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V is for Victory

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As she climbed over the wreckage of what she was almost sure started its life as a sporty little two door coupe, Darcy had no problem admitting that this was easily in the top three of the most stupid things she had ever done. Which was admittedly impressive, as it was not what most people would consider a short list.

It didn’t take a genius to realize that sending Jane to Tromsø was a cover. Frankly, Darcy figured it out before they had even gotten on the plane to Norway. Seriously though, what did they need an astrophysicist for in the land of the midnight sun in the middle of summer? That being said, it also didn’t take a genius to realize that paid trips to exotic locales fall out of the sky about as often as Norse gods do, so Darcy knew this was a good time to employ that brain to mouth filter that she so often ignored and kept her head down and her mouth shut lest someone put her on a greyhound back to not so scenic Puente Antiguo. 

For all this talk about geniuses however, it took Jane almost forty-eight hours before she came to the conclusion that the only reason she would have been spirited off to this remote corner of the world, was because her boyfriend’s back and there’s going to be trouble. And so when Jane came knocking at the door of her rather dorm-like accommodations at two in the morning to let her assistant know that if she left right then, she could catch a flight to New York that would have her back on US soil in just a scant fourteen hours and forty five minutes, Darcy was shoving the clothes she had barely unpacked, back in her duffle before her eyes were even all the way open.

Darcy wasn’t about to let Jane go alone for multiple reasons.

One, that’s not the way Darcy Lewis rolled. Friends don’t let friends go on crazy late night escapades on their own. Some of her best bar stories started that way.

Two, Darcy wasn’t sure that Jane would be able to make the international flight with several transfers in foreign countries on her own. Her friend was, literally, the smartest person she knew, but Darcy often wondered if the human brain only had so much room and once it was filled to capacity, it started to push other things out. In Jane’s case, it was common sense and a sense of self-preservation that the hamster that ran the wheel in her brain decided wasn’t as important as quantum mechanics. Because really, she was working on a way to rip a hole through time and space to build a bridge to another realm, but she often forgot to eat, or to look both ways before crossing the street. Honestly, Darcy wasn’t entirely sure how Jane managed to survive without her this long.

Three, she did not want to be left behind when the suits who absolutely did not work for SHIELD and had never even heard of such an organization, because yeah, sure, Darcy totally believed that, woke up in the morning to find the scientist missing.

And four, she had heard rumors that they were having a traditional Norwegian breakfast the next day. Pickled herring? No thank you. 

It was by complete chance that when they finally touched down at LaGuardia in the early afternoon, that every single television in the airport was turned to the breaking news that aliens were attacking New York City. Darcy was just glad that the alien invaders had the decency to wait to attack until they were going through customs. Twenty minutes earlier and they would have still been in the air and who knows where they would have been rerouted. It would have been hard to get to Thor from Philadelphia or Boston or wherever they would have landed. For all Darcy knew, they could have been rerouted to New Jersey. And really, who wants to end up in New Jersey?

Despite the potential hostile alien takeover, all Darcy really wanted was to find the nearest dark corner to pass out in. She was exhausted from their marathon travel on three hours of sleep, but after a few minutes of watching the news coverage she knew that wasn’t going to happen for her.  She might have been able to keep Jane in one place even after they saw the Great Thunder Wonder on the news, but once the unmistakable image of Erik Selvig on top of StarkTowers flashed across the screen, she knew there was nothing that would stop the determined scientist from getting to her mentor.

And as much as she didn’t want to be for once, Darcy was right. She did her best to dissuade her friend, but there was nothing she could say or do, that would convince Jane that marching headlong into a warzone was not on the list of good ideas. It was that whole common sense thing again. Of course, Darcy agreed to go along for the ride, so maybe her survival instinct was lacking something crucial as well. But, if Jane wanted to get to Erik and Thor, Darcy sure as hell was going to get her there.

It took a huge wad of cash and a rather colorful and interesting blend of begging and threats from Darcy before they found a cab driver that was willing to take them over the Queensboro bridge and anywhere near midtown where the fight was playing out. They made it to 2nd and 51st before the gridlock of abandoned cars prevented them from going any further and they were forced to continue on foot with verbal directions from the cabbie who was convinced they were both certifiable. Darcy wasn’t sure he was wrong.

That led them to where they are now, running the last three quarters of a mile, directly into a battlefield that sane people were currently fleeing.  Jumping over what appeared to be a smoldering alien arm, Darcy really wished she had kept her New Years resolution about going to the gym, longer than a week and a half.

“Hey Jane?” Darcy huffed, checking out the abandoned storefronts and restaurants as they ran. “If we don’t die in the next twenty minutes, can we go to a pizzeria for lunch? I’ve always wanted to know if New York style pizza is as good as they say.”

“Sure Darcy,” Jane replied, trying not to look too hard at the carnage around them. “If we survive the next twenty minutes you can totally pick where we have lunch.”

“Score.”

They had just rounding the corner from 3rd onto 45th when the battle came to a literal crashing halt, the alien invaders falling out of the sky. The girls jumped through an already shattered plate glass window into the nearest storefront for cover.

“That’s a good sign right?” Jane asked peering out through what used to be a window at an unmoving alien.

“Well, it’s definitely a sign of something. And I’m thinking it’s not a bad one,” Darcy replied, looking around her for the first time and realizing they were in a T-Mobile store. “Hey didn’t you say you needed a new phone?”

“We’re not here to loot Darcy,” Jane replied with a disapproving frown. “Besides I have Verizon. T-Mobile doesn’t get service out in the desert.”

Darcy rolled her eyes and was about to reply with a snarky retort when a resounding roar echoed through the now eerily quiet New York streets. She was not ashamed to admit it made her jump. As far as signs went, that was a little more ambiguous. “I really hope that whatever made that noise is on our side.”

Jane looked at Darcy with wide eyes that then steeled with determination. “Come on, right now we have a clear shot up to Stark Towers, it’s only a few more blocks,” she said jumping back out onto the street, taking off at a brisk jog, their destination visible as the highly stylized tower rose above the rest of the skyline.

“Yeah, but they’re really long blocks,” Darcy grumbled, really thankful that she had thrown on her old beat up converse when she rolled out of bed, instead of the cute new boots she hadn’t had a chance to fully break in yet.

“Have I ever mentioned how sporty I’m not? My shapely hourglass figure is a god given gift!” Darcy called after Jane, doing everything she could to keep up as her friend wove easily through the wreckage and rubble, clearly more athletic than any previous experiences revealed. “I think my lungs are going to explode.”

“If you stop complaining you’ll conserve more oxygen,” Jane said over her shoulder, not slowing down in the least.

“When I stop complaining you’ll know I’ve lost the will to live and have joined the rest of the space invaders by lying down to die in the street,” Darcy retorted. She did stop complaining, however, because she really did need every bit of oxygen coming in and out her burning lungs, and because the closer they got to Stark Towers, the worse the condition the streets were in. She needed every bit of her concentration to keep from falling on her face. Road rash was not a good look on her.

When the miraculously intact lobby doors of StarkTower came into view, Jane took off at a sprint and although she kinda wanted to die a little, Darcy took off right after her.

“I swear to Thor’s Dad if you even suggest taking the stairs right now, I will hurt you,” Darcy wheezed when she caught Jane glancing between the elevator and the emergency stairs.

“You’re right, the elevator will be faster, as long as it’s working,” Jane agreed walking across the lobby and punching the up button a few times in rapid succession. As if that would make it come faster.

Darcy’s eyes widened when she realized that Jane was fully prepared to climb a thousand flights of stairs if that what it came down to and started praying that the elevator doors would open soon. She could have cried tears of relief and joy when those double doors slid open in front of them.

Dragging herself inside, she leaned against the wall and slid to the ground. She had to sit down, if even for a minute.

“How are we even going to get to the roof?” Darcy wheezed, trying to will her heart to slow to something resembling normal. “You know that the penthouse is Tony Stark’s personal living space right? Don’t you think he would really just let anyone press the right button and get off the elevator right into his apartment?”

“How do you know that?” Jane asked, hitting the button for the penthouse anyways.

“There was an article about it in Architectural Digest last month. What? I read!” she added at Jane’s dubious look.

“Yeah, but Architectural Digest?” Jane questioned.

“I’m a woman with depth and varied reading interests,” Darcy replied loftily. Well as lofty as one can be when slumped the corner of an elevator while taking huge heaving breaths.

Darcy would never know what Jane’s reply would have been as the elevator slowed to a stop and the doors slid open. Huh, she mused idly, Stark should really reconsider his security.

“If it’s all the same to you,” a voice trailed through the now open doors. “I’ll have that drink now.”

“Jane! Wait!” Darcy hissed, trying to climb to her feet with only moderate success. “You don’t know what’s happening in there.”

But the scientist didn’t listen, her thoughts wholly consumed with getting to the man who she saw as a father, and was out the door before Darcy was even up on her knees.

Meanwhile, Loki had accepted that he had lost, his army was defeated, and frankly he was tired and in no small amount of pain after being tossed around by that green brute. With the six members of the so called Avengers looming over him he knew it was time, as the Midgardians would say, to give up the ghost. At least, that’s what he thought until a lovely little distraction wrapped up in a petite brunette package came pouring out of the elevator.

“Lady Jane?!” Thor boomed.

It was only a second, but Loki, ever the opportunist, seized the moment when the ragtag band of superheroes took their collective attention off him. Before anyone even knew what happened, Loki was behind the astrophysicist using her as a human shield. Yes, he still had a few more tricks up his armored sleeve.

“This must be the dear Jane Foster,” Loki spat, pulling her close. “The woman who changed my brother so.”

He smirked, taking in the group. They all had their assorted weapons pointed in his direction, but he knew none of them would take the chance of the woman getting injured in the crossfire. That was one thing you could always count on the ‘good guys’ for. They didn’t understand the meaning of collateral damage. No matter, it was to be used to his advantage.

“Release her Loki!” Thor commanded, Mjölnir twitching in his hand.

“Don’t you remember? I did make promises to pay this one a visit,” he let out a barking laugh. He ran the back of his fingers down her cheek, “And in the end, she came right to me.”

“Let me go, you creep!” Jane struggled to break free of his grasp but his arm might as well have been steel around her torso. She thrashed and kicked, but it was no more useful than a fly struggling in a spider’s web.

“Hmm, maybe I’ll take her somewhere we can get better acquainted,” he mused thoughtfully as he worked to build his magic within him.

There were many doors between the worlds if you knew how to open them, and he did. As it turned out the day may not be a complete failure. So he may not have taken over Earth, ruling over the humans his brother seemed to care so much about. But what were all the humans when he could take the one who meant the most, right out from under him. When he saw several sets of eyes dart behind his shoulder, he knew his magic was working. He didn’t have to look himself to know what they were seeing, the air starting to ripple and swim like the air above an open fire. Soon it would start to go opaque, swirling flashes of images from fixed points of time and space, going by too quickly to be anything more than a riotous haze of light and color. While it wasn’t a portal he could bring an army through, it would be more than enough for him and his new pet to slip through.

What Loki did not account for, was the ex-intern who had been lurking in the elevator. So focused on the so-called heroes in front of him, the woman in his arms, and the rip in the space time continuum he was building, that he never noticed the girl with the modern art sculpture gripped in her hands like a baseball bat, creeping up behind him.

“I don’t think you want to do that Loki,” Tony said, taking a half step forward. He had no idea who this girl was, her hood pulled up around her face like that made her less conspicuous. But he knew exactly what she was planning on doing, and he realized that if she was to have any luck, he needed to keep Loki’s attention focused on them.

“Really? Because I think it’s a marvelous idea.”

“I don’t think I need to remind you that we have the Tesseract now and there is nowhere in the universe that you can hide where we won’t find you,” Tony replied.

“Maybe,” Loki shrugged, seemingly unconcerned. “But the universe is a big place, and just think of all the fun we can have until-”

“Hey AssButt!” THWAP!

The blow Darcy delivered to the back of Loki’s head wasn’t enough to do any sort of permanent damage, but it was enough to make Loki release Jane, which was all she had really concerned herself with before she decided to partake in some daring heroics. The distraction was enough to give the Avengers the opportunity to snap into action, as Captain America moved to get Jane out of the line of fire and Thor went after his brother. Unfortunately for Darcy, the Thunder God did not move fast enough for her to avoid the swinging blow the Trickster sent her way. As her feet left the ground and she felt herself getting sucked into the growing vortex, she wished that she could have gotten her taser through customs and realized that maybe it wasn’t just Jane with the self-preservation issues.

It all must have only taken seconds, but it felt like she flew through the air in slow motion, finding she had time to take in the room’s occupants for the first time, having been too focused on saving her friend to do it before.

Naturally her eye was first drawn to the giant green behemoth in the room, which some part of her brain registered was currently roaring. At least that solved the mystery of whom or what they were hearing earlier on the street. Darcy was glad - she disliked unanswered questions. Like, when you see an actor in a movie and you can’t place where you knew them from. She hated that.

Her eyes then flitted over to a pair in matching black jumpsuits. An archer, who she vaguely recognized as one of the jack-booted thugs from back in New Mexico. Standing next to him was a badass looking woman with an amazing hair color she would kill for.

Then there was the one and only Tony Stark outfitted in his Iron Man suit. She finally had the chance to meet a bona fide celebrity and she wouldn’t even get the chance to get her little brother an autograph. She regretted that.

Thor and Loki had both frozen to watch her descent with equally wide eyes. It was nice to see Thor again, even if she could honestly say she didn’t much care for his little brother at the moment. She did wish she had had the time to ask how his friends were. She liked them. They seemed like they knew how to party. 

Then there was Jane. Her best friend, who was looking on in complete horror. But she had followed her boss across the ocean to keep her safe, so Darcy was content that she had at least accomplished that. Even if she never did get try real New York style pizza.

Then she looked at the man who had dragged Jane out of harms way. Was that… Captain America? She had found a pile of Captain America comics in her Grandfather’s basement one summer, along with a whole pile of World War II memorabilia, but she had just assumed he was a character, a product of the war time propaganda machine. She never thought he actually existed.

And that was Darcy’s last thought as her world went black.