It's not that Darcy minds, exactly. It's just that after the third time, she's starting to get worried.
'You know you don't actually have to rescue me from angry New York cabbies, right,' she says. She was in the middle of giving said cabbie a piece of her mind (because, let's be honest, it is unethical and just plain evil that going from Penn Station to Avengers Tower should cost her an arm and a leg) when suddenly there was someone booming, 'How dare you manhandle the fair dame, fell villain!' and now the cabbie is sprawled across the hood of his cab, unconscious, people are staring and taking pictures, and Sif is grinning at Darcy like she expects to be patted on the head or something. In conclusion: what.
'And, you do know I have a taser,' Darcy adds.
'Yes,' Sif says, grinning and grinning, 'A true warrior is never seen without her weapon. Yours is most formidable.'
'I did almost kill Thor that one time.' Darcy remembers that fondly.
'He has told many a tale of your bravery!' Sif pats her on the arm, then has to catch her from falling on her ass. 'Has this odious man harmed you, Darcy Lewis? Are you all right?'
'I'm fine. Seriously, stop rescuing me.'
Sif's expression falls. It's like someone turned off the sun behind her eyes, and Darcy never really could picture it when people said someone looked like a kicked puppy, but now she does. And it's killing her soul.
'Do my actions offend you?' Sif asks, sounding like the possibility is physically hurting her. 'I meant no insult.'
Darcy wants to put her head in her hands. 'It's not like that,' she says instead. 'Look, let's get out of the street? I really don't want my picture trending on Twitter, or end up all—' she waves her hands in a vague gesture '— College student kills cab driver, aided by Norse god, news at eleven.'
'Do not worry!' Sif laughs. 'This man is not yet dead. I could finish him, if his trespass has brought you dishonour.'
'Oh, wow, okay, no.' Darcy grabs Sif by the arm and steers her away, throwing venomous glares at anyone aiming their phones at them. 'No honour killings. Actually, make that no killings at all. Let's get coffee, okay? Calm, non-lethal coffee that won't bring anyone dishonour.'
Sif lets herself be dragged away, waving at the phone cameras and beaming at Darcy like weaving through Manhattan crowds is as fun to her as Disneyland. Darcy tries not to imagine what Lady Sif and the Warriors Three would do in Disneyland. Probably get mistaken for Hercules extras on heroin and end up challenging the Scooby gang to a death match.
'Seriously,' says Darcy two weeks later, after Sif deposits her on the other side of the road. The bike messenger she threw into a storefront is climbing out, making pitiful hurt noises. Darcy hopes no one sues them. She turns a full-on glare at Sif. 'Are you stalking me? Is this a thing?'
Sif, because she's Sif and if there is anything Darcy has learned about Viking-themed aliens is that they're experts at selective obliviousness — Sif says, 'I have merely made it my mission to keep you from harm, Darcy Lewis.'
It's like talking to a wall. A wall that manhandles (womanhandles?) you often, and unashamedly, and in very public spaces. Darcy settles on pointing out, 'Getting hit by a bike courier doesn't really count as harm. I mean, compared to alien invasions and stuff.'
'This woman threatened your well-being,' Sif says with a mild frown.
And speaking of public spaces, there's a gathering crowd around them. It's like Sif has some supernatural powers of garnering the attention of mortals, but to be fair, if Darcy had thighs like that she probably wouldn't even bother with warrior-type wardrobe and just walk around naked, bestowing the honour of gazing upon her. Okay, so thinking about Sif's thighs is not a good idea.
She resists the urge to throw her hands in the air and scream. 'We're in New York,' she says, putting enough emphasis on New York it sounds more like the gates of hell. 'Everything threatens your well-being here. That's the whole point of this city.'
'I do not understand,' says Sif. It's accompanied by a blank look and hands crossed across her chest, as if she's ready to challenge this new and alien Earth custom and fight it to the death, or until it cries uncle and starts making sense.
'Look, okay, life is dangerous. I would know, I spent half my freshman year in a state of near blood poisoning. But I can take care of myself, and I mean I do appreciate that you worry about me, but what you're doing is...um. This is a weird look, why are you giving me the weird look?'
Sif has shifted in a very unnoticeable, ninja way and now she's very, very close. They're practically pressed together. Darcy doesn't know if this should be her cue to turn into a pile of goo (those thighs) or back away slowly; dealing with people who are the functional equivalent of Doc Brown channelling 300 is such a nightmare when you're trying to decipher their wildly outlandish ways.
Which is of course why Sif has to give Darcy the sort of heated look that should set her pants on fire and say, 'The evening light reflected in your eyes is alike the sunshine upon shrines and temples of Iðavöllr at daybreak.'
There is no way Darcy is taking any coherent meaning out of that, so instead she points a finger at Darcy's chest and demands, 'Are you even listening to me?'
'Of course,' Sif says. 'You appreciate my worry, for life is dangerous and the new city of York threatens its citizens. Would it please you to accompany me to the temple of you goddess Liberty?'
There's a beat where Darcy replays all these words until they start conforming to Earth logic, and even then all she's left with is, 'What.'
'I have heard the view is unparalleled,' says Sif.
'You want to take me to see the Statue of Liberty?' asks Darcy, clutching at straws. A flash goes off in her face; some little kid just took a picture. She's gonna have to ask agent Hill to hack the Internet later.
'If you would allow me the privilege,' says Sif.
'Is this a date?' Darcy asks, suspicious.
'I am not familiar with the word,' Sif says blandly. It's the tone of voice Darcy has come to associate with bold-faced lies.
Still, she lets herself be taken to the Statue of Liberty. It's pretty okay, at least until Sif decides that what the world needs is footage of her trying to jump off the Statue's raised hand. The cops are very understanding when Sif delivers a passionate speech about Darcy doesn't even know what, though they still want to keep her in case she's one of those people who snap and kill everybody in sight (to be fair, with Sif it is pretty hard to tell). Darcy has to flash them her SHIELD clearance badge, and then everybody wants an autograph from Thor's BFF.
'So she likes you,' Jane says, not even looking up from the equations she's scribbling on a notepad. 'Big deal.'
'It is! It is totally a big deal. You're not the only one with Norse deity angst, okay. Doesn't it bother you, that you're not even the same species?'
'I try not to think on it too hard.' Jane shrugs. 'We're all humanoid.'
'The Thing is humanoid!' Darcy says, feeling like she's losing her mind. If Sif drives her to alcoholism, they're going to have to have words. 'Reed Richards is humanoid, and I wouldn't let him anywhere near my — uh.'
That makes Jane look up, finally. She levels Darcy with a look that means she's paying only about half of her attention to her stupid moon charts or whatever. 'Okay,' she says, 'hold on. When you says Sif likes you, you mean —?'
'That she likes me,' says Darcy, sounding pleading even to her own ears. 'Junior-high-awkward-Valentine-cards like. The like where she rescues me from aliens, and now I remember she's an alien, and shouldn't that be weirder, and the like where she offers to kill people who slighted me and brings me freshly killed cows.'
'It's a traditional Asgardian gift, apparently.' Darcy rubs the bridge of her nose, sighing. 'I guess I'm just really torn between freaking out and wanting to climb her like a tree,' she admits. 'I mean, did you see her thighs?'
'Mhm,' Jane says, face blank.
'You're laughing at me,' Darcy accuses, pointing a finger. 'On the inside. I know that face. You suck.'
'That's nice. Bring me the third notebook on the left from the bottom shelf, I need to compare the heat signature output.'
The Theatre District looks nice from the top of a skyscraper, Darcy decides. Not quite anthill-like, but far away enough that she can't smell the city. Sif is sitting next to her, legs swinging off the ledge of the rooftop. Darcy, because she values her squishy bits, is seated a good few feet from the edge. Between them Sif laid one of her swords, and Darcy can just feel it there, like the world's least conspicuous chaperone ever.
Darcy seriously hopes Sif isn't going for a Tristan and Isolde feel here. She remembers the parts where there was pining and wasting away, and possibly sad, lonely death. That should not be the dating blueprint here.
If it's a date, and isn't it just sad that Darcy doesn't even know? God.
'You know,' she says, eyes flicking to the sword then back to the people milling in the streets below, 'for a super advanced civilisation you guys sure have a medievalist streak. You have wormholes and killer robots and probably laser eyes and you still have a monarchy. Doesn't it feel antiquated at all?'
'It is the order of things,' says Sif. She looks completely baffled, eyebrows doing an interpretive dance. 'It is not questioned. Would you challenge the monarch of your realm?'
Darcy takes a deep breath and puts on her Political Science is My Calling, Son voice. She normally only uses it when Erik makes fun of social sciences and how maybe they should just be called arts, because he thinks he's so funny, har har har.
'See, here's the thing,' she says. Then she stops, because it suddenly becomes apparent that she has to explain this to somebody who, upon being introduced to Wikipedia, accused the laptop of witchcraft and stabbed it with a sword. 'Our realm doesn't have a monarch. We have lots and lots of...smaller...baby realms.' Oh, god, that's terrible. Maybe she should just make Sif watch Team America: World Police and be done with it — no, who knows what Sif would do. Assassinate the President, probably. So Darcy doesn't facepalm and goes on, 'and each small realm can basically choose how they're gonna be governed. More or less. Probably less. But you get the idea.'
Sif considers this information for a long moment, nodding once in a while. Then: 'Does that not lead to wars?'
Darcy deflates. 'Well, it does, obviously. People will always find ways to be stupid, and since most of world leaders are rich white guys, that's like...critical mass of stupidity or something, and why are you laughing?'
'I admire your spirit, Darcy Lewis,' says Sif, 'and your passion.'
And god, what do you even say to that? When a Norse-themed alien likes your passion? And says it like it's nothing, or maybe it isn't nothing. It doesn't feel like it should be nothing. Maybe Sif is trying to tell her something. Darcy yearns for a time when she used to be smooth. 'That's why I'm doing polisci,' she says awkwardly.
Sif doesn't seem to mind, though. She looks on at the city below them, the Broadway theatres and all the hipster wannabes. 'My realm is ruled by men's power.' She turns to Darcy with a raised eyebrow. 'For a woman to pursue the life of a warrior is...'
'Not the order of things?'
'Yes.' She smiles, bright and happy and sharper than the glint of sunlight on her swords. It does unspeakable things to Darcy's brain, half-pleasant and half-nausea-inducing. 'And yet, here I am.'
Words, Darcy thinks. Words should be happening. 'Here you are,' she says, and immediately considers plunging from the rooftop to her death, because Jesus, there's not-smooth, and then there's coherence-catastrophic-failure. It's like her entire brain is keyboard-smashing. Like the Hulk, but with more awkward.
Sif doesn't seem to notice, which is probably good, because then she'd try to save Darcy from her wholly deserved seppuku from embarrassment and it would be even more embarrassing.
'My kinsmen could learn much from Midgard,' says Sif. She rests her elbows on her knees, puts her chin in her hands, and frowns at something only she can see. 'We think ourselves above you, for the lives of mortal men pass quickly by; yet we who call ourselves gods stagnate and take pride in bloodshed. We who live forever lose all respect for life.'
'That's a weird thing for a warrior to say,' Darcy says, squinting.
She's pretty sure Sif smirks, but it might be a trick of the light, except then Sif says, 'I have depths,' and it's not a question of whether she's smirking, but just how much she's smirking on the inside.
It's official: Darcy hates alien invasions. What is even the point of invading Earth? It's not like the Kree do it to exploit some natural resource their enormous freaking empire is short on, or because they want to use the human race in their intergalactic sweatshops. No, it's because they think they're tough guys, but they also have tiny egos. If a few years ago someone told Darcy aliens were the functional equivalent of that annoying kid in junior high who beat up smaller kids for lunch money even though he had his own stupid lunch, Darcy would laugh in their face.
Which is how she ends up geared up in a SHIELD uniform and holding the East Harlem perimeter with another twenty or so agents. Right now, the Avengers are somewhere in outer space taking the fight to the Kree; Darcy tries very hard not to think in Deathstar metaphors. The problem is that even with Iron Man's less assholish buddy, that giant ugly Hulk-ripoff (Darcy doesn't want to think how they made him not go crazy and kill everybody indiscriminately, because 'mind-control' is somewhere her head just refuses to go), Cap's mysterious roboclawed friend and Jane trying to beat the Kree's supercomputer, Jeff Goldblum-style — well, the thing is that there still have to be people down here, to make sure the Avengers don't come back to a desert wasteland.
So when agent Woo came to ask for Darcy's help, like he asked all reserve and honorary members of SHIELD, she didn't even think about it.
But she really hates alien invasions.
'Agent Lewis!' someone shouts behind her.
'I'm a civilian consultant,' Darcy says for the eightieth time today, turning just in time to see Sharon Carter throwing her a pimped out alien rifle. Darcy catches it without fumbling too much. The mechanism is not rocket science; she points it at an approaching Kree personnel carrier and presses the biggest, most obvious button. The carrier explodes. 'Huh,' she says.
'They're vulnerable to their own technology,' agent Carter explains with a satisfied smirk.
'That's the most ridiculous weakness I've heard of in my life,' Darcy informs her, and fires again.
'I hope you're not opposed to looting,' says Carter, ignoring her. 'We're years from emulating this tech, so all we've got is what we steal.'
Which is when a truckload of Kree weapons fall from the sky.
'Fear no longer, brave comrades,' Sif announces. She stands on top of a tank with a spear in one hand, the other on her hip, and pays no attention to the Marine screaming at her to get the hell out of the tank's line of fire.
'What are you doing here?' Darcy wants to know, because it seems unlikely that Sif would opt for the less glamorous part of the fight, and to be honest, 'shooting aliens from behind cars' doesn't have quite the same zing as 'Battle of Vienna meets Midway in space'.
'I have come to aid you, Darcy Lewis, and champions of Midgard,' says Sif. It's anyone's guess how she manages to be heard across half of Harlem, but she does. Never was Darcy more grateful for the Asgardians' genetic lack of an indoor voice. 'The Warriors Three alike have chosen to give their talents to the Battle of the Isle of Many Hills.'
'It's Manhattan,' says Darcy. 'It's okay to say Manhattan.'
'Lady Sif,' agent Carter says, 'we're lucky to have you. Thanks for coming.'
'No thanks shall be necessary!' Sif proclaims, posing dramatically and aiming her spear at the approaching wave of Kree infantry. 'A true warrior chooses her battles wisely. Come, wicked villains! Midgard shall not bow to your aggression!'
'And if we lose you'll just monologue at them until they beg for mercy,' Darcy mutters, but does anyone ever listen to her? No.
Hours later, and they're fighting back-to-back, the perimeter hanging by a thread. Darcy's SHIELD uniform is hot and there's blood on it, her hair feels damp with sweat and she refuses to look at all the bodies everywhere, because then she might remember that she's been a pacifist all her life. At least the Kree weapons have some kind of weird instant death bullets, and no one screams in agony or anything like that.
Like this, in her element, Sif is the most beautiful person Darcy has ever seen. She's like a god etched in marble or something, but so very much alive — and god or no, she needs Darcy to watch her back, which Darcy doesn't want to feel good about but does anyway. War isn't glorious, but freaking hell, Sif is. Her spear is nothing more than a glint of silver in Darcy's peripheral vision, a weapon more suited to myth and fable, and still somehow surprisingly useful in a firefight. Asgardians are all like this, walking anachronisms but when push comes to shove they're like a good blaster at your side, and Darcy wants to know where has life gone so very, very wrong that she can make Star Wars references in her head to describe it.
When it's over, she doesn't even realise it at first. The Kree aren't polite enough to have an army-wide kill switch (and oh, Darcy will stop pointing and laughing at the Chitauri in approximately never), so when there's fire in the sky and agent Carter shouts, 'The mothership is down!' for an insane second Darcy actually thinks she means the helicarrier and that they're all going to die, but then she goes from A to B and gets something a little more likely than X.
It takes them a lot longer to deal with the aliens on the ground, but when it's done, Sif poses dramatically against a burning car and proclaims, 'My sisters and brothers in arms! Once again, united we stand in oof.'
That would be Darcy, hauling herself at Sif, because everybody was so busy looking at Sif's thighs that Darcy was the only one to notice the not-quite-dead Kree soldier aiming at Sif's stupid goddamn head. Before they hit the ground Darcy manages to lift her alien rifle and fire, and the soldier goes down. She's lucky enough that Sif and her armour catch most of the impact, because fighting alien invaders and surviving only to brain herself on a curb is pretty low on Darcy's bucket list.
'What,' says Sif, for once in her life probably too confused to remember her Shakespeare-speak.
Darcy, kind of...sprawled, okay, a little...throws Sif the filthiest glare she can manage without actually setting something on fire with her mind. 'I just saved your freaking life,' she says. 'And I will — uh, I will get off your lap as soon as I can be reasonably sure you won't paint a target on your head and get shot.'
'It's all clear,' comes agent Carter's patiently amused voice, at which point it occurs to Darcy that they're in full view of Harlem's entire line of defence.
'Well then,' she says, and stands up with great dignity. She dusts off her uniform. 'If you're certain.'
Next to her, Sif starts to her feet very slowly, eyes never straying far from Darcy. She looks a little shaken. Darcy would tell her to buck up, but has a feeling Sif's shell-shocked expression has little to do with the near-death experience per se, as Darcy is quite sure there doesn't exist a thing in the known universe that could ever frighten Lady Sif (with the sole exception of Wikipedia).
'You saved my life.' Sif almost sounds like it's a question, like she's trying the words on for size.
'That's just what I said.' Darcy squints at her. 'You don't have a concussion, do you? Do you guys even get concussions?'
'You protected me with your own body,' Sif pushes. Darcy makes a mental note to get her checked out in the nearest ER. 'You laid down your life to save mine.'
'When you say it like that it sounds like I jumped on a grenade,' Darcy says, rolling her eyes, and then has to...stop. And breathe for a second. Because that's basically what she did. 'Oh my god,' she says, 'I'm turning into Bruce Willis.'
'You saved my life,' Sif says again, but now she's grinning so wide her head has got to be about to fall off. 'Then my courtship has been successful? You will engage in the carnality of flesh with me?'
'Engage in what,' says Darcy, her brain coming to a sudden screeching halt.
She doesn't get an answer. What she does get, instead, is swept off her feet and bent over and kissed full on the mouth. At the edges of her consciousness — the parts of it that aren't flatlining, because oh my god — she hears applause and there are flashes, which means this will be all over the Internet tomorrow, and she's pretty sure she and Sif are staging a wildly lesbian reenactment of V-J Day in Times Square. She's barely aware of all that, though. It's all she can do not to faint; Sif kisses the same way she fights, the same way she laughs, hard and sharp and so goddamn beautiful Darcy would be crying if she weren't so busy hooking one of her legs over Sif's hips and wrapping her arms around her neck.
They are so going to engage in the carnality of flesh later.
And Sif might be an alien god, but Darcy is still human, so after a moment that goes on forever where she only thinks about how amazing this feels she has to break away and breathe. Sif lets her go; her cheeks are red, and her eyes are very bright. She's still grinning.
'That was,' says Darcy, still fighting for air, 'epic.'
Sif laughs, like that's exactly what she was going for, which — yeah, highly probable. 'We are such stuff as legends are made on,' she says.
Darcy starts grinning back. 'Hell yes, we are.' She looks around — and somehow the gaping or smiling or laughing SHIELD agents and soldiers make her giddy, make her reckless — but her eyes can only stray back to Sif. 'And this? Is the beginning of something beautiful.'