It was the most sickening feeling, like tumbling into cold nothingness that stung your skin and even your insides over and over again while you felt your stomach dropping clean out of you, like you were being dissolved and reformed. He knew where he needed to go, and he grasped and clung. Somehow, throughout all this his mind was still intact, and he knew that his abilities were still powerful enough that he could get himself there if he focused hard enough.
And then after an impossible amount of time spent falling, he felt like he was being struck suddenly with an electrical current so powerful that his bones seemed to rattle. He heard a loud cracking sound and then came the pull of gravity dragging him down to solid earth with a fury. He lay there, momentarily unable to breathe. It felt like a leaden weight had crushed his chest. After a few seconds that seemed like eons, he was finally able to force his lungs to expand, painfully. The ground was cold. And there, above him, was a sky that he knew well enough. He had made it to Midgard, the closest relative location that he could transport himself safely to while using only wits, magick, and sheer dumb luck. A slow grin snaked across his dry, cracked lips and then he began to laugh. It was a horrible sound, like the scraping of sandpaper, like a hiss. The grin forced his papery lips to split and blood began to trickle down his chin, but he paid it no mind. It took hours until he could move enough to sit up, and even then, the dizziness and nausea overtook him and knocked him back down again for more hours. It wasn't until the sky changed color with the rising sun that he could finally stand. Weakened, but not defeated. Loki smiled, and more blood fell but he didn't care.
It took him only two days to regain his strength. His powers, he noticed with delight, had not left him, and did not appear to be dulled. He would have no trouble in this realm, it seemed. Everyone was so eager to see only what they wanted to see, and to pay no mind to what they didn't care about. This would be such as easy world to overthrow…it would tremble and bend beneath his hand. But all of that could come later. He had nothing but time.
Three Days Later
It was raining, and raining hard. A freak thunderstorm had blown in seemingly out of nowhere, blotting out the earlier sunshine of the day and drenching everything in abysmal darkness and water.
''Just freakin' great,'' Darcy Lewis thought dejectedly as she stood huddled beneath a restaurant awning to shield her from this awful new development in the weather. She was only a few blocks from home but she was weighed down with a backpack full of books and she also happened to be wearing a brand new pair of fairly expensive shoes, the one indulgence that Darcy had allowed herself this month.
Besides that, she was quite tired and wanted nothing more than to change into her South Park pajamas, and watch whatever was next in her Netflix queue while eating macaroni and cheese and slurping sweet coconut rum mixed with lots of pineapple juice. Darcy sighed wearily, realizing that she was going to have to make a run for it, as the rain did not seem to be letting up the slightest bit.
Crossing her fingers while uttering a silent prayer, she darted out into the downpour, oblivious to the fact that a pair of sharp blue-green eyes had been watching her the entire time.
Pretty thing, you are, Loki thought to himself as he observed her, unseen. The scientist's little assistant. Dark hair, blue eyes, creamy skin…there were worse things to spend your time looking at. She was clumsy, out of place, not seeming to blend or match with any of her surroundings, ever. Immune to camouflage. He felt a pull to her, irrelevant though she probably was. He had originally intended to follow the other mortal, Jane—Thor's woman. No doubt there would be something valuable in her research that could be of use to him, and he had followed her for the better part of the previous day, but he found her insufferably boring. She gave him a headache. Though the woman of science was quite pretty, she was too thin and brittle-looking. Her mind moved so fast it seemed to wear her body down to nearly bones. Her theories were very attractive, but the god of Lies could certainly find other ways of getting at them without having to endure the woman's presence directly.
Fortunately, one of the things that Loki was quite talented at was slipping around unnoticed, able to make himself completely invisible if he wished. As if these Midgardians ever noticed anything anyway—most of them spent their days staring intently at screens on various devices. He doubted very much that they'd even look up if the sky was crashing down around them.
Loki's lips squirmed into a semblance of a smile. His mind was made up. He needed to indulge his curiosity a bit, and so he followed the girl. She lit up against the grayness of the day, bright colors moving quickly between raindrops.
But he was quicker, of course, and he was already there when she arrived.
Darcy was drenched by the time she crashed through the door of her small apartment, her glasses foggy and her hair hanging down in dripping tendrils. She shed her jacket and removed her glasses, then headed into the tiny kitchen, grabbed a dishtowel from the counter, and began to wipe off the wet lenses.
A grin, a real and devious grin, curved the corners of Loki's mouth as he couldn't help but notice that she had quite a voluptuous figure, only emphasized more by the wet clothing that clung to her body. There was nothing brittle-looking about this woman, he noted with what could reasonably be called delight.
Darcy's cell phone rang suddenly, slicing through the quiet and making her jump. Then she simply looked tired and annoyed. ''What now?'' she groaned. Putting her glasses quickly back on, Darcy snatched her phone from the coffee table and answered it. The expression on her face shifted slightly. ''Seriously, Jane?'' A small smile began to form on her full lips. ''You want to go out to the bar? Oh, god, I cannot miss this, of course I'll come with! Just let me get a shower and stuff. Uh-huh. Sweet, I'll meet you there in a few. Bye''
Darcy ended the call and laughed out loud in spite of her previously grim mood. Shaking her head, she pulled her wet shirt off and headed into the bathroom. Jane actually wanted to go out? This was totally new. But then again, ever since that huge, sexy god of Thunder had fallen out of the sky and then disappeared again, Jane hadn't exactly been acting like herself. But at least she didn't seem to be moping sadly about it, in fact, it was almost as if knowing Thor for however brief a time they'd spent together had re-ignited a spark inside of Jane, making her seem almost more alive, and more excited about her work and research, if that was possible. Darcy, on the other hand, was still single, still poor, and still just…well…the same. Netflix and mac-n-cheese and coconut rum. But that was ok. That was normal. Still, it frustrated her a little, but the young woman shook the feelings away as she turned on the shower. Then she wandered back out into the little living room, snatched her new iPod out of her purse and plugged it into her admittedly rather impressive stereo system. Music and shoes were her first loves and ultimate priorities. Well, those and rare, out-of print books, but that was way too dorky an obsession to admit to anyone. Eventually, Darcy felt, quirkiness easily crossed the lines into the territory of Sad. She set the device to shuffle and Radiohead's ''Let Down'' began to play. While the water heated up, she shed the rest of her clothes and hummed softly to herself.
I am funny. I am kind. Well, most of the time. But I am also a badass when I to be. I am a force to be reckoned with. These were her mantras, every day. Except that she wasn't really as brave as she hoped she seemed, and poor, huge, bumbling Thor was the first person she'd ever actually tased. And though Darcy would never admit it, she hadn't merely been the trigger-happy rebel sidekick that night. She had been legitimately freaked out. It seemed quite funny, now, but not at the time. I am funny I am kind I am….
''Tonight'', Darcy told herself, ''will be fun. Forget the rain, forget my poor shoes. I'll just go out, get a little crazy, maybe get a few phone numbers…''
As she turned to step into the shower, Darcy was struck with the odd sensation of someone watching her. She whirled around, but obviously there was nobody there. She shrugged and stepped in under the spray. Loki, still watching her intently, swallowed hard. This woman was physically stunning for a mortal, he couldn't deny that. It had been quite some time since the god of Lies had given much thought to a woman, he'd always been too busy with all of his various plans. Always most of his focus had remained on outsmarting and outwitting all those who would doubt him. Revenge was draining and all-consuming. He'd almost forgotten the feeling of physical desire. It startled him a little.
Loki shook his head to clear it but found that he still had trouble pulling his eyes away from her. It was slightly disorienting. And this girl also seemed to be able to sense him, somehow. She was even more perceptive, it seemed, than he'd given her credit for.
As Darcy shampooed her hair, she was once again struck by the intense feeling of being watched. Though a strong sensation, it was not completely unpleasant. Rather, Darcy realized, it felt as though someone's gaze was sliding seductively over her body. It made her skin lightly tingle. ''All right, Mr. Ghost,'' she called out jokingly, ''eat your heart out!'' She threw back her head and struck a seductive pose, then laughed to herself. After she'd finished, Darcy quickly dressed and put on some makeup. Loki, still unseen and staring, briefly hated himself for taking such a sudden…personal interest in this silly mortal. But, he reasoned with himself, the more that he knew about her, the easier it might be to…to what? What was his plan exactly? He had always prided himself on being cunning and calculating but now it seemed apparent even to him that he was becoming something of a voyeur and a pervert. Again, he rationalized that he was learning the girl's habits, her personality, her…well, never mind.
Loki stared as Darcy put the finishing touches on her lipstick, blotted it, then grinned widely at her own reflection in the mirror, feeling satisfied. ''Right on, sexy,'' she said, trying to believe it. ''Maybe we'll even get lucky tonight!'' She chuckled, believing that even less, then headed out into the living room where she grabbed her purse. After double checking for her keys and wallet, the two things that she somehow always managed to forget, she left the apartment.
He grinned fiendishly as he watched her go, and then allowed himself to materialize. He was starting to get an idea, and it made him slightly dizzy with unholy glee—it could lead to an even more brilliant opportunity, or it might go absolutely nowhere, but would definitely be worth it. ''Maybe we will get lucky tonight,'' he said aloud into the empty room, sandpapery hissing velvet whispers bouncing off the walls.