Once there was a young woman who thought that nothing very much mattered and that the world was made to be a playground. And that is a fine thing to think when you are young and beautiful. The young woman - whose name was Darcy Lewis - went to parties and listened to music and learned about the world, and she was very happy with her life.
Her path took her to a town in a desert where she learned that the world is a very wide place, and full of even more wonder than most people think. She met handsome princes and wise women, and they introduced her to brave lady soldiers and witty scientists and men so pure of heart they seemed to shine. And she was happy with this as well.
Darcy Lewis thought she would go on being happy, and learning about the world - which was bigger than she had thought - but her mother had ideas, and she worried about Darcy's future.
"I just think you need someone, honey!" she would say each time Darcy came home.
"Mom, I don't need a boyfriend!" Darcy would reply. "It's, like, the twenty second century! Women are free nowadays!"
"Twenty first century, sweetie. Maybe if you had a boyfriend, he could stop you from saying crap like that."
And Darcy knew she had been defeated, for it was indeed the twenty first century, and she knew that. And because of her foolish mis-speech, her mother would not be dissuaded from her desire for a son in law.
Darcy walked dejectedly along her way from her mother's house. Where to find a boyfriend? One that would not mind her desire to go to parties and listen to music and learn all about the world, which was bigger than she had thought? He would also need to be a man who would not ask her for her secrets, for as a woman who knew how big the world could be, Darcy had many. She kicked at rocks as she walked, and she sighed like a gale.
"You seem sad," said a voice behind her. "A beautiful young woman like you should not be so sad, I think."
"Wow," said Darcy before she looked around. "Lame pickup line alert."
Then she turned and was met by the sight of the most beautiful man she had seen. Though the world was so very big, Darcy thought he might be the most beautiful man in it. His skin was pale and his hair dark and his eyes so very green that at that time Darcy could not see how ugly was the heart behind them. This man was Loki, a wicked prince from across the stars, and he thought to use Darcy in his wicked schemes.
For now, though, he laughed a gentle laugh. "I'm sorry. You're right, that was terrible. It's only that my mother always taught me never to let a beautiful woman stay sad. Is there anything I can do?"
Marry me, Darcy thought, but the man spoke on.
"Perhaps I can buy you coffee?"
Loki bought Darcy coffee, and Darcy explained her sorrows. Loki was polite, and smiled, but the smile did not touch those ever so green eyes and Darcy began to realise that he did not mean to woo her at all. She was disappointed, but Darcy was a grounded young woman and she weathered the blow.
"It can't be all that bad," he told her. "Surely you must know some handsome prince who could sweep you off your feet."
"There is this one guy..." Darcy said, thinking of dark hair and ever so green eyes. Loki smiled a knowing smile.
"Let me guess. Golden hair and muscles so big he needs a crowbar to fit through doors?"
Darcy laughed, because Loki was charming, but then she thought. She did know a prince who was gold of hair and strong of arm. Prince Thor, who she had met in the town in the desert.
Darcy could not have known it, but Loki knew prince Thor as well, and he meant to do him harm if he could. When Darcy spoke Thor's name a smile spread his lips and Darcy shivered to see the ugliness in it. "What would you say if I told you you could have him?"
Darcy was tempted. Prince Thor shone with a beauty that made everyone want him. Not the same as Loki's beauty and not as sharp. But Darcy could not bring herself to want Thor. "No way. He's all into my boss."
Darcy's mistress and teacher was the wise woman Jane Foster, and she had the first claim to the heart of Prince Thor. But Loki smiled wide. "I do not know Thor," he lied with an easy tongue, "But I know princes. And their hearts are so easily swayed. I'm sure that I can give him to you. If you think that you can catch his interest."
His ever so green eyes creased at the edges and at last Darcy saw the ugliness that lurked in their depths. She was surprised but did not think to be afraid. And she was hurt by his questioning her ability to catch a prince's attention. She knew she could be a worthy princess. And perhaps there was something ugly in Darcy's own heart, because when the wicked prince asked her if she would like his help to court Thor she said, "Yes."
They made their plans together. Loki told Darcy to do as he said, and they could not fail. "Think on me as your very own genie," he told her, "And I will grant your wishes." But though Darcy tried, she could not banish her thoughts of Jane Foster and her efforts to woo Thor were not successful. Loki became angry with her, and she saw more and more of his ugliness. But though he would shout every time she failed, he would apologise each night and come to her with a new plan.
She tried paying Thor compliments. She told him that his hair was beautiful. It was true, but this is not a thing one normally says to a prince and Thor's allies all laughed. She brought Thor coffee, but coffee was such a beloved delicacy to him that he was rarely without a cup already. Under Loki's suggestions, she placed herself in the way of danger so that Thor would rescue her.
This did not go well for Darcy, and her shirt was set on fire by the robot creatures of the evil Doctor Doom. And when rescue came, it was at the hands of Thor's ally, one Tony Stark. Darcy was very happy with this.
"You're not doing it right," Loki told her when she returned home.
"I don't want to talk about it," said Darcy. "Let's get chinese."
They ordered food from a chinese restaurant and ate it together. Loki stopped being angry and Darcy stole food from his plate. That night she did not think him so ugly as always.
The next day she presented the Prince with cookies that Loki had given her. Slyly, she told him she had baked them herself. The prince's ally Clint Barton asked her whether there were nuts in the cookies as he had been under a curse from birth that he could not eat nuts. Darcy was unable to tell him, and so the plan was a failure.
"I don't think you're even trying," said Loki to her that night.
"Shut up," said Darcy, "You're taking me out drinking."
The wicked prince was reluctant, but Darcy would not be deterred. They drank and made merry, and again the ugliness in Loki's eyes was all but invisible to Darcy's sight.
Darcy refused his next plan, which was to arrange for Thor to come across her in some state of undress. "You gotta draw the line somewhere, dude," she said.
Loki was disappointed. "Perhaps," he said, "but could you not draw the line somewhere after you have Thor in hand?"
There was no plan for the next day, because that day Thor came to her with news. He planned to ask the wise woman Jane Foster to be his bride. Darcy smiled and told him that she was happy, and as she said the words she found them to be true.
Thor looked at her with knowing eyes. "I thought perhaps you had sought my attention yourself," he said, and Darcy felt guilt for her fickle heart. "I did feel that your heart was not truly in it, though?"
Shyly, reluctantly, Darcy told him her story, how she had been approached by a beautiful stranger with an ugly heart, and how her own heart had not told him no. But Thor did not blame her, because when she told him of the wicked prince, Thor knew him well.
"This man you know," said Thor with heavy heart, "He is my brother. And he was lost to me some years ago. I failed him in many ways, and that must be why he wanted you to hurt me."
Darcy felt shame burn in her body, but curiosity also, for she had not known Loki was anything more than a man. "Your brother? He's an Asgardian too, then?"
But Thor shook his head. "He is the brother of my heart," he said, "But not of my blood. We lost him the day he discovered that the blood of giants ran in his veins."
Darcy knew of giants. But not what it meant to be one, and so she asked.
"It means nothing," said Thor fiercely. "Nothing to us. But to Loki it meant that he had to flee those who loved him" Thor sighed, and longed to weep for his lost brother. Darcy put her hand on his shoulder and knew that though she loved him, it was as her own brother, and she could not love him any other way. She held him tight, for the comfort she could give.
"Darcy Lewis," he said to her at last. "I know the man my brother is, a man of many tricks and tales. But know this, friend. If he loves you... If Loki loves you, then you will surely have all your heart desires."
Darcy thought greatly on this as she walked home. Loki had loved Thor. And then, because he was a giant, he had not. But Thor had loved Loki too, perhaps loved him still. And Thor believed that if Loki loved you he would give you everything you desired.
"Darcy!" Loki greeted her as she reached her front door. "I know exactly what we have to do next! How much money do you have?"
But Darcy brought him inside and told him, "I know who you are."
Loki looked first surprised, then afraid, and then angry. He had his plans. He had his schemes. And he didn't want this time to end, for he had enjoyed when Darcy took him drinking and ate from his plate. Darcy told him what Thor had said to her, and his anger grew. She told him that she knew he was a giant and he changed himself.
Where his skin had been white as milk it was now blue, for that is the colour a giant's skin is. Where his skin had been smooth it was now ridged and scored in the patterns of his kin, for that is a giant's way. And his ever so green eyes were now red as blood and afire with rage. He pushed Darcy to the wall and towered over her. "He thinks this is because I am a giant?" he hissed angrily. "It is because I am a broken thing and he never saw it! But if he wants me to be a giant, then a giant I shall be! What do you think of me, Darcy Lewis? My very touch could freeze you into ice and break you. I could shatter you against the hard floor. Shall I do that? Just the touch of my skin."
Darcy was afraid, but she would not be deterred. Because if she had Loki's love she would have her heart's desire. With shaking fingers, she pressed her hand against the skin of his cheek. It did not freeze her, though it was cold as winter's wind.
She heard him gasp, Loki the wicked prince, the giant, the man with the ugly heart. And she kissed his lips with her own.
When she drew back his eyes were once more ever so green and his mouth was slack in surprise and there was no ugliness, nothing ugly in him.
"Oh," he said in a very small voice. "I see."
"Good!" Darcy laughed. "It's about frikken time!"
Loki laughed as well, and Darcy knew that she would have all her heart desired. Because her heart desired Loki's love.
They did not live happily ever after, because happily ever after is a lie. And though Loki was accustomed to lies, this is one he never told Darcy. But we shall say that they lived. And they went to parties and they listened to music, and they learned together just how big a place the world can be. And Darcy -- and Loki -- was very happy with this.