Work Header

Ragnarok (release tips the balance)

Work Text:

In the room beneath the world, one moment is much like another. Darcy doesn't know how long she's been here; long enough to memorize all the glowing runes inscribed on the floor, long enough for Loki to join in word-perfect, singing a soft sweet counterpoint to all the pop songs Darcy knows. Long enough for the bowl of venom to fill and empty, fill and empty, regular as breathing.

When Darcy spills the venom on the ground, it soaks into the stone and the runes glow a little brighter. Behind her Loki's breath goes ragged, and when she turns to him he's inhumanly pale and twisting in his bonds. Sometimes he screams, a thin, teeth-clenched scream, as though the pain is worse every time. Maybe they'll measure time by pain: a hundred years the first time the scream echoes around the chamber, a thousand years the first time Loki cries.

For now there's only the steady drip, drip in Darcy's bowl. She stands over him, glasses halfway down the bridge of her nose, and watches Loki's face. His eyes are closed, eyelashes dark against his cheeks, and his breathing is so regular that she'd think he was sleeping if she didn't know him better than anyone in the world.

"It's your turn," Darcy says.

Loki's mouth curves into that familiar sharp smile. "Have I told you of the golden apples?" he asks. His eyes flicker open in time to take in Darcy's nod. "Sif's hair, and how I tricked the Svartalfar into returning Mjolnir? -- No, I remember, you laughed." He shares a grin with Darcy, but it slides off his face between one drip of venom and the next. "My light tales run short."

"Tell the dark ones, then," Darcy suggests. "I won't go." Nor can she -- this stasis spell locks them both here, until the Avengers let them out, or until they're forgotten after countless years and Stark's technology corrodes enough to free them -- but somewhere, long ago, when Darcy was still counting the emptying bowls, and her rendition of the Lord of the Rings made Loki laugh until he looked flushed and human, she realized that she doesn't want to go. The world outside this room is full of oblivious friends and vainglorious heroes and all the people who are way too well-adjusted to deal with Darcy Lewis or with Loki.

"It's a great comfort to me," Loki tells her, eyes glittering. When he jokes it's deadly serious and he lies with the truth, which are some of the things Darcy likes best about him. "Then I'll tell you of my children."

He's watching serpent-sharp for her reaction, but Darcy knew a long time ago what she was getting into, and the way she loves him doesn't have room for jealousy or fear. "Aw," she says, "you're a daddy?" and Loki relaxes, the almost-imperceptible shifting against his bonds.

"When I was young, and first learning my magics," he begins, "I devoted some of that time to studying the roads between the worlds. Heimdall, the guardian of the Bifrost, took my first questions with good grace, and answered them well: he explained to me where the Bifrost could go, and where it could not, and why it could not; he told me of the energies that govern the paths between the realms, and of how the cold spaces between Yggdrasil's branches are dangerous. But when I asked how else one might travel between the worlds, he became stern with me: that way, he said, lay danger and pain."

"So you found some other way as soon as you could," Darcy says. It's not a guess. She knows him too well -- and anyway, it's exactly what she would have done.

Loki laughs, a soft infectious joyous laugh that fills the whole chamber and makes the venom shiver in its bowl. "I made myself a cloak of void, where no light falls and Heimdall cannot see, and I walked in the spaces between stars. On Midgard they called me Skywalker."

Darcy makes the best approximation she can of a lightsaber noise, and Loki throws her a look of laughing annoyance. "So," Darcy says, "George Lucas owes you like a million dollars for copyright whatever, and you're a badass who walked between the stars. Where's the part with children?"

"I'm telling you of a child now," Loki says, with amusement still in his voice. "I walked in winding paths around Yggdrasil, from its branches in nebulae to its roots in dying red stars, and while I walked, the void took shape at my passage. Most wonders are accidents, Darcy, and so this one was: without meaning to my patterns and spells made a great coiled creature, light years long, wrapping around Yggdrasil's roots and ready to devour energy and light. When I saw it, and what it meant to do, I coaxed it by trickery and skill into believing its own body was a source of light. So it lies in the empty spaces, devouring itself, and so it will until --"

The drip, drip echoes, too loud. "Until?" Darcy asks.

"Until I fail to come -- until I fail to weave it dark matter to sustain itself. Then my Jormungand, starving, will turn to the Tree." Loki says it with calm, vicious satisfaction.

A long time ago, when they were locked away, Loki promised they would escape at the end of the world. A long time ago Darcy thought that he meant the Avengers would go down for what they did, but now, suddenly, the vista of potential is impossibly wider. If Loki's locked away, he can't save the world. "Huh," Darcy murmurs. "What else?"

Loki's eyes go innocently wide. "Why should there be anything else?"

"Children," Darcy says. "Plural."

"Clever Sigyn," Loki murmurs. "Yes: there is Fenrir too. I wanted to do it deliberately, once I'd done it by accident -- make a creature of void to dog my steps and guard me. He was everything I could have asked for. Picture it, Darcy, a solitary boy walking in shadow with a shadow-wolf by his side ... His coat was like velvet and winter. I fed him dying stars."

"I always wanted a dog," Darcy says. She still has a gift for inanity, and from the smile that flickers across Loki's face, he still thinks it's a gift too. "So what happened to -- Fenrir, was it?"

"My father discovered him," Loki says; and if there is something besides bitterness in his voice whenever he mentions Thor now, he more than makes up for it in the poison with which he speaks of Odin. "He took me to task for creating something so dangerous, but because I was young he only told me not to do it again, and took Fenrir from me. I don't know why my father didn't destroy him; for ages I thought he had. But when I ... fell ..." and here a strange blank shiver crosses his face for an instant, an expression Darcy knows as well as any of his others and knows not to touch, "I saw the cage in which Fenrir is bound, and it will hold only so long as Yggdrasil is stable. My poor wolf is starving. He'll devour every star he can on the day his prison weakens."

Darcy is silent, digesting this. She stares down at her bowl, and sees that it's full near to brimming. "Loki, I gotta --"

Loki nods tersely. "Quick, then."

She turns away, biting her lip, and pours the venom out to the floor, careful not to splash any on her sneakers. The runes glow brighter; behind her Loki gives a thin gasping whimper that makes Darcy's stomach clench. When she hurries back, thrusting her bowl between the dripping venom and Loki's skin, his back is a perfect bow of pain and it takes him a long moment to come down, shivering with small uncontrolled tremors. Darcy's nails dig against the ceramic of her bowl. She'd give so much just to lean down, brush the damp hair from Loki's face, kiss his eyelids and promise revenge; but she needs both hands for the bowl, so she just stands there, as helpless as he is.

"Soon," Darcy says. "Your big snake will go for the Tree, and your wolf will get free, and we'll --" She doesn't really know how the sentence ends. It ends when the world does, obviously, but that's too big for Darcy to really imagine; she rejects a dozen blockbuster apocalypses and the only thing left is Loki, free and laughing delight, which is good enough until she sees the real thing.

"Soon," Loki echoes. "Yes."

Drip, drip. Darcy taps a foot in counterpoint. Before it can get too annoying, she hums the first few bars of Bad Romance. After half a verse Loki joins in.


When Darcy was little -- fourth grade or so -- she spent a week driving her friends nuts by interrogating them all endlessly on one very important point: which came first, the chicken or the egg? She was sure it was the egg, because there were dinosaurs before there were chickens, and when Veronica, who liked to learn big words, finally cracked and shrieked, "I don't know, Darcy, it's rhetorical!" Darcy was less than satisfied. In the grand scheme of things, obviously, it didn't matter at all, but it probably mattered to the chickens and the dinosaurs.

In college, to fill her lit requirement, Darcy took a Shakespeare course. When they read Hamlet, the professor stopped them just after To be or not to be, and instead of the obvious questions, he asked, "Does Hamlet know that his uncle and Polonius are listening?" The class stared at him blankly, but a light bulb went off in Darcy's brain. The words would be the same whether or not Hamlet knew -- maybe his actions might be the same -- maybe the audience would never know, either -- but it made all the difference in the world.

Now Darcy is trapped underground with a god burning for vengeance, but she doesn't ask about chickens and eggs or about Hamlet's audience. She says, "Hey, Loki? When we get out -- are we getting out because your snake's started eating the Tree? Or are we getting out ourselves and helping it?"

Loki stretches and smiles his sharp smile. "I set the end in motion the moment I made Jormungand," he says. "We'll escape because I made it to release us; we'll help it because it's my child and because every action has its consequence."

Darcy frowns. It takes her a moment to figure out why this answer makes her skin itch uncomfortably; and when she does, she tries to be careful with her words. "Did you mean --?" she begins, but as always Loki is steps ahead of her, the way he's steps ahead of everyone.

"No," he says, steady and firm. "Jormungand was an accident I turned into a safeguard. I was only keeping the balance; it's Thor's fault, and Odin's, if I destroy everything."

Loki has a strange way of taking on responsibility for everything while still insisting it's someone else's fault. The thing about being locked away with Loki for so long is that Darcy knows by now everything she can hope to understand, and everything she can't; and this is one of the things she can't. Darcy hasn't done much with her life, but it's her own fault and no one else's that she's here with Loki, and when they get out and the end of the world comes, well, that's going to be Darcy's fault too.


And then the venom stops.

They both notice the instant the drip, drip ceases, but it takes them a moment to realize what it means. Then Darcy shrieks with joy, flinging the bowl aside -- it hits the stone floor, smashing into satisfying fragments -- at the same time that Loki begins laughing, a wild inhuman sound that catches in Darcy's chest and makes her laugh too, even as both of them scramble to tear the withering bonds from Loki's wrists and ankles. Loki staggers upright and they crash together, kissing less with passion than with sheer giddiness.

"What d'you think?" Darcy asks breathlessly. "A hundred years?"

"Less than a dozen," Loki returns. "Come now." He grabs her hand and drags her straight through the stone wall that's really magic or a holograph. They stumble out the other side, into the corridor under the Avengers Mansion that Darcy remembers: but this time, it's full of people. Loki's face lights with delighted surprise.

They're obviously not Avengers, unless SHIELD's taken to employing goon squads. These guys, and there must be at least a dozen of them, have black uniforms, black helmets, black goggles, and silver gun straps across their chests like capital H's. And the woman standing in front of them is no Agent Romanoff. She's in the black uniform too, with a cape hooked over it; though her head is bare, letting dark hair spill down over her shoulders, and her features are fine-carved and beautiful, one half of her face is covered by a bone-white mask. It should look like a Phantom of the Opera knockoff, but it makes Darcy's skin crawl.

Darcy realizes how she and Loki must look, to this woman and her goons: pale from lack of sunlight, a post-grad with messy hair and skewed glasses and dumb hipster clothing years out of fashion, holding hands with a naked guy, his wrists and ankles raw. Darcy squares her shoulders, raises her chin, and looks the woman right in the eye that isn't hidden by her mask.

"Loki," the woman says, low-voiced and melodious. "And this is --?"

A quick glance at Loki confirms that he still looks pleased to see these people, so Darcy thrusts out her free hand. "Darcy Lewis."

The woman holds out her own hand, encased in a black silk glove. "Helen," she says simply, and shakes, grip strong. Then she unhooks the dark cape from her shoulders and moves to drape it over Loki, who smiles down at her with undisguised fondness. "We have to move quickly," Helen tells him. "Doom's making trouble halfway around the world, but you know how damned fast Stark can be; we disabled the security system, but it will have finished rebooting in --" she checks her watch, "one minute and forty-three seconds."

"So let's move, people," Darcy says.

Helen's mouth quirks. "Move out," she calls, and the goon squad hops to it.

Down the corridor, up an elevator, through the hallways of the empty Mansion; Darcy has to trot a little to keep up with everyone, but not once the entire time does Loki loosen his tight grip on Darcy's hand. As they come out the front doors, an alarm starts blaring in the depths of the Mansion behind them, but Darcy barely notices; for one thing, out in the open air it's snowing more thickly than Darcy's used to in this part of the country, and for another, there's some kind of hulking black aircraft crouched on the lawn.

It's already whirring to life; they're barely all inside when it lurches, leaving Darcy's stomach behind. She grabs onto a strap hanging from the ceiling, and then lets Loki tug her down into a seat. They have to let go of each other's hands to buckle themselves in, but the moment Loki's secure he wraps his fingers around Darcy's again. She leans against him and closes her eyes, suddenly exhausted, her arms and legs aching like she's been standing up, holding a bowl, for way too long.

Under the rumble of the engine, Darcy catches bits of conversation as she drifts in and out. "...caught your signal a month ago," Helen says, "but the opportunity didn't arise until ..." Loki's hand cradles Darcy's head, stroking her hair gently. "...under my protection," he says, the words rumbling through Darcy where she's pressed against him. "She knows what I am, Hel, she knows what's going to happen. I trust her ..."

Darcy smiles and burrows closer, falling into true sleep.


The place Helen takes them has a seriously amazing evil overlord aesthetic, although Darcy doesn't appreciate it at first; she's still half asleep when they arrive, and when she's shuffled into a long room and presented with food, she's just as ravenously hungry as she was exhausted. Darcy and Loki eat, and then they sleep, and when Darcy wakes up in a huge feather bed in a room in a bunker on the side of a cliff, that's when she has time to appreciate it.

She finds Loki alone at breakfast, and even though they should probably be sick of each other by now, the way Loki's face lights when he sees her perfectly mirrors the happy leap of Darcy's heart. She sits across from him at the long table, eating oatmeal and eggs and bacon and pancakes and strawberries and French toast, feeling a little teary with joy and occasionally nudging Loki's foot with hers just to be touching him. "So," Darcy says, "what the hell is the deal here?"

Loki cuts his pancake into precise strips. "It's been a little over eight years," he says. "It's mid-May now, though you will have noticed the snow on our way here. Hel tells me that Midgard has been experiencing a planet-wide winter for nearly three years now." The ghost of a smile quirks the corner of his mouth.

"Your snake eating the Tree?" Darcy guesses.

"Yes. Apparently there are more wars than usual now too, though lately, who can tell?" Loki's amusement turns disdainful for a moment; then he shrugs it away. "Hel was kind enough to bring me a few scientific journals. Among the panicked theories about the climate change, it's possible to also find mention of a few mysteriously missing stars -- ones within seven light years of Midgard, of course, as news of further ones won't have reached them yet. But it means my Fenrir's close. Any day now he might devour the sun."

Darcy shivers a little. "Could you still -- stop it? We're gonna die just as much as everyone else."

Loki stills, a forkful of eggs halfway to his mouth. He puts the cutlery down softly. "Do you want me to try?"

Darcy laces her hands together tightly. "That's not fair," she says. "You don't get to put it on me like that. I mean -- I don't want to die. I don't want my family to die, and I don't want little kids who've never had a chance to read Batman to die. I want to go dancing and troll the internet and watch cartoons until I'm ninety. I want the time to find out what stupid pop culture stuff's happened in the past eight years." Loki's face has gone very blank, but there's something stricken behind his eyes, so Darcy goes on, fast, "But I want that to be with you. Because -- I knew what I was doing, and I went for you anyway. And if I can't ... If your snake's already done too much damage, and your wolf deserves to eat all the stars it wants, because everyone was too damn stupid to think before they locked you away or to let you out when things started going wrong -- I'm with you." To her faint surprise, Darcy's voice is shaking. She lets it. "I want them to hurt now."

Loki's eyes are very bright. He smiles, a strange unhappy smile. "Of the few things that love me," he murmurs, "you are the most remarkable. I did not make you; you owe me nothing. And still ..."

"Yeah, well, shut up," Darcy tells him gently. "You're a hottie, and girls love a bad boy."


Freedom is amazing. A part of Darcy wants to sleep in disgustingly late every morning, just because she's missed sleeping so much, but she wants to cram as many hours of waking delight in as possible, since the world's going to end soon. Once Loki has healed from the venom and his bonds, he goes out to check on his children; he comes back to report that Yggdrasil is crumbling, that Fenrir stalks less than a month's journey from the sun, and that all the Nine Realms are in turmoil. He goes out more often than he needs to, tracking Fenrir's progress precisely. When Darcy calls it "skywalking," he throws a snowball at her.

Three years of endless winter are probably oppressive, but to Darcy it feels like a never-ending snow day. When Loki's around, she drags him out for snowball fights, and for sledding down the mountain slope behind their fortress. The best thing about having an evil sorcerer for a boyfriend is that they don't have to bother with ski lifts; the second best thing, that they have minions to make them hot chocolate afterward. They sit in front of a roaring fire with their cocoa, and Darcy teaches Loki the words to Skullcrusher Mountain. Loki laughs until both of them are clutching each other and crying with it.

Darcy has no idea why the military goons let them get away with acting like cracked-out kids. From what she gathers, they're a private service division from an organization called Hydra, which rings a faint bell but doesn't seem very important. Probably they're getting paid well to baby-sit Darcy and Loki; probably, too, Helen has put them up to it.

One afternoon, Loki's returned from his skywalking to report Fenrir less than two weeks away, Jotunheim fallen to dust, and Asgard too locked in winter. They watch kittens on YouTube to cheer themselves up. Eventually Darcy closes the laptop and asks, "So what's the deal with Helen?"

"I helped her once," Loki says, gazing distantly at the ceiling. "In the course of her work for Hydra's science division, she came across a closed file from the mid-1940s. It described a serum that would enhance the subject's natural abilities. As a wartime project the serum focused on physical strength, but she was interested in it mainly as it might serve her mental capabilities. It had certain physical side-effects, but Hel was willing to try it, so I -- improved upon it, helped her carry out the trial, and prevented the side-effects from causing extensive damage."

Darcy rolls onto her side, examining Loki's profile carefully. "So the mask --? Huh." She flops back down and snuggles up against Loki. He drapes an arm over her. "That's badass beyond words."

"You say that of all my flawed creations," Loki murmurs, but she can hear the smile in his voice.


When Fenrir is less than a week away, Darcy takes a deep breath and says, "I have to go."

"Go?" Loki repeats blankly.

"Back home," Darcy explains. "I want to say goodbye to my folks. I mean, I know they probably think I've been dead for years, so this is kind of a dick move, but screw it, the world's about to end, I'm gonna be selfish here." She leans into Loki, wrapping her arms around him. "And don't turn me into a toad for suggesting this -- come with me. Say bye to Thor."

Predictably, Loki goes stiff in her arms. "That would be ... unwise."

"Uh-huh, because we're the paragon of good judgment."

Loki lets out a long breath. "No," he says. "I'll see him again before the end, but not -- not now."

There's no arguing with him like this. Darcy swallows the lump in her throat. "If I'm not back in two days, come get me, okay? I bet you SHIELD's watching my parents' house."

"I would be unsurprised," Loki agrees. He pulls her into a swift kiss, and whispers against her mouth, "Two days. I won't start the end of the world without you."

"You'd better not," she whispers back. Then she pulls away, and goes to find some goons to take her down to civilization before she embarrasses herself and starts crying or something stupid like that.


In the end Darcy doesn't actually go speak with her parents. She lurks on the corner of the street where she grew up, and she watches them having dinner together in their cozy suburban house. It feels a lot like pulling out the old VCR copy of a movie she loved when she was little, and remembering how much she cared about the characters, and then setting it back on the shelf for the final time.

She's heading back to the agreed rendezvous point with the Hydra agent when she's intercepted by SHIELD. If Darcy's being honest with herself -- and, habit from too much time around Loki aside, why the hell shouldn't she be honest now? -- this is the real reason she left her awesome evil fortress. There's a conversation she wants to have with a certain Pop-Tart-eating god.

Of course, first there's the interrogation by Director Fury. Darcy doesn't pay much attention to him; she just sits there and repeats, politely, "I want to see Thor," every time Fury asks her a question. She can tell he's getting more and more frustrated, so eventually she says, "Look, I spent the past eight years locked up in a small room doing my best to keep someone I care about from getting tortured in a really uniquely sadistic way, so one, I don't owe you anything, and two, pretty much nothing you can do is going to touch me. I want to see Thor."

Eventually Fury caves, which for Fury is snapping, "Fine!" and stalking out. Darcy is fairly sure she has just performed a singular feat among any human ever. SHIELD: zero, Darcy: a hundred for being the best girlfriend ever, another hundred for winning a battle of wills with Nick Fury. She also, grudgingly, gives the Avengers a couple of points for catching Loki in the first place, but whatever, she's still way ahead.

She looks up when the door opens again, and there he is, Thor, still looking as Nordic-hottie and dumb-as-a-brick as always. Darcy gives him a little quirked smile. "Hey."

"Fury says you'll only talk to me." Thor strides over and pulls up another chair, resting his elbows on his knees when he sits so that his eyes are level with Darcy's. "Why did you not return?"

"Uh, what?" Darcy blinks at him. "To ... SHIELD? You kind of locked Loki up."

"No," Thor says, frowning. "Why did you not return from Loki's prison? I waited for hours, and when you did not emerge I tasked Stark's disembodied servant with watching that corridor for your return as well as any escape attempts Loki might make."

A pit of cold is blooming in Darcy's stomach. "I could've left whenever I wanted?" she whispers.

Thor stares at her. "I would not have left you there with no hope of return! Why --?" Understanding comes across his face, followed by a thunderous look. "Loki. He told you that you were trapped?"

Darcy just nods. She still feels strangely cold, but something like hot anger is bubbling up in her chest. She remembers distantly, from some science class, learning that when a cold front meets a warm front it creates a storm. Something like that. This one's going to wreck things.

"I'm truly sorry," Thor's saying. "Loki's lies are --"

"I know he lies," Darcy says, her voice cutting right through his. "He's terrified everyone's going to betray him or ditch him or decide he's not worth their time. He didn't know me that well then. Of course he lied." The look on Thor's face is turning to confusion, and Darcy's hands shake with the desire to punch him right on his perfect jaw. "But you didn't bother to tell me otherwise. You didn't come in -- you never came -- Were you too scared of seeing what it actually looked like to torture him like that?"

"That -- substance -- was the only thing that could keep his magic at bay!" Thor snaps, bridling at the implication he's a coward.

"And when it started snowing for three years and the stars were going out, you didn't think to look then?" Darcy yells.

Thor surges to his feet, and Darcy leaps up too, getting as far into his space as she can when he's bristling like this. "So you confess Midgard's sickness is Loki's doing!"

"He's the only one who could have stopped it!" She's practically howling now, and eight years past caring. "You stupid -- he's right, it will be your fault when the world ends!"

The high color drains from Thor's face. "When --?"

Darcy subsides, panting. "You got three days, dude," she says. "Give or take. Then a -- I guess he's your nephew. Your nephew Fenrir's gonna come eat the sun. So say your goodbyes, or call an emergency session, or do whatever it is you do when you're busy shooting yourself in the foot. I'm out of here."

"Darcy, wait," Thor says, stark white now. "Please. Speak to him. Whatever terrible plan he has, I never meant for it to come to the sort of destruction you speak of. I will hear him -- I have always been willing to hear him --"

Unexpectedly, Darcy feels sorry for him. He's like a little boy who doesn't know his own strength, and is hurt and bewildered to find he's broken his toys. "It's a lot bigger than the two of you now," she says gently. "But if you want, I'll give him your love."

Thor goes even paler. For a moment, it's possible that he's struggling with the urge to hit her. Then he says, in a voice so thin with pain it sounds familiar, "Do that. Thank you."

Darcy sinks back down in her chair when Thor goes. She has to take a couple of big deep breaths before she's sure she won't start crying for both of them.


The Hydra guy has Darcy out in a matter of hours, and by early the next morning they're back at the fortress. Helen wants to debrief her, so Darcy gives her the tersest possible version of events before slipping away and crawling into bed with Loki. He doesn't have much body heat, so her feet take a while to warm up, but he wraps around her without quite waking. Darcy burrows into the junction of his neck and shoulder and tells him, quietly, "I love you, and your stupid brother loves you, and this is going to be the coolest apocalypse ever."


On the morning of Ragnarok, they wake to the sound of every bird in the area freaking out, and to the sound of crashing floodwaters. Darcy and Loki stare at each other for a wide-eyed moment. Darcy swallows and can't think of anything flip to say.

They get dressed and go to the nearest window, clutching at each other. Water is pouring into the valley below them; the snow everywhere is melting. There's something wrong with the morning light, like it's being leached out of the air, everything slowly going weird twilight purple. At Darcy's side, Loki is pale and drawn, his eyes glittering.

Off in the distance, as the world goes dark, a familiar beam of light stabs from clouds to earth. Loki flinches. "I think they're coming for me now," he says, his voice nearly steady. "Perhaps my father realizes I've finally gone too far."

Darcy squeezes his hand. If he's not going to suggest running away, she's not either.

"I don't ... know what happens now," Loki confesses softly. "I'll take Hel and my Hydra agents, I think, and fight them; they would appreciate that. Death before dishonor. I'll have to watch for Heimdall. Once he comes, you see, the Bifrost is broken far worse than my idiot brother could ever have managed it. It's only a question of whether we'll go down fighting, or freeze, or if my children will eat us all."

He's crying, the tears pouring down his face, reflected in the light of the Bifrost as everyone from Asgard comes down to blame him for the thing all of them have set into motion. He isn't crying for himself; Darcy knows him better than anyone, and she knows that self-pity isn't something he ever allows himself.

She leans in against him. "I'll come with," she says. "This was my call too. Also I'm pretty sure my dying wish is to punch your dad, so if I get to do that, this will basically be worth it."

Loki laughs. "He's promised to my Fenrir, but you can have the first shot." He turns to her, tilting her chin up. "Darcy. Thank you. Of all the unexpected --" And at the last, his words fail him. "Thank you."

"With you til the end," Darcy tells him. "Now let's go kick some ass."