“So Thor’s like every other guy in the realm,” Darcy says. Her fingers itch to make air quotes, but she stops herself. “He doesn’t text. He doesn’t tweet. He may have the abs of a god, literally, but clearly he’s just like all the dudes who didn’t fall out of the sky.”
Jane’s lower lip trembles, not exactly the effect Darcy is going for with this bracing pep talk. She sits down beside Jane on the couch and pries a sheaf of graph paper out of Jane’s hands. “Look,” Darcy says. “You saw the guy sling his MeowMeow around. Wherever he is, he’s just fine. And anyway, I’ve been forced to read enough world literature to know that gods and mortals? Totally unmixy things.”
Jane smiles a tiny bit. “Did you just quote Buffy at me?”
“Possibly. Now get your ass off this couch. It’s raining.”
Every night, Darcy dreams of rain, has done so since she was a girl. In her dreams, apocalyptic sheets of water cover the world, and lightning slices through dense cloud banks before it scorches the earth. Sometimes she’s alone, slogging through ankle deep mud toward something indefinable ahead of her, and sometimes she’s with other people, running and looking over her shoulder at something indefinable behind them, but every dream she can remember is marked by rain. Darcy can feel thunder rumbling in her bones long after she wakes.
Storms terrify Darcy, but they also fascinate her. This is why she applies for an internship under Jane Foster, astrophysicist and atmospheric disturbance watcher extraordinaire, even though meteorology has absolutely nothing to do with her degree. It also helps that she catches Jane tacking up the internship notice on a bulletin board outside the Commons.
Jane’s hair is in a messy ponytail, and ink is smudged along her left cheekbone. She sucks her bottom lip in for just a second when she punches the tack through the flyer to the corkboard below. Before Darcy can even be tempted by the prospect of storm chasing, she thinks, “Oh, yeah. I could stand to follow her around for awhile.”
“Don’t you have classes?” Jane says.
“Graduation was last week.”
“Oh,” Jane says. “I’m sorry. With everything that’s happened, I completely forgot . . .”
Darcy cuts her off. “Don’t worry about it. I stole your credit card and upgraded my taser as a graduation gift.”
It’s a testament to either the fugue state Jane’s been walking around in lately or a newfound respect for weapons that Jane doesn’t even bat an eyelash. Darcy’s going with respect. “Wait,” Jane says. “Does this mean you’re not my intern anymore?”
Darcy shrugs. “Fury seems to think you could do with an underling. I’ve already filed away your mad scribblings in your lab’s space age filing cabinet and loaded Feminist Ryan Gosling wallpapers on both our shiny, new laptops.”
“Good,” Jane says, and unexpectedly takes Darcy’s hand for a moment, her grip so tight that the bones in Darcy’s fingers grind together. “Good.”
Once Jane is elbows deep in tech that would make Q drool, she starts smiling again, that dreamy little grin that says she’s doing exactly what she’s always wanted to do. Sometimes, lately, Darcy catches that same sort of smile on the face reflected back at her in the mirror.
“What do you know about quantum singularities?” Jane asks one morning after she’s inhaled nearly an entire pot of coffee.
Darcy says, “Fuck all.”
“I figured,” Jane says, and then she’s lost in some incomprehensible computer program, furiously typing with her tongue just peeking from the corner of her mouth. Darcy appreciates that she asked; Jane always asks, even if the chances of Darcy knowing what she’s talking about are less than nil, and she always takes whatever Darcy can contribute seriously. Well, at least since New Mexico anyway.
About noon, Dr. Langford drops off what looks like a cross between a Lady Gillette and a flashlight. “I’m sick of staring at this thing,” he says. “See what you can do with it.”
Jane circles the whatsit like a happy cat, humming Adele under her breath and running her fingers lightly over what look like hieroglyphs carved into the object’s side. She turns back to her computer, and in that instant, the object begins to glow. Frankly, Darcy’s had enough of shit that glows. It’s never good when something starts glowing at S.H.I.E.L.D. People’s iPods get fried, and the handles melt on all the blast doors.
Darcy doesn’t even think to warn Jane. She just barrels over her desk and knocks Jane flat on the linoleum. “What the hell?” Jane says from underneath Darcy.
“Hey,” Darcy says. “The whatsit was glowing. You should totally thank me.” Then she notices that Jane’s lab coat is turning a bright red and that somebody seems to have turned down the lights. Darcy considers cribbing Mr. Universe’s final speech from Serenity to lighten the moment, but she’s pretty sure Jane won’t find that funny at all. To be honest, Darcy doesn’t find it very funny either.
“Oh, god,” Jane is saying, and even though she’s still pinned beneath Darcy, her voice seems to be coming from very far away. “Medical team to Lab 3!”
Darcy puts her head down on Jane’s shoulder. She can barely feel Jane fumbling at her neck for her pulse. “Always wanted you to hold me like this, you know,” Darcy says into Jane’s collar. “Just without all the bleeding and the dying.” Darcy can’t understand what Jane says in response, the low murmur of Jane’s voice gradually overtaken by the liquid drumming of rain until everything goes dark.
Darcy wakes up to Jane arguing with Agent Coulson.
“I’m not leaving her,” Jane says.
“Dr. Foster,” Coulson says, “this is for your own safety. Loki may very well target you because of your relationship with Thor.”
Jane says, “What relationship? I haven’t seen the guy for months. I’m not leaving without Darcy, and that’s final.”
“Dr. Lam doesn’t want to risk moving Ms. Lewis while she is still unconscious.”
Jane puts her hands over her eyes and sighs. She’s wearing scrubs, and she looks like she hasn’t slept in days. Maybe she hasn’t.
“Where are we going?” Darcy says in a voice chock full of dust and gravel.
Jane jumps about a foot in the air and then races across the room to take Darcy’s hand. “We,” Jane says, “are going to an undisclosed S.H.I.E.L.D. location to wait things out until Loki’s in custody.” Jane glares at Coulson like she’s daring him to contradict her.
Clearly Coulson knows when he’s been outgunned. He spreads his hands in a gesture of defeat and starts conferring with the doctor about transferring Darcy and Jane to a helicopter.
“So, that guy again,” Darcy coughs out. “Yay.”
Jane squeezes Darcy’s hand gently. “Don’t worry. S.H.I.E.L.D. can handle any god who gets his very special antler hat bronzed at the Asgard version of IKEA.”
Darcy wants to laugh but just breathing hurts, so she doesn’t. “I love it when you lie to me,” she says instead.
“Hey,” Jane says, brushing Darcy’s hair back from her face. “We’re going to be fine. If you think I’d let you survive throwing yourself on an alien grenade for me just to get taken out by Loki, you better think again. Plus, I’m not ready to break in another intern.” Jane’s eyes get a bit watery, and her nose turns red. “I don’t think I’ll ever be.”
“Damn straight,” Darcy says, falling asleep as Jane runs her fingers through Darcy’s hair.
Darcy wakes up again on a tropical island that smells like flowers and salt and sun-warmed plants. It would be the perfect vacation spot if Dr. Lam let patients with mystical stab wounds drink mojitos. Darcy has no idea how this place is any more secure than the underground bunker where Jane's lab is located, but she's not about to question the change in scenery.
Jane has finally lost the scrubs, but she still looks terrible. She has dark circles under her eyes, and her hands tremble when she unplugs Darcy's IV and helps her shuffle to the bathroom.
“Tell Nurse Ratched she's got 500 ccs of pee to record in here,” Darcy calls out to Jane who makes a strange noise in the other room that could be a laugh. Darcy doesn't think it's a laugh.
“Jane?” Darcy calls. “Are you okay?” Darcy waits a beat and adds, “Please tell me Loki is not suddenly posing as a cabana boy. The only weapon available to me right now is a roll of toilet paper.”
Jane steps into the doorway, her shoulders shaking, her shirt front damp with tears. She takes a shuddery breath and says in a raw voice, “You almost died, Darcy. You almost died. For me.”
“Oh, sweetie,” Darcy thinks. “You don't know the half of it.”
“I had to throw away all my clothes. Even my underwear was soaked with your blood.” Jane wraps her arms around herself and shivers.
“I’m fine,” Darcy says. “Cross my heart.”
Jane says, “But see, here’s the thing.” She pushes Darcy’s IV pole to the side and sits hunched over on the edge of the enormous bathtub. “I’ve spent every second since you almost bled out on top of me wondering what I’d do if you weren’t.”
“I can’t believe we’re having this conversation while I’m on the toilet,” Darcy says.
Jane laughs. It’s a horrible laugh, snotty and wet, and it’s pretty much the most awesome sound Darcy’s heard in a long ass time. “Yeah, okay,” she says and carefully hauls Darcy to her feet. “Point taken.”
Jane settles Darcy into bed. Darcy’s exhausted just from walking across the room and back, but she doesn’t want to go to sleep. Not yet. “Do you remember what you said to me at the lab?” Jane says as she’s propping pillows behind Darcy’s back.
Darcy feels the blush start in her cheeks and radiate down to her chest. Very possibly even her toes turn red at this point. “Um, no,” she says.
Jane rolls her eyes. “Nice try, Lewis.”
Through the open bay window, Darcy sees lightning arc down to the waves in the distance. The wind picks up over the water, and the air smells like ozone and heat and the beginnings of a storm. “Look,” Darcy says. “I’m not trying to get in the way of anything here. I know how you feel about Thor. We can just pretend it never happened. Nothing has to change.” The rain rolls up over the beach, making strange patterns in the perfect white sand until all the dunes are soaked a uniform grey.
Jane takes a deep breath. “Maybe things should change.” Jane gently turns Darcy’s face from the window and rubs her thumb along Darcy’s cheekbone. “Maybe I want things to change.”
Saying this hurts a hell of a lot more than being stabbed, but Darcy can’t let herself take advantage of the adrenaline crash that comes from watching your intern almost die. “You don’t know what you’re saying, Jane. You just went through something really traumatic, and you’re upset. You’re confusing our friendship for something more.”
Jane clenches her jaw and narrows her eyes. “Shut up,” she says. “This is the biggest hospital bed I’ve ever seen. I’m getting in here beside you and putting my arms around you, and you can’t stop me.”
Darcy can hardly argue with that logic. Jane slides in next to her, Darcy puts her head down on Jane’s shoulder, and before long they are breathing in tandem as they both listen to the syncopation of water dripping from the eaves.
By unspoken agreement, they don’t turn on the TV. Darcy doesn’t need a front row seat to the end of the world complete with a crawl across the bottom, and she figures Jane feels the same way. Darcy mostly sleeps while Jane reads some incomprehensible journal that appears to contain long strings of equations with very few words in between them. Every time Darcy wakes up, Jane is holding her hand. Darcy thinks she could get used to that.
At some point in the late evening, Jane wheels Darcy out to the end of the pier. The sky is covered over with clouds, but every so often, the clouds break and the moon glints off the waves for miles. Jane locks the wheels and sits down beside Darcy on a deck chair.
“I’m going to kiss you now,” Jane says.
Darcy doesn’t have time to reply before Jane is threading her fingers through Darcy’s hair and leaning in until their lips touch. Jane tastes sweet, like cherry ChapStick, and Darcy licks into her mouth over and over again until they’re both panting. Darcy bites down on Jane’s bottom lip, and Jane gasps, twisting her fingers more tightly into Darcy’s hair.
“Feel free to boss me around anytime,” Darcy says when they come up for air.
Jane slings an arm around Darcy’s shoulders, and the clouds across the way knit together again, obscuring a glittering handful of stars. The air grows heavy, expectant.
“Looks like rain,” Darcy says.