrugged. "It just doesn't bug me."
"You are a strange girl," he said after a long moment.
"Tell me about it." Darcy flipped her hair back over her shoulder and started re-braiding it.
"So you discovered you were a cuckoo in their nest, yet you did not resent them for it?"
"Sure I freaked out at first. But I can get why they didn't tell me when I was little." Darcy rested her chin in her hand, feeling weird for talking about things she hadn't talked about with anyone—except her therapist—since high school with the immortal Loki, trickster of Asgard.
"Kids already feel like freaks—why add to that by telling them the person who gave birth to them gave them away? My folks wanted to wait til I was older, and could understand the sitch. It's not their fault I totally could have handled it when I was eleven. They were waiting til I was ready, and I was waiting til they were ready. There was a lot of waiting. I was apparently named 'April'. Do I look like an 'April' to you?"
Loki gave a one-shoulder shrug. "All you mortals look alike to me."
Darcy rolled her eyes. "I think my mom was way more freaked out than my dad. Like she was scared I would freak and be mad. We had kinda a messed up relationship and were always fighting, and she figured I'd reject her. But seriously, she's my mom. In my family, screaming at each other is kinda how we show affection anyway. Not in an after school special way or anything."
"I do not understand the reference, but I think I can glean your meaning. My brother shows affection by striking me—generally on the arm or shoulder. As does Sif, and the Warriors Three. In truth, I prefer words to blows and bruises."
"Exactly. See, you totally get it." Darcy chewed on the end of her braid absently. "It's just I'm wired differently than she is, and she could never figure me out 'cause I wasn't interested in being a cheerleader or whatever. But that has nothing to do with me being adopted. That just has to do with my mom not knowing what to do with a kid who'd rather be inside on her computer than out in the sunshine like normal children."
Darcy made air-quotes around 'normal children' before she realised she had no idea if Loki even knew what air-quotes meant.
"My mother always favoured my brother—the child of her body—over me. The lesser brother. The tricksy one, better in the shadows than on the battlefield. All of Asgard favoured Thor over me," he added bitterly.
"Please. Your brother's like a giant Labrador puppy. Of course people like him. Everybody likes puppies. They bring you your slippers and shit. Whatever. You grew up with him, am I wrong?"
Loki actually smiled.
"Okay, yeah, sure—even his muscles have muscles. If you like that sorta thing."
"And you don't?"
"I am not immune to a little bit of man-candy. But please, he only had eyes for Jane. Even after she hit him with the van. Twice."
Loki's eyes widened. "His lady love hit him with her car?"
"Hells yes! And I tased him. Oh yeah. I did," she said as his glee turned to a look of pure astonishment. "What? He was yelling at me. I warned him first. Not my fault he didn't listen."
His shoulders began to shake, and a giggle—seriously, a girly little giggle—escaped his lips. "Oh, that is too rich—the mighty Thor, felled by a tiny mortal girl with a toy."
"Hey! It's a state of the art Human Electro-Muscular Incapacitation Device!" Darcy protested, but the god of mischief was actually almost crying with laughter.
Loki was actually laughing. At her. If it weren't for the fact that she was still pretty sure he planned to kill her, she'd have punched him in the nose.
"Your brother totally misses you," she said, and the laughter stopped. "Every time you pull this shit, his big puppy face gets all sad like he's been denied treats."
His face grew very still, and once again Darcy wondered if he was just going to pick her up and toss her off the rooftop.
"I must think on this," Loki said, and then the son of a bitch disappeared into thin air.
"Seriously?" she asked the empty air, and then began digging through her bag for her phone.