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Tag: fic: How to Train Your Norse Trickster God (Page 1 of 4)

How to Train Your Norse Trickster God #79

Darcy woke to an empty bed, and the pale, dirty light of early dawn filtering through her window. As much as she wanted to tell herself that it had all been a dream, she knew it wasn’t true. She knew everything that had happened the day before had transpired as she remembered. Slowly, carefully, she pulled herself out of bed and dared to creep out into the living room, finding Loki standing before one of the windows and watching whatever transpired outside. Ignoring him, she walked first to fetch her phone, finding it now utterly without service. She sat down and opened her laptop instead, and refreshed her email to find it too unable to establish a connection.

“Did you do this?” she asked tiredly, knowing Loki wouldn’t take well to accusation, but being too run down and pissed off to care.

“Do what?” he asked, not turning away from the window.

Darcy sighed and hauled herself back to her feet, shaking her head as she retreated to the kitchen. Unsure what else to do, she stopped in the middle of the floor and looked around. She was stressed out and starving, and her stomach tied in knots in a way she knew wouldn’t let her keep anything of substance down.

“Fuck it,” she muttered to herself as she reached for the coffee pot. A single cup wouldn’t kill her.

As she filled the pot and dumped entirely too many grounds into the filter, Darcy ignored everything else. She ignored Loki walking towards her, and the oppressively silent atmosphere that hung like a void outside the windows that had never been closed the night before. That should have worried her. It should have terrified her. But she knew, on some horrible level, she was safer with Loki in the house than she would have been alone.

Once she had the coffee brewing, Loki was in her space, his hands on her body like he owned it. It was a sensation entirely too familiar, and Darcy knew exactly how to handle it, by doing absolutely nothing and letting it happen. He pressed himself against her as his arms wrapped tightly around her, in the narrow space that remained between her tits and her belly. Then his mouth was on her neck, pressing gentle kisses against her skin. With the smell of fresh coffee and early morning chill in the air, the whole thing felt unnervingly domestic. Darcy stayed still, breathing quietly as she waited for Loki to let go of her. But he didn’t let go. He stood behind her, holding onto her like a prize, and there was only so much of it she could take.

“Look,” she said, trying to squirm away from him. “My tits hurt, my back hurts, and I really have to pee.”

That did the trick, and Loki stepped back, dragging his hand along her ass as he put distance between them. Taking a deep breath and forcing herself to ignore it, Darcy left him alone while she walked to the bathroom. She took more time than she needed to, relishing what little space there was between them. She took the time to wash her face and brush her teeth, and then slipped back to her bedroom to change into something else. As she sat down on the edge of the bed to pull her pants off, her eyes fell to the boots Loki had left behind. He was still wearing the same thing he had the night before, and apparently didn’t see any reason to fuss with his armour either. She knew, staring at his knee-length boots, there was nobody outside watching the house. She dared to get up to peek out the window, and found the SUVs still parked in their spots, but something about them seemed wrong. Staring at them, Darcy knew they were empty. Whoever had been watching her from them was long gone, probably dead and fed to one of the terrifying cats that had been tearing through Manhattan.

Not that it mattered. Loki had laid out her choices with crystal clarity. She could go with him and hope she was right and that he had only become cruel out of fear, or she could stay behind and begin another frantic run for her life. She was less than a month away from due, and after everything that had happened, she knew she wouldn’t be safe. Whoever still remained of SHIELD or SWORD or whatever other organisations would come for her next, and either induce labour or take a scalpel to her belly.

She realised, suddenly and violently, that she was never going to go into labour naturally. Even if Loki hadn’t shown back up, there would have come a day when Darcy was shoved into the back of one of their SUVs and taken to one of their labs somewhere.

And if Loki hadn’t shown up, Darcy would have been completely unprepared for it.

Her knees suddenly gave out from beneath her as her body was wracked with a violent shudder. Barely catching herself on the nightstand, Darcy fell to the floor, managing to land on her knees. With her hand over her mouth, Darcy tried to stay quiet, and to stay calm, but she couldn’t quite manage it. She was moments away from all-out wailing when her door opened and Loki let himself in. He was immediately by her side, with his hands on her and pulling her close as he quietly shushed her. Darcy was suddenly and acutely aware that she was in her underwear and an oversized t-shirt, crying on the floor, which only made her want to cry more.

Loki immediately sought to remedy one of her problems on his own, and picked her up as though she weighed nothing. A moment later, they were back on the bed, with her half in his lap and her face buried against his chest. He held her, and caressed her, and she let herself take comfort in that close, intimate contact between them.

“I don’t want to be afraid anymore,” Darcy said, grabbing his tunic in her fist and holding tight. Part of her wanted to hold onto him, but the rest of her couldn’t quite make it that far. “What’s going to happen to me?”

“We’ll leave this place, and you won’t have to be afraid any longer,” Loki said.

Darcy nodded, praying he was right. She had no idea what she’d do if he wasn’t right. But there was no way they’d be chased to another planet, or realm, or whatever the hell he called it. She’d be safe there. They both would, without having to worry about what horrible things would be done to them by people who had questionable ideas about ethics and who counted as human.

Loki held onto her until she had managed to calm down again. By then, her back and her hips ached as though they were on fire, and she moved stiffly to sit up. As she stared at the pile of unwashed laundry by her door, Darcy realised she had already made up her mind the moment she’d seen him the day before. She just hadn’t been able to admit it to herself, because it had felt too much like losing. But he was right. Everything he said was true, and there was only so much Darcy would be able to do to protect herself if she stayed in New York.

If she stayed on Earth.

“Okay,” she said, nodding to herself. “All right.”

With a deep breath, Darcy carefully rose to her feet and fetched out one of the last pairs of yoga pants she had that didn’t feel like they might squeeze her in half. She ignored Loki’s hand on her back as she sat back down to pull her pants on. She debated her shirt as well, but having sweated in it all day and then slept in it, she didn’t want to spend another day wearing it. Loki had already seen anything anyway, so what would it matter if he saw her bra? She pulled off her shirt, quickly replacing it for another that was just as oversized and ridiculous, and felt slightly better for it. Turning back round, she found Loki still sitting on her bed, watching her with a gaze that felt almost possessive.

Unsure what else to do, Darcy flapped her hands in the air and turned back to the door. There was coffee in the kitchen, and she wasn’t going to make any life-changing decisions without one final cup. Loki followed her out, and watched her from the doorway while she fetched down a mug and filled it almost all the way, leaving room for hazelnut creamer and a bit of sugar. She focused just on mixing up her coffee, and once it was ready, Darcy leaned against the counter to drink it.

“Should I… pack anything?” she asked after a long moment.

“If you wish,” Loki said.

Darcy wondered what she’d even take. Her phone and laptop would probably be pointless. Maybe some extra clothes, so she could at least wear something moderately comfortable until she worked up the nerve to go native. She hadn’t indulged in a single hobby since coming home, filling her copious spare time with TV and naps. Sighing quietly to herself, Darcy drank her coffee and stared at the floor.

“My parents,” she said suddenly, shaking her head against the well of twisted emotion that boiled inside her. “I don’t even know if they’re okay.”

Loki, to his credit, seemed to at least share some of her concern. “Where would they be?” he asked.

She wondered if he genuinely didn’t know, or if he was just pretending.

“Mom works in the Bronx. Dad on Staten Island,” Darcy said.

Loki nodded, slowly and deliberately. “Shall I send a scout to find them?” he asked.

Darcy though about it. She thought real hard about what would happen if Loki did send someone, and if they were found.

“Just…” Darcy said, staring down into her coffee. “Just tell me whether they’re okay or not,” she decided.

Loki nodded again, though he didn’t move from where he stood.

“Can you promise me,” Darcy asked slowly, trying to piece her words together one at a time, “that everything will be okay?”

She looked up as Loki stepped close to her, putting his hands on her shoulders. He was so much taller than her, she had to crane to look up at him when he stood this close, and she couldn’t tell if it was terrifying or comforting.

“You’ll have everything you could ever want, and nothing at all to fret over,” Loki said.

Darcy knew that wasn’t true, because what she still wanted, more than anything, was her life back. But she didn’t say it, because she knew that wasn’t possible. Instead she took a deep breath and nodded.

“Okay,” she said.

She looked around the kitchen, and wondered if she should leave a note, having no idea what she would even say if she did. Would it be more cruel to leave a note saying she’d run away forever, or to just leave without a word? She didn’t know. And no matter what she did, she knew it would always feel like the wrong choice.

Darcy let herself lean against Loki, trying to just breathe. She didn’t know what would come next, but she knew what wouldn’t come next, and that’s what was important. She wouldn’t be hunted down and tortured. She wouldn’t be made culpable for someone else’s suffering. She wouldn’t be endlessly running for her life.

She knew everything Loki said could have just as easily been a lie, but even if it was, she still knew what wasn’t coming next. She could deal with the what ifs and maybes that came next, because they weren’t the same what ifs and maybes that had terrified her for months. And she knew, deep down, Loki would want her safe. He might get bored with her and cast her aside, but by then she’d have time to figure out what to do next.

For now, he was offering to once again take the reins; to take that burden of control and planning from her. All she had to do was say yes.

So she nodded and set what remained of her coffee aside.

“I’m scared,” she said.

Loki pulled her into a tight hug, holding her so tight she nearly couldn’t breathe. “That’s how I know I can trust you,” he said.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God #78

Darcy didn’t know how long she’d sat in the living room, glued to the TV while the world ended around her. Not just Manhattan and DC, and the chaos that spilled everywhere around the cities. But her world. She knew that no matter what came next, her world was over. She’d known for months, the same existential dread that had hung over her ever since Loki had held her down in a dark bedroom, making threats in her ear while she cried and begged for him to stop. The dread that came with knowing that nothing would ever be normal again, because no matter what happened next, it would be nothing but pain and sorrow.

As the hours ticked by and information coalesced the broadcast became less and less about portals of light and the creatures that came through them, and more about what was happening on the ground. All bridges and tunnels, not just from Manhattan but to and from every borough and island, were closed down. People were trapped on islands that lacked the resources to deal with the crisis, while first responders and New York’s Finest centred their attentions on the parts of Manhattan that were being overrun. People had been taken down to the subways for shelter, but all that had done was put a lot of people into one space, making them easier targets. Manhattan was burning, and nothing would end it. It was a war of attrition, and the elves and wizards seemed to have an endless supply of reinforcements.

She kept checking her email and phone, hoping for another response from her parents, but even Spectrum was being overloaded and nothing was getting through. All she could do was pray they were still somewhere safe, and that the flying cats and wizards hadn’t left Manhattan in droves.

A heavy clunk behind her was all the warning Darcy had to not being alone. She jumped sharply, turning as much as she could to see who had snuck in behind her. She had expected one of the SHIELD agents, but they apparently weren’t watching her very closely. Instead, Loki stood behind the sofa, taller than he’d ever seemed before, wearing heavy armour and a long, leather topcoat. On the table beside the sofa, he’d put an enormous horned helmet, which was tall enough that it had no doubt nearly scraped the ceiling when he let himself in.

She couldn’t even find a shred of terror to hold onto. Mostly, she was just pissed off. Pissed off at him being there, pissed off at what he’d done. Pissed off at the way he got away with everything. If he were a regular, garden-variety son of a bitch, she’d be able to file a restraining order and pretend to have some amount of control over him. Getting up as gracefully as she could at her size, Darcy stepped toward the TV, putting as much distance between them as the room would allow.

“What the hell are you doing here?” she demanded, able to hear the uneven tone of her own voice.

“I’ve come to collect what belongs to me,” Loki said.

He stepped around the sofa, revealing the whole of himself. On his hip, he was actually wearing a fucking sword. Because of course he was, if she showed up with elves and wizards and unicorns. Darcy took a deep breath, trying to calm herself against her ever instinct and nerve exploding at her, screaming to run.

“You shouldn’t be here. SHIELD will see you any second now,” she said.

“Oh, yes. The dutiful soldiers outside keeping watch.”

He spoke with a calm, even timbre that betrayed nothing of what was still being played out on the television. As Darcy backed as far against the wall as she could, he approached even closer until he was standing right in front of her, towering over her like the monster he was. She wasn’t sure what she expected him to do, and just stared up at him, waiting for the next thing to happen. Then, his hand was on her belly, drawing across the round swell that he had caused. The lightest touch of a smirk played across the edges of his mouth as he leaned in just a little more closely.

“And what a fine job they’ve done, keeping watch over you,” he said.

Darcy tried to flinch away from him as her anger gave way to fear, but there was nowhere left to go. Nowhere left for her to escape to. He had her pressed against the wall, all armour and brute force, and all Darcy could do was stand there and let it happen. A thousand times, she’d thought about what she would do if he ever came back, and a thousand times she swore she’d kick and scream and fight to get away. But standing so close to her, he had her too frightened for any of it. Too frightened of what he’d already done, and what he might do again. And when he bent closer to pull her into a kiss, she let that happen as well, closing her eyes and trying to imagine she was anywhere else as he forced his way into her mouth with a firmness that was paradoxically gentle. There was no acrid taste of sulphur this time, or harsh grip that held her there. It was just the two of them, Loki giving her all the tender affection she had convinced herself she’d never know again.

When he finally pulled away, she dared to look up at him. He seemed almost like he was expecting something from her, but he said nothing for a long moment, before finally stepping away just enough to let her breathe.

“This—I—you need to go,” Darcy said, struggling to put her thoughts into order. “You can’t be here. SHIELD…”

She didn’t know what SHIELD was going to do, even as she looked toward the front door, expecting at any second for it to be broken down. But it never happened. Nobody keeping watch had noticed, if they were even keeping watch at all.

“SHIELD are no longer a threat,” Loki said, stepping back toward the sofa. “After all they’ve done, you should be glad to see them gone.”

Darcy took a deep breath, wanting so badly to scream. She didn’t know what she wanted, because she knew on some twisted level, Loki was right. SHIELD were a threat. SWORD were a threat, and he’d seemingly eliminated them as well. She watched silently as Loki picked up the remote from where it lay on the sofa and turned off the TV. He tossed the remote casually aside again, and then carefully closed her laptop to move it out of the way. She didn’t know what he was preparing to do, but she steeled herself against what she thought he might do.

“They would have cut you open just as they did me,” Loki said. He gestured widely toward the windows, and even though it was the wrong direction, Darcy still knew what he meant. “I did this for you. For both of us.”

She let out a shaky breath, not wanting to think about anything that might imply.

“I don’t want this,” she said, falling back on a line that hadn’t worked before, but there was a first time for everything.

Loki looked at her, and for a moment she thought he almost looked sad. Disappointed, even. As though he had expected this to be some grand, romantic gesture. Instead, he took off his sword from his hip, keeping it in its scabbard even as he held it. A flash of green and a moment later, and his armour was gone, leaving him in a green embroidered tunic and the same leather pants and boots he’d been wearing, with metal scale armour sewn into the legs. He still held onto the sword even as he approached her again, holding Darcy’s attention with it.

“After everything they’ve done, you’d still rather stay here?” he asked. With his fingers against her jaw, Loki redirected her attention back up to his face. “These creatures are like weeds. Cut them off at the surface, and even more will spring up in their place. If you stay here with them, what will happen in a year? In two? Do you believe you will truly ever be safe here?”

She hated him. She hated that he was right. She hated the fact that she would never be safe, because of what he had done to her. And before she could resist it, she felt tears escape from her eyes, rolling hot trails down her cheeks. Loki put his sword down, leaning it against the TV stand, and pulled her into a tight hug. She let him do it. Even worse, she accepted it. He offered comfort, and she took it, because she didn’t know if she’d find someone willing to offer it again. She had been so thoroughly broken that she didn’t think she’d ever be able to let another person get close to her, but when Loki held her, letting her cry quietly against his chest, she almost felt like maybe everything would be all right. Maybe she wouldn’t have to be so afraid anymore.

After a long moment, Loki stepped backwards. His hands fell to hers, taking them in a light hold as he continued to back away, guiding her across the room with him. Suddenly afraid of being alone Darcy followed him, allowing her to be guided to the sofa. She sat beside him and let herself be pulled close against his side, and the familiar weight of his body against hers. He was solid, and real, and she remembered it vividly. Not just the way he used his weight against her, but the way he was always right there beside her, protecting her from everything and everyone that presented a danger. He held her close, and she let him, because not only did she not know what else to do, but because she needed it. The world was upside down and ending, and he’d come back. She had spent months wondering what would have happened if she’d kept up, but her thoughts rarely drifted back to what might have happened if he returned for her. He had left her behind, and she had expected that to be that.

“We’ll leave this place,” he said as he pulled her even closer against his body. “I have no want of anything else here. I’ve done what I came to do, and now I’ll take you home.”

Darcy knew she should have refused. She should have got up and ran out of the house for help. But who would have helped her? And what could they do? The people she would have run to were the same people who were waiting for the right moment to swoop in and claim their prize. If Loki had come back, it could have only meant that he had intended to keep her safe. He wanted to take her away where she wouldn’t be mistreated or tortured for someone’s science experiment.

“I can’t,” she said, shaking her head. “I can’t just leave.”

“What would you rather do?” Loki asked, still keeping his voice low and soft. “Stay here? You know what will happen if you do, and I won’t be able to protect you.”

She had thought he’d abandoned her once, and now he was already threatening to do it again. But wasn’t that what she wanted, for him to go away and never come back? Yet the thought of him leaving her behind again hurt just as much as the thought of leaving with him, and she did not know why.

“I want only what’s best,” Loki said.

He moved away, shifting to face her better as he brought his hand to the side of her face, thumb wiping away the tears that had fallen from her eye.

“I have dispatched those that hurt us before, but your realm has other villains,” Loki said, looking so goddamn earnest as he spoke. “Your realm is very large, and I could not rally enough forces to see all those who would wish us harm vanquished. Others will rally in turn, and when that happens, you will be their first target.”

She knew he was right. She’d known it before he ever even returned. It wouldn’t be long at all before she gave birth, and every shady organisation on the planet wanted a piece for themselves. She still did not want the child; on that she had not changed her mind. But she could not just hand it over either. She’d be no better than the sick fucks who wanted to take it from her.

“And if I go with you, then what?” she asked. “I don’t want…”

She didn’t know what she didn’t want. It was too big of a concept to even verbalise. She wanted none of it, and had no way to articulate that.

“We’ll return to Alfheim,” Loki said. “I have a modest parcel of land, and servants who will see to your needs.”

His hand fell back to her belly, caressing her with a certain amount of possessiveness that was unmistakable. When he said he’d come back for what was his, he didn’t mean her, and Darcy knew it.

“I don’t want you to hurt me,” she said, choking on the words as they fell from her mouth.

What Darcy didn’t expect was for Loki to actually look sad. “I don’t want to,” he said. “Things happened that I think we both regret. But I don’t think they’ll happen again, will they?”

A hard edge returned to his voice as he spoke the last few words, and Darcy knew exactly what he’d meant. He thought she had given him away, and had led SHIELD straight for them. He’d been gruff and difficult before that, but he hadn’t become truly cruel until he’d thought she’d turned on him.

She shook her head, wanting to insist she hadn’t meant to piss him off the first time. “No,” she said.

Loki smiled, something almost victorious and smug, before he kissed her again. She let him have his way, not kissing back, but not resisting either, simply steeling herself against whatever came next. But he didn’t push further, and even pulled away again after a few moments.

“In time, you’ll come to see that I’m right,” he said. “And then you’ll thank me for all I’ve done.”

She doubted that. She very much doubted that. But as she looked around her living room, growing dim in the creeping approach of evening, Darcy was soured to realise nowhere was safe. Even her own home now would carry his reminders, and nothing she could do would ever allow her to be free of him. He would always be right there, lurking in the shadows of her memories no matter what she did or where she went. And yet, on a twisted level, what he promised was exactly what she hoped for and needed; safety, security, comfort. To go somewhere far away where SHIELD or SWORD or anyone else would never be able to find her. And Loki had that, and was offering it freely. Offering it even after he thought she had betrayed him. Offering it even after he had left her behind once before. She could take it, and be safe from what ifs. Loki was a danger she knew, and one she thought she could learn to control. He hadn’t got mean until he stopped trusting her. As long as she never gave him a reason to stop again, she might be fine. Alone and isolated in a different way, but without the constant suspense of not knowing what was coming next.

Because with Loki, she already knew.

But she knew what he liked, and as long as she kept him happy, she might be able to steal a little happiness too.

And she sure as hell wasn’t happy, terrified of her own shadow and hearing an ambush in every little noise.

She looked down at his hand on her belly and tried not to let any of her emotions show more than they already had. She hated how easily she’d broken down in front of him, letting him once again see all of that pain and hurt. But this was the other Loki. The one he’d shown her first, who was soft touch and gentle voice, who could be charming and a touch wicked when he wanted to be. This was the Loki she almost thought she could live with. She let her hand fall to his, and looked at them together as her breath hitched high in her chest.

“Come,” Loki said, getting up. “There’s still time yet before we have to leave.”

He pulled her to her feet and guided her to her bedroom, apparently determined to take away her very last sanctuary. Still, she let it happen, too scared of what he might do if she fought back. He led her to the bed, making sure she sat before he did the same.

“You’re exhausted. It’s been a very trying day, especially in your condition,” he said.

Darcy nodded, because he was right. He was always right. She watched numbly as he took off his boots, setting them carefully aside. His every motion was deliberate and calculated, and she watched as though she had been hypnotised. And then he leaned back onto the bed, settling against the headboard and tugging her toward him. With a deep breath, Darcy obeyed, trying to move carefully without getting in her own way as she settled down beside him. She wasn’t sure what she expected, but it hadn’t been to lay beside him, head resting on his shoulder while his fingers played idly with her hair. It was a tenderness that almost broke her heart, because she thought she’d never experience it again, and the person to show it to her was now Loki. Drawing in a shaky breath, Darcy tried to pretend they were anywhere other than her bedroom.

“Get some rest,” Loki said, moving his free hand to tangle his fingers with hers, where her hand rested on his chest. “You’ll feel better once you do.”

The angle was awkward, with her stomach in the way of being able to lie comfortably. She hadn’t been comfortable in months, and had almost forgotten what it felt like. Determined to take some of the pressure off her back, Darcy shifted and moved, finding a spot on her side that forced a bit of distance between her and Loki, and for a moment she thought he might object. But it seemed even he understood that there were some things that couldn’t be controlled.

“It’s a boy, by the way,” Darcy said, saying out out loud for the first time ever. “Just like you wanted.”

She stared at the wall, ignoring the little hitch in Loki’s chest as he made a noise that sounded almost like a laugh.

“Of course it is. What else would it be?” he asked.

He moved to kiss her on the forehead as Darcy tried to convince herself everything would be better this way. That she wouldn’t have to start running again, or being wary of every shadow. She so desperately wanted it to be true, and as Loki moved his hand from her hair to gently caress her back, she almost started to believe it.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God #77

Even with a fan blowing straight on her, Darcy felt like she was boiling in her own skin.  If she got a single ounce heavier, she thought she might actually suffocate under her own weight.  The only saving grace to all of it was that she no longer had to hide beneath hoodies and blankets, even though she still hadn’t been able to speak about the problem directly.  Though bit by bit though, it seemed like Loki’s magic had broken down.  Whether it was time and distance between them, or more people figuring out what he didn’t want them to know, she wasn’t sure.

So she sat in the front room, watching re-runs of Judge Judy with every window open, and every fan trying to pull air in.  With summer in full swing, every kid in the neighbourhood was outside, doing what neighbour kids did in the summer.  As they played, their screams and shouts grew louder, and as they grew louder, she turned up the TV volume more and more.

Nothing about what she was doing was how she’d ever planned on spending her final summer before graduation, but at this point, not even graduation was in the cards.  She’d never be able to go back to school.  There were too many things to figure out.  Too many things she’d never be able to figure out.  So before her life turned to constant chaos and hell, she was determined to be as lazy and indulgent as possible.  Which at the moment meant watching Judge Judy and picking at the bottom of a Ben & Jerry’s container.

SHIELD had at least finally stopped sending their goons around, but Darcy knew that only meant they’d stopped being obvious about it.  Some part of her occasionally thought they were using her for bait, while another part wondered if they were waiting around to be right there when she went into labour.  That was the next thing to get past.  She didn’t know what was going to happen then.  She didn’t trust SHIELD any farther than she could spit, and knew they were cooking up plans of their own.

But that was Future Darcy’s problem.  Future Darcy had a lot on her plate that Current Darcy couldn’t do anything about even if she knew what to do.  So Current Darcy’s plan was ice cream and crap TV while she tried to survive the summer, having once again given up on trying to do anything at all.

Finally accepting that her ice cream was completely gone, she hauled herself to her feet, struggling to free herself from the evil clutches of the sofa, and waddled her ass over to the kitchen.  She felt even bigger on her feet than she had slouched down in the sofa, and wondered if it was possible to actually burst like the beach ball she felt like.  As she tossed the ice cream container into the trash, the TV abruptly changed programming.  She spun round as quickly as she could without knocking herself or anything around her over, finding the feed interrupted by a frantic news broadcast.  At first, she thought the scene on the TV was some sort of riot, but quickly realised it was much worse than that.  Washington DC was under siege, with armed military response rolling through the streets in tanks, along with coordinated attacks in Nevada and New York.

Suddenly, Darcy was thirteen years old again, standing in the same spot watching looped footage of destruction after being sent home from school.  She felt sick, watching the all-too familiar scene play out.  After a long moment of numb shock, she ran over to the window to peer out toward the direction of Manhattan, but the view from the house was only the back lot that allowed people to park off the narrow street.  She ran up the stairs to her parents room, carefully navigating each step, and rushed to the window.  But even that wasn’t high enough to see beyond the other houses behind them.  She strained to see anything she could, but there was nothing to see within her line of sight.  All she could see was the rest of her Astoria neighbourhood, quiet and calm like always.  Instead, she rushed back downstairs to find her phone, and immediately dialled her mother. 

Just like before, the lines were completely jammed.  She tried to send a text, but even that failed.  New York had apparently learned nothing after the last time the city’s communications network collapsed.

Unsure what else to do, Darcy fetched her laptop and sent an email to both her parents.  Neither worked in Manhattan, which was where the primary attack seemed to be focused, but she had no idea what Staten Island or the Bronx looked like.  Unable to breathe while seconds ticked by, she watched her email do nothing while the news report frantically carried on from the other room.  She was barely listening, catching snippets about portals of light and monsters.  She didn’t need to hear anything else.  On some level, buried deep and ignored, she had expected this, though it made it no less terrifying.  The psychotic bastard had kept every horrible promise he’d ever made.  When he said he was going to come back and raze cities in revenge, he’d meant it.  And the locations he’d picked hadn’t been a coincidence.  Darcy knew that.  She’d spent two weeks teaching him now to navigate her world.  She’d taught him how their money and transportation worked, and how to spot a cop.  With his magic working as intended, he could have been on Earth for months, hiding away and making his plans, and nobody would have ever known.

He must have found his Dragon Line after all. 

And then he must have come back.  Nevada wasn’t a coincidence.  Darcy had suspected that’s where SWORD had taken him, and now she knew as some base she’d never heard of out in the desert had been reduced to a hole in the ground.  SHIELD were headquartered in DC, and he’d sworn vengeance upon them as well.

But New York?  Nothing was headquartered there.  Nothing except Tony Stark, and his equally psychotic flying suit of armour.  And Darcy.  She didn’t live in Manhattan, but New York was New York at the end of the day.

She watched and waited, and finally her email refreshed itself to reveal a message from her mother, short and frantic, but a response.  She was okay, which was all Darcy wanted to hear.  It was enough to break her out of her trance and move back to the living room, taking her laptop with her.  While she waited for a response from her dad, she watched in sickened horror as the news showed images of exactly what she’d already come to expect.  Fantasy creatures straight out of a fucking Lord of the Rings novel were overrunning cities and armies alike, riding flying cats and unicorns.  Loki had talked about elves, but Darcy’s mind refused to conceptualise it.  Seeing it on her TV finally made it real.  Shots of Tony Stark and the giant, green monster that had obliterated Culver filled her screen as they both tried to deal with an army of elves in their own way.  But as the screen flashed images while a harried anchor tried to keep up, Darcy found herself watching for something else.  Elves and cats and unicorns were the focus, but she knew who their leader was.  Despite knowing who she was looking for, Darcy didn’t see a single hint of him amongst the carnage.  Though she did see one thing that surprised her.  One thing she hadn’t expected to see at all.  First it was just a flash of colour so quick, she barely believed it.  But another shot was clear as day, as Thor battered magic-casting elves with his hammer.

The sight of him made her sick with resentment.  Where had he been earlier?  Where had he been while Loki was dragging her half way across the world?  Why hadn’t he put a stop to this sooner?  Why had he waited until the whole damn thing had got out of hand?

He could have stopped it sooner.  He should have stopped it sooner.  And that he hadn’t made it all his fault as well.  Maybe not directly, but his own inaction made him culpable.  Watching him swing his hammer around, she wondered how much he already knew.  How much he had known.  She wondered if he’d only shown up now because this was when Loki finally crossed a line. 

Jane had been so smitten with him.  Darcy couldn’t imagine what Thor might be like behind closed doors.  Crazy didn’t fall too far from the crazy apple tree, after all.

Watching it unfold should have been horrifying.  It should have been impossible to comprehend and accept.  But gods and aliens and monsters had been part of Darcy’s life for months.  She had watched them fall out of the sky, and had to deal with transferring classes because the Jolly Green Giant had smashed up half her campus.

She had been kidnapped by one, and spent weeks listening to him talk about doing exactly what she was seeing play out before her.  And watching it all happen in real time, high definition made her wonder once more what might have happened if she’d kept up.  If Loki might have still done this if she were there to distract him.

Part of her thought she might have been able to redirect his attentions elsewhere.  The rest of her knew she wouldn’t have made a difference.

She looked down at her laptop and saw another reply.  This time her dad, stranded out on Staten Island while everything went to hell.  Like the response from her mother, his was short, frantic, and direct.  He was safe, and Darcy should stay where she was.

She didn’t need to be told twice.  There was no way in hell she was going out into that.  No way in hell she was going anywhere at all.  But a thought did occur to her.  A creeping suspicion she had harboured for months came back, slowly engulfing her with a sense of all-too familiar dread.  Darcy had never truly figured out why SHIELD had let her go.  Not when she was so involved with Loki, and had something both he and SHIELD would want.  And yet, they had sent her back out into the world, occasionally making it known that they were still around.

Now, more than ever, Darcy wondered if she was bait.  She got up and moved to peer out the window, careful hide behind the giant box fan as much as possible.  Sure enough, two big, black SUVs that belonged to nobody in the neighbourhood were parked on the opposite side of the street, about thirty feet away from one another.  She moved away from the window and walked back to her bedroom, peering again through the window that looked out over the lot behind them.  Two more SUVs that didn’t look like they belonged to anyone she knew were suspiciously parked back there as well, ensuring every angle of the house was being watched.

She should have seen all of this coming, and she supposed part of her did.  But she’d been too busy focusing on the what-ifs to think about the eventualities and foregone conclusions.  Loki kept all of his promises; especially the horrible ones.  She knew that, and she wasn’t surprised by any of it.  But surprise wasn’t necessary for the rising flood of fear that slowly overtook her.  She had spent so much time wondering what might had happened if she’d kept up.  What might have happened if he’d taken her with him.

He was always going to leave her behind.  Watching Tony Stark get batted around by a giant cat, Darcy realised that.  She would have been in the way of Loki’s revenge.  She’d have been a distraction, and she damn sure would have tried to be.  But he kept all of his promises, and he had sworn revenge.  He could have probably disappeared on his own at any point during their final days together, but he’d been dragging her along for what?  To confuse her?  To make sure he got as much information from her as possible?  Darcy had given him all the resources he needed to do this.  He sat by quietly and watched as she and members of the Rising Tide discussed hacks and leaks and stole things from secure databases.  She let him fiddle around with her laptop in the name of keeping him occupied.  He knew how every aspect of their transportation system worked, how their communications worked.  In two weeks of being dragged all over hell and creation, Loki had learned everything he would have needed to know to infiltrate any system he wanted.  He could change his face to be anyone else, change his voice and his language, and he’d never be spotted.

For so many months, he’d been gone.  And he could have been back on Earth the entire time for all she knew.

The targets weren’t an accident.  He’d found out where he’d been kept in Nevada.  He’d found out where SHIELD was headquartered.  And he must have found out about the armour-wearing psychopath in Midtown, and deemed him and his pals worthy enough of a threat to distract them on their home turf.

This wasn’t like watching the news when she was thirteen years old.  When she was thirteen years old, watching lower Manhattan descend into chaos, it was like watching a dream; some detached reality she had nothing to do with.  This wasn’t the same.  She wasn’t detached.  She was responsible.  Maybe not directly, but everything she had done during those two weeks in January had led to this.  And there was no turning back.  She thought about running out to one of those SUVs on the street and throwing herself into the back seat, but she couldn’t force herself to move.  She was glued to the sofa, able to only watch on TV the horror and carnage that played out before her.  All because she’d tried to help someone who needed it.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God #76

She couldn’t stand looking at herself. Her own body had become a constant reminder of those two weeks in January, swollen and deformed as something alien grew inside her. It was entirely too hot to keep wearing hoodies, but nothing else would hide the growing swell of her stomach. None of her jeans fit, and hadn’t for weeks, but as she tried to pull up a pair of pyjamas and found them too snug as well, it was the final straw. She had tried three different pairs, and none of them could be pulled high enough to stay on comfortably. No matter how much she twisted and squirmed and tried to squeeze herself into the elastic band, she couldn’t pull her pants high enough.

“Goddamnit!” she shouted, collapsing onto the floor in a trembling heap.

She hadn’t meant to shout, but there was no taking it back. All the same, a jolt of pure terror shot through her body at the sound of her bedroom door opening. She tried to cover herself, sitting half naked on the floor, but it was no use. The cat was well and truly out of the bag.

“Darcy?” her mom asked. “Oh my god.”

A tense moment of silence hung between them while Darcy buried her face in her hands, trembling so hard her entire body ached. What came next was a solid wall of repressed emotion, pouring out of Darcy’s very soul in loud wails. A moment later, her mother was by her side, pulling her into a tight hug.

“Honey, why didn’t you say anything?” she asked.

All Darcy could do was cry even louder. She felt like a teenager whose poor prom night choices had caught up with her. But it hadn’t been too much booze in the back of a limousine, and they both knew it. She had been kidnapped, beaten, and raped, and now there was no hiding from that. It was out in the open, written across her body like a neon sign, and all she could do was cry about it.

Her mom said nothing for a long time, letting her cry as long and as loudly as she needed. Her face felt hot and sticky, and her entire body ached from the tension in her muscles. She could barely breathe, and thought she might choke on her own sorrow.

After a long time, while Darcy’s wails tapered off to pathetic weeping, her mother reached out for the pyjamas discarded on the floor. She looked at them for a long moment before placing them up on the bed, her own sadness and confusion radiating off her. All the while, Darcy waited for the worst of it. She waited for the accusatory questions and grand plans she knew she wouldn’t be able to follow through with. Instead, her mom slowly got to her feet.

“Let me see what I have in my closet,” she said instead.

She left Darcy alone, still crying on the floor. Once again, her mind was flooded with thoughts of what came next. What was she going to have to dodge around, and what would Loki’s horrible, stupid magic even let her do? On some stupid, hateful level, she even understood. She just wished he’d let her trust her own mother. She didn’t need help distrusting SHIELD, but he hadn’t trusted her enough to believe that, and for some reason it broke her heart.

Darcy was still quietly sniffling when her mother came back with a few pairs of old pyjamas and sweats of her own. Slowly, Darcy got to shaky legs, trying still not to look down at her own belly, round and obviously swollen already.

“We’ll figure this out,” her mom said, handing over one of the pairs of sweat pants.

Nodding, Darcy took them and pulled them on, finding them still a bit snug around what used to be her waist, and bunching up uncomfortably beneath her belly. The t-shirt she wore fit tightly around her stomach, the hem creeping up to expose a small sliver of skin. Darcy tried to pull it down to cover herself, but it wasn’t long enough. Sniffling hard, Darcy wiped her face with her hand and struggled to look directly at her mother. She wanted to, but she couldn’t. She was too afraid of what she might see. Too afraid of either the judgement or the pity, unsure which might be worse.

“Do you want to come with me to the store?” her mom asked after a moment.

Darcy shook her head. She couldn’t bare to even leave her bedroom, much less the house. She was humiliated, horrified by her own body. By what had been done to it.

“Okay,” her mom said, pulling her into a tight hug. “We’ll figure this out. I promise. It’s not the end of the world.”

Darcy wanted to argue. She knew SHIELD had told them just enough for them to know what Loki was; that he wasn’t human. That he was a monster from halfway across the galaxy. And somehow, despite all logic and science and reasoning, she carried his child.

“I’ll be back,” her mom said, finally pulling away. “Sit tight. I won’t be long.”

Darcy nodded and sat down on her bed, not sure what else to do. She watched in silence as her mom left her alone, closing the door between them. She stayed there, at the edge of her bed for a long time, just trying to remember how to breathe. After a long while, she managed to pull her legs up and lean against the headboard. A long while after that, she picked up her laptop from its spot, slotted neatly into the gap between her mattress and the bed frame. She clicked aimlessly around the permanent host of tabs she never closed, not really looking at anything as the screen scrolled by. By the time her door opened again, and her mom came back into the room, all Darcy felt was numb. She looked up at the bags her mom carried, two from Target, and one plain brown paper. She set the Target bags on the bed, sitting down next to them, and gingerly handed the paper bag over to Darcy. Unsure what to expect, Darcy peered in, and saw a familiar plastic container.

“Thank you,” she said weakly, pulling the bowl from the bag.

She closed her laptop and set it aside, giving herself room to pop the lid off the bowl. She dropped the lid back into the bag, and reached in for the chopsticks, using her teeth to pry them apart. With both chopsticks free of one another, she poked carefully at bowl of tonkotsu ramen. Neither the fish cake nor the chashu pork seemed terribly appetising in her current state, but the noodles were exactly what she needed. After taking a few cautious bites, she looked up at her mom, and then to the bags.

“What else did you get?” she asked.

Her mom reached for one of the bags and started pulling items out, one at a time, showing them each to Darcy in turn. Pyjamas and yoga pants with wide wastebands, along with a few larger t-shirts, but nothing that screamed “maternity wear.” Darcy was glad, though she wasn’t quite sure what came next all the same. She didn’t think she’d be able to commit to anything either way, but with the way her mother had shopped, it seemed like she expected to be in this for the long haul. Darcy hadn’t been able to make the phone call on her own, and although she hadn’t been keeping count herself, she was fairly certain she was beyond 24 weeks. The way her mother had shopped, it seemed like she suspected as much as well, and was going forward with the expectation that they wouldn’t find much help.

“That one’s cute,” Darcy said, at a T-shirt with a cartoon red panda on it. She didn’t know what else to say, but at least her mom had good taste.

“Yeah, I thought you’d like that one,” her mom said.

Darcy carefully set her bowl aside and reached for the shirt, looking at it as she held it in her hands. Taking a deep breath and sighing out tension she’d been holding ever since New Mexico, she sat forward to pull off the shirt she was wearing to replace it with the new one. It wasn’t a maternity shirt by any stretch of the imagination, and didn’t fit her body at all. It was big around her shoulders and chest, but even seated, she knew it would be long and wide enough to cover her belly completely. Just that alone was enough to make her feel almost like things might be okay.

She could tell there was much her mother wanted to say, keeping it all to herself while Darcy struggled to keep a grip on her wits. Rather than asking any questions about what Darcy had or hadn’t done, she continued to go through the bag of clothes, showing each item off individually. Also tucked away in the lot of it was a new pair of slippers and a pack of thick, brightly-coloured socks. Darcy took the slippers, the sight of the angry, snarling teddy bear faces bringing a twisted smile to her face for the first time in way too long.

“Oh my god, why?” she asked, not sure if she wanted to laugh or cry.

“Because I’ve missed that beautiful smile of yours,” her mom said.

It was probably meant to be some wonderfully comforting thing, but all her mother’s words did was stab her with another pang of regret.

“I don’t know,” Darcy said slowly, unsure how much she would actually be able to say, “what I’m going to do.”

Her mom smiled sadly, reaching out to take Darcy’s hand in hers. “We’ll figure it out,” she said. “I’ll call around and make some appointments.”

Darcy sniffled loudly, unsure how much she could bear anything going forward. But she nodded, slowly and stiffly, because it was all she could do.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God #75

Her belly was definitely getting bigger, but loose hoodies still hid the problem from anyone who might have noticed. It wasn’t a permanent solution, but it was a solution for the moment. She’d got around the morning sickness and nausea by just not eating while her parents were around, and tried not to think about it otherwise. On weekends, she shirted by on snacks and nibbles, waiting until her parents went to bed before trying to eat anything substantial. She still hadn’t been able to tell Dr Taylor anything, and had even skipped her most recent appointment for all the good they were doing.

She forced herself to go out more, keeping a constant grip on her taser in her pocket as she walked to the store, or to the library. It started small, with little walks around the block, but eventually she found it easier and easier to venture further afield. Though, she always walked. The bus was too crowded, and going anywhere beyond her tiny neighbourhood meant taking a train, which still made her sick to even think about. Sometimes she’d go to the park and stare at the river, and Manhattan on the other side. More than once, she thought about walking along the bridge, and then climbing over the rail, but her feet never seemed to take her in the right direction. She wasn’t sure if that was her own doing, or Loki’s.

She leaned against the rail, listening to the sounds of birds in the water below, and cars driving by slowly behind her. In the distant haze, she could just see Tony Stark’s new building casting its bizarre silhouette against the skyline. Sometimes, if the light was right, and she was very lucky, she could see him zipping around in his psychotic flying suit of armour like he was a god amongst mere mortals.

He wasn’t a god. Darcy had met gods, and they were infinitely more horrible than even the most selfish of billionaires could ever conceive of being.

Watching the city move on around her, Darcy didn’t notice Solomon until she was right beside her, leaning against the rail as well in a parody of casual friendship.

“Have you thought about what I said?” she asked.

Darcy didn’t even bother to turn to look at her. “Nope,” she said.

She had. A lot. And every time the final conclusion was the same. SHIELD couldn’t have anything to do with Darcy’s little problem. Her problem wasn’t going to become their gain, even if it killed her.

“Have you seen a doctor, at least?” Solomon asked.

Darcy snorted, because there was nothing she could say. How was she supposed to see a doctor when she couldn’t even say out loud why she needed to see one? She knew she should have made an appointment weeks earlier, but it just wasn’t happening.

“It’s been, what?” Solomon asked, trudging on despite Darcy’s unwillingness to entertain this conversation. “Almost five months, hasn’t it? You should make an appointment for your safety, if nothing else.”

“I’m fine,” Darcy said.

She wasn’t fine. She was far from fine. She was alone and terrified, and her options ranged from horrible to unliveable. But she knew it was only a matter of time before she wasn’t fine. Before she could no longer ignore the problem. Weeks and weeks of thinking and stressing had led to the single option of just running away again, endlessly moving from place to place until she died. She couldn’t do that again. Especially not alone.

“Darcy,” Solomon said, sounding like she was trying to be a friend.

Darcy finally looked over at her, too exhausted and run down to even want to try to run Solomon off. Because she wasn’t wrong. Darcy knew she couldn’t hide forever, pretending nothing had ever happened. Sooner or later, it was going to become a real problem, and she was no closer to having a plan. She knew she was soon going to start looking more and more unhinged by the day, but there was nothing she could do.

“I don’t want your help,” she said finally.

That much hadn’t changed. No matter what happened next, SHIELD wasn’t the correct answer.

Without waiting around for Solomon to offer again, Darcy turned to head back home, walking along the boulevard for as long as she could before needing to head away from the river. She wouldn’t be able to hide beneath giant hoodies for long either. Not only would she soon get too big for it to hide anything, the weather would soon get too warm. Walking along the river at least afforded a cool breeze against the rising late spring temperatures. It was a long walk back home, taking her through the park and down narrow streets. It was a walk that had become comfortable and familiar, getting warmer as she made it farther inland. By the time she got home, she was exhausted and uncomfortably warm. She didn’t see either of her parents’ cars parked nearby on the street, but she entered the house cautiously all the same, not wanting to deal with the praise for leaving the house that was beginning to feel passive aggressive and scathing. Finding nobody home, Darcy took off her hoodie and shoes and went straight to her bedroom. Sitting in bed, her stomach wasn’t as visible, but that wouldn’t last forever either.

She poked around on her laptop, having long since given up on trying to find information or resources via the internet. She could do circuitous, roundabout searches, but making appointments or getting any kind of direct information was just as impossible as trying to dial a simple phone number. She didn’t bother looking anymore. There was no point in trying. As it was, her plan was to hide as long as possible until her parents noticed, and then try not to completely break down into a useless heap.

Instead, she scrolled through Tumblr and Facebook, not really interested in anything on her feed. As she scrolled, her mind drifted to the same thoughts they always did, full of what-ifs and blind speculation. She wondered, as she often did, where Loki was, and what he was up to. He hadn’t seemed to have shown any interest in coming back, and she hated the part of herself that was almost hopeful he would. She hated him, not just for what he’d done to her, but for what he’d forever taken away from her. She knew she’d never be able to trust or get close to anyone ever again. The last tender moments she had ever experienced, and likely ever would, had been with Loki. She still didn’t understand how he could have terrified her and made her feel safe all at once. Yet, that’s exactly what he had done. And she’d never feel safe again. She’d never feel wanted or loved again, because she’d never be able to let herself be that vulnerable again.

He had taken that from her, and she would never get it back. That part of her that hoped he might come back almost missed him for those tender moments. She knew that had she kept up with him, and hadn’t been left behind, he’d know all the right things to say to ease her fears. But as it was, nobody knew the right things to say. Darcy didn’t know what to expect, even if everything did go right. She could barely take care of herself. How could she take care of a child? Much less a child she didn’t even want?

She also wondered how far Loki’s magic went. She had all but given up on trying to figure anything out without being able to say or do anything relevant. But what if something went wrong? Would his magic still keep her from saying anything? Would she be unable to save her own life because his magic got in the way? She’d been lucky so far, in that as far as she could tell, everything was chugging along exactly as it should. But this was her latest what if. What if being pregnant with his child actually killed her?

Her roundabout, vague searches had given her plenty of ideas for what could go wrong, but if she couldn’t tell anyone she was in pain, or started suddenly haemorrhaging blood, what was she supposed to do?

He hadn’t any idea what Loki was thinking when he gagged her like this, if he was thinking at all. Thinking didn’t seem to be his strong suit at the end of the day. She’d been with him for two weeks, and in that short span of time, he seemed entirely content to fly by the seat of his pants and see where luck took him.

It had taken him to god only knew where, and left her alone, afraid, and without any kind of answers.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God #74

The second test was also positive, but Darcy knew that already. She tried a dozen times to call Planned Parenthood, and a dozen times could never get as far as connecting the call. If she tried opening the line first, she stalled at trying to dial the number. She knew that no matter what she did, she was going to have to go through with this. Whatever Loki had done to her was not going to allow her to go against what he wanted and do what needed to be done. It was, in his sick way, protecting his investment. An investment he wasn’t even present to see paid off.

She was home alone, failing to make a single call, when the doorbell rang. Darcy managed not to throw the phone across the room at the sudden fright, and walked over to see who it was, unlocking all the bolts, and replacing them with the chain. Pulling the door open, she was surprised to see Solomon and Barton standing on the porch outside.

“What are you doing here?” she asked flatly.

“Checking up,” Solomon said. She nodded toward the black SUV double parked on the narrow street. “And making a delivery.”

Darcy looked through the crack in the door for a long moment before closing it and unlatching the chain. She opened the door again, stepping aside to let both of them in. While Solomon carried nothing, Barton hauled in a large crate, scowling at everything as he made his way to set it down in the living room.

“Is that my stuff?” Darcy asked, looking at the crate.

“It is,” Solomon said, stepping further into the house as Barton walked back outside.

“What about my car?” Darcy asked.

“We were instructed to have it delivered elsewhere. To an address in Queens,” Solomon said.

Darcy nodded. Her parents must have been keeping in contact with SHIELD, if they knew to take the car back to her grandmother’s.

“Kay,” Darcy said.

Solomon looked around the room, and Darcy saw where her gaze fell. The Planned Parenthood pamphlet sat on the table next to the phone’s charger, open to the number she’d been failing to dial for the last two weeks. They both stood in silence, staring at one another and daring the other to speak while Barton hauled in the mini-fridge. He dropped it down with a heavy thud, grumbling about not being paid for this sort of thing, before he walked back outside again.

“SHIELD can help,” Solomon said once he was gone.

Darcy shook her head. “No,” she said. She couldn’t even come up with a lie. She was too angry to even think of one. “I know what SHIELD’s idea of help looks like. Whatever help you think you’re offering, I don’t want it.”

She was trembling, barely able to keep her voice level. Whether she was terrified or enraged, Darcy couldn’t even tell. All she knew was that whatever it was Solomon thought she was offering, Darcy knew better. Solomon was standing right there in her house because of SHIELD’s unique method of solving problems that involved letting them become problems in the first place.

“We’re not the bad guys,” Solomon said. “I promise.”

“Like hell,” Darcy said.

Before she could say anything else, Barton walked back in with the last of her things from New Mexico. He gave both of them a sour look as he set the crate down next to the other two, and started to walk back out again.

“Cool. Got it. Thanks for the help,” he said. “I’ll be in the car.”

He left the two of them alone again, and Darcy wondered how much he knew as well.

“I don’t want help from the people who put me here to begin with,” Darcy said. “You say you’re not the bad guys? I saw what they did. You can lie to yourself all you want, but I know the truth.”

Solomon had the gall to actually look hurt. “Miss Lewis—“

“Get fucked,” Darcy said.

She didn’t know why she said it, but she knew every word that came out of her mouth was her own. This wasn’t Loki’s meddling or influence. She didn’t need him to hold to her convictions. She didn’t need him inside her head to know that she didn’t want SHIELD anywhere near her ever again.

“And get out of my house,” she said.

She was trembling so hard, she thought she might puke. A moment later, Solomon nodded and finally turned to leave, neither of them saying another word as she saw herself out and closed the door behind her. Darcy rushed after her, locking everything up for that extra barrier of protection between them. When she turned back around, her eyes fell on the crates Barton had brought in, and for want of anything else to do, Darcy walked over to start going through everything. Her laptop was dead and needed to charge, so she plugged it in while she went through everything else. Clothes that she had forgotten about got stacked up. When she found bloodied hand towel, Darcy froze, her entire body locking up. She had thought SHIELD would have taken it, but apparently the washed out stains weren’t enough for them to want to keep.

Faded rust-coloured stains that she knew to be Loki’s blood, from that first night she’d found him. That night she picked the locks on his handcuffs and acted like a nurse to tend his injuries. The image was still burned into her mind, and would be until the day she died. He had looked so close to death, bloody and beaten. Coulson said he’d killed eight people before Darcy had found him, and she wondered when Loki had managed to do that. Part of her still thought Coulson was lying.

She knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he was the person she’d seen on the stretcher, getting loaded into an unmarked ambulance. She wondered if that’s when he’d killed the agents. Jane had told her about the way Thor tore through them, trying to get his hammer. She knew that Loki had been repeatedly experimented on, but not how he escaped. He was handcuffed when she found him, so she doubted that’s when he killed those people. More likely, she thought, he’d pulled his vanishing act, disappearing as far away as possible. He said he’d needed an anchor to do it properly, and she wondered if he was trying to get back to where he’d landed.

Not for the first time, Darcy wondered what would have happened to Thor if SHIELD had found him first. If Jane hadn’t have run him over and imprinted on him like a lost puppy.

She knew she would not be going through her clothes and books, boxed up by SHIELD, if that had been the case.

She slowly took everything to her room, moving it all to a pile against the wall to be dealt with later. It wasn’t what she wanted to mess with. The fridge, she managed to at least move out of the way, putting her DVD player on top of it so it didn’t get hurt if it fell to the floor.

And then she fetched her laptop. They had the desktop for basic internet stuff, but Darcy hadn’t felt the desire to touch it once since getting home. Her laptop was hers though, and somehow that felt safer. Less likely to end with her parents finding her search history. Sitting on the floor by the sofa, Darcy went looking for something she wasn’t even sure would still exist. But apparently SHIELD had run afoul of Streisand, and the thing she was looking for was mirrored everywhere. The full document leak pertaining to New Mexico was an enormous download, but Darcy had to know. She’d only skimmed it before, getting bits and pieces as the screen scrolled by. Now, she wanted to read as much as she could.

She found the section of the report that started with Loki’s arrival out in the desert, not too far from where they’d found Thor. Thor had arrived through a conduit of light and magic, but Jane hadn’t picked up any energy readings matching it the day Loki arrived. And neither had SHIELD. By all accounts, Loki seemed to have fallen straight out of the sky, and was barely breathing when they found him. So that hadn’t been when he killed the agents Coulson had mentioned.

It turned out SHIELD didn’t have the resources to deal with it, so Loki was immediately transferred to a SWORD facility. The location had been redacted, but Darcy had a good reason to suspect it was some forbidden part of the Nevada desert. Wherever it was, that was where he woke up and apparently panicked. He tried to leave, but they had him restrained, and he didn’t take too kindly to it. The report documented Loki doing things Darcy couldn’t even imagine, conjuring weapons and blowing things up with his mind. He’d killed five people by the time they got close enough to stick the cure into him, and he killed three more before he went down.

The cure worked for a few days, but when his magic started to come back, that’s when they started digging around to see what made him tick. That’s when the scalpels and IV drugs came out. Darcy was almost sick reading it, but she couldn’t tear her eyes away. She’d known, on a deep level, that all of this had happened. It was obvious from just the way he looked. She knew even before she’d ever seen a report that his stitches weren’t sewing up accidental injuries. Every cut had been deliberate; some new experiment for no reason other than selfish curiosity. He was a living, breathing person, and they’d kept him tied up and drugged, each day bringing some new horror.

It had only taken a week for Loki to escape, by all accounts disappearing when someone turned their back. A week that must have felt like it had dragged on for a century, until finally an opportunity presented itself. She remembered how for those first few days, Loki didn’t understand a word she’d said. She knew he’d been scared and confused with no idea what was going on, and no way to find out.

Darcy could relate, and it made her sick.

But she knew he wouldn’t have done any of what he’d done to her if SWORD hadn’t done what they had to him. She’d seen it written plainly across his body. They terrified him, and every single thing he did—to her and everyone else—was in an effort to get as far away from the people who had done that to him as possible.

He had done horrible things to her in turn. He had raped and beaten her, and dragged her halfway across the planet. And once again, she could only react with confusion. Confusion because she knew, somehow, that’s not who he really was. He had done horrible things after horrible things were done to him, but she’d also been there when he was scared. She’d been there for the kind words and gentle touch. And he only became truly horrible once he thought she’d turned on him.

All she had wanted to do was help him, and all she had done was create so many problems for everyone else. And yet, she found herself once again struggling to blame him. Struggling to hold him accountable, because SWORD had hurt him first.

She should have kept up. She should have kept going. Things would have got better. But she’d betrayed his trust, and now she was pregnant with his child, and alone. And now SHIELD and SWORD were going to conspire to take back what they’d lost. If they couldn’t get Loki, they’d take the next best thing. Because to them, Loki wasn’t a person. And his child wouldn’t be either. To them, Loki was a lab experiment, dangerous and exciting. To them, Loki was something they owned, and Darcy had stolen it from them.

Darcy knew that Loki had made her unable to do anything about the fact that she was pregnant with his child, even if she hadn’t quite managed to accept it yet. But now there was a new objective. She had to make sure that whatever came next, SHIELD or SWORD or whatever didn’t take it away from her. Once again, she had to figure out how to get away. And she had to do it while being too afraid to leave her own house.

She choked on the irony of it. If Loki hadn’t gagged her with whatever magic he’d used, it wouldn’t be a problem. He’d thought she’d betrayed him, and had done everything he could to keep her from doing it again. Now, alone and afraid, she had no power to protect herself or his child from the very thing that had terrified him so badly in the first place.

Unable to read on any farther, Darcy closed her laptop and got up, finding the Planned Parenthood pamphlet on the table. She snatched it up so no one else would see it and went to her room, wanting nothing more than to hide away from the rest of the world. She didn’t know what she’d do next, but she had plenty of time to figure it out.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God #73

She’d gone back to bed by the time her mom came home, hiding beneath the blankets like a child afraid of the monster in the closet. She just couldn’t face the reality of what was coming next. Maybe it had been wrong. She tried to tell herself that it had been wrong. That she’d misread it. That stress was getting in the way. That she’d wake up in the morning and everything would be fine.

As much as she knew it wasn’t true, she tried to believe it. But she had run out of the ability to tell herself any more lies. She was pregnant, and she knew it. She was pregnant with her rapist’s child. She was pregnant with an alien baby. And what the hell was she supposed to do about that? What the hell could she do about that? Her entire world was ending and there was nothing she could hope to do about any of it.

When her mom came to check on her, she pretended to be asleep. She didn’t know why, but at the same time, what else could she do? Cry, and not be able to explain why for the two-hundredth time? That had to be getting real old. It was definitely getting old for her.

Darcy stayed in bed until she heard her parents go to bed themselves. Only then did she get up to move around the house a bit. She wanted to go outside and breathe some fresh air, even if it meant only sitting on the porch. But the idea of being alone outside terrified her. She didn’t even have a good reason to be afraid of going outside, but it was there all the same, keeping her locked up inside her own home, unable to leave even to go as far as picking up the paper from the steps half the time.

Instead, she moved to the sofa and pulled the blanket around her, wearing it like armour against the rest of the world. The house was dark and quiet, cut through only by the light hum of the refrigerator, and in Darcy’s mind something was lurking in every hidden corner. Not something, but someone. Someone she never wanted to see again, but with whom she would be forever tied down to. Her mind was so full of uncomfortable thoughts and scenarios that she couldn’t even think about anything, consumed instead by an all-encompassing dread that threatened to suffocate her. The only coherent thoughts her mind could process was that her life was over. There was no turning back. No moving on. No matter what happened next, there was no light at the end of the tunnel. No rescue. No help. Just Loki, and the permanent marks he had left on her life.

Slowly, he invaded her thoughts even as she pushed against them. Memories of being held down by him mixed and jumbled with memories of her riding him, bringing with it the same wave of sour confusion she thought she might never banish completely. She’d seen him kill people, and knew he could have killed her, but chose not to. Even after she was no longer useful; even after he’d taken over, leading their journey, he’d kept her near. Now, sitting alone, isolated in her own home, part of Darcy almost wished he had killed her. She wouldn’t have to live with everything else if he had. She knew she would have tied terrified and screaming, but how much worse could it have possibly been, when the rest of her life would be filled with unending terror?

Eventually, she fell asleep on the sofa, exhausted from a fear that had never quite faded and never would. She woke again early in the morning to the sounds of her dad quietly getting ready to go to work, moving around the way a person does when they’re trying a little too hard to be quiet. Rather than say anything and draw attention to herself, Darcy watched him in silence as he filled his giant mug with coffee and screwed the lid on. She said nothing as he picked up his keys and walked to the door, disappearing from the house without a word. Listening to him lock the door back up behind him, Darcy wondered how much longer her parents would be able to keep going on like this. She wondered much much longer they’d wait before pushing her to go back to school, or getting a job. She wondered what she’d do when it came to that.

She wondered how long it would take before her denial and plain evidence became at odds with one another, and she was put in some hospital for being clearly insane, unable to cope with the world or be any kind of part of it.

When her mom came out of the bedroom to start readying herself to leave as well, Darcy sat up, finally calling attention to herself.

“What are you doing out here?” her mom asked, pausing at the fridge.

Darcy shrugged. “Dunno. Couldn’t sleep,” she said.

Her mom stepped away from the fridge and walked over to sit next to Darcy on the sofa, pulling her into a sideways hug.

“What are you gonna do today?” her mom asked.

Darcy let herself lean against her, thoughts roiling around in her mind as she struggled to find words. “I don’t know,” she said. “I’ll figure it out when I get there, I guess.”

She knew what she needed to do. What she didn’t want to do, and wasn’t sure she’d be able to do. And even if she wanted to give voice to it, she knew she’d not be able to say it out loud.

“All right,” her mom said. She kissed Darcy on the forehead, in a way that reminded her all too much of Loki, and then got up. “I need to do some shopping this evening. Want to go with me?”

Darcy shrugged. “Maybe,” she said.

Getting out of the house seemed like a good idea. Something she hadn’t done in far too long. She watched her mom go back to the kitchen, pulling out a Tupperware from the fridge. Once she had her lunch and coffee settled, she made her way to the door.

“Love you,” she said, getting her keys ready. “Be dressed when I get home if you want to go shopping.”

Darcy nodded. “Love you too,” she said, making no promises either way.

She waited for a few long, tense minutes after her mother left before getting up and returning to her bedroom. The folder was in her sock drawer, full of all the various resources a college student might occasionally need. She thumbed through all her FAFSA and loan paperwork until her fingers found the pamphlet buried in with the rest of it. Without even pausing to look at it, Darcy pulled the pamphlet out and took it with her back out to the front room. She picked the phone up from its charger, looking at the little LED screen on the front. With a deep breath, Darcy opened the pamphlet and found the phone number printed inside. One digit at a time, she dialled the number.

All that was left to do was pressing the little green call button. The little, innocuous button that would open the line and connect the call. The little green button that stared back at her, as though judging her.

She couldn’t press it. She wanted to. She tried to. But she could not force her thumb to move that extra inch. Without pressing the button, the line wouldn’t open and the call wouldn’t connect. She had to do it, but found herself completely and totally unable to act.

Instead she dropped the phone to the floor and collapsed on the sofa, too tired and hollow to do anything at all. She looked at the Planned Parenthood pamphlet in her hand and dropped it as well, knowing it wouldn’t be able to help her now that she actually needed it.

This was it. She knew it. Sooner or later, there would be no hiding it, and she didn’t know what to do. She knew that whatever Loki had done to her would prevent her from ever saying anything, or doing anything about it. Sooner or later, she’d be visibly pregnant and still denying it. She’d be denying it even as she gave birth, and that wasn’t a good look for anyone. Even without SHIELD running her life, this ended with them getting a shiny new toy. One snatched from her at the first opportunity.

She sure as hell didn’t want to have Loki’s baby, but she didn’t want them to have it either. This was why he kept her around, and she knew it. Rather than wondering what if, she found herself wishing she’d managed to keep up with him. Because then, if his intent was to truly make her a queen, she could do what any queen does with the children she never wanted to have after being raped by her husband, and let the nursemaids raise them. At least then she wouldn’t be complicit in SHIELD’s disgusting ideas of scientific research. At least then, she’d know at least in part what to expect.

He’d rape her again, get her pregnant again, and the whole thing would start over. But if it was heirs he was after, he’d have an interest in keeping them safe, and by proxy, her as well. But she hadn’t kept up, and so he’d left her behind. Because she was human, disposable, and not worth the energy when he could no doubt find someone else once he got to Alfheim.

He had done this before. She had ignored his words at the time, but now she knew. He had done this before. She wasn’t the first woman he’d kidnapped and raped, and she wondered how many got dragged away to some other planet with him, and how many vexed him enough to be left behind, fending for themselves. She wondered what had happened to the women he did take with him; if she had escaped being another woman in a long line.

Her hand fell to her stomach again, though there was nothing there to feel. No swell, or movement beneath her skin.

She wished she had kept up. Because maybe then she could have managed to gain some trust back and ask questions no one on Earth could expect to answer. Maybe then, she’d at least know what was going to happen to her body. She knew how to keep him happy, and to do the things he liked. Maybe it would have been worth the price of knowing what came next. It almost certainly would have been worth the price of knowing she wouldn’t be complicit in whatever SHIELD would do once they found out.

And maybe, just maybe, she could have learned to control him. Maybe, without the constant threat of a lifetime of torture, Loki wouldn’t be so cruel. Maybe without the paranoia of Darcy having turned him in, that other Loki—the one who was soft words and gentle touch—would have come back.

Or maybe she could fling herself into the East River, and never have to think about any of it ever again.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God #72

She woke to silence. Darcy still wasn’t used to waking to silence. Both her parents had gone back to work, leaving her completely alone during the day, and she still wasn’t used to it. She still didn’t quite know how to handle it, and the first thing she did was get up to turn on the TV in the front room, letting PBS drone quietly at her while she walked away. She needed something, anything to not feel so alone. But even with the TV on, she knew she was alone.

She was cooking for herself as well. Not much, and nothing terribly substantial. But mac and cheese for breakfast counted as cooking. She got the water boiling, tipped in the noodles, and then threw the box halfway across the kitchen when someone knocked on the front door. In her mind, it was an angry pounding, desperate to get in. But a moment later, as her heart began to calm down, Darcy realised it wasn’t that at all, but the polite rapping of someone who had nothing better to do at 11am. Still struggling to catch her breath, she quietly moved to the front door and peeked out through the hole to find one of the neighbour kids standing on the steps. Talking a deep breath, Darcy unlocked the door, replacing all of them with the chain before opened it to peer through the gap.

“Lucky got away. Have you seen him?” the kid asked.

“I—” Darcy froze, her mind doing flips while it tried to catch up with what was said. She stared at the kid as her mind raced to a thousand conclusions at once, none of them logical or rational. But he was just the neighbour kid, a little boy she’d seen playing in the street with his little black dog hundreds of times.

“No, I haven’t, sorry.”

She closed the door without waiting to see if he had anything else to say, and locked everything up all the way. After a moment of telling herself that the neighbour kid was looking for his dog, and that he hadn’t said what she thought he’d said, she unlocked the chain and returned to the stove before her extremely lame breakfast boiled over. She worked as quickly as boiling water would allow, and even mixed in a can of tuna with it at the very end, thinking she should eat something with some sort of nutritional value. With about half of what was made in a bowl, Darcy took it over to the sofa to watch whatever bland entertainment New York’s public broadcasting network had to offer, getting about two bites into her macaroni before her stomach did a flip, nearly taking her with it. She tossed the bowl onto the table, barely having the chance to make sure it didn’t spill, and ran to the kitchen. She made it as far as the sink before throwing up what little was in her stomach.

She was doing well. She hadn’t cried all week, but this pushed her right over that edge again. There was nothing offensive about macaroni and cheese, but she knew exactly why it had bothered her.

She had missed her period twice, and had pretended she hadn’t. Her parents hadn’t figured it out yet, but they would soon. And she couldn’t bear it. Still leaning over the sink, Darcy ran the water to clear it out while she forced herself to rein it in and stop crying. The tears didn’t stop flowing, but she managed to catch her breath, breathing slowly and evenly in every way her body didn’t want to.

Instead of going back to the sofa, Darcy returned to her room. Barely keeping herself under control, she stood next to her bed and looked down at the tiny corner of white plastic bag that poked out from beneath the blanket. She couldn’t stall any longer. She couldn’t ignore it, or pretend it wasn’t a problem. She needed to know for certain. Darcy picked up the entire bag and took it with her to the bathroom.

She didn’t want to do this. She couldn’t do this. But she knew she had to. She still had not been able to tell anyone, and was surprised when she’d been able to buy the tests at all.

Slowly, she took the box from the bag. That was one step. Then, she opened the box. Next, she pulled one of the wrapped tests from the box.

Darcy stared at it in her fingers, benign and unassuming. She wondered how one little thing could make her so scared. How one little thing had the potential to change her life forever.

She knew it wasn’t the test that would change her life. But it was easy to put all that weight on it in that moment, because it was easier to think about than Loki.

With a deep breath, she unwrapped the test and looked at it. She’d used them before, but she’d never felt quite this terrified about it before. But this time, she didn’t know what came next. She didn’t know what she’d be able to do next.

Before, they’d all been negatives. Before, she’d taken them with a mix of panic and hope, and always came out on top. This time, she knew. This time, she was only seeking confirmation for something she’d known for months.

She knew how this worked. It wasn’t new. But she was terrified all the same.

Darcy put the test aside on the counter and pulled down her pants, knowing she couldn’t stall any longer. The bruises had all long since faded, but part of her could still see them on her skin, dark and ugly as if they were still brand new. She tried to get situated without looking at herself, and picked the test back up to aim it where it needed to be. In the moment, the whole thing felt gross and vile, but those feelings were quickly muscled out by the fear of what would come next.

Once she was done, she recapped the stick and put it back on the counter to do its thing while she cleaned up.

Two minutes felt like an eternity, and she watched the test in tense silence as the little screen on the side slowly did it’s thing. She watched as the little blue plus filled the screen, and even though it was about as idiot-proof as possible, she still picked up the box to double check.

She’d already known, so why was it so hard to look at? Why did matching that little plus to the “positive” indicator on the box hurt so much? She covered her mouth with her hand, while the other still held onto the test, and slowly felt her entire world crumble around her all over again.

She had already known, but the confirmation made it real.

There was one more test in the box. She could take another test. Maybe this one had been wrong. But she knew it wasn’t. She knew that somehow, despite science and logic, Loki had done this to her, and she’d known it ever since she sat in a dark Icelandic hotel room, bleeding and bruised from what he’d done to her.

Her hand fell to her belly, still the same shape it had always been. She wondered how it was supposed to work. He was a thousand years old. Would her belly soon start to swell, or would it be years before she even started to show?

Loki had told her something else, she’d realised. One more thing that sounded like trite nonsense when he said it. That his gifts of life would be shared with her. She hadn’t understood what it meant, but she thought she might be starting to get an idea. Was this what he’d meant? That he’d get her pregnant, and somehow in doing so, make sure she stayed alive long enough to carry his child?

Darcy dropped the test to the floor, and a moment later collapsed to her knees. She had no idea what came next, or what she’d even say when she did start to show. Would Loki’s magic keep her gagged even then? Would she still be forced to deny everything had happened?

As she fought back more tears, Darcy wondered what would have happened had she made it to Alfheim with him. Would he have let her speak then? He’d told her to speak to no one when they arrived, but surely he hadn’t meant no one ever. The people of Alfheim would have probably known what to expect at least. What could she do on Earth? Who could possibly tell her what to expect when it came to being pregnant with an alien child?

A treacherous voice told her she’d have been better off in Alfheim. That she should have tried harder to keep up. That she shouldn’t have given up so easily. That at least if she’d made it, she’d know exactly what to look forward to, because it would be a repeat of everything that had already happened.

She had given up. And now, she was giving up again, and she knew it.

Another thought crossed her mind as she sat on the bathroom floor. She couldn’t hide this forever. People would find out. SHIELD would find out. And when SHIELD found out, Darcy couldn’t imagine they’d be willing to look the other way. SHIELD would be back. She was fairly certain they hadn’t really left. They had cut her loose too easily, and there was no way in hell they weren’t keeping tabs on her, or even using her for bait. She wondered how many creepy photographs, taken with telephoto lenses, existed of her in some database somewhere while SHIELD waited patiently to see if Loki was truly coming back like he’d threatened.

That was what did it. Once again, she was crying. She couldn’t stop crying, as though it was all she ever did. She told herself to grow up. To get a grip. Countless other women were in the same state as her, and the world didn’t stop turning. She couldn’t just roll over and give up like this.

She should have been faster on her feet. She should have made a stronger effort to keep up. She should have listened to Loki when he’d told her what to do.

She didn’t want to be with Loki. She didn’t want to be on another planet. But she couldn’t even tell anyone just how scared she truly was, or why she was scared at all. Loki was gone. He wasn’t coming back. She had disappointed him and he’d left her behind, exactly as he’d said he would. But he wasn’t what scared her now. SHIELD scared her. The way her parents would react scared her. Not knowing what to even expect from her own body scared her. And she was doing it all alone, because she hadn’t been able to keep up. Hadn’t been able to keep moving forward like she’d been told.

Like so much else, she was trapped and afraid because of her own foolish actions. She wouldn’t be in this position now if she had just listened to begin with.

She let herself cry until it had all worked out of her system. She picked up the test from the floor and looked at it one more, hoping it might have changed its mind. Finding it still displaying a positive result, Darcy wrapped it in toilet paper and stuffed it into the trash, hoping it would go unseen. She picked up the box and the wrapper, stuffing both back into the plastic carrier bag, and finally got up. One step at a time, she made it to her room and put the bag back under her bed. She could always check again later. Maybe stress was just messing with her period. Maybe the test was wrong. Maybe she’d let it sit too long and it read a false positive.

Or maybe, she was completely stuck once again, without any options for escape.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God #71

So much had happened that Darcy didn’t understand.  No matter how many times it was explained to her, she couldn’t make the timeline fit into place in her head.  Even with time zones, there weren’t enough hours in the day for her to have sailed across the Atlantic and landed in Virginia the same day she got off a plane in the Faroe Islands.  But that was apparently what had happened.

So much else that shouldn’t have been possible had happened that Darcy quit trying to make sense of it.  Otherwise, she thought she just might implode trying to rationalise and make sense of everything.

They didn’t go straight home once SHIELD released her to her parents’ custody.  They went to a (another) hotel, where Darcy immediately fell asleep.  She didn’t know how long she’d slept, but she slept completely unbothered until she woke up with a migraine and a neck so stiff, her skin was hot to the touch.  Her parents had brought clean clothes, and after a long, hot bath, she wrapped herself in an enormous hoodie and mismatched sweat pants that both seemed brand new.  Her mom brushed her hair while she sat on the foot of the bed, working out two weeks worth of snarls and tangles Darcy hadn’t been able to address herself.  While her mother brushed her hair, Darcy chewed on a toothbrush, not having the energy to brush her teeth properly, but feeling better for just pretending.

A while later, her dad had gone out and found food for them.  When she was presented with Burger King, Darcy abruptly realised that all she truly wanted was a home-cooked meal.  Her mind and her stomach were at odds with one another, one telling her she was starving, while the other didn’t even want to look at fast food.  When she pulled out a box of fries from the bag, she felt suddenly ill for reasons she didn’t understand, and she shoved them right back into the bag where she couldn’t see them anymore.  After taking a moment to just breathe, she pulled out one of their cheap burgers instead.  It wasn’t what she wanted, but her body didn’t rebel at the mere thought of it, so she forced herself to eat.

She didn’t want to take another plane to New York, nor did she want to even attempt to go back to school.  All her stuff was in some SHIELD evidence locker somewhere, which they’d promised to return, but there wasn’t a single thing Darcy had left behind that she even remotely cared about.  They could have all of it; the unravelled socks, and the bloody towels, and pirated DVDs.  Even her laptop and phone.  She didn’t care.  The only thing Darcy wanted to do was hide away and never come back out again.

Rather than making her take another plane, her dad rented a car.  Taking a train back to New York had been floated as an idea, but Darcy didn’t want to be on a train either.  She had expected arguing and cajoling, but it never happened.  It was a day-long drive back to Long Island, but one her dad didn’t argue about.  Darcy wondered how much they knew about what had happened, and how much had been obvious.  For as much as she’d wanted to scream at every SHIELD agent and operative who had dared be in the same room as her, Darcy didn’t want to say a word to her parents.  She couldn’t bear to think of the pitying looks that would only intensify if they knew the full truth.  If they knew what he’d done to her.

So they drove from Virginia to New York in a rented SUV.  Her dad drove the entire trip, while her mom stayed in the back with her, nobody saying much of anything the entire time.  Any attempt at conversation stalled and faltered as soon as it started, because conversation was the last thing Darcy wanted.  She dozed and napped most of the ride, watching unfamiliar yet comfortable scenery drift past her window during the moments she was awake.

She wasn’t sure if the drive up to New York felt unreasonably quick, or like it had taken a week.  Somehow, it was both at once, like her entire concept of time had been erased.  It was only a few minutes between making it off the freeway, and pulling up in front of the brick-faced townhouse in Astoria.  Her dad parked on the narrow street, stopping long enough to let Darcy and her mother out.  They were barely on the sidewalk before he drove off again, no doubt trying to find a place to park on the crowded street.  With her arm around Darcy’s shoulders, her mom turned her toward the door and led her up the stairs.  As soon as the door was opened, Darcy made quick tracks to the sofa. All she wanted to do was curl up and hide away, and that’s exactly what she did.  She pulled the blanket off the back of the sofa and buried herself in it, making herself as small as possible inside her personal little cave.  Her mom said nothing as she turned on the lights, making a slower path toward the sofa.  When she sat down next to her, Darcy leaned against her mom, and once again began crying before she could stop herself.  Every time she cried, she felt weak and pathetic and useless.  She was home.  She was safe.  And she was terrified for reasons she didn’t understand.  She cried as her mom held her, running out every last ounce of energy she had left.  Even at the sound of the front door opening and closing again as her dad made it back, Darcy couldn’t stop, and felt worse for it.

Her mom held her, saying nothing and mercifully keeping her platitudes to herself until Darcy wore herself out.  Even when Darcy finally wore herself to silence, her mom stayed by her side, a silent source of comfort she didn’t quite know what to do with.

The office was cold and clinical in a way that was pretending to be warm and friendly.  Shelves with books that were probably fake and toys that were meant to be inviting lined the walls, and potted plants with wide, waxy leaves sat on the floor next to the window.  The only saving grace was that the therapist hadn’t been provided by SHIELD.  Her parents’ insurance paid for the visits—a whole year of them, one visit per month.  Hardly enough to get anything done at all, but better than nothing.

SHIELD had not provided anything.  They’d still been dragging their heels on returning Darcy’s things, but she wasn’t exactly keen on calling to bother them about it either.  Of course they weren’t going to foot the bill for the psychological trauma she had endured.  Especially not when it had been their poor handling of the situation at the very beginning that led to everything else.

Darcy didn’t know what to say to the woman in the smart grey suit sitting across from her.  She knew what she wanted to say, but the words still wouldn’t form.  Whatever Loki had done to her was there to stay.  All the things that needed to be said were locked away, making the whole thing even more pointless.

“I went to the store last week,” Darcy said finally.

“By yourself?” Dr Taylor asked.

“With my mom,” Darcy said.  “We walked.  It was nice.”

She didn’t go anywhere alone, even when she did get up the nerve to leave the house.  Everywhere she went, she saw him.  Every tall, skinny white guy with dark hair was Loki until she looked a second time, and even then she wasn’t entirely convinced.

She wanted to say that too.  But even that didn’t seem to want to come out.  It was like he’d gagged her against even mentioning his existence, and when she thought about it Darcy thought she could still taste sulphur on her tongue.

It meant she and Dr Taylor didn’t talk about much.  But Dr Taylor was at least patient, and seemed to understand that Darcy couldn’t talk about it.  Maybe not why, but she understood enough.  So they talked around what had happened.  Talked about little things, like going to the store, or being able to stay home alone for an afternoon.  But even after a month between visits, that was still all she could talk about.  Not the sleepless nights because she’d wake up thinking her blanket was a hand trying to choke her.  Not the inability to read a book or watch TV, because everything reminded her of Loki, and what he’d done to her.

Not even the box of pregnancy tests she’d managed to buy when her mom wasn’t looking.  Or how she had shoved them under her bed and forgotten about them, because she was too scared to use one.

Nor her missed period, and how she was dangerously close to missing a second.

Those were all her secrets, buried deep and eating her alive.

“Do you still walk everywhere?” Dr Taylor asked.

Darcy nodded.  “Mostly.  The trains wig me out a bit,” she said.

Dr Taylor nodded, seeming almost like she understood.  Almost.  She couldn’t understand, because Darcy hadn’t been able to tell her that the last time she’d been on a train, she’d been repeatedly raped.  Darcy hadn’t told her any of it, but everyone knew.  Not the specifics.  Not the details.  But she had been gone for two weeks, held hostage and dragged across half the planet.  When she came back beaten and bruised, only a fool would have missed the clues.

But Dr Taylor didn’t push her to say it out loud.  Next time, Darcy worried.  Next time she would.

But they talked about going to the store, and cooking for herself, and all the little victories that she had to fight for.  Darcy didn’t think she’d ever feel normal again, but she could pretend sometimes.  For brief little moments, she could snatch back that normality and be who she was before.

When the hour was up, Darcy found her mom waiting for her in the lobby, reading over some year-old gardening magazine.  They took the car, because cars were easier for her to cope with.  She’d been raped in a car as well, but the car wasn’t full of strangers.  The car was just her, and her mom, and locked doors between them and the rest of the world.  She could, on occasion, bring herself to deal with being in a car.

They went straight home from Dr Taylor’s office, and from there, Darcy went straight to the sofa while her mom started making dinner.  Curled up in her blanket, hiding from the rest of the world, Darcy watched her mom busy herself in the kitchen.  Nobody pushed her to magically get better.  Nobody pushed her to say what she couldn’t say.  She was allowed to take her time, and for that, she was grateful.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God #70

Darcy didn’t know how long she’d been left alone, with thoughts that only grew more and more confusing by the minute. When the door finally opened, and a doctor in blue scrubs stepped inside, Darcy was almost overwhelmed by the bitterness and resentment of seeing him. Of course they would send a man in to invade her space further, to touch her body in ways she had already refused to allow. She didn’t care why they thought it was needed, or if he was the only doctor in the entire building. Darcy already knew the entire military was criminally incompetent, but they didn’t have to be so damn rude about it on top of everything. She wrapped her arms around her chest and looked away, refusing to even look at him if she could help it.

“I understand you’re refusing an exam,” he said, sitting down on a small stool by the computer.

Darcy continued to ignore him. He didn’t deserve anything from her. She just wanted to be left alone.

“That is your choice, but I strongly recommend against it,” he said.

He kept his voice quiet and soft, and all she could hear was Loki and his false assurances and pretty little lies. Darcy took a deep breath and continued to ignore him, staring at a little black spot on the floor a few feet in front of her. She knew he was right. She knew the exam wasn’t just for putting on record what Loki had done to her, but also to make sure he hadn’t hurt her in ways worse than she already knew he had. She also knew it would be invasive and degrading, and entirely too much like what she had already been through. It would be clinical and sterile, but also still an invasion upon her body, scrutinising every part of her.

Even as she sat defiantly, she could still feel him. She could still feel what he had done to her. Even the smallest movements highlighted the burning, stinging pain deep inside her. She had to find precisely the right way to sit so she did not unwittingly put pressure against a part of her she had never even been conscious of before.

“What about pain. Are you experiencing any of that?” the doctor asked when Darcy didn’t respond.

She shrugged. Of course she was in pain. She was covered in bruises and marks from what Loki had done to her. Wrapping her arms more tightly around herself, Darcy continued to look at the spot on the floor. She wanted to scream about the amount of pain she was in, inside and out. The words longed to burst from her chest, in all the vivid detail about how Loki had gone out of his way to hurt her and use her, but she could not force even a sound.

He had done that to her as well. She knew it.

He had hurt her and used her, and forbidden her to tell a soul. It was their own sick little secret, just between the two of them. Not for anyone else to know. And Darcy knew it was going to eat her alive.

“Okay,” the doctor said finally, and he sounded almost glad to not have to deal with her. “There’s not much I can do if this is how you want it to be. But if you do start feeling any pain around the abdominal region, you’ll want to go back to the ER, because it could be very dangerous.”

Darcy shrugged again, hating the way he talked as though she were a disobedient child. It had been hours (days?) since Loki had raped her until she bled. If she were going to die from it, she figured it would have already happened. She didn’t need someone else to tell her she’d been raped. Even if they did know for certain, what would they even do with that information? If he were going to be careless enough to hurt her that badly, he would have done it days ago. She thought with a rising sourness that Loki knew exactly what he was doing; he knew exactly how to hurt her so it lasted, but without leaving serious damage. And that was exactly what he had done.

“I’ll write up some recommendations and leave them with your escort,” the doctor said.

He sounded done with her in a way he wasn’t allowed. He hadn’t been there. He hadn’t gone through what she had. What did he know of any of it? What did he know of hopelessness and despair? He was just another one of them, sent in to do a job so Darcy could be shunted off to the next place.

She took a deep breath, keeping her vision on the spot on the floor while the doctor left her alone again. Only once he was gone, and the door latched between them, did Darcy look up at the rest of the room again. There was a window, large but high up along the top half of the wall. She hadn’t remembered going up any stairs, and didn’t think emergency rooms had a tendency to be too high up from the ground. It might have been a five foot drop, at most, on the outside.

But she’d have to break the window to get outside. Nothing about it looked like it had a single moving part, and Darcy didn’t feel like getting up to examine it more closely. There was no point in getting her hopes up when she already knew it wouldn’t open. The only way out of the room was through the door, where on the other side her guards were almost certainly waiting. Coulson, she thought, was probably getting impatient. He probably had a dozen better things to be doing than babysitting her and having his time wasted. On that alone, Darcy could take a little bit of satisfaction. She could waste his time forever, if it meant he wasn’t out harassing someone else.

Erik had hated these guys, and Darcy fully understood why. She wondered what had happened to the gamma ray scientist who had never been heard from again. She wondered if he was in a concrete box somewhere, or endlessly running across the globe as well.

She wondered if Loki had made it to Alfheim. And she wondered why she cared. She wondered if anyone would tell her if he’d been caught too, or if she’d just have to spend the rest of her life wondering.

She wondered what she’d be doing, were she on Alfheim as well. She wondered if Loki would have rushed right into marriage, or if he would have finally gotten that nap he wanted. Either way, she knew she would have been raped again, and she knew that she would have let it happen. Maybe then, he’d have left her alone. Maybe then, she’d have been able to get some rest as well.

She wondered what SHIELD were going to do to her when they found out the full extent of what he had done to her. She was certain they knew she had been raped, or else they wouldn’t be pushing the tests so hard. But would they have suspected that she could get pregnant from it? Or were they counting on it?

She wondered what SHIELD knew that she didn’t.

She wondered if SHIELD knew that she hadn’t always fought back; that more often than not, she played along. And she wondered if that information would convince them that she had been with Loki out of choice, willingly following him, instead of being dragged along with no other choice.

Once again alone in a strange place, Darcy buried her face in her hands and tried to simply breathe. She had no idea what would come next, but whatever it was, she knew she’d need ever last ounce of wit and strength she had left. When Solomon stepped back through the door, Darcy sighed, but didn’t get up.

“You all right?” Solomon asked, full of fake concern and care that made Darcy want to scream.

Rather than responding, Darcy only shrugged. All right was about as far from her reality as was possible to be, but it wasn’t worth getting into an argument over. She just wanted to be taken to whatever hole they were going to throw her into so she could curl up into a corner and forget any of it had ever happened.

“Come on,” Solomon said, inviting Darcy to do just that.

Still, it was more difficult to get up than she had anticipated. She had to force her body to move, to find her feet and stand, to make that first step. Then the next. And the next, until she finally met Solomon at the door. Darcy noticed that she was holding onto a small stack of papers that were probably handed off from the doctor. Darcy didn’t care what was on them. She knew what was on them, and didn’t even want to look at it.

Coulson was there too, standing just outside the door and looking like he was trying not to look bored. He glanced over to the two of them and nodded before walking away. Rather than following him, Solomon nudged Darcy over in the opposite direction.

“Where’s he going?” Darcy asked, unable to stop herself.

It was becoming an infuriatingly common motif in her life. She was so constantly unable to stop herself, and nothing good ever came from it.

“We lost eyes on Loki, but the case isn’t closed yet,” Solomon said as they walked along a twisted path through the ER.

But Loki had got away. He was probably living it up on Alfheim at that very moment, laughing about everything he’d done during his time on Earth. And Darcy was left behind to deal with whatever came next.

What came next was short hallway, and a closed door. Solomon knocked twice on it before opening it, revealing a small, private waiting room. For a long moment, Darcy’s mind utterly shut down, and she stared blankly ahead as one of the people in the room quickly rose to her feet and pulled Darcy into a tight hug. It took her mind entirely too long to catch up, and when it did, she started crying all over again. She hugged her mother back, burying her face against her shoulder. There were more hands on her than there should have been, and when Darcy pulled away enough to look up, her dad pulled her into a tight hug as well.

“Oh my god, baby,” her mom said, and Darcy realised she was crying too. They all were.

Darcy wanted to say something; anything. But words were beyond her capacity. She cried and sniffed and nearly choked on the wave of confusion and relief that crashed over her. She didn’t know what they were doing there, or how they got there, but all she could do was hold on for dear life. It didn’t make sense, but nothing had made sense for a very long time. From the moment Jane had run over some random guy in the middle of the desert, nothing had made sense. But they were there, and she was there, and that’s all she needed.

Eventually, they found their way to the small, scratchy sofa against the wall, and moment by moment she calmed down.

“I wanna go home,” Darcy managed to say finally.

“I know. We’re going home,” her mom said.

She reached out and ran her fingers down the side of Darcy’s face, overwhelming sadness written upon her own features. Darcy reached up to meet her, knowing what wasn’t being said. She couldn’t say it, and she knew her mother was too afraid to ask.

“I wanna go right now,” Darcy said.

She knew she was being petulant, but she didn’t care. She deserved a bit of petulance, and neither of her parents seemed to disagree.

Her mom nodded, and on her other side, her dad stood back up.

“We’re going home,” he said, already heading toward the door.

 

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God #69

Darcy’s sense of time had become completely twisted and broken. She had no idea how long she lay on the bunk before someone else came to visit her. She didn’t turn around to look at the sound of the door opening, or at the footsteps as they entered the room. Darcy didn’t want to speak to another man in a black suit ever again. She knew they’d never stop bothering her, but that didn’t mean she’d have to cooperate when they did.

“Miss Lewis, are you hungry?”

It wasn’t a man who spoke this time. Hearing a woman’s voice was enough to convince Darcy to turn around and look. She was tiny; even shorter than Darcy, but she still held herself like one of them. Darcy had no doubt she probably new kung fu.

“No,” Darcy said.

It was a lie, but she didn’t want to deal with any of it. Instead, she lay back down, staring at the wall in front of her.

“Look,” the agent said. Darcy could hear her setting the tray down on the floor, before moving a little closer. “I don’t know what happened out there, but I know it was nothing good. I understand that you probably just want to crawl into a hole and stop existing for a while.”

Darcy didn’t want kind words. She’d had enough kind words that meant nothing for a life time. She said nothing, because she had nothing to say, and let the room hang in silence until the agent behind her sighed.

“We’ll be docking in about an hour, and it might be a while after that before you’ll have another opportunity to eat something.”

The agent knocked on the door, and a few moments later Darcy heard it open. She stayed where she was as the agent left her alone again. Whatever had been brought in for her would remain forever a mystery, because Darcy wanted nothing to do with it. She’d had enough of people pretending to be her friend only so she wouldn’t see it coming when they turned around and hurt her. She’d had enough of people acting like they were on her side when they were part of the entire reason the world was a horrible, awful place. These people thought they were doing good things, but Darcy knew better. She’d seen with her own eyes just how horrible they were.

And now that they had Darcy, she knew she would be treated no better. They probably wouldn’t cut her open and grow bits of her in jars, but it would only be a matter of time before they figured out exactly what Loki had done to her. What she couldn’t say out loud because he wouldn’t allow her. But she didn’t need to say it. Sooner or later it would become obvious, and there would be nothing Darcy could to do stop SHIELD from being their horrible selves.

She stayed exactly where she was even as the carrier began rocking and heaving uneasily for a frantic few minutes. Darcy barely knew which direction was up, and couldn’t tell if they had stopped or picked up speed, or were beginning to sink. If the ship were sinking, Darcy wondered if she’d be worth saving, or if she’d be left where she was to drown.

She wondered why the thought of it didn’t bother her more.

Darcy didn’t even look up when the door opened again. She could hear the person behind her stop just inside the door, lingering for a few moments before stepping close to the cot.

“Miss Lewis,” the same agent from before said. “It’s time to come with me.”

Darcy only wasn’t crying because she was too numb and hollow to even try. Despite it, her face still felt hot and wet as she glowered at the wall in front of her.

“You can’t stay here, Miss Lewis. Come on,” the agent said again.

Darcy couldn’t force herself to move, but the agent behind her didn’t seem too keen on forcing her. A long, heavy silence lingered over them while Darcy waited to be hauled to her feet. But it never happened, and they stayed in the same tense, uncomfortable silence until finally Darcy could feel the agent sitting down on the edge of the bed.

“I’m not going to pretend to understand what happened,” she said, placing a hand on Darcy’s arm. “I wish I could let you take your time, but we do need to go.”

Darcy wanted to pull away at the intrusion, but couldn’t bring herself to even flinch. What was one more person invading her space, in what was going to become a long string of them? What was one more person pretending to be her friend? Pretending to be on her side?

The door behind her opened again, but Darcy couldn’t hear anyone else coming into the small room.

“Solomon, we need to get out of here,” Coulson said from the hall.

Nothing else was said, and a moment later the door closed again. They were silent for what felt like an eternity, until Solomon shifted in her seat.

“It sucks. I know,” she said. “But you heard him. We have to go.”

She stood up again, giving Darcy room to get up. Even then, Darcy took a long moment to force herself upright, and an even longer moment to swing around and put her feet on the floor. She wasn’t handcuffed when she got up, but she knew Agent Solomon probably knew thirty ways to kill her without even touching a weapon. Sick of being around people who could hurt her if they wanted, Darcy stared at the floor as she was led off the carrier, unsure where they were going. They’d probably docked in England or Norway or something, and would be getting on another plane to fly back across the Atlantic. She let out a shaky breath at the thought, but she did not have the energy to even get worked up properly. Apparently the best way to face her fears was to be more afraid of everything else around her.

Once on the carrier’s deck, Darcy could see that they were moored next to other aircraft carriers and big battleships. Darcy didn’t know what an English or Norwegian naval base might look like, but somehow nothing about where she stood looked European. They caught up with Coulson as they walked along the deck, but if he had anything to say to her, he kept it to himself. Darcy in turn ignored him, keeping her gaze down to her feet while trying to figure out where she was now. Without her coat, the cold wind off the water bit against her, but it had been cold her entire trip, so all she knew was that she was still somewhere in the northern Atlantic.

She was led to a rickety flight of stairs that took them down to the pier, but Darcy knew she didn’t have the luxury to stall. Loki might have lost his patience and picked her up if she didn’t get moving fast enough. Surrounded by two secret agents, Darcy wondered if she’d be tazed or shot first if she didn’t comply. Screwing up her wits, Darcy carefully walked down the stairs, with Solomon in front of her and Coulson behind her. Glancing up from her feet, Darcy spotted a familiar big, black SUV with government plates, and she wondered how they’d managed to get their own cars over to Europe like that. If they’d been on the carrier and craned down somehow.

She let herself be led into the back seat, because it was warm and dry. A grate separated the back seat from the front, ostensibly protecting Coulson and Solomon from her, but she couldn’t help but feel like she was more protected from them with the barrier. Once the two of them were settled in the front, with Solomon at the wheel, they wasted no time in getting moving. As they left the pier and turned onto a road, Darcy noticed the signs were all in English. She looked out at the other cars on the road, and realised that the plates were all American. But that wasn’t possible. They’d been somewhere near Iceland when SHIELD picked them up, and hadn’t been moving for more than a few hours at most. It had taken all day for Kristján’s fishing boat to just get from Greenland to Iceland. She figured an aircraft carrier would be faster, but not that much faster. It would have taken them days, at least, to get all the way across the Atlantic like that, and she was fairly certain she hadn’t fallen asleep at all, much less for days. But at the same time, she couldn’t deny what she was seeing all around her. The base was American. Somehow, she was back in America.

She wasn’t sure where she expected them to take her, but a hospital wasn’t anywhere on the list of possibilities. Even as they pulled into the lot surrounding it, Darcy wondered what the deception was going to be. Instead of going through the front doors, Solomon parked near the ambulance bay, making it abundantly clear they were going inside.

There was no way SHIELD could have known the full extent of what Loki had done to her, and yet all Darcy could think about was their needles and scalpels, and what they would do to her body in the name of “science.” When Solomon got out of the car and opened the back door for Darcy, she stalled, unable to face what was coming next.

“They want to make sure you’re not hurt,” Solomon said, trying to be friendly and failing. Darcy still didn’t want to hear it.

“I’m not. I’m fine,” Darcy said.

She wasn’t fine. Everything hurt, and the fact that she still hurt as much as she had that morning only reinforced her belief that she hadn’t fallen asleep and skipped a few days. She could still feel Loki, on top of her, and inside her, burning every time she moved wrong.

“I understand. I really do,” Solomon said. “But they’re not going to take my word for it. You have to at least go inside, and we can go from there.”

Darcy took a deep breath and looked over her shoulder, finding Coulson looking less than patient on the other side of the car. Nodding, she slid out onto the cold pavement. She tried to come up with an excuse, or a plan, or anything to get away from what was about to happen, but her mind was completely blank. As she was led through the back doors to the emergency room, Darcy wondered if Loki was going to show up again, but a bigger part of her knew he was gone forever. He’d said again and again that he’d leave her behind, and that’s exactly what he’d done. He was probably on Alfheim at that very moment, having the time of his life while Darcy was led away to be poked and studied by someone who didn’t deserve his medical degree.

They were met just inside the door by a nurse, who led them to a private room, separated from the rest of the chaos and noise. Coulson and Solomon both at least waited outside while Darcy was left alone with the nurse. Without waiting to be told that she could, Darcy sat down in the chair near the wall, trying to find anything in the room that might help her. Unless she could figure out a use for rubber gloves and cotton balls, there was absolutely nothing of use out on display.

“The doctor will be in here shortly to take a look at you, but let’s get some information,” the nurse said.

She might have been a nurse, but Darcy expected her to know how to throw a punch just like the rest of them. She wondered what the threshold for cooperation would be before even the nurses and doctors started getting violent. She wondered whether she’d be allowed to say no at all.

“I don’t need to see a doctor,” Darcy said, wondering what any of them could do that was possibly any worse than what Loki had already done to her.

The nurse didn’t even hide her skepticism. She logged into a computer terminal in the corner of the room and started typing something into a form. A moment later, she stepped close, getting herself too much up in Darcy’s space.

“How’d this happen?” she asked, trying to nudge Darcy to see her face better.

Rather than letting her see the marks on her face, Darcy turned the other way, exposing only the side of her face that Loki hadn’t struck.

“I’m fine. Nothing happened,” she said.

She knew she shouldn’t be fighting this. She knew she needed to tell them, but she couldn’t. Even if she could make the words come out and break through whatever Loki had done to her to keep her silent, she didn’t want them to know. If they knew he’d raped her, they’d want to know how many times. And if they knew how many times, they’d want to know why she hadn’t fought back more. They’d want to know why she hadn’t tried to escape.

They’d know that she laid back and let it happen. They’d know that she’d stayed with him because she couldn’t bring herself to leave. They’d want to do tests and find out if she was pregnant, and then they’d throw her in a cage for endless experiments.

And from the way the nurse looked at her, Darcy could tell they already knew. They might not have known everything, but they knew enough.

“Are you in any pain anywhere else?” the nurse asked.

Darcy shrugged. She couldn’t even say that much, because Loki did not want them to know.

“I strongly recommend you let the doctor examine you,” the nurse said. “There could be internal injuries you don’t know about.”

Darcy shook her head. They knew. They knew, and it didn’t matter what she said or did, because they were only looking for confirmation at this point.

“I’m fine,” Darcy said, because it was the only thing she could force herself to say.

She noticed the nurse wasn’t looking at her face anymore. She was looking down, at Darcy’s hands in her lap. Her hands, and her wrists still decorated in bruises from being held down. Darcy crossed her arms around her, trying to hide the marks from view, but it was too late.

They knew, and there was nothing Darcy could do about it.

“Can I go now?” Darcy asked.

The nurse lingered for a long moment before returning to the computer terminal to type something else up.

“I’ll go see what the doctor has to say,” she said.

She locked up the screen and walked out of the room, leaving Darcy alone. She wanted to be sick. She wanted to tell them everything he had done to her, so they’d know she wasn’t the willing participant she looked like. But she had been. Even after he’d kidnapped her, she still tried to help. Even after he’d talked his way into her pants, making her think it was her only chance of survival, she still tried to help. Even after he held her down while she screamed and cried, she still tried to help.

Twice, he’d held her down. Only twice, her brain told her. Every other time, she had allowed it to happen. Half the time she rode him. Once, she even asked for it.

Asked for it because that’s how he’d led the conversation, but the words still came from her mouth. She hadn’t asked outright for him to fuck her, but they’d both known what she meant when she asked him to use his magic. She knew even then that his magic was tied to sex, because he’d told her.

She had been a willing participant not only in his escape, but in her own abduction. She had been a willing participant when he fucked her. When she had sex with him, that traitorous voice in her head reminded her. She rode him and got off doing it, so how could it have truly been rape? If she only fought back twice, then she must have wanted it every other time. She had put so much effort and energy into wanting to please him; wanting to make him happy. In such a short time, she had learned what he liked, and had done those things without arguing.

She had done those things so he didn’t hurt her again. She had done them under duress. She never had sex with him; he raped her again and again, with or without threats or violence.

The threats were always there. Just not always spoken.

He raped her, and forced her to actively participate. Forced her to ride his dick until her mind and body became so confused that she thought she did want it.

And yet, she didn’t tell a single person. She’d never even tried. She could have told Mike, but she didn’t. She could have told anyone who had transported them, but she didn’t. She could have told anyone who had lodged them, but she didn’t. If she hadn’t made an effort to escape, then she hadn’t truly been abducted. If she hadn’t made an effort to tell someone what he’d done to her, then she must have wanted it. And if she wanted it, it wasn’t rape.

The thoughts chased each other around in circles, endlessly cycling back to the same conclusions. Rape was rape, and consent was consent, and Darcy had never in her life thought the two could ever be confused. And yet, it had happened to her, time and time and time again, and the more she thought about it, the more confused she became. Even though he had held her down and left marks, that same insidious part of her brain reminded her that at least part of her had wanted it. She came on his dick, being held down. She hadn’t faked that orgasm, but had she faked her tears?

She came on his dick while she rode him. She came on his fingers, and on his mouth, and didn’t fight back nearly as much as she could have. She didn’t kick or bite or scratch when she could have. When he told her to undress, she did, even though she knew what was about to happen.

That he had held her down twice was the only thing both sides of her brain could agree on. But whether she had truly been raped, or just discovered some horrible kink about herself, she couldn’t even decide. Because even as he held her down, even as she kicked and cried, her body had wanted it.

And she couldn’t even tell anyone, and hear from someone else their assessment of what had happened, because he wouldn’t let her. He had done so much more to her than she had even realised, and now she was trapped with her own thoughts, unable to do anything but make herself more confused.

So she held on to what she knew. She had been held down twice. Whether or not it was rape didn’t matter. He had held her down and hurt her, and she hadn’t asked for either of those things. Everything else she had done to him, and let him do to her was in an effort to keep him from hurting her.

So she held onto that and waited quietly for the door to open again.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God #68

They didn’t put her in a concrete box. They put her on another plane, and she cried the entire flight. Not the loud, uncontrollable sobbing she’d done so many times already, because she no longer had the energy for it. She cried to herself while the agents guarding her sat in stoic silence, as if she wasn’t even there. Her face burned, and she couldn’t even do anything about it because her hands were cuffed behind her back, and she couldn’t even hide inside her enormous coat because they took it from her when they searched her.

The flight was short, heading out to the water, and then to a waiting aircraft carrier. She didn’t know SHIELD had aircraft carriers, but she wasn’t surprised. SHIELD had resources like nothing else. She was taken to a tiny little room with a table and a couple of chairs, which definitely felt like a precursor to the concrete box. When the agent took the handcuffs off her, Darcy immediately sat down and buried her head in her arms, wishing she could do anything but cry. She felt like she’d never be able to stop, and that it was all she was going to do for the rest of her life.

She had no idea how long she’d been left alone in that tiny room. At one point, she could have sworn it felt like the whole aircraft carrier had started to fly as well, but Darcy was so worn out and worn down she knew she couldn’t even trust her own senses. Eventually she wore herself out, completely unable to do anything other than sit numbly and stare at the wall across the table; grey and textureless and representing everything she had to look forward to. How long she sat there, she had no idea. It could have been minutes, or days. But then the door opened again, and Coulson stepped inside, wearing a face that was completely unreadable.

“We’ve gone through a lot of trouble to find you, Miss Lewis,” Coulson said. He stood on the other side of the table, holding his hands in front of him like he was waiting in line at the bank. “Do you want to tell me what happened?”

Darcy felt sick. She wanted to ask him what part he meant. If he meant the part where Loki had beat and repeatedly raped her, or the part where she knew what SHIELD had done to him in the first place. She didn’t say any of it though, and just stared at her hands.

“Where’d he go, Miss Lewis?” Coulson asked after a few moments. “Did he tell you that?”

Darcy sniffled and tried to dry her face with her hands. “Another planet,” she said. “Presumably one where they don’t cut people open for fun.”

“Whatever he might have told you—”

“It wasn’t a fucking lie,” Darcy said, cutting him off. “I saw what you did to him with my own eyes. I took his fucking stitches out myself. Later he told me he was awake when you did it. Why the fuck would he lie about that?”

She was trembling and wanted to be sick, and she didn’t care. With just a few words, Coulson had managed to reignite every ounce of her anger, and he was the only target for it.

“Miss Lewis,” Coulson said after a moment. “Loki is a very dangerous man. We need to know anything you know about him.”

Darcy looked up at him, trying to quash her anger enough to think clearly.

“Wait. ‘Whatever he might have told you.’ You knew he’d get better.” She remembered what Loki said in a tiny hotel room in Greenland. “You fuckers knew because he’d got better before. And then you did it to him again.”

She was defending him, and she hated herself for it. He was horrible, and he deserved to be locked away for the rest of his freakishly long life, but that didn’t include being someone’s lab rat. The same anger that had made her pick him up in the first place burned in her, and she remembered exactly why she had gone through two weeks of hell with him.

“We needed to understand what we were dealing with,” Coulson said, as if he were talking about checking the weather forecast.

“Bullshit. You were handed a shiny new toy, and you wanted to play with it until it broke,” Darcy said. She laughed, completely without mirth, and understood why Loki kept talking about burning the entire planet to the ground. “He’s going to tear you to pieces.”

It was the first thing she said that seemed to get any reaction from Coulson. It wasn’t a big reaction, but he obviously didn’t like what he’d heard. “What do you mean?” he asked.

“He’s coming back,” Darcy said. “It’s all he talked about. How he was going to raise an army and destroy everything.”

“How’s he going to do that?” Coulson asked.

Darcy shrugged and shook her head. She wanted to scream. “How should I know? You assclowns ambushed us before we got where he wanted to go. If you’d waited, you might have even seen how he travels from planet to planet.”

Coulson didn’t seem to like that either. Darcy didn’t give a single flying fuck what he liked. Her face still felt hot and wet, and she tried to dry it again, but nothing helped. After a moment, Coulson finally sat down opposite her, lacing his hands together on the table.

“That’s a pretty nasty bruise you’ve got there. Want to tell me about that?” Coulson asked.

Darcy still hadn’t seen herself in a mirror, but she knew exactly what Coulson was talking about. She wanted to tell him what Loki had done to her, but the words would not form on her tongue. She wanted to tell him that she wasn’t on Loki’s side; that he’d grabbed her and took her with him, but those words wouldn’t form either. And suddenly she thought of sulphur and a wolf in sheep’s clothing tender moment, and she knew why she couldn’t say it. Just like he had gagged her before, letting her scream when no one would hear it, he’d gagged her again. Only this time there was no screaming. This time, he had taken her entire voice from her.

Instead of screaming she shook her head and wanted to be sick.

“You were with him for two weeks,” Coulson said, pulling the exact same trick Loki had pulled, dropping to a softer tone. “And you’re telling me he only talked about one thing the entire time. Nothing else?”

Darcy shook her head. He talked about so much more, and she couldn’t say a thing. “Just how much he hated you,” she said.

“Miss Lewis,” Coulson said. He took a deep breath, like he was struggling with words of his own. “I want to make this easy for you. But I can only do that if you cooperate with me.”

She wanted to tell him. She tried to tell him, but every time she even thought of the words to say, it was like her tongue turned to lead. She realised that Loki had expected her to fail in some way, and had decided to protect his investment. She wondered how early he had done it. Again, her mind went to thoughts of that morning, sitting on the same bed she’d been raped on, terrified and unable to say a word. She remembered how Loki had smiled at her, pleased and almost smug, like her silence was exactly what he’d wanted.

“I don’t know what you want me to say,” she said finally.

She looked down at her hands, and the bruises around her wrists. She wondered how obvious it was that he had raped her, and if Coulson just needed to hear it as a formality. She wondered if she had bruises elsewhere, hidden no one could see.

“He’s a dangerous man, Miss Lewis. And I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that,” Coulson said, repeating himself as if she didn’t already know. “Before he found his way to you, he’d already killed eight highly trained men. Which make me wonder why he kept you alive.”

Darcy was angry all over again. It was like Coulson was picking his words specifically to piss her off.

“Maybe because you cut him open, and when he got away he was sick and scared and didn’t speak the language,” she said.

Maybe it was because he knew he’d got her pregnant.

“He didn’t seem very sick to me today,” Coulson said.

“He got better,” Darcy said, surprised at the bitterness in her own voice.

He’d got better because of what he’d taken from her, repeatedly. She knew that now. And she wanted to tell Coulson that as well. She wanted to scream it in his face. And yet, the words simply refused to form.

Coulson looked at her, completely unreadable, but Darcy could see where his gaze lingered on her face. She let him look, because she had nothing left to hide from anyone. He could form his own conclusions from the marks Loki had left on her body, as if she were a canvas on display for everyone to see.

“If you think of anything else you want to tell me,” Coulson said, standing up, “I’ll be around.”

“Go to hell,” Darcy said, looking away. She didn’t know why she said it, aside from being angry and exhausted and terrified.

He didn’t say anything else as he walked out of the room, leaving Darcy once again alone and isolated. This time it didn’t last for long, and one of the agents from before stepped back into the room only moments later.

“Come with me,” he said.

Knowing it was all over, and that there was nowhere else to go, Darcy got up to follow him. He took her by the arm and led her out to the corridor, through an absolute maze of twists and turns she’d never remember, and took her to another room. This one was at least moderately furnished, with a cot and a sink, and a toilet behind half a divider. It was definitely a precursor to the concrete box.

“Put these on,” the agent said, handing her something that looked suspiciously like blue scrubs. “I’ll be back for the clothes you’re wearing.”

He closed the door, and Darcy was once again alone. She looked at the clothes in her hand, and decided before she’d even unfolded them that they were definitely scrubs. She looked around, but if there was a camera in the room, they’d hidden it well. Not knowing what else to do, Darcy sighed and took off her shirt, replacing it with the top she’d been given. The V-neck and short sleeves showed off a few more bruises she hadn’t even noticed, which only made the next part harder. She stalled for a long moment, struggling to gain the nerve to take off her pants. They were the same jeans she’d worn the first time Loki had held her down, she realised. She’d put them back on that morning, and hadn’t even noticed. With a steeling breath, she pulled them down and closed her eyes at the stains inside the fabric. It wasn’t a lot, but blood was blood, and she knew exactly where it had come from. Her thighs and hips had been bruised to hell as well, and it was all the last thing Darcy wanted to see. She quickly pulled on the pants she’d been given, unsurprised to find they had an elastic band instead of a drawstring. Not wanting to deal with it, she kicked her clothes over toward the door and sat down on the little cot, feeling suddenly exhausted and entirely overwhelmed.

A few minutes later, the door opened again and the same Agent stepped inside. He found her clothes up against the wall and bent to pick them up, putting them into a clear plastic bag with a big yellow label. He took her shoes as well, leaving behind a pair of canvas slippers instead. She couldn’t say the words out loud because of whatever Loki had done to her, but Darcy knew that SHIELD would figure it out on their own quickly enough, if they hadn’t already.

As the agent left her without a single word, Darcy wondered once again what SHIELD would do to her down the line. She wondered if Loki had the same suspicions and fears, and if that’s why she wasn’t able to say anything about what he’d done to her. She wondered if he feared them enough to think they’d do to a child what they’d done to him. She wondered if he thought they were stupid enough that they wouldn’t notice without being told. Either way, she knew Loki was afraid of SHIELD. She’d seen it on his face from the moment they’d left Iceland. He’d looked exactly like he had that first night, only with a side helping of pissed off.

She wondered if he would make good on his remaining threats. Every other horrible thing he’d promised to do, he’d made good on. But she had no idea how long it would take him to raise an army and come back. He didn’t seem to know how long people even lived, so for all Darcy knew, he’d take a few centuries to come back with his army.

Unable to think about it any more, she curled up on the cot, putting her back to the door. The cot was rock hard and covered with a scratchy blanket, but she didn’t care. Nothing mattered anymore. Loki had won, SHIELD had won, and somehow Darcy was the only loser in the whole thing.

« || »

How to Train Your Norse Trickster God #67

They flew over the water, and all Darcy could think about was plunging into it.  She remembered what Ken had said, how drowning wasn’t going to be the problem.  The frigid temperatures would probably kill her first, assuming she even survived impact.  Every time the plane rocked or dipped in the air, Darcy took a tighter hold around Loki’s waist, hoping and praying that he’d be able to get them away if they did start to fall from the sky.  Every time the plane rocked or dipped in the air, Darcy knew this was the moment they were going to fall from the sky.  And every time, they kept flying.

When the captain came over the speakers, saying more things Darcy didn’t understand, Loki sat up a bit more straight in his seat.

“What’d he say?” she asked, looking up at him.

“We’ll be landing soon,” Loki said.

He looked around the cabin, his own anxiety written plainly across his face.  He looked even more like he had the night she’d found him, obviously scared and confused despite his efforts to hide it.  Somehow they’d made it this far, and she knew exactly what he was afraid of, because she was afraid of it too.

“How far is it from where we’re going to Torshaow?” Darcy asked.  “Do you remember?”

Loki shook his head.  “A few hours, by horse,” he said.  “Assuming you can find a ferry.”

Darcy didn’t know how fast a horse went, but she was willing to bet a car would be a lot faster.  Which meant they were almost there.  It wouldn’t be long at all before they were on another planet, with no more opportunities to get away.  And Darcy had no idea what to do.  She wondered if she might be able to slip away at the airport somehow, but the same problem of not speaking the language and not knowing how to leave an island on her own put a quick stop to that train of thought. 

As the plane began its descent, Darcy could feel Loki tense up even more.  He held onto her tightly as she pressed herself against his side, trying not to feel like her stomach was going to fall out.  It was a controlled descent, and she knew it, but her entire mind, body, and soul was convinced that they were about to fall out of the sky. 

“Listen to every word I say,” Loki said stiffly.  “And don’t run out of here like a maniac like you did last time.”

Darcy nodded.  “Okay,” she said.  “I won’t.  I promise.”

She could feel Loki looking around, and she knew exactly what he was looking for.  SHIELD knew they were going to Tórshavn, and would probably be waiting for them to land.  They knew because Darcy had told them.  Maybe not directly, but it was her own words that had undoubtedly done it.  She wondered what had happened to Lil, or Mike, or any of the other people who had helped them get where they were going.  She wondered what had happened to Lil, and knew it wouldn’t be anything good.  She wondered if anyone else had been arrested.

Darcy had done this all because what they had done to Loki had been wrong on every level.  She was trying to prevent him from getting hurt by them again, and all she’d done was get other people hurt instead.

A tiny part of her thought maybe Loki wouldn’t be so mean anymore once they got to Alfheim.  He’d only started going out of his way to hurt her once he thought she’d dobbed him in.  She thought that maybe if they could get there without being seen, he’d know she hadn’t done it intentionally.  She had to think it would be all right, because if she didn’t, Darcy didn’t think she’d be able to do what needed to be done.  She had to trust him to make the right choices, because if she couldn’t trust him, she wouldn’t be able to do what he said.  And if she couldn’t do that, the alternative would be even worse.

They landed, and the world didn’t end, and Darcy was still breathing.  As the plane taxied to its spot on the runway, Darcy looked up at Loki to try to figure out what his next move was going to be.  He watched over the small crowd, still frowning.  Once the plane finally stopped and the hatch opened, Loki finally unbuckled his seatbelt and stood up.  For a moment, Darcy thought he was going to leave their bag behind, but he fetched it out of the bin above them and swung it over his shoulder.  They wouldn’t need it, but Darcy figured they’d look more like they belonged if they took it with.  She didn’t know how long Loki could continue to hide them, or how well he’d managed it without smearing blood all over the place, so any little boost they could get would help.  Even if that meant carrying around a bag full of disgusting, dirty laundry.

Once there was room for her to stand, Darcy unbuckled her own belt and shuffled into the aisle.  They were the last ones to be getting off the plane, and every single person in front of them seemed to be taking their sweet time.  One by one, the crowd in front of them got off, and they slowly made their way up the aisle.  With Loki in front of her, Darcy tried to hide behind him, out of view of whatever or whoever they’d find on the tarmac.  As he stepped out onto the stairs, Darcy braced for the worst; for shouting and chaos and another big fight with guns and government spooks.  But it didn’t happen.  There was no shouting.  Nobody pointing guns.  Just a crowd of travellers lazily heading across the tarmac toward the terminal.

Darcy quickened her step to keep up with Loki.  He reached out for her, but before he could grab her wrist and crush it again, Darcy took his hand.  He still held too tightly, but at least this way she didn’t feel quite so much like she was being dragged along.

“Not so tight, please,” Darcy said.

He didn’t loosen his grip.  He held on like a vise as he walked through the glass doors, taking Darcy with him as he lost himself in the crowd as well as a man his size was able.  Once again, they had no idea who they were looking for, or where they needed to go.  They were again stopped and checked for their documents, and again Darcy braced herself for chaos.  But the man stamped their fake passports and handed them back, and that was that.  Loki took them and handed the envelope back for Darcy to stuff into her enormous coat pocket and they were sent on their way.  As they walked through the small terminal, they both looked around for whoever they were meeting next, but nobody stood out as looking for them.  Darcy moved a little closer to Loki, hoping it would give her enough warning to start running if he did.

The terminal’s front doors opened right to the small pick up lane, where a few cars were idling.  Darcy looked at all of them, but none stood out in any meaningful way.  She felt like they were being too obvious by standing still for so long; that someone would notice they didn’t know what they were doing.  It wasn’t long before she was proved right.  One of the cars toward the front opened its door, and a man leaned out to look at the small crowd that was gathering near the doors.

“Mexico?” he asked.

It took Darcy a moment to realise what he was asking, and that something must have got jumbled in the grapevine.

“Yeah,” she said.

They stepped close and Loki said something to the man in yet another language, which somehow sounded even more like he had before he’d learned English.  She didn’t understand what they said, but they spoke back and forth for a few moments before deciding that this was where they needed to be.  Darcy got into the car first, making room for Loki to crowd in next to her.  He barely let go of her the entire time, keeping an iron grip on her hand even as they got settled.  Loki spoke to the man again, looking around them in all directions as they began to get moving.  Darcy looked around too, not sure what she was looking for, but too nervous to do anything else.  They wound their way out of the small parking lot, and toward the main road.  As they stopped at the junction, Darcy spotted a sign on the other side of the road with a few words she couldn’t read, but one she recognised: Tórshavn 49.  She assumed it was in metric, but didn’t really know what that meant beyond ‘close.’  As they turned onto the little two-lane road, heading into more snow and rolling hills, she wondered if it might have been safer to try to walk if it were actually that close.  But if Loki hadn’t thought it was safe, it probably wasn’t.  He’d mentioned a ferry, and she wondered if they’d have to take one to get there.  She wondered if they were only going to Tórshavn because it was the closest town or whatever to where they were really going, and if he wanted to conserve energy before they had to start hiking into whatever passed as mountains there. 

Considering his care with lunch, Darcy suspected that was precisely the case.

They quickly came up to a small village, and another sign telling them that Tórshavn was now 45 undisclosed units of measure away, which seemed to have gone down way too quickly to be marked in miles.  A few cars left the village up ahead, speeding off along the winding road, and Darcy watched as they disappeared around a curve.  The village was full of more cute little multi-coloured houses at the foot of a big hill, before the road curved off to follow some kind of lake or fjord or something.  It curved again as they followed it on its path, and the driver said something as he began to slow down.  On one side of the road was a vertical rock face, and on the other, icy water.  Spanned across the two narrow lanes were the same cars that had pulled out ahead of them.  With nowhere else to go, the driver pulled over as far as he could and stopped, but before he could make any move to turn around, two more cars came up behind them.  Loki threw his door open and sped out toward the water, dragging Darcy along with him.  She stumbled out of the car, struggling to catch her footing as he pulled her along, trying to move faster than she’d ever be able to.  The screaming and the guns she had come to expect were all right there in 3D colour, 9.1 surround sound as men in black suits demanded they stop.  Darcy managed to stumble over the guard rail with Loki, but only a few steps away they were blocked by a tall wire fence.  To their right, the fence cut them off completely, forcing them to head toward the roadblock.  Darcy struggled to keep up as shouts came from every direction.  She didn’t know where Loki thought he was going, but they were stuck on a small patch of land between the road and the water.  Up ahead, a small path led back up to the road, just on the other side of the block, but the only place to go from there was back to the road.  There was no way off it, unless they decided to swim, or try to climb a vertical rock face.

A shot rang out from behind them, and Darcy immediately stumbled, trying to duck away from it and keep up with Loki and his insane superhuman run.  He tried to pull her back to her feet, but when she stumbled again, he let go.  More shots rang out as Darcy fell to the ground, covering her head with her arms.  When it suddenly all stopped, Darcy dared to look up, and found no trace of Loki anywhere.  From behind, she could hear footsteps approaching, and thought she could hear someone speaking to her, but she couldn’t make out the words over the sound of her own crying.  The motherfucker had kept his promise.  She couldn’t do as he’d said, so he’d thrown her to the wolves.  She lay face down in the snow, her entire body burning from pain and anger and humiliation and terror.

When she was picked up off the ground by two pairs of hands, Darcy didn’t fight it.  Like so much else in her life, she let it happen.

« || »

How to Train Your Norse Trickster God #66

Darcy eventually did stop crying, and shortly after, Loki took their cash and left her alone. Sitting there, exposed and on her own did nothing to calm her already frayed nerves. She looked around, knowing at any moment she’d see a SHIELD agent lurking somewhere nearby, ready to come running at her with his gun drawn. She didn’t think, after everything else, she could handle having a gun pointed at her.

Loki’s words continued to echo through her mind. Everything he’d said, all the threats and promises and everything else. The same words he had used to terrify her now brought her an uneasy amount of comfort. He wanted her pregnant, and like everything else, had almost certainly got his way with it. And if she were pregnant, he wouldn’t just abandon her. Not if he wanted an heir. Even though Darcy couldn’t see wherever he’d wandered off to, she knew he would not have gone too far. He was somewhere close, keeping a watch on the situation while time dragged on. He said he’d throw her to SHIELD if she disobeyed him, and she wondered exactly how much he’d meant it. He may have wanted to keep her around for his own selfish reasons, but it wasn’t exactly like he’d lose much by letting her go. A week may have felt like an eternity while Darcy lived it, but it wasn’t enough time to even know for sure if he had managed to actually get her pregnant.

No. Darcy knew exactly what she had to look forward to once he took her away to another planet. She would be raped again, and again, and again until he knew for sure. Only now, Darcy knew there was no if. There was no uncertainty. Now her best hope was that she already was pregnant. Her best hope was to know for sure as soon as possible. And then she had to hope that Loki would have other things on his mind, and that he only wanted her for an heir.

Her best hope was that Loki would not continue to behave like a horny teenager with anger problems regardless.

A tiny voice told her that was exactly how he would behave, and that if she was extremely lucky, she’d only get a break from him after giving birth to his child.

The same tiny voice told her not even to expect that.

Darcy’s hand fell to her stomach as she tried to tell herself that it wouldn’t be as bad as all that. The thought of being pregnant at all was awful enough. A month before, being pregnant would have meant her already stressful life as a college student would be all the more stressful and expensive. A month before, being pregnant would have meant finding the nearest Planned Parenthood and spending money she couldn’t afford. Now, being pregnant meant she wouldn’t even be able to pretend none of this had happened. The same man who had held her down as she cried and screamed would be the father of her child. The same man who would no doubt again hold her down as she cried and screamed. The same man who had struck her, and who would no doubt strike her again, would be tied to her forever.

She wondered if that was worth being able to see the sun again. She wondered if that was worth being able to breathe fresh air. Or would the concrete box be better? If Loki had got her pregnant, what would SHIELD do to her then? Would they rip it from her body before it was ready, and run their experiments on something that never had the chance to even breathe? Or would they make her carry to term, and then take it away and do to it what they had done to Loki? The one thing she knew for certain, there was no visit to Planned Parenthood in this scenario. There was no quick procedure to make the problem go away. If SHIELD couldn’t have Loki, they’d want the next best thing. And Darcy did not go through so much hell and pain just to hand SHIELD a new toy in exchange. She had not functionally ended her own life to get Loki out of there only to become complicit in someone else’s suffering. Even if that someone else was her rapist’s child.

Loki deserved hell, but even he didn’t deserve the hell SHIELD had planned. Handing over an innocent child would only make all of it for nothing.

Loki had demanded obedience, and whether he had intended to or not, he had guaranteed it. The only place Darcy could go was with Loki. She might suffer for it, but she’d suffer knowing she hadn’t been complicit.

It wasn’t fair. It was so goddamn unfair Darcy almost wanted to cry all over again, but she was too exhausted and pulled apart to even conjure the energy. Instead, she watched over the crowd, keeping an eye out for anyone that might wish her harm. She sat still and quiet for a long time, ultimately not even sure what she should have been looking for. She wondered if SHIELD agents would be in plain clothes at this point, or if they were obligated to dress like a bunch of spooks.

Eventually, she spotted Loki walking through the crowd. He stood out against everyone else, taller than most of the crowd around him, and his hair a wild, unbrushed mess. She wondered what he did with it normally, since it was that awkward length that was long enough to get in his face, but not long enough to tie back effectively. He looked every bit as scruffy and dishevelled as the night she’d found him walking down the side of the road, and at the same time, looked nothing like he had that night. Something had changed in him. Something that made him seem bigger, more dangerous. He was more alive and alert, but also no less cautious or wary. Darcy wondered what it was he took from her to make all that happen.

But despite it all, he didn’t seem to be attracting much attention as he made his way across the terminal toward her, carrying a pair of takeaway boxes. As he sat down next to her, Loki handed her one of the boxes, saying nothing. Darcy knew she should eat something more substantial than bread and questionable fish, but she was afraid of what horrible thing Loki had found for her this time. When she dared to open the box, she was surprised to find a perfectly bland portion of fish and chips.

“Thank you,” she said quietly.

She was surprised Loki had not only paid attention, but got something he knew she would eat.

“That’s acceptable?” Loki asked, opening his own container with the same thing.

Darcy nodded. “It is.”

She ate one of the fries, testing to see if her stomach could even handle it. When it didn’t immediately make her want to puke, she tore a bit of the fish off and ate it as well. Unlike the fish she’d eaten that morning, this was cooked and hot and didn’t do anything to convince her brain that she’d get sick from eating it.

“We’ll have proper food once we’re off this realm,” Loki said. Despite his words, he didn’t seem to dislike his fries. In fact, he hadn’t seemed to dislike anything he’d been present the entire time she was with him.

“What’s proper food?” Darcy asked, almost afraid of the answer.

Loki shrugged. “Boar. Goat. Rabbit.”

Darcy hummed, not exactly thrilled at the prospect of any of that. But it sounded better than dubious fish, so it would just be one more thing she’d have to learn to deal with.

She broke another piece off of her fish, and for a long moment only stared at it. Loki had got it for her. He had paid enough attention when she’d ordered it for herself to know she wouldn’t find it offensive. He knew she had been running on empty for the last few days, and for whatever reason, wanted her to eat something more substantial before they got to Tórshavn.

Darcy had had boyfriends who hadn’t paid that much attention to what she liked, and Loki had noticed it while being from another planet. She still ached and burned from what he had did to her only hours earlier, and now she felt almost grateful because he had exhibited the bare minimum of decency toward her. It was almost like he was two different people, and Darcy never knew which one she was going to get.

There were a million things she wanted to say, but not a single word of it could be forced from her mouth. She could get up right then and run into the crowd, but she could not force herself to move an inch. The only thing she could force herself to do was eat was airport fish and chips, because she knew it was what Loki wanted her to do, and he pretended to be nice when she did what he wanted. To her endless relief, he didn’t rush her or try to talk to her, and so she picked and poked in silence until eventually it was all gone. Loki took her empty carton away, setting it on the seat beside him, and then pulled her close to him. He held onto her, one arm wrapped around her shoulders, like he was trying to offer comfort. And because she had nothing left to do, Darcy took it. She leaned against him, pretending he was someone else—anyone else. It didn’t matter. He ran his hand up and down her shoulder with a touch so gentle, Darcy could not understand how it was the same hand that had slapped her so hard she thought she could still feel it.

He held her close and kissed the top of her head, and somehow Darcy almost thought she might be okay. And then a woman on the PA said something Darcy didn’t understand, but which seemed to get Loki’s attention.

“Sørvágur. I know that place,” he said, looking around.

Darcy managed to sit up enough to pull their boarding passes from her coat. She couldn’t find anything that looked like “Sawr-vower” written anywhere, but that didn’t seem to mean much when the locals were speaking Viking. Giving up, she handed the pass to Loki. She watched as he frowned at it, scanning the whole thing. Finally he nodded sharply and stood. Darcy knew she needed to get up, but all she could do is bite her lip to keep from crying again. She looked up at Loki, silently pleading for patience she knew he didn’t have.

“We haven’t time for this,” Loki said, reaching to pull her to her feet.

Darcy let herself be pulled along to the gate. She had thought that facing her fears was supposed to get easier with each attempt, but every plane they had to board was more difficult than the previous. She could feel her already tenuous grip on her wits fading fast, and wasn’t sure if she was about to cry or pass out from the rush of abject terror that surged through her.

Loki moved his hand to her back, pushing her along rather than pulling her. He said nothing as she began to tremble beneath his touch, both comforting and terrifying all at once. They soon reached the gate, and Loki took the envelope with the rest of their documents from her and handed everything off to the boarding agent, mimicking what those in front of them had done. As they were once again checked over, Darcy braced herself for something to make a noise or summon security, but again it didn’t happen. The agent smiled and nodded and handed everything back, and waved them through to the gate. But rather than going through a long tunnel to the plane, it led to a flight of stairs directly to the tarmac. Another attendant at the bottom pointed them to another twin-prop aeroplane, though not like the ones they had taken previously. This one was smaller and looked newer, with a bright white and blue paint job. Darcy could feel her step faltering as they walked toward it. She had thought they’d be getting on a big jet. She didn’t know if that would have made it easier, but being surprised by yet another prop-driven plane had overwhelmed her all over again.

Beside her, she could feel Loki tense as he pulled her close, pressing their bodies together as they walked. As they got to the stairs, Loki again handed their boarding passes over to an attendant, because that’s what everyone else was doing. The attendant said something, pointing down the length of the plane as she handed the passes back.

Even as Loki tugged her along, Darcy had to force herself to take those last few steps up the stairs. Once at the top, Loki nudged her in ahead of him, and walked close behind her all the way to the very last row.

“Why are we in the back?” Darcy asked, looking out over the rows of empty seats all along the length of the plane.

“Because we were told to be,” Loki said, herding her toward her seat with his body.

Darcy sat and immediately started searching for her belt, while Loki watched what everyone else was doing with their bags and copied them, stowing theirs in the overhead bin. When he finally sat down, the first thing he did was raise the arm-rest between them. Once he was buckled in, he held his arm out, inviting Darcy closer. Lacking any other source of comfort, Darcy took it, leaning against his side as he wrapped his arm around her shoulders. She could feel his own tension as he held onto her and looked around the cabin, and didn’t think it was all down to impatience with her. Even as she trembled against him, Loki sat stiffly in his seat. When she dared to look up at him, Darcy could see his heavy, uneasy frown.

He was watching every single person who boarded after them, and Darcy realised he was afraid they’d been followed. She looked up as well, but didn’t see any faces she recognised. But then she thought SHIELD wouldn’t have sent any recognisable faces after them. SHIELD would want to catch them by surprise.

“Shoes and watches,” she said quietly.

“What?” Loki asked.

“Look for shiny shoes, and expensive wrist watches,” Darcy said, turning her head down so she’d be less likely to be overheard. “Undercover cops are really bad at being undercover. They want to protect their feet, so they’ll probably be wearing something with a steel toe. But it’ll be shiny because they’re not cops; they’re feds, and they like their shoes really shiny. And they always forget about their watches. They’ll have short hair, and if they’re a woman, it’ll probably be in a pony tail. Also name brand coats, if you know what that means.”

Loki nodded slowly. “I don’t. What is it?”

“They’ll have badge on the front,” Darcy said. Explaining how to spot a cop was giving her something else to focus on, rather than her impending doom by regional aircraft. “It’ll say something like North Face or Patagonia or something douchey like that.”

“How do you know this?” Loki asked, turning to look out the window for a moment.

“I told you, this isn’t my first rodeo either,” Darcy said. “I was at some of the Wall Street protests. They had cops all over the place trying to start riots.”

Loki frowned again, but Darcy wasn’t sure if it was because he didn’t understand what she was talking about, or because he didn’t like what she had to say. He looked back over the plane again as the hatch was closed and the last few passengers got their stuff together. A flight attendant got onto the PA and said more words Darcy did not understand, though she knew what it meant all the same. Taking a deep breath, she buried her face back against Loki’s chest and tried to think about anything else.

The plane roared to life as the engines on either side got up to speed, and soon they were moving. Loki’s arm around her was little comfort as they slowly taxied toward the runway.

« || »

How to Train Your Norse Trickster God #65

The first time they’d been forced onto a plane, Darcy hadn’t had enough time to get properly worked up over it. With a two-hour wait, in an uncomfortable seat, in a cold airport terminal, all Darcy could do was get worked up. She tried to ignore it, to think of anything else, but she had been put through so much that she had all but completely lost the ability to think of anything else. She was exhausted from not sleeping the night before, and starving from their meagre, gross breakfast. Her entire body ached and burned from what Loki had done to her only hours earlier, and the combination of all of it had left her feeling completely hollow. She knew she should try to eat something more substantial before they got on the plane and her life ended forever, but she couldn’t even bring herself to think about it any further than that. There were restaurants and shops all around them, but she didn’t trust any of them to have something she’d want to eat even under the best of circumstances.

Beside her, Loki watched the crowd with an intense glare. Darcy knew he’d made them not invisible, but somehow unnoticeable. They were still there, two people sitting uncomfortably next to one another, but utterly insignificant. Nobody looked at them for longer than it took to register their existence.

And for some reason, all Darcy wanted to do was scream.

“Please be honest with me,” she said, staring straight ahead so she didn’t have to see Loki’s face. “What’s going to happen to me when this is all over?”

Loki took her by the chin with a hold that was at once both gentle and firm, forcing her to look at him. “Do not defy me, and you will have anything you wish for,” he said.

Darcy bit her lip, trying to stay calm. She sniffed deeply, trying to clamp down on a rising wave of grief that was welling up in her chest. “I can’t do this,” she said, fighting against the urge to cry. “I can’t. I don’t…”

She cut herself off, and before she could start crying right there in the terminal, Loki dragged his thumb over her mouth, shushing her quietly.

“You can,” he said. “I know you can, because I have no patience left for you if you don’t. I do not want to cause you harm, but I will not protect you if your actions cause me harm.”

“I’m scared,” Darcy said.

Scared of the flight, scared of what would happen when they got off, scared of whatever would come next. And finally saying it out loud was the last piece of her resolve to crumble as tears fell from her eyes.

“Good,” Loki said, using his thumb to wipe aware her tears. No more false assurances. No more tender words. The mask had fallen completely, and in that moment, Darcy knew his very last shred of patience with her was well and truly gone. “If you weren’t frightened, I wouldn’t be able to trust you to do as you’re told.”

He was putting everything out in the open, and Darcy had no idea how to respond. She hated him for everything he’d done, and was almost glad to hear him tell the truth and admit it. Like some small amount of vindication in knowing that she hadn’t imagined everything. It was all real; him, her, and everything in between. Just the thought of it overwhelmed her entirely, because she could no longer pretend it hadn’t happened. She could no longer lean into the thought that maybe, just maybe, she had been over reacting, and that Loki’s behaviour was at least in part in her imagination. It had happened, and he wasn’t even trying to pretend it hadn’t.

“When we get to Alfheim, you will say not a word to anyone,” Loki said, still keeping his voice low. “We will find lodgings, and I will make you my queen. And then we will celebrate the birth of my son by destroying all those who dared to wish us harm.”

He moved his hand to her stomach, petting it gently as if there were already something there for him to feel. Despite her best efforts, Darcy could not stop crying. Tears fell down her face as she clenched her jaw to stay as silent as possible, resisting drawing attention to them.

Darcy clenched her throat against the sobs that threatened to pour forth if she let them. “I don’t want that,” she said, her voice barely a squeak in her own ears.

“You’ll learn to want it,” Loki said. “And if you know what’s best for you, you’ll learn quickly.”

Darcy realised he was not entirely wrong. She had learned, though maybe not to want the things he did. She had already learned what he liked, and how best to keep him satisfied with her. She’d learned not to fight back, because when she did Loki went out of his way to hurt her. And now, she’d have to learn to go along with whatever plan of his he was scheming up, because if she didn’t, she knew she would not survive.

His soft tone and harsh words were completely at odds with one another, echoing in Darcy’s mind as she tried to pull herself together. She could feel his hand on her stomach, his fingers tracing light circles through her clothes that threatened obscenity had he reached any lower.

“Please don’t hurt me,” Darcy said, losing her battle and now openly sobbing. “I promise, I’ll do what you say. Just don’t hurt me.”

For a moment, Loki looked almost sorry as he brought his hand back up to her face.

“Don’t make me, and I won’t,” he said. “I don’t want to hurt you. I truly don’t. But when it’s the only way you learn, you leave me with no other choice.”

He pulled her close to him, embracing her in a tight hug that was anything but comforting. With his arms around her, all Darcy could think about was how she was trapped with him; trapped by him. She cried, her chest heaving and shuddering as she struggled to keep as quiet as possible. She knew, crying against Loki’s chest in some frozen airport in the middle of nowhere, that whatever happened next would mean the end of her life as she knew it, one way or another. The best she could possibly hope for was keeping Loki happy in every way she knew how, and praying he’d get bored enough with her to forget about her. If she could keep him as he was then, soft voice and gentle touch, she might almost be able to survive him. Even if the things he said were horrible, she could pretend they weren’t if he stayed as he was then.

They’d have to get past SHIELD first, though. And exhausted and sore all over, Darcy didn’t trust herself to be able to do as she was told. Somehow, she knew that this was going to be the last gentle moment she’d ever experience in her life. And the thought of that destroyed her. Everything came crashing out of her then, and all she could do was cry even more as she buried her face in her hands, Loki stroking her hair and her back and quietly shushing her and offering more of his false assurances.

“I’m not asking for love,” Loki said, still speaking slowly as he held her close against his body. “I’m not that foolish. But surely obedience should not be this difficult to learn. I’m beginning to think you vex me intentionally, and it makes me question whether I can trust you.”

Darcy bit her lip, trying not to wail. She couldn’t believe he had the balls to say that, to paint her as the one who was acting solely to spread confusion. She couldn’t believe that a part of her wanted to go along with it; to wonder if she had been intentionally sabotaging them by telling everyone where they were going. If she was the reason they were put up in hotels, and not Loki. If she was the reason SHIELD knew they were in Iceland.

She wondered if she had manufactured a situation that allowed her to be raped again, by taking them out of spare beds and guest rooms, and into the privacy of hotels. And now the same man who had held her down and struck her, who had raped her while she screamed, embraced her and offered her comfort while telling her it was all her fault. And she was so exhausted and run down, that she took every shred of comfort he offered.

“I…” she started to say, struggling against the knot in her throat. “I’m sorry,” she said.

She didn’t know why she said it, or what she was sorry for. But then Loki kissed her on the forehead, holding her there for a long moment before his hand moved up to her face. He traced his thumb over where he had struck her, his skin almost ice cold against hers.

“It’s not a good look on you,” he said. “Don’t make me do it again.”

“I’m sorry,” Darcy said again, still struggling to get herself under control.

It felt like the right thing to say, and she still didn’t know why. And it seemed to be what Loki wanted to hear. With his hand gently rubbing up and down her back, he pulled her just a little bit closer and kissed her on the forehead again.

“I know you are,” he said. “And I know you’re exhausted and not in your right mind, but it’s no excuse. Don’t cross me, and you’ll be able to rest once we’ve left this place far behind.”

Darcy screwed her eyes shut and let herself lean against him, still crying and thinking she’d never stop.

« || »

How to Train Your Norse Trickster God #64

On some level, Loki must have known that Darcy was too frightened to go anywhere. Too afraid of what he might do if he caught her. To afraid of what SHIELD would do if they caught her. He left her alone, wandering out to find them some food before they had to continue on their trip.

Darcy thought about showering, but didn’t know if that was allowed either. Instead, she finished getting dressed and waited quietly for Loki to return. She stayed on the bed, watching the morning light build slowly and arduously as minutes ticked by. She had no idea where Loki had gone, or when their ride would return. She had no idea what she was supposed to do if the ride arrived before Loki came back. They were on a schedule, and he’d wandered off into an unknown city by himself. But it was different this time. He’d figured out basic things like money and which questions to ask. He’d worked out where food came from. The people here practically spoke his language, even without having to lean on whatever magic he had that made him able to understand everyone.

But still, she worried. She worried about what might happen if Loki never came back at all. If he’d been captured, or worse, if he’d left her behind. He’d already threatened to, and it was always those horrible, awful things he said that eventually came true. Never the soft words of quiet assurance.

When he finally came back, holding onto a paper bag from somewhere, Darcy could tell he was in a foul mood. Despite it, she couldn’t help but feel just a little bit glad that he’d returned. He hadn’t left her behind, or been captured. It wasn’t a problem Darcy would need to deal with on her own.

“I hate this place,” he said, making sure the door was locked behind him. “Everything has someone’s name on it.”

Darcy wanted to ask what he meant, but didn’t dare. She shrank into herself as he approached the bed where she still sat, having moved only to finish getting dressed. As he settled in, Loki turned on the lamp beside the bed, throwing the room into a harsh yellow light. Before he opened the bag, Loki handed Darcy a stack of cash that she did not dare ask about. She carefully counted it, finding about 5,000 of whatever it was, and once again wondering what that actually meant. As she tucked it into her pocket, Darcy watched as Loki pulled a few paper cartons from the bag. He handed her one, seemingly at random, and took the other for himself. Inside, Darcy found several slices of dark bread, topped with slices of boiled eggs and fish that didn’t quite look cooked. She looked up at Loki as he dug in, apparently finding nothing at all unusual about it.

She wondered if it was the sort of thing he was used to eating on his own planet, and if it was the sort of thing she had to look forward to for the rest of her life. Screwing up her courage, Darcy scrunched her nose and took a bite, trying not to gag at the strong flavours of rye and questionably-prepared fish together. She said nothing as she ate, knowing it was likely all she’d get for the day. She choked everything down, trying to ignore the assault on her senses, and struggling against gagging as her body tried to reject it.

As they finished whatever passed for breakfast, Darcy was startled by a knock at the door. She looked up as Loki rose to answer it, taking a long moment to listen through it, or whatever it was he did, first. When he opened it, the same man from the night before stood in the hall. Darcy quickly got to her feet and slipped into her shoes, not even bothering to ask where they were going next. If she didn’t know, she wouldn’t have time to worry about it. While Loki collected their bag, Darcy slipped into her enormous coat, wearing it like armour around her.

They were hurried out to the man’s car and crammed into the back seat, moving quickly to avoid being spotted. Darcy assumed Loki had done something to hide them, but still had not managed to find her voice, and didn’t want to speak to him to ask. They sat too closely to one another as they drove back through the city, which in the rising light of day, looked nothing like the other villages they’d been through in the previous days. The narrow streets were surprisingly crowded, with little space between buildings. They soon found their way onto a highway, and then out of the city entirely, travelling across an almost familiar snowy landscape. Darcy watched it all glide by, silently racking her brain trying to figure out her next move. But she didn’t have a next move, and her time to fix that was rapidly running out.

In many ways, her time had already run out.

They soon began to approach more signs of civilisation, and though the signs on the side of the road were completely unreadable, she still recognised one symbol on them.

They were once again heading to an airport.

She took a deep breath and dared to look up at Loki.

“I think we’re getting on another plane,” she said.

The look he gave her was nothing short of fed up. And she knew he wasn’t wrong. They didn’t seem to be going to some airstrip in the middle of nowhere, but an actual, factual airport, with people and security and untold dangers. If she couldn’t hold herself together, they’d be spotted and caught, and it would be all her fault.

It would also be a good opportunity to slip away, she realised. A real airport, with crowds and people and distractions. If she accidentally got on the wrong flight and went somewhere else, who would know?

If she got on the wrong flight and went somewhere else, what would she do when she wound up in Egypt, even more lost and isolated than she already was? What if they checked her boarding pass and realised she was not where she was meant to be? Her only way forward was with Loki, trusting that he would keep her safe as he promised.

Because so far, he had not broken anything that could be considered a promise. He’d kept even the horrible ones. Especially kept the horrible ones. And those that he hadn’t kept, he simply had not had the opportunity to make good on. Darcy knew that he was at the end of his rope with her, and that holding her down and raping her was meant to be his final warning to her. A final reminder to do as he said, because further disobedience would bring something even worse. If his idea of protecting her included slapping her and leaving her bruised inside and out, what would it look like when he stopped offering that protection? Would he kill her himself? Or would he just make good on his most recent threat, and leave her bloody and broken for SHIELD to find?

She wondered what he’d do without the privacy of a hotel room to shield them from the rest of the world. She wondered what he’d do if she disobeyed him in a crowded terminal, or out on the street.

Sure enough, they came to an airport, and the driver handed them another envelope—this one thicker and heavier than all the others they’d been handed. Loki quickly thumbed through it before handing it off to Darcy to deal with. Fake passports, IDs, boarding passes. Everything they needed to get on an international flight. She nodded and stuffed the envelope into her pocket, knowing it would be easier to keep everything in one place.

Without another word, they got out of the car and headed to the big red terminal. Once inside, Darcy pulled their boarding passes out again and read over them, trying to figure out where they needed to go. Loki was all casual touch beside her again, showing Darcy no concern for the pain that still coursed through her body. He hadn’t broken or dislocated anything, but Darcy knew she’d find blood in her pants. She knew she’d been torn and bruised, and it would still continue to hurt long after the marks faded. She tried to think through it all, pushing it aside as far as she could and just focus on what came next and doing as she was told. There were a few self-serve terminals nearby, but Darcy didn’t know how to use them, and worried that if she did it wrong, it would only cause more attention to them. Instead, she tried to match anything on their boarding passes to one of the signs above the ticketing counters.

“What’s taking so long?” Loki asked, glaring down at her.

“I don’t do this very often. I need to figure things out,” Darcy said, trying to keep calm.

She knew Loki was losing his patience with her, taking comfort only in the hope that he wouldn’t do anything that would draw too much attention to them. She’d got so used to travelling under the radar, being smuggled across borders and taking hidden routes that being in a crowd was starting to overwhelm her. She wondered if Loki had hidden them from view, or if those passing by saw the marks on her face where Loki had struck her. Part of her hoped someone did see them, and be the sort of someone who would try to take her away. The rest of her knew that it would only end in more death, and prayed Loki had already hidden them.

“Over here,” she said finally, finally matching up the airline with a sign above one of the counters.

Loki followed her to the counter, saying nothing as Darcy got them checked in. While the woman behind the counter checked their information and logged them into the system, Darcy was certain something would ping and alert everyone to the forgeries. She stood quietly, trying not to let her nerves betray her as it took what felt like entirely too long. But nothing pinged or alerted anyone, and she was handed back all of their documents, and directed to security, and their gate beyond. As they walked away, Darcy took a deep breath, surprised that it had worked.

As they walked, Darcy checked their tickets again. Their flight wasn’t for a few hours, and looking through the crowd, Darcy didn’t expect to have to spend much time in security.

“They have to check our stuff,” Darcy said, looking up to Loki. “They won’t let us on without doing it.”

He still carried their bag, throwing more confusion over the situation. He said they were close, and they definitely seemed to be heading to the correct island finally. Did they even still need the bag?

They’d burn that bridge when they got to it, Darcy decided. She led them to security, and into the line. Rather than waiting until they got there, Darcy took off her coat and shoes. Loki followed her lead without question, saving her having to explain anything more. As they went through security, Darcy was certain they’d be spotted. Certain someone would have noticed and called someone. But they got through without incident, and were sent on their way through the terminal to their gate.

“Now what?” Loki asked as he bent to put his shoes back on.

Darcy sighed, hugging herself back into her coat. “We wait,” she said. “And hope we’re not seen.”

She looked up at Loki, knowing she needed to ask, and not knowing how. In the end, she didn’t need to ask. The risks were just as great for him if she were spotted, and he very quickly invaded her space again. He kissed her like he was making some grand, romantic gesture. After a moment, Darcy realised he thought it was. The taste of sulphur was absent from his tongue, so Darcy closed her eyes and forced herself to play along. She kissed him back, knowing he was getting some sort of sick pleasure from it. Finally, he worked his magic, and she could taste it on her mouth, burning her tongue as he forced that part of himself into her again. She hated it, and she let it happen, because the alternative was so much worse.

Finally, he backed away with a pleased little smile on his face, and Darcy knew he had found one more wall to completely break down between them.

“You should do that more often,” he said.

Darcy said nothing as she turned to find their gate.

« || »

How to Train Your Norse Trickster God #63

Darcy never managed to get to sleep.  She lay in bed, her entire body pressed against Loki’s in the dark, and stared at the wall beyond the bed.  She had no plan for escape, neither from Loki nor from SHIELD.  Every avenue she silently explored in the dark led to the same thing.  She didn’t know the language.  She didn’t have any means of leaving the country.  Their allies seemed less and less willing to help them as time went on.  This was going to be her life, and she would have to learn to deal with it.

Loki seemed intent on giving her plenty of practise in that department.  He woke far earlier than he needed to, while the sky outside was still dark, announced by his hands touching and exploring her body again.

“Stop it,” Darcy said before she could stop herself.

Loki did, but only long enough to roll back on top of her and force himself between her legs.  “It is not your place to tell me what to do,” he said, with a familiar dark edge to his voice.

“I’m sorry,” Darcy said quickly, trying to shrink away from him as much as possible while being pinned beneath him.

She could feel his dick against her thigh, still soft in a way that suggested it wouldn’t be for long.  She held still, hoping it would be enough, and knowing it wouldn’t.

He kissed her again, and his mouth stung with sulphur.  He moved against her, getting hard against her leg as Darcy tried to squirm out from under him.  When he forced herself inside her, Darcy whined loudly, no longer caring if he knew how much he hurt her.  He knew exactly how much he hurt her, and he did it deliberately.  He burned inside her, too big and too fast, and her too dry for any of it, and all she could do was try to get away.  She pushed against him with one hand while using the other to punch at him wildly, knowing he was only going to hurt her no matter what she did.  One hit connected with his face, and suddenly everything went still.  Loki stopped fucking her long enough to grab her wrist, pinning it down with all of his weight.  Then he leaned up enough to slap her across the face hard enough to make her see white.

“Know your place, or I will beat it into you,” he said through his teeth.

He started fucking her again, putting his entire body into making her hurt.  He held both her wrists in one hand, pinning them above her head, while the other was on her shoulder, shoving her against him in time with his own motions.  She cried and screamed and choked, knowing nobody would ever hear her.  Still she tried to buck him off, to squirm away from him.  She tried to kick him, but he had her pinned and unable to make contact in any meaningful way.  Somehow, suddenly, she managed to squirm enough that he was no longer inside her.  She cried even harder at the relief, but it didn’t last long.  Again, he slapped her across the face before forcing his way back in, and something changed in his weight on top of her.  He was too heavy against her, and she screamed at the feeling of her hips being pulled apart.  She couldn’t fight back any longer, too consumed by the pain his entire body caused her.  She begged him with her words and with her tears to stop, but he didn’t.  Instead, he made desperate little noises in her ear like he was having trouble finishing.  He fucked even harder, even faster, and all Darcy could do about it was cry.  He bit at her neck, because that’s what he liked, while his hand moved from her shoulder to her tit.  He shifted again, taking her with him as he found a new angle that let him get even deeper inside her, hurting her in a brand new way.  Then his hand was on her ass, forcing their bodies together as he bruised and abused her body inside and out.

When he finally finished with a loud shout in her ear, he barely kept himself from fully collapsing on top of her.  She could feel him trembling against her as he panted, rough and hot and ragged against her neck.  She could feel his dick still pulsing as he finished deep inside her, and it burned.  It burned like nothing she had ever experienced before, and though she needed to get away, her body was too wrecked to do anything but tremble in turn.

“I will not warn you again,” he said after a moment.  “I will only protect you if you do as I say.  Or I can leave you here, broken and used for SHIELD to find.”

Darcy nodded, but said nothing.  She continued to cry, slowly running out of energy to even do that.  It was done, and if she was lucky, he wouldn’t do it again. 

Instead, Loki kissed her, still on top of her and inside her, and she wondered what he was doing.  If the harsh taste on his mouth meant he was hiding her, or doing something else to her.  She wondered if he could force her to do as he said.  She wondered if that would make it easier.

Then he rolled off her and disappeared into the bathroom, closing the door between them.  Darcy looked around the dark room, wondering if she should get up and leave.  She still didn’t know where their bag was, but she could find it and get dressed and slip out before he noticed.

But she didn’t do any of that.  Because if she did, she’d be in a foreign country, where she didn’t speak the language, dodging SHIELD agents that were lurking around every corner.  She stayed where she was, closing her legs tightly together against the intrusion she could still feel as though he were still inside her, and pulled the blankets up tightly around her while the sounds of Loki starting the shower filled the silence in the room.  She had plenty of time to leave.  And it was the last thing she wanted to do.

Instead, she waited in a tense silence for Loki to come back out, still quietly sobbing as tears soaked her cheeks.  When he finally did return, he stopped in the doorway, back lit against the light from the bathroom.  She thought she could see him smile.  He walked over to the bed and sat down next to her, leaning over to stroke her with a false tenderness that made Darcy want to scream.

“I will not tolerate disobedience,” he said, his words completely at odds with his touch.  “Do not make me remind you again.  I will not be as patient next time.”

Darcy nodded, and closed her eyes when Loki bent to lay a kiss on her forehead.  He had delivered his punishment, and now he was back to soft words and gentle touch, and if Darcy put any thought into it at all, she might start crying and never stop.

“Good.  Now put yourself together.  We’ll no doubt be leaving shortly.”

Darcy looked toward the window, and the creeping light of a dawn that came late in the morning filtering through the curtains.  A moment later, Loki got up and moved to the other side of the bed, pulling the bag from where he’d stashed it against the wall, just out of her sight.  They were completely out of clean clothes, and she watched him dig through everything to find something that didn’t completely reek.  All he found was another shirt, and moved to pick up the jeans he’d discarded the day before.  Only once he was dressed did Loki leave the bag for Darcy to pick through.  She didn’t care what she grabbed, or how dirty it was.  She grabbed the first things her fingers touched, trying to dress behind the covers to keep Loki’s gaze off of her.  As she moved, she thought she could still feel him inside her, a deep burn triggered by every tiny little motion.  She thought about everything he’d left inside her, and realised that over the past week, he had fucked her and came inside her more times than there had been days.

Darcy felt her blood run cold as she recalled other things he’d said.  Things that in the moment had been benign and harmless.  He was so goddamn sure he could get her pregnant, despite being from the other side of the galaxy.  And she realised with a sudden horror that he knew from experience.  He’d been to Earth before.  Some of the people they’d met practically spoke his language.  Darcy wondered how many women had given birth to his children over the centuries, and why he hadn’t made any of them his so-called queen.

Or maybe he had.  And maybe he’d got bored with them.

Darcy drew in a deep, shuttering breath as her entire body began to tremble again.  She grabbed the sheet covering her and used it to dry herself, not even caring about the slick, sticky smear she left behind.  In the dim light, Darcy thought she could see blood, and wasn’t surprised.  She wanted to dig deep inside herself and pull everything out, but it was too late.  Even if she could reach what Loki had just put inside her, it hadn’t been the first time he’d fucked her.

Most the time, she had even let him.  Even after he had told her exactly what he wanted to do to her, she had laid back and allowed it to happen, without a single word of protest.

Loki had known he could get her pregnant, and at that moment, Darcy knew that he had.  There was no possible way she could know, but something deep down inside her knew all the same.  Maybe he could smell it and knew how to time it.  Maybe it was magic that allowed it to happen, regardless of whether she was at the right point in her cycle.  Or maybe he was just a tough motherfucker all around, and his sperm could survive inside her long enough to wait it out for the rest of the month if needed.  But he was so goddamned confident at having already got her pregnant that she knew he had done exactly that.

Let ’s not worry about things that won’t happen.

The words echoed in Darcy’s mind, over and over and over again.  He knew, and Darcy wanted to puke.

Loki approached her again, sitting close against her.  She had to fight the urge to flinch away, though she couldn’t stop herself from trembling as he wrapped his arm tight around her shoulders.

“Now what troubles you?” he asked in a voice that was as much false as it was calm.

Darcy shook her head, unable to find her voice.  She could not force herself to give words to the fear that suddenly consumed her.  She could not believe he had the balls to ask her that at all.

Loki smiled again and kissed her, and for once it didn’t taste of sulphur.  It was just a kiss, and somehow that was worse.

“I’ll take you far away from here,” he said, sitting up again and pulling her close against his chest.  “You won’t have these troubles any longer.  Not if I can help it.”

She breathed deeply, trying to maintain her wits as the full weight of everything came crashing down upon her.  She thought maybe he had only said those things to get under her skin, but she knew that wasn’t the case.  He’d said those things because they were true.  He told pretty little lies full of false hopes and assurances.  The horrible things he said were always true.  He was going to take her away and hold onto her until he got bored and found something else to occupy his attention.  And then…

And then what?  Darcy had no idea.  He wouldn’t let her go home, and she wouldn’t be able to even if he did.  She was stuck with no other options than to do as he said and hope for the best.  And maybe the best would be that he did forget about her.  Maybe the best would be Darcy stuck on another planet, ignored and forgotten while Loki turned his cruelty to someone else.  Either way, she knew she had not just the rest of her life chained to him, but the rest of his as well.  Because just like he knew he could get her pregnant, he knew that somehow, through some means he had yet kept to himself, Darcy would live long enough to forget anything other than a life chained to him.

She let him hold her, because she didn’t want to know what he’d do if she tried to move away.  She ignored his gentle whispers of false assurances, and his soft touch.  It was all fake, and she knew it.  Sooner or later, she’d say something wrong, or do something else he didn’t like, and that soft touch would turn mean again.  And every time he got mean, it got worse.  He had never slapped her before.  She didn’t want to even think about what he might do next.  Even as she tried to ignore all of it, a tiny voice in her head reminded her that at least he’d only slapped her this time.  That at least she hadn’t spent the entire trip being slapped around.  Before, even when she’d hit him, he hadn’t hit back.  But he hadn’t used his hands to hurt.  He used his words and his body, and that tiny voice told her she was lucky for it.  He hadn’t beaten her, leaving her bloody and bruised.  He’d left marks on her body, but not from that.

And he’d left marks in other ways.  Marks that couldn’t be seen by looking.

Until now.  Now she had pushed a brand new button, and he hadn’t even hesitated.  Her face still burned where he’d struck her, but she couldn’t bring herself to reach up and touch it, afraid of what she might find.

She knew soon those slaps would become something much worse though.  Open hands would turn to fists.  And fists would turn to weapons.  And knowing that made her grateful that he had only slapped her.  Knowing that had made her grateful that the abuse had not been worse.

He had done that to her, knowingly and intentionally.  And now he held her as she tried not to cry, wearing only a shirt, in a hotel room in a foreign country, so far from anyone who could help her.  He had done that too.  When he took her with him, he had known that she wouldn’t be able to leave him.  He had known she’d be too eager to help, until it was too late.  She didn’t want to help now.  He didn’t need it.  He’d been getting by perfectly fine on his own, but now he kept her around for a different reason.  She wasn’t here to help.  She was his prize; his trophy.  Something he could take home as a reminder of his victory against the people who wanted him dead.

She wondered if he’d planned it this way from the start.

« || »

How to Train Your Norse Trickster God #62

It was well into night by the time Darcy could see lights out the window. They sailed past the lights, hugging the coast as close as they were able until they finally came to a harbour. As soon as they were moored, Darcy and Loki were quickly ushered off the boat to a car waiting on the dock.

“Quickly, quickly,” the man behind the wheel said.

Darcy made sure they had all their things and that Loki was following behind as she walked up to the car.

“Before you’re seen. Quick,” the driver said, not even giving Darcy a chance to figure out if he was their person.

She glanced to Loki, but having few other options, got into the back of the man’s car. Loki got in beside her, and before he even had the door closed they were driving away from the water. Darcy looked around the dark port around them, wondering if they’d made the right call. She leaned close to Loki, tugging him down so she could speak quietly.

“Can you get us away if you need to?” she asked in his ear.

He looked at her and nodded, saying nothing in return. It was enough for Darcy. She didn’t think they’d got into the wrong car, but just in case she needed to know that they weren’t trapped if they had. But as they kept driving, away from the port and through the city that confidence began to fade. Once again, she didn’t know where they were being taken. Every car they passed sent a jolt of fear through her as she began to realise SHIELD was probably in Reykjavík as well. They probably figured out they’d been duped before, and worked out where they needed to be.

But they drove deeper into a city that was bigger than Darcy expected it to be, after everything they’d seen so far. She felt Loki’s nervousness radiating off of him, doing nothing for her own uncertainty about where they were going. Loki took her not by the hand, but by the wrist, holding on like he expected to have to do something drastic at any moment.

“Not so tight, please,” Darcy said.

He loosened his grip just enough so it no longer hurt, but not enough for her to slip free, either intentionally or by accident. But nothing happened. They drove further into the night, stopping finally outside a large white building. The man driving them threw his car into park and turned to hand Loki another envelope full of bribe money and fake information.

“Go. Now,” he said.

Loki wasted no time. He opened the door and pulled Darcy with him, and this time she didn’t complain about being dragged along. The man’s urgency had rubbed off on them, and she wondered how safe they’d be in a hotel all alone.

And then she realised they were being stuck in hotels because it wasn’t safe to put them in spare bedrooms and on sofas. The people helping them were in just as much danger as they were, and wanted to minimise that risk as much as possible.

Inside the hotel, they found someone at the front desk to take their bribe and trade it for a key. The woman at the desk spoke quickly, in the same language Kristján’s fisherman friend had spoken. Then she disappeared, and they were on their own. They found the room easily enough and let themselves in, finding it clean and airy and once again, containing only one bed. At this point, even if there had been two beds, Darcy knew they’d only be using one anyway.

She stripped off her coat as Loki locked up the room behind them, and wandered through to look at what was available. This one at least had a private bathroom, unlike the one in Greenland. Cold and tired and aching from head to toe, Darcy erred on the side of caution and turned to Loki.

“Can I take a bath?” she asked.

He nodded and handed her the bag with their clothes. Not wasting another second, Darcy stepped into the bathroom and closed the door behind her. She kicked off her shoes and started stripping before she even got to the bath, and got inside as soon as the water started running. The water was warm, and the tub was big, and for the first time in far too long, Darcy almost felt like she could relax. She let the water run until she could completely submerge herself, and took the opportunity to just exist.

There were tiny bottles of shampoo and conditioner on the side of the tub. As Darcy sat up to reach for one, she heard Loki at the door and realised she’d forgotten to lock it. As he let himself in, Darcy covered her chest with her arms and brought her knees up, trying to hide as much of her body as possible. Loki watched her for a moment before closing the door and stepping forward. He knelt by the side of the tub, reaching out to touch her bare skin, dragging his hand down her back in a way that wasn’t entirely innocent. Already, this was a fight she had lost. She hadn’t locked him out, and now he was there beside her, finding entirely new ways to invade her space. She had always managed to keep some clothes on, even at the worst of it. Now, completely naked and exposed in every possible way, there was nothing left to hide from him.

He took the bottle of shampoo from her hand and opened it, giving it a little sniff.

“It’s for your hair,” Darcy said, not sure what else to do. Her voice sounded like a croak in her own ears as she struggled to keep herself calm.

She was surprised when he poured some out and started washing her hair, gently massaging her scalp and working the lather from root to tip. But she had no idea what he was trying to do. He certainly wasn’t helping her relax. She tried to relax, and pretend he was someone else, but she was completely unable to convince herself. Alone, with no one between them, and completely naked and vulnerable, all Darcy could think about was the hands in her hair. The same hands that had held her down, and left bruises on her skin. The same hands that had killed people right in front of her eyes. That they were capable of such violent, horrible things, and also capable of being soft and gentle and deliberate was a thought Darcy could hardly comprehend.

“We’re very close,” Loki said, keeping his voice low as he scrubbed through her hair. “There’s still magic in this part of your world. I can feel it.”

If Loki could feel the magic, then it meant there wasn’t much time left to come up with a way out of whatever was in store for her at the end of the line. If she was going to get away from Loki, she needed to find a way to do it fast. And she needed to find a way that would also keep her away from SHIELD.

“And that means I need you to listen to me,” Loki said, apparently unaware of Darcy having no interest in any of it. “Very carefully. If you do not do exactly as I say, I will not protect you. I have neither the time nor luxury to be patient with you. Am I understood?”

Darcy took a deep breath and nodded. Loki said a lot that sounded like lies and empty promises, but this she knew was true. She had known it from the very beginning, that he would only keep her safe as long as she was useful. Only now, he was finally admitting it.

“Good. I knew you could learn.”

He looked around the bathroom for a moment before moving his hand to Darcy’s chest, just below her neck. He pushed, and for a moment, she resisted.

“Don’t make me take back my words,” Loki said.

Darcy leaned back, keeping her arms folded over her chest as she lay back in the water. He didn’t push her all the way under, and kept his touch just as gentle as he worked the water through her hair to rinse it clean. He moved his hand to stroke the side of her face, and she tried to look away from him, not wanting to even guess at whatever thoughts he had brewing in his head. A moment later, he stood again, and she watched him pause for just a few seconds before bending to pick up the bag from the floor.

“Please don’t,” Darcy said, sitting up enough to see him picking up the clothes she had left on the floor.

Loki said nothing and left, taking the bag and her clothes with him. He closed the door, leaving her trapped, alone and helpless. Her hopes of having a final relaxing evening were dashed, and she needed to get out of the water as soon as possible. But she had nowhere to go. She couldn’t get dressed, and she couldn’t stay in the bathroom forever. She had to do something. There were towels at least. She could cover herself with one long enough to find some passably clean clothes.

Darcy moved one step at a time, first draining the water, letting it all fall away before she stood. Then she grabbed a towel from the rack and started drying herself. The towel was thick and fluffy, but not quite big enough to completely cover herself. It left an open gap down her side that exposed far more skin than she wanted to. It didn’t matter that he’d seen it all. She didn’t want him to see any more of it. But no matter how much she tugged and fussed, it wouldn’t close completely. Out of options, Darcy took a deep breath and opened the door. She couldn’t see the bag anywhere, because of course he wasn’t going to make it easy. What she did find was Loki stretched out on the bed, watching her as she stood in the doorway. He’d taken off his shirt again, but had kept his jeans on. Still, his intention was plain as day. Darcy found herself unable to move from where she stood, her mind and body alike refusing to take the first step. She just stood, and watched, and waited for something to happen.

It didn’t take long for Loki to get bored of waiting. He got up from the bed and stepped over to Darcy, backing her against the wall. He’d always been bigger than she was, but he hadn’t seemed quite so big when she first let him into her hotel room back in New Mexico. Then, he’d seemed so worn down and helpless, she had completely overlooked his size. But now, standing with his body against hers, back straight and looming over her, she realised exactly how big he was.

“I don’t want this,” she said.

She held tightly to the towel wrapped around her as Loki crowded even closer against her.

“You’ll change your mind.”

Loki ran a hand down the side of her face before shifting and forcing her toward the bed. Even as he backed her against the mattress, Darcy tried to keep her towel closed around her. He used his size and his weight to push her onto her back as his words from just minutes earlier echoed in her mind. She knew that if she fought against him, he’d hurt her. But now there was the added threat of him throwing her to the wolves if she didn’t do what he said; a threat that had always been there, but which had now been given words. Still, she kept her legs tightly closed, resisting as much as she could even as he pulled them apart. As he ran his hand down the inside of her thigh, she wished he’d get it over with. Instead, he teased, pretending to draw out her enjoyment. Darcy stared up at the ceiling, trying to ignore the way her ass hung halfway off the bed. She wanted to back away and put as much distance between them as possible, but her body still refused to move, now frozen out of fear.

Then, she felt both of his hands on her, and was wholly unprepared to feel his mouth on her a moment later. It sent a jolt through her that finally triggered her body to move, to try to squirm away, but his grip on her hips kept her right where she was. She tried to push her heels against him, but couldn’t find enough purchase against his body without knocking into him in a way he might mistake for kicking him.

“No,” she said, screwing her eyes shut.

He invaded her with his mouth and fingers alike, teasing out every spot he could find. It didn’t take long for him to find the right spot to make her body react, building arousal that only made her feel cheap and dirty and used. It made her want to get away even more, but she felt Loki chuckle against her, and knew it was over. He’d noticed, and leaned into it all the more, drawing shameful noises from her. She squirmed and writhed against him, not sure if she was still trying to get away, or trying to get more out of him.

“No,” she said again as she came, grinding herself against his mouth despite her own protests.

Loki laughed against her again, and then was gone, leaving her cold and wet and exposed. She dared to look at him as he pulled off his jeans, tossing them carelessly aside. He climbed into bed with her, and when he guided her to a better position, she didn’t fight him. When he pulled the towel away, she held onto it still, but didn’t fight back as her entire body was exposed to him. He kissed a trail up her body, intimate and filthy all at once. She lay still even as he climbed on top of her and forced himself inside her. He moved like he thought he was making love to her, kissing her neck and tangling his hands in her hair. Darcy refused to let herself respond to any of it, still staring up at the ceiling and trying to pretend she was somewhere else.

Then he rolled over, taking even that from her as he forced her on top of him. He preferred it this way, and she hated that she knew that. His hands on her hips forced her to move on top of him, and as he hit that spot in her again and again, Darcy closed her eyes and tried to ignore it.

“I knew you’d change your mind,” Loki said breathlessly.

Darcy hadn’t changed her mind. Her traitorous body had taken over, and she didn’t know what to do about it. She told herself Loki had used his magic on her, and this was his doing. She had nothing to do with it. She gave in and let him win, letting her body take over and give him what he wanted. As she fucked him the way he liked, he pulled her down into a kiss that tasted of not just herself, but of sulphur. He was doing something to her again, and she didn’t know what. His hands explored her body, touching her everywhere as she felt another orgasm rising. She whimpered against him, trying to fight it, and then his hands were on her hips again, forcing her onto him as he fucked her from beneath. She came while riding him, and wanted to cry. But he didn’t give her that chance. He rolled over again, and was no longer making love. He didn’t hold her down, but he didn’t need to. His weight as he fucked her was enough. She listened to the sound of the mattress beneath them, and the desperate little noises Loki made as he took only for his own pleasure. She wasn’t surprised when he stayed inside her after he finished. Or when he got going again only moments later. Soon, her body was just as confused as her mind, aching and sore all over, and still trying to respond to him as he went relentlessly, hard and fast and greedy.

When he was finally finished, he stayed on top of her, holding his weight on his arms to not completely crush her. He kissed her gently on the neck, and then on the mouth, deep and slow like he meant it as he rolled his hips against her. She realised he was trying to work himself up for a third round, but apparently two was all he could muster, and she could feel his dick slowly going soft inside her. Finally, he rolled off her and reached to turn out the light beside the bed, plunging the room into darkness. Darcy didn’t move as he negotiated his way under the blankets, staying still even as he wrestled them out from under her so they were both lying together, bare skin touching as he pulled her close with her head on his shoulder and arm draped over his chest. Even then, his hands explored, touching every inch of her that he could reach,

“You’ll make a fine queen indeed,” he said.

Darcy didn’t respond to him. She’d given him what he’d wanted, and she wouldn’t give him an ounce more.

« || »

How to Train Your Norse Trickster God #61

Once they were out of the fjord, Kristján’s warnings became reality. In the open sea, the waves and wind picked up, knocking the tiny boat this way and that as they headed further toward the unknown. Darcy tried to look out the window and keep her eye on the horizon, but it didn’t work. The boat rocked so heavily that all the window showed was a rapid swap of sky, sea, sky, sea, sky, sea. Instead, she leaned against Loki, keeping her eyes closed and trying to pretend she was somewhere else.

“I’ve never been seasick before, but this is gonna do it,” she said against him, breathing slowly through her mouth to keep her insides as steady and calm as possible. It wasn’t working.

Loki gently stroked the back of her head, and she hated that it almost seemed to help. He held her close, and she took the comfort he offered, because the alternative was suffering alone.

“What do you need?” he asked.

It was the first time he’d ever asked after her own needs, and for a moment, Darcy didn’t know what to do with it.

“I don’t know,” she said.

Loki reached for their bag of snacks and pulled one of the bottles of radioactive orange drink out. From the edge of her vision, Darcy watched him frown at it for a moment before he broke the seal and handed it to her. One more foreign little thing he’d picked up along the way, knowing without having to test or struggle to figure out which way the cap twisted. One more little thing he’d learned, representing one more foreign little thing she’d be expected to learn in turn.

“Thanks,” she said quietly.

It wasn’t Sunny-D, but it wasn’t not Sunny-D either. A close cousin, perhaps. Thick and sweet and tasting like someone had had an orange described to them and then replicated it. She drank slowly, taking tiny sips and wishing it were colder. She wondered if Loki could do something about that, but didn’t want to ask.

As she leaned against him and tried to get air into her lungs, Loki calmly stroked her head, carding his fingers through her hair. Above them, someone said something in a language she didn’t understand, and a moment later Loki tapped his knuckle against the side of her face. Darcy opened her eyes and looked up, surprised to see him holding out a little white tablet. Assuming it was Dramamine, or something similar, Darcy put it in her mouth and washed it down with the orange drink.

“Thanks,” she said again.

She closed her eyes again and waited for the mystery drug to work while Loki spoke to the fisherman standing beside them. They both spoke quickly, having some secret conversation she wasn’t allowed to hear. Still, something about it stuck in her mind, but she couldn’t figure out why.

“Yow, yow, yow,” the man said quickly, followed by something else.

Darcy looked up at him. He sounded like Loki had, that first night right after she’d found him. Not exactly like him, but every now and then he would say something that sounded almost like the small amount of Asgardian Loki had spoken to her. A moment later, he walked away again, leaving the two of them alone.

“He sounds like you,” Darcy said through her headache.

Loki hummed. “Hardly surprising,” he said.

Erik had talked about growing up with these stories as a kid, but Darcy hadn’t even considered that more than just a few cultural elements would have made their way to Earth. Asgardians would have behaved like any coloniser, and brought their language and everything else along with them. Suddenly, Darcy wished she knew more about the Vikings. Then she might better know what to expect, and what Loki expected from her. Or, she might better know what fate awaited her if she failed to live up to his expectations.

Slowly, the drug took effect, and all Darcy was left with was the lingering headache that refused to go away. But it was better than having a headache and feeling like her stomach was upside down at the same time. As the sun began to set, plunging them into total darkness outside, Darcy could feel Loki start to grow tense beside her. They were getting close to Tórshavn, and they both had their own reasons to be nervous about what that meant. That Loki was letting his nervousness show was concerning. Even on that first night when Darcy had found him, bloody and broken, he was like an animal, hiding his fear behind aggression. Part of her still thought his worst behaviour was a manifestation of the same defense mechanism, causing him to lash out at whatever convenient target was closest.

But at the end of the day, their worst case scenarios started the same way, tied up and gagged in the back of some SHIELD van, taken away to each face a lifetime of regret. For Darcy, it meant prison. For Loki, it was more drugs, more experiments. If he was lucky, they’d kill him. Knowing they kept him awake when they fucked around with his insides was enough to remind Darcy why she was there in the first place, on a fishing boat headed to nowhere. The fact that he was afraid meant at the very least he wasn’t the wild, vicious animal he sometimes seemed to be. If he was afraid, it meant he knew when someone was stronger than he was. And that put them on the same page.

“Hey,” she said cautiously, reaching up to rest her hand on his chest.

He looked at her, and she could see just a hint of uncertainty on his face, letting some of that fear slip before he hid it again behind a mask of quiet concern.

“You okay?” Darcy asked, not sure what else to say.

Loki nodded, and then looked out around the small little room they were in. Then he looked down at his free hand below the table and snapped his fingers, drawing a bright green flash from his fingertips.

He’d said before that he couldn’t make sparks. Darcy hadn’t understood what that meant before, but seeing it with her own eyes she realised some of the deeper implications. He had zipped them form New Mexico to Oregon in the blink of an eye, and thoroughly exhausted himself in doing so. Darcy realised she had only seen Loki show any amount of confidence in his abilities after they left Mike, and even then he’d been hesitant to use any of them more than necessary. She wondered if he could have already taken them to Tórshavn without all the trouble, and if it would have left him sick and exhausted and vulnerable all over again. She wondered exactly how much energy he would have to use to take her with, and remembered what he’d said in that dark bedroom. How he had made a point to tell her he’d wanted something in return for all the energy he’d already spent on her.

If he could leave on his own, but hadn’t, what plans did he truly have for her?

“It’s coming back, but it’s not enough,” he said, turning his hand over to examine it.

He’d done other little things he hadn’t been able to do before too. Other things that spent energy. Darcy knew he’d made her sleep on the plane. He’d found other ways to hide them without having to smear blood around, and Darcy realised he’d probably been doing it the entire time since figuring out that he could. If he had to take something from her to fuel his own power, she wondered how many more times he would have to fuck her to have enough power. She wondered what other new things he gained back every time she lay back and let it happen.

The thought that there were countless other things he could do terrified Darcy. She’d seen Thor throw lightning around. She’d seen Thor fly and beat up a giant robot like it was nothing. If that was just something gods could do, she wondered what a god who did actual fucking magic could do at the height of his power.

“Not enough for what?” Darcy asked.

Loki turned his hand over again, still looking at it. “I could leave right now if they hadn’t taken everything from me,” he said. “I could go anywhere I wanted and take you with me. Instead I’m stuck in this realm, gambling on a Dragon Line that may not still exist.”

That was a complication Darcy hadn’t even been aware of. “That’s possible?” she asked.

“They form where the realms overlap. If the realms drift too far apart, the lines at the border will die,” Loki said. “And I’ve not used them to travel to this realm in centuries.”

Loki had said so much with so few words, and Darcy had no idea what to unpack first. She shook her head and sat up a bit more, moving as far away form Loki as he’d let her.

“What if it’s not there?” she asked, sticking with the current thread of conversation.

“We find another one,” Loki said. “Or pray this SHIELD does not find us before my magic fully returns.”

Darcy nodded, not liking the sound of either option. She was so tired already, she didn’t think she could handle more running if Tórshavn was a bust.

But he’d said something else as well. Something that could not be ignored, and which Darcy had completely failed to consider.

“How old are you?” she asked, once again afraid of the answer she might hear.

Loki didn’t respond right away. He seemed like he was going to for a moment, and then frowned and shook his head. “At least a thousand of your years,” he said. “Perhaps more.”

He didn’t look like he was a thousand years old. He looked like he was Jane’s age, at most. But that wasn’t the problem.

“You know I’m… not. Right?” she asked.

What did he think was going to happen? Was she supposed to be pregnant for the rest of her life? Or would her own biology override his?

What good was a queen if she was going to die of old age before Loki had his next birthday? What good was an heir that would grow old and die in the relative blink of an eye?

“It doesn’t matter,” Loki said. He took Darcy’s hand in his, running his finger over her knuckles. “As my queen, you’ll be entitled to all that is mine, including immortality.”

It wasn’t what Darcy had wanted to hear. She didn’t want him to have an answer cooked up and ready to go. She’d hoped to rationalise her way out of the whole ordeal, but he clearly knew something she didn’t.

“I don’t want that,” she said.

“You’ll learn to want it,” Loki said. “And to appreciate it.”

Darcy felt herself deflate. She looked down at their hands, hers trapped inside his, and reminded herself that as long as he behaved like this, she’d at least be safe from harm. But she didn’t want to live forever, trapped by his side for an eternity. He was a thousand years old, and still seemed so young. How many thousands of years would she spend chained to him, trapped in whatever hell he could build for her?

“I don’t get any say in this?” she asked.

“What would you possibly have to say?” Loki asked. He pulled her just a little closer to him, settling back in his seat so their bodies fit together as he rested her weight against him. “You have no place in this realm. Do you intend to flee forever, knowing that any day could end with you in a cage? Or worse? Wouldn’t you far rather prefer I take you far away from this place, where this realm’s thugs will never trouble you again?”

Loki was right. Darcy had nothing to say. The only thing she could do was accept her situation, and do everything she could to make the best of it.

« || »

How to Train Your Norse Trickster God #60

Darcy’s fish was perfectly mild and bland, making her feel a little bit better about whatever was coming up next.  The entire ordeal had got so far out of her control that there was nothing else she could do but let the rest play out around her, and try not to get in the way.  Across the table, Loki ate quietly, paying more attention to the few people who came and went around them than to anything that went on at their table.  The spice in his food didn’t seem to bother him, which was a good thing, mainly because it was one less thing for him to blame on Darcy at the end of the day.  She knew she’d been wearing on his patience with each flight they took, so having that break that kept him from losing it even further was the best thing she could have hoped for.

Being in public, around other people should have put her on edge.  She should have been nervous about being spotted, but that fear sat further back in her mind.  Being in public put Loki on his best behaviour and kept him out of her space.  Darcy knew that somehow, he was keeping them from being seen, but she didn’t know how.  Nor did she know how strong or effective the new magic he was using would be.  While she appreciated not having blood smeared all over her, that had at least felt tangible and real.  The way even Loki behaved, Darcy couldn’t help but feel like this new magic was weaker somehow.  Like they could still be seen if they drew attention to themselves.  And it should have terrified Darcy.  Instead, she was glad that it meant Loki wasn’t grabbing her and pulling her around.  He wasn’t going to grope her or leave marks on her skin the way he did when they were alone.

She liked this Loki better.

As they ate, a man walked into the café and seemed to zero right in for them.  Darcy froze, having no idea who he was, or whether they should be running as he walked up to their table.  She looked up at Loki, wondering if his magic had failed, and wanting to ask how they’d been seen.  She wondered if he’d even been bothering to hide them at all.

“New Mexico?” he asked, even those two words heavily accented.

Loki looked at the man, something harsh and critical in his gaze.  “Yes,” he said after a moment.

“Good,” said the man.  In a welcome change of pace, he spoke English, and seemed willing to do so.  “I was sent to fetch you.  There’s time, but not much.”

Darcy nodded, still watching Loki carefully, and stuffed some fries in her mouth.  “Where are we going next?”

“There’s a boat in the harbour,” the man said.  “We’re getting on it and going to Reykjavík.”

Reykjavík, Darcy knew, though it took her a few seconds to catch up through his accent.  She watched Loki for any kind of reaction, vaguely remembering seeing Iceland nearby on the map when she went searching for Tórshavn.  But apparently it wasn’t close enough, because all Loki did was nod.

“I guess that means we’re getting close,” she said, feeling a giddy tightness build in her chest.  It wasn’t a good feeling.  It meant her life was that much closer to effectively being over.

“SHIELD knows you’re here,” said the man.  “Or, they know you were.  Two people matching your descriptions took a flight from Nuuk to Raufarhöfn yesterday.”

Whatever roy-var-howf was, Darcy wasn’t sure how close it was to Reykjavík.  For all she knew, it was the name of the airport itself.

“Isn’t that going to put them one step ahead of us?” Darcy asked, casting a nervous glance to Loki.

“It would, if you were going to Raufarhöfn,” said the man.

“They know where we’re going anyway,” Loki said, sharply reminding Darcy how she’d told everyone they’d crossed paths with where they were going.  “Perhaps we’d benefit from lagging behind.  Let them think they missed us, and slip through in their confusion.”

Darcy nodded.  “Right,” she said.

She quickly finished her meal, no longer hungry, but not wanting to waste a scrap of it.  Once she was done, she pulled the cash from her pocket and counted it again before handing it across the table to Loki.

“Go pay, and see if you can use the rest to get anything we can take with,” she said.  “Might as well spend it now, because it’s no good where we’re going.”

Loki hesitated for a moment, and Darcy couldn’t shake the feeling he didn’t like being told what to do.  But he nodded and took the cash as he got up.  She watched him walk up to the counter, and then flashed a weak smile to the guy standing over her.

“So what’s your name?” she asked.

“Kristján,” he said.  “Which one are you?”

“I’m Darcy.  That one’s Loki.”  She pointed to where he spoke to the woman who had acted as their waitress.

Kristján turned to look at him as well.  “They say he fell out of the sky.  Came from space?”

Darcy nodded.  “He did.  We’re trying to get him home.”

“Unfortunate name,” he said.

Darcy almost laughed.  “He’s an unfortunate guy.”

Loki returned with a paper bag, handing it off to Darcy.  Inside, she found a few spring rolls and buns and a couple of bottles of something that resembled Sunny-D.  It wasn’t quite what she’d had in mind, but it would work.  She closed the bag back up and stood, ready to face the next part of their trip.  A boat, she could handle.  Boats didn’t fall out of the sky.

Kristján led them along a road, and down a path to another part of the harbour where a few bright red boats were waiting.  They weren’t the giant monsters she was expecting, ready to sail across the open Atlantic, but fishing boats rigged up with nets and scary-looking machinery.  They still weren’t small, but for some reason, Darcy had expected something much, much bigger.

“How are you on the water?” Kristján asked as they approached the larger of the fleet.

“Uh.  Well.  Last time we took a boat somewhere, I almost drowned.  Don’t let that happen, and we’ll be good,” Darcy said.

“It’s going to be a rough ride.  Stay inside, and you should be fine,” Kristján said.

Darcy nodded, and took his help onto the boat.  Even moored, it rocked gently on the water, but it wasn’t an aeroplane, and that made it automatically better.  Once Loki was on as well, Kristján led them into a part of the boat that reminded Darcy more of an RV than anything, with old panelling on the walls and a little table tucked against the wall, with benches on either side.  She assumed it meant they were in for a quick ride, and somewhat less eager to get to the end of the line, she slid into one of the benches.  Rather than sitting opposite her, as he did at the restaurant, Loki sat next to her, trapping her against the wall.  She knew she should probably resist, but she didn’t have the energy to keep fighting him.  Instead, she put their snacks on the table in front of her and leaned against the wall to look out the window at the sea.  Loki’s hand fell on her thigh, and she didn’t have the energy to resist that either.  She doubted he’d try anything with other people so close, and tried to just relax.  If she could manage to relax, she might be able to think.  And if she could think, she might be able to figure out her escape plan.

She spotted three other people, including Kristján on the boat as everyone got ready to cast off.  She figured they’d probably crewed up to make it look like a normal trip, to avoid looking like they were sneaking a couple of fugitives across the border.  She wondered if everyone on board knew what was going on, and whether they’d all get in trouble if they were caught.

It didn’t take long before they were unmoored and heading out to the water.  The seas didn’t seem as rough as Darcy had come to expect, even as they left the harbour.  But they were still in a fjord, dodging around big chunks of ice that floated loose in the currents.  Darcy wondered what would happen if they hit one.  Tired, despite a full night’s sleep before, Darcy leaned against the window and watched the white hills across the water glide past, trying not to think of frigid water just inches away.

Beside her, Loki shifted his weight a bit.  His hand disappeared from her thigh and moved to pull her close to him instead.  She let it happen, not wanting to deal with what might happen if she resisted.  He was becoming a familiar weight at her side, something sturdy and real to rest against when nothing else made sense.  And she knew she’d have to get used to him.  She didn’t want to.  She didn’t want anything to do with him.  But she didn’t have a choice unless some miracle escape plan presented itself, so she’d just have to make the best of it.  And when she kept him happy and didn’t argue or fight back, he was almost sweet.  He could almost make her think he actually cared.  If she could keep him happy with her, she thought she could almost get used to him.

Not for the first time, she wondered what would happen if he did get her pregnant.  If he only suddenly cared because he thought he had.  If he’d get mean again when he realised it didn’t work that way.  She wondered how he might treat a child; if he’d be just as cruel to his own kids as he was to her.  Darcy knew that people like him didn’t change for the sake of their children.  If anything, she worried he’d become even worse somehow.

But he wasn’t being his usual awful self as held onto her in a tiny galley on a boat heading toward the open sea.  In fact, he’d been suspiciously pleasant ever since they got off the train, and Darcy couldn’t even begin to puzzle out why.  Except, she knew why, which made it all the more confusing.  He was being nice so she’d forget how horrible he was.  And then she’d get used to it, and she’d say or do the wrong thing again, and that mean, cruel Loki would come out and remind her how he wanted her to behave.  He didn’t want a queen.  He wanted someone he could boss and bully around, and she was letting it happen, because it was easier than what happened when she resisted.

Darcy sighed as she watched the same endless landscape drift past, knowing that this was the best her life was ever going to get going forward.  There was no getting better.  But as long as she could placate and stay out of the way, she could at least hope for relative peace.

“What’s your plan after we get to Elfheim?” she asked quietly.

Loki took a deep breath, and Darcy wondered if there was a plan.

“I have allies there,” he said.  “Some who owe me favours.  I should be able to raise a small army with the right words.”

It still wasn’t what Darcy wanted to hear.  She wondered if maybe he’d calm down on raising an army once he had everything behind him, and had the chance to cool down a bit.

“I mean.  Me,” she said, forcing the words out.  “Us, I guess.”

She looked up at Loki, hating the satisfied smirk that played on his face. 

“We’ll wed, of course,” he said.  “And when our son is born, it will be a time for great celebration.”

Darcy regretted asking.  She felt sick just at the thought, and looked back the window again.  And yet, she couldn’t seem to keep the words from falling out of her mouth.

“What if that doesn’t happen?” she asked.

Loki held her tighter, in what she was certain he thought was something reassuring.  “Let’s not worry about things that won’t happen,” he said.

He sounded so certain about it, and she wanted to scream.  Instead, she bit her lip and held back from asking another question she didn’t want to hear answered.

« || »

How to Train Your Norse Trickster God #59

Darcy was glad Loki had taken control of their situation.  She didn’t have the energy, mental or physical, to deal with it anymore.  He’d picked up enough along their way to know what he was supposed to do, and what the right questions to ask were.  It let Darcy hang back a bit, not having to worry about saying the wrong thing or accidentally giving them away again.  It let her just exist, going along for the ride without the stress of feeling like she had to orchestrate the entire thing on her own.  It gave her a chance to just breathe.  When they were picked up by someone else who either didn’t speak English, or didn’t want to, Loki carried on a conversation with him as if wasn’t at all an unusual thing to do.  Loki spoke in the man’s language, and Darcy wondered if Loki was able to deliberately keep her from understanding what was said.  He didn’t trust her, and she knew exactly how she’d lost that trust that was so vital to her survival.  And if Loki was keeping new information from her, she knew exactly why.  Without knowing what was being discussed, Darcy could only hang back and watch, hoping she wasn’t being sabotaged somehow.  She knew this must have been how Loki had felt when she was running the show, listening to her tell every person along the way where they were going and why.  And she knew this too was deliberate.

As they finally got into the man’s car, Loki pointed to Darcy as he spoke, and she could hear something in his tone shift.  The guy turned in his seat to look at both of them for a moment, and then nodded, saying something quickly that almost sounded like some sort of affirmative statement.  She watched as he shifted and pulled his wallet out, handing Loki what looked like a few hundred dollars, or whatever their money was called.

Loki pocketed the cash and sat back in the seat next to Darcy, saying some other quick thing to their driver.

“For provisions,” Loki said quietly as he got settled.

Darcy nodded, realising he must have asked about getting them fed.  Somehow, just that was enough to make her feel a little better.

Her mood was short-lived though.  As soon as they turned back onto the main road, Darcy realised they were heading back to the airport.  She whined quietly to herself, entirely unprepared for another long flight in an ancient tin can. 

“You’ll be fine,” Loki said, with an edge to his voice like he was beginning to lose his patience.

The drive to the tiny little building was quick, barely giving Darcy time to psych herself up to get back in the air.  When they stopped, Loki nudged her out of the car, forcing her back out into the cold.  He spent another few moments speaking to their driver before guiding her inside the terminal, where another pilot was waiting.  Seeing him, Darcy completely froze up again.

“I can’t,” she said, feeling more sad and pathetic than she had the day before.

Without a word, Loki picked her up, taking all other options away from her.  They walked across the small terminal out to the tarmac, toward a waiting Cessna.  Darcy didn’t even want to look at it.  She was glad she didn’t have to walk to it, because she knew she’d never make it.

“She’s not overly fond of air travel,” Loki said to the pilot, sounding almost apologetic.

“Is she going to be okay?” he asked.

“We’ve got this far,” Loki said.

Darcy was loaded onto the tiny plane and settled in a seat that was crammed into the small space as if it hadn’t belonged.  Loki was close beside her in his own seat, and for all she couldn’t stand to be near him, she was glad.  She wasn’t going to cry again.  She refused.  She let the pilot help buckle her in and situate her with a pair of chunky headphones as she fanned her face with both hands, trying to shove everything from her mind.

“Nobody has an Ambien, do they?” she asked, her voice shaky and rough.

The pilot actually laughed as he settled into his seat.  “It’s just a short hop.  We’ll barely be in the air before we have to land again.”

Darcy tried to believe him.  She wanted to believe him.  She didn’t believe him.  If it was going to be that short of a flight, why weren’t they driving instead?  She hated that her only comfort in all of this was Loki, and she hated how willingly he offered it.  It all tangled up in her stomach like a twisted knot, making her sick and dizzy on top of everything else.

There were no arm rests on the small seats, and when the plane started moving, Darcy flailed for anything her hands could grab.  What she found was Loki’s hand, and she held tight, refusing to let go as they picked up speed and climbed into the air with a feeling entirely unlike the larger planes.  She felt like at any moment, the wrong breeze might catch them and send them tumbling into the icy water below.  As they flew over the water, Darcy realised why they weren’t driving.  They were over the fjords, and all the tiny, jagged little islands that lived there.  They climbed higher and higher over the water, finally levelling out as they came over land again.  Darcy glanced over to Loki, who seemed more interested in what was going on below them, than anything going on in the plane.  But this was probably some cheap novelty to him.  She wondered what kinds of crazy space ships he’d been in, and how many other planets he’d visited.  She’d seen that freaky light tunnel Thor travelled through, and her stomach did a flip at the thought of it.

But the pilot also was not wrong.  It was only a few minutes before they began descending again, and when Darcy felt the plane start to dip out of the sky, she couldn’t stop the yelp that came out of her.

“It’s okay.  We’re just starting our approach at Qaqortoq,” he said.

Darcy nodded, barely understanding what he’d said.  She glanced at Loki again, and this time he was looking back at her, concern and curiosity both playing across his face.  Darcy tried to breathe and keep calm, but the tiny plane didn’t feel like it was making an approach.  It felt like it was falling.  She’d thought the other guys’ rickety old war planes were spooky, but they apparently had nothing on the death-defying sensation of an ultralight.

A consequence of the Cessna was that its small, enclosed space made it easy to see out the windows.  And she couldn’t see an airport.  Instead, they were coming toward a flat sheet of ice that could only be frozen water.  Darcy braced against her seat as they fell out of the sky, screaming when tyres met ice and the plane bounced back into the air again.  They touched down a second time, the entire plane bouncing and juttering around as it slowly rolled to a stop.

“We’re fine,” Loki said, irritatingly calm for what had just happened.

“Please tell me this is the last one,” she said.

Somehow, deep in her stomach, she knew it wouldn’t be.  She finally let go of Loki’s hand to free herself from the seat, unbuckling her belt and putting her headset back where it belonged.  As soon as the door was open, she escaped the small space, struggling to keep her footing on the ice, looking around for the direction back to solid ground, where she belonged.

“You’ll meet someone on that road,” the pilot said, pointing across the snow and ice toward a cluster of brightly-coloured houses.  “They’ll take you where you’re going next.”

Darcy nodded, unable to find her words.  When Loki put his hand on her back to guide her forward, Darcy barely noticed.  It was one more thing that had become normal.  They walked as quickly as safety would allow across the ice, Darcy holding onto Loki for balance.  He seemed used to this, and somehow that wasn’t surprising at all.  But it was at least a short walk, and they quickly neared the edge of the lake, finding an idling SUV waiting for them at the side of the road.  As the driver’s window rolled down, Loki took over, talking to the man in yet another language.  Listening to them figuring out what was going on together, Darcy wondered how far Loki’s ability to pretend to speak languages went.  After a moment, they seemed to come to an agreement, and electric doors unlocked with a heavy clunk.  The two of them got into the back seat, and when Loki got a bit too close into her space, Darcy realised she was almost glad for it.  She held onto his arm, using him to try to ground herself and regain her wits now they were back to something more familiar.

They drove through narrow, winding roads past brightly-painted houses, making their way downhill toward the sea.  It wasn’t a long drive at all, but in the cold, and with all the branching streets, they never would have found it on their own.  Their ride dropped them off at a small port, next to a large, red building.  After a few more moments of cryptic conversation, the driver pointed to the building.  Loki nodded and got out of the car first, waiting for Darcy to follow.

“Come along.  Inside,” he said, settling their bag over his shoulder.

Darcy nodded, following him toward a door that opened up to a flight of stairs.  At the top of the landing, Loki led them through a door, and to the last thing Darcy expected to find on some frozen Nordic island.

“It’s a fucking Thai restaurant,” Darcy said, looking around the cosy little space.

She didn’t think her stomach could handle Thai after everything she’d been through, but was hungry enough to risk it.  With few other options available, Darcy picked an empty table and sat down.  As Loki settled on the other side of the table, Darcy leaned forward to make sure nobody would overhear them.

“We don’t throw things here,” she said.

Loki looked up at her, giving her a critical gaze before nodding.  She nodded back, trusting he wouldn’t cause a scene and get them noticed.  A moment later, a young woman dropped off a pair of menus and disappeared again.  Darcy picked hers up, finding herself immediately put off by the pictures.  They didn’t even look bad, but the way her stomach did another flip, she knew Thai was out of the question.  While Loki studied the menu with plain confusion, Darcy flipped through it until she found a kid’s menu toward the back.  She couldn’t read the details, but luckily most of the headlines were in English.  It was mostly French fries in different contexts, one of which came with a mystery fish.  She didn’t know what 85.00kr meant, or whether it was dirt cheap or going to bankrupt them, but aside from whatever nukket kylling was she didn’t have many other options that were unlikely to make her ill.

She glanced up to see Loki frowning at his own menu, and realised that even though he probably could read it, it was full of context he completely lacked.

“You’ll probably like that one,” she said, pointing to an item that she knew was mainly fried beef strips.  “It might be spicy though.  I don’t know if you like that.”

She had no idea what people from outer space ate, or if Loki would bite into something with spice and think it was trying to attack or poison him.  Hoping he wouldn’t make a scene, Darcy flipped her menu over to find the drinks.  As she realised she could get coffee for what might be the last time ever, the waitress returned with her pad out.  Rather than making Loki figure out what to do for himself, Darcy opened her menu back up and pointed at the one she wanted, holding it out for the waitress to see.

“And coffee, please,” she said slowly.

The waitress nodded and took the order down before turning to Loki.  Rather than pointing like a tourist, he spoke to her, ordering with words, and apparently asking questions.  Apparently he got the answers he wanted, and the waitress wrote something down and disappeared again, taking the menus with her.

“How much money do we have?” Darcy asked quietly.

Loki pulled the cash he’d been given from his pocket and handed it to Darcy.  He had 500 of whatever the hell he’d been given, which seemed like a lot, which make Darcy think it was hardly anything at all.  Nodding, she slipped it into her own pocket and waited for her coffee.

« || »

How to Train Your Norse Trickster God #58

Their room was small and only had one bed, but Darcy didn’t care.  For a fleeting moment, she considered trying to sleep on the sofa, but she didn’t want to sleep on the sofa.  She wanted to sleep in a bed.  She took off her coat and dropped it onto the room’s single chair as she walked across the small space.  She sat down on the edge of the bed, taking entirely too long to just breathe.  She needed to take off her shoes, but taking off her shoes felt like effort, so she just sat and stared at the floor.

A moment later, Loki sat beside her, too close and all up in her space.  She looked up to find him watching her carefully, like he wasn’t sure what he was going to do.

Darcy wasn’t even sure what she was going to do.

“How’s your…” Darcy said, reaching out without thinking about what she was doing.

Loki tilted his head, letting her card through his hair to see how well he’d healed.  Somehow, she was completely unsurprised to find no evidence at all of what had been done to him.  Everything had seemed clumsy and rushed when Darcy had seen it all fresh, but somehow it didn’t even scar.  Whether it was his magic, or just part of being a space alien, she had no idea.  She remembered the beating Thor had got up and walked away from, and wondered exactly what it would take to cause someone like them any permanent damage.

“How does it work?” she said, folding her hands together in her lap.  “All of it.”

Loki made a face like he was contemplating her question, and then shook his head.  “It depends on which part of ‘all of it’ you mean,” he said.

Darcy wasn’t sure what else she expected.  Without knowing why, she took Loki’s hand and turned it over, expecting to see a mess of cuts and scars where he’d cut himself open to smear his own blood on everything.

“If I’d done that to my hand, I’d probably be fucked up for the rest of my life,” she said, letting him go.

Loki looked down at his hands, pressing his thumb against his palm where he’d cut himself.  “An Asgardian can have his heart removed, and replaced again once the body is cold, and he would still get up and walk away,” he said.

Darcy thought he sounded almost bitter and resentful, though she couldn’t figure out if she was imagining it or not.

“You’re not really speaking English, are you?” she asked, wanting to find something slightly less gruesome to talk about.  “How come I can understand you?”

“Because it’s the language you expect to hear,” Loki said.  “I don’t know what your language sounds like.  To me, you and everyone else on your realm sound Asgardian.”

She’d heard what Asgardian sounded like, and wondered what it would sound like in her own voice.  Unsure how to get out of the uncomfortable corner she’d backed herself into, she finally bent to take off her shoes, tossing them carelessly onto the ground.  As she tossed the second one down, she felt Loki’s hand on her back again, an all-too familiar weight that would not leave.  A moment later, he kissed her neck, and Darcy realised she was too tired to do a single thing about it.  But he stopped there and got up instead, moving across the small room to turn out the lights.  When he returned to the bed, she could feel him arranging the blankets, but still she sat almost motionless at the edge of the bed, too tired to even move to lie down.  When Loki tugged her back, she let it happen, moving only as much as necessary to get comfortable under the blankets as well.  When he pulled her close, she didn’t fight it either.  But instead of wrapping himself around her to trap her next to him, he changed up the script.  He lay on his back, and guided Darcy so her head rested on his shoulder, with her arm draped over his chest.

It was entirely too intimate and too soft, and Darcy could not be bothered to care.  Whether she was still tired from whatever Loki had done to her on the plane, or from the stress of the whole thing, she didn’t even care.  She closed her eyes, trying to ignore the delicate circles Loki’s fingers traced on her back, and the way his fingers toyed with hers.  In almost no time at all, her exhaustion won out, and she fell asleep sharing too much space with a man she wanted nothing to do with.

Darcy woke slowly, taking a long moment to realise she was alone in bed for what felt like the first time since Loki fell out of the sky.  She had slept through the entire night, and could see the first traces of morning light through the window, where Loki stood, watching something she couldn’t see.  She didn’t want to catch his attention, enjoying having the extra space for once.  At some point, he’d stripped down to just his pants, and without his shirt Darcy could see that he had completely healed everywhere.  Even in the dim light, it was obvious that nothing was left.  Not even the smallest marks had been left behind.  She wondered if that’s what they’d been testing when they were torturing him.  She’d only caught snatches of the leaked documents, and even then knew they were still likely full of spin, entirely without consideration for Loki’s experience under their knife.  Clinical language and detached perspective to make everyone involved feel more like they were dissecting a frog, and less like they’d been torturing a person.

“What all did they do to you?” she asked, regretting the words as they left her mouth.

Loki turned to face her, staying where he was by the window.

“You mean aside from treating me like a laboratory experiment?” Loki asked.

Darcy sat up, not sure what else to do.  “Yeah,” she said.  “Were you awake?”

She’d made a mistake in asking, and she could see it plainly on Loki’s face.  This wasn’t a conversation he wanted to have, and she’d gone and opened her mouth about it anyway.  It wasn’t a conversation she wanted to have either, but at the same time she had to know.

“Yes,” he said after a moment.  “The first time.  And the time after that.  And each time after that.”

Darcy looked away, too frightened to face the wrath on Loki’s face as he spoke.  She couldn’t fault him for being furious and wanting revenge.  But she didn’t want it directed at her.

“That’s why I wanted to help you,” Darcy said.  “Because they didn’t do that before.  To… any of the others.  But you were the first one they caught.  And they thought they could get away with it, because they always get away with it.”

She dared to look back up at Loki, unsurprised to see the anger and rage still written across not just his face, but his entire body.  But he hadn’t moved from the window either, keeping a safe distance between them.

“The drug they gave you.  They call it the Cure,” Darcy said, looking down so she didn’t have to see the look on his face.  “It wasn’t meant for aliens with magic powers though.  It was meant for humans.  Mutants.  Enhanced.  Whatever you want to call them.  When I was a little girl, there was a campaign to start rounding them all up and taking away everything that made them special.  That’s why these people are helping us.  This isn’t their first rodeo.”

She fussed with the hem of the blanket as she spoke, picking her nails at the seam along the edge.

“And what about you?” Loki asked.  “Is this your first rodeo?”

Darcy took a deep breath.  “I’ve done some hacktivism and a few protests.  But nothing like this before.  And now…” She trailed off, not wanting to give voice to the thing that had been worrying her.

When Loki stepped over and sat beside her, Darcy flinched away.  But instead of grabbing her, or hitting her like she expected, Loki turned a softer expression to her.

“And now what?” he asked.

She dared to look up at him, struggling to maintain what remained of her resolve.

“And now there’s nothing for me to go back to.  I can’t go back home,” she said, shaking her head.  “SHIELD.  They’ll follow me until the day I die.  They’re not going to just forgive and forget that I helped their new toy escape.  They’re bad people.”

She sniffed, resisting the urge to cry in front of him again.  He already knew how isolated and hopeless she was, but he didn’t need to see exactly how much it hurt.  She almost lost it completely when he wrapped his arm around her shoulders and pulled her close against his bare chest.  It was one more thing that was too intimate for comfort, and yet comfort she craved all the same.

“I told you,” he said, his voice unnervingly soft.  “Stay with me, and I’ll keep you safe.  I owe you a great debt, and mean to see it repaid.”

Darcy held her tongue against the words she wanted to say.  She wanted to ask if he intended to repay her for everything he’d done to her as well.  But she was sure he did, and she was sure she wouldn’t like his idea of repayment.

She wondered if the same things went through Thor’s mind when he was being all lovey with Jane.  If it was some fucked up alien thing, or if Loki was just the one who was fucked up.  Thor had only been around for a few days.  Those first few days with Loki had been scary, but he hadn’t been cruel or violent with her then.  She wondered if Thor would have turned cruel and violent if given enough time. 

Darcy pulled away, and was surprised when Loki let her.

“Are you going to take me to Elfheim?” she asked, still not wanting to know the answer.

“That is the intent,” Loki said.  “As you said, you’ve nowhere else to go.”

Hearing him say it hit Darcy like a ton of bricks to the chest.  The last bit of her resolve crumbled, and before she could stop herself, she started sobbing into her hands, loud and ugly and unable to stop.  Again, Loki pulled her close, petting her on her back as she cried against him.  He kissed her on the forehead, and Darcy wanted so badly for it to actually mean something.

“I’ll take you with me and make you my queen, and give you everything you’ve ever wanted and more,” he said. 

His words did nothing to bring her comfort, and she cried all the harder for it.  Being his queen, tied to him forever was no better than being locked in a concrete box for the rest of her life.  And yet, as he held her, he was soft and gentle, and spoke with such care in his voice that Darcy couldn’t help but believe him on some level.  But he couldn’t give her everything she wanted, because what she wanted was to go home, as if none of this had ever happened.

She cried until she couldn’t anymore, and still didn’t want to stop.  As she sobbed he held her, running gentle hands down her back and whispering his quiet assurances that did nothing to help.  She felt disgusting for it, having broken down so completely in front of him twice in as many days.  Having let him seen exactly how far he had dragged her down.  She wanted to believe him and to take the comfort he offered, and felt even worse for it.

This wasn’t how things were supposed to go.  She was going to let him get better and send him on his way, never to see him again.  Now, she was stuck in a tiny hotel room with him in Fuckoff Nowhere, Greenland, where other people probably stayed on gorgeous, once in a lifetime vacations.  It made her all the more jealous and bitter for what she’d lost because she’d tried to be kind.

As she finally began to wind down, Loki moved his hand to the side of her face, tilting her head up so she looked at him.

“Once we’re away from this place, you’ll feel better,” he said.  “You’re exhausted and starving, and it’s made you unwell.”

Darcy nodded and wiped her eyes.  He was right.  She’d slept, but sleep didn’t cure stress.  They hadn’t eaten anything since their breakfast the day before, and had no means of getting anything where they were at.  Darcy realised she had a headache, and whether it was from crying or from hunger, she had no idea.

“Put yourself together.  Our ride should be here soon,” Loki said.

He kissed her again on the forehead and got up to take his own advice, finding the shirt he’d been wearing the day before and putting it on.  Darcy looked at what she was wearing, and decided it was fine.  She put her shoes on instead, and waited to be told what to do next.

« || »

How to Train Your Norse Trickster God #57

Darcy never once looked out the window. She tried to bury herself in her book, but every single time the plane rocked or dipped in the air, she felt her soul leave her body for a moment. Loki barely said anything on the entire trip, offering only quiet assurances and false promises Darcy knew he couldn’t deliver. She didn’t know why he was being so nice to her, and wanted to scream at him to stop, but she was too terrified to do anything but make herself as small as possible. The ancient aeroplane didn’t have anything resembling climate control installed, and Darcy understood why she was given a coat. She huddled deep into it, while Loki barely seemed to notice the chill as they sped over endless fields of ice.

Ken said something about a tailwind, whatever that meant, and then they were heading down again. Landing was no less terrifying than taking off, and Darcy endured all of it with her eyes closed. She yelped loudly as the tyres bounced off the tarmac, and then they were on the ground again, rolling instead of flying. Once they were stopped and Ken got up to let them out, Darcy wasted no time in unbuckling her belt and getting to her feet. She rushed to the back, past the crates and canvas bags piled up along either wall, and barely waited to be helped down onto the ground. As her she found her footing, Darcy realised she was trembling, and she could not stop.

“You did good,” Ken said.

He looked up as Loki landed on the ground next to her. Immediately, his hand was under her coat and on her back, and for the moment, Darcy let him be there. She let him stroke long trails along her back as she struggled to catch her breath right there on the tarmac. For a moment, she could forget who he was, and take the small amount of comfort he offered while she struggled to compose herself.

“Are you all right, miss?” Ken asked.

Darcy wiped her eyes and nodded, unable to find her voice.

“Well, that’s the end of that,” Loki said, like he thought he was being comforting.

Instead of doing anything about it, Darcy looked around at the snowy landscape around them. She had no idea where they were, or where they were going, or what lay ahead. When she spotted another man walking toward them, she was almost glad to get going again. She tried to catch her breath and offered the man a weak smile as he approached them.

“You the ones in a hurry?” he asked.

Darcy nodded, but Loki spoke before she could.

“We are,” he said. “I presume you’re taking us where we need to go next.”

The new man nodded. “Right this way,” he said, already turning around.

Darcy turned to give Ken a weak smile. “Thank you. Again,” she said.

“Good luck. Both of you,” Ken said.

Nodding, Darcy turned to follow their new guide. There were all sorts of trucks and snow mobiles on the other side of the tall fence blocking off the runway, but Darcy quickly realised they weren’t heading to the other side of the fence. They were going to the other end of the runway, toward another ancient-looking aeroplane.

“Oh my god, fuck no,” she said, struggling to keep her knees from buckling beneath her.

She stopped in her tracks, leaning heavily against Loki as he stopped behind her. If it had been one long fight, it might have been easier. But getting off a plane, just to be told to get onto another was too much. She covered her face with both hands and tried to keep herself from launching into all out hysterics, but wasn’t sure how long she could last.

“Come on,” Loki said, nudging her forward.

Darcy shook her head, wanting more time. More time to compose herself. More time to accept what was ahead. But Loki didn’t give her more time. He picked her up and carried her across the tarmac, and in that moment, Darcy lost her hold on everything. She had resisted crying in front of Loki after everything he’d done to her. But now, faced with another rickety flight on an ancient, war-era aeroplane, she cried into her hands as Loki held her in his arms.

“We’ve not had a break for days,” Loki said over her. “She’s exhausted. We both are.”

“I bet,” said the new pilot. “You came from Arizona or something, didn’t you?”

“New Mexico,” Loki said. “Whatever that is.”

Darcy was loaded onto the plane like cargo, and taken to an empty seat. Unlike Ken’s plane, this one hadn’t been stripped for mail and cargo, though. It had all its seats still intact, and Loki picked a row over the centre of the wings. As Darcy gained control of herself, Loki settled in next to her, once again taking the window seat for himself.

“Take this off,” he said, tugging on her enormous coat.

Barely thinking, Darcy did as she was told and took off the coat. Loki moved it aside as Darcy buckled herself in, her hands still shaking. One more flight. After everything, it was the thought of one more flight that had pushed her over the edge. She had no idea where they were, or where they were going, or how they even intended to get there. Tórshavn was on an island, she remembered. Maybe this would be the last bit of travel before they got there. Maybe when they landed, they’d be in Tórshavn and this would all be over.

“Where are we going now?” she asked, her voice still shaky and cracked.

“Greenland,” the pilot said as he got ready up front. “About four hours away.”

Tórshavn was not on Greenland. It was on some other island she’d never heard of. Instead of thanking the man, Darcy covered her face again and tried very hard not to cry. A moment later, Loki draped her coat over her like a blanket, letting him pull her closer against his side. Instead of fighting it, Darcy let it happen. When the plane began to taxi, she held onto him, burying her face against his shoulder and praying he’d take her with him if anything happened and he had to pull his disappearing act again.

Nothing happened. They made it into the air, and were once again flying into the unknown, over what she imagined to be endless miles and miles of open sea and ice. As they climbed ever higher, the plane dipped and rocked in the wind, each time drawing a little squeak from Darcy.

“You should sleep,” Loki said, reaching up to brush Darcy’s hair from her face.

Darcy almost laughed. “Yeah, right,” she said.

Loki stroked her head in a way that was almost comforting. “You’ll feel better for it.”

She could tell Loki was doing something to her. She wanted to tell him to stop. She wanted to shove him away and get as far away from him as possible. Then the plane rocked again, and she held on tighter. Whatever Loki was doing to her, she let him do it, knowing she couldn’t fight it if she tried. Somehow, she did manage to fall asleep, despite the noise from the engines and the plane’s precarious position in the air. She didn’t wake again until the plane jolted at touchdown, sending a bolt of shock straight through her.

“You’re all right. We’ve just landed,” Loki said, still holding onto her as she rested against his side.

Darcy nodded and sat up, wondering where they were. She slowly worked on freeing herself from her seatbelt as the plane rolled to a stop, and leaned over to look out the window, utterly unsurprised to find more snow and desolation. The sun had set, plunging the snow and desolation into darkness, and giving Darcy an odd sense of hope. Hope because she knew they weren’t likely to be going anywhere in the dark. She had a little bit of a reprieve, at least until morning.

She managed to walk off the plane under her own power and stepped out onto the tarmac without waiting for help. Wherever they were, it was cold and a wind had kicked up, so she huddled back into her coat, grateful it had been given to her. The pyjamas she still wore left her lower half a bit too cold for comfort, but at least it was something.

“We all good?” the pilot asked as he closed up his plane.

“Yeah,” Darcy said weakly, still not entirely feeling better from their ordeal.

“I don’t suppose you know who we’re meeting next?” Loki asked, looking around the dark airport.

“No, but they’re probably inside,” the pilot said, pointing at the tiny little terminal.

With a hand on Darcy’s back, Loki nudged her toward the building. Her legs still felt shaky beneath her as she walked, numb to everything else around them. As they stepped inside the quiet little building, they found a woman sitting in a seat, reading a magazine. Spotting no one else in the building, Darcy gathered up the initiative to approach her.

“Hi,” she said, assuming the woman wasn’t a SHIELD agent who had somehow beat them to the middle of absolutely nowhere.

The woman looked up, studying them with a serious expression Darcy didn’t like the look of. After a moment, she nodded and stood up.

“This way,” she said, her voice heavily accented.

Darcy looked up at Loki nervously, and having no other options, followed after the woman.

“Where are we going next?” Darcy asked as they walked across the small building to a door on the opposite side.

The door opened to a small lot on the base of a hill, where a pickup truck and a small car sat.

“Hotel,” the woman said, leading them to the car.

She said something else Darcy didn’t understand, and which she assumed wasn’t directed at either of them. When Loki responded, it was in the same language. The two spoke briefly, until they reached the car, and they were let into the back seat.

“When did you learn that language?” Darcy asked quietly as they got settled.

“The same time I learned yours,” Loki said.

“Oh.”

Darcy didn’t know what that meant, but she realised she had no idea how Loki had even learned English in the first place. Thor spoke it too, she realised. And all his friends. And they certainly wouldn’t have had time to have learned it naturally.

They started driving down the bumpy road, another trip to an unknown location. As they drove, Darcy realised exactly how sick and exhausted she felt from their trip from Canada. The drive wasn’t long, and soon they turned of the road toward a long, red building. Once they parked, the woman turned to speak to Loki, and handed him an envelope that seemed all too familiar. A moment later, Loki got out of the car, and Darcy followed.

“Thank you,” she said as she stepped out into the small lot.

“Yes,” the woman said.

She wasted no time in pulling away, leaving the two of them once again alone. A familiar dread built up inside Darcy’s chest as she looked at what was apparently a hotel. It was a dread mixed up with exhaustion and fatigue and anxiety from the rest of the day, and she simply did not have the energy to even think about it. The last thing she’d eaten was a few carrots and whatever the weird fries were they’d had for breakfast, and somehow Darcy didn’t expect to find anything to eat at whatever dark hour they’d found themselves in. Sighing, she headed toward the hotel, wanting nothing more than to go back to bed.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God #56

The three of them crammed together in the tiny cab of the pickup truck for a drive that took them even further into the unknown. The coat Darcy had been given was about four sizes too big and practically buried her, but it meant that she didn’t have to actually touch either of the men she was sandwiched between. They drove in silence as they left the small town behind, travelling into Canada’s frozen wilderness once again. As they went, Darcy wondered if she’d ever see a proper city again. All she knew was their final destination, some unknown town in some island nation she’d never head of until Loki had barged into her life.

The road started to curve slightly, nearly doubling back on itself before long. Darcy wondered what hidden hazards lie beneath the snow just out of view, and why the road needed to curve on ground that was almost perfectly flat. Then they took another turn, this one sharp and unexpected, and Darcy caught a glimpse of a sign that heralded their next leg.

“Wait, we’re getting on a plane?” she asked, twisting in her seat to try to see the sign as it disappeared behind them. “Nobody told me about a plane.”

Loki turned to look as well, but there was nothing to see but frozen tundra.

“Yeah,” said their driver. “He flies mail and other deliveries around.”

“We’re getting on a mail plane?”

Somehow, that was even worse. Darcy pulled her huge coat around her, sinking into it and trying to disappear completely. When she caught Loki staring at her, she could only shake her head. There wasn’t enough time or words to explain to him that she’d driven across the country to New Mexico in the first place, because the hassle of it was preferable to getting on a plane. She didn’t have the vocabulary to explain that the plane they were about to get in had likely not seen many significant improvements or changes since the dawn of aviation; that they’d be travelling in the equivalent of taking a golf cart on the freeway.

They were at the airport before Darcy even had the chance to come to terms with going to one, and as they drove around the small parking lot, she realised it was only going to get worse. It was barely an airport at all. A few small planes sat out on the tarmac, next to a tiny little building that Darcy supposed was meant to be the terminal. As they parked the truck, another man approached them. Their driver rolled down his window, letting the other man lean inside.

“Have any trouble?” he asked.

Their driver shook his head. “None at all,” he said. He pointed over his shoulder at Darcy and Loki. “Picked them up and came straight here.”

The older man nodded. “Good. Let’s get going before that changes.”

Darcy nodded and nudged at Loki to get out of the truck. Loki took their bag as they stepped out onto the pavement, but if he had any reservations about what they were about to do, he didn’t show it. Darcy followed after him, already trembling even as her feet touched the ground. Taking a deep breath and burying herself in her coat as much as possible, she turned toward their driver.

“Thank you,” she said. “Good luck.”

“You too,” he said.

He didn’t wait a moment longer before dropping it into gear and getting out of there, leaving Darcy and Loki with the next in a long line of people who knew more about where they were going than they were. Darcy watched him go, and then turned to face the inevitable.

“So you’re a pilot?” she asked as they started to walk toward the terminal.

“For twenty years,” he said. “Name’s Ken.”

Darcy tried to smile, but her stomach was already tied into knots. She barely even noticed when Loki put his hand on her back again as they walked.

“I’m Darcy. He’s Loki,” she said, saying anything she could to distract herself. It wasn’t working.

Ken led them through the small terminal, in one door and almost immediately out another to the airstrip.

“He the one they’re after?” he asked.

“Yeah,” said Darcy. She nodded and looked up at Loki.

Ken hummed. “I always thought they’d be little green men,” he said.

“The little green men are from a different planet entirely,” Loki said, looking around the tarmac at the planes and various utility and emergency vehicles parked on it.

While Ken laughed, Darcy couldn’t find the nerve to find anything about their situation funny. She’d have rather been shoved in someone’s back seat to drive another thousand miles than do what they were about to do. When Ken led them to his plane, she was glad it wasn’t a tiny little Cessna at least. But it wasn’t the sort of aeroplane that filled her with hope, either. It was still small, painted white with red stripes down the windows, and had a shape that looked straight out of WWII.

The plane sat on the tarmac at a steep angle, with its nose pointed toward the sky and its hatch seemingly too high to get into without stairs. Instead, Ken opened a rear hatch, and helped Darcy climb inside first.

Most of the seats had been removed, making room for the cargo Ken apparently flew all over Canada. Toward the front, there were two rows of the old airliner seats behind the open cockpit, with two connected seats on each side of the aisle. Wishing she were anywhere else, Darcy walked up the steep slope to the seats, taking one in the front row and sitting in the aisle so she wouldn’t have to see out the window. Moments later, Loki joined her, taking the window seat right beside her, rather than letting her have a little bit of space. She glanced over at him, wondering how he remained so calm and quiet when he had no idea what was going on around him. Then she realised he was calm and quite because he had no idea what was going on around him, and didn’t know they were sitting in an antique.

“What’s your role in all this?” Ken asked as he climbed into the cockpit.

Conversation was good. Darcy could be distracted by conversation.

“I found him,” she said. “Did you see the pictures?”

“Some of them,” Ken said. “Enough to know I didn’t need to see the rest.”

Darcy put her seatbelt on, trying to secure it around her enormous coat. “His people are like, crazy advanced,” she said. She gave up, and put the belt under her coat instead. “When I found him, he was all kinds of messed up. Didn’t understand a word I said to him. It took him about a day to learn English.”

“No shit,” Ken said. He fiddled with a bunch of things in the cockpit, presumably getting the plane ready to fly. “You’ve been with him since he landed?”

“Well. Since he escaped. SHIELD caught him first,” Darcy said. “I was there, in New Mexico. A lot happened that they’re not talking about, and a lot of what they’re talking about didn’t really happen.”

Ken snorted. “That sounds about right for those spooks.” He turned around to face both of them. “This is going to be a long flight. We’re heading over the bay, so keep your seat belts on. Your seats float, but honestly, if we go down in the bay, keeping your head above water is the least of your problems.”

That feeling of distraction evaporated immediately. “Great,” Darcy said, sinking into her seat.

She nudged Loki, making sure he put his own belt on as Ken turned back round again to do whatever he needed to do in the cockpit. She watched silently as he harnessed himself in and put on a headset, signalling that they were ready to go. A moment later, the plane roared to life, and nothing else in the world mattered. Darcy’s entire body tensed up as she threw herself back into her seat, her hands darting out for anything to grab. While her right found the arm-rest, she noticed a moment too late that her left had found Loki’s hand. She looked over at him, wondering what scared her more.

“Oh, please don’t let us die,” she said quietly, unsure if she was talking to Ken, or Loki, or God.

When the plane started moving, Darcy closed her eyes. She thought she could feel the engine outside their window rattling around like it was going to fall off, and all she could think about was the prop flying off and crashing through the cabin toward them. She could feel the moment they left the tarmac, defying physics and gravity and sanity as they climbed into the air, tilting further and further back with each moment. If anyone spoke to her, Darcy didn’t hear it. The roar of the engines, and the pounding of her own heart in her ears drowned everything else out.

Then the plane started banking to the left, pushing Darcy against Loki’s side. She tried to pull away, but when it felt for a moment as if all of the air had disappeared beneath the plane’s wings, Darcy leaned into him instead, burying her face in his shoulder. She could feel him shifting beside her, forcing his arm between them. Then, the arm-rest between them was gone, and Loki pulled her closer, wrapping his arm tightly around her shoulders. She hated it, but could not force herself to try to move away. Darcy stayed pressed against his side, eyes closed to the world until the plane started to level out, and it no longer felt like they were moving. Slowly, inch by inch, she started to relax. When she tried to sit back in her seat, she was surprised that Loki let her go. She looked up at the cockpit, trying to dry her eyes with the back of her hands, and not look out any of the windows at the sky beyond.

“All right back there?” Ken asked over his shoulder.

“No,” Darcy admitted. “Not to be a little kid, but how long until we get there?”

Loki took her hand again, drawing her attention away. She hated him for it. She hated that she didn’t want to let go.

“About four and a half hours,” Ken said. “I’m dropping you off at Iqaluit. Your ride should be there to meet you at the air strip.”

Darcy took a deep breath and nodded. “Where’s that? Still in Canada?” she asked.

“Yep, still in Canada,” Ken said.

Darcy wondered when they would be getting out of Canada, but didn’t figure Ken would know anything beyond his part.

The plane rocked again, and all the air left Darcy’s lungs with a force like she’d been punched.

“You’re all right,” Loki said quietly.

Darcy shook her head. “Easy for you to say. You’re from outer space,” she said, rubbing her eyes with her free hand.

“Nothing’s going to happen,” Loki said.

Darcy looked at him, utterly unconvinced. “Can you promise that?” she asked.

He didn’t answer, which was enough of an answer in itself. Still, she nodded and tried not to count the minutes until they landed back on solid ground.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God #55

Darcy woke before the sun rose, which was becoming an irritatingly common occurrence. Less common was the realisation that she’d been allowed to sleep through the night. She didn’t feel like she’d moved an inch all night, and Loki was still entirely too close to her, one arm over her waist while his breath ghosted over her neck. Her back ached from being on her side, but it was better than what could have been. She’d take the stiff back and the feeling of being lightly crushed over anything else Loki could have done to her.

There was a clock on the table on the other side of the landing, and when she twisted, Darcy was just able to see the time, barely past five in the morning. Trying to move at all burned and sparked the beginnings of a headache, but she held onto that, knowing it meant she had been allowed to sleep unbothered. She tried to slip away, but Loki’s grip on her tightened, pulling her closer to his body.

“Let me up, please,” she said.

She waited in a moment that hung forever while Loki decided on what to do. He dragged his hand over her belly, and then rolled over, letting her go. Darcy wasted no time in getting up to lock herself in the bathroom, where she stayed for far longer than she needed to.

When she finally dared to venture out to the rest of the suite, she found Loki had already got up and wandered away again. She was half tempted to fall back into bed again, but her back and hips were so stiff her body almost physically rejected the idea. Instead, she headed down the stairs to the main room, finding Loki already fiddling with the TV. Watching him mess with the remote, Darcy wondered what other hidden pieces of knowledge he’d picked up along the way.

Darcy considered finding some breakfast, but she was still too tired and too on edge to deal with it. Instead, she folded herself into the chair, keeping as much distance between her and Loki as she could manage without making it obvious.

“We might want to have breakfast soon,” she said, pausing halfway through to yawn. “They told us to be up early, but didn’t say how early.”

“Where next?” Loki asked, not looking away from the TV, and the reality show about buying a house.

“I don’t know,” Darcy said.

“How long until we reach Tórshavn?” Loki asked.

Darcy shook her head. “I don’t know that either,” she said. “It’s a big planet. We’re still in Canada.”

“How can you be sure?” Loki asked. Darcy could hear him straining to keep his patience.

“Because the flags outside all had giant, red maple leaves on them,” Darcy said. “When we start seeing another flag, we’re in another country.”

Loki seemed to accept this answer. He nodded and sat back into his seat, apparently content to wait until it was time to go. He didn’t stay on any one channel for long as he flipped through, cycling through mostly news and reality TV. Darcy watched him flip through channels until she thought she was going to go insane, and got up to make them breakfast before it was time to leave. The only other thing in the fridge was the vegetable tray, and all that was left in the freezer was a bag of something that looked like French fries, but also really didn’t. Not knowing where their next meal would come from, Darcy pulled both out. She pulled the plastic film off the vegetable tray and pulled out a few carrots for herself, setting them aside. She took the rest back out to the front room and handed it to Loki.

“Here,” she said. “Probably better than anything you’ve had all week. Might help you feel better.”

Loki took the plastic tray and frowned at it, making Darcy wonder what vegetables on Asgard looked like. But whatever reservations Loki had faded quickly, and he started eating as she returned to the kitchen to figure out what had been left for them. She opened the bag, and found something that was almost definitely fries, but also two more plastic pouches full of what might have been gravy and chunks of cheese. Entirely unconvinced, she tried to find the instructions for what to do with it. It had oven instructions, which seemed like it might take too long, and microwave instructions, which seemed like it might come out gross. Erring on the side of caution, Darcy leaned over to start figuring out the microwave.

It turned out, “early” meant something entirely different to people who hadn’t been dragged all over hell and creation. Darcy had time to make their weird breakfast, and eat it, and clean the kitchen, and the bathroom, and tidy up around the bed, and still the sun had not risen, nor anyone come to fetch them. Out of options, she sat back down and tried not to go insane from constant channel flipping.

“The idea is to find something and stick with it,” Darcy said.

“You actually enjoy this?” Loki asked, stopping randomly.

Darcy shook her head. “I don’t even know what this is.”

More reality TV, by the looks of it. But at least she wasn’t being tortured by the constant flipping of channels from one thing to the next. Without that to occupy him, Loki began to grow restless as well. Darcy watched him get up to peer out the window as the first traces of dawn began to reflect off the endless blanket of snow. Apparently not seeing what he wanted to, Loki began exploring around the small suite, opening up cupboards and fiddling with whatever he found in drawers. Eventually, he disappeared upstairs again to mess with whatever he could find up there, giving Darcy space she didn’t think he’d ever allow her. With the distance between them, Darcy almost thought she could relax. She let herself get lost in bad reality TV, not really understanding what was wrong with the kitchen that was being remodelled, but watching all the same.

She’d barely had the chance to start enjoying herself when someone knocked on the door so loudly, she thought she might jump out of her skin. Darcy turned around in her seat to look at the door as Loki quickly dashed back down the stairs. He threw a harsh glare at her as he reached the landing, and Darcy shook her head. She stayed where she was and watched Loki walk to the door, moving carefully and utterly without sound. He reached the door and placed a hand against it, leaning as though he were listening to whoever was on the other side. A moment later, Loki fussed with the locks, taking a moment to figure them out before throwing the door open.

“Woah!” the guy on the other side said, taking an audible step back.

Darcy cautiously peered around the chair to see a younger man in a heavy coat standing in the hall.

“I’m supposed to give you a ride,” he said, not taking his eyes off Loki.

Loki looked back at Darcy, accusation still in his eyes even as she nodded.

“Put your shoes on,” Darcy said, getting up. She picked up their bag from the floor beside her and stood to wait just outside of grabbing distance from the door.

She didn’t know if this guy was SHIELD, or if he was there to help. He didn’t look like SHIELD, and she didn’t think they could have followed them up already, if the train only ran every few days. But they were SHIELD. They didn’t need the train. As soon as they’d figured out Loki and Darcy were on it, they could have found their own way up. For all Darcy knew, there was a helicopter waiting outside to whisk them away.

“Just a minute,” she said nervously, pulling the bag more tightly over her shoulder.

If something went wrong, she wondered if Loki would protect both of them, or if he’d cut his losses and run. She wondered if he’d leave her behind to fend for herself with whatever torments SHIELD could throw here way.

She dared to turn to watch him finish getting ready, slipping into the hoodie she was pretty sure he didn’t actually need. But it was good camouflage. Or, it had been, before they’d come so far north, Darcy wondered if it stayed frozen all year round. Now, he stood out as not belonging at all, entirely too under dressed for the weather. She looked at her own clothes, equally inappropriate for the cold, but her only option. She’d just have to hope that their next leg of their journey would come with a heater.

Put together, Loki was beside Darcy once more, his hand on her back as he led her toward the door. Darcy tried to squirm away from his touch, but he was on her like glue, matching her every movement as they walked into the hall.

“That all you got?” their latest guide asked, looking at Darcy with open concern.

She nodded. “We started in New Mexico,” she said.

The guy nodded back. “I have a spare coat in the truck. You’ll need it.”

Taking a deep breath, Darcy started following him out toward the lobby, already dreading whatever was coming next.

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