Continuing Tales

The Blood-Dimmed Tide

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by ofravenwings

Part 12 of 33

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The Blood-Dimmed Tide

Darcy takes a step back.

And another, her hands reaching out behind her.

It takes her another two steps, her hands encountering nothing each time, before she realises that she is looking for Loki's presence. The last time she dreamed her way to this place, he was there behind her. Ever since she walked into the hallway outside his cell, he has been a fixture in her dreams.

He is not here now.

Which means that either he cannot get here. Wherever here is, really.

"Or this isn't a dream," she says.

A breeze winds past, snatching her words from her lips. She remembers walking the labyrinth, the velvet darkness, the midnight laughter. Running, and then just being here, as though she stepped through a door.

She pinches her wrist. Presses her nails into her palms. The sensations are oddly distant, but they are there. More importantly, she does not wake up.

On the air, she can smell the pine from the nearby woods, the straggling blossoms of the white rose that climbs the fence, paint peeling beneath long thorns. That fence had been painted white once, when the house was new. Now there is little of the paint remaining, the bare wood silvering in the sun. Deeper, there is the scent of dry earth, of land that has not seen rain in a long time.

This melange of scents is the scent of her childhood, pervading every memory that she has of being here.

The stained white curtain moves in and out of the window, almost elegant as it undulates.

There is a sound that she recognises as the windchimes hung above the door, though she cannot see them move, and everything changes.

The paint on the fence is whole, only a few chips knocked away around the gate. Darcy knows that if she lined up those chips with her childhood fingers, they would match. She can still feel the sensation of the thick paint sliding beneath her nails. There had been splinters, too, and she had been forced to run to her father to have him remove them. Forced to confess her vandalism, and bear the brunt of his anger.

The thought of her father brings hot tears. She blinks them away, focuses on the house.

The land behind the house is greener, and the climbing rose has been trimmed, dead flowers and rosehips removed neatly. The patch of lawn between house and fence is green, free from weeds. The front window is closed, the white curtains behind still and unstained. The potted herbs on the porch are young, little more than tender shoots breaking free from the soil.

The windchimes ring again, and the front door opens. A younger Darcy bursts out, her hair bound in tangled pigtails, a tablecloth purloined from her mother's linen cupboard tied around her shoulders as a makeshift cape.

Darcy watches her younger self circle around the lawn, arms outstretched. She is smiling, and then the door opens again, and she realises what memory this is.

Her hands go behind her again, clutching at the empty air. Her heart hammers against her ribs.

"I don't want to see this," she says.

An echo of that laughter. The scene does not fade. If anything, it becomes more vivid, the colours and sensations brighter. Darcy feels her awareness divide, so she is at once seeing things from her adult and childhood eyes. She'd forgotten how tall her father had always looked to her. To her adult eyes, he is only medium height, and slightly stooped. Too small.

"Hey, bug," he says. His voice is thick, probably from the whiskey that he hides beneath the bathroom cabinet. The whiskey that he doesn't think anyone else knows about. "Saving the world, little girl?"

He reaches out, and Darcy both watches and experiences her younger body stiffening, glancing towards the door.

"Your mother isn't home, bug," he father says, his breath sour with whiskey.

Darcy wants to close her eyes, to pull away. But she had done neither, and so she did neither. She can only stand there as he leans close, his grizzled cheek against hers, his breath hot against her neck.

She counts one, two, three. It always helps, the counting. It is something else to focus on.

She gets to nineteen when he jerks away, his body stiffening as hers did. He says nothing, just stares at her, something like her name strangled in his throat.

And then he drops to the ground, still.

"Look away, look away, look away," adult Darcy says. Her hands are curled into fists so hard that she can feel blood welling.

She does not, and so she cannot. The daylight fades, and she is still standing there, her father's body cooling, when her mother and brothers return home. She relives their questioning, their focus on the thing that she does not understand: what were they doing, that her father was half naked? Child Darcy did not answer, because it was their secret, and you should always keep secrets, no matter what.

Her mother straps her, and she sits through the funeral in her new black dress with the stiff lace collar, trying and failing to find a comfortable way to ease her bruised skin against the cold wood of the church pew.

Only after the funeral does time blessedly skip.

She is older now by a few years, and the house has changed again. It is sparse now, and all of the books are gone. There is only the white Bible on the shelf now. There is church every day, and once a week Darcy must submit to the strap for her sins.

Her mother tells her that she is sin itself, that she killed her father, that she seduced him.

For a long time, Darcy believes her. Attends church every day with her, studies the Bible. Tries to find an answer to why she was born so wrong.

It takes longer for her to begin to question, longer for her to resist.

She moves out after high school, deliberately choosing a college as far away from her childhood home as possible. She picks political science as a major, because it is as far from her old life as possible.

She becomes someone else.

And then Thor arrives, and the world changes again.

Darcy lives through it all again: the lab being emptied, the Destroyer, Thor and Jane. Thor leaving.

And then, afterwards, the phone call.

The house changes, becomes that broken place again, the stained curtain dancing in and out of the window. And Darcy is walking towards it, opening the rotting gate, crossing the weed-choked lawn. The windchimes ring as she opens the door.

"I didn't see this," she says as her body steps over the threshold. "I never came back here after I left."

Her body keeps on moving, taking her into the living room. Things have changed again as she walked, the window open but the curtains unstained. The furniture has been removed from the room, the only thing remaining the statue of Jesus in an alcove, a candle burning before him. The tiny shelf beneath is thick with drips of wax.

The room smells of neglect, of rot, and of something sharper, something Darcy doesn't immediately recognise.

Her brothers enter the room. Both are adults now, and both look too much like the face Darcy sees in the mirror. Their hair has been shorn close to their scalp, and they are garbed in white linen, their feet left bare. They cross to the alcove, kneel before it, heads bowed.

A heartbeat, and then Darcy's mother enters. She is reciting from the Bible, passages that Darcy recognises as being from the Book of Revelations. Under one arm she carries the family Bible. Under the other arm she carries a shotgun.

Darcy cannot speak now. Cannot look away, cannot close her eyes.

Her mother finishes her sermon, lifts the shotgun. Fires once, twice. Blood spatters on the walls, on the curtains. Darcy's brothers fall to the floor, their bodies meeting the ground with the same finality as her father's body had.

Her mother kneels now, heedless of the blood seeping into her own white garments. Murmurs, crosses herself, then reaches up and topples the candle from the shelf.

Whiskey, Darcy realises. It's whiskey she can smell, rubbing alcohol. Everything flammable.

Everything slows down, and she sees her mother's face just before the fire explodes. The air is sucked into the room, the curtains dancing in the window. Her mother looks beatific. Like she is accomplishing something wonderful.

She looks up at Darcy, and her eyes flood solid black. "It's the end of the world, sweetheart. You should have been here with us."

Everything burns.


Darcy is in the velvet darkness again.

Her skin prickles with the memory of that heat. Nausea twists in her stomach. Bad enough that her brothers had been shot by her mother, but she had never known that her mother had burned alive. Had never wanted to know.

"Do you want me to take it away?" The voice is as black and velvet as the darkness around her.

Darcy looks around, trying to see the speaker. There is nothing but the shadows crowding around her, a total absence of light.

"Do you want me to take it away?" the voice asks again. "The memory, the pain. I can take it all away."

Heat shimmers over Darcy's skin, and she feels the air moving against her as it had the moment before the fire took hold. She remembers the look on her mother's face. She remembers the look on her father's face.

"Yes," she says, because she cannot say anything else. She cannot live with this, not any more. She will not. "Take it away. Please."

Something moves against her left arm, like a thin blade of ice curling around and around against her skin.

"A fitting sacrifice, supplicant," the voice says, and then the cold pulls away. "A fitting beginning."

Darcy feels the pain inside her curl up, shrivel like paper going brittle and burning in an oven. And then it is only ashes, all of the memories, all of the pain, and she is empty, and she is numb, and she doesn't remember a thing about her childhood or her family.

And it feels good.

The Blood-Dimmed Tide

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by ofravenwings

Part 12 of 33

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