A/N: Another fic, guys! It's not my usual genre, but I hope you like it nonetheless.

*IMPORTANT: Italics represent the present day.

Disclaimer: Thor and its characters belong to the Marvel universe and its creators. This plotline, however, belongs to me.

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If He Be Worthy

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"If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger." - Emily Brontë

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Pain—deep, horrifying pain—was ignorable, but only to an extent. It crippled, it agonized, but physical pain could be numbed, if the mind was strong enough. If one could detach the mind from the body, one could almost withstand anything.

But when it was the pain that was numbing the soul, what was one to do?

Loki stares, almost disbelievingly, at the sight before him. His wretched heart—never had he felt so aware of his heart before. It thudded violently, beating against his chest, against his will, twisting and screaming and curling in everlasting, ceaseless agony.

He steps forward, drawing down until his knees were pressing against a carpeted floor, and grasps a small, freckled hand in his.

"Darcy."

x

"Hey."

Loki glanced up from his drink, surprise written in his eyes. A girl with long, tousled brown hair and glasses too large for her face was standing beside him, one hand placed on her hip.

"Yes?" he replied slowly.

The girl sucked in a breath, but her voice remained impassive. "A bunch of us are going to Tony's tomorrow."

Loki blinked, not understanding the relevance of her words. Why on earth was this chit of a girl speaking to him? He briefly glanced over her shoulder, watching the rest of the dream team celebrating and laughing with their own drinks in hand. Thor's face was the picture of joy, as he clanged mugs with the rest of the Avengers and began downing it at rapid speed. Naturally, he finished first.

Loki returned his attention back to the girl beside him. She was twisting her mouth to the side, a nervous habit perhaps. The fingers on her hip were starting to fidget with the fabric there, but her stance and her stare remained resolute.

"And?"

"I'm inviting you."

Loki raised his eyebrow, not knowing how to respond. "Just come, okay?" she said with a shrug. "It'll be fun."

The girl didn't wait for a response and spun on her heel, returning to the party of heroes and sliding into a booth next to a coworker. He wished he could have stated clearly that her ideas of fun were far and vastly different from his, and that he would never set foot in any habitat belonging to the man of iron ever again.

As he continued to watch the girl, her eyes flickered up and caught his. She shifted a little, but did not look away from. Loki slowly raised the glass to his lips, swallowing the alcohol quickly, burning his throat as it the liquid traveled down. His gaze never left hers. She blinked and looked away, returning her attention back to the companion beside her.

Curious.

x

The girl was blushing, but she merely raised an eyebrow when she saw him.

"Well, well. Who knew you'd be sharp dresser?" she smiled, shifting her weight onto one leg. Loki smirked, crossing his arms.

"I assume you haven't seen the footage of my presence in Germany." Darcy didn't reply, but her eyes flickered over his clothes once more, before returning to his face.

"Yeah, I had an exam that week. Sorry."

Her tone was dry and not sorry at all, but mirth was dancing in her eyes. Compelled by her brazenness, Loki's gaze traveled down her attire, finding it incredible of how much she hid from the world with her sweaters and boots; but given the way she looked in the dark blue dress right now, it was understandable why she wished to keep herself hidden. He noted how she began to fidget under his gaze, twisting her mouth unsurely again. Giving her reprieve, Loki glanced around Tony's house, noting the sharp looks he was receiving every once in a while. He did not notice how Darcy continued watching him quietly.

He felt a small hand wrap around his forearm, and Darcy began to pull him aside. "Come on, we have to raid Stark's booze. I hear it's legendary."

He said nothing as she pulled him along gently, warmth emanating from the hand on his arm. The mini bar was isolated, as most of the occupants were in the lounge with drinks already in their hand and Tony Stark was making a spectacle of himself in front of Captain Rogers, spouting words of condescension and irony. Loki's face hardened, anger brimming at the surface of his thoughts. How he despised them all.

His thoughts were cut short when Darcy suddenly let go of him, and looped around the bar and took out two glasses. Loki began to follow behind when she looked up sharply and held up her hand. "Ah-ah. Stool, now."

Loki frowned deeply. "Do not presume you can command me, girl."

She swallowed, a sliver of uncertainty reflecting in her blue eyes, she but shrugged lightly. "I'm not; I just want you to have the authentic bar experience. I'm a master at this, and I like my customers behind the table." Her expression faltered when he continued to frown and she sagged a little, her voice lowering. "Lighten up, will you? I just want to make the drink for you."

Loki gave her a lengthy look before turning around and seating himself on the bar stool. She smiled a little, and began bustling around once more, shaking a canister and mixing liquids together.

"My dad used to bartend," she began conversationally, "so I picked up a few things here and there. Not that he knew, mind you."

"A child with a taste for mischief? How endearing."

Darcy looked up uncertainly, but began to grin. "Yep, that was me. Trouble-maker to the core." She placed a bottle down and dropped a crystalline glass in front of him. "That's my own creation. I call it Whiplash, courtesy of Darcy Lewis."

Loki looked at the drink hesitantly then back at her. She was already drinking from her glass, a slight grimace in tow. Slowly he brought the glass to his lips, and let the cool beverage slide down his throat.

Loki's eyes widened in surprise, and Darcy remained still as she eagerly watched his reaction. A myriad of flavors greeted his tongue, spicy yet sharp and cool and tasteful, bursting with life in his mouth. Loki gave her a praising look. "Right?" Darcy grinned, hopping down next to him. "It kicks ass, right?"

"You created this yourself?" Loki asked disbelievingly.

Darcy straightened proudly. "Absolutely. I should sell it or something."

"Perhaps," Loki agreed mildly. Loki watched her for a moment, his face slipping back to one of appraisal.

It made her nervous once more, and she took a generous gulp of her drink. Clearing her throat, she spoke, "You know, here on earth, it's considered rude to stare."

"I'm sure it is." Loki swirled the liquid in his glass. "I could say the same."

Darcy blinked, then looked away. After a while she cleared her throat. "Guess we should move to another planet, then. We suck at following social norms."

x

Electric blue eyes stare at him. For a moment he sees something, something that makes his heart leap.

She smiles and covers their entwined hands with her own. "You're a beautiful boy," she whispers, and the corners of Loki's lips begin curling up.

"A beautiful boy for an even more beautiful girl," he whispers back, his fingers tightening around hers.

x

The next time he saw Darcy was four weeks later.

He had taken to wandering about the streets of New York, his patience often wearing thin when confronted with his current living situation with Thor. His attempts at reconnecting with Loki were inexplicably boring.

The streets were littered with remnants of cigarettes and tinted glass chips. They crunched under his boots, fragmenting more and more with each successive step. He'd grown accustomed to the dank air and the perpetual smell of smoke in the city, though he made sure to conceal himself with his magic while roaming. Apparently frightening the persistent street vendors by turning their carts into pythons was frowned upon in Midgard.

As he crossed an alley he heard a loud crash, and he would not have paid heed if the shrill voice that followed did not sound in his ears.

"You can go fuck yourself!"

Loki froze, turning his head to peer into the alleyway. Two dark figures were shuffling roughly further down, one of the silhouettes strikingly familiar. He backtracked and turned into the alley sharply.

Darcy was pressed roughly against a brick wall by her throat, her limbs thrashing wildly. A look of pure fury on her face, her lips peeled back to growl angrily at the offender and her knee rose up quickly and jammed into the man's groin. He staggered back, before swinging his hand back and connecting with Darcy's cheek.

In less than three seconds Loki stood in front of the man, dragged him by his neck, and crashed his head against the adjacent wall. Darcy let out a short scream, and it was only then that he realized he was still hidden. Quickly he allowed his magic to drop, revealing himself. Darcy looked at him with wide eyes, her mouth parted as she panted in fright. Loki took a step toward her and she shrunk back, pressing more firmly against the wall. Loki paused, raising his hands slightly.

"I will not hurt you," he said, keeping his gaze firmly on her eyes. They looked troubled, and she swallowed.

"Is he dead?" her voice shook slightly.

Loki glanced at the unconscious man lying on the ground and shook his head. "No."

She did not reply, merely glanced at the incapacitated man and then looked away quickly. Her eyes flitted to Loki briefly before she stepped away from the brick building wall and bent down to retrieve a bag, presumably the one the mugger was aiming to steal.

"You didn't have to do that," she muttered.

Loki blinked. Darcy slung the bag over her shoulder and brushed her clothes, crossing her arms over her chest. "Thanks anyway, though."

"Are you ill?" Loki spat incredulously.

Darcy blinked. "I had my taser, I was going to use it just before you came," she countered defensively, showing proof by pulling it out of her layers of clothing.

"Stupid, foolish girl!" Loki hissed, quickly becoming angry, "you think that would make a grand difference? What if he disarmed you? What then?"

"Are we seriously going into self-defense one-oh-one right now?" Darcy snapped, marching up to him. "Why do you care, anyway? Isn't this sort of thing beneath you?"

Loki's eyes narrowed to slits. "Of course," he sneered softly. "My mistake. I must remind myself to remain apathetic when vile men strike against a woman."

He made an angry, dismissive gesture with his hand, and saw Darcy flinch from the corner of his eye. Loki froze, slowly bringing his hand back down as Darcy tucked a lock of hair behind her ear and looked away.

The girl was still very much frightened, that much he could ascertain. Her mouth was pressed in a firm line as she struggled for composure, though he could see her trembling.

Loki sighed, pressing his fingers to his forehead. Quietly, he held out his hand, giving her a quick glance. "Come, child. We must leave now."

Darcy narrowed her eyes at him, folding her arms over herself and remaining silent. Loki looked at her. "I will take you home."

He did not know what she was looking for when her eyes moved calculatingly over him. She was a frustrating mystery, and she pursed her lips as she glanced away from him, and Loki knew she would not come.

Thus, he was surprised when suddenly he felt a chilled hand close around his, and looked down to see Darcy standing beside him. She cleared her throat.

"I live five blocks away. Where—"

"I know," Loki said simply.

"You know?"

Loki smiled at the skepticism in her expression. "I know the whereabouts of every member of S.H.I.E.L.D., including yours."

"Huh," Darcy had a faraway look. "Does that mean you know where Fury lives too?"

The slow smile was enough of an answer, and Darcy chuckled. "Well that should be interesting," she murmured. Her expression grew troubled. "Are you just going to…leave him there?" She was looking pointedly at the man still unconscious on the ground. Loki's gaze darkened. "No. He will receive due punishment from your authorities." Without explaining any further, he wrapped one arm around Darcy's waist, causing her to gasp.

"What are you—" her voice drowned out as the world swirled into one dizzying color, her body floating weightlessly as she threw both arms around the solid form of Loki's torso and squeezed tightly. Her feet touched ground and it was only then that she realized her eyes were shut, fingers locked around Loki and her breathing shallow. Hesitantly she cracked an eye open, shuddering when she found herself standing in her bedroom.

"Don't you ever," Darcy began, her voice shaking, "do that to me again." Stomach roiling, Darcy closed her eyes again and breathed deeply through her nose, vainly trying to restore her shattered equilibrium.

Next to her, she felt Loki sigh. "I assumed you would appreciate returning to your home as quickly as possible."

"Warn me next time, at least!" Darcy looked up at him contemptuously. Her fury began ebbing away at the nameless expression in his eyes, and she noticed his hand was running soothingly down her back, trying to help stabilize her. She realized she was still clinging to him tightly, and quickly detached herself and unwound her arms, ducking her head and stepping away. She cleared her throat and tucked her hair behind her ear, straightening. "Well, um, thanks anyway. It was…nice of you."

She nearly smiled at the sour expression on his face. Clearly 'nice' was not one of the words used to describe him very often.

"Of course," he replied smoothly. He turned to leave, but hesitated. His eyes flitted over her, a conflicted expression on his sharp features. "Should you ever need me," he began, the word coming out softly, "you need only pray."

Darcy was speechless. Loki accepted her silence, then stepped closer and pressed his fingers against her swelling cheek where the mugger had struck her. She hissed, but sighed slowly and closed her eyes when a tingling spread through her skin, blanketing it with relief.

He vanished, and Darcy was left standing in a mixture of confusion and dawning sorrow.

x

It was surprising, how much the girl set his teeth on edge.

Had he still been on his homicidal streak, Loki was certain that she would not receive such mercy from him. She was infuriating, with her sly looks and dry remarks and unfiltered assessments of his every mood. More than once he had yelled at her, mocked her, and teleported away from her, unable to look at her completely open expression. She did not retaliate or mock him, or make him feel degraded. But she spoke, and she spoke her mind and she spoke it honestly, and it was not something he was used to.

After the incident in the alley, he spotted her more and more frequently at the S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters. Her winning smile in place, she resumed her daily schedule without preamble. That was, of course, until her eyes found his.

Her blue eyes brightened, and she casually strolled up to him. "Loki," she greeted. She held up her hand, holding out a foam cup. "Sustenance."

Loki stared at her, frowning. "It's regular," she informed, holding it closer to him. "I was pretty sure you weren't a caramel macchiato kind of guy, or an iced coffee guy either. So…" she shrugged a little. "There it is."

"There it is," he echoed, though he was a little amused at her eagerness. While her expression remained casual, her eyes told an entirely different story. Finally he accepted the cup and tilted it to his lips, feeling the hot liquid pass down his throat.

"Hey, it's burning hot, don't drink it just yet!" she exclaimed. Loki rolled his eyes.

"As if temperature is a problem for me," Loki answered dryly. He licked his lips slowly and assessed the drink. "It is adequate."

Darcy blinked, and then a smile spread on her face. "I think that's Asgardian for 'it kicked ass'."

Loki indulged her with a smile, and tipped down his head. "Thank you, Darcy Lewis."

Darcy stilled, her eyes going wide and a faint rise of color staining her cheeks. "You're welcome," she muttered, and Loki noticed how she was twisting her mouth to the side again, looking anywhere but him.

A grin began spreading on Loki's face. "Do I make you nervous, Darcy?"

Darcy glared at him, her cheeks flushed even more. "What, from you?" Her eyes roved over him appraisingly, and Loki scowled. "Nope," she crossed her arms over her chest. "Enjoy your drink."

She strode away, hips swinging angrily, and for once, Loki found himself enjoying being infuriated.

x

She smiles, and it is genuine and exactly as he remembers.

"I think this beauty has faded," she admits, shaking her head disbelievingly and lifts one hand to pat gently on his cheek. "Though you are quite a charmer!" Loki's smile falters.

"Darcy?"

x

Like many of their encounters, the first time Loki and Darcy kissed was entirely Darcy's doing.

It was after Loki had taken her away from another S.H.I.E.L.D. worker who had been teasing with her. It was an amiable conversation, but as he was walking to the exit of the building, his eyes caught the movement of her flinching when the man she was speaking with patted her on the shoulder.

It was a sudden, involuntary movement on her part, and distress was evident in her body language. Loki was at her side in an instant, and said to the fellow agent, "That will be all, now. Leave."

He looked at Loki and Darcy in confusion, and seemed to want to put up a fight, but Darcy was already turning towards Loki and Loki was giving her a strange look, and the agent grumbled something and walked away in consternation.

"I'm fine," she scowled.

"I know. Let's go."

She stepped away, putting her hands on her hips. "I'm serious! I was having a nice conversation."

"I could see that."

Darcy's eyes narrowed. "Stop that. Stop acting like you know me, or know what's going on in my head. I'm can handle myself. I am handling myself." Loki continued to stare at her, and it seemed to irk her even more. "Stop looking at me like that! Just—just leave me alone." Her lower lip began to tremble and she bit it quickly, looking away. Loki waited. Darcy ran a hand through her long hair, messing it a little. "Let's go," she sighed.

It wasn't something he did every time, but taking Darcy home had become frequent over the past weeks—as was smiling around her, and accepting the coffee she would get him, and taking their lunch breaks together. It confused S.H.I.E.L.D. why he was tolerant of her, when he was nothing short of scathing to the rest of them. He still refused to converse freely with his own brother, and yet he had a soft spot for the brunette with the large rectangle glasses. It confused Darcy's friends, it confused Fury, and it confused Loki—but for some remarkable reason, it did not confuse Darcy too much. Perhaps because she did not dwell too long on simple things like this, and simply accepted it.

He walked with her to her apartment, and said his goodbyes before teleporting to his own home. He tried to ignore the many looks she'd given him during their walk, some discreet, others blatant and curious. It was becoming a habit of hers—but if he was honest with himself, it was a habit of his own as well.

It was precisely then, while he was contemplating on when he had lost control over his life, that he heard her.

It was chanting, persistent, and desperate; words that were strung together in loops and resonating loudly in his head. It was the first time in centuries that someone called for him, and he recognized the owner of the voice immediately.

Darcy was praying to him.

Loki was in her apartment instantly, his blood pounding and ready for battle. His eyes darted around the living room, trying to find the source of Darcy's frenzied prayer, but found nothing.

Suddenly, pounding steps came down the stairs, and Darcy was standing at the foot of the last step, her cheeks flushed and her eyes wild and wide.

"Are you alright?" he asked quickly, moving closer.

"You came," she breathed, surprised. "You actually came."

He didn't understand, only continued to look at her disbelievingly. She grinned and let out an incredulous laugh, and then she was very close to him. He went very still, looking equal parts wary and frightened. "I didn't think you would come."

"Of course I did," Loki said bluntly. "I told you how to call for me, did I not?"

Darcy nodded. "I just…" she closed her eyes, inhaling deeply. "You're not anything that I expected."

Loki did not know what to say to that, so he waited for her to continue. He noted that she started trembling, and he grew concerned when she opened her eyes and saw moisture gathered in them.

"I haven't been able to get over it. The night in the alley." Darcy looked away, trying to regain her composure but struggling. "It's stupid, I know. People go through worse. But I'm—I'm not a city girl, and I don't know what to do with myself anymore, and I keep remembering it. I felt so helpless, and I know I have a big mouth and a big ego and said I would've tasered him but you were right—what if he had knocked it away? He was stronger and—and if you hadn't showed up—"

"But I did," Loki interjected, not finding any pleasure in seeing the young girl so distressed. "I will always come."

"Why?" she sounded almost accusing, though mostly desperate. "Why would you always come for me? Why are you so nice to me?"

Loki stared at her for a long while before answering, "I don't know."

Darcy shuddered and wiped her eyes, before stepping close to Loki so that her hands rested on his shoulders. Throwing caution to the wind, she pressed her lips soundly against his.

His hands clutched to the sides of her waist, feeling the warmth of her skin and her body pressed against him. She broke the kiss and looked up at him, their breaths mixing together.

His fingers tightened around her waist, his heart leaping and plummeting all at once. "I think," he said quietly, "that you are confused right now."

Darcy looked up at him sharply. "No, Loki," she said, and his heart immediately twisted at the words that had burned him so long ago, "you're the only thing in my life that doesn't confuse me." She placed her hand against his cheek, forcing him to look at her. "You knew why I flinched today at work. You always know. It's with everyone—Jane, Hawkeye, Steve—hell, I wanted to claw Thor's eyes out when he hugged me yesterday. But not with you," she tilted her head inquisitively. "Never with you."

She kissed him again, and this time he did not care.

x

"Darcy?" he repeats.

"Yes, child?"

Loki stills at the words, feeling something twist in his gut. "Do…do you know who I am?" he asks very slowly, fear filling inside of him.

She pauses. "Should I?"

x

Her skin is warm under his fingers, trailing down the curve of her hip.

Loki didn't know how long he'd been doing this, just that it soothed him. She was curled towards him, bare flesh twined around his, her warm breath puffing evenly against his shoulder. Her hair was wild, much like she had been hours ago. He could still feel her teeth against his neck when he'd moved inside of her, trying futilely to stop from crying out. He did not like that, and had tugged on her hair and pounded into her harder, eliciting a loud scream.

A part of him wanted to leave. He could feel something swelling in his chest, overwhelming him and confusing him as he lay in the tangled sheets next to Darcy. The part in him that was frightened and wary of affection was cowering…but the other part, the one that was desperate and starved for it, was rejoicing.

"You will be the end of me, Darcy Lewis," he whispered, almost angrily, as he stroked her face. The corners of her lips turned up.

"Right back atcha, babe," she mumbled sleepily.

x

"Darcy, sweetheart," he leans closer, desperately grasping her hands. "I know it has been a long time," his eyes rove over her visage with a twinge of sadness, "but it's me, Loki. I've come back for you, darling. I passed, don't you see? I passed."

"Loki?" Darcy's wrinkled face frowns. "That's an odd name."

He freezes, and lets his hands fall from hers as he stands. His face is twisting in fury, and rage blinds his eyes. They would pay for this.

Beneath him, Darcy whimpers.

"I'm sorry," she says brokenly. "I'm always disappointing everyone. I'm sorry, I wish…I'm…"

Loki's heart cries and he is clutching her shoulders, pressing his forehead against hers. "Don't ever be sorry," he whispers. "I am not angry with you. Never you."

"Then who?" she asks breathlessly.

"My family."

x

"Loki?" Thor's voice was surprised, and a hesitant smile spread on his face.

Loki shifted uncomfortably, and grudgingly he replied, "Thor. I wish to speak with you."

Thor opened the door wider, moving to let him through. "Please, come in."

Loki stepped inside quietly, noting the relative spotlessness of his abode. "Is Jane here?"

"She is at work, still. She is very dedicated to her research," said Thor as he closed the door. Loki sauntered to the sofa, and took a seat. Thor sat across from him, clearing his throat. "What brings you here today, brother?"

Loki tensed, his fingers clamped tightly together. Thor's eyes flickered down to Loki's hands. "Loki—"

"I need to go to Asgard."

The words spilled out of his mouth quickly, and Thor blinked.

"Is something the matter? Tell me brother, what is wrong?" Thor leaned closer, and Loki turned to face him.

"I have been here on earth for two years," said Loki calmly. "I have made choices that many will never understand. But I need to go to Asgard, just as you will need to go soon."

Thor frowned, his brother's words filling him with shock. "Have you…fallen for a mortal?"

"No, I have fallen for a shoe—of course I have fallen for a mortal, you half-wit," Loki hissed. Thor's jaw tightened, but he let the insult slide as Loki visibly sagged.

They remained silent for a long moment. Loki closed his eyes, dropping his head against his hands.

"Then we must leave straight away."

Loki's eyes flew open, and he lifted his head to see Thor staring at Loki firmly. "You for your love, and I for Jane. We will go to Asgard."

Loki stood slowly, and watched as Thor called mjolnir to his side.

"That's it? You simply accept and will aid me in our return?"

Thor glanced at him, giving him a wry look. "If there is any fault in you, brother, it is your failing memory," said Thor with a half-grin. "Since you were able to walk, we have done everything together—fought, played, eaten, teased, and found ourselves in trouble with mother and father. What made you think marriage to our mortals would be any different?"

At this, Loki smiled, and saw warmth fill Thor's eyes.

x

Loki staggers on the bifrost, pushing past Heimdall.

"Loki," says Heimdall, but he is ignored. Loki shifts form, black wings transforming his arms and his body growing lighter as he launches into the air, arriving immediately in front of the palace. He shifts back to his normal form and throws open the doors.

Two figures sit in the throne room, and are startled at Loki's sudden arrival.

"Loki—"

Loki growls, silencing the room. "Your father has betrayed me, Thor."

x

"Stop, no—Loki, would you just listen?" Darcy exclaimed as Loki descended the stairs quickly.

"I cannot, Thor is waiting and we must leave immediately before the portal closes," Loki replied briskly.

"If this is about the accident—look! I'm perfectly fine!" she waved her bandaged arm encouragingly. "It's just a sprain, see! I'll get to take this stuff off in a week, and I'll be good as new."

Loki whirled around, causing Darcy to crash into his chest. "It is not fine," Loki growled quietly. "You were struck by a car. You hit your head, your hurt your arm and your leg, and I could do nothing. Do you understand how powerless this makes me feel? To have you by a thread, to lose you at the whim of your mortal lifespan?"

"My mortal lifespan?" Darcy asked slowly. "Loki…?"

Loki closed his eyes, breathing deeply. He reached out and held her by the arms, peering down at her deeply. His next words are quiet, desperate. "Do you love me, Darcy?"

"Yes," Darcy answered immediately, concern shining in her eyes when Loki swallowed.

"And would you… you would be willing to stay with me forever?"

Darcy inhaled sharply, eyes roving over his face. "Like Jane?"

"Like Jane," he confirmed, his heart beating rapidly. Darcy swallowed hard.

"Well…yes. Of course I want that. I want that." Loki exhaled, letting his forehead fall against hers. Darcy smiled wryly. "If this was your way of proposing, I need to show you some youtube videos of guys that proposed to their girlfriends in totally epic ways. This one was seriously weird."

Loki smirked. "When I am not pressed for time, I promise to do a better job." He crushed her to him, pressing his lips against hers in a frenzied, passionate kiss. "I will be back, sweetheart. It may take a little time, but I promise I will be back."

x

Thor watches him, rising slowly with gungnir in his hand. "I swear no such thing has been done to you." His eyes are saddened, filling with regret.

"Do not swear upon a lie," Loki screams. "I passed the test. I did as Odin asked; I fought for the right to deserve a place in Asgard once more and to have Darcy by my side. I did as he asked, and he left me with nothing." Loki glances at the woman beside Thor, whose eyes are bright with unshed tears. "And you did as he asked, and received your place on the throne with Jane, who is no longer mortal." Loki's eyes fill with hate. "Such justice."

"Is Darcy—is Darcy okay?" Jane asks meekly, her voice trembling with emotion. Loki glances at her, and his heart fills with rage.

"She is in a home. She has aged her years, all sixty of them that have passed on Midgard since my departure. On Asgard it is a blink of an eye, but you and I both know how time works differently." Loki's hands curl into tightened fists, his magic crackling around him. "And she does not remember me. She does not remember anything."

x

"My sons," the Allfather's voice rang out loudly, reverberating through Loki and Thor. "You have returned."

"Aye, Father," Thor began, his head bent in respect. "We have come to ask you of something of grave importance."

"I know what it is that you ask of," Odin replied. "You must know, that it will not be granted freely." Odin's good eye passed over to Loki. "You both must earn the price which you seek." Odin straightened. "I will speak with you frankly. Thor," Thor glanced up as he was addressed. "You are the rightful heir to the throne of Asgard, as my firstborn. You have shown humility and strength, and your banishment has deemed you worthy of your title, and of the hammer in your possession." His face grew stern. "It is not my decision to give you Idun's apple. You know the rules. She must earn it herself."

"Yes, Father."

Odin turned to his younger son. "Loki." Odin's voice is grave, yet clear. "You have been a worthy son to me from the beginning, but your own arrogance and disregard of human life has brought you shame. As of yet, you are not fit to be granted a place among the Aesir, no less with a wife." Loki's insides burned, and he looked up to stare at the man he once called father. Odin returned his gaze, if not more sadly. "However," he continued softly, "if you pass your own test, you will get what you seek. The same will apply to the mortal, Darcy Lewis."

Thor started next to him, giving Loki an inquisitive look at the familiar name. "Do you accept?" inquired Odin. Loki gazed at him, preparing himself for what was to come.

"I accept," said Loki.

x

Thor's eyes are shining with ghostly sadness, but Loki cares not. His heart is broken, but there is still a cure. "You will give me the apple, Thor. Odin has not kept his word, but as the new King of Asgard, you can."

"I cannot."

Jane glances between Thor and Loki, tears springing from her eyes.

x

It was torment. He was frozen solid and burned alive, but Loki willed the pain to go away, because he had a purpose. A purpose more powerful than whatever silly antics he'd tried against the people of earth, a purpose that filled him with hope.

But most of all, he withstood the pain because every day, in a constant hymn of love and devotion and equal pain, he heard her pray to him. Unfailingly, every day, Darcy prayed. And it warmed his heart once more.

x

"You cannot?" Loki repeats disbelievingly. "You cannot or you will not?"

"Both." Thor looks away, and Loki conjures a staff of his own, blasting him with untampered energy. Thor deflects it easily, and walks down the steps from the throne and throws gungnir aside. "Listen to me, brother."

"I am not your brother!" Loki's snarl bounces against the walls, echoing in the palace. "You mean nothing to me! I never thought the day would come where I would say it, but it is true. You are even worse of a king than Odin ever was."

"I cannot grant Darcy the apple because she did not pass."

Loki stops, his body going completely still. He is breathing shallowly, like a man who has run a thousand miles. "What?"

Thor is brimming with sorrow, his expression as broken as Loki's. "You passed your test, Loki. But that is not all that is required, you know this well." Thor walks back, collapsing against the throne once more. "Darcy did not pass her test. She cannot be Aesir."

x

He doesn't notice right away, not at first. There has been so much agony, that almost everything fades from his consciousness, Odin's test taking its toll on him. But after a long time, he finally noticed it, and he was unsure what to think.

Darcy was no longer praying to him.

x

"I am sorry, brother."

The words mean nothing. They are not hollow, but if Loki's heart is already hollow, they pass through him without effect.

Loki staggers a little as he turns around, and disappears from the palace.

x

When he was freed, he refused the bowls of water and the bath, the healers and the warriors, and fled immediately to Midgard.

The world had changed quickly, and it brought a rise of concern in him. How much time had passed, since his testing began? It had felt like days, perhaps a week. The pain was an eternity, but surely…surely not this much time.

The apartment Darcy lived in was vacated. Scraps of newspaper were littered on the floor. He checked her parents' house, and saw that a new family was now living there.

Desperate, he wrapped himself in the small reserve of his magic and went to a police department, then sifted through the archives. He found her name, and opened the file quickly.

His heart pounded in anguish, and he looked at the calendar perched on the wall.

Sixty years. He had been gone sixty years.

Loki closed the file and teleported in front of a vast lawn with a quaint building standing in the center. He transformed himself and his clothes, disguised as a regular citizen. The woman at the front desk of the building glanced up with a smile.

"May I help you?"

"I am here to visit Darcy Lewis."

"Darcy! Oh, she is such a sweetheart," the woman gushed. "Are you a relative?"

"A friend," he informed, smiling kindly.

"She's going to be so excited. She loves visitors."

The lady escorted him up a set of winding stairs, and led him on front of a door. "She's a little tired today; she just had her afternoon walk. But she's in high spirits, and she'll be thrilled to see you."

x

Loki flees Asgard once more, returning to Darcy's room in the nursing home. She is sleeping now, looking even smaller and frailer than he'd ever seen her.

It made sense, why she stopped praying to him. How could she pray to someone she could not remember?

He grabs a chair and sits next to the bed, watching her breathe evenly. Reaching out, he strokes her graying hair gently from her face. Darcy twitches, and opens her eyes.

"Loki!" she exclaims. Loki smiles a little.

"I'm here, darling."

"Did you see your family?" she shifts to sit up, but Loki places a hand on her shoulder and tells her to rest. Darcy sighs, and burrows a little in the pillow. "Were they nice?"

"No," he says quietly. "They were foul."

Darcy frowns. "You should let me talk to them," she says a little angrily. "How could anyone be unkind to you? You are perfect."

"As are you," says Loki, lifting the blanket to tuck her in more securely.

"Listen," says Darcy faintly, though her eyes are stern. "You have a whole life ahead of yourself. Handsome, strapping young man like you could win the hearts of every girl in town. Don't listen to your family—families aren't all they're made out to be. Go find yourself a pretty woman, have some babies, and live happily ever after."

"But I have a woman," Loki smiles, and watches a grin spread on Darcy's face.

"Who is it? You must introduce me to her!"

"I'm looking at her, darling."

Darcy blinks, and then begins to laugh. "Oh Loki," she swats him playfully. "You and your Asgardian ways."

Loki freezes, and Darcy is as mollified as him. "Loki," she says again, as if testing it on her tongue. "Loki…Loki…Oh my god."

"Darcy?" Loki sits on the bed, cupping her cheek. "Sweetheart?"

She surges forward and launches into him, clutching him as if he's her last life line. "Darcy," he says brokenly, holding her tightly.

"Oh my god," she sobs, her voice small and wizened and broken. "You came back for me, just like you promised. You came back."

"I said I would," he felt pinpricks in his eyes as he held her close, feeling her tremble against him. "I promised you."

"I'm sorry," she moved away, pressing a shaking hand to his cheek. "I'm so sorry. I—I didn't pass, Loki." Her face was twisting as a fresh wave of tears began rolling on her cheeks. "I didn't pass! I-I tried, but I couldn't remember things—the accident, before you left—"

"Ssh," he whispers, holding her close. "It's alright. It doesn't matter, I'm here and you're here, and that's all that matters."

"I'm going to forget this, I don't want to forget this," she cries loudly, and holds him as close as she could. "I can't be with you…I wanted…I'm so sorry."

"It's alright, sweetheart. We'll fix this. Somehow, we'll fix this." His eyes darken as his thoughts begin to churn in his mind, formulating a plan of his own desire. He had tried the righteous way, Odin's way, and had lost everything. He would try his own way now.

"Don't leave," she whispers desperately. "Don't leave me, please."

"Never. I will be here every day," Loki promises, and he means it. The bright smile that Darcy gives him almost breaks his composure.

"That would be so wonderful," she sighs, and closes her eyes. "Just one more thing, though."

"Anything, Darcy."

"What is your name, again?"

x