It turned out everything was royally screwed up from the weirdest week ever, but not as bad as it could have been, thank God. Lower Manhattan was still in one piece, and NYU was going to offer a full credit transfer, considering the circumstances.
Luckily, Culver’s admissions office had been spared in the whatever the hell it was that flattened part of the campus, so Darcy was at least able to email back and forth with her adviser about what all transferring to NYU would entail. Which, thankfully, was very little since she was off-campus that term, and the transfer was—for now—only a technical one. But come spring term she’d be in New York, instead of Willowdale. Which, really, was great considering she’d actually be closer to home, and Culver had been her second choice to begin with.
She wouldn’t let anyone else hear her say it, but the enormous green rage monster had actually kinda sorta turned things to her favour.
Yeah, that sounded really bad. No-one else was ever allowed to hear that.
She was reading over the most recent email from her adviser when the bell on the front door jangled. No-one ever came into the old show room-cum-science lab, and at first Darcy thought it might have been Jane until she heard three sets of footsteps. She turned round quickly, spotting two faces she recognised, and one she didn’t. Coulson, she knew, and she recognised Agent Sitwell, even without knowing his name. But the third man was brand new, and seemed completely bored with being led along to their little desert research facility. He lagged behind almost immediately, looking around the building for anything more interesting than printed photographs of clouds and lightning. He wasn’t dressed like either of the other two; no expensive suit or shiny black shoes. Instead, he wore some sort of body armour, as if he was ready for a fight at any moment.
“Agent Coulson, hey,” Darcy greeted, though not entirely warmly. “You come to zap us all with your neurolyser?”
Her question was almost enough to faze him, and for a very brief moment he seemed almost confused. “Neurolyser?” he asked.
“Yeah, you know. Flashy light thing that wipes out your memory,” Darcy said, miming the action with her fingers. “Because we’ve seen too much.”
“Ah.” Coulson smiled wanly and shook his head. “We don’t have those. Is Doctor Foster available?”
Darcy twisted in her seat and pointed toward the back of the lab area, closer to the kitchen. “Somewhere back there, doing science.” She couldn’t help but feel like maybe they were here to pass on that elusive ‘more information,’ but stamped out that thought as quickly as she could. They weren’t going to share anything with anyone, and Darcy knew it.
While Coulson walked back to find Jane, Sitwell stepped up closer to Darcy. He leaned against her desk casually, and if he wasn’t one of Them, Darcy would have almost thought he was trying to hit on her. “So, this neurolyser. How’s it work, exactly?” he asked.
Darcy smiled up at him. “You’re just trying to keep me distracted from whatever Coulson’s here to talk about, aren’t you?” she asked.
“Little bit,” Sitwell admitted.
“Nice try. But I’m gonna go snoop all the same.” Sitwell made no move to stop her as she got up to follow after Coulson. He was showing a photograph to Jane and Erik, watching them expectantly.
“You’re positive?” he asked.
“No. Never,” Jane said. “Just Thor and those friends of his. I didn’t even catch any of their names.”
Erik shook his head, and if Darcy wasn’t mistaken, she thought he looked almost a little bit guilty about something. “You’re sure he’s one of them?” he asked.
Darcy leaned over to see the photograph, taking it when Erik handed it over to her. It was a candid shot, probably taken from a security camera still, of a man who looked very bored. His black hair was kind of messy and down in his face, and it looked like he was wearing clothes someone found and thought might fit him.
“He’s kinda hot. Who is he?” Darcy asked.
“He calls himself Loki,” Coulson said. Before he could continue, Erik dropped his coffee to the ground, mirroring the frightened-rabbit looks the women wore on their faces. Darcy quickly gave the photo back to Coulson and shook out her hands, as if she’d touched something unpleasant.
“Not so hot,” she said.
“All we’ve been able to get from him is his name, but you guys seem to know him. Who is he?” Coulson asked. He waved Sitwell in, handing off the photograph to him when he got close enough.
The other three were quiet for a long moment, none of them quite wanting to be the one to speak first.
“Thor’s brother,” Erik spoke up finally. “He’s, uh. Well, the according to the myths, he’s not a nice guy. When that…” he waved out toward Main Street, at the destruction that was still being cleaned up, “thing was here, Thor spoke to it.”
“He called it Loki,” Darcy said. She looked over at Jane for a moment, not sure how much she should say. Jane nodded almost imperceptibly, which Darcy took as the go-ahead to say more. “I don’t know, like this Loki guy was controlling it or something.” She didn’t know Vikings had robots, but apparently these ones did.
Coulson hummed, as if even that small amount of information had changed things. Darcy wasn’t sure she liked it.
“What, do you think there’s more of them coming?” she asked, suddenly not so sure she liked the thought of it. Up until that moment, the knowledge that she was one of the first people on Earth to meet beings from another planet had been kind of cool, even if she wasn’t allowed to really talk about it. The day Thor left, SHIELD made everyone sign so many non-disclosure agreements, Darcy was pretty sure she’d signed over her first-born as well.
But now, knowing that even the mean ones were finding their way to Earth, she wished they’d all just stay on their side of the Galaxy.
“We’re not sure,” Coulson told them. Darcy didn’t like the sound of that one bit. “Until we are, I’m afraid we can’t let you continue on as you’ve been. We—”
“What?” Jane demanded. SHIELD had done nothing but jerk them around since the day Thor showed up, and they clearly weren’t going to stop any time soon. “You can’t do this! You asked me to figure out how they got here, and now you’re pulling the plug on it two days later? This is unacceptable!” He was waving her hands around, though whether it was because she was trying to intimidate Coulson or fly, Darcy wasn’t sure.
“Doctor Foster, please,” Sitwell cut in. He held his hands out, trying to silence the room. “We just don’t want you guys out there on your own. Consider it a… supervised field trip.”
“Supervised field trip?” asked Erik. He looked between the two agents, disdain practically rolling off of him. “Because we don’t already have enough of you spooks following us around.”
Coulson didn’t quite glare at him, but it was close. There was a certain disapproval to it, and Darcy couldn’t help but laugh at, which only got that same not-glare aimed at her instead. Sitwell, meanwhile, hardly seemed to notice any of it.
“So then what’s one more?” he asked with a lazy shrug. He turned to the third man who had come in with them. Darcy wasn’t even sure when he’d wandered over, but he stood near their cork board, looking up at all the photographs of the first wormhole that Thor had fallen out of.
“This is Agent Barton,” Sitwell introduced. Barton turned round at his name, as if he suddenly realised he was on duty. “He’ll stay out of your way. He’s just here as a first line of defence. Just in case.”
All of Jane’s righteous anger seemed to have evaporated as she watched Barton look around the lab. “Are you sure that’s necessary?” she asked.
“No,” Coulson admitted. “But the way things are going, I think it’s better to be prepared for anything.”
Erik eyed Barton warily before walking back toward the kitchen. As he went, Darcy bent down to the ground to start picking up pieces of broken mug off the floor. The way things were going, every last one of their mugs would be broken by the weekend.
“Okay. Well.” Jane looked around the room, from Coulson to Barton to Darcy, and then back to Coulson again. “That’s. Yeah, actually. I think that’s a good idea, probably. Do you—Do you know what he wanted? Loki, I mean. Why he’s here?”
Coulson shook his head. “He’s been transfered to SWORD custody. At this point, we’re more worried about anyone showing up.”
Jane nodded. “Right. Okay. Thank you.”
Coulson and Sitwell both nodded in turn. “Have a good day. We’ll be in touch,” Coulson said. The two of them turned to walk out, leaving Barton behind to watch over them.
“So. Agent Barton. Do you… want anything to drink?” Jane offered awkwardly. She flapped her hands out limply by her side, looking about as lost with everything as Darcy felt.
Barton turned toward Jane, his hard expression giving the impression that he annoyed that he’d been addressed at all. “Got any Coke?” he asked easily. It wasn’t the response Darcy expected.
“Uh, yeah. In the fridge,” she said. She got up as Erik returned with a towel and a plastic bag. Dropping the pieces of broken mug she’d collected into the bag, she nodded toward the kitchen. “In here. I’ll show you around.”
Barton followed after her, taking the opportunity to scope out the rest of the old dealership on their way back to the kitchen. Darcy could already tell she was in for a fun winter term, in a totally-not-fun-at-all sort of way.
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