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Category: How to Train Your Norse Trickster God

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 frightented, 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.

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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 ardulously 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God | #54

Loki dozed and napped through the afternoon. Those moments were the easiest. He slept quietly, his weight resting against her without actively holding her down. But he never seemed to completely let himself fall asleep. Every time he woke, he seemed determined to make sure she knew. He would start to trace little lines and circles on her leg through her pyjamas, and for the moment, it seemed like all he was interested in doing. There were no boundaries for him to push anymore, because he’d crossed them all. But as much as Darcy wanted to remove him from her lap, she didn’t dare. As soon as she tried, she knew he’d remind her who was in charge. And it wasn’t her. Loki was in charge. Loki, who was bigger and stronger than her in ways she hadn’t ever thought were possible before letting him into her space. Loki, who could do things to her she couldn’t even imagine.

So she let him rest his head in her lap, and touch her with his hands if he kept him happy.

But as the sun began to set, Darcy needed to get up. She hadn’t eaten since the train, and sitting down with his weight on top of her for so long was beginning to make her hips hurt. If nothing else, she needed to get up and move around.

“Are you hungry?” she asked.

“Do you know how to prepare food?” Loki asked.

Darcy wanted to scream. Somehow, she resisted the urge. “Yes, I know how to cook. It’s not hard,” she said.

Darcy was surprised when Loki sat up. She watched him stretch his back, wincing at something popping loudly, no doubt from all the time he’d spent lying down. Eager to put distance between them, Darcy got up and headed toward the small little kitchen to see what else had been left for them. There were a few small plates and bowls, and a single saucepan and frying pan in a cupboard, which would have to do. Taking the saucepan, Darcy put it onto the stove and turned to fetch one of the bags from the freezer. One of them was some sort of not-so-instant pasta, and being the most recognisable thing in there, Darcy grabbed it. The instructions called for items the kitchen lacked, but she figured she could improvise.

Even the simple task of trying to cook frozen pasta was enough of a distraction from everything else. She upended the entire bag into the pan and poked the frozen lump with a spoon, understanding suddenly why it wanted a lid. But there was no lid, so she’d have to babysit it, poking and stirring to make sure it cooked evenly, without being frozen on one side and burnt on the other.

As she poked and prodded what would eventually become their dinner, Loki had managed to sneak up behind her. She hadn’t heard him get up, or noticed him walk across the room until his arms were around her waist. He leaned his body against hers, watching over her shoulder as she froze up completely, momentarily forgetting all about her task at the stove.

“Not now. It’ll burn,” she said.

Loki pressed his mouth against the side of her neck in a way that wasn’t entirely a kiss, but was still entirely too close for comfort. Taking a deep breath, Darcy tried to ignore him as she brought her attention back to the stove.

“What is it?” Loki asked. His breath was hot on her skin as he stayed in her space, unmoving.

“Really lame pasta,” Darcy said stiffly. “It’s probably not going to be very good, but it’s what we’ve got.”

Loki stayed where he was as Darcy tried to coax the lame pasta into becoming edible. Remarkably, he kept his hands to himself aside from holding onto her as he did. Pressed against him, Darcy was acutely aware of how much bigger than her he was; how easily he could decide to change the entire situation if he wanted. But he stayed still and let her cook, for a given value of the word, and she let him stay where he was. Being stuck up against him took all her concentration to just remain calm, but she knew what would happen if she tried to fight him.

She’d always thought she’d be the sort of person who would fight back no matter what; that she’d kick and scream and bite and scratch until she won. She hadn’t done any of that. And she wasn’t doing it now. Even as Loki pressed a kiss against her neck in earnest, Darcy bit her lip and let it happen. She knew what he was trying to do, and she wasn’t going to let it work. He didn’t get to suddenly be the good guy. He didn’t suddenly get to be tender and gentle, like he was her boyfriend. And yet, it was exactly what she was letting him do. Because telling him no would make him mean again, and at least when he was pretending to be nice it didn’t leave marks and make her scream.

He only backed off when Darcy needed to start moving around the kitchen to fetch the small bowls from the shelf, and forks from the drawer. She set everything out onto the counter, and then picked out a carrot from the pan and ate it to make sure it was hot enough to be properly cooked. Aside from not wanting to eat half-frozen food, Darcy wasn’t sure they’d be able to survive getting sick from whatever nasty bugs lived inside frozen food. But it it was hot enough to be cooked, but not so hot that it burnt her mouth, so she considered it good. She divided the pasta into both bowls, avoiding looking at Loki as she handed him his.

There was a small dining table between the kitchen and the sofa, but Darcy took her bowl over to the big leather chair instead, hoping it might afford her a little bit of space. She was almost disappointed it didn’t recline, so she tucked her feet up under her instead. When Loki took the entire sofa to herself, Darcy finally felt like she might be able to breathe. Neither of them said anything as they ate and watched terrible reality TV, because there was nothing to be said. Instead, Darcy focused on eating bland pasta that tasted vaguely of soap, and tried not to think about what would come after.

When she finished eating, Darcy couldn’t tell if she was still hungry, or just tired from losing any semblance of a schedule in her life. She had no idea when she’d get to sleep all night again, in a proper bed without someone taking up all of her space. A tiny voice in her head told her it would never happen again. Another one told her she’d get all the solitude she wanted once SHIELD caught up with her.

Pushing it all from her mind, Darcy got to her feet and picked up Loki’s bowl where he’d left it on the table. He seemed like he’d gone back to sleep again, but Darcy didn’t hang around long enough to find out. She took everything back to the sink to clean up, utterly unsurprised when the noise of it woke Loki back up and dragged him back to the kitchen after her, heralded by the sound of the TV turning off. This time, he at least stayed back, watching her clean up as he leaned against the fridge. He may not have been touching her, but somehow it wasn’t any better knowing he was just a few feet away.

She turned to find him waiting for her, his expression completely unreadable. Darcy tried to ignore him and walk past to head to the sofa, but he caught her by the arm instead and pulled her close. For just a moment, Darcy resisted before remembering Loki’s warnings against fighting him. She expected him to trap her with his body, pinning her against the fridge, or even the floor, and was surprised when instead his hand moved from her arm to her back.

“Bed,” he said.

Darcy realised he had probably exhausted himself again, hiding them both as they travelled from the train to the hotel, and tried not to let any nervous little sounds escape from her throat. She let herself be led to the stairs instead, and then up toward the only bed in the room. The kitchen light had been left on, letting an orange glow creep up the stairs, just bright enough to see by.

She stalled at the bed, not even able to force herself to sit down on it. She watched as Loki got comfortable, and then let him pull her down next to him. Darcy closed her eyes against the small amount of light, so she didn’t have to see what came next, and was surprised when it never happened. She dared to roll over onto her side, putting her back toward Loki, and was not surprised when he cosied up close, pulling one arm around her. But his hands didn’t wander, and he didn’t try anything with his mouth, and Darcy hated how much she was grateful for it. There was a time just a few days earlier when she would have fought against even this, but Loki holding onto her while he slept was the least horrible thing he could possibly do to her, so she took it.

And somehow, even despite the light from the kitchen bouncing up the stairs, Darcy managed to fall asleep too.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God | #53

The station was even more remote and foreboding than Darcy had expected it to be. The train stopped at a tiny, squat little building in the middle of an endless plain covered in snow. As they stepped onto the cracked concrete platform along with the few other passengers who had taken the train all the way to the end, Loki’s hand fell to Darcy’s waist. She braced against him squeezing hard, or digging his nails in, but it never happened.

Loki had his tricks that kept them hidden from view, unnoticed but not completely unseen, and it seemed to be working as they walked into the small station. Inside was warm and bright, with cheery posters on the wall welcoming them to Churchill. Darcy had expected to find someone there to meet them, but the lobby was empty save the lone clerk behind the desk. Instead of attracting attention, Darcy turned to see if their next guide was hiding somewhere else in the building. But instead of their guide, she found a small museum, full of taxidermied bears and caribou, and little displays about the people who lived there throughout history. She wished she’d had more time to enjoy it, but polar bear rugs weren’t what they were there for. She let Loki lead her away, back out toward the main lobby. Instead of waiting around for someone to find them, they stepped back outside through the door on the other side of the small lobby.

Darcy had no idea who she was looking for, but there was only one truck parked outside on the street. She looked up at Loki, and when he didn’t seem to object, Darcy walked toward the truck. As she approached, the window rolled down to reveal the driver. He was an older man who looked like he’d spent his entire life out there in the snow, and Darcy couldn’t tell if he didn’t seem happy to be there because he wasn’t happy to be there, or if that was just how his face looked.

“New Mexico?” he asked.

Darcy nodded, and the man motioned toward the back seat. Darcy opened the passenger doors to slide into the cramped bench behind the driver, glad they wouldn’t all have to be crammed up front together. Loki followed her, and she showed him which order to close the doors in so they could leave.

“Thank you,” Darcy said quietly as they got settled.

“Yep,” said the man.

He took them on a convoluted path through the small town, past buildings that were a mixture of styles, from old timber to hastily manufactured. Even as they drove, Darcy could tell that the town was small. They doubled back on their path a few times, apparently making sure to be seen everywhere. Darcy didn’t know if they’d been followed, or if there was any other way beside the train to get to the small town, but she didn’t have to ask why their driver was taking the long way to wherever they were going.

Beside her, Darcy could feel Loki getting antsy again. His grip on her knee tightened as they drove, and every attempt to get him to let go only made him squeeze even harder. Finally, they stopped outside a long, white building they’d passed a few times before. Their driver didn’t even bother pulling into a parking space. Stopped on the side of the quiet road, he turned around and handed Loki an envelope. Loki looked at it for a moment, and then passed it on to Darcy.

“Someone will be round tomorrow to fetch you,” the driver said.

Darcy nodded, and looked down at what she’d been handed while Loki struggled to open the door to get out. With some help from their driver, Loki stepped back out to the snow and impatiently pulled Darcy along with him.

“Chill out,” she said, managing to get her feet beneath her before she fell onto the pavement.

She looked at the building beside them, and back down at the envelope she’d been given.

“Thank you,” she said again, closing the man’s truck up so he could leave.

Darcy sighed as he drove away, watching him turn onto another road and disappear. Feeling lost and hopeless, she opened the envelope and found a small stack of cash and a sealed note. She opened the note, finding quick instructions on what to do with the cash. She had thought at first that the building was some sort of weird apartments, but looking at it again, she could see that it wasn’t.

It was much worse.

Having no other options, Darcy started walking toward the building’s only exterior door. She wasn’t sure what she expected to find behind the heavy steel door, but a cosy lobby with a vaulted ceiling and leather sofas wasn’t it. The front desk had a giant bear carved into its front, looking across the lobby to a big flat-screen TV mounted on the wall.

Unable to stall any longer, Darcy walked up to the desk to meet a middle-aged woman on the other side.

“Hi,” Darcy said awkwardly, passing the envelope across the desk to the clerk.

The woman took it and peered inside before nodding.

“The honeymoon suite. Of course,” she said with a plastic smile.

Darcy hated the sound of that, and only nodded. She watched the woman pick up a set of keys as she got up from her seat. As the woman walked around to the hall, Darcy glanced nervously up at Loki to make sure he wasn’t about to do anything they’d both regret. He just watched quietly as the woman stepped out of the small office to lead them to their room. Loki and Darcy followed a few steps behind, Loki’s hand again on her waist.

As they walked down the long hall, Darcy suspected that the “honeymoon suite” was code for anyone who might have overheard. A place like this didn’t seem likely to cater to the newlywed crowd. Though when the woman unlocked a door and let them into the room, it was much bigger than Darcy had expected. More like a small apartment, the door opened to a small living room with a long, leather sofa and a matching chair arranged around a table. As they stepped inside, the woman closed the door and handed the key off to Darcy.

“There are a few things in the fridge. Leave only if it’s an emergency,” the woman said, looking pointedly to both of them.

Darcy nodded. She looked up at Loki, but he didn’t seem to care one way or another. She could tell from the hard look on his face that he wanted the woman to leave.

“Be up early,” the woman said.

Darcy nodded again. “Thank you,” she said.

A moment later, the woman left, and Darcy could feel the air getting lighter around them. Loki stepped away from the door to explore their new lodgings, while Darcy walked over to drop their bag onto the sofa. She had expected the fridge to be something tiny, but instead found an entire kitchen on the other side of the wall, with a stove and everything. She opened the fridge, and didn’t find much. A sad little vegetable tray, and in the freezer a few packs of food Darcy didn’t recognise, but which seemed like they’d go in a microwave. Sighing to herself again, she closed the door and looked around, noticing that there wasn’t anything that looked like it might become a bed. Or a bathroom.

Not sure what else to do, she followed Loki up the stairs, and felt her entire world crash down around her again. The landing opened up to a small loft with a single bed, just big enough for two people. Loki had already claimed it, sprawling out and taking up as much space as possible, though he hadn’t fallen asleep just yet. Ignoring him, Darcy opened the door next to the landing, finding a full bathroom.

Without thinking, Darcy turned back toward the stairs, realising only once she’d already started making her way down that she might not be making the best decision.

“Is it okay if I take a bath?” she asked.

Loki waved his hand in a vague motion and rolled over, putting his back toward her. Assuming that meant he wouldn’t be pissed off for whatever arbitrary reason, Darcy darted down the stairs and fetched the bag, taking the whole thing with her as she returned to the bathroom as quickly as possible, before he changed his mind. The door had a lock, which Darcy latched as soon as the door was closed, knowing it wouldn’t do much to keep Loki out if he wanted in.

Like the rest of the suite, the bathroom was larger than Darcy had expected. She thought she’d find a tiny little shower stall, but there was a full bath, with nice towels and bright lights. The space itself was a bit small, but it had everything a bathroom needed to be complete. Darcy turned on the water, almost surprised to find that it ran hot, and quickly plugged the drain. As the tub filled, Darcy stripped down and got into the water, immediately closing the curtain around her. Before she even sat in the slowly rising water, the full weight of everything crashed down on her again, and the last three days overwhelmed her entirely. Each mile travelled was another day she’d never see any of her family or friends again. The only person who had any interest in keeping her safe was the same man who had held her down and said and did horrible things while she cried.

With the sound of running water to muffle her, Darcy let herself cry and sob in every way she refused to let Loki see. She cried until her throat and her chest ached, and the water threatened to spill into the overflow drain. As she turned the water off, she tried to rein herself back in, letting herself pout and sniffle until she could move again. She picked up a bar of paper-wrapped soap from the holder in the wall and unwrapped it, using one of the small, white wash cloths to scrub every inch of her body. She’d never feel clean, and she knew it. She’d been permanently marked, and nothing would remove it. The bruises on her skin were fading, but they’d still be there even after, burned into her beneath her skin for only her to know about.

She scrubbed until her skin was raw and she ran out of energy. As much as she wanted to relax after, and enjoy the sensation of a hot bath, she couldn’t. The bath itself was dirty now, and any second Loki might try to let himself in. She drained the bath and dared to step out from behind the curtain, almost surprised to find the door still shut and locked. Darcy quickly dried herself and dressed in the first clothes she found that seemed clean, but none of it was clean. None of it would ever be clean again. If she could burn it all, she would. She pulled clothes out at random, picking out a T-shirt that didn’t smell too funky, and a pair of pyjamas that were too thin to keep her warm. Darcy dressed quickly, keeping an eye on the door, expecting Loki to try to get in.

The bathroom was the only place she was completely locked off, but she couldn’t stay in there. She made sure she wasn’t about to break down all over again and unlocked the door to step back out to the rest of the room. She couldn’t tell if Loki was still asleep, so she quickly darted past the bed and down the stairs, eager to put as much distance between them as possible. As soon as she reached the sofa, she could hear Loki moving around again, and making his way down the stairs. She didn’t want him downstairs with her, but there he was. He stopped just before the bottom, watching her fiddle with with the TV remote from where she sat. There were more channels to flip through than she’d expected, but suddenly she didn’t seem to want to watch anything.

“I thought you were taking a nap,” she said.

Loki looked back up the stairs toward the bed and shook his head. “Later,” he said.

He left the stairs and made his way to the sofa, putting himself entirely too close to Darcy for comfort. She moved over as far as she could, until she was pressed up against the side, but Loki seemed only to take this as an invitation to take up more room. The sofa wasn’t big enough for him to stretch out, but he still managed to find a way to try. He put his head in Darcy’s lap and rolled onto his side so his feet weren’t as awkwardly crunched up against the other end, or hanging off completely.

“Cool. Great,” Darcy said tiredly as she resumed her channel surfing.

She tried to find a way to be comfortable in a way that kept her from touching Loki, but he had put himself in a position that made that almost impossible. Holding her arm on the back of the sofa only hurt her shoulder after too long, and Loki occupied every other space she could possibly put it. Eventually, physical comfort won out over mental comfort, and she let her arm fall onto his shoulder. She hated herself for doing it. She’d barely felt clean even after her bath, and now she already felt like she needed another one. For a brief moment, she considered getting up and moving to the chair, but as soon as she even shifted to see how much Loki was paying attention, he shifted with her. He rested her hand just above her knee, not squeezing or pressing down, but present. He was there, and she knew it. Any attempt to get up would only be met by him keeping her down with him.

She tried to ignore all of it and flipped through channels until she found something that might be able to distract her.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God | #52

As soon as Loki removed his hand from Darcy, she got up and fled to the top bunk. With even that little bit of separation between them, Darcy finally felt like she could breathe.

She wondered if this was what she had to look forward to. If Loki did intend to take her with him, wherever he was ultimately going, would he continue to never let her out of arm’s reach? Was she just going to have to get used to always being right next to him, with his hands on her body like he owned it? Or would she be allowed a little more freedom, once the risk of SHIELD and SWORD finding them went away?

Or would he keep her close so she didn’t tell someone she’d been kidnapped?

Or would a world full of elves and gods think that was a perfect normal thing to do?

She wondered if Loki intended to marry her, and her stomach did a flip at the thought of it. Something told her that Loki came from a world where a man could do whatever he wanted to his wife, without consequence. He still seemed to think she was a slave. Would Loki just continue with that assumption instead? Keep her chained up somewhere just for the purpose of trying to get a kid out of her?

A treacherous little voice in Darcy’s head asked what if. What if their biology wasn’t so different? What if he did get her pregnant, and what if it was a girl? Would he go all Henry VIII on her? Or would he just try again, as many times as it took.

Darcy tried to push those thoughts from her head. There was no way they were compatible. It didn’t work like that.

But what if he figured that out? What would he do when he realised that no amount of trying would work?

As thoughts swirled through Darcy’s mind, she tried to push them all out, telling herself again and again that it wouldn’t be like that. He’d get bored with her, and it wouldn’t be as awful as all of the scenarios in her head.

She wondered if maybe she should try to hedge her bets with SHIELD. Maybe if she was lucky, they’d take pity on her. Or maybe once Loki got back to his own planet, or realm, or whatever, Thor would come and bail her out.

But Loki wasn’t going to his own planet. He was going to some elf planet, and as far as Darcy could tell, Loki wasn’t an elf. Unless space elves were something else entirely.

She had to force herself to stop thinking, and threw all of her brain power into reading her terrible book. She’d blanked out and glossed over so much of it already that she had no idea what was going on in it, but she knew that she hated it. She held onto that hatred, powering through as a means of distraction from everything else. If she let herself think about anything at all, her thoughts would circle back to where they’d been for days, playing out the same horrible scenarios of doom and gloom and destruction. Her destruction, Earth’s destruction. It didn’t matter. In the end, it might as well have all been the same.

Loki left her alone for the rest of the night as they sped onward ever north toward whatever awaited them at the end of the line. As the sun began to rise again, Darcy became acutely aware of the way that being locked in a box for two days without a clock had seriously messed with her ability to judge time. She’d never been so far north before, and in the middle of winter she had no idea if the sun rising meant that it was breakfast time, or time to start thinking about getting off the train. Too antsy and anxious to sit it out, Darcy slipped down from her bunk, careful not to wake Loki where he’d passed out again on the bunk below her. As quietly as she could, Darcy picked up their trash from the last two days of plastic-wrapped meals, but all she could find in the tiny cabin were cubbies for luggage. If there was meant to be a bin, she couldn’t find it. Instead, she piled the trash up onto the table that covered the sink, hoping to remember to gather it up again when they left.

There were crumbs everywhere, and Darcy didn’t even want to think about what the poor attendants were going to find on the bottom bunk. She was half tempted to find a pen and leave a note for the sheets to all be burned. But as soon as the thought crossed her mind, Darcy realised Loki wouldn’t allow it. Even something as innocuous as that, he’d probably see it as some sort of defiance or disobedience.

She was sick of sitting in a bed. After two days of it, Darcy wanted to move around properly. She’d even settle for sitting down in a chair. But she knew as soon as she touched the door, Loki would be awake, and his hands would be on her, and that would be the end of that. Instead, she paced nervously around the cabin, staying as far from the bunks as she could, just in case Loki woke up enough to want to pull her down with him again. When pacing around didn’t do anything to ease her mind, Darcy peered out the window at the frozen landscape that seemed to go on forever. Under any other circumstance, it might have been beautiful. But trapped in a train cabin with her captor mere inches away, all Darcy could see was miles and miles of isolation. A visual metaphor for what lay ahead of her no matter what happened when they stepped off the train.

Shuffling behind her told Darcy that Loki was awake before he felt the need to announce anything to her. Even feeling better, he didn’t seem to have a whole lot to say to her unless it reprimand or chastise her for something though. She was his insurance, and little more.

Darcy turned to watch him figure himself out, shuffling around the tangled bedding while he searched for something. Whatever he was looking for, it didn’t seem to be there, and when he gave up and looked at her, Darcy tried to take a step back. Instead of putting distance between them, she found only cold perspex and hard wall behind her.

“Good morning,” she said.

Loki frowned and grumbled. “How much longer until we got off this accursed thing?” he asked.

Darcy found it difficult to disagree with his sentiment.

“I don’t know. A few hours maybe?” she said. “I don’t know what time it is.”

Loki grumbled again and hauled himself from the bunk, tossing the blanket aside as he got to his feet. Without another word, he slipped out of the cabin, leaving Darcy once again alone. She didn’t want to look at the bed, for fear of what she might see. Instead, she turned away to look out the window again, and wondered if she might see a polar bear.

She wanted to try to put the bunks away and get the chairs set back up, but Darcy knew she wouldn’t be able to manage the top one on her own, and didn’t want to even touch the bottom one. She thought about climbing back up into her bunk, but every muscle in her body rebelled at the idea. She’d spent so much time in beds already. And when she wasn’t in a bed, she was sitting down.

Nobody had ever told her that being on the run would be so sedentary.

This time, Loki did not leave her alone for quite as long. He returned to the cabin, looking just as grumpy as ever, with more snacks from wherever he kept getting them.

“Did you find out when we’re getting there?” Darcy asked.

Loki stepped close, invading her space to look out the window. “About an hour,” he said.

Darcy held her breath and tried to shrink herself as much as possible. Loki had trapped her between the window and his own body, and with no room to run away, Darcy tried to pretend she didn’t exist at all. She knew it was some sort of deliberate action on his part, because everything he did was deliberate. He was playing with her now, reminding her once more that he was in charge. Darcy had no intention of fighting him on that. If he wanted to take charge, he could do just that. Whether or not he knew what he was doing was another matter entirely, but that was a problem to deal with when it arose.

What Darcy didn’t expect was for Loki to lean down toward her. He tilted her head up so she was forced to look at him, and then kissed her. Completely frozen, Darcy resisted the urge to fight back and let it happen. He wasn’t forcing his tongue down her throat, but it wasn’t exactly chaste either. He lingered, trying to draw her into participating, but she refused.

Finally, Loki backed away and handed her one of the same dry sandwiches he’d brought her each time before.

“We’re running low on currency,” he said, returning to his bunk and letting Darcy breathe.

“That’s fine,” Darcy said, looking down at the sandwich and trying to decide if she wanted it. “We’re probably about to leave the country pretty soon anyway. The money we have won’t be any good once we’re somewhere else.”

Loki frowned, apparently not liking that answer for some reason. But with all his talk of elves and whatnot, his world probably used something a bit more tangible as currency. If they used something like gold, Darcy would not be even a little bit surprised. But if Loki was in the habit of travelling to entirely different planets, the concept of crossing a land border and finding your money worthless was probably one more foreign concept in a very long string of them.

Darcy wanted to ask Loki about putting the beds back, but he was already settled where he was, and she didn’t want to irritate him any further. Instead, she slid down to rest against the wall as she sat on the floor, contemplating her sad little sandwich and the situation she’d found herself in.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God | #51

Loki returned with more snacks from whatever dining car he’d managed to find, and tossed Darcy another sandwich and a small cup of fruit. Other than that, he seemed content to ignore her, and let her be on the top bunk. She tried to stay content with it, to pretend he wasn’t even there in turn, but even while ignoring her, he’d made that impossible. Every time she moved or shifted wrong, a sharp pain deep inside reminded her of what had been done to her.

What she had been an increasingly willing participant in. She tried to forget that, but Loki hadn’t held her down and forced her. He’d touched her, and she’d invited him in, using his hand for her own pleasure. She’d wanted it. Her body had craved it.

Loki was clearly well enough that he’d decided to take charge of their journey, and as long as Darcy didn’t try to fight him on that, she knew he wouldn’t go out of his way to hurt her.

Just like she knew he could hurt her if he wanted to.

But he also seemed to want to keep her safe, despite taking her out of the driver’s seat. She wasn’t useful to him in that way anymore. As long as he could keep his strength, she wouldn’t be. And they had an entire second day to look forward to on the train, unbothered and isolated so Loki could get all the rest he needed. If luck was on her side, he wouldn’t need her again unless they ran into some calamity.

But he still wouldn’t let her go, and still wanted to keep her safe. And Darcy knew why. If he wanted a son, and thought he could get one from Darcy, it wasn’t her Loki was keeping safe at all. To him, she was little more than an incubator. One he could still slap around and hurt in certain ways, if she managed to piss him off again.

But as long as she stayed on his good side, he’d be gentle. As long as she didn’t fight him, he wouldn’t hurt her. As long as she let him be in charge, she’d be safe. She would let him take what he wanted, and ignore the way he made her think she wanted it too. Because as long as she did as he said, the worst he would do to her was fuck her.

If she tried to get away, the worst Loki would do to her was make it hurt when he fucked her. If she somehow did manage to get away, the best she could hope from SHIELD was being locked away in a box deep underground for the rest of her life.

At least chained to Loki, she had good odds of ever seeing the sun again.

Even after she heard him fall asleep, Darcy stayed where she was. She ate her breakfast and read her book, knowing that Loki was not sleeping as deeply as he seemed. As soon as she got up, he’d react as if she were trying to get away. If she stayed put as he’d told her to, she might even be able to get back on his good side.

Loki slept into the afternoon, and when he finally woke, he left the cabin again without a word. Darcy wanted to follow after him, but didn’t dare. She couldn’t risk being seen. And if this were some sort of test, she couldn’t risk failing. Loki would not be gentle with his next lesson.

She wished there was a clock in the cabin. She had no idea how long Loki had been gone for, but it seemed entirely too long for snack foraging. She wondered how much cash they had left, and if he’d got caught trying to get more. She wondered if he’d abandoned her after all, and somehow found a new way to get to wherever the hell it was they were going. He’d said he couldn’t teleport himself anywhere safely without knowing where he was going, but she didn’t know exactly what that meant. Did he need to know where on the map he was going? Or did he need to know precisely, down to the square inch where he was going? Would teleporting blind run the risk of putting him into a wall if he wasn’t careful?

Darcy had no idea. But he seemed reluctant enough to try that she thought it might be the latter. He said he needed an anchor, and she didn’t know what that meant either. Either way, she didn’t think he’d found his own way anywhere, without taking a risk he’d so recently refused to even entertain.

When he finally came back, Darcy was surprised to be relieved. He had more snacks and another newspaper, though neither explained why he had taken so long. As he locked the door behind him, Loki looked up at her with a sharp gaze that felt almost accusatory. It made Darcy want to disappear into her own skin.

"Where’d you go?" she asked cautiously.

"Searching for resources," Loki said. He finally tossed her another sandwich before disappearing into his own bunk.

"Find anything good?" Darcy asked.

"Obviously not."

He was a sarcastic fucker when he was feeling better. And still not able to actually get them away from SHIELD any faster. But he also wasn’t showing any interest in Darcy’s existence, which she took as a small victory.

But she couldn’t stay in her bunk forever. Before long, she had to use the toilet, and as much as she didn’t want to use the one in their cabin, she knew Loki wasn’t going to give her any choice. Carefully, she climbed down from her bunk and locked herself into the tiny closet, feeling bizarrely exposed even with the door between them. But she was left alone and able to do what needed to be done, and when she crept out to wash in the sink, Loki was still asleep. She thought she might have got away with it, but as she reached for the ladder, Loki grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her closer. Knowing she wouldn’t be able to fight it, Darcy sighed and crawled into the tiny bed beside him, settling on her side so her back was once again to his chest. His arm quickly fell over her, pinning her down with a familiar weight.

Once again trapped and out of options, Darcy closed her eyes and tried to go to sleep. The sun still shone through the window, and she wasn’t particularly tired. Every time Loki moved or shifted behind her, Darcy braced for his hands to start wandering, but he seemed well and truly asleep. She tried to pull the thin blanket over herself, but they were both lying on top of it, making it impossible to get to it properly. Her shifting and shuffling woke Loki, and she froze in place as he held her more tightly against him.

"I’m cold," she said, knowing he could hear her.

After a moment, he eased his grip on her. Rather than trying to get to the blanket they were lying on, Darcy managed to sit up just enough to reach to the bunk above, pulling her own blanket down. Her book and the plastic cup her fruit had come in fell to the floor as she freed the blanket, ignored and forgotten. Darcy pulled the blanket around her, feeling no more protected and no less exposed for it. But somehow, she began to drift off to sleep all the same, having nothing else in the world to do.

When she woke again, the cabin was dim. Sun no longer shone through the window, replaced by the reading lamp in the bunk. Loki’s hand was still on her, resting on her hip while he read over the newspaper he’d fetched earlier. It was a mockery of casual intimacy, once again something that should have felt familiar, but instead only managed to violate her mind and her senses. Darcy tried to stay still, but her body was stiff and everything ached from being stuck on her side for untold hours. She slowly sat up, unsurprised when Loki didn’t move his hand from her, instead following her motions and keeping contact between them.

"Can I please go take a shower?" she asked, imagining she could feel the dirt on her skin.

"No," Loki said. "It can wait."

"You got to take a shower," Darcy said, immediately wishing she hadn’t.

Loki glanced over at her, looking like he was close to getting angry with her all over again.

"And if you’re seen, then what?" he asked. "Or shall I exhaust myself all over again for you?"

That guilt was back, because she knew the other reason Loki was feeling better was not having to constantly use his magic to hide her as well. And the way he still wanted to spend more time asleep than awake probably meant he still wasn’t feeling great. He was just feeling well enough to take care of himself.

Darcy worried about what he’d be like when he was feeling well enough to make good on some of his other threats. She’d seen Thor out there in the desert, flying around and throwing that hammer like it was nothing. Whatever Thor was, Loki was the same thing. And he was pissed, and wouldn’t hold back. Darcy didn’t want to be sitting in a bed next to him, their bodies so close together she could feel him breathing beside her. But his hand still held onto her thigh tightly, and even through the blanket, his fingers dug into her skin. She wanted to get up and flee back to her bunk, but she didn’t dare. Instead, she looked around and found her book on the floor, close enough that she could lean down and grab it. She could feel Loki watching her as she fetched it, and ignored him as she settled back as comfortably as she could with half a flat pillow behind her.

"What’s… Elf-whatsit like?" she asked as she tried to find her place in her book.

"Alfheim," Loki corrected.

"What’s it like?" Darcy asked again.

She ignored the way Loki looked at her, like he was almost pleased about something.

"It’s full of elves. And all the things elves like."

He was obviously being obtuse to wind her up, so Darcy dropped the line of questioning. She figured she’d see for herself once they got there. Assuming he intended to take her, but if he wanted a son, Darcy thought it was a safe assumption. He wouldn’t get what he wanted from her if he left her behind.

And at least on Alfheim, Darcy assumed Loki would be entirely too distracted with his plans to take over Earth to worry about continuing the family line.

« || »

How to Train Your Norse Trickster God | #50

Darcy wasn’t sure when she managed to fall asleep, but when she woke, her entire body ached and burned. Loki’s arm was draped over her waist, but not pinning her down. She realised she could crawl out if she wanted to, but in the small bunk, she didn’t want to risk waking him up. It would be easier if she could go back to sleep, but by that point Darcy was wide awake. Too many days of catching little naps here and there where they could, followed by sleeping for most of the day once they got on the train had turned her internal clock upside down.

The light at her own bunk was still on, casting the cabin into a dim, orange glow. She couldn’t see out the window from where she was, but Darcy could tell it was dark outside as they sped across Canada. They were on top of the blanket, and though the cabin itself was relatively warm, Loki’s skin was cool where Loki was pressed against her. Darcy’s entire lower half was exposed not just to the air, but to him. She couldn’t help but feel small next to him, trapped and helpless, even if he wasn’t holding her down. She could feel his dick pressed against the side of her ass, and tried not to think about it. At least he wasn’t hard, which made it somewhat easy to ignore. His breath on the back of her neck, not so much.

Darcy had laid like this with boyfriends and lovers countless times before, both of them completely naked and hidden away under the blankets. She tried to pretend it was like that, something intimate and safe. Loki had said he would keep her safe, so long as she did as he said. She wanted to believe that. She had to believe that. If she doubted it for even a moment, she knew she’d break down all over again.

But there were only so many lies she could tell herself. And this lie of intimacy was one too far. She couldn’t ignore his words as they echoed in her mind. She couldn’t ignore what he’d done to her the night before, and what he’d made her do to him in the very bed she lay trapped in. When he’d forced himself on her and held her down as she cried, she knew exactly what was happening. But the other times, when he made her ride him, and made her think she wanted it too. Had she? Her body had reacted, and she hadn’t fought against it. She wondered if she had truly wanted it, or if Loki had somehow made her want it.

But even when he held her down, her body still seemed to want it. Then, Darcy had refused to give in. So why hadn’t she refused this time? And why hadn’t she the time before?

Behind her, Loki shifted, and for a terrifying moment Darcy braced herself for him to want to go again. She wasn’t even sure if he was awake as his hand moved against her skin. He was almost tender as he trailed a line up her stomach, stopping just at her ribs before moving back down again. She closed her eyes as he reached between her legs, stopping just short of being able to put his fingers inside her, making her blood run cold. Instead, he trailed back up again, tracing the same path along her body. She tried not to fight him, determined to let it happen to avoid anything worse. But he kept his hand outside of her, seemingly content to just touch.

She tried to relax, but it was clear he was awake again when his mouth found her neck. He was tender and gentle as he kissed her skin. Darcy wished he’d at least bite or scratch, or do something painful to help remind her that this was not a tender or gentle thing he was doing. But still, she didn’t fight him. She bit her lip and tried to stay silent even as he moved behind her, rolling his hips against hers. He was getting hard again, and she knew what came next. She wanted to tell him to get it over with, but she couldn’t find her voice to say even that much.

Each time his hand trailed between her legs, just too high to be truly vulgar, Darcy felt the smallest tinge of arousal building. She stayed still, trying to breathe evenly as Loki touched and teased and made her body want something she so desperately wanted to flee from.

Behind her, Loki shifted again, and Darcy braced herself for what came next. But instead of his dick, Loki entered her with his fingers, just enough to tease her arousal, rather than sate it. Loki rolled his hips against hers, pressing his dick against her, and encouraging her to move along with him. She tried to resist at first, but soon her body took control and she gave in, pressing herself against his fingers and trying to move them to just the right spot. Loki laughed against her skin and began moving inside her with a new ferocity, still just enough to tease even as she tried to fuck herself against his hand. Every time it felt like she was going to get close, Loki pulled away, edging her further and further toward madness.

She had no idea how long it went on. He dry fucked her from behind as Darcy was reduced to desperate noises and obscene writhing against him. When he finally let her ride out her orgasm, she bit back on a loud shout, not sure if Loki would have made it so their neighbours wouldn’t hear. Before she was even over the crest, Loki shifted again, and his dick replaced his fingers. As he fucked her from behind, Darcy moved along with him as his fingers found her clit again.

Some part of her wanted this. Even as she lay on her side hating herself for giving in, that part of her still wanted this. She told herself he had done this, using magic with his teeth and his fingers to make her want it, and maybe it was true. She came again, on his dick and with his fingers as his teeth scraped along her neck. Darcy could hear him getting desperate behind her, making the same high-pitched noises he had before as he struggled to finish. Then suddenly, he moved again and was gone. Before Darcy could even turn around, he pulled her away from the wall and put her on her stomach. Bringing her onto her knees, he was inside her again, hunched over her body with his in the cramped space of the bunk. It didn’t take long before he once again came inside her, one hand holding her down on the mattress so she couldn’t move. She realised what he had done, but knew there was nothing to be done. Darcy didn’t fight back, didn’t even try to move as he held her there, staying inside her as he panted heavily against her neck.

Her hips and shoulders began to burn from the pressure on them, and she slowly became aware of a painful burn deep inside that only seemed to grow more intense with each passing moment.

"You’re learning," Loki said. He pressed a kiss against her shoulder. "You may even make a fine queen when I’m done with you."

The full weight of what had just happened—what she had just allowed to happen—crashed down upon Darcy. She tensed beneath Loki, fighting against the urge to try to shove him off and flee. Letting it happen was easier when she knew what he would do to her otherwise, but knowing what he would do to her regardless made her hate herself for not fighting back. If she’d fought back and taken the abuse, she could at least tell herself she’d tried. But maybe more than just her physical body did want it, if all she could do was lie back and let it happen.

The thought that she had truly wanted formed a tight, painful knot in her stomach.

"I don’t want to be your queen," she said quietly.

Loki laughed, and kissed her skin again. He was a mouthy prick, in more ways than one, and it made her want to scream.

"No?" he asked. "When you birth my son, I’ll give you everything you could ever imagine."

Darcy tried to let herself fall onto the mattress to take the pressure off her hips, but Loki was fast to grab her around the hips and hold her against him. His hands were tight against her skin, pressing hard enough that she knew he would leave marks.

"Yeah. Well. That’s not going to happen," Darcy said.

She tried to pull away again, desperate to do anything she could to fight back. Loki’s grip only tightened as he pulled her entire body backwards against him, against his dick still inside her. He laughed again as he did it, and she regretted even trying. He laughed like he knew something she didn’t.

"Then perhaps we should try again," he said.

"Please no," Darcy said quickly.

She was surprised when Loki let her go, leaning back and rolling over to his side. Not caring what he would or wouldn’t allow, Darcy quickly got up from the bunk and locked herself into the tiny bathroom in their cabin. It contained only a light and a toilet, and nothing else, but Darcy had nowhere else to go. She was soaked and sticky down to her knees, and no amount of toilet paper was going to get her clean. But the alternative was asking Loki to let her shower, and she knew he wouldn’t allow it. Even if she tried to leave without his permission, she’d be spotted immediately, and someone would call SHIELD, and her life would be over.

As if her life wasn’t already over. She had been kidnapped and dragged all over the continent by an insane space alien hell-bent on getting her pregnant. There was no reality in which, whatever happened, her life was not already over.

Darcy didn’t know if the mess she was cleaning up was his or her own, but ultimately it didn’t matter. She had no idea how he had the energy when everything else had so thoroughly exhausted him. But at least there was no blood. The way her body burned and ached from her stomach to her knees, Darcy had expected to see blood. All she saw was the disgusting, sticky evidence of being repeatedly raped by the man she had tried so hard to help.

A horrible, sour little voice in her head asked how it could be rape if she hadn’t done a single thing to stop it. How could it be rape if she not only let it happen, but participated? She didn’t even have the self control to lie back and do nothing.

She wanted to puke. She had participated because it made him easier to deal with. She had participated because she had completely disassociated to make it easier. She had participated because when she fought back, he got cruel and violent. She had participated because it was the only way she had left to fight for her life. When Darcy played along with him, Loki was soft words and gentle touch. If she fought against him, she knew he would not only be cruel and violent, but that cruel violence would be the last thing she ever knew before he got bored with her and threw her to the wolves. At least when she participated, the last few days before her life was over wouldn’t be filled with terror and pain.

She had only her shirt, and didn’t want to go back out to the cabin to face Loki still exposed and naked. Unsure what else to do, she sat down and stubbornly refused to leave while her mind fought the same circular battle with itself. But she was cold and exposed and sore, and she couldn’t stay in that tiny closet forever.

At first, she thought she’d imagined the sounds on the other side of the door, but the sound of the cabin door shutting was unmistakable. Taking her chance, Darcy got up and peeked out, finding the cabin completely empty. She quickly dashed out to get dressed, tearing off her shirt to put on something else. She was out of underwear entirely, and instead put on one of the pairs of pyjamas they’d been given, tying the cord tight around her waist in the mad hope it might help to keep him out.

Darcy wanted to take her chances and find somewhere else entirely to be, but she didn’t dare so much as open the door and risk someone spotting her. Instead, she climbed up the ladder to the top bunk and hid beneath the thin blanket.

Her bunk was dry, at least. Loki could sleep in his own mess. It was the least he deserved.

He was gone for far longer than she’d expected, and when he came back his hair was wet. Darcy glared at him from her perch on her bunk, not even having to guess where he’d been.

"Can I take a shower?" she asked.

Loki looked at her for a long moment. "No," he said finally.

She watched him as he looked at the mess his bunk was in, letting a rising wave of resentment consume her. He looked better. He sounded better. Unless he’d been putting on an extended show just for her, there was clearly something to be said about "a good fuck" being part of his recovery process. For all she’d wished she’d let him fuck her back in New Mexico, Darcy suddenly wasn’t so sure. For all he seemed to want to go at it like a rabbit, she realised this was always going to happen. If she’d let him fuck her sooner, the only thing that would have changed would be the amount of times she got fucked on this stupid, awful run from the law.

"So what now?" she asked, pushing everything down deep into her chest so it would never come out again.

She moved, and it hurt. Everything hurt. She was entirely wrecked, and there was no taking anything back.

Loki looked up at her, and there was nothing kind in his gaze. He was pissed, and Darcy got the sinking feeling at least part of it was directed at her. All the soft words and gentle touch was gone, replaced once again by the man who had held her down while she cried.

"Now we wait, and hope your incessant prattling to anyone who would listen doesn’t get us killed when this thing stops," he said.

He was definitely pissed at her.

"Sorry," she said. "I thought they were helping us."

Loki made an irritated little sound and started stripping the bedding from his bunk. At first, Darcy thought he was going to call an attendant for something clean, and wondered if she was supposed to hide her face. Instead, he shook out the sheets, taking up every square inch of room in the cabin, and put those same dirty sheets right back onto the bunk. Darcy watched him, buried beneath her own blanket, not wanting to say anything that might piss him off even more. When he was done, he looked at it and nodded.

"I’m going to find breakfast," he said. "Stay put."

Darcy nodded. It was probably easier for him to hide himself than it was for him to hide her, and if he was feeling better, she didn’t want to risk that all over again. She hated herself for caring that much. She wondered how much of it truly was an act, but nothing seemed terribly out of line with anything he’d actually said. And maybe he would have got it all out of his system, and wouldn’t do anything to her unless it needed to be done.

But then, his definition of needing to be done, and hers were vastly different. And if he really did think he could get her pregnant, he might not ever stop trying until she got away from him. Her outcomes were looking more bleak by the minute. Because for all he didn’t seem to see the value in mentioning taking her with him, it certainly seemed to be his intent. Was this all she had to look forward to? She’d thought the worst he could do was kill her, but now she’d changed her mind. The worst he could do was torture her because nobody had taught him basic genetics. Through some quirk of evolution, their parts matched, but that didn’t mean much when there were literal light years between them.

Were these her choices? Be tortured for the rest of her life by Loki, or tortured for the rest of her life by SHIELD?

She didn’t know which one sounded worse.

Loki at least would usually stop when she told him what he was doing hurt. He at least occasionally pretended to be gentle. SHIELD wouldn’t do that. SHIELD had cut a man open and took parts out of him while he was awake and conscious. SHIELD had injected him with experimental chemicals, and then beat him when their experiment robbed him of his ability to speak.

SHIELD would not pretend to be nice. SHIELD would not stop when she asked them to.

Loki at least might.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God | #49

Darcy was surprised to find herself alone in her bunk when she woke. Carefully, she leaned over the side to find Loki in his own bunk below, reading a newspaper and eating a sandwich and bag of chips they hadn’t brought with them.

"Where’d you find that?" she asked.

Loki barely looked up at her. Even from where Darcy sat, awkwardly perched above him, she could tell he was tired and drained all over again. Earlier that day, he seemed like he at least had some energy back, but now he was once again looking like he could fall asleep at any moment.

"There’s a vendor nearby," he said finally.

Darcy realised he must have found the cash they still had stashed away. Or found a new source of it elsewhere on the train. She also realised that if he’d gone out looking for food, he probably had to pull another trick to hide himself as soon as he woke up. Her hopes for him feeling better enough to disappear on his own quickly started to evaporate.

"Did you get enough for two?" she asked.

Loki sighed deeply and handed her a wrapped sandwich that probably looked much better on the menu than it did all squished up inside of a heavy layer of cling film.

"Thanks," she said.

As she settled back in her bunk, Darcy glanced outside the window and found nothing but inky blackness behind the reflection of their own cabin. She had no idea how long she’d slept, but apparently long enough for the sun to have gone down since their noon departure. Somehow, she was surprised Loki had let her sleep that long.

"So," she said cautiously, trying not to spill crumbs everywhere as she unwrapped her sandwich. "What’s your plan when we get to Torshaow?" she asked.

Loki didn’t answer right away, and for a moment, Darcy thought he hadn’t heard her.

"There’s an intersection of Dragon Lines there," he said finally. "Crossing them will take me to Alfheim. I can gather strength and allies there, and when I return, burn this realm to ash."

Darcy regretted asking. "You’re still on that, huh?" she asked. "Why can’t you just go there and be glad you’re safe? SHIELD wouldn’t dare follow you."

"This realm doesn’t deserve to be spared," Loki said.

Darcy quietly bit into her sandwich, not sure what else to say. He was obviously set on destroying everything, and nothing she could possibly say would change his mind.

She also couldn’t help but notice that he spoke only of himself. A bit part of her was glad that he didn’t appear to have any intent to drag her along to another realm, or planet, or whatever it was. But it opened up that same question of what she was supposed to do next. Loki had been protecting her, in his own way. He needed her, even if he had figured out how to read and use money. Without her, he’d scare off his help, or get lost, or just start killing people until SHIELD got sick enough of him to kill him back. Darcy had no doubt Loki was more valuable to them alive, but there was some imaginary line he’d be able to cross that meant that value no longer mattered.

And without his protection, she’d be on the run forever. They’d get to Tórshavn, and then he’d disappear, and she’d have to move fast to out pace SHIELD. She’d have to run forever, because a global organisation wouldn’t have much need for things like borders and treaties to keep them out. She’d never be able to stop. Never be able to rest. She was stuck, forever on the run, until she gave up or died.

The thought left a heavy weight in her stomach that made the sandwich turn to paste in her mouth. It didn’t taste good, however good a packaged sandwich on a train could taste to begin with. It was hard to swallow and turned sour in her stomach. But she ate it anyway, because she had no idea when she’d get another chance to eat something.

She wondered if Loki did intend to take her with him, and make good on his threat to make her his queen. She wondered what would happen when Mike found the mess that had been made of his guest bed. Would he get in contact with the rest of his network of thieves and smugglers and revoke the help that waited for them when they stepped of the train? Would he turn around and turn them in to SHIELD?

Darcy realised that Loki was right. She talked too much. She told people too many details about where they were going and what they were doing. Told them too many thing about him. Nobody needed to know the entire plan, and yet Darcy had told every single person they’d crossed paths with where they needed to go. If SHIELD caught up with a single one of them, they could find themselves cut off at any point along the way. They could step off the train and into an ambush, and that would be the end of it.

"How does your magic work?" she asked suddenly, looking down at the sandwich she no longer wanted to eat.

"It depends on the magic," Loki said.

He even sounded tired. They shouldn’t have tried to leave right away. They should have found somewhere to lay low for a few weeks, so he could get his strength back. That was her fault too, she realised. They couldn’t lie low, because everyone knew where they were. Because Darcy wouldn’t stop telling people.

"There’s different kinds?" Darcy asked.

She realised she knew that, though she hadn’t noticed until he’d said so.

"A staggering number of techniques," Loki said. "More than you’d be able to comprehend."

Darcy chose to ignore the insult. "But if you keep doing it, you’re going to get sick again, right?" she asked.

Two days was a long time to have to hide in plain sight.

"Would it be easier if we, I don’t know. Found a knife or something?" she asked.

She wasn’t thrilled about the idea of getting blood smeared all over her again, but it seemed like he was able to sustain that kind of magic for much longer.

Loki sighed. "It would only catch up eventually. I can’t keep doing that either."

Two days. Two days of hiding in a tiny cabin, going unseen by every person on the train, who had all no doubt been shown their photos. A single slip, and they were both doomed.

Darcy took a deep breath and closed her eyes. "What do you need?" she asked, afraid of the answer.

Again, he didn’t answer right away, and with each passing second that he was silent, Darcy felt her chest growing tighter and tighter.

"I need rest," Loki said finally.

She’d never felt more relieved at hearing three simple words in her life.

"So rest," she said. "Turn out the lights. I’ve got one up here I can use."

Darcy turned around to flip on the light behind her, putting it on its low setting. A moment later, she could hear Loki shuffling around below her, and finally getting up to kill the light in the cabin. The angled mirrors above the tiny sink reflected her reading light a lot more than Darcy expected it to, but Loki didn’t seem to notice as he crawled back into his bunk and rolled over.

She found the book she’d been reading tangled up in the blanket, and sat back against the wall to read it as she forced down the rest of the sandwich. It still wasn’t good, and neither was the book, but they were both a distraction from the man sleeping just feet away. The gentle sway of the train as they sped across Canada to some unknown destination was almost relaxing, and for a few moments, Darcy considered trying to get back to sleep.

Instead, she read her book and enjoyed the silence, almost able to pretend she was alone. Almost, except for the looming cloud of terror that hung over her as she tried to avoid thinking about all the ways in which this was going to end poorly for her. Almost, except for Loki quietly snoring in the bunk below.

What if Loki did take her through this Dragon Line with her? What if he did decide to make her a queen? Loki was someone who was supposedly once worshipped as a god. He was thousands of years old, however much he might have behaved like a surly teenager who had never been told ‘no’ in his life. He gave her about as much respect as an ant, and to him, that’s probably what she was.

He wouldn’t want to take her with. She knew he only said those things to get into her head and make her easier to control. But she knew she’d crossed lines as well; lines she’d have to be able to avoid going forward if she wanted any chance of getting out of this alive. Loki wasn’t the only dangerous one in this game. The worst Loki could do was kill her. At least then, her problems would be over.

The worst SHIELD could do was make her suffer for a very, very long time.

Darcy wanted to get up and move around, but she didn’t dare leave the cabin. Not when she could be seen. And she didn’t want to ask Loki to work his kooky magic on her just so she could go take a walk. If either one of them were going to get out of this alive, he needed to be at the top of his game. Because when they did run into SHIELD again, it wasn’t going to be some quick little scuffle like it was last time. Coulson would be pissed. Whatever faceless spook he reported to would be pissed. She could only imagine the amount of money they’d already poured into this manhunt, and it was surely only getting more expensive by the hour.

She wanted out, but it wouldn’t be fair to Loki. And she hated that she had to be fair to him.

Instead, she climbed down from the bunk to stretch her legs by pacing around the cabin like the caged animal she’d become. She tried to be quiet, but apparently wasn’t quiet enough. Loki rolled over, and before Darcy realised what was happening, he reached out and grabbed her by the arm, pulling her close. She fought against him for a moment, but even exhausted and half-asleep, he was stronger than she was. First, she thought he only wanted her close, but he didn’t stop at close. He shifted just enough to force her onto the bed with him, holding her at an awkward angle so her back was against his chest, and her feet still on the floor.

"Wait, this hurts," she said.

He loosened his grip on her enough for her to move, and for a brief moment, she considered fleeing. But there wasn’t anywhere to flee, so she gave up and got as comfortable as she’d be able to get. Then, he was right back on top of her, holding her against the bed with his arm as he pulled her close against his body.

Two days. She had two days to spend like this. And countless more beyond that until they finally reached Tórshavn.

It didn’t take long before he started grinding up against her, but this time she let it happen. If that was all he wanted to do, then fine. If he wanted a sex toy, then she could be that if it meant he wasn’t going to hurt her again. She stared straight ahead, jaw clenched against the growing tightness in her throat, glad that the bunk was too low to let her see her own reflection in the mirror. Her face was right behind the ladder, and beyond that, the door to the tiny, private toilet. There wasn’t a lot to look at for a distraction, but she didn’t dare try to move to find something else to look at.

She hoped that he might fall back asleep, but that hope evaporated when his mouth found her neck, and his teeth bit into her skin. Not enough to hurt, but enough to let her know that he was not falling back asleep any time soon. Darcy closed her eyes and hated herself and everything around her.

"What do you want?" she asked tiredly.

"Take your pants off," Loki said in her ear.

Darcy breathed out so much, it hurt. Still keeping her eyes screwed shut, she weighed her options, and reached to unbutton her jeans. It was easier when she let it happen, and it was going to happen whether she wanted it to or not. But maybe being fucked from behind would mean that she could pretend she was somewhere else. Maybe not having to look at his face would mean she could pretend he was someone else. As she pulled off her jeans, she could feel Loki moving to do the same behind her. But he didn’t take her from behind like she’d expected. He rolled onto his back and pulled her with, forcing her on top of him. His intent was as obvious as his dick was between her legs, and Darcy couldn’t do it. She stayed still, unable to force herself to move. When Loki got impatient, she didn’t fight him as he forced her to move, shifting her body and his until he was pressing himself inside her.

She was still raw and on fire from the night before, and nearly screamed at the intrusion. When she stopped, she was surprised Loki didn’t force her down onto him anyway. Instead, he shifted to sit up a bit, changing the angle and pulling her down to meet him the rest of the way. Again, he forced his way into her mouth, and again, she didn’t fight it. He didn’t taste like sulphur this time, which wasn’t enough of a blessing to make the rest any less awful. As he kissed her, he started fucking her from below, slowly forcing his way deeper into her as he wrapped his arms around her waist, guiding her body to move against his. She let all of it happen, knowing he’d at least be gentle if she didn’t fight, however much her abused body hated the idea.

He forced her to ride him through the pain and the intrusion, moving her exactly where he wanted her. Darcy tried to let herself enjoy it; tried to make herself want it, because if she did, it might not hurt as much. When one of his hands found its way under her shirt, lifting it over her tits to expose them, the whole thing became real again. She was exposed and raw in what felt like every way possible, and the only thing she could do about it was silently let it happen. Then his mouth was on her nipple, and it was not arousing. Somehow, he had only found a wholly new way to violate her, and to take what she did not want to give.

As he bit and teased with his tongue and teeth, she felt his hand move again, trailing a path down her body until it came to her hip. He found her clit with his thumb and began teasing her there as well, rubbing and pressing against it in rhythm with her own motions. As she fucked him, she could feel herself starting to want it. She didn’t want it, even as it became easier to move on top of him. Darcy shifted her weight above him, and she hated herself for letting her body take over. She hated herself even more as she came, and little noises of pleasure escaped her lips.

But of course, he wasn’t done yet. She tried to move along with him still, hoping it would make everything end faster, but it never did. He fucked and teased and took his time from beneath her, and all Darcy could do was keep telling herself that he was from another planet, and that as long as she just did what he said, she’d come out okay. When Loki finally finished with a loud cry of his own, he stayed inside her and held his arms tight around her waist as his kisses on her neck turned gentle, and almost tender. Somehow, Darcy hated that even more.

"That was definitely a son," he said against her skin.

Darcy felt her breath catch in her chest. He couldn’t get her pregnant. It wasn’t possible.

"I don’t think it works that way," she said.

He held her down on his dick, not letting her escape to undo what he’d done. But he wasn’t human. It didn’t matter. She told herself this again and again.

Her hips burned when he finally let her go, rolling her off toward the wall, trapping her further still. Darcy tried to pull her shirt down to at least cover her chest, while behind her, Loki took his off. He pressed his entire body against her as he pinned her down with his arm, holding her so she knew he was still in charge. Darcy could only lay there quietly, hoping he might let go once he fell asleep, so she could escape to the relative safety of her own bunk.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God | #48

The cabin was even smaller than Darcy expected it to be. She’d expected two bunks, but found instead two chairs facing a small table with a mirror over it. There was barely room for both of them to stand, but unsure what else to do, Darcy sighed and sat in one of the seats.

"They fold," Loki said suddenly.

She looked up at him, startled by his non-sequitur. A moment later, she realised he was looking at an instruction sheet tacked to the door.

"When’d you learn how to read?" she asked.

Loki shrugged and turned around to inspect the cabin. He seemed positively insulted by it, but it would have to do. Still, the way he frowned at the seats told her that he wasn’t going to tolerate this situation at all. Sighing again, Darcy got up and tried to stand out of the way while he worked out how to fold the bottom bunk out from the wall. The cabin seemed even smaller for it, but Darcy had to admit that it would be much more comfortable to spend two days with her feet up than in the chair. Still, there was the small problem of space.

"Aren’t there supposed to be two?" Darcy asked.

Loki actually rolled his eyes and started fussing with the wall to unfold the top bunk. Darcy couldn’t help the small wave of relief at the small size of the bunks. She might actually get some space to herself, safely out of Loki’s reach during the trip. For a moment, she contemplated taking the bottom bunk for herself so she could see out the window, but she wasn’t sure if the top would support someone who seemed to be made out of cement.

"I guess I get the top," she said, picking up the bag to take with her.

While she climbed up the precarious little latter, Loki got settled in beneath her, immediately rolling over to take another nap. As Darcy got settled up top, she opened the bag and froze. She’d intended to grab her book out, forgetting it was in her pocket, and what she found instead was crumpled clothes with her ruined panties on top. Darcy quickly pulled them out, and not sure what to do with them, shoved them into another pocket, never to be looked at again, and started digging for her book. She began to panic as she dug deeper, unable to find it. She didn’t know why it was so important to find, but in that moment, not being able to find it was the worst thing in the world. She found the others that had been packed away, but not the one she’d already been reading. Finally, when she realised she could feel it through several layers of fabric, the biggest, most misplaced wave of relief washed over her. But when she pulled out her book, she looked at the cover and found herself completely disinterested in it. The trash romance novel had been a good distraction before, but now the whole thing felt entirely too uncomfortable. She checked the others she’d brought with, but they were all the same. Taking a deep breath, she closed the bag again and dropped it to the floor as gently as she was able.

If Loki was going to take a nap, she figured she might as well try to get some sleep as well. She’d barely slept the night before, and had been running on the bare minimum the entire trip. Maybe with two days in a tiny, private bed, she might be able to get some real sleep.

And so would Loki. She didn’t want to think about him, but he kept creeping into her brain all the same. He hadn’t got the week-long nap he’d talked about, but maybe by the time they got to wherever they were going, he’d feel well enough to leave her behind, never to see her again.

But she thought about the other thing he said. He’d used his magic on her to keep her safe and hidden. He wouldn’t have gone through all that trouble and completely exhausted himself over that for nothing. He was keeping her around for a reason, whatever that reason might have been. Even now that he’d apparently figured out how to read, he still kept her close by. There was something else he kept her close for. Something else he knew he could not do on his own.

She didn’t want to feel sorry for him. She hated that she did.

Darcy lay down on the tiny bunk, turning her back toward the cabin, and tried to close her eyes. But even though she was exhausted, she couldn’t seem to keep her eyes closed for more than a few second at a time. Even once the train started moving, and the cabin began its gentle rocking sway back and forth, it wasn’t quite enough. She could still hear Loki below her, snoring quietly. She hated how easily he could just fall back asleep, but he didn’t have as many things to worry about as she did.

He didn’t have to worry about someone forcing their way into his space, putting their hands all over him.

Except he wasn’t as asleep as she thought he was. A sudden flurry of motion beneath her startled Darcy wide awake again as Loki climbed out of the bunk. He stepped up next to the door, holding his hand over the lock and listening through the thin panel.

"What is it?" Darcy asked quietly.

"I don’t know," Loki said.

He looked around the small cabin with a frantic energy Darcy had never seen on him before. For a moment, Darcy considered getting up to help him find whatever he was looking for, but she realised whatever it was, she’d probably only get in the way.

"Damn it to hel," Loki hissed quietly.

"Were we followed?" Darcy asked. She cowered into the corner of her bunk, not sure what she’d do if the door suddenly burst open.

"No, but they’re searching for us," Loki said.

That was just as bad. Even in a private cabin, two days was a long time to go unseen.

"Get down here," Loki said, still listening through the door.

Afraid of what would happen if she argued, Darcy quietly climbed down the ladder and stood close to Loki. She looked around as well, realising he was probably looking for something sharp, but they were woefully unequipped in that area. Instead he reached out and grabbed her, pressing his thumb hard against her forehead. Darcy squealed when it hurt more than she thought it should have, blinding hot and sharp going straight through her skull. She managed to pull away and rubbed the spot where it felt like he’d burned her with his own skin. A moment later, the cabin flashed with a bright green light, and a strange man, tall and blond, stood in Loki’s place. He was someone Darcy had seen before, with a goofy little goatee straight out of a Robin Hood movie, but she couldn’t quite place him.

"Sit down," the man who wasn’t Loki said.

Darcy sat in the lower bunk, scrambling to look like she was comfortably lazy in bed. A moment later, someone knocked sharply on the other side of the door. Rather than opening it right away, Loki waited a few moments. When he opened the door, the conductor stood outside holding a printed flyer.

"Sorry to bother you. We’re looking for a couple who might be on this train. Have you seen them?" he asked.

He handed Loki the flyer, waiting patiently as he looked at it and shook his head.

"No, I’m afraid I haven’t," he said.

He handed the flyer over to Darcy as well. Following his lead, she pretended to study her own picture, and shook her head.

"Nope. Sorry," she said, trying not to seem startled when her voice wasn’t her own.

Loki took the flyer back, and passed it along to the conductor.

"Thanks," he said. "If you see anything, ring for an attendant."

Nodding, Loki watched the conductor walk away before closing the door and locking it again. As he leaned against it, looking suddenly a bit more tired than he had when they’d got on the train, Darcy sat up to look at herself in the mirror.

"Yo, what the fuck?" she asked when the woman looking back wasn’t her.

Looking at her new long, black hair, Darcy realised where she’d seen both faces. They were both in New Mexico the day that giant robot showed up. Other Asgardians who had come down from that wormhole to take Thor home. She couldn’t remember either of their names, but it hardly mattered. A moment later, the cabin filled with the same flash of green light again, and Darcy found her own reflection back in the mirror. Looking up, Loki was back to himself as well, rough around the edges all over again. As Loki climbed back into the bunk, Darcy sat up, but didn’t get very far. He pulled her back down with him, holding her tight against him.

"Can I please go to the other bunk?" Darcy asked.

She was surprised when Loki let her go. Moving quickly, before he changed his mind, Darcy scrambled back up the ladder to her own bunk, feeling more relieved than she ever expected to. The sudden spike of action had her wide awake all over again, but she lay down anyway, trying to convince herself to fall asleep.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God | #47

Darcy didn’t know what to do, so she stayed in their room until Mike came to fetch them. She made the bed, hiding the stained sheets, and sat toward the foot to read her book while Loki kept a constant watch out the window. She didn’t know what he was looking at, and didn’t particularly care as long as it kept his attention off of her. There was something different about him now; something terrifying and powerful that she didn’t want to test. As if whatever he had done to her, whatever he had taken from her, had fed into him somehow.

By the time Mike finally knocked on their door, morning had crept closer to day, with the sun high behind the clouds above. He paused at the door, staring at Darcy in a way that made her skin crawl, but she didn’t have to guess at why. She hadn’t seen for herself, but she had no doubt that Loki had left bruises. But before Mike could say anything, Loki stepped closer to pick up their bag and sling it over his shoulder. Darcy watched quietly as Mike’s attention shifted to Loki. Anything he might have wanted to say evaporated, and even from where she sat, she could tell that Mike was afraid of making any wrong steps around his terrifying houseguest. Whatever had changed in Loki, Mike could see it too.

"Train leaves in about an hour," he said instead. "We should get going."

Darcy nodded and got up, slipping her book into the front pocket of her hoodie. She thought she might trail behind, but Loki clearly wasn’t moving until she got up and left first.

"I have to pee first," she said, getting up.

She wasn’t going to ask Loki’s permission to pee. If he thought he could control that, then he’d have to deal with what came next. Luckily, he didn’t object. He only sighed and trailed close behind her on the way to the bathroom, obviously waiting outside the door. Darcy quickly closed and locked it behind her, and for the first time in entirely too long, felt like she could breathe. She didn’t have much time though, and she knew it. While she sat on the toilet, Darcy looked around for anything that might be able to help her, but aside from a toothbrush and a razor, Mike’s bathroom was woefully unequipped. She used toilet paper to try to clean herself out, but he’d got in there too deep, and she knew that it had been too long, and the potential damage was already done. Still she tried, feeling like she’d never be clean again.

The sound of a fist pounding against the other side of the door—just once, but sharp enough for the intent to be clear—startled her so badly she nearly fell over. She was out of time.

"Yep, hang on!" Darcy shouted, pulling up her pants.

She flushed and turned on the sink to scrub her hands, trying not to think about the lunacy she had found herself involved with. Taking a moment to make sure she wasn’t about to cry, Darcy caught herself in the mirror. The marks on her jaw weren’t as dark as she’d expected them to be. More red than proper bruises, but it was still clear that she had been grabbed and held down by her face. Sighing and wishing she hadn’t seen it, Darcy turned to open the door and face her demise.

"Let’s go," she said, avoiding looking up at Loki as she walked past him where he’d stood guard outside.

Mike led them back out to his car, and even though he unlocked the front passenger door, Loki herded Darcy into the back with him. She moved over to the other side, sitting against the far door with as much space between them as possible, and was glad when Loki didn’t chase her across the seat. Instead, he kept a sharp watch out the windows, wide awake and alert like she’d never seen him. And in her gut, she knew he wouldn’t have been miserable the entire trip if she had let him have his way sooner. She kept fighting him off, and for the entire trip he seemed to get worse and worse with each passing day. It wasn’t fair. Her resentment mixed with an uncomfortable guilt she didn’t know what to do with, however much she knew it might have been true. Their situation would not be what it was if she hadn’t kept rejecting him. She might not have even been in Canada at all if she’d not rejected him that first night.

She tried not to think about it as they drove in a tense silence. Mike didn’t seem to have much to say, and Loki was apparently on his own lookout mission. Darcy ignored both of them as she watched the city glide by out the window as they made their way to the train station.

They got to the giant grey stone building and parked next to a black pickup truck. Mike got out first and walked over to the truck, leaning into the driver’s window. Darcy couldn’t hear them speaking as she watched from the back seat, unsure what to expect. Finally, Mike opened the driver’s door of the car and got back in.

"Tickets," he said, handing them both back.

Darcy reached for them, but Loki snatched them out of Mike’s hand first, studying them with a critical gaze. Mike watched him for a moment, but didn’t argue.

"You’ll want to go inside. The platform and all your information should be written down." He gestured vaguely toward the tickets in Loki’s hand. "They put you in a sleeper. Less chance of being seen that way."

Darcy nodded, already dreading it. Mike was right. It was safer. But it was also a disaster waiting to happen. She’d much rather have spent the trip in coach.

But if they were in a sleeper, she wondered how long the train ride was going to be. At least overnight. She could sleep in coach for a night. But Canada was huge, and she had no idea where they were actually going from the station.

"Thanks," she said instead. "For everything."

She took a deep breath and opened her door. As she stepped out into the parking lot, Darcy looked around the city around them, all tall buildings and bare, leafless trees. They had to keep going. There was no stopping, but Darcy could not make her feet move. She knew what came next; more time in a tiny room with only Loki to keep her company.

She finally started moving when he took her by the wrist and pulled her along into the building. His stride was fast and deliberate, forcing her to move quickly to keep up.

"You’re hurting me," she said, trying to pull free of his grasp.

He didn’t let go, but he did loosen his grip. Darcy hated that she was grateful for it.

"What is this now?" he asked as they stepped inside the station.

"Another train. Like the one we took before," Darcy said. "We have a private cabin this time, so it’s probably going to be a long trip."

Loki nodded as he looked around the station. A moment later, he handed the tickets over so Darcy could figure out where they were supposed to be.

"Over…here," she said, spotting a desk with a person who might have been able to tell them where to go.

She started to walk toward the desk, but was surprised when Loki held her back. Thinking he wasn’t paying attention, she looked up at him and tried to pull him along, but something was wrong. A benefit of him feeling better was that he seemed to have more expressions on his face beyond exhausted and ill. Now, he seemed almost angry.

"We’re being followed," he said suddenly.

Darcy froze, trying to look around without seeming like she was looking around. She wondered if Loki just seemed taller because he was able to stand under his own weight, or if she was imagining it, but she realised he very much stood out in the crowd.

She also realised they hadn’t taken the time to hide themselves before they left. There wasn’t any time now, and somehow she thought Loki was hardly in the mood to start cutting himself open again.

"What do we do?" she asked.

Loki looked around, making it seem perfectly casual, like he was trying to figure out where he was meant to be.

"We need to hide," he said.

Darcy expected him to start running. Instead, he leaned toward her and pulled her into a kiss. Darcy tried to pull away, both from the shock and the taste of sulphur in her mouth, but he held her tight, not letting her move so much as an inch away. Then, he was done. He stepped back again and looked around while Darcy wiped her mouth and glared up at him. She hated everything about him in that moment, and turned to find who was following them, half tempted to give them away. But Loki pulled on her again, making tracks toward the counter.

She knew there was no escaping. Loki was in charge, and would not let her leave his side until he finished his goal. Whatever that was.

When they got to the counter, Darcy tried to put on a happy smile for the clerk.

"Hi. We’re a bit lost. Where do we go?" she asked, handing over the tickets.

The clerk glanced up at her, either not noticing the marks on her face, or being entirely too professional to give away that he had. He looked over the tickets, and then pointed toward a door at the other end of the building.

"Just over there. They’re about to call boarding pretty soon. Show the conductor your tickets, and he’ll tell you where to go," he said, handing them back.

Darcy kept her cheery smile as she took the tickets. "Thank you," she said.

She turned back to Loki and sighed as he led her toward the doors. If there was still a way out, she was running out of time to find it.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God | #46

Darcy didn’t go back to sleep. She waited until Loki started snoring again before she tried to get back up, but he was quick to roll over and pin her back down. With neither of them wearing pants, she could feel his dick pressed against her thigh, sticky from both of their fluids. She tried to pull away again, but found herself well and truly stuck. Loki pulled her even closer, holding her so tight against his own body she felt like she might suffocate.

"I want to take a bath," she said, trying to loosen his grip.

"No," Loki said, barely awake from the muffled tone of his voice.

"Please," Darcy said.

Loki didn’t answer. He held her down and went back to sleep, as if everything that had just happened was completely normal. Giving up on getting up, Darcy tried to pretend that it was; that none of it had happened at all, but the burning sting between her legs was impossible to ignore. She couldn’t shake the feeling that something had been torn, and in her mind, the wetness was as much blood as anything else.

And she knew why he wasn’t letting her go. Why he wouldn’t let her take a bath. He had said it out loud, with words from her own mouth. He wanted her pregnant. Darcy didn’t know if he’d said that to frighten her, or if he’d meant it, but the thought that it was even a possibility scared her more than anything else he’d done so far. In everything else, she’d been a passive observer, watching from the sidelines as Loki inflicted his cruelty on others around them. For the first time, she had been the target of the very worst of it. She could still feel him holding her down long after he finished, either making a point or making sure he got the job done. She didn’t know, and she didn’t care. It was all the same in the end, when it came down to it. She was stuck with him, with no way out, and apparently he was done being nice about it.

If everything before had been Loki being nice, she didn’t want to even think about what Loki being mean truly looked like. She had managed to create two versions of him; the one who killed people because it was convenient, and the one who sometimes listened when she asked him to stop. But she knew it didn’t end at being held down and raped. He talked about taking over the world, and getting revenge, and Darcy knew he could do so much worse than what he’d already done.

She lost her control, and silently started crying in the dark. She held her mouth closed, refusing to sob and wail even as her throat hitched and tears fell down her face. No matter what happened, Darcy knew she wasn’t going to be getting out of this in one piece. The best she could hope for was getting out alive. Again, she wondered what would have happened if she’d let him have his way in New Mexico. If he would have continued on his way, or if absolutely nothing would have changed.

Darcy cried until she couldn’t any longer. She tried to convince herself to go to sleep, but she could barely close her eyes. Instead, she stared up at the darkness above, waiting for time to pass. Slowly, the darkness turned just a little blue as night shifted to dawn and the early rays of sunshine began to peek through the window. Darcy had no idea what time it was, and when she looked around the room for a clock, she found none. Every inch of her body hurt, and her chest and throat burned right along with the lower parts of her.

It might not be too late. She didn’t know, but she had to try. Again, she tried to push Loki’s arm off her, and again he only held more tightly. He grumbled beside her, a sign he’d woken as well.

"Can I please go take a bath before we have to leave?" she asked, trying to stay still so he didn’t misinterpret anything.

"No," Loki said.

When he hand started wandering under the shirts she still wore, Darcy held still and let it happen. He dragged his hand over her skin in a way that would have been tender if not for what he’d already done. He traced a line between her boobs, and along the creases beneath them before trailing his hand down further. His flat palm against her stomach made Darcy’s entire body tense up as she tried to ignore it, even as he trailed ever further down toward her hips. She hoped he’d stop there, but he kept going, daring to go even further. He stroked the outer folds of her cunt, making some pleased little noise. Even though he kept his fingers on the outside, Darcy resisted crying all over again.

Then, suddenly, he pulled his hand away and sat up.

"Get dressed," he said.

She knew he was playing with her; still making a point she did not need reiterated. As soon as she was free, Darcy leapt up to find some clean pants from their bag, but all that was left were sweats and pyjamas. She finally took off her ruined panties, using them to dry herself as much as possible before she climbed back into her jeans, making sure she was completely covered before walking over to turn on the light. Loki was still half-naked, fussing around with his own pants. Closing her eyes, Darcy turned away so she didn’t have to look at him. She wasn’t sure how she was supposed to keep going. She wondered if she could send him off on his way. If he hated helping her so much, why didn’t he just leave?

Darcy waited until she heard him put on his pants before turning around to start gathering the rest of their things, but she stopped dead in her tracks when she saw the bed. There wasn’t any blood on the sheets, but what had happened was still unmistakable. She didn’t know whose mess it was that she had laid in all night, but the stain on the sheets told a very plain story all the same.

"He’s going to see that," Darcy said, staring blankly at the evidence of what he’d done to her.

"Let him," Loki said.

She wouldn’t cry again. She refused. She forced herself to move forward and start shoving everything into their bag. As she picked her panties back up, Darcy wondered what to do with them, and coming up with no other options she shoved them in with the rest of it.

Every step she took hurt, sending a stinging reminder of the hours before. She was glad there wasn’t a clock in the room, because then she’d know exactly how long he’d been on top of her. She could tell herself that at least it had been quick, even when she knew it hadn’t been. But it was one more lie she could tell herself while she tidied up the evidence of their presence. With everything put back together, Darcy sat at the foot of the bed, far away from their mess, to pull on a clean pair of socks and her shoes.

It hadn’t been like this after he’d fucked her in the car. He’d been almost nice about it. She’d been sore, but not like this. This time, he was making a point, and she’d got it loud and clear. He was in charge now, and if Darcy wanted to survive this, she’d have to let him take control.

She looked up at him as he peered out the window, and hated how much better he’d looked over the night before. During dinner, he looked not only tired, but ill, seeming to barely understand a word spoken to him. For the first time since she’d found him, bleeding and handcuffed on the side of the road, Loki seemed almost healthy. He was properly awake, looking at things rather than toward them. He’d barely slept at all, but for the first time, he actually looked like he had. Darcy didn’t know what he’d taken from her, but he clearly hadn’t been joking when he’d said that sex was part of his recovery last time.

Except it wasn’t sex. It was rape. Not that he apparently knew the difference. Or cared.

"You look like you’re feeling better," Darcy said, trying to keep the bitterness from her voice. "Why don’t you just zap yourself to Torshaow like you did when we left New Mexico?"

Loki made a sound that was almost a laugh and turned away from the window. There was something in his gaze now that felt less like a wounded animal, and more like a dangerous predator, and Darcy regretted saying anything.

"I need to know where I’m going," Loki said. "Without an anchor, I could wind up anywhere."

Darcy knew Portland had been a wild accident, but she’d assumed they’d landed there because Loki was tired. Knowing that they could have landed literally anywhere made her realise how lucky they were. It was another thought she resented.

"So, what? We’re still taking the long way?" she asked.

She hated that she’d said ‘we.’ She wanted to find a way to escape, but she knew Loki wouldn’t let her. She was his, to do with as he pleased, apparently.

"It would seem so," Loki said. He turned to peer out the window again, watching something Darcy couldn’t bother to get up and look at.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God | #45

Darcy wasn’t sure when she fell asleep, but she woke to a familiar weight squeezing all the air out of her lungs. That was the first thing she noticed. She lay on her side, with Loki’s arm wrapped around her, holding her body against his. His hand had found its way under her multiple layers of clothing and held onto her tit. She was entirely trapped, and trying to move out of his grip was like trying to lift a lead weight off her. She struggled to free herself without waking him, but he only pulled her closer. Then he shifted, and Darcy’s entire body froze as he pressed his dick against her ass. At first, she tried to believe it was accidental, but it soon became clear that it had not happened as a result of their shifting bodies. The hand that still held onto her tit squeezed even harder as Loki rutted up against her and pressed his mouth against her neck, apparently not as asleep as he seemed.

"No," she said, trying to pull his arm off of her.

She managed to free herself from his grasp enough to swing her fist back and land it on his chest. Loki stopped, and Darcy braced herself to be hit back. For a moment that both stretched into eternity, and was over in a second, the two of them lay on the bed, Loki still holding her down. Then, he moved more quickly than she had realised he was capable, pinning her entire body down with his. His hands moved to take her wrists, holding them to the bed over her head, but Darcy’s entire attention was on his dick digging into her hip.

"Do not strike me again," Loki said, his face close to hers. She could barely see him in the dark, but she could feel him, his skin barely touching hers, and his hot breath on her neck.

"Get your dick off me and I won’t," Darcy said.

She tried to buck him off, but he forced himself between her legs, making his intent abundantly clear.

"I’ll scream," she said.

"He won’t hear you," Loki said. "I’ll make sure of it."

Darcy’s blood ran cold, and even though Loki held still as he pinned her down, she knew this was not a fight she could win. She had no idea what he was actually capable of, or how far he was willing to push himself to get what he wanted.

"I’m sorry I hit you," she said after a long moment. "But I don’t want this."

"What have you told him?" Loki asked.

She could feel him straining to keep still, and held herself as still as possible to avoid giving him a reason to stop trying. His dick was pressed painfully against her, like a constant reminder of what came next if he didn’t like what she had to say.

"I didn’t tell him anything," Darcy said.

"Do not lie to me," Loki said.

He let go of her wrist and grabbed her by the jaw instead, pressing his fingers so hard into her skin that she knew she’d bruise. She tried to take the opportunity to use her free hand to push him off, but he was bigger and heavier than her by a wide margin.

"You’re becoming too difficult to control," he said.

Suddenly, Darcy understood what he was doing.

"I’m sorry," she said. "I didn’t tell him anything. Please don’t do this."

He kissed her, forcing his tongue into her mouth and not giving her any room to back away. She tried to shout against him, but sound barely escaped her throat. He tasted of sulphur, almost burning her tongue as he forced something more than just himself into her. Magic, she realised. She tried to fight against it, but he began rutting against her again, grinding his dick painfully against the inside of her hip. Darcy slammed her fist against any part of him she could reach as she tried to pull away, but it did no good. He grabbed her wrist again, pinning her hand back up above her head as he rutted against her like a horny teenager.

"You will obey me," he said, panting heavily as he dry fucked her. "I told you not to strike me again."

"I’m sorry," Darcy said quietly.

She didn’t scream because she knew nobody would hear. Whatever magic Loki had done on her would make sure of it. She stopped fighting back entirely, hoping that Loki would be done quickly so she could flee to another room; assuming he’d even let her. He shifted suddenly, moving to pin both her hands with one of his, freeing the other to touch her body. He forced his way under her clothes, finding her tit and tweaking her nipple so hard she did scream. For a moment, Darcy hoped Mike had heard, but she knew Loki had done it entirely to make a point; to prove to her that he wouldn’t hear anything that came from their room. He moved his hand to squeeze and fondle her breast, ignoring her attempts to try to roll him off of her. He was rough, touching entirely for his own pleasure, and none of hers.

Then, his hand was gone again, but the relief only lasted a brief moment. Soon, he was fussing with her pants, trying to undo the button that held them shut.

"No, stop, please," Darcy said, trying to roll away, or squirm backwards, or do anything to get away.

"I have exhausted far too much magic on you to get nothing in return," Loki said, finally working the button open. He lifted himself off her just long enough to start to pull her jeans down, fighting one-handed against Darcy doing everything she could to keep them on.

"I don’t want this," Darcy said again, trying every line she could think of to get him to stop. "You’re hurting me. Stop it."

The lines had worked before, but this time he didn’t stop. He managed to pull her jeans off and cast them aside, leaving her exposed except for her panties. Darcy froze, able to see enough in the darkness to know he was working on freeing himself from his own clothes. He didn’t take his jeans off entirely, lowering them just enough to get his cock out.

"Please don’t do this," Darcy said, holding her legs together so tightly her hips hurt.

"If you want my continued protection, you’ll stop fighting me," Loki said.

So that was it. Let him fuck her, or be thrown to the wolves. She stayed silent and let Loki pull her legs apart and put himself between them. He pulled her panties aside, and without any preamble, forced himself inside her with a single, burning, painful motion. Darcy bit her lip and let it happen, choking back the scream that caught in her throat. This wasn’t like the last time. Then, he’d at least been gentle. Then, she had convinced herself that she wanted it too. Then, it had been a matter of immediate life or death; some twisted way Loki’s magic worked that meant the most efficient means of doing what needed to be done was through sex. But this was different. She didn’t want it, and couldn’t convince herself that she did. This time, as he fucked her almost desperately into the mattress, it felt more like he was taking something away than giving her something. But she didn’t fight it. If she gave him what he wanted, he might be able to get it over with quickly, and leave her alone.

Nor did she fight him when he kissed her again, his mouth still stinging of sulphur and something else. It wasn’t a sensual kiss; nothing that might have coaxed her into relaxing. It was rough and greedy, and at times seemed to suck the very breath out of her lungs.

A long nap and a good fuck. This was what he’d meant on the train. The magic went both ways, and he was taking something from her. She silently begged for him to finish, to get it over with, but he barely even seemed close. Gods existed on an entirely different time scale, and that apparently extended to the time it took them to get off.

Again, she wished she’d let him fuck her in New Mexico. If that was all it would have taken, she could have sent him on his merry way and avoided everything. Darcy refused to let herself cry, and focused instead on the pain. Pain because he was too big, both inside her and on top of her. Pain from being fucked dry, and from her arms still pinned above her head. She stared at the darkness above her, trying to ignore Loki’s desperate sounds against her ear as he showed no sign of slowing.

He kissed her again as he shifted, taking some of his weight off of her hips. Somehow, his insistence on kissing her only made the entire thing feel even more dirty. More invasive somehow.

"Perhaps I’ll conquer this entire realm," he said suddenly, straining against his own motions. "Keep you as my queen and put a son in you."

His words broke something inside Darcy. They were something she hadn’t even considered. Loki was a space alien. Their parts may have been compatible, but she hadn’t thought for a second that their genetics would be. He’d already fucked her once; came deep inside her, and she’d done nothing about it. And now, she was letting it happen again.

"No," she said, her will to fight back renewed. "No, no, no, no."

She pushed against him, but it only seemed to play into exactly what he wanted. He fucked her harder and faster and it hurt with each thrust of his hips against hers. He shifted again, using his free hand to angle her hips differently, and held her as he seemed to try to fuck her through her cervix. All of her resolve to not scream and cry evaporated. Then, he kissed her again, taking all of that into himself as he picked up pace and fucked harder and harder and harder. Even as she fought against him, she knew it was hopeless. He came inside her, holding her down with his own weight even as she tried to squirm away.

"With practise you’d make a fine queen," he said.

She wanted to headbutt him, but she didn’t dare. He was still inside her, and still on top of her, and nothing she could do would allow her to get away.

"Why are you doing this?" Darcy asked, her voice surprisingly raw and ragged to her own ears.

"I’ve been betrayed too many times on this planet," Loki said. "I won’t be caught off-guard again."

Apparently he wasn’t done. He kissed her again, filling her mouth with that same acrid taste. Loki hadn’t even gone soft and he was already fucking her once more, this time slow and languid, like he wanted her to enjoy it as well. Darcy was glad everything hurt, because it gave her something else to think about. When her body did start to respond, Darcy told herself it was Loki’s magic. She let it happen, though she did nothing to encourage him. Even as she felt her own orgasm building, she resisted, not wanting to give him the satisfaction.

She tried to hold herself still as she came, hoping he didn’t notice.

He was quicker this time, and again stayed where he was after he came inside her. His intent to get her pregnant clearly wasn’t a joke, and there was nothing she could do about it. She didn’t dare move, even as she could feel Loki’s dick finally starting to soften inside her. She didn’t dare give him a reason to try for round three. She knew he stayed on top of her to prove a point; to make sure she knew he was in charge. But also, she couldn’t help but wonder if he stayed there to make sure his sperm found its way deeper inside her. He held just enough of his weight off of her to not crush her completely, but he didn’t hold enough of it off of her. He was still heavy on top of her, too big to fight against and push off. Darcy wanted to flee; run somewhere far away, but when he finally rolled off her and shed his own jeans, she stayed where she was, on the ruined sheets, with her torn underwear still on. She told herself that maybe he was mistaken; maybe he was just trying to scare her. He was from outer space. There was no way he could get her pregnant.

She was quickly running out of convincing lies to tell herself.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God | #44

"Dude, what the fuck are you doing?" Mike asked. He stood in the middle of the room, gaping helplessly as Loki smeared blood all around the door frame.

It was no less gross than the first time he’d done it.

"Just be glad he’s not doing it on you," Darcy said.

Mike shuddered violently. "Ew!" he shouted.

Loki ignored both of them as he painted his blood runes all over Mike’s house. Every few minutes, he had to fuss with his hand to get it to bleed again, and every time he did it, Darcy was certain she could see him getting nearer and nearer to falling over where he stood. But she didn’t think it was the blood loss itself that drained him. It might have been part of it, but she was fairly certain it was whatever magic he was doing with the blood. She still didn’t understand a thing that he did, or how it worked, but knew that somehow it kept them from being seen.

"Somehow, this makes us invisible," Darcy said, watching as Loki finished around the door and moved to a window. This time, he at least painted on the glass, where it would be easier to remove.

"And it fucks up the paint," Mike said.

"I know," Darcy said. "But it’s better than prison, right?"

Mike sighed, exasperated but beaten as he turned to disappear back into the kitchen. Long after the sounds of digging through the freezer and fussing with the oven ended, he stayed hidden away from the lunacy he had invited into his home. Darcy watched while Loki ruined the resale value of the house, getting up to move with him as he moved from room to room. She wasn’t sure what she’d do if he suddenly fell over, but somehow it didn’t seem wise leaving him alone. He smeared his magic on every window and door that led outside, and by the time he was done he looked like he hadn’t slept in a week.

He looked like he had the night she’d picked him up, only marginally cleaner.

Cautiously, Darcy reached out for the knife, and was surprised when Loki let her take it. She looked down at it, its blade still smeared with his drying blood, and wondered how much of it SHIELD or SWORD or whatever had in their labs somewhere. Worse, she wondered what they’d do with it. Trying to push it all from her mind, Darcy reached out to pull Loki away from the window.

"Come on. Let’s go sit down."

She couldn’t tell if he stared blankly back at her because he was too tired to do anything else, or because he’d once again run out of magic and couldn’t understand her. But he let himself be led away until they reached the living room again, and then quickly pulled away again and collapsed on the sofa, leaving little room for her. Rather than taking Mike’s seat, Darcy sat on the floor next to the coffee table, spending a long moment just listening to Loki breathe. She looked at the knife again, and unsure what to do with it, put it down on the table. After everything Loki had done, she still couldn’t help but worry about him, and didn’t want to leave him alone. But most of what he’d done wasn’t even his fault. He wouldn’t have done most of it at all if SHIELD hadn’t taken him and cut out pieces of his insides like he was some kind of high school biology experiment.

"Hey," she said quielty, tugging on his fingers to get his attention. "We’re gonna get on that train tomorrow, and it’ll start getting easier from there. They won’t be able to follow us as easily once we get out of here."

Loki didn’t answer. He didn’t even seem to respond at all, making Darcy suspect all the more that he couldn’t understand her. She wondered how many times he’d exhausted himself like this already, and she just hadn’t been paying enough attention to notice. She half expected him to fall asleep where he was, but when his attention was drawn to a noise in the kitchen, Darcy realised that was never going to happen. He put up a front of being the big tough guy, but in the state he was in at that moment, a kitten could have overpowered him. When Mike walked back out to the living room holding a couple of plates, Loki grabbed onto Darcy’s wrist like an all-too familiar vise.

"Ow," she said sharply, trying to pull his hand away.

She wasn’t quick enough. Mike saw, and the look he gave her as he sat the plates down on the table was less than subtle. The look he turned to the blood-stained knife was somehow even less subtle. Loki didn’t have to understand words to see and understand what Mike wasn’t saying, and hauled himself up so he sat between Darcy and Mike.

"Everything okay?" Mike asked cautiously.

"We’re fine," Darcy said, moving up to the sofa now there was room for her. "You just spooked him."

She resisted rubbing the spot on her wrist where Loki had crushed her bones together. She’d been offered a plate of something that was probably fish, and some fries, and she wasn’t going to let uncomfortable conversations get in the way of enjoying what might be her last real meal ever again. It was enough to distract Loki as well, even if just for a few moments at a time.

He still hadn’t figured out utensils and ate with his hands, apparently not caring that his fingers were still smeared with blood. Darcy tried to ignore that as she ate, but it was too much. After a few moments, she got up and went to the kitchen to find a towel, taking the knife with her to drop into the sink. A roll of paper towels sat on the counter, which would work perfectly. She tore a few off and got them wet, hoping she could get her point across to the space alien sitting on the sofa.

"Here," she said, shoving it into Loki’s hands as she sat back down. "You’re ten kinds of gross right now."

He stared at it for a long moment before getting the hint and cleaning himself off. It wasn’t perfect, and still left dried blood under his nails, but at least it was easier to ignore. They both ate quickly, and by the time Loki had cleared his plate, he seemed ready to fall asleep where he sat. Darcy took his plate away before he could smash it on the floor or do anything similarly stupid, and took them back to the kitchen.

"I’m gonna take him to bed," Darcy said as she returned to the living room.

Mike looked at her with that same nervous gaze he’d given her before. "All right," he said stiffly.

"It’s probably best if we’re left alone for the rest of the night." Darcy looked down at Loki, watching him fight against falling asleep right there. "He’s scared, and on edge. And just needs to rest."

"What about you?" Mike asked.

Darcy didn’t answer right away. Instead, she took a deep breath and tried not to say the wrong thing. There were so many wrong things to say. Things that in any other situation would have been the right thing. But not here. Not now.

"I’m gonna stay with him," she said.

She didn’t want to. She wanted to run. She wanted to tell Mike that she didn’t even want to be there. That he’d been holding her hostage since the moment she found him.

She didn’t say any of that. Because if she did, everything would have been for nothing.

So she nodded, and Mike nodded as well, neither of them entirely okay with this situation. But Darcy ignored it, and reached down for Loki’s hand again.

"Come on," she said, giving him a little tug. "Let’s go to bed."

Loki looked up at her for a long moment before getting to his feet and following her back to the bedroom they’d been given. As she closed the door, she braced herself for the worst, but apparently Loki wasn’t in the mood to play games. He walked straight to the bed and collapsed. At least this time, he’d left enough room for Darcy to stretch out and read one of her books until she fell asleep as well.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God | #43

Darcy checked on Loki one more time as she went to put her bag away again. He was still next to dead, barely breathing, without having moved an inch since she’d left him. That was good. It meant Loki might be able to heal, and maybe even be able to whip up some of that kooky-ass magic of his to make their life a little easier.

It also meant she wouldn’t have to put up with him for a while longer. She needed some space away from him. Every time she let him cross a line, it was like that line had evaporated completely, free to cross again and again at will. And she had let him fuck her—to make the magic work, he said. But she’d let him do it once, and she knew that meant he was going to think he could do it again.

A big part of her didn’t even believe him about the magic thing.

She left him to his nap and went back out to the front room to join Mike. He was still fiddling on his laptop, but she didn’t stop to see what exactly he was doing. Trying to do anything but think, she sat back down on the sofa and stared at the TV without really watching it.

"You were right," Mike said. "They knew."

Darcy looked up quickly. "You found it?" she asked. "In the leak?"

Mike nodded. "This thing is huge," he said. "I don’t know what they think they’re getting away with, but they’re about to start several wars if they keep this kind of thing up."

Darcy considered that for a long moment, trying to find the meaning in what wasn’t being said. "Wars with who? Asgard?"

"Asgard, other nations. Ourselves," Mike said. "They knew exactly what they were doing from the very beginning, and they did it anyway."

As he shook his head at the screen, Darcy got up to see it with her own eyes. The dense, plaintext document was a lot to skim through, but she was still able to get the gist relatively quickly. SHIELD had figured out who he was before he’d even arrived at their facility. Which meant they knew exactly who he was when they’d tied him up, stuck a needle into him, and interrogated him.

And they’d done it in that order. Without realising she was doing it, Darcy reached out to scroll further down the page. Everything she knew about what had happened, Darcy had pieced together from the scars and marks on Loki’s body. She had assumed the cure had come later, after he’d given them a world of trouble. But SHIELD apparently hadn’t taken any chances with him, and by the time they thought to interrogate him, they’d missed their chance, and out came the knives. If they couldn’t understand a word he said, they’d apparently get information in other ways.

Darcy had thought it was the other way around; that whatever digging around they’d done in his head had made him unable to understand her. It was the cure that had done it. Something about Loki’s magic itself was responsible for his ability to speak English. Suddenly, his mood swings were brought into an entirely new light. Every time he exhausted himself, he stopped understanding anything that was said to him.

She remembered what he’d said while they were on the train, heading to Seattle. That he’d been through something like this before, and had slept for a week after. He hadn’t been allowed to do that. And he probably wouldn’t be allowed to do that until they reached Tórshavn.

She also remembered the rest of what he’d said, and tried to ignore it. She’d let him cross that line already, and it hadn’t done him an ounce of good. Maybe that alone would be enough to keep him from crossing it again.

"He hasn’t said anything about any of this," Darcy said as she read over the terrifying report on the screen in front of her. "When I found him, he was in rough shape, but how is this something they’re allowed to even do?"

"Anything’s allowed if you don’t get caught," Mike said. He looked up at her, his thoughts plainly written across his face.

Darcy looked back up at the TV, where some pundit at a desk was recapping SHIELD’s international manhunt. The story had been spun in so many different directions already, that even the people reporting on it hardly seemed to know what was going on anymore.

"They must have seen this already as well, right?" she asked.

"Who knows? There’s so much to unpack here, they probably don’t even know what they’re looking for," Mike said. He watched the TV for a moment as well, and then turned back to his laptop to screenshot the page he was looking at. "Let’s give them a little nudge."

Darcy watched as he opened the screenshot in some cheap Photoshop clone and highlighted relevant sections in bright yellow. As he opened up Twitter and tagged various news outlets, Darcy wondered what good it would ultimately do. If Asgard was watching, they would have done something already. That, or Loki was right, and Asgard had thrown him to the wolves. If Thor already knew Loki was here, why hadn’t he come back? Or was Loki right about that too? Had Thor been the one to cast him out? Was Loki completely on his own, without any backup from people who were supposed to be his family?

He wasn’t even trying to get home, Darcy realised. So much had happened in such a short span of time that she’d barely been able to keep track of it all. But Loki was trying to go find some elves. He had allies on some other world. Allies that would help him do who knew what, but allies all the same apparently.

The full scope of what she was doing suddenly hit her so hard, she could barely stand. Darcy took a big step backwards to regain her balance, and quickly sat back on the sofa before she fell over. She still had no plan for what came after Tórshavn. Loki was going to go off to live with the elves, and Darcy would… what? Just keep running forever? Her life was over, and for what?

"You okay?" Mike asked suddenly.

Darcy looked over at him, trying to stay calm. Freaking out wasn’t going to do her any good, however much she wanted to do it.

"No, not really," she said, shaking her head. "I mean, I’m… I’m fucked."

"There are places you can go," Mike said. "Places that will take our side on this, because their governments aren’t entirely corrupt."

"Yeah and I’ll never see my family again," Darcy said. "Any of my friends. Is that really any better? Spend the rest of my life in some foreign country, or jail. Those are my options."

"Who knows?" Mike said. "Maybe we can give them enough geese to chase that you’re the least of their worries. If anyone should be arrested, it’s these clowns."

Darcy nodded. She wanted to believe him, but she’d seen the amount of money and resources SHIELD were willing to throw at problems. And if they were international, like Mike said, then where would she even be allowed to go that would keep her beyond their reach?

There were too many questions, and not enough answers. Before she could dwell on it much longer, the woman on the television started talking about a new discovery. Darcy already knew what was coming next, but she sat forward in her seat to watch anyway, nervous and anxious to see how they were planning on spinning it. Never in her life had Darcy expected to hear the words "Intergalactic diplomacy" uttered on the news, but there it was, all out in the open. Soon, the entire world would know that SHIELD had played with fire by using an alien prince as a lab rat. And now the question on everyone’s mind was how much Asgard already knew.

As the report played on, Darcy heard the bedroom door open, followed a moment later by Loki walking out to the living room. He gave everything a suspicious look from the hall, with his attention finally falling to the television.

"Get rid of this," he said.

Darcy picked up the remote and turned off the TV, watching Loki try to decide what he wanted to do. He didn’t look any better than he had the night before, though he was speaking so that was apparently a plus.

"Do you want to take a shower?" she asked.

For a moment, he seemed to contemplate the option. Instead of taking up the offer, he shook his head and walked into the living room instead.

"Later," he said.

Loki sat on the sofa, putting himself between Darcy and Mike. He crowded in on her, leaving no space between them. Darcy tried to shift away, but before she could manage, Loki grabbed her wrist with that vise-like grip of his.

"Let go of me. I’m not going anywhere," Darcy said, trying to pry herself free of his grasp.

As Loki loosened his grip, Darcy caught Mike looking at them with an open concern that made Darcy want to scream. If he tried to do anything, she knew Loki would obliterate him without thought. And then they’d be super fucked.

"It’s fine," she said, not sure who she was trying to convince more. She managed to pry her wrist free and put some distance between her and Loki. "They don’t have personal boundaries in outer space, apparently."

Loki glared daggers at her, but she ignored it. He could be angry with her all he wanted. He’d ruined her life, and she wasn’t going to put up with his bad mood on top of it.

"Are you guys hungry?" Mike asked suddenly.

It was enough to shift Loki’s attention back over to him, which didn’t seem to do anything to ease the tension.

"A little bit, yeah," Darcy said.

Mike nodded and sat his laptop aside before getting up. Darcy watched as he disappeared into the kitchen, unsure if he meant to cook something, or order. Either way, she hoped that maybe with a couple days of rest and food that didn’t come from a drive-thru or a gas station might help improve Loki’s current state.

She hadn’t seen him before everything went to hell, so she didn’t have much of a frame of reference, but Darcy was pretty sure that he didn’t normally look like he’d gone ten rounds with a bear. Even with the amount of rest they’d managed to get, he seemed like he was barely able to keep his eyes open, managing only through the power of spite. Darcy reached out for his hand, acutely aware of the fact that he let her touch him at all, and turned it over so she could see where he’d kept cutting himself open. All but the most recent of marks had completely disappeared, and she wouldn’t be surprised if the faint mark that remained was gone by the end of the day.

"I hate to ask, but is this something we should be doing here?" she asked.

She looked up at him, knowing that every time he did something to keep them from getting caught, it whammied him all over again. He couldn’t get the rest he needed as long as they were in danger.

And he knew it too, judging from the way he closed his eyes and sighed.

"Perhaps," he said.

He took his hand back and rubbed his thumb against the bottom of his palm. His exhaustion was so plain, it felt contagious. He hadn’t asked for any of this either. Despite everything that had happened before SHIELD got his hands on him, Loki was every bit as much of a victim on their bullshit as Darcy was. And Darcy at least knew how the world around them worked. Loki had been thrown into something entirely new and terrifying on top of everything else.

And his freaky, unreliable magic was the only thing that seemed to be keeping both of them safe from whatever SHIELD had planned for them next. Freaky, unreliable magic that would only put him in an even worse state once he used it.

Finally, he got up and walked toward the kitchen. Darcy watched him, not entirely sure what was going on until Mike shouted loudly.

"Jesus, what the fuck are you doing?" Mike said.

After a pause, Loki walked back out from the kitchen holding a steak knife. Something inside Darcy broke at the sight of it, and she suddenly found herself laughing, and unable to stop.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God | #42

Loki slept through the day, and Darcy was happy to let him. Every hour he slept was another hour he wasn’t grabbing her or acting like he wanted to murder someone. But with each hour she stayed in a strange house Darcy felt more and more trapped. It was one more hour SHIELD had to track them down. Sooner or later, someone would make a connection between them and the stolen phone. She’d crushed it, but maybe she should have kept it. It would be covered in fingerprints, and if the memory hadn’t been completely destroyed, they might have been able to figure out why they’d stolen it.

She couldn’t think straight. Everything was such a jumbled, horrible mess and it all kept bubbling up to the surface all at once. She tried to watch the news, but it just pissed her off. She tried to turn it off, but it just made her anxious. There was no winning.

While she shuffled around, Mike spent time on his laptop, talking to people halfway across the planet and trying to formulate a plan. Darcy wondered if he’d still be helping if he’d known what they’d done to get where they were. If he’d still be helping if he knew how many people had died or been injured. But maybe he would. Darcy was still trying to help. But she’d seen more than just pictures and lab reports. She saw the aftermath. The result. She saw a man beaten and bloody, cut open like a middle school science experiment and stitched back together. She’d seen him terrified and vulnerable, unable to even communicate with the world around him. And they had done that to him deliberately. She knew that beyond a single doubt. Someone knew he was dangerous, and their solution to it was to cut him open and poke around and take things as souvenirs.

And now he slept in some strange house in Canada, sick and broken and just trying to get home.

"You know he’s a prince?" Darcy said suddenly, looking over to Mike has he sat hunched over his laptop.

Mike looked up, and then pointed back toward the bedroom Loki slept in.

Darcy nodded. "Yeah. Nobody’s talking about that though. I just realised that. I have no clue how to get in touch with Asgard, but man. I don’t think I’d want to be around to find out how they react when they find out how we treat their royalty."

Mike looked at the TV for a few long moments. "Do you have any proof?" he asked.

Darcy knew exactly what he was thinking, and shook her head. "Just what he and his brother said." She tried to think about what she did have in the way of evidence or proof. "Thor, that’s his brother, got sent down here for some kinda timeout or something. I guess his friends didn’t agree, so they came to bust him out or something. And that’s when the robot showed up."

Darcy frowned, hearing the words that came out of her own mouth. She’d liked Thor. He was polite and kind of funny, in this gruff sort of way. But somehow when she told the story herself, saying the words out loud, he sounded almost like the bad guy.

That wasn’t right.

"I’m not going to pretend to know what was going on there," she said. "I’m going to school for politics, but alien monarchy politics is a whole other barrel of monkeys."

"Do you think SHIELD knows?" asked Mike. "Or SWORD?"

"I don’t know. If they did, wouldn’t it be in the leak?" Darcy asked.

"Yeah," said Mike, quickly opening another window on his laptop. "It probably would be."

Maybe if nobody wanted to admit Loki was a person, they could at least admit he was an intergalactic diplomatic fiasco waiting to happen. It also might mean SHIELD would be even more eager to catch up with them, to keep Asgard from finding out what they’d done. Thor didn’t exactly seem like the kind of person who would take this information lightly. Darcy suspected Thor would come in swinging that hammer, and not care who it hit.

Or maybe she was completely wrong about him. She didn’t know anymore. Her own thoughts confused her, twisted up and tangled with her confusion and fear over what was going to happen when they reached the end of the line. Or what might happen before they reached that point.

"How much of a difference do you think it would make, really?" Darcy asked. "Enough to get SHIELD off our ass for a while?"

"Maybe," Mike said as he scrolled through an endless page. "You’re going to be here for a few more days, so that might be enough to throw them off as well."

Darcy had expected to be on the move again soon. Sitting still seemed entirely too dangerous. "What? Why?" she asked.

"The train only runs every few days. Next one goes out tomorrow," Mike says.

"Well, crap," Darcy said.

So they were stuck, hiding out in some random house in Canada, unable to go anywhere. But maybe it was a good thing. Maybe that meant Loki could get the rest he needed, and recover. He hadn’t been able to get the sleep he kept demanding the entire time he’d been with her.

"I’m gonna go check on him," she said, getting up.

She walked back to the bedroom they’d been given and slowly opened the door. With the curtains closed and the evening approaching, the room was almost dark. From where she stood at the door, Darcy couldn’t even tell if Loki was breathing or not. He looked almost dead, lying sprawled out and taking up the entire bed. Taking a deep breath, Darcy slowly walked toward him, listening for any sign of life. She knew if she got too close and woke him, he’d strike out; hit her, or choke her. Or worse. She tried not to make a sound as she crouched down next to the bed. Up close, she could see he was still breathing, but not very heavily. It was almost like he was in a coma, but he seemed otherwise fine. If not for the dried blood under his fingernails, he didn’t even look like he’d spent the last week going through hell.

Seeing the blood under Loki’s nails, Darcy realised she hadn’t had the chance to bathe since the last time he’d used her as a canvas. Nor had she been able to bathe since they’d spent the night in the car. She quietly got up and fetched her backpack with the rest of her new clothes. Quietly closing the door behind her so the noise didn’t wake Loki, she poked her head back out to make sure Mike was still where she’d left him.

"Hey, I’m gonna take a shower, if that’s cool," she said.

He looked back up at her and nodded. "Yeah, go ahead," he said.

Darcy turned to the bathroom, locking the door behind her. Somehow over the last week, locking doors behind her had become habit. One that kept her safe, but not necessarily one she was comfortable having picked up. But she didn’t exactly trust Mike either, and with Loki comatose, she’d lost the only protection she had.

As she undressed, she caught herself in the mirror and almost jumped at the sight. The blood, the bruises, the dark circles under her eyes from constant stress and no good sleep were expected. But her hair, her natural brunette colour once more was not expected.

"When the hell?" she said to herself.

She had no idea when Loki had done that, though she knew it was him. What else would have caused it? But she hadn’t exactly been going out of her way to look at herself in the mirror lately. Entirely out of energy to think about it, she finished stripping and started the shower. The first thing she focused on was the blood on her chest, trying once more not to think about how nasty it was. But he said it worked, and she’d definitely seen the results herself, though it didn’t make it any less gross. Once she felt like she might begin to scrub off layers of skin, Darcy moved to her hair, keeping her hands busy so she didn’t have another shower breakdown she didn’t think she could handle. All she wanted to do was get clean. And once again, she didn’t even feel like she’d got close by the time the hot water started to fade. Not wanting to freeze, she turned it off, but didn’t step out. If she stepped out of the shower, she’d have to get dressed. And if she got dressed, she’d have to carry on with this stupid, horrible task. And if she carried on with it, Loki would grab her again, hold her down, and…

And she didn’t want to think of what else. Even though she did not think the situation could possibly get any worse than it already was.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God | #41

Darcy was surprised that she had managed to fall asleep. When the bedroom door opened and woke her up, she looked around, taking a moment to remember where she was. Loki still had his death grip on her, but he was in a deep enough sleep that she was able to shove and poke him into letting go.

"Get off of me," she grumbled, managing to move his arm off of her stomach so she wasn’t being uncomfortably suffocated.

She shoved him hard a few more times until he started to wake up. "And move over."

Loki grumbled and started to sit up, but stopped still when he saw they weren’t alone in the room. Darcy held her hand against his chest, hoping it was enough to keep him from springing up and ringing their host’s neck.

"All right?" he asked, still standing in the doorway. He held two plates of dinner, which both Loki and Darcy noticed at the same time.

"Yeah," Darcy said, sitting up a little better.
Loki followed suit, trying to look dignified while his dinner was served to him in bed. They had fish, and some pasta, and some salad that looked like it came out of a bag.

"Oh my god, salad," Darcy said, stabbing it greedily with her fork. She hadn’t realised how much she’d been missing fresh, green vegetables in her life until that moment.

"Thanks, uh… dude," she said as she ate.

"Mike," he answered.

"Mike," Darcy repeated. "I’m Darcy. The bitchy one’s Loki, but he probably won’t respond. He doesn’t really like people much." She shrugged apologetically, having a good idea why he tended to not like people.

Almost to prove her point, Loki was too busy stuffing his face to even bother paying attention to the conversation. For a moment, he reminded Darcy of Thor, the first time she’d met him – stuffing his face with pancakes at a New Mexico diner. That seemed like it had been years ago, but in reality, it had been little more than a month past.

"He seems to like you," Mike observed, leaning against the doorway.

Darcy looked over at Loki again, but didn’t notice anything that looked like "like." He looked hungry and exhausted, and those black circles were under his eyes again.

"Because someone needs to put up with him," she said.

Mike laughed. Darcy hadn’t meant it as a joke.

She glanced at Loki again, wondering if he could even understand her. Sometimes, she thought when he got sick enough, he stopped being able to. He hadn’t been very talkative all day, and had even less to say after they left the park. Darcy didn’t want to think about why they had left the park.

"You heard what they did to him right?" she asked.

Mike nodded. "I saw the reports, yeah. You probably haven’t seen yet, but they’re getting out there. A couple of news stations have even started running them."

Darcy blinked. That wasn’t at all what she’d expected to hear. "What? Then why is SHIELD still chasing us, if everyone knows what’s going on?"

"Because they’re also saying he blew up an entire town," Mike said.

"Thor’s the one who created the giant tornado," Darcy said before she could stop herself. "I mean, it was nuts. Don’t get me wrong. But the town is very much still there."

"You were there for it?" Mike asked.

Darcy nodded. "Yeah. He wasn’t the only one from his planet that was there. He’s just the only one who got caught."

"I was the only one to get thrown back," Loki corrected menacingly.

"Is that what happened?" Darcy asked, looking back at him. He was glaring at his plate and clutching his fork so tightly, Darcy expected it to bend.

"My brother hurled me into an abyss. It was my own bad luck to end up back here," Loki said.

Darcy couldn’t argue with him on the last point. She wanted to reach out and try to comfort him, but she didn’t dare. Not when he looked like he might actually bite her hand off if she tried to touch him.

Mike also seemed able to take a hint, and reached for the door again.

"You guys need anything else, or do you just want to finish eating and go to bed?" he asked.

Darcy considered asking for a second bedroom, or at least for the sofa, but she knew Loki wouldn’t let her leave. And if she did, he’d just follow her wherever she did go. So she shook her head.

"Just bed, I think," she said. "And thanks. Again. I seriously thought we were fucked for a while, there."

Mike nodded. "I’ll keep my ear to the ground. Next train out of town is the day after tomorrow. Hopefully, we can put you on it."

"Okay," Darcy said, wondering where the train was going to take them next, and why it didn’t run every day. "Thanks."

Mike shut the door and left them alone. With him gone, Darcy became acutely aware of how close to Loki she was. The bed was big enough for two, but Loki still managed to take up most of it. But at least while he was eating, he kept his hands to himself.

"How you doing?" Darcy asked hesitantly.

Loki responded with a grumble as he finished off his pasta.

"That bad, huh?" Darcy said. She looked down at her own plate and realised that she had not eaten a proper meal in days. Before she knew it, she had cleared her plate, and was vaguely wishing for more. Sighing, she took Loki’s empty plate from him and started to get up, but he grabbed her wrist again and tried to pull her back down.

"Ow, no!" she snapped, pulling against him and struggling to keep her balance. "I’m just taking these out to the kitchen. I’ll be right back."

Loki reluctantly let go, watching her intently as she left the room. Mike had disappeared into another part of the house, leaving the kitchen empty. Darcy put the plates into the sink, and vaguely considered trying to sleep on the sofa anyway. But she knew Loki wouldn’t like it, and didn’t want to deal with however he decided to manifest that, so with a sigh, she returned to the bedroom to find him still glaring.

"Move over," she said tiredly. "I don’t want to fall off."

She shut off the light and walked over to the bed, trying to encourage Loki to move out of her way by shoving him. Eventually, he got the hint and moved to the other side of the bed. For a moment, Darcy hesitated beside the bed. She didn’t really want to sleep wearing multiple layers of clothes, but she felt like all the clothes were protection; like maybe if she wore enough, she’d actually be able to get some sleep. Knowing that what would really happen would be that she’d wake up in the middle of the night, feeling like she was sleeping in a furnace, she stripped down to her T-shirt, and sat down to take off her shoes and socks. She still felt weirdly exposed, but it still seemed like the more immediately comfortable option.

"Stay on your side," she grumbled as she climbed under the blankets. Realising that Loki had stayed on top of them, and probably would, she felt a little more relaxed. But that relaxed feeling evaporated immediately, when Loki rolled over and pulled her into another death grip.

Darcy reminded herself that he was scared, and that if he lost her, he was stranded and screwed. He didn’t know where he was going, or how to use the most basic technology, or even have the patience to talk to most people. He’d probably just assume everyone was SHIELD and leave a trail of bodies circling the globe, if SHIELD didn’t catch him first.

"Not so tight. I can’t breathe," Darcy complained, trying to push his arm away.

To her surprise, Loki actually moved his arm, so his death grip circled her hips instead of her stomach. Even though he still held her tightly, he at least wasn’t squeezing the life out of her in doing so. Sighing and knowing that it was the best she was going to get, Darcy tried to go back to sleep.

Loki slept well into the day, but Darcy had managed to slip away and wander into the living room late in the morning. She watched the news channels, flipping through them to see what was being talked about. The guy Loki had killed had been found, but police had no leads or suspects, which Darcy figured was a good thing. They didn’t need another reason to be chased. She ignored the guilt, even as it tried to overwhelm her. Loki did what he had to do to keep them from getting caught.

Eventually, she found a cable news channel, and was surprised to find a panel of angry correspondents arguing about the definition of human rights. She didn’t have to stick around long to figure out what they were really talking about. She recognised one of the correspondents – a bespectacled black man – from similar segments about mutant rights, and his stance here was the same. He struggled to maintain his composure as he ranted about the US government taking liberties they had no right to take, while at the same time stripping them away from those deemed not human enough to count.

Darcy watched almost eagerly, remembering that this was why she had gone in for a PoliSci degree in the first place. That this had been happening for decades, and people – herself included – were finally getting fed up with it. For a few brief moments, she had even forgotten that this wasn’t a debate about mutant rights at all, until one of the women on the three-way split-screen brought up the leaked SWORD documents, using them to point out that the person in question wasn’t even a person at all. Human rights, she argued, only applied to humans.

"He is a fucking person, you dumb cunt!" Darcy shouted at the screen.

The outrage that someone would actually take SHIELD’s side on this actually burned. Darcy could feel her skin grow hot and her stomach turn sour as the television debate raged on. People were actually taking SHIELD’s side, and believing the spin they were told, even with everything Kevin had stolen, highlighting in black and white what they had done. When the debate circled round to what had happened in New Mexico, everyone ignored the official report entirely, focusing only on Loki’s involvement. No mention of Thor or his friends was made. It was as if everybody, regardless of what side they were on, wanted the world to think Loki had just come down in his giant death robot to lay waste to humanity. Darcy covered her face with both her hands and screamed at it all. Everyone was lying, and nobody cared about the actual truth.

Able to take no more of it, Darcy picked up the remote and slammed her thumb into the power button. She had to get away from aliens and political correspondents alike. She picked up the blanket she was huddled in and wrapped it around herself before walking to the back door. She stood out on the porch, looking at the undisturbed snow covering the yard, and wondered what she was even going to do. SHIELD had caught up with them and Loki was still sick, and not getting better. And now, there was no doubt in her mind that if they were caught, Loki would be locked away in some cage until he became more useful to them as a collection of body parts in jars. She hated him for everything; hated him for coming into her life and taking her away and everything he had done to her. But she hated SHIELD even more. She hated SHIELD because even with everything Loki had done, both to her and to everyone else, they’d never put him in jail, where he probably belonged. They’d take him to a lab somewhere, deep underground.

Loki did deserve to be in jail. Darcy knew that. He’d killed people. But if she let him be taken by SHIELD, she thought she might as well just give up on everything she believed in. The only way she could ever live with herself would be to help him leave this planet, and hope he never returned. And maybe, wherever he went, the people there would know him for what he was and lock him in one of their prisons.

She stood where she was, her thoughts going in circles like this, just waiting to hear the wail of sirens signalling they’d been caught. But the sirens never came. The sun continued to drift across the sky, climbing ever higher behind the thin, grey clouds. Darcy had always wanted to visit Canada. She just never thought it would be like this.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God | #40

It wasn’t Winnipeg, but it was close.  Darcy hadn’t quite figured out what a kilometer was in relation to miles, but if she had to guess, she thought they were maybe ten miles from Winnipeg’s city limit.  And that was good enough for her.  She left the highway and found somewhere dark to park the car.  Looking around at everything, she sighed and grabbed one of the blankets before opening the door.

"Put your shoes on.  We’re walking from here," she told Loki.

"Where are we?" Loki demanded.

Darcy shrugged.  "I don’t know.  I need to find an internet connection so we can find out."

Sighing heavily, Loki got dressed against the cold, only looking more miserable for it.  He pulled on his boots, and reached behind the seat to grab the last of the snacks from behind him before getting out of the car.

They walked down the road, slowly making their way to a more populated area.  Darcy looked around them, looking out for anyone who might have been following them.  She didn’t see anybody, but knew that still didn’t mean there was nothing there.

As they came to a long park, Darcy noticed a younger guy with white earbud headphones walking slowly in front of them.  She had a pair of those headphones, and knew there was only one reason on the planet anybody would ever tolerate them.

"He has a phone that can get online," she said quietly.  She couldn’t believe what she was saying, or what she was subtly suggesting.  She’d actually become that kind of person.  But she also knew they didn’t have many other options.

"We need it," she said, defeat heavy in her voice.

Loki looked around.  It was dark and cold, and nobody else was on the street near them.  Loki handed Darcy the carrier bag and broke away, quickly catching up to the guy ahead of them.  He moved silently and swiftly, even in the snow, and caught up to the other guy in just a few seconds.  Darcy had expected him to try to pick the guy’s pocket, or maybe just rough him up.  But Loki didn’t even give him a chance to notice him.  He reached forward and took the guy’s head in his hands, twisting his neck so hard, Darcy could hear the crack from where she stood.  She covered her mouth with her hands to keep from screaming, but couldn’t look away as Loki let the guy drop to the ground, before digging through his pockets.  After a few moments, he pulled the square, black device from the guy’s pants and held it up.  Seeing the iPhone, Darcy nodded weakly.  Loki brought it back to her like a trophy, like a smug cat who just killed a mouse in the kitchen.  Darcy took it, feeling sick, and slid it into her pocket.  She looked at the lifeless body on the sidewalk ahead of them, and then at the footprints leading back and forth from him.

"Loki," she said, pointing down at their tracks.  "They’ll be able to find us."

Loki frowned and looked down at the tracks as well.

"Damnit," he growled, looking around.  Without warning, he grabbed Darcy and pulled her close against his chest.  Darcy knew what he was doing, and knew what it was going to do to him, but she didn’t argue.  She closed her eyes against the flash of green, only opening them when she felt the ground beneath her feet again.  Loki felt heavy against her, as he tried to stay on his feet without completely crushing her under his weight.

"Woah, easy," she said, trying to steady him.

They hadn’t gone very far; he’d only taken them to the far end of the long park, but even that had been enough to wear him down and make him look sick again.  Holding her hand flat against his chest, Darcy tried to lead him away from the park and into the parking lot nearby.  The parking lot joined with a second one for a hotel, just off the highway they’d driven into town on.  Darcy led Loki to a dark wall along the hotel and sat down on the ground, wrapping the blanket around both of them.  Biting her lip, she pulled out the dead man’s iPhone and pulled up Safari.

There were a few ways she could have got the attention she needed, but they were all dangerous.  SHIELD was probably watching all of them.  Knowing she didn’t have a choice, Darcy typed an IP address into the bar, and scrolled through the Reddit-style message board.  She started typing her message nearly half a dozen times, deleting it again and again before deciding on the best way to code it.

Our guide dog got taken in Alberta.  We made it to our next stop without her, but can’t see well enough without a new one.  Please help.

Darcy knew it was transparent to anyone reading it, but it was all she knew how to do.  She wasn’t a spy, or some master hacker who knew how to live under the radar.  She was just a college burnout, forced into a terrible situation she didn’t know how to get out of.

She kept refreshing the page, wondering how long the phone’s battery would survive.  When a comment appeared below hers a few minutes later, she almost jumped at the shock.

I have a spare.  I’ll bring him round tonight.

Darcy covered her mouth with both hands and tried not to cry.  The wave of relief that flooded over her was so powerful, she felt she might choke on it.  Getting herself together, Darcy tapped out a vague reply, hoping the person on the other end would be able to figure out where she was.  

"Hey," she said, nudging Loki with her elbow.  "Someone’s gonna come get us.  But do you think you can get us out of here in a hurry if we need to?"

Loki swallowed heavily and stared at the snow in front of them, staying silent.  Darcy figured that probably meant he couldn’t, and didn’t want to admit it.  She didn’t want to think about what that would mean for them if the person who responded to her message wasn’t their next point of contact.  She knew there was every possibility that it wouldn’t be; that SHIELD was listening in, and rather than following them in their big, black SUVs, tracking them down online.

They waited in the dark for what felt like hours, listening for any sound that might be someone approaching them.  At one point, Darcy could hear distant sirens.  She tensed knowing they were coming for her, but the wailing only grew more and more faint until it faded completely.  Every car engine, ever footstep was someone coming to arrest her and throw her in jail forever.  When a little red 4×4 slowly turned around the hotel and stopped and rolled down its window about ten feet away, Darcy grabbed Loki tightly, ready to run.

"Alberta?" the guy behind the wheel asked.

"Yeah," Darcy said hesitantly.

"Get in.  Quick," said the driver, looking around the parking lot nervously.

Darcy pulled Loki to encourage him to get to his feet and nudged him toward the little jeep.  Loki climbed in, but Darcy hesitated at the door.  Thinking for a moment, she took the iPhone back out of her pocket and put it on the ground in front of the rear tyre before getting in beside Loki.  She could hear the phone crunch on the ground as they started to move forward, and was surprisingly glad to be rid of it.

She was surprised when they turned back onto the highway and started heading the way they had come.

"Uh," she said, looking out at the street.

"SHIELD knows you’re here.  We’re leaving town for a little bit.  If we’re lucky, they’ll think we left the other way," the driver said.

A few minutes later, they got off the highway and onto another, heading north.  Darcy watched as the little city disappeared, replaced by open land and snow once again.  Beside her, Loki slept quietly, still wrapped up in the blanket.  Unable to help herself, Darcy reached out and felt his forehead.  Even though by now, she knew it was normal for him, it still worried her to feel his cold skin against hers.  

"He needs to eat something," Darcy said, still watching him.  "All he’s had since I found him is junk food.  That’s probably not helping him."

She could see the driver nod.  "He’s the one who escaped, then?" he asked.

"Yeah," Darcy said.  "I still don’t know how."

She could see the guy watching them in the mirror, but she couldn’t see enough of his face to know what he was thinking.  

"How does SHIELD have jurisdiction up here?" Darcy asked, looking out the window behind her, in case someone was following them.  

"Because it’s not an American organisation.  It’s run by the World Security Council," the driver answered.  "They’re just headquartered in America."

"Huh," Darcy said, wondering how that even worked.  "Do you guys have your own branch, then?"

"No, we just use yours," the driver said, sounding weirdly bitter.  Darcy realised the bitterness probably wasn’t about having to share, but rather about SHIELD being allowed into Canada at all.

The highway took a wide turn toward the east, but they didn’t stay on it long after that.  They took a long offramp onto another northbound highway, which eventually took them to a small town out in the middle of nowhere.

The two of them helped Loki out of the car and into a small house, leading him to a bedroom in the back.

"I’ll let you get him settled," their rescuer said, staying in the doorway while Darcy tried to keep Loki on his feet long enough to get to the bed.  "I’ll try to find you guys something to eat."

"Thanks," Darcy said.

She got Loki to the bed, knowing once he got there, he probably wouldn’t move.  As she got up to go help in the kitchen, Loki grabbed her wrist and pulled her down to sit on the bed.

"Ow, stop ow!" she said, fighting back against his inhuman grip.  "Fine, I’ll stay here."

Loki loosened his grip on her wrist, but he didn’t let go.  Sighing, Darcy looked around the room, trying to assess her options.  Finding none, she shoved Loki closer to the centre of the bed.

"Move over at least, so I can lay down too," she said.

To her surprise, Loki did.  He still held on to her, as if afraid she was going to abandon him, but didn’t fight against her at least, as she was trying to get comfortable.  She was acutely aware of how close to him she was again, and how he held onto her to keep her from getting away.  But Darcy tried not to think about it.  Instead, she reminded herself that he was sick and scared, and tried to convince herself that he just didn’t want to be left alone.  He didn’t have the energy to do anything, she told herself.  But she only started to believe it when she heard him start quietly snoring again.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God | #39

Darcy had expected Loki to fall asleep on the job, but not quite as quickly as he did.  Luckily, she spotted the sign that said Winnipeg was about 200 kilometers away.  Which, she realised, told her exactly nothing, because she had no idea how long a kilometer was.  The sun was still in the sky, although quite low on the horizon, and she definitely was not looking forward to another night on the side of the road.  

Making up her mind, she nudged Loki awake again.  "Hey.  Wake up," she said.

Loki grumbled at her and tried to stay asleep, but she wouldn’t let him.

"Hey, so.  It’s still a long-ass way away, I think.  I’m gonna keep going until I start getting tired or the weather turns to shit again, and then I am finding a hotel and pulling over," she said, hoping she sounded like she wasn’t about to take any of his shit.  She wasn’t sure what she’d do if he made them camp again.

"No," Loki said.  "No stopping."

"Yes, stopping.  I don’t want to freeze to death because you want to camp," Darcy said.  "And then where would you be?  You’d stranded, with nobody to take you to fucking Norway or whatever, that’s where."

Darcy decided she really enjoyed seeing him sulk, even if she could only watch it out of the corner of her eye.  

"Fine," he said finally.

Darcy nodded and checked the map again, making sure she stayed on the right road and didn’t make any stupid wrong turns that would take her to the North Pole or something.  She tried to hold the map against the steering wheel, so she could see both it and the road in front of her, but she wasn’t as good at dividing her attention as she thought she’d be.  Darcy hadn’t realised how difficult going on the run was without having someone else do all the driving.  She would be very glad to ditch their stolen car and hand the reins over to someone else again.  Just being the passenger in all this drama had been stressful enough, but she was pretty sure she might actually die from the stress if she had to do another day’s driving in Canada.

"Okay, I need you to keep watching out for signs again," she said.

"You said it was still a long journey," Loki argued.

"I said I think.  I don’t know," Darcy told him.  "It’s all in kilometers up here, whatever the hell a kilometer is.  Two hundred could be another two days, or twenty minutes, for all I know."

Loki looked out the window, and then snatched the map away.

"No, hey.  I need that," Darcy said.  "Unless you want to tell me where to turn as well?"

He looked down at the map, frowned at it, and tossed it back.  Trying to keep control of the car and pick the map up, Dacy nodded over her shoulder.  "I got you some chips and some juice if you’re hungry," she said, knowing he would be.

"Got them where?" asked Loki suspiciously.

"At a gas station.  You were asleep, and I didn’t want to wake you up."

Loki watched her suspiciously for a moment, but it was rather undercut by how sick he looked.  Darcy was starting to think that if she was going to get Loki to Norway or whatever alive, that they’d have to be more careful.  Every time he used his magic, it nearly killed him.  Like he was using it faster than whatever made his magic work could heal; like going out to play football on a broken leg.  Darcy wondered if his magic came from part of whatever they’d hacked apart in his brain, or if it was in any of the other cuts she’d cleaned up.  As if, without knowing it, she’d cleaned up the wounds from some sort of experimental organ removal, with government scientists trying to see which pieces of himself Loki could live without. 

Darcy remembered those cuts, and where they all were. And she knew that was exactly what the government scientists were doing.  They’d try couch it in terms of trying to find a new medicine, but that new medicine would be thirty years off and $200 a pill.

As Loki turned to reach over the seat for the carrier bag, Darcy couldn’t help but see the hurt, terrified person she’d brought into her hotel room.  The person who had no idea where he was who was immediately locked away and treated like an animal.  The person who had been hacked apart and vivesected alive, and managed to escape from it.

Darcy suddenly realised that any lead they’d gained in Calgary would be lost by now.  SHIELD were still hunting them, and they wanted Loki back.  They wanted to put Darcy in a cage for helping him escape.  And if SHIELD caught them, they’d finish what they’d started with Loki, and tear every last part of him out.  Probably, Darcy thought grimly, while he was still alive and conscious.  She wondered how many mutants had disappeared off the streets to be cut open and dissected in the name of scientific research.  And even though she’d always been inclinded to dismiss it as urban legend before, she was certain Loki wasn’t the first alien to have crashed on Earth to be cut up and studied.  They probably already had pieces of him growing in a jar somewhere.

"The first thing we’re going to do is ditch the fuck out of this car," Darcy declared firmly.  "Then I need an internet connection so I can figure out what to do after that."

"A what?" Loki asked around a mouthful of Pringles.

"It’s like, computer magic," Darcy said.  

"It isn’t magic.  Your race hasn’t the knowledge," Loki told her with an irritating amount of certainty.

"I said it’s like magic.  I don’t know how to explain it.  A series of tubes.  Whatever."  She shruged and peered out into the distance to see if she could find any road signs.  She couldn’t.

Loki acted like he had no idea what she was talking about, which Darcy realised probably wasn’t an act.  She tried to remind herself that Loki wasn’t from Earth, and needed even basic things explained to him.  And probably not because they were such complicated concepts, but because his planet was so advanced, it would be like Darcy trying to finish her math homework with an abacus instead of her TI-84.

"It’s so I can get back in contact with the people that are supposed to be helping us.  It’s a communication tool," she explained.

If Loki cared, he didn’t show it.

"You looked at porn on it," Darcy reminded him. 

Still, he remained more interested in pizza-flavoured Pringles than anything she said.  Sighing, Darcy shook her head and drove on, watching the side of the road for any more signs.  As the sun sank below the horizon, the wind began to pick up again, but it was still light compared to the night before.  Nothing felt like it was going to shove the car into the next lane.  Trying to remain calm, Darcy remained mindful of the wind, but didn’t focus on it.

Once Loki was done devouring the entire can of Pringles, he reached over and snatched up the map again.  This time, he actually took the time to look at it, squinting at it in the dark for a few moments before looking out at the white landscape around them.

"This is the road we’re on?" he asked, glaring at the map again.

Darcy didn’t look away from the road.  "The pink one?  Yeah," she said.

Loki glared at it a moment longer before looking back out at the terrain again.  Darcy kept waiting for him to magically figure out how much longer they had before they got to Winnipeg, but he said nothing.  They both stayed quiet, neither saying a word after that.

"One hundred fifty," Loki said flatly after about a half hour.

Darcy had seen the sign, but she hadn’t paid enough attention to it to read it.  After the night before, she was too busy focusing on everything else.

"Seriously?" she asked.  "We’ve done fifty kilometers already?"

She had to fight the urge to turn around, knowing that the sign wouldn’t have anything written on the back of it.  Instead, she looked at the blinking clock on the dash, trying to figure out what time it really was.  The early sunsets so far north kept confusing her, but she didn’t think it could be much later than 6pm.

"If the weather behaves, we should be able to get there in like, two hours," she said hopefully.

Loki kept his attention out the window and sighed.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God | #38

Something woke Darcy, though she wasn’t sure what it was. She was bundled up in every layer of clothing she had available, under all the blankets they had, with Loki behind her, holding her close to his chest. She could feel his breath on her neck, and it took a moment to realise that he wasn’t actually squeezing her to death intentionally, but that his arm was just that heavy. She breathed slowly, wanting to close her eyes and go back to sleep despite everything, because whatever Loki had done the night before had already started to wear off. His magic hadn’t been as good as he’d claimed, but it had kept her alive through the night, without needing to run the gas tank dry to keep the heater on. She wasn’t exactly warm, but at least she wasn’t freezing, either. Just in danger of being squashed to death by Loki’s arm over her stomach. As she tried to wriggle away, something loud pounded against the window behind her, sending both of them into a shock. Darcy tensed and tried to sit up, but Loki fought against it, pulling her even closer and actually squeezing the air out of her. She slapped him a few times before he let go, and they both turned blearily and confused toward the knocking. A man stood outside, looking frantic and oddly relieved. Scrambling over Loki, Darcy reached over to unlock and open the door, wishing she’d slept in her shoes as well.

"Oh my god, thank you Jesus," she said, waving her hands around before shutting the door again to find her boots.

After pulling them on, she shimmied out of the car and through the waist-deep snow to meet the man out on what she assumed was the road.

"Holy shit, you just saved our lives, not even joking," she said, wondering if she should hug him.

"Yeah, no kidding. When’d you go off?" he asked.

Darcy looked around, not able to tell what time of day it was, other than day.

"Last night. We hit some wind, and some ice, and well." She shrugged and looked over at the guy’s empty flatbed truck. "We could kind of use some help getting out." She looked back at the car, noticing the lack of blinking hazards and cringing. "And maybe a jump."

The truck driver nodded and looked into the car again. "You two all right? Your fella looks like he’s not doing too good."

Darcy had to bite her tongue to keep from loudly insisting that Loki wasn’t her fella. She looked in at him, and realised the truck driver was right, though. Loki looked just as bad as he did when she’d first found him out in the desert. It occurred to her that she could easily cut and run, and leave him behind since he looked like he barely had the energy to even object, let alone fight back. He just sat there in the back of the car, having trouble keeping his eyes open and staying upright. She could just leave. Disappear on her own. And then–

And then what? Undo everything she had already gone through so much hell to do? Just leave him to die in the snow, or for SHIELD to find him and take him back and cut pieces out of him again?

Part of her said he deserved it. Another part of her thought that sounded like government spook rationale. She’d known the risks when she first let him into her car. You don’t take in a wild animal without expecting to get bitten, just like you don’t take in an alien fugitive without expecting… whatever. Taking a deep breath, and knowing she would come to regret it, she nodded.

"Yeah, he’s been really sick all week. I don’t think last night helped, either," she said.

Not for the cold. She was convinced Loki couldn’t even feel the cold. But whatever he had done to keep her from freezing to death had obviously set him back again. He’d sure seemed like he’d been enjoying himself the night before, but now it looked like he regretted it as much as she did.

"Well, let’s get you back on the road. Here, help with the chain."

Darcy knocked off as much snow from the back of the car as she could so she could find a place to hook the chain. She couldn’t see anything that looked appropriate, so she got back into the car to put it into neutral while the truck driver hooked everything up.

"Can you start it, sweetheart?" he called out.

Darcy shook her head and turned around to shout back. "No, my battery’s completely flat. I had the hazards on because I couldn’t tell how far off the road we were, and didn’t want someone to hit us."

The driver nodded and went back to his truck. Darcy couldn’t help with the engine, but she could make sure the wheels were at least turned the right way to try to make it easier to get pulled out of the snow.

"Loki, why don’t you come sit up here?" Darcy said as the car lurched from the strain of being pulled.

Loki shook his head and fell back over onto his side. Not sure what else to do about him, Darcy let him wallow in misery and focused on trying to get unstuck. She rocked back and forth in her seat as if it would help, but the car still only lurched and jerked. After a few more moments of it, the truck behind them stopped running, and Darcy watched in the mirror as the driver got out and reached into the bed. When she saw what he grabbed, she got out to help shovel as much of the snow away as possible. It took them almost an hour, by her reckoning, to get enough of the snow out of the way, or else packed into a hard ramp. This time, when they tried again, the car lurched and fought for a few seconds before finally being pulled loose and dragged back up to the road. Once they were on flat ground again, the driver got out to unhook his chain, and then turned around to get close enough for a jump. Between the cold and the utter flatness of the battery, Darcy half expected it wouldn’t start at all. She watched out ther window, hoping the friendly truck driver wasn’t paying too much attention to how she started the car. But he mercifully seemed too busy with jump leads and his own truck to notice he was helping start a stolen and hotwired car. They had to try more than a few times, before the Ford’s engine finally coughed and sputtered to life. Darcy breathed a deep sigh of relief and rolled down the window while the friendly truck driver retrieved his leads and slammed the hood down.

"Oh my god. Thank you so much," she said.

The truck driver nodded, and then pointed into the back of the car. "You two get somewhere warm. You might want to think about stopping in a hotel, if you’re going too much farther."

"Yeah, I think we might. Thank you again."

She waited for him to get back in his truck and turn to head back toward Calgary or wherever before she put the car into gear and continued on eastward. As soon as they were moving again, she turned on the heater and cranked it to its highest setting. Even if it did blast out cold air, she knew it was only a matter of time before it started heating up, and that alone brightened her mood.

She drove in silence for a few hours, ignoring Loki in the back until she realised how hungry she was, and that he was probably starving again. Having no idea when the next town would be, she just pulled over to the side of the road and kept the engine running while she grabbed the rest of their very cold pizza. Acutely aware that she was doing something potentially stupid, she popped the hood and took the pizza outside and set it on the engine to warm up. Afraid that the box would catch fire before too long, or that she might get poisoned from eating the fumes, she only kept it on for a few minutes. It no longer seemed frozen, so it would have to do.

"Hey, breakfast," she said as she got back into the car. She turned to shake Loki awake, making sure he actually sat up a bit before stopping.

Taking the first slice of pizza for herself, she offered him the box, and was strangely glad when he sat up the rest of the way to take it. The pizza wasn’t freezing anymore, but it was still cold and tasted like car. Darcy was at least hungry enough to ignore both disgusting qualities. As she ate, she watched Loki scrunch up his nose as he pulled all the green peppers off the pizza before he ate it. When Darcy finished hers, she sighed deeply and started to put her thoughts together. There were a thousand questions she wanted to ask, but none she dared even try to vocalise. She was pretty sure she didn’t even want answers to most of them anyway. The rest, she thought she might already know the answers to. Like how someone had seen their supposedly-invisible car, even when it was half buried in the snow. She could ask Loki to fix that, but something told her it might actually kill him. If not for as far as they’d already come, she might have said he’d deserve it.

"So. I don’t know how much further we have to go, or how long it will take. And when we get there, there’s a whole other problem," she said, thinking out loud.

Loki grunted, which Darcy assumed meant he was listening.

"I don’t know how to get in contact with the people we’re supposed to meet. I don’t even know who we’re supposed to be meeting," she said.

Loki quit eating and sighed tiredly. "How much further to Tórshavn?" he asked.

Darcy shrugged uselessly. "I don’t know. We’re still in Canada. We’ve still got days left, probably."

"Can you get me to Tórshavn?" Loki asked, sounding both hopeless and impatient at the same time.

"Yeah. Probably, if I can get back in contact with the people," Darcy told him. She looked out the window at the already darkening sky and silently despaired. "I kind of want to stop if we don’t get there soon. In a hotel, if we can find one."

"No," Loki said sharply.

"Yes." She turned to look at him, able to see the dark rings under his eyes and his utter lack of complexion. "You’re sick. I don’t want to freeze to death. If I don’t see signs that we’re almost there by the time it starts getting dark, I’m going to start looking for a hotel."

Loki didn’t say anything, which Darcy figured was his version of relenting. She gave him a few more minutes to sit and sulk while she pulled out the map and traced their path along the marked highway. Using one of the highlighters to rougly measure the distance, and going off of the odometer on the car, she figured they had to be getting close.

"Well. Can you read, at least?" she asked. He didn’t seem like he’d been able to before, but Thor had been able to read English while he was on Earth, and Loki seemed like he’d at least healed from his time with SHIELD or SWORD or whatever.

"I don’t know. Maybe," Loki said after a moment.

"Kay. Because if I had someone to read out the signs for me while I’m paying attention to the weather, I might be able to go a little more quickly," Darcy reasoned. It was difficult enough to see the signs as it was, and keeping an eye out for them while also watching for ice was not the easiest thing she had ever done.

To her surprise, Loki nodded and brought the pizza with him to the front seat, and even buckled up without being told. He batted at the deflated airbag for a bit while Darcy pulled back onto the road.

"Do you see the one that’s circled in pink?" she asked. "Winnipeg?"

"Uh." Loki picked up the map and glared at it, like he was trying to force his brain to work after spending two straight days writing a midterm paper. "Yes," he said finally.

"That’s what I’m looking for. If you see any signs that say that, tell me the number that comes after it," Darcy said.

Loki nodded slowly, still glaring down at the map. "Fine," he said.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God | #37

Darcy wasn’t sure when she stopped trembling from having crashed, and when she started shivering from the cold. She wanted to turn the engine back on so she could turn on the heater, but on the extremely off chance someone drove by before the battery died and the hazard lights stopped blinking, she wanted to make sure there was actually gas in the tank to drive away. To eliminate the temptation, she stayed in the back, huddled up in one of the blankets as she watched out the window for any sign of life. All she saw was snow swirling around in the blinking lights, building up on the sloped windows of the car. For about the twentieth time, she checked the clock on the dash, before remembering that it was wrong, and definitely not 4:30pm.

"This sucks," she said, trying to keep her teeth from clattering together.

Loki still sat up front, annoyed with her for crashing. Like it was her fault the weather sucked. Darcy looked up at him, shaking her head at him for not even pretending to be cold.

"Are you even still alive? How have you not frozen to death yet?" she asked. She pulled the blanket closer around herself and huddled against the wheel well. "I’m gonna freeze to death if something doesn’t happen pretty soon."

She eyed the heater again, forcing herself to look away before she did something dumb. The heater was for when it she was absolutely going to freeze to death, and not to be wasted before then.

"God, I’m so sick of being cold. Why couldn’t you have done this in the summer?" she grumbled quietly.

Loki moved around in his seat, and Darcy could practically hear him rolling his eyes when he looked back at her. Sighing loudly, Loki climbed back to the bed and started pulling her blanket away.

"What, no! Stop," Darcy said, slapping at him.

Loki grabbed both her wrists tightly in one hand and held her so he could take the blanket away. She thrashed and tried to kick, but he didn’t seem to notice, and only let go of her once he’d pushed and pulled her around so he could sit behind her. She went to reach for the blanket, but he wrapped it back around both of them and pulled her close to his chest, both his arms wrapped around her to hold her uncomfortably tight.

"Shut up," he said. "Say one more word and I will throw you outside."

He sighed again and leaned back against the wall, pulling her with him. Darcy sat stiffly, letting herself be moved where he wanted, too terrified to dare even try to resist. She hadn’t thought this far ahead, and had half assumed that she’d be able to talk him into staying at a hotel where there would at least be two beds, or a floor to make Loki sleep on that wasn’t right next to her. But she couldn’t get any more than about six feet away from him at any time in the car, and couldn’t even get away from him at all the way he held onto her. His grip around her chest was threatening to make it even more difficult to breathe than the fear of being held down by him already was. Not to mention, he was seriously copping a feel with his left hand, and not even trying to be subtle about it. Darcy tried to pretend that he wasn’t, but she could feel his dick starting to swell against her back. She wanted to cry all over again, but bit it back in case that was enough to make him lock her outside. She wondered if that would be worse than whatever would happen if she stayed inside.

She could feel Loki shaking his head behind her, even as his grip slowly loosened. Darcy had to stop herself from fleeing to the other side of the car, knowing she’d only wind up in an even worse position if she did.

"That’s better," Loki said, keeping his hand latched firmly to her tit.

"Is it?" Darcy squeaked. Some treacherous part of her pointed out that at least she wasn’t cold anymore. Never mind that it was because she was too terrified to be cold. That was beside the point.

She ignored his hand, and focused on the important thing. That whether it was from the blood rush and terror of being held down, or just from the closeness between them, Darcy didn’t feel quite so cold anymore. It was still freezing in the car, but she didn’t feel like she was going to just shatter from shivering too hard. For that, she was almost willing to put up with being felt up by an escaped alien lunatic. She even tried to relax a bit, letting herself lean against Loki’s chest as he held her next to him. When she finally gave in and relaxed her head against his chest, she realised he was still only wearing a t-shirt. And maybe it was just in contrast to the ball-blistering chill in the air, but the little bit of his skin she could feel against her own almost felt warm. She wanted to ask if he was starting to feel better, but kept the thought to herself in case it pissed him off and made him leave. She’d never really noticed with Thor, but after so much time spent with Loki already, she had started to suspect that maybe people were just colder on their planet than they were on Earth. Maybe it was completely normal for them to feel like they lived inside a walk-in refrigerator.

They sat silent for a long time, listening to the gentle tick of the blinking hazard lights and the wind buffeting against the car.

"I can turn on the heater," she said finally, thinking through her options out loud. "But if someone comes along and pulls us out, we probably won’t have enough gas to get to the next town. If I don’t turn on the heater, I don’t think we have enough blankets to not freeze to death before someone sees us here."

There was a question in her words, but she was too afraid to ask it. She was too afraid of how Loki might respond if she did, or how sick it would make him if he actually obliged.

"Ask me," Loki said, making it sound almost like a demand. Almost like he wanted her to ask him so he’d have an excuse to do something. It was a tone that made Darcy not want to ask, despite not having much of a choice.

"Can you do something so I’m not so cold?" she asked, forcing each word even as her throat closed up around them.

Loki shifted behind her, bringing her attention back to his dick pressing against her. Darcy closed her eyes and only barely managed not to squirm away. "I meant with your super powers," she said.

The sound Loki made wasn’t quite a laugh, but it was close. "As did I," he said smugly. "Performing magic on another being isn’t as simple as saying a few words and waving your fingers. You need to make it stick."

Darcy kept her eyes closed and tried not to think about it. But she still had his dried blood on her chest, and remembered how he said that the magic wasn’t meant to be used on people. And now according to Loki, she had to either fuck him or freeze to death. It wasn’t much of a choice, but she knew she wouldn’t exactly have the option of choosing anyway. Even without the threat of becoming a human popsicle, she knew she couldn’t exactly say no. Not stuck in a car with nowhere to go.

"Fine. Whatever." It wasn’t fine, but at least saying that it was made her feel like she had some tiny bit of control over the situation. She ignored the way Loki chuckled behind her, and turned her head to stare at the swirling snow in the blinking lights outside. She expected a rough and violent affair, but he took his time like he was making sure he enjoyed it. Darcy tried not to listen to the things he said as he moved on top of her. She didn’t help with anything, but she forced herself not to fight back as well. It would be easier to just let him do what he wanted and then try to forget it ever happened.

"Relax, and you may even find this enjoyable," he said as he pulled one of the blankets over them, so at least Darcy didn’t have to lie there completely exposed and cold.

She turned to look away, not caring what he wanted her to do. Something about the whole thing seemed deeply amusing to Loki, but Darcy didn’t care about that either. When Loki moved his hands under her shirt, she expected him to pull everything off, but he didn’t. Apparently he could get his grope on just as well without stripping her completely naked and putting her on display. Darcy tried to see that as a positive. She inhaled deeply and closed her eyes as Loki moved away to reach for her pants, which he did take off. She focused on breathing and refused to let herself cry. She wasn’t going to let the bastard think he’d won any more than he already had.

It hurt worse than she expected it to, but far less than it could have. Again, she expected him to be rough and violent, but he wasn’t. He really was enjoying it, and Darcy very nearly lost her battle to remain quiet. At least if he had been rough, he might have got it over with quickly, but she knew he had no intention of that. Worse, she could feel her body start to respond to his before long, but forced herself still. Her mind was screaming at her to fight back, while her hips wanted to do something else entirely, and fighting against both was starting to strain her ever muscle.

"Relax," Loki said again, before bringing his mouth to hers. She kept her teeth clenched tightly to keep his tongue out of her mouth, but he somehow managed to overpower her with just his mouth alone.

Darcy wondered what would happen if she bit his tongue, and knew it would be nothing good. She almost tried it anyway, but she felt something distinct and different start to overwhelm her. For the first time since she could remember, she was warm. She didn’t just feel warm because she had forgotten the freezing temperature around her; it was something inside her that had made the freezing temperature seem to almost go away; like they were parked somewhere in the middle of summer. Even as she lay there while Loki fucked her, she wondered if she might have avoided all her troubles had she just let him fuck her before, while they were still in New Mexico.

She wondered whether if Loki’s magic could make her warm, it could also be why part of her wanted to enjoy what was happening; if he was why she felt like she might actually come if he kept going like he was.

"You’re hurting my hip," she said finally.

Loki paused just long enough to shift his weight, and that was all it took. She was going to come while being fucked by a psychopath in the back of a Ford Taurus in the middle of nowhere. Loki apparently noticed, and before Darcy knew it, he rolled over so she was on top of him, with his arms around her waist and his face buried in her chest. She let herself ride out her orgasm, ignoring how she wrapped her arms around his shoulders for better leverage. She was pretty sure she could hear him laughing again, but she ignored that too.

It turned out, Loki wasn’t even close to done after that. Apparently gods weren’t exactly quick in the sack. At least then, it was easier to take his advice and just let herself enjoy it.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God | #36

Eating pasta with one hand while trying to drive down a frozen stretch of road in the dark was not one of Darcy’s most well-thought-out plans. Luckily, the pasta came with a lid, and she was even able to convince Loki to put it back on for her, and to hand her the breadsticks instead. Miraculously, he didn’t even eat any of it. Even more miraculously, his complaining was limited strictly to glowering as he handed her the paper bag from the pile in the back seat. Breadsticks were much easier to eat while driving down the frozen stretch of road in the dark, not to mention warm through the bag, making them the ideal munchie food.

"I spy, with my little eye…" Darcy looked around, not seeing much at all to spy. "Something green."

"What?" Loki asked. He’d already devoured his first pizza, and was halfway through the second. Asgardians had to have black holes in their stomachs. Darcy was convinced.

"It’s a game," she said. "I see something green. Saw something green. You have to guess what it is."

"Childish," Loki said. Darcy expected him to give in and guess anyway, but all he cared about was the food in front of him.

"Oh, come on. You have to play," Darcy practically begged. Her day had seriously sucked from the moment she woke up, and she didn’t even care if she was being childish. She wanted to play I Spy.

"I spy you shutting up," Loki said, before stuffing his face again.

Darcy cackled, and almost choked on her breadstick. "Oh my god, what the hell? Be nice."

Loki apparently decided ignoring her was preferable to being nice. He munched on his pizza and watched out the window as they passed by miles of blackened nothing. The only thing Darcy could see in front of them was falling snow, and the occasional flicker of reflective paint on the road. She had seriously misjudged this plan, and had regretted not staying in town from the moment they left. She probably could have convinced Loki to stay if she tried, but at the time she had been feeling good and didn’t want to argue. She should have argued. The wind was starting to kick up in addition to heavier snow, and driving was definitely a two-handed, full concentration job. She dropped her breadstick back into the bag and planted both hands on the steering wheel at the ten-and-two position she almost never actually used.

"Put your seatbelt on," Darcy said, not looking over to Loki. Even though she wasn’t watching him, she could still tell that he wasn’t listening. "Loki, put your seatbelt on. I mean it."

He still didn’t listen, and chose instead to turn around to toss the empty pizza box into the back. While he was still turned around and fishing about for something else, wind and frozen tarmac conspired with one another, and a sheet of dry snow swept across the road, nearly taking the car with it. Darcy yanked hard on the wheel to stay in her lane, and for a treacherous second, thought she’d over corrected. The car swerved sharply, but she held it together, just barely. Loki fell back into his seat, glaring around at anything he could find to glare at.

"Put your seatbelt on," Darcy told him again.

This time, he listened. He sat back in his seat and watched out the window like he expected to see whatever had tried to push them off the road.

"Perhaps we ought to–"

He never got the chance to finish that sentence. Or if he did, Darcy didn’t hear it. The car hit another sheet of dry snow, taking the car halfway into the oncoming lane. Darcy tried to correct against it, and suddenly found more traction than she expected. The car swerved sharply to the right, and when she tried to control the skid, she only hit more dry snow and lost control completely. The car went straight over the oncoming lane, and into a tall drift on the other side of the highway. For being so light and fluffy, hitting it was like hitting a brick wall, even without the airbag punching her in the face and trying to break her nose. Darcy leaned back in her seat, covering her face with both her hands, and tried to figure out if she was bleeding. It took her a few seconds to even register Loki next to her, fighting off his airbag and seatbelt like a maniac.

"Ow," Darcy said stiffly.

"What did you do that for?" Loki demanded, finally getting free of his seatbelt.

Darcy sighed. "It’s called weather. Don’t you have it in space?" Her face hurt too much to deal with anything, but she knew she had to deal with the fact that she had just spectacularly crashed. She fumbled around for the hazard lights, knowing they’d be useless to anyone in the lane most likely to hit them. If they were lucky, the lights would reflect off the snow to alert any westbound motorists about to run right into them.

Forcing herself to move, Darcy tried to pull the airbag away and got a good look at where they were. The car was still running, so she dropped it into reverse and tried to back out of the snow. But as well as hitting the snowbank, the car had also found itself in a ditch, and the front wheels only spun uselessly without any traction. Even with the pedal all the way on the floor, the car didn’t even move.

Sighing defeatedly, Darcy cut the ignition, but left the battery connected so the hazard lights would keep blinking.

"Why have you stopped? Get us out of here," Loki said, apparently thinking she was magic as well.

"You said you wanted to camp. We’re camping," Darcy said. Sighing, she climbed into the back and got out through one of the back doors, since they weren’t blocked in by snow. She was surprised at just how far off the road she’d gone. She thought she was still half on the tarmac, at least, but they weren’t even anywhere close.

At least they weren’t likely to get run into by a passing truck. Taking that one crumb of comfort, Darcy quickly got back into the car and reached straight for her unfinished pasta, since she at least had both her hands free and could eat it without disaster. There’d already been disaster, so it didn’t even matter. She just sat cross-legged in the back of the car and ate like there was nothing wrong at all. A perfect end to the world’s worst day.

"This is your idea of camping?" Loki asked incredulously.

Darcy kind of wanted to hit him. "This is my idea of crashing," she said around a mouthful of vaguely-warm pasta. "Be glad you put on your seatbelt, or else there’d be a you-shaped hole in the windshield right now."

She could feel Loki glaring at her, but she didn’t care. She didn’t want to camp, especially on the side of the road in a crashed car, but she didn’t have a choice. And neither did Loki, so he could just suck it.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God | #35

Somehow, driving across Canada’s hellish, frozen wasteland seemed a lot less hopeless after Darcy had got everything out of her system and bawled herself dry. She felt wrung out and hollow, but in an almost comfortable way. As soon as they were out of Edmonton, Loki fell asleep again, which was exactly what they both needed.

Darcy still couldn’t understand why he came back. He must have known how lost they truly were, and that his survival chances were zero if he tried to go out on his own.

Of course, he could have also just carjacked a local if he really wanted to get out of Canada quickly. Except he didn’t know where he needed to go any more than the theoretical local would have.

Knowing that Loki needed Darcy as much as she needed him at this point was just one more thing she decided not to think about.

She followed the highway, watching out for any cars at all. There wasn’t really anybody out there at all, and with the snow coming down in buckets, Darcy wasn’t surprised. She could feel her tyres slipping every now and then, and drove way under the posted speed limit just to make sure she stayed on the road. Instead of suspicious SUVs, she was looking out for anything furry that decided to dart across the road. She kept reminding herself that if she did see Thumper, she was going to just have to run his fluffy little ass over. But if she saw Bambi, she realised she wasn’t actually sure what she was supposed to do. The Taurus had a low front end, and that deer would probably just roll right up it and come crashing through the windshield if she hit it. But if she tried to swerve, she’d probably wind up rolling right off the road. Even at the speed she was going, hitting the brakes wouldn’t do anything to slow her down at all.

"Fuck," she said out loud, hoping she didn’t see any deer on the road.

"Are you lost again?" Loki asked tiredly.

"No," she said, wondering when he woke up. "I can’t remember if I’m supposed to run over the deer or try to swerve away from it."

Loki sat up and looked out the window. "What deer?" he asked.

"The hypothetical deer that could hypothetically jump out in front of me at any moment," Darcy told him. "We don’t exactly get a lot of deer in Queens, so it was just a footnote when I took my test."

"Which queens?" Loki asked, still looking around in confusion.

"Nothing. Go back to sleep," Darcy told him.

Loki did nothing of the sort. He yawned loudly and sat up instead, apparently done sleeping now that the sun was starting to go down. Darcy kind of wished he did know how to drive, since he’d probably be awake all night anyway. If the road conditions weren’t so god fucking awful, she’d have been tempted to teach him. She still was kind of tempted even with the god fucking awful road conditions.

"I need food," Loki declared randomly.

"We got food in the back," Darcy reminded him.

"Real food."

Darcy sighed, having expected this to happen. He’d only grabbed processed junk, and she was too stressed out to stop anywhere while they were in Edmonton.

"Well, make do with what we have," she told him. "I’m hoping to find a place to stop soon anyway, because I really need to pee, and I’m not popping a squat in the snow unless I have to."

That did the trick. Loki gave her an annoyed look and climbed back over the seat. Instead of staying in the back, he just brought everything up front, piling it all out onto his lap while he inspected it.

While he did that, Darcy kept a look out for any helpful signs that weren’t completely buried. There were crossroads often enough, but they always seemed to go nowhere. She wasn’t expecting to find a Little Caesar’s or anything just out there on the side of the endless road, but she thought she might see at least a gas station.

While Loki emptied out a bag of Doritos, Darcy spotted an actual off-ramp up ahead. Assuming an off-ramp meant there would be something nearby making too much traffic to safely get across the highway at a crossroad, Darcy took it. Not actually seeing any traffic anywhere, she stopped right in the middle of the intersection where the off-ramp and the crossroad met, and looked down the road in both directions. She wasn’t sure, but she thought she saw something town-like just beyond the overpass, so that’s where she decided to go. Sure enough, she quickly came to a town, and the very first building she saw was a Shell station. Not wasting any time at all, she pulled into the parking lot and ran inside to find out if there was a key for the bathroom. On her way out, just to be safe, she put down another fifteen dollars for gas, since she had no idea when the next stop would be.

After she got her change, she ran back outside to move the car and top off the tank.

"After this, we’ll look around and see if there’s a restaurant or something," she told Loki through the open door.

He was too busy trying to brush Dorito crumbs off his chest to notice her, apparently. But that didn’t stop her.

"After that, I don’t know. We can stay here since it’s getting dark, or we can keep going and hope there’s somewhere else to stop later," she said.

"Keep going," Loki said, making it sound like an order. Darcy wasn’t sure how she felt about taking orders from someone covered in orange Dorito dust. "If we stop, it will be to camp. We’re found out every time we rest anywhere civilised."

Darcy sighed deeply, knowing he had a point, but hating the idea of camping when it was so ball-blistering cold out. "Okay," she agreed.

When she finished pumping the gas, she got back into the car and drove out to the road, heading further into town. She expected to repeat their game in Calgary, and have to drive around endlessly until she found something, but her search was over almost as soon as it started.

"Aw, yeah. Motherfucking Pizza Hut," she said, pulling into the parking lot. It wasn’t Little Caesar’s, but it would do. "You wanna come in with me?"

She looked over at Loki, somehow not surprised to see him still fighting to get the Dorito dust off of him.

"Never mind. Stay in the car," she said, trying not to laugh at him, and failing. She left him behind and walked into the building, not even feeling guilty for the absurd order she was about to place. She knew that whatever she ordered, Loki would manage to eat almost all of it, so she grabbed four of their largest pizzas, plus a whole bunch of bottled water and bread sticks. And some chicken. And a pasta bowl, because she knew it would probably be the last time she ever got to eat pasta again.

She stayed inside while she waited for the order to finish, still not able to feel bad about the size of it. After checking out the window for about the tenth time to make sure Loki hadn’t blown himself up or something, Darcy managed to convince herself that he was fine out there, and turned her attention back to waiting for everything to get done.

When it was finally all handed over the counter, Darcy suddenly rethought her entire plan. She hadn’t realised how much stuff she’d actually ordered, and didn’t exactly have the hands to carry it all. And of course, Loki was passed out again, or else pretending to be, so Darcy gave the kid behind the counter a helpless smile as she looked at the heaping stack of everything.

"Do you think you can help me carry it out to my car?" she asked.

The kid looked at her, and then out at the car and shrugged. He ran into the back, and returned wearing a huge coat, before picking up the pizzas and two of the water bottles. Darcy grabbed the rest of it and led the way outside, deciding that the best place to put it all would be in the back.

"Dinner," she announced as she opened the door.

Loki sat up like he’d been electrocuted and looked around, sending a glare at Darcy. It was a quick-lived glare, and died as soon as he saw the stack of food being settled into the bed behind him. Without offering to help, or even offering his thanks, Loki grabbed the top pizza box for himself and ignored everything else around him.

When everything was settled, Darcy shut the door and dug into her pocket again.

"Thanks," she said, handing the Pizza Hut kid twenty bucks. "Don’t tell anyone. Our secret."

She smiled at him again as she got into the car, and waved as she pulled back onto the road.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God | #34

As they got farther out of Calgary, the traffic began to thin. Fewer cars meant a smaller chance of SHIELD catching up with them, but it also meant a smaller chance of someone being close enough to help if the crappy, seriously-ill-equipped car lost traction and went off the road. As the snow piled up ever higher, Darcy regretted not stealing something bigger; something with four wheel drive. Something that wouldn’t completely implode if it hit a deer. She was just glad Loki was passed out beside her, completely unaware of her silent panic as she drove further into the Canadian wilderness.

"It’s gonna be fine," she promised herself. "We’re gonna get there, and we’re not gonna get lost, and we’re not gonna get caught, and it’s gonna be fine."

She repeated this over and over again, willing it to be true. She didn’t even know where she was going, or if she was even on the right road at times. Then, mercifully, she saw a sign announcing Edmonton coming up ahead. Even if she wasn’t on the right road, she was going in the right direction. Loki was still asleep, and since a sleeping Loki was a non-annoying Loki, she let him be. Trying to balance the map and not crashing into the car in front of her, Darcy quickly unfolded it and checked for where she was supposed to go. She couldn’t tell how she was actually supposed to get from the road she was on to Route 16, but she assumed they would intersect at some point.

The further into the city she got, the more she realised she couldn’t have been more wrong.

"Fucking shit fuck. Oh my god!" she complained, slapping the steering wheel in frustration. "Where the fuck am I?"

The only thing keeping her from breaking down right there in the car was the realisation that she’d woken Loki up, and he was glaring at her. He rolled his eyes and sighed, not even having the decency to pretend to be surprised.

"You’re lost," he said flatly.

"Yes!" Darcy shouted, hitting the steering wheel again and again. "I’m fucking lost! Like you could do any fucking better, all right? I’ve never been to Canada in my life, so what the fuck makes you think I know anything about it? And you’re not even helping with your fucking holier than thou attitude, so just shut up!"

Now she was crying, and she didn’t even care. She was lost in a strange country she didn’t have any right to even be in, while federal agents were still trying to find her for the crime of trying to help someone she didn’t even like.

She expected Loki to say something biting about how he could actually do better, but he didn’t. Instead, he surprised her by climbing into the back and getting the hell away from her. He started going through the bags she’d put back there with him when she thought he was going to sleep for the whole trip, and he could eat the whole damn lot of it if it would keep him quiet for the rest of the trip. She didn’t even care anymore. All Darcy cared about was getting away and getting somewhere safe and not having to deal with any of it any again.

She tried to wipe her tears away as the road she was on ended in a T-junction. It was completely hopeless, and she didn’t even know why she thought she could do this.

"I don’t know what to do," she said pathetically.

Loki came back into the front and offered her a bottle of soda she hadn’t even realised he’d grabbed, and she didn’t even want. "You’re a mess," he said.

The matter-of-fact way he said it was the final straw, and suddenly everything she’d been ignoring and shoving away came flooding forward. She was a bawling, snotty mess, and she could barely see through the tears in her eyes as she kept driving down the unfamiliar road. She was trembling so hard, she was afraid she was going to just crash the car.

"Get off the road. You’re going to get us killed," Loki said, looking back over his shoulder again.

Darcy sniffed loudly and nodded. She looked for any parking lot she could find, but the road was all towering buildings on one side and trees on the other. Finally, she came to side street that branched off, and she pulled off there, parking on the side of the road. Once the car was stopped, she buried her face in her hands and tried to ignore Loki. She didn’t want to do this in front of him, and now that she had, she couldn’t stop. Her entire body felt wrecked and broken as she sobbed against the steering wheel, feeling more hopeless than she’d ever felt before.

Suddenly, she felt Loki move again, and by the time she looked up, he was out of the car and slamming the door behind him. She didn’t know where he was going, but now he’d abandoned her and she was really fucked. There wasn’t even any reason to keep going now, except to not get arrested and wind up in jail forever. But that’s what was always going to happen, and she knew it. He’d decide she was useless, and after getting her in trouble with the feds, he’d just throw her to them and go out on his own.

She was hit by another wave of sobs, this one even harder than the first. She cried so hard, she didn’t even have the air to do it properly. Everything hurt and nothing was going right, and sooner or later someone would see her and that would just be the end of it.

Darcy didn’t know how long she’d sat and cried, when she heard the passenger door open again. She looked up sharply, expecting to see a cop, or worse, Coulson. Instead, Loki sat back down as calmly as ever and handed her the map and the soda he’d tried to give her before. Darcy was so shocked that he’d came back at all that she took both without question.

"Where did you go?" she asked weakly, not wanting to admit to even herself that she was glad to see his stupid snakey face.

"To find a local," Loki answered.

Darcy drew a shaky breath and looked at the map to find that someone had helpfully written down directions for how to get to where she needed to be. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to laugh or to cry, and kind of did both. She wiped her face dry with her sleeve and nodded as she read the directions Loki had somehow managed to talk someone into writing down. She didn’t even want to think about how he’d managed that.

Suddenly feeling very thirsty, she opened the soda — some horrid, generic orange thing — and drank half of it in one go. She was still trembling, and her chest still felt tight, but she didn’t feel quite like everything was just a big, giant hopeless lost cause of a mess.

"You should rest," Loki said unexpectedly.

Darcy almost laughed. "Can you drive?" she asked sceptically.

He shrugged. "It can’t be that difficult. You can do it," he said.

Darcy did laugh that time, though she didn’t have the energy to make it much more than a gasp. "No, you are not getting behind the wheel ever," she said.

Loki shrugged and sat back in his seat. He still looked like road kill, but at least he looked like well-rested road kill. And maybe it was just the haze of snot and tears in her eyes, but he didn’t seem as angry as he had earlier. It must have been one hell of a nap he took, and Darcy wished she could take one herself.

"Just give me a few minutes, okay," she said, pulling her hair away from her face and trying to compose herself.

Loki didn’t say anything, which was as good as an agreement from him. Darcy yanked on the rear view mirror so she could see herself in it, frowning immediately when her stupid new hair colour caught her eye. Sighing and leaning back into her seat, pushed the mirror back into a working position and tried to fix her hair without looking at it. Out of nowhere, Loki reached over with both hands and decided to just mess it up all over again, but Darcy put up with it, assuming he was just being his obnoxious childish self. She ignored him and kept trying to fix her hair until she felt calm and in control of the situation once more, before she looked at the map again and started to read the directions Loki had been given. They were long and complicated, and looked like whoever he asked had to get them off Google, which was only further confirmation of just how lost they were.

"Are you any good at pick-pocketing?" Darcy asked, surprising even herself.

Loki looked over at her dubiously. "Why?"

She didn’t answer. She didn’t want to resort to it, but knew she might have to if they were going to survive this. Instead, she took a steadying breath and got back onto the main road, ready to try again.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God | #33

"What are you doing?"

Darcy had expected Loki to actually sleep for the entire trip. She had no idea he was even awake, or if he’d even even gone to sleep, but when he spoke she jumped so hard that she accidentally threw her highlighter across the car.

"Jesus Christ," she said as she fished the highlighter out of the footwell. She spread the map back over the dash and finished tracing her chosen route. "I bought a map, so I know where the hell to actually go," she said.

There was a much easier-looking, more direct route across Canada, but it was also the main route across Canada, and thus probably crawling with Feds. She had no idea how much more time the northern detour would take, but it would probably be less-travelled than the main highway.

"You can read a map?" Loki asked incredulously.

Darcy wanted to hit him. "Go to sleep," she told him instead.

She looked at her traced route and frowned, knowing there was still one major problem. The map she’d bought was a national map, and she had no idea how to actually get out of Calgary, except for that Route 2 kind of looked like it went north.

Darcy looked around, hoping to find a compass or something that might tell her which way north was.

"Where the hell is north?" she wondered out loud.

Loki opened one of the back doors, and for a second Darcy thought he was just going to start wandering away. Instead, he just poked his head out and looked skyward at the clouds. After he was done letting all the warm air out, he slammed the door shut and pointed over Darcy’s shoulder. "There," he said.

Darcy looked in the direction he pointed and slid back over to the driver’s seat.

"No, seriously though. You should go to sleep," she said as she started the car again.

"You’re hopeless without me," Loki said, lazily climbing back into the front seat.

"Hey, I got a map," Darcy defended.

"But you still can’t navigate," said Loki.

Darcy ignored him and pulled back out onto the road. There were more cars out now, making Darcy more than a little nervous about being on the road with them.

"God, I’m so scared someone is just gonna run right into us because they won’t see us and decide to change lanes," she said.

"We’re not invisible," Loki said. "That’s a different kind of magic."

Darcy felt a little better about changing lanes so she could turn at the next light, but she still moved extra cautiously as she did. "There are different kinds?" she asked.

Loki didn’t answer. He just closed his eyes and leaned back into his seat.

Darcy continued to head vaguely north, keeping her attention on the road signs. She didn’t see anything helpfully telling her that Route 2 was just right around the corner, so she kept going in the same direction.

"So, how does it work?" she asked eventually.

Loki barely looked up at her. "It just does," he said irritably.

"Okay," Darcy said.

She pulled up to an intersection as a big, black, definitely SHIELD SUV pulled up beside her. She looked over out of the corner of her eye and saw Sitwell in the passenger seat, without his glasses and looking kind of green. A part of her was glad to see he was still alive, but the rest of her felt like she was going to have a heart attack.

"Loki. Loki, Loki. Loki," she said, slapping at him and trying to wake him up.

He slapped back, a little harder than he needed to, and slowly sat up. As soon as he saw what Darcy saw, he seemed wide awake. Grabbing her leg again and digging his fingers into her skin, he looked around.

"Turn. Now," he said.

Darcy looked around wildly, not even sure if she could turn legally. But there wasn’t anyone next to her in the turn lane, so she made a right when the signal turned green, trying to make it seem like she was totally planning on doing that. She kept her attention on her mirrors, watching as the SUV turned left at the light. It gave her just enough time to breathe before she checked again to see it turning around right in the middle of the street.

"Shit, fuck, shit shit shit," she said, gripping the wheel so hard it distracted her from Loki’s bony fingers still digging into her leg.

He turned round in his seat, watching out the rear window. "What did you do?" he asked stiffly.

"Me?" Darcy demanded. "Why does it have to have been me? I didn’t fucking do anything. It’s your busted fucking magic or whatever."

There was a major looking road up ahead that would take them north, so Darcy started looking for the on-ramp or the turn signal, or whatever would get them where she wanted to be. But whoever had designed the intersection had apparently never taken multiple lanes of traffic going in multiple directions into account. There was no place to turn left, and soon they had gone straight over the highway or whatever it was. Just as she was getting ready to flip a seriously illegal U-turn, she came to a random left turn at a gap in the median. Not even caring if it was the right one, Darcy took it. It led straight to the highway below, which was both a relief and a new source of panic all at once. Trying to balance merging into traffic without getting killed and watching the SUV that had been trailing them, she watched as it drove right on by, apparently never even seeing her get onto the highway. She relaxed into her seat and let herself breathe, but Loki stayed where he was, still trying to poke his fingers straight through her flesh and watching out the back window. He stayed that way for several minutes before finally letting himself relax as well. As he settled back into his seat and looked at the cars around them, Darcy rubbed the spot above her knee, half expecting to actually find blood. It still hurt like a motherfucker, and even if she wasn’t bleeding, she knew she’d find one hell of a bruise as soon as she took off her pants.

"I think," she said slowly, pausing to breathe deeply a few more times. "I think we might actually be on the right road. Can you check the map?"

Loki glared at her before reaching for it. He looked out the window at the sky where the clouds had got even heavier, took one look at the map, and then threw it against the dash. "No," he said flatly.

Darcy sighed. "Then hold onto it so I can look at it." She didn’t even care if he wasn’t being deliberately irritating. He was still being fucking irritating.

Loki did at least hold the map for her. She looked at it, and then out to the road and what lay on either side of it. There weren’t much around, and it was starting to thin out even more, but what there was seemed to match with what the map said would happen for this particular stretch of this particular highway.

"Kay," she said, nodding. "I think this is it. This should take us exactly where we want to go."

Loki folded the map with no regard for the creases already in the paper and tossed it back on the dash. "And where’s that?" he asked.

"I don’t know," Darcy admitted. "If I can to an internet connection, I can figure that out, though."

"Figure it out now," Loki demanded.

Darcy only didn’t close her eyes and count to ten because she was driving, and did not want to die after so narrowly escaping with her life once already that morning. "I can’t. Did you miss the part about nobody knowing where we’re going until we get there?"

Loki crossed his arms over his chest and sank down into his seat.

"And pouting like a three-year-old isn’t gonna change anything," Darcy said. "You’re annoying as fuck when you’re tired, you know that?"

"And you grow less useful by the minute," Loki told her. It was definitely a threat, but Darcy ignored it. He got mean and cranky when he was tired, and they both knew it. She knew he needed her a hell of a lot more than she needed him.

"Great. Then I’ll just pull over and you can walk your happy ass to Norway," she said.

Loki looked away and turned his attention to the scenery out his window. Taking that as some kind of feeble victory, Darcy decided to ignore him as well, if that was what he was going to do to her. It would make the drive a little less stressful, at any rate.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God | #32

Darcy was pretty sure she was just driving around in circles while she looked for a place that looked like it was open, without being the sort of place they might get spotted.

"Okay, so we have a problem," Darcy said, watching a black SUV drive through the intersection.

"What else is new?" asked Loki grimly.

"We have about a hundred and sixty bucks left," Darcy said. "Which is more than enough for breakfast, but we don’t have any clothes or shoes, and we’re on a quarter of a tank and are gonna need gas real soon."

"Don’t even say it," Loki said.

Darcy turned a corner and drove further into town, passing by houses and and small shops specialty that wouldn’t help them at all.

"We’re kinda screwed," Darcy pointed out. As she stopped at a light, another big, black SUV stopped next to them. Darcy froze, not sure what to do when Coulson looked over and saw her right next to him in her brand new stolen car.

Loki slowly reached over to grab onto her leg again and squeezed hard enough to leave bruises on top of the ones that were already there. He leaned over and looked into the window of the car next to them and shook his head. "It’s not them," he said, letting go of her and sitting back in his seat.

"Are you sure?" Darcy asked, too afraid to look.

"There’s a child licking the glass."

Darcy looked over and almost cried with relief. There was indeed a child licking the back seat window, and now that Darcy looked at the car properly, it was way too old to be one of SHIELD’s. She breathed in sharply and wiped her eyes with both hands, absolutely refusing to lose control in front of Loki. Luckily, he didn’t seem to notice, and was leaning back in his seat with his eyes closed again.

At the green light, Darcy continued her wandering, taking turns at random until she finally came to an area that looked promising. Loki wasn’t in the condition to go into a sit-down restaurant, and even if he had been, they still lacked shoes or real clothes, so she kept looking for a place with a drive through. She finally found a Burger King with a short line at the window and pulled up, looking over the menu and hoping they didn’t insist on serving their nasty breakfast menu until stupidly late.

She considered asking Loki what he wanted, but quickly realised it was stupid. He wanted one of everything, just like he had last time, and given the state he was in, Darcy figured she should try to manage something close to that. When the person on the other end of the speaker finally asked for her order, Darcy ordered the first ten burgers on the menu.

"And what kind of juice do you have?" she asked.

"Apple and orange," the crackly voice responded.

"Apple. The biggest one you’ve got. And a large Pepsi. And two large fries. And like, the biggest thing of chicken nuggets you have," she said, pretty sure she was making the poor cashier think they were being trolled.

Loki watched boredly while Darcy paid at the window, but once the bags were handed over, he was suddenly at full attention. He started digging through the bags while Darcy got the drinks settled, and immediately went for the ginormous box of chicken nuggets.

"No, hey, that’s mine," she said, reaching to take it away from him. She pulled out her carton of fries as well. "The rest is all yours, buddy. And this." She handed him the bottle of apple juice, assuming he’d be able to open it on his own.

Checking to make sure she hadn’t been holding anybody else up, Darcy pulled away from the drive through window and started wandering the streets aimlessly again, looking for anywhere to get the rest of what they needed. Chicken nuggets weren’t the best breakfast, but they were fresh and hot, and so were her fries, so it was miles better than what she’d been having for breakfast lately.

She was about halfway done with her chicken nuggets, and the car’s tank was getting dangerously low when she finally spotted a strip mall with a big pharmacy type store and a gas station. She stopped in the parking lot and looked over at Loki, hating herself for what she was about to ask.

"We’re broke," she said.

"I don’t care," said Loki around a mouthful of cheeseburger. He had practically inhaled them all, and was on his last one already.

"Yes you do, because we’re not gonna get very far," Darcy told him. "Seriously, we are so fucked. I don’t even care if you knock it over. We need money," she said. She couldn’t believe what she’d just said, but their breakfast had been stupid expensive. But Loki needed it. She’d been around him and Thor long enough to have learned that keeping an Asgardian fed was about as expensive as keeping a horse fed.

"We need shoes. We need clothes. We need gas. We need food. We need money in case something happens again," she said. "A lot of it."

Loki sat silently as he finished off his burger, and then ate every single crumb from his fries. Knowing hers were just going to go cold anyway, since she’d ordered twenty fucking chicken nuggets as well, Darcy handed what was left of hers over to him. He ate the rest of her fries, and then slammed back his juice like it was his job.

"Fine," he said once he was finished. He opened the door and got out of the car. Just watching him walk through the slush on the ground made Darcy’s feet hurt, but he didn’t even seem to notice.

He walked inside the gas station, not even drawing any attention to himself despite being barefoot and in pyjamas, and found the ATM. Darcy couldn’t see what he was doing from in the car, but he seemed to be concentrating on it pretty hard. Finally, he looked up and walked back outside, casual as could be. Once back inside the car, he handed the stack of cash over to Darcy. She took it and counted through it, not sure if she should feel bad that Loki just stole almost two grand, or glad that they could actually afford to get themselves across Canada now.

"Okay," she said, stuffing the cash into her pocket and looking up at the pharmacy. "Okay. I don’t want to go in there alone."

"I’m tired," Loki complained.

"I’m scared," Darcy said. "I’ve never done this before. I don’t know what to do if I get caught. What if you get caught out here while I’m in there?"

Loki sat up and looked over at her almost nervously. "Give me the knife," he grumbled.

Darcy knew what was coming this time, but it didn’t make her any less grossed out when Loki started finger painting on her chest again. But he was less rushed this time, and seemed a little more confident in his work as they stepped out of the car, which made Darcy feel almost a little better about having his blood smeared all over her chest again.

"Can you unlock the doors again when we get back?" Darcy asked meekly, standing up on her tip toes to keep as much of her feet off the icy pavement as possible.

Loki sighed. "Fine."

Darcy locked them, since a pre-hotwired-car was just an invitation to get stolen. She tried not to run across the parking lot, but every step she took was more painful than the last. Apparently, Loki was getting sick of watching her suffer, because about halfway there, he scooped her up in both arms and carried her the rest of the way. Once inside, he all but dropped her, making her almost fall flat on her ass.

Darcy grabbed a cart and started going down the aisles until she found the small winter wear section. She grabbed a pair of ugly brown boots in her size and tossed them into the cart.

"Do you remember what size you wore?" she asked.

Loki shrugged almost indifferently.

"I think they were a…" She found a size twelve on the shelf and handed them to him. "Try that on."

Loki looked at her blankly. At first, Darcy thought he was just going to keep staring at her, but he finally bent over to try the boots on.

"That’s fine," he said after barely getting his foot inside. He tossed them into the cart and immediately wandered off. Darcy rolled her eyes, wanting to point out that wandering off was pretty much exactly defeating the purpose of making him come in with her, but she didn’t want to shout in the middle of the quiet store. Instead, she grabbed a few packs of socks in both their sizes, and then took a few sweatshirts and heavy pants from the tiny rack.

As she wandered through the store, trying to catch back up with Loki, she passed by an aisle with a few blankets, and was struck by an idea. She grabbed a few of them, and a couple of their cheap little pillows, and threw them all into the cart. She was just getting ready to go start looking for Loki again when he found her and dumped a huge armful of junk food into the cart.

"Got everything?" she asked, somewhat pleased that he had saved time and got something mildly useful.

"We should go," he said.

"Yep," Darcy agreed. She took the cart up to the register and smiled pleasantly at the poor guy behind the counter, right next to the front door with all the cold air.

He didn’t even look up as he rang up their stuff and bagged it. Again, the total was stupid outrageous, but this time it didn’t matter so much. They had enough of a cushion to get them to Winnipeg and beyond, even if Loki did decide to stop every two hours for more food.

Outside, Darcy stopped Loki before they started back toward the car.

"Hang on, hang on," she said.

There weren’t any benches nearby, so she sat on the dryest patch of concrete she could find and dug their boots out of the bags. "Here," she said, handing Loki his, as well as a thick pair of socks. He seemed like he didn’t even care, but his feet were actually dressed by the time Darcy was standing again, never so glad to be wearing shoes.

The walk back across the parking lot wasn’t nearly as torturous as the first time, and she felt almost confident that they might get out alive by the time they got to the car. Maybe it was just the shoes, but they were a hell of a morale boost already.

"Here," she said again as she pressed the button to open the back hatch. "I got a present for you."

She climbed inside, finding a few more blankets already behind the seats, but not at all regretting her purchase. She felt around behind the seats, taking almost embarrassingly long to find the right latch. Finally, the seat fell forward, not laying exactly flat, but close enough. She laid out two of the blankets to pad out the bed, and then tossed the pillows inside.

"You have been so nice, and I don’t know why, but you deserve some sleep now," she said.

Loki looked at her dubiously, but climbed in anyway. Once he seemed fairly settled, Darcy put the rest of their bags into the back with him and closed the hatch. By the time Darcy was back in the front seat, Loki was out like a light, sleeping on top of all of the blankets. She hoped that maybe wherever they were going after Winnipeg, they could just keep their borrowed car and drive all the way through, so Loki could actually get some rest before he died from exhaustion.

Not wanting to think about that, she started the car and pulled up to the gas station, so ready to just get the hell out before someone spotted them again.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God | #31

Darcy didn’t realise she was freezing to death again until she was woken up suddenly to the familiar sensation of her space being invaded. Before she really realised what was going on, she felt herself being pulled back away from the edge of the bed. She went completely stiff as Loki pulled her close to his chest, unable to believe he would actually try anything with Lil not three feet away.

"You’re freezing again," he mumbled into the back of Darcy’s neck as he moved the flimsy blankets around them.

He didn’t say or do anything else after that, and it took Darcy a few tense minutes to realise he’d gone back to sleep. His breath on the back of her neck was just about the only warm thing about him, making Darcy wonder how being held against him was supposed to make anything better. At least this time his dick wasn’t digging into her ass. She looked across the darkness to where Lil slept, wondering if she even would be able to help. Even if he was sick and broken, Loki was still what ancient people once worshipped as a god. He could probably overpower both of them if he wanted. But he was also asleep, and once Darcy finally managed to relax again, she tried not to admit that it actually felt kind of nice to just be held and not be groped or threatened. She looked at the clock between the two beds, actually kind of glad it was only 1:30 in the morning. It meant if she actually managed to get back to sleep, she could maybe get a full night’s rest for the first time in days.

The next time she woke up, she was pulled out of a dream where she was stuck inside a labyrinthine version of Culver while aliens attacked and stuff was being knocked off the walls with heavy thuds. Loki was suddenly holding onto her very tightly and sitting straight up behind her. She looked back at him, able to just make out his features in the dim morning light.

"What?" she started to ask, but before she could even finish the word, Loki clamped his hand tight over her mouth. She almost screamed anyway, but loud knocking at the door made her forget all about Loki’s hand on her mouth. She looked at the window by the door, realising she could just barely make out several figures through the curtains.

"Miss Crawley, we know you’re in there, and we know you’re harbouring a fugitive. Open up!" someone called from outside. It took Darcy a few moments to realise that someone was Coulson.

Darcy managed to twist her head away and looked back at Loki as he got up. Once on his feet, he grabbed Darcy by the wrist and led her to the door, standing against the wall so when the door opened, it would smack right into them. Lil was up as well, slowly getting out of bed and walking to the other side of the room like she was ready for a fight.

There was the sound of a key card in the lock, giving away their intent to break in suddenly. The door opened, and as soon as the first person stepped inside, Loki threw a punch to the side of his head, dropping the agent to the ground. It wasn’t until she looked down at him that Darcy realised that it was Agent Sitwell, which unpleasantly reminded her that he was part of SHIELD as well.

"Sitwell, no!" she said before she could stop herself. It was just enough to draw Coulson’s attention as he came in, gun drawn. He looked at her almost questioningly, but it was cut short by Lil launching a flying kick at him. They both toppled into the parking lot outside, giving an opening for Loki to grab Darcy again and run. A third agent had his gun drawn just outside the door, but before he could do anything, Loki let go of Darcy again and grabbed the agent. He moved so quickly, it was barely even a struggle before the agent fell limp after a wet cracking sound. Darcy stared down at him in horror, seeing what she knew was a dead person in the trampled snow. Even after Loki took hold of her wrist again, he had to drag her away. She looked back to see Lil giving as good as she got with Coulson as Loki led her out to the sidewalk. In the few seconds it took Loki to decide on which direction to go, something flew right past Darcy’s head and hit Loki where his shoulder met his neck. If he were human, the arrow would have killed him almost instantly. Instead, he howled an inhuman sound and turned toward the direction of the hidden sniper and threw his hand forward. Darcy watched someone fly off the roof like he’d been pulled by a wire. Unable to believe any of what she’d just seen, she looked back up at Loki just in time to see him snap the shaft of the arrow off, leaving the point still stuck in him.

Before Coulson could manage to arrest Lil, the apparent ninja or some shit, Loki pulled Darcy along down the road. The early morning commute was probably already starting, but as far out on the edge of town as they were, the streets were still empty. As Loki pulled Darcy along the sidewalk, she became acutely aware of the fact that she wasn’t wearing shoes, and was pretty sure she was about to get frostbite.

"We need a car," she said suddenly. Loki looked around, and started pulling her toward a new minivan parked outside a small shopping centre.

"No, it’s too new. I won’t be able to start it," she said.

She looked over her shoulder, knowing it wasn’t long before Coulson and his goons caught up with them. Turning her sights back to the meagre offerings of the shopping centre, she spotted an older Taurus estate and tugged Loki in that direction. On the off-chance the owner was an idiot, she tried the door, but was unsurprised to find it locked. She got ready to try to break the window, but Loki pushed her out of the way instead. He felt up the door like he was trying to get to second base and tried it again, this time opening it like it had never been locked. Darcy climbed inside and reached over to unlock the other door, only then realising the flaw in her plan.

"Hey, that thing you did to make people not see us. Can you do that to the car?" she asked.

The look of physical pain on Loki’s face actually hurt her to look at.

"I know it hurts you, but if we get pulled over, we’re dead," she said.

Loki sighed and looked around. "I need a knife," he said.

Darcy started looking around the car, and actually came up with a small jackknife in the glove box. She handed it to Loki so he could do his thing while she got to work on starting the car. She wrenched the bottom steering column panel out, having to throw all her weight into breaking it, and pulled the mess of wires free. She started sorting through them, finding the starter bundle amongst all the rest. She separated out the wires she knew she needed and poked her head out the door to see where Loki was.

"Are you done with the knife?" she asked.

Loki grumbled and skidded it across the ground at her. Using the knife, Darcy stripped a few of the wires and twisted them together, lighting up the dash panel. With that done, she stripped the brown one and touched it to the first bundle. The car engine started, revving almost lazily in the cold weather. Cringing desperately, Darcy revved the engine a few more times, just to make sure it didn’t die. Once she was certain, she used the knife to pry off the keyhole on the steering column and pulled the wheel hard to the left to break the lock. Darcy never thought she’d be so glad to have lost her keys her freshman year of college.

Just as she finished that, Loki opened the passenger door and fell into the seat. His hands were covered in blood, and Darcy was pretty sure his nose was bleeding as well.

A sudden, terrible thought occurring to her, Darcy jumped in her seat and slammed her hands against her thighs to feel her pockets. She shoved her hands inside them, and was immediately relieved to find their dwindling supply of cash still on her. She counted it out, wondering how they’d managed to spend over $100 already.

"Let’s get some breakfast. And then we’ll figure it out from there, okay?" she said.

Loki nodded tiredly and turned in his seat so he faced the window. "Get it out," he said. His voice was heavy and wet, and definitely not healthy.

"It’s probably stopping the blood," Darcy said, not wanting to look at the black shaft sticking out of his skin. There was less blood than she expected there to be, but she knew if she pulled the arrow out, he probably would bleed to death.

"Get. It. Out," Loki demanded through gritted teeth.

With a disgusted grimace, Darcy shut her door and turned to face Loki better. This was just like that first night, when she pulled out all his stitches. He hadn’t bled too much then, so Darcy convinced herself that it would be fine. She tried to find a way to grab the arrow shaft without getting too much blood on her hands, but he’d broken it off so close to the skin, she wasn’t even sure if she could pull it out at all. She finally just went in, grabbing it and pulling on it as hard as she could. Loki made a sound like he was biting back a scream, and she almost stopped. But there was no point in pulling it out halfway, so she repositioned her grip and gave it one last good tug. The arrow came free with a sickening squelching sound, letting the blood flow freely behind it. It was still less than Darcy had expected, but enough to make a mess all the same. She looked around the car, finding a small blanket balled up in the back seat, and grabbed it. After wiping her hands off with it, she pressed the blanket to the back of Loki’s neck and pulled his hand up so he held it in place.

"Can you eat right now?" Darcy asked, realising that the arrow had probably gone into his throat.

Loki settled back in his seat and nodded tiredly. Nodding back, Darcy turned back to face the wheel and put the car into gear. She had no idea where they were or how to get to where they needed to go, but she was pretty sure they’d find a McDonald’s or something sooner or later. Hoping Loki’s disgusting blood magic would work on the car, she pulled out of the parking lot and onto the main road, looking for big, black SUVs at every turn.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God | #30

Darcy watched for any sign of movement by the door. Lil had been gone for a long time, sending a rising flood of panic through Darcy. Lil had been nice. She even put up with Loki’s bullshit. But all Darcy could think about while left alone with Loki in a freezing SUV were all the ways in which Lil could betray them and sell them out. Darcy didn’t even think she’d be surprised anymore. Her life had gone so horribly wrong, and nothing would ever go right again.

She craned her neck to try to see inside the hotel lobby, but the angle was wrong, and all she could see was wall. How long did it take to check into a hotel room? What if Lil was calling the cops?

What if Lil had been arrested, and the Men in Black were waiting for Darcy to go investigate? Darcy was seriously starting to consider waking Loki and telling him they had to bail again when the lobby door opened. Darcy tensed up, expecting to see government spooks, but instead was surprised to see Lil. She walked back out to the SUV and opened the back to grab her bag, nodding toward the hotel.

“Come on," she said before she closed the back hatch.

Darcy still wasn’t sure if she felt any better, but she leaned over the back seat and nudged at Loki until he woke up.

"Hey, time to go inside," she said when it seemed like he was actually awake.

Loki grumbled something that might not have even been words. "Where are we?" he asked.

"I don’t know. Calgary, I think," Darcy said.

"Where’s that?" asked Loki.

"I don’t know," Darcy repeated.

Loki looked annoyed, but started to get out of the car anyway.

"Grab the bags. And the clothes off the seat," Darcy said as she cleaned up her mess in the front seat as quickly as she could. She contemplated taking her blanket in with her, but decided there would be plenty of warm blankets inside, so she left them.

By the time she was halfway to the door of their ground-level motel room, she turned back and realised that Loki had only grabbed one of their bags, and none of the clothes Darcy had set out to dry. She almost went back for them, but was too cold to bother, and just wanted to get inside and get warm. Once she stepped inside, she realised a problem she hadn’t even considered before. The room only had two beds. Loki pushed right past her and claimed the one farthest from the door for himself, crashing down like he’d already fallen asleep before he was off his feet.

Darcy stalled, trying to make it look like she was just closing the door. She wanted to ask Lil if she could share with her, but she didn’t want to give Lil yet another reason to distrust Loki. Not when there were so many already.

"Hey, would anybody mind if I took a bath for like, an hour?" she asked, instead of dealing with the problem of once again having to share a bed with Loki.

Loki mumbled something and Lil started walking toward the bathroom.

"Yeah, give me a minute first," she said.

While Lil took care of that, Darcy dug through the bag to find something to change into after her bath. It was Loki’s bag, so none of it would fit her, and then he’d be grumpy about not having anything that fit him. Frowning, Darcy crammed it all back into the bag and tossed it against the wall. She had like, eight layers on. The outer layers were probably still clean, at least.

Once the bathroom was free, Darcy barricaded herself inside and started running the tap. Before the bath even filled up, she undressed and stepped inside, not sure if the water was already too hot, or if she was just still that cold. Either way, she was probably going to boil a few layers of skin off, and she didn’t even care. Maybe it would boil the cold right out of her, and take the mildewy smell of lake water with it. As she leaned back in the cramped bath, letting her hair soak, she realised that she could only barely remember falling in, and didn’t even know how she got back out. Someone had to have gone in after her.

She almost thought she remembered Loki going in after her, which made no sense at all. But he was wearing new clothes as well, which meant his were probably soaked and full of fish pee too.

But he seemed fine. She also seemed to remember him just sitting in the snow, so maybe he just didn’t feel the cold like she did.

Maybe that’s why he always felt so cold.

Shivering at the thought of that horrible lake, Darcy nudged the water even hotter with her toes. She couldn’t believe they had only just left Seattle that morning. It had been the longest day ever, in the longest week ever. Darcy closed her eyes and wondered about just giving up. She wondered what would happen if she did. If she just sat down and waited for SHIELD to find her. Maybe she could send Loki out on his own, and he could get where he was going without help.

And maybe she could blow rainbows out of her ass. All he did was sleep and piss people off. He’d get captured or killed in less than an hour.

Once the bath was full to the point of giving the overflow drain something to do, Darcy turned off the water and let herself sink completely beneath the surface. She finally felt warm for what felt like the first time ever, and hoped it would last forever. She pulled herself back up when she needed to breathe again and looked around the sides of the bath. There were no tiny bottles of shampoo, but there was a tiny bar of soap waiting to be unwrapped and used. Darcy scrubbed every inch of herself, and then took the soap to her hair to get the mildew smell out. She knew it would just wreck her hair, but she’d already wrecked it anyway by dying it a stupid colour. She wasn’t sure she could make it any worse, actually.

She rinsed her hair out in and sat up, disgusted at the brown colour in the water that she hoped was from leftover dye. Not wanting to soak in nasty water any longer, she gave up on her extra long bath and drained the water, starting the shower as she got up. She rinsed all the gross-ness off her, and even left some hot water behind when she got out. There was one whole towel waiting for her, which was kind of questionable-looking, but she ignored that and dried off before putting on the hoodie and pyjamas she’d been wearing as an outer layer. It looked kind of cheap and dirty to leave the bath wearing the same thing she had on going in, but she didn’t care. It didn’t smell like lake water, at least.

Back out in the hotel room, Lil was flipping channels on the tiny TV while Loki slept, sprawled out on the bed. Taking a moment to steel herself, Darcy tossed her dirty clothes down by Loki’s bag and sat down next to him.

"Thought you were gonna be in there for longer," Lil said.

Darcy frowned. "The water was gross."

Lil laughed quietly. "Does your friend want to take a shower?" she asked.

Darcy looked over at Loki, not even tempted to ask him. He wasn’t even pretending to be asleep. He was out. He was breathing so shallowly, Darcy almost through he might have just keeled over when no-one was looking.

"No, don’t wake him up. He’s really sick," Darcy said. "I think that’s why he’s so grumpy and horrible all the time."

She looked down at her hands glad that the hoodie sleeves were long enough to cover the bruises Loki had put on her wrists.

"I don’t think he means to be so… mean, you know?" she said.

Lil sighed deeply.

"It changes people," she said. "It’s one thing if someone actually wants it. You get a healing factor, and you’ve won the mutant powers lottery. But you see these kids who kill anything they touch, or they’re physically deformed from their mutation, and those are the people who need it. But when they started using it as a punishment, it just makes things worse. Then you get mutant rights movements that turn into terrorists."

"The bitch of it is, they’re right," Darcy said. It left a bad taste in her mouth to say it out loud, but she’d known for a while that the other, more peaceful methods weren’t working. "Maybe that’s what I’ll do. Help the Rising Tide get this shit fixed."

"We’re always recruiting," Lil said dryly.

Darcy didn’t have to use her imagination to figure out why. She yawned loudly and leaned back against the headboard, careful to avoid actually touching Loki.

"God, today sucks," she complained. "Everything sucks."

"Yeah," Lil agreed. It wasn’t exactly comforting, but at the same time, Darcy was glad it wasn’t more empty reassurance. She’d had just about enough of that for a lifetime.

She glanced over to Loki, where he slept on top of the blankets, and decided it was safe to climb under them. She was starting to get cold again, but was vaguely aware that it was probably just her mind messing with her.

"What time are we leaving tomorrow?" she asked.

Lil looked at the clock on the table between the beds. "Early," she said. "If we don’t hit any storms, we can make it to Winnipeg late tomorrow night."

Darcy already knew the drive was going to suck. "Kay. Then I’m going to bed," she said. She reached over to turn off the lamp, not even caring that the TV was still on. She was asleep before Lil turned it off.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God | #29

Gas station bathrooms in Canada were pretty much exactly the same as gas station bathrooms in America. Darcy tried not to think about all the diseases she’d catch from using it, and just prayed there was soap at the sink. She caught her own reflection in the mirror, mistaking her new bottle-blonde hair for someone else’s, and nearly jumped out of her shoes. She’d completely forgotten all about that, and quickly became bitter and resentful about it. She hadn’t wanted to dye her hair blonde, and only did it because she was trying to avoid being recognised. It took less than a day for her to be recognised anyway, and now she had ugly blonde hair that stood out even more than her natural brown.

Grumbling under her breath about it, Darcy quickly washed up and went back into the gas station to return the key and make sure Loki wasn’t trying to buy more beer. Which did sound really good at the moment, but the last thing they needed was to get pulled over for an open container violation.

As she handed the key back to the guy behind the counter, ignoring his weird stare, she looked around the small shop for Loki. Not that he was difficult to find. He towered over everything like the outer-worldly being he was and frowned at a bag of Combos.

"They totally look like dog food, but I promise they’re delicious," Darcy said, grabbing a few bags of the pizza flavoured ones. Since Loki hadn’t shared any of his first batch of snacks, Darcy loaded up on her own and took them up to the counter to wait for Loki. Since she still had the cash, and Loki didn’t know what it was worth anyway, Darcy paid and went back out to the car where Lil was waiting.

"Oh my god sorry. This was the last stop, I promise," Darcy said as she climbed back into the SUV. She handed Lil a bottle of Coke before settling in for the rest of the ride.

"When you gotta go, you gotta go," Lil said.

"You could have found a tree, if you were that desperate. There are plenty of them around," Loki said like a smug bastard.

Darcy sneered at him in disbelief. "Have you ever even seen a girl?" she asked.

Lil waited for the two of them to stop bickering and for Loki to fasten his seatbelt before leaving the parking lot and getting back on the freeway. The terrain was starting to climb again, with mountains faint on the horizon in the setting sun.

"We’re gonna be able to go over that?" Darcy asked. Trying to navigate a mountain pass in January did not sound like a good time.

"Yep. Highway all the way through. It goes clear across Canada. We’re taking it all the way to Winnipeg," Lil said.

"Well, that’s easy," Darcy said.

"How far is it to Tórshavn?" Loki asked.

Darcy wanted to throttle him if he asked that question one more time. "Probably about the same as when we were in New Mexico. We actually went backwards when you bamfed us to Portland," she told him.

"You’re joking." Loki leaned back in his seat and covered his face with both hands. "Why is your realm so needlessly large?"

Darcy reached over the seat and petted his head, not even surprised when he slapped her hand away.

"So, what all can you do?" asked Lil hesitantly. "I used to know another technopath, years ago. But you can teleport too?"

Darcy didn’t expect Loki to answer. She got the feeling he didn’t like Lil, but was only sitting in front to get away from Darcy herself.

"I can do what you can’t even imagine possible," Loki said. "But not here. I need to leave this realm and everything on it."

Darcy was just glad Loki hadn’t declared his intent to destroy everyone as well. She held the vague hope that maybe he was having second thoughts, or maybe he’d only said that at all to frighten her. At least he understood that frightening the help would get them nowhere. And probably stranded in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Just looking out at the snow was making Darcy cold again, so she bundled up in the blanket like it was a cocoon. A scratchy wool cocoon. Even though she was sick of Loki asking, she was wondering the same thing he was. She was already so sick of going places, and just wanted to be done already. She wished she at least had her phone so she could look up how much farther they had to go. And maybe figure out how the hell they were supposed to get there. She knew fuck all about Canada and where Calgary was in relation to Winnipeg, and where that was in relation to their final destination. For all she knew, they were going clear up to the north pole. She was just about as lost as Loki was, but at least she wasn’t suffering horrendous culture shock as well.

As the sun fell behind them and night fell stupidly early, Darcy started looking around behind the seat again. "Hey, is there another blanket in here?" she asked, feeling around blindly.

"You’re not that cold," Loki said in that grumpy way he got when he was too tired but resisting going to sleep. Darcy tried not to think about the fact that she’d been with him long enough to begin to recognise his moods.

"How do you know? You’re not me," she said. She gave up trying to find another blanket and tugged on Loki’s shirt instead. "Then trade me spots, because the heater doesn’t reach back here."

"Heater’s not on. I need to save gas," Lil said.

"Oh, well no wonder," said Darcy. She shivered into her blanket and wondered how far until the next gas station if they were running on economy mode. "Okay, seriously. Where’s the other blanket then?"

With an irritated growl, Loki flung what remained of his snacks into the back seat before following after them, much to the indignance of Lil.

"Would you sit down," she demanded, trying not to get hit by Loki’s long legs as he climbed over the back seat.

Before he even got settled, he picked up his forgotten hoodie from the floor. He jammed it over Darcy’s head like he was trying to shove her into a burlap sack and fell down heavy beside her.

"Would you shut up," he said.

Darcy hesitated for a few seconds, not sure if she should try to make Loki wear more than just his T-shirt, but she decided against trying to provoke him further. She pulled the hoodie on over her own and re-settled herself against Loki’s side, making sure to share the blanket with him as much as he’d allow. He shifted away, and for a second, Darcy thought he was going to try to bail out the door, but he apparently changed his mind and settled down again.

"Go to sleep," Darcy said quietly. "You’re getting mean and scary again."

"Good," muttered Loki. Darcy refrained from asking if he was five.

Instead of going to sleep, he reached for Darcy’s bag of sour gummy bears and took took about ten of them and ate them all at once.

"Oh, god," Darcy said.

Judging by his face, Loki immediately regretted his decision to steal her snacks. He spat the whole thing out onto the floor and wiped off his tongue with the back of his hand.

"It’s gone off. It’s rancid," he complained.

"It’s supposed to taste like that. You’re just not supposed to eat that many at once," Darcy said, not even trying to hide her laughter.

"Whatever you just spat out, please clean it up," Lil said tiredly.

Rather than say anything about how she’d already been putting up with this bullshit for about a week, Darcy found an empty carrier bag and handed it to Loki. He looked at her like he expected her to do it, but Darcy just dropped it onto his lap and pretended not to know what he wanted.

He finally picked his mess up from the floor, only to open his door and throw it out to the side of the road.

"Are you fucking serious?" Darcy demanded. "Oh my god, you’re such a dickhead. What is wrong with you?"

"What’s wrong with you?" Loki countered, like the overgrown five year old he was.

Fed up with it and seeing an opportunity, Darcy unlatched her belt and quickly climbed over the front seat to take the spot Loki had vacated.

"Oh, you now," said Lil, sounding like she was starting to get pissed. Darcy smiled weakly as she did up her seatbelt.

"Sorry. I forgot he’s an ass," she said. She snuggled up in her blanket and looked out at the road, and the stretch of black wilderness ahead of them. It was going to be a long trip.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God | #28

As Darcy warmed up and became more aware of what was going on around her, she also became more aware of the fact that she had no idea where they were or where they were going. They were on a four-lane highway, travelling through trees and gradually climbing higher and higher up yet another mountain, but that was all she could see. Snow was falling in flurries outside, and would have been pretty under any other circumstance.

While Loki dozed beside her, Darcy took the opportunity to check through their bags to make sure they still had everything. Some of the clothes inside were damp, along with the books, so Darcy pulled them all out and draped them over the back of the seat. Behind her, in the back of the SUV, she was surprised to find a big box of cat litter and a bunch of candles in a bag.

"What’s all this?" she asked, poking through to see if there was anything else interesting. Flashlights and a few gallons of water, but nothing else totally unordinary.

"Emergency kit. We’re going over the Rockies," Lil said.

Darcy didn’t completely understand, but she pretended that she did.

"Where are we going?" Darcy asked. "Like, once we get to the other side."

"Winnipeg," said Lil. "It’s about two days’ drive this time of year. We should get to Calgary late tonight, if the weather holds up."

Darcy had no idea what that meant, in the overall scale of their journey, but it sounded long and awful. "We have no idea what we’re doing or where we’re actually going," she said. She wondered if the whole itinerary was only known by whoever was pulling the strings from deep within the Rising Tide, or if everyone helping them knew.

"We’re going to Tórshavn," Loki mumbled.

"Yes, thank you. And I have no idea where that is, do you?" Darcy said.

Loki said nothing and pretended to be asleep again.

"All I know is we’re going to Winnipeg, sweetie. I’m sorry," Lil said. "If anyone knew all the details and they got arrested, it could destroy the entire network. We’re meeting someone there who knows where you’re going next."

It made perfect sense, but that didn’t make it any less nerve-wracking.

"So, what do I do if I decide I want to come back?" she asked.

The silence from the front of the car gave the feeling that Lil would have been giving her a very pointed look in the mirror if she hadn’t been so focused on the road.

"Is that something you’re thinking about doing?" she asked.

Darcy sighed. "I don’t know. Maybe."

"Then why are you coming along? It’s a lot easier to move once person than two." She didn’t sound angry or annoyed, so much as she sounded confused.

Darcy looked over at Loki and sighed. "Because he’d just wind up back in a lab if he was on his own. At first I thought I could point him in the right direction and set him free, but he’d have never got out of Seattle by himself. Not alive, anyway."

Loki grumbled something at her, but Darcy could hear what it was.

"He needs me," she said.

Lil nodded. "I get that," she said. "But you know if you come back, you’re looking at a SHIELD prison, miles underground, right?"

"Yeah," Darcy said. "But I don’t think I’d be able to live with myself if I went somewhere else and had to pretend to be someone else for the rest of my life."

She knew there was probably a third option; to follow Loki wherever he was going. Go live with Legolas and the other elves. She wouldn’t have to pretend to be someone else, but the thought of living the rest of her life on another planet freaked her out more than a little bit. What if all the food was toxic, or she got there and couldn’t breathe the air? Just because Loki was fine on Earth didn’t mean it would go both ways. Loki was once worshipped as a god. And there were probably a lot of reasons for that.

"That’s a hell of a choice to make," Lil said.

"Yeah," Darcy repeated.

She looked over at Loki again, knowing he wasn’t really sleeping, and leaned against his side. Loki shifted like he was going to push her off, but apparently decided to tolerate her after all.

"Jeez, you’re still cold," Darcy said, looking down at where the back of her hand was touching his arm. Her hot water bottle had lost all its heat, but now she was tempted to reheat it the next chance they got and make Loki hold onto it for a while.

"I’m fine," he muttered.

Darcy ignored him and held her hand against the side of his face. He felt like he’d been out rolling in the snow, for as little heat was coming off him. But it didn’t seem to bother him, since he still had his hoodie down by his feet.

"Are you always this cold?" asked Darcy.

"I’m fine," Loki said more forcefully. He pushed Darcy off him and climbed over the seat to sit in the front.

"Woah, seat belts," Lil said, surprised at the sudden invasion.

Loki glared at her, but before he could say anything horrible, Darcy leaned forward and tugged on the shoulder strap of his seatbelt.

"This thing here," she said, getting his attention. "Keeps you from going through the windshield if we hit a bear."

"You better hope we don’t hit a bear," Lil said dubiously.

"Do it before we get pulled over. That’s the last thing we need is for a cop to recognise us," Darcy told him.

That seemed to do the trick. Loki finally reached for it, and Darcy was ready to start explaining how it worked, but Loki managed to work it out on his own. He sat, looking uncomfortable as he watched the scenery pass by them outside. Once again, Darcy found herself looking for cops or big, black SUVs, but she didn’t any on the road. The view outside slowly turned almost flat and boring, made even more boring by the blanket of white over everything. It wasn’t what Darcy had expected after being told they were going to be going over the Rockies.

Just after noon, they came to a small city just kind of stuck right there in the middle of nowhere. After finding her shoes and getting Loki to put his on, she took him inside the service station while Lil filled up her SUV, which Darcy was strangely relieved to see was white.

Darcy let Loki wander through the aisles while she found a self-service microwave to heat up her water bottle.

"Are you hungry?" Darcy asked, watching Loki sneer and scowl at the shelves of junk food.

Loki turned his sneer to her, which probably meant yes. Or for her to mind her own business. She wasn’t sure.

She turned her attention back to the water bottle to make sure it didn’t explode in the microwave, and pulled it out to let some of the steam escape. Deciding it could still be hotter, she put it back in to finish off the timer and went back to watching Loki in case he decided to steal anything. When he found what he wanted — three packs of jerky, a bunch of doughnuts, some chips, and a case of beer — he surprised Darcy by bringing it all up to the counter.

"No, you can’t have beer in the car. Put it back," Darcy said as the microwave dinged.

Loki looked like he was going to argue, but instead he grit his teeth and exchanged it for a gallon of chocolate milk. Darcy assumed Loki was going to wait for Lil and make her pay for his loot, but he once again surprised Darcy by having the clerk ring it up and paying for it himself. Darcy watched, trying not to seem too confused as Loki handed the clerk the wrong amount of cash and got about $40 back before the clerk even figured out his change. With everything paid for, Darcy followed Loki back out to the car, hugging her hot water bottle against her chest.

"Where the hell did you get that?" she demanded as she settled into the back seat.

"You keep saying we have no money. I took it upon myself to address the situation," he said, as if there was nothing wrong with that.

"By what? Stealing someone’s wallet?" Darcy asked.

"I was going to." Loki tore into one of the packs of jerky and pulled out the biggest piece he could find. "Until I observed several people using a machine to get money. I was able to persuade it to give me some."

Darcy blinked. It explained Loki’s appetite and mood, at least. He must not have used too much of whatever reserves he was running on though, because he didn’t act like he was going to die, at least.

"How much money?" Darcy asked, almost afraid.

Loki shifted and reached into his pocket. He handed her a stack of folded-over $20 bills over the seat and went back to his jerky.

"Jesus Christ," Darcy said as she started to count it. Somehow, Loki had persuaded the ATM into giving him about $280. Plus whatever he’d spent inside. It wouldn’t last them long, but it was better than the nothing they had.

"Can’t leave you alone for a second," Darcy mused.

Lil finished up with the pumps and got back into the car, giving Loki’s hoard a curious look. "Everything all right?" she asked.

"Yeah, apparently his highness here can talk to ATMs," Darcy said, immediately realising it mightn’t have been a good idea.

Lil watched Loki for a few seconds more before nodding. "Useful skill to have," she said.

For some reason, Darcy couldn’t stop laughing.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God | #27

Darcy sensed, rather than felt, that she was next to someone. She tried to wake up, hoping she could make sense of what was going on, but every time she tried she drifted off again.

Someone was talking. Someone angry, and someone not angry. Whatever they were talking about, it was only making the angry person even angrier, but Darcy couldn’t hear any of the words.

They were moving. It wasn’t on rough ground, and it felt fast, but that didn’t give her much.

"We’re gonna stop off and hope," someone said.

Hope? For what? And why did they have to stop?

Slowly, Darcy became acutely aware of the chill. She was freezing, and still kind of wet, and not wearing anything aside from a scratchy blanket. The person next to her didn’t seem to be much better. Darcy tried to ask where their clothes were, but she barely got the first few sounds out again before falling back out of consciousnesses.

Darcy woke again to the sensation of someone messing with her hair. No, not just her hair. Her entire head. This time she managed to open her eyes to find her vision blocked by something over her face as she was being jostled about.

"What?" she asked.

She managed to reach up and tried to pull whatever it was off her face, which at the same time stopped her from being shoved around.

It was a towel, she realised. Loki was very roughly trying to dry her hair. Or possibly smother her.

"You stupid cow," he said, going back to his angry work.

Darcy wanted to be indignant, but barely managed a huff at him.

"Hey," she said. She managed to push him away again, realising as she did that she was still naked. Loki, at least, was wearing clothes again. "Why you calling me names?"

"How could you be stupid enough to let yourself fall in?" Loki spat.

He sat back away from her and glowered , still holding the towel that looked brand new. Darcy snugged herself up in the blanket and tried to remember what happened.

"What?" she asked again.

Loki rolled his eyes dramatically and threw his hands into the air. Darcy looked at him for a few long moments, not sure what to say. When she couldn’t figure it out, she looked past him and realised they were stopped in a parking lot.

"Hey, where are we?" she asked, hoping no-one got a look at her while she was barely covered up.

"I don’t know. Some horrible place called Hope," Loki grumbled.

For some reason, Darcy felt like she knew that already, but she wasn’t sure why. She looked around. They were outside a supermarket of some sort, the driver of the old SUV they were in nowhere to be seen.

"I’m really cold," she said, not having anything else to say. "Is there a heater?"

Loki sat up like he suddenly remembered something and reached over into the front seats to grab a shopping bag. He pulled two heavy pairs of pyjama pants out and handed them both to Darcy, followed by a long-sleeved shirt and a new hoodie, and a huge pair of wool socks. Darcy didn’t even have to ask. She managed to get both pairs of pyjamas on without flashing the world, but the shirt wound up being more difficult. And of course, Loki couldn’t even be bothered to look away.

"Enough of this. I’ve already seen it, and it’s nothing spectacular," he said as she tried to keep the blanket closed around her and pull the shirt on over her head.

He helped by grabbing the blanket. Darcy had just enough time to clasp her arms over her chest before he pulled hard on it and pulled it over her head so she had her own personal blanket fort.

"Thanks," she said flatly.

She got the shirt on and then came out from under the blanket so she could put the hoodie on as well. Even with the layers, she still felt chilled straight to the bone, so she wrapped back up in the blanket and pulled the hood over her head. While she sat and shivered some more, the front door opened and a woman sat in the driver’s seat before passing something back.

"Here, hold onto this, sweetie" she said.

It was a hot water bottle — the old, red rubber kind — and Darcy took it eagerly. It was too hot to hold against her skin, but felt amazing against her stomach with her shirt as a barrier. Next, she was handed a steaming paper cup, which she assumed would have coffee or tea. Instead, she found very hot chicken soup.

"Thank you," she said, daring to take a sip and burning her tongue. She decided she’d just hold onto it for a while.

"How are you feeling?" the owner of the car asked.

"Cold," Darcy answered honestly. She tried to take another sip of her soup, but it was still way too hot.

The helpful woman in the front made herself even more helpful by turning on the engine and starting up the heater again. Darcy let herself lean up against Loki, hoping to leech off some of his warmth as well, but he was still stone cold.

"You’re freezing," Darcy said, looking up at him. He wore only the new shirt he’d been given, and one pair of pyjamas. The rest was stuffed on the floor by his feet. He hadn’t ebpven put his socks on. "Put your sweater on."

"I’m fine," Loki protested.

Darcy was still too miserable to argue. She sat against him anyway and held her cup up to her face, letting the steam roll over her cheeks. As she enjoyed it, Loki suddenly pulled the cup away and took a drink.

"Hey," Darcy chastised as she took it back.

Loki had the sort of look on his face that gave away the scalding burns to his mouth, but he said nothing about it. "You’re not drinking any of it," he said.

"Yeah, because it’s hot," Darcy pointed out. She took another small sip and tried not to laugh.

"Have you eaten anything today?" the woman in front asked. Darcy wasn’t sure which one of them she was talking to, but the answer was the same either way.

"No, we got out of Seattle at like, five this morning," Darcy said. "We only stopped to pick up the boat."

"And the betrayer," Loki amended.

"Yeah, and him."

The woman put the car into gear and started to pull out of the parking lot and onto the road. As they drove through the town, Darcy looked out the windows at their surroundings. She couldn’t see any big black SUVs, but they were probably hiding. There was no way SHIELD didn’t know where they were. Even if they couldn’t cross the border, they’d have notified Canada’s Men in Black already, for sure.

The town was a small one, but not a desolate one. They found a McDonald’s close to the main road back out of town, where Loki tried to make the poor woman order everything on the menu. All he got was a Big Mac and a fish sandwich, much to his annoyance, and to Darcy’s amusement. She wasn’t even sure the bean pole could get all the way through his first meal, but then he inhaled both boxes of fries and both sandwiches in about five minutes.

"Jeez, you guys must have black holes in your stomachs," Darcy observed. She only got some fries to go with her soup, and was still working on both.

The driver, whose name turned out to be Lil, glanced back in her mirror as they drove down a tree-lined mountain highway. "You two are mutants, right?" she asked.

Darcy shook her head. "No. I’m completely boring ordinary, and he’s from outer space. I’m just the unlucky schmuck who found him."

There was a pause before Lil spoke again. "I was told one of you was given the cure." There was an odd, stiff quality to her voice, but it was a touchy subject.

"He was," Darcy said. She took another drink of her soup, now a suitable temperature, and continued. "They went all Roswell and shit on him out there. His people are like, super advanced, to the point that it looks like magic. They wanted to see what the cure would do to him, I guess."

"What did it do?" Lil asked, almost subdued.

"Fucked him up," Darcy said, wanting to laugh despite the topic. "He couldn’t even talk when I found him. Remember when they had that security breach at the White House? He can do the kind of things that guy could do. He tried it a few days ago to get us away from SHIELD’s goons, and it almost killed him. They’re really strong people too. I watched one of them get his neck broken and then just shrug it off."

Loki sat stiff beside her, looking straight ahead and not adding a thing to the conversation. Darcy felt kind of bad about giving so much about him away like that, but she also kept hoping that the next person she told would know how to fix it and make him better.

But no-one said anything. The car took on an almost oppressive silence, giving Darcy a sudden longing for her iPod.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God | #26

The mile-long hike wound up being a mile uphill on loose gravel beneath a growing layer of snow. Darcy hated the snow back home, she hated the snow in New Mexico, and she hated the snow in Washington or wherever the fuck they were. The cuffs of her jeans were soaked, with the ice cold water seeping further and further up her legs. No-one told her there would be snow or hikes or freezing lakes. By the time they reached the dam, Darcy started to wish the Feds would show up, because their prison cells were probably warm and dry, at least.

When they got to the next boat launch, Loki made Dennis and Paul put the boat where they wanted it while he started to wander off. He sat in the snow, looking off into the distance with those dark circles under his eyes again. Darcy stood in one place, huddling in on herself to try to stay as warm as possible, and really not looking forward to getting back in that boat.

"We should camp," Loki said suddenly.

"We don’t have the time," Dennis said.

"She’s freezing. We need to camp." It took Darcy an embarrassing few moments to realise Loki was talking about her. He hadn’t shown a single hint of caring, but apparently he drew the line at watching her freeze to death. That was good to know. Kind of.

"We don’t have the time," Dennis repeated as he reloaded the boat. "We have to go now. If we light a fire out here, someone will see the smoke and call border patrol."

Darcy wanted to say that it was fine, and that she didn’t need a fire anyway, but she couldn’t even find her voice. Loki sighed and muttered something that was probably a space swear as he got up out of the snow. As he walked over to Darcy, he pulled his hoodie off and roughly put it on Darcy, trying to force it over her arms. She tried to complain and fight him, because he really would freeze in just a T-shirt and wet jeans, but her body wanted the extra layers more than she wanted to argue.

"It’s fine," she finally managed to stutter out.

Loki didn’t argue with her. Instead he just picked her right up off the ground and carried her over to the boat, seating her toward the back. He sat down next to her and glared at everything while Dennis and Paul got everything sorted and pushed off from the bank.

This lake was bigger than the first, wide and long like a gigantic river, with mountains on either side. The wind was getting even worse, blowing snow everywhere and making the water so rough, Paul couldn’t even run the boat at full speed. They never got a good rhythm, with the boat constantly being thrown up by a wave, and then crashing down on another one.

All the while, Loki held Darcy close to him and glared at the other two, never saying a word along the entire ride. Finally, after what might have been years, the boat finally slowed and they moved closer to shore. Darcy could feel Loki tense next to her, but she was just glad they were finally done.

"Hey, fuckwit. What are you doing?" Dennis asked suddenly.

Darcy looked up, not sure who he was talking to. She followed Loki’s glare to Paul, wondering what she was missing.

"It’s another mile north," Dennis said.

Paul turned the boat against the waves. "Not this time. We’re getting off here."

Dennis nocked an arrow and drew back the string. Darcy knew for sure she was about to die, and couldn’t do anything about it. Every muscle in her body seized up, and all she could do was stare at the arrow pointing at her.

Loki shoved her toward the front of the boat and Dennis, prompting her body to finally react. She was surprised when Dennis didn’t keep his aim on her, and only realised once she was clutching to the prow that his aim had been on Paul the entire time. She was just in the way.

"How much did they offer you?" Dennis asked. "Last I heard, the bid was half a million."

Paul looked over his shoulder at the bank and frowned impatiently.

Loki didn’t wait for an answer. He grabbed one of the oars and slammed the handle into Paul’s face. Paul reeled back and landed on the outboard, gunning the engine and pulling on the prop. The entire boat lurched awkwardly as a giant wave struck the side, throwing Darcy overboard.

"Damnit to hell!" Loki shouted.

He jumped in after her, struggling to keep her head above the surface even in the shallow water. The waves came one after the next, and even though Darcy knew that she had to start swimming and get to shore, she couldn’t. Nothing about her body worked, and she couldn’t even breathe the air that was right in front of her face. Everything was starting to go grey around her, and even after Loki somehow got her back into the boat, she still couldn’t breathe or move. Somewhere in the distance, she recognised more fighting and splashing, but she couldn’t see what it was.

"We need to camp. Now," Loki demanded.

The boat started moving again at full speed, despite the waves.

"There’s a car waiting for us at the border," Dennis said.

Loki started trying to pull off both the hoodies Darcy was wearing, which she really knew she should have been fighting against.

"She won’t survive that long, and I need her alive. If she dies, she’s useless to me," he said.

"Let me try something," Dennis said. "We might get arrested."

The boat slammed hard against the water, and if Darcy’s jaw hadn’t already been clamped shut, she knew distantly that she would have probably bitten off her tongue by now. Even through the numbing cold, she could feel every impact in her chest and spine, like she was going to explode from the inside out.

"She’s like me, right? Human?" Dennis asked.

"Is all of your race this fragile?" Loki asked in return. He pulled Darcy’s hair away from her face and wrung it out.

Suddenly, the boat turned again and everything slammed forward. Loki picked her up and carried her to shore. "Bring the bags," he commanded before carrying her across ground that didn’t feel level or solid.

"Thought you were coming from the other way," a new voice said. Darcy tried to look up, but Loki was holding her so she faced his chest. All she could see was wet T-shirt.

"She fell in. We couldn’t make the hike," Dennis said, panting.

"We need to get all that off her. There are blankets in the back," the new voice said. Darcy thought it sounded female.

She was put in the back of the car as she fought against the urge to drift off to sleep. She was so tired and so cold, and all she wanted to do was sleep, but her creepy pet space alien was undressing her and she didn’t want him too, but she couldn’t do anything about it.

"No, I’m cold," she complained.

"Did you fall in too?" the new person asked as Darcy was covered in a heavy wool blanket.

"I’m fine," Loki said.

"He went in after her," Dennis said.

Darcy could hear some more shuffling around as she tried to wrap the blanket even closer to her, but it didn’t have any warmth in it anywhere. Blankets were supposed to be warm, but this one was cold, like everything else.

Suddenly, there was a lot of rocking back and forth and doors slamming, followed by the very distinctive feeling of tyres failing to get traction on loose sand, before finally finding grip and lunging everything forward. As they bounced down the road to the sound of the car heater, Darcy was manhandled again until she was sitting up and leaning against someone. She fell asleep before she found out who it was.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God | #25

They drove further and further out of the city, hitting straight up wilderness by the time the sun started rising properly. They followed a winding mountain road through tall trees and along terrifying drops while snow fell outside. Every time the boat trailer they were towing hit a larger-than-usual bump or rocked in the wind, it made the whole car feel like it was going to fall over.

Darcy leaned over Loki to look out at the drop beyond the very narrow shoulder and guard rail that wouldn’t stop a Smart Car from going over the edge, let alone a giant Jeep towing a boat.

"So… You’ll do your bamf thing if we start to fall off to our certain deaths, right?" Darcy asked.

Loki sighed tiredly. "Do you expect me to take you with me?" he asked.

Darcy wasn’t sure if he was joking or not, and was too tired to figure it out. The boat behind them lurched again, and without thinking about what she was doing, Darcy threw herself against Loki’s side and wrapped her arms around him. She was going to make damn sure he took her with him if he went anywhere.

"Get off of me," Loki said, trying to sound threatening while being way too tired to pull it off.

"No. You’re taking me with you," Darcy told him.

Loki rolled his eyes and tried to push her away, but Darcy held on tight, digging her fingers into his shirt. Eventually, Loki gave up and flopped limply back into his seat.

"I hate you," he muttered.

"Good," said Darcy.

Soon, the steep drops became not so steep, and eventually leveled out all together. The road followed along the banks of a wide river, until Dennis turned right and drove over a long, low bridge. Darcy looked out at the water and all the exposed junk peeking up from the surface, wondering how high it got during the spring and summer.

Across the river, they started to climb again, this time with the steep drops on the other side of the road. Darcy was almost able to handle it, until Dennis turned off the main road and down a narrow little path that was almost certainly not open to winter traffic. As they crossed over a dam, Darcy tried to look everywhere at once, looking out for rangers or cops or big black SUVs. They got across without being seen by anyone, and followed the road along the bank of a lake. The water was low, even on the lake side of the dam, with what definitely looked like ice along the shore.

"So, on a scale of one to government shut downs, how stupid is this plan of ours?" Darcy asked.

"I don’t do winter crossings very often," said Paul. "It’s pretty stupid."

"Awesome," Darcy muttered.

They pulled off the road to a large, sandy outcropping. Darcy had never seen a boat launch before, but she imagined they must look like large, sandy outcroppings at the side of lakes. Dennis turned the car around and backed the boat into the water, somehow managing not to buckle the trailer. Paul hopped out of the car and started doing something loud and scrapey outside, making everything lurch and lunge back and forth again.

Finally, it all stopped, and Dennis pulled away to park back up away from the water.

"Okay. If you want to back out, now’s the time," he said.

Darcy looked back out at the lake, and then over at Loki, who had somehow managed to go back to sleep. She pushed against him a few times, waking him up and making him open the door.

"Don’t have much of a choice," she reasoned. She grabbed their bags and followed Loki outside. It was colder than she expected, and she was so not dressed appropriately for mountain winter weather, or boating. She needed about two more coats for both of those.

Dennis locked up the car and followed them over to the boat, which Paul had helpfully beached in the sand so they wouldn’t have to get into the freezing cold lake water. Dennis helped Darcy in, with Loki climbing aboard like there was nothing at all unusual with what they were doing. Then again, Space Vikings probably spent all their time on Space Oceans, in their Space Longboats. It was probably the first thing since crash landing in the desert that Loki actually understood.

After quickly looking over everything, Dennis nodded at Paul and turned back to the car. He opened the rear hatch and pulled out his bow and a bunch of deadly-looking arrows with razor-sharp steel tips, and slid them into a cheap quiver. Darcy watched Dennis with wide eyes, inching closer to Loki in case they had to start dodging arrows all of a sudden. Loki glanced over at Darcy, and as Dennis climbed into the boat, Loki nudged Darcy to the other side. They had some distance between them and Dennis’ murder weapon, but it still didn’t feel like enough. They wouldn’t have enough space between them until they were in Canada and Dennis was still in Washington.

Dennis and Paul used the wooden oars to cast off from the banks before Paul started the outboard motor and started pointing the boat in the right direction. He went slowly at first, looking out over the bow into the water below, probably trying not to run over any submerged trees or lake monsters.

"So, we just have to get across this, and then we’re in Canada?" asked Darcy. She thought she could see the far bank from where they were, but wasn’t sure if the lake didn’t just wind around the mountains.

"This? No, this is Diablo," Paul said as he gave the motor more juice and opened up the throttle. "We have to carry the boat over to Ross from here."

Darcy looked out at the snow that was starting to fall a little more heavily. "What? Carry it? For how far?"

No-one ever told her that getting into Canada would be such a workout.

"About a mile," Paul said.

Darcy flapped her arms in despair, wishing someone had told her that sooner. She might have tried to actually sleep the night before.

As they moved faster across the water, the wind kicked up and bit at Darcy’s face and whipped at her hair. She turned into Loki’s side and buried her face into his shirt, trying to keep most of the wind off of her. The uneven rock of the boat was already starting to get to her, but she ignored the rising sourness in her belly as best she could. Every now and then, the boat would jump up into the air and slam down so hard it made her teeth clack together and every bone in her body crunch. She looked up to see Loki looking into the wind with an almost amused look on his face, apparently not even noticing the cold.

The lake slowly narrowed into a river, with high, steep walls of mountain on either side. Paul kept the boat as close to the center of the river as he could, slowing only to take the boat around corners. After what felt like hours of rough water and hard wind, Paul slowed down and pulled the boat up to another boat launch. There was still plenty of river to go, but this was apparently the end of the line. Paul beached the boat in the sand again, letting them step onto the bank without getting wet. Once everyone was out, it became a moot point anyway, because he and Dennis pulled the little metal boat out of the water and brought half the river with it.

"Come on. Everybody help," Dennis said.

Darcy’s hands were frozen into useless claws that didn’t even want to try to grip the side of the boat. She tried to hold on, doing her best not to let her shivering make her drop her part of the boat. It was heavy, but not as heavy as she’d thought it would be. If she wasn’t freezing, it might have actually been kind of easy to hold onto.

The only thing that made her feel better was that Dennis and Paul both seemed to be having the same trouble. Every few seconds, one of them would slip and the boat would drop dangerously.

"Put it down," Loki grumbled. He let go of his end, and suddenly the whole thing felt about 100 times heavier. They all tried to control the boat’s fall to the ground, still holding up the stern to keep from breaking the motor. Loki emptied out the boat of all the oars and bows and everything else, tossing them carelessly to the side, before lifting the boat over his shoulder and carrying on up the gravel trail alone.

"Yeah, that makes sense," Darcy said, not even surprised anymore.

She picked up the oars and followed after Loki, while the other two gaped for a few more moments.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God | #24

Darcy watched out the windows as they cruised along the freeway, every flash of red or blue looking like a cop, only taking her eyes off the road when Loki leaned against her tiredly. She looked over and started to push him off, but stopped when his hair got in her face.

"Loki, where’s your hat?" she asked.

Loki shrugged against her. "How should I know?" he asked.

Darcy sighed, something just on the verge of breaking into tears. It wasn’t Loki’s fault, except it totally was. Everything was his damn fault, even if it was victim blaming. But he started the whole mess in the first place. The least he could do was keep track of his fucking hat.

"All right. Here," said Darcy trying to stay calm. She reached for her bag and dug around the bottom of it. Eventually, she came back up with a hair tie that was supposed to be for her. But with his big patch of missing hair, Loki needed it more.

She reached over without even bothering to ask first and tried to find a way to pull his hair down over the missing patch and tie it into a ponytail. The first part worked. The second part, not so much. Loki’s hair was too short to pull into a ponytail at all, even without having to try to use it to cover the side of his head.

"What are you doing? Get off," he said, trying to slap her away. It felt kind of good to turn the tables on him, in a petty, vindictive kind of way. Darcy wasn’t usually that kind of person, but Loki seemed to bring out the worst in everyone.

"Your hair is all fucked up. We have to fix it somehow," Darcy said, reaching for his hair again.

Loki slapped her hands away and leaned away from her. He glared at her for a few moments, but his resolve crumbled quickly.

"Fine." Sighing, he rolled his eyes and shook his head. It probably would have had more effect if he wasn’t missing a huge chunk of hair on the left side of his head, but that never stopped him before.

He rubbed his hands together and then quickly feathered out and teased his hair, shaking it into a huge mess. Once he was finished with whatever he was doing, Loki leaned back in his seat and glared at Darcy some more.

"There," he said flatly.

"Okay," Darcy said slowly, not sure what teasing out his hair was supposed to do. She reached out for it again, stopping short when she found the missing patch completely filled in again.

"What the hell? Why didn’t you do that two days ago?" she asked.

Loki didn’t say anything. He turned his head to look at her, and even without much light coming in from outside, the dark circles under his eyes stood out starkly. He needed rest, and Darcy knew it. But here he was, doing all his impossible magic again, even though it always seemed to make him even worse.

"Does it hurt?" Darcy asked carefully.

Loki closed his eyes and breathed deeply. "If I say yes, will you let me sleep?" he asked.

Darcy didn’t respond. She knew Loki would never get better enough to really be useful unless he got the rest he was constantly being denied. Eating nothing but junk food probably wasn’t helping either. Hell, for all Darcy knew, all the human junk food was actively making him worse. Darcy sat back and watched dreary, dark Seattle pass by outside and envied Loki’s ability to fall asleep almost instantly. After several years of college, Darcy thought she knew what exhaustion was, but all that time, she had been wrong. She had not slept a full night since her personal Space Viking literally fell into her life, and she was too worried and nervous to even try to get a nap in while she had the chance. A problem Loki obviously didn’t share, since he was already snoring again.

They pulled off the highway again, back down into another neighbourhood that couldn’t have possibly been Canada already. She felt bad about it, because he was obviously so miserable, but Darcy started to nudge Loki awake again. While she struggled with that, Dennis started wrestling with his phone, eventually managing to make a call.

"Yeah, hey. Get ready. We’re leaving early," he said. There was a pause before Dennis told the other person to turn on the news, and then hung up.

"Where are we going?" Darcy asked, trying not to sound nervous and failing.

"Picking up the boat, unless you want to swim to Canada," Dennis said.

"No," said Darcy. She cast a nervous look over to Loki. He looked like he was debating between going back to sleep and diving out the door.

A few more turns and detours into a safe-looking neighbourhood later, they pulled up in front of a house with its own yard and garage, and a boat parked in front. Not some big, safe looking powerboat, but a tiny metal thing with a painted red stripe, and the motor tacked to the back. Dennis hopped out of the car to meet the guy that was just coming out the front door, leaving Darcy and Loki alone in the car.

They quickly hooked up the boat to the back of Dennis’ car, scraping metal against metal and making everything lurch back and forth. Loki sat up straight and went for the door, having to take a few moments to work out how it opened.

“No, wait,” Darcy said, grabbing his arm before he could get out.

Loki turned to glare at her. “We’re finding our own way,” he said.

Darcy reached over to close the door. “What do you want to do? Walk to Canada?” If Loki hadn’t been from outer fucking space, and actually knew how Earth worked, she might have considered it. But he was from outer fucking space, and he acted like it.

“How far could it be?” asked Loki.

Darcy had no idea, which was exactly the point. She shrugged dramatically and pulled Loki more toward the middle of the seat. “I don’t know, but we obviously need a boat. And this guy’s got one, so we’ll go with him.”

Dennis and his friend both got into the front of the car and quickly shut the doors. Before everyone was even settled, Dennis started the engine and got the hell out of there.

“Everything all right?” Dennis’ friend asked.

Before Loki could answer, Darcy clamped her grip down on his arm and nodded. “Yeah, just kinda scared, and don’t really know what we’re doing,” she said.

She could practically feel Loki roll his eyes.

“Well, this is the easy part,” said boat guy. “I’m gonna take you up the lake, which is kind of closed right now, because the water’s low and ice cold. I’m dropping you guys off a few miles from the border, and then you’ll hike across with Dennis.”

Darcy looked over at Dennis and nodded. “Kay. It—it doesn’t sound very safe.”

Boat guy laughed. “No, it’s not. Next time, try to wait until summer to piss off the government. There are about a dozen more ways to cross the border, then.”

“Why does it matter?” asked Loki.

It was Dennis’ turn to laugh. “Because it’s like he said. Everything’s closed right now.”

For about two seconds, Darcy thought Loki would let it go. But he didn’t. “How does a lake become closed? Who has that authority?”

“The government, dude,” said boat guy.

Dennis looked back over the seat at Loki for a few seconds. “You’re really selling this space alien thing, aren’t you?”

Darcy hadn’t mentioned that part to Dennis at all. She assumed he knew because whoever had contacted him within the Rising Tide had told him, but it still wasn’t really information she thought he should have been flinging around with someone else in the car with them.

Taking a deep breath to steel herself, Darcy changed the subject. “Who are we meeting when we get across the border?” she asked.

“Don’t know,” said Dennis. “There are a few people who meet us, and I wasn’t told who to look for.”

“That… Wow.” Maybe Loki had the right idea after all. “Sorry, this is all super weird and not how I planned on spending my week. I wouldn’t even be here at all if this asshole hadn’t crash landed in the desert and got into my car.”

“You invited me in,” Loki pointed out.

Darcy waved her hand at his face to shut him up. “And you’re not talking right now.”

Boat guy turned round in his seat and looked at both of them for the first time. “Wait. This is really some kind of Roswell thing?” he asked. He looked over to Dennis, and then back to Darcy. “Why Canada? What’s there?”

Darcy shrugged dramatically. “Our ride to Norway or whatever. That’s where he needs to go.”

“It’s not in Norway. It’s on an island,” Loki said.

“Same thing,” Darcy said, knowing that it wasn’t anything close to the same thing. At least Loki didn’t argue with her.

Boat guy eventually turned back around in his seat, and the car fell into an uneasy silence. Darcy went back to watching out the windows for any sign of police lights or big, black SUVs following them.

« || »

How to Train Your Norse Trickster God | #23

It was becoming a strange habit to have not realised that she’d fallen asleep until something woke her suddenly. A strange habit she wasn’t comfortable with having, but when she was jarred awake suddenly, her mind wasn’t anywhere near that topic. It was focused on the strange sounds coming from Dennis’ room. Sounds like he was moving stuff around at oh-god-o’clock in the morning. Darcy sat up quickly and looked over to Dennis’ room and the yellow light coming from under the door. For a few moments, she tried to convince herself she was just being paranoid, but either she was getting worse at lying to herself, or Dennis was letting off some serious creeper vibes. One more weird scrape from Dennis’ room, and Loki sat straight up and stared at the bedroom door as well.

Or maybe he just wasn’t as passed out as Darcy had thought.

"What’s he doing?" Darcy asked quietly.

Loki glared at the door for a few moments longer before getting up onto the sofa. Darcy started to protest, but Loki held his hand over her mouth as he settled down between her and the back of the sofa.

"How badly do we need him?" Loki asked quietly in her ear. He slowly removed his hand from her mouth, leaving Darcy wondering who would be the worst option to get stuck with.

At least Loki had proven reasonably manageable. Dennis was a complete unknown, and ultimately the bigger risk. Even with Loki pressed against her, holding her against his chest to keep her from running away, he still seemed like the safer option.

"I don’t think we can get lucky again," Darcy whispered.

Loki’s grip tightened briefly, but luckily he seemed to be getting the hint that humans were fragile and not to be squeezed.

"If you did your vanishing thing, how far could you go?" Darcy asked him.

Again, she felt him tense up around her.

"Not far enough," he said.

"How badly do you need me?" Darcy asked before she could stop herself. As soon as she said it, she wished she hadn’t, but there was no way to take it back so she just ploughed on. "I just… I just want to hear it from you. I need to know if you’re just going to kill me when you’re done with me."

Loki made a sound that seemed almost amused. Still holding her down, he used his free hand to pet her hair. It was weirdly invasive and violating, and somehow even worse than being held down by him. Darcy closed her eyes tightly and waited for him to just get it over with, but he seemed content to just pet her hair.

"Why? Do you intend to turn on me?" he asked, his mouth so close to her ear, she could feel the vibrations of his voice in her skin.

"No," she said, having to force the word out in a terrified squeak.

"Why not?"

Darcy wasn’t sure what the right answer was, and was too afraid of giving the wrong answer to speak. Loki apparently found her abject terror funny, because he laughed and kept on petting her hair.

"You are far more useful to me alive than dead. Why should I want to kill you?" he asked, still whispering but weirdly casual despite it.

Darcy wanted to cry, but she was too scared to manage even that. "Please stop," she choked out.

To her surprise, Loki did. He pulled his hand away from her head, and even loosened his grip around her. Darcy almost tried to dart away and put as much distance between them as possible, but a loud scrape and clacking sound from Dennis’ room made her freeze in place. Darcy could feel herself trembling, and was pissed that she wasn’t even sure which creep scared her more.

"How useful am I?" she asked again.

Loki took a long moment to answer, but at least he didn’t start petting her again. "Useful enough," he decided.

Darcy had no idea what that was supposed to mean, but she couldn’t bring herself to question him further. She knew what the next question would have been, but suddenly she couldn’t find her voice.

“Sleep,” Loki said, settling down beside her.

“I can’t,” Darcy told him.

Loki seemed relaxed enough that Darcy thought she might have been able to get away if she was fast enough. She told herself that the reason she didn’t try was because the floor was way nasty and too gross to sleep on.

“Then keep watch,” Loki said. Completely unfairly, because Darcy did not want to do that either.

So far, her entire acquaintance with Loki had been defined by a complete lack of sleep, bruises she never wanted to try to explain, and being constantly felt up.

“Hands to yourself,” she grumbled, trying to push Loki’s hand away from her. Of course, with the way they were crammed up against one another on the sofa, anywhere his hand was, he was touching her somewhere. Like everything else, she decided to just ignore that as well, while at the same time trying to ignore the psychopath serial killer in the next room.

For the next few hours, she drifted in and out of sleep, never managing to actually stay asleep for long. She finally decided she didn’t want to sleep at all when she realised that the lump snoring into her ear was also popping the biggest boner ever, and it was digging right into her thigh. Trying not to gag, Darcy slammed her elbow back into Loki’s ribs and sat up quickly.

“Augh, that’s enough of that,” she said.

Loki groaned and sat up slowly, looking at her like he had no idea why she’d just slugged him. Darcy wasn’t buying it for a second.

The clock on the cable box said it was just after 5:30, which meant that Darcy was in for another day of hell. More importantly, it was a cable box, which meant there was cable TV to be watched. She managed to find the remote in all the junk on the end table and turned on the TV, hitting the mute button at exactly the right time to blat out an indecipherable noise that could wake the dead, before everything went silent. She slowly turned up the volume, finding the perfect balance between not waking everyone else up and still being able to hear. While Loki tried to go back to sleep, Darcy flipped through the channels, finding nothing but infomercials, regular commercials, and shows about Jesus.

“Wait.” Something caught her attention three seconds after she flipped away from the channel, so she flipped back until she found it again. Not that it was hard to find again. Seattle’s own early morning news was playing security camera footage on loop, while the blond newscaster who was way too alert for just after 5:30 in the morning warned residents of a pair of dangerous criminals wanted by federal police.

And wouldn’t you just know it, the security camera footage showed Loki and Darcy wandering around a bus terminal, looking for their driver. They even had zoomed-in and badly-enhanced stills to show everyone.

“Oh, fuck,” Darcy said. She slapped Loki frantically, not even caring where she hit him, so long as he woke up. “Wake up wake up wake up, we’re fucked,” she tried not to shout.

Loki clumsily slapped back as he sat up again. “What are you screeching about now?” he asked.

Before Darcy could answer, Dennis threw open his bedroom door and glared out to the two of them.

“What’s going on?” he asked, still wearing what he’d been wearing the night before.

Darcy pointed frantically at the television. “We have a serious problem.”

Dennis looked at the television, and had he been holding a cup in his hand, Darcy was positive he’d have dropped it.

“Fuck. Yes we do. We have to leave now.” He stepped back into his room just long enough to grab his shoes and rushed back out. “Come on. We have to get out of town while it’s still dark.”

Darcy mashed the power button on the remote as she jumped to her feet and gathered all their things. Suddenly, Loki didn’t seem tired at all, and he even took the bags from her in their rush to leave before SHIELD managed to track them down. They both wound up just carrying their shoes out with them, walking in their socks across a soaked parking lot, but whatever. They had clean socks, and they could put their shoes on in the car. As soon as the doors were unlocked, Darcy and Loki both scrambled into the back seat, again leaving the front one next to Dennis empty. Darcy wasn’t even thinking about why; just that she’d ridden in the back with Loki on the way there, so it seemed like the place to ride on their way out.

She expected Dennis to peel out in a screech of tyres and an over-stressed transmission, but he left calm as ever, as if he was just going to work like everyone else at that time of morning. As they drove through the streets, Darcy kept looking out the windows for police cars or giant, black SUVs, but she saw surprisingly few of either. And those she did see didn’t seem to be interested in them at all.

“Where are we going?” Loki asked as they merged onto the freeway.

“Canada, bro,” Dennis said, either missing the finer points of the problem, or being deliberately difficult.

“Yeah, but uh. We don’t have passports. And are kind of wanted, you know?” Darcy reminded him. “How are we getting to Canada?”

“Ross Lake,” Dennis said.

Loki looked over to Darcy, but she had no idea what that meant either. She knew what a lake was, but had no idea if Ross Lake was a tiny little pond, or the size of a small sea.

“You expect us to swim?” asked Loki.

Dennis sighed, like he was the one being dragged around. “No, we’re taking a boat to a couple miles off the border. Then we’re hiking over the border to meet with your ride.”

“Yeah, okay,” said Darcy, looking down at their wet socks. “Sorry, it’s just this is our first experience with human trafficking. We wanted to know how it works.”

Dennis made a sound that was almost like a laugh, but not really. “I do it all the time. It’s easy.”

Easy, right. Easy like everything else had been so far. Graduating college without dropping out had been easier than this.

« || »

How to Train Your Norse Trickster God | #22

Darcy was more than a little surprised when they pulled off the main roads and started heading down a poorly-lit and badly-paved side street. She looked out the car windows, wondering if she and Loki hadn’t taken a ride from the wrong person. Without meaning to, or even realising it, she moved a bit closer to Loki. He looked over at her, and maybe she was just imagining it, but he looked wary and suspicious, even in the dim light.

“Uh. Where are we going?” Darcy asked. She could feel Loki tensing beside her, like he was ready to jump out the door at any moment.

“You guys are staying with me tonight,” said Dennis, turning onto an even shadier street. “We’ll go up to Ross tomorrow to get you over the border.”

Darcy looked nervously up to Loki, but he seemed suddenly preoccupied with the arrow he’d taken from her.

“What kind of bird does this come from?” he asked as he ran his finger along the fletching.

“Bird?” asked Darcy. She reached out to touch it, confused why he thought it came from a bird. “No, that’s plastic. The whole thing’s like, plastic or fibreglass or something.”

Loki didn’t seem to like that answer, but he didn’t seem to like anything. That was just kind of his perpetual state, really. Annoyed and unimpressed with everything around him. It was no wonder his space pals flung him off the ship like they did Thor. That was probably their people’s way of dealing with the ones they didn’t like. They’d taken Thor back after a serious attitude adjustment. Maybe they’d take Loki back as well. Darcy could only hope.

She looked back out the window as they pulled into an unlit car park. They might have been outside an apartment building, but it was hard to tell. Between the rain and the darkness, all Darcy could see was that she did not want to be there. She nudged against Loki and nodded out the window when he looked at her. He looked out as well, turning a familiar frown at what he saw.

“This is where you live?” he asked.

Darcy wanted to start counting down before Loki called Dennis a slave and got them murdered. She found herself hoping that she was still useful enough to Loki that he’d want to defend her. Then she found herself realising how fucked they were if she was starting to look to Loki for help.

“Yep,” said Dennis as he got out of the car. He didn’t wait around for them, so Darcy hurried to grab their bags and try to push Loki out of the car.

Loki hesitated more than what was becoming usual before finally stepping out into the rain as well. Darcy tried to hand him his bag, but he ignored it, making her carry both. Slinging both over one shoulder, Darcy reached out to grab onto the hem of Loki’s T-shirt, just in case he did try to run off and leave her with Dennis. Loki looked down and scowled at her, and reached down for her hand. At first, she thought he was just going to pull her off of him, but he held on, and didn’t even act like he was trying to break her hand this time.

Dennis’ apartment was small and kind of dingy, in a way that clearly suggested he lived very much alone. There was a tiny couch in the middle of the room, with tables on either side. They were both covered in old beer cans and food wrappers, with some of the mess spilling over to the floor. What little she could see of the kitchen was in the same state.

“You guys want anything to drink?” Dennis asked. “Or smoke? I don’t have much else.”

“Clearly,” Loki said, picking through the mess by the television.

“Actually, I’m kind of tired,” Darcy lied quickly, hoping to distract Dennis from Loki’s scathing comment. “It’s been a long day, and we could both use some sleep, if that’s cool.”

Dennis nodded slowly, but brought over three cans of Bud anyway. “You sure?” he asked, offering them out.

Loki looked at it and leaned away warily. At first, Darcy wondered if he thought it might be poison, until she remembered his terrifying coughing fit after trying Pepsi.

“No, we’re just gonna go to bed,” she said. She looked over at the tiny couch, not really looking forward to sleeping on it. There weren’t even any blankets, but she didn’t want to ask for one either.

Dennis gave them both a squinty look before nodding and stepping over to the bedroom, taking all three beers with him. “All right. Suit yourself,” he said. He disappeared into the bedroom, leaving Loki and Darcy alone.

At once, Darcy claimed the couch, stretching out along it. It was short, but it was wide, more like a giant chair than a couch. Loki tried to crawl up alongside her as well, but she blocked him and shooed him away.

“No, girls get the couch. You sleep on the floor. That’s the rules,” she said.

Loki glared at her.

“Whose rules?” he demanded, towering over her in a very real reminder of just how big he was.

“Everyone’s rules,” Darcy said.

“You’re lying,” Loki said.

He looked like he was about to pull her right off the couch, but Darcy was not even about to sleep on the floor. “Prove it,” she said.

Loki grit his teeth and sat down heavily on the floor. It made Darcy wonder just how old he was. He was obviously pretty damn ancient, as far as Earth was concerned if he really was that Loki, but he really acted like a grumpy teenager who wasn’t getting his way.

“This man means to betray us,” Loki said suddenly. It wasn’t at all what Darcy expected to hear, but for some strange reason, she felt a little better for it. If an impending sense of doom could be described as better than rising panic.

“You think so too, huh?” she asked.

“We should go. Now. We shouldn’t be here,” Loki said. He reached down to scratch off the dried blood from his chest, frowning at it when it caught under his nails.

“Loki, if we leave, I have no idea where we’d go. I don’t know this area, or anybody in it. We need someone to get us into Canada,” Darcy told him. She knew he was right, though. She’d had a strange feeling about Dennis ever since they got into his car.

Loki sighed deeply and lay back on the floor. He looked up at the ceiling, silent for a long while. Long enough that Darcy thought he’d fallen asleep until he spoke again.

“If this realm doesn’t kill me first, I’m going to raze it,” he said with a steady calm that could only mean he was completely serious.

“Please don’t say things like that,” Darcy said. “You’re scary when you talk like that.”

Loki lifted his head just enough to cast her a curious glance.

“You would rather have me lie than face an unpleasant truth,” Loki said. It wasn’t a question at all, and he didn’t even try to make it sound like one. “Do you not think it would be better if the cruelty of this world were wiped out entirely?”

“You can’t erase cruelty with cruelty,” Darcy argued.

Loki made a sound that almost sounded like a laugh. “So what? You intend to erase it with kind words? Empty platitudes? Your race has forgotten its place.”

“And you’re going to what?” asked Darcy, unable to believe she was even having this conversation. “Put us back where you think we belong? Is that why we’re going all the way across the world?”

Loki thought on that for a moment. Or at least, pretended to. “No, we’re going to Tórshavn to get me off this festering realm.”

Darcy wanted to gag. “I can’t believe I’m helping you.”

Loki smirked. “As you’ve made a point of so frequently reminding me, you haven’t got a choice,” he said.

Darcy fell back onto the couch. “But why destroy an entire planet just because a few people are assholes?” she asked.

“If it’s only the work of a few, then why has the rest of humanity not stepped forward to put an end to it?” Loki asked calmly. “Are you certain it’s not the other way round? An entire race of cruel, savage beasts with few exceptions?”

“Well. I mean.” Darcy didn’t have an answer. Suddenly all she could think about was every time she’d ever heard about some young kid killed by police because he was black, or a mutant, or holding a candy bar. And there would always be the memorial ceremony, and promises to fix a broken system, but then a week later, it all happened again in another city.

“You know it just as well as I,” Loki said. She could hear the smugness in his voice, and wanted to hit him for it.

Darcy sighed deeply, resisting the urge to grab a lamp and break it on Loki’s face.

“Go to bed,” she said instead. “You need the rest.”

She thought she heard Loki laughing again, and rolled over to put her back to him. Maybe if she was lucky, she could get a bit of sleep as well.

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How to Train Your Norse Trickster God | #21

Darcy led Loki through the station, looking around for anyone who might have been there to pick them up. She made it about fifteen steps before getting distracted though, veering off to the left at the sight of the restrooms.

"I need to get cleaned up," she said, pulling away from Loki.

He grabbed her wrist as soon as she pulled away, squeezing so tightly she could imagine her bones grinding together.

"Let go," she said, prying his fingers open. As soon as she was free of him, she rushed into the ladies’, but of course Loki just followed right after her.

"No, you can’t come in here," Darcy said