Continuing Tales

The Blood-Dimmed Tide

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by ofravenwings

Part 18 of 33

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The Blood-Dimmed Tide

Everything is gold.

Darcy blinks, waits for her vision to clear. Everything she can see remains gold.

She sits up slowly, dizziness washing over her. There's a dull ache in her wrist, something like, but not like, the itching ache you get when a broken bone knits. When she holds it up, it is unmarked and uninjured. In fact, the skin is almost too smooth, too perfect.

She's not alone. There's a man standing at the far end of the room. The wall behind him is made up of some kind of metal mesh, lit from behind. He is silhouetted against it, and she can see little but his general form. He is tall, slender. His hands are held in front of him, as though he clasps something in his hands, but from the angle at which she views him, she cannot see what it is. He doesn't move. He doesn't even seem to be breathing.

There are alcoves set along the sides of the room. She can see into only one of them. It holds something like a flame, but it does not move, does not dance. It is frozen in time.

Behind her, stairs climb up to a door. Halfway up the stairs, a white-haired man in gold armour stands, one eye hidden behind a patch. His mouth is open, as though caught mid-speech. Like the other man, like the flame, he does not move.

"H-hello?" Darcy's voice echoes strangely in the room. "Where am I?"

"A place where trophies are kept."

She turns again. Loki emerges from one of the alcoves. He is wearing his Asgardian armour, sans helmet. The leather hangs loose on him, and his cheeks are hollow. His eyes are sunken and ringed by purple shadow. His hair is shorter than she has ever seen it, the longest strands curling short of his jawline.

At the sight of him, memory floods back. She remembers the labyrinth, the tattoo, the furrows in her wrist bleeding black blood. She remembers Hel. She remembers sinking into darkness.

"This isn't real, is it?" Darcy asks. She stands gingerly. Her legs shake, but they hold her. She holds up her hand again. Now she knows what she's looking for, she can see the lines of the tattoo on her wrist, like mother-of-pearl catching the light. "Is this a dream? Nightmare?"

Loki straightens his armour - or tries to, anyway. All he manages to do is making it hang more from one shoulder than the other. He looks up, and his eyes fall on the white-haired man in the doorway. "It is a memory."

"A memory?"

Loki's eyebrows draw together, just for an instant, before he smooths his face, adjusts his armour again. "One that I do not care to show you. But I required a strong memory to make the connection. And you, unfortunately, have given away the strongest ones I could access."

Darcy presses a hand to her sternum, feels that hollow within. "Oh."

Loki says nothing, his eyes glittering as he watches her.

Darcy looks past him, at the man silhouetted on the other side of the long room. She recognises him now she knows what she's looking for. "That's you, isn't it?" She looks around at all the gold. "Is this Asgard?"

Loki's lips thin. He nods, just barely.

A strong memory. And, she doubts, a happy one. Perhaps it is Loki's most painful memory, even. Darcy swallows, her throat suddenly dry.

"If you do not care to have me here, then take me back," she says. "Break the connection and take me back."

Loki's eyes move from her to the white-haired man again. "It is not that simple."

"Of course it is. You made this damn connection. You clearly don't want me to be here." And you clearly don't want to be here yourself. "Just poof me back. Abracadabra and all of that." Darcy waves her hands for emphasis, winces as a bolt of pain shoots up from her wrist.

The room shimmers around her, black eating into the gold. She sways, and would have fallen, except Loki is suddenly there, his one hand wrapped around her wrist, the other cradling her waist. The room solidifies; even the flame flickers for a heartbeat before it stills again.

"You're dying." Loki's tone is matter-of-fact, but his pupils are wide. "Outside the memory, you have lost a lot of blood. There is a great deal of poison in your body. If you wake, you only have a matter of moments before it reaches your heart."

"And then?"

"Your heart stops."


She is acutely aware of the fact that he has not released her. That he is close enough to her for her to feel his body heat, to smell the musk and leather of him. That she can feel his heartbeat, frantic, for all that his expression appears smooth and calm.

"Once, I welcomed my death," Loki says. "Would you welcome yours?"

She looks up at him sharply. "You're giving me a choice?"

"You gave away parts of yourself, and willingly. That is generally not the act of one who reaches for life."

She finds suddenly that she cannot read the emotion in his eyes, not at all. His fingers are tight on her waist, and her legs are shaking again. If he let go, she would crumple to the ground.

"You didn't give anyone a choice. In New York."

He looks away. Not quite fast enough for her to miss the unmistakable shimmer in his eyes. "No. I did not." His jaw is tight, his voice rough as sand sliding against rock.

Darcy closes her eyes. When she was younger, she'd thought sometimes of suicide. When things were bad with her mother, when school was bad. When one guy too many had assumed that her chest meant that she would gladly fall into bed after a few beers. Sometimes it made it easier to go to sleep at night, thinking that you could make everything stop of you wanted to.

She'd never gone far enough to actually plan anything, but just the knowledge that she could escape made things easier to bear.

She opens her eyes, glances back at the white-haired man. "Who is he?"

Loki's jaw tightens even more. "I did not bring you here to share. This place does not matter."

Darcy chews her lip for a moment. "This is the deal. You tell me who he is, and I'll give you an answer. Or release the connection right now and let me die. And how will that look, when someone eventually comes looking for me? Finds me dead outside your cell, presumably from some kind of magic?"

His eyes narrow. "You think to bargain with me?"

"I think that you're the one who's locked away."

"You're the one bleeding to death."

You're the one who still hasn't let me go.

Darcy looks up at him. Sees the lines of pain etched beside his eyes. And suddenly she wants very much to know what - or who - put them there.

"He is Odin. Allfather of Asgard." When Loki finally speaks, his voice is barely more than a whisper.

"Your father?" she asks. "Thor's father?"

Loki's lips twist in an expression caught somewhere between a smile and a grimace. "He calls himself so."

Darcy does not miss that careful phrasing. "What did he do to you? Was he like…like my father?"

Loki's eyes meet hers. Now, she can clearly see the emotions flickering there. Anger, sorrow, something that almost looks like hope, quickly stilled.

"He promised both of his sons that they would be kings," Loki says.

"Um, but Allfather kind of implies that there's only one ruler?"

Loki raises an eyebrow. "Precisely."

"So, he was a big fat liar, then." Loki's hold has loosened on her now, his attention on Odin. "Big whoop. Plenty of people lie. Parents suck. You tell them to shove it and move on."

"As you did?"

"Kind of didn't get the chance. Dropping dead and all of that. Little bit difficult to confront a headstone. And I did leave, as soon as I was old enough to."

Loki is still staring at Odin, his hands even looser now. Darcy takes her chance. She pulls away, ducks around Loki and runs as fast as she can down the room. There's something more here than just a father lying to his son.

"NO!" Loki's voice explodes in the room, and the room shimmers again. Darcy catches a glimpse of the flame flickering again, knows that the flow of time has been restored.

She's aware of Loki following, but his distraction has given her enough of a chance that he cannot catch her. Not before she reaches his other self.

His hands are clasped on either side of an object that was glowing blue. As she watches, blue rises in a wave over his skin, up his arms, up his neck. Ridges of skin rise from previously smooth skin, and his eyes flicker from green to burning red.

Loki is leaning over behind his memory self, gasping for breath. He raises a hand, and time stops again.

"What…what is that sparkly thing doing to you?" Darcy asks.

When Loki finally looks up, his eyes are dull. Behind him, Darcy can see Odin halfway down the stairs, his own hand held up.

"Answer me, or let me die right now," Darcy says. The words come out louder than she had intended, but her voice does not tremble. She doesn't quite know how, since she feels like everything inside her is quivering. This is Loki she's confronting. Madman, murderer, would-be dictator.

Except he looks like nothing of these things, not here. He looks broken. He looks like a man bent beneath the weight of his sin.

"That sparkly thing is the Casket of Ancient Winters." Loki speaks with his eyes on the blue light, his shoulders slumped. "It is a trophy taken by Odin from the Jotuns. The Frost Giants. It is also a weapon."


He looks up at her, and she has never seen him look so young, so broken. "It is a weapon that can only be wielded by a Frost Giant."

Darcy frowns, looking up at Odin. "But your father-"

"-Is not my father. As Thor is not my brother." Loki circles around so he is standing before his memory self. "When Asgard defeated Jotunheim, Odin brought home another trophy. A Jotun child, unusually small for a Frost Giant."

Darcy stares at the two Lokis, her eyes moving from the Jotun to Asgardian standing opposite each other, mirror images distorted.

"He never told you, did he?" she asks. "This is how you found out. By accident."

Loki shakes his head, his eyes on his Jotun self.

"Does Thor know?"

Another shake of his head, and then his eyes drop. He wraps his arms around himself, the leather of his armour creaking and cracking.

"Well, fuck, I'd be pissed, too," Darcy says. "Maybe not take-over-the-world pissed, but I'm not a god, so…" She waves her hand, and another bolt of pain jolts up from her wrist. This one feels as though there are splinters in her bones, grinding in her marrow. She sways, and Loki is there immediately, one hand around her wrist, the other around her waist. He holds her tight this time, her body pressed against his.

"Are you not revolted?" he asks, his eyes searching her face. "Do you not quake with fear to know what I am?"

"Well, all I know is that you're blue. Or can be blue." Darcy frowns, then laughs. "Fucking blueberries."

"You laugh and joke?" Loki's arms tighten around her, hard enough that she is forced to stop laughing, just so she can breathe. "I am a Frost Giant. The Jotun are the mortal enemies of Asgard. A race that would have enslaved your world!"

"And you know nothing about that, right?"

He looks away.

"So why are they Asgard's mortal enemies?"

Loki looks back at her, frowning. "What?"

"Why hate them? What did they do?"

"They are our enemies."

"So, you hate them because you've been told to hate them? It's not like Asgard's exactly shied away from war." Darcy looks past Loki, looks at the trophies arrayed around the room. "Let me guess, everything here was pretty much a spoil of war?"

Loki blinks. "I do not…I do not understand you."

"Well, get in line."

The room around them shimmers again; time is moving again with Loki distracted. The memory Loki turns, walks towards Odin. Darcy turns to watch their exchange, aware of Loki's eyes searching her face.

And she watches it all, hears it all.

Loki pauses time only once the guards have entered the trophy room. When Darcy turns back to him, her cheeks are wet with tears.

"When we go back, what do I have to do?" she asks.

She feels Loki's breath hitch in his chest. "You must rouse yourself enough to pass through the barrier and into my cell. There, I can withdraw the poison from your flesh. The blood loss, you will require human medical aid for. With the poison neutralised, you should be able to summon help."

Darcy looks up at him. A single tear winds down his cheek. Without thinking, she reaches up and brushes it away. Loki stiffens slightly, but he does not pull away.

"You trust me, Darcy?" he asks softly. "Even after seeing what I am?"

"Well, who else is going to bring you your food?" She tries to keep her tone light, fails. "So, I just have to haul my carcass through a solid barrier?"

"It is only solid because you believe it to be so."

"Right, and I'll just work on that belief with my poisoned, blood-deprived brain." She smiles. "Piece of cake."

He looks at her for a long moment, his expression unreadable. "You must focus on me. On my voice. You may not be able to see well when you return to your physical body."

"Two pieces of cake, then."

He reaches up, brushes a strand of hair back from her face. It is a curiously intimate gesture, one that makes her aware of how tightly she is pressed against him.

"If…if things do not proceed well, then thank you for the blueberries."

Loki smiles, a single dazzlingly true smile, and then the trophy room fades away.


Darcy comes back to pain.

That deep, grinding pain in her wrist moves up her arm. It feels as though someone is pulling a thread studded with broken glass through her veins, grinding it against her nerves.

The pain is all she is aware of, until she hear's Loki's voice calling her name.

She looks up, blinking against darkness crowding her vision. As soon as she tries to focus on anything external, it all crashes in. The deep rotting scent of the wide pool of black blood she lies in. The frantic beating of her heart, the feeling that her ribcage is too tight around her lungs, that no matter how deep she tries to breathe in, she cannot get enough oxygen.

The knowledge that she is dying.

"Darcy!" Loki's voice breaks through again. "Darcy, you must move."

It takes far too much effort to focus on him. He is kneeling against the perspex barrier, his hands pressed so hard against it that his palms are bloodless. In a sudden moment of clarity, she sees that the lines on his palm are in the same formation as any human's. That his lifeline twists and turns, breaks and is reformed over and over again.

"Darcy, please."

She tries to pull herself up. Falls back down again, her legs numb, useless. Right, then, she has to drag herself. It's only a metre or so. Nothing at all.

Piece of cake. Two pieces of cake.

She pulls herself along the floor, trying to ignore the sickening sensation of clotting, jellied blood sliding against her skin, her clothes. The scent of rotting increases, slides down her throat, until it feels as though she is breathing in death itself.

It seems to take an age, but finally she reached the barrier. Reaches up, presses her hand against it. It is completely, and utterly solid. Impenetrable.

Loki has pressed himself close to the floor now, mirroring her position. "Darcy, you only need to focus. Remember that it is a magic barrier. Know that it will let you through."

She meets his eyes. Sees the tears there.

Reaches up again and touches the barrier. From far away, she feels that tingling warmth move over her skin. It pushes away something of the darkness, rolls over her body. A scent like violets, like the scent of rain on dry earth, washes over her, pushing away the scent of rot.

She seems to see the figure of a woman standing over her, and then she is falling through the barrier, being pulled through it by Loki.

She lies in his arms, that numbness creeping up through her body. She is heavy, so heavy, and it takes too much effort to breathe, to keep her eyes open. She just wants to stay here, to close her eyes, to let that darkness slide over her, to fall into a place where she doesn't have to feel anything bad or painful ever again.

Except Loki is there, his green eyes brimming with tears, and his long fingers are stroking at her cheek. And she is seeing him as probably no one else ever has, all of his masks stripped away.

It takes more effort than anything else has in her life, but she reaches up, brushes her fingers against his.

He twines his fingers with hers, holds them tight for a moment, tears spilling over onto his cheeks. "I need to remove the poison, Darcy," he says, his voice shaking. "In order to do so, I need to breach your skin, just a little." He lifts her hand to his lips, kisses her palm. "If we had more time…" He closes his eyes briefly. "I am sorry, Darcy, but this is going to hurt."

She has no energy to speak, to do anything but look at him, hope that he can see her assent in her eyes.

Loki slides her ring finger into his mouth, hesitates for a heartbeat, and then bites down, hard enough to break through skin, hard enough to crunch bone. Darcy cannot even moan as the pain increases a thousandfold, her vision dimming to static.

The world dissolves to fragments. The gentle touch of Loki's hands on her hand, her wrist her arm, his fingers stroking against her skin. His touch is gentle, but what he invokes is anything but. It feels as though a thorny vine has spiralled through her body, and every touch he makes pulls it out, just a little. The tiniest movements only, the vine straining against him the whole time, and each infinitesimal movement is agony.

She loses herself in the pain. Feels as though she dies and is resurrected, over and over and over.

And then, suddenly, it is over.

There is no pain. No thorny vine. No darkness.

She opens her eyes. Loki is sitting with his back to the wall of his cell, her limp body propped against him, supported by one arm around her waist, his legs at her sides. He has his other hand wrapped around her tattooed wrist and he is murmuring, his lips moving against her temple. Light somewhere between emerald and sapphire flares from his fingers, and her hand goes completely numb. When he opens his fingers, she sees that the lines of the tattoo have changed from black to emerald, the furrows that Hel had scored through her skin thick white scars.

After a moment, sensation flows back into her hand. It still feels partially numb, as though the outermost layers of skin are frozen, but she'll take that any time over the bone-splintering pain.

She feels utterly wrung out, her body lax with the kind of limpness that comes after a week-long fever breaks.

Loki tucks her partially numb hand against her ribs, wraps his arms around her. He presses a kiss to her temple, and she can feel a heartbeat there, and she's not certain if it's his or hers.

"You must do one more thing," he says. His voice is husky with emotion, or perhaps fatigue.

"Wanna stay here," she mumbles.

She feels him smile against her skin. "You require a blood transfusion, Darcy. Stark has the facilities for such here. You need to leave the cell, get to your phone and call for help."

She closes her eyes. "Comfy."


"Okay, okay."

Loki carries her to the barrier. It's easier to move through this time, though she collapses in an undignified pile of limbs as soon as she's on the other side.

The pool of black blood is drying now, its surface shimmering with rainbows. It's wider than she thought, and she wonders how she could even have that much blood in her body.

"Darcy, you must get to your phone," Loki says. "You will go into shock very soon."

She crawls, skirting around the black pool as much as she is able. It seems to take forever to reach her phone, but eventually she does. Fumbles it down off the table, calls the first number she can pull up.

"Help," she says, her voice little more than a whisper. "I need help."

The phone falls from her fingers then. She has no energy to pick it up again.

Distantly she is aware of Loki projecting an image of himself, crouching beside her, speaking into the phone.

Everything dissolves into static.

The Blood-Dimmed Tide

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by ofravenwings

Part 18 of 33

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