Continuing Tales

The Blood-Dimmed Tide

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by ofravenwings

Part 15 of 33

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The Blood-Dimmed Tide

Everything is black, and Darcy is falling.

At least, she thinks that she's falling. Maybe she's flying. Everything is so dark, this endless, absolute black with no point of reference at all. She thinks that she feels something like a breeze against her skin, but maybe not. Maybe she's not moving at all.

As she falls - or flies, or stays still - memories rise within her, as though her mind is seeking to fill the darkness with something.

She remembers reading something once, someone saying that space smelled like burning. She can't remember if it was supposed to be a true thing, or if it was just something out of a science fiction story. She can feel the weight of the book in her hands, the slight roughness of the paper beneath her fingers.

The words grow darker, blackness rising in spikes and jagged peaks like broken obsidian, growing and growing until the darkness smothers everything.

For a beat, she is falling or flying again, her heart hammering.

Then she is in high school, in biology class. This is certainly a memory of something real. She is sitting at a high table, the laminated surface green, the exact shade of the apple she had eaten with her lunch. It was summer, and the air coming in through the open windows is thick with humidity. There is a fan spinning on the teacher's desk, but it does little more than stir the damp air. The room smells like sweat and formaldehyde.

The teacher circled the room, setting down a metal tray on each table. Upon each tray, dissection tools.

And a mouse, its belly fat with unborn young.

The plastic stool Darcy is sitting on is slightly crooked, and every few breaths, she rocks to one side or another, and clutches at the counter, half worried that she'll fall. She can't take her eyes off the mouse. Wondering if it is still breathing.

Sitting by her side is Lisa Frances, her best friend at the time. Lisa was a vegetarian that week, and she puts up her hand. Her voice is far away as she tells the teacher that its against her principles to dissect an animal.

Lisa presses the scalpel into Darcy's hand. Darcy cuts, the mouse's skin giving beneath the blade before it splits. The smell of decomposing flesh rises above the chemicals, and baby mice spill from the cut.

Someone turns on a light behind the fan, the light flickering over the table, the mice. The shadows are darker than they should be, and they rise in jagged peaks, tendrils of shadow curling around Darcy, swallowing the memory.

More memories follow, each one swallowed in turn by the shadows. The first boy she had slept with - Lisa's cousin Ben, in fact. His hands had flailed limply at her body, and there had been pain as he had pressed inside her. Later, there are others, and she learns that there can be more than pain, but she is always too aware of her own body, and she is glad when the shadows rise up and take the memories away.

The darkness presses against her, warm and damp. It gives her the sickening feeling that she's inside a living thing. She tries not to think what follows, but she can't stop the image of being swallowed, of falling down into some enormous gullet, of being digested.

Then the darkness around her is rising into spikes and shards, pressing against her skin the way her scalpel had pressed against that mouse on that long-ago afternoon. And then they are not spikes at all, but claws and teeth rending her flesh, tearing muscle and sinew from bone.

She screams.

Something flares in the darkness, a light that reminds her of the dance of moonlight on the tropical sea. Those claws and teeth are pressing deeper, pain twisting in every nerve. Some dim, animal instinct makes her reach for the light, grasp it with both hands. She can feel her skin slippery with blood, and it takes her two tries to grasp the light. It burns like fire against her, but there is something comforting, almost cooling, about that burn.

She holds on with everything she has, and the light pulls her out of the darkness.


Darcy blinks black blood from her eyes.

The pain is still moving in crippling waves over her skin, and she can't help but make a small, strangled sound deep in her throat. She wants to scream, she wants to rend her throat bloody, because it hurts as nothing else has ever hurt before in her life.

There is a touch on her cheek, and she pulls away involuntarily, knowing that it will only hurt. How could it not, when she feels as though her skin has been flayed, her muscles chewed from her bones?

The light is still there, and as her vision finally begins to clear, it resolves into something more. Green eyes, looking down at her with concern.

"Darcy? Darcy!"

It takes her a long moment to recognise the sound of her name. She cannot recognise him, her shattered mind not even capable of parsing his features into anything human. She can see fragments only: green eyes, black hair, pale skin.

That touch comes again, his fingers pressing gently at her ribs, her arms and legs. Each time he touches her, the pain receded, like a wave flowing out with the tide. By the time he trails his fingers along the line of her jaw, she feels whole again. Shaking and shattered and wrung out dry, but whole.

When he withdraws his hand, she expects to see his fingers wet with blood. They are clean, albeit shaking almost as badly as she is.

Something glitters in his eyes - is it relief that she sees there? She almost recognises him, but then he presses his hand against her forehead. Blessed coolness washes through her, and then she is sinking down into cool, emerald light.

She closes her eyes, and she sleeps.


Darcy dreams of floating on a vast, emerald sea.

Above her are the stars: a vast expanse of jewel-bright colours against the deep velvet dark of space. She is weightless, not a single ounce of tension in her body as she floats.

She smiles, and turns over, and the sea becomes silk beneath her. She is lying on a bed, the mattress supporting her as effortlessly as the water had.

Movement behind her, and she feels the coolness of skin against hers, an unmistakably masculine arm curving around her ribs and pulling her close.

It feels so right to curve her body against his, to be held by him in a nest of skin-warmed silk.

She closes her eyes, and is beginning to drift back into the floating dream when a sharp jangling sound shatters the silence.

For a heartbeat, the scene remains solid, then it all falls apart, everything fading into smoke and air.

She opens her eyes to darkness. There is no silk beneath her, just worn cushions. And there is definitely no one holding her, no sense of rightness to any of this at all.

It takes a moment for her eyes to adjust to the dim light in the room - not total darkness at all, but rather the thin gloom that comes when a room is only illuminated by tiny LED lights on electronic equipment.

She is in the guard room, has been sleeping on the couch. Her new boots are lined up neatly on the floor, laces tucked neatly away in a manner that is nothing like anything she would do. She's more prone to kicking her shoes into the nearest corner, then swearing the next day while trying to find where they landed.

The jangling noise comes again, and this time she realises that its her phone, its light coming from within the pocket of her jacket, which is hanging on the back of the chair.

When she sits up, her head swims, and she swallows hard against nausea. She doesn't bother with the lights, just claws the phone out of her jacket pocket, answers it.

"Hello?" Her voice is rusty and dry, sounding as though she'd been at a club, screaming over loud music the previous night. She blinks at that thought; she has no idea if it is even day or night right now. She clears her throat. "Hello?"

"You haven't filed any of your reports."

Darcy blinks again. "What?"

A sound like the grinding of teeth comes over the line. "You haven't filed any of your reports."

She rolls her eyes. "As helpful as repeating the same thing is, who is this?"

"Ms Lewis, you know full well who this is. Your supervisor? The one you're supposed to be reporting to at the end of every shift. As per the contract you signed."

Daniel Blackwood. The name comes to her slowly, as if swimming up through a murky pool. She still feels half asleep, as though this is the dream and that ocean, that bed, was real life. She scrubs her hand across her eyes; her lashes are crusted, as if with salt. "Da-" She bites off the name halfway. "David? That was your name, right?" she asks deliberately.

"Daniel. Daniel Blackwood."

"Right. Sure." Her stomach contracts painfully, and she wonders how long she was sleeping. She scrabbles in the boxes beneath the desk until she finds a protein bar. Tears it open, stuffs it into her mouth and chews. Loudly.

"Ms Lewis, I suggest that if you want to keep your job, you begin filing your reports," Daniel says.

"Got a long line of interns just waiting to take it, right?" she asks. She doesn't know why she's being so antagonistic to him, doesn't care right now, because it feels good.

That grinding noise comes again, louder now. Much too loud to be his teeth, she thinks. "Just file the damn reports."

He clicks off. Darcy puts the phone down on the desk, finishes her protein bar by its light. According to the display on the phone, it's a little after 8pm.

She opens another protein bar and eats it more slowly, trying to piece together the day. She remembers the labyrinth, she remembers running through the city. A little zing of electricity moves through her muscles at that memory, and she wonders at the fact that she's not even sore from the running. In fact, she feels like she could damn well run all the way home right now, and not even get winded.

After that, there was the gym room and the attached bathroom. She'd gotten back to the guard room after Loki's dinner tray had been delivered.

Which means that she had only been asleep for maybe an hour. Somehow, that thought is both reassuring and disturbing.

Her Stark laptop is sitting on the desk, the battered iPod Beth had given her plugged in to charge. She frowns at that, because she doesn't remember bringing either of them into the Tower.

She realises that she's rubbing the raised tattoo on her wrist as she stares at the laptop. It's soothing, running her fingers over that pattern, and soon she doesn't care at all whether she can remember bringing it here. It was here now, and that's what mattered, right?

The light of the screen is bright when she opens the laptop, and she blinks away tears as her eyes adjust. She opens the email program, skims through a list of what look like company-wide messages. Reminding people to recycle, to be wary out on the streets, to ensure that their hours are logged at the end of the week.

Darcy smiles grimly. If someone only had these emails to look at, they'd think that the world wasn't ending at all.

The contract she signed is in the desk drawer. She reads it over as best as she can by the light of the laptop screen. Like Daniel said, there's a clause which requires her to report her observations of the prisoner at the end of each day.

Her smile becomes genuine as she reads further. Because there's nothing about who she has to report to.

She remembers Pepper cutting in to her conversation with Daniel. Opens a fresh email, scans the company contacts until she finds one for Pepper. She writes a brief, polite email explaining that she was unaware of the need to send reports in daily, requests if she could be allowed to report directly to Pepper.

The reply comes almost immediately. Agreeing to her request, and informing her that, with the way things are, Darcy is only required to report in if something happens that she deems a potential threat. Apart from that, she is to use her own discretion.

Darcy switches on the monitor at the guard station desk. Loki is lying on his cot, seemingly asleep. Is he a threat? He's locked away, unable to perform magic. Unable to do anything.

Something softens in her as she watches the slight rise and fall of his chest with his breath. He has nothing in that cell. No wonder he was catatonic. The guy was probably bored out of his mind.

Before she can think better of it, she's moving through the corridors of the basement until she finds the library she stumbled over while searching for a storage room. She grabs an armful of books at random, not even knowing what Loki would find interesting. Shakespeare, a few poetry collections, even a biography of Tony Stark's father. She guesses that anything is better than staring at a blank wall.

She's back in the guard room, about to open the gate, when memory rises around her. It's like a mist at first, the echo of music and warmth, and then the memory is more real than the guard room.

She is dancing with Loki, and this time she knows it is his green eyes hidden behind the horned mask, his body moving against hers as they move through the steps. He smiles, and the memory twists, the ballroom fading away. They are on the bed, his arms held above his head. Him, hard inside of her, a perfect fit.

The sound of the books falling to the floor shatters the memory. Darcy stares at the still-closed gate. She is trembling, and there is a deep pulsing warmth gathered between her legs. She knows that it would only take a single light touch in the right place, and she would come.

Without looking at the monitor, she knows that Loki is awake now. That if the wall and gate were not there, his eyes would be burning into hers.

That he dreamed the same dream.

She leaves the books where they fell. Grabs her jacket and her phone. Fills a bag with items for Beth and Ravi, then runs back through the corridors.

The cold night outside is a balm washing over her, and she leans against the side of the building for a long time, dragging in deep breaths. There is a faint scent of rot in the air - garbage left behind mouldering in the streets, she supposes. In the distance, there is a faint sound like drumming. She wishes that the city was filled with sound the way it used to be. Everything loud enough to drown out every memory, every dream.

The Blood-Dimmed Tide

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by ofravenwings

Part 15 of 33

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