Continuing Tales

The Blood-Dimmed Tide

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by ofravenwings

Part 17 of 33

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The Blood-Dimmed Tide

"Death?" Darcy's voice shakes. "Death?"

Loki just watches her. His face is smooth, expressionless. She wonders how he can just turn his emotions off like that. She feels like she's being pulled in a hundred directions, about to explode from the force of everything bubbling up inside her.

"An actual goddess?" She scrapes her hair back from her face, presses her fingers against the fabric of her jeans, just needing to feel something solid beneath her hands. "But I thought that all the gods and goddesses were just…you? Asgardians?"

Loki sits down on the floor of his cell, flowing into the position as gracefully as though he's executing a dance mood. He arranges his long legs into something like a meditation posture, steeples his fingers. "Some of those whom Midgardians believe to be divine are of Asgard, yes. But there are other things in the universe than Asgard. Darker things, more dangerous." His calm slips, just enough for Darcy to see the trembling of his fingers, a muscle clenching in his jaw.

Darcy's legs are shaking, and she sinks to the floor, moving with considerably less grace than Loki. She presses her back against the wall, pulls her knees up beneath her chin. Damp spreads against her jeans where her wrist contacts the fabric, and she realises that the furrows scratched into her skin are still oozing blood. Now she thinks of it, she can smell it - not the usual bright copper and iron of human blood, but something that smells black, like rot. Like death.

"Does she…does she have a name?"

Loki tilts his head to the side. "You could call her Hel, if it makes things simpler."

"The Norse goddess of the Underworld?"

Loki lifts one eyebrow.

"I brushed up on my mythology after you and Thor." Darcy pulls her legs tighter against her chest, regrets it when the scent of rot increases. "But how?"

All that moves is Loki's eyes as they flick to her wrist. "You, and the others who entered that labyrinth, sacrificed parts of your own selves. You gave her - gave Hel - life and form."

Darcy holds out her tattooed wrist. Red edges the black lines, several purple lines snaking up her arm from the uppermost lines. It looks like an infection, but when she touches the purple gingerly, she finds that her skin is cold as ice. Cold, too, is the black blood that oozes out of the scratches. Her stomach turns; it feels as though her hand belongs to someone else.

"Did we create her?" she asks, folding her hands around her shins again. Now she's aware of the cold, she's aware also that her hand feels half numb, as though it's encased in an icy glove.

Loki laughs, a short bark. "Midgardians could not create a goddess. She existed, as she always has existed. Think of her as an energy, a thought form. Your sacrifice gave her physical form."

Darcy feels ill. She clenches her numb hand into a fist, feels more blood ooze forth. "I didn't know that's what was happening. I just wanted not to remember it any more. I wanted not to feel it."

"You willingly gave up a piece of your history. You willingly sacrificed a piece of yourself. What did you think would happen?"

"I thought I could live the way other people get to!" She is angry now, and she welcomes the anger. Better that than fear or pain. "I thought I could actually get to be free for once."

Loki looks at her, insufferably calm again.

"You wouldn't give up your pain?" Darcy asks. "You have no idea what I lived through. You have no idea what it's like to live with a shadow over everything you do."

Loki's eyes burn cold. "I do not presume to know what you, or any other being, has lived through." When he speaks, his voice is even, almost completely devoid of emotion. "I know only what I have experienced, and I know that I would not have surrendered it as easily."

Darcy pulls her legs even tighter, wishing she could curl herself up so tight that there was no space left around her. Before, when she thought of the memories she had given up, there had only been freedom, release from the pain that had slid thin fingers into everything in her life. Now, sitting here, it just feels as though there's a hole in her heart, deep and dark and endlessly empty.

"You should clean and bandage your wrist," Loki says. He might as well have been talking about rubbish he wished her to dispose of. "You Midgardians are so fragile."

When Darcy stands, dizziness washes over her, forcing her to lean against the wall for a moment. She bites the inside of her cheek, forcing herself not to faint. For once, her body actually does what she wants, and she manages to make it into the guard room without falling over.

In the bathroom, she washes her wrist, swabs it with disinfectant from a first aid kit she finds in a cabinet. The black blood refuses to mix with the water or disinfectant, but separates into droplets like oil. The rotting scent is even more pungent as she towels off as best as she can, tossing the towel into a corner and vowing never to pick it up again. She wraps her wrist clumsily in gauze, holding an end of the bandage between her teeth to tie the knot.

As she walks back to the guard room, she catches sight of a bot moving in the opposite direction. Outside the guard room is a box filled with military rations. Darcy picks it up, wincing as her injured wrist takes the weight, and takes it inside.

"Guess there's no more fucking blueberries for you, at least," she says, stashing the box in a corner.

She busies herself preparing a meal for Loki, setting the food on a tray that she finds in the box. She guesses she's going to have to find a way to do Loki's washing up as well, she thinks sourly, as she works.

She grabs a protein bar and some dried fruit for herself, then makes a cup of coffee, before bringing their meals through into the corridor outside the cell.

Loki hasn't moved, still seated cross-legged on the floor. He watches her as she places his tray in the slot, then sits down to her own paltry meal. He makes no move to take the food.

"I know it's not what you're used to, my prince, but I guess they're pissed with you. Or sick of wasting fresh food on you," Darcy says. She takes a huge bite of her protein bar, tries not to show her dislike for the cardboard taste show on her face.

Loki's eyes narrow, but he says nothing. Darcy wonders why she even bothered to prepare the food for him. She's not sure how well the food from the rations are meant to last once they're prepared. She should have just left it all packaged up, then at least she could take it to Beth and Ravi-

She pauses mid-bite. "Wait a minute," she says, lowering the bar. "I was at home. Beth and Ravi were there sleeping, and then…then…they were there. And then Hel." She swallows, her throat gritty from the bar. "How did I get here?"

"You called to me," Loki says. "I answered."

She blinks. Blinks again. "I was in your cell." She reaches out and touches the transparent wall with her unbandaged hand. It feels solid now, like perspex. That feeling like static electricity washes over her fingers, slides over her skin up to her neck and down her other arm. When it reaches the tattoo, it stops dead, and she feels a deep aching in the small bones of her wrist and fingers, as though ice is stretching through her marrow. "How the fuck was I in your cell?"

Loki says nothing.

"And you can stop with the fucking silent and enigmatic act. Last time I checked, you were the one in prison here. You're not the one who gets to be silent. Answer me! What the hell happened?"

Loki laces his fingers together, lays them in his lap. When he speaks, he remains insufferably calm. "As best as I can tell, in my current state, you and I have become linked.

Darcy snatches her hand away from the perspex. "What?"

"I can assure you that this was not of my choice." Loki's eyes are cold, chips of emerald ice. "You found yourself in danger, and I was compelled to rescue you."

Darcy turns away from the cell, presenting him with her back. As if that makes it any easier. She can still feel the weight of his gaze on her, still feel his presence as a weight in the world. Linked to Loki. "So that explains the dreams, too?"

"I assume so."

His voice comes from directly behind her, but when she turns, he hasn't moved. She realises, then, that the intercom is switched off, that she shouldn't be able to hear him at all.

"It doesn't block your magic, does it?" she asks. Her heart pounds painfully, adrenaline coursing through her as her muscles tighten, ready to flee. "Is this just another one of your tricks, your lies? Some new scheme to take over the world?"

He looks away finally, turning his gaze onto his own hands. "My physical form is imprisoned in this cell, of that I can assure you. There are…cracks…in the magic that blocks mine. Someone was careless in the creation of the spells that bind me. The cracks allow me small magics alone."

Small magics. Darcy doesn't want to think what Loki actually considers small magic. She worries at a torn fingernail, rubbing the broken edge over and over with her thumb. Other memories slot into place suddenly, her mind making connections between unconnected things. "You were out of your cell. More than once. I saw you in the city, before I walked into a crater. And before the labyrinth."

The corner of Loki's mouth lifts. And then, suddenly, a second Loki is standing next to her. Cold shimmers in the air around him. The second Loki says nothing, just looks down at her. Then, just s abruptly as he appeared, he is gone.

"A simple projection," Loki says. "Able to be seen but not touched. Able to warn, but to do nothing more. Unable to stop foolish Midgardian girls from ignoring said warnings." His lips curl.

"But you pulled me away from Hel."

"Ah." Loki flows to his feet. "That was mostly of your doing, Darcy Lewis. I merely provided a conduit, and a target."

"I did magic?"

He smiles thinly. "Not quite." He presses a hand against the perspex, examining it. "If I knew who had constructed this prison. I thought my-" He bites off mid-sentence. "I thought it the work of the Allfather, but his work would not be lax enough to leave any cracks at all. If he had his way, I would likely be ash."

Darcy watches him as he speaks. She hadn't noticed until she'd seen the projection how much weight he's lost while being imprisoned. The image that Loki projected was very different to the man who stands before her: younger, his hair short and general appearance healthier, more well-tended. The Loki she sees now is thin to the point of gauntness, his hair greasy and tangled, the longest strands reaching well below his shoulders. As he spreads his fingers out against the perspex, she can see hollows between the bones of his wrists, the places where his veins stand out beneath his skin.

She picks up her protein bar and resumes her own paltry meal, making a mental note to go in search of more supplies so she can feed up both Loki and herself. Loki watches her as she chews, and his Adam's apple bobs as he swallows convulsively.

"Oh, for God's sake, will you just eat?" She plumps herself down on the floor, her back to the wall. "It's not poisoned, and in case you haven't figured it out yet, no one actually cares if you keep up your hunger strike."

He frowns, and for a moment she sees a glimpse of the younger, more vulnerable Loki. "Hunger strike?"

"You know, the whole starving to death bit. No one but me is watching, and I can assure you that no one cares." Darcy stuffs the last of her protein bar into her mouth, chews and swallows. "Besides, I've seen Thor eat, and I know how much you Asgardians can put away. I'm assuming you can deal with going without food for a while, though, since you're still clearly alive." She tears open the package of raisins. "Until now, it hasn't mattered, since I've been able to give your food to people who need it more. But this stuff, I'm not sure if it'll keep after being opened and heated. If you're going to keep on not eating, let me know, and I'll just take the whole box to people who need it more. People who are starving because of you, by the way."

Loki walks slowly over to where the tray is waiting. He looks down at his food. Wrinkles his nose.

Darcy rolls her eyes. "Look, I know it's not the kind of grand feast you're probably accustomed to. And hell, it's probably just barely edible. But it's what our soldiers - human soldiers - are eating, fighting wars that you started. So you don't get to act the prima donna right now. Just eat it, or not, and stop the damn pretence."

Loki picks up the tray. Though he looks steady, his hands must be shaking slightly, because the cutlery rattles as he crosses to his table and chairs. "It was not a 'hunger strike'. I was simply aware of the fact that you had given your rations over to others. I assumed you were eating the food yourself."

Darcy stares at him, a handful of raisins halfway to her mouth. "What?"

Loki sets his tray down, then takes a seat himself and begins to eat. His gaze is unfocused, and he eats mechanically, barely appearing to notice what he is consuming.

Darcy finishes her own food, drinks her coffee. She's finished before Loki is even halfway through his meal. She wants another cup of coffee, but she's suddenly too damn comfortable where she is. She leans her head back against the wall, her empty coffee mug loosely cradled in her hands. Closes her eyes and lets herself drift.

She's actually sliding into sleep when cold air washes over her. It takes a massive effort to open her eyes, but when she does, the first thing she sees is Loki standing next to the perspex wall, his hands flat against it. A projection - the younger, healthier him again - is crouched at her side. Both Lokis wear an identical expression of concern.

"G'way," Darcy says. She bats a hand at the projection. Her fingers pass through it in the same way they would pass through a beam of light from a movie projector. Except the air that she touches now is cold, preternaturally still. Ripples move through the projection as she lets her hand fall, distorting and twisting its features so Loki looks like he's standing in a funhouse of mirrors.

She can't help it. She starts to giggle.


Both Loki and the projection speak simultaneously. For some reason, this strikes Darcy as even funnier than the distorted projection, and she laughs harder.

"Darcy, I need you to calm down, pay attention." Loki - the real Loki - is pressed up against the perspex barrier now. "You have been bleeding heavily, and I believe that there is a poison in your system from Hel's touch. You require medical treatment immediately."

Still giggling, Darcy lifts up her bandaged arm. The gauze is soaked solid black, the blood dripping from its edges glistening and thick as oil. She follows the droplets down to a large pool of blood on the floor. Looks back up at her arm, sees thick lines of dark purple twining up her arm from beneath the bandage.

As soon as she is aware of those bruise-coloured lines, she feels them. Like ice in her veins, throbbing in time with a heartbeat not quite synched to her own. And with every throb, the cold rises higher, closer to her heart.

She's still laughing, the sound edged with brittle hysteria, more sobbing than true laughter now. Her arm shakes, and suddenly she can hold its weight up no longer. She lets it fall; it splashes into the pool of blood with a sound like a rock falling into a deep, deep lake. She doesn't feel her hand contact the ground.

The projection shimmers, reaches a hand towards her. "Darcy!"

She feels like she's floating. Adrift, weightless. Numb. She lets her eyes close again, doesn't open them even when that cold air moves over her again.


It takes everything she has to force her eyes open again. Loki is banging his fists against the barrier. She supposes that it should be making a loud sound, but she can hear nothing. Even his voice seems to come from far away, a whisper borne on a breeze.

"Darcy, stay awake," Loki says. "You must stay awake. You must fight the poison."

Darcy giggles once more. "Oh yeah, cause who else is going to bring you your gourmet dinners. Fucking military rations, fucking blueberries, fucking…" Her eyes are drifting closed again.

"Darcy, please."

That single word is enough for her to force her eyes open again. She comes back to reality enough that she can feel the throbbing cold in her arm again, the disconcerting sensation that someone else's heartbeat is moving beneath her skin.

"Didyoujustsayplease?" she asks, the words mushing together in her mouth, her lips and tongue rubbery, numb. "Didn'tknowyouknewtheword."

"Darcy, you must focus," Loki says. "Look at me. Look at me."

She does. His eyes are blazing, pupils wide.

"I cannot leave this cell, and my projection is not strong enough to do what needs to be done," Loki says. "I need to touch your skin with my hands. You must come into the cell."

She blinks once. Twice.

"All you need to do is focus, and you will be able to walk through the barrier. Just get up and walk through. The rest, I will take care of."

Darcy turns her head away. The room sways, keeps swaying even after her vision tells her that her movement has stopped. She's drifting again, far enough away that she can't feel that biting chill, the rising cold.

She can't feel anything at all.

Suddenly, it seems as though she's never really slept before, never been as comfortable and warm and numb as she is right now. She slides down, curls up on the floor, lets her eyes close.

That cold moves over her skin again. She ignores it.

It seems that she can hear something, like an echo from far away. It doesn't seem to matter now, in the dark behind her eyes. Nothing matters right now.

She closes her eyes, and the darkness swallows her.

The Blood-Dimmed Tide

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by ofravenwings

Part 17 of 33

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