Continuing Tales

The Blood-Dimmed Tide

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by ofravenwings

Part 28 of 33

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The Blood-Dimmed Tide

The sun rises over the park.

Darcy sits before the burned remains of the branch of Yggdrasil, runs her fingers through the ash that covers the ground.

A part of her mind reminds her that these are the ashes of people she's touching, that she's sitting in human remains, that she's breathing them in. The thought sinks down through the emptiness within her, keeps on going and going, never hits bottom.

She feels nothing.

She feels everything.

She twists the ring she still wears on her left hand. The copper is dull, almost as grey as the ashes beneath her, the outermost strands broken. The tiny amount of magic within her surges, slides through the metal, trying to repair the damage. It tries valiantly, but there isn't enough. It withdraws, curls up deep within her.

Footsteps behind her, and then Jane appears at her side. She's wearing heavy military boots over her jeans, the leather coated with dust. She squats down, keeps her hands in her lap.

"Have you been out here all night?" she asks.

Darcy runs her hands through her hair, heedless of the streaks of ash she'll leave behind. Her hair is damp; she vaguely remembers a light drizzle somewhere in the early hours.

"We're working on getting the wormhole open again," Jane says when Darcy doesn't reply. Her eyes move around constantly, sliding over the remains of the tree, never resting on the blackened bark. "Just enough to be able to send messages back and forth, so Asgard knows what happened here." She pauses. "What did happen, Darce?"

Darcy says nothing.

Jane rubs her hands against her jeans, though she hasn't touched anything. "We're working on dismantling the quarantine around your apartment, too. I've had them put a cot in my apartment for you in the meantime. You should come back, have something to eat, get some sleep." She waits, and when Darcy is still silent, she stands. "I'll have someone come down and bring you some food, then. Send a doctor to check on you."

"I don't need a doctor." Darcy's voice is rough, her throat dry. She holds up her unmarked hands. The black is gone entirely, and all that remains to mark Hel's influence are the scars of the claw marks, silvered and thin now, almost invisible. "I'm fine."

"I'll send someone down anyway." Jane rubs her hands on her jeans again. "They haven't found any sign of Daniel Blackwood. In every record, he doesn't even seem to exist, which makes it difficult to try to track him down. We've passed everything we have onto S.H.I.E.L.D. They'll find him. And we found Tony. His prototype failed, and he was stuck on the outskirts of the city with a broken ankle. You should hear the whining." She reaches out to Darcy, her fingers hovering an inch from Darcy's shoulder, then she pulls her hand back without touching her. "It's all going to be okay, Darce."

"How?" Darcy's eyes are on the tree as she speaks. The wood has become something like obsidian, shining dully in the light of the rising sun. She touches it, ignoring Jane's indrawn hiss of breath. It's cold beneath her fingers. "The world's still broken."

"And we'll fix it. We always do, right?"

Darcy has no answer for that. Jane turns and walks back through the park, leaving her alone again.


The next day, it is Pepper who comes and visits her.

It rained heavily overnight, washing away much of the ash on the ground. The grass revealed beneath is bleached white, pale enough that Darcy thought it was completely dead. Until she touched it, and found the blades soft and lush. When she picks a blade, she can see the tiniest hint of green at the root.

That, at least, will come right again.

It almost seems a mockery, that anything should be right again.

Pepper doesn't hesitate, just sits down next to Darcy. She's wearing low-heeled pumps and a white suit, and doesn't seem to care about getting ash or mud on either. She doesn't say anything.

After a while, Darcy realises that she's crying, silent tears streaming down her face, splashing into the already damp soil.

Pepper reaches out, takes her hand. Her fingers are warm in Darcy's, solid and real and reassuring.


Days pass. The weather grows colder and colder, and soon it begins to snow.

As the sun rises, Darcy holds out her hands, collects snowflakes in her palms. The flakes melt slowly, and she turns her hands, watches the flakes catch the light. Her hands grow numb, and soon the flakes don't melt at all. The cold spirals down into the depths of her.

She stops shivering. She doesn't care. Let everything freeze. Let everything be winter.

Footfalls crunch against the rime of ice on the grass behind her. Their weight can only mean one person: Thor.

Darcy doesn't turn from the tree. "Are they going to try to take it down again?"

In previous days, Darcy had been ushered away from the tree while construction equipment was brought in. A bulldozer had attempted to knock down the twisted remains of the branch of Yggdrasil, to no avail. More equipment that Darcy could not name was brought in one by one, each machine larger than the last. None of them had made so much as a scratch on the slick black of the tree.

Late the previous evening, Thor had even attempted to strike the tree down with Mjolnir. It had resisted even that.

Thor squats down next to Darcy. He's wearing jeans and a thick black sweater, and he still looks cold. Mjolnir is nowhere to be seen, but Darcy has no doubt that the hammer is stashed somewhere nearby.

"Darcy, you should retreat from this place," Thor says. "Even I can see that this vigil is not good for you. Jane is concerned about you, and so are the doctors."

Darcy lets the snow fall through her fingers. Both of her inner elbows are bruised from the marks of multiple needles. She paid little attention to what the doctors had said when they had returned. She has a vague memory of them talking about malnutrition and anaemia.

"How is Jane?" Darcy asks, turning to Thor.

"Working, as always." Thor touched his fingers to the gleaming black of the tree, pulls them away quickly. "The Bifrost will be functional again soon. She tells me that she will rest then."

"And you believe her?"

Thor smiles, that openly guileless grin of his, so unlike his brother's. Darcy's heart feels as though it's being squeezed in her chest, and she turns away.

"Will you return to Asgard then?" she asks.

"It is my duty." Thor worries his fingers over the seams of his jeans. Loose threads about the knees speak of the fact that this has been an oft-repeated gesture over the last days. "I am heir to the throne of Asgard." There is no pride in the statement, just resignation.

Darcy leans her forehead against the tree. She thinks of it less and less as Yggdrasil as the days pass. The smooth black doesn't warm beneath her skin, a strangely soothing sensation. "Do you think he's really gone?"

Thor's fingers clench. "I know what I saw. His body…" He swallows hard. "I am not certain that any living thing could survive that. But…he is who he is. He fell into an abyss and survived."

Darcy looks at him sharply. "You think he could have survived this?"

"I hold hope." Thor stands, tugs down his sweater. The clothing suits him, but he looks ill at ease in it. "When the Bifrost is repaired and I can return to Asgard, I will converse with Heimdall. If my brother-" He breaks off, his voice catching on the word. "If Loki lives, Heimdall will see him."

"And what if he sees nothing?"

"It would not be the first time Loki has hidden himself from Heimdall." Thor clasps Darcy's shoulder. His fingers are warm against her cold flesh. "One can always find hope, if one wishes to. Even in the most foolish of circumstances."

"So you'd just give up, if Heimdall sees nothing?"

"Sometimes you hope, but then you need to hide that hope away, move on. Live as though there is nothing to hope for."

Darcy looks up at Thor. His eyes are unfocused, looking at something beyond the physical. "You really don't want to be King, do you?"

He shifts his weight uncomfortably. "It is what I was raised for."

"Doesn't mean you have to want it. Doesn't mean you have to be it."

He smiles, and there is a deep sorrow in his eyes. "There is no one else."

Darcy twists her ring around her finger. The metal is warm, despite the cold. "That day…when Jane opened the wormhole. When you saw Loki, you were happy about Loki being out of his cell."

Thor rubs his hands against the seams of his jeans. He does not look at her when he replies. "It was Mother's plan. To send Loki to Midgard, give him a chance to find who she was convinced he was." He looks up at the sky, clouds reflecting in the blue of his eyes. "The Allfather had sentenced Loki to lifetime imprisonment in the dungeons of Asgard. Mother wished something more. She enchanted Loki's Asgardian cell, created a double of him there so it appeared he was still locked away. Then sent him to Midgard instead, along with the cell she designed."

Darcy stares at Thor. "Odin didn't know?"

"As he still does not. His rage against Loki…it is not a sane thing." Thor holds out a hand, calls Mjolnir. "Part of the enchantment Mother put on Loki's cell was that when he realised who he was, once he had paid the price for the crimes he committed, he could simply walk out. At no other time could the cell be opened for him."

"What about other people?"

Thor looks down, blinks at Mjolnir as though he hadn't realised he'd called the hammer. "The cell was not designed to admit anyone. Asgardian or Midgardian."

More of Frigga's plans, things that she did not tell even Thor. "Did Loki walk out of the cell? Or did he trick his way out?"

Thor is silent for a long time before he answers. "He walked out. The cell opened for him."

It takes a long time before Darcy realises that Thor left her alone after that. It takes longer for her to realise that she had been weeping since, her tears freezing on her cheeks.


The next day, Darcy returns to Stark Tower.

The first place she visits is Loki's cell. The transparent barrier is simply gone, as though there has never been a wall there at all. The gate has been removed, too, along with the gate controls and desk in the next room. There's no sign of the barriers that Blackwood erected to entomb Loki apart from the fresh paint and plaster on the walls.

The cell itself has been scrubbed clean, the black blood finally cleaned away and a fresh coat of paint applied here too. Everything has been removed from the cell apart from the cot. Even the sink Loki twisted is gone, a sawn-off pipe projecting from the wall where it was.

Darcy lies down on the cot. It has been stripped of its covers, and the mattress smells of bleach and cleaning chemicals. There is no comfort in it, and she stands up again quickly.

She presses her hand to the wall where the doorway had opened. There is a faint tingling in her palm, so faint that she might only be imagining it, but nothing happens.

When she leaves the cell, she knows she will never return to it. There is nothing there for her now.


It is easy to slide back into the work of being Jane's intern. Jane's notes are scattered everywhere around the lab, books tossed here and there as she had worked in a frenzy on the wormhole. Darcy collects the papers, the books, begins the process of typing everything and entering it into Jane's database.

She makes coffee, ensures that Jane takes breaks to eat.

She feels nothing.

That night, she sleeps on the cot set up in Jane's living room.

She does not dream, and she wakes up weeping.


Winter passes.

Slowly, Stark Tower returns to normal. The containment around Darcy's apartment is deconstructed, the apartment itself completely renovated. When it is finished, Stark himself presents Darcy with the key.

She spends the next week still sleeping on the cot in Jane's apartment.

It's only when she realises that Thor is deliberately sleeping elsewhere that she tells Jane to send the cot back to storage. Jane's look of relief is quickly masked, but Darcy sees it all the same.

Truly, she's happy for Jane and Thor.

At least she thinks she is, somewhere deep below the emptiness that fills her. To be otherwise, what would that make her?

That night, she works late. Checks her data in triplicate. Cleans the benches, vacuums the computer keyboards. Cleans the coffee machine.

When she finally takes the elevator to the nineteenth floor, its well after midnight.

The corridor is now carpeted with soft grey, the walls painted a delicate eggshell. Two paintings are hung on the walls, both depicting calm oceanscapes. Darcy pauses at the painting next to her door. A white beach, pallid blue sea. Not a hint of seafoam or breeze. She supposes someone though it was soothing, but to her, it just feels incomplete. A lie.

She swipes her key, enters the apartment.

She immediately suspects Pepper's hand in the remodelling. The entire space has been hollowed out, and the apartment itself now fills the floor above as well. Darcy wonders absently who had to sacrifice their apartment on that floor. Hopes that it's not because the owner died, knows that's probably more likely.

Everything is pale wood, white, hints of chrome here and there. The lower floor is all open plan living space, a kitchen filling one corner. She opens the cupboards, finds them stocked with instant foods, dried packets. The fridge is almost empty, but there's a carton of long-life milk. And on the top shelf, a small carton of fresh blueberries. She closes the door quickly. She doesn't want to eat, anyway. She doesn't remember if she ate during the day, but she's not hungry. And she knows that her body is becoming softer again, so she must be eating something, even if she tastes none of it.

A spiral staircase leads to an upper loft level. Queen-sized bed, white quilt, another soothing seascape above. Small open wardrobe with several shelves filled with jeans and sweaters. All in plain colours. Nothing green, nothing black.

A corner has been walled off to make a small bathroom. No tub, everything utilitarian.

Darcy goes back down the stairs again. Stands in the centre of the space, closes her eyes and visualises how the apartment had been. Without opening her eyes, she moves to where the doorway to the Asgardian rooms had appeared. When she places her hand on the wall, there's that faint tingling, and she's aware of the magic uncurling within her, like the first shoot of a plant reaching for the sun, but nothing else happens.

Darcy showers, dresses in a loose shirt she pulls from the wardrobe. It's cut generously enough that it could be a man's shirt, and made from a synthetic that could, in the right light, be mistaken for linen. It's blue, the closest colour she can get to green.

She curls up in bed, the lights still on. Outside, she can see lights burning in some of the other buildings. People are coming back.

She wishes she could think that everything would be okay.

She wishes she could wish anything.

She closes her eyes, sleeps,hopes to dream.


In the deep dark of her sleep, there is a vague feeling of cold.


Darcy wakes in the pale pre-dawn light, elated that she had dreamed something, at least.

Then she looks down, sees that she has kicked the quilt to the floor. Her white shirt is damp with sweat.

She got cold in her sleep, that was all.

There is nothing else.

There will never be anything else.


The next morning, she makes a muttered excuse to Jane. Leaves Stark Tower. She's aware that there are two ill-concealed guards trailing her, can't decide if it makes her feel safe or bothers her.

The streets she walks through feel both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. There is movement in most of the buildings she passes. People moving in, people cleaning, people painting, knocking down walls, rebuilding them. She tells herself that it makes her feel people. People are returning. The city will live again.

It's only when she reaches her old building, the once-Utopia, that things change.

The sign on the building is gone, tall scorch marks left in its place. The cables and pipes and wires that had connected Utopia to the neighbouring buildings are gone. All that remains of them is a twisted knot of electrical wire, sparking fitfully in the light breeze.

This little knot of buildings is empty and still. Completely silent.

Darcy enters Utopia. The guards do not follow, but linger on the street.

She moves up floor by floor, walking along each long corridor that tunnels across the building. The doors are still all gone, and she peers into each apartment she passes. All are empty of people and possessions. In most the walls have been scrawled over with black lines reminiscent of the marks Hel had branded everyone with. In several, the walls, ceiling and floor had all been painted solid black.

When she reaches the apartment that had been hers, she pauses in the hallway outside.

She feels nothing, but she tells herself that she feels dread. That she feels hope. That she feels sorrow.

She steps over the threshold. Unlike the other apartments, hers has been scrubbed clean, in several places the paint so worn from scrubbing that the brick beyond has been exposed. There is nothing here. No familiarity, no memories. Just emptiness.

She keeps moving up. Everything is empty.

It is only when she comes out onto the roof that she finds someone.

The girl is standing on the edge of the roof, looking down over the precipice. There had been a barrier there, but someone has knocked it down, leaving only the odd spike of steel thrusting up from the flat of the roof. The girl stands with her bare foot pressed against one of these spikes. She's wearing loose jeans and a red sweater, the latter so bright that it fairly seems to glow in the sunlight. Her hair has been cut close to her scalp. Darcy suspects that she's sheared it off herself, the strands clumped in uneven, tangled locks, with several places cut so short that the pale skin of her scalp shows.

She looks nothing like the girl Darcy knew. And yet Darcy knows her all the same.

"Beth?" she asks.

Beth doesn't turn away from the edge. "I wondered when you'd come." Her voice is flat, without affect.

"Beth, are you okay?" Darcy glances around the rooftop. One of her neighbours had grown tomatoes up here before everything fell apart. A few of the old pots have been shattered to shards, the shards scattered around. Apart from that, the rooftop is empty. "Where's Ravi?"

Beth holds her hands out over the edge. She has red ribbons laced around her wrists. The long ends flutter in the breeze, snap to and fro when they get caught in a particularly large gust. "I gave him to Morrigan."

Darcy edges closer, keeping her movements slow and steady. "You gave him away? Why?"

Beth turns to face Darcy. She's used cheap eyeliner to scrawl black curlicues around her eyes. More sweep around the stark lines of her cheekbones, dipping into the shadowed hollows there. "I didn't think you would ask me that. I thought you'd understand." Beth holds her arms out, the ribbons whipping around her hands. The sleeves of her sweater ride up, revealing a little of her forearms. There are deep, ragged lines etched into Beth's skin, the newest still bleeding. "How could I keep him, after what I let happen to him? Morrigan kept her children safe. She wasn't touched by the black, and neither were they." A tear wells, smudges the black on her cheek. "I don't deserve him. I don't deserve anything. I am no one. I am nothing."

I am no one. Those words jar through Darcy, through the abyss within her. She remembers a dream of standing on the edge of Stark Tower as Beth stands on the edge of once-Utopia. She remembers Loki standing behind her. The memories begin to spill through her then. It takes all of her will to push them away.

"You're not no one, Beth. You're you, something no one else can never be. You're Ravi's mother."

"But what use am I? What the hell have I given to the world?" Beth turns back to face the street. "He didn't even blink when I handed him over to Morrigan. Just curled into his arms like he belonged there. Morrigan told me later that he slept through the night, didn't wake once. Every night he had with me he was restless. Maybe he just wanted to leave and never could before."

"Or maybe he was picking up on his mother's pain."

Beth makes a derisive noise. "And what about you? You look fine. Living in Stark Tower, up there with the gods while the monsters fight over crumbs on the ground. How did that happen? We all thought you'd go like Max."

"Max? What happened to Max?"

Beth makes a diving motion with one hand. The wind pulls at the ribbon on that wrist, tugs it loose. The streak of red twists and dances in the air, vanished from sight. "He went back to his old apartment. Found his daughter. Found what was left of her, anyway, after what happened to her after he left her." Beth tugs at the other ribbon until it loosens, holds it between thumb and forefinger, then lets it go. This one lifts up and up into the sky before vanishing from sight behind a taller building. "How are you so okay?"

Darcy swallows a laugh. The idea that anyone could think she was okay seems a ludicrous one. She looks down at her clean clothes, her softening body. Her hair is clean and dry, and she even applied some makeup that morning. She supposes that on the surface she does look okay. But she knows, perhaps better than most, that appearances were too often a lie.

She has no platitude she can give Beth, no magic truth that will make it okay.

Lie, then.

Darcy starts, looking wildly around the rooftop. Loki's voice, drifting through the abyss, so strong that she could have believed he was whispering in her ear. The magic within her twists around, as though it, too, seeks its home.

"There's always hope, isn't there?" she asks. She turns her broken ring around her finger. Even here, in the wind that's drawing goosebumps from her skin, the metal is warm. "Even when everything's falling apart, you still have hope."

"Hope for what? More of the same crap life? More people to leave you?"

Darcy winces at that, knowing that she is one of the people who left Beth. "That things will get better somehow." She holds out her hand. "I'll make you a deal, Beth. You come with me, we go and collect Ravi. The both of you come and stay with me in Stark Tower. Even if it's just for a few days so you can rest, get some decent food. And if you want, I can talk to someone about finding you a job, an apartment. Help. Whatever you and Ravi need."

"And what do you want in return?" Beth asks, her eyes hard.

"A friend," Darcy says, and she's being totally honest this time. "A chance to make all of this mean something. Hope of my own." She smiles. "It's not easy for anyone, Beth. Not even the gods know what they're doing. Not really."

"You think so?"

"I know so."

Beth takes her hand, allows Darcy to lead her away from the edge.


Beth and Ravi stay with Darcy that night. Darcy attempts to give her bed to Beth and Ravi, sleep on the couch, but Beth insists that they all share the bed. It's comforting having someone else there, even if Darcy wakes from a dreamless sleep in the middle of the night with tears on her face because she thinks that it's Loki there with her.

In the morning, Darcy speaks with Pepper. In short time, an admin job is found for Beth, along with child care for Ravi.

A week later, Beth and Ravi move into the apartment opposite Darcy. Pepper herself has overseen the decoration of a bedroom and playroom for Ravi, filled both with toys and books that she procured from who-knows-where.

For a long time, Darcy notices that Beth doesn't read to Ravi, though she plays enthusiastically with the rest of the toys. A little probing reveals that Beth's skill with letters is rudimentary. Darcy teaches her, and is rewarded with Beth working her way slowly through Ravi's books. She moves on steadily to more and more challenging texts. Soon, she's even raiding Darcy's shelves for books. The day that Beth is shown the many libraries in the building, Darcy thinks she's going to faint from happiness.

Beth discovers mythology, and dives into its study headfirst. The Norse mythology, Darcy expects, but Beth seems to be open to any and all cultures. Darcy wanders into Beth's apartment one day to find Beth sitting at a table strewn with notes. The complex diagrams and lines cross-reference mythologies and deities, draws parallels between them. Beth says that she feels like she's getting close to some universal truth, some answer that will unlock everything about human thought and belief.

Darcy reads the notes Beth presses on her, beginning from the bottom of it all. Death, the Underworld, Hell and Helheim. When Beth hands her notes on Loki and Thor in mythology, Darcy refuses to read any more.

The city is being rebuilt. People are coming back. Jane works with Asgard, and the Bifrost will be open between Asgard and Midgard any day. The wars are beginning to end. Beth is happy.

Darcy tells herself that she's happy, too.


Darcy, Beth and Ravi are playing in Central Park.

The park is green again now, though the leaves are beginning to shade towards autumn as the weather cools again. People have come back to the city, and they are dotted about the lawns reading or listening to music or just lying there soaking in the sun. People have slowed down since everything that happened, taking the time to savour more of life.

A couple passes, hand in hand, matching gold rings glinting in the sun. The man is tall, dark-haired and slim, dressed in a tailored suit. The woman is a full head shorter, her curves wrapped in green silk. Darcy looks away from them, finds herself looking at the blackened remains of the tree.

No one had been able to topple it, no matter what they tried. And so the city has claimed it for its own. It has become a memorial: cairns of stones places in concentric circles around, photographs and flowers and notes tucked beneath the rocks. Even now, no one really knows how many people died in and after the battle of New York. Too many is all Darcy knows.

A flash in the sky, and light streams down onto Stark Tower. Ravi looks up, laughs and claps, chants: "Rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!"

The Bifrost is open again.


Darcy remains in the park even after Beth and Ravi have returned home. Wanders amongst the cairns. Find's Max's photograph next to a photo of his daughter. Too many other photos she recognises, even if she doesn't know their names.

Thor finds her there. He is dressed in his full Asgardian armour, Mjolnir in his hand. He smiles when he sees Darcy, though there is strain in the expression.

"You're going home, then?" Darcy asks.

Thor nods. "I have been summoned," he says. "As have you."

Darcy stares at him. "What?"

"It is what I was told. Frigga, Queen of Asgard, summons the Midgardian Darcy Lewis. I know not what for."

Darcy looks down at the closest cairn. The photograph tucked beneath the rocks is that of a child, barely three years old. He has dark hair, green eyes, a fine-boned face. There is no other identifying papers, just the photograph and a single white rose.

"Right, then," Darcy says. "I guess we're going to Asgard, then."

The Blood-Dimmed Tide

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by ofravenwings

Part 28 of 33

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