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.