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Hazards of Imagination

By pinkfreud

Mystery / Romance

Chapter 1

Darcy Lewis had a hobby, and it was a very secret one. She liked to write what some people might call 'smut' or 'trash'. She called it erotica, and it was a good time. She had quite a sizeable collection of stories that she continuously added to, and she chronically debated with herself about whether to publish them or not. She also belonged to several writing forums and websites, but there mainly she just perused other people's stories. This was all done in her spare time, when she had any. Lately, things had been quite hectic at SHIELD headquarters, where she worked as Dr. Jane Foster's assistant, and the job demanded a surprisingly large chunk of her life, thanks to Jane's relentless passion for her science. Which made those times when Darcy could go home at a normal hour, pour herself a glass of wine and devote an evening to writing all the more special.

But on this particular cold, sharply grey Tuesday afternoon everything had slowed to a boring crawl; it seemed that she would be stuck at work for an eternity, her head ached dully from monotony and the glare of the computer screen in front of her.

''I am so bored, I am so bored,'' she chanted aloud in a sing-song voice.

''If you're so bored then why don't you back up all of the files from yesterday and this morning,'' Jane suggested, fixing her with a pointed stare.

''That's so been done already,'' replied Darcy, fishing through the jar of candy on her desk until she found a mini Snickers.

''Then I don't know what to tell you. Because unless you're willing to learn advanced calculus in the next five minutes, I have nothing else for you to do right now.''

Darcy considered this for a moment. ''Kay. In that case I'm gonna go get coffee.''

''See, now you're thinking.'' Jane's eyes immediately brightened at the prospect of caffeine. ''Get me a six shot Americano.''

''No. Not again,'' Darcy said firmly as she got to her feet. ''Four shots of espresso is all you get. That's all I'm willing to deal with.''

''Fine. Four shots,'' Jane relented, pouting a bit. ''With sugar-free hazelnut!'' she added.

''Ewww,'' the younger woman retorted as she headed out the door.

The astrophysicist sighed, shaking her head lightly and turning back to her laptop screen. Lost in thought, she nearly had a heart attack when she heard a deep voice right next to her shoulder say, ''I hate to disturb you, but I need 3 of the files from yesterday.'' Whirling around, Jane clutched her chest. ''Loki! How many times have I told you not to do that! Knock first, please.''

A maddening smile crossed the god's pale, coldly handsome face. ''I apologize. It won't happen again. Now, if you don't mind, I really rather need to have those.''

Jane waved her hand in the direction of Darcy's computer. ''They're on that flash drive. Help yourself.'' The sooner he left, the better. He gave her the creeps, and he knew it, too.

''Thank you, Dr. Foster,'' he added with grudging, cool politeness, and left.

Darcy arrived back fifteen minutes later with coffee. ''Oh thank you,'' exclaimed Jane, snatching up her large Americano. She removed the plastic lid from the cup and inhaled the steam with a look of great satisfaction.

Setting down her own drink, Darcy's eye came to rest on her laptop. Or specifically, the USB port where her flash drive had been plugged in. ''Uh, Jane? Where's my flash drive?''

Jane blew on her coffee until it was cool enough to take a sip. ''Loki came and took it after you left. He needed a couple of the files from yesterday.''

All the color drained from Darcy's face, her heart plummeted in utter disbelief. The flash drive that had been plugged in to the computer wasn't for work. That was the drive that she used to keep all of her stories on; she often took it to work in case it got to be an uncommonly boring afternoon like this one.

''Did...did you say that Loki came and took it?''

Jane nodded. ''Yes. Unfortunately.'' She made a face. ''Why? What does it matter?''

''Where's his office?''

The scientist shot her a withering look. ''On the upper levels. With all the really important people. Don't even try to get up there, our clearance doesn't extend past this floor.'' She looked more closely at her friend. ''Hey, are you alright? You look like you swallowed a bug or something.''

''Can you call him?''

''What? Call who?'' Jane's mind was currently on quantum mechanics and coffee, though not necessarily in that order.

''Loki! Obviously, that's who we're talking about!'' Darcy spoke very slowly and deliberately, increasing the volume with every word.

The astrophysicist shrugged. ''I could try, but he never answers any calls or voicemails. Director Fury was after him about it for awhile, but then he just gave up and decided that perhaps it was better if Loki remained antisocial. I could call the entrance desk, see if they could catch him. What is this about, anyway?''

''First try calling the desk, then I'll tell you.'' Darcy was extremely pale, now. She dug her nails into the arms of her chair, watched as Jane dialed the extension and waited. She took a nervous sip of her latte. It tasted burnt, but she didn't really care at the moment. Jane rolled her eyes as she continued waiting, then said ''Yes, this is Dr. Jane Foster in the astrophysics lab. Loki came down here just a little while ago to pick up some files, I was wondering if he'd returned to his office yet and if so could I speak with him?'' She waited again, listened, then nodded. ''I see. And when...? Alright, thank you, I'd appreciate that. Have a good day.'' Jane put the phone down.

''He's not here. He's left for the day.''

''What do you mean, 'left for the day?'

''It means,'' Jane said slowly, ''that he went home. He's left the building. He is no longer here, in this general vicinity.''

Darcy groaned and clutched her chest.

''Why are you being so much more theatrical than usual? What's going on? I mean it, I won't ask again.'' Jane folded her arms across her chest and glared at her friend.

She heaved a sigh, and then mumbled, ''Those weren't work files that he took. That was my personal flash drive.''

''Oh,'' said Jane, and understanding began to dawn a little. ''And given that it was your personal flash drive, I assume that it must have had some personal files on it? Is that what you're trying to tell me?''

Darcy nodded vigorously, working herself up into a panic attack.

''What kinds of files? There aren't photos on there or anything, right?'' Jane looked rather concerned.

The other woman rolled her eyes. ''Yes, Jane, it's full of very incriminating photos of me, naked and taking bong hits. No! What kind of idiot do you think I am?''

''Well, clearly the kind that brings their personal files into work and then leaves them out where they could be easily mistaken for something else,'' the scientist shot back. ''Seriously, though, what was on there? It must be something bad, or you wouldn't be acting like this.''

''It was just a bunch of stories,'' muttered Darcy, her face turning red. ''And usually I'm more careful, this was just a fluke thing.''

Jane tapped her fingers on the desk and gave her friend a strange look. ''Why are you so agitated over a bunch of stories? Is your grammar really bad or something?''

Darcy looked over at her with a scowl. ''No, I'll have you know that my grammar is excellent. Those stories were...not ready to be seen by anyone else yet. I still have a lot of work to do on the...plot.''

One Week Earlier

Darcy hadn't really meant to write about Loki, especially not in that context. But she couldn't really help herself. She needed a male protagonist with an...edge, and he fit the bill quite well. He was dangerous—perhaps not so much at the moment, since Odin had stripped nearly all of his abilities from him before exiling him on Earth to serve out his punishment among the people he'd tried to enslave. But generally speaking, there was a distinct amount of danger still lurking there, at least Darcy felt so. She always shivered inexplicably when she saw him. This was usually a rare occurrence, he hadn't ventured down to their department much until recently, apparently all of the important people upstairs needed to consult with an astrophysicist. Darcy wasn't exactly sure why, or what everyone was suddenly so on edge about—she just made the charts and spreadsheets, didn't really understand exactly what it all meant. Well, sometimes she did, she'd definitely gotten a crash course while working with Jane, but whatever they were freaking out about now was beyond the scope of her understanding.

In order to keep from losing her mind, Darcy had decided to take a very small break from all of the constant, soul-crushing data entry and work on her story, which only wound up making her more frustrated. As she was tapping at the keys, she heard footsteps near her work station, saw a tall figure with dark hair walk by. She didn't understand why, but again came that shiver along her spine. It wasn't an entirely unpleasant feeling to Darcy, and that unnerved her. No matter how hard she tried after that, every time that she began to work on her story, or even think about it, she could only see him in her mind as she formed her characters. This disturbed her. But, though at first she hated to admit it, it also excited her just a little. There was something about the forbidden that meshed so well with the sort of writing that she did. Maybe for this exact reason he had turned out to be the perfect muse—a little too perfect, truth be told. Darcy had lately found herself getting continuously turned on while writing, more so than usual. Before, it was easy enough to write as a detached observer—though there may have been a certain inevitable element of living vicariously through her stories, she was starting to get more drawn into them now. Her main female character, Violet, (and Darcy was aware that was a terrible name and would need to be changed) was becoming less like the way she had originally been constructed, and was becoming more like Darcy, in personality and appearance both. Darcy also found that she was having dreams about her story, heated dreams in which she had a starring role, along with that particular someone. And those dreams were also becoming more and more vivid. And explicit. This had begun to bother Darcy, just a little—mostly because she enjoyed it. And she wasn't supposed to. Violet could, but not her. That was the way it worked; it was safe that way.

Deciding to give writing a rest for a while, she threw herself back into work, which was perhaps not the best way to avoid the god who was slowly beginning to haunt her mind, somehow managing to infect it like a virus. Darcy wasn't sure exactly what was going on that suddenly had everyone so bothered, but their work-load had definitely increased and now she and Jane were suddenly more important to Nick Fury and the Avengers. Or at least Jane was. Darcy entered the data, made the charts, and got coffee and ran other errands for the scientist, as she'd done since college. But at least now she had a steady job, a fairly decent paycheck, and her own desk. Which she'd been spending quite a bit of time at.

''So, please explain to me again what the hell everyone is so freaked out about?'' Darcy asked her friend, who was frowning at the computer screen in front of her.

''Black hole,'' muttered Jane, tapping away at the keyboard.

That was interesting, at least. ''Are we all gonna get sucked into one or something?''

''Or something. 'Black Hole' is more of a code name,'' Jane replied. ''Look, I can't really get into the physics of it right now—I'm even having a hard time with this.'' She was, too—her face was drawn and pinched and she looked in desperate need of a vacation. ''But it's probably honestly nothing to be concerned with—the team just seems to have certain worries about some...activity that they've detected and they need reassurance, that's all.'' She rubbed her temples. ''Unfortunately, I'm the one in charge of giving them that reassurance.''

Since childhood, Darcy had a tendency to retreat into her imagination when real life got a little too crazy. It gave a kind of balance to her mind. So with all the extra hours of work that she and Jane were doing, her fantasy life had seemingly gone into overdrive to compensate. Forcing herself not to think about the strange data in front of her—the charts and graphs and star maps—or the possibility that they might all get sucked into a black hole, or whatever it was, she instead imagined other worlds, characters, scenarios that gave her an outlet, an escape. And sometimes more than that. It had been quite some time since she'd been involved with anyone romantically, or even simply gotten laid. Her life had quickly become consumed by the bizarre after New Mexico, and anyone she'd even been mildly interested in had just begun to seem too...boring. She realized that in some way the stories that she wrote reflected a sort of internalized sexual frustration, but at least it was an outlet, and a creative one.

On Thursday, around three in the afternoon, she got up to stretch her legs and get them some coffee. This was a necessary trip that she made every few hours. The hallway was quiet, now, everyone seemed to be busy working. Darcy hummed to herself as she pressed the buttons on the coffee machine at the end of the corridor. The liquid that poured down into the paper cup was at least drinkable, and she was far too tired and poor to be running out to Starbucks every time that Jane needed caffeine. She mentally crossed her fingers, hoping that they would get out tonight at a reasonable hour—her story was calling to her, and she was going to give in.

At the sound of soft footsteps she looked up and saw that Loki was standing a few feet away. His hand was on the door to one of the offices but he was paused, seemingly, just watching her. Darcy's hands shook a little, some coffee sloshed out of the styrofoam cup and ran down over her skin, stinging. His eyes were the strangest color, they made weird little pins and needles rake through her blood. She tried to smile a little at him. He didn't say anything at all in response, didn't really change expression, just turned away silently and entered the office, closing the door. Darcy let out a breath she didn't know she'd been holding.

For whatever reason, those dreams seemed to be affecting her waking life too, though not in a bad way. For example, one morning a few days after this encounter she awoke and decided that she didn't want to look the way she always did. Rather than the sweater, scarf and hat that she usually wore, Darcy pulled on a pair of black pants and a turquoise shirt that was a little tighter and lower-cut than she typically wore to work, but oh well. Her writing hobby had made her newly adventurous, so much so that she also decided to forsake her glasses and slip in the contact lenses that she typically neglected.

Later that afternoon she was carrying a large stack of folders down the hallway when her leg caught on something and she tripped unexpectedly. Darcy braced herself for the unpleasantness of hitting the floor and then having to clean up the shower of paper that was to inevitably follow, but instead she felt hands lock around her waist, steadying her and pulling her back.

''Whew!'' she said, turning to thank whoever had grabbed her and finding herself looking right at Loki. Her eyes widened a little and she could feel her traitorous heart speed up. Darcy really hoped that he couldn't read minds. He stared at her again with those maddening eyes, then said, ''You look different today.'' His hands were still around her, she realized. And he had very nice hands, the sort that you'd expect to belong to an artist or a musician rather than a villainous demigod. She didn't know what to say in response. He let go of her, then, and simply turned and walked away as if nothing had happened. Darcy realized that she'd never even thanked him.

Later that evening, when she finally got home and settled into more comfortable clothes, she sat down on the couch with her laptop, biting her lip as she stared at the screen, her fingers hovering over the keys, itching to set down and start writing. For a moment, Darcy contemplated opening a new document and starting over, writing something fresh. Then hopefully a different muse might find her. But then, she didn't. Taking a large, large sip of wine, she gave in and allowed the words to flow, wondering what the hell she had gotten herself into.

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