She woke to silence. Darcy still wasn’t used to waking to silence. Both her parents had gone back to work, leaving her completely alone during the day, and she still wasn’t used to it. She still didn’t quite know how to handle it, and the first thing she did was get up to turn on the TV in the front room, letting PBS drone quietly at her while she walked away. She needed something, anything to not feel so alone. But even with the TV on, she knew she was alone.

She was cooking for herself as well. Not much, and nothing terribly substantial. But mac and cheese for breakfast counted as cooking. She got the water boiling, tipped in the noodles, and then threw the box halfway across the kitchen when someone knocked on the front door. In her mind, it was an angry pounding, desperate to get in. But a moment later, as her heart began to calm down, Darcy realised it wasn’t that at all, but the polite rapping of someone who had nothing better to do at 11am. Still struggling to catch her breath, she quietly moved to the front door and peeked out through the hole to find one of the neighbour kids standing on the steps. Talking a deep breath, Darcy unlocked the door, replacing all of them with the chain before opened it to peer through the gap.

"Lucky got away. Have you seen him?" the kid asked.

"I—" Darcy froze, her mind doing flips while it tried to catch up with what was said. She stared at the kid as her mind raced to a thousand conclusions at once, none of them logical or rational. But he was just the neighbour kid, a little boy she’d seen playing in the street with his little black dog hundreds of times.

"No, I haven’t, sorry."

She closed the door without waiting to see if he had anything else to say, and locked everything up all the way. After a moment of telling herself that the neighbour kid was looking for his dog, and that he hadn’t said what she thought he’d said, she unlocked the chain and returned to the stove before her extremely lame breakfast boiled over. She worked as quickly as boiling water would allow, and even mixed in a can of tuna with it at the very end, thinking she should eat something with some sort of nutritional value. With about half of what was made in a bowl, Darcy took it over to the sofa to watch whatever bland entertainment New York’s public broadcasting network had to offer, getting about two bites into her macaroni before her stomach did a flip, nearly taking her with it. She tossed the bowl onto the table, barely having the chance to make sure it didn’t spill, and ran to the kitchen. She made it as far as the sink before throwing up what little was in her stomach.

She was doing well. She hadn’t cried all week, but this pushed her right over that edge again. There was nothing offensive about macaroni and cheese, but she knew exactly why it had bothered her.

She had missed her period twice, and had pretended she hadn’t. Her parents hadn’t figured it out yet, but they would soon. And she couldn’t bear it. Still leaning over the sink, Darcy ran the water to clear it out while she forced herself to rein it in and stop crying. The tears didn’t stop flowing, but she managed to catch her breath, breathing slowly and evenly in every way her body didn’t want to.

Instead of going back to the sofa, Darcy returned to her room. Barely keeping herself under control, she stood next to her bed and looked down at the tiny corner of white plastic bag that poked out from beneath the blanket. She couldn’t stall any longer. She couldn’t ignore it, or pretend it wasn’t a problem. She needed to know for certain. Darcy picked up the entire bag and took it with her to the bathroom.

She didn’t want to do this. She couldn’t do this. But she knew she had to. She still had not been able to tell anyone, and was surprised when she’d been able to buy the tests at all.

Slowly, she took the box from the bag. That was one step. Then, she opened the box. Next, she pulled one of the wrapped tests from the box.

Darcy stared at it in her fingers, benign and unassuming. She wondered how one little thing could make her so scared. How one little thing had the potential to change her life forever.

She knew it wasn’t the test that would change her life. But it was easy to put all that weight on it in that moment, because it was easier to think about than Loki.

With a deep breath, she unwrapped the test and looked at it. She’d used them before, but she’d never felt quite this terrified about it before. But this time, she didn’t know what came next. She didn’t know what she’d be able to do next.

Before, they’d all been negatives. Before, she’d taken them with a mix of panic and hope, and always came out on top. This time, she knew. This time, she was only seeking confirmation for something she’d known for months.

She knew how this worked. It wasn’t new. But she was terrified all the same.

Darcy put the test aside on the counter and pulled down her pants, knowing she couldn’t stall any longer. The bruises had all long since faded, but part of her could still see them on her skin, dark and ugly as if they were still brand new. She tried to get situated without looking at herself, and picked the test back up to aim it where it needed to be. In the moment, the whole thing felt gross and vile, but those feelings were quickly muscled out by the fear of what would come next.

Once she was done, she recapped the stick and put it back on the counter to do its thing while she cleaned up.

Two minutes felt like an eternity, and she watched the test in tense silence as the little screen on the side slowly did it’s thing. She watched as the little blue plus filled the screen, and even though it was about as idiot-proof as possible, she still picked up the box to double check.

She’d already known, so why was it so hard to look at? Why did matching that little plus to the "positive" indicator on the box hurt so much? She covered her mouth with her hand, while the other still held onto the test, and slowly felt her entire world crumble around her all over again.

She had already known, but the confirmation made it real.

There was one more test in the box. She could take another test. Maybe this one had been wrong. But she knew it wasn’t. She knew that somehow, despite science and logic, Loki had done this to her, and she’d known it ever since she sat in a dark Icelandic hotel room, bleeding and bruised from what he’d done to her.

Her hand fell to her belly, still the same shape it had always been. She wondered how it was supposed to work. He was a thousand years old. Would her belly soon start to swell, or would it be years before she even started to show?

Loki had told her something else, she’d realised. One more thing that sounded like trite nonsense when he said it. That his gifts of life would be shared with her. She hadn’t understood what it meant, but she thought she might be starting to get an idea. Was this what he’d meant? That he’d get her pregnant, and somehow in doing so, make sure she stayed alive long enough to carry his child?

Darcy dropped the test to the floor, and a moment later collapsed to her knees. She had no idea what came next, or what she’d even say when she did start to show. Would Loki’s magic keep her gagged even then? Would she still be forced to deny everything had happened?

As she fought back more tears, Darcy wondered what would have happened had she made it to Alfheim with him. Would he have let her speak then? He’d told her to speak to no one when they arrived, but surely he hadn’t meant no one ever. The people of Alfheim would have probably known what to expect at least. What could she do on Earth? Who could possibly tell her what to expect when it came to being pregnant with an alien child?

A treacherous voice told her she’d have been better off in Alfheim. That she should have tried harder to keep up. That she shouldn’t have given up so easily. That at least if she’d made it, she’d know exactly what to look forward to, because it would be a repeat of everything that had already happened.

She had given up. And now, she was giving up again, and she knew it.

Another thought crossed her mind as she sat on the bathroom floor. She couldn’t hide this forever. People would find out. SHIELD would find out. And when SHIELD found out, Darcy couldn’t imagine they’d be willing to look the other way. SHIELD would be back. She was fairly certain they hadn’t really left. They had cut her loose too easily, and there was no way in hell they weren’t keeping tabs on her, or even using her for bait. She wondered how many creepy photographs, taken with telephoto lenses, existed of her in some database somewhere while SHIELD waited patiently to see if Loki was truly coming back like he’d threatened.

That was what did it. Once again, she was crying. She couldn’t stop crying, as though it was all she ever did. She told herself to grow up. To get a grip. Countless other women were in the same state as her, and the world didn’t stop turning. She couldn’t just roll over and give up like this.

She should have been faster on her feet. She should have made a stronger effort to keep up. She should have listened to Loki when he’d told her what to do.

She didn’t want to be with Loki. She didn’t want to be on another planet. But she couldn’t even tell anyone just how scared she truly was, or why she was scared at all. Loki was gone. He wasn’t coming back. She had disappointed him and he’d left her behind, exactly as he’d said he would. But he wasn’t what scared her now. SHIELD scared her. The way her parents would react scared her. Not knowing what to even expect from her own body scared her. And she was doing it all alone, because she hadn’t been able to keep up. Hadn’t been able to keep moving forward like she’d been told.

Like so much else, she was trapped and afraid because of her own foolish actions. She wouldn’t be in this position now if she had just listened to begin with.

She let herself cry until it had all worked out of her system. She picked up the test from the floor and looked at it one more, hoping it might have changed its mind. Finding it still displaying a positive result, Darcy wrapped it in toilet paper and stuffed it into the trash, hoping it would go unseen. She picked up the box and the wrapper, stuffing both back into the plastic carrier bag, and finally got up. One step at a time, she made it to her room and put the bag back under her bed. She could always check again later. Maybe stress was just messing with her period. Maybe the test was wrong. Maybe she’d let it sit too long and it read a false positive.

Or maybe, she was completely stuck once again, without any options for escape.