Darcy swallowed a bite of cereal. “So you’re saying, what, Asgard’s like deporting your brother to Earth?”
“Your Director Fury wishes to strengthen the diplomatic ties between Earth and Asgard.” Thor sitting in a chair at the kitchen table in Jane’s tiny London flat looked almost like a grownup sitting at the kids’ table at Thanksgiving. At least he’d changed out of his armor and changed into what Darcy had termed his ‘lumberjack-wear.’ “The All-Father is being—indulgent. He is aware that your realm has suffered because of Loki’s actions. Director Fury thinks Loki should serve some of his punishment here.”
“I don’t want him back on Earth,” said Erik, who was dividing his attention between a sheet of paper onto which he was scribbling notes, his breakfast, and the conversation. “It’s not safe.”
“My father has provided SHIELD with specifications to construct an appropriate holding cell,” Thor said. “He will not be able to use his magic.”
“Still,” said Erik, a haunted look in his eyes. He returned to writing on his sheet of paper, aiming his spoon at his mouth with his other hand, and then missing and dumping cornflakes and milk on the table. He didn’t seem to notice.
There was a clatter from the other room and everyone turned to look. Jane emerged from the doorway, breathing hard and brushing hair out of her face.
“Maybe take a break from packing, Jane,” said Darcy.
“I’m almost done, though. And we’re leaving this afternoon.”
Thor was smiling at her, amused and affectionate. “Come and sit down. I will help you after breakfast.”
Jane hesitated for a moment, then huffed a sigh and collapsed into the only vacant chair.
“I think it’s a good move on SHIELD’s part,” said Darcy, resuming the conversation. “Lets people know that the situation’s in our hands, you know?”
“What are we talking about?” said Jane.
“Our overlord coming back to Earth,” Erik said darkly. He swabbed at the table with a napkin, having finally noticed the mess he’d made.
“Loki?” said Jane, reaching for the box of cereal. “Didn’t he kind of—help us? During this whole—” she waved the cereal box around, “—convergence business?”
“He totes fought Elf-Guy, I saw him,” put in Darcy.
“Maybe he just wanted to save Earth for himself,” said Erik.
“Loki is still dangerous, however much he has helped us,” Thor said, his eyes downcast. “I fear my brother is lost to us forever.”
“He did just help save the universe,” said Jane.
“He killed hundreds of people!” said Erik.
“Closer to a hundred,” muttered Darcy into her cereal.
“He killed people!” Erik slammed his hand on the table, making Darcy and Jane jump. “It doesn’t matter how many!”
There was a tense silence for a moment, then Jane cleared her throat and said, “Darcy, why are you here and not at your apartment? Don’t you have to pack?”
“Please,” said Darcy. “All I own is books and clothes. It all fits into three boxes and a trash bag. Also, there’s breakfast here.”
An awkward silence as everyone returned to their food, Jane pulling cereal out of the box and munching on it dry.
“You know, Erik,” remarked Darcy, “you’re going to have to put on pants before we leave for the airport.”
“You’re not wearing pants,” Erik pointed out.
“She’s wearing a skirt,” said Jane.
“Hey, maybe you should look into those, Erik,” Darcy said, poking the cereal in her bowl with her spoon. “Then you can think and not get arrested for indecent exposure at the same time.”
Before they headed to Heathrow, Ian stopped by the rapidly-emptying flat (that Thor—very helpful when it came to lifting heavy boxes) to say goodbye and to thank Jane for letting him work with her, even if it was for such a short time. “It’s an experience I’ll never forget,” he said earnestly.
“That’s for damned sure,” said Jane, shaking his hand absentmindedly before going off to supervise the loading of delicate science equipment into the van.
Darcy appeared in front of Ian, suddenly, as she was wont to do. “Yeah, so, uh,” she began.
“It’s okay,” Ian said, with a wistful look. “Good luck in New York.”
“Thanks again for saving my life and stuff,” said Darcy, smiling. Then she grabbed him by the front of his shirt and French kissed him within an inch of his life, for old times’ sake.
Thor thought the airport was quaint and hilarious, which led Darcy to wonder how people got around on Asgard. Maybe teleportation? How cool would that be? The biggest problem they had, of course, was how to get Myeuh-Myeuh to America. When Darcy asked, Thor explained that, while flying with Myeuh-Myeuh would have been faster, using it to travel long distances was ‘tiresome.’ How it could have been more tiresome than seven hours in coach class, Darcy didn’t know.
The trouble was that airport security wouldn’t let Thor bring a weapon onto the plane, and, of course, since no one else could lift the damned hammer, they weren’t able to check it. After about fifteen minutes of negotiation, with everyone getting more and more irritated as time went on, it was finally agreed that Thor would have to place the hammer in the cargo hold of the plane himself, and then retrieve it when they arrived.
When the plane finally landed at around 10pm, the four of them trooped exhaustedly into two cabs to get to the meager accommodations Erik and Jane had managed to acquire with their grant money.
The letter for the grant—which no one had applied for—had mysteriously appeared in Jane’s London mailbox only a few days after the—um—events in Greenwich. Everyone agreed it was clearly SHIELD wanting Jane to move back to America where they could keep a closer eye on her. Still, money was money, which was hard to come by if you were considered crackpot scientists (‘Thousands of people have seen definitive proof, but still they’re skeptical,’ complained Jane). Jane and Erik had settled on New York City as home base because they wanted to study the aftereffects of the wormhole that had been opened there the previous summer. Well, Jane wanted to. Erik seemed to be torn between wanting to forget the whole thing and wanting to find out/remember how the wormhole had worked.
The other reason for choosing New York City was that rent was way down, since people were still a little freaked out by all the aliens that had come out of the sky.
Darcy, Jane, and Erik were living out of suitcases until the rest of their luggage was shipped to them. Thor didn’t have any extra luggage, since all he owned (having arrived on Earth with just a hammer and armor) was clothing and a toothbrush. Darcy grumbled about not having the rest of her books with her yet, especially since all Jane’s science stuff got expedited shipping and would arrive at the lab that morning.
At the new lab, which was some rented office space that had recently been repurposed, Darcy and Thor were sent out for coffee while Jane and Erik futzed with the lab equipment. Erik had hijacked one of Darcy’s larger peasant skirts (a throwback to a brief Bohemian phase Darcy went through in her freshman year), saying that he could think in it almost as well as he could think without pants. This led Darcy to vow she’d hunt down some kilts for him if it was the last thing she did.
People stared at Thor in the coffee shop, but Thor, clearly used to celebrity, just ignored their gazes and peered confusedly at the enormous variety of coffees on the chalkboard menu. “C’mon, big fella, we’ll just get you the biggest size they have,” said Darcy, patting Thor on the shoulder. Thor grinned at her.
While they waited in line, Darcy saw the perfect opportunity to pick Thor’s brain about something that had spiked her curiosity. She thought she’d come at it slyly, but sly for Darcy was like a conversational wrecking ball. “So, like, why’d your brother flip out and try to take over Midgard?” she said, keeping her voice relatively low.
After a few confused blinks, Thor seemed to take the question in stride. “From what the All-Father tells me, Loki discovered the true origins of his birth, and that is what caused his ill behavior.”
“Wait, so he’s not your real brother?”
“He is and he is not."
They had to pause for a minute as Darcy put in their coffee order (‘No, like, bigger than a large. Do you have a size gigantic? Can you do like a box of coffee but in a giant travel mug?’), then they shifted down to the end of the counter. As they waited, Thor briefly sketched out what he knew about how Loki was ‘adopted’—more like taken as a war hostage!—and the way he discovered the truth about it.
“Your dad never told him?!” Darcy exclaimed, and Thor shushed her when people at nearby tables turned to look.
“My father has always looked on Loki as his own son,” said Thor quietly.
“You can’t just not tell your kid he’s adopted—jeez, I thought you guys were supposed to be more advanced than us,” said Darcy as she collected their coffee order from a harassed-looking barista. “Of course he reacted badly. Though, I mean, most people when they find something like that out, they don’t run around trying to kill people.” She looked up at Thor, who was looking helpless and sad and a little bit silly holding a giant travel mug with the coffee shop’s logo of a cartoon armadillo on it. “I’m sorry,” she said, belatedly. “Jane says I can be really nosy. And rude.”
“It is all right,” Thor reassured her, and they silently walked out of the coffee shop and headed down the sidewalk.
“What it sounds like to me…” began Darcy after they’d crossed a busy street, “It sounds like your brother had a psychotic break.”
Thor looked down at her, bewildered. “I’m not familiar with that term.”
“I’m not an expert or anything—though I have hung out with a lot of psych majors—but from what you’ve told me—you said your brother wasn’t violent or anything before he found this stuff out?”
“He was fond of causing mischief, but he was not malicious.”
“Right, well." Darcy sipped her coffee. “A psychotic break, from what I know, is where someone’s going along just like normal, and then something really awful happens and wham they’re acting completely different. It’s like, surprise! Mental illness!”
“He is not the brother I grew up with,” Thor said mournfully.
“Personality changes, right. So is he in therapy?”
“Therapy?” Thor’s brow crumpled again in confusion.
“Is someone talking to him about this stuff?”
“My mother, while she lived, tried to reach out to Loki in his madness.” Thor took a morose sip out of his giant coffee mug.
“But a professional, though?”
Thor just looked sad.
“Is there no mental illness on your planet?” Darcy stared up at him as they began climbing the stairs to the lab. “Never mind, never mind.” Darcy shifted the coffee tray in her hands so she could reach up and pat Thor’s shoulder again. “Maybe SHIELD can send someone to talk to him when he gets here.”
“I do not think Loki would accept outside counsel,” said Thor as they entered the lab. Darcy took a breath to say something else when Jane interjected.
“Darcy, thank God! Come here, quick, hold this up!” Jane was precariously balancing a piece of lab equipment on a side table. Darcy hopped to.
There was a lot of media hullabaloo about Loki being brought back to Earth for his imprisonment. The public wasn’t told where he was being kept, of course—that would cause mass hysteria—but the team in Jane’s lab was clued in because of Thor. Well, partially clued in. Thor told them his brother was being kept in New York City: that way Thor would be nearby in case anything happened. Thor reassured them that nothing would happen, since the security was set up to his father’s exacting specifications, but Erik developed dark circles under his eyes and would sometimes stop what he was doing and just walk out of the lab without speaking to anybody.
The people in Darcy’s online Advanced Political Theory course at Culver (her last three poli-sci credits—just winter study, one more class, and then graduation, woo-hoo!) got into a debate about the political ramifications of harboring an alien criminal on Earth. Darcy wasn’t supposed to disclose the inside info she had, but she did put in her two cents on the matter.
She thought it was a good idea, dammit. It showed Earth was owning the situation, and that they were getting buddy-buddy with an alien government, and that if someone committed a crime on Earth then that meant that person was under Earth’s jurisdiction, and would serve their punishment as Earth saw fit.
Darcy was totally gonna get an A+ for class participation.
One day in the lab, when Jane was muttering science terms to herself, Erik was scrawling equations all over a whiteboard, and Darcy was spinning idly on a lab stool during a rare moment of downtime, Darcy said,
“I think I wanna talk to Loki.”
Erik dropped his dry-erase marker, and Jane looked up from her charts, startled.
“What?!” said Jane.
“I have a plan,” said Darcy to the two shocked scientists. “I’m gonna bring him pie.”
Abruptly, Erik walked out of the lab, skirt swirling, slamming the door behind him.
“But—he tried to kill us!” said Jane.
“That was like, two years ago, though,” argued Darcy.
“And you said yourself that he helped us out with fighting Malthus or whatever—“
“Malakith,” corrected Jane.
“Right, but the point is that he fought him.”
“He had something to gain, too, though. If the universe was destroyed—or—or made dark, and he’s a part of it, he’d be ‘made dark,’ too!”
“Maybe I can figure out what made him go all wacko and try to kill everyone, though.”
Jane stood and moved to Darcy. “Darcy, you can’t just…” Jane made a gesture that was at once helpless and exasperated.
“No, but listen. One time my cousin Sheila went through this really bad breakup with her fiancé, and she was in a real bad place, but I totally helped her through it. With pie.”
Jane made a helpless noise, mouth open, struggling for speech.
Darcy pointed at her. “I bet Thor thinks it’s a great idea.”
Thor did think it was a great idea, though he had his reservations.
“It could be dangerous,” he said, after Erik had pointedly stormed out of the apartment, muttering something about going to the pub.
“Why?” said Darcy. “You said your dad’s cell design was foolproof.”
“You tested it yourself!”
Jane peeked her face out from where she was rubbing it exhaustedly with her hands at the counter. “Darcy…”
“My brother is skilled in more than just magic. He knows how to manipulate people.”
“Thor.” Darcy gave him a look. “Am I someone who can be manipulated?”
Thor and Jane looked at each other.
“I still think this is a bad idea,” said Jane.
“I do not know what harm it could do,” said Thor.
“Look at what it’s doing to Erik!”
“I’ll give Erik some pie, too,” said Darcy sagely.
There was a pause, and then Jane said, “This is going to end badly.”