Darcy scuffed along in the autumn leaves. She was pretty sure she was going make mulled wine when she got in. Sniffing the chill air and snuggling into her scarf, she became even more sure. If there was ever an evening for Oreos, mulled wine and reruns of The Muppet Show tonight was it.
A car pulled up beside her, and a man with dark hair and a dark suit stepped out.
“Huh?” Darcy pulled one of her earbuds out of her ear.
“We need you to come with us.”
“No way. Who the hell are you?”
The man pulled out a black card holder. “Agent Sitwell, from SHIELD.”
“You guys? No way!” Darcy backed away. “You never gave me back my iPod!”
“We believe you have been seen fraternising with this man.” Agent Sitwell pulled out a copy of a photo. It was Loki, complete with crazy helmet and odd leather BDSM outfit. “Ms Lewis, we need to talk.”
“Like hell! You can’t take me off the street like this!” Darcy started rummaging for her taser. “Don’t you dare come near me, you goddamn spook!”
Agent Sitwell hesitated, but when it became evident that her stupid bag had chosen that moment to grow an extra dimension which apparently ate tasers and pepper spray, he stepped forward and took her arm.
“We’re going to have to take you in. Sorry.”She struggled, stamping on Agent Sitwell’s foot and trying to kick him in an area she was pretty sure even a SHIELD agent could feel. Another agent came up behind her and there was a sting in her neck. Then it all went dark.
Darcy woke up with a mouth that felt like the inside of her younger brother’s gym socks, and a craving for gravy and potato. That meant a hangover, which was quite reasonable and easy to deal with. She opened her eyes, and suddenly her life got a lot more complicated. She hated when that happened.
“Where am I?” she asked, grumpily, sitting up on the thin mattress and staring round the grey room.
“From zero to anger in less than five seconds. Ms Lewis, I am impressed.”
Darcy sat up, trying to shake off whatever it is they’d slipped her and rubbing her eyes. There was a camera blinking on one wall, which meant that someone had been filming her drooling into a pillow. Fantastic.
“Who are you?” Darcy suddenly realised she was no longer wearing her jeans and t-shirt, but a grey, anonymous tracksuit. “And who the hell undressed me? Where’s my bag? You can’t do this! I know my rights—”
“Well, if you do, you’ll know I can do whatever the hell I like.” The man was tall, wearing a black trenchcoat and an eye patch. “And don’t worry, I didn’t undress you. We had a female agent do that. You’re at SHIELD headquarters, and I… I am your best friend right now, Ms Lewis.” He was sat at a folding table with two of those chairs that stack well but send shooting pains up your spine. “Please, why don’t you come and sit down? I thought you might be hungry.” He indicated one of the plates of food in front of him.
“I’m not eating anything you give me. You drugged me!” Darcy folded her arms and gave her new best friend slitty eyes. “I have an assignment due tomorrow, I need to go to the library!”
“If you cooperate, we can take you home. You can even do your assignment. And your roommate… Boo, is it? A delightful girl, or so I’m told. We told her a family emergency had called you away. She was most concerned.” His voice was mild, pleasant. Darcy was of the opinion that even tigers purred.
“You stay away from Boo.” Darcy realised she’d just made the lamest threat since the Easter Bunny threatened the Tooth Fairy with a bar of Hershey’s, which just made her even angrier. “What right do you have to take me out of my home? My college?”
“Ms Lewis, we think that you might have some valuable information about a person of interest to us. You definitely know him; you met him in New Mexico while working for Doctor Jane Foster.” He had opened a manila file in front of him. Darcy was a college student, and therefore knew manila files were annoyingly omnipotent. “An interesting choice of internship for a political science major.”
“I was the only applicant. And I don’t do political science any more. I switched to history.” Darcy said, sulkily.
“Won’t you please come and sit? The food here isn’t all that bad. The taxpayers won’t see us starve. Or they wouldn’t if they knew, I’m sure.”
When Darcy stubbornly didn’t move from her bunk, the man picked up his burger, and took a bite. “This is one tasty burger. And I see they’ve left you Sprite. Are you sure I can’t tempt you?” His voice was too mild, that was the problem. He had a voice that was clearly used to barking orders, being obeyed. In some ways, it would be better if he yelled ‘Get your fat ass over here and eat this motherfuckin’ burger’. At least then everyone would know where they stood. This pleasant, avuncular persona rang about as true as a three dollar bill. Darcy decided to stay where she was.
“Suit yourself. This insurgent calls himself Loki Laufeyson, and is extremely dangerous. His last act of terrorism, Ms Lewis, destroyed quite a bit of midtown Manhattan. Now we learn he’s come out of hiding, apparently to take you on a date?”
Darcy blushed. “It wasn’t really a date. My roommate made me go. He tried to kill me!”
The man with the eye-patch didn’t say anything, his hands folded on the table. He hadn’t touched his burger again, and that was weird, because those burgers looked really, really good.
“Why would I want to go on a date with him?” This didn’t seem to be enough. “Anyway, he’s too skinny and he needs to wash his hair.”
The man’s mouth twitched; and he closed the folder. Darcy wondered if he would leave her burger behind when he left.
“So you are not romantically or otherwise linked with this person?”
“No! Jeez. What kind of idiot do you think I am? He’s psycho. He’s not boyfriend material. Can I go home now please?”
“But you gave him your phone number.”
“So he would go away and stop standing on my doorstep. Jeez, when was the last time you asked a girl out?” Darcy slumped against the wall with her arms crossed.
“Clearly things have changed since my time.” He closed the folder, not looking at her. “Thank you very much for your help Ms. Lewis.”
“So you’re going to take me home now, right?” She didn’t even want a doggy bag for the burger. She was going to go home and fall face down into a plate of potato and gravy or her bed. Possibly both. It didn’t even matter at this point.
The man in the trench-coat picked up his folder and stood to leave.
“Hey. HEY! You said you were my best friend. I told you everything, now you have to let me go!”
Darcy grabbed his arm. If he didn’t tell her what was happening she was going to-- He looked at where her arm clasped the expensive leather of his coat and then up at her. Darcy dropped her arm and wondered where the nice burger man had gone.
“Ms Lewis, I would think very hard about what you do next. Remember, I am your best friend in here.”
Darcy stopped, and narrowed her eyes again. “This is against the Geneva convention! I’m going to write to my Congressman, the President! OPRAH!”
But there was no answer except for the sound of a door closing further up the corridor.
“You can’t keep me here, it’s not right! I didn’t vote for this! I’m not a terrorist! I am an American citizen! I have rights you—”
“Pipe down in there!” A guard tapped the bars on the little window of her door. “Some people are trying to sleep.”
Darcy subsided, and at the same time, so did her anger. Someone was making a weird hitching sobbing noise, and she realised it was her, which only made matters worse really, especially since she couldn’t seem to stop. She curled up on the bunk she had woken up on, and cried herself to sleep.
The next day she was woken by a female guard with a gun on her hip and a tray of food in her hands.
“Why are you keeping me here? I told you everything I know. “ Darcy felt a tear trickle down her cheek and felt like an idiot, especially since there were pancakes and no one should cry when there were pancakes. “I just want to go home. I… I need a shower. Please.” The female guard didn’t say anything, put the tray down and left.
The food cheered her up a lot more than she would have admitted, especially since the bacon was well done and there was juice. After, the silent female guard came back and she was escorted to a grey shower block. They shoved a towel and a little bag of toiletries at her. Darcy felt like she was strictest ever health spa, the sort of place that would make you do tai chi at gun point whilst a drill sergeant bellowed about rest and relaxation. The female guard was staring at her expectantly.
“Er, a little privacy, please? You’ve got a gun, I’ve got soap. Pretty sure I’m not going anywhere.” Darcy folded her arms, and stared at the guard, who stared back. “Look, if I tell your boss you wouldn’t let me shower, how would he take it?” The guard stared at her a bit longer and then impassively turned around to face the tiles. Darcy figured that was the best she was going to get, and sighed. This was worse than tenth grade gym. The shower was hot though, and the soap wasn’t the carbolic scrub she’d been expecting. There were even clean clothes when she got out from under the water.
“How long are you going to keep me here?” she asked as she was lead back to her cell. “I swear, you can tell your boss I’ve told you everything I know.”
But the door shut behind her with no sign that she had even been heard.
Darcy was sleeping, and Boo had banged the door coming in.
“Goddamn it, Boo. Can you save it?” she grumbled, as Boo started to drag the furniture around. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” She prized her face from the pillow and someone grabbed her arm.
“Come with me if you wish to live.” Whoever had just grabbed her was wearing a ski-mask. And apparently took rescue lessons from the Terminator.
“Hey!” A guard opened the door and pulled his gun. “Stop!”
“Oh, honestly.” Ski-mask pointed at the guard, who was blown off his feet. “Come along, Miss Lewis!” He pulled her off the bed and out of the hole he had just made in the wall.
“Hey, my shoes—” Ski-Mask snapped his fingers. Darcy looked behind and could see her shoes flying along behind them like shoes usually don’t.
“Hey. Hey! Where are we going?”
“Just run!” Ski-Mask yelled, and suddenly they were flying as well, her toes barely skimming the ground as wasps (and they weren’t wasps, holy crap were those bullets?) flew around them. Darcy opened her mouth to scream but her voice was snatched away as they plunged over the edge and fell into the sky…
Darcy kept her eyes closed and was very surprised to realise she wasn’t dead. She was pretty sure she wasn’t dead because she hurt too much. She opened one eye. Would heaven be a forest? She opened the other eye, and saw blue sky. In theory, if she was in heaven, she’d in the blue sky, right?
“Am I dead?”
“No, Miss Lewis. You are appealingly alive.”
Darcy didn’t sit up for a moment. She looked up at the trees.
“Are you sure? I kind of feel dead.”
“No, I admit, that’s my fault. I did not realise the strain our escape would put upon you. Please forgive me.”
Darcy suddenly realised she recognised that voice and groaned, rolling on her side.
“What? What is it? Do you have a pain anywhere?”
“No… Just in my ass.” Darcy muttered, finally sitting up. Sure enough, Loki was looking at her curiously, and was that concern? Probably not. “Where are we?”
“In a wood.” Loki stood up, and started fiddling with a pile of twigs.
“I know that. But where is the wood?” Weren’t gods supposed to be omnipotent?
“On Mid—Earth.” He was examining a match. He struck it experimentally against the sandpaper packet, and it flared and went out.
“Middle Earth? What the hell—”
“No, we’re on Earth. Somewhere… North, I would guess. But trailcraft was never really my area of expertise.” Loki frowned at the match, and scratched at the end of it with a thumb-nail in a way that suggested he disapproved strongly.
“So you’re telling me I’m lost, in the woods, with a maniac.”
“Oh, no. I’ve found a stream. We just have to follow it and eventually we will find people—curse these things!” A match snapped in half.
“What are you trying to do?”
“Light this damned fire.”
“Couldn’t you just…” Darcy waggled her fingers to indicate he could do whatever it was he did.
“I could, but then I would bring SHIELD and all their operatives down on us. Which I don’t think either of us would want,” Loki replied with asperity.
“Oh, no, bring it on. I would much rather be with that bunch of—of iPod stealers than you,” Darcy watched him try with another match. It was almost funny, considering.
“If they found us now they would most certainly try to take me if not kill me. You they would merely kill, I would think.” Loki examined the end of a match like he could will it to give up its secrets by just glaring at it, apparently unconcerned at declaring Darcy’s death by bullets.
“No they wouldn’t.” Darcy suddenly felt a bit dizzy. They couldn’t just kill her. That was illegal… Wasn’t it? Loki was watching her closely.
“Do you truly believe that? After seeing what else they’re capable of?”
“Yes…” But even Darcy could hear she wasn’t sure. She sighed and grabbed the waterproof matches off him. It took her four matches and some swearing, with Loki watching her avidly, but soon the fire was properly lit. Then she sat back again and wrapped her arms round her knees. Loki was actually wearing a windbreaker. Weird. He caught her eye, and she looked away. Great, an awkward silence. And it had been an awful long time since the pancakes. Darcy thought wistfully about campfire food. S’mores, hot-dogs, beer, jacket potatoes... Abruptly, Loki started rummaging around in a backpack, jerking Darcy out of her reverie. Had she actually moaned or had she managed to internalise it?
“I brought food.” Perhaps not.
“Well, I thought you would want to eat food, and my research shows that humans now enjoy a degree of separation from their meat, so I thought you might prefer this sort of thing to squirrels… And things…” He stared at the packet in his hand. “Here.”
Darcy flinched. “I’m not taking anything from you. You could do anything to it.”
Loki rolled his eyes. “Miss Lewis, I have just rescued you from a flying fortress, at not inconsiderable peril to myself. Right now, due to this, there is an army, not to mention my… Brother, the Man of Iron, and the Hulk all coming after me. They will most likely kill me if they find me. And after all that, after causing a small earthquake in Norway in order to land without smashing your lovely but ultimately frail form, you are worried that I might poison you? Miss Lewis, please don’t think I am stupid.”
Darcy snatched the packet and stopped glaring at Loki just long enough to glare at the packet in the failing sunlight.
“Do you have water and a saucepan?”
Loki dived into his bag and rummaged around. “I have water but no saucepan.”
“Then this is no good.” Darcy tossed the packet down.
“You need water. It’s ramen. Who told you to buy this stuff?”
“I just asked the wench in the shop what would keep.” Loki looked injured.
“Well, it does,” Darcy conceded, “but the only way you can eat it is if you have hot water and a pot or bowl. So that’s off the menu. What else do you recommend?”
“I have this as well.” Loki jabbed the packet towards her. She considered poking him in the eye.
“Jerky?” Darcy really couldn’t find a fault with that, so she grumpily tore the packet open and grabbed a couple of strips before tossing it back to him. He caught it, still looking hurt. “Did you bring anything to drink?”
“Yes.” He rolled a can of drink over. “And I brought this too.” He held up a bar of chocolate. “She said it was good for keeping the spirits up.”
“Tequila would have been better.” Darcy muttered, and a sullen silence descended over the camp.
Loki broke it. “I will take first watch, Miss Lewis.”
“Call me Darcy. I think we’re beyond Miss Lewis.” Darcy looked around the clearing. “Did you bring sleeping bags? A tent?”
“Oh, yes.” Loki scrabbled about in the rucksack and pulled out two sleeping bags and what must have been a tent. It looked mad, impossible that the rucksack, which was not big, would carry things like that and not split. He also pulled out an electric lantern.
“How big is that bag?” Darcy blinked, not sure her eyes weren’t playing tricks in the dark.
“Big enough.” Loki looked at the tent critically. “How do you suppose this works?”
“You should be really glad I went on summer camp.” Darcy grumbled. “This is the worst kidnapping ever. At least those SHIELD goons gave me a proper bed.”
Loki didn’t reply. Darcy started to pull out bits and pieces of tent. If he wanted to be an uncommunicative asshole, fine. She would just put up the best tent ever and then paint ‘No boys allowed’ on the side. And then s’mores would just happen. Because she deserved them.
“This is a tent?” Loki looked at the tent poles and nylon, but didn’t make any move to help.
“Well, it’s definitely not a house,” Darcy grunted as she spread out the inner tent. “Are you going to help? Or sit there and make smart-ass comments?”
“What do you need me to do?” He picked up the bag of tent stakes and looked inside.
“Help me feed this stick through this loop. Is there another tent after this?”
Loki looked puzzled. “No, why?”
Darcy stopped in the middle of telescoping a pole and considered very seriously sticking it up his... Well, anything she could get to.
“Tell me you brought another tent.”
“Why would I?”
“I’m not sharing a tent with you!” Darcy said, shrilly. Loki took a step back, looking like she might bite. And maybe she would. There hadn’t been a lot of jerky, after all.
“I need my own tent, and my own space. NOW.” Darcy dropped the the tent pole.
“Well, you don’t get one. I brought one tent. It has enough space for two people. Either that, or you can sleep on the floor under the stars. I gather that is something you mortals like to do,” Loki snapped, dropping his own part of the tent and stalking to the edge of the clearing. Darcy growled and went back to her pole.
Finally she had the tent up. She stretched out her back and watched Loki pacing around the edge of the clearing.
“What are you doing?”
“I thought you said you weren’t allowed to do magic?” Darcy looked at him curiously.
“No, they sense motion.” Loki held up a small black box with a flashing red light.
“Oh.” Darcy grabbed one of the sleeping bags. “Well, I’m going to sleep.”
Loki looked up. “In the tent?”
“Yes. I put it up, after all.” Darcy tossed the sleeping bag in and followed it. “Stay out of here or I’ll tear your dick off and feed it to you.”
“Why would I get in with you? If your bed tricks are anything like your charming demeanour the rest of the time, I would certainly be lucky to get out of there with my life, let alone any other part of me,” he snapped back.
“Go to hell, greaseball.”
It felt like about five minutes after she had snuggled down inside her sleeping bag when she was shaken awake. (Darcy appreciated little things like sleeping bags, and even with the temporarily unhorned psycho out there, she felt she deserved a bit of snuggling.) She sat up and almost knocked foreheads with Loki.
“You? Get the hell out of here! I’m sleeping.” She shoved him backwards.
“Ow.” He landed on his backside and glared at her. “I merely wished to inform you that it is now morning, and we have to start moving again.”
“Moving? Moving where?” Darcy scrubbed her hair, grimacing. She’d give anything for a shower.
“We have to keep on the move, or we’ll be found. Which would be unpleasant for both of us.” Loki stood up in a fluid motion and stalked away.
“They’re going to find us pretty quick anyway, though.” Darcy stretched and then scrambled out of the sleeping bag after him. “They’ve got infrared technology and heat-seeking things and I’ll bet Tony Stark has some toys.”
“You would not be so sure if you had seen what I did to their computing network.” Loki smiled, grimly. “Would you care for some breakfast?” He went back to his backpack. “Here.”
“Pop Tarts?” Darcy almost started to laugh. “Did they tell you they kept?”
“I must admit, I was taken by the packaging.” Loki didn’t look at her. “And it said it was part of a balanced and nutritious breakfast.”
Darcy did start to laugh.
“You liked the pretty colors? You must be the only super-psycho ever taken in by packaging.”
“You don’t have to eat them.” Loki stomped over and snatched them off her.
“Hey. You’re not allowed to kidnap me then starve me.” Darcy snatched them back and glared at him. He glared back. Darcy took out a foil packet and tossed the rest to him, hard. They didn’t hit him in the face, so Darcy just imagined what it would look like if they had done.
“Anything to drink?”
“Yes.” Loki rolled a can over to her, and then pulled out a shovel like he was Mary Freaking Poppins. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious indeed. She got a sudden mental image of Loki in Mary Poppins' pretty floral bonnet.
“Are you alright?” Loki looked from where he was carefully shovelling earth over the remains of last night’s campfire. He had a smudge of ash across his nose and Darcy, already halfway there, choked out, “Step together!” Before losing her shit entirely. She felt she deserved to lose her shit, just a little. When she finally looked up, Loki was staring at her, holding the cans up defensively, like he thought she might suddenly attack him.
“Don’t bury the cans and packaging. They don’t rot.” Darcy wiped her eyes and cleared her throat.
“What do you mean they don’t rot?” He was still giving her a quizzical what-the-hell-are-you-on look.
“Well, they don’t rot. They just stay in the earth for thousands of years.” Darcy shrugged.
“Really? I didn’t think that Pop Tarts would have that much longevity.” Loki paused, with the cans in his hands.
“They don’t, I don’t think. Just the wrappers.”
“So what do you do with them?”
“I dunno. Recycle? Just put them in your bag. Who knows, if we’re in a National Park, we might find a recycling bin.”
Darcy walked along the stream in silence for a bit, making sure she knew which way she was going. Then, she leapt across it, scrambling up the bank on the other side.
“Go to hell, psycho!” she yelled, cheerily, and started running and stumbling away. Loki yelled, but she ignored it. He said he couldn’t do magic, right? And even if SHIELD caught up with them, maybe she could reason with the—Something clamped around her leg and she fell to the floor with a yelp. Spitting leaves, she tried to get up to keep going. Big mistake. Sharp pain stabbed up her ankle, and she cried out, a miserable, animal sound that she hated immediately. She tried to scrabble upright again, and this time something ground in her ankle. Hot tears scalded into her hair as she lay on the floor and wished the pain would just stop.
“Miss Lewis!” Someone kneeling beside her. “What—” She tried to open her eyes and find out who was there, but they were doing something to her ankle that caused sudden and unreasonable pain. She wished to complain about this, but all that came out was a garbled scream. Someone was muttering angrily in a foreign language, and she clocked out again.
When she sort of came to, she was lying in a tent. Her ankle throbbed gently, but it was tightly bound. She tried to shift upright again, but her arms were being sissy about it.
“Ah, you’re awake, Miss—Darcy.” Loki poked his head through the tent flap
“Oh, it would be you.” Darcy sighed and flopped back.
“Here, I brought you these. The packet said it was good for pain.” They were Tylenol. Darcy swallowed them with water that Loki handed to her.
“Thanks,” she muttered. “So what now?”
“Well, we can’t go anywhere with your ankle like that. You shouldn’t have moved after the trap got you, I think it made matters worse…” Loki scrubbed his eyes, he looked paler than usual.
“Trap?” Darcy wished her brain would catch up with the rest of the world. It seemed to be still stumbling out the door with both legs in one trouser.
“Yes. That you got caught in,” Loki said, patiently.
“Oh.” Darcy lay back down. She really wanted to sleep. So she did.
When she woke up again, it was morning, and she had to pee. Apparently all that soda just had to come out somewhere. How rude.
“Oh no…” she mumbled, and wished she did more push-ups. Surely moving would be easier if she did more push-ups.
“Good morning Darcy. I brought you more of the Til-en-ol.”
“Tylenol.” Darcy took the pills.
“Tylenol.” Loki repeated obediently. “I have food, also…” He handed her a silver foil packet of Pop Tarts.
“That’s great but…” Darcy shifted uncomfortably. “Can you help me up?”
“What?” Loki looked blank. “You shouldn’t move, I splinted your ankle as best I could, but you still shouldn’t move it, it’ll hurt…”
“No, I have to get up now.” Darcy started to shift, painfully. “I have to go.”
“Go? Go where? Into another trap?” Loki automatically put out a hand to stop her from falling. She would have thanked him if he hadn’t been giving her a you’re-a-twit look.
“No. To the… bathroom.” Darcy blushed, to her annoyance. “Just help me out of here, will you?”
Of course, it couldn’t be as simple as that, could it? A hole had to be dug behind some bushes and then Loki put his arm round her so she could hop to it.
“If you peek I swear I will—”
“Believe me, I have no interest in anything I could peek at,” Loki snarled back. “Just do your business.” And he turned his back and folded his arms. Darcy growled and struggled and almost overbalanced, but there was no way she was asking that loony greaseball to help her. She even managed to scoop earth into the hole afterwards with the shovel. She was doing great till she ran out of trees to cling to. She tried to lean into the shovel, but it just bit into the soil and refused to come out. Too many Poptarts, clearly.
“For Pete’s sake,” she grumbled, wondering if she should just over-balance and hobble for it. But no, Loki was there, solicitously helping her to the ashes of last night’s fire.
“I can’t believe we’re stuck in the woods like this. And I bet all your food needs a pot. We’re going to starve.” Darcy folded her arms, feeling faintly ridiculous with her leg stuck stiffly out in front of her. Loki stared at her.
“You are the most infuriating woman I have ever met,” he snapped, and stalked off into the wood.
“Well, that’s just great.” Darcy said, grouchily. What an asshole.
It was a nice day, and Darcy dozed in the dappled sunlight until the Tylenol wore off, and then she dragged herself to the rucksack and started to rummage through it. It went down for miles. Darcy, with her leg throbbing and head spinning, wondered if she would find herself tumbling down into Wonderland. She found a massive field first aid kit and scrabbled out a couple of Tylenol. Exploring the inside of the bag, and wondering vaguely if she could repeat the birthing experience, it looked like Loki had thought of everything. Except a pan.
“Idiot.” She slumped back again. Birds tweeted in the trees. Darcy sunbathed, and wished she’d brought a book.
Someone dropped something next to her.
“Good to see you were keeping watch.” Loki’s tone was acerbic.
“Er, broken ankle. And I’ve been kidnapped. I want us to be found.” Darcy sat up. “What is that?”
“It’s a rabbit, and you’re welcome.”
“What?” Oh my god he’s finally snapped he’s going to do something to the rabbit to show me how he’s going to do it to me…
Darcy watched in horror as Loki picked up a knife and deftly skinned and gutted the rabbit. He sharpened a stick and stuck the rabbit on it, and banked up the fire up the fire.
“Oh my god. What are you doing?” Darcy’s voice was high-pitched.
“Dinner. I for one, could use the protein.” Loki concentrated on the matches, scowling.
“You don’t expect me to eat that.”
“Miss Lewis, I have learnt not to expect anything of you, except to be utterly tiresome at every opportunity.”
Loki scowled and concentrated on his rabbit, and another sullen silence descended over the camp. Fine. Darcy liked being sullen. She had perfected the art in her teen years, and like to keep her hand in.
“I’m going to bed,” Loki announced.
“Wait, what about me?”
“Why don’t you stand watch? You might have a broken ankle, but you’ve repeatedly proved you can shout,” Loki replied tiredly. He held up a hand to her protests. “I have not slept for two days now, and we need someone to keep watch in the night.” He tossed a sleeping bag to her. “Goodnight, Miss Lewis.”
Darcy wrapped herself in the sleeping bag discontentedly and stared into the fire. It would serve that asshole right if SHEILD did come for him in the middle of the night. At least then someone might give her a decent painkiller…
She was shaken awake from her doze by a log settling on the ashes of the fire in a shower of cinders. She yawned and resettled her leg, which was starting to bite again. There was a whimper.
“Hello?” she whispered, suddenly wide awake. There was no reply, but someone whimpered again. Darcy shrugged off the sleeping bag and started to crawl-hop to the tent.
“You’d better not be jerking off in there, sicko.” Though Darcy was pretty sure no one having a good time sounded like that. She finally pulled herself to the tent-flap and looked in.
Loki was curled up in the sleeping bag. His hair had fallen across his face, and he looked strangely young. His face was pained, he was working and clamping his jaw. As she watched, he whimpered through clenched teeth. A tear trickled out from under his closed lid.
“Hey—” Darcy began, and reached out to shake the poor guy awake or something, but he suddenly rolled over, his mouth sprang open, and he took a massive, whooping breath. She sprang back as Loki half-coughed, half-sobbed, and fell asleep again. A moment later, he was straining at invisible bonds, head whipping back and forth as though avoiding something. Darcy thought he should be screaming, but once again, all he did was whimper, little noises that sounded like they had abandoned all hope of ever being consoled. She finally touched his shoulder, and he sat bolt upright, eyes snapping open and full of horror.
“Hey, it’s okay man. Chill. You were just dreaming, okay?”
Loki blinked blearily.
“Just… Keep it down, will you? It’s not even daylight yet.” Darcy dragged herself away from the tent flap to sit by the embers again
Loki came out a moment later.
“I can’t sleep.” He shrugged, and sat opposite her. “You can go lie down, if you like.”
“Would you wake me up at first light?”
“Yes.” Loki smiled, and Darcy was perversely reminded of a five year old.
“Then, no. I have been camping with assholes before, you know.”
“I’m sorry if I disturbed you,” Loki said suddenly.
“Huh?” Darcy tried to look uninterested. She really didn’t need to know what was going on in this wacko’s subconscious. She wondered if he was going to encourage her to fly little sparrow, fly fly. At least it was better than rubbing lotion on her skin...
“I... Don’t sleep well.” Loki poked in the embers of the fire.
“Well, okay.” Darcy said, cautiously. Was he going to cry? She wasn’t sure she could handle that. But that seemed to be it. Just Loki, stirring up embers. Darcy couldn’t help wonder what would make a grade A bastard like Loki cry.
“Are you hungry?” he asked, suddenly.
“Er...” Darcy had eaten some of the rabbit last night, after sullenly watching the wacko enjoy most of it.
“Here.” Loki held his hands up and concentrated. Darcy leaned back, she’d seen enough chemistry tricks that ended with someone losing an eyebrow, and they’d all looked as confident as Loki before it happened. But apparently not, as hovering between his hands was a small saucepan with a long handle. He let it drop into his crossed legs. Darcy wondered if she should applaud.
“There. That should... Be adequate.” He looked like he’d just been on a hard workout. Darcy rolled over a bottle of water, wordlessly.
“I thought you said you couldn’t do magic.”
“We needed the pot. And there’s a chance SHIELD’s technology is still not fixed.” Loki finished the water in a few gulps and then beckoned the backpack towards him. After the miracle of the saucepan, Darcy wasn’t even shocked. Rummaging around, he brought out a couple of packets and stared at them, turning them over to read the back.
“You’re telling me you eat these? Some of these ingredients look like a drunken spider fell into ink and then crawled across the page!”
“Try not to think about it.” Darcy took the packet off him. “We need water. Is there any left?”
“Here.” Loki watched with interest as she filled the pan with water and used a stick to poke it into the ashes of the fire to boil. You would have thought he’d never seen ramen before.
“Do you want chicken or beef?” Darcy waved the packets.
“This is weird.” Darcy poked the noodles under the water gingerly.
“Do you think so?”
“I would say cooking ramen noodles for my kidnapper is pretty out of the ordinary, yes.” Loki gave a huff of laughter.
“If I had known you would be so difficult, I probably would have packed differently.”
“How did you pack?” Darcy asked, curiously.
“I... I went into a shop and asked for everything I might need for a week’s camping out.” Loki looked a little rueful.
“And they didn’t sell you a pan.” Darcy poked the ramen again, gingerly.
“I know. Remind me to go back and complain.” Darcy felt complaining was unnecessary. She would settle for a heel-kick to the diaphragm. Big 5 should know better.
“Can you get a couple of bowls or plates, please?”
Loki handed over a couple of bowls, wordlessly, and Darcy, master of washing-up-minimal cookery, managed to split the food between the two bowls without tipping boiling water into her lap. She passed the bowl over to Loki and dug in, because jerky and Pop-Tarts really can’t fill a gap quite like starch flavoured with MSG.
“This is better than I thought it would be.” Loki had picked up the knack of scooping noodles surprisingly quickly, and sat cross-legged with the bowl up to his face.
“You should try it with soy sauce.”
“Soy sauce makes everything better,” Darcy said, confidently.
“What about ice-cream?” Loki raised an eyebrow.
“Sure, that too.” Darcy didn’t bat an eyelid. Maybe it did.
“Nope, completely true.” She gave him an innocent face.
“Do you know one of my titles is ‘Father of Lies’?” Loki sat up straighter, trying to look regal.
“Well, don’t you think you’re the cat’s knees.”
“What?” He looked honestly confused, and when Darcy laughed, he raised his eyebrows and then smiled back.
“Why did you do it?” Darcy asked, suddenly.
“Do what?” Loki looked up from where he was negotiating the ramen broth.
“Rescue me. Take me out for dinner. All of it. Why me?”
“You intrigue me. And SHIELD wished to use my interest in you against me. Not matter what my feelings are on the matter, that seemed unfair.” Loki shrugged.
“Seems like the sort of thing that you’d wish you’d thought of first,” Darcy muttered, looking through the bag to see what else there was. He’d mentioned chocolate.
“Yes, but you were frightened and alone. I would at least have the decency to tell you why I had taken you.” Loki’s face shut down, and he stared into the fire. “Miss Lewis, please accept my apologies for this. I should have left you where you were.”
“Probably, yeah.” Darcy pulled out a packet of instant hot chocolate. She didn’t look at him. “Why didn’t you?” Maybe she could get him to wash the pot out and they could have hot chocolate.
“Because I could. I couldn’t believe it, they took something that was-- they took something from me, and they didn’t think I would come and take it back? Their moronic security system really was no match for me.” His face, lit orange by the fire, was proud and closed off, green eyes glittering with hard amusement. “It wasn’t even an exercise in ability or skill. If Tony Stark or Nicholas Fury or any of his little pets think that their security would ever be a threat to me... As if they could!” He sneered at the fire.
“Huh.” Darcy dropped the packet of hot chocolate. She didn’t want it now.
“Good to know I’m missing school and stuck in the woods with the winner of Most Likely To Bite A Nurse because you and Tony Stark are in the middle of a pissing contest.” Darcy folded her arms.
“What? No, I never meant you to get involved. Please, believe me.” He looked sincere. Darcy knew he wasn’t.
“And yet, here we are. Jeez, just when I think you might... You know what, forget it. I’m going to crawl into bed. Literally, in case you haven’t noticed.” And she did. When she turned round to the fire, Loki was still sitting there, staring into the coals of the fire. He clapped his hands to his face and dragged them down in a give me strength kind of way, and Darcy shut the tent firmly. To hell with him, the egotistical alien asshole.
There was scuffling outside her tent. Rain pattered on the tent.
“Loki? What are you doing?”
“I’m coming in.”
“The hell you are!” Darcy sat up and started to fumble for the door of the tent.
Loki sighed from the other side. “Please. It is raining really hard.” Rain pounded the tent.
“...Fine.” Darcy shifted over. “Touch me and I’ll feed you your dick, untouchable god or not.”
“With soy sauce?” Loki’s damp head (complete with torch in mouth) appeared in the tent flap, followed by the rest of him. Jeez, he went on forever. How did anyone manage to get around with that much body?
“No. You wouldn’t deserve soy sauce.” Darcy watched him as he hauled the last eight feet of leg into the tent and make himself comfortable. He caught her watching and spat out his torch, grinning. He looked... Good. Darcy, flustered, lay down and banged her head, which cleared the treacherous libido led thought out of her brain, thank god, but did hurt quite a lot.
“Are you quite alright?” Loki actually sounded concerned. Probably didn’t want to carry a concussed girl across the forest.
“I’m fine. Keep quiet, can’t you? I’m trying to sleep.” She squeezed her eyes shut as he let out a quiet huff of amusement and exasperation. She heard him fumble and switch off the torch and lie down, rustling as he got comfy.
“Miss--Darcy?” he asked after a while. She pretended she was asleep. He sighed, and rolled over. Darcy listened to his breathing even out, and that and the rhythmic sound of the rain lulled her to sleep.
Someone was crying. Little whimpery noises...
“Loki?” Darcy sat up, muzzily. The god didn’t reply, he was curled up in his sleeping bag, shivering despite the slightly stuffy warmth of the tent. It was still dark, and she could just about make out Loki’s huddled form. Why did he have to look so... Defenceless? The man was clearly a lunatic. And not actually a man.
He whimpered again.
“Uh, hey...” She reached out to touch him and he jerked, half sobbed and uncurled, just a little. She wondered how often you had to wake up screaming before you gave up.
“Um, hey. Hey, wake up...” She touched his shoulder and he sat up with a gasp, his head brushing the tent roof. Darcy wondered if he’d just bust through it like the dinosaur in The Flintstones.
“D-Darcy. D-did I...?” He stopped, and looked up sharply. “Shh.”
Darcy strained her ears. She could hear her breathing and the pattering of the rain.
“WE HAVE YOU SURROUNDED. COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS UP.” The voice was so loud Darcy jumped and jarred her leg. Loki put his hand over her mouth to stifle her yip of pain.
“LOKI LAUFEYSON. COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS UP. ANY ATTEMPT AT MAGIC OR ESCAPE AND WE WILL OPEN FIRE.”
Darcy looked up at him and was suddenly and actually frightened, as Loki’s face had gone hard, arrogant princeling once again. This wasn’t the guy who didn’t know about ice-cream. This was the guy who sold out his brother and tried to take over the world. Darcy couldn’t believe she’d almost forgotten that. He didn’t look at her as he crawled out of the tent, putting his hands up.
“Three days, Stark. You’re not as good as you think you are, are you?” he called. His voice was mocking.
“You grew plants in my machines.” Tony Stark’s voice was near. “All of them.”
“I thought they were pretty.” Loki grinned, and then grunted as two men in body armour grabbed him and twisted his arms behind his back. “Easy, mortals. I’m sure your master would not wish me undue harm.”
“Harm, right.” Tony Stark’s face, surrounded by the Iron Man suit, appeared in the tent flap. “Hey sweetheart. You okay?”
“My leg...” Darcy gestured. “It’s okay, let me get out. I’ve done it before.”
Tony Stark frowned and his head disappeared, and as she started to shift herself out of the tent, she heard him say, “Crippling little girls now? Well, what more could I expect?”
“I didn’t--” Loki was cut off by the sound of metal hitting flesh. Some of the guys in black had placed lanterns around the perimeter, and she saw Loki spit out blood and look up at her plaintively. Tony Stark turned back to her as casually as if he was ordering coffee.
“All right... What was the name?”
“Darcy.” Darcy didn’t look at Loki. She had been rescued and she didn’t owe him a thing.
“Darcy, right. Don’t worry sweetheart, you’re safe now. We’ll get that leg fixed up in no time. Come on.” And with that, he scooped Darcy up and carried her back to the helicopter. Darcy could have hopped it. She rather thought Tony Stark fancied himself the knight errant type.
Three hours later, she was back in the helicarrier. Not in a proper cell this time, now she was in a room that would put most luxury hotels to shame. Doctor Banner, a soft-spoken guy in a open-necked shirt, had examined her. Darcy had realised who he was (well, some of the time, anyway) halfway through the examination, and wished she’d thought to shave her legs before she’d been kidnapped.
“Did he assault you?” Doctor Banner asked, gently.
“Assault?” Darcy suddenly realised what he meant and flushed. “No. No. He was... He was the perfect gentleman, really. Let me have the tent and everything.”
Doctor Banner didn’t show a flicker of surprise. Guy was like Yoda or something. He just ticked something off, made a note, and said, “Right, better get that leg seen to, Miss Lewis.”
Then she’d been plastered up and given some really good shit that made her nice and floaty, and now she was lying in a bed with the television on and Coke and nachos on call (they wouldn’t do beer). But she wasn’t as blissed out as she thought she would be. By all rights, she should be a puddle of goo trying to out-zen Doctor Banner, but she had this niggling thought at the back of her mind. What was Loki doing? It was crazy, like some Stockholm Syndrome shit, but it really was bugging her. Tony had hit him, backhanded him casually as you please. That wasn’t what the good guys did, was it? She floated on the hum of the television and codeine. The bed was more comfortable than the tent and at least no one would wake her up with muffled sobs. And she wasn’t eating ramen or Thumper. She sighed, and rolled onto her side, and dreamed of green eyes and a sudden unguarded grin, happiness at not being in the rain. A confusing stew of emotion, mixed with the crackle of a campfire and the patter of rain. An arrogant smile like splinters...
“Miss Lewis? Miss Lewis. Darcy.” Darcy sat up, suddenly. Someone was knocking on the door.
“Huh what?” She’d been dreaming about s’mores or something. S’mores would be good for dinner or something.
“May I come in?”
“Uh, sure.” Darcy yawned and stretched. The door opened to one of the impossibly toned and good looking women SHIELD seemed to clone from somewhere. This one had black hair and a catsuit. Darcy wished she hadn’t spilled nacho sauce on her sweats last night.
“My name is Maria Hill. You’re to come with me.” She was holding crutches.
“Aw, no Iron Man? Too bad.” Darcy swung her legs out of bed.
“Mister Stark sends his apologies.” Maria Hill smiled.
“I’ll bet. He doesn’t even know my name.” Darcy hoisted herself up on the crutches. “Men are so fickle.”
That got a chuckle.
“I just gotta change,” Darcy said, hopping over to a drawer which she had already discovered held a range of clothing, none of which she had purchased and all of which was in her size.
“By the way, you might wanna tell your boss that this right here? Appreciated, but really creepy. You should try like, at least asking my size or something.”
“Noted.” Maria Hill said, with another smile. She stood at parade rest as Darcy balanced on furniture and hopped about brushing her teeth.
“Where are we going?” She pulled her hair back into a ponytail.
“There’s a meeting you have to attend.” Maria Hill started leading her smartly out the room and then down the corridor. It seemed tasteful decor went as far as her door, and Darcy sighed. At least this cell had room service.
The meeting room was crowded. Mostly this was because of Thor. He had a habit of filling a space, both with his massive shoulders and ripped abs (hey, wounded, not dead) but also with his genial manner and general, well, Thor-ness. When Thor was happy it was like a warm day in June. Now it was more like a cold day in April. Darcy smiled at the big guy and he gave her a worried smile back. Tony Stark leant back in his chair and finger-waved. She smiled and waved back, because hey, it’s not everyday a good looking guy finger-waves at you, and then did a double-take.
“Hey I know you! You’re Captain America. You know my Grandpa has a bunch of your merchandise, he’s like, a major fan. Do you think I could get your autograph?”
“Uh...” Captain America gave the best impression of a rabbit in the headlights. “Of--of course.”
“Miss Lewis. Rogers. Perhaps you could continue your conversation after? We have a lot to discuss.” Her best friend glared around the table. Everyone shuffled like they’d just been caught passing notes in class.
Darcy found herself ushered in next to a guy with a military cut and a face that was either bored or considering a mass murder, and a red-headed woman shorter than herself, who was actually reading the agenda. They ignored her. Darcy looked round the table, and Tony Stark winked at her. She looked down at the agenda in front of her to hide a smile. If this were a classroom, Tony Stark would be sitting at the back throwing spitballs.
“We’re here to discuss the insurgent Loki Laufeyson.” Her best friend began. “Now we tried sending him back to his own planet to face justice for his crimes, but that clearly didn’t work.”
Thor looked guilty, like he was the one who escaped. This was like a classroom, one where the headmaster comes in because someone’s been really bad. Darcy imagined her best friend in a teacher’s cap and had a coughing fit. Thor looked at her nervously before speaking.
“Truly, I did not realise the extent of my brother’s deviousness. He escaped from Asgard and we sent out search parties. I would take him back to face my father’s justice again.”
“Your father’s justice is not our concern here, it’s the strength of his jail cells...” Her best friend carried on and Darcy, who had been woken up without breakfast, let it wash over her. Tony Stark was folding paper. She watched him lazily, thinking about the relative merits of grass-stained soccer shorts. He’d be the type to rip holes in them and pin obscene badges onto his hoodie, she decided. Captain America was watching him too, and Darcy decided that if Nick Fury was the principal, Captain America was the harassed and over-worked but still-caring teacher.
In a moment he’s going to put Tony Stark on time out without any juice. Darcy thought and put her chin on her hands. Thor was talking again, and as Tony Stark held up a beautifully crafted paper aeroplane and pulled a ‘watch this’ face at her someone nudged her.
“I said you seemed to have an affinity with Laufeyson. What do you think?”
“Uh. I wouldn’t call it an affinity. He wanted to take me out for dinner at this really swanky place and I uh... I said yes.” Thor raised his eyebrows, and Tony Stark smiled at his aeroplane. Yeah, like he wouldn’t have said yes as well. “I didn’t want to. My roommate made me...” She suddenly realised she had no idea what she was talking about.
“And you don’t think he put you under any sort of influence?”
“Yeah, did he zap you in the chest with a big old spear while you were looking for your keys or anything?” Tony piped up. He was glared down. Turned out one eye could glare enough for two. Who knew?
“Uhm, we had Cosmopolitans?” Darcy volunteered.
There was a ripple of laughter, even from the military guy next to her. Tony Stark started to fly his plane in little circles, not at all abashed.
“Miss Lewis shows no sign of mind control, past or present, as I put in my report.” Doctor Banner cut in smoothly, ignoring the paper dart as it flew across the desk and hit the military guy next to her in the chest. He pulled out a handful of elastic bands and paper clips from a pocket. Apparently this is what you did when made to sit in on matters of national emergency. The redhead rolled her eyes.
“Had he shown any interest in you before?” Her best friend was pretending he couldn’t see Tony Stark building another aeroplane, but a vein in his temple was starting to throb. If Darcy had been at school, she would have taken cover by now.
“Well, no, not really. He was too busy like, with the whole Destroyer thing and stuff.” Darcy rubbed the back of her neck awkwardly. The whole situation was so fucked up. “I mean, it was never going to work was it? He said he thought there might be a- a tactical advantage to it. But I guess he changed his mind... I dunno.”
The guy next to her pulled back the paper dart. He’d made something that wasn’t quite a bow and not quite a catapult. It flew straight and true into Captain America’s water-glass. And these were the men who protected earth? Darcy fought an insane urge to giggle. And now they were all gathered round to discuss her love life. They should be eating ice-cream in their pyjamas or something. She had another coughing fit, which meant Tony Stark gave her an ‘I know what you’re thinking’ look, and that just made it worse. The redhead passed her a glass of water, wordlessly.
“I think it is possible he has genuine regard for her. I own that my brother can be... Difficult to read, but perhaps he truly wishes to reform.” Thor still looked troubled.
“So why didn’t he take the punishment meted out by your own people?” Her best friend ignored the next dart to zip past his face. The guy next to her grinned and nudged her. It wasn’t fair, she was always the one who got into trouble for laughing.
“I do not know. My brother’s ways are... often hidden to me, for his own reasons. I would take him back to finish his sentence, truly I would.”
“The man is a danger to our planet. And you know what I told you last time.”
“Yes, but he didn’t do anything!” Thor looked distinctly upset now.
“Nevertheless, Earth cannot afford to look weak at this moment in time!” Her best friend raised his voice. “We must keep our word in all matters! And just because he’s your brother doesn’t make him any less the goddamn terrorist!”
Tony Stark pulled a face and tossed a dart to Banner, who rolled his eyes and ignored him. Darcy started to wonder why she was there. Clearly this was less an issue of her romantic life and more to do with the fact that Loki had this ‘no power in the universe can stop me’ thing going on. No wonder Tony was waging war on his teammates.
“Miss Lewis, please, you know my brother behaved honourably in the time he was with you. Vouch for him.” Thor turned those baby blue eyes on her. Ah, that was why.
“Uh. Well, apart from busting out of this place like it was made of straw and forgetting to bring a saucepan he was okay with me.” Darcy realised how that sounded and hastened to add to it. “But he like, he did all those terrible things. And... I dunno. I guess he should answer to it.”
“You see?” Her best friend waved a hand. “The time for leniency is past...”
Darcy faded out again, feeling vaguely bad for not paying more attention. It was almost like being in college, except everyone was better dressed. Except Tony Stark, but he could rock up in his jammies and look hot. The paper darts were getting more elaborate. Doctor Banner was getting buried under them, and clearly trying not to laugh. The guy next to her nudged her.
“Hey, can I have that?” He pointed at her agenda.
“Thanks.” And he started folding.
Finally, a paper dart landed in front of Nick Fury. He crumpled it into a tiny ball in one fist. Tony looked at the table innocent and unashamed, and the guy next to her looked like a kid with his hand in the cookie jar. Doctor Banner cleared his throat.
“I think.” And it was a very deliberate tone of voice, like a gun being cocked at a saloon in the Wild West. “I think we had better call it a wrap for now. We will convene again soon. Thor, with me. You too Cap. Any other questions?”
“Uh.” Darcy put up her hand. “Yeah, um, what’s your name?”
Tony Stark spat water.
After they had been let go, all Darcy wanted to do was go back to her room and go back to bed, but Tony Stark insisted that she come to the rec room with them, them being Clint Barton (the guy next to her), Doctor Banner (‘Please, call me Bruce’) and Natasha Romanoff, the petite redhead.
“You like Cosmos, right?” Tony Stark winked at her, and she rolled her eyes. Honestly, the papers weren’t wrong, he was all ego. She swung past him (she was getting really good at these crutches) with her nose in the air. The rec room wasn’t the ratty pool table and coffee machine set up she was expecting from a government agency, in fact, it was more like a bar in a swanky hotel. Tony hopped behind the bar and spread his arms out like he was the barman off Cheers.
“So, not Cosmo. I make a mean vodka martini. Or I bet I could mix something special, just for you...” He smiled at her winningly, America’s favourite playboy. She wasn’t sure if she should hit him with a crutch for being so cheesy or melt into a puddle of hormones at the sight of those big brown eyes.
“Not while she’s taking codeine.” Bruce said, behind them, just as Darcy was wondering if she could hit him as she melted.
“Coke is fine.” Darcy awkwardly swung herself onto one of the bar-stools. “Uhm, what’s going to happen to Loki?”
“Don’t know. Justice, with any luck.” Clint shrugged and chugged beer. Natasha Romanoff sat next to him, watching the room. Maybe she couldn’t speak, or her mysterious redhead super powers would be stolen from her.
“I thought we could keep him, like as a pet? But Thor disagreed.” Tony put in, pouring himself a large whiskey and sliding an orange juice down to Bruce. “I suppose he’ll be taken back to his home planet and maybe they’ll make those, you know, those chains?The ones they harp on about in the myths or whatever.”
“Or Odin might just kill him. He’s too much trouble to keep alive.” Natasha Romanoff was making tea. Apparently she could speak, but only to talk about death like baking a cake.
“Or Fury might rage him to death. You don’t know what’s behind that eyepatch.” Tony waved his glass expansively. Darcy looked into her glass, and tried not to think about ice-cream headaches.
After that, Tony Stark challenged her at pool and Clint discovered a stash of peanuts, which he bounced off Tony’s head till Tony hit him with a pool cue. Bruce watched them over a book, apparently unperturbed by random brawling and Tony being chased round the room by a man threatening to do something intensely biological. Natasha Romanoff, drinking tea curled up on one of the plush sofas, put out a leg and tripped Tony up, who managed to pull Clint down with him. Bruce caught Darcy’s eye, and looked sympathetic.
“I know. And he’s got access to the world’s most dangerous weapons. Makes you weep, doesn’t it?”
“I resent that.” Tony Stark had his face pressed to the carpet and was trying to kick Clint in the kidneys. Clint was apparently unfazed by this, and started to eat peanuts again.
“Tony, what have I told you about playing nice with the other kids?” The new person was another redhead, and confirmed Darcy’s suspicion that being stunning was a job requirement around here. She smiled welcomingly when she saw Darcy.
“You must be Darcy Lewis. It’s great to meet you. I’m Pepper Potts.” She shook hands professionally. “Don’t mind them, they just don’t like the waiting around. Tony, were you ever going to offer this young lady dinner?”
Tony was brushing himself off. He reached over and grabbed Pepper. “Thank god you arrived. I keep telling you sweetheart, that guy’s a nut, shouldn’t be allowed out of his nest.”
“Don’t be an ass.” Pepper pushed him away. “I’m assuming this means you forgot about dinner...”
“I couldn’t eat a bite till you got here. I was pining, it was terrible. Wasn’t it terrible Bruce?”
“It was something alright.” Bruce agreed, waving at Pepper. “He was showing off.”
“Come on man, I thought you were on my side.” Tony looked injured.
“Would you please stop convincing people that the world is protected by a group of kindergarteners for like ten minutes?” Pepper folded her arms.
Tony ignored her, opting to look over Bruce’s shoulder and affect deafness till Bruce shut the book with a clap and a sigh.
“Fine. I’ll order the food. Pizza sound good?” It was the closest to annoyed Darcy had ever heard him get, but he didn’t go green and start tearing stuff up, so it was probably okay.
By the time the food had arrived, so had Captain America (‘Steve, Miss Lewis’) and Thor, who still looked pensive. The pizza was good, and would have been better with beer, but with Bruce sitting next to her, she decided to stick to Coke, and wondered if ramen with Loki or pizza with the Avengers would count as the most surreal experience of her life. Finally, she couldn’t stand the awkward silence any more.
“So, did we decide what to do about my love life?” she asked, brightly. Tony laughed into his beer. She was beginning to like him.
“We did not come to a conclusion.” Thor said, with no sign he had got the joke. “My brother shall remain in the custody of SHIELD till I have spoken with my father.”
“So I guess you could talk conjugal visits,” Tony volunteered. Steve inhaled pizza and had to be thumped on the back.
“I wouldn’t recommend visiting him,” Steve managed eventually. “He is still dangerous, even in a cell. We’ve had to put special protocol in place just to make sure he stays put.”
Clint opined that Loki couldn’t be held if he didn’t want to be, and the discussion turned to the best way to keep hold of extraterrestrial insurgents. Darcy faded out. She was tired and sore, and it felt weird talking about someone like he was a volatile substance like that. She finished her pizza and slipped away, virtually unnoticed.
Back in her luxury cell, she flopped back on her bed. Then she sat up again and put on the TV, flipping through channels, but she couldn’t even concentrate on Friends. She kept thinking about the one person in this whole affair who had actually treated her like a person, rather than a chess piece. She couldn’t leave it like this, she just couldn’t. She got out of bed and picked up her crutches, swinging through the corridors and largely ignored The rec room had emptied, and she hopped aimlessly from one end to the other and found some milk and cold pizza in a fridge. Someone had left a note on one of the slices that said Tony’s pizza, hands OFF. This means Thor. Well, she wasn’t Thor, right? She took the pizza anyway, and sat at one of the tables.
How would you speak to someone you couldn’t find or call anyway? She drank the milk moodily. Maybe she could use a carrier pigeon. Or shoot them up the chimn-- A thought struck her. No way would that work. But he said he was a god, right? Like, it was right in his name. Loki, God of Mischief. Darcy made her way back to her room.
She didn’t get down on her knees or anything like that. If nothing else, it seemed hokey. How would you pray to someone in the next room? She sat on the bed and closed her eyes, feeling more than a bit silly. She wondered how to start. Like a letter, right? You always said ‘Dear God’...
“Dear Loki,” she recited. “Hopefully you can hear this, or I’m gonna look like a crazy person, as well as like someone with Stockholm Syndrome, but like, I thought you’d want to know. Um. I hope they’re keeping you somewhere okay. The showers are hot, so that’s pretty good. You hear weird stories about prisons, right? But um. I was at a meeting today, and like, they don’t know what to do with you. It sounds bad though, like, Tony Stark wants to keep you as a pet and Nick Fury, you know, the angry eye-patch guy, he like, thinks you’ve had all your chances and your brother doesn’t seem keen on taking you home, I get the impression your Dad’s kind of a dick, and he’s like worried he’ll put you on permanent timeout. So like, I dunno. I thought I should tell you. So you can do something or at least someone’s telling you. Um. So um. Amen?” She opened her eyes. Nothing seemed to have changed. She remembered something. “Oh! And um, thanks. For like, the saucepan. And for not being such a big jerk as you could have been. Um. Yeah. Amen.”
She wondered if she should cross herself, but remembered in time that she wasn’t actually praying to Jesus, and went to bed, thinking how pleased her Mom would be that she was saying her prayers before bedtime.
Someone was knocking on the the door.
“Darcy? Darcy!” It was Thor. “Is my brother with you?”
“N- no. What do you mean? Come in, don’t bust the door...” The door was flung open and Thor was standing there holding his hammer ready and wearing armour.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“My brother has escaped. I came to ascertain your safety. He seems to have a fondness for you.”
“I’m fine. Are they gonna find him?” Darcy started scrambling out of bed.
“Once again he has persuaded a crop of flowers to grow out of the Man of Iron’s technology.”
“Oh, he must be pissed.” Darcy swung her legs out of bed.
“No, do not trouble yourself. A guard will be mounted at your door. You shall be safe here.” Thor smiled, but he was clearly worried. “Good night, Darcy.”
“Oh. Okay. Night.”
Darcy waited till Thor had closed the door behind her, and then switched on the lamp to find out what was in her bed. It was a saucepan, wrapped with a red ribbon. The card simply said Until next time. and then a familiar squiggle. Darcy put the pan under her bed. Until next time. As if. A girl’d have to be crazy.