Continuing Tales


A Marvel Movieverse Story
by startrekfanwriter

Part 25 of 26

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Darcy wakes on her side in a bed that isn't her own, morning light shining in her eyes, a warm body pressed behind her. She blinks. And tenses. It looks like Loki's bedroom in Stark Tower in the days when they first met. She looks at the hand at her waist. It is blue. Familiar. Letting loose a breath, she remembers the day before. She tenses. This room, it's not quite right.

She feels lips upon her head. "Darcy, what is wrong?"

"Did they change the furniture in this room?" And the curtains, the carpeting, and the paint...

Loki squeezes more tightly against her. "Yes. They've updated everything. I believe the style is called Nouveau Edwardian?"

Darcy's body sags, and she laughs aloud with relief. Little lapses in memory and confusion that she might have taken as a temporary glitch a few weeks ago, tiredness, or stress - now they hint at something darker. She squeezes Loki's hand and threads her fingers with his. She hadn't forgotten, not this time.

Biting her lip, she feels tears in her eyes. "Loki, when you leave...when you come back, how long will it be? Will I still remember you?"

Loki rolls her towards him, so she's lying on her back, and she closes her eyes to avoid looking at him. She wants to be brave. She accepts that he has to do this, but she can't make herself like it.

"Darcy," Loki says. "Look at me."

She opens her eyes and feels tears stream down her cheeks. Lifting his hand from hers, Loki wipes them away. "It will take a few hours at most, Darcy. You'll remember me when I get back. I promise."

Nodding and screwing her eyes shut again, Darcy swallows. If he gets back.

As though reading her thoughts, Loki says, "And I will be coming back, Darcy. Then we can work on making you better."

x x x x

Thor stands with Ava and Jane in the Stark Space Station. Jane holds one arm. Ava is on his other.

A few paces away, Stark and his friend Rhodey are there saying goodbye to their wives. Rhodey had insisted on accompanying Stark. Their suits are in the shuttle that the team will be taking to Musselphemier. Rhodey looks not quite as frail as Stark, but that doesn't say much.

The Black Widow stands nearby them, silhouetted against the backdrop of Earth. As always, she is keeping her own counsel.

Nari is here. He is coming with them. Thor never would have advised it. Nari's magic scabbard was stolen when he was imprisoned in Asgard. Without it he is bound to be wounded, and he will be a liability. Thor knows Loki does not disagree with this assessment; but Nari has insisted on going and managed to convince Loki that better a man's body be slain than his spirit. And Loki mentioned something about having betrayed Nari, though he won't speak more of it.

Darcy stands between Nari and his father. Her arms are wrapped around Loki as though she will never see him again, her own boys looking on awkwardly.

Of course Jane has not let Thor go since they arrived here. Thor looks down at his wife who is so tiny, her eyes bright with tears. Once he would have mistaken both for weakness. She is terribly strong. He looks to his daughter, her face and form so much like her mother's, but a little taller, her hair a warm honey color, her eyes very bright blue - especially now that she is crying. She isn't as strong as her mother, through no fault of her own. Jane had had to fight so much growing up, first as a near orphan, and then in the scientific community because her ideas were bigger than the boxes her discipline prescribed for its followers.

Thor pulls his daughter tight to his chest and breathes in the scent of her hair. He would tell her not to worry, but she or Jane would probably slap him for it. And they wouldn't be entirely wrong.

In the myths at Ragnarok, the end of the world, Loki leads the denizens of Hel against Asgard. In Norse tradition, Hel is filled with those who did not die a hero's death. And now Loki is leading two old men, a woman - though Thor respects her his people will not - and Nari who is hardly a warrior, to Asgard for the final prize that separates men from gods.

In those same myths Thor fought for humankind against Jörmungandr the sea serpent so long he chases his own tail. Perhaps Jörmungandr is a symbol of man kinds unwinnable battle with death?

Thor looks over Ava's head. The only person beside himself who doesn't belong in Hel is Fandral. He is not an old man or a woman. He is a warrior through and through, noble and courageous. Thor smiles a little at him now, though Fandral does not see. Fandral is wearing Stark heat resistant armor and standing close to an Agent of Shield, a Doug...Doug something. Thor cannot remember Doug's father's name, but he knows Doug to be honorable from the few times they have fought together. Doug is not going further than the station, but he is speaking in hushed tones to Fandral, almost whispering in Thor's friend's ear. About strategy no doubt.

"It's time," says Stark.

Thor is momentarily distracted by Jane throwing herself against him. He clutches both his girls close. He sees Franz and Max huddled around Nari, Loki and their mother in the distance.

Pulling himself away from Ava and Jane, Thor says, "I'll be back."

"You better," says Jane, and Ava sobs.

The Black Widow walks past him, Stark and Rhodey go next, and then Loki and Nari finally pull away from Darcy. Loki claps Thor on the back, but Thor is looking across the room at Fandral and Doug. They aren't speaking, but they are so close together.

Beside Thor, Loki stops and claps his hand on Thor's shoulder again, with more force. "Come, brother," says Loki.

Thor is just about to call out to Fandral who is still stalling for no apparent reason. And then Fandral reaches and takes Agent Doug's face in his hands and kisses the man full on the lips. Thor's mouth drops, his eyes widen. He should kill Doug for insulting Fandral's was Fandral who initiated the kiss. Thor's heart pumps fast in his chest. His brain just. Stops.

Pulling back, Fandral nods at Doug and then turns and runs towards Loki and Thor. Striding past them, head in the air, Fandral, says, "Let us be off."

"Wha -?" someone says. It takes a moment for Thor to realize the half-articulated question came from his own mouth.

Pulling Thor around by the arm and setting him in the direction of the gangway, Loki hisses at Fandral. "6 years! For the past 6 years I've been telling you to tell him, and you choose now."

It takes Thor a moment to realize that the pronoun him refers to, well, him. And wait...6 years? Loki has known about this for 6 years? Loki and Fandral aren't even really friends. Oh, Loki's said something about Darcy and Fandral getting along well, and Loki has apparently enjoyed Agent Doug's company at the symphony from time to time...

6 years?

He looks over at Nari. Nari is rolling his eyes. Did Nari know, too?

Fandral takes the last step from the gangway into the spacecraft, Nari follows, and then Loki drags Thor with him.

Stepping past the captain of the shuttle and into the narrow aisle, Thor puts his hand on Mjolinar's handle for comfort and bellows, "How come nobody told me!"

x x x x

The trip from Earth's orbit to Musselphemier takes only minutes. Nari looks through the window at the fiery world. From above it looks like pictures he's seen of Mars - it is orange and red, though there is no ice at the poles. He's told it is slightly bigger than Earth or Asgard.

In the background he hears his uncle mumble, "Why didn't anyone tell me..."

His father puts his hands to his face and lets out an exasperated sigh. He looks up at Nari and says, "You can still choose not to come. I will not think ill of you for it."

"No," says Nari. He swallows. He knows he isn't the best fighter, but somehow he also knows he has to be in on this...this is the greatest feat of democratization that the Nine Realms has ever known, and if he turns his back, he'll never be able to sleep at night.

"It isn't going to work," says Loki, despite just telling his human lover he'd be back.

Nari takes a deep breath. His father 'is in a mood,' as his mother would say.

"If anything goes wrong, I'm turning you into a gnat," Loki says for the hundredth time. "You're to fly immediately to Frigga before you change back."

Nari does not roll his eyes. "Yes, Father." He's actually glad he has that fail safe. He can't turn himself into a gnat. It's much too complex for him. But he can change himself back - they've been practicing these last few weeks. He would never have known if Father hadn't turned him into a dove.

"Where are Stark and Rhodey?" Loki says snippily. "They're going down first."

At that moment, there comes the clang of metal from down the space shuttle aisle. Nari turns and his mouth drops. Before him are two metal...creatures...he hasn't seen before, not even in footage of "The Iron Man." The suits - one gray, one red and gold - look like they belong on spider people, not humans. They have six arms and two legs. They both carry huge blast fields before them.

Setting down the blast fields with a clang that reverberates through the shuttle, the red-gold one holds up its six arms. "Check this out," says the voice of Tony Stark from the golden red suit. The arms point forward, and the hands retract and everyone in the shuttle gets the glimpse of multiple gun muzzles.

"Works with the magic ammo," Stark says. "I've been making modifications. Rhodey's got them, too."

Beside Nari, Loki snarls. "Stop showing off and get down there before you're late!"

"Heading to the airlock now!" says the red golden suit striding down the aisle. "Don't be so snippy!"

As the two metal monsters stride away, Loki puts his hand on Nari's shoulder and turns towards him. "Are you sure?"

Nari looks into his father's eyes. He is not as powerful as his father is. He doubts he will ever be, but courage isn't measured in strength, as the humans might say. He nods.

Loki looks away and deflates a little bit.

They gather in an open area near the cockpit with the woman, Fandral, and Uncle Thor and await the signal from the iron men. Nari's eyes keep darting between Fandral, his gaze focused straight ahead, and Uncle Thor, who is looking at Fandral with the expression of a kicked puppy. Nari swallows. This sort of emotional upheaval between comrades is not the best of starts before combat. He looks to his father; he is scowling and pursing his lips. The woman is paying attention to one of her guns and ignoring everyone. Deciding to do the same, Nari pulls out his M-16 and does a final check.

There is a little bit of electronic magic attached to Nari's ear. Over it comes Stark's voice and the sound of gunfire. "We need you guys..."

There is the swirl of green and Nari is standing on a night time battlefield lit by flames, gun ready. Bullets explode all around him and he hears the shrieking of a cruel wind. He sucks in a breath of air and it is so hot and dry it is almost painful. Flipping down the visor of his helmet, he turns. He is standing between Uncle Thor and the two robot men. They've set up a perimeter of barricades around them.

"This is it," Loki says, and his voice sounds disbelieving. "You got the correct coordinates."

"Of course I got the right coordinates!" the red golden robot man exclaims, as lightning blooms from his chest. Unlike Rhodey and Uncle Thor, Stark is facing into the protective circle, towards Nari and his father, his bullet arms firing backwards. "I practically invented GPS - now get out of here!"

Fandral and the woman are already aiming beyond the protective circle of limbs and barricades. Nari looks out and for the first time realizes the shrieking noise is from women who are on fire.

Just as that realization hits, there is a vice-like grip on his wrist, a swirl of green, and when he takes his next breath the air is cool and sweet.

"Asgard." He breathes the word as he finds himself in the orchard of Idunn, aglow with moonlight, the little greenhouse that is their destination not ten steps away.

"Shush," says his father.

There is a feminine gasp behind them. Muttering, "Can't anything go right?" Nari's father spins and raises his gun.

Nari follows the motion and sees a figure he recognizes running through the trees. Beside him Loki takes aim, but Nari knocks his father's arm down just in time. The bullet plows into the Earth with a soft thud.

"What are you doing!" his father snarls. "She'll alert everyone!"

"Turn me into a dove!" Nari says, taking after the girl, throwing his helmet to the side, and loosening the collar of his suit. He hears his father curse, but then magic whips around him and he feels like he is falling...and then he is suddenly lighter than air, aloft and flying through the trees.

Loki isn't particularly proud that his first instinct is to kill a relatively innocent girl. But he is still furious with Nari for redirecting the bullet at the ground. When Nari sets off after the girl and asks to be transformed into a dove, Loki's not sure why he complies. Maybe his mind is addled by the strain of the back to back teleportation and world walking. Or maybe because he is so sure at this point the whole venture will fail, and he thinks Nari will at least be safer in the form of a bird.

But of course Nari keeps pursuing the girl in avian form instead of flying in the opposite and intelligent direction. Loki should head towards the greenhouse, but instead he takes after them, cursing under his breath the whole way. They don't have time for this.

He loses sight of them through the trees, and for a moment his heart is pounding in his ears and he's afraid he's lost everything. And then he breaks into a small clearing and freezes.

There is Nari in the moonlight, naked, perfect, Asgardian, unmarked, and clutching the girl's wrists. The girl is struggling, head bent, feet kicking at Nari's shins, but Nari doesn't let go. Instead he is whispering, almost chanting. "Hisberna, Hisberna, it's me."

Loki's brow draws together. The name sounds familiar. His eyes widen. It is Idunn's daughter. She is dressed in rough clothes like a servant, a satchel of leather tied to her waist. Idunn is elven, and though Hisberna's father is Asgardian, she has her mother's pointed ears and nearly glowing skin.

She gasps up at Nari. "Nari, you're alive...we were told..." And with that she throws her arms around Nari.

Loki blinks. He knows neither of his sons are innocent, despite their disappointing lack of children, but it is somewhat of a shock to have it brought to his attention. Holding her tight, Nari says, "We don't have much time..." The rest he whispers in her ear and Loki only catches snippets.

"...but a frost giant," says Hisbernia.

And he hears Nari say, "Didn't your elven mother tell you most of Asgard descended from Frost Giants..."

And then there is more. Loki looks at his chronometer. Stark was supposed to hold the gate open for 5 more minutes...they are up to three. He clears his throat.

Hisberna turns with a gasp, Nari's arms still around her.

She looks at Loki for one long hard moment. And then she speaks. "It will never work."

"Not if we do not get a move on," Loki says grimly. "Nari, restrain her." Killing her would be more efficient, but it is obvious Nari isn't going to be able to do that.

"No," says Hisberna. "You need my help."

Loki blinks and straightens.

The points of her ears tremble slightly from between walnut colored locks, her eyes glow pale and blue in the moonlight. "It's not just the magic of the apples you need, you need someone who knows how to tend them. I have learned everything from my mother...I have her same magic. Without me, it won't work."

Narrowing his eyes, Loki takes a step forward. She draws closer to Nari but doesn't flinch.

"What do you want?" Loki hisses.

"Isn't it obvious, Father?" Nari says.

Loki tilts his head.

"I want to come with you," says Hisberna. "There is no future for people of our generation in Asgard...not since...not since Valli and Nari..." she swallows. "I will never be but a shadow of my mother. I will never learn more than her. Nor even be revered as much."

Loki stares.

"Father, there isn't much time!" says Nari.

"We must go to the greenhouse," says Loki.

"No," says Hisberna, patting the satchel at her hip. "The best of the seeds are here."

"Seedlings -" says Nari.

Shaking her head she says, "Will never make it through the heat of Musselphemier. The seeds I carry are what you want."

"You swear this on your life?" Loki snarls.

"Father -" says Nari.

"I do," says the girl, staring straight at Loki and not flinching. Loki takes a breath. He can feel lies and she is not lying.

"Father," says Nari.

"To the world gate," says Loki.

The three of them run to the World Gate, Loki and Nari pulling Hisbernia between them. Loki would teleport, but he doesn't have magical energy to spare. As it is, he barely yanks his son and Hisbernia through the portal in time. When they materialize in Musselphemier, the light from Stark's chest piece is flickering.

"What! You brought back a girl?!" His head tilts. "Is she a tree in disguise?"

"Nothing is going as planned," Loki gasps. Trying to catch his breath, he pushes Nari and Hisberna down. Nari is naked, and both are unarmed.

And then he realizes...there are no sounds of battle. And only Thor, Rhodey and Stark are within the riot barricades.

"What?" he says. He glances over to his brother. Thor has his arms crossed over his chest and is looking extremely put out.

"Oh," says Tony. "Natasha is off talking to the recent winner of the Fire Ettin Death Match thingy - apparently they were suitably impressed by the ferocity of her sex-slave-harem-dinner-in-a-pinch men."

Thor snorts.

Rhodey lifts his face plate. "Your brother isn't thrilled-"

"This is unmanly!" Thor says.

"- but we outvoted him and we're just going with it," Rhodey finishes.

On the ground, Nari laughs. "The power of democracy."

All six of Starks mechanized weapon arms shrug. "Apparently they're negotiating some sort of weapons trading contract. There isn't much here that we want -"

"-but we'll gladly take our lives for now," says Rhodey.

Stark nods. Thor snorts. Loki looks above the riot barricades. "This isn't going at all to plan," he mutters. He sees Natasha off across the burning plane, Fandral beside her - probably acting as interpreter as she doesn't speak the All-Tongue.

He watches as Natasha pulls out a long knife and runs it over her hand. A fire Ettin woman with a blue plume of fire about her head does the same. They shake hands, and Loki winces, imagining Natasha's burning flesh. But a few moments later Natasha turns around and starts walking towards them, Fandral in tow. She's actually smiling a little, though the hand she gripped the Fire Ettin's with is clenched tightly at her side.

"I am now a part of their tribe and a blood sister," she says as she approaches.

"If there is some sort of ritual where you have to have public sex with one of us, to prove you know, we're your slaves, I claim first dibs," says Stark. "I'm sure Pepper will understand."

"I'm better dressed for it, though," says Nari, with laughter in his voice. Hisberna doesn't reprimand him, so Loki assumes they weren't that close.

Natasha's eyes go to Nari and for a moment she looks thoughtful, and then Hisberna does react, glowering at her. Perhaps Hisberna and Loki's son are not that close, but perhaps she has aspirations. Loki tilts his head and suddenly he has aspirations for Hisberna and his son too, and the aspirations are small, and look like Nari, and have pointy ears.

Pursing her lips, Natasha says, "I promised we'd come back with guns. Shall we go?"

Loki shakes his head. Exhaustion must have made his mind wander. He blinks. He is tired, and now he has one more body to carry.

"If we don't go, I might have to have sex with at least one of you," says Natasha. "To corroborate the story."

All the men in the group except Fandral stand a little straighter.

Tony lifts his faceplate. "And that's wrong because -"

Natasha rolls her eyes. "Or kill a few of you and eat you. I'm partial to that option."

Loki sighs. "Very well."

He summons what remains of his magic. A few moments later they are in the shuttle in orbit above the fire world. Loki looks around. There is Fandral, Nari, Thor, Natasha, and Hisberna. Over the ship's communicator he hears Stark. "We're right behind you, docking in 10, 9, 8..."

They're all here. Loki looks at Hisberna. "The seeds?"

She opens the satchel, and Loki peers in.

"They're fine," she says.

Loki nods. He can see the weft of power about the seeds, just a slightly darker shade of green than his own magic. He suddenly feels very light-headed and drained. And then the world goes black.

Darcy stands, arm linked with Jane at the space station, Doug standing behind them, Pepper and Rhodey's wife just a few feet away. Franz, Max and Ava pace by the window looking out to where the shuttle will dock.

There is a flash of light, and Franz yells, "There they are!"

Cell phones begin ringing around the room. Darcy picks up hers. Her heart drops as Nari's voice comes on. "We're here! It worked...I have to turn this off for docking." Darcy's mouth drops as the line goes dead. Where is Loki?

The shuttle docks, and everyone gathers at the gangway. There is the sound of heavy footsteps, and Ava and Jane throw themselves on Thor. And then out comes Tony, Rhodey, Fandral and the Widow.

Darcy, Franz, and Max crowd the gate, people laughing and crying beside them.

And then they see Nari walking up the gangway, a girl beside him who looks like she may be an Elf. Nari has one of the complementary wool blankets that come in the overhead bin on airplane and intergalactic shuttle rides wrapped around his waist. Other than that he looks to be naked. In his arms is Loki.

"What happened?" screams Darcy.

Nari beams. "Oh, he's fine. He just fainted from magical exhaustion."

In Nari's arms, Loki stirs. "Darcy?" he says.

"I'm here!" she replies.

Raising his head he frowns. "My plan did not work at all." And then his head droops backwards again and his eyes close.

Nari shrugs, the grin still on his face. "Everything worked out perfectly. No one got hurt, we got the right seeds, and we have Hisberna to grow them. His plans normally don't go this well." Shrugging, Nari says, "I think Father may actually be in a little bit of shock."

Darcy smiles, too. She doesn't care that much about magical seeds. They are an abstract concept, their payoff too far in the future to contemplate. But Loki is back. "I'm just so glad they didn't skin you alive," she whispers,and kisses his blue forehead.

x x x x

It is early morning. From the house Darcy and he now call home, Loki looks out at the slopes that will one day be an apple orchard in Washington State. He takes a sip of tea. The slopes are patrolled by men with guns filled with dwarven ammunition. Closing his eyes, Loki scans the skies and beneath the soil for signs of magic. Feeling none, he turns from the window. Leaning against a counter he finishes his tea.

Stark's involvement in the Seed Project, as it came to be called, turned out to be very fortuitous. There are people, organizations, and things that really want to get their hands on the growing seedlings. Loki and Stark both expended a great deal of material and physical resources finding a place Hisberna deemed best for apple growing. Now they protect it along with Thor, Fandral, Rhodey, Natasha, and a host of carefully selected deadly personnel.

Putting down his empty cup, Loki moves towards the hallway that leads to his and Darcy's bedroom.

For a while after Loki returned, Darcy and Loki still took trips on Earth and to other realms. Lately though, she has become more and more confused, and Loki deems it too dangerous. Loki has heard that some humans with Alzheimer's become angry and cruel. He's been spared that. Darcy is still herself and aware enough of her disease that she can accommodate for it. She even laughs about it.

They still meet with friends. Usually right before meeting with them Darcy will turn to Loki and say, "Remind me their names again, and what they do?" When he does, she smiles at him, as though they are sharing a joke. Which he supposes they are.

Thanks to Loki, people often don't realize how much she doesn't know. She and Loki keep the conversation in the moment, or about things long ago. Darcy can't remember yesterday very well, but she can remember Franz and Max's first steps, when she first met David, and when she first met Loki. Someday she will lose her facilities for language, but for now she's kept it remarkably well.

He comes to their bedroom door and gently pushes it open. Darcy is on the bed, arms wrapped around a pillow, asleep on her side. He slips into the bed beside her and wraps an arm around her. It is his routine most mornings. He kisses her shoulder.

After a while, she stirs in his arms. "David?" she whispers.

Sometimes she calls him that. Sometimes she calls Franx Max and visa-versa. He threads his fingers through her hair; it's still mostly dark. Sometimes he has to remind her to brush it, or help her straighten a bit of it in the back - she just...forgets.

"No, Darcy, it's Loki," he whispers.

She rolls away from him and is off the bed before he even knows what's happening, taking a sheet with her as she goes.

Clutching the sheet, she backs to the wall. "Loki? We didn't...I wouldn't...Where is David?" Her voice is filled with desperation.

Sometimes people with Alzheimer's seem to live backwards in time. It takes Loki a moment to understand what time she's in...and to remember the crush she once had on him.

Loki takes a deep breath. "You didn't cheat on him," he says softly. He swallows. "He died years ago."

Darcy slides down the wall, and a weight settles on Loki's shoulders. A reprieve he hadn't really realized he had is over.


A Marvel Movieverse Story
by startrekfanwriter

Part 25 of 26

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