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04 February 2012 @ 00:03
"Simple, Not Easy" 16/18, Rated R to NC-17  
Title: Simple, Not Easy
Fandom: Thor (2011), Marvel Cinematic Universe
Rating: R to NC-17
Pairings: Darcy/Clint, Loki/Sif, Natasha/Coulson
Summary: Darcy should have seen it coming. She couldn't hang around the spandex crowd forever and not end up with a great big target painted on her back eventually. She was just surprised it took Loki so long.

Disclaimer: The Avengers and all related elements, characters and indicia © Marvel Studios 2012. All Rights Reserved. All characters and situations—save those created by the authors for use solely on this website—are copyright Marvel Studios 2012.

Please do not archive or distribute without author's permission.

Author's Note: This story is all Lunik's fault. HUGE thanks to my flatmate/betas/cheerleaders/people who couldn't get out of the way fast enough when I started emailing them drafts: Boosette, Celli, Victoria P, Seren, Fringedweller, Aj, the aforementioned Lunik, and everyone on El Jay who cheered me on during the nearly 4 months when this story ATE MY LIFE.

AO3 | LJ

Chapter 16

Darcy and Clint had just reached the men's room when the door burst open, practically flying off its hinges.

Four guys ran out, two of them still pulling up their jeans, and one with his fly totally unzipped. The last dude was older, and wearing a tee-shirt with the bar's logo, and Darcy assumed he was the men's room attendant. He was grey-faced and making a beeline for Security.

"Darcy, what the—" Clint began, and then the penny dropped. He moved in front of her, automatically taking point.

Loki had the guy by the throat, his feet dangling a foot off the ground, while Loki's other hand glowed with sickly green light. There was a wet stain down the front of the guy's jeans, and he was gibbering in terror.

In contrast, Loki was completely calm. He was even smiling.

Darcy stepped out from behind Clint. "What the fuck?"

Loki just shrugged as piss dripped off the toe of the guy's shoe onto the linoleum floor.

"Just teaching this one some manners," Loki said, his fingers flexing around the guy's neck.

"Let him go!" Darcy snapped, and still smiling, Loki released the fuckwad who had tried to feel her up on the dancefloor. Crawling on his hands and knees, the guy locked himself in the nearest stall.

"So some dude got a little handsy on the dancefloor. You don't threaten to kill them."

"Wait, that guy got handsy with you?" Clint turned on Darcy, who scowled at him.

"Not helping."

"Yes, I do," Loki said quietly.

"Do what?"

"He laid his hands on you."

"That's no reason to assault the guy!"

"Isn't it? Forgive me, but I was under the impression from your films and television programmes that that's exactly what one is supposed to do."

Darcy didn't think. It was like her right hand had a mind of its own. She slapped him—hard—and then again for good measure.

"You fucker, you promised..."

Clint pulled Darcy back, placing himself between her and the Æsir. But Loki only raised a hand to his cheek. His green eyes had gone flat, and he was no longer smiling.

"I promised not to kill anyone for one week, yes. And I was true to my word."

Darcy couldn't believe this. Okay, she could, but it was like she'd walked into a scene from a movie she thought had ended months ago. There was a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach that she recognised, and really wished she didn't.

It was helplessness. Even with Clint standing between her and Loki, it was like she was back on that rooftop in Queens all over again. The knowledge that whatever she did, it was going to be bad, bad, bad made her feel like she wanted to puke.

"So instead of trying to be a better man, you just decided to be a better monster?" Darcy spat, almost shaking with a lethal combination of terror and fury. "We're done."

"Done?" Loki echoed.

"You and me and this—whatever this has been. I'm out. It's done. You don't talk to me, you don't pop up in my apartment. You don't come near me ever again."

Darcy turned on her heel and stalked out of the bathroom, pushing past the two beefy security guards heading toward the men's room. The club was still packed, and she heard angry shouts and accusations as she blindly made her way to the entrance. The cold damp air hit her like a wall, and Julio raised both eyebrows as she reached out a hand.

"You still smoking?"

"Nah—I quit."

"Bullshit. Gimmie one." She waved her hand, and Julio just sighed and reached into the inside pocket of his blazer. Pulling a Marlboro red from the pack, he handed it to her and held out his lighter.

"Just don't tell my mom, okay?"

"Deal." Darcy cupped her hands around the flame, and took a deep draw on the cigarette, ignoring the instinct to cough.

"You okay?" Julio asked as she blew out a stream of smoke.

"No. Not really. Can you call me a cab?"

"That guy you were with—he get fresh with you? Want me to mess him up for you?"

"Jesus, has everybody got testosterone poisoning tonight?" She leaned back against the cool cement wall, rubbing her bare arms. "No. I just want to go home."

Darcy closed her eyes, resisting the urge to slam her head back against the wall until she left a stain.

Someone plucked the cigarette from between her fingers, and Darcy nearly came up swinging before she realised it was Clint.

"Since when do you smoke?"

"Only when I'm stressed out." She didn't even try to make a grab for the still-burning cigarette, before Clint ground it out beneath his heel. "Give me your phone."

He handed it over, then asked, "What are you doing?" as she started furiously pressing buttons.

"What do you think? I'm blocking the asshole from my Facebook."

"Ah. I thought, I dunno, you might be calling this in so S.H.I.E.L.D. could take him in."

"You saw what he did to one guy back there. I'm not putting the whole club in the line of fire." She handed Clint back his phone, trying to ignore the way her hand shook.

Clint took one look at her and draped his jacket across her shoulders before he pulled her up against his side and tucked her head beneath his chin.

"You okay?"

"I just want to go home," Darcy said, her words muffled by his tee-shirt. Her throat was aching and her eyes stung.

She stubbornly told herself it was just from the smoke as they got in the cab.

It was late by the time they got back to the mansion. Darcy hadn't said a word the entire ride home, and her plan was to put on her flannel jammies and crawl into bed until Monday morning. Just the thought of facing Coulson made her want to throw up, and she was half afraid to ask Clint if handsy-bathroom-dancing guy had called the cops.

However, when they climbed the wide staircase to the second floor, instead of heading to her room, Clint kept hold of her hand and turned to go up the smaller staircase to the side.

"Where are we going?"

"You'll see," he said cryptically.

By the time they reached the top, Darcy's calves were aching and she was seriously regretting both the half a cigarette and her high-heeled boots. Clint punched in an access code into a thick steel door that looked like it could withstand a surface-to-air missile, and then he opened the door and she forgot about her aching feet and the club and everything else.

She'd never been up on the roof before.

Central Park stretched out in front of them, the cold white streetlamps illuminating the trees just starting to turn gold and orange. Beyond the park, the skyline was half-hidden by fog.

Right up at the edge of the roof were two lawn chairs. It wasn't Smith Motors. And so much had happened since those afternoons with cans of soda and bitching about his ridiculous childhood adoration of Jon Bon Jovi. But Darcy suddenly felt an intense stab of homesickness for that stupid gas station in Puente Antiguo and the wide open New Mexico sky.

"Figured you'd like the view," Clint said, dropping down into one of the chairs. "I know it's not the same, but—"

"I'm okay with skipping the searing heat and freakishly cold desert nights, actually." Darcy grabbed the end of the other chair, and dragged it closer to Clint's.

"Yeah, but you could actually see the stars," Clint said, reaching down to intertwine his fingers with hers. He was right. The sky was a solid sheet of amber from all the reflected light of the city, and she couldn't see a single star overhead; a few aircraft nav lights blinking in the clouds, but no stars.

"Yeah," Darcy sighed, and added quietly, "Jane's stars."

"You gonna be okay?" Clint asked softly, and Darcy chewed on her bottom lip.

"I just feel so stupid, you know? Everybody told me—you, Jane, Natasha. Hell, even Coulson. Everybody told me, but I really thought... I thought he was different."

"He was different," Clint said, rubbing his thumb across her knuckles lightly. "And you weren't stupid, or naïve. You wanted to believe he could change, because you're a good person, Darcy Lewis."

He leaned over and pressed a kiss to her temple.

"Don't you ever change," he said into her hair.

The ache in her throat from holding back tears was choking her. She laid her head on Clint's shoulder, and let them come.

"You know what really pisses me off?" Darcy asked.

"When people tie up their dogs outside restaurants when they go in to eat?"

"Okay—yeah. That does piss me off. But I can't even watch my favourite movie when I'm feeling crappy now, because he's totally ruined it for me, now."

"I still can't believe you actually showed Loki a movie about a kid and a dragon."

"Shut up. It's awesome."

"I didn't say it wasn't."

Darcy woke up alone, the smell of coffee permeating her apartment. Her throat felt raw, and her head was pounding like she'd been on a bender. She knew it was dehydration from crying, but that didn't change the fact that her brain was apparently trying to escape her skull via her eyes.

She swallowed three ibuprofen, and then splashed cool water on her face.

There was a note propped up against the coffee pot, written in Clint's slanted hand.

Left early to work out downstairs. Breakfast is in
the microwave. See you for lunch?


She pulled open the microwave, and found two breakfast Hot Pockets, still warm in their little cardboard sleeves. Despite her pounding head and chapped lips, she couldn't help smiling.

"Classy, Barton. Classy."

Pouring a giant mug of steaming fresh coffee, she warmed up the bacon egg and cheese pastries with a touch of a button. The clouds of the night before were gone, and bright sunlight streamed through the windows.

A whole new day.

"A whole new chance to screw up," Darcy muttered into the depths of the mug with a sigh. Further self-recriminations were interrupted by a knock on her door. Darcy looked down at her tee-shirt and flannel pyjama pants and shrugged. If someone was going to show up at her door before noon on a Saturday, they were going to just have to deal with her monkey jammies.

Of course it was Thor. Why wouldn't it be Thor? Because what her headache really needed was a guy whose default volume was eleven.

"Hey. You want some coffee?"

"Darcy, are you well?"

Oh crap. He was being sincere. He had that meek adorable face on. The same one he'd had after he'd carried Erik home from the bar and made them scrambled eggs. The god of thunder with a tea towel slung over his shoulder—not something she could really forget.

At lease he was in jeans and a tee-shirt, instead of his super-shiny armour. She was not really up for shiny right now.

"I kinda have a headache."

"Clint Barton told me of your encounter with my brother."

"Of course he did." She poured him a mug of coffee, and pushed it across the counter at him. "No smashing," she said absently. She didn't actually need to—Jane going off on him at Izzy's had done the trick. But it had become a thing. Particularly after he started hanging out with Tony, who did plenty of smashing all on his own.

"No smashing," Thor promised, taking a long swallow of the coffee.

"So how much did Clint tell you? Like, the Reader's Digest version, or did he give you a play by play?"

Thor gave her that look that meant she was speaking in cultural references he didn't understand. Just one more difference between him and his brother.

"He told me only that you quarrelled."

"Quarrelled. Yeah. That's one word for it." She sighed, and filled him in on the details. When she described the guy trying to feel her up, his expression grew hard. When she got to the bit about slapping Loki, she thought his eyes were going to pop out of his head.

"Can I ask you something?"

"Any answer I can give, I would give it gladly."

"What is it with the whole casual violence thing? Is that just how you guys do stuff where you come from?"

Thor frowned. "It is true that on Asgard, punishment is swift and most often... physical."

"Okay, so next question: would he really have killed that guy?"

"I do not know my brother's mind. But were the situations reversed, and it had been Jane..." Thor's expression darkened.

"But what if it had been Sif? Somebody you know can take care of herself? Would you have felt all macho macho man and stepped up to cream the guy? Or would you have trusted her to do it if she wanted to?" Darcy asked, and Thor's frown was replaced by a look of contemplation. "Because that's sorta the thing for me right now. It's not that I don't appreciate the help when I need it. But I didn't need it. And I never would have asked for it—not like that." Darcy shuddered. "I'm gonna need therapy just watching what happened."

"I admit, I do not completely understand your dismay, Darcy. You said my brother threatened violence, but no acts of violence were actually committed? Should you not rejoice that no blood was shed?"

"But it isn't just..." Darcy buried her face in her hands. "Okay, lemme try again. What freaks me out more than anything else is how casual it was. Like, my first instinct when somebody pisses me off is to flip them off—not threaten to use their intestines to tie my shoes, you know? It's the easy way he hurts people that upset me. That it never would have occurred to him that there's a line and he'd crossed it. It's not just about Asgard versus Midgard. It's about me not being able to deal with somebody getting hurt because of me."

"You did incapacitate me with your lighting device when first we met," Thor pointed out.

"Yeah I tased you—but I didn't do it for lols. I did it because a ginormous drunk dude built like a brick shithouse was yelling shit at the sky, and there was no way me, Jane, and Erik were gonna be able to stop him if he got near us."

Thor nodded, conceding the point.

"I guess what upset me the most was that I thought Loki had changed. And he hadn't. And that's as much about my unrealistic expectations as it is his love of violence."

"I would agree with you, save for one thing: my brother never loved violence. Oh, he was trained in arms, and joined with me and Sif and our friends on the field of battle when 't was needed. But he was always looking for another way. He would not raise a hand when raising his voice would do."

"What changed?"

"Power," Thor replied immediately.

"How do you mean? Did he have all his woo-woo powers since forever?"

"Aye, he has been a master of magic for centuries in Asgard. But among our own kind, sorcery is not looked at the same way as the ability to wield a blade. Even my father, who has ruled over the Nine Realms since the time of the beginning, was more renowned for his fierceness in battle than his ability to shift his shape or cast powerful spells. But here in Midgard..."

"Yeah—sorcerers on Earth, thin on the ground. Okay, except for the fact that there are like six of them in Manhattan. But I think I get it. No-one back home thought he was cool, but once he got here, it was a totally different story?"

"I believe that more than anything else, Loki has been corrupted by the power he wields over mortals. He was never able to gain the respect he felt he deserved—but here he has fear. And fear can be a heady drug. Yet he still, I think, craves acceptance among the Æsir. Or else, why court the Lady Sif as he has done?"

"Something tells me getting into Sif's pants doesn't have much to do with winning the respect of his buddies, as it does the scorching hotness of Sif herself. Dude's had a crush for a long, long time. Way before he found out he was adopted. Trust me."

"But why did he never declare his intentions before?"

Darcy placed a hand on his shoulder. "To put it in the parlance of the sacred Midgard custom know as the John Hughes movie—geeks never mix with jocks."

Thor was giving her that "you are speaking in tongues" look again, and she sighed.

"Geeks are kids who spend more time with books and computers than outdoors engaging in team sports. Jocks are kids who would rather be staked out on an anthill doused in honey than read a book, and live for team sports. Got it?"

"I believe I understand. So, by your reckoning, I am a... jock?"

"And Loki's a classic geek. Unfortunately of the Columbine variety." Thor opened his mouth to ask, and Darcy shook her head. "Long story. But geeks have a hard time getting together with super-hot jocks like Sif. Trust me, my friend, the entire genre of teen cinema is founded on this inescapable fact."

"If his suit is doomed, according to your culture, then why did he try?"

"Possibly I kinda sorta put him up to it. He just kept going on about her, and I was all 'Dude, ask her out already.' I was actually really surprised he did. I mean, you pine for a thousand years without making a move, I figured he was hopeless. Or maybe so deep in the closet he was having adventures in Narnia."

Thor had clearly lost the thread of the conversation. Darcy sighed.

"Sometimes I think he likes her likes her. Other times I think he just wants her because everybody back home thinks of you two as a done deal."

"You believe that he wants her because he perceives her as mine?"

"C'mon, big guy, don't tell me the thought had never crossed your mind."

"I don't know. I know only that my brother grew so... cold in my shadow. I was blind to it until it was too late."

"Okay, before we go into a shame spiral about how you didn't hug your little brother enough when you were growing up, I think we really need to focus on the matter at hand. Namely, Loki threatening to kill a guy in a bathroom. Am I crazy for losing my shit over this?"

"You told me once that you did not wish to be another who rejected my brother for being who and what he is. But is this not what we both have done?"

"I didn't freak out because of who he is. I freaked out because of what he did. What he chose to do. That's different. I mean, that's got to be different, right?"

Darcy felt her throat grow tight again. Figured just as she finally kicked her headache, she'd start bawling again.

"I wish I knew, Darcy Lewis. I will tell you this much—had my brother intended to kill a man, that man would be dead. That he lives still is perhaps proof that my brother can change. Even if you have withdrawn your friendship, it was more perhaps than my brother has known in a very long time."

Darcy chewed on her bottom lip, and Thor put an arm around her shoulder and pulled her into a hug. Say what you would about Asgardian family values, Thor gave good hug.

"Hey—you making a move on my girl?" Clint said from the doorway, and Darcy giggled into Thor's pecs.

"I would never woo your lady, Clint. I swear it by my hammer," Thor said, sounding completely sincere.

"Hey!" Darcy tipped her head back so she could look him in the eye. "You saying I'm not hot enough to be your girlfriend?"

"Don't answer that," Clint said, slapping Thor on the back as he came around behind him to grab a coffee mug from the counter. "It never goes well."

"Good thing you're hot enough to be my boyfriend," Darcy said as Clint poured the last of the pot into his mug.

Darcy gave Clint a smacking kiss, and he set his coffee mug next to hers before he pulled her into his lap. "You feeling better? You eat breakfast?"

"Yes, Mom." Darcy rolled her eyes. "You know that Hot Pockets are really bad for you, right?"

He shrugged. "We'll get some fruit later."

"I should go," Thor said, giving Darcy's shoulder a squeeze.

"Oh, wait!" Darcy jumped off Clint's lap and grabbed two discs from the stack next to her television.

"Here. This one will explain all the jock and geek stuff. And, um... this one is the movie with the dragons. Jane's already seen it a bunch of times, and she makes little squeaky noises right before all the good parts. So you might wanna, you know, watch it on your own, first."

Thor took them from her, and gave her one of those megawatt grins. "Thank you."

Clint watched as Thor went back out into the hallway, and carefully closed Darcy's door behind him. It barely rattled in its frame. Darcy climbed onto the stool next to Clint's and stirred another spoonful of sugar into her coffee.

"Did you just give Thor your copy of Some Kind of Wonderful?" Clint asked as he reached for the open box of Lucky Charms and picked out the pastel marshmallows.

"What? If you're gonna pick just one John Hughes movie, it's gotta be that one."

"I'd have pegged you for a Sixteen Candles or Pretty In Pink."

"Hell no. I'll take Watts over Molly Ringwald any day of the week." Darcy grabbed two pink hearts from Clint's growing stack. "Also, Duckie was robbed."

"That's my girl." He scooted his stool closer to her so he could drape one arm possessively around her waist.

"You smell like sweaty guy," Darcy pointed out as Clint's fingers dipping into the elastic waistband of her pyjama pants to caress her hip.

Clint raised a brow. "So, we'll shower."

She gave him a slow smile. "Yeah, okay."

Chapter 17
schweinsty: Bourne: Spy Heroschweinsty on 4th February 2012 06:28 (UTC)
Umm, this chapter totally had me tearing up (because, oh, Darcy), but I think this -

I didn't freak out because of who he is. I freaked out because of what he did. What he chose to do. That's different. I mean, that's got to be different, right?

I mean, thank you. Seriously, thanks for making the distinction. I've seen some fic that sort of conflates the two and just sort of forgives Odin/the Asgards for their instances of being a dick to Loki on the basis of Loki being more comfortable w/ magic than physical strength/a frost giant rather than him doing evil shit and - well, I identified with movie!Loki to a frightening extent for various reasons, and - yeah, thanks for making the distinction clear. Made go all squishy-faced and feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Also, your Clint is sweet and lovely and I want to date him (hot pockets. Hot pockets. That's adorable), and Thor trying to figure it out (actually, that whole conversation) was great. Awesome chapter.

Edited at 2012-02-04 06:28 (UTC)
ljc: avengers (loki)taraljc on 4th February 2012 06:47 (UTC)
In a way, this WHOLE STORY for me is about that exactly. Loki needs people in his life to call him on his shit, without actively rejecting him for not being Thor or Aesir. He needs to take responsibility for his actions before anything can ever work--not between him and his family, not between him and Sif, and really at the end of the day, not between him and Darcy.

Edited at 2012-02-04 06:48 (UTC)
schweinsty: AtLA: Toph Thisschweinsty on 4th February 2012 07:14 (UTC)
I think that's just a thing a lot of fic writers don't get into - I mean, yes, the Aesir (hello, brain, proper form of the word) collectively (and Odin specifically, I think) could have handled things better regarding Loki, but he still fucked up - I mean, he did more than fuck up, he purposefully killed and destroyed and just - well, I mean he attempted genocide - and I think what's so refreshing about this fic is that you convey your point so well without it coming off as heavy-handed moralizing.

Of course, at the same time - if Loki hadn't been raised in an environment where the frost giants were so despised and reviled - if Odin had tried to temper that, at least, knowing who Loki was - he probably wouldn't have been so horrified on learning he *was* one. I mean, Odin/the Aesir aren't to blame for Loki's actions, and the onus is certainly on Loki to accept that and own it and make what reparations he can, but I think they certainly drove Loki to hate himself just for who he was

- which, in retrospect, is kind of exactly what you were saying, lol. Uh, I'm sorry; I got kind of off-track and tl;dr, but what I wanted to say was - you are totally getting that across in this story in an awesome, fantastic way with a nuanced portrayal of Loki's character (while definitely keeping it Darcy's story, I think, which is just really awesome because - that's the thing, isn't it? Loki's actions in Thor are always without regard to the people around him, and that transfers to lots of fic or fanmedia in ways that I think is - well, not unhealthy, but degenerating into angst and turning Loki into a woobie, whereas here, by keeping the story firmly grounded in Darcy's perspective with the counterpoints of Clint and SHIELD, allowing her to see and be affected the damage Loki causes, you sort of bypass that and stomp on its grave and it comes off awesome).

And I'm going ot again there so just - awesome chapter all around! :D!
ljc: penguin mug of AWESOMEtaraljc on 4th February 2012 07:20 (UTC)
Okay, when I am ever having a bad day or worrying that I totally suck, I am going to take this comment out and read it. Because I WANT TO MARRY IT. You are awesome.

In short: YES. THIS.
schweinstyschweinsty on 4th February 2012 07:29 (UTC)
OMG, I just realized why your handle was so familiar - you're the Pike/Number One writer!!! I had completely forgotten your sn and was actually looking for one of your fics a while back! Do you mind if I friend?
ljc: star trek (pike/number one sexy)taraljc on 4th February 2012 07:30 (UTC)
Friend away!
(Deleted comment)
ljc: thor (darcy smile)taraljc on 4th February 2012 07:47 (UTC)
Yeah. Darcy has those moments of "OMG WHO DOES SHIT LIKE THIS? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?" with Loki, alomost immediately followed by "And this is why you had no friends in Asgardian high school, dude. Genocide is not cool. Repeat afetr me: genocide is not cool."

Which everyone also does with Thor, but the big difference is... Thor tends not to kill people (or threaten to kill people) on a whim for lols.
daisybalance: Nixon Historydaisybalance on 4th February 2012 08:49 (UTC)
So. Good. So very, very good.

Central Park stretched out in front of them, the cold white streetlamps illuminating the trees just starting to turn gold and orange. Beyond the park, the skyline was half-hidden by fog.


As were the characterizations, as always.

In this chapter, though, I was wrapped up in the visuals - from "as piss dripped off the toe of the guy's shoe onto the linoleum floor" to "and carefully closed Darcy's door behind him. It barely rattled in its frame."

So much love!
ljc: thor (god of mischief)taraljc on 6th February 2012 07:06 (UTC)
Thank you so much! I'd written the bathroom scene ages ago, and wanted to capture it in snapshots and fleeting impressions. Choosing which details to reveal is always one of my favourite things.
skippy_peanuts: firefighter deanskippy_peanuts on 4th February 2012 15:58 (UTC)
Aw Darcy. I see why she's mad at Loki, but they were buds... even if he was a little on the sociopathic side. I hope they work it out!
ljc: thor (curvy darcy)taraljc on 6th February 2012 07:07 (UTC)
Even when someone is your bud, folks can still have tremendous rows.
hiddencaithiddencait on 4th February 2012 19:13 (UTC)
Gah there was so much emotional drama happening here, all of it totally understandable.

This is why I am almost ashamed to admit I laughed my freaking head off at this line: "I would never woo your lady, Clint. I swear it by my hammer," Thor said, sounding completely sincere.

...did anyone else suddenly hear Nathan Fillion muttering "the hammer is my penis" or do I just have issues? *hides*
ljc: avengers (thor)taraljc on 6th February 2012 07:08 (UTC)
I ♥ Thor.