Darcy was surprised at how quickly the stop she’d been told to get off at was called. It was apparently a pretty big stop, because the train voice lady had a lot more to say than just which side the doors would be on. Darcy shoved Loki hard and jammed her elbow into his ribs, trying to get him to wake up.
“Let go of me so I can leave you here,” she said
Loki didn’t let go, but he did sit up and open his eyes. He tried to mutter something, but the way he kept his mouth shut tightly made Darcy think he was still kind of wanting to throw up.
“Come on. I’m getting off here,” Darcy told him. She grabbed hold of one of the metal poles and pulled herself to her feet, trying to work against Loki’s weight. He was trying to use her for leverage, and between him and the train slowing to a stop, she nearly fell over right there in the aisle. At least when she actually yelped from the pain and surprise of being pulled in several directions at once, Loki did finally ease up on his vise-like grip.
The train stopped at the station, and Darcy pulled Loki back out into the sideways rain. Not even the roof over the open-air station offered any protection from the worst weather ever. A few seconds after Darcy resigned herself to getting rained on, the guy from the train walked by and waved for her to follow after him. They crossed the tracks to one of the other platforms and stood under the useless shelter with everybody else.
“Is he all right?” he asked, eyeing Loki with some trepidation.
Darcy craned to look up at Loki. He tried to nod, but nothing about it rang true.
“I don’t think so,” Darcy said honestly. As much as she wanted to, she knew she wouldn’t just abandon him. Not here, anyway. She’d get him somewhere safe before trying to figure out what to do about herself. Maybe she could fob Loki off to this other guy.
She watched Loki for a long moment, shifting under his weight and hoping that his grip on her arm wouldn’t cause any bruises.
“They gave him the cure,” she said quietly.
Hoodie Guy went from worried to trying not to be pissed off so quickly, Darcy could barely see the change. He nodded and pointed down the tracks that ran along the freeway. Darcy was so turned around, she wasn’t sure if it was the same direction they’d just come from, or a different track completely.
“I know a place where you can stay. I didn’t know they were doing that here,” Hoodie Guy said.
Darcy wasn’t sure how much she should tell him. He probably wasn’t with SHIELD, but she didn’t think she could really trust anyone anymore. She sighed deeply and tried to shift out from under Loki again. At least this time, Hoodie Guy helped take some of Loki’s weight off of her.
“I don’t know if they do,” Darcy said. Either he was with SHIELD, or he wasn’t. And if he wasn’t, he might not even report them. “We were in New Mexico twenty minutes ago. Maybe they got the dose wrong or something, but he wasn’t like this before he…” She waved her hand, trying to mime being teleported halfway across the country.
She was pretty sure Loki was getting worse, but she didn’t want to say that.
“New Mexico?” Hoodie Guy asked.
Darcy looked around at the crowd on the platform. No-one seemed to really care what they were talking about, but it still made her uneasy.
“Let’s talk about this somewhere else. It’s been a crazy morning, and I don’t even know where to start,” she said.
“Yeah, you never know who’s listening.” He looked out at the overpass, and the train crossing it. “I think this one’s ours. Once we’re on the MAX, I’ll see if I can get someone to pick us up from the mall. I was gonna take the bus, but I don’t think we’d have very good luck with it.”
Darcy snorted despite everything. “I didn’t know the Rising Tide had a taxi service.”
Hoodie Guy laughed as well. “We’re not like Anonymous. We didn’t spring out of the internet. It started out as a code for draft dodgers looking to get out of the country during Vietnam.”
“Seriously?” Darcy asked. She was just hoping to find someone with the Rising Tide so she could borrow their secure internet and delete every last scrap of damning evidence from her Tumblr. But maybe Hoodie Guy could help with a lot more than just that.
The train pulled up to the platform and the three of them managed to wiggle their way on board, and even found an empty seat to try to settle Loki into. As Darcy tried to twist away, Loki’s grip tightened again and tried to pull her down with him.
“Ow, you’re hurting me. Let go!” she hissed through her teeth. Loki looked up at her and finally let her go. She almost wanted to run away right then and there, but if nothing else, she needed to get to a computer. She looked up at Hoodie Guy and rolled her eyes, hoping to distract some of the suspicion that was written plainly on his face.
“So, what do I call you?” she asked, pushing her hair back out of her eyes.
Hoodie Guy gave her a bemused little smile. “Kevin,” he said.
Darcy smiled right back. “I’m Darcy. This one’s Loki. Thanks for helping us out, and if it’s cool, I kinda need to use your internet.” She cringed at him, trying to convey just how badly she needed to get online.
“Yeah, that should be cool,” Kevin said. He pulled out his phone and started texting people, presumably trying to get someone to come pick them up. Darcy was still worried that this had been the worst of her dumb ideas that week, and that the texts Kevin were sending were to the cops or SHIELD or whatever. She realised, standing there in damp pyjamas and disgusting socks, that she really didn’t know anything about the Rising Tide. She knew they claimed responsibility for a few major hacking and whistle-blowing cases in the past, but for all she knew, they were also infested with government moles. But Kevin didn’t look like a mole; he looked like the kind of guy who would get arrested for dealing just because he happened to be standing outside a 7-11. But that would have been the point, wouldn’t it?
Or maybe Darcy was becoming far too paranoid to be healthy. She was seeing cops and secret agents everywhere. There was no way SHIELD could have already tracked them to Portland. Right?
The ride to the mall went fairly quickly, but by the time they got there most of the crowd had already left the car at the dozen or so stops before. Few people remained to watch Darcy and Kevin try to drag Loki off the train and down a large ramp to the parking lot two storeys below. At least the rain had finally let up.
“He’s definitely getting worse,” Darcy said aloud. She tried to shake him with her shoulder, but he hardly seemed to notice it at all. “Wake up. You’re heavy and you’re scaring me.”
Loki forced his eyes open and looked over at Kevin in confusion. He’d been half-asleep since they got to Portland, and probably didn’t even know what the hell was going on around him.
Kevin had managed to have someone waiting for them at ground level in an old Honda. A woman about Darcy’s age watched the three of them from behind the wheel for a moment before twisting around to move something around in the back seat. Kevin opened the back door and managed to get Loki inside without cracking his head on anything, which made Darcy wonder how many barely-conscious people he’d given rides. She dashed around to the other side of the car to get in behind the driver, fiercely ignoring all the times she’d been told never to take rides from strangers, and didn’t even complain when Loki immediately decided to lean on her.
Twisting around in the front seat, Kevin reached out for Loki’s wrist. He frowned as he took Loki’s pulse, and then without warning, reached back and put his hand against the side of Loki’s neck.
“Is everything all right?” Darcy asked. She was torn between watching him and looking around for any cops that might object to Kevin sitting backwards as they drove through the parking lot.
“I can’t tell,” Kevin said. He twisted his arm and pressed the back of his hand against Loki’s skin. “He might be hypothermic. He’s freezing.”
“Fuck, really?” Darcy sat up as well as she could. Now that Kevin said it, Loki did feel kind of cold. She wasn’t sure if he’d always been that cold, though. She hadn’t noticed him getting any colder at least.
“That’s not a typical side-effect of the cure, though.” Kevin turned back round in his seat as they pulled out onto the main road.
“They gave him the cure?” his friend asked. She darted a quick look into the back seat, frowning dramatically.
“Yeah.” Darcy tried to shift again, but suddenly she didn’t feel the need to shove Loki off of her completely. She just wanted to not be crushed. “But he’s not a mutant.”
Kevin turned back again to look at her. “The hell they’d give him the cure for, then?” he asked.
Darcy looked over at Loki. He needed help, and these people were their best bet right now. It was either that, or hand him back over to SHIELD, who would probably only keep him alive so they could keep poking him with sharp things.
“He’s from another planet,” Darcy said flatly. “I found him a couple days ago. SHIELD or SWORD or whatever were using him as a living science experiment. I took pictures and put them on Tumblr, and now SHIELD’s gonna find them and they won’t do anyone any good.”
There was a drawn-out silence between everyone. Darcy shifted again, getting Loki so he was leaning more against her than laying on her, which was about as good as it was going to get.
“How do you know?” Kevin asked.
“What, that he’s from space? Because his brother came to Earth a few weeks ago. And a few of their friends. They opened this… wormhole thing and travel through space like that. Loki came a few days after they left.” Darcy looked out the window at all the dirty little shops and garages that seemed practically deserted. She wasn’t sure if it was the area or the weather that made them seem abandoned, but the street seemed like a pretty busy one. Maybe no-one wanted to get out of their cars.
“You said you came here from New Mexico,” Kevin said. He reached back again and pressed his fingers against the inside of Loki’s wrist. “How’d you get here?”
Darcy shrugged. “Well, they gave him the cure, but it didn’t work, apparently. It’s meant for mutants. Not… whatever the hell he is. One minute we were in New Mexico with secret agents pointing guns everywhere, and then we were here.” She twisted her neck to look at Loki. She never thought she’d miss his annoying finger-snapping, but now they were right back to that first night when she’d found him in the desert. “He got sick right after that. He told me this happened to him once before. Said it almost killed him.” She said the last part quietly, almost as if saying the words might make it true. She hated him, but the last thing she wanted was for him to die. She thought maybe she should have called SHIELD, because they probably would know how to keep him alive. After everything they’d already done to him, they probably knew exactly how to keep people alive through things that should have killed them.
Somehow, suddenly everything seemed like it was her fault. Maybe he would have been better off if she had just reported him to SHIELD. He wouldn’t have been dying in the back seat of someone’s car, at least.
“Tina, can you go any faster?” Kevin asked. He glanced around quickly before climbing into the back seat with them.
“Going as fast as I can,” Tina told him. “Unless you want me to start running red lights.”
She turned at the next intersection, taking them down a road that grew progressively more suburban than urban, with big, tall trees replacing business parks and shopping centres.
Kevin slapped his fingers against the side of Loki’s face. “Loki, can you hear me?” he asked.
Loki shook his head and tried to push Kevin away, which was probably a good sign.
“How long ago did he get the cure?” Kevin asked.
Darcy shrugged and shook her head. “I’m not sure. Maybe…” She tried to remember what all had happened that first night. “He’s been with me for a couple of days. When I first found him, he was a mess. You should have seen him. He heals really fast, thought. You can’t even see any of it now, except for his hair.” She remembered how she wasn’t thinking about that. “A couple of days ago, I think.”
Darcy wondered if Kevin would be as helpful if he knew everything that Loki had done. She watched quietly as Kevin tried to wake him up, not sure what else she could do to help. Loki looked positively grey, but Darcy couldn’t tell if that was what he actually looked like or if it just looked like that against Kevin’s dark skin as he kept slapping his fingers against Loki’s face. Loki was always kind of pale, really. And he was still pretty wet. Maybe it was just everything coming together to make him seem worse than he was.
Or maybe he’d travelled halfway across the galaxy to die in the back of a brown Honda Civic. Up until that moment, nothing had seemed quite real. Suddenly, the weight of everything had hit Darcy like a punch to the chest. She covered her mouth with both hands and tried to keep very quiet. The only alternative would have been to start screaming right then and there, and she definitely didn’t want to do that. Her face grew hot as she willed herself to not just break down and start crying again. She was thousands of miles from home with someone who had nearly killed himself either kidnapping or rescuing her. She wasn’t even sure. She’d told him so many times that if SHIELD caught them, they’d arrest her as well. At the time, she believed it. Maybe Loki did too. Maybe he hadn’t kidnapped her at all.
Or maybe he grabbed her when he left because he knew this would happen. Darcy couldn’t believe that he’d trust her like that, but why wouldn’t he? She’d already helped him and nursed him back to health once before. What if he knew that getting away would hurt him? What if he brought her with because he knew she’d help him again?
Darcy didn’t want to think about it. She tried not to think about it, but with the very literal weight of the situation leaning on her, she couldn’t ignore it. She’d grown very good at ignoring things, but this was so real and so terrifying that nothing else could even start to edge in on it.
“We’re almost there,” Tina said over her shoulder. She took a corner a bit too quickly, skidding a little on the wet pavement. “Honey, everything’s gonna be okay. Kevin knows what he’s doing.”
It occurred to Darcy that Tina was talking to her. She rubbed her eyes with both her hands and nodded, not sure what to say. It didn’t feel like everything was okay. Everything was the very opposite of okay. Darcy had no idea what was even going on anymore, and she wasn’t sure whether she wanted to panic or completely break down. Maybe she could do both.
They took another corner and stopped on the side of the road outside a small house with an overgrown front yard. Tina stopped the engine and got out to quickly run up to the house and unlock the door, while Kevin started pulling Loki out of the car. Loki was muttering something, but Darcy couldn’t even tell if it was in English or Space Viking. It just sounded like muttering.
She knew she should have been helping Kevin, but she couldn’t even get up. She just sat there, utterly useless and trying not to completely lose her mind. The only thing that got her moving was the realisation that she was sitting in a stranger’s car trying not to cry. She’d be far more comfortable trying not to cry inside, at least. Finally, she got out of the car and followed Kevin and Tina up to the house, catching up with them at the door. Deciding she could at least be useful, she hooked Loki’s arm over her shoulders and helped walk him toward the back of the house, where Kevin was trying to lead them. They came to a bedroom that looked like it belong to somebody, with the unmade bed and laundry on the floor, but it didn’t seem to matter. They got Loki down onto the bed, getting him as comfortable as they could before putting a few blankets over him.
Kevin felt Loki’s neck again before leaving the room. He was gone only a few moments, returning with an old glass thermometer. After managing to get it into Loki’s mouth, he stepped back again and pulled out his phone to send a few more texts.
“He was fine this morning,” Darcy said. She wasn’t sure why she said it, but standing there in silence was doing nothing for her already-frayed nerves.
“I’m finishing up at OHSU. I’ll call in a few favours. See if we can’t get some stuff down here.” Kevin finished sending his text and reached out for the thermometer.
“OHSU?” Darcy asked.
“Med school,” Kevin said, not even looking up.
“Oh.” She watched him frown at the thermometer as he held it up to the light. “What’s wrong?”
“Eighty-four,” Kevin said. He looked up at Darcy, looking like he wasn’t sure about whatever he was thinking. “You’re serious. He really is from…” He pointed up toward the sky.
Darcy almost laughed. “Yeah,” she said. She hugged her arms against her chest and shrugged. “Crazy, I know.”
It didn’t seem to do anything to ease Kevin’s mind. “I have no idea how to treat him,” he admitted. “For all I know, eighty-four’s completely normal.”
Darcy shrugged again. “I don’t know. It was below freezing down in New Mexico. Everything was cold. I didn’t even notice if he was.”
It occurred to Darcy that Loki didn’t even seem to have noticed the cold at all. He slept on top of the blankets when he did sleep, and seemed perfectly fine in just a t-shirt, while she was freezing her ass off.
“That first night he was with me, he passed out as soon as I left him alone. Then he was fine in the morning. Maybe he just needs to sleep,” Darcy guessed. She had no idea what he needed, but a dry place to sleep was probably a good place to start.
Kevin seemed to accept it as well. He nodded and put his phone back into his pocket.
“Come on,” he said, nodding toward the door. “You’d better get that stuff before it gets deleted. It might be useful to have.”
Darcy looked over at Loki and nodded. There was no physical evidence this time, but SHIELD or SWORD or whatever had done this to him as well. No matter what Coulson had said, they were not the good guys. Good guys didn’t do this to people.
“Yeah,” she said. “Yeah, let’s do that.”
She followed Kevin out of the room, because there was nothing else she could do.
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