Here it is, the final chapter. I would like to thank everyone who read and reviewed. It really helped keep me going when the idea of zombies and Darcy Lewis seemed a bit too out there for the audience. Thank you, again, for your support.

Standing at the bifrost site, Darcy steeled her body against the inevitable nausea that would come with her trip back home. Loki stood nearby, having decided to return the favor of her visit with a stay of his own on Earth. To be honest, she was grateful that he was coming with her, not only because it meant more time but it also meant that their inevitable separation would be delayed for just a little while longer. Darcy inhaled until her lungs felt like they were going to explode all over the rainbow bright terrain in front of her, and then the world spun upside down and inside out as she was thrown back to her home world.

Throwing up in one world, Darcy discovered, was much the same as throwing up in another. In other words, it sucked very, very hard. To her credit, Darcy managed to stay upright throughout the dry heaving as the device powered down. Hands braced on her knees, she swallowed back her saliva and tentatively returned to standing, her hands lifting to maintain her balance. From her vantage point in the center of the room, she could see Jane waving excitedly from one of the stations and Coulson standing nearby observing their entrance with shrewd eyes. Darcy stepped down and shoved her hands into her pockets as she worked hard to conceal her proud grin.

"Looks like the mission was successful," Coulson said mildly, though she could see some of the strain had left his expression.

"Sure was, Phil," Darcy quipped. "Do I get a raise."

Coulson's brow lifted, "No." Then, "Debriefing room, if you don't mind. You'll need to be updated."

"I've been gone, like, a few weeks, what world threatening event could have unfolded in that time?" Darcy asked as she was ushered out into a side hallway and through several sets of doors. The pace was fast, urgent, and she had to skip several times to keep up. Within half a minute she was breathing hard despite the fact that she'd picked up a hell of a lot of cardio in the last few days while discovered that Loki's desk was, indeed, very sturdy.

"Actually," Coulson replied as they walked, "You've been gone for eight months."

"Eight months!" Darcy bellowed, drawing attention from every agent down the long length of the hallways. She then turned to Loki, who was following along with her duffel, "Eight months?"

Loki simply shrugged, "Time means nothing between realms."

She knew that, had been told that same fact by Thor not two weeks (her time) past, yet knowing it and experiencing it were two completely separate things that may have just melted her brain.

"Holy shit," Darcy breathed. "Well, Agent bossman, I guess we have a lot of catching up to do."

Coulson opened a door and intimated that she should step inside, "That we do, Ms. Lewis."

Darcy sat anxiously next to Loki while she waited for Coulson to arrange his files in that meticulous manner that had her wanting to reach out and throw the papers to the floor in a fit of childish pique. She valued her life, however, and managed to refrain. Twisting her hands, Darcy did her best to be patient, but patience was just so much work and she was jetlagged from her inter-dimensional travel as it was.

Having settled himself, Coulson gave her a look that Darcy sincerely hoped not to see so soon after returning home. It was a look that said, 'I'm going to totally ruin your day and there is nothing you can do to stop it.' She sighed, in resignation, leaning a little on the arm of her chair while she waited for the inevitable day ruining announcement.

"Following the events leading up to your departure it was made known to Shield that the infection had made its way into the general population and mutated."

Darcy's eyelids dropped a little over disbelieving eyes, "We're dealing with mutants now?"

"Essentially," Coulson replied and Darcy waited very patiently for a punch line that never came. Coulson really wasn't the joking type, however, and his expression never even shifted as the seconds ticked by.

"Can I have a re-do?" Darcy asked, "Because this is really starting to get ridiculous."

Shrugging, Coulson simply said, "This is not out of the norm for our agency."

"You guys are sneaks," she burst out, throwing her hands into her hair, "Sneaky, sneaky, sneak-sneaks."

"We are the government, Darcy, this is what we do."

"Tell me about it," she shot back, glaring. "Alright, now that I'm updated, what do you want me to do?"

Coulson blinked, "Go back to your regular duties. Shield would, however, like to ask Loki to continue participate as part of the team." Could his face get any more serene while talking about mutating zombies?

"Abso-fucking-lutely not!" Darcy barked, suddenly angry. "He almost died last time and that was just zombies. Now we're talking mutants and shit apparently just got real."

"Darcy," Loki interjected lowly, one hand reaching out to skim the back of her wrist, "There is no harm in hearing the man's offer."

Turning slowly in her chair, Darcy leveled a gaze at Loki that would have melted steel, "Are you serious? You're seriously going to head back into the fight after I had to travel worlds to save your comatose ass?"

Loki's eyes softened, but his mouth remained pressed in that firm line that told Darcy that he would fight whether she approved or not. The realization only served to stoke the fires of her anger and redirect them at the person she'd risked life and limb to bring back from the abyss. Perhaps 'life and limb' was a little bit of an exaggeration, but the point stood as it was and she was going to stick the fuck to it. Hissing, she lifted from the chair and stomped from the room, more than a little surprised at how Coulson just let her leave. The stomping continued petulantly until she reached the elevator and stabbed the button for her floor viciously.

As the carriage moved, Darcy crossed her arms over her chest and tapped her foot in irritation, filling with nervous energy. She was incredulous at the turn of events, as if reality had come by and swatted her in the face. There was such a huge disconnect between the contentment of Asgard and the chaos of earth that she was momentarily stunned amidst her anger. Movement swished by the corner of her eye and pulled a squeak from her as Loki materialized nearby.

"God, can you not do that?" She shrieked, throwing her tiny fists down by her sides with some force.

Loki held his hands in front of him, palms up, in surrender, "I apologize." Then, "I cannot leave this realm to fend for itself, not when I have brought this plague upon it." It sounded like it should make sense, but all Darcy could see was the potential danger. Still further, the formality of his words and tone was enough for Darcy to consider using violence to beat some sense into him. How could he consider putting himself back into the line of fire after barely surviving the last time? After barely surviving the coma? After she almost couldn't save him?

"You can't do this to me," She breathed through a quickly running nose. "You can't put me through this again."

Loki moved very carefully to hold her as tears formed in her eyes, falling down over her cheeks and to the floor below. He shushed her, rocking this way and that, when the doors of the elevator opened to a hallway filled with agents. Sensing her increasing distress, Loki pulsed a bit of magic around them and suddenly they were standing in her apartment down the street. Once again surrounded by the security familiar things, Darcy felt her emotions well up inside her, overflowing her defenses until she was sobbing openly into Loki's shirt. He maneuvered them into her bedroom, easing their bodies down onto the bed so that she could curl up against him while her tears dried.

"You can't do this," she repeated with a sniff when she had calmed enough to speak once more.

Loki ran his hands soothingly over her back, "I promise you I will take the upmost caution. It is more likely I will not see a fight at all—the agency will need someone to find a cure."

Head shooting up, Darcy climbed astride his body, holding him by the long locks of his hair so that he would know how serious she was when she said, "If you die, I will find a way to bring you back and kick your ass. Understand?"

He chuckled, "Understood, fair mistress."

"I'm being serious, Loki, I'm not going to go through another year thinking you're dying."

Drawing her down to him, Loki kissed her forehead, "As I said. Understood."

"Good. I don't want to have this conversation again." And that, it seemed, was that. They would move forward as long as Loki told her what was happening and wouldn't lock her away like the last time. Darcy would have input, she would be active, and he would damn well listen if she said things were going too far. It wasn't her preferred agreement, but she could make a compromise—wasn't that what relationships were all about?

Though she slept a little more fitfully than on Asgard, Darcy woke the next day comforted by the warmth of Loki's body at her back. She slid from her rickety bed and went through her morning ablutions, flicking off the light on her way back. They had an hour or so before the building would become active and she wanted to use it productively. Snuggling once more beneath the blankets, Darcy ran her hand over the curve of Loki's spine. He had rolled to his stomach in her absence, one hand sliding under the pillow to support his head. She smiled at the contented look on his face, the expression so different from when he'd been injured. In this form of sleep, he looked radiantly youthful and serene, his lashes pressed lightly over the sharp angles of his cheekbones.

In the silence, Darcy was able to contemplate the intensity of her feelings for Loki and how those feelings were going to affect her life from then on. She would have to learn how to navigate the distance, and their combined duties, but what about the danger that seemed suddenly magnetized to them? Loki was determined to set things right and to continue the path of atonement set long before their relationship became, well, an actual relationship. And Darcy really loved working for Coulson despite the tedious amounts of paperwork and the tendency of other staff to look at her like she was insane during meetings.

Feeling some of her old self come back to her after existing for so long under duress, Darcy simply decided to roll with the punches and let the chips fall where they may. She would deal with whatever consequences arrived, if and when they showed up, by simply being the ever-awesome Darcy Lewis. It had always worked before and she had no doubts that this particular plan would continue to work even if the situation had veered a little more towards the cosmic.

Decision made, Darcy leaned over Loki's body, biting gently into the skin at the nape of his neck and soothing the sting with her tongue. She slipped her hands beneath his shirt and massaged the muscles along his spine to ease him into consciousness. From below her, Loki groaned a little and shifted to his side. He pulled her down for a sleepy kiss, something Darcy was all too willing to give.

Sex with him had always had an edge of urgency, as if Loki were afraid that she would be tugged away too soon. Some part of Darcy guessed that he hadn't been granted many pleasures that didn't have an expiration date or hadn't come with a condition. He still looked up at her from his back with this sense of wonder that sent Darcy on a power trip of epic proportions. She loved how every roll of her hips would be met with a squeeze of his hands or an encouraging sound of approval. Teasing him was very much one of her favorite activities, drawing out the pleasure until he rolled her over and held her still for his thrusts. As exhilarated as she was during their lovemaking, Darcy held the time after very dear to her heart.

Sweat-soaked and panting, Loki would kiss her skin everywhere he could manage, sending residual bits of magic that assured her of his affection. Darcy would return the feeling as best she could while coming down from her high before catnapping to return her strength. Inevitably, Darcy's stomach would send them out of hiding to gather nourishment and she was grateful that someone (possibly Coulson) had stocked her kitchen, otherwise they would be ordering out for Chinese.

Soon enough, Darcy was called back to work and it was so incredibly strange how things simply dropped back into routine over the course of the morning. Coulson, late to the office, handed her a coffee on his way in.

"It's good to see you back," he said as he powered up his computer.

Darcy smiled, "I'm prepared for a mountain of paperwork you've shoved to the side while I was gone." The only reply she got was a smirk and a glance at the towering 'in' box to the left of her computer. Point made, Darcy set to work, managing to spin through most of the morning without much thought. It was late afternoon when Coulson forced her from the computer screen, escorting her to the elevator.

"I can assure you that Shield will take every precaution to ensure your safety as well as the safety of Loki—of all our team—during the search for a cure," Coulson said absently, texting something on his phone.
Darcy glanced up at him in annoyance, "You can't predict every move, and have you seen mutants?"

"Yes," he replied. "We need answers, Darcy. And we need a cure, both of which Loki could provide much faster than any of our scientists."

"I know that," Darcy spit out, "Don't you think I know that? The whole world is depending on one guy to save it, and don't even get me started on the absurdity of it being the same guy who tried to conquer it not too long ago."
"Absurdity noted," Coulson said dryly. "That doesn't change the fact that Shield scientists have been testing on the hundred and seventy eight infected with little to no luck."

Darcy arched a brow, "So it's been contained."
Coulson nodded, holding his hands folded loosely in front of him. "Unlike the previous strain, these infected subjects are not dying in mere hours. They have been living in sickness for weeks." His eyes shifted away from her face, the lines around his mouth tightening a little with the strain of keeping his expression carefully neutral.

Swallowing, she asked, "How bad is it?"

"Bad enough that Shield is relying on a demi-god with a rap sheet twelve pages long."

"Oh," was all she could say, all her mind could come up with when faced with her own selfishness. "Well, I feel like an asshole."

A chuckle sounded from beside her, "You're not an asshole, just trying to protect someone you love. We've all been there."

Not waiting for a reply, Coulson led her out into a remodeled medical lab that she thought may have been constructed solely for the epidemic. Long rows of beds lines each wall, each filled with a single person in restraints. Darcy recognized the tell tale signs of the infection—the change in skin color and the deteriorating skin—but most of the patients seemed only barely affected. Some looked fully conscious, others half dead depending on how progressive the disease had become. Staff moved busily between each bed, taking notes on sterilized clipboards and checking IVs. Darcy mostly tried to stay out of the way even though they had already returned to their normal routine of studiously ignoring her.

Coulson walked her along towards through the room to an airlock where he thumbed the keypad, opening the door. Darcy slipped inside, bouncing on her toes while Coulson activated the airlock and ushered her into the secured area. The room was spacious, but the low ceiling shrunk the comfortable area down to something stifling. Unconsciously ducking her head, Darcy caught sight of Loki staring intently at a medical chart. He was scanning pages of notes, flicking through them in an almost absent manner that indicated he was looking for something specific. She almost hated to interrupt him, knowing how focused he could be and not wanting to interrupt any miraculous conclusions he might be making. The room behind them was filled with some intensely sick people and Darcy felt a little pang of guilt at how vehement she had been in her argument for not helping them. They couldn't help that they had been infected. Hell, she was damned lucky she hadn't been infected in the tunnels below the city on her first attempt to stop the crisis. If Loki could help, if he could do so without risking his life too overtly, she would support him as best she could given that she would more than likely be cheering from the sidelines.

Coulson waited to be acknowledged (for which Loki allowed a mere glance before returning to his work), then said, "Any progress?"

"Some," Loki replied curtly, "Though I would appreciate some peace to work."

"My apologies, but I am required to provide updates daily." Coulson's voice lacked sincerity and Darcy thought she saw a sense of smug humor in his normally placid countenance.

"You are updated," Loki nearly sneered, and Darcy wondered at the animosity between them. Loki could be a little shit sometimes, snarky and rude to the point of childish peevishness, but the venom in his words was something entirely different than the tone with which she had become familiar. And, she had never seen even an ounce if distaste fall from Coulson's mouth, let alone drip from his very words. It was a strange and fascinating thing to watch, especially when Darcy had first-hand knowledge of the varying sides of each person involved.

Coulson nodded, pulling his phone from the pocket of his jacket and tapping it to one of the screens hanging from the ceiling. The information began to upload almost immediately, scrolling down the tiny interface with stunning efficiency. Darcy made a mental note to see if she could get one of those, hello instant downloading. Her ipod would be grateful for the break in the vast amount of data and new playlists after having sat dormant in her desk for so long.

"Can I help?" She asked hopefully. "I'm pretty good with data input, 'cause, you know, Jane was terrible at spreadsheets. I think there is a little too much brain and not enough organization in her genetic makeup."

Loki lowered the clipboard and data sheet, his eyes falling to her face and the first bit of ire faded from his expression. "I don't want to take you from your normal duties." The sentence was said more to Coulson than to Darcy, a slight tinge of challenge slipping back his throat. Darcy sighed loudly, cocking a hip as she waited for the posturing to come to an end.

Coulson, of course, did not rise outwardly to the bait and simply replied, "This assignment is top priority, I had hoped Darcy would speed things along. You may borrow her as you see fit, as long as she returns to her assigned duties when we have a cure."

Rolling his eyes, Loki turned from them and set the clipboard down, gesturing idly to a nearby computer atop a fragile looking desk. "Darcy, you may begin with the data over there. When you're done, I'll give you the results of Dr. Banner's tests to transcribe."

Recognizing the obsessive tenacity of a scientist on a mission, Darcy sent Coulson a long suffering glance and set to work. It didn't take long for her to fall back into her old habit of stepping around a professional in their own world, only this time she had to keep her mind on task while it constantly wanted to veer off into fantasies of distracting Loki from his work. There was something so incredibly attractive about how precise he was when manipulating his experiments, how he handled what had to be delicate measurements and equipment. It made her think of how his brows would furrow when she tugged at his shirt, pulling him to the bed; made her think of the way his tongue rolled over the hollow in her throat, the press of his skin.

Giving herself a mental 'down girl', Darcy centered her mind and forced her eyes back to the computer screen and the lists of controls created specifically for the city including water, gas, and area. She tapped in formulas and sent the data to a folder so that Loki could sort it at will, knowing that any sort of organizational system she put in place would inevitably be obliterated and rearranged to suit Loki's needs, whatever they may turn out to be. When she finished with one assignment, he was already standing there with another, both of them working well past dinner into the night. Finally, when Darcy's stomach threatened to cannibalize itself in rebellion, she stood from the computer, powered it down, and turned determinedly towards the still working Loki.

She called his name several times, failing to break through the walls of concentration, which called for drastic measures in her book. Glancing at the airlock door, Darcy flicked her hair behind her back and stepped over to stand on the opposite side of a waist high counter on which Loki was taking notes from a journal of some kind. Unbuttoning the top three buttons on her blouse, Darcy adjusted her bra to display her considerable assets to their finest and pressed her palms to the table, leaning down so that her elbows rested near the edge.

"Honey," she called, tentatively lacing her call with a bit of magic, just to make sure he was paying attention. Loki glanced up very quickly, eyes falling downward to her preferred target with stunning ease that made her think getting him out of the lab would be a piece of cake. "The work will be here tomorrow, but I won't be if I die of starvation. Whadya say we get some food and take this party back to my place?"

He was torn between one desire and the next, his sense of honor and his sex drive warring within that glorious mind. She would have to sweeten the pot a bit, perhaps. Sauntering around the side of the table, Darcy stepped up to Loki and pushed him gently onto a rolling chair before slipping her knees on either side of his hips and settling herself on his lap. She kissed him hard, using her fingers to massage the tension at the back of his neck, soothing and exciting all at the same time.

"Food first, then sex, and then to bed—that is what we're doing until tomorrow morning where we will pick up where we left off here. There are interns to manage the experiments overnight, it's what they're there for, trust me."

There was a kind of stunned appreciation floating into his expression that had Darcy feeling proud, but her stomach was still protesting in hunger. It would need to be assuaged soon or it would begin sending signals to her brain to initiate anger until she was properly fed. She wanted pizza, like, yesterday and she was willing to go to any measures to get it, even literally dragging the god of mischief through a heavily staffed medical lab.

Slipping his arm beneath her ass, Loki lifted Darcy onto the counter, running his hands up her sides to cup her breasts. "I think I would greatly enjoy simply taking you now," he murmured, pulling lightly at the material of her bra.

"You could," Darcy replied cheekily, "But I'll have more energy if I'm well-fed. And, an energetic Darcy is a kinky Darcy."

The first smile of the day cracked across his face, his expression lighting up with amusement and desire. "Well, by all means, let's get you fed."

As they made their way back through the open medical lab, Darcy couldn't help but to watch the faces of the infected while they walked by. Some were staring out into oblivion, obviously drugged out of their minds; others offered protestations and loud grunts, their limbs reaching out for them as if on instinct. But, the ones that hurt her most were those that seemed to know how sick they were and, thus, their faces were filled with this hopelessness that was nearly unfathomable. A part of her reached out to them in comfort and support, and same part of her was stunned to feel a return of that feeling on an intangible level. Startled, she hurried out of the room towards the familiarity of food and Loki's company, pushing the thoughts from her mind as best she could.

Those nasty little buggers were persistent, however, and every free moment she got over the next two days was met with a recurring memory and the urge to reach out to the patients. Finally, after many, many internal monologues of absolute denial, Darcy set aside her work and called out that she was taking a break. Steeling her mind, Darcy stepped out into the stale air outside of the airlock, her body stiff with apprehension. Staff eyed her carefully, but didn't stop her when she sat in a bent metal chair near one of the less decomposed patients. Folding her hands in her lap, Darcy blinked down at the strained musculature, the acrid smelling skin, the thin weight of someone who has probably once been a healthy young man. It turned her stomach to know that this had been happening while she was away, that maybe something could have been done in the eight months of her absence.

The minutes ticked by and Darcy waited for some sort of signal like the one before, a calling from this person for help that would guide her actions. She received none, and the remembered feeling of pushing into nothingness returned from her time on Asgard. Patterns connecting in her head, Darcy pulled her knees to her chest in an unconscious barrier between them before using the core of her being, that magic she had only shared with Loki, to probe the human in front of her. Almost instantly, she got a return signal, the body arching off the bed in a visceral twist of muscle.

Staff rushed the area and she was shoved to the side while they used complex medical instruments to gauge what exactly had happened. Their startled and chaotic expressions told her that this was the first little bit of something that had happened and they were determined to find its source. Loki, drawn by the commotion outside, peered out from his lair of knowledge and shot her a glance that clearly read that she should return to work. Darcy sighed and relented, vowing to try again the next day, perhaps during shift change so that there would be fewer witnesses. And, she did.

Day by day she went to that same young man's side and pushed a little magic into him, sending the gadgets around them to buzzing excitedly with the stimulation. Staff would rush in and she would step away quietly, ducking back into the airlock to complete another report that led to almost nothing significant. It became something of a game to see how long she could do it before someone figured it out. Amazingly, no one even seemed to notice her presence, let alone her interference and she was left relatively unmolested for quite some time. The game, however, became very serious when the patient started to show signs of progress, his skin growing back and hair sliding through dead follicles in clear signs of rejuvenation. Color returned to his cheeks and they were able to lose the restraints as he was no longer aggressing against anything that moved within a few feet of his body. It was then that Darcy knew she had kept the secret too long and that, in order to curb the deaths (which had happened few and far between), she would need to work fast.

To her utter surprise, Coulson was on board with her plan immediately, arranging for the staff to sort the patients from most to least critical with an email and a well placed phone call. Loki, on the other hand, was much more difficult to convince. In the privacy of her apartment, they argued until her throat was hoarse while she called him a hypocrite and he told her she didn't know the incredible danger of her actions. To her credit, Darcy didn't even cry once, though she did threaten him with a tray of ice cubes fresh from the freezer.

Finally, when all the fight had gone out of them and they were sitting slumped on her ratty couch, Loki dropped his head in his hands. "What if you're infected?"

"I won't get infected," Darcy asserted firmly. "I'm inputting magic, not receiving." Part of her wanted to scream 'duh' at the top of her lungs while throwing out her arms in exasperation.

He scoffed at her, "You're always receiving—every second you sit in that room you are receiving bits of power, whether you feel it or not."

"Well," she countered sharply, "Don't you think I would have been infected by now if that were the case?"

Loki shook his head, "It's not the same thing as actively seeking out the disease and curing it." Condescending asshole.

"This is such bullshit!" Darcy yelled, though her voice was cracking from overuse. "The Avengers and every other member of Shield gets to ride merrily into battle and I have a—nonviolent, mind you—solution to a potentially world-wide epidemic only to get shut down 'cause I might get a little sick. How counterproductive is that?"

"Not just sick, Darcy," Loki burst forth, his face contorting in rage. The expression took her back a bit, having never seen such fierce, bone-chilling antagonism come from Loki. "Dead," he spat. "Lifeless, singing with the choir en memoriam." He steadied himself, breathing heavily, "I…could not bear it."

Making a soft sound of compassion, Darcy rolled over the cushions and wrapped her arms around his torso despite her still present ire at the man. This kind of fear—that is, the fear of losing someone close—she understood, "I'll be fine, you know. Besides, you'll be right there to make sure I'm not screwing up."

He pressed his face into her hair anxiously, "I have no doubt of your abilities, Darcy-love, just your self preservation."

"Hey," Darcy retorted, "What's life without a little danger?"

"Indeed," he replied lowly, a small smile working its way across his thin mouth. "I will allow you to work on the patients, but you will only work on a few a day. This kind of magic requires high levels of energy and I won't have you exhausted for the next month."

Darcy bit her lip, thinking, "Fine, but I get all the pizza I want and I get to pick the movie at night." Pizza was non-negotiable, but she might be swayed on the movie.

"Agreed," Loki said, sighing in resignation and rubbing at the bridge of his nose.

A sudden realization shot clear across Darcy's consciousness, delighting her uncontrollably. "Oh, my god," Darcy breathed suddenly, her expressive face spreading wide with the idea working its way through her brain. It was such a wonderful idea, such a perfect, naughty idea and she loved it. How had she not thought of this before?

Loki gazed at her carefully, "What is it?"

"We just had a fight," she said, sliding to bend over his form so that her spine arched towards him. Her excitement was palpable, but she could see some hesitation in Loki. He wouldn't be apprehensive for long because she was totally sure Loki would enjoy every minute of her line of thought.

"Yes," he drawled, "You could say that we have."

Shaking him lightly, Darcy continued to lead him down her train of thought, "That means we get to have make up sex."

Loki's expression remained confused while Darcy worked his shirt over his shoulders and started unfastening his pants. Her fingers fumbled a little in her excitement, but they got the general idea and quickly caught up with the quick-fire orders from her brain.

"You know, this would go a lot faster if you helped," she offered lightly as she slipped his pants down his hips and off to the floor.

It took a few more seconds for his brain to catch up to the idea his body was fully ready for, but when it finally jumpstarted, he was throwing her over his shoulder and heading to the bedroom. He rolled her down to the bed, a laugh forming in his throat even as he was removing her clothing at an alarming pace. Naked and surprisingly happy despite the frustration of the last hour and a half, Darcy yanked his body down to her and wrapped her limbs around him eagerly. The emotion still bubbling low sprang forth in a whole new form of nails and teeth that tore at his skin. She clawed at him, urging quick, heated strokes, shoving her hips up to him in hot, open invitation. Muscles jerking, Darcy pushed relentlessly towards her peak, relishing the hard grip he had around her hips and knowing there would be bruises in the morning.

Afterwards, as they lay panted on their backs, Loki turned to brace his weight on his elbow, "Make up sex."

"Yeah," she breathed, "It's the earthling way of apologizing without actually apologizing." It was also excellent cardio if the heaving of her lungs was any indication.

He nodded, flopping boneless back to the mattress, "We should do that again."

Darcy laughed and shook her head, "Not sure I can move for round two."

His laugh vibrated against her highly sensitized skin. "Perfect, because I need you still," he replied, sliding down her body to spread her thighs.

"Well," she bit out as a moan slipped past her lips, "By all means."

Her first forays into healing the sick were mostly filled with unsuccessful attempts to reach out to the people lying in the lines of beds. She worked until Loki called for her to quit, which was far too soon for her liking, but she had made a deal and even though it chafed she would honor it (though more make up sex was an appealing idea). The routine, as always, settled into place—she was ignored by staff, Coulson dropped by for updates, and Loki hovered nearby with one eye on his experiments. He often pulled her away, plying her with food and kisses when he thought she was working a little too hard. It was a nice change of pace, being the one taken care of when she so often spent much of her time shoving coffee in the faces of those working around her.

Darcy could tell that Loki was right when he said that she had no idea what she was getting into and that she was putting herself at risk. The use of this kind of magic on such an intense level and for hours at a time left her so exhausted Loki had to carry her out of the medical lab to their rooms so that she could rest. She insisted on returning every day, though it was getting more and more difficult to rise in the morning with the comfort of the bed calling her back to sleep. It was worth it, however, when those first few patients were discharged and let back into the general population. Seeing them take their first steps in months made the exhaustion worth it, made all of Loki's careful glances and man-handling and headaches so totally worth it.

Loki made several attempts to aid Darcy in curing the infected, but his magic couldn't seem to penetrate the defenses of the disease, rolling uselessly off to the floor in dark waves. Comical as it was to see him confused and frustrated, Darcy had to wonder at why her particular brand of power was so effective when Loki was very clearly the more talented magician. He researched it, of course, but there was no book on Asgard or on Earth that covered the necessary information and Darcy was left with nothing but theories. Probably it was because she was human, probably it was because she was already a part of an affined pair and that balanced the power intake, probably she was just a little left of center. More likely, however, it was because she was awesome. None of the theories mattered to Darcy because she was watching her power work wonders and the knowledge that she was, perhaps, saving lives was satisfying enough that she didn't need further explanation. It was enough to know that Darcy was making a difference on a large scale for a change.

When the last of the patients were sent on their way, Darcy was allowed a two week reprieve from work—which, in actuality, turned out to be Coulson's way of keeping her unoccupied while the medical staff ran a billion tests to make sure she hadn't been infected. Darcy thought that there might have been some genetic mapping going on, but she couldn't exactly be sure and who could really tell what Coulson's motives were anyways. Truth be told, she was glad for the rest even though by the end of it, she was pulling her hair out in boredom and hitting up Tony's lab on a regular basis to swap stories and ideas in case of further zombie action.

Loki stayed as long as possible, but Thor was eventually called back home and there was the unspoken knowledge that Loki would need to go with him. She spent about half a minute sulking, but forced herself to buck up and act like an adult so that they could enjoy their time together while it lasted. Besides, she had the benefit of working for a company that had a monopoly on inter-dimensional travel and she was pretty sure Coulson could pull strings if the distance became too much. She had, after all, single handedly solved an epidemic with her general bad-assery and that probably entitled her to a higher clearance. It also entitled her to better coffee, which she informed the secretarial staff only to be given a look of disdain from their freshly primped faces.

Standing on the platform, Loki kissed her slowly, sensually in farewell, his arms pressed to her sides to hold her close. Leaning down, he whispered that he would try to contact her as soon as possible and that he would return once his family understood that he would now be splitting his time between worlds, much like his brother. Darcy hugged him fiercely then stepped away, giving him her brightest smile because she sure as hell refused to cry when this was no 'goodbye', just a 'see you soon'. There was still the matter of introducing him to all the cultural points of difference between the two worlds as well as a couple of more intimate details to be discovered between them.

Days later, as she hit REM sleep for the first time since Loki left, Darcy was thrust into the void of dreaming where Loki met her halfway. He smiled something mischievous at his success, hauling her to his body forcefully. Whispering how much he'd missed her, Loki then proceeded to describe all of the things he'd been thinking about since their separation followed by a live demonstration that was very, very enlightening. Darcy woke smiling that morning, and several mornings a week thereafter as she waited for his return trip. Zombies, it seemed, could change everything.

UPDATE: The sequel to Pawn Takes King has a title and a basic storyline to accompany it. Again, there are some continuity issues that I'm working on because I'm taking a story that had a minimal plot line and expanding it to encompass a whole other universe that didn't exist at first.

The title of the sequel is "Knight Takes Bishop" and I should be posting the first chapter next week. I want to work through a few chapters and make edits so that I have a solid background for the main character, who is an OC. Thanks!-CA