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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