Continuing Tales

The Blood-Dimmed Tide

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by ofravenwings

Part 8 of 33

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The Blood-Dimmed Tide

"We thought you'd left."

Darcy starts, pulling the earbuds from her ears. They fall to the floor, Moonlight Sonata continuing, tinny and thin.

There is a girl standing in the doorway. She is tall, easily six inches taller than Darcy, her body thin to the point of gauntness. Her skin is pale, her dark hair cropped unevenly; several places close enough to reveal the bare curve of naked scalp. She is wearing a skirt made from scraps of coloured fabric over torn black leggings. She is also wearing one of Darcy's sweaters. It is a red and green one that Darcy's mother gave her the Christmas before she moved away to college. It was knitted from cheap wool, and had always itched at the collar.

The girl touches a thin hand to the locks on the inside of the door. Her nails are bitten short, her cuticles gnawed and pocked with scabs. "It's like a code," she says. "You leave the door open at night, you've left the city. Whatever you've left behind is free for the taking."

Darcy hauls herself up from the floor. Her joints are stiff, and she wonders how long she was sitting there, the song repeating. She glances at the Stark laptop long enough to see that Loki is still sitting on the floor of his cell, then closes the computer.

"Ozy tried to take that, too," the girl says. "That case, it damn near took his hand off. Should have heard him scream." She grins, the expression dying as she glances down the hallway.

Darcy shoves back her tangled hair, straightens her glasses. She would kill for a coffee right now, anything to jumpstart her foggy mind. "You took my things?" she asks, finally.

The girl shrugs her shoulders. The movement makes Darcy realise that the girl has something looped around both shoulders - a scarf, maybe. "Ozy and his boys. They claimed this building. Right lucky, too, they only lost a few lads in the fighting. But it's ours now. Power and hot water and everything." She points to the iPod on the floor, the earbuds still leaking music. "That was me leaving that. I figured that someone who loves music so much ought to have something, right?"

"So you thought I was gone, but you left that anyway?"

The girl shifts her weight from one leg to the other. Her bones shift and slide beneath her skin. "Ozy was the one who took everything, not me. No would leave fresh food behind." The girl touches a finger to her lips. "The smell of it. I'd forgotten how bright things can smell."

Darcy knows that she should feel angry at this girl, but she just feels something like resignation. Everyone is starving. Including her, now.

"I'm Sif, by the way," the girl says.


The girl shifts her weight again. "You know? The goddess? It's part of Ozy's thing. Initiation. We all get to claim new names - god and goddesses, claim our power."

Darcy pushes back her hair again, wincing as her fingers catch in tangles. "You realise that Sif is a real person, right? An alien, not a goddess? People just thought that she was. Sif, and Odin, and Thor, and…" She can't bring herself to say his name. Even the thought of him brings his ghost touch on her skin, the memory of his eyes burning into her. It was just a dream, she tells herself. And God, why was she even dreaming of him like that, anyway? The guy was and is a monster.

She realises that she's rubbing at her wrist, the one that had been scarred in the dream. She forces her hands down to her sides, aware that the girl is still staring at her.

"What's your real name?" Darcy asks. "The one you had before…Ozy?"

"Ozymandias," the girl says. She draws herself up as she speaks the name, her thin frame fairly vibrating with pride. "He says that we're not supposed to use those names any more. That they just tie us to the old world."

"Ozymandias? He realises that's not a god, right? It's a poem. And a comic book villain, or hero. I don't remember which."

"If he says it's a god name, then it is." The girl taps her long fingers against the locks on the door. "Bethany," she adds quietly. "My name was Bethany. Beth. For Beth, in Little Women."

Darcy smiles then. "I used to love that book. Though I always liked Jo best." She holds out her hand. "It's nice to meet you, Beth. I'm Darcy."

Beth smiles, a genuine expression, though she doesn't take Darcy's hand. "Me, too. I used to think that maybe I'd be a writer like her. But as it turns out, it's pretty hard to be a writer when you can barely read. Dyslexia." She shrugs. "None of it matters now, though." She chews her lip. "Why are you being so nice to me?" She plucks at her sweater. "We took your stuff."

"Well, from the sounds of it, it was Ozy who took it all. And unless I'm mistaken, you didn't get to eat any of that food, did you?"

Beth wraps her arms around herself, glances down the hallway again. Gives a minute nod, barely a movement at all.

"You can come in, you know?" Darcy says. "I mean, you already have once. Close the door."

Beth takes a hesitant step inside. Another. When she turns to close the door, Darcy sees what she has looped around her shoulders. It's a long scarf, and wrapped up in it is a baby, an infant so small it looks little more than a doll. It's sleeping peacefully, one tiny hand curled into the back of Beth's sweater.

Beth smiles. "Isn't he cool?" she asks. "One of Ozy's girls, Morrigan, she taught me the wrapping thing. She says she wore all her kids like this all the time, and they slept and slept. This is the first time Ravi has slept in days."


"It's kind of Ozy's thing. The kids born now are going to be the first of a new generation," Beth says. "They're the ones who'll bring the planet back to what it's supposed to be. You know, harmony and peace and all of that. None of the wars, the weapons." Beth adjusts one of the straps around her shoulders. "All of the kids, they're being named after sun gods and goddesses. Ozy has this long list of them, and we get to pick what names we want. He has most of the good ones set aside for his own kids, of course. But Ravi's fine. He's the Hindu sun god."

"Hindu? Are you Hindu?"

Beth makes a snorting noise. "Hardly. My mother was Jewish, I think."

"Isn't that a bit…wrong, taking a name from another religion?"

"Ozy says that it doesn't matter now. Besides, it's not like the religions even exist any more." Beth is grinning again, and Darcy recognises the light in her eyes. It's worship, absolute and blind worship. Beth is so caught up in it that she's half dancing, half jiggling from side to side. The movement wakes Ravi, who begins to wail, the sound extraordinarily loud for such a tiny baby.

"Shit!" Beth unwraps the scarf, brings Ravi around to her front.

Unselfconscious, she goes to Darcy's couch and plumps herself down, pulling up her sweater in the same movement. She wears nothing beneath, revealing her sunken chest and prominent ribs. She presses Ravi to her breast. He latches, sucks several times, then pops off and wails, his cries even louder now. Beth slides her finger into his mouth, and he sucks, still whimpering.

"Sorry," Beth says. "I keep trying to feed him, but I think it's all gone." There is a deep line between her plucked eyebrows now. "I don't know what I'm going to do."

"When was the last time you ate?" Darcy asks.

Beth lifts a shoulder; it's not even a shrug. "A few days, maybe. I'm not hungry, though."

Darcy's pockets still hold the food that she lifted from Loki's tray the previous day. A bread roll, stale now, an orange and some crackers. It's not much, but when she hands it to Beth, the girl's eyes grow large.

"What about you?" Beth asks, her eyes on the food. "Ozy took everything else."

Darcy's stomach contracts painfully, but she makes herself smile. "I'm fine. I just ate."

Beth shifts Ravi to one arm, rocking him and managing to keep a finger in his mouth for him to suck at the same time. She picks up the orange with her free hand, holds it to her nose. Tears shimmer in her eyes.

"We used to grow these, at home? From my bedroom, I could see the tree, and I always used to hate it when it was full of fruit. Like, there would be orange juice, orange cake, orange orange orange. I never thought I'd be so happy to see one."

"Let me get you a plate." Darcy does, and peels the orange, sectioning it so Beth can eat with one hand. The juice smells sweet, a sharp tang that reminds her of sunshine.

Soon the food is gone. Beth dips her finger into the orange juice remaining on the plate, lets Lugh suck it. Finally, even his whimpers cease.

"You need to tell Ozy that you need food," Darcy says. "You need protein, vitamins, too."

Beth dips her finger into the juice again, feeds it to Lugh. "I can ask, I guess."

"Ravi needs to eat, too. If you've dried up, then you'll need formula."

Beth tilts her head to one side. "How do you know all of this? You have kids?"

Darcy smiles, but the expression feels strained. "Big family."

"I don't even know where you'd find formula now. Most of the drug stores are empty."

Darcy's hand moves to the battered iPod in her pocket. She wonders how much Beth risked leaving it. "I can ask some people."

Beth's eyes light up; she looks like a child promised a treat. "You'd do that? Even after we ripped you off?"

"Well, I did leave the door open, right? And if that's a code, then it's not like you did anything wrong really."

The look on Beth's face is sheer relief. "You're amazing, you know? You should have a goddess name. One of the really good ones. Artemis, maybe. Or maybe you should be Sif."

"I think the real Sif would probably take off my head if I tried."

Beth chews her lip for a moment. "You know, if those gods are real, then maybe the others are too. Did you ever think of that? That you could touch a god?"

Ghost hands move over Darcy, and she feels heat gathering within her belly. If she closed her eyes, she knew she could summon up the image of Loki in a heartbeat, as real as though she had actually been in his arms.

From outside comes a bang, as if of metal on metal. Darcy and Beth are both up and at the window, Beth managing to sling Ravi onto her back as she moved.

There was a man clinging to the side of the building his feet propped on windowsills, one hand curled around a downpipe. He had a heavy coil of wire looped around his back, tools shoved into his belt. Beth waved to him, and he gave her a half-hearted salute in return.

"What is he doing out there?" Darcy asked.

"Spreading out," Beth says. "Hooking up this building to the others around it." She watched as the man uncoiled his wire, began feeding it into an open window. "This building is already full, and people are starting to move outwards. But you know, everyone wants the power and water and stuff. Ozy figures that it's easier to hook everything up to this building than try to get the power turned back on. Like plugging in lots of extension cords."

"I'm not sure it works that way."

"If Ozy says it'll work, then it will." Someone hollers from down the hall, and Beth is moving back to the door. "Will you see about the food? Formula?"

Darcy finds that she wants to say no, but Beth has turned around, and she can see that tiny boy. He didn't ask to be born into this world. "I'll see what I can do. I can't guarantee anything, though."

"Artemis can do anything," Beth says. "You know, you should come to the Park tonight. Ozy says that we're open to anyone who wants to join, and if you want to stay in the building…"

The hollering comes again, and Beth starts visibly this time. With one more smile, she is gone, the doorway empty again.

The headphones are still playing Moonlight Sonata. Darcy winds them up, turns off the iPod. Voices come from down the hallway, and Ravi cries again, a thin, plaintive wail. Darcy sighs, goes into her wardrobe to take stock of what clothes she has remaining.


Vinh's storefront has changed. All of the boards have been sprayed over with solid black, covering the graffitied slogans, the bloodstain. The black has even been sprayed onto the mirrored window, but there it has clung only in patches, drying in drips and blotches that look like bruises.

On the black-painted boards, someone sprayed a word in red: Ozymandias. The red paint bleeds into the black, smearing the edges of the words, long drips reaching down to the pavement.

Darcy shivers as she knocks at the door. Knocks again. She has almost given up when the door finally opens a crack. Vinh peers out, and when he lets her in, she sees that he is carrying a carving knife. He holds its weight in his hand as though it is a familiar thing, though his hand is shaking.

Vinh says nothing, just hurries her inside. There are crates missing from his labyrinth, empty spaces yawning around them as they hurry to the trapdoor.

Only when they are down in the shelter does Vinh relax, though he doesn't put down the knife. In the light there, Darcy can see purple bruises on his arm, a thin cut that curves across his cheek.

"What happened?" she asks.

Vinh raises his hand to his face. "Just some boys. It is okay, Miss Darcy. We came to an understanding."

"That doesn't look like an understanding to me. That looks like some little shits who are trying to take over and beating up an ol-" She bites off the words.

"It is okay, Miss Darcy. I am an old man. And I have dealt with worse than those boys. Like I say, it is okay." He smiles, and she sees that he's lost another tooth, and that there's black blood lining his gums. "Now, Miss Darcy, what can I do for you today? I am afraid that my suppliers have not been able to source any more Pop-tarts for you."

Darcy forces a smile, but she can't stop looking at the bruises, that cut. "You'll keep trying to get some more?"

Vinh folds his hands, bows slightly. "For you, Miss Darcy, I will do anything." He pauses. "You remind me of my daughter, my eldest. Lin. I think she would grow to be like you. Not afraid."

It takes everything Darcy has not to let her smile slip.

Vinh looks away, blinking rapidly. "Your order?" he prompts gently.

"Do you have any baby formula? For a newborn, I think."

Vinh's eyebrows rise.

"It's for a …friend."

"In your building?"

Darcy looks away this time. "She's caught up in things. Her baby, he's starving. He didn't choose any of this."

Vinh's hand goes to the cut on his cheek, but he nods. "I will look."

He goes through into the storage room. The shelves there are almost bare now. Darcy wonders how much Ozymandias and his crew took off with. How much was Vinh's personal supply, "given" as a bribe for safety.

Vinh returns empty handed. "There is nothing, Miss Darcy. The baby things, they were the first to go, when things started going bad. Perhaps the hospital?"

They both know that's a joke. The hospital was one of the first places looted. But Darcy smiles. "I'll try that, Vinh. Do you…have you…are you okay?"

Vinh folds his hands again. "Today, I am doing well. Tomorrow even better." He inclines his head. "I will talk to my suppliers. Any day now, the city will wake again. I believe this with all of my being."

She leaves him there belowground, still smiling, still nodding. Up on the street, even the thin sunlight seems cold.


Darcy slides her security pass through the scanner, waits impatiently. The light blinks red twice, then finally goes green. She practically wants to kiss it, but pockets her pass again and moves through the door, closing it behind her quietly.

She's worked another boring, uneventful shift, waiting until most of the day workers have retired to their apartments before she went searching through the other basements. There had to be storage rooms somewhere, she'd decided. Stark would have to stockpile food, supplies. Maybe she'd be in luck, and there would be baby stuff there, too. Stark and his people seem to have prepared for every eventuality, and she just hoped that this was one of them.

She hadn't realised how extensive the basements of Stark Tower are. They extend out in all directions, connecting, she guesses, with the basements of many of the other close buildings. Occasionally, as she walks through the hallways, trying her pass at every door, she can feel the far-away rattle of the subway. It makes her think of Vinh, of his bruises and cuts, his tiny shelter. She pushes that thought away as soon as it forms, focusing on her task.

Most of the scanners deny her access, but occasionally some of the doors open. She finds a hydroponics lab, empty and dark, rooms filled with stationary supplies. For some reason, there's also what looks like a library down here. She wants to linger there, but settles for making a mental note of its location. At least having books will make her shifts go faster.

After another dozen doors that refused her entry, she'd almost given up when she found this room. There's no label on the door, just as none of the other doors had labels, but the air inside is cool and smells of cardboard. Promising enough for her to slip inside.

The lights inside are on, illuminating long rows of shelving holding what looks like hundreds of boxes, if not thousands. Darcy pokes into a few, and can't restrain herself from doing a little dance. Inside the boxes are tinned goods, freeze-dried packets, even what look like army rations. Enough food to feed the tower for what looks like years, and none of it touched yet, as far as she can see. She can't find any manifest, and there appears to be no system for how things are stacked. It's going to make for a frustrating search, but it also gives her hope that anything she takes will not be missed.

She is opening crates on the first aisle of shelving when the door opens. Darcy freezes, a box balanced on the edge of the shelf. When Jane enters the storage room, the box slips, falls to the ground. Packets of freeze-dried blueberries surround her.

Jane stares at her. She's wearing old jeans, a flannel shirt that has seen better days. She wears no makeup, and there are circles beneath her eyes. She looks like she hasn't slept for days.

"Um, hi?" Darcy says.

Jane lingers just inside the doorway, her fingers rubbing at the edge of her security pass. "What are you doing here, Darcy?"

Darcy crouches down, begins gathering the packets of blueberries and stacking them back into the box as best she can. "I was bored? Had a hankering for blueberries?"

Jane pulls her phone from her pocket, her thumb moving over the screen.

"Not telling on me, are you?" Darcy finishes replacing the blueberries, puts the box back on the shelf. She spreads her hands out, to show Jane that they are empty. "I haven't taken anything. I swear."

Jane's phone vibrates. She bites her lip, but puts the phone back in her pocket.

"If you're after the chocolate, I actually found some a few boxes ago," Darcy says. "Milk, though. You think Stark would have gone for the dark chocolate. You know, antioxidants and all of that. Maybe Pepper likes milk chocolate, though. God, knowing Stark, there's probably even champagne down here. Can't have him missing out on his fun, even at the end of the world." She's aware that she's babbling, but she can't seem to stop.

Jane goes to the next aisle over, opens a box and pulls out some protein bars. She doesn't look at Darcy once.

"Jane? You're actually there, right? I'm not hallucinating? Cause if I am, can I please request a buff, semi-naked man? It's kind of lonely living through the apocalypse. Oh, and I'd also like a beer, and maybe a new iPod, while we're at it?"

Jane hugs the protein bars to her chest. "I'm here, Darcy."

"Well, damn, no buff guys for me tonight." Darcy forces a laugh. "Seriously, though, Jane, you kind of look like hell. Have you actually been sleeping? Eating?"

Jane holds up a bar. "I'll sleep when…" She trails off.

"Oh." It is Darcy who looks away now. "You're working on the whole Bifrost wormhole thing. Of course."

Jane manages a shaky smile. "I should probably get back to it." She turns back to the door, then hesitates. "If you need food, you just need to ask. I know that you gave away your allocation. And you should take the apartment here, too. It's safer."

"Hey, I have my taser. No one touches Darcy Lewis, remember?" Except she doesn't have her taser, of course. But Jane doesn't know that, and by the looks of it, she has enough to worry about. "By the way, can you tell Stark that having J.A.R.V.I.S. spy on me is super weird? I mean, I'm happy not to get locked in places and all, but it's kind of creepy."

Jane turns around then. "Didn't they tell you? J.A.R.V.I.S. doesn't monitor that sub-basement. It's all just closed circuit, not linked into the main systems at all. Not even the camera feeds get sent upstairs unless you trigger them manually."

Darcy feels her heart skip a beat. "Oh."

"You read all the papers before you signed them, right?"

"Hey, I'm not stupid," Darcy says. "Who signs things without reading them, right?" She forces another smile. "While you're here, do you know if there's a database or list of what's here in storage?"

"I don't think there is, not that you or I can access, anyway." Jane is watching her closely, her expression unreadable. "What are you looking for?"

"Um, baby formula? It's not for me. Clearly, since last time I checked, I wasn't actually a baby." Darcy snaps her mouth shut on the babble this time.

Jane watches her a moment longer. "I'll see what I can find, okay?" She hesitates again. "Darcy, look after yourself, okay?" There are lines of worry on her forehead.

"Hey, taser girl, remember? Blow up the world, and I'll find some way to survive."

Jane opens her mouth, as though she wants to say something else, then shakes her head slightly and leaves the room. Darcy listens to her footsteps fade down the hallway, and waits until there has been silence for at least five minutes before she exits herself.

And then she is running back through the corridors, running until she is standing in the guard room again. This time she remembers to grab the remote before she opens the gate.

Loki is still sitting there, the cameras blinking their lights in a regular rhythm.

No J.A.R.V.I.S. means that there was nothing and no one to have opened the gate when she locked herself in. There was only one person who could have.

Her heart is racing as she presses down on the intercom. "You can stop the act now, Loki. I know you're awake."

Her breathing is loud in the small space as she waits. Finally, he opens his eyes, the green of his irises two startling points of colour in the black and white of his cell.

The Blood-Dimmed Tide

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by ofravenwings

Part 8 of 33

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