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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