Continuing Tales

The Blood-Dimmed Tide

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by ofravenwings

Part 19 of 33

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The Blood-Dimmed Tide

Darcy's eyes feel like they weigh a thousand tonnes.

It takes all of her effort to force them open. And once they are open, she's not even sure that she's seeing right. Everything is white. White ceiling. White walls. White door. No windows.

A light is recessed into the ceiling above her, the humming of the fluorescent tube the only sound in the room. In the corner above the door, a security camera is covered by a tough plastic dome. Its red light blinks on and off, like a watching eye blinking.

Darcy stares at the camera for a long time, wondering who's watching her.

Something pinches in her left arm. There's an IV needle inserted into the crook of her elbow. She manages to move her head enough to see an IV pole bolted to the wall behind the bed. It holds two bags feeding into her arm: one of clear liquid, the other blood.

Her muscles are stiff and aching, and she wonders how long she's been lying in this position. She tries to shift her weight.

She cannot.

Something too close to panic blooms in her then. She cannot see the restraints around her wrists, her ankles, her ribcage, but they are there all the same.

As she pulls against the unseen restraints, she also becomes aware that there is something wrong with her right hand. She cannot feel it at all, cannot move it. She manages to twist her wrist in the restraint a little, and the light around her handbendstwists, as though her hand is underwater. She cannot see any of the details of her hand: not her nails, not the freckles dusting her knuckles. It looks as though her hand has been sliced off, replaced by a block of featureless marble.

She cannot hold her head up any longer. She lets it fall back against the stacked pillows. Sweat trickles from her temples into her hair, and her breath comes fast, making her all too aware of the band around her ribs.

She closes her eyes, and everything rushes back to her, like a black wave cresting, then crashing.

The labyrinth, the tattoo, the black blood, Hel.


Loki biting her finger, removing Hel's poison from her body.

Loki begging her to move through the magical barrier on his cell so he could heal her.

Loki projecting out of his cell in order to summon help.

Loki. Saving her life.

True panic spikes in her then. She is God knows where, strapped down to a bed with God knows what dripping into her veins.

What would someone have assumed, coming down into the guard room, finding her almost dead in a pool of black blood? Her blood on Loki's hands, on his lips, in his cell. And Loki clearly able to leave his cell in some form.

She struggles against her restraints again, glaring at the security camera. "Hello? Whoever is watching this, I need to talk to someone! Now!"

Nothing happens.

She collapses back against the pillows again. The sheets are soaked with her sweat. It smells bitter, as though she's been sweating out more of the poison.

This time, the dampness trickling into her hair is her tears.

She doesn't know how much time passes before the door finally opens. It might have been minutes. It might have been days.

Jane enters the room. She's wearing white scrubs, her bare feet clad in matching socks. She looks exhausted, her eyes hollow and bloodshot.

Just before Jane pulled the door closed, Darcy catches a glimpse of the corridor outside. A man and a woman stand in silence, both poised and alert. Both were black fatigues, and the woman's hair is bright red.

Darcy has never met either of them, but she recognises them both. Hawkeye and the Black Widow. Guarding her.

Jane lingers near the door, fidgets with the hem of her shirt. Her fingers are stained with ink, and they leave black marks on the white cotton.

"Um, hi?" Darcy asks.

Jane tries to smile. The expression dies halfway to her eyes. There is more ink smudged beneath her lower lashes, on her lips. "How are you feeling?"

"Like I had a lot of blood drained out of me, and not in a fun way. Assuming there is a fun way." Darcy forces a smile; she hopes her attempt is more successful than Jane's had been. "If superheroes and aliens exist, do vampires?"

"You lost over forty percent of your blood volume." Jane's voice is cool, her eyes on the IV bags. "This might be the last transfusion, depending on your bloodwork. They'll run fluids for a while, but it will take a while to get over the physical trauma."

Silence, broken only by the steady dripping of fluids through tubes.

"And what about the restraints? Which I'm assuming are Stark tech of some kind, by the way, and kind of freaky and awesome all at the same time." Darcy fights to keep her voice calm. "What about the assassins in the corridor? I thought they were off in Russia somewhere."

"They go where they're needed." Jane's eyes are on the IV, on the ceiling, on the floor. Looking at anything but Darcy. "They're here in case you've been compromised."

"Compromised? By what?" Darcy feels suddenly ill. "Not by what. By who."

Jane crosses her arms, her eyes still darting everywhere. "We were close to getting the wormhole opened, and then everything just…stopped. We could reach out a certain distance, but then it was like we hit a physical barrier. Something started interfering with communications on the ground, computer equipment, everything. Stark Tower went into lockdown, and the Avengers were called back. All those who could get here, anyway." Jane chews her lip. "We've been trying to figure out what's happening, if it's something that we caused, and then Pepper gets a call from Daniel Blackwood telling us that he had Loki on the phone begging for medical help. We go down there, find him unresponsive, blood everywhere, blood in his cell, and you almost dead. What the hell happened?"

The sickness roiling in Darcy's stomach turns suddenly to anger. "What happened is that I got thrown into this job with no guidance, no help, nothing. No one asked me, no one told me anything. What's the point in having Loki just locked away down there, anyway? Shouldn't his family be trying to help him? I mean, he fucked up, but the way I see things, they kind of laid out the whole path for him. They broke him. And that includes your precious boyfriend."

Jane's forehead creases, as though Darcy's words are causing her physical pain. "This is his family helping him," she says softly. "They're the ones who approached Tony with the deal."

"Deal? So what's Stark getting out of it?"

Jane glances at the closed door, then crosses the room, sits on the very edge of the bed. The mattress barely moves at all beneath her weight. Darcy can see the shadows of bones beneath her scrubs, and wonders how long it's been since Jane ate a proper meal.

"I wanted to tell you some of this, but it was part of the agreement," Jane says. "I probably shouldn't even be telling you any of this now, but I figure you're owed some answers. And I don't see what difference it makes now." She looks down at her hands as she speaks. "Asgard managed to get part of the Bifrost working again. It had limited power, and it was fragile. When I heard, I came. I expected Thor, of course. With the way the world is, we need him. But Asgard had a different plan. They sent Loki, along with the tech - the magic - needed to construct his cell, to keep him and his magic contained. Natasha and Clint wanted to just execute Loki on the spot, but Tony, Bruce and Steve talked them around."

"So Stark gets tech." Darcy nods at her restraints, the peculiar whatever-it-is on her hand. "Like this?"

Jane's silence is all the answer she needs.

"So Asgard gets to not have to deal with Loki, and Tony Stark gets new toys. Nice deal for everyone. Except Loki."

"I didn't think you'd get involved in this, Darce. You were supposed to just be working as a PA. Things got mixed up. We didn't know that Daniel Blackwood would recruit you to guard Loki. By the time we found out, it was too late for us to do anything. I tried to do as much as I could to make it easier." Jane twists her fingers together so hard her knuckles turn white. "I'm sorry, Darce. None of this was meant to happen. You were just supposed to get your apartment, food, safety. And we'd fix the city, and then everything would be okay, and you could get back to your life."

"And what about Loki? He was just going to be locked away to rot while Stark builds a brave new world?"

"He's a war criminal. He has to be punished."

"He's locked away in an empty room. Not even a magazine, or music or books or anything. That seems like cruel and unusual punishment to me."

Jane's eyes slide away.

Darcy bites back a sigh. "How long am I going to be restrained? How long will I be guarded?"

Jane's cool, clinical mask falls easily into place. "You'll be in medical care here for another day or two. Just until you're medically stable. The restraints have to stay on while you're here. The doctors and nurses insist. After you're released from here, you'll be confined to your apartment." She doesn't say it, but Darcy hears the indefinitely added to the end of the sentence. "What happened, Darcy? The cell wasn't made to be opened by anyone except Odin. It was supposed to block all of Loki's magic. How did he get out? How did he block the wormhole?"

Darcy looks down at her wrist. She wishes suddenly that she could see the tattoo. She can only half remember the black lines turning green, sinking into her skin. She looks at her other wrist. There's a white scar on her ring finger. That's another half memory, Loki biting down. She wonders if he sucked out the poison, the way people in movies always seem to suck out snake venom after bites. She can't decide if the thought is repellent or heart wrenching.

"He didn't get out of the cell," Darcy says. "He can project through the barrier."

"He can project? Like the way he killed Coulson?" Jane is off the bed again, moving back to stand with her back to the door. "You didn't report that."

"He hadn't done anything to report. And things have been…confused. I've been looking after people in the city, and then there was the labyrinth, and…" Darcy wants suddenly very much to be able to turn away from Jane's hard stare, but she doesn't want to think what Jane would interpret that turning away as. "Loki did nothing to your work. He can't. And he didn't have anything to do with what happened to me. He saved my life."

"Suddenly you seem to know a lot about him. You're very sure of what he can and can't do. If he can project, who can say what else he can do?"

"Why would he be in that cell if he didn't have to be?"

"This is Loki. God of lies, master of the long game. Who knows what he's planning? He's tried to kill his own brother, Darcy. He tried to conquer the world. Why would he-" Jane bites off the sentence half finished.

Darcy knows what she was going to say. "Why would he save me? Because I'm no one, right? Why would anyone bother to save me?"

"That's not what I meant." Jane's looking away now, looking down at her own hands. Her nails are chewed and ragged. "Your blood was inside Loki's cell, Darcy. How, if he didn't open it?"

"I went through the barrier."

Jane shakes her head. "Impossible. That barrier is impenetrable."

"Is that what you were told? Who's trusting the gods now?"

Jane's eyes flick up. They are hard as stone. "Thor trusts his father. His father doesn't lie."

"Oh yeah, the rest of the Asgardians are totally trustworthy. They never manipulate humans at all."

Jane swipes her hands through her hair again, tugs hard. She doesn't seem to notice that her fingers come away clotted with shed hair. "It's going to be okay, Darcy. The doctors will get you physically stable, then we'll move you into your apartment. Tony has some good people on staff. They'll work with you, help you to be able to see how Loki has manipulated you. Just trust us, and you'll be able to see everything clearly. It's all going to be okay. You're with friends now."

"Oh, I'm seeing clearly. Including seeing how my friends, the people I'm supposed to be trusting, have me in restraints, with some kind of tech on my hand that they probably don't even understand."

Jane is smiling and nodding, her face the smooth mask of a parent placating a hysterical child. "It's just evaluating those marks, that's all. Making sure that they're not a threat. It spiked some of Stark's sensors, and he just wants to be certain."

"Loki has made some bad decisions, and he's done some bad things, but not to me, Jane. He had nothing to do with that tattoo."

Jane's mask doesn't slip. "Then why did it register as Asgardian magic?"

Darcy knows that she should tell Jane about Hel. But telling that would lead to her telling why she was so willing to walk into the labyrinth. About the memories she's given up. She's not ready to talk about that with the Jane who stands here, a woman who looks like her friend, except for the deep distrust in her eyes.

"You don't need to worry about anything now," Jane says when Darcy doesn't answer. "Loki isn't going to be given the chance to influence you further. All you need to focus on is resting and getting better. Let us help you."

"And what about Loki? Who's going to help him?"

Jane smiles, a thin, strained expression. "Loki will be taken care of."

Ice slides down Darcy's spine. "What does that mean?"

"It means that it's none of your concern now. We've got this, Darcy. You just rest. Know that you're safe now."

And she's out of the room, the door pulled closed quickly behind her.

"Jane? Jane! What did you mean?" Darcy screams at the door. It doesn't open again. "What are you doing to Loki?"

The only answer is the echo of her own voice.

By the time a nurse bustles in, enough time has lapsed for Darcy to have screamed herself hoarse. The nurse says nothing, doesn't meet Darcy's eyes as she slides a syringe into the IV. Cold liquid flows into Darcy's veins, dragging her down into the cotton depths of medicated sleep.


Three days later, Darcy is moved to the apartment on the nineteenth floor.

Jane did not return, and none of the doctors and nurses who came in would speak to Darcy, would answer none of her questions. Darcy glimpsed either Black Widow or Hawkeye in the corridor any time the door was opened. Neither would respond to her calls.

When Darcy's restraints are finally removed, it is by a security guard with at least three times the body mass as her, none of it fat. He says nothing, just presses buttons on a small device he wears at his belt. The restraints around her wrists, ankles and ribs vanish, leaving behind a faint chill. The guard presses buttons on another, smaller device, and the whatever-it-is on her hand dissolves. Static crackles over her skin.

She tries to move, finds that she can't, her muscles frozen into place. The guard seems prepared for this, for he says nothing, just picks her up and sets her down in what looks like a white plastic wheelchair, carefully negotiating her IV lines. Another button, and more restraints close over her, these as invisible as the ones on the bed. Unlike the bed, the chair also has a band that closes over her mouth, sealing her lips.

The sheets on the bed show no sign of whatever devices generate the restraints. Darcy can, however, see the faint outline of her body, the white sheets yellowed where she had lain. She looks smaller than she imagines.

A nurse enters, a woman that Darcy hasn't seen before. Like the guard, she says nothing, just sets to work removing Darcy's IV. There's an angry purple bruise where the needle entered her skin, the blood clotted black. The nurse cleans and wraps gauze around the site. Darcy doesn't miss the fact that she wears two pairs of latex gloves layered on top of each other, or that the guard keeps himself between the nurse and Darcy, while still allowing the nurse room to work.

The nurse stands, surveys Darcy. Her expression is unreadable. Darcy wants to believe that there's some sympathy in her eyes, but admits that the sheen there is more likely fear.

Loki was bound and gagged when he was returned to Asgard from Midgard.

Do they fear her now as much as they feared Loki?

The nurse produces a syringe, jabs Darcy's arm. It's a sedative, lighter than what she has been given to make her sleep. It's enough to haze the edges of the world, though. Enough to make Darcy unaware of the directions they take in corridors, to be unaware if anyone else is there besides the guard. There's an elevator ride that seems to go on forever, and then the wheelchair is being pushed into a long corridor. Darcy blinks slowly, registering soft lighting, a window at the end of the hallway. Two doors only lead from the corridor, staggered so that one doesn't open onto the other.

The guard presses buttons on a small security panel, pushes Darcy's wheelchair through the left-hand door. Something pricks against Darcy's arm again, though the first drug has her hazy enough that she can't register if the nurse has appeared again, or had been there all along.

There is only white for a long time.


When the white rolls away, ebbing away from her mind like the ocean revealing a long-buried shipwreck, Darcy is alone.

She is lying on a bed, the mattress plush but firm beneath her. There are no restraints, and her muscles feel loose.

She sits up slowly. Her head swims slightly, but the movement is tolerable. She is no longer wearing her hospital gown; instead she is garbed in a set of white scrubs identical to the ones Jane had been wearing. Her skin smells like antiseptic, soap, and some kind of sharp liniment. Had they washed her, massaged her, while she was unconscious? The thought makes her shudder.

The room she is in is large, the walls painted a pale greenish-blue. The bed is pale wood - maple, she thinks, and solid. It barely moves beneath her weight as she swings her feet out, stands. There is white carpet on the floor. A long-ago memory surfaces: her mother vacuuming the shabby carpet in her bedroom. Talking about the kind of people who bought white carpet. The kind of people who could afford to have someone else clean it for them.

Darcy's feet feel tender, almost bruised. The feeling lets up as she circles the room slowly. The walls are complemented by a navy blue quilt. It is thick and luxurious. Silk, she thinks. Matching curtains swathe what she assumes is a floor-to-ceiling window. That, and the carpet, are enough to tell her that she's in Stark Towers.

A walk-in wardrobe opens up on one side of the room. It is larger than the bedroom in the apartment that used to be hers. Though most of the racks and shelves are empty, there are clothes here. Jeans, sweaters, shirts. Even a neat stack of knitted hats and caps.

A door leads through from the wardrobe into a bathroom. Here everything is sea-green and white. There's a tub with jacuzzi jets, a medicine cabinet stocked with shampoo, soap, cosmetics. No medications.

Darcy follows the next door back into a corridor, turns to see the bedroom behind her at the end of the hall. The walls here are cream, lit by recessed ceiling lights bathing everything in warm illumination. More white carpet makes the space seem larger than it is. As she walks, she notes that there are several places on the walls where paintings have been removed.

Two rooms open up near the end of the hallway. One contains what looks like a well-stocked gym's worth of fitness equipment. The other is lined with bookshelves on one side and a small desk on the other.

The latter room, she enters. The far wall is covered with the same dark blue drapes as the bedroom. Something like hope rises in her as she scans the bookshelves, finds them full. It falls slightly when she sees that the books are mostly light fiction, the kind of fluff she'd only pick up if she was waiting at the doctor or dentist. A few biographies about movie stars, but nothing heavy, nothing that would require actual thought.

The desk is empty. A plate in the wall is set with network sockets, and a faint rectangle of dust on the pale wood reveals where a computer has, until recently, rested.

So, they weren't going to trust her with a computer, or medication, or decent literature. She supposes she should be thankful that she's not in a cell twin to Loki's.

Though, maybe if they had two of them, she would be.

At the thought of Loki, that ice moves down her spine again. What have they done to him?

Only now does she register the tiny security camera in the corner of the room. Retraces her steps, finds them in every room, the bathroom included. That realisation makes her feel ill, and she has to fight not to cross her arms over her breasts, even though she is clothed, even though whoever is watching has already likely seen her naked.

She feels half numb as she moves through into the main living space. Barely registers an open-plan kitchen, all white and stainless steel, a television screen and entertainment system, couch and chairs enough to seat a dozen people. More curtains drawn over the windows.

Here, also, is the door that the guard had pushed her wheelchair through. From the outside, it had looked like any other door. But from inside, it looks anything but.

The handle has been removed, and the entire inner surface banded over with steel.

Darcy sinks down onto the couch, pulls her knees up to her chest. She's only just aware that she's rocking back and forth like a child. She lets the rhythm take her, rocking further and further to the side with each movement. In the corners of her vision, security cameras blink their red lights, watching.

Finally, she rocks far enough to one side that she falls onto her side. The plush cushions rise around her, cradling her weight. And suddenly she's as tired as though the nurse has somehow, magically, administered another sedative. Darcy eyes the cameras, thinking of the invisible restraints. For all she knows, the nurse can dose her whenever she wants, using some magic taken from Asgard.

She unwraps her arms from her ribs, presses her palms together in front of her face. She can see the tattoo on her wrist now. The black has faded to green, the colour faintly metallic in the light, as though gemstones have been crushed and inlaid into her skin. She traces the lines of the curlicues with a finger; the green feels slightly cool to the touch.

She feels no menace from the tattoo, no dread. There is only comfort.

She lets her eyes drift closed, slides into sleep.

And wishes to dream.


And dream she does.

There is a moment of darkness, a sensation like falling.

And then there is ground beneath her feet. She falls gracefully into a kneeling position, her hands pressed against the warm wood of the floor.

A soft sound makes her look up.

A woman looks down at her.

The Blood-Dimmed Tide

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by ofravenwings

Part 19 of 33

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