It's finally an update! Yay! Thank you so much to everyone who reviewed and encouraged me to write more. Life's been crazy lately but it's finally getting back to normal and I should be back to updating regularly. Thanks for sticking with me, you guys! =)

Jane Foster poured her third cup of coffee for the morning and surveyed her office, frowning as she noted Darcy's empty chair.


Erik Selvig glanced up from his laptop. ''Yes, Jane?''

''Have you noticed that Darcy's been acting a, lately?''

Erik rolled his eyes. ''You'd know better than me. She's alwaysbeen a little bit ''off'' in my opinion, but I haven't seen her much recently.''

''But that's just it, Erik,'' Jane began to pace. It seemed to help the caffeine circulate through her blood. ''Darcy keeps pulling this disappearing act. First, there was the other night at the bar where she met this guy who she's apparently very secretive about, and then yesterday she was acting pretty distracted then left quickly. And I called her twice this morning but just got her voicemail.''

Erik sighed. ''It's Sunday, Jane. Darcy's probably still sleeping. She's a young woman who likes to have fun. She's allowed to meet people and isn't required to tell you every detail immediately.'' His blue eyes softened. ''Just because this is our life,'' the older scientist waved a hand around to emphasize the charts, computers, and other various equipment, ''doesn't mean that it automatically has to be Darcy's, too.''

Jane sighed and stared down into her coffee cup. ''You're right, Erik,'' she admitted slowly after a few moments of considering his words, ''I guess I'm just a worrier.'' A soft smile crept across Jane's face as she added, ''I still really wish Darcy was here though. She makes much better coffee than you do.''

Erik was just about to reply when there came a very insistent knock at the door. Jane set down her mug and hurried over to answer it, immediately wishing that she hadn't once she saw just who had been knocking.

''Oh, God, not you again!'' She blocked the doorway with her small body, stretching out her arms protectively across the entrance to her office. ''What do you want now?''

The man in the suit raised his eyebrows, his general expression barely changing at all. ''It's nice to see you again too, Dr. Foster.''

''Erik!'' Jane yelled. The older man was at her side in a moment. ''Jane, what-'' he began, then stopped when he saw their visitor.

''What are you doing here, Agent Coulson?'' Dr. Selvig asked warily.

Coulson's face never changed, except for a slight twitch around his mouth that could either be interpreted as the beginning of a smile, or a grimace.

''Thank you both so much for the warm welcome,'' he said blandly. ''I'm here, as you both know, on behalf of SHIELD. I have a small matter that I would like to discuss with you, a matter with which I may require your assistance. May I come in?''

Jane, still blocking the doorway, hesitantly lowered her arms. ''You promise you won't take anything?''

Coulson nodded. ''For now.''

Jane exchanged a quick look with Erik, who nodded. She grudgingly moved aside and let the SHEILD agent in.

Darcy needed a shower and a cup of coffee. No, scratch that, she needed a pot of coffee. And possible a very good psychiatrist because she was certain that she was going a little crazy. She imagined how the initial conversation with a shrink might go. Well, Doctor, I'm feeling a little conflicted. I just recently learned that I've been sleeping with a Norse god who sometimes turns blue. Oh, the sex is fantastic. So why the conflict, you ask? Well, because he might be a tad unstable. He sort of tried to destroy an entire town. He's got some family issues. But mental instability and possible homicidal tendencies aside, he's really kind of awesome. That would go over so very well. Not.

The god in question was now sitting on the floor in Darcy's living room, going through all the books on her ''special'' shelf, where she kept all her favorite titles. He seemed rather engrossed in what he was doing. She watched closely as Loki picked up a copy of ''The Catcher In the Rye'', flipped through it, then closed the book with a sneer, mumbling something about ''whiny Midgardian adolescents.'' Darcy stifled a giggle and continued to watch him. Noting what was on the shelf, she assumed that next he would pick something like Sun Tzu's ''The Art of War'' or Machiavelli's ''The Prince.'' Instead, Loki surprised her as he pulled out a thin, flat children's picture book.

It was ''Where the Wild Things Are,'' one of the first printed editions, and Darcy's very favorite childhood story. He opened it and began to read. She observed him quietly for what seemed like hours, watching the changing expressions play across his face, his long fingers turning the pages. There was something so utterly sad and childlike about his demeanor, suddenly. He didn't look frightening, or imposing, or powerful. He looked like a lonely little boy sitting on the floor, reading a story. It made something inside Darcy's chest clench a little bit.

Loki closed the book, a puzzled look on his face.''What's up?'' Darcy asked him finally, breaking the quiet. She smiled. ''Did you like the story? It's great, huh?''

He frowned. ''It doesn't make sense. Why would a child seek out monsters?'' Darcy raised her eyebrows but didn't say anything. ''And,'' Loki continued, ''why would those monsters be so terrified that they would make a human child their king? Clearly, Max possessed a powerful hypnotic ability through which he could control-''

''Ok, buddy, cool it.'' Darcy put a hand up to stop him and tried hard to refrain from laughing. Maurice Sendak was probably watching from the Beyond and getting a huge kick out of this. She moved closer and sat down beside Loki on the floor. ''I guess when you think about it, you could probably look at this story a couple different ways. '' Darcy paused. How in the hell did you explain classic children's literature to a deity from another dimension? Maybe ask a librarian, but there didn't seem to be any around at the moment, so she would simply have to try her best.

''They have stories for children where you come from, right?'' she asked him. ''I mean, when you were little, like a gazillion light years ago or whenever, someone must have read to you.''

Loki nodded. ''Of course. But our stories were...different.'' A sudden, very pained look crossed his face. Darcy decided to try another approach, explaining, ''The little boy in the story just has a big imagination. He's mischievous and gets into trouble. So naturally, when he gets punished he's a little angry about it, and he pretends to be a monster because in his mind that's what he feels like. He imagines a world where he's the king, the baddest monster of them all.'' She paused and then smiled, adding, ''It makes sense, really, when you think about it.''

Loki seemed quite thoughtful for a few moments and considered everything Darcy had said before asking, ''But why would he leave? His actions make no sense. He's alienated and punished in his own world, so he journeys to another, enslaves its citizens and declares himself ruler, then decides what...go back to where he came from?'' Loki shook his head. ''Why do that, when he could stay a king?''

Oh dear, thought Darcy. She really needed that coffee, right now. ''Loki,'' she groaned, putting a hand on his arm, ''seriously, you're reading waaay to deeply into this. And look,'' she plucked the book out of his hands and flipped to the final few pages, ''see, Max gets lonely and tired of being the king. He doesn't want to play the game anymore, it stopped being fun. And ''he wanted to be where someone loved him best of all.'' He wasn't a monster. He wasn't a king. He was just a lonely, sensitive little boy who had a bit of a mischievous streak.''

Looking so deeply into her eyes that Darcy flushed and almost wanted to turn away, Loki asked, ''And what if you don't have a place like that? A place where someone loves you?'' She blinked and then struggled to her feet, unsure of how to answer. ''Well...then I guess you're just going to have to settle Because right now I think it's as good as you're going to get, my friend. We'll deal with your myriad of abandonment issues later, don't worry. Those are pretty common on this planet. And we've got lots of great self-help books. And alcohol. Alcohol always helps. But first coffee. And showers.''

Darcy turned to head back into the bedroom but paused a moment in the doorway. ''Do you...maybe...'' she fumbled with the hem of the oversized t-shirt that she'd thrown on after their earlier mattress romp. ''Do you want to stay here with me for awhile? Like, until you figure out what you're actually going to do while you're on Earth? I could help you maybe...assimilate. Teach you things about mortal life. You might wind up liking us more than you think.''

The god of Mischief closed the book and carefully set it back on the shelf. Then he got to his feet and faced her. ''I will most definitely consider it,'' he replied.

''Kay, well, while you're considering, I'm going to go get cleaned up. This has just all been a little...mind boggling.'' Darcy turned and walked into the bedroom.

He didn't say anything, he just nodded, his eyes following her as she disappeared through the doorway.

Darcy turned on the shower and climbed in, relaxing immediately under the heat of the water. She sighed deeply as she allowed it to soak into her weary muscles. A bit of a headache was still lingering from her overindulgence in wine the previous evening, but some aspirin and a cup of coffee would probably...

Her thoughts halted as she felt long fingers suddenly press against the sides of her head, followed by a deep, calming warmth. ''I thought that I might be able to assist you,'' a familiar, low voice breathed in her ear. ''You seemed to be in some discomfort.''

Darcy's stomach flipped. ''Yeah, thanks,'' she whispered. ''That feels a lot better.''

''Am I disturbing you?'' he asked, moving his hands from her head and trailing his fingers down her neck. ''Would you rather be alone?''

Absolutely not. She turned around slowly, swallowing hard. Darcy half-expected Loki to be invisible again, but he wasn't. He was still deliciously solid and beautiful with water sliding over the sharp planes of his face and down his body. She had the sudden urge to follow all those droplets of water with her tongue. Either Darcy wasn't being very transparent, or the god was reading her mind, because his eyes darkened with desire. ''No, you're not disturbing me,'' she answered, putting her arms around his neck and moved closer, pressing her wet body against his. Despite the heat of the water, there was a slight chill to Loki's skin that made every inch of hers tingle.

''You have such large, pretty eyes,'' he said, studying her face in that curious and intense way that he had.

''All the better to see you with, my dear,'' replied Darcy, smiling. ''It's nice to be naked in front of a guy who tells me that I have pretty eyes and is actually looking at my face.''

Loki smirked. ''Well, I was just starting actually. I planned on moving downward. Your forehead is rather unimpressive, so I began with your eyes, but let me continue.'' He stroked her cheek then pressed a finger against her mouth. ''You also have very soft, very full lips.'' He moved his face closer, his mouth hovering desperately near, almost touching but not quite as both his hands traveled down Darcy's body, one stopping to cup her breast, the other sliding still lower until it came to rest between her legs, pausing hesitantly. Darcy gave a little moan and shifted her hips forward a bit as her lips hungrily met his. She ached for him. He gently bit her lip and rolled a thumb over her tight nipple, the fingers of his other hand beginning to stroke her clit, teasing her before sliding inside of her, moving in a maddening rhythm. Darcy was sure she was about to go insane. How did he always manage to do this to her, to create this intoxicating mix of fear, exhilaration, and violently burning desire?

Her mouth moved away from his and she leaned back and braced herself against the shower wall, pulling Loki with her. He pressed his forehead against her and their gazes locked. The embrace was so intimate, suddenly, that Darcy wasn't sure if she wanted to close her eyes or look more deeply into his. But she left them open, let herself take in the moment. ''Don't leave me,'' she found herself whispering, though she wasn't even sure why she'd said those words. But regardless of why, he responded with intensity, lifting her easily and allowing her to wrap her legs around his waist and bring him inside her. She supposed that was his answer. And with every frenzied movement of their bodies, they were both assured that they weren't alone. That they both belonged.

''Thank you for the coffee, Dr. Foster,'' Agent Coulson said, setting his cup down onto the table.

Jane nodded wearily. ''You're welcome. But I really still don't see why you're here. I've told you, I have gone over all of the data from this particular event hundreds of times. I've calculated and recalculated and second guessed and tried to figure every existing angle. It was an Einstein-Rosen bridge, and by all accounts something or someone should have passed through it but there was no evidence. Nothing tangible.''

Coulson nodded. ''Of course. I don't doubt your competence as a scientist or a researcher, far from it. Let me simply suggest yet another angle from which to see this event. What if someone did travel to Earth via the bridge but knew how to deliberately conceal the fact that they did so?''

Erik shook his head. ''That's impossible.''

''Even if it was possible,'' added Jane, running a hand through her hair, ''who would have that kind of ability? And why would they be using it? That's not a very comfortable thought.''

Coulson took a long sip of his coffee and nodded slowly. ''No, Dr. Foster, it is not a comfortable thought at all.''