Darcy never sees the final blow coming.
In truth, she doesn't see much of anything, thanks to the fact that her glasses got knocked off her face about two seconds after she entered the campsite. Okay, so she didn't actually see the guy who was standing in the shadows, since she was busy shooting at the guy on the other side of the fire, but that was hardly her fault. There's a flash of light, and then the guy who hit her is a blur of pseudo-military camouflage which falls to the ground in a tumble of limbs.
Cut to her scrabbling through the dirt on her hands and knees. The fire these guys have going is burning some kind of wood that spits sparks out, so many of the damn things lighting on her exposed hands and face. She even thinks that she smells burning hair, but she doesn't think about that, just runs her hands through the dirt looking in the general direction that she thinks her glasses flew.
Great job, Lewis, she says to herself, making a face as she runs her fingers through something thoroughly disgustingly sticky, wiping it off on her cargo pants. One day into a real mission, and you're crawling around on the ground. You're gonna make Fury real proud.
She squints up past the fire. She can make out the shapes of the half dozen militia members they had surprised in their high camp, all of them thankfully focused on attacking Loki. She makes a mental note to have a word with Fury about the fact that there are twice the number of guys their intel had indicated. Perfect for a first mission, he had said. Piece of cake.
A wet smack echoes around the clearing, and one of the shadows falls to the ground.
Darcy finds her glasses the moment before a heavy boot steps down on them - and, since her fingers had just been closing on said glasses, the boot also steps on her hand. There's a sickening crunch, and her vision goes red, then black. The pain comes a moment later, a sick heavy throbbing that brings nausea rising in her throat.
The next blow comes to her ribs, the boot kicking hard into her side. When she gets a clear look up, she can see that her attacker has both a gun and a knife, and is choosing to use neither. He wants to make her hurt. All of her training is gone from her mind, all of the scenarios that Natasha and Clint had prepared her for. There was only the pain. Another kick to the ribs, and another crack, and suddenly it's hard to breathe, as though she's drowning. This pain, at least, is duller than the pain in her wrist; it clutches at her as though some great monster is sinking its claws into her torso.
A gunshot comes, then another. Another flash of light.
She never sees the last blow coming, blinded by the flash.
She just feels the boot impact her temple, hears the crunch of bone and cartilage. Then everything is dark.
Darcy opens her eyes to fire.
Everything is still blurry. She can see little more than the flickering orange light, and a lanky figure crouched next to it adding wood to the blaze. She can hear the pop and crackle of twigs catching, smell the sweet resinous wood and the smoke that rises from the flames. The general outline of shadows and light suggests a small cave.
Darcy can remember the blows to her hand and ribs, has a vague memory of the blow to her head. She lifts her hand gingerly, expecting to see bandages, to feel an onslaught of pain. There's nothing but a faint feeling of bruising in her fingers and ribs, the vague tightness that she associates with a headache just passed.
She relaxes, then, because at least she knows who the figure next to the fire is.
"You shouldn't have wasted healing stones on me," she says. "You shouldn't have had them, anyway."
Loki turns from the fire, moves close enough that she can focus on him. He looks drawn, his black clothing hanging loose on his frame. "You're lucky that I did. Almost all of the bones in your hand were shattered, and you had three broken ribs and a punctured lung. Not to mention the fractured skull and a blood clot pressing against your brain." His voice is toneless, as though he's simply reciting a grocery list.
"Is that all?" Darcy tries to laugh. It comes out as something more like a whimper. "You should have just given me two aspirin and told me to go to bed."
"The plan called for you to remain at a distance." Loki sits down, begins rifling through a pack. He sets aside a portable water purifier, a small cooking pot, oats, collapsible cups and energy bars. Frowns at a scrap of material that Darcy recognises belatedly as her change of underwear.
Darcy makes a grab at the underwear; Loki pulls it away far too easily, stuffs it back into the pack. "That was your plan."
"It was the plan that was approved for our team." Loki pours some of the water stored in the purifier into the pot, sets it over the fire.
"Not by me."
Loki sighs. "Your role was to follow the plan."
"Even when there's twice as many people in the camp as there are meant to be? And when one of them has a damn gun aimed at your head?"
Loki clenches his jaw. Picks up the water purifier and takes it and the pack into the back of the cave. Darcy can just hear the trickle of what she assumes is a spring back there. At least she hopes its a spring, and not Loki taking revenge by peeing into the purifier. It would be just like him.
When he returns, he sets the pack down on the far side of the fire, busies himself at the pot. The unmistakable scent of coffee rises. Darcy remembers her stash of way-too-expensive-to-be-instant coffee that had been tucked into one of the side pockets. As contraband as Loki's healing stones, but right now she doesn't care. Coffee always makes everything better.
When Loki comes to sit down near her again - more than an arms-length from where she's lying - he's only holding one cup. Which he lifts to his own mouth.
"Um. Where's mine?" Darcy asks.
"I would not give you caffeine after the injuries you have sustained," Loki says. "There's porridge cooking, and when the water purifier is full again, I can make you some hot water."
"Hot water?" Darcy sits up, pushes the blanket that had been draped over her away. Loki's managed to find moss from somewhere to act as a mattress, and the blanket she recognises as the one that always lives rolled up on the top of her pack. "I get hot water while you get coffee? My coffee?"
Loki sips his coffee. Loudly. "You should also not be moving around more than is needed."
"And how is that I'm the one who's injured and you get a drink first?" Darcy flops back down, regrets it immediately. The moss mattress is not as thick as it could be. She inhales deeply, wondering if it's possible to absorb caffeine via the nasal route. She turns her head to the side, sighs dramatically. She's aware that she's being a drama queen, but right now she doesn't care. She wouldn't do this to anyone else, but Loki? He doesn't matter.
She notices two things at the same time. First - the scent of blood, copper rich. Second: Loki has the hem of his trousers rolled up to his knee, and his calf is swathed in bandages that look like they were torn from the hem of his inner shirt.
"What the hell happened?" Darcy asks.
Loki's eyes flick down to his bandaged calf. "It is nothing. I have taken care of it."
Darcy sits up again. She tries to stand, but realises as she tries that she doesn't have the energy for it. Settles for an undignified half drag. Blood blooms on the bandages on the front and back of Loki's calf, a wound pattern she recognises. "You were shot."
Loki looks at her over the rim of his coffee. "I took care of it."
"You used all the healing stones on me, didn't you?"
He sets down his cup. Out of her reach. "I had more in my pack."
Darcy looks around for the first time. Realises that Loki's pack is nowhere to be seen. "They took your pack, didn't they? At least one of them got away, shooting you in the process, and took your pack. Which, by the way, had all of our back up weapons, most of the food and the radio. Because I believe that, to quote you: 'the stronger party should be the one to carry the bulk of the supplies, because the weaker will be the first to fall.'"
"You were the one who sustained a fractured skull," Loki snaps.
Darcy rakes her hair back from her face, winces when her fingers catch on a blood-clotted tangle. "Can't you just zap us back to base or something?"
"If you bothered to listen to anything other than your own prattling, you would remember that my powers were limited by the Allfather before I was sent to Midgard. I could no more teleport the both of us than I could move the moon."
Fear strikes into Darcy for the first time since she woke. "So we walk, then?"
He fixes her with an unblinking stare. "Neither of us are walking anywhere, Ms Lewis. And if you were bothering to listen right now, you would hear the storm outside. There is going to be a heavy snowfall within a day."
"Great." Darcy folds her arms. "So we're stuck here, then."
Loki turns to stir the oatmeal. "SHIELD has trackers in both of us." He touches the back of his neck, where a tiny scar tells of the chip inserted beneath his skin. "It will only take them a day or two to find us. Once the storm breaks."
"So how long is the storm going to last?"
Loki pours a watery, unappetising gruel into a cup, hands it to Darcy. "I am not a weather station, Ms Lewis."
Darcy rolls her eyes. "You're not much of anything."
"And you are?"
After two days, the storm has not abated.
Darcy's eyes adjust a little, to the point where she feels that she can at least get up and walk around the cave without falling over things. She does manage to trip over Loki once, much to his amusement. She did note that he made no effort to catch her, curses Fury for about the thousandth time for pairing them together in training.
The cave itself was small, maybe five of Darcy's paces across. In the back, the spring wells clear and tooth-achingly cold. They use a small alcove as a bathroom; a hole in the floor has water flowing away from the cave. Darcy hopes every time she uses it that the water doesn't loop back somehow to feed their spring.
After two days, she almost feels well again. There's only faint patterns of bruising on her hand reflecting the imprint of the boot which had smashed her hand.
Loki spends most of the time stretched out on the bare stone of the floor, seemingly asleep. Every time she steps over him, she's tempted to drive her heel into his solar plexus. He's always so infuriatingly calm, and she wants to scream and shout and swear and stomp her feet.
She still doesn't know how they got assigned to each other in training. Someone's idea of a joke, she thought at first, but then actual training began, and she realised that they were serious. And no matter how much she wheedled and cajoled Fury, he never budged.
Sometimes she wondered if this was Fury's plan to get rid of Loki. To let her get so mad that she got to find out just how immortal or mortal the Asgardian prince was.
She knows it wouldn't take much. She hated Loki for what he'd done to New York, even though everyone else was mostly over that, now the city had been rebuilt. He and Thor were all bromancey again, and even Jane and Loki had been seen having coffee from time to time.
It was only Darcy who hated him.
It was only Darcy who had been paired with him.
Now, pacing back and forth across the cave in an effort to get some kind of exercise, she wonders if maybe it's Fury's plan to get rid of her.
She doesn't know. All she knows is that she hates him and he hates her.
They're a match made in hell.
She wakes to the sound of thunder.
It's night, she thinks. It's hard to tell, the storm turning day as dark as night. The cave twists away from its opening anyway, so little light would fall where they were, even if the sun was shining.
The fire is burning lower, and she gets up to add some more wood. The pile is dwindling, and she wonders for the first time how Loki actually got it in the cave. Magic? She tried to picture Loki hauling wood. That image leads to one of Loki throwing one of the huge logs they toss in the Highland Games, whatever the hell that was actually called. She laughs.
A soft noise, and she turns to see Loki sitting up for once. He's on the opposite side of the cave to her makeshift bed, legs crossed. He's staring at nothing.
"Thank you," Darcy says. "For using the healing stones."
Loki doesn't look at her. Doesn't move.
Darcy sighs. "Is that your brother's work out there?"
A slight shake of his head.
"Well, then, no rescue tonight." Darcy lies down on her bed, pulls the blanket over her. "Night."
She's half asleep when she thinks she hears him speak, his voice so soft that she might have imagined it: "You're welcome, Darcy."
The days and nights continue to pass. They eke out the wood as much as they can, but soon the fire is little more than glowing cinders.
It grows colder and colder. Darcy shivers beneath her blanket.
Soon, she's not shivering at all.
Soon her fingers and toes are growing numb.
"You are growing hypothermic."
Loki is standing above her, barely visible in the gloom of the cave. A thin grey light filters into the space, just enough to make out the shape of his features.
"Doesn't bother you, though, does it, Frost Giant?" She sees him wince, and immediately wishes that she hadn't said it. She isn't even supposed to know, except for the fact that Jane let it slip one night after too many beers. "Just let me freeze. Then you can carve shunks off me and cook me on a spit the way you've always wanted to."
"You think I wish you dead?"
Darcy rolls over, facing away from him. "I know what you think of Midgardians. Jane and Erik are the only ones you have the tiniest bit of respect for, and that's because they're brilliant. And I'm just me. Of course you hate me."
She feels the blanket shift, and twitches it back irritably. It shifts again, and this time she looks back, starts to tell Loki to stop messing around, but then she sees him slipping beneath the blanket.
"What the hell?" she asks.
"You need warmth. This is the simplest way." He curved his body against her back, wraps an arm around her waist. He is so tense that his skin feels like marble.
"Dude, you're even colder than the cave." Darcy tries to pull away, but Loki might as well be marble for how little she can move.
And suddenly he is warm, burning so hot against her coldness that she feels as though he has a fever.
Darcy begins shivering again immediately. "Nice trick," she says through chattering teeth.
"It is a simple metabolic shift. Not magic. It's part of how I…"
"How you hide the blue?" Darcy finishes.
Loki relaxes slightly against her, though he doesn't release his grip on her at all. As if he's afraid she's going to go flying off as soon as he releases her. And she probably would, Darcy thinks.
"You should get some sleep. You're still healing," Loki says. His breath is cool against the back of her neck.
Darcy yawns, closes her eyes.
She probably would run from Loki.
When Darcy wakes, Loki is still sleeping.
She is lying on her back, and Loki is wrapped around her, his long legs twined with hers. One arm is around her waist still, the other pillows his head. The arm around her is much looser, his hand pressed against her ribs, thumb brushing the underside of her breast. As soon as Darcy becomes aware of that touch, she can think of nothing else.
In sleep, his face is relaxed, lips parted and not held in the tense expression she's used to seeing. His hair is tangled, one lock fallen over his cheek. Without thinking, Darcy brushes it back from his face. She hesitates, then draws her fingers down the curve of his cheekbone. Loki murmurs in his sleep, shifts closer to her. She feels the hardness of him pressing against her thigh, and then his hand moves, cupping her breast. Desire pulses between Darcy's thighs.
She stares at Loki. Her thoughts are tangled. Is this what's been going on all the time? Not hate, but lust? Something more?
Darcy screws her eyes shut. No, no, no, she hates Loki.
She opens her eyes, realises that she hasn't moved away from him. In fact, she's curved her body further into his touch, without even deciding to.
She starts to pull away from Loki, and he comes instantly awake, his eyes staring straight into hers. His gaze flicks down to his hand on her breast, then lower, to where he's pressed against her thigh.
And then something happens that Darcy never thought she'd see.
Even in the dim light of the cave, she can see the blood rush to his face.
Something clicks, and she knows the answer to a question that's been bothering her for too long. "Did you request me as a training partner?" she asks.
Loki starts to move away from her, his hand sliding from her breast.
Darcy doesn't think, just grabs him and pulls him back to face her. "Do you hate me?"
He frowns. "What?"
"Answer the question." She pushes her thigh against him, just a little.
His eyes flick down again. "Darcy, what are you doing?"
"Do. You. Hate. Me?"
Loki swallows hard. "Do you hate me?" His voice is soft, almost that of a boy.
"I thought I did…but.." Darcy shrugs. "You saved my life. Twice. Things like that tend to squish hatred."
"I don't hate you, Darcy," Loki says. He pulls away again, and this time she lets him go. "I think that-"
Whatever he was going to say is swallowed by the rumble of falling rocks outside the cave. Both Darcy and Loki are on their feet immediately. Loki holds Darcy behind him as they both crane to see around the turn to the entrance.
The entrance which is no longer there, blocked now by what looks like half a tonne of rock and snow.
Darcy stares at it, aware that she's shaking. "They can still track us through that. Thor could break through it. Tony, too, maybe. They can still get us out." She looks at Loki. It's darker now, and she can see little more than the outline of him. "They'll get us out. Won't they?"
Loki simply turns away. Goes back to the makeshift bed. Sits down.
Darcy follows him more slowly. Sits down opposite him. It's almost totally dark, the air still. She can't even hear the storm outside now. "They'll find a way. No one might give a crap about me dying, but Thor won't let his baby brother die."
"You really think that? That no one cares if you die?"
"I'm replaceable, right? I mean, after New York, there are tonnes of perky girls who want to join SHIELD. Hell, I spent some time filing all the applications before I applied myself."
Loki reaches out, places a hand on her thigh. "You, Darcy Lewis, are not replaceable." She hears him swallow. "I requested for you to be my partner. Because you are strong, and you think on your feet, and you don't take orders blindly." His fingers tense against her leg. "You saved my life, also, Darcy, because you don't follow orders. And I owe you thanks."
Darcy feels herself flush. "You're just saying that because we're trapped in here, and you want to get laid before you die." As soon as the words are out, she wants to smack herself. Sure, she meant it as a joke, but she suspects that Loki know that most of the things she jokes about are things she's too afaid to say seriously.
"Would you?" Loki asks. His voice is that quiet boyish tone again. "Lie with me, if asked?"
"Hell, who can deny a dying man, right? Or a dying woman?" Darcy swallows. Her throat is dry. "Are you asking?"
He slides his hand along her leg until he finds her hand. Twines his fingers with hers. "I am asking."
Darcy looks down at their linked hands. "But I hate you." She looks up again, finds him staring at her, his eyes seeming bright even in the gloom.
"As I hate you, Darcy," he says, his voice husky.
Then he leans in and kisses her. His kiss is gentle at first, but deepens quickly, his tongue flicking against her lower lip until she opens for him. The inside of his mouth is cool, a strange contrast against his still-heated skin. It's oddly arousing, and Darcy finds herself leaning into the kiss, pressing the length of her body against his. He has softened as they spoke, but he quickly grows hard again, his hips grinding rhythmically against her.
Loki rolls her over, settling himself between her thighs. He raises himself up on his hands, looks down at her. "Are you certain you want this? You were severely injured."
"Dude, you're the one who's got a hole in his leg," Darcy says. "Are you just trying to weasel out of this?"
He blinks. "What does a weasel have to do with this?"
Darcy reaches up, tangles her hand in his hair, pulls him down to her. He catches himself on his elbows, supporting most of his weight while still pressing his body against hers. His hips start that maddening grinding motion again that makes Darcy wish that their clothes would just vanish. Then she remembers that this is Loki, and she could probably ask him to magic away their clothes if she wanted. She wonders what else he could magic, and has to swallow a giggle.
Loki pulls back. "Do I amuse you?"
"My brain has a habit of wandering to stupid places," she says.
He raises an eyebrow. "Such as?"
She bites her lip. "I was just wondering the kinds of things you could do with your magic, that's all."
He grins. "Many, many thing, were I at my full power." He lowers himself to her again, begins dropping kisses along the line of her jaw, trailing more down her neck. She feels the heat of his tongue on the skin over her pulse. "Right now, most of my magic is being used to aid the healing, but if I were not injured, there are still many things I could do."
He kneels between her legs, slides his hands up her hips. Keeps moving up her torse, hooking her shirt and lifting it as he goes. He looks down at her, his eyes darkening. Darcy wishes that she'd worn something a little more interesting than a damn sports bra. It doesn't seem to bother Loki, however. He traces the outline of the fabric, his fingers moving lightly over her skin.
"I could, for example, create a double of myself," Loki says, leaning down and pressing a kiss to her sternum. His kisses follow the path his fingers took, drawing waves of gooseflesh from Darcy's skin. "More than one, even." He presses a kiss lightly on the places where Darcy's nipples press out against the fabric of her bra, drawing a moan from her. "A double of you, if you wished."
And that sends an unexpected rush of lust twisting through Darcy. She arches up against his mouth, and he laughs softly. Trails his fingers around her ribs, finds the clasp of her bra, peels the garment away from her skin. He kneels up again, just looking down at her, his hands on her waist.
Darcy shivers, reminded of how cold the cave is. Loki immediately presses his body back down against hers. He slides his whole body up and down hers, the fabric of his shirt rubbing rhythmically against her breasts. His hips are still rocking against hers, pressing the fabric of her trousers against her core. She's already so close, and he's barely even touched her. He's not even kissing her right now, just presses his forehead against hers, his eyes burning into hers.
And Darcy can't handle the teasing any more. She half tears his shirt from him, gasping at the sensation of his bare skin against her breasts. She reaches down between them and unfastens her trousers, then his. Both of them wriggle out of their last clothing, Loki carefully guiding the fabric past his bandaged calf. The bandage is ragged, and Darcy can smell fresh blood.
"Are you sure that's okay?" she asks.
Loki's eyes move slowly up and down her body. "Right now, my leg is the last thing on my mind."
Darcy lets her eyes move higher. Loki's body is long and lean, and surprisingly well muscled. She's always presumed him to simply be thin, but he's anything but. His cock curves up against his belly, evidence of the truth of his words.
Darcy shivers again, and then Loki is pressing her down against the moss, pulling the blanket over them both. He dips his head to her breast, taking her hardened nipple into his mouth. The coolness of his tongue is almost shocking, and completely erotic. His other hand caresses her other breast, then moves down over her belly, dips between her thighs. He makes a strangled moan deep in his throat when he finds her wetness, slides one finger, then two, inside her.
And Darcy is rocking helplessly against his hand, not caring about the cold or the cave or anything but the feel of Loki's skin against hers, his mouth on her body. She arches her neck and closes her eyes, letting him tease for a moment, his fingers plunging deep, then retreating to her entrance, thrusting only shallowly while his thumb grazes her clit. Then she decides that she can't take any more of that, and she closes a hand in his hair, pulls him up to face her again. He grins again, slides the length of his cock along her folds.
"You," Darcy says, reaching down and taking him in hand. Squeezing, just hard enough to draw a gasp from him, then lining him up with her. "Are a damn tease." She slides her hands around to cup his behind, pulls him into her. He is large, but she's so wet that he slides in deep with a single thrust.
Loki just laughs. Darcy grins, and his laughter breaks off abruptly as she lifts her legs, hooks them around his waist. The angle pulls him even deeper inside her.
"No more teasing," Darcy whispers.
His mouth comes down on hers, and he starts moving in earnest. There's little finesse in this, now, just the primal rhythm of two bodies moving together. Every so often he adjusts his angle, sliding his body in such a way that his pubic bone grazes against her clit. Every time he does it, she moans, and he smiles against her skin.
It doesn't take long until Darcy is thrusting up hard at him, her hands on his hips trying to pull him ever deeper. And then she's falling over the edge, an orgasm stronger than any she has ever experienced exploding within her. A moment later, Loki comes, too, his hips thrusting even harder, then pressing deep as he spills inside her.
There's a moment of panic, then, because Darcy has never, ever let any lover come inside her. It's not the worry about pregnancy or disease, but simply the fact that it was such an intimate thing.
Then Loki collapses by her side, and she looks up into the gloom, remembers that they're going to die here, and it doesn't seem to matter at all.
He curls his body around hers, pulls the blanket over them both. It's Darcy who wraps his arm around her this time, her fingers lacing with his.
"I really hate you, you know," she murmurs, pressing a kiss to his knuckles.
"I hate you, too," he murmurs sleepily against her neck.
Darcy closes her eyes. Surrounded by warmth, she is soon asleep.
Ten hours later, light falls into the cave as the last of the large rocks is moved away.
Three figures enter, and all three stop just inside the mouth of the main cave, looking down at the two figures entwined beneath the blanket, their clothes strewn about the cave.
Tony Stark opens the visor of his suit, revealing his grinning face. "Told you," he says. "You both owe me fifty bucks."
Natasha and Clint exchange a glance. Clint shrugs. "Explains why they've both been such pains in the ass in training, at least. Maybe we should have locked them in a closet a long time ago."
"You think we should wake them?" Natasha asks.
"Nah," Tony says. "Not yet. Let them sleep, just a little longer." He tilts his head to the side. "Besides, they both look so cute together. And for once, they're both silent."
"Good point," Clint says. "Let's wait for them outside. Let them have a little dignity, at least."
"Dignity? Since when have either of them earned the right to any dignity?" Tony asks.
The three of them retreat, still bickering, and silence falls over the cave again.
Darcy and Loki sleep on, content in each other's arms.