"When I was in the third grade, I stopped speaking to my best friend Carla because she stole my Harriet the Spy notebook," Darcy said, flipping the collar of her coat up against the wind. "We didn't make up until senior year of high school."
There was a long pause. "And this is relevant because...?"
Darcy turned to him, and raised and dropped one shoulder in a shrug. "I can hold a grudge."
Loki wasn't in full armour, just jeans, work boots, a black pullover with suede patches on the elbows, and the yolk of a faded green tee-shirt visible at the slightly frayed neck. The black and white houndstooth scarf was no-where in evidence, and Darcy noticed that his breath didn't fog in the crisp October air. He didn't look cold—but he did have a faint blue-ish cast to his features.
So not MBA Loki, or Hipster Loki. Just Loki, then. His hair was a tangle of black curls, and stubble darkened his lip and jaw. He'd be cute if he wasn't all knife-edges and brittle beneath his smile. Just sitting next to him made Darcy wanted to flinch away. The Xanax bottle in the bottom of her messenger bag was empty. She'd have to ask her shrink for a new script.
"Ten years isn't much to an immortal," Loki said, picking at a loose thread on the knee of his dark jeans.
"Yeah, but ten years is almost half my life so far," Darcy pointed out. "Do you really want to potentially go half your life without a single person in your corner who's there because they actually want to be there? Because from where I'm sitting, it's a very real possibility. A thousand more years of..." She waved her hands in the air, "this?"
He tipped his head back and stared at the sky. It would rain later. The clouds had that greenish tinge to them, and the air was thick with the promise of a storm. The line of his throat was carved from marble as he swallowed.
"You presume much, Cuckoo."
"Yeah. I do that. You may have noticed. But you're here, aren't you?" Darcy pointed out. "You do realise that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been using me as Loki-bait, right? So they can study the frequency of your magic or some bullshit. For all I know, they could storm the roof any second. Why risk that, unless there's something in it for you?"
"Perhaps I merely wished a formal end to our relationship."
"If you were gonna kill me, you would have done it back at the night-club."
"You struck me."
"Yep. Twice. Because you were being an asshole."
"I was defending your honour."
"Last time I checked, I was pretty much honour-free. Try again."
"I do not need to justify my actions to you," he said loftily, and Darcy was glad he was being prissy instead of homicidal because anything was better than Loki being homicidal, when you got down to it.
"I don't really care what your justifications are. You scared the shit out of a guy just because you could. Just because you wanted to." He didn't flinch—not exactly. But Darcy knew she'd scored a point. "That was a dick move, Marilyn. A total dick move."
Darcy watched his hands. The last time she'd seen him, they had glowed with an eerie green fire that she associated with magic. Right now, they were just folded in his lap. The nails on one hand were ragged.
He turned to her, those light eyes nailing her to her chair with the intensity of his gaze.
"Haven't you ever wished you could hold a blade to the throat of your opponent, to see them cower in fear of you?"
"Sure," Darcy admitted. "In high school, or once or twice in college—usually at a frat party."
She propped her elbow on the rickety arm of the lawn chair, and cupped her chin in her hand.
"But guess what? Even if a part of me would love to see all the Captain Date Rapes in the world piss themselves, I don't do it. Even if I had a blade, I wouldn't. Because that's fucking douchey behaviour, and the world has enough douchebags as far as I'm concerned. I don't wanna add another to their ranks."
Loki snorted. "Someone thinks very highly of themselves."
"Not really," Darcy said. "Sometimes I'm a pretty shitty friend. For example, not speaking to my best friend for ten years over a stupid notebook with a picture of Michelle Trachtenberg on the cover. And there was that time I purposely gave Jane decaf for a week, just so I could go out with Kyle from the furniture store. Sometimes I'm selfish, and petty, and do things I know are wrong, just because I want to. But I have limits. Everybody does. And what you did crossed a line."
There was a long drawn out moment where Darcy wasn't sure if Loki was going to toss her off the roof or give in. But he just kept staring at the clouds, his mouth compressed in a thin line until he turned back toward her.
"What if I refuse to be bound by your self-made limits?"
Darcy held up her SI phone. "Then I hit the panic button and Clint, Coulson, your brother, and about fifty S.H.I.E.L.D. guys show up and probably a lot of them get hurt trying to take you down. And I do that every single time I catch sight of you out of the corner of my eye, until they catch you."
"Is there an alternative?"
"You know what the alternative is," she shot back, trying to keep her hands from shaking.
There was another long pause, and Darcy watched Loki's hands as they tightened into fists and then relaxed again. A flicker of green danced along his long thin fingers, and then he folded them in his lap once more.
"I wish I had never gone to Jötunheimr," he said to the sky. "All would have been well, if we had never left Asgard."
Darcy let her breath out in a long sigh. "Except your brother was a total douche and probably would have stayed a douche."
"But I would have still known my mother's love, if never my father's. I would still have a brother. I might yet have wed Sif, to cement the bond between Laufey and Odin's realms. All might have been... if I had never gone to Jötunheimr."
Darcy leaned over and whapped the back of his head with the flat of her hand. Loki stared at her in shock.
"Do you have a death wish?" he growled.
"Oh my God, stop whining," she growled right back at him. "Sif was right—you let frost giants into Asgard. Shit woulda gone down, even if you'd never found out you were adopted. Shit went down. It's time to move past it. Anyway, it wasn't Jane that changed Thor. It was you."
Loki stared at her with wide, unblinking green eyes. It would have been comical, had everything in the last few months not gone down exactly has it had. Darcy took a deep breath, and soldiered on.
"Erik told us how you told Thor his dad was dead, and his mom never wanted to see him again, that he could never go home. That was what changed him. Losing everything—his home, his family. Even you. It kinda de-douched him. He left Asgard a spoiled jerk of a prince, but came back a pretty nice dude. So, you know, I know you tried to kill him and all, but he wouldn't have actually got Myeu-muh or his godlike powers back, if you hadn't actually sent the giant robot after him."
"Mjolnir," Loki automatically corrected.
"That's what I said. Myeu-muh."
"How is it you can remember all of the French lyrics in Lady Gaga, but you still can't say 'Mjolnir'?"
"Oh my God, fuck off." Darcy rolled her eyes, and just like that, the tension drained out of her. There was something calming about sniping at one another. Not back to status quo; not exactly. But something deep in her gut that had been coiled tight as a spring, ready to snap, for the last few weeks relaxed as she practically watched the emotions play across his face.
"Is this your way of telling me I created my own worst enemy?" he finally said, pushing the damp curls back from his forehead with the longer fingers of one hand.
"Oh, honey. You are your own worst enemy. You lost everything, too. You lost your home, your friends—and your brother. Now it's up to you, if you want to stay a douchebag."
Loki traced circles in the gravel with the toe of his boot absently. Darcy reached into the cooler and cracked another Dr Pepper. It wasn't like she was actually going to sleep tonight anyway.
"Someone once told me that forgiveness comes when you accept responsibility for your actions, express true regret, and strive never to knowingly repeat them. That it was simple, particularly when the one whom you wronged wishes to forgive."
It wasn't exactly a heartfelt apology—or a promise not to do it again. But it was more than Darcy had expected from Loki. It might even be more than he expected from himself.
"Yeah, well, someone told me once that simple things are rarely easy."
Darcy got her phone back out. Loki watched as she hit a few buttons, and then put it back in her bag.
"Summoning your guard dog and his minions?" he asked, looking stung.
"No, you jackass." Darcy rolled her eyes, and a chime emanated from the pocket of Loki's jeans. He pulled out a slim shiny mobile phone that looked like it was three generations ahead of hers, and swept his thumb across the screen.
"Oh," Loki said, eyebrows climbing toward his hairline. "You just tagged a photo of me on the Facebook."
"Yes, I did," Darcy said as she snuggled deeper into the cocoon of her coat. "Dork."
Darcy nudged his shoulder with hers. "Loser."
Loki looked down his long nose at her. "Minion."
"Well played, Marilyn. Well played. Though you totally owe me a new bottle of Xanax. That shit's expensive, you know."
They leaned back in the deck chairs, and watched lightning flicker across the clouds in the West.
After a while it began to rain, so Darcy went back inside.
Darcy was curled up on her sofa, every light in the place blazing, when Clint shook her awake. She picked up her glasses from where she'd left them on the coffee table and sat up with a yawn.
"Hey," she said, and Clint smiled down at her.
His hair was wet and stood up in spikes, and there was a wicked looking scrape high on his right cheekbone. His hoodie and jeans were dry, however, so she assumed he'd stopped to change before coming over.
"Time is it?"
"Um... late. Or maybe that's early?" Clint scratched his head and gave her a silly smile, and she looked over at the cable box LED clock, which read 4:21. She took her glasses off again, folded them carefully before she set them back on the coffee table, and held her arms open.
Clint kicked off his shoes and snuggled up next to her on the sofa, pulling the hideous afghan off the back and tucking it around them. Darcy buried her face in his neck, and just breathed. He smelled like sweat and gunpowder and soap. A girl could get used to that, Darcy thought with a sleepy smile.
"You get the bad guys?" she asked, lips brushing the underside of his jaw.
"We got the bad guys."
"S'good." She smiled as his lips brushed her forehead, thus completing the ritual.
After the third time she'd passed out on the sofa waiting for Clint to show up and prove he wasn't dead, it had become their thing. Okay, one thing among many things. But the thing they did when she was asleep, and he wasn't dead.
Darcy was really glad he wasn't dead.
"How 'bout you?" Clint asked. "Had an eventful day?"
Darcy wrinkled her nose. "I take it you saw my Facebook wall."
"Baby sloth with a bottle of Goldschläger—kinda hard to miss."
"At least it wasn't Thor deep-throating a corn dog." Darcy ducked her head, letting her hair fall around her face. "Does it freak you out?"
"Thor at the state fair? Not really. I was there, remember? At least Williams and Garrett didn't get him on camera at the funnel cake booth. Dr Foster is clearly a very lucky woman."
"You know what I mean." Darcy pinched him. "Hey—I was a good little S.H.I.E.L.D. minion and I filed an incident report with Coulson. And he wasn't in the house he was just, you know, on the house."
"I know—Phil texted me."
"We need to get that man a hobby," Darcy sighed. "Are you pissed at me, for giving him a second chance?"
Clint shrugged. "Everybody deserves a second chance."
"Are you just saying that, or do you mean it?"
"I never say stuff I don't mean."
"So when Tony asked you if it was weird to eat pizza with pineapple on it when he and Steve were having the epic Brooklyn slice argument, and you said 'not really, why?' you weren't actually yanking his chain?"
"That's different. Stark'd probably actually like thai chicken pizza if he actually tried it. Just because you can't fold it in half does not mean it's not actually pizza. Anyway, American Pizza is totally a post-war invention and Steve slept through all that. He was just trying to fuck with Steve, and that's not fair."
"C'mon," Darcy smacked him. "I'm being serious. Focus. Me, Loki, bromance. Suicidal, or just plain dumb?"
Darcy had come down from the roof, typed up her incident report and emailed it to Coulson, and then run a hot bath. She remembered how after Loki had first grabbed her from Jane's, she'd thrown up out of sheer terror. And now she ran a bubble bath and put on her fave playlist while she soaked until the pads of her fingers were wrinkled and her toes itched.
In all the time since she and Loki had stopped speaking, nobody had been all "Glad you finally saw the light" or whatever, about Loki. Not even Stark, who wasn't exactly known for his tact. Or Coulson, who would have been the first person to point out that being besties with someone with a body count was 'unwise'. Natasha in particular had actually been really nice to her, because no matter how weird the whole thing had been, she had been buds with the guy. And it sucks when you fight with one of your buds.
Thor, of course, had been demonstrative in his affection for Darcy. Her ribs nearly got creased on a regularly basis, thanks to his exuberant affection. She knew deep down, Thor would never stop missing his brother. From the way both brothers had told it, they'd never really been apart. It had always been the three of them—Thor, Loki, and Sif—since they were little kids, back when humans had just discovered fire, or whatever. Thor had the other Avengers, and Sif, Darcy supposed, was dealing in her own way. Probably beating the crap out f Asgardian guys on a regular basis, and hanging out with the Warriors Three.
And Loki'd had Darcy. She still wasn't sure why he'd chosen her—not really. She was just one insignificant mortal, even if they had kinda bonded over the whole adoption thing.
Darcy wouldn't have blamed Clint, if he'd been glad she and Loki had called it quits. She'd braced herself for it, but all he'd ever seemed to care about was if Darcy was okay with it. He could have been all kinds of smug, or an asshole about it. He'd actually been there and seen the whole thing go down—and the aftermath. All he'd ever been was sympathetic and kind to her about it, agreeing to let the subject of Loki drop when she just couldn't deal. Letting her change the subject any time he came up. He didn't push, he didn't pry. He was stayed Clint, which was what she'd really needed.
One of the things she liked best about Clint (besides his ass, which was a thing of beauty) was that he never pulled the 'older and wiser' card. He let her make her own mistakes, and was there for her to lean on if things went sideways. But people had limits. Even Clint would have limits.
So it meant a lot to her, him being okay with her giving Loki another chance—even if it was another chance to totally fuck things up.
Clint rubbed her back with one hand, and twined his fingers with hers. "Look, I'm not gonna be that guy."
"The guy who tries to manage his girlfriend and control her relationships."
"Yeah, well... Most boyfriends don't have to worry about their girlfriends hanging out with supervillains on a semi-regular basis."
"Yeah, well, most girlfriends don't have to worry about their boyfriends engaging in life and death battles with supervillains."
Clint pulled back, and took Darcy's face in both his hands, looking her right in the eyes.
"Look—are you asking me if I'm happy that you are Loki are hanging out again? I'm not exactly thrilled. Mostly because I don't like the idea of you being in any more danger than you already are, sleeping with an Avenger. But it's your life, Darcy. And no matter what happens, I'm not going anywhere. You okay with that?"
Darcy bit her bottom lip, and the reached up to encircle his wrists with her fingers. She leaned forward and kissed him, then said, "More'n okay."
"Cool." He gave her one of those heavy-lidded half-smiles she found ridonkulously sexy. "So long as your BFF doesn't try and kill me again, I think we're good."
Darcy wrinkled her nose at him again. "You know he's not actually my BFF."
"Whatever, Patty Hearst." He released her face, one hand trailing down her side, coming to rest on her hip. "And hey, maybe I was wrong."
"Maybe what Loki needed was the love of a good woman after all."
Darcy smacked him in the face with Captain Carrot, because that seemed like the only appropriate response.
After a moment, the stuffed rabbit went sailing through the air and bounced off the kitchen counter.
And Darcy was too busy to care.