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We Can Never Go Back To Before

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“Let’s eat peanut butter cups for dinner.”

Harris shifted the bag of groceries in his arms. “Was that your plan all along?”

Darcy nodded. “Yes.”

“Then why did we go grocery shopping?”

“I was luring you into a false sense of security, nutritionally speaking.” She did a little spin, enjoying the way her skirt flared around her knees. The bags in her hands bumped against her legs as she stopped, facing him. “It was my devious plan.”

He grinned at her, his cheeks pink from the spring breeze. “With chicken breasts and frozen vegetables?”

“You didn’t suspect a thing,” Darcy pointed out. She threw her hands in the air. Harris ducked under her bags without missing a step. “My plan was a success!”

“We’re not eating peanut butter cups for dinner,” Harris said. But he was smiling when he said it.

“Maybe you’re not, but you’re not the boss of me, soooooooo…” She tipped her head in his direction. “Make me a better offer.”

“I don’t know,” he mused. “I mean, we could try eating real food and not spending the rest of the night curled up in the fetal position, praying for death as the sugar rush wears off.”

He had a pronounced cowlick right now. It was adorable. Darcy shifted both of her bags to one hand and reached out with the other. “You make it sound like a bad plan.”

Harris ducked, trying to stay out of reach. “That’s because it IS a bad plan.” He fended her off with one hand. “What’re you- Stop it! What’re you doing right now?”

“I wanna fix your hair,” she said, making grabby motions in the air. “Come here.”

He sidestepped around a fire hydrant. “No.”

“Don’t you trust me?” Laughing, Darcy made a swipe at his head. “A good relationship is built on trust, MacIntyre.”

“What were your plans for dinner again?” he asked, but he slowed down, enough for her to sink her fingers into his hair, smoothing the strands down. “Were they the plans a woman with no fucks to give?”

“Absolutely none,” she said, pleased. “How many peanut butter cups do we have?” Harris held up his hand, his fingers and thumb forming a circle. Darcy gaped at him. “None? How is that possible? There was like, two bags in your freezer the last time I stayed over.”

“That was a long weekend and you ate a lot of peanut butter cups.” Laughing, he started up the street again, Darcy scampering along a step behind him. She liked being back here. The view was nice. Harris looked back over his shoulder at her, grinning. “Like, a lot.”

“Listen, it was a good weekend, and some people have post-coital cigarettes, I have post-coital peanut butter cups,” Darcy said, her tone arch. “But we didn’t have that much sex.”

“We had a surprising amount of sex,” Harris said.

She was proud of that, honestly. “I think you ate them all once I went home.”

“Keep thinking that,” he said. “But anyway, we’re out.”

Darcy pouted in his general direction. “Do you have peanut butter?”

“Yeah?”

“Do you have… Chocolate?” she asked, with an innocent smile.

“No, Darcy.” They turned the corner, heading up the street towards his apartment building.

“No, what do you mean, no? No, you don’t have chocolate?”

“No, you’re not sticking a chocolate bar in a jar of peanut butter.”

She headed up the street, absurdly pleased with herself. “Again. I don’t like to repeat myself. But maybe YOU’RE not, but you’re not the boss of me.”

“Then, no, I don’t have any chocolate.”

“Then good thing there’s a CVS like, half a block from here.” She linked her hands behind her back, letting the handles of the bags tangle together. “With a wide variety of high end, expensive chocolate bars. Since we got paid today, I think I’m perfectly justified in buying one. Or two.” Her head tipped to the side. “Or as many as I can carry. Do you think-” She turned to Harris, except Harris wasn’t there. Startled, she jerked to a stop, twisting around. “Harris?”

He was a dozen steps behind her, standing still in the center of sidewalk, his head tipped back, his eyes locked on something above them. Darcy looked up, trying to figure out what he was looking at. “Harris?” she repeated, not sure what she should be seeing. His building, an older, well-maintained brownstone, looked the way it always did, the windows gleaming in the late afternoon sunshine.

“Brownies,” Harris said, and Darcy looked back at him. He smiled at her, his lips tipping up on one side. But there was a tension to his shoulders that hadn’t been there before, and his eyes were flat. Expressionless. “I don’t have chocolate. We can make brownies.”

Darcy frowned, just a little. “Okay. Harris, what’s-”

He reached for the bags in her hands. “But I’m out of eggs.”

“Then we don’t have to make brownies?” she said, because he seemed to be waiting for a reply.

“Do me a favor?” He shifted the bags in his arms, his head down as he balanced the load. “Go down to the corner and get some from the mini mart?”

Darcy stared at him. “What’s wrong?”

His head came up. For an instant, there was nothing, no expression, no color, no life in his face. He was just blank. Empty.

She blinked, and it was gone. And in its place was just Harris, just as he always was, with that faint half smile and warm eyes and hair that refused to stay in place. “Nothing’s wrong,” he said, and she could almost believe it. “Get some eggs?”

Darcy opened her mouth, and nothing came out. Her teeth sank into her bottom lip. “Promise me we’re going to make brownies tonight.”

His smile stretched, and he leaned in. “With peanut butter sauce. I promise.”

She kissed him, because he was right there, and because she could, and because she wanted to. She cupped his face between her palms, her fingers smoothing over his cheekbones, over his jaw, holding him still, holding him close.

He might be lying, but it didn’t taste like a lie.

Darcy was the one to break the kiss, to take a step back. Without the groceries in her hands, she didn’t know what to do with them. “Okay,” she said. She looked up at the building again, but it was just a building, just his building. There was nothing there.

So she didn’t know why her heart was pounding in her chest.

“Want six or twelve?” she asked, and her voice was steady.

“Whatever they’ve got,” he said. His eyes slid shut. Just a single blink that lasted too long. “Hey, Darce?” He opened them again, meeting her gaze without a flich. “I love you.”

She wondered if she should just club him over the head and drag him in the other direction. Sure, it was irrational, but she was used to being irrational. Sometimes it was honestly the best choice.

Instead, she tossed her hair over her shoulder with a flick of her head. “I know.” And then she was off, bouncing along as quick as she could without letting him see her run.

She had to get out of sight before she could reach for her phone.

*

He didn’t want to think.

It was better if he didn’t. If he just did this. If he didn’t think, if he tried not to think too much, or think too hard, or think at all.

God help him, he didn’t want to think at all.

He wrestled the front door open, ignoring the way that it fought him, the damn reusable grocery totes that Darcy loved so much trying their best to get stuck on the wrong side.

Darcy.

Don’t think. Don’t think. Don’t think.

He didn’t know why he was still carrying them. He didn’t know where to leave them. He crossed the lobby, heading towards the elevators. It was empty, and that was perhaps the only piece of luck he’d had today. Or would had.

When had he arrived?

Don’t think. Don’t think. Don’t think.

Was he alone?

Don’t think. Don’t think. Don’t THINK.

Harris let his eyes close, let his head fall forward. He’d been humming since Darcy had walked away, since he’d turned away from her, since he’d let her walk away. Made her walk away. A little tuneless run of notes, to drown out the things in his head that he could not focus on right now. That he would not focus on right now.

But now the soft rise and full of notes had a melody, had a structure. He reached out and punched the elevator button, ignoring how his fingers were shaking. Don’t think. Just focus on the music.

He could control that.

There was a soft ding as the elevator arrived, perfectly in time with the song he wasn’t singing. He stepped back as the doors closed, nodding to his neighbors as they stepped off. Mr. Billings, with his three legged terrier hopping along at his side. Jill, who usually took the stairs because she was just on the third floor, but she’d sprained her ankle last week. Roller derby, she’d told him, with a proud grin and a pronounced limp. She wobbled past him on her crutches, spray painted neon pink and black. The quiet man from the top floor, who wore bow ties Monday through Friday, and regular ties on the weekends.
He might have said something to them, a quick ‘hello’ or a 'how are you?’ He might’ve held the door or exchanged a smile. He waited until the elevator was empty, and stepped on.

“And say to those who blame us, for the way we chose to fight, that sometimes, there are battles, which are more than black or white.”

Harris smiled. “And I could not put down my sword, when justice was my right,” he sang along, his voice quiet.

“Make them hear you, make them hear you.” Mrs. Ishinova was right behind him now, her cane held in one small hand, her Chanel purse tucked easily in her other elbow. Despite her age, her back was ramrod straight, her snow white hair carefully arranged beneath a proper little hat. Her Russian accent was stronger when she was speaking; when she sang, it almost disappeared.

He held the elevator door for her, and she took it as her due, moving to the very center of the elevator and stopping there to arrange herself. She was humming along with him now, her voice high and bright beside his.

And he should want her gone, especially now, but there was something he’d always found comforting about her presence. “Going home?” he asked, punching the button for her floor, then his.

She gave him a look out of the corner of her eye, the light glinting across the lenses of her glasses. “And where else would I be going?” she asked, her voice tart. “To the rave in the basement?”

“Is that where it is?” He sounded normal. He was pleased with that. “I never get the invites.”

“Because you are such a good boy. They know you will not come.” She studied the numbers over the door as the elevator started to move. “What is wrong?” she asked at last.

Harris smiled at her. “What makes you think anything is wrong?” he asked.

Her thin shoulders rose in slight shrug. “'Ragtime’ is not a soundtrack of a happy man, Mr. MacIntyre.” She rocked forward, her hands folded neatly on the top of her cane. “They are the songs of a man with nothing to lose, yes?’

Harris shifted the bags of groceries in his hands. "Pretty sure that’s Webber.”

She made a scoffing noise under her breath. “Ach. Webber. That one is mad, and no more than that.” She waved a hand through the air, the rings on her fingers glittering with the gesture. “Musicals about trains, and cats, and men from the bible singing like the cowboy sings.” The tip of her cane snapped against the polished floor with each offense, like a gavel passing judgment. “Who does these things, but a mad man?”

“Could be worse,” Harris said, and she gave him speaking look. He grinned, and it felt real on his face. “Could be 'Merrily We Roll Along.’”

That won him a dry chuckle. “Bah. A myth, that one. Never existed.”

“Sondheim would like us to believe that,” Harris said. The elevator dinged, and he stepped off. “Have a good night, Mrs. Ishimova.”

There was a click of metal on metal, and he glanced back over his shoulder. She was standing there, her cane holding the doors open, her eyes narrowed. “I have tickets,” she said. “For 'Cabaret.’ Will you escort me?”

Harris smiled. “Depends. What are you planning on wearing?”

Her chin went up, just a fraction of an inch, but enough. “Whatever I damn well please,” she said, and there was a smile hiding in the words. She arched an eyebrow. “What will you be wearing?”

“I’ll get my tux pressed,” he said. “What do I owe you for the ticket?”

Mrs. Ishimova studied him, her dark eyes fathomless. Then she rocked forward, the tip of her cane coming down on the polished floor. “Lend me an egg.”

He felt his lips curve in an approximation of a smile. “Sorry. I’m out.”

She looked at the bags in his hands, then back at him. Harris shrugged. “I was never good at shopping,” he said, and she nodded.

“Yes,” was all she said, and she reached out, stabbing the doors closed button on the elevator panel.
Harris stood there, waiting, as the doors shut. As the elevator pinged, ever so softly, as it left the floor. Then he leaned over, set the bags on the ground, and walked away from them.

“My path may lead to heaven or hell, and God will know what’s best.” The words were soft, rhythmic. Almost a song. Almost a prayer. “But one thing he will never say, is that I went quietly to my rest.”
Don’t think. Don’t think. Don’t. Think.

He didn’t even stop in front of his door, didn’t even reach for his keys. He just reached for the knob, expecting it to be open, knowing it was open.

He shoved it open. “If you’ve scared my cat,” he said, and his voice did not sound like his voice, “there will be hell to pay.”

For a long, still moment, he thought he’d made a mistake. He thought that the whole thing had been in his head. That he’d been wrong about the piece of tape that he’d seen, marking off the upper corner of his window. That he’d forgotten the signals, or maybe missed taking something down, after the last party that Darcy had thrown.

He couldn’t think.

“Why are you here?” he asked, and he was an idiot, wasn’t he? Standing here. Talking to nothing and no one. Talking to an empty apartment because of a goddamned piece of tape on a window and the fact that he’d forgotten to lock his door this morning.

Talking to ghosts because he couldn’t bear to talk to himself anymore.

One of the bags slipped through his fingers, hitting the ground with a thump that startled the breath out of him, and he stumbled backwards, almost landing on his ass when his foot got caught in the strap. Something like panic tugged at his chest, and he dropped the rest, one after another, and an onion rolled across the floor.

“You called me.”

The voice came from behind him, and he somehow wasn’t surprised. “You could make some goddamn noise when you move,” he said. “You know. If you wanted to not give someone a heart attack.”

“I’m not taking a lecture in manners from the kid who came through the door yelling.”

“Yeah, well, what can I say. I was raised by wolves.” Harris took a deep breath, and another, his chest aching, his head empty. He turned around. “Wasn’t I?”

He looked exactly the way that Harris remembered. Stocky and broad, barely taller than Harris himself. His shirt was stretched across his chest, his jeans pooling around the tops of his boots. There was more gray in his short black hair, maybe, but that might just’ve been the light. The lines around his mouth were more pronounced, but his dark eyes were just as steady, just as brilliant as they’d always been.

And when he pointed a finger in Harris’ direction, it was so familiar, he could barely hold back a sob. “Don’t you talk about your parents like that,” Dan said, his dark brows pulling in tight.

Harris shrugged.. “Mom would’ve howled.”

“She had her problems, yes,” Dan said. His lips twitched, trying for a smile. Trying hard. And failing. “You called me. Didn’t you.”

Harris couldn’t hold his gaze any longer. “You need to go.”

“I just got here.”

“And you need to go now, I’ll call, I will-” Don’t think don’t think don’t think. He shook his head hard. “I’ll get your number, and-”

“You know my number, so-”

“I don’t know what you’re-”

“I didn’t know either of you had a time machine, and yet, here we are. Ten years ago, you started this argument, and you still haven’t managed to finish it.”

Harris gave Dan a look. “You brought Tag.”

“Of course I brought Tag,” Dan told him. “I still can’t pick a lock worth a damn.”

Harris looked over his shoulder. “You can come out of the bathroom.”

There was a pause. “I could, but your cat’s in here, and it’s super cute. Can I pick it up?”

Harris smiled. “Yes.”

There was another pause. Then Tag leaned out of the bathroom, his face set in a scowl. He held up a hand. “It bit me.”

“Yeah, he’ll do that,” Harris said. He scraped a hand over his face, and his fingers were shaking. “Why was I worried about you people?”

“Need medical care, Tag?” someone in the bedroom asked.

Tag leaned agianst the kitchen counter, frowning down at his finger. “Maybe. I might have rabies now.”

“You don’t have-” Harris braced his hands on the island. “How many Navy SEALS are in my apartment right now?”

“One,” Tag said. Dan cleared his throat. “Okay, right. Dan. Maybe it’s two.”

Harris glared at him. “Do you mean, two, as in you two? Or two in addition to you two?”

“Okay, four,” Tag drawled. To Dan, he said, “I tried.”

“Oh, yeah, that was, that was a truly heroic attempt,” Dan said, rubbing his forehead.

Harris switched his glare to Dan. “Four?”

“Who was the girl?” The voice came from behind his sofa.

Harris made a very deliberate effort not to look in that direction. “ONLY four?”

“Six. Max.” Tag grinned at him. “Who was the girl?”

“None of your business,” Harris said. He gestured wildly at everything and nothing. “I need you to clear this infestation from my apartment.”

“Are you coming?” Dan asked.

“I need you to go,” Harris told him. Dan’s mouth went flat, and Harris told himself he didn’t care. “I need-”

“Did you get a girlfriend?” Tag asked. He leaned back. “Was she pretty, Coops?” A hand came up from behind the couch, gave him a thumbs up, and sank back down out of sight. “She’s pretty,” Tag said to Harris, his voice approving.

“Know what she is?” Harris told him with a feral smile. “She’s smarter than you. She’s smarter than me. She’s smarter than everyone in this room. And she’s naturally suspicious. So the way I see it, right now, the chances that she’s hiding behind a mailbox and-”

“New York still has mailboxes?” the couch asked.

“IF YOU’RE SNOOPING,” Harris started, and Dan held up a hand.

“Mailbox,” he said, his voice quiet.

“The chances that she’s hiding behind a mailbox and calling a number that will bring doom down upon us are pretty damn high,” Harris told him. “So. We need to go.”

“No, seriously.” Brian leaned out of the bedroom door, and he had significantly less hair that Harris remembered, but that shit-eating grin was exactly the same. “They still have-”

“DEFUNCT MAILBOXES STILL MAKE DECENT COVER,” Harris said. “Want to know how this’ll end?” He looked back at Tag. “If we’re lucky, she’s calling Thor. If we’re unlucky, she’s calling Coulson. And if we’re dealing with the unchecked Karma of, like, my entire life, she’s calling Stark, and he’s going to blow the wall clear off of my apartment building first and ask questions later.”

In the stillness that followed, Harris leaned forward. “So. Before any of that happens. Can you leave now?”

Dan caught his shoulder, turning him sharply towards the door. “Right. And you’re coming with us, mijo.”

“I’m really not,” Harris said, trying to tug free of his grip. It was a losing battle. “I am-”

“He’s been saying the rosary in Spanish for the last half an hour, kid, you really don’t want to fight him on this one,” Tag explained. He snagged Harris’ other arm. “Let’s go. You can explain yourself in the car.”

“I am not-” That was as far as he got before the knock on the door brought him up short. Everyone went still, and Dan’s hand tightened on his arm. “Ah. Right. She’s got speed dial,” Harris said, staring at it with loathing. “Right.”

“Window,” Tag said, and that was all the warning Harris got before he was lifted off his feet, dragged backwards across the living room. “Coop?”

“On it, sir.”

“Stop,” Harris hissed, and when they didn’t, he braced his foot on the nearest piece of furniture, trying his best to force them to slow down. “Stop! What is wrong with you, what is-”

Dan turned on him, and there was something terrifying in his face, something that Harris recoiled from, his stomach rolling over. “What is happening here?” Dan growled. “What are you doing?”

“What? What are-”

“From the time when you were eight, what did you say? That you would never, ever, join a branch of the military,” Dan said, his voice vibrating with the force of it. “After your father died, that was your mantra, wasn’t it? That you’d never put on a uniform, you’d never-”

Harris blinked at him. “Are you-”

“So here you are. Working for a government paramilitary organization, living in a SHIELD building-”

“This isn’t a SHIELD building,” Harris said, and no one was listening to him now.

“Is that woman your girlfriend or your handler?” Dan snapped.

“Is she WHAT?”

“Calls from untraceable numbers, how many of those have I gotten, and when I try to find out who’s calling me, what do I run into, over and over again? SHIELD blocks. SHIELD classifications.” He leaned in. “You were dead a year ago, Harris, and now I’m not sure what you are, but we can figure that out when we are a safe distance from this building.”

Harris stared at him, his heart in his throat. “I’m not dead,” he said. “I don’t know where-” He stopped, his eyes squeezing shut. “Darcy is not my handler, oh, God, no one would make Darcy a handler, she is the walking definition of ‘abuse of power.’ This is not a SHIELD building. And I need to-”

This time, the knock on the door was a lot louder. “Harris?”

All the tension went out of Harris, so fast that he swayed on his feet. “Oh fuck me, it’s Mrs. Ishinova, it’s not- It’s-” He pulled his arm out of Dan’s grip, and this time, Dan let him go. “It’s my 90 year old neighbor,” he said, his voice pitched low. “Just- Just let me get rid of her, and we can go out the door like normal people, okay?”

Dan just stared at him, his face unreadable, and Harris looked at Tag. “Can we be normal people? Please?”

“Ship’s sailed on that,” Tag said, but he gave Dan a speaking glance. Dan grimaced, and Tag shrugged.

“Go. Sit on the couch or something,” Harris said. Without giving them a chance to say another word, he headed for the door, yanking it open. “Sorry, I-”

He stopped. “What are you WEARING.”

Mrs. Ishinova’s chin came up, her eyes narrowing into slits. “Whatever I please,” she said, stomping past him. The massive silk turban on her head bobbled on her head with every step, the long ends of a fur stole swaying in her wake. She swept an arm out to the side, a gleaming ebony cane nearly clipping the coat rack. “It is my Cabaret ensemble.” She adjusted her gloves. “Do you like it?”

Harris tried not to smile. “Stunning. As always.” He glanced at the door. “What, did you go downstairs, change, and-”

“Who are your friends?” she asked, cutting him off.

“Ah, they’re-” Harris started.

“Just some old friends of Harris’,” Tag said with an easy smile. Dan looked out the window, his hand braced on the end of the couch.

Mrs. Ishinova considered him. “Is that so.” It didn’t sound much like a question. She folded her hands on the top of her can, leaning into it. “From where?”

“From work,” Harris said, stepping between them. “Did you need something? Other than wardrobe approval?”

Her mouth pursed. “A tin of cat food, please. My delivery, it has not come.” The tip of her cane snapped against the floor. “I am most displeased.”

Harris stared at her. “Why do you sound like Angela Lansbury in Anastasia.”

Her nose went up. “How RUDE,” she said. She stomped past him, her mouth pursed tight. “Such behavior, I have never.” She continued on in Russian, and Harris sighed.

“You want Chicken Dinner or Seafood Feast?” he asked, reaching for the cabinet door. She flapped a hand at him, and he sighed again. “Fine. Both.”

Mrs. Ishinova stopped in front of Tag. In his defense, he smiled at her, his arms folded over his chest, his posture relaxed. “Did you need-”

She slapped him.

In the stunned silence that followed, Tag just blinked at her. “What are you-” He stopped, his brow furrowing. “Did you-” His hand came up, fumbling for his cheek. “I think you-”

He pitched forward, crashing into the coffee table and hitting the ground like a box of broken bricks. Staring down at him, Mrs. Ishinova rotated her ring back into place with a twist of her fingers. “Harris? Run.”

Harris realized his mouth was hanging open. “What did you-”

Dan lunged for him, and Mrs. Ishinova swung her cane at his legs, clipping him hard in the knees. “Harris,” she said, and she sounded so strangely calm. Almost gleeful. “GO.”

“Harris, don’t you-” Dan started, grabbing for her cane. She threw her turban at him, and he batted it away. “What-”

The blinding flash of light caught Harris completely off guard. He stumbled backwards, clawing at his face, and people were yelling, so many voices, people yelling, and he couldn’t think, couldn’t see, couldn’t think.

Don’t think. Don’t think.

A hand locked on his elbow, yanking him backwards, almost off his feet, and he stumbled, trying to pull free. “What-”

“Harris, come ON.”

Darcy. He fumbled for her hand, and found it, and he wasn’t sure how, he wasn’t sure of anything, but Darcy’s grip was familiar, the way her fingers tangled with his. “Darcy, don’t, I don’t-”

Hands on his back, pushing hard now. “Move him. Now.”

His vision was clearing, blink by blink, and he could see shadows now, forms moving around him, past him, people talking, and it was all a blur, a buzz in the back of his head.

Don’t think.

“Is this a SHIELD building?” he burst out.

From behind him, a sigh. “For such a smart boy,” Mrs. Ishinova said, “you are very slow.”

“Harris.” A door, slamming against the wall, and they were in the stairs, he knew they were. “The rent you pay, and your address in New York? And you thought that wasn’t being subsidized?”

He took the stairs by rote; it felt like he was flying, but the ground was out from under him. He was falling. He was falling and he didn’t know where he was going to land. “But my neighbors,” he said, and he sounded like an idiot, he might be an idiot. He couldn’t tell anymore. “Mrs. Ishinova-”

“I was Director Carter’s personal translator for almost a decade,” she said. “They’re coming-”

“Shit, that was fast.” Darcy yanked Harris around, hard. “Can we make-”

“Wait, if this building is owned by SHIELD-” Harris said, and that was as far as he got before everything crashed to a halt. Including himself. He hit the wall with a thump, and God, that hurt.

“That’s enough.”

Dan’s voice cut through the fog, and Darcy’s fingers tightened on Harris’ elbow. “Stay back,” she said, and there was an edge to her voice now. A sharpness that Harris wasn’t used to. “I’m warning you.”

“You’re not taking him out of here.”

“Everyone stop.” Harris braced a hand against the wall, blinking desperately. Darcy was a dark blur in front of him, standing on the landing between him and the stairs. Something loomed over them, moving slowly in their direction. Harris glared up at it. “Stop. Just. STOP.”

He tugged his arm out of Darcy’s grip. “I can’t think,” he said. “I can’t-”

Dan moved, and so did Darcy, and Harris almost expected that second flare of light, his eyes squeezing tight as the ground fell out from under him.

He landed on his ass hard enough to bounce.

Harris flopped over onto his back, pressing his hands over his face. “WHY DOESN’T ANYONE LISTEN TO ME?”

“It is a mystery.”

The voice echoed.

It echoed in a way that could only be called unearthly.

Harris opened his eyes, and stared up at the golden blur that hung above him. “Darcy.”

A pause. “Yes?”

“What did you do?”

Another pause. “Thor’s mom gave me a panic button,” she said at last. “And I might’ve panicked. Just a little. And used it.”

Harris nodded. “What does-”

“We’re in Asgard.”

He took a deep breath. “Of course we are.” Slowly, carefully, he sat up, squinting up at the statue in front of him. “Why are we-”

The statue moved, bending slowly forward, a hand extending in his direction. “Welcome, young one, to the Kingdom of Asgard.”

Harris took it. “Great. Wonderful. I- I am incredibly uncomfortable with this, I don’t, I don’t want to be on an alien planet or in an alternate plane of existance, or anywhere outside of the contiguous United States, I don’t have a passport, I don’t HAVE MY PASSPORT.”

The statue leaned forward, as if imparting a secret. “I know.”

“Darcy,” Harris said, his voice raising to a painful pitch.

“You get used to it,” Darcy said, from somewhere off to his right.

“It is true. You do,” Mrs. Ishinova said, and Harris wondered if he should start screaming. It was starting to seem like a viable solution.

“Right,” Dan said. And then, again. “Right. I am-”

There was a snap, and a crackle, and Dan swore, loud and long and in about three different languages. Harris squeezed his eyes shut. “Darcy. Did you just tase him?”

“Yes.” She sounded proud of that. “Heimdall, can you please?”

“Since when did you require my assistance?” the statue asked, but he sounded amused.

“Jesus Christ,” Harris said. He flopped back on his back. “Darcy.”

“Who the hell is he?” she asked. “And why did he break into your apartment?”

“Well,” Harris drawled, “legally speaking? He’s my father.”

There was a moment of silence. “Huh,” Darcy said.

“Huh,” Harris agreed.

“Still not as awkward as when you met my mother,” Darcy said.

“Shall I put him back down, then?” Heimdall asked. He sounded only mildly interested in the answer.

Harris took a deep breath. “I think it’s best if you do.”

He was going to kill someone. He just wasn't sure who yet.