Continuing Tales

The Blood-Dimmed Tide

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by ofravenwings

Part 3 of 33

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The Blood-Dimmed Tide

That night, she dreams again of the precipice.

This dream is like no other dream she has known. There is no slow slide into sleep, no drifting slowly between the waking and dream worlds, no slow rise and fall on the dark ocean behind her eyes. She simply lies down, closes her eyes and she is there again, standing on the edge of Stark Tower.

The ruined city is spread out before her, silent and still. In the distance, the sky is smudged with rising smoke, grey against the white sky. The wind rises around the tower, tugging at her hands, a mischievous spirit entreating her to dance.

She raises her hands, feels the breeze curl around her fingers, growing warmer, more solid.

When she was younger, she had believed in fairies, spending long hours searching the woods behind the family house for fairy rings. One day, she had found a circle of mushrooms, lay down in it and waited to be taken away to the world behind the world. She'd stayed there until well after dark. No one had come looking for her.

She curls her fingers again, and her memory slides back further. And it is her mother's hands in hers, her mother's voice whispering to her: "Will you, won't you, join the dance?"

And then a scent breaks through the memory. Leather, ice, and deep beneath, a cold thread of blood. She feels the weight of him standing behind her, close enough that she can feel his body heat, his ragged breath against the nape of her neck. He does nothing, says nothing, just stands there, waiting.

She squeezes her eyes shut. Sparks fly in the darkness there, emerald green and gold and the cold blue of Arctic ice.

He shifts his weight, leather creaking. Is he reaching out to her? Preparing to push her? She doesn't wait to find out. She squeezes her eyes shut harder, so hard that the sparks go to darkness. Forces the precipice away, forces him away.

The scent that rises around her is dry dust, grey neglect. She knows what she'll see when she opens her eyes, and her stomach churns. Still, she cannot keep herself from looking.

She stands now on solid ground, her bare feet pressed against dry dust that has never sprouted a single green leaf. Her jeans are gone, replaced by a white smocked dress, the skirt ending high on her thighs. She raises her fingers to the neckline, feels the embroidery there. Small roses, pink and white, twining vines. The last vine is unfinished, trailing thread.

Before her is the house, crouched low against a hill. The white paint is peeling, revealing silvered wood beneath. The few potted herbs on the porch have long gone to seed, their leaves crumbling brown at the edges. A window is open, a breeze she cannot feel toying with the curtain. White like her dress, and ragged at the edges, the fabric is pulled out, pushed back in, over and over. There are spots of something on the white, something that looks like rust.

Another scent rises around her. Copper, iron, something black and fetid beneath. She swallows hard against nausea.

"I wasn't here," she says, balling her fists. "They just told me what happened. I was never here, I never saw any of this. This house doesn't even exist any more. They burned it all down, after."

That dark scent thickens, gathers in the back of her throat until she gags. And still that curtain moves back and forth, back and forth, rising higher now, high enough that she can almost see inside.

Her knees buckle, and she would have fallen, but there are suddenly hands holding her up. Leather creaks as he wraps one arm around her waist. His other hand rests on her hip, long fingers curved against her hip, their tips brushing the bare skin of her thigh. His skin is hot and cold at the same time, but blessedly alive, his pulse beating against her skin.

She closes her eyes again, focuses on his pulse, the meter of his breath. There is a hitch as he breaths in, and something scrapes lightly within. A broken rib, she thinks.

The dream shifts.

When she opens her eyes, it is to a gleaming world. Jewel tones, gold, everything shining. The weight of him is gone, but she still feels him there, somehow. She shifts her weight, feels her body moving strangely around her, as though she was wearing a suit tailored for someone else.

Laughter, and then a boy runs across the room. He is blond, shining even brighter than the gold surrounding him. He is followed by several others, all laughing, all shining so brightly that it hurts her eyes to look upon them.

The light grows, and she feels a shadow extend across her. His shadow, the one made from gold. And she knows that she will never again step forth from that shadow.

And what else to do? The voice comes from everywhere and nowhere, a whisper that slides through her bones. There was nothing else to do, but to become the shadow. Fill the spaces that he did not.

Something cold twists inside her, as though her heart is freezing. She watches the shining ones as they retrace their steps, laughing again, and feels the cold bite deep in her soul.


Darcy wakes to pain.

She is twisted in her sheets, limbs splayed in strange directions, as though her bones have been broken in her sleep. A stabbing pain comes and goes in her side, a sound coming from beneath her skin like stone grinding against stone. Every inch of her skin feels bruised and lacerated.

It takes all of her will to move, to assure herself that there's no way she could be so broken. All she's been doing is sleeping. There was no house, there was no golden world. It was all just a dream.

And yet she could smell leather and ice, could feel someone else's heartbeat against her skin.

She pulls herself out of bed, untangling herself from sweat-damp sheets. The power is still out, her clock dark. When she looks out of the window, she sees the thin light of pre-dawn, Stark Tower's A burning bright against the clouds.

Her eyes move down the tower, towards the place where that cell resides in the basement. She thinks of his skin against hers, and her stomach twists. She tells herself that it's revulsion that she feels as she goes to the bathroom to shower. The water is cold, and by the time she emerges, she's shivering, glad to wrap herself in layers of denim and wool, glasses and cap her armour against the world.

She opens the kitchen cupboard to discover that mice have been at work overnight. Her backup packets of Pop Tarts have been nibbled through, the remaining pastries dotted with droppings. The mice have even been at the wrappers of her remaining cans. She stares at the mess for a while, then removes the last pastry from the untouched box, eats it cold. Gathers her money, phone, iPod and taser. The electronics are still holding a charge, but just. If the power doesn't come on soon…

She shoves that thought away, forces herself to go out, lock the door. The hallway is quiet, but she hears murmurs from behind one of the locked doors as she passes. Most of the apartments were ransacked long ago, and she supposes that it's surprising that other squatters have taken so long to move in. She doesn't want to think about what it's like in other areas, if people are starting to choose to be here.

You choose to be here, her mother's voice says in her mind. It is the voice she remembers from her childhood, the one that used to read her stories at bedtime, soothe her when she was hurt.

Her heart twists, and she blinks away tears. "This is my home."

It's a place, Darcy. You have no home, now. You have no family. You walked away from all of that.

She slams the door as she enters the stairwell. The echoing sound is enough to drown the voice in her mind, at least. It's the silence that comes afterwards that's the problem.

The Blood-Dimmed Tide

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by ofravenwings

Part 3 of 33

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