Loki rapped on the bathroom door, a hint of confusion in his voice as he asked Darcy if everything was alright. She answered back with a long, drawn out "yeah" and he heard her muttering and making what she often called "noises of disdain". He stood there a moment, debating if he should open the door to see what the matter was or if he should go back to his book that was currently pages-down on the coffee table. His hand hovered a moment above the door knob. Darcy would not take kindly to him barging in, especially after she'd already told him she was in no need of assistance. But the god was unconvinced that everything was as fine as the young woman had said. His suspicion that something was awry was confirmed when a resounding "yuck" echoed off the bathroom walls.

When Loki made it clear that he was coming in and he heard no objection, he opened the door to find Darcy, wrapped in a towel and sitting on the floor next to the tub. Her wet hair clung to the naked skin of her back and shoulders like inky strings, beads of water still rolling downward. She gave him a lop-sided grin before reaching into the tub and pulling out a dark, sodden mass and dropping it into the bathroom's small trashcan.

Darcy looked up at him, her sad little grin smoothly morphing into something more gut-wrenching. The now thin set of her lips, the way her chin dimpled – Loki knew she was fighting hard to keep the tears away. He knelt on the fuzzy blue rug alongside her as she reached up and combed her fingers through her damp hair. Loki watched as a copious amount of the mahogany tendrils left Darcy's scalp as she pulled her hand away.

So, this was it. It was finally happening. The poisons were having their way with her.

Darcy worked to free the tangle of wet hair from her hand and into the trash bin, the stubborn strands clinging to her. She looked to Loki, the blue of her eyes sharpening as the previously oncoming tears abated. She moved her eyes away, looking beyond Loki, to something that had caught her eye.

Turning his head to look over his shoulder, Loki followed Darcy's line of vision to where it settled on a slender pair of shears, sticking out of a vase holding other grooming implements. He raised his brows in question to her. Darcy nodded and went to reach for them even though she was too far away. Loki stilled her with a gentle hand and pulled the shears from the vase, offering them to her handle first.

She shook her head and pushed the scissors back to Loki. She would have him be the one to do it. Not out of fear or self-disgust but out of love and trust. Loki looked down at the gleaming shears; the slim, shiny metal reflecting back at him.

The couple rose and stood in front of the mirror. Darcy picked up a lock of hair and held it out for Loki to cut. He settled the scissor onto his fingers and quickly opened and closed them, testing them, gauging their sharpness. He looked at Darcy, the still-wet strands clinging to her madly, desperate to remain for as long as they could. Their mistress resigned and ready to part with them so easily. Loki smothered the tremble in his hand and with the slide of metal on metal, he separated Darcy from her hair.

It went on like that: Darcy held a lock and Loki would cut. Then she would place the hair on the counter neatly, gently, reverently, before moving onto the next piece. After a time, there was no more to cut and Loki set the shears on the counter next to Darcy's nearly dry, discarded hair.

Darcy took in a breath and let it out before turning to face the mirror. Loki watched her face in the reflection, the sudden smile she had to bravely put on fell, a sudden drop that left Loki feeling weightless. The smallest of tremors in her chin gave her away. This had been a mistake. And so ready to please her, make her happy, to help, had made Loki a partner in this crime. He let his hands rest on her shoulders, squeezing gently. Darcy dropped her head down and shook it, trying with all she could to shake away the grim reality she had pushed herself into.

Whipping her head back up released only a few tears, those that had threatened to spill, and she let them fall so they would not take her down. There was no more grimace of pain or frown of regret. There was calm acceptance and Loki felt a lurch in his chest, thankful that this storm had passed, though fearful it could return again.

Reaching up, Darcy ruffled the newly shorn hair, more of it falling away as so did so. The short strands fell silently as she roughly tousled it this way and that, trying to style what was left. Loki advised against the miniature mohawk she had suddenly gelled up, citing that it may not conform with SHIELD's dress code and appearance policy. Raking the hair again, Darcy agreed, though her reasoning was that Tony would simply be jealous she had a more awesome style than he.

A/N: I actually debated A LOT on keeping that last little paragraph in but decided they need a little (very little) cute/happy because next chapter's gonna suck. A HUGE thanks to all of you that have faved/reviewed/followed. It means the world!