Mischief Unmanaged



Chapter 3



Dear Mr. Coulson,

How are you? I'm not sure if you remember me, but I was that girl in the glasses who was an intern for Jane Foster? You know Jane Foster, right? You stole all her research a few weeks ago and then thanked her for her cooperation? Oh, and Thor! She's with Thor, too. I'm Darcy Lewis and I thought you should know, speaking of Thor, that his brothekisholeihfrkn

Darcy's fingers swerved on the paper, the pen writing taking a mind of its own. Gritting her teeth in frustration, she pushed harder to control her hand. L…O…K…

Darcy yelped when a sudden force caused her to throw the pen and tear up the letter. Again. Darcy glanced at her notebook, noting a considerable portion of its pages had been ripped out from the incessant trial and error. She glanced up and gave a sheepish smile to the students sitting around her, and then focused back on the lecturer resignedly.

Since the moment Darcy realized that Loki had visited her and branded her after making the bargain, she had been glancing over her shoulder every two seconds in paranoia. She fully expected him to just emerge from the shadows at any given moment, dragging her away to partake in whatever diabolical plans he had cooked up.

Stupid, stupid Darcy!Darcy lamented in frustration. She should have known better than to agree to some horrid deal just because she had been tired and wanted him gone!

Darcy liked to attribute her serious lack of judgment to whatever it is Loki had done to her when she'd passed out. He must have tampered with her ability to see reason. She remembered feeling as if in a daze throughout the entire encounter, and most of all she had been overwhelmingly nauseous. It was a vain stretch of hope, but it was the only thing that would pacify her mind.

Suddenly students all around her began to rise out of their seats, filtering out of the room with the sounds of casual chatter. Darcy sighed and gathered the small mess she had made and grabbed her bag.

The moment she had awoken this morning, she could not shake the feeling of being watched. It crept on her, like vines and spider webs tangling and twisting around her, but disappeared when she tried to locate it. It was as if a shadow was following her, a murmur in her mind that she could not dispel, and Darcy was constantly sprouting goose bumps.

More than once she glanced over her shoulder. She could feel the prickly paranoia creeping up on her as she took her midterm that day. Darcy could not glance around much, in case the proctor charged her with attempted cheating, so she just gripped her pencil tightly and tried to focus on the task at hand.

Yet, nothing happened. Her day ended without incident, and her bus ride home slow and silent. There were no email alerts from Jane so she didn't bother checking in with her and went straight to her apartment, eating leftover macaroni for dinner and passing out on her couch some odd hours later.

Two weeks passed by, and Darcy was beginning to hope that Loki had lost interest in her.

It was a wonderful, fearful thought. On the three days during the week that she had to work at Jane's lab, she attempted to talk about Loki in some discreet way, but it all ended in the same tight-lipped, wide-eyed silence on her end. Eventually she gave up, earning her a few puzzled looks from Erik and Jane, but life moved on and so did their research.

Two white ear buds in place, Darcy was drifting to the sounds of Chromatics. Her head was pressed against the cold pane of the window as the bus drove, jostling her gently against the bumps of the road. Little cars zoomed below, the sunlight waning against the clouds as another day winded down to an end. She had about an hour to eat and change at her apartment before heading to the lab. The thought made Darcy sigh.


Darcy's eyes snapped open. She glanced around, sitting straighter. The bus was half empty, the occupants scattered around her. Most were middle-aged and asleep. Tense, Darcy shifted nervously in her seat and glanced down at her older generation iPod, lowering the volume a little.


She jumped and threw off the ear buds. The sound had come from them, her name spoken like cloves and honey, a darkness hidden inside it. She swallowed hard, wrapping the ear buds around her iPod quickly and stuffing it in her messenger bag.

Her hands faltered as she felt a tug in her chest, a veritable thrum against her eardrums. It came upon her suddenly; one minute Darcy was riding southbound to Puente Antiguo and the next she was soaring through a myriad of glimmering white and black, bright shimmering colors burning her retinas. She squeezed her eyes closed, heart thudding, as the air was sucked out of her lungs and she fell to her knees.

It was not the dirty floor of a bus that she landed on. The sound of the engine disappeared, the bumps of the road no longer afflicting her. She was steady, the area silent, as her hands braced against a cool tiled floor.

Her eyes cracked open. She was gasping for air, her eyes focused on the tiles as her hair fell around her face and blocked her peripheral vision. She took a long, shuddering breath, and froze at the sound of a dry voice.

"And I was betting that you'd be able to stand through it."

She didn't really want to look up. Looking up meant accepting reality, and that was something she really did not want to do right now. Maybe if she waited long enough he would disappear and she would wake up on the bus again?

"I suggest you give up that hope while it's still fresh, Ms. Lewis. I'm not going anywhere, and neither are you."

Damn. Darcy straightened, seeing a tall figure standing a few feet from her, but she could not look up to meet his eyes just yet.

She heard a sigh. "Stand up, Darcy." She did not respond. She could hear the smirk in his next words, "Unless you are fond of kneeling before me. I am not opposed to that."

That did it. Squaring her shoulders, Darcy pushed against the floor and stood shakily. She stumbled a little, her brain and body still spinning from the transportation, and her stomach rolled uneasily. Feeling warm hands steady her, Darcy looked up to see Loki standing in front of her.

"Why am I always nauseous around you?" the question rolled out before she could stop it, and Loki smiled.

"You are human," he said simply. There were too many interpretations for that, and Darcy tried not to roll her eyes. Fear was giving way to her preferred defense mechanism of sarcasm.

"In that case, I'm about to be very human on your boots." To his credit Loki did not step back, but merely moved one hand from her shoulder to her waist. Darcy jumped and tried to move away.

"What are you doing?"

Loki gave her a warning glare as she tried to move away from him. When she tried to twist away again he gave her an annoyed look. "Be still, mortal."

His voice was low and commanding, and yet very calm. She stopped moving, the undercurrent to his words giving her pause.

Slowly she felt the nausea that had been plaguing her poor stomach fade away, and she sighed in relief. Loki finally removed his hands from her and stepped back, giving her a blank look as she looked at him in surprise.

"Did you do that?" Loki shrugged imperceptibly. Darcy glanced down at her abdomen. "…Thanks?"

Loki waved her thanks aside with a flair of his hand, as if it was a pesky insect. "I need you healthy right now. Believe me, it was for my benefit."

"Right," Darcy murmured. She finally glanced around at her surroundings, noting that they were in a small room, walls painted white and not a single piece of furniture in sight. "Where are we? And how'd I get here?"

Loki gave her a small smile. "You're a curious one. But daft. That's very disappointing to me. I had such high expectations of you."

Darcy bit back a hot retort and settled for the milder version. "How am I supposed to figure this out from just your presence and an empty room? How you magically poofed me from a bus going fifty-five miles per hour to you?"

"Ah! But there it is."

"What?" Darcy thought back to her words. "Magic?" Loki's answering smile confused her even more. "I don't have magic."

"The seal that binds us required a transfer. Your loyalty to my magic. Without it, the binding would never have been possible. As such, your body now contains some of my power from the seal."

His magic was inside her? She felt violated, but her curiosity increased tenfold. She had to force her hands to remain at her sides instead of brushing against her shoulders where the seal was. If his magic was inside her, did that mean she could harness it to her own will as well? Thoughts roiling, Darcy did not notice Loki watching her face intently.

"I should clarify," came Loki's lazy drawl, "that only I can use the seal to my liking."

How was it that he always knew what she was thinking? "I'm sure that's what you want me to think," Darcy replied easily as she folded her arms over her chest. "You're still the God of Lies, my friend."

Loki raised his eyebrows. "By all means, then," he stepped back and raised his hands in retreat, "do try to use it. I warn you, it will not end well, and I am not sure how generous I will be of healing you again."

Darcy bit her lip and stared at the expectant look on Loki's face. Decisions, decisions. To take his bait and make him smirk, or to not take his bait and make him smirk?

She decided she would rather test her possible magic-wielding ability (her mind did a back flip just at the thought of Darcy having magic—seriously, what?) when she was a good fifty miles away from Loki.

Instead, Darcy marched up to him, her sneakers silent against the floor, and craned her neck to look up at him. He seemed amused at her bravado, and folded his own arms expectantly. "Why is it that I can't talk about you?"

Loki quirked is brow. "Pardon?"

"Oh, don't act like you don't know," Darcy squinted up at him. "I've tried more times than I can count to say something,anything, pertaining to you. I can't even write your name on paper, let alone speak it."

"Can you speak it now?"

Darcy paused. "Loki?"

"I see no problem, then." The glint in his eye made Darcy frown.

"That wasn't part of the deal," Darcy crossed her own arms. "You wanted me to come when you called," that sounded better when said in her head, "and obviously I have. This, though? Uncool."

Loki unfolded his arms and took a small step forward. Amused that she tried to hold her ground, his voice was barely a whisper, "Do you remember how we sealed our deal?"

Darcy's eyes darkened as memories suddenly rushed in her mind. Hands gripping tightly, scalding lips against her mouth—

Her eyes went wide. Loki grinned.

"That…that's not…you didn't tell me there would be a subtext behind the touching."

"Are you not a scholar of political science? This should have been expected."

"It's been a rough month," Darcy said absently, though still slightly stunned. "This is just fundamentally wrong."

"I don't think that's true. You agreed to it, my dear girl." He lowered his head so that it was within inches from hers, and she felt his hands grazing softly on her upper arms where the hand prints were hidden under her jacket. She could feel the air thicken, his voice low and barely above a whisper, "Hands to bind you to me, indebted to come to my call," his left hand trailed up to cup her jaw, and she suppressed a cold shiver when his thumb moved gently across her mouth, "lips to bind your words against treachery." The corner of his mouth began to rise. "There is no backdoor to this deal, young one."

Darcy blinked rapidly, her legs feeling unsteady. "Why did you bring me here?"

Loki stepped back slightly, and Darcy released a breath when his hand dropped from her face. "A few reasons. The first being your ever-present need to see me again." He tilted his head thoughtfully. "I didn't expect that one."

Still fighting to regain clarity after the Loki-touching experience, Darcy spluttered, "My need to see you?" She gave a startled laugh, "You must have mistaken me for some other minion."

Loki frowned, "For two weeks you have thought of nothing else but me. When you dined, when you read, when you bathed; you broadcasted yourself quite loudly. I finally decided to have mercy and fulfilled your need."

Bathed? She tried to shrug that detail out of her mind, "My—I only thought of you because I was expecting you to swoop down and drag me off into an unforeseeable darkness and kill me!" Darcy said incredulously. "Not because I was counting my lucky stars waiting to see you again. And you need to stop reading my thoughts, buddy. They're considered private for a reason."

"The sentiment is the same, regardless," Loki replied with a shrug, and began to circle around her slowly. "I cannot help what I pick up from your mind during the day. We are linked, remember?"

"A convenient, one-way linkage."


Darcy watched as Loki gave her that grin again, the one that made her spine shoot up straight and spread tingles throughout her nerves.

Darcy sighed and put her hands on her hips. "What do you want, Loki? Because at this point, I can't imagine a single reason why you chose someone like me for something like this. Even Jane regrets hiring me. Jane. And she's supposed to be my friend."

"It seems you have a complex, Darcy. Shall we delve into it?"

"Only if you admit the mirror reflects on both sides."

"You should take care of what you say to me."

"I think you should let me go."

Loki grinned. "Am I making you uncomfortable, Darcy?"

Darcy snorted. "Uncomfortable? You should be the God of Understatements."

"I prefer Mischief, but do continue trying; I enjoy these kinds of games."

"Oh I bet you do," Darcy tilted her head. "Games are what you're best at," she looked at him studiously. "With me. With Thor."

Instantly Loki's expression turned dark. "Careful, mortal."

Darcy pursed her lips. "Why? Does that make you uncomfortable?"

"No, it makes me something far more dangerous."

"The usual then."

An odd smile twisted his lips. "Do you enjoy testing your limits, Darcy? Is this a proverbial prodding of the tiger with a stick before it tears you limb from limb?"

"I just want to know what you want from me, Loki. You've had me in hell these past few weeks, and I want to know why."

"Hell is an interesting word choice. That implies there's a light to the dark, and I have yet to find it."

"Maybe you're not looking hard enough," Darcy replied, and she knew the moment something shifted in the atmosphere once the words left her lips.

She watched a variation of anger, restraint, and curiosity flicker on Loki's face. After a moment it schooled back to one of tiredness. "Humor me, Darcy."

Loki held out his hand. Darcy's eyes flickered down to it, and then returned to his face. As per usual, she saw nothing. Well, then. Hesitantly, she placed her hand on his, praying the end result would not consist of her ultimate demise.

He held her lightly as he led her out of the empty room, and she was a little surprised at how gently he held her hand. Somewhere between the mindfucking and branding her like an animal, she had expected his manners to reflect his insanity. Evidently that was not the case.

They walked down a narrow corridor, the walls shifting from plain white to reinforced steel. They turned sharply on a corner and stopped in front of a pressurized door. With a lazy flick of his hand, it slid open.

What greeted her upon entering was a plain room with rows of desks and computers set up on each one, though mostly hidden by crisp white sheets draped over them; Pillars of stone protruded from the floor to the ceiling, creating a maze between the workspaces. The inner nerd in her was rejoicing at this lab, while the other was terrified. When Thor had arrived in New Mexico, he barely understood the mechanisms of her iPod, let alone an entire factory's worth of technology. Loki was on a whole different scale, evidently not shy to adapt and use what he needed to his liking. Darcy swallowed hard, discomfited by the amount of trouble she was burying herself in.

Why did she go to Jane's place after her date?

"Well," Darcy said shakily as she looked around, "you sure know how to decorate."

His answering smile made her curl her fingernails into her palms until she felt them bite. "Come, sit." They arrived at a table, a chair pulled out for her, and she felt a little irked at his commanding tone. He watched her as she remained rooted to the spot, and a spark of annoyance flashed in his eyes.

"Sit, Darcy, so that this may conclude in a timely fashion."

Darcy gave him a look before walking to the chair and sitting down as calmly as she could.

After several moments of silence, Darcy's itch to fill it overtook her. "So what's with the techs?"

Loki's eyes glanced around at the covered desks. "A prospective workplace that I've been building."

"For what?" The patronizing smile returned, and Darcy continued seamlessly, "Do you live here?"


More silence.

"Is that all?"

Loki's mouth twitched. "I have questions for you."

Questions? She could do questions. Questions were good—no, great, even. At this point she was game for anything that would break the awkward pauses. "About?"

Loki lowered himself in his own chair, opting to side beside her rather than across from her. Her eyes flickered down, seeing the wide stance his legs assumed. Wow. Wait no, no.Eyes up front, Darcy.This was no time for graphic imagery. Quickly Darcy shot her eyes back to Loki's face, and felt relief when he paid no heed to her internal panicking. Her mortification would be unfathomable if he had decided to read her mind there…

A pleasant smile in place, Loki said, "Tell me about your work, Miss Lewis."

Darcy blinked. "My work?"

"I believe that was the word I used, yes." His expression grew condescending.

Darcy was not sure how to answer him. "I don't know, I mean…I go to school, go to my job, and go to the lab. There's not much involved in that."

"And what of your job?"

Darcy shrugged. "I got through college. Mostly menial filing and sorting in an office the size of a restroom."

"You lack money, I presume."

Darcy smiled sullenly. "You presume correctly. School has me in bits, man. I'm so-ho glad this semester is almost over."

"Does your research with the scientist not pay you?"

Dickhead Dale's voice flitted through her mind as he had asked a similar question not too long ago, and Darcy stamped down on the instant flare of annoyance. "I don't get paid; the research is paid for already by my school. It's for college credits and it looks good on my resume, you know. The works."

"Interesting…" Loki's brows furrowed thoughtfully, and Darcy couldn't help but feel apprehensive.

"Why are you asking me all this?" Loki's eyes drew up to her calmly. "You said you already knew about my educational background. Surely you know my financial one too."

Loki steepled his fingers and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his thighs, and the pensive look that he had been sporting previously disappeared. "It is called conversation, little mortal. It is something that most species do across the nine realms."

Here we go again. "My bad. I thought you were too primitive if you still brand innocent women."

"Still sour about that? Surely there was some pleasure in acquiring it, though. I remember quite vividly—"

"I know what you remember," Darcy interjected, not liking the smirk spreading on his face. "What I remember even better is waking up the next morning with Asgardian-sized handprints on my shoulders that apparently only I can see."

"Nice party trick, is it not?"

"You're insane!" Darcy exclaimed incredulously. "Completely and utterly insane. How do you live with yourself? How could you do this to someone?"

Her words were met with brief silence, giving Darcy pause.

"How could I…"

Loki began rising from his seat. Shit.Darcy pressed her back against the chair, all of his prior amusement evaporating as he towered over her. He placed either hand on the top of her chair beside her shoulders. "Yes, indeed. How. Could. I? Remarkably, you will discover that I do many things that you or anyone else of this pathetic realm would not approve of."

Darcy licked her dry lips, her hands gripping the edge of her seat as he continued.

"I have fallen for an eternity in torment. I think I told you some variation of this once before? Tortured, beaten without reprieve." He leaned closer so that his lips brushed against the shell of her ear. "Do you know the Aesir cannot die?" Darcy bit her lip, and started slightly when he hissed, "Well?"

"No! I mean yes. I—I've read stories," she said quickly, lowering her eyes from his intense stare. "I had an idea of it. I wasn't sure if it was true."

"Oh it is," Loki leaned even closer. "'Immortal god' is not just a formality. Can you imagine that, Darcy? Can you imagine being ripped apart without the promise of death?"

He waited for her to respond and she quickly shook her head. She could hear his grip on the chair tighten, his voice rising, "I have been lied to, mocked, cast out by the one being I loved most in this wretched universe. Bested by an idiotic man who calls me brother," he snarled, "I will not stop until I have what I came for. How could I, you say? How could I not."

His face was perilous, controlled rage barely breaching the surface. Fear was the automatic response from her, one that had her leaning as far away from Loki as her chair would allow, which was not much.

Darcy bit the inside of her cheek, her fingers gripping onto the edge of her seat like it was her last life line. Her mouth was pressed tightly and eyes stared fixatedly at her lap, not wanting to further provoke him should he find something wrong in her gaze. She tried in vain to stay calm and not notice just how far she was teetering on the brink of an abyss.

She could hear his breathing finally go even, taking a deep breath through his nostrils. He leaned back, releasing the sides of her chair, and Darcy let out a breath she had been holding unconsciously.

"I apologize," Loki said calmly as he straightened. "I did not mean to raise my voice at you."

She nodded faintly, eyes still trained on the threads of her jeans and hands clamping down on the seat. "It's all good," her voice cracked a little, but she trudged on as Loki was repeatedly dissatisfied when she remained silent, "you've got issues. Who doesn't, right?" Sirens were blaring in her head, forcing her to tread carefully. Loki was an unlit match waiting to ignite, and she wanted no part in its burning.

She was surprised when fingers gently grasped her hands, and she looked up in shock as Loki pried her fiercely clenching fingers from the seat. She relaxed her grip and he placed them carefully on her lap, stepping back.

"This is not how I planned today to go."

Darcy opened her mouth slightly to reply but thought against it. The last thing she wanted was to say something that would provoke another soul-rattling tirade from Loki. There was something different about him today. The last two times she'd seen him, he had a calmer, more controlled aura. He'd taken her words with amusement, but there was none of that today. This was a side of him that was new to her, the side that resided deeper inside him. The rage that had come out of him in a few short minutes had felt like a maelstrom.

He glanced at her, an unreadable emotion flashing in his eyes before they went carefully blank. "Unfortunately I do not believe much else can be achieved today," he announced. "That will be all. You may go," Loki dismissed, waving his hand at her.

"Really? That's it?" Darcy said in surprise.

He quirked a brow. "Do you wish to stay?"

She shook her head emphatically, sweet relief flooding inside her. She needed to get as far away from him as possible, and it was convenient that he shared her sentiments.

She rose from her seat and took a few steps, then promptly stopped in her tracks. Loki glanced up at her a few moments later when he realized she did not leave. He gave a questioning look.

"You brought me here," she answered. "I don't even know where I am."

Ah, that. "Yes," Loki rose from his seat and stood before her, "that is problematic."

He motioned for her to come closer and she shuffled towards him. He reached out to her and she flinched almost on instinct, something that made Loki's eyes widen in surprise, then narrow.

"I will not hurt you."

She had trouble believing that. "That's not it." At his questioning look she sighed and spoke a little hesitantly, "I don't suppose you can get me back home so that…I don't know…I don't get the urge to bring up the turkey sandwich I ate for lunch?"

"Teleportation is like any fast-moving travel. It is akin to your Midgardian roller coasters, I believe. Frighteningly fast, but ride them enough and you will grow accustomed."

"About that," he noted how quickly her expression became green, "I don't do well with roller coasters. Or heights, or anything that makes my stomach drop."

"It will pass with time."

He would not budge on the subject, and Darcy gave up. He reached for her again, placing his hands just below her shoulders, and gripped tightly. Her breath hitched lightly and she clenched her jaw, firmly looking away from him. Again, not the time for those thoughts, Darcy. She could feel Loki's eyes boring into her face.

"We have not finished here," his voice was smooth, yet she could hear the warning behind it. "I advise you prepare yourself to relieve the fragility of your innards in the coming days."

She opened her mouth to respond but gasped when a jolt went through her body and she went hurdling through the shimmering beyond again, flailing rapidly through the expanse of color.


Loki watched her disappear, leaving behind a cold silence. Within seconds the almost pleasant look on his face dropped instantly.

The bond worked. He hadn't expected it to work quite so well, but it had worked….Pleasing, very pleasing. It was a particular bit of magic that he had studied in passing while still learning sorcery, but thank the Allfath—thank goodness it worked. And to such an advantage, no less.

Summoning and vanquishing her was a little more difficult than it would be for himself. He could travel instantly from place to place, but to have a third party was not as easy on his magic. He himself was practiced, yes, but the girl was not. And her resistance to his magic was not unaccounted for. He could still feel the stiffness in his muscles, as if his power was flowing slowly through his veins instead of wrapping around him completely. He would have to teach her to accept the pulls and tugs of his summons.

It was well worth it, however, given all that he now gained.

If he were to be frank, however, Loki rarely ever needed to do such a thing when on Asgard. They never served a purpose for him in his plans, thus they were never included in them. Sif, yes; he had cleverly dropped ideas inside her mind, more prominently in his adolescence, and she had bent to his will unwaveringly. Up until, of course, the more recent years, when his trickery became more recognized, when his subtlety of words was suddenly taken with a grain of salt and a margin of distrust.

But this anomaly could not possibly apply to all of Midgard's fairer sex. He had traveled here countless times in his lifespan, and he never had this much of a headache after a conversation with a woman.

Men were easier to break. Their ambitions were clouded in mania, their hearts wrapped in ice and vine; Loki simply had to press the right points to elicit the preferred response from mortal men. Humans were fickle by nature, and men from the beginning of time had thrust themselves upon a pedestal of stone in a sea of blood. All it took was one honeyed word of promise and providence, and their will was Loki's to command.

But no, it had to be Lewis. It would be a slower game with her, but the end result—should he succeed (which he was certain he would)—would be a thousand times more gratifying than a game of sitting duck with Jane Foster.

The connection to her mind was a wishful hope that the divine forces of Yggdrasil had miraculously granted to him. From his readings he knew it was uncommon with this particular seal, but not completely impossible.

It was better this way. Jane Foster was a critical mind, unyielding and rampant. Her intentions were set, her career and age parallel to granite. The doctor— Selvig, he recalled— had seen too much in his life to yield so compliantly to him, nor would he have agreed to this summons seal as easily as Darcy had. He was one of the people Loki would employ a different weapon of influence…

Yes, Darcy was perfect. Absolutely perfect.

But still. If he could…

It was worth a try, he supposed.

Leather boots squelched against the cold floor of his laboratory, green eyes monitoring the beginnings of his plan. White sheets were draped over the expanse of computer technology, wrought from the very companies he would, in due time, bring to their knees. Long fingers drummed lightly against the table he was passing, his skin tingling at the chill of the metal.

Soon they will know of your power, and they will repent.

Loki ticked his head to the side, clenching his jaw as the murmurs in his mind haunted him. He quashed them down, forcing them to retreat in the recesses of his consciousness. Haste was not of the essence; patience was. He would not have a repeat performance of the New Mexico failure against Thor.

A second metal door came to view as he continued his lazy stroll in the lab, and he waved his hand. The door depressurized, sliding open. He stepped inside, carefully closing the door behind him.

The room was vacant, as were most of the rooms in this hovel, save for one chair. Positioned in the center with pale light coming from the ceiling, it was aged and wooden, carved with what once could have been conceived as intricacy. It was faded and worn, but Loki did not let appearances deceive his eyes. He could feel the energy emanating from the woodwork, the whispers increasing in his mind.

He approached it slowly, stopping when he was a few inches from the seat. With a flourish of his coat, he sat down easily, spine straight, ever the aristocrat he once was. He gripped the armrests tightly and closed his eyes, allowing his mind to be consumed.

"Come back so soon?"

Loki slowly reopened his eyes, a chill already settling in his bones. "I find it wasteful to put off the inevitable."

Raspy chuckling filled the air, and Loki looked at the figure before him impassively. "Such words, coming from the fallen prince."

"As much as I am a fan of nostalgia," Loki said in a controlled voice, "I believe we have an agreement to settle."

A rough hand seized Loki's jaw, forcing him to look up into depthless eyes. "We know why you've come here, Asgardian. Do not test our patience."

"That is of your own doing," Loki replied calmly. "The longer your dance around your mistrust, the longer you will wait for your beloved artifact."

"Artifact?" the creature sneered mockingly, chuckling in amusement."We do not betray promises, Asgardian. But you must locate it first."

Loki's smile faltered, eyes narrowing to slits. His mouth twisted cruelly, "And how am I to do that without any aid?"

"You think we do not see what you see?" the faceless creature leered, circling around Loki. He whirled his hand, and a golden scepter with a glowing blue tip produced in his grip. Loki's eyes darkened as it neared him, thrumming and pulsing with life. His blood was on fire, soaking in the steady hum of power. Loki's hand moved forward unconsciously, but the scepter was flicked away from him when his hand was a hairsbreadth away. Loki snarled, glaring at the creature. "Not must use the magic you've recently instilled."

Damn! Damn it all to hell! He thought he was covering his tracks smoothly, but it had not been good enough.

"Fine," Loki hissed unwillingly. "I was merely hoping to make things a little easier."

"You hope was in vain." The creature approached him again, his face coming within inches of Loki's. "Get it done, Asgardian." In the corner of his eye he saw a hand reel back, and Loki dispelled the magic before it could come in contact with his body.

He was breathing rapidly when he opened his eyes, hands gripping onto the wooden chair hard enough to splinter. A sheen of cold sweat had broken over his brow, and Loki rose unsteadily from the chair. Angrily waving at the door, it slid open and Loki marched out into the laboratory once more.

There really was no avoiding it, he thought in irritation. The scepter would have overcome several obstacles instantaneously, but it hadbeen a vain hope in attempting to acquire it sooner.

No matter.

Body still shaken from the meeting, Loki breathed deeply through his nose to steady himself. There was no point in delay.

Loki closed his eyes, clearing his mind and stretching his power, grasping at the tendrils of consciousness miles and miles away.

It was faint at first, but with a sharp tughe felt Darcy's thoughts roiling alongside his own. They were sharp bursts of light, like a cityscape at night, thriving with life.

Loki smiled. Time to work.


Darcy's body crashed unceremoniously on a hardwood floor. The transportation from Loki's lair of doom was just as vicious as the first time. Groaning, she rolled over onto her back, staring up at the ceiling. It was still day, judging from the streaks of light shining on her face.

What exactly had just happened?

She lay there on the floor for some minutes, reflecting on the entirety of the interlude between Loki and herself, and came up with nothing. It seemed almost—pointless.

What had he brought me for? Amusement?

She highly doubted it. Loki was many things, but he was mostly someone who did things that both amused and rewarded him. There was something that he was trying to do, and Darcy had only managed to get just a small taste of it today.

The question of what still remained.

"Should I ask?"

Darcy craned her neck in the direction of the voice, and saw Erik standing above her with a grimace.

"Just roll with it, Doc." Shaking his head, he held out his hand and Darcy took it quickly, groaning as she rose to her feet.

"You alright there, kid?"

Darcy frowned at the touch of worry in his voice. "Peachy as cream. Mishaps like these happen all the time, believe me," she glanced around, noting she was in Jane's study. Huh. Loki brought her to Jane's lab. That could almost be considered kind. Then her back ached again, and kind thoughts disappeared. "Am I horribly late today?"

"You're actually three minutes early," Erik said, sounding about as surprised as Darcy's face reflected. Early? Impossible. Darcy leaned over to check the clock mounted on the opposite wall of the study.

"Would you look at that," Darcy raised her brows. She picked up her bag from the floor and marched out of the study, heading to where she knew Jane would be working. "So what's on the agenda today?"

"Mostly fixing some kinks in the metrics," Erik supplied as they entered the lab area. Darcy immediately spotted Jane hunched over a massive book with crumpled sheets littering the floor around her table.

Darcy grimaced. "Metrics again?Can't we do more scoping outside?"

"You know the answer to that, Darcy," Jane interjected from her seat, eyes still glued to her work.

"Sadly I do. It doesn't mean I can't try to persuade you otherwise."

Jane glanced up and gave her an exasperated look. "We're very close, Darcy. This should excite you a little."

"And yet we still have metric kinks to dispel! My enthusiasm is out of control. Hold me back, Erik."

Eric chuckled as Darcy pulled a rolling chair next to Jane and grabbed the stack of papers that wasn't viciously crumpled.

"These are the same equations as last week," Darcy noted, sending Jane a questioning look. "Unedited. Did you even look at the notes I made for these?"

"Of course," Jane replied quickly, scribbling down something on a spare bit of paper sticking from the book. "And now I'm starting over."

Darcy clicked her tongue, looking back at the papers in front of her. Keep this up Jane, and…" Darcy faltered, her vision crossing for a moment. She shook her head, rubbing her eyes to clear her vision. Blinking a few times, she glanced around in confusion. What the…

"And?" Jane looked up when Darcy did not reply. "You alright there, Darcy?"

"Huh? Oh, yeah," Darcy scratched her head sheepishly. "My head went fuzzy for a moment."

"Are you going to end up in the hospital right before I go?" Erik crossed his arms, giving Darcy a stern look.

"What? Where are you going?"

"Didn't I tell you?" Darcy shook her head slowly. "Got a call from an old colleague up in New York. I'm leaving next week."

Darcy met the news with some surprise, but something was tugging at her mind, a curiosity that overwhelmed her. "What friend?" she found herself asking.

Erik began to look a little nervous as he scratched his head. "Actually, it's—well, remember that story I told you about the man who was a pioneer in gamma radiation?"

No, no—yes, suddenly the idle words spoken on Jane's rooftop resurfaced. "Yeah." Darcy's eyes widened. "No. Please tell me you're not going to those people who took him away." Panic began to unsettle Darcy. "Erik, you're kidding, right?" Darcy turned to Jane. "Why are you not freaking out about this?"

Jane looked at her tiredly. "I've spent all night freaking about this. I know a lost battle when I see one."

"No!" Darcy scowled. "Unacceptable. Lost battle? Says the woman reconstructing a bridge to another world?"

Jane's eyes narrowed. "Don't try to guilt me, Darcy. This is Erik's decision."

"Friends stop friends from making bad decisions. Not getting behind the wheel while drunk. Not going to another state to die."

Erik sighed, "Stop the melodrama, Darcy; I'm not going to die." Shaking his head, he continued, "Besides, it's an old friend of mine that hired me once. It's half a business trip, as well. Says he's found something that'll jump science research a thousand years."

Darcy sighed, idly rubbing the small headache away. "Whatever you say, doc. Just don't send your last phone call before death to me, 'cause that's going to scar me for life."


Chapter three, success!

I had a lot of trouble with this one. I think I rewrote it twice and scrapped it completely once. Hopefully the end product was satisfying.

This chapter is mostly for laying down the groundwork of what is to come. Now that you know what to expect, things are about to get very, very real.

Thank you for your unfathomable encouragement and kindness. It means the world to me. I realize I am late with replying to everyone who reviewed, so if I missed you I am truly, truly sorry!

Also, big thanks to Tsuki no waltz for looking over this chapter for me!

Thank you for reading!