In The Halls of Asgard
After Darcy’s unexpected and unexplained relocation to Central Park, Jane went into a flurry of analysis and experimentation, redoubling her efforts to create a reliable working model of an Einstein-Rosen Bridge. They spent hours studying the data created by Darcy’s inadvertent hop sideways, calculating and recalculating, until Jane was confident that she had the right equations.
They set up the equipment, hooking this gizmo into that whatsit, and calibrated the beepy eggbeater thingy so the beeps were just the right number of seconds apart. It was all very, very scientific. There was a well-defined no-go area marked out by bright blue electrical tape and a piece of plywood painted in hot pink and lime green stripes in the middle of the test area (that means Stay Out, Darcy!), and into that well-defined no-go area, they placed an apple.
“Why an apple?” Tony Stark asked when he came down to take a look at the experiment.
“It’s organic, could be considered recently alive and contains dormant living cells in the form of its seeds,” Jane said in a matter-of-fact tone.
“And if it explodes - well, the mess will be fairly easy to clean up,” Darcy added from where she was spinning slowly around on her chair. “Which will be my job, so yeah. Easy to clean up.” She grinned at Stark, giving him a double thumbs up. He nodded in agreement.
Jane tapped away at her keyboard for a few moments, pushed a couple of buttons on one of the machines, and then quickly scribbled something down on a notepad.
“Okay,” she said. “We’re ready to go. Darcy, you’re on lever duty. Mr Stark - either shut up or get out.”
“Ah, you can’t order me out of my own lab,” Tony replied. Noticing how he eyed the apple covetously, Darcy wondered if she should organise a fruit basket for her desk - if he was anything like Jane, Tony probably couldn't remember the last time he’d eaten.
“When I’m running a potentially explosive experiment, I could order the President himself to get out or shut up,” Jane replied calmly. “So which is it to be?” She pinned him with a sharp look as she spoke the last sentence, and he shrunk back ever so infinitesimally at the ferocity in her eyes.
“Shutting up now,” he said, employing the kind of common sense that Darcy was sure usually only sprang into action when Pepper was around.
Darcy got to her feet, and carefully picked her way across the floor, avoiding the criss-cross of cables and cords in her way. She took up her position next to the big red lever (labelled in big red letters, ‘Do Not Pull This Lever!’), pushed her hair out of her face, and announced. “Ready!” in a clear, loud voice.
“On my mark,” Jane said. “Three, two, one, pull . ”
Darcy pulled the lever.
Sparks crackled and flew from two of the machines, the apple disappeared in a whirlwind of rainbow colour, and then everything went silent. The lever sprung back into its off position with a clunk that echoed around the room.
They all stared at the piece of plywood. The stripes of paint were now burnt orange and deep sky blue in colour but otherwise it looked perfectly normal and just the same as before.
“So… did it work?” Tony asked, but there was no answer from Jane who had turned to the computer and was studying the readout, comparing it to her notes with a small frown of concentration.
“It looks like it worked,” Darcy said, shrugging her shoulders as she ventured towards where the apple had been. She prodded the floor with the toe of her boot, then crouched down and waved her hand around. “Well, I’m fairly certain it hasn’t just turned invisible.”
“Hey, Darcy,” Jane announced without turning around. “Could you come here - there’s a weird little blip in the readout and—”
There was a soft, crackling sound, overlapped by more sparks exploding from the machine Darcy had just walked away from, and the lever dropped down.
Before anyone had time to react, the whirlwind blew up again and when it cleared, Darcy had followed the apple and disappeared.
“Oh, shit,” Jane muttered. “Not again.”
Darcy felt like she was flying. There was a roaring sound in her ears, there was wind whipping at her hair, and she couldn’t… feel… anything. At all.
Now I know how Dorothy felt , she thought as the wind rushed past her. She’d instinctively closed her eyes when whatever it was had happened and it took all her willpower to open them again.
She caught her breath at the view around her. She was surrounded by a wall of rainbow light rushing past her so fast that it was impossible to focus on anything. She squinted, concentrating as hard as she could to see if there was anything beyond the rainbow, reaching out unconsciously with one hand to touch it. The colour parted around her hand, coming together again like the water behind a boat.
“Holy shit,” she managed to squeak out. “Holy. Shit.”
As she flew on she realised that she could just make out multi-hued swirls of crimson, gold, green, and blue beyond the glowing curtain, and there, in the distance, a flat, round disc was getting bigger and bigger as she approached at a phenomenal speed. She was concentrating so hard at trying to focus through the swirling rainbow that she was taken by complete surprise when the tunnel shuddered, shook, and then exploded all around her.
She hit the floor hard enough to knock the breath from her lungs, rolling for several feet across a smooth floor before finally coming to a stop against something hard.
She lay there for a moment, waiting for her breath to come back, and more than a little bit worried about what she would see when she dared to open her eyes again.
She opened her eyes.
She closed her eyes.
She opened her eyes again.
Yep. It was gold. Lots of gold. Smooth, shiny, gold.
“Where the hell have you sent me this time, Jane?” she muttered to herself as she closed her eyes again. Gradually, she realised she could hear the sound of running feet getting louder and louder, and with great determination she struggled to her feet, using the gigantic gold column next to her for support.
Looking around, her eyes fell on the gigantic golden dais that dominated the enormous hall, and her jaw dropped.
“No way,” she breathed in awe. “No. Fucking. Way.”
The small group of people were all staring at her and it was all she could do to tear her gaze away from them to look in the other direction as the sound of running came right up behind her and stopped.
She put her hands up straight away. “It’s okay, I’m American!” she yelped, panicking just a little at the sight of the spears levelled at her.
Darcy spun around at the familiar voice, hands falling back down to her side.
“Thor? Oh my god, Thor!” She gaped at the man striding towards her. “Holy shit - is this Asgard? Am I on Asgard? Did she do it? She did it, she totally did it!!”
She took a few shaky steps towards Thor, wondering why he was getting blurrier as he got closer, and then the world went black.
As she swam back to conscious she noticed that she was bobbing up and down. It took a moment, but she finally figured from the rhythm that she was being carried very gently in a very solid-feeling set of arms.
She cracked an eye open to find a familiar looking face looking down at her, the high vaulted ceiling of the great hall looming above them both.
“It is you,” she said, voice echoing the relief she was feeling. “Did I faint?”
“Aye,” Thor rumbled as he strode from the hall. “Your journey to Asgard has wearied you and you swooned. I am taking you to my mother’s chambers.”
“Your Mother’s chambers? Your Mom’s here? I’m gonna meet your Mom?” Darcy craned her neck to look around. “Wow, I wasn’t out for very long, was I?”
“Long enough for us to worry,” Thor said. “And it takes a few minutes to walk the length of the hall. It’s very long.” He grinned at her.
“Well, I wasn’t gonna mention it,” Darcy grinned back. “I could probably walk now by the way.”
Thor shook his head. “My mother ordered me to carry you. She will meet us there with a healer, and frankly, I do not wish to displease her.”
“Okay, I get it. Moms are not to be displeased, right?”
Thor smiled down at her again and walked on in silence as Darcy looked around, trying to memorise everything she was seeing so that she could tell Jane when she got back.
As if he knew what she thinking, Thor spoke again, a soft, worried tone in his voice.
“And how is Jane? Is she well?”
She turned her head back to look at up him again. “Jane’s okay. Still working too hard, but like that’s ever gonna change, right?”
Thor frowned. “I did not mean for my return to be delayed, but as you’ll see shortly, I had little choice in the matter. I hope you can assure her of my good intentions when you see her.”
“What do you mean?” Darcy asked as they entered a long corridor that ran along the edge of an enormous building. There were large open arches on one side, and Darcy could just see the city spread out below them, with a glimmer of something shiny in the distance.
Thor strode confidently to one of the arches and set her on her feet.
“See, there?” He pointed towards the something shiny and as she stared she realised it was the end of a long bridge with a large golden dome jutting over the edge of… the edge of… the edge…
“Thor - where’s the rest of the planet? And what is that?”
“Asgard isn’t a planet in the same way that Midgard is. It’s flatter. More of a… disc.”
“A disc? How does that even work?” Darcy wondered, but Thor ignored her as he answered her second question.
“And that is the Bifrost Bridge, where Heimdall’s Observatory once controlled the Bifrost. Unfortunately, I was forced to destroy the bridge after I came back from Midgard to stop Loki from annihilating Jotunheim, and the Observatory fell into the void. We were only able to repair the bridge after I returned with Loki and the Tesseract after the battle of New York.”
He paused, then turned to face Darcy.
“In what is likely a most curious coincidence, the last of the work was only completed yesterday. The new Observatory is not operational yet but it is only a matter of some final testing and the Bifrost will be active again. Ah - there, see? Heimdall is opening the bridge now!”
A beam of light sprang from the dome, reaching out into space. It hung there for several breathtaking minutes before shrinking back in on itself and disappearing.
Darcy leaned against the arch and turned her gaze away from the bridge and towards Thor. “So, if your Bifrost isn’t operational, then how did I get here? How did Jane’s experiment work?”
Thor shook his head and motioned for her to join him as they continued to walk through the corridors of the palace. “I do not know how it all works, but Mother is confident that we can get you home without too much delay. She said something about an apple...” He shrugged, and waved his hand at a doorway. “Here we are!”
Thor led Darcy into a large, airy room decorated entirely in gold.
“Wow,” she said, following him down the steps and past the raised bath in the center of the room.
“Mother! Mother, we are here,” Thor called out.
An elegantly dressed fair-haired woman appeared from a set of doors to their right, a welcoming smile on her face and her hands held out in greeting.
“Must you be so loud?” she said to Thor, but the smile didn’t leave her face and Thor grinned back, unrepentant.
“Mother, this is Darcy Lewis, loyal friend and companion to Jane Foster. Darcy - my mother: Frigga, Queen of Asgard.”
Darcy waved awkwardly and then - remembering all the historical romances she’d ever read - hurriedly bent her knees in what she hoped was a passable curtsey.
“Welcome to Asgard, my dear.” Frigga stepped forward to take Darcy’s hands. “This is an unexpected but not unwelcome surprise.”
“Thanks. I mean, thank you. It’s nice to be here. Your Majesty.” Darcy stumbled over the words. Never in her wildest dreams had she thought she’d ever meet royalty, let alone alien royalty. “Jane’s gonna be so thrilled to know her machine worked.”
“I confess, we did not think she was so far along with her research,” Frigga replied. “She is exceptional.”
“Jane’s awesome,” Darcy replied, and then hurriedly tacked on, “Your Majesty.”
Frigga glanced over at Thor, a knowing smile on her face. “So I have heard.”
There was a noise behind them as the door opened. Darcy turned to see a guard enter.
“Your Majesty,” the guard said, “Heimdall sends word that the Bifrost is fully operational, and the AllFather requests Thor’s presence without delay.”
Thor turned to his Mother, a look of hesitation in his eyes.
“Go,” Frigga said. “I will ensure that Darcy is sent home safely.”
Thor embraced his mother, kissing her on the cheek before turning to Darcy.
“Darcy, I will not see you again before my mother facilitates your return to Midgard. The Nine Realms are in desperate need of my presence but please - assure Jane of my intent to return as soon as it is possible.”
“Will do, big gu-oof,” Darcy said, Thor hugging her so tightly he squeezed half the air out of her lungs. “Be safe, dude.”
“Fare thee well, Darcy.”
“So where’s he going, anyway?” Darcy asked, turning back to Frigga. “Your Majesty.”
“There is much unrest throughout the Nine Realms. Thor and the Einherjar go to bring peace now that the Bifrost is rebuilt at last.”
“Oh,” was all Darcy could say as she looked towards where Thor had disappeared again. “I hope it all goes well for them, then.”
“Mm, I’m sure they will achieve their goal. Now, come. The healers are waiting to see you before I escort you to the Observatory so Heimdall can return you to Midgard.”
“Why do the healers need to see me, Your Majesty?” Darcy hurried to catch up with the queen. “I feel fine.”
“A precaution only - it has been many years since a mortal last travelled the Bifrost and we wish only to ensure that you remain healthy. You did collapse upon your arrival,” Frigga reminded her.
Darcy was pleasantly surprised by how quickly the Asgard healers declared her fit and mostly unaffected by Bifrost travel. Upon questioning, they judged her collapse to be a combination of not enough sleep or food and exhorted her to take better care of herself if she did not wish a repeat of the incident. Darcy promised faithfully to do so and then it was time for her to return home.
Upon learning Darcy had never ridden a horse, Frigga sent for a carriage.
“It is a very long way to walk,” the queen told her. “Perhaps we will save that for your next visit. For now, however, we had best return you before your friends become too worried.”
The journey along the bridge went by too quickly, as did the introduction to Heimdall - who assured Darcy he would continue to watch for both her and Jane’s safety. Then he plunged the great sword into the mechanism, the room began to spin, and the rainbow bridge burst forth across space again.
“You will return to the roof of the building you departed from,” Heimdall informed her. “Safe travels, my lady.”
Darcy took a deep breath. “Thank you,” she said with one last look behind her and stepped into the rainbow.