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Het, very HET, but not graphically HET.

The young woman looked up from tending the plants around the small cottage's borders when she heard the hoofbeats. Horses out there weren't that common and many riders together was probably not a great thing. She went back to her plants when she noticed it was a group of men riding past. She wanted no part of that.

"You, girl," one of the riders called. "Are your parents about?"

She straightened up to look at them. She was fifteen, a late fifteen, but still clearly nearly an adult. "They died in the last plague, sir. Why do you ask?"

"We were going to hunt in your woods. The townspeople said not to anger you, the witch," the rider in charge said smugly.

"These are not my woods," she said patiently. "And I'm no witch. They're just scared that I didn't go running and crying to the abbey when my parents died." She wiped her hands off. She pointed. "The woods beyond the stream belong to the local duke. And he does not allow hunting. The closer woods belong to the village." She pointed that way. "Go ask the headman at the tavern. He holds court there." She got back to her plants.

"You could be nicer," he sneered. "Witch."

She glared at him. "I'm not old enough to have learned manners with those who don't realize that talking thus to a child is wrong," she shot back. They huffed off. She got back to work. "Have to plant to eat," she reminded herself. "Though this is boring. Still." She heard hoofbeats, this time a single rider, coming back and ignored them. Until that man grabbed her then she stuck her gardening shovel into his arm to make him let go. "Do not grab me. That's the surest way to make me a witch." The man backed up, looking alarmed. She looked behind her. "Good morrow, Headman."

"Darcy," he said with a nod. "Is there a problem?"

"This one thought me an enticing witch apparently," she said dryly, getting back to her planting. "I must plant to eat. I'm not old enough to entertain the energies of men either."

"No, you're not. Though close enough," he noted.

She glared at him. "My mother warned me of thus before she died. I'd rather be a witch in the woods." She got back to planting. "At least then I only have to take care of myself."

"He could help you prepare lands."

She snorted. "Like the Widow's sons do hers? Or like you help your wife plant her vegetables?" She stood up to look at him. "Show me one man in the village who does that. Please." He grimaced. "The only one I've seen was Farmer Goody over in the next village and that's because his wife was nearly dead from carrying her next child from him. And did die of it so he's all alone to do it now until his sons bury him or he remarries. Why would any woman want that?"

He looked up then at her. "It is the Holy way, child."

"Then God can come tell me that. Not the priest that has two girlfriends, but God himself can come tell me that." He went pale. She stared back. "I may not be a witch right now, but I will learn fast to become one if I'm forced from my family home and onto some *man's* dirty energies."

"I see that point. Most of the local men are scared of you anyway."

"Because I don't sob like the Widows do? Probably." She got back to work. "I really must work on the plants. I got a late start thanks to all that rain."

"Point." He stared at the rider, who stomped off. "That's not wise, child."

"I'm fifteen. If he wants children I'm outside his range and if he likes women I'm still outside his range. And by the time I'm within the range of a woman I'll have a knife made to stab myself when they show up." She smiled at him. "That would probably stop all but the most wrong. Correct? Like the widows did during the war?"

"Yes. Though I can see your mother shared the wrong stories."

She shrugged. "It doesn't suit women to be ignorant of how men really are. And men have yet to prove her wrong."

"Some day you'll regret that."

"If God himself comes to tell me that I must marry, perhaps."

He nodded, walking off looking amused. "I'll send my wife to talk to you, Darcy."

"Thank thee, but why?"

"Womanly education, child."

"Yes, sir." She got back to things, shaking her head. "Men really are the most aggravating things," she muttered to the plants. "And if I had magic, my plants wouldn't die as often. And my chickens would be laying eggs again." She grimaced but went to check on that then came back to the plants. "Mayhap I'll ask the farmers for advice on how to prepare the soil better next year if I should survive the winter."


Months later Darcy looked up as she finished her bathing, getting out and glaring at the blood that had started to appear. "I know not why you're happening but I'm not ill," she told it. "I know I'm not ill. I'm peeved but not sickly." She got redressed and sighed, going back to the barn to get to work with the goat out there. One of her last chickens was dead so she settled in to pluck it and handle the meat to be eaten that night.

She felt a cramp and moaned, holding her stomach. "Oh, dear. Maybe I am sickly." She winced, getting up to take the chicken into the house to put on the stove to boil. Her mother had shown her that many years ago. She held onto the wall, wincing through the cramps. "Oh, holy fuck as that bard said," she muttered. She finally straightened up and took a few deep breaths. She felt the mess and went to clean up again.

"I should go ask the widows." She looked around to make sure nothing would burn down the house, then went to hike to the village. The widows would be by the market right now. She had to pause a few times to lean on a tree. She nearly felt like crying for some reason. She looked up at the sound of a cart, nodding at the priest, who was giving her odd looks. "Stomach cramps. I probably cooked wrong," she quipped. "I'm going to ask the widows."

"Get in the cart, Darcy. I'll make sure you get there." She nodded, climbing into the back to curl up. He recognized that look and at her age.... He drove on, shaking his head. He ran into one of the older widows in town, pulling up beside her. "She thinks she cooked wrong. I found her leaning on a tree holding her stomach."

The old widow looked at the girl. "It's a good time to talk of womanly things," she decided, helping the poor girl out and to her outhouse to clean up again then inside to have some tea and talk to her. "What do you know of becoming a woman, Darcy?"

"I am?"

"Yes. That blood speaks of it." Darcy moaned, shaking her head. "It means your body prepares in case it wants to have a child."

She shook her head. "No thank thee."

"It's not often up to a woman. It's up to her husband."

She stared at her. "My mother warned of the curse on the women in my family to die when your daughter reached fifteen," she said quietly. "As her mother had on her and her grandmother had on her own daughter." The widow winced. "I need not a man at this time in my life."

"No, you do not. You're too young. Perhaps in a few years?"

"So I die in another fifteen after that?"

"Point. You could become a nun."

"That's for wealthy women who have callings. I have neither wealth or a calling." She sighed, rubbing her stomach. "Can I stop it?"

"We all wish, girl. Every single woman. It's a curse on us from God for the apple." Darcy winced but slouched. "Now, let's talk about womanly duties?" Darcy nodded, letting her tell her about how to run a house. It let Darcy ask about her chickens and how to get baby chickens again. Which was how she learned how children came to be. At least humans didn't have to lay eggs.


Darcy was twenty, and pretty, when the next bard came through the village. This one didn't seem very nice. He seemed slick and like the traders that came through. She didn't like that one as much and he wasn't a great singer. The village's men seemed to guard the local girls from him so she realized she should do the same.

The man smiled at her when he found her in the market. She nodded politely, looking at the farmer at the stand. His father had passed on last year so he had taken it over on him. "I think it's time for new chickens. They've stopped laying and the male won't even go near them. I haven't had chicks in months. Those are barely old enough to lay."

"Aye, Darcy. They should be able to handle the rooster if they're laying eggs."

"He killed one of my two hens though."

"He did?" She nodded. "Then it's probably time for a new rooster and hens."

She whined then sighed. "I have ten copper from the last thing I wove." She let him see it. "And I have to get some seeds. My beets died again."

He nodded with a grin. "Beets are picky to grow, Darcy." She nodded with a sigh. "Let me talk to Marjorie. We may have an older hen that is old enough for one last set of eggs."

"Thank thee, Farmer Goody."

"Welcome, Darcy. Have you heard our new bard?"

"Last week at church." He nodded, going to talk to his wife. She sighed at the wife, who was smiling. "My rooster kills the baby hens."

"Males can be that way. Is he separate?" Darcy nodded. "Did you just toss one in there with him?"

"I let him have the two hens I have for a few days. And he killed one and chased the other all over."

"Hmm. Sounds like he's fit for a stew pot. And you'd need more chickens." Darcy winced but nodded. "What else is going on?"

"My beets died. Of course. I have the worst luck with them but I need them for the dyes."

"Yes, dear. How much do you have?"

"Ten copper?"

"Do you have anything woven right now?"

"Some light yellow from the flowers." She showed her. "I'm working on the embroidery. It'll take forever to finish it though. And I know my hand's not great."

"That's pretty. For your future dress?"

She smiled and shook her head. "I do not look in gold."

"True." She took the cloth from her with a wink and the coins, getting her a few young hens, another rooster, and her husband threw in a few plants. "Now, keep the roosters from the hens, and each other," she ordered.

"Yes, ma'am. This one can live inside for a bit until I can put up the fences."

"Good girl. Just let them have one hen. Let the new one have your older hen, they're not related so it should go easier."

"Yes, Ma'am. Thank thee!" She hugged her and took her things back home to arrange things.

"Plant a few of the bones from the last chicken near the beets but not underneath," her husband called.

"Yes, Farmer Goody! Thank thee!"

"Welcome, Darcy." He sighed, looking at his wife, who smiled and nodded. He looked at the bard. "She's a darling girl."

"No father to help her?"

"He died in a plague when she was fifteen."

"That poor woman." He looked after her. "The village is helping her find a husband?"

"We expected her to take up herbcraft," his wife said dryly. "But she weaves instead. Doesn't embroider well and her work is spotty on timing sometimes, but she's a good woman. Someday she'll ease up and not hate the idea of marriage." She looked at her husband. "The new priest?"

"We've all talked to him about her. He tried to complain she was a witch until the elder widows spoke to him as a group."

She smiled. "Some day I'll join their number. I hope I have a good enough pan to aid their duties to the children of the village." She went back to her tending the animals for sale.

The bard nodded, going to talk to that priest about that girl.


Darcy got a visit that night, nodding as she straightened up from her planting. "Father."

"Darcy." He stared at her. "You're old enough to leave this farm and go find a true husband."

"That doesn't mean I want that."

"It's a woman's duty to God."

She stared at him. "My mother taught me to read. Nowhere in your book does it say that." He glared. "If it was so, then widows would be forcefully remarried. And they're not. Nuns would be forcefully married and they're not. Not all women thrive in marriages and I cannot believe God would want their lives wasted."

"They have children."

"And is that all a woman is good for?"


She snorted. "And yet, the women in the bible are all helpmates, not whores." He flinched back. "I believe I'll quit attending the church, Father. Thank you for telling me that women are worthless. Though I must say that my monthlies don't happen regularly so therefore I probably can't have children." He shuddered, backing away from her. She stared at him. "That scares you?"

"That would brand you a witch!"

"Only if I'm forced to learn to be one." She smiled. "I find that many push me to want to study that some days, mostly when I have my monthlies." He stomped off. She waved. "I've already talked to the widows about my options. There's no way I can marry anyone in this village," she called. He glared back at her. "Not like I haven't seen them and they're not liking me as a wife. God will tell me when it's time."

He huffed but couldn't refute that argument. She went back to her plants. "Mayhap I should move to a farm a bit away," she told herself. "Where it would be safe from men who have ideas." Someone grabbed her and she shrieked but kicked and struggled, finally getting free of that priest. Then she grabbed her knife. "That is not what God would order you to do."

"I can make you a holy woman again," he said.

"You try and you can find yourself eating your manhood."

He sneered. "You could not, witch."

"You might want to think about that. No one else here to butcher for the fall." He backed up looking alarmed. She stared back at that bard. "And yet another man. Are you here to help him?" she demanded.

"No. I was not."

"Good. Then take him with you. I need to speak to the headman about him."

"He'll never listen to you, witch."

"Were I a witch, you'd be dead," she reminded him. He looked pale at that. "Oh, fuck this. HELP!" she shrieked. One of the nearest farmer's sons ran over as soon as he could. "He grabbed me and accused me of being a witch!" She pointed. "And then there's this one." She pointed at the amused looking bard.

"Jesus would be mad if you were a witch and a witch would not have her plantings die," the father said as he stomped into view.

"She cannot have children by her own admission," the priest said with a point at her. "She must be a witch."

"Neither can my new wife. That doesn't make *her* a witch." He stared at him. Then at the bard. "Why're you here?" Darcy shrugged.

"I came to see why she was so amusing to the locals."

"She's much like her mother was," the farmer told him. "Do leave, sir." He pointed. "Now. Thank thee." The bard strolled off. Darcy sighed in relief. The priest got walked off by him. "Boy, stay with her tonight," he ordered.

"Yes, Father." He looked at Darcy. "You okay?" he asked.

She nodded. "Were I a witch he'd be dead. I have to go milk the goat. Want to come watch me fight her?"

"Sure." He looked amused but went with her. The knife went back into her pocket. He looked at the goat. "Is she giving milk?"

"Not much."

"She might need to have another baby goat."

Darcy looked at him. "I hate hearing her do that."

"Aye, we all do. I'm hoping my future wife doesn't make such noises as ours do." He frowned. "I'll see if my father will let her lay with our males." Darcy smiled and nodded, going to get what milk she could. Then gather the late eggs. She had some baby chickens running around again at least. Most of her garden was growing well. He went in to help her fix the cheese for dinner. She laid her own fires and made him tea too. So that was nice.

Though the cheese had been overly salted. Sometimes those things happened in the kitchen. They both looked outside when something thumped. The shed around the chickens had fallen. He went to see what had happened. "The chicks are fine," he called. "One of the roosters is dead."

"He can be stew tomorrow," she sighed, going to help him fix that. "I apparently could not tie knots."

He grinned. "That takes stronger hands than most women have. You tie smaller knots than we do." He tied it up for her, making her sigh as she picked up the two dead birds to go pluck and gut for the dinner pot. He followed, shaking his head. She was weird but nice enough he guessed. Thankfully his mother had decided his wife would come from a village about two hours away where her cousin lived.

When his father came back he told him about the goat and the roof. Darcy had collapsed on the table while plucking the chickens. He had nicely finished it for her and put them into the stew pot to cook overnight. They'd talk to her tomorrow about perhaps moving somewhere she could weave for others. Ones who would not look at her oddly for daring to be a single woman taking care of a cottage. It would be safer for her to be somewhere bigger.




Darcy looked up as the performer at the tavern took the stage to sing of old battles. She sighed mentally but she was only there to grab something to eat for dinner. She had spent all day weaving for the local tailor. Her back hurt. She was too tired to cook anything and hadn't had anything to put into the pot to soak and cook all day. She felt something from that bard but ignored it greatly. She was too tired to deal with men tonight. One of the locals stared at her. She ignored him too. He tried to grab her wrist so she glared and he had to let go.

She had stabbed someone last week who had grabbed her. The tavern owner had laughed and agreed she was not for rent. She accepted the small dish of food. "Thank thee," she said quietly. "Let me go collapse at home. I'll wash it and bring it back in the morn." She left, going back to her place. It was a pretty little room. Rented from her boss. It came out of her paycheck, which wasn't much but it was something at least. She made it through the night with odd dreams of that bard. She'd ignore all weird things. She was too tired to deal with that.

She came to work the next morning to find her boss glaring. She looked. "I wasn't on that one," she said when he pointed. "I was working with the blue." She pointed. "I only have the one dropped area and it's in the pattern." She showed him the pattern. He groaned but nodded. "I have not worked with that one in months, and that was to thread that loom."

"Who was working there?"

She shrugged. "I wasn't paying attention to more than my loom. I never do or else I get distracted by the men out back being idiots with the horses in the stable." He had complained about that repeatedly so he just huffed and went to talk to the other weaving people. She settled in to get back to work, checking her last few lines. She did have one more dropped spot and unwove two lines to fix that then redid them carefully. Her boss glared at her. "One dropped stitch and I fixed it."

"That was due to be used yesterday, Darcy."

"I've only had it a week and you wanted me to do another foot of it." She looked at him. "I'm doing the best I can." He glared. She stared back and got back to work, working carefully but quickly. It was all she could do. He stomped off. Thankfully the last few things from home were always kept on her since he had apparently went through her apartment later that night.

She left the next day. She wouldn't put up with that. That bard that had given her the weird dreams was on the same train so that was weird but it happened. She went to the next town that had weaving jobs. The same deal, and just as poorly paid, but she was used to that. It happened to single women.


Six months later, Darcy looked up from her current job helping fit a gown to some high born woman when the bell rang. That bard? That was definitely weird. She got back to her work. "We need to pull this to the side," she said quietly. "The seam's frayed in that area." She showed the tailor, who groaned. It was a dress remake. "To fix that I'd have to cut the fabric down and reweave the whole side seam."

He grimaced but nodded. Darcy got it adjusted over and pinned. There was still a weak spot and she pointed it out to the tailor once she had gone. Thankfully thinner skirts were in fashion right now. She went to the back to go back to her weaving to get away from that weird bard.

"Aye, sir, what can I help you with today?" the tailor asked with a smile.

"I believe I knew her mother."

"Darcy's mother? She said she died."

"She did," Darcy called. "When I was fifteen."

The bard blinked. "I know of your mother, chit." She came out to stare at him. "I knew of her whole family." He moved closer, touching the simple necklace she wore. "That should be in your hair," he said quietly.

She pushed his hand off. "I know that. Why do you care?"

"You have aunts."

"I wish they had made themselves known. I can write a letter if you'd deliver it." She smiled at him.

"I can do thus." He stared at her. She stared back. There was something weird about him. She backed up and the staring was broken. "I can deliver that letter in a few weeks if you wish."

"Please. I'll write it out after work tonight."

"Fine." He nodded and left her to it.

She looked at the tailor, who shrugged. "So very weird."

"Very," he agreed. "Be careful of his sort. A woman would get a reputation."

She nodded. "Not something I need," she agreed. "Or the possibility of a child." She went back to work, thinking about that. The seamstress came over. She pointed. "That's a weak spot and the seam has one too," she said with another point. She looked at her. "I told him."

"That's fine, Darcy." She looked it over. "There's a few weak seams." She sighed. "It's been remade many times."

"Fancy clothes are expensive," Darcy agreed with a smile for her. The other woman went to handle that remake while Darcy got back to the simple, dark blue cloth she was weaving right now. Her string broke and she sighed, having to undo that whole row and knot the string to start over. The knot could be hidden to the side. The string broke again and she stared at it. "Who did we get this one from?" she muttered. She tested it and groaned. The other two weavers looked up.

"Second string break in a line." They came to look at the threads. She wasn't pulling too hard. It was definitely the string. The tailor came in to check on that and groaned about it too. He got her a different spool, letting them test it. It broke too. "At least I have a few yards of fabric," she decided. "I only have five foot left of this weave." She looked at the tailor, who grimaced but got her some more thread. That worked mostly. She still had some breaks but not as many. All carefully spliced at the edges so the knots could be hidden.

That night she walked into her rented room, finding that same bard. "That's very presumptions." She left the door open. He stared at her. "I want no bad rumors spread of me."

"I can understand that." He stared at her. "Do you know your mother's people?"

"No. She didn't say much beyond the curse."


"When a daughter reaches fifteen the mothers in our family die."

"That was cast by an ancient being," he admitted, staring at her. "There is much to know." She stared at him. "You have noticed you don't age as the others?" She nodded she realized that. She looked twenty-two and was nine years older than that. "It is from your mother's family." He stood up to look at her. "You will not age that fast for however long you manage to not have that daughter." She grimaced. "Have you had one?"

"No. I've avoided that. The widows taught me how to do that."

"Good." He smiled. "You're one of the last of your family."

"If only they knew of me."

"There's a few who may know," he admitted. "Your father was probably trying to set you up with them as a marriage."

"Which would bring about a daughter."

"Your mother did not have one for over a century," he said. She winced. "Yes, you will age slowly for a very long time," he said quietly. He made sure no one could hear since others were coming in. They paused when they saw him. "Just getting that letter for her aunts. I will not shut the door."

"Good," one older woman agreed as she stared at him. "You should have a chaperone."

"I'm not going to encourage any man," Darcy reminded her. "Men just bring problems."

"Aye, often," she agreed. "Good ones are very rare." She stared at that bard. Darcy sat down to write the letter of introduction and he took it from her to go deliver. She looked at Darcy. "Are you well?"

"I'm good. Thank you, ma'am." She looked at her. "It's weird but he claims he knew an aunt of mine and my mother."

"Interesting. You should not go near men like that."

"He was here when I got in. I did not invite him." Her face hardened. "I got out earlier because I was working with the dyes." She showed off her hands. "And I didn't have the things there to soak them clean so they wouldn't ruin more fabric."

"Oh, dear. I'll see how he got let in." She went to talk to the woman who ran the rooming house. She was an old lady and asleep in her chair. That explained a lot. That poor Darcy.

Darcy settled in to think about that new information. It seemed fantastic but if they were witches as she had been called repeatedly....

Maybe she should study something like herbalism after all.


It took over a year before she ran into that same bard. And she was in a different city, again. Her last tailor had burned down. Mostly of his own hand. So she was off weaving for a larger tailor, who employed more women, in a bigger city. And yet, that bard found her. He looked much more prosperous now. She didn't, she was exhausted and her clothes were dusty from cleaning earlier to find the thread she needed.

This one did not keep the storeroom cleaned and organized at all. They had all complained about that so she had taken it on herself to handle that. The women had thanked her. Her boss had scowled because she wasn't working. So she was not in the best shape when she ran into him. He stared at her oddly. She stared back. "You found me. How?"

"I can track things," he said dryly. He moved closer. "Your aunts send their greetings but are disturbed that your mother hadn't told you."

"Well they both died in a plague." She shrugged. "I guess there were more important things to pass on."

"Perhaps." He stared at her. "Are you innocent of men?"

"That's rude."

"It's important."

"Not your business, kind bard."

"I'm no bard, Darcy."

She stared at him. "I should note I carry a weapon."

"Good. It's often a good idea when men are about." He grinned. "I do not need one used on me however."

"Are you certain? You seem like the sort that would need one used on you."

He smiled. "Very." He stared at her. "You could have dinner with me."

"There's no way. Sorry. I'm exhausted, dirty, and have to work just past dawn tomorrow again." He stared at her. "I do need my job."

"You could go back to a small cottage in the woods."

She shrugged. "I still kill some plants for some reason." She shifted her weight, staring at him. "I do not think it wise to have dinner with you."

"I think you should so we can talk on your mother's people."

"I have her journals."

"That's good. Have you read them?"

"Yes, including the one she wrote specifically for me when the curse would have killed her."

"Yes, that was my mother's doing," he sighed.

She scowled. "Are you claiming mythical status?" she snorted.

"Well, we had to come from somewhere, chit." He smirked. She stared back, arms crossed over her chest. "Please eat with me so we can speak?"

"I think not. You have gotten to the point of weird. I find weird things not very tolerable." She walked off to go to the baths. He took her arm and walked her off in another direction. "Unhand me."

"If you scream, none would help you. You're an unmarried woman." She stabbed him on the side, making him yelp. "Oh, hellcat," he smirked at her. He healed that injury and she stared. "Believe me now?"

"That's not something I can do. If you can I believe there's priests who would like to have words. They keep trying to have them with me," she said dryly. That had shaken her but she was not one to show that.

He moved closer. "Darcy," he said quietly. "Please have dinner with me so we can speak?"

"I am in no shape for dinner, sir."

"I'm Loki."

"Hmm. Interesting name. I've read myths." She walked around him, going back to her rooms. "I'm going to settle in for the night. I have work tomorrow. Perhaps we can catch up some other time."

"Perhaps," he agreed, smirking at her back. "Perhaps in your dreams this time."

She glared back at him. "I do not believe that to be healthy either, sir. Such things are frowned upon and I do have to work tomorrow at just past dawn. Perhaps some other day. Like a holy day." She stomped off shaking her head.

He nodded. There was one of those coming up, one to him anyway. The locals wouldn't recognize it for what it had once celebrated but they had their own version just a few days later to some saint. Yes, he could wait a few days to talk to her.


Darcy's only free day that month made her wake up in a dream realm. She looked at herself. She was wearing a scarlet gown with gold embroidery and felt the chains in her hair. She looked up then sighed. "This is not who I am."

"We shall see," Loki said, waving her at the seat at the table he had set up. He smiled. "Shall we eat?"

"Will this keep me well today?"

"Yes. It will transfer over." She sat down and settled in properly, as her mother had taught her. "You should be wearing that necklace in your hair."

"Mother said that was for special occasions like weddings. She taught me how her people dressed when I was eight or so."

He nodded. "That was important so things were not lost." He poured her some white wine, then himself some. "Do eat, Darcy. You're skinny."

"Things are bad right now."

"Yes, they are. You should move from the area before they get worse or a war happens again." He stared at her. "Eat." She dug in delicately. "Eat like normal. I do not care for manners at the moment."

"That would be rude."

"Point." He ate as well, then he sighed and stared at her. "Your father? Was he of your mother's people?"

"I assumed." She stared at him. "Wouldn't he have to be?"

"Many have chosen not to marry someone that...long term."

She grimaced. "I can see that point. Having the same people around you all the time can get frustrating." She ate another bite and chewed then cut another piece of the meat. "This is nice."

"Thank you." He dug in, and when he was done he served her a pudding. She smiled at that and dug in gently. "Do eat. You need the food." She stared at him. "There are things to speak of. The histories. The realities. The future you'll see."

"Or I could mess up and have a child tomorrow."

"It's only a daughter that the curse is on, Darcy." She relaxed and nodded, finishing that bite of pudding. "You take out the women, you take out the whole culture. What you are is passed on from mother to daughters and sons."

"I know how things like that work."

"Hmm, there's more to it than that." He finished up and relaxed again. Two books appeared on the table. She picked them up to look at while she finished her pudding. "In some ways the ones who called you a witch were correct." She stared at him over the edge of the book. He grinned. "That is one reason why you are so lived. The power in your blood does sing quietly to the earth."

"I'd rather not. They rather frown on that."

"Hmm." He nodded. "If you're speaking that way because you fear someone can hear you talking in your sleep, that may be reasonable. Depending on how nosy your neighbors are." She shrugged and got back to reading. She frowned at one thing and glared at him. He shrugged one shoulder, grinning at her. "It was not my doing and not my war."

"Yet your mother?"

"She was mad and prompted into it by her husband."

"Figures. Husbands are an evil that no woman deserves."

"Yet there are benefits."

She snorted. "Not many."

"Hmm. We'll have to see. Perhaps you'll take a temporary one?"

"I do not believe me having a cursed daughter would be good for me."

"There's ways around that."

"Yes but they're foul. A girl child gets born like boy children do."

"Hmm. True. There's ways of telling beforehand though."

"Not completely." She went back to reading, sighing at the end. Then she looked at him. "So why tell me?"

"So you're not bumbling around."

"Was it bothering you?" she asked dryly. She sipped the wine delicately.

"Yes, slightly." He stood up, walking over to take her hand and pull her away from the table. There was a lit area and music coming from somewhere. He stared at her. "Do you dance?"

"Hardly ever. Nothing this fancy."

"It will come to you. As it has all your relatives." He took her hand to hold for now, starting off with a bow. She curtseyed back, looking curious. He pulled her closer, moving slowly around the room with her. She shivered at the feeling. He let her go, holding up a hand about shoulder high. She put hers against his, just the palms touching, as they circled around each other.

Her free hand rested against the curve of her back as his did, and his stare into her eyes was hypnotic. She moved off after a few slow turns, but he caught her hand and pulled her back then moved off again with another bit of regular style waltzing. She closed her eyes and sighed, letting the feelings take her. "As I said, it comes from the mother's lines," he said in her ear. She stared up at him. "This is the traditional courting dance, Darcy. You only do this with an intended."

"Are you putting yourself forward?"

"I am." He smiled. "Because I find you ...interesting." She quirked an eyebrow up. "Not many mortals are."

"Hmm. Perhaps." She moved back, staring at him. "Why tell me these?"

"Just for that reason. There's too few of you to mess up and lose another. Also, I find you interesting. Even exhausted you shone out to me when I was performing, nearly bringing me out of that spell I was casting on the audience. Isn't that enough?"

"In some novels."

"Yes, well, some of us are built like one." He winked and bowed, then blew a kiss, which sent her back to her dream. She moaned and flipped onto her side, making the ones worrying about her run from the room. She had apparently been talking out loud from her dream. Maybe she'd move again. She heard England was pretty country. They had need of weavers there too.

If he followed, she'd talk to him she supposed. It didn't hurt to talk to him. She wouldn't fall down with open thighs like many girls did their husbands but they could talk.


It was a decade later when she ran into Loki again, making him smirk as she caught his eye in the market. She huffed but got what she needed and walked over to him. "It took you a decade?"

"Well, yes. I was being bothered." He stared at her. "Are you well?"

"I'm fine."

"Hm." He looked her over. She looked nicer again. She seemed healthy enough. "Have dinner with me?"

"I had plans on cooking tonight for once. I have to make meals for the rest of the week."

"You do work too hard."

"That is not a choice I have."

"I could help you fix that."

"That would be painful when others found out." She walked off. "I'll see you at dinner."

"Fine." He smiled at her back, walking in the opposite direction. A few had noticed and he caught one staring. "I knew her mother." That made them relax. "I have no designs on her house." He went to clean up and make sure he looked impeccable as always. He showed up at her new cottage that night while she was cooking. She wasn't dressed to impress by any means. She was in her shift. He stared at her backside. "Is that what you're wearing to dinner?"

"No," she said without looking at him. "It's what I have to wear right now. The stove's too hot to wear clothes in front of." She looked over her shoulder. "You're early." She put the spoon down and the lid on then went to get dressed. She came out in a dark blue dress, fashionable by the current area, with her hair done up as was proper by what her mother had taught her. He nodded, smiling at her. "So why did you want to speak some more?"

"I do find you interesting," he reminded her. She smiled at that. He moved closer, taking her hand to kiss. "You have quite the ability to change the world, Darcy."

"How would I do that?"

"With sense mostly." He smiled. "What you know, many do not." She nodded she knew that. "It can be beneficial." He let her hand go as he stepped back. "You look tired."

"I've been cooking for the upcoming week."

"That can happen." He let her stir things again then come back to set the table. It was simple fare and simple dishes but it was good food. She had put on quite the spread for their dinner. "Have you read more on your ancestors?"

"I've seen a few mentions but women wanting to look at books is highly wrong to some people. Including some church people who seem to hoard books."

"Hmm. As it will be for years. You will be frustrated at that for years, Darcy." She nodded she realized that. They settled in to eat and stare at each other. At the end, he got up and held out a hand. She looked confused. "Continue our dance?"

"Are we heathens to dance under the moon light?"

"Yes, we are." He smiled. "We invented it." She snorted but took his hand so he could pull her up and move her to a clear area of the floor to resume that same dance. When she turned away this time, his free hand caught hers to pull her back against him. She moaned. "There are ways around the curse," he said in her ear. "Spells to make sure only sons come to be."

"Are you supposing?"

"No, I know for certain." He smiled at her, pulling her back to that dance. She could feel the energy coming at their call. "This is your gift." She shivered. "Train it well." He touched her cheek, staring at her again. "You are most special. One of the youngest left. There's only five females and seven males of your people." She shuddered. "I can help you with that."

"I...an unmarried woman having a child is foul to the locals." She waved a hand around. "This is rented from the mill as my last one was."

He nodded. "We can arrange that, chit." He kissed her knuckles, making her shiver. He stepped back. "Prepare for it next time I appear?"

"Another decade?" she joked.

"Yes, perhaps." He smiled. "You'd have to move anyway."

She sighed. "Good point."

"Hm." He winked. "Study hard, find yourself, and when I return we'll dance again." He bowed and disappeared.

"That's cryptic," she complained. She took her hair down and moved to clean up the mess from dinner. Not like a man would ever help such things. They only made the messes, not helped clean them up. She made sure the chains and her mother's things were safely stored again, back in the pantry area for safekeeping. Buried in the cold cellar so no nosy person would find it. Because there were nosy people and she knew the mill paid a fee if someone told them one of their workers was a problem sort.

Which she apparently was now. She sighed and got back to cleaning up.

She definitely had to take up herbcraft and become the witch they had called her all those years ago.




Darcy looked out as the agents showed up. This was bad. She had to act to save herself and others. She had learned how to be careful but today...no. She huffed off outside and made the spell happen. All their stuff ...well, it was three days earlier. She stared at Jane, who just poured herself some coffee while staring back. "So."

"So," she agreed with a smirk. "What the hell was that, Darcy?"

She pointed. "Agents are coming in three days to steal all of our stuff, Jane. My mother's memento box, all your stuff, everything."

"Let's back it up and do things then," she decided. "Then you can explain how you did that."

"That's a lot longer of an explanation." She shrugged but grinned. "But Thor's a problem."

"Huge problem?"

"Yeah. They're coming because of him." Jane winced. "And he is who he says he is." She winced but nodded once. "And it'll be bad. I'm pretty sure it'll be bad," she finished quietly. "Which is why I did that."

"How far?"

"Three days."

"Okay." They got things packed up and moved. All but the most basic things and one of Darcy's fancier hair things she had created. It had her mother's medallion on it, but it was a thinner chain she had clipped into her hair. Now the medallion was pulling back on a side and she had someone make her special earrings to match it. And when her son got there, she was going to beat his ass to death.

Their stuff was safely, quietly stored somewhere no agent was going to find it. If they did, they'd find the fake shipping crates. Jane's work was buried in a safe. Her things were buried in a different safe.

So when the agents showed up, she got into their faces about her iPod, and made the agents very confused at just having a few machines, some clothes, and a few handwritten notes that held incorrect things. One tried to get her jewelry. "You're not taking my mother's jewelry. It's not electronic, dude." She snatched it back and put her hair back up again. "And if you try it again you can bite my ass."

"I can have you arrested," he offered.

She smirked. "Can you? For fighting off people stealing our shit? Really?" He smirked and nodded, trying for it again. So she made him gasp and die of the heart attack. "Interesting. Guys, he seems to be having heart problems?" She pointed and got out of the way. "Maybe the old witch at the diner poisoned him. She should've."

She walked over to Jane, who held her back so Jane could go punch the agent in charge. Darcy spotted her son, making him blanch and walk off. "Hmm. Gotta handle that." Another agent tried to get her hair thing and she zapped him, making him shriek. "It's silver, not electrical, and I'll have you killed. Are we clear? It's one of the last things I have of my mother." The agent backed off looking scared.

"There's no reason to steal their personal effects that don't hold electronics," the agent in charge said as he walked in.

"Theft is always wrong, SHIELD guy," Darcy shot back. "That makes you the evil shits of the universe and I pray like hell that you get what's coming to you." She smirked at him. "Everything that's coming to you." The spell hit and he flinched, staring at her. She stared back. Jane distracted him by getting into his face to shout. The agents saved their head guy but took things anyway. Darcy stared at one agent, who winced. "I gotta beat that kid," she muttered.

"You knew that one?" Jane demanded with a point.

"Yeah, that's my son. I'm going to beat his ass to death." She looked at Jane.

"You're not that old."

"Bullshit." She smirked,. "I'm a bit older than I look, Jane."

"Are you like Thor?"

"No. And their devices don't work." She straightened up, staring at her. "It's hereditary." She shrugged. "Until I have a daughter." She walked around her. "Let's move?"

"Let's move," she decided, going with Darcy. They could camp in the desert with Thor. Thor was giving Darcy's hair ornament an odd look. "What?" Jane demanded. "Do you recognize it?"

"Aye. But their people died."

"Yes, my mother had a daughter, Thor." She stared at him. "Your mother considered that foul," she said in her original language. He shivered at that. "And I do protect Jane. Are we clear?"

"Yes," he agreed, nodding. "Are you aware...."

"Yeah. I've read." He slumped but nodded. She saw the agents coming their way. "Incoming." She stared at her son, making him wince again. "So, the boy I saw grow up, did his mother raise him to be this thug?" she demanded coldly. "Because I'm pretty sure when your mom hears she's gonna be capital letters pissed off. And knowing your mother, she's going to have a 'I brought you into this world I'm taking you out of it' sort of talk." She stared at him. "Knowing your mom, it'll have a baseball bat too."

"I... Miss Lewis...." She glared. He backed up. "It is not my duty to question...." Darcy hauled off and hit him, making him whine. "Ow!"

"Good! I'm telling your goddamn father too the next time I see him!" He winced and backed away from her. "Wait until they hear about this shit!" She put her hands on her hips. The other agent tried to get in her way so she shoved him, knocking him into the fire. "Awww. Poor baby man. Did you wear polyester?" she quipped when he had to roll around in the dirt to put himself out. She stared at her son, one foot starting to tap. He backed away slowly, grabbing the other agent to flee for his life. "Oh, we'll make sure to talk to your parents, Jacob! God damn little fucking moron!"


"You're gonna be!" She huffed. Thor was looking amused. She glared at him. "Not one word."

"Not one," he agreed. "Though I would hide that better, Darcy."

"It's fine." She looked at the fire, kicking the spilled wood back into it. The agents didn't try to come back again. So when Thor's friends showed up, that was amusing. Slightly. And then her boyfriend/long time lover/whatever the fuck they were to each other showed up with his metallic robot, she was still not amused. Jacob was amused. But the robot kicked him and sent him flying too.

"Woohoo, three point shot," she called. She glared at the robot from her safe spot. The robot stared at her then went after Thor. Yup, another baseball style talk needed to happen. Fuck it, she should remember she had ancient skills and just take out all of Asgard's ruling family. She could find another boyfriend. Jacob limped back looking miserable. But he had made that very bad choice to work with SHIELD.

When Thor and Loki fought on the bridge, she pulled him to her and glared. Loki landed next to her on the roof. "I should kick your ass like you kicked your son's ass," she said, sipping from the tequila bottle. She stared at him. "Really I should." He winced as he sat up. "Of course, I could've let you continue to fall. All the way to Thanos."

"What?" he demanded, standing up. She stared at him. "I...."

"Yeah!" She nodded. "You taught me how to tell the future in the late 1800's. Or don't you remember? I know it's been a while." She took another sip.

"You're peeved," he said, straightening himself out. "It's reasonable." She glared again. "Is he around here?"

"Somewhere. The agents are still infecting the town."

"That could be dangerous for you."

She snorted. "I'm going to have to switch soon anyway." She handed him the bottle. "Dumbass. Suicidal dumbass I might add." She stood up to get into his face. He backed down. She was shorter than him but he knew her temper. He had seen it a few times over the last few centuries. The civil war in the US had not been pretty when she had worked against the evils of slavery. Her temper had destroyed a few cities. They credited the union army for it though. He sipped from the bottle. "I will not allow this to continue on that path."

"If it's destiny...."

She put her hands on her hips. "Really?"

"I..." He sighed. "Show me?"

"Look for yourself." He cast the spell and shuddered at what he saw, staring at her. She nodded. "Now, shoo, before you draw more attention?" She smirked as she walked off.

He erased that from the agents watching and disappeared in a swirl of magic to go hide in his usual midgardian residence. His son and he would talk soon he was sure.

Darcy went into hiding that same night, bringing Jane with her. SHIELD was an international agency but there were a lot more interesting people than they were out there.


Jacob watched his parents fight and felt a pit of dread as he saw the foretelling spell go off. Oh, his mom was pissed. Drunk and pissed and had seen something bad. He had really stepped in it and really had to fake his own death to get away from SHIELD. Before she busted his identity this time. Thankfully the sons of her people only lived a few hundred years so he only had a few more lives to go to hide from his mother's wrath. He was doomed.

As he faked his death, he sent a coded message to a few emails. His four other brothers would be disappointed in him but Mom would probably love to see them soon to ease her temper against him.

This might be worse than the temper from one of the boys scaring a cow that kicked over a lantern and started a fire.


Darcy looked up from buying groceries in London a few months later, smiling at Loki since he was standing there in a shadow. "We seem to keep meeting like this," she joked.

"It's safer," he admitted quietly. "May we speak?"

"Of course. That's all you're getting though. Even if you do make dinner."

He gave out a weak smile. "Perhaps." He let her bring her groceries back to Jane's mother's flat then took her to his temporary apartment. He did make dinner and settled across from her. "You stopped the timeline's destruction."

"Of course I did. Be damned if I want that purple fucker to snap." She twirled the pasta, moaning as she ate a bite. "You did an excellent job. You really did learn well from that little old widow in Florence."

"I did." He smiled, digging in. "They'll be after you for Jacob leaving."

"They'll be after Jacob for leaving and he's not visible. SHIELD is international but not that good. There's plenty of places left to hide. Jane and I are heading to some of them soon probably." He nodded, digging in. "Are you mad I did it?"

"No." He stared at her. "I'm thankful you did."

She patted his hand. "You're depressed."

"I found out things."

"I knew that. You're chilly all night. Thor was a furnace."

He rolled his eyes but ate more food, shaking his head. "That is weird."

"Very. But there's the convergence in a few years."


"Yup. And hey, this way you won't have to invade anywhere."

"I still have a purpose."

"So take over a small country and work your way up as someone people want to rule them. Fear is never the answer. It makes for weak kings."

He stared at her. "You seriously think I'd be that weak?" he demanded impatiently.

"No, but I think you'd be that cruel and therefore cause a civil war and then lots of lives lost." She stared as she ate another bite. "Which won't benefit you or anyone else. So become the world leader others want to become so you gather strength and allies then use them. Some day, we'll need to band together to fight off aliens."

"Hmm." He dug in again, considering that. "You did always see faster and further than I did."

"Women's gifts I guess," she said dryly. She dug in again. "This is really good. I've been taking care of Jane." She shook her head but dug in again.

"I noticed the weight loss, Darcy."

She shrugged. "It happens at times. Not as bad as the influenza."

"True." He took her hand to squeeze. "Thank you."

"Not a problem." She smirked. "Also, it's been thirty years, Loki."

"I know." He sighed. "I was tied by Odin's decrees."

"Yeah, about that." She smirked. "Can my last degree help with that?"

"Do not tempt me, Darcy. That's cruel and mean and you'd hate to see that happen." He stared at her. She stared back. "It would be too broad."

"Pity. Though I like Thor. He seems decent."

"Seems." He stuffed his mouth again. She sighed, getting up to hug him. He relaxed against her chest, letting her comfort him. "I...."

"Shh. Things suck and we'll handle it. Then things will suck less." He nodded against her shoulder. "Good boy. Now eat." She sat down again to eat. "What're we going to do if they have us bugged?"

"Crash their people?" he guessed.

"Hmm. Not that hard." She smirked. "They've got a lot of secrets." He shivered with a moan. "Even worse than the Church used to have." She dug in and smiled at him when he handed her extra. "Thank thee."

"Welcome." He got his own seconds and they finished up. The threat to collapse SHIELD was not empty, and the listening agents would know that. So many were dirty there that they'd realize it. Or their higher ups would. It was not worth that to them. That night, Loki disappeared to remake himself as a world leader. Darcy did have great ideas.

Darcy went back to Jane's side. Jane hadn't forgotten but she didn't ask either. She decided she did not want to know. Science didn't need *all* the answers of the universe. Yet.


One of the agents cornered Darcy out and about to run errands a few days later, smirking at her. "Are you of the Clan Macleod?"

"That show was campy and fun but Methos was the real hotty and a really good role model," she quipped back. "But I've never been Scottish. Sorry." She got around him.

He pulled her back to talk to her. "Whatever you did to that boy...."

"He deserved. He knew not to become part of the problem."

"And now?"

"I have no idea."

"He died."


"No, I mean really died. He had a car crash. They found the body."

She grimaced, then patted him on the cheek. She'd know if her son was truly dead so it was good he had managed to hide himself so well. "Then his father probably got him." She got free, staring at him. "Anything else?"

"How do you know about HYDRA?"

"Because I saw them the first time and fought back." She smirked. "And if they come for Jane again, we'll repeat the base camp in Sicily incident." He shuddered. "Exactly. Now. Anything else?"

"Are you truly immortal?"

"I nearly died of the flu in the 1920 version. What do you think?"

"I think my bosses would probably like to find out." He smiled.

"They tried that before. Which is what happened in Sicily and a few other places they tried." She stared at him. He backed away slowly. She smiled. "Good choice." She winked. "So let me go do my mommy duty. I know very well Jacob wasn't HYDRA. So don't try that either." He shuddered but nodded. "Good. We done?"

"I suppose."

"Then have a good flight back to wherever, dude. Bee Tee Dubs, leave Jacob alone. His brothers are not as nice as his parents." She smiled as she walked around him.

He shuddered but did report that to his HYDRA bosses. They remembered that base in Sicily and why it had went down. They had wanted that power but not enough to risk their whole organization coming out. Because Darcy Lewis was not the average person with powers. She had skills too.

They felt really sorry for that son who had disappointed her. They felt that all the way up until their base blew up thanks to Jacob and a few of his brothers. Only one agent survived and he saw Jacob but passed out a minute later. This was not going to be good for HYDRA. When the first responders found him in the wreckage, he blinked at them. "Get me SHIELD," he moaned. "SHIELD has to know."

They nodded and let him have his delusions. Though one did make a note about what he had said. That would bring an agent. A non-conscripted one.

It brought Maria Hill. She was not pleased at that mess. Or why it was a mess. Though she didn't hear exactly why. Just that her newly 'dead' agent had done it thanks to that one surviving agent. Who had admitted it was a HYDRA base before he died.

How sweet.


A redheaded woman stopped Jacob when he was upping his motel room for the next week, staring at him. "You were good, but not good enough."

"I'm disappearing in two days, Romanoff." He stared at her. "I'm not going to go anywhere near SHIELD."


"No, I blew them the fuck up. My parents are already disappointed in me and I don't want to add to it by letting those scum survive."

She tipped her head. "That one assistant knew your mother. The agent reports said so."

He nodded. "And she's going to kill me if she can find me. So I'm hiding from all of you."

"Good idea." She stepped back. "Why were they HYDRA?"

"Because they've had a few agents leftover."

"Excuse me?"

He nodded. "Hill is going to have a fit. HYDRA has us core rotted. Has everyone core rotted." He stared at her. "Good luck. I'll be in the middle of nowhere."

"Those ones with you?"

"I wouldn't even wonder because that sort of attention is bad for you, Romanoff. They helped me because my cover got blown thanks to Lewis."

She smirked. "Is she related?"

"No comment. Ever. Because you don't step up to Lewis and not get eaten." He stared at her. "Just don't. Don't let SHIELD. Don't let HYDRA, though they won't. She's destroyed a base of theirs herself."


"No comment." He grinned. "About anything else." He tipped his head with a smirk. "Have fun and forget you ever heard of us. Darcy's a nice, normal young woman with some strong contacts. Just...leave the family and Lewis outside of all of it. Don't even wonder. It draws attention."

"To me?"

"And to them. And it'll end up bad. That's the last warning, dear." He walked off. "Have fun."

"You as well. Good luck." She went to report that to Hill, who was not amused. Darcy had a good background, it was in all the right places. So perhaps she was just a meddling, connected spot in all this. She hoped. She seemed so normal and a bit weird.


"I need to open someone's ass and insert my foot," Darcy complained as she looked things over. "A few times."

Jane looked at her. "Why?"

"They're trying to get your grant canceled."


"SHIELD. It's an attempt to make you work for them." She handed over the semi-threatening letter. "I hope they all get eaten."

Jane grimaced, going to chew on the person who had written that letter. They had asked for a phone call. It wasn't going to be a pleasant one.

Darcy grinned, getting back to the mail. She checked her own bank account, moving something from her savings to her checking. It was running a bit low again. Jane hung up with a huff and went up to sit on the roof for a bit to vent. Maybe Thor would hear and show up. Or maybe not because it'd be a while. Darcy found a historical mention of the convergence and put it on Jane's desk so she'd find it someday soon. That would give her something new to think about. They had to make some plans.

Jane would want to be less than scruffy when her boyfriend reappeared after two years.


Maria Hill looked at the film oddly. It had clearly been tampered with by someone. Someone she was not sure of. "How much tampering?"

"None, ma'am," the lower level SHIELD agent said quietly. "It was a tester from that new drone system." She winced. "It clearly caught something in New Mexico that may have compromised everyone."

She looked at him. "It probably caught someone doing an energy study or something."

"Is that why suddenly there's nothing in there when there had been?" He rewound it. The drone showed the sudden sparkling then a change of circumstances for the ones under watch.

Hill frowned. "Get me someone who was there."

"They're on their way up, ma'am. I reported this to Coulson first and he was not pleased."

"Is that because it shows Foster punched him?" she asked dryly.

"Not really," Phil Coulson said as he came in to view the footage. "I have no idea but if I was into fantasy novels I'd suspect magic."

She looked at him. "We've seen weirder, Phil."

"I know. But Foster isn't the sort. Lewis...." He tipped his head the other way. "That one agent did flee for his life then fake his own death."

"If my mother was going to rip me apart, I would too, sirs," the lower agent said. "My mother would beat me to death then cry that she had to when someone caught her. Because she hadn't raised me that way and it was her duty to save people from me." Coulson stared at him. He shrugged but nodded. "She would. Family takes care of its own rabid members."

"Mine would've given me that disappointed look and sighed then nagged me into giving in," he said.

"My mother never hurt me," Hill admitted. "But I knew when she was mad and I fled for my life sometimes." She considered it. "Any idea where he went?"

"Last spotted in Poland, heading towards Transylvania."

"Do we think he's going there because he's a vampire?" the lower agent joked.

"We've seen weirder than vampires too," Hill said. "Though I doubt he was part of the tribe that was originally formed around a tortured prince who put poles up the backside of his subjects that annoyed him, who a writer turned into a mythical creature. We had him in daylight plenty and medical didn't note anything irregular about his diet or physical."

"Maybe not that tribe but another one?" Coulson guessed. "Some of the Rom maybe?"

"Maybe. What about a few nights later?" That film was cued up. "Who is that?" She pointed at the guy who had fallen on the roof.

"I do not know," Phil Coulson said. "We're doing a computer scan to see if we can identify him but he clearly appeared. Then disappeared." He frowned. "And he knew Lewis."

"Maybe he's like that one agent?" the lower level one suggested. "He mentioned having brothers."

Hill blinked a few times. "If so, that may explain some things. But Lewis? Is she the center of that?"

"I don't know," Coulson said. "We can't keep surveillance on her. It keeps dying quickly. Foster hates us as well and will never work with us unless it'll save the world." Hill winced at that. "I was overzealous," he admitted. Then he crossed his arms over his chest. "But I had such a bad feeling."

"I still do," the lower agent said. "And it's weird that it's all around Lewis but she doesn't seem to be doing any of it."

"Romanoff's report said that she was full of contacts to that agent's family," Hill said, considering it. "Could we get Lewis as an agent? Just in case?"

"With what they think about SHIELD? We may be destroyed," Phil joked. "She did curse us to get what was coming to us."

"I'm wondering if that's why HYDRA had a base destroyed," the lower agent said quietly. They stared at him. He shrugged. "Seems like convenient timing, sirs."

The two senior agents shared a look and Hill got to work looking up HYDRA files in their system while locking down any surveillance gear in their area. What she was starting to see did not amuse her any. "Lock us down," she said quietly. "Completely." She stared at the junior agent. "You do not move, do not call anyone, anything." He nodded, surrendering his phone. Coulson was calling for a decontamination alarm to go off. That would lock down the higher level buildings and their full building. They'd lose a couple of minor bases possibly but not the main building.

Clint Barton leaned in with a smirk. "We had a gas of unknown origins planted on the helicarrier's systems as of last night and Natasha reporting it to us, Hill. Is it about that?"

It was good Phil's agents thought well on their feet. He clearly knew something was going on. "We've had the same thing here. We're in full lockdown, Hawkeye. No communication just in case."

"Yes, ma'am." He went to make that order to the trainees he hated to deal with.

Hill considered it then looked at the junior agent. "Name three upper level agents you feel weird about. Some sort of bad feeling, creepy feeling, whatever."

"Carter, Garrett, Ward, and probably Hand."

"Carter?" she demanded.

"She's a bit too perfect, sir. A bit too nepotism got her the job and she's too...perky, perfect, seems like an act to me. Hand is a power hungry woman, has been as long as I've been SHIELD for the last two years. Garrett and Ward both give me weird, slimy guy feelings like the ones that keep trying to pick up girls who continually turn them down in the bars."

"Huh," Phil said. "I trained with Garrett and he does have that and the thread of danger underneath that." He nodded. "Any others that prick you that way?"

"Sometimes Fury himself does. A lot of the World Security Council people do but that could be that they're politicians. Or they're part of the same fraternity as they get together outside the office once a year to have dinner near a college in England."

"Name one you absolutely trust," Hill ordered.

"Romanoff. If she's evil we'll never find out. And she'd take out Barton if he was."

Phil nodded. "True. Any others you implicitly trust?"

He looked at him. "Outside you and Mack?"

"Mack. Yes, he's a good one to find this," he decided, looking at Hill, who nodded and had him summoned. "Lewis did curse us to get what was coming to us for being the evil dicks of the intelligence community," he joked.

"I need to make sure I don't run into her," Hill decided. "Just in case. Do we have any other correlations to the guy on the roof?"

"He was in Thor's hospital room," Phil said quietly. "Hospital cameras caught him but not a good image. It was always blurry."

"So magic again?" she asked.

He nodded. "We think so. It's rather creepy of him." Someone came rushing in and he stopped them. "What are you doing?"

"Sir, we're under lockdown and WSC member Pierce said to get Agent Hill to his office to answer why."

"Because we've had gas canisters of unknown origin on the helicarrier and here," she noted. "And I'm busy. He can talk to Fury. I don't talk to the WSC unless I have to. That's his job."

"Yes, ma'am." He went to report that up to his bosses. HYDRA was not amused but they were paranoid for a good reason. Hopefully not about this time though.


Darcy kicked back, watching the news. "Hey, Jane?" She hummed. "SHIELD is imploding." Jane looked over then came over to watch. The lockdown was being covered by the news. And the fact that one reporter had heard gunshots while filming by the doors of their local office. Jane settled next to her to watch it with her. Yes, they certainly got what was coming to them.

Darcy did hate HYDRA more than most things. And all other Nazis too. It was an amusing afternoon that ended up with reports of a lot of fighting, a lot of arrests, some dead agents, and the SHIELD offices being shut temporarily due to HYDRA invasion. So yeah, very interesting. Darcy got up to make more coffee and brought it back for the both of them. It was going to be a long night watching that evil fall.


A few days later, Nick Fury tried to get in to where Hill and Coulson were locked in. "Let me the fuck in, Hill!" he ordered.

"Not yet, Sir."

"Nick, calm down," Phil called back. "Just go sit down in view."

"Right the hell now!" he shouted.

"You could try the knob," Melinda May said as she walked behind him. "I'm to debrief you about what you know about HYDRA, Fury." He glared at her but she just stared back. "Right now. Please."


"Because we had to take down all but one of the WSC officers," she said with a smile. "And you're next." He glared. She walked him off to debrief him. He wasn't HYDRA, and she probably knew that, but he did know some things he hadn't realized. When she showed him the correlations she had done with Mack, he threw a loud fit and broke an office window throwing something at it. Though it was nice it removed the bugs by being flung a few stories down to the pavement. "Are you done?" she asked.

He glared at her. "How bad?"

"Two percent non-confirmed. We have an office's worth of people left that we know are not touched. We can about fill the HUB's staffing with the unsure category. The rest are gone."

He blinked. "That's over two-thirds of us, May."

"I know that." She stared at him. "It's why I haven't slept in two days." She walked off to get back to work. This was really bad. Really, really bad. Right now, she just wanted to survive this and then get some sleep. She'd have to settle for strong coffee.

Thankfully the lockdown had locked all staff in offices to that office and all hallways had been cleared by the alarm going off. It had blocked all incoming and outgoing cellphone and data signals as well. It let them clear one group at a time. Mostly all dirty. And a few times they had taken themselves out. Some agents had heard one being HYDRA and shot up the whole room of agents for them.

Victoria Hand had tried that until two HYDRA people had gotten her before she got them.


Darcy stared at the man strolling up to her while she was running errands, lifting her cheek for his usual kiss to it. "Darling," he said quietly. "You should not be in town."

"I should be in town. Jane's here." She smiled. "And you need to evac next summer at a specific date as well."

He raised an eyebrow. "Really?"

"Really. Huge thing coming." She walked off, arm through his. "How is my most normal grandson?"

He smirked. "Am I really?"

"Yes you really are."

"I thought I was the only grandson."

"Not quite. Peter has one. He's twenty-three doing abstract and splotch art."

"Hmm. That's weird." He smiled down at her. "Are you sure?" She let him see the information she had on the convergence. "Oh, well, yes, I don't want to be here then. I have hints that Grandfather is local?"

"Somewhere down here." She shrugged, looking up at him. "We met his brother. He seemed okay enough, but a bit of a frat boy. He got banished from home for a bit." He winced but nodded once. "Which meant we ran into Jacob and SHIELD."

"Oh, dear."

"Oh, yes. He's somewhere by the former family farm I guess. He's hiding." She smiled. "Before I kicked his ass."

"You probably should for that." He patted her hand on his arm. "Anything exciting?"

"No," she sighed. "I haven't had excitement in years. I had dinner with your grandfather but it's been decades there." She waved a hand around then smiled at the man who appeared on their other side. She looked up at her grandson, who was rolling his eyes. "At least you managed to let him survive this long."

"True. This is my grandmother."

The other spy looked amused then at him. "Is that why you haven't aged much?"



Darcy winked at him. "Don't worry. I hardly ever see this one." She looked up at him. "I need introduced to some fun people."

"I would but they'd probably try to make you work for them, dear."

"Point. Pity but point. Anyway, Jane's working hard on her bridge and stuff. I'm making sure she survives it."

He sighed, shaking his head. "And you yell at us about not using our degrees?"

"I use mine. Sometimes. Especially my poli-sci one I'm presently in the middle of. Negotiations are a thing I do."

He snorted but looked amused. "Fine. You will be safe?"

"I do try. But Thor got us on the radar of SHIELD."

"Which imploded."

"Yes, they had HYDRA, dear."

"Oh, no."

"Oh, yes." She smirked. He winced. "Yeah. Which is why others are having problems I'm assuming." He nodded. She went onto tiptoes to kiss his cheek. "Let me go bother Jane into eating. She's forgotten all day again. Come for dinner sometime, dears. Confuse Jane a lot." She strolled off.

He looked at his partner then after her. "I really do love that woman but sometimes she's very chaotic." His partner just nodded. He'd met her once without knowing why. That explained something he had missed back then. The grandson rolled his eyes. "She's very unique." He walked in the other direction, taking his partner with him. "You may not mention her. We protect her and her gift," he said quietly but firmly. "Or else I will have to take you out." He gave him a pointed look.

"I would not. I have seen how agencies would want someone with any sort of skills."

"Thank you." They went back to the office to report. "HYDRA was why SHIELD imploded. And other agencies probably falling as well." Their senior agent blinked a few times. "I talked with a friend of the family. She had a friend's son in SHIELD."

"Oh. Charming. HYDRA? After all these years?"

"Apparently they've been underground."

"Yes, let's stop that. Make sure of our people," he ordered. "I doubt we want such snakes in our grasses." He stared at him. "Did you go for that plastic surgery treatment again?"

"Of course. I can't pick up marks if I'm not pretty." He walked off to handle that. His partner was still confused but he'd explain it when they were private later.

Their supervising agent shook his head with a sigh. "I'd ask how he does it but I do not want to know. I might have to go there."

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