Darcy kept looking out the window, paying more attention to what was going on outside it than what was going on in her book. Neither Victorian sexual repression nor Mormon sexual ignorance was able to hold her attention for more than a few seconds at a time. She’d given her laptop to Loki, because he seemed curious, and keeping him entertained and happy seemed beneficial to her health. It had taken him all of two minutes to somehow find Tumblr’s porn tags. Either he was very lucky with random clicking, or the bastard could read English.

Whichever it was, Darcy ignored it for the most part. He was being quiet and not staring at her, so as long as he kept his hands out of his pants, she was happy to let him do whatever the hell he wanted. Both his hands were busy anyway. He’d got the hang of using the laptop’s track pad pretty easily, and used his right hand to scroll, while he kept snapping his fingers with his left. At first, Darcy thought he was trying to get her attention for something, but he kept doing it, again and again, with no rhythm or pattern. He was probably nervous. Somehow, knowing he was out of his own element and in way over his head made him a little easier to be around.

The people outside were a different matter entirely. They weren’t even doing anything really. But just their presence—knowing they were out there, probably trying to watch what she was doing made it impossible to do anything. She couldn’t think. She could even pretend to be doing her homework.

“Are you sure they can’t see us?” Darcy asked. The answer seemed obvious, but obvious hardly meant anything. Especially lately.

Loki stopped snapping his fingers and looked up, turning to glance out the window. “They can’t,” he said easily. His English was slowly but steadily getting better, like the more he used it, the more it seemed to sink in.

Darcy looked out the window as well, leaning forward and craning about to try to see what she could of the people on the roof across the street. “Can they hear us? What if they’re listening in?”

“They can’t.” He looked down at his hand and snapped his fingers some more, like he was expecting something to happen.

He and Thor were royalty, apparently. Maybe that’s how they summoned servants or food or whatever they needed. Just thinking about that made Darcy remember her pathetic dinner and lack of any real breakfast.

“I’m hungry. Are you hungry?” she asked.

“I could eat,” he said, not even looking up from the post after post of guy-on-guy blowjobs he was scrolling through.

Darcy set her book aside and got up to dig through the boxes of cheap, over-processed food she’d brought with her. Some macaroni, ramen, rice. The mini-fridge wasn’t much better. Just a few cans of Pepsi, half a gallon of milk, and some left-overs from Izzy’s which were starting to become seriously questionable.

“I don’t have much,” Darcy told him. She did, however, have $300 from SHIELD. “I can try to go shopping. They should let me do that.”

Loki looked up at her, looking like he was trying to pick his words with care. “What was that you had brought in last night?” As long as he used small words, he didn’t seem to code-switch very much. The fact that he was speaking at all was a goddamed miracle in Darcy’s opinion, though.

“Pizza’s expensive and I’m broke. I can’t afford it every night,” she told him. Loki frowned, like her answer was not what he wanted to hear.

“Let me go shopping,” Darcy said, trying not to sound like she was begging. She got up and went to fetch her handbag. “Sitwell said the store is still open, and it’s just right up on the next corner. I can get a lot with the money they gave me.”

Loki stared at her, his suspicion plain on his face. Maybe she was projecting, but Darcy thought he looked scared. If he was, she couldn’t really blame him.

“If I go to the store, I can get a lot more stuff for the same amount of money. I don’t get paid, so when I do have money, I have to make it all count.” She pulled her phone and the card Sitwell had given her from her bag, but didn’t dial the number yet. She wanted to make sure he agreed with the plan before she did anything, in case his disagreement turned violent.

“You’re a slave?” Loki asked her.

Darcy snorted. “Yeah, pretty much. It’s legal because they’re ‘paying me with experience,’” she said, making air-quote around the bullshit part of that sentence. “SHIELD gave me three hundred bucks, man. That’s enough to feed a family of four for about a month. If they eat cheaply.”

Loki narrowed his eyes at her, but said nothing. Darcy wondered if he said nothing because he knew anything he wanted to say would just come out in Space Viking.

“Just let me call Sitwell and see if I can get out of having to be escorted to the store,” she said. “I’ll be gone like, twenty minutes. Okay?” She held up Sitwell’s card in one hand and her phone in the other, still waiting for him to agree to it.

After a long moment of staring at her with his face completely unreadable, Loki finally nodded. He didn’t seem happy about it, but Darcy ignored that and dialled Sitwell’s number, surprised when he picked up almost immediately.

“Hey, Sitwell, buddy,” Darcy greeted as she turned away from Loki so she didn’t have to see him glaring at her. “I need to go shopping, and the store’s like, right there. I can almost see it from my window. Do I really need to have someone drive me there?”

“It’s for your safety, Miss Lewis,” Sitwell said.

Darcy expected as much from him.

“What about the guys across the street? The ones watching me from the roof? Are they for my safety too?” she asked.

Sitwell didn’t respond right away, but she was pretty sure she heard him pull the phone away from his ear and make an annoyed sound.

“Seriously, dude. This place is crawling with Men in Black, and I’ve got enough carbon guilt as it is. I still can’t believe I had to ride in with Clint this morning. Which, between you and me, that guy could use a vacation.” She turned around, unable to really stop herself from grinning at the look of utter perplexion on Loki’s face.

On the other end of the line, Sitwell sighed. “Just to the store?” he asked.

“Yeah. I’m like, totally sick of ramen, and I’ve got all this SHIELD money burning a hole in my pocket,” Darcy said, starting to feel like this might actually work.

“Make it quick,” Sitwell told her.

Darcy grinned even wider. “Thanks, dude. I’ll get you a candy bar or something.”

“That won’t be necessary,” Sitwell told her, just before the line went dead. Darcy wiggled in a little victory dace as she put her phone and the card back in her bag.

“Mission accomplished,” she told Loki.

Loki started to ask a question, but he didn’t get any further than “Are you” before English failed him. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, Darcy waiting patiently for him to start again.

“Are you like this with all of your masters?” he asked finally.

Darcy laughed as she picked up the big canvas bag that held her knitting and dumped it out on the bed. “No, what are you talking about?” she asked.

Loki rolled his eyes so hard, it looked like it hurt.

“Okay, I’ll be back as soon as I can. I promise,” Darcy told him. She didn’t wait for Loki to give her his leave, or whatever it was royalty did. She left the room as quickly as she could without being suspicious. Once the door was locked behind her, Darcy waved up to the guys on the roof, just to annoy them. She walked up the road to the tiny grocery store on the next corner, definitely feeling like this was a completely different town to the one she’d first arrived in at the beginning of term. It had never been a terribly loud, busy place to begin with, but it was starting to get that ghost town vibe. Even places that weren’t damaged by the giant robot were starting to close down. But the pizza place was still open. Darcy stopped as she came up next to it and sighed to herself. Maybe she could buy her prolonged survival through delicious, garlicy crust. After all, they did say the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach. Maybe the same held true for the way to whatever it was that made someone not want to kill you when you stopped being useful.

Darcy ran out of space in her bag before she even came close to maxing out her card limit, which she took as a good sign. A small good sign, but she needed anything good she could get.

$50 bought a lot of sandwich meats, bread, tinned soups, and pasta. There was even a tiny “deli counter” with a few ready-made sandwiches and some cooked chicken, which seemed like a good idea. She wasn’t sure how long it would last, and wasn’t counting on it sticking around for very long. Thor had been a bottomless pit, and she had no reason to expect Loki to be any different.

On her way back, she picked up the pizza she’d ordered—topped with a little bit of everything—and made very quick tracks back to her room.

“Hey, it’s me,” she said as she walked into the room.

Loki made no move to get up and help her, but he did at least seem happy to see her. Or at least, what she was carrying.

“I thought you said—”

“Yeah, well. You seemed so heart-broken over it, I changed my mind,” she said. She put the pizza down on the bed in front of him so she could empty out her bag. “And leave me more than one piece this time.”

Loki was already getting into the pizza, giving it a dubious look. “This one’s different,” he said.

“Yeah, it’s also more expensive, so be nice to me,” Darcy told him, not looking up from where she was filling her fridge. She brought the chicken over to the bed, hoping to use it to tempt Loki away from the pizza so she could get to it while it was still hot. It worked, seeming to distract him immediately.

“What have you done to it?” he asked, picking up the crispy-fried drumstick and examining it like it might spring out and bite him.

“I didn’t do anything to it. It’s delicious. Just eat.” Darcy turned the pizza box around so she could use the inside of the lid as a table, putting a few slices of pizza and some of the chicken on it for herself.

“I will not be told what to do by a slave,” Loki said, picking the breading from the chicken and sniffing at it.

Darcy snorted and swallowed her pizza quickly. “Yeah, well. This is my room, and if you don’t like it, you can walk.”

Loki gave her a sideways glare and put the bit of torn-off chicken into his mouth. He apparently decided he liked it after that, and started eating with more zeal. Darcy watched him for a few moments, still managing to be amazed at how much Asgardians could put away, before her attention drifted back out the window.

“So why’d you do it?” she asked before she could stop herself.

Loki slowly looked over at her. “Do what?” he asked, but it was clear by the look on his face that he knew exactly what Darcy meant.

“Bring your giant robot down here. Blow up the town. Try to kill everyone. Take your pick.” The bitterness and resentment poured out of her suddenly. It probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do, trying to interrogate Loki, but she didn’t really care. She needed to know.

Loki’s gaze slowly shifted out the window as well, like he was seeing what was out there for the first time. Darcy thought she could see a flash of genuine guilt flash over his face, but if that’s what it had been, it was replaced by anger. Not an immediate anger, but a distant one, like he was thinking of something that had pissed him off.

“The price for treason is death,” Loki said. His voice was hard and menacing, and Darcy couldn’t help but shift away from him. “Thor was banished here for crimes against Asgard and Jotunheim. I sent the Destroyer to end a conspiracy against the throne. Had Thor’s friends not disobeyed a direct command, none of this would have happened.”

The giant robot on steroids would be called the Destroyer. Of course it would be. What else could it have possibly been called? Darcy almost wanted to laugh. Or maybe cry. She wasn’t sure.

“I guess that didn’t work out so well,” she muttered, trying to bury her words in her pizza. It also didn’t work so well, going by the glare on Loki’s face.

“I was betrayed,” he spat out. “Overthrown and cast out.” He wasn’t even looking at her any more. His glare was fixed toward the window, at some point beyond out on the road. It might have all been a lie, but it didn’t seem like it. He seemed legitimately pissed off. But then again, taking everything the so-called God of Lies said as face value seemed like a really dumb thing to do.

“You hurt some people. No-one died, thankfully. We saw the thing coming and were able to evacuate. But it still hurt people. And broke a lot of things. They’re calling you a terrorist.” Loki hardly seemed to hear what she said, but she didn’t care. He was stuck here just as much as she was, and maybe she could use that to make him listen. “You deserve to be in jail for what you did, I think,” she went on. And Loki did look at her then, focusing all that anger and rage at her. It made her want to disappear into the floor, being under the weight of that stare.

“But you won’t go to jail if they find you again,” she said, trying to gather her nerves back. He didn’t seem to be getting any calmer, which wasn’t helping. “What they already did to you… We have a big problem with that right now. You’re not human, so. So human rights don’t apply. If they find you again, they’ll cut you open and grow bits of you in jars, and justify it because you’re dangerous. Because they can prove you’re not human, so they don’t have to play by all the rules.”

Loki shifted his attention back out the window, and Darcy could see his eyes tracking something. Probably the agents across the street. His expression slowly softened to what Darcy was pretty sure was heavily-masked fear. Like he was trying to keep himself as neutral as possible.

“What do you hope to gain by aiding me?” he asked finally.

Darcy considered telling him that she was hoping he wouldn’t kill her; that he’d feel so honour-bound to let her live because she helped him. But she didn’t. He might kill her just to be contrary.

“Nothing, I guess,” she said. “But what they want to do with you isn’t right. That’s why I’m studying politics—so I can maybe change things. There was a case a few years ago—all over the news. These cops beat the shit out of this kid, and got away with it because the kid was a mutant. The judge actually said that the kid was potentially dangerous and that the cops had used justifiable force. He was fourteen years old, and he’d supposedly stolen a soda from a convenience store. Even if he actually had, that shit’s fucked up. It’s getting better, but we’ve still got a long way to go.”

Neither of them said anything for a long moment. Their lunch sat forgotten in front of them as they both looked out the window. Puente Antiguo was so quiet and still, even in the middle of the afternoon. What little activity was going on in town was either the few residents who were left packing up to leave, or SHIELD hanging around to make sure no pissed off Norse maybe-gods came down and tried to kill anyone.

“You did this,” Darcy said finally. “Jane’s gonna stick around until the end of the term, or SHIELD makes her leave. Whichever comes first. The town’s so fucked up that no-one can see the point in rebuilding. If I get caught helping you, I’m gonna go to jail forever. I won’t even be a martyr for the cause, because SHIELD will cover it up and no-one will know what happened.” She looked over at Loki, her out-pouring bringing with it the courage to say even more than she’d ever planned.

“I just want you gone,” she told him flatly. “I want you far away from here, where no-one will ever see you or connect you to me.”

Loki looked down at his hands and snapped his fingers a few times. “I can’t,” he said. “I am unwelcome on Asgard, and cannot travel to the other realms from here.”

Darcy watched him; watched him snap his fingers and turn his hands over to examine them. “Why not?”

Loki smiled, but it wasn’t a happy smile. It was all rueful and sad. “I can’t even make sparks. I have lost everything.”

He snapped his fingers a few more times and gave up with a shrug. When Thor was there, he talked about his mortal body, like it wasn’t his own. And then there was the magic lightning and that hammer, and he could do things most mutants couldn’t even do. It was almost like…

“Shit, they gave you the cure, didn’t they?” Darcy realised. Loki didn’t seem to know what she was talking about, but she remembered seeing that puncture wound on his neck. It was gone now, but it had definitely been there the night before. “It… It takes away everything that makes mutants special. It makes them human.”

Loki sat quietly for a few moments before very calmly getting up. He walked into the bathroom and not-so-calmly slammed the door behind himself. Darcy listened for the sounds of destruction, but nothing came. Just silence.

She looked down at their college student lunch and decided to start putting everything away. Suddenly, she wasn’t very hungry.