First and Second

With her he had always been first.

Loki took in the sight of the woman still sleeping next to him. The sheet covered most of her body but he skimmed his hand lightly over the exposed skin of her shoulders. The morning light poured through the open curtains as he observed her. He would never tire of this, of her. Of the one person in his life who understood and valued every part of him.

She had always put him first, even from their first meeting.

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The door to the SHIELD holding cell slid open with an almost silent rush of air. He didn't bother to look up. The likelihood was that the man of Fury was tired of playing host and had reached a decision regarding the fate of the fallen god.

His fate was being decided by mere mortals. How ironic.

However, the quiet footfalls that fell on his ears were incongruous with the harried stomping of the Director. Loki narrowed his eyes as he took in the sight of yet another mortal, a female this time. She took sure, even steps to the table where he sat and pulled out the chair opposite. She seemed to make a point of meeting his eyes as she sat.

'Hi, I'm Darcy.'

He looked incredulously at the mortal girl as she stuck her hand out in front of him. Her right hand. Foolish girl, he thought, she should know better than to risk her sword arm. He continued to stare at her, ignoring her offering. Was it bravery or naivety, he wondered. She was young even by Midgardian standards, that much was obvious from the way she held herself, the lack of lining around her eyes and mouth, the attire she wore.

And she was an innocent, he noted. Not one of the so-called Avengers or their comrades. Her role was unclear. Compared to the heavily armed red haired woman in her battle gear this girl seemed ordinary. She was no warrior and the flush of embarrassment that stole over her face as Loki continued to ignore her proffered hand seemed to indicate that her role was not that of espionage either. How amusing, Loki thought. The girl was not intimidated by him (and, in his current state, why should she be?) but she was still uneasy around him, though she tried to hide it.

'I guess this is the part where you're meant to introduce yourself but…' she trailed off, her teeth biting her bottom lip as she tilted her head slightly. 'Would you believe me if I said it was good to meet you?' she asked, her eyes flicking over his face as Loki remained passive, listening to this mortal's prattle. 'I guess you can tell I'm not lying, comes with the job description.'

And it was true, Loki thought, she wasn't lying. But unless he was mistaken the formal greeting in this region of Midgard was 'nice to meet you'. The girl had said 'good' and the God of Lies was not to be fooled by a girl choosing her words carefully.

She stared at him in silence. Loki knew that this was unusual behaviour for a mortal and, despite his disgust for her people, he couldn't help but find her presence quite interesting. Not intriguing by any stretch of the imagination but he wondered idly of her motives. There had been those members of SHIELD in the last few days who had pressed their noses up against the tiny square of glass to look in at him. Like humans in a zoo, he remembered with disgust. That was what they had reduced him to, an attraction, muzzled and chained with silver that sapped his magic from him. But her gaze was different. It was contemplative but neutral. There was neither judgement nor pity in her eyes, even more unusual for these mortals.

She opened her mouth again but before she could form words the door opened a second time.

'Lewis!' barked out Fury's voice, his disapproving glare fixed on the two of them. 'Back upstairs, now.'

Her small sigh was barely audible, even to Loki, but her expression was guarded when she left. Only a slight glance over her shoulder betrayed the fact that she was different to all the other mortals who came down here to see Thor's defeated brother.

And, for some reason unknown to even Loki himself, he wished that he could have told her that it was 'good' to meet her too.

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He knew the patterns of freckles on her cheeks as well as he knew the constellations in the night sky. He had studied them long ago, though it didn't stop his fascination with their patterns. He brushed a lock of her dark hair off her face. Her nose wrinkled slightly in response and Loki smiled as she buried further into the pillows.

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His return to Midgard was sooner than Loki had anticipated. Odin had placed a price on his redemption and that was cooperation with the defenders of this realm. In theory, Loki mused, it was a good plan: atonement through helping those who had opposed him when he had been under the influence of Thanos and the tesseract. In practice, however, most of the Avengers were less than enthusiastic.

As they sat around the conference table Loki could easily divide them according to their opinion of him. Thor had forgiven him (too easily, in Loki's own opinion) and was ecstatic to have his brother fighting by his side once more. The man of iron gave out an air of nonchalance but Loki knew that he was studying his every move with carefully concealed interest. The scientist was harder to read, wary, waiting, unwilling to form an opinion until he had sufficient evidence. Their leader was of a similar mind, cautious but seemingly willing to give Loki the benefit of the doubt. Then there was the archer.

He and the woman sat at the opposite end of the table, as far from Loki as the room allowed. He could feel their mutual rage and distrust (justified, he supposed, by their previous interactions), though ironically the archer hid it better than the spy. Her eyes were fixed on him, watching his every move. But as they talked over where the Avengers went from there and how their newest associate could be of use Loki contributed very little. He knew his input would not be valued by these people.

They prattled on and he listened for the better part of the day. It was only when the sun began to set behind the city skyline that an outside interruption ended what had turned into a now trivial discussion of where Loki was going to reside on Midgard, of all things.

Loki hadn't given any thought to the girl Darcy when he had been in Asgard but now her presence felt like a breath of fresh air after the judgemental eyes of these so-called heroes. Her head peered round the doorframe as she addressed their leader, the brooding Captain.

'Dude, seriously, we're starving. Are you done yet?'

The archer looked irritated by her interference and Loki huffed out a quiet laugh. Her head snapped round and her blue eyes widened. 'Hey, you're back.'

It was a simple observation, but the informality of her statement sent the rest of the room's occupants into some sort of shock. Loki smirked, apparently they did not know that their little friend had visited him before. Perhaps they were envisaging more of a connection that really existed. He could have fun with this, Loki decided. Not any real mischief, simply a little misdirection.

'It's good to see you again, Darcy.'

And even though Loki could sense the scowls and hear the murmurs of his brother and his teammates, the reaction he watched was the bright smile that lit the girl's face.

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The rise and fall of her ribs was even. Her breath was a whisper against the silk sheets. Her hands twitched in response to her dreams.

She was oblivious to his observation of her as she slept. Much as he had been in those first few weeks of knowing her. She had studied him in the most innocent and natural of ways. But it had been something so foreign to him…

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The next few days, much to Loki's dismay, were filled with the mundane. The days passed until what the mortals seemed to call the 'week end' (a ridiculous phrase, in his opinion) and Loki found himself utterly alone and completely bored. The knock on his bedroom door proved a welcome distraction, though at any other time he would have ignored such a gesture. He supposed it was a testament to just how bored he was.

Loki took in the sight before him with a slight chuckle. Darcy's hand was raised comically, as if she had been ready to knock again when he opened the door.

'Um, hi.' She shuffled from foot to foot. 'So everyone else is out and I thought you might be a bit bored so…'

'So?' Loki asked, not comprehending her meaning.

'Do you want to watch a film or something?'

She was the first person in the house to seek out his company of her own free will and for that reason Loki agreed. He said nothing, but closed his door behind him and followed Darcy down into the common room, watching as she poured herself a glass of white wine.

The room itself was spectacular. Glass panels made up two of the walls, flooding the room with the bright lights of the New York evening. The carpet was thick, red in colour and complimented the dark wood and smoked glass of the bar Darcy stood behind.

'Do you want a glass?' He nodded and she passed him the first glass she had poured before getting another for herself. He followed her lead as she sat down and manipulated the television to her will, sitting silently on the opposite side of one of the plush leather sofas, allowing Darcy to curl her legs up under her body. 'Hmm,' she bit her lip as she read from the list. Most of the titles meant nothing to Loki, but Darcy paused over a few before finally deciding on one. 'Do you like Shakespeare?' she asked, titling her head slightly, 'I don't know it just… seems like it would be your type of thing.'

Loki had heard of the playwright, of course, but he was unaware that such things still interested young Midgardians. And Darcy Lewis was so very young, he thought. She was wearing some sort of knee-high striped socks and shorts, and was dwarfed by the overlarge jumper she wore on top. It was her sleep attire, he realised, but rather than the silk and lace garments Loki had seen the Black Widow parade in front of Barton there was no ulterior motive to Darcy's choice. She was young and simple and unassuming. Loki found it to be a welcome change from the scheming he had been surrounded by his whole life. Ironic, he considered briefly. He was the God of Lies after all.

'I… have watched some of the Bard's work before,' Loki said hesitantly. He didn't feel the need to add that it had been during the author's lifetime.

'Cool,' Darcy did something with the remote and the film started on the screen. 'Much Ado it is then.'

There was nothing else to be said, though Loki noted that Darcy laughed at the characters and mouthed along with some of the lines. The mischief of the play was, of course, so obviously beneath his own talents but he enjoyed watching the action unfold. He felt that the ending left much to be desired and had to smile at Darcy's assertion that Hero needed to 'grow a backbone' but it was the most pleasant session he had yet to spend on Midgard.

He didn't know why Darcy had sought him out, and neither did he realise that it was to become a weekly occurrence.

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He was the only one who got to see her like this. To the outside world she was barbs and sarcasm, wit and intelligence, loyalty and bravery. To Loki, she was just her.

He knew her in a way that even those who considered themselves close to her did not. They did not know what it was like when she completely relaxed her guard. They did not know how beautiful she looked with the morning light streaming across her body. They didn't know the gasps and moans he could pull from her as she came apart.

She shifted again, searching for his body in her sleep. Loki smiled as her nose brushed his torso and she relaxed. She needed him, as much as he needed her. And that was definitely something the others weren't aware of.

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Between the official Avengers business and his task of strengthening Midgard's defences Loki found himself learning much of both his brother's teammates and the people of the realm. None more so than Darcy Lewis. Their nights of 'Bill the Bard' (as she had named him) had become less about watching the screen in companionable silence as the weeks went by.

Their second film had been Twelfth Night. Darcy had asked him how his week had been and Loki had answered. In turn (it was polite to reciprocate and he had been brought up with manners, even if they didn't make much of an appearance when he had tried to defeat the Avengers) he had enquired after Darcy's role at SHIELD. Her bitter laughter had surprised him. She was so cheerful most of the time and to see her sarcastically remark about her role as a 'glorified pencil pusher' due to the nature of her involvement with Jane Foster and Thor seemed very out of character.

Of course, Darcy hadn't couched it in quite those terms. He believed her exact words were that 'the government doesn't trust college students' whose fault is had assuredly not been that she 'had to taser Thor on his ass' because 'the dude just fell from the sky and, seriously, what the hell are you supposed to do with that'.

It was during their third film that Loki began to realise that her dry wit was a more prevalent part of her personality than he would have imagined. She openly mocked some of the more ridiculous lines from Romeo and Juliet while still commenting on the modernisation of the setting and the inventiveness of the music and costumes. She was becoming more comfortable around him and letting a truer form of her personality shine through. She was an enigma of sarcasm and smiles, doling out each in equal measures.

Her interactions with the team over dinner were fascinating. It was a rule that whoever was staying in Stark's residence eat together every night. She seemed, however, to get along with all of those present. Even Stark, whom she would threaten to dismember, disembowel or decapitate on a regular basis. It was over these dinners that Loki also had occasion to observe her interactions with Thor's woman. Loki knew that Jane Foster considered Darcy her closest friend but their dynamic was a curious one. They talked with an ease that spoke of familiarity but when Thor commanded Jane's attention it was granted immediately, leaving Darcy to her own devices. She would roll her eyes and move on most of the time but as the days went by Loki began to sense a shift in the pattern.

While he was mostly quiet during these exchanges Loki started to note that Darcy gravitated towards him in their discussions. She still sat in the same space she had always occupied (beside Jane and opposite himself) but she now began her conversations with Loki instead of the meek scientist with whom she had come to be working for SHIELD. And, unlike some of the other residents of the Tower, Darcy's topics of conversation were always meandering and interesting. The evening she had rapidly changed from a conversation about vegetarianism to animal worship to the Midgardian legends of Loki's 'children' had seen Barton almost lose his dinner. Loki had chuckled as he explained the true origin of the four results of his magical experimentation. No physical contact involved, thank you very much. He didn't know exactly why Darcy looked so relieved. It was only a few hours later that he began to realise that she might have directed that conversation on purpose.

Their fourth film was Hamlet. Darcy's mouth moved along with more of the lines, Loki noted. This play seemed to be her favourite. When he asked her why she just told him that she found the protagonist interesting. That he was essentially a 'good guy', he just went about doing things completely the wrong way but for the best of reasons. They didn't talk long after the film that night. Darcy didn't push and Loki didn't invite further conversation. Instead she excused herself, taking her hideous neon pink legwarmers with her as she retired to her quarters, the first room down the corridor. When Loki passed her door an hour later he could tell she was not asleep. The sounds of her tossing and sighing were clear even if he did not intend to listen in.

But he was secretly glad she had left him earlier than usual. Even if he had been ready for that conversation he would not have been having it with this mortal girl.

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He could still remember those conversations, every one of them. He always would. They had been her way of pulling him out of his shell. Of introducing topics and issues that the rest of their colleagues avoided. It had been a quiet kind of bravery. She would never be remembered for saving the world like the Avengers but Loki thought that she had showed more courage in those days than anyone else gave her credit for.

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Through no fault of his own Loki missed their next film night. The Avengers had been called to answer an alert. Nothing mortally serious but the lengthy battle against some Neo-Hydra members on the border of Austria had taken longer than anticipated. As a result Loki had returned to the Tower to find Darcy on their usual sofa, the screen showing that she had watched Richard II without him and had fallen asleep sometime either during or after the fact.

Loki felt a surge of irritation as Jane Foster ran to his brother and threw her arms around him before they both disappeared, not sparing a thought for the woman she proclaimed to be her closest companion. Each of the team went their separate ways, with only Banner showing concern for Darcy. However, in his post-transformation state he was unable to do anything for her besides turning off the television and nodding goodnight to Loki before disappearing into his own room. The friendship that had sprung up between Bruce and Darcy in recent weeks did not surprise Loki. They had the same dry sense of humour and, as Darcy watched the interactions between the two he realised that Darcy was far more intelligent than he had previously given her credit for. For a human her ability to grasp a basic knowledge of any subject matter was surprising.

What was even more surprising, however, was Loki's own relationship with the man. Most of the Avengers were still wary of finding themselves alone with Loki but Banner seemed to have no qualms. At the start their conversation had mainly been facilitated by Darcy but now Loki was able to discuss the merits of magic and science without her to guide them. She still participated though and he was glad she did. Her insight was always unique.

Just like her. Loki took in her appearance once more. She couldn't be comfortable the way she was contorted. He sighed and kneeled beside her on the floor. Wrapping a hand around her wrist Loki blinked and transported them into Darcy's bedroom. The girl instantly shifted her position and Loki smiled. His amusement was short lived as she arched her back slightly and for the first time he took a closer look at her attire.

Too late Loki realised that the black cloth on the living room floor had been her usual armour, her too large jumper. Tonight it would seem that Darcy was affected by the warmer evenings of summer. The top she wore instead did little to cover her figure. Darcy was far from the Asgardian ideal of a tall, willowy, blonde female form but Loki could not stop staring at the petite, curvy, brunette mortal sound asleep in front of him. The fact that he knew her innocent little smile had nothing on her sharp tongue and keen mind did not lessen her appeal in the slightest.

Never before had Loki had so visceral a reaction to any female. Just seeing her so close to him… He withdrew his hand from her wrist as if burned and clenched his fists by his side. He had never thought of Darcy this way before, as an attractive woman. He had never thought her unattractive but her age and her mortal condition had distracted him from what a truly stunning specimen she was.

And a specimen was what she had to stay, he told himself firmly. He was nearly one thousand years old, he could resist the physical allure of one mere mortal. Besides, this mortal woman was the closest thing he had to a companion and (dare he even think it?) friend he had now. She was the only being here to willingly seek out his presence at first and now she was starting to influence the behaviour of their other colleagues.

Yes, he decided, stepping out of the room quietly, he would simply ignore her physical charms. He was the God of Lies, after all, he could lie to them both about his admiration of her appearance.

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She was a mortal, armed only with her brains and Tony Stark's entertainment system, and yet she had stood toe-to-toe with the being who had tried to subjugate her realm. Even now she had that whisper of bravery. She let him see her at her most vulnerable. She trusted him implicitly.

In many ways she was far more courageous than he had ever been… would ever be.

Loki looked at the white of his skin against hers.

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He didn't remember exactly how it happened. One minute he had been fighting alongside Rogers and the next he was down, his shoulder searing with a pain he was unable to push aside. His magic was failing and that meant only one thing…

'It is silver,' he heard Thor shout above the noise of battle. 'We must return to Stark tower immediately.'

'You go,' Rogers shouted, 'Tony should be here in two minutes. We'll hold them back until then.'

Pain tore through his body as Loki felt himself being lifted by Thor but before his brother could take flight Loki felt a reverberation in the ground and found himself tumbling towards the earth once again. He lay in the sand, unable to do anything but pull himself behind a rock for shelter. To think that it had only been last night that he had arrived back from Austria. He hadn't even had a chance to apologise to Darcy for missing their film. He didn't like to think that now he might not get that chance. He was growing tired and his body felt heavy. Loki closed his eyes.

Time passed (seconds, hours or days? Loki could not tell) and eventually he found himself once again being lifted. Too weak to do anything but rely on his brother Loki drifted in and out of consciousness.

'Loki!'

The worried cry startled him out of his waking dreams and his weary eyes took in the sight of Darcy running towards them. Her concern was evident in the set of her mouth, her eyes flicking over his form nervously. Loki managed a weak smile at her before his eyes closed again.

This time, however, he did not lose consciousness completely. He could hear the discussion going on around him as though from far away.

'Couldn't leave… too many… New Mexico site… unprepared…'

'New Mexico!' Darcy's shriek was the loudest voice now, drowning out Thor. 'You should have… could have died… Frost Giant veins… adaptation…'

He heard only some of her words and could make no sense of them. Loki only knew that he was being moved now, hurriedly. He heard Darcy's light footsteps in front of him and the sliding of a door. He felt himself being handed from one person to another, a softer, infinitely more feminine form helping to lower him to sit against the wall. He felt the weight of his armour begin to fall away as he was rid of his cape and arm braces, his thick jacket and his boots. The sound of water beginning to trickle was the only warning he got before he was shocked by the pounding of the cold spray.

His eyes shot open.

Darcy was there, kneeling between his legs on the tiled floor as the cold water rushed over them both. She was getting soaked too, her normally wild curls plastered flat against her cheeks, her office clothes clinging to her skin. The look in her eyes was so intent, so focused that it distracted Loki momentarily from the searing pain in his shoulder. She winced as he gasped in pain, trying to twist the wound away from the path of the water. And it was only when she placed her small hands over the bullet hole that Loki realised what Darcy was seeing.

The white of her skin was shocking against the blue of his. He looked past her to the glass door and his own wide, surprised and terrifyingly red eyes stared back. He looked down at the floor as shame flooded him. Not long ago he would have wanted this little mortal to run screaming from him, to fear him. But now… That was an entirely different matter.

The warm pressure of her hand under his chin came as a shock. Darcy gently forced him to look at her. Just like that first meeting there was no judgement but there was a lot more concern. It was blinding to look at.

'Don't,' she begged as Loki tried to turn his head away once more, 'please don't.'

'You don't want to see the monster, Darcy,' he rasped, his voice hoarse.

Loki had to force himself not to move away when her hand moved from grasping his chin to tracing the raised lines of his cheeks. Her gaze was steady despite the spray of the water around them both. 'I only see you.'

Loki was too tired to process the strange interaction and instead allowed Darcy to continue her path down his neck and over his collarbones. And all the while her dark blue eyes remained fixed on his.

'Darcy? I have brought the healer…'

Though he turned his own head to look at his brother Loki was very aware that Darcy's gaze remained fixed as she addressed the nervous looking young man behind Thor. 'There's a bullet lodged in his right shoulder.'

She moved aside to let the man retrieve the piece of silver from his body but Loki was grateful that she did not leave. As soon as the bullet was free Loki felt his magic surge through him. His flesh knit together seamlessly and his skin faded back to its usual ivory.

And when Darcy smiled Loki knew that it was because he was well, not because he was no longer blue.

He was still weakened from prolonged exposure to the silver. Loki allowed Thor to help him to the bed (Darcy's apparently, Loki knew that her quarters were the closest to where she had encountered them) and sat down heavily. He had enough strength left to dry his garments though Loki regretted that he didn't have enough to do the same for Darcy. She left him briefly to change into her own dry clothes but she returned only minutes later with her hair still damp.

'You will get sick,' he warned her, though she merely shrugged. Loki had never felt indebted to anyone before and knew it must have shocked Darcy when he muttered quietly, 'thank you.' She shrugged again, as if she had done nothing of consequence. 'How,' he paused, unsure, 'how did you know how to help me?'

Her answer was simple and her tone even. 'Thor says that pure silver affects your magic. Like the cuffs Fury had made when… when we first met.' He ignored her tactful interpretation of events and nodded for her to continue. 'Thor also said that this appearance,' she nodded somewhere in the direction of his chest, 'was "instinctual magic", that you did it without realising. When you got here you were burning up. Jotunheim is freezing and wet, right? Frost Giants have adapted to their own conditions, they aren't exactly built for the desert heat. So I figured that you usually regulate your body temperature and respiratory system to warm, dry conditions without realising it. If all your magic was taken from you and you couldn't do that…'

I would overheat and suffocate, Loki realised. Darcy Lewis, politics student and self-proclaimed 'paper work girl' had seen something that neither Thor nor Loki (in his weakened state) had been able to see.

Loki had almost forgotten that his brother was still in the room until he excused himself to check on the rest of the team, their arrival foretold by the disembodied voice of Tony's man-made helper. But Darcy stayed by his side as he finally succumbed to the fatigue brought about by the fight and his injury.

When the morning light stole through the room Loki awoke to find her still curled in the chair beside him, her eyes closed and her breathing even.

And he felt more than a little guilty about stealing her bed.

But she had stayed. He couldn't be sure but by the look of it Darcy hadn't moved since he fell asleep last night. Yet another thing to be grateful for, he thought with a wry smile as he closed his eyes again.

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He was still grateful to her for staying with him, even when she had seen his true nature. But her acceptance of him went so far beyond just accepting his heritage. She understood him. And that had been the real turning point.

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The next time he opened his eyes Darcy's were staring right back at him.

'Morning,' she rasped, her voice slightly rough with sleep. 'How're you feeling?'

Loki rolled his shoulder experimentally. It was completely healed but his body felt heavy and his brain still a little foggy. 'Drained,' he admitted, watching as concern flickered over her face once more. It was such an expressive face, so easy to read. Never before had he found that an attractive quality. Asgardian women were meant to be aloof. He had never trusted them, but he trusted Darcy. He idly wondered how and when that had happened. 'How long was I exposed to the silver?'

Darcy shrugged. 'I don't know. I haven't seen any of the others apart from Bruce. He came in to check on you about an hour after you fell asleep. And what he remembers is… not always accurate.'

Loki nodded. 'I'm sorry to have kept you from the rest of your friends.'

The look she gave him was amusement and incredulity. 'They're good. It's you I was worried about.' He shouldn't have been surprised by her statement but he was. He had expected to feel gratitude towards the young mortal but what Loki hadn't been prepared for was the rush of heat that flooded his skin when she brushed her hand against his forehead. 'Much better,' she declared.

Darcy excused herself in search of food and Loki was left to his own devices. He tried to process everything that had happened yesterday. Not the fight (that had been taken care of by the sound of it) but Darcy and her actions.

He had known she was unusual but the fact that she hadn't run from him made her unique. Even Thor had been taken aback the first time he saw him in his natural form. But Darcy had known instinctively what to do to help him and had never showed any sign of disgust or even alarm at his appearance. It was entirely possible that her quick actions had, in fact, saved his life.

Loki allowed his magic to slip away from him. He looked down at his blue skin. How was it possible that Darcy wasn't disgusted by this, by him? How could she possible accept without thought what Loki could not accept about himself? He sneered. He was a monster, regardless of what some little, meaningless mortal thought.

He let the magic creep back as he heard her footsteps approach. She pushed the door open with one hand, balancing a tray of food on her hip.

'Everyone else is still asleep,' she said quietly, making her way over to him. 'Do you mind if I…' she nodded in the general direction of the mattress and Loki slid over a few inches, allowing Darcy to join him. She placed the tray on her lap and gestured to the extra plate. 'Eat,' she said gently, 'you need to build up your strength again.' It was said with such innocence but Loki noted the blush that stole over her face as she realised what her words had sounded like. As Darcy was wont to do, however, she changed the topic. 'So are you totally wiped or could you watch another movie?'

Loki shrugged and Darcy beamed. Two hours later he found himself rehashing plot details of Henry IV Part 1 with the beautiful woman still sitting beside him on her bed.

'I think it's an awesome play.' Darcy had made her opinion on the matter very clear, several times. But Loki still wasn't convinced.

'It is not realistic.'

Darcy laughed. 'Yes it is. It's way more realistic than most of his other work.'

'It would never work,' he argued, 'one great act of valour does not negate a lifetime of disappointments. The entire premise of the character is completely absurd.'

'I think you have more in common with Hal than you realise.'

Loki thought to laugh but Darcy's expression stopped him. It was as if she had finally found the missing piece she had been searching for, as if everything she was considering had slotted into place. It was a dangerous look.

'I'm serious,' she said, her gaze never wavering as she turned to face him straight on. 'Sometimes I think I know you better than you know yourself.'

Loki narrowed his eyes at her. 'Careful, mortal.'

'Oh, cut the crap with the "mortal" bullshit. You haven't called me that in weeks.' She was either very brave or very stupid to talk to him in such a manner, but Loki would listen to what she had to say before he reached a conclusion on that matter. 'You've always been second.'

That caught Loki's attention. He frowned but let her continued. 'To Thor, to the good of Asgard, it doesn't matter. It made you resentful and so you tried to put yourself first, to rule.'

Loki stared at the dark haired woman revealing the motives that even Odin hadn't been able to see. He had called Loki's attempt to rule madness, he had never understood what Darcy was revealing as if she had known all along.

And perhaps she did. He remembered that she had mentioned being the youngest child of five. He remembered that Tony had casually remarked one day that by the time Darcy came along it was a wonder her parents had any love left for her. Darcy hadn't said anything but he could see the tightening of her smile in response. He had seen himself how Darcy came second to Thor in the eyes of her best friend. How she ranked bottom of the food chain at SHIELD and how she hid these facts with self-deprecating humour but without complaint.

Darcy was still talking, her hands waving as her voice increased in both volume and passion. But Loki didn't hear her words. He had come to his own, much more startling revelation. He had always come second, Darcy was right about that, but what she had failed to (or was too afraid to) mention was that it wasn't the case now. From visiting him when no one else would, to watching films, to caring for him last night, she… Darcy had always put him first.

He was left reeling. Here was a woman who accepted him, truly accepted him. And that was all he had truly wanted, all he had ever wanted.

She was standing up, getting ready to leave. Loki grasped her wrist quickly and say the shock in her expression as she looked at him. 'I…I'm not second with you.'

Darcy sat down again, cautiously. 'No,' she said, her voice suddenly small and quiet. 'You never were, especially not now.'

He could see what she could not say yet. That she was falling in love with him. He hoped that she could see that the feeling was entirely mutual. Admitting that fact to himself was both terrifying and oddly freeing.

'Darcy,' he said, lifting a hand to her cheek. She shivered at the contact, though he knew his skin to be a normal temperature. Loki leaned in a gently pressed his lips to her forehead. When he pulled back her dark eyes looked at him questioningly. It was time someone put herfirst. And if that was to be his great act of redemption then he would be happy to do it.

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This time when she stirred those same dark blue eyes looked back into his.

'Good morning, love,' he said with a light chuckle as she pressed a kiss to his chest. Confessions of love had come easily to them after an initial period in which Loki insisted that he court Darcy as she deserved. She was the first and only woman he had ever, would ever love. She made him happy and Loki strove to do the same in return. That was his glorious purpose these days.

'Hi handsome,' she peppered kisses over his torso and over his neck, her breasts pressing against his chest as she moved closer to his mouth. Loki groaned as her lips finally met his. He would never tire of this, of her, of simply being together. Her tongue danced with his as he gently rolled Darcy over and pushed her into the mattress. Her hands found purchase on his shoulders as she wrapped her legs around his hips. She was still as beautiful and as passionate as she had always been. And no matter how many times they came together like this, it was never enough…

The sound from the next room halted both immediately. Loki sighed and lay back on the bed, resigning himself to the inevitable. Darcy smiled apologetically as she pulled her nightshirt over her head, kissing him briefly before leaving to investigate. Loki waited a grand total of ten seconds before conjuring his own clothes and following her.

She was standing by the window and all was once again quiet. From his wife's arms their daughter stared up at her. They had named her Kelda after the spring. Both she and her mother had been new beginnings for Loki. And now that Darcy had partaken of the apples he hoped that the ending would never come. He could not bear to live without her, without either of them.

Darcy looked up at him with an apologetic smile. Their new-born daughter had taken to interrupting her parents at the most inopportune of moments. But he saw the promise in Darcy's deep blue eyes, they had all the time in the world.

With her he was always first. But now, looking into her same blue eyes framed by little wisps of hair that were already darkened to his own black, Loki could concede that place. And somehow being second to the most important thing in their lives didn't seem so bad after all.

Author's Note

Alrighty…

This one shot was written after a request by Chuuulip. I have to admit it deviated significantly from where I originally wanted to take the story but I think it turned out nicely. I took the image of them having a child and ran with it but for some reason the story turned out to be more of an explanation of how they got to that point. I just got stuck on the idea that Loki had come second in everyone's eyes until Darcy. That that was one of the main reasons for his actions in The Avengers: he wanted to prove himself.

I couldn't resist throwing in a bit of Shakespeare, especially following the BBC's Hollow Crown. Tom Hiddleston was fantastic as Hal/Henry V. For those who haven't seen or read the play I hope I made their discussion self-explanatory.

As ever, I own nothing (sigh).

Announcement

I am currently planning another Loki/Darcy story. It will be in canon, with gods and Adgard and all that shebang. If you are interested please add me on author alerts. If you have any queries or suggestions, please PM me.