Continuing Tales

The Blood-Dimmed Tide

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by ofravenwings

Part 5 of 33

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The Blood-Dimmed Tide

Darcy freezes, her hand still pressed against the intercom. The sound of static rises around her, fills the small hallway.

Loki is still again, sitting with that same leg crooked, same arm propped, eyes closed. His chest barely moves at all with the tide of his breath. He is so pale against the black of his hair and clothes, she could easily think that he wasn't even alive.

"Loki?" Her voice is small, that of a frightened child.

Only the static answers her. It thickens, becomes something hot and bright: flames and the roar of the Destroyer. Loki, it was Loki who sent that, she reminds herself. And if Thor hadn't gained back his powers, she and Jane and who knows who and what else would have burned. That was Loki, the man who wanted to rule, who would destroy anything and anyone to get what he wanted. This diminished man locked in the cell, this is the illusion.

She slams her free hand against the perspex, a part of her mind glad to feel that cool, electric field that runs over the plastic, keeping Loki's powers at bay.

She yells until her throat is hoarse, dredges up every curse word she has ever heard. Makes up some new ones.

No response.

Finally, she removes her hand from the intercom. Her fingers are numb and cold. She drags herself back through into the guard room, presses the button to close the gate.

And again, she freezes. The gate control is set into a panel on the side of the desk, a red-lettered sign above it reminding her that the gate is to be closed at all times. A small remote hangs above the button, a tag attached reading "Gate Control".

Darcy's legs shake as she grabs the remote, presses the button. She steps through the gate, sliding a quick glance at Loki to ensure that he is still immobile. One heartbeat, two, and the gate slides automatically closed.

She thumbs the remote quickly, runs back through, closes the gate again. Her heart is hammering hard against her ribs. The gate must have malfunctioned, that was all, she tells herself. Or maybe she brought the remote through and forgot. The gate couldn't have opened itself to let her back out.

Except for the fact that there was a sorcerer in the cell, a man who could probably open every gate and door in this building, Stark tech be damned, if he just tried.

"His powers are blocked," she tells the empty room. "He can't do anything in there. He's locked up, imprisoned. Safe."

Darcy replaces the remote, sits down at the desk. Her hands are shaking, and a headache is starting to tighten around her temples. She rummages through the desk drawers, fingers moving through layers of what looked like at least a dozen people's leavings. At the very bottom, she finds a packet of aspirin, the pills half smashed to powder. She chews two, almost welcoming the bitter taste.

She rests her forehead against the battered wood of the desk. There are scratches all over the surface, and she wonders how many offices it had been moved through. Probably stored away somewhere, unloved, until they needed the desk for this office. There's a couch, too, the cushions lumpen and the colour of wet pumice. Hooks on the wall to hold coats. Nothing else. It's the dreariest place she has ever been in.

When the pills have begun to ease the worst of the pain, she occupies herself by going through the papers left for her. Her duties are clear: she is required to be on duty in the guard station from sunrise to sunset every day. She is allowed breaks, but she is required to always have eyes on the camera feeds, either on her phone or laptop. Both are required to be with her at night, the feeds active.

Laptop? Phone? She pulls her own battered phone from her pocket, stares at it for a moment. There's no signal down here, of course. She's lucky to get a signal on the surface most days. She is putting the phone back in her pocket when she notices the corner of a bag beneath the desk.

The black bag is emblazoned with a white Stark Industries logo. Within she finds a ruggedised laptop and a phone, safely encased in a cover that looks both shock- and water-proof. When she switches the phone on, she gets a signal immediately. She grinds her teeth at that.

There's spare batteries for both laptop and phone in the bag, as well as what looks like an electronic hotel room key. She frowns at that, turns back to the papers.

She is expected to live in Stark Tower, an apartment set aside for her on the nineteenth floor. A set amount of food, calculated for caloric needs and nutrition, will be supplied weekly.

In addition, in return for her work at Stark Industries, she receives a certain number of credits per week (the papers helpfully tell her that when the world economy stabilises, money will be used again). These credits may be traded for extra food or clothing or electronics. She scans the list supplied of items, and she swallows hard. All of the things she had joked about with Vinh were there. Even coffee.

She closes her eyes, a memory welling: the first bitter bite of coffee in the morning. Always black, and always without sugar. One cup to wake her up, another cup to savour. Once upon a time, she wouldn't even have thought about rising without the ritual, her coffeemaker always programmed to have it ready.

"Once upon a time," she says. "Like this is a fricking fairytale. Like some prince is going to come and rescue you from all of this."

Except a prince had come for Jane. And another one was locked in the cell next to her.

She rubs her forehead, scanning the list again. Hell, there were even iPods listed, and cameras. As though anyone would want to take photos of the end of the world.

Anger rises in her, sudden and hot, thinking of Vinh eking out his supplies, Max's daughter and her bending bones. She snatches up her new phone and scrolls through the contacts until she finds Stark's office number.

Two rings, and someone picks up.

"Daniel Blackwood," a familiar voice answers.

Darcy moves the phone from her ear, wondering if she got the wrong number. Daniel's voice comes from the speaker, louder, as though he knows what she is doing.

"You won't get through to Stark, or even to his secretary. Or Banner or Potts or anyone but me," he says.

She puts the phone back to her ear. "Then why do I even have their numbers?"

"It's a formality, I suppose. But there's a chain of command, Darcy. You report to me, and I convey any useful information upstairs."

Something clicks. "You've not sent anything upstairs, have you?"

A sharp sound comes over the line, as though Daniel is clicking his teeth together. "That is mine to decide."

"And someone being catatonic, not eating, not moving, for-" Darcy shuffles through papers, and the anger twists harder in her. "For five months? He hasn't eaten anything or moved for five months?"

Fabric sighs, as if Daniel has shrugged. "He's being provided food. We're not here to spoon feed him. The man is a war criminal."

Darcy's eyes move over the papers, and something else clicks. There is no mention of any other shift on the papers. "What's happening to Max?"


"Max. The guard who was working here before me."

"Whoever was down there, they were temporary. They would have known that."

Darcy thinks of Max leaving. He had no sign of any such thing. "You're just going to let him go, aren't you?"

"Despite what you might think, Miss Lewis, Mr Stark does not have access to endless resources. Only a few chosen ones are being sheltered here."

"Chosen? Is that what it is?" Darcy shoves the papers into a rough stack. "I'm not going to sit in here getting fat while the rest of the world starves."

She can feel the tooth-baring smile that Daniel is wearing. "Well, if that's your choice, Miss Lewis. We are not going to-"

The line snaps and crackles, Daniel's voice abruptly cut off. There's a moment of static, and then a woman's voice comes over the line. Darcy instantly recognises Pepper Potts.

"Miss Lewis, what is it that you want?" Pepper asks. She sounds friendly, none of Daniel's antagonism evident in her voice. "And before you continue, I can assure you that we do want you working here. Despite what Daniel Blackwood might say. Jane Foster recommended you highly."

For a moment, Darcy is dumbstruck. "Jane did?" There was that childlike voice again. She cleared her throat. "It's not me. It's Max, the guard who was working here."

"I know who Max Browning is, Miss Lewis."

"Do you know that he has a daughter? That she's sick?"

The sound of shuffling paper. "That information isn't in our records."

Darcy swallows hard. "I want…can you make sure that Max has another job? A good one, with access to food rations? I'm guessing that he ended up with this job because no one else would do it, and he doesn't deserve to be kicked out of here with nothing. I mean, I'd rather leave and let him have the job, even though he doesn't really want to be doing it."

When Pepper speaks again, she sounds amused. "We can arrange for that, Miss Lewis. Anything else?"

Darcy eyes the electronic key. "I don't want to live in Stark Tower. I want to stay in my apartment." She swallows again. "And the food - can you give it to Max, for his daughter? And exchange some of my credits for medicine for her, if she needs it?"

Pepper is silent for a moment. "You've met Max Browning, what, two times?"

"So? His little girl deserves a chance. She didn't choose to be born into this world."

"And you? How will you survive?"

"I'll find a way. I have so far."

The silence is longer this time. "Very well, Miss Lewis. I believe we have a deal?"

Something lifts within Darcy. "I believe we do."

The line goes dead.

Darcy rubs her forehead again, removes her glasses and pinches the bridge of her nose. Stares at the unchanging monitors.

"I guess you're stuck with me now, then," she says. "And I'm stuck with you."


Her shift passes in a daze of monotony.

Darcy explores the office. There is the desk: battered wood, with the panel and electronics for the gate mechanism hastily attached. The three drawers contain old telephone messages, pens long ago dried out, paperclips bent into shapes she cannot identify. There is another packet of aspirin, and a handful of loose pills, pink and white and orange. Outside is the hallway leading to the elevator, a bathroom with a single, thankfully working, stall. In an alcove there is a filtered water fountain and a coffee machine. She pounces on the last, but finds it empty. Still, if she leans close enough to it, she can smell coffee, which is something. Until she realises that she probably looks ridiculous doing so, and, knowing Stark, there were probably cameras hidden somewhere here.

The only thing that breaks the silence is the arrival of a young intern who comes by to deliver a meal tray. More berries - strawberries this time, stew and what smells far too much like fresh bread. She thinks that there's even meat in the stew. No food is delivered for her, and the smell of the food makes her stomach rumble, but she delivers the tray to Loki. It sits, untouched, for several hours, until she takes it away. She hesitates, then packages up the food as best as she can. She can take it to Vinh; he will know people who need it more than her.

She is spinning around on her chair when her new phone notifies her of sunset with a cheery chirp. She checks the gate, the monitors, then packs up her stuff and leaves.

Outside, the city is dark, heavy cloud blocking even the light of the stars. For the first time in a long time, the night is not silent. In the distance, she hears singing: long, low notes that remind her of the songs her mother had always sung at church, though she can recognise none of this music. She wonders if, the human religions, fallen, people are turning to the Asgardians for worship. Hoping the new gods would come and rescue them.

"I don't think you should hold out hope," Darcy says, pulling her coat tight against the cold wind. "They haven't even bothered to try to rescue one of their own. Just locked him away."

She walks home across the bridge, her hand in her pocket the whole time, fingers curled around her taser. She doesn't know why she chooses to walk. Maybe just to prove to herself that she can.

Halfway across the bridge, she turns back, looks up at Stark Tower. Counts the floors. On floor nineteen there is a bank of dark windows. The key to the apartment is still tucked into her bag, along with the laptop and phone. It would take her just as much time to turn around as it will to go back to her place.

A sudden thread of fear tightens in her, a certainty that Loki, unwatched, is up to no good. She sets the bag down, slides the new phone out. Opens the app that feeds the camera images to her. Loki has not moved.

What difference does one little girl make, when the whole world is dying?

Darcy stiffens, that thread growing taut and cold, for all that she's used to the echoes of her mother's voice in her mind. That voice will always follow her, no matter where she runs.

"It makes a difference," she says. The distant voices rise, hanging on a single pure note, then fade away. Darcy picks up her bag again, though she keeps the phone out, cupped in her hand so the light from the screen is hidden, but she can still see the camera feed. "It has to make a difference. Otherwise, what's the point of anything?"


By the time she reaches her apartment building, she is exhausted. Even her empty stomach is forgotten now, and all she can think about is her bed, about collapsing into the nest of blankets.

She is so tired that she doesn't notice the change in the building until she is halfway down the hallway to the apartment.

The building has power. The bulbs in the hallway are glowing with a dim orange light, but it is light, all the same.

Just the sight of it makes her forget some of her fatigue. She is practically dancing as she unlocks her door and enters her apartment. Humming as she locks the door, sets down her bag.

It is only when she looks out of the window that she realises that all of the other buildings on the block, and on every block in the city she can see, are dark. Only Stark Tower and her building have power.

"Well, shit," she says. "This was so not part of the deal."

She is acutely aware of the sounds travelling through the building: doors opening and closes, snatches of voices, even a baby crying once, quickly hushed. This place will be a beacon now, drawing in half of the city.

Still, the electricity means that she gets to have warm soup for dinner, and the water in the bathroom is lukewarm, rather than cold. She even gets to stash the food taken from Loki's tray in her fridge, making a mental note to take it to Vinh as soon as possible.

She plugs in her phones to charge, as well as the laptop and her taser. She curls up in her bed, warm and exhausted, but sleepless and on edge. There are more noises coming from elsewhere in the building now, the sound of shouting, of screams.

The iPod and earbuds give her relief from that, at least. She is half asleep before she remembers that even off duty, she is supposed to have the feed from the cameras running. She drags herself out of bed and opens the laptop, angling it so she can see the screen from bed.

She expects to slide into sleep straight away, but she keeps on drifting off, then feeling that tight fear again, opening her eyes to check that Loki hasn't moved.

He never does, and eventually she slides into an uneasy sleep. Even then, there is only a few moments of deep black before she slips sideways into dream.


In the dream, she opens her eyes to gold.

The ceiling above is made from what looks like solid gold, the metal furled and twisted into a complex, twisting pattern. She moves, trying to see the pattern better, and realises that she is naked, lying on a large bed covered in plush gold velvet.

And she is not alone.

There is a figure standing near the door, wreathed in shadows. And he is watching her.

"I believe you were expecting me," he says.

The Blood-Dimmed Tide

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by ofravenwings

Part 5 of 33

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