Continuing Tales

The Blood-Dimmed Tide

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by ofravenwings

Part 21 of 33

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The Blood-Dimmed Tide

Loki is frozen, barely breathing. His skin is like marble, his eyes wide. His pupils are mere pinpricks of black in faded green.

Darcy reaches out a hand to him, wanting to touch him. Hoping that he will know that she's there, that she's alive. Her fingers pass through his flesh as though she is smoke. She feels nothing at all.

Warmth spirals around her, draws her back towards the door. She wants to fight it, wants to stay with Loki, to keep trying to make him feel her presence, but the warmth is stronger. She is pulled back through the door. It closes silently behind her.

Darcy wavers on her feet, her muscles aching. She half falls, but Frigga catches her, leads her over to one of the chairs next to the fire. A goblet of warm mulled wine is placed in her hands, a thick cloak around her shoulders.

Darcy's hands are shaking so badly that the wine spills over the rim of the goblet several times before she manages to lift it to her mouth and take a sip. The warmth of the wine unfurls within her, and she realises how cold she is. How cold the cell was.

As she warms, she begins to shiver. She had been so cold that she'd moved past shivering.

"We can't leave him like that." Darcy's voice shakes as much as her hands had. "He has to know that it's a lie."

Frigga kneels at her side, smooths back her hair. Her fingers catch on one of the jewelled combs in Darcy's hair, and it falls free, tumbling to the floor. Frigga picks it up, traces the whorls of gold, emeralds and sapphires caught in the curlicues of metal. The comb is an exact match the ones that Frigga wears in her own hair.

"Did he…were these Loki's creation?" Frigga asks quietly.

"I think so. I wore these in one of the dreams with him."

Frigga's breath hitches in her throat. When she looks up at Darcy, her eyes shine. "The things he said to me the last time, I thought I had lost him altogether." She slides the comb back into Darcy's hair. "Drink. It will help the cold."

Darcy takes another swallow of wine. The warmth of the fire is beginning to seep into her, though she still feels as though she is frozen, deep down at her core. If this is how she feels, with wine and cloak and fire, how must Loki feel? How cold is he?

"I need to go back in there," Darcy says. "I need to see him again. There has to be some way to send my body there properly."

Frigga shakes her head. "I would if I could. You are both being watched too carefully, and if you and Loki are to have a chance at freedom, you must play their game. For a time."

"But he's suffering."

"He has known suffering in his life. Too much suffering, I do agree. And there will likely be more, before the end." Frigga picks up her own goblet. Her hands are trembling. "Your body has been sleeping for almost the full span of the night. We have perhaps one half of one of your hours before they will be expecting you to wake."

"The whole night? But I just fell asleep."

"You were in the cell for hours, Darcy."

Darcy takes a gulp of wine. "Oh."

Frigga leans forward, places a hand on Darcy's. "Loki has strength that not even he is aware of. He will survive until the next nightfall."

"What happens then?"

Frigga crosses the room, opens one of the drawers beneath the long bench. The pouch she removes is small, made from battered leather that had once, perhaps, been sage green. Now it is worn soft, almost colourless.

"When Loki was young, he was assigned a tutor whom he greatly disliked." Frigga takes her seat again, the pouch cradled in her hands. "Odin insisted that he be made to complete his studies with this tutor, no matter how much Loki complained. My king claimed it would be good training for a prince." A fleeting expression crosses Frigga's face: sorrow, Darcy thinks, or perhaps regret. "Loki had other ideas. He crafted a spell which would allow him to separate himself. Like his projection, but cannier. One part would remain behind as a shadow, going through the motions which Loki was expected to. It was flesh, and could touch and be touched, react as expected. The greater part of Loki's consciousness stepped aside from reality. To others, he was invisible, but he could still interact with solid objects. Including people. I suspect that he had not planned the latter, but he certainly used it to his advantage. Thor experienced more than one strange prank during that tutor's reign."

"I could have used that spell during most of high school."

Frigga laughs, a sound like bells. "By the time we discovered Loki's trick, the tutor had finished his work and moved on. And when Odin questioned him, Loki knew all of the lessons." There is pride in Frigga's voice now. "You should have heard Thor pester his brother for use of the spell."

Frigga tips two rings out of the pouch. They are made from a metal like copper infused with whirls of fire, a dozen thin strands woven together in an intricate pattern. One of the rings is slightly larger and heavier.

"I used Loki's spell as the basis for these," Frigga says. She runs her thumb over them both before she hands them to Darcy. "The larger is Loki's. The smaller, yours."

"I'm gonna be able to make myself invisible?"

"The spell on yours will allow you access to these rooms. They are set slightly apart from your reality, which is what you will be when it is active. I had some trouble tuning the spell for Midgardian physiology, so I suggest that you only use it at night. If the shadow you leave behind appears to sleep too heavily, that should be less suspect."

"And Loki's?"

"It works in much the same fashion as his spell. Except he should be able to wear his full time."

"So his shadow is the one that stays locked up, and he gets to live in these rooms instead."

Frigga's lips curve in a smile. "Exactly."

"You planned this from the beginning, didn't you?"

"I did not wish to see my son suffer."

Darcy twirls the rings around on her palm. "Won't they notice that we're suddenly wearing rings? I'm guessing that someone is watching me pretty closely."

"The rings are set slightly outside your reality. They should not register to any electronic device."

"You thought of everything."

Frigga inclines her head. "Loki should confine himself to these rooms for the time being. I am not certain if anyone will be able to sense him elsewhere."

"I can't imagine that's going to be a particular hardship. Especially after months in that cell."

Frigga flinches visibly. "If I could have spared him a moment of that, I would have."

It is Darcy's turn to place her hand on Frigga's. "I know."

Frigga looks at her for a moment, and Darcy wonders just how much gentleness the Queen has known in her life. Perhaps even less than Loki.

"You should return to your physical body now," Frigga says. She draws Darcy to her feet, leads her through the rooms. "I will show you the way back."

They walk back through the vaulted room to the antechamber. This time they turn into the door leading onto the library. There are dozens and dozens of shelves here, each one stacked with leather-bound volumes. Darcy immediately wants to stop and browse, but Frigga hurries her onwards.

There is another door on the far side of the library. They stop there, and Frigga takes Darcy's hands in her own. She avoids touching the black parts of Darcy's tattoo.

"Bring him as soon as you can, but be careful," Frigga says. She hesitates, then leans down and kisses Darcy's forehead. "You, too, are stronger and braver than you think, Darcy Lewis. When this is all over, and we have the Bifrost again, I trust that you will come and visit us in Asgard?"

"I don't know if I'm exactly the kind of person Asgard would welcome."

"Of course you are. And I would welcome you." Frigga smiles, touches the combs in Darcy's hair lightly. "You and Loki both. Now, I wasn't able to anchor this exit, because I was not certain of where they would place you physically. So you must focus when you open the door. Just visualise the place you need to exit, and it will happen."

"You're trusting me with magic? This…might not end well."

"I trust you."

Darcy glances back at the books, allows herself one moment of dreaming about just staying here. But then she thinks of Loki, and she reaches out to the door. Closes her hand over the handle. That tingle of warm magic flows into her fingers.

She thinks of the apartment in Stark Tower, and opens the door, steps through.

And falls a full metre to the ground, landing with a heavy thud.

She glares up at the closing door, which has opened upside-down, its base flush with the ceiling. "Why does that not surprise me?"

The door closes, then vanishes. Gold light glimmers on the wall, and then is gone.

Darcy rubs her shoulder and hip, both of which had taken the brunt of her fall. If she wasn't holding the two rings still, she would have thought the encounter with Frigga to be no more than a dream.

And then she turns and sees herself asleep on the couch.

She stands up, limps across the room. The sense of wrongness, of dislocation, is strong. She finds herself wishing she could touch something, just to assure herself that this is reality, that her mind hasn't fractured. Of course, when she tries to touch the arm of the couch, her fingers move straight through it.

Her sleeping body shifts slightly, frowns. Darcy watches herself breathe, utterly fascinated with the experience of being able to see her body from the outside. Her face looks oddly wrong; it takes her a moment to realise it's because she usually only sees herself reflected in a mirror. And that rarely enough, since New York fell.

She's thinner than she can ever remember being, her collarbones jutting against her skin, the tendons in her hands taut and visible. There are deep purple bruises marring the inside of her arms. More bruises shadow her eyes, and her lips are chapped and bloodless. If she couldn't actually see the movement of her chest as she breathes, Darcy would think herself dead.

Her sleeping self shifts again, one hand coming up to rest beside her face. Even in the dim light of the apartment, the green of the tattoo is vivid. The places where it has returned to black are utterly without dimension, as though she's looking through cracks in her skin to an abyss beyond.

Darcy reaches out, and then the world flips, and she's back inside her body.

She wakes with a start, gasping for air. Her body feels so heavy, as though there is concrete wrapping her bones instead of muscle and skin. She is aware of a hundred different aches - the places where her flesh is bruised from IVs, more bruises along her spine and hipbones. There is a tenderness in her shoulder and hip where her astral self fell out of the door. So injuries could carry over, then. She makes a mental note not to go flinging herself over any cliffs while projecting.

The rings are in her hand, solid and real. She picks up the smallest one, considers it. She could just slip it on right now and be free. Just fly up and up, keep going until her body dissolves into light and she never has to worry about anything again.

The metal grows cold against her fingers. And she thinks of Loki in that room, the look on his face when Blackwood told him she was dead. She glances up at the security cameras, knows that if she does anything suspicious, Loki will be blamed. Will be punished.

An alarm chimes, and the curtains in the room slide open on mechanised tracks. From the other rooms, she can hear the other pairs of curtains opening as well. Early morning light floods the room, thin and pale.

"So I guess I don't even get to pick my wake up time?" she asks the security camera. She wonders who's watching her. Blackwood, she guesses. The Avengers will likely be too busy dealing with whatever Hel is doing to the city. And Jane will be working, trying to open the wormhole.

Jane. The memory of the way Jane looked at her hits her like a physical blow, and she curls around her midsection. For even Jane not to believe in Darcy meant that no one else would. No one was coming to save her or Loki. Darcy had to save them both. Somehow. She looks at the rings in her hands, hopes that they will give her the answers she needs.

She stands, limps heavily over to the window. Her view is mostly blocked by other buildings, but she can see a few slivers of the park. Though the sun is rising, the park itself remains dark, no light penetrating there. Except in one place, where a slim column of cool white light rises up and up.

Darcy stares at it. It takes her a full five minutes to parse that what she's seeing is a tree. It rises higher than the Empire State building, spindy limbs reaching so high that she half fancies that they could brush the sky.

Or touch the place where a barrier is preventing Jane's wormhole from going through.

She doesn't need to see the place where the tree is rooted to know that it was the centre of the labyrinth that she walked through. That the sapling that had remained there afterwards has grown into this tree. That the tree is still growing.

Darcy shivers, though the apartment is warm enough, and wishes that the curtains would close again.


Darcy has to assume that someone is watching at all times. The coverage of security cameras is, as best as she can tell, complete. Including the bathroom, which sports two cameras. And that only includes the cameras she can see. Knowing Stark, there are dozens of hundreds more than she can't see. And even if there's no one physically watching, there's always J.A.R.V.I.S.

She has to act as innocent as possible, give no one opportunity to suspect anything. Not that there is anything to suspect, she thinks, side eyeing a camera as she walks back down the corridor to the bedroom. She's still shivering, and gooseflesh has broken out on her skin, though the apartment seems warm enough. Maybe it was a side effect of dreaming herself to Frigga, or maybe it's just a reaction from seeing that tree.

She goes into the wardrobe to fetch clean clothes, takes the opportunity to slip the two rings Frigga had given her into the pocket of a pair of sweatpants. She sets them and a loose t-shirt aside to wear that night as pyjamas. She wishes she could just lie down now, go to sleep. Knows that she can't.

She grabs clothes at random and goes into the bathroom, where she turns the shower on as hot as she can stand it. She tries to figure out if there's any way she can shower or use the toilet without the cameras seeing her. Even assuming that the visible cameras are the only ones in here, there's no way she can hide.

She has a towel balled up, ready to throw at one of the cameras to cover the lens when the first real bout of cold hits.

It's like a physical blow, like ice actually forming beneath her skin. Darcy crumples to the ground, curled around the towel she had been preparing. Her stomach cramps painfully, and she retches, though there's nothing for her to bring up but sour bile.

And then the bathroom is gone.

And then she is gone.

Everything is a blur of light and shadow. Everything is filled with screaming - the twisted, tortured sound of a broken animal in pain screaming and screaming and screaming, the sound welling forth continuously through a throat already shredded and bloody. There is something beneath her hands, and she tears at it, over and over, the screech of rending metal not nearly enough to contain what she feels-

And just as though a switch has been flipped, the screaming, the pain, the light and shadow, is gone. And she is just Darcy again, a girl curled around a towel on a bathroom floor, shivering hard.

She doesn't care about the cameras now as she crawls to the shower, climbs beneath the spray. Moves only to make the water hotter, uncaring of whether it scalds her skin, whether it melts her flesh from her bones.

She's shivering so hard that she fears that her joints will dislocate, her tendons tear free. Even the hottest water doesn't seem to penetrate the ice that's formed in her.

Because she knows what that vision was. It was Loki. Filled with pain, screaming, tearing at his cell. And so, so cold. So broken.

She's glad now for the shower, because at least whoever is watching - and she is certain now that they have to be watching, with Loki like this - can't see her tears.


Darcy goes through the motions, knows now how vital it is that she appear normal.

She washes herself in the shower, shampoos and conditions her hair. Dries off, dresses. Spends an inordinate amount of time trying to untangle the knotted strands after she gets out of the shower. Eventually gives up and just ties the mess back to deal with later. Considers the cosmetics in the bathroom cabinet, decides that she's only prepared to go so far.

A rattling in the kitchen draws her out of the bathroom. She gets there in time to see a bot vanishing into a cupboard. A brief investigation reveals that the cupboard has a false front, and is actually a hatch for bots to enter and exit the apartment. It is impossible for her to open.

The tray the bot leaves is identical to the ones she took to Loki. And like Loki's latest trays, everything on hers is military rations. Plastic cutlery, a disposable napkin. Nothing sharp. Two white pills rattling in a cup that some has labelled aspirin.

"You could give me a bottle of aspirin, you know," she says to the closest security camera. "Even I'm not dumb enough to overdose on painkillers. I like my liver, thank you very much."

She wants to ignore the aspirin on principle, but there's a headache beginning to tighten around her skull. It annoys her that someone knows her body better than she does. Oddly, that fact rankles even more than the idea of someone seeing her naked in the shower, someone washing and changing her while she was unconscious.

She's not hungry, but she sits down, makes herself eat the entire tasteless meal. The memory of seeing herself as thin and pallid as a corpse is too fresh. And if she somehow manages to find a way out of here, she's going to need her strength.

As soon as she's done, a bot pops out of the access hatch, extends its arms. She stacks the empty packages onto the tray, sets the lot on its arms.

"Thanks, dude," she says, giving the bot a little wave.

The bot beeps in reply, vanishes back through the hatch.

She spends some time going through the cupboards and drawers in the apartment. She's seen the stuff in the bathroom - the toiletries and cosmetics. The wardrobe in the bedroom holds only clothing. No shoes, but there are a couple of pairs of scuffed slippers. The kitchen cupboards are mostly empty, only a pair of plastic tumblers in the cupboard above the sink.

"Not even any coffee? How's a girl supposed to survive the end of the world without coffee?" she asks the security camera.

She fills one of the tumblers with tepid water, drinks it down. Drinks another, just for something to do. At least they're allowing her to regulate her own water intake, she thinks bitterly, rinsing out the tumbler.

The cold hits her as she's setting the tumbler in the sink to dry.

It takes everything she has to stop herself from shivering, to smooth her face. She locks her muscles, then immediately relaxes them again. She wants to collapse on the floor again, wants to retch up her just-eaten meal. Knows that she can do neither.

Somehow she manages to get to the library. To select a book from the shelf, take it to the couch and lie down.

The cold reaches up from deep inside of her. This time she goes straight past shivering to the dead, empty stillness that follows, precedes death from hypothermia.

There is no screaming. Just silence, heavy and smothering. Just wave after wave of pain and cold.

When she comes back to herself, she watches her hands turn the page of the book. A hundred pages in, and her body has been performing for the cameras. Some part of her has actually been reading the text, too. She could even tell the security cameras the name of the heroine's love, lost years ago at sea. Could tell the cameras the colours of the first gown the heroine wears.

She silently thanks whatever part of her brain took over, kept up the charade for the cameras. She's still cold, but it seems easier to bear this time. Maybe she's grown numb enough that it doesn't hurt.

But it hurts you, Loki. Even though it's a part of you, it hurts you. You're letting it hurt you. On purpose. Do you want them to kill you?

She realises then that's exactly what he wants.

He wants numbness, he wants it all to just stop. And locked in his cell, there is no other way.

Just hold on, Loki. Hold on until tonight. Please.

She fills the rest of the day. Reads her book, starts another. Eats lunch when it comes. Turns on the television to discover that they've only allowed her two channels of streaming movies. All romantic comedies and fluff. She picks one at random, stares at the screen. Eats dinner. Stares at another movie.

The cold comes two more times. There is no shivering, just that empty, aching numbness.

Finally, the sun sets. She's managed not to look out of the window during the day, but now, she cannot help herself. The light from the tree seeps into the room, thinner and colder than moonlight. The tree glows bright, dulling the light of the crescent moon beyond.

She's grateful when the curtains slide closed, and the light from the tree is blocked out.

In the bathroom, she washes her face. Attempts again to untangle the snarls from her hair. Gives up and ties the mess back again. There are no scissors, otherwise she would have just hacked the whole lot off.

She changes into the sweatpants and shirt she set aside. Tosses her dirty clothes into the hamper in the bathroom.

Without the overhead lights, only the red LEDs of the security cameras illuminate the room. It reminds her of being in a darkroom. She had taken photography in high school, had always found that red light comforting. It had felt like magic, developing images from nothing.

She curls up beneath the covers, thinking of the girl she had been then. Magic had been something from a storybook. Gods only a long-ago tale.

Turning over, she slides a hand into the pocket of her sweatpants, withdraws the rings. The metal is cold and heavy against her palm.

Her stomach flutters.

She slides the smaller ring onto her left ring finger. It is the finger Loki scarred with his teeth; it feels fitting to wear the ring there. The metal strands twist together with a sound like a sigh, grow colder still against her skin.

She closes her fingers over the larger ring. Closes her eyes.



Darcy stands next to her sleeping self.

This time, she barely glances at her body, just turns and walks through the apartment, hoping like hell that no one can actually tell what's happening.

The door is there waiting for her. Upside-down and flush to the ceiling, just as it was that morning.

As she approaches it, the tingling warmth she associates with Frigga's magic moves through her, and the door swings open. Beyond, she can see the Asgardian library. Upside-down, just like the door.

She doesn't hesitate, just climbs through. There's a moment of disorientation, and then she's standing in the library, her feet on the floor. She doesn't wait for the door to close, just runs through the library, the antechamber, into the vaulted room.

It grows colder and colder with every step she takes. By the time she's standing at the door leading to Loki's cell, the air is freezing. She's gasping for breath, feeling like the air is too thin, lacking in oxygen. Her breath plumes white before her, and when she touches her fingers to the door, moisture condenses around her skin, turns quickly to frost feathers.

Everything slows, the space between her heartbeats lengthening. Some distant part of her mind wonders if this is what dying from hypothermia feels like. If this is how Loki has been feeling all day.

She opens the door.

Snowflakes blow in from the other side, catching on her eyelashes, in her hair. She is so cold that they do not melt. There is a taste like pine on the air, but bitter and dark.

The screen that usually hides the bathroom corner has been thrown askew, blocking her view of most of the cell. There are several long rents in the screen, as though it has been torn by long, sharp claws.

The air is filled with snowflakes, the fall so thick that she can see no more than half a metre in front of her.

The steel sink has been torn from the wall, the broken pipe dripping an inconstant stream of water. As soon as the water touches the floor, it freezes. The metal of the sink itself has been twisted, torn. One edge bears what looks suspiciously like the impressions of teeth.

She takes a step into the cell, ice crunching beneath her bare feet. Her soles are instantly numb.

The snow spirals around the cell, revealing fragments of what lies beyond the white:

The perspex barrier is marked by several starburst patterns, as though someone has sought to physically break through it. Blood streaks down beneath each mark, thick droplets frozen solid.

The wall is scored with what looks like claw marks.

The bed stands on one end, the frame twisted. The mattress has been torn to shreds.

Darcy moves further into the cell. Her feet are entirely numb, her hands, too. There's no pain, just the odd sensation of living flesh freezing solid.

And then she sees Loki.

He's curled into the corner of the cell. His clothing is torn, the exposed flesh bone white. Blood has frozen on his fingertips, on his lips, is clotted in his tangled hair. Tears have frozen white on his cheeks, his eyelashes are crusted with snow.

He isn't moving. He isn't breathing.

Darcy falls to her knees beside him, weeps ice.

The Blood-Dimmed Tide

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by ofravenwings

Part 21 of 33

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