The clouds had grown darker as Darcy walked the few blocks to the office. People were scurrying along the sidewalks, pushing by her in annoyance, umbrellas in hand, anticipating the downpour to come and trying to get inside the buildings before rain ruined their suits and makeup.
Time was moving at half speed for her as she returned to work. She had gotten dressed and ready in a daze this morning, barely registering what she’d left in. She’d forgotten her umbrella. Without so much as a sigh of regret at the realization, she simply gripped the strap of her messenger bag that crossed her chest with both hands and trudged forward.
The sky was almost black when she stood in front of S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, expressionless, staring at the mass of glass and steel rising before her. She felt a pang of sadness when she realized that she wouldn’t get to watch the rain on the window today. That would require an actual window. A fat drop of water landed on her slightly upturned face, splattering across the bridge of her nose. Shaking her head quickly, she moved toward the building doors.
Darcy struggled to keep her “attentive and interested” face on for the guy who had been hanging over the wall of her cubicle for the past 45 minutes talking to her. She recognized him from a few rows over, and had passed him in the halls a few times, though she was still a little fuzzy on what his name was. He was talking animatedly about his morning, having accompanied some assistant director of something to a press conference. He had apparently written parts of the press release. She nodded occasionally as he expressed his excitement over being in public as an employee of S.H.I.E.L.D. His mother was ecstatic. She’d begun to wonder what she had done to warrant such an enthusiastic and detailed visit and what was it going to end it. He was just out of her arm’s reach, so it’s not as if she could accidentally spill her now lukewarm coffee on him or possibly misjudge her placement and staple him to something. Resigned to just wait it out, she took a deep breath an renewed her smile, her jaw and cheek muscles crying out at the forced expression. Her eyes had started to glaze over as she let her mind go blank and she didn’t notice the sudden break in his noise.
Startled, she snapped back to her body, now aware that he had come around the wall and was leaning against the desktop nearest her, peeking into her face. Blinking a few times, she smiled again at him.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to drift off on you there. I didn’t sleep well last night and now this rainy weather. I don’t know how I am even this alert.” It was a lie, but he seemed to accept it, retreating from the space directly in front of her.
“So, like I was saying, do you think that you’d, you know, maybe want to get a drink or something tonight? I’m going out to celebrate with some of the guys on the floor and figured I’d ask if you wanted to come.” He was looking at her earnestly now, hope that she would agree filling his face. She couldn’t pinpoint exactly why she felt hesitant. Hell, this would be the highlight of the week if not month for her.
“Uh, sure. Where are you going to be?” grabbing a pen from the cup next to her monitor, she waited for the location. The edges between her mind and her actions were growing fuzzy, and she settled in, watching Darcybot take over. He figured they could walk over after work, but she got the address just in case, mechanically writing it down on the stenopad. He left his cell number with her and for a moment looked expectantly waiting for her to return the gesture. Darcybot hadn’t picked up on that, or wasn’t in the sharing mood, as she stared at him with an ever straining smile. He eventually got the hint and backed out of her “office”, wrapping his knuckles on the desk as he left, repeating the time and place for drinks.
The noise in the bar was deafening, bodies crushing around the table that Darcy, Lyle and his friends had taken. The table was on its third round, while Darcy held back, still nursing a now very warm Old Fashioned. Arms occasionally jostled her as the crowd seethed. Tonight was some kind of trivia event, drunken office workers from the surrounding neighborhood all shouting answers and cheering on their teammates.
Staring into her drink, she pushed the small stir stick around the glass with her middle finger, not even bothering to feign attention for the table’s conversation. She didn’t know why she had even come. Even here amongst the crowd and energy, she felt numb and exhausted. Excusing herself, she wound her way through the mass to the bathroom in the back.
Darcy squinted as the fluorescents overhead flickered. Blue grey light filled the tiled room, casting a gloomy haze over it all. She sat her purse on a sink and stared into the scummy mirror. On a whole, she still looked pleasant. Her makeup had held up throughout the day and now the evening, and her hair looked about the same. She stood there for a moment just staring back at herself, expressionless. The light had gone out from her eyes and she couldn’t manage to kindle even the smallest spark of energy or interest.
Sighing, she leaned her forehead against the mirror. The cool glass was comforting, but her head still swam with the ever increasing doubts and confusion. Lifting her head slightly, she stared at herself again.
‘Is this really all there is? The drones work hard before they die for their pretty little homes?’ Roughly pushing away from the mirror she spun on her heel to leave the room.
“I can’t do this”
She made her way back to the table, where it was obvious that the guys had ordered another round in her absence. Thanking Lyle for the invitation, she threw back her fresh drink and made her excuses for home.
A cool breeze blew through the trees in the park, rustling leaves along the ground and sending a chill through Loki as he stood there. After his fall from the BiFrost he had been weak and trapped here on Midgard. His magic had vanished with his injuries, but then, as his body regained its former strength, so to did his power. He had made his way across this realm, slowly gaining the ability to teleport further and further. News had reached him that his brother was residing on the Eastern Coast, in New York City, with his woman and the group that had once tried to contain him.
He had appeared in the city a few days ago, terrifying a homeless man who saw him into a stupor. Surveying the city as he wandered, Loki reflected fondly upon his coming plans for pain and destruction. If Asgard was out of his reach for now, Midgard would suffice in the interim.