So much had happened that Darcy didn’t understand. No matter how many times it was explained to her, she couldn’t make the timeline fit into place in her head. Even with time zones, there weren’t enough hours in the day for her to have sailed across the Atlantic and landed in Virginia the same day she got off a plane in the Faroe Islands. But that was apparently what had happened.

So much else that shouldn’t have been possible had happened that Darcy quit trying to make sense of it. Otherwise, she thought she just might implode trying to rationalise and make sense of everything.

They didn’t go straight home once SHIELD released her to her parents’ custody. They went to a (another) hotel, where Darcy immediately fell asleep. She didn’t know how long she’d slept, but she slept completely unbothered until she woke up with a migraine and a neck so stiff, her skin was hot to the touch. Her parents had brought clean clothes, and after a long, hot bath, she wrapped herself in an enormous hoodie and mismatched sweat pants that both seemed brand new. Her mom brushed her hair while she sat on the foot of the bed, working out two weeks worth of snarls and tangles Darcy hadn’t been able to address herself. While her mother brushed her hair, Darcy chewed on a toothbrush, not having the energy to brush her teeth properly, but feeling better for just pretending.

A while later, her dad had gone out and found food for them. When she was presented with Burger King, Darcy abruptly realised that all she truly wanted was a home-cooked meal. Her mind and her stomach were at odds with one another, one telling her she was starving, while the other didn’t even want to look at fast food. When she pulled out a box of fries from the bag, she felt suddenly ill for reasons she didn’t understand, and she shoved them right back into the bag where she couldn’t see them anymore. After taking a moment to just breathe, she pulled out one of their cheap burgers instead. It wasn’t what she wanted, but her body didn’t rebel at the mere thought of it, so she forced herself to eat.

She didn’t want to take another plane to New York, nor did she want to even attempt to go back to school. All her stuff was in some SHIELD evidence locker somewhere, which they’d promised to return, but there wasn’t a single thing Darcy had left behind that she even remotely cared about. They could have all of it; the unravelled socks, and the bloody towels, and pirated DVDs. Even her laptop and phone. She didn’t care. The only thing Darcy wanted to do was hide away and never come back out again.

Rather than making her take another plane, her dad rented a car. Taking a train back to New York had been floated as an idea, but Darcy didn’t want to be on a train either. She had expected arguing and cajoling, but it never happened. It was a day-long drive back to Long Island, but one her dad didn’t argue about. Darcy wondered how much they knew about what had happened, and how much had been obvious. For as much as she’d wanted to scream at every SHIELD agent and operative who had dared be in the same room as her, Darcy didn’t want to say a word to her parents. She couldn’t bear to think of the pitying looks that would only intensify if they knew the full truth. If they knew what he’d done to her.

So they drove from Virginia to New York in a rented SUV. Her dad drove the entire trip, while her mom stayed in the back with her, nobody saying much of anything the entire time. Any attempt at conversation stalled and faltered as soon as it started, because conversation was the last thing Darcy wanted. She dozed and napped most of the ride, watching unfamiliar yet comfortable scenery drift past her window during the moments she was awake.

She wasn’t sure if the drive up to New York felt unreasonably quick, or like it had taken a week. Somehow, it was both at once, like her entire concept of time had been erased. It was only a few minutes between making it off the freeway, and pulling up in front of the brick-faced townhouse in Astoria. Her dad parked on the narrow street, stopping long enough to let Darcy and her mother out. They were barely on the sidewalk before he drove off again, no doubt trying to find a place to park on the crowded street. With her arm around Darcy’s shoulders, her mom turned her toward the door and led her up the stairs. As soon as the door was opened, Darcy made quick tracks to the sofa. All she wanted to do was curl up and hide away, and that’s exactly what she did. She pulled the blanket off the back of the sofa and buried herself in it, making herself as small as possible inside her personal little cave. Her mom said nothing as she turned on the lights, making a slower path toward the sofa. When she sat down next to her, Darcy leaned against her mom, and once again began crying before she could stop herself. Every time she cried, she felt weak and pathetic and useless. She was home. She was safe. And she was terrified for reasons she didn’t understand. She cried as her mom held her, running out every last ounce of energy she had left. Even at the sound of the front door opening and closing again as her dad made it back, Darcy couldn’t stop, and felt worse for it.

Her mom held her, saying nothing and mercifully keeping her platitudes to herself until Darcy wore herself out. Even when Darcy finally wore herself to silence, her mom stayed by her side, a silent source of comfort she didn’t quite know what to do with.

The office was cold and clinical in a way that was pretending to be warm and friendly. Shelves with books that were probably fake and toys that were meant to be inviting lined the walls, and potted plants with wide, waxy leaves sat on the floor next to the window. The only saving grace was that the therapist hadn’t been provided by SHIELD. Her parents’ insurance paid for the visits—a whole year of them, one visit per month. Hardly enough to get anything done at all, but better than nothing.

SHIELD had not provided anything. They’d still been dragging their heels on returning Darcy’s things, but she wasn’t exactly keen on calling to bother them about it either. Of course they weren’t going to foot the bill for the psychological trauma she had endured. Especially not when it had been their poor handling of the situation at the very beginning that led to everything else.

Darcy didn’t know what to say to the woman in the smart grey suit sitting across from her. She knew what she wanted to say, but the words still wouldn’t form. Whatever Loki had done to her was there to stay. All the things that needed to be said were locked away, making the whole thing even more pointless.

"I went to the store last week," Darcy said finally.

"By yourself?" Dr Taylor asked.

"With my mom," Darcy said. "We walked. It was nice."

She didn’t go anywhere alone, even when she did get up the nerve to leave the house. Everywhere she went, she saw him. Every tall, skinny white guy with dark hair was Loki until she looked a second time, and even then she wasn’t entirely convinced.

She wanted to say that too. But even that didn’t seem to want to come out. It was like he’d gagged her against even mentioning his existence, and when she thought about it Darcy thought she could still taste sulphur on her tongue.

It meant she and Dr Taylor didn’t talk about much. But Dr Taylor was at least patient, and seemed to understand that Darcy couldn’t talk about it. Maybe not why, but she understood enough. So they talked around what had happened. Talked about little things, like going to the store, or being able to stay home alone for an afternoon. But even after a month between visits, that was still all she could talk about. Not the sleepless nights because she’d wake up thinking her blanket was a hand trying to choke her. Not the inability to read a book or watch TV, because everything reminded her of Loki, and what he’d done to her.

Not even the box of pregnancy tests she’d managed to buy when her mom wasn’t looking. Or how she had shoved them under her bed and forgotten about them, because she was too scared to use one.

Nor her missed period, and how she was dangerously close to missing a second.

Those were all her secrets, buried deep and eating her alive.

"Do you still walk everywhere?" Dr Taylor asked.

Darcy nodded. "Mostly. The trains wig me out a bit," she said.

Dr Taylor nodded, seeming almost like she understood. Almost. She couldn’t understand, because Darcy hadn’t been able to tell her that the last time she’d been on a train, she’d been repeatedly raped. Darcy hadn’t told her any of it, but everyone knew. Not the specifics. Not the details. But she had been gone for two weeks, held hostage and dragged across half the planet. When she came back beaten and bruised, only a fool would have missed the clues.

But Dr Taylor didn’t push her to say it out loud. Next time, Darcy worried. Next time she would.

But they talked about going to the store, and cooking for herself, and all the little victories that she had to fight for. Darcy didn’t think she’d ever feel normal again, but she could pretend sometimes. For brief little moments, she could snatch back that normality and be who she was before.

When the hour was up, Darcy found her mom waiting for her in the lobby, reading over some year-old gardening magazine. They took the car, because cars were easier for her to cope with. She’d been raped in a car as well, but the car wasn’t full of strangers. The car was just her, and her mom, and locked doors between them and the rest of the world. She could, on occasion, bring herself to deal with being in a car.

They went straight home from Dr Taylor’s office, and from there, Darcy went straight to the sofa while her mom started making dinner. Curled up in her blanket, hiding from the rest of the world, Darcy watched her mom busy herself in the kitchen. Nobody pushed her to magically get better. Nobody pushed her to say what she couldn’t say. She was allowed to take her time, and for that, she was grateful.