Loki was watching her again. Darcy tried to ignore him as she pretended to be doing nothing hilariously illegal and dangerous and stupid. She was just any normal college student slacking on her internship and homework. Nothing at all unusual here. Nope.

But he was watching her, and not looking away. And not like he’d been watching her, either. There was a sharpness to him that wasn’t there before. It wasn’t that lost confusion she was getting used to seeing on him. It was curiosity. Curiosity and the expectation of an explanation. Because he apparently hadn’t realised yet that she couldn’t understand a single word he said.

Darcy managed to ignore him for about five seconds more before feeling like she was going to go a little insane from him watching her.

“It’s the internet,” she said, feeling stupid for trying to explain it to him, but not really sure what else to do. “Theoretically, it’s a useful tool for sharing ideas and information, but really you just use it to get into trouble one way or another.”

That confused look was back. Great. At least this was familiar territory.

“Trouble with your mom because your horrible ex posts your naked pictures all over Facebook, or trouble with your job because your boss finds your blog post about how trashed you got over the weekend and how hungover you were on your shift on Monday. Trouble with the government because you admit to harbouring a dangerous criminal in your hotel room.”

Loki glared at her, or maybe at her computer. Darcy wasn’t sure which it was, but she didn’t like it. It reminded her just how dangerous Loki was. There was nothing benign about him in that moment. Even if it wasn’t open rage, it was still the sort of look someone gave you right before they ground your face into the pavement. Just like the giant robot ground Thor into the pavement. If that thing had a proper face, it would have glared at Thor like Loki was glaring at her.

Darcy looked away quickly, hunching into herself and trying to block her peripheral vision with her shoulder. When she dared to peek back again, Loki was already occupied with digging the last of the Cocoa Puffs from the box. Darcy hadn’t even opened that box yet, and now Loki had eaten them all. That just figured. Watching Loki out of the corner of her eye, Darcy began to wonder what else he’d got into or messed up in the few hours she was gone.

“I should be pretty PO’ed about that,” Darcy said with a sigh. “You’re lucky SHIELD paid me today. I’ll have to max out my limit before I’m arrested and thrown in jail forever, I guess.”

Loki looked up at her again, this time more slowly. He shifted, like he was tempted to move away from her, but some pull of manly dignity prevented him from actually moving.

“Yeah, I ain’t even sorry,” Darcy said, finding her ire manifesting in a strange sort of courage. “Your candy ass showing up here means everything is so fucked up that I need to be driven three blocks to work. Three blocks in those big, stupid SUVs. I thought that tree-hugger phase of mine a few years ago was just temporary, but I’m seriously about to have a love-in or something after that.”

Loki watched her cautiously for a long moment, and for a moment Darcy actually expected him to get up and walk away if, for nothing else, to get away from the all the confusion she was creating. And if it was deliberate confusion, well. Darcy felt like she deserved to jerk someone around, with everyone else doing the same to her.

“What?” Loki asked finally.

Darcy jumped so hard she nearly fell off the bed. “Holy shit, you speak English!” she said.

Loki looked just as surprised as she felt. He started saying something else, but when it wasn’t anything like English, the surprise was replaced by that same annoyed look he’d worn earlier.

“I guess not,” Darcy said. It must have just been a fluke. “Hey, wait a minute. When did you start understanding me?”

Loki looked like he was going to answer that, but shrugged and shook his head instead.

Darcy was positive he hadn’t understood a word that was said to him the night before. He’d just stared blankly at everything, until food was introduced. That was about when he started to get a bit more responsive, at least. But even that morning, Darcy realised she’d been able to reason with him, and even sort of managed to communicate back and forth. He let her go into the lab. He must have understood some of what she’d said to him, then.

“Hey, can you write?” Darcy asked.

Loki’s face lit up and he said, “yow,” which Darcy was pretty sure meant yes in Space Viking. She put her laptop aside and got up to fetch her book bag from where it lived by the door. Hoping like hell this would work, she brought it up to the bed and dug out a notebook and a pen and handed both to Loki.

“Here, maybe we can do it this way,” she suggested hopefully.

Loki nodded and started to write, but stopped after the first few letters. “Ah,” he said, sounding weirdly defeated. Looking over at the page, Darcy saw why.

“That’s not English,” she said flatly.

It would just figure that Space Vikings wrote with runes. Loki tossed the notebook aside and rolled his eyes as he said something else. Whatever it was, he sounded pretty certain.

“That’s what they did to you, wasn’t it?” Darcy asked uneasily.

Loki looked back at her, as if to warn her against this line of enquiry.

“I looked it up. After you fell asleep,” she said, ready to jump away if she needed to. She wasn’t even sure why she was still talking, but it felt like something she needed to say. “Where they cut you on your…” She motioned up toward her own head, but couldn’t actually bring herself to say the words. “That’s where the language centres are. On a human. And you guys look like us, so you’re probably the same on the inside.”

Loki laughed, high-pitched and without mirth. It was more a sound of desperate incredulity than anything, but Darcy couldn’t really understand why. She thought she was starting to get things pretty figured out, but maybe she was just as clueless about it all now as she was when Thor first fell out of the sky.

Loki looked down at his hands, turning them over as if examining them. He pulled off the rag from where he’d wrapped it around his left hand, revealing a half-healed slice across his palm. That had definitely not been there that morning, and was far more healed than it should have been for only being a few hours old. Watching him examine himself, Darcy noticed that his wrists had completely healed as well. There wasn’t a trace of any of the mess the handcuffs had left behind.

“Holy shit, no wonder the Vikings thought you guys were gods,” Darcy mused aloud. She almost wanted to reach out and touch him, just to be sure, but she didn’t dare. “I’m almost ready to believe it myself.”

Loki looked up at her again, the ghost of a devilish little smirk on the corners of his mouth.

“Almost,” Darcy said firmly. “I’m still not sold.”

Loki shrugged. He started talking to her slowly, like he was picking his words with care. About one in every ten or so was in English, or sounded like it was in English, but only ever very small words. It wasn’t anything substantial enough for Darcy to even glean the greater context of what he was saying, but she listened quietly. If nothing else, she didn’t want to risk pissing him off by interrupting him. When he spoke slowly, the language didn’t sound quite so Russian anymore. But it was a lot of rolled R’s, and weird noises in the back of the throat. It was almost kind of pretty.

When he finished, he gave Darcy the sort of smile that suggested he’d just played a terribly mean joke on her, but wasn’t going to tell her what it was.

“Fuck, that wasn’t just some sort of magic spell or something, was it?” Darcy asked, starting to back away from him again.

Still smiling, Loki shook his head. “No.”

Darcy was not amused. “You’re an asshole, you know that? I don’t know what you just said, but if it was some magic spell for something, I’m tasing you in the balls.”

Loki only shrugged, still smiling.

“Well, asshole. Listen. I could get into a lot of trouble because of you,” Darcy said. She looked over her shoulder, still not trusting the open window.

“The plan was to drop your annoying ass out in the desert tonight.” She turned back to him, trying not to let her complete despair at that plan falling through show on her face.

Loki didn’t say anything in return. The way he raised his eyebrows said everything he needed to.

“Yeah. That’s your fault. Remember what I said about having to get a ride into the lab?” Darcy asked. She turned to point out the window at the not-so-theoretical agents ostensibly perched outside for her safety. “This place is crawling in government spooks because you—” she pointed at Loki, wanting to poke him in the chest, but not quite having the nerve “—blew up half the town.” She waved her hand at the window, which gave a nice view of the giant robot’s destruction path. “And now you’re back! And they’re worried you’re back to finish what you started and kill us all.”

Loki shook his head. “No,” he said. And then he said something else that didn’t sound like anything, but by the tone and inflection might have been “not you.” If it was what he said, Darcy didn’t want to even think about why she might have been exempt from Loki’s next murderous rampage.

“Please don’t kill anybody,” Darcy said, a bit more quietly than she’d meant to. “I didn’t… I didn’t mean to bring you here and help you. I didn’t want to. I still don’t want you here. When I pulled over, I thought you were just some guy, and then I saw…” she waved her hand in Loki’s general direction. “I saw everything, and kinda freaked out. What they did was fucked up, but so was what you did. But that doesn’t make any of it right. I shouldn’t have helped you, and now I can’t take it back. But I can’t roll on you either, because you’ll just go right back there, and they’ll probably be even worse.”

She pushed her glasses up onto her forehead and tried to dry her eyes with the heels of her hands. She wouldn’t start crying in front of him. She couldn’t. If she did that, she’d never be able to look him in the eye again. He’d know how terrified of him she was, and that was the last thing she needed. When she finally looked back up, Loki was watching her again, all cold consideration as he studied her with his arms crossed over his chest. He started talking again, the same even, measured tone as before. Darcy really wished she could understand what he was saying, because it sounded important.

He stopped suddenly, as if realising something mid-sentence. Darcy was tempted to remind him that she couldn’t understand a word he said, but he started talking again. This time, a question by the sound of it.

Darcy shrugged and shook her head. “I don’t speak Space Viking,” she said. “I have no idea what you’re saying.”

Loki frowned. Several times, he looked like he was about to say something, but thought better of it at the last second. Finally, he tapped himself on the chest. “Loki,” he said, before motioning expectantly to Darcy.

“Oh. Uh, Darcy,” she said. It took her a few moments to notice the expectant look Loki still wore. “Darcy Lewis.” She wasn’t sure if she should have told him that. She’d seen enough fantasy movies to know that names held power, and that telling Loki her name was probably the dumbest thing she’d done yet.

“Darcy Lewis,” Loki repeated. Then he spoke again, reaching out toward her. Darcy closed her eyes and tensed, trying to look away. But all Loki did was straighten her glasses on her face before pulling his hand back.

Looking at him sitting cross-legged on the other side of the bed, with that less-than-innocent smile on his face, Darcy just knew that telling him her name had been yet another in a very long line of mistakes.