She couldn’t stand looking at herself. Her own body had become a constant reminder of those two weeks in January, swollen and deformed as something alien grew inside her. It was entirely too hot to keep wearing hoodies, but nothing else would hide the growing swell of her stomach. None of her jeans fit, and hadn’t for weeks, but as she tried to pull up a pair of pyjamas and found them too snug as well, it was the final straw. She had tried three different pairs, and none of them could be pulled high enough to stay on comfortably. No matter how much she twisted and squirmed and tried to squeeze herself into the elastic band, she couldn’t pull her pants high enough.

"Goddamnit!" she shouted, collapsing onto the floor in a trembling heap.

She hadn’t meant to shout, but there was no taking it back. All the same, a jolt of pure terror shot through her body at the sound of her bedroom door opening. She tried to cover herself, sitting half naked on the floor, but it was no use. The cat was well and truly out of the bag.

"Darcy?" her mom asked. "Oh my god."

A tense moment of silence hung between them while Darcy buried her face in her hands, trembling so hard her entire body ached. What came next was a solid wall of repressed emotion, pouring out of Darcy’s very soul in loud wails. A moment later, her mother was by her side, pulling her into a tight hug.

"Honey, why didn’t you say anything?" she asked.

All Darcy could do was cry even louder. She felt like a teenager whose poor prom night choices had caught up with her. But it hadn’t been too much booze in the back of a limousine, and they both knew it. She had been kidnapped, beaten, and raped, and now there was no hiding from that. It was out in the open, written across her body like a neon sign, and all she could do was cry about it.

Her mom said nothing for a long time, letting her cry as long and as loudly as she needed. Her face felt hot and sticky, and her entire body ached from the tension in her muscles. She could barely breathe, and thought she might choke on her own sorrow.

After a long time, while Darcy’s wails tapered off to pathetic weeping, her mother reached out for the pyjamas discarded on the floor. She looked at them for a long moment before placing them up on the bed, her own sadness and confusion radiating off her. All the while, Darcy waited for the worst of it. She waited for the accusatory questions and grand plans she knew she wouldn’t be able to follow through with. Instead, her mom slowly got to her feet.

"Let me see what I have in my closet," she said instead.

She left Darcy alone, still crying on the floor. Once again, her mind was flooded with thoughts of what came next. What was she going to have to dodge around, and what would Loki’s horrible, stupid magic even let her do? On some stupid, hateful level, she even understood. She just wished he’d let her trust her own mother. She didn’t need help distrusting SHIELD, but he hadn’t trusted her enough to believe that, and for some reason it broke her heart.

Darcy was still quietly sniffling when her mother came back with a few pairs of old pyjamas and sweats of her own. Slowly, Darcy got to shaky legs, trying still not to look down at her own belly, round and obviously swollen already.

"We’ll figure this out," her mom said, handing over one of the pairs of sweat pants.

Nodding, Darcy took them and pulled them on, finding them still a bit snug around what used to be her waist, and bunching up uncomfortably beneath her belly. The t-shirt she wore fit tightly around her stomach, the hem creeping up to expose a small sliver of skin. Darcy tried to pull it down to cover herself, but it wasn’t long enough. Sniffling hard, Darcy wiped her face with her hand and struggled to look directly at her mother. She wanted to, but she couldn’t. She was too afraid of what she might see. Too afraid of either the judgement or the pity, unsure which might be worse.

"Do you want to come with me to the store?" her mom asked after a moment.

Darcy shook her head. She couldn’t bare to even leave her bedroom, much less the house. She was humiliated, horrified by her own body. By what had been done to it.

"Okay," her mom said, pulling her into a tight hug. "We’ll figure this out. I promise. It’s not the end of the world."

Darcy wanted to argue. She knew SHIELD had told them just enough for them to know what Loki was; that he wasn’t human. That he was a monster from halfway across the galaxy. And somehow, despite all logic and science and reasoning, she carried his child.

"I’ll be back," her mom said, finally pulling away. "Sit tight. I won’t be long."

Darcy nodded and sat down on her bed, not sure what else to do. She watched in silence as her mom left her alone, closing the door between them. She stayed there, at the edge of her bed for a long time, just trying to remember how to breathe. After a long while, she managed to pull her legs up and lean against the headboard. A long while after that, she picked up her laptop from its spot, slotted neatly into the gap between her mattress and the bed frame. She clicked aimlessly around the permanent host of tabs she never closed, not really looking at anything as the screen scrolled by. By the time her door opened again, and her mom came back into the room, all Darcy felt was numb. She looked up at the bags her mom carried, two from Target, and one plain brown paper. She set the Target bags on the bed, sitting down next to them, and gingerly handed the paper bag over to Darcy. Unsure what to expect, Darcy peered in, and saw a familiar plastic container.

"Thank you," she said weakly, pulling the bowl from the bag.

She closed her laptop and set it aside, giving herself room to pop the lid off the bowl. She dropped the lid back into the bag, and reached in for the chopsticks, using her teeth to pry them apart. With both chopsticks free of one another, she poked carefully at bowl of tonkotsu ramen. Neither the fish cake nor the chashu pork seemed terribly appetising in her current state, but the noodles were exactly what she needed. After taking a few cautious bites, she looked up at her mom, and then to the bags.

"What else did you get?" she asked.

Her mom reached for one of the bags and started pulling items out, one at a time, showing them each to Darcy in turn. Pyjamas and yoga pants with wide wastebands, along with a few larger t-shirts, but nothing that screamed "maternity wear." Darcy was glad, though she wasn’t quite sure what came next all the same. She didn’t think she’d be able to commit to anything either way, but with the way her mother had shopped, it seemed like she expected to be in this for the long haul. Darcy hadn’t been able to make the phone call on her own, and although she hadn’t been keeping count herself, she was fairly certain she was beyond 24 weeks. The way her mother had shopped, it seemed like she suspected as much as well, and was going forward with the expectation that they wouldn’t find much help.

"That one’s cute," Darcy said, at a T-shirt with a cartoon red panda on it. She didn’t know what else to say, but at least her mom had good taste.

"Yeah, I thought you’d like that one," her mom said.

Darcy carefully set her bowl aside and reached for the shirt, looking at it as she held it in her hands. Taking a deep breath and sighing out tension she’d been holding ever since New Mexico, she sat forward to pull off the shirt she was wearing to replace it with the new one. It wasn’t a maternity shirt by any stretch of the imagination, and didn’t fit her body at all. It was big around her shoulders and chest, but even seated, she knew it would be long and wide enough to cover her belly completely. Just that alone was enough to make her feel almost like things might be okay.

She could tell there was much her mother wanted to say, keeping it all to herself while Darcy struggled to keep a grip on her wits. Rather than asking any questions about what Darcy had or hadn’t done, she continued to go through the bag of clothes, showing each item off individually. Also tucked away in the lot of it was a new pair of slippers and a pack of thick, brightly-coloured socks. Darcy took the slippers, the sight of the angry, snarling teddy bear faces bringing a twisted smile to her face for the first time in way too long.

"Oh my god, why?" she asked, not sure if she wanted to laugh or cry.

"Because I’ve missed that beautiful smile of yours," her mom said.

It was probably meant to be some wonderfully comforting thing, but all her mother’s words did was stab her with another pang of regret.

"I don’t know," Darcy said slowly, unsure how much she would actually be able to say, "what I’m going to do."

Her mom smiled sadly, reaching out to take Darcy’s hand in hers. "We’ll figure it out," she said. "I’ll call around and make some appointments."

Darcy sniffled loudly, unsure how much she could bear anything going forward. But she nodded, slowly and stiffly, because it was all she could do.