Continuing Tales


A Marvel Movieverse Story
by startrekfanwriter

Part 24 of 26

<< Previous     Home     Next >>
Untitled Document

The SHIELD conference room feels too warm to Loki. The furnishings are black wood and chrome. There are no windows.

The conference table is designed to accommodate at least a dozen people. But only Steve, Fandral, Director Fury and Loki are there. They are clustered at the center of the table, Fandral and Loki on one-side, Steve and Fury on the other.

Loki is the only one standing. Leaning over the table he says, "I cannot world walk with more than six people." And that will be pushing it. "But we can take SHIELD operatives, augmented perhaps with a Marine battalion to Muspellsheimr in a space craft.

"The gateway between Muspellsheimr and Asgard will remain open for approximately 3 minutes. But Thor will use the energy of Mjolnir to keep it open for additional 5 while your operatives provide cover."

Fury and Steve are silent.

Loki's jaw tenses. "You have intergalactic space travel. There is only one thing between you and the gods, gentlemen, and that is immortality." He lifts his hand and clenches it. "I can give you that gift."

"I don't believe the Aesir are gods," says Steve. His face is flat. Loki was expecting more. Despite his reputation as a 'Boy Scout', Steve will unreservedly buck authority when he feels the cause is just. And isn't the most just as all causes?

Fury pushes back in his chair and looks down at his feet. His eyebrows and beard are gray, his body slighter and thinner than Loki remembers.

Sighing heavily, the director says, "I want to say yes."

Next to him Steve sits up straighter.

Loki's hand go to the edge of the table and clenches. He knows if he looks down his knuckles will be white.

Tilting his head, Fury says, "...but invading Asgard for apples."

Tilting his head, Loki holds up a hand. "Not apples, no. We will not be touching their current crop or endangering the share of any ordinary Asgardian."

Or Odin's. More is the pity.

Fury lets out a breath. Looking up at Loki and fixing him with a hard glare, he says, "Nonetheless sending an organized Earth force there would be an act of war. Asgard could turn the Bifrost on a city on Earth in retaliation. In the minutes before we activated our nukes thousands could die. We can't risk it."

The air around them starts to shimmer. Fandral puts a hand on Loki's shoulder. "Loki -"

Loki blinks and clears his vision. He turns to Steve. "What about an unorganized Earth force. Steve, your Young Avengers - they could hold off the Fire Ettins for a few moments, could they not? I think professor Xavier's team -"

"I won't do it," says Steve.

Pulling back, Loki blinks. It takes a moment for Steve's words to sink in. "What?" says Loki, his voice not even angry - more plaintive. Loki had always internally counted on Steve's support. He has no love for Asgard and he is as close to a real friend as Loki's had in centuries.

"I'm not sure immortality is in the best interest of humanity," Steve says.

"What?!" says Loki; this time his voice is incredulous.

"Your people haven't changed, haven't grown in centuries," Steve says, standing from his seat. Smiling ruefully he says, "Maybe millennia...because you don't die, and your old ideas don't die either. I don't want my people to become like your people."

"Easily said by one who won't age or die, who is himself virtually immortal," Loki snaps.

"Think about this, Loki," says Steve, leaning over the table. "You're only doing this now because of Darcy, because she's dying and you're afraid -"

"Of course I'm doing this because of Darcy!" Loki shouts. And Nari and Thor. Sneering, he hisses, "And don't you dare lecture me on fear, Captain Rogers! You want to talk about fear, how about the fact that you have never let yourself fall in love because the prospect of watching of someone slowly grow old and die is just too scary for you."

Steve's face goes white, and he trembles. He blinks and sucks in a breath. "The answer is still No! You succeed in this and you create a whole new type of inequality. There won't be enough apples for 7 billion people -"

Holding up a finger Loki says, "Not at first."

Pounding a fist down on the table, Steve shouts, "For a fucking long time, Loki! And even if you could there aren't enough resources on Earth to support them all."

Loki rolls his eyes. "Technology will take care of that. You do realize how close your kind are to colonizing Venus with Jotunn technology? And how many habitable worlds you will find as you spread your wings into space?"

"Hasn't happened yet, Loki!" Steve shouts.

"Yet!" shouts Loki, leaning so far over the table he can feel Steve's breath on his face, see the beads of sweat forming on his brow.

"Gentlemen," says Fury, grabbing Steve's arm.

Loki feels Fandral tugging him backwards. "You'll think of something, Loki," he whispers. "You always do."

"This meeting is over," Fury says.

Loki stands, his eyes fixed on Steve. He resists the urge to spit at the man.

Steve's hands are clenched at his side.

"Come on," says Fandral. "We'll accomplish nothing here."

Loki lets himself be led to the door. Just before they leave, Fury speaks. "Loki..."

Loki turns his head.

Nodding, Fury says, "Good luck."

Tilting his head, Loki bolts from the room. He would teleport Fandral and himself from the premises, but SHIELD has installed some new anti-magic technology and it is impossible. Instead he storms through the hallways and out the front door, Fandral at his side.

Putting his arm on Fandral's shoulder just as they exit the building, he almost teleports them away. But Fandral grabs his elbow and says, "Stop."

Loki hesitates. And then he sees him.

Tony Stark, now thoroughly gray and leaning on a cane, is standing in front of a black car. He's impeccably dressed, in an Italian suit, but without a tie.

Loki straightens and the former Iron Man walks forward. "Hear you need a team," he says.

Loki tilts his head.

Shrugging, Stark says, "I listen in on most of SHIELD's conversations."

Loki narrows his eyes. "You have a team?"

"No, but I can be part of yours."

Loki barks out a laugh.

Smirking, Starks hobbles a few more steps forward. "In my suit I don't need a cane, and I'd be protected from incoming fire."

"Your reaction time is still too slow," Loki says.

Tony nods. "Yep, but Thor's isn't. And I bet you Thor could hold back 500 fire ettins all by himself."

"We need Thor and the power of Mjolnir to hold the gate open," says Loki.

Reaching up to his collar, Tony rips his shirt open. His chest pulses with blue light and he smiles tightly. "You want power? I've got power."

Loki sucks in a breath. "That might work."

"It will work," says Tony. Nodding his head to a spot beyond Loki's shoulder, he says, "And she can help Thor fight the Fire Ettins."

Loki spins. Standing just behind him is Natasha Romanova, a.k.a., the Black Widow. His mouth drops open. She hasn't aged a day.

"Nice of you to show up," says Tony.

Natasha nods, but her eyes are fixed on Loki. Once, when he was under the control of Thanos, Natasha tricked Loki into revealing details of his plans. Loki would like to say that it was because he wasn't in his right mind at the time - but that would be a lie. It was Natasha who closed the gate between Thanos' troops and Earth. After the second invasion he hadn't really kept track of her. Now he gapes.

"Inferior version of the super serum," she says tersely. "I don't age, and I heal very quickly."

Loki nods.

"I will help you," she says. Loki tilts his head. Natasha isn't much stronger than a normal human woman her size, but she makes up for it with cunning. She is incredibly skilled in hand to hand combat and has vast experience with human weaponry.

Narrowing his eyes, he says, "What do you want?"

Unflinching, expression unreadable, she says, "Clint lives."

Loki blinks. He knows something of Barton - he married sometime after David's funeral and he has a few children.

When Natasha tricked him during the Chitauri invasion, she claimed to be willing to work with Loki because she wanted Clint to survive.

The best deception is based on truth.

Loki nods. "Very well."

x x x x

"They're planning something," says Jane, rolling up her yoga mat.

Darcy looks over at her friend. Since the diagnosis, Jane is one of the few people who doesn't look at her with wide eyed pity, or dumb down her tone, for which Darcy will be eternally grateful.

Darcy swallows. "I don't know," she says. "Things have been different since..." She shakes her head and a rueful smile plays at her lips. "But I think Loki is just wrapping his head around the fact that I won't be here very long. Literally and figuratively." Early onset Alzheimer's is harsher than its normal cousin. The drugs might help - but she hasn't begun taking them yet. She's still trying to wrap her head around the side effects - with Max's help. Maybe dawdling is a side effect of the disease, or maybe 'risk of stroke' is just really scary. Was it stroke? Or hemorrhage?

Jane shakes her head as they walk along the grass. "Thor hasn't touched me in nearly a month. And he doesn't walk around the house naked either."

Darcy snorts. Jane has told her frequently how Asgardians have different standards when it comes to modesty. Loki isn't one to flounce around uncovered, but she thinks that has more to do with still being a little shy about the markings on his body.

"I snuck in on him when he was in the shower yesterday morning," Jane says, her eyes narrowing. "He has bruises everywhere." Her jaw hardens. "If he has bruises, they're magical in origin. Loki and Fandral have been around a lot lately. They're up to something."

Darcy swallows. Jane looks at her sideways. "Keep your eyes on Loki."

Darcy nods and says, "Maybe I should make a note." She smiles at Jane. Jane is looking at her like she's not sure if she's joking. Darcy shrugs. "I'm fine. I'll see you next time, 'kay."

Jane stops walking and holds out her arms to give Darcy a hug. Jane isn't really huggy. It's the first and only sign that she's worried.

As soon as Darcy's out of sight of Jane, she pulls out a phone and does take a note. And she checks her calendar. There is a reminder she wrote this morning. It says: Loki is out of Nutella; stop by the store on the way home.

Darcy takes a breath. How long until she can't remember where home is? She bites her lip and starts walking.

She looks down at the reminder and narrows her eyes. She goes home instead.

She enters at the level of her and David's apartment. Loki isn't there, but oddly Nari is. He's standing at the kitchen counter, an open bottle of Dwarven mead next to him. He is looking at something in his hand.

Darcy comes over to the counter and he looks up at her. Scowling, he says, "What is father planning?"

Darcy tilts her head. "You're the second person to ask me that this morning."

Nari puts a small object down on the counter. Darcy peers at it. "Is that a bullet with a glass point?" She blinks. That has to be pretty useless.

Nari smiles. "That is a bullet with a dwarven crystal tip. Theoretically, it could pierce through just about anything - even enchanted armor. I found cases of them underneath the mead." He holds up the bottle, and his jaw tenses. He takes a swig of the mead. Putting it down on the counter, he almost snarls. "Valli said there were rumors of these existing."

He looks at Darcy. "You've travelled with Father to Svartálfaheimr. What is going on?"

Darcy pulls back. "I don't know...I don't know."

Taking a sharp breath, she looks quickly to the spiral staircase that goes up to Nari's bedroom and Loki's office. And then she runs to it, taking the steps two at a time, Nari at her heels.

Just as she reaches the top she stops and holds up a hand. She hears Loki's voice. She looks at the closed door that leads to his office. Putting her finger to her lips, she looks at Nari. He tilts his head but follows her silently as she goes down the hall. At the door she gasps. It sounds like he is talking to Franz and Max.

x x x x

Loki sits at his desk; four monitors sit in front of him. Two screens flash with financial information. In the two other screens are open calls with Franz and Max.

"No matter what happens," Loki says, "I want to make sure your mother is well provided for."

Franz swallows. Max nods grimly. They look so much like David and Darcy, it is eerie.

"I have created a trust," says Loki. "In the event I am unable to be here, I trust that you will be able to manage the funds and make decisions for your mother when the time comes."

Franz looks down. Beyond him is a shelf stuffed with black binders. Max leans back in his chair and taps his finger on his desk. Behind him Loki can see white walls of what he presumes is a hospital setting. Tapping his fingers nervously on the desk, Max says, "Of course."

Franz nods but doesn't look up. "What are the chances what you are planning will work?"

Less and less everyday. Loki doesn't say that though. Instead he shrugs. He hasn't told Darcy's boys what he's up to, just that he might have a magical solution to her ailment. "I managed something similar before," he says.

"Idunn's apples," says Franz, looking up again, his jaw tight. "You're going after Idunn's apples again, aren't you?"

Loki narrows his eyes at the monitors. Before he has a chance to reply, there is the sound of banging behind him. Spinning in his chair, he sees the door slam open. Nari is in its frame - Nari isn't particularly strong for an Asgardian, but he's much stronger than a human, or a human door lock. Loki sometimes forgets that. Darcy is standing just behind him. Neither looks happy.

"You didn't tell me about this!" Nari snarls.

Standing slowly, Loki runs his tongue over his teeth. A chill runs through him. He's annoyed, angry, suddenly terrified, and he can't look away from Nari's furious gaze.

"You can't do it, Loki!" Darcy says. She runs past him and shouts at the computer screens. "Did you put him up to this?" Before they can answer, she turns back to Loki and says, "Last time Odin caught you, he tied up to a cliff and let a bird peck out your liver - that was going to be your punishment for eternity!"

Loki hears Nari, and Franz or Max - or both, all swallow at once.

"You have to take me with you," says Nari.

Those are the last words Loki wants to hear. "No!" Loki shouts.

"You will take me," says Nari, his voice surprisingly calm.

"No one is taking anyone anywhere!" Darcy says, running between Loki and Nari. "Loki - they'll skin you alive," she says, grabbing hold of his shoulders.

Loki actually laughs. "That is exactly what I imagined they would do, too. Funny it was the first thing that came to both our minds."

Her eyes are wet. Trying vainly to shake him, she says, "I won't let you do this, not for me!"

Loki smiles bitterly. "It's not just for you."

Loki would like to claim to be intellectual, ruled by reason more than emotion, but that's a lie. He understands Steve's arguments, sees the validity in them, but it's not in his nature to care. He doesn't want to spend eternity alone - and since he can't have the love of those blessed with immortality, he will bring immortality to the ones he loves and love him back.

He stares down at Darcy. "I am going."

Turning to Nari, he says, "As for you," and smiling tightly, he holds up his hand and concentrates.

Nari starts to shimmer, wrapped in the green glow of Loki's magic. Throwing up his arms, he shouts, "No, Father! No!"

Loki swallows. He'd wanted to suggest that Nari go to England and explore Oxford in the coming week, but now he knows his son will see that as the ruse it is. He would rather risk Nari's anger than risk his life.

Nari's clothing crumples to the floor in a cloud of green and Darcy gasps. Loki walks over and helps the white dove entrapped by the fabric out.

Holding the angry bird by the feet he says, "Darcy, please keep him safe." Green magical energy still hovers in the air - remnant of a shift from a larger shape to a smaller shape. Nari flaps his fragile wings and tries to escape, but it is hopeless. Nari always was the weakest of all his children. Loki hadn't even really envisioned what sort of bird he'd turn him into - he'd just spontaneously become a symbol of peace.

"No! I'm not your servant!" Darcy says.

Loki turns to her. She's crying, her eyes red, her hair sticking to her wet cheeks. For the first time she looks old to him.

"" she shakes her head.

Loki feels his own eyes burn. "Don't be selfish," he says.

Darcy's eyes widen and she gasps.

He swallows and pulls the avian Nari to his chest. Stroking Nari's feathers he says, "You're not the one who will be left behind."

He trembles and Nari takes flight. Nari flutters behind Darcy for a moment and then he starts to shimmer.

Loki's eyes widen and Darcy turns. The green magic that had been hovering in the air swirls around Nari, and then it is Nari standing there - Asgardian, perfect, and unclothed just beyond Loki's lover.

Loki lets out a breath. Typically Asgardian, and unashamed of nudity, Nari snarls. "My magic is too close to yours for that to work effectively, Father." Taking a step forward he says, "Don't. Ever. Try that again. If you want to have a son."

Loki's breaths are suddenly coming too hard and too fast. And he's shaking. He looks between Darcy and his son, and his jaw tightens. He swallows, and even though he's been gulping down air he feels like he can't breathe.

So instead he teleports.

x x x x

Darcy stands between Nari, now picking his clothes off the floor and putting them on unhurriedly, and her sons on the computer monitors.

Both of her boys' eyes are wide.

"Well..." says Max. "That was different."

"Not really," Nari says bitterly and Darcy turns to look at him. He is at least now wearing underwear.

Running a hand through his hair, he says, "When Father doesn't want to face something he's rather adept at disappearing for a while."

Darcy's brow furrows. Nari always seemed so comfortable in the knowledge that Loki had disowned Valli and him to protect their innocence when he ruined Thor's coronation. She sighs. Intellectual understanding and emotional understanding aren't the same. Apparently, even when you're over 300 years old.

She watches him slip on his shirt. She's always thought Loki is beautiful, but Nari looks so much the Greek or Roman ideal of a god. He is just too perfect, too handsome, too charming, too intelligent.

She looks at her own sons. They are not so tall, or so like statues come to life, but they're beautiful. Their Asian eyes look very green - she realizes at some point they must have been close to crying. They love her terribly. And she'd gouge her own eyes out for them. She loves Loki, she loved David, but it's not the same as what she feels for her boys.

She looks down at Nari, reaching down to pick up his jeans. For the first time he doesn't look as beautiful so much as he looks young. It occurs to her he really doesn't understand why Loki turned him into a bird. He may be centuries old, but he isn't a parent. There are some things you have to experience to truly understand.

Loki's words ring in her ears. "It's not just for you."

Maybe her diagnosis has brought this scheme on early - if it is a quest for Idunn's apples as Franz said. But it isn't just for her.

Turning to the computer monitors she says to her sons, "I love you both. I have to go now." It occurs to her that there should be another word for the obsessive love parents have for their children. But there isn't, and she just smiles tightly.

"Mom?" says Franz.

"I'll be back," she says, and she walks towards the door.

"Where are you going?" says Nari.

"To find your father," she replies, walking down the hall.

"I'm coming with you!" shouts Nari; and she hears his footsteps behind her.

Darcy turns to him. Loki's son, Loki's last and only child, is standing in a shirt, jeans that aren't even closed, and bare feet.

Darcy sighs. "No, no, you aren't." She is about to turn around again but stops. "He loves you too much to talk to you rationally right now."

Nari tilts his head, his jaw drops a little. But when Darcy slips out the door he doesn't follow.

x x x x

Loki is standing on top of STARK tower in the same place he once used the tessaract to open a gateway for the Chitauri. Or Thanos had used him to open a gateway. The lights of nighttime Manhattan spread out around him. During the day the city isn't as clean or pristine as Asgard, but by night it could be a city built by gods.

His cell-phone shudders for the fifth time in the past twenty minutes. He doesn't look at it. Everything is falling apart. By trying to preserve what he holds dear, he might actually lose it. He releases a breath and watches mist rise before him in the chilly night air.

His phone vibrates again. He pulls it from his pocket. It's a text from Darcy. He clicks to read it.

I understand, it says. Loki swallows, not sure he will respond and not really sure she does. She understands why, perhaps, but will she still insist he not go?

Another line of text comes through. Also, I forgot my keys, and I'm in Central Park.

Loki sighs and his heart constricts. He types. Where are you?

The bridge over the duck pond, she replies.

With a deep breath he materializes on the bridge. Darcy is leaning over the railing, her cell phone in hand. She turns immediately. She's wearing a long coat, and her hair is long again. In the low light she could be the same woman who greeted him when he returned from that first mission to Jotunheim, where if it weren't for his blundering brother he might have tried to seduce her and maybe ruined everything. Instead he'd just been able to thread his fingers with hers; but that simple gesture had felt so delicious and illicit.

He's torn between love, despair and anger, and doesn't move towards her.

"I'm sorry," she says, coming towards him. She swallows. "Even if it was just for Nari, you'd have to go."

Something inside him unwinds. Loki closes his eyes, feeling the prickle of tears for the second time in one day. He feels Darcy's arms go around him, weak and strong at once. He wraps his own arms around her blindly. Eyes still closed, he finds her lips with his. Their kiss is long and deep, and not enough.

He presses his body to hers. Darcy murmurs into his mouth, and he leans his forehead to hers.

"Nari's upset," she whispers. "He's probably prowling around the house."

Loki nods but doesn't pull away. Squeezing her tightly, he teleports them...but not home, to the suite in Stark Tower where they met so long ago. The rooms are dark and empty, as he knew they would be. Darcy laughs, and he guides her backwards towards the couch that sits in the same place where he'd been sitting when they met so long ago.

In the darkness she meets his eyes, and says, "You're lovely."

It's the same words she said so long ago. Catching his breath he catches her hips in his hands, and pushes her gently down onto the couch.


A Marvel Movieverse Story
by startrekfanwriter

Part 24 of 26

<< Previous     Home     Next >>