Continuing Tales


A Marvel Movieverse Story
by startrekfanwriter

Part 18 of 26

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The dreams invade Loki's sanctuary both day and night. Loki learns quickly how to handle them - agony will make anyone a quick learner. The trick is to not move. To move is to feel the restraints, to feel the restraints is to confront reality, to confront reality is to confront agony and despair.

He lets the dreams happen, exists in them, lets them come and go.

As if to confound him, the dreams become more complex and enticing.

Sometimes Thor takes Loki to Loki's chambers on Asgard. They are exactly as they were when Loki left them. Thor lays Loki on Loki's bed and their mother Frigga runs her fingers through Loki's hair. Sometimes Thor takes him to the Avengers' mansion and sets him in the media room. Steve is there reminding Loki of Alfheim, or when he convinced Loki to change the lout Patrick from a gopher into a woman so that it might be a more "teachable moment." Sometimes Thor takes Loki to Angrboða, sometimes Sigyn. Sometimes Thor takes Loki to Darcy's apartment and Loki lies in her bed and looks at the pictures she has on the wall...they're just as he remembers them.. She is just as he remembers her and that in the end is always the giveaway. The unchanging nature of the memories Thor drags him into.

Sometimes it's not just Thor who comes to rescue Loki. Sometimes the Avengers are there, too. Or sometimes Nari and Valli along with Hoenir - for some reason Hoenir helped Loki escape during the Chitauri invasion. Loki doesn't really understand why.

Tonight is one of those dreams where Thor has company.

"We're here for you buddy! We're here for you!" The shout is from Steve. Steve is sitting next to Loki on the stone slab, his voice barely audible over the crack of thunder and exploding weaponry. They are fighting someone...Loki cannot see who. He will not look.

Nari is next to Loki, too...but in the surreal nature of dreams, he is in frost giant form. Loki's son has pressed the enchanted scabbard of Excalibur against Loki's side. "I think this will protect him," he is shouting.

Loki bites down on his lip. He will not respond. He will not be drawn out. He will not be deceived by his mind and dreams of Thor.

The dream is so vivid though...he smells ozone. The sounds of weapons and screams echo through the mountains. He feels rain falling on his face and running in rivulets down his body.

He feels pain, on his back and arms and legs from the rocks, in his stomach from hunger. And that isn't right; he should not feel that in his fortress.

Could it be...And then Sif comes into view with Fandral and they're fighting with Thor.

Loki cannot help himself. He laughs. Because obviously he is completely and utterly mad.

x x x x

Thor, Fandral, Sif and Valli form a circle around the stone to which Loki is bound on the slopes of Svartálfaheimr, land of the dwarves. Of course Odin would inflict this punishment here. The dwarves are a subterranean race and wouldn't notice a prisoner.

Steve and Nari are crouching over Loki. Emerging from the shadow on the mountain above and below them are at least ten Einherjar, Odin's elite guard. Their spears are alight with flame.

The numbers of the Einherjar have thinned since the engagement began. There were at least 30 before. Beside Thor, Fandral, Valli in the form of a frost giant, and Sif raise their M-16's and take aim. The weapons are new to them, but after centuries of combat, mastering new implements of death comes relatively easy.

Raising enchanted shields, the Einherjar take shelter from the incoming bullets. Sif, Valli and Fandral aim for their legs - and Thor flings Mjolnir forward and bowls them over like pins.

Echoing with the sound of weapons fire and the roar of thunder is Loki's laughter. Rising above all the noise comes Sif's voice. "Thor! Over there; they have the Tessaract! They are retreating!"

Thor turns his head and sees two Einherjar holding the Tessaract between them. Their bodies start to shimmer. Thor throws Mjolnir, but it is too late. The hammer passes through empty air.

The few Einherjar still standing try to rush forward. With a cry Sif flings down the M-16 and pulls out her weapon of choice - a glaive. He hears Fandral and Valli pull their swords, Steve and Nari are on their feet.

From there it is short work. Valli doesn't even bother to use the wind casting abilities of his blade, Fandral and Sif...are well, Fandral and Sif. No one is really a match for Thor in hand to hand combat, and Steve has his shield and a pistol. Nari is the only weak link in the chain, but the others cover for him.

The whole time Loki continues to laugh.

When it is all done, they stand over the bodies of their foes, panting. Fandral looks over to where the Einjahar with the Tessaract departed, fear in his eyes. "Well, there's no going back now," he says. No doubt the Einherjar recognized them. They are now all fugitives - with the exception of Nari and Valli who are disguised in their blue bodies.

The Warriors Three rescued Sif from Asgard's dungeons. But only Fandral insisted on aiding Thor on this particular quest. Volstagg has a wife and children and could not risk it. Hogun declined.

To be a fugitive from Asgard means no more access to Idunn's apples, and that means death.

Fandral swallows, no doubt that reality finally sinking in.

Thor has known for decades Idunn's apples would be lost to him one day - it was part of the bargain he made with the Norns. Today is that day. In a way it is something of a relief.

Thor puts a hand on Fandral's shoulder. His friend has a few wounds, and Thor transfers his healing magic to him, hoping the ease in discomfort will lift Fandral's spirits.

And then he turns to Loki. His brother is in his Asgardian form. Sif told Thor Odin had changed Loki back before the trial. His hair has grown long, as has an unruly beard. Odin's magic has kept him from starving to death, but he looks like he is starving, his limbs withered away to nearly nothing. He is pitiful to behold, but what really worries Thor is the vacancy in Loki's eyes.

With a cry Thor brings Mjolnir down on Loki's bonds. Loki doesn't move. Does not even look at Thor. Or speak. The only sound to come from Loki's mouth is quiet laughter.

"He should be executed," says Sif.

Meeting her eyes, Thor says, "Raise your glaive. I guarantee it will not come down on Loki."

"I stand behind that guarantee," says Steve.

"As do we," say Nari and Valli.

Fandral coughs. "After going to such trouble, I'd just as soon he live. He's paid in full for his crimes, Sif. Look at him."

It is touching to see that Loki has others who care for him. More now that Thor understands what Loki is. How people react to chaos says a lot about who they are.

But even if they weren't here, something would stay Sif's hands. Loki, like chaos, cannot really ever be destroyed. Only restrained or transformed.

In any case, Sif does not raise her weapon.

The Stark craft is waiting for them at the foot of the mountains. With a sigh Thor bends down and scoops Loki into his arms.

Loki just laughs.

Scowling at her computer monitor, Darcy mumbles a swear. The front page of the New York Times features an article by Laura Osborne: Jotunheim the Latest Victim of Western "Civilization."

Victim. As if. Participants in their own dance with the double edged sword that is progress maybe. But victims? Never.

She feels herself go hot with anger, and anger is good. Anger keeps her going, compels her to tediously review each page of the proof of her book chronicling her trip to Jotunheim. Anger keeps her from biting her nails to a quick and wearing a hole in the floor while she wanders through the house, an untethered ghost of worry.

Steve and Thor have been gone for three weeks, with only a few text messages back.

Narrowing her eyes, she wills the heat of her ire to rise again - and her focus with it. She flips on her screen to the PDF her editor has sent and starts tapping out little notes about things that need revised. The tap of her fingers on the keyboard is too hard, too fast, and too loud.

When the phone rings across the desk she jumps.

When she sees it is from Steve, she lunges for it.

Hitting accept she yells breathlessly into the phone, "Did you find him?"

Steve is silent, and Darcy feels anger fade to dread. "Is he alive? Steve...Steve...answer me!"

She hears Steve swallow. "Darcy, we brought him back...but..."

Standing from her chair she runs down the hall. "I'm coming, now!"

At the last minute she runs back and gets her digital tablet. And then she is out the door and in a cab. A few minutes later she is running up the steps of the Avenger's mansion. Steve already has the door open.

"What happened to him? What did they do?" Darcy says before she's even on the final step.

Steve's fists clench at his side. "I can't tell you," he says.

"Why..." says Darcy and then she hears a popping noise. With an exasperated grunt, Steve opens his hand. There is the mangled remains of a cell phone in his palm. He throws it to the ground and says, "Shit."

It is so uncharacteristic of him. Darcy feels her eyes sting.

"You have to tell me," Darcy says. "So I know what I'm dealing with."

Steve looks at her hard and long. Nodding he says, "Yeah. Come on. I may punch a hole in the wall, though."

x x x x

It is the same room in Stark Tower where Loki was brought after he nearly got burned to a crisp in the Adrinondracks by the fire demon. There is a pinch in his arm that the apparitions moving around him refer to as intravenous fluids.

All his brain playing tricks. He will not move. He will not respond. If he does he'll find the soft bed beneath him rocks, the prick on his arm some damned insect feasting on his blood.

The room is exactly the same as he remembers. Thor is sitting on the bed. Loki is not sure how long he has been there. "I will keep coming for you," Thor says. "Remember that, Loki. I won't give up."

It is exactly the sort of thing Thor would say. He has probably has said it, in a variety of ways, a thousand times over the last two millennia. It's just Loki's brain regurgitating again.

Mental vomit.

Someone somewhere snickers.

Loki hears Steve's voice. "He was there a few months...less than his time with the Chitauri. But In some ways, it is maybe worse than before. He doesn't move, or even speak."

The bed shifts as the imaginary Thor stands. Loki's clever brain is betraying him, supplying all these little details, just to confound him.

"Lady Darcy," says the memory of his almost-Brother.

There is a long pause, and then Thor says, "I will leave you."

A figment of Darcy enters his line of vision. She has a streak of gray in her hair that wasn't there before. Loki clenches his jaw and scowls. That doesn't make her real. That is a detail his brain surely could add. A simple deduction. He has been away. She is mortal. She has aged. Though not her face, he notices. And how long has he been gone? An eternity. So there. His brain is playing tricks.

"Hi," she says, sitting on the bed just as he would expect her to. She puts her hand on his. Fighting the urge to entwine their fingers, he frowns.

She swallows. "I went to Jotunheim," she whispers. "Just like you asked me to.

"I brought pictures." She holds up a digital tablet so it is in his line of vision.

Darcy slides up next to him so that her back is against the headboard. Her waist is close to his head that is elevated on pillows. In the one hand she holds his hand. With the other hand she places the tablet on his chest and taps it with her thumb.

The tablet comes to life. And there is the little frost giant girl, Eisa, her smiling face filling the entire screen.

Loki starts to shiver.

"Eisa was my maid and my translator," Darcy says. "It felt funny having a personal maid. And she is so young...I felt like she was my daughter sometimes, and sometimes I felt like I was robbing her from her family, and sometimes...sometimes...I would look at her and think of your little girl, Helen. And I wondered if Helen looked like Eisa."

Loki closes his eyes. Eisa does remind him of Helen. And that is evidence this is a dream, right? Because Darcy never knew Helen and wouldn't think that...and he wishes he could turn this dream off or stay in it forever.

"She took me to see her family," says Darcy. "It was my first trip out of King Villi's castle. You know I told him that I was a commoner and I'd feel more comfortable with commoners...and you know what? He said, 'Ah, of course! Of course!' like he was putting me out by having me hang around the court the whole time. And he let me go, because of you Loki, because I'm your friend and because I'm a widow, and because I'm not a journalist...And here is Eisa's family's home."

He'd never gotten to meet the common people, never gone off on a stomp with little Eisa. Despite himself, Loki opens his eyes, his stomach reeling. The picture on the tablet is of a sort of yurt. He'd seen them, but only from a distance.

"The home is made of skins stretched over bone," says Darcy. "Her family are herders. It's very of her brothers is missing a leg. Another was gored to death when he was small."

The scene on the screen changes. There is Eisa in the yurt, dwarfed by a man and woman. There is also a little boy and girl that can't be more than two. "She has one more brother in the mines," Darcy says. "Eisa thought about working in the mines, too. It's always warm there, and they have a lot of food. Also they didn't beat the children as much as they did in the castle. But you know what? Because they had so many servants run off to the mines, King Villi had to increase the food allotment for the servants in his castle, and had to make the older servants beat the children less - there are strict rules about it. And he made beating a child to death a crime...It doesn't sound like much...but"

Darcy's fingers don't entwine with his, but she squeezes his hand, and his eyes close. He feels her lips against his cheek. "You did good? See?"

But that's what he wants to hear? Isn't it?

He hears Darcy swallow. "Look." His eyes open at the command and she flips to another picture. At first Loki thinks he is looking at small dead animals on the floor of the yurt, but then Darcy says, "Shoes. These are their shoes..." And Loki realizes they are actually moccasins, and for all that they look like dead animals, the picture is rather lovely, the way the shoes cross the screen at a diagonal, the red his addled brain took for blood is dye. No artist on Asgard would think of taking a picture of shoes. Not shoes of commoners. He'd never think about it.

The screen flickers again, and he's looking at fire framed by black. "A coal burning stove," says Darcy. "They're quite the status symbol now. Before you came along there really wasn't enough wealth for people to think about stoves, but now they can. Their yurt was actually quite toasty..."

The screen flickers again, and there is Eisa, standing behind a boy, smiling, her arms wrapped around his neck. The bottom half of one of the boy's legs is missing; still, he is smiling, too, one hand on his sister's arm. Another non-Asgardian picture. Commoners and cripples.

"Sometimes, the frost giants will leave a weak child behind..." Darcy says, her voice shaking. "I guess when you have so little..." She doesn't finish. "But Eisa's and her other brother's jobs help her family...and Eisa is teaching him the magic of tongues. There are so many humans now. They think that even if he can't be a proper servant, or work in the mines, maybe he'll be able to be a translator..."

It's obviously raining in the mountains because Loki's face is wet.

X x x x

Darcy stares down at the picture of Eisa and her little brother. Her hand trembles. She shouldn't have shown Loki this picture...her eyes flit to Loki's. He looks strange to her in his Asgardian form. Steve said that Loki had been sunburned when they found him, but now his face is too pale; it's almost pasty. His hair is long, but lovingly brushed back from his face - probably by Thor's own hand. A short beard is on his chin, clipped neatly. His eyes...his eyes are blue but rimmed with red and...

He is weeping.

Her mouth opens. She's broken him, she's made it worse. She drops the tablet on his stomach and puts her hand to his face. Squeezing his other hand she whispers, "Loki, Loki, Loki, I'm sorry, I'm sorry...but you've changed things. Don't you see? I was so angry at you but now I understand why you did what you did. Jotunheim is changing, and you did it, you did it..."

Loki doesn't move.

From behind her come the heavy footsteps of Thor.

"Lady Darcy, I am sorry, but we should turn him onto his side," Thor says behind her.

Swallowing, Darcy nods. She slips from the bed and tries to pull her hand from Loki's, but his hand suddenly closes tight.

"Loki?" she says. He doesn't move, doesn't even turn his head.

Thor looks down at Loki's eyes wet with tears and his eyes widen. "Loki!"

"I'm sorry," Darcy says. "I didn't mean to..."

"No, no," says Thor. "This is good. This is new...Loki...Loki...listen to me. I am here. I came for you, I came for you." He takes one of Loki's hands and reaches to take the one in Darcy's, but Loki's hold on her is a death grip.

Thor laughs. He begins speaking in what must be old Norse. Loki doesn't respond. His eyes meet Darcy's and his mouth opens and moves. It takes a moment, but then a whisper comes from his lips, as faint as a breeze through grass. "Is this a dream?"

Beaming, Thor shouts. "No! No! This is no dream!"

Shaking her head, Darcy starts to cry. Her lover died and came back a shade of his former self - literally, and she's been to other worlds and...and...and...

The noise coming from her is a gurgle of tears. "How should I know? That's a crazy philosophical question to ask!"

Loki actually smiles. It's just a quirk of his lips, but on his face that had been so expressionless it's like the sun coming out.

Darcy puts her hand to his cheek. "And I don't care...if it is a dream. You're alive..." Slipping her hand to his shoulder, she shakes him. Hard. "And don't ever do that again!"

Dropping her head to his chest she lets out a ferocious sob. Bed springs creak, and the mattress sinks and she knows it must be Thor sitting down beside them. One of Thor's large meaty hands falls on her shoulder, but the hand climbing gently to her waist is smaller, lighter, and can only be Loki's.


A Marvel Movieverse Story
by startrekfanwriter

Part 18 of 26

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