Continuing Tales


A Marvel Movieverse Story
by startrekfanwriter

Part 3 of 26

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The foyer in the lodge in the Adirondacks is decorated with furnishings from a different age. It reminds Loki of visits to Earth just before the first world war. The style is more opulent than his suite in Stark's tower. The colors are darker. There is a lot of frivolous decoration - bric a brac if his English serves him right. It is as though he has travelled to another world, not seeing the styles of the same people just 100 years previous...In Asgard fashions remain static for centuries.

"Wow, this is pretty swank," says Clint, craning his neck to see the light fixtures. There are murmurs from the other team members. Loki's brain notes them duly somewhere, but his attention is focused on a long intimidating staircase opposite the door.

At his side Darcy whispers, "The bags have already been taken to our rooms. All we have to do is get up those stairs."

Loki glances over at Thor across the wide foyer. Jane is on Thor's arm, smiling and talking to Pepper. Thor has never been able to hide his emotions, and right now he's looking at Loki with a look of deep concern.

Loki looks away. He finds himself staring down a hallway. He pauses, sniffs, then inhales deeply. His lips quirk.

"I'm sure you'd all like to see your rooms," Stark says clapping his hands together. "Right this way, ladies and gentlemen."

Loki hangs back, and Darcy stays with him. Stark's halfway up the stairs when he happens to turn. He looks at Loki and his mouth opens. Before Tony can even formulate a question, Loki smiles and says, "I think I'll stay back here and have a look around."

Tony blinks only once and says, "By all means. This place is fully wired. I've uploaded Jarvis, he'll be able to show you the way to your rooms later." It was the answer Loki was expecting. Tony will indulge him. Loki has things Tony wants very badly. And Fury, too. As well as the governments of half a dozen nations.

"Jarvis is here?" says Steve. His arm is in a sling after a recent adventure. Apparently a broken arm can take a few days to recover, even for someone with super-healing.

Tony laughs, turns, and begins up the stairs again. "I can handle the vintage charm, but not without the comforts of our more civilized age."

Loki doesn't wait to hear the response to that. He just walks down the hall, the old floorboards creaking beneath his feet. Darcy follows beside him. Staff took their coats when they came in, but she still has on a strange knitted burgundy cap and matching scarf. She is wearing the blue denim trousers that are the traditional clothing of her people and a tight fitting cream colored sweater that dips a little low in the front.

She looks very fetching, the hat and scarf not withstanding. He tries not to stare.

Some say that Loki is the devious one, but Thor is not without his own streak of deviousness. Leave it to Thor to find a pretty, buxom young lass to be Loki's keeper.

Darcy looks backwards. "They can't see," she says and holds out her arm.

If he takes her arm and Jarvis reports it, Tony will suspect nothing more than a light dalliance with a mortal. He is tired and could use the support, but that isn't the only reason he accepts her help. She does not flinch as he slips his arm into hers; in fact her cheeks redden slightly. He's not sure if it amuses or saddens him that she finds him attractive in this state. She sees only his hands and his face which are relatively scar free. If she could see the rest of him...

His stomach constricts, and this train of thought is mercifully interrupted by the sight of two double doors open to their left. Loki stops, looks in, and sure enough...

"A library!" says Darcy. "How did you know it was here?"

Didn't the warrior Volstagg tell Loki and Thor Jotunn have a sense of smell as keen as beasts? Smirking at the bitter memory he taps his nose and says, "Thor used to joke about me being able to smell books from a mile away. Apparently he was right."

Darcy smiles wider than necessary at his joke. She is so easy to read even without magic.

Dropping Darcy's arm, he walks over to a far shelf and runs a finger over a group of matching tomes. On each binding is the word 'The Book of Knowledge.' Loki pulls one out and opens it. The publication date is 1910. Darcy comes over and takes one of her own. He flips through the pages - it quickly becomes apparent it is a book for children. There are fables, and articles on weather and woodcraft. He finds it quite charming.

"Whoa," says Darcy looking at the book she's chosen, "...Imperialism is only acceptable in so much as the lot of the subjects is improved upon, for even lesser races are owed our compassion and respect..."

"Quite an enlightened attitude," says Loki putting his book away.

"You're kidding, right?" Darcy says.

Loki only smiles. Enlightenment is relative. Certainly by Darcy's standards that attitude is barbaric. But it is an attitude light years beyond the attitude of the Aesir. Odin may say a wise man avoids war, but there was no Marshall Plan for Jotunheim, and even the Romans built roads.

He puts his own volume away and pulls out another. Randomly opening it, he finds himself in a section on Norse mythology. He shouldn't read. But he does.

...and Odin's folly in allowing Loki to remain among the Aesir was the downfall of the Gods...

Loki snaps the book shut and puts it back. Putting his hands behind his back he turns from the shelf. What is destruction, really? Many of the fashions and ideas from the time when this house was built are long gone, or mutated so much they are nearly unrecognizable. He doesn't think Darcy or any of the Avengers mourn for them. Maybe Steve does...or maybe not. He has heard Darcy casually mention how glad Steve is that segregation has ended.

"Loki?" Darcy says.

He takes a breath and finds himself staring out the library's wide bay window. The backyard is a riot of trees, their black branches in sharp contrast to the snow. Beyond them he can see a wide open plain, and then the swell of gentle mountains.

"Get our coats," he says. "We're going for a walk."

Her mouth opens like she might protest, but then she turns and leaves the room.

A few minutes later they are walking through the trees, a few feet apart, snow crunching under their feet. Darcy is wearing a fitted down jacket that comes to just below her hips. She's wearing mittens now, and her arms are wrapped around herself; her teeth are chattering. Loki is breathing hard with exertion. Centuries ago he was held captive by a giant for 30 days and 30 nights and missed the yearly harvest of Idunn's apples. He caught pneumonia. When Thor came and rescued him, Loki could not walk a flight of stairs without pausing to catch his breath. This feels exactly the same. He is in no pain. Just exhausted, and the exhaustion is a heady thing. Their pace through the snow is a crawl, but Loki feels as though he's flying.

He's also hot. He unzips his coat and takes off the gloves he is wearing. Heimdall's words before he crossed the biofrost bridge to Jotunheim come to mind. "A little under dressed..."

Loki laughs and Darcy says, "What is it?"

Shaking his head he says, "I always was overly warm in Asgard. Without my spells I would sweat..." It had been humiliating. The worst had been being in the training yards under the hot sun. "...I always wondered what was wrong with me." He smiles. "Now I know."

Darcy punches Loki in the arm. He's not surprised. Did he make the self-deprecating joke because he means it, or if he wanted her to touch him - or maybe both? She is transparent, lovely, non-threatening and he likes her touch. He doesn't like it when most people touch him, especially not after the void, his fall, and his landing in...

He shakes his head. He must not think of it. "That's no way to treat someone in my condition!" he says, holding up a hand for mercy and looking at her sideways through one eye. She's glaring at him and looks like she's about to swing again. But when he holds out an arm, she drops her fist and slips her arm in his instead. They walk on together through the snow towards the wide open plain and it feels comfortable and right. Are frost giants like humans - do they have some social primate creature as ancestors? Does he need touch as much as humans do to stay healthy and sane? It was after his divorce from Sigyn that he went mad - and he'd had no lovers at the time.

They come to the wide plain of snow, and Loki's breathing is labored, but it feels oddly good. The cold air on his face and hands and in his lungs feels almost like a balm.

"Maybe we should go back?" says Darcy after they've walked a few meters out into the vast expanse of snow.

They should. It's getting dark and colder - which may affect Darcy if not Loki. But Loki's not sure how many more chances they'll get to walk like this away from prying eyes.

Just as he thinks that thought he hears voices behind them. Pulling quickly away from Darcy, he walks a few paces further out onto the white expanse. He hears something groan beneath him, and scowls.

Turning around he sees Thor and Steve approaching. Both are wearing casual Midgardian snow attire. Thor isn't carrying Mjolnir and he has a wide smile on his face. Loki momentarily forgets the groaning noise.

"Brother! A beautiful evening, is it not!" says Thor. Thor's happy shout seems to make the ground itself quake.

Loki sighs. So much for his quiet walk.

Thor slaps his hand on Darcy's shoulder. As she falls under the friendly onslaught, she catches Loki's gaze and crosses her eyes and sticks out her tongue. Loki bites his lip to keep from smiling too broadly.

Waving the arm that's in a sling, Steve says, "There is a lake somewhere out here. You should maybe be careful."

Loki frowns and looks at his feet. The noise beneath the snow...

"I think I found the lake," he says.

Thor's happy smile vanishes, and he takes a step towards Loki. There is the sound of a crack, and Loki rolls his eyes. Damn.

He is not at all surprised when the ice gives way and he crashes into the water. As his head goes under he hears Darcy scream. He pushes to the surface and spits out some water in a long stream. Darcy is closest to the hole in the ice, sensibly lying on her stomach, Thor has her ankle, and Steve is behind him.

Darcy releases an audible sigh of relief.

Loki blinks and treads his feet. "You know, it's not bad." He blinks again. "It's actually...invigorating." It's cold but not that cold. He looks down - his heavy boots have got to go though. He takes a deep breath and lets himself sink down, kicking off his boots as he does.

Opening his eyes he finds himself in a beautiful alien world. The last rays of sun are coming through the ice and casting everything in a lovely blue light. In the distance he sees the glint of silver as surprised fish dart deeper. It's peaceful, and quiet, and he wants to stay there as long as he has breath.

Through the water he hears a frightened bellow. "Loki!" A giant ball of bubbles plunges into the water beside him. It's Thor, coming to rescue him. Thor always rescues Loki; although once someone convinced Loki otherwise. Once he had been convinced Thor rejoiced in his fall, once he had been tricked into believing Thor laughed at the cruelties of his torturers in the void. But that was before the Chitauri came for him in Asgard, before his magic was ripped from him - and ironically he was freed. Somehow their ties to him had been severed with his magic. And that was before Thor used the confusion caused by the Chitauri presence in Asgard to spirit Loki into hiding on Earth.

Loki sighs inwardly. Kicking his feet he surfaces. A moment later Thor's head pops up beside him. Thor's eyes go wide, and Loki can see relief writ large. Shaking his great mane of hair, Thor says, "Were you jesting? This water is freezing! "

Loki stares at him.

From the surface of the ice, Steve says, "Uh, Thor..."

Darcy finishes for the Captain. "Dude, he's a frost giant."

Thor wipes his hands through his hair and shoots Loki a pained look. And then he smiles, and laughs, a deep rich, good natured patented God of Thunder laugh. "So he is." Raising an eyebrow at Loki, he says, "If you don't mind, I'll get out."

Loki doesn't know what to say, so instead he just says, "Fine. I'm going to get my boots." Taking a deep breath he disappears into the quiet water again. When he comes up, boots in hand, Thor is already on the ice.

In their native tongue Thor says, "Brother, do you need help getting out?" Licking his lips, Thor adds nervously, "I know it is not just lack of magic that ails you."

Loki's mouth drops, and he looks to the water. Loki could use Thor's help. As much as he is enjoying this little dip, he is tired, and pulling himself out is suddenly very daunting.

...but there are battle lines being drawn and Heimdall is watching. Loki knows which side he will fall on.

Thor holds out his arm and Loki stares at it. Surely Heimdall will not count this gesture of goodwill against Thor? Loki takes the hand and happiness floods Thor's face. With a nod he heaves Loki out.

They sit together for a moment, Loki panting as he puts on his wet boots. "Please, tell me you are not in pain," Thor says softly.

Loki's hands still. "I am not."

"Truly?" says Thor and his concern is so deep it is gut wrenching.

"Truly," says Loki, unable to meet Thor's eyes. "Since I have assumed this form I have been in less pain than I have been my entire life."

It is the truth. After losing his powers the first time, he had to stay in his Jotunn form for prolonged periods of time. When he slipped back into his Asgardian form to battle beside the Avengers it was as though every inch of his skin was too tight and too hot. He'd lived thousands of years with that pain, and thought it was normal. Perhaps it is letting himself off too easily, but maybe that constant pain was partially to blame for his madness. Partially to blame for giving into his captors in the void so easily. There was no memory of a painless time to hold onto.

"Then stay this way," Thor says, putting his hand on Loki's shoulder. "You don't have to hide from me."

Loki cannot look at him. It is not Thor Loki foresees needing to hide from. He looks up towards the sky.

"Um, guys, I can tell you're having a moment," says Darcy.

Steve coughs. The ice groans.

"Everyone on their bellies!" Steve commands, and Loki and Thor both snort at the indignity but comply.

When they reach the shore, are all upright, and Thor is shaking himself and shivering, Darcy says, "Should you worry about hypothermia?"

Thor looks at Loki, and says, "Brother?"

"Dude, I was talking about you," Darcy says.

Thor blinks, and Loki gives him a wide smile. Narrowing his eyes, Thor speaks again in their native tongue, "Are you sure you don't want to have hypothermia, Loki? You know what the treatment is..." He gives Darcy a sideways glance and says, "I think she likes you." He looks back at Loki, smiles good naturedly and winks. "And I know you like her."

The time honored treatment for hypothermia is to curl up naked next to another. Out of everyone here, Thor alone knows just what the raised indentations of skin beneath Loki's clothing must look like. Loki glares at him even as his face flushes a deep shade of ultramarine.

"Don't be crude," Loki says. Panting, he bends over, packs a snowball quickly in his hands and throws it at Thor's face.

Holding up a hand to catch the snowball, Thor laughs. "A lovely bosom still makes you blush! It is good to know some things don't change..." And then he catches himself, and his expression becomes pained. "I don't mean to say..."

Loki looks down. "You don't have to explain. It is as much a shock to me as it is to you."

Darcy gets indignant about Thor's discomfort with Loki's new appearance. But every time Loki looks in the mirror or slips into a bath he is uncomfortable: he doesn't expect Thor to feel any differently.

Thor still looks hurt, but then a beeping begins in his pocket. Thor pulls out a cell phone from his water logged jacket - apparently it is still fully operational because Thor looks at it and says. "We have been called to duty." He looks at Steve with his broken arm, and back to Loki. In Asgardian he says, "Let Rogers help you. Of everyone I would trust him most to keep your ailments a secret - if that is what you wish."

And then Thor turns. There is a sound of breaking glass somewhere and Mjolnir flies into Thor's hands. A moment later he is vanishing into the air.

A cold wind picks up and Loki's wet clothing hits his skin like icy nails. Wincing, he turns to Darcy and holds out an arm. "Now, I am cold. And tired."

Darcy looks uncertainly at Steve. With a shallow breath, Loki says, "It is alright." He looks at Rogers. His stomach constricts uncomfortably at the words but he says, "I may need your help, too." The treatment for hypothermia is worse than that admission.

Tilting his head, Steve doesn't say anything, just walks to the elbow opposite Darcy. Together the three make their way across the snow.

x x x x

By the time they reach the house, the temperature outside has dropped and Loki is shivering violently. At the top of the stairs he's nearly ready to collapse. He isn't sure if it's because he's chilled, or because his lungs are damaged.

"I'm going to get you a thermal blanket," says Steve helping Loki pull off his jacket. "Get your clothes off; you're soaked. Darcy, help him if he needs it."

Loki glares at Steve, but Captain America just narrows his eyes and says, "This is no time for modesty."

"Jarvis, where is Loki's room?" Darcy says.

"Right this way, Ms. Lewis," the machine says and little lights come on in the baseboards in the floor.

"I'm...fine...just tired..." Loki mutters through chattering teeth.

"Yeah, I'm really convinced," says Darcy, leading him into a room off the main hallway. The lights come on and he's looking at a room filled with dark wooden furniture. There is an enormous dresser with a mirror, a desk, a four poster bed. Along the far wall are two plush chairs and a low stool in front of a fireplace packed with wood and a full log-bin.

"If I put you in the bed, you'll soak the sheets," Darcy says. She sets him down on the stool, his back to the fireplace. He kicks off his boots but makes no move to undress.

"Take off your shirt," she says.

"Go get me a towel," he says trying to distract her and get her out of the room. She doesn't move. He puts his shaking hands to his shirt but makes no move to undo the buttons. The shirt's a Midgardian affair, a green knit with buttons that go a quarter of the way down his chest. Without undoing the buttons, it won't pull over his head.

"Can you do the buttons?" she says.

"I can," he lies. His fingers are too numb for such delicate work.

"No, you can't," she says. Reaching forward, she says, "Let me help."

Loki leans down so his chin is nearly at his knees, his chest protected from her small, perfect, unblemished, human hands. "Leave," he says.

"Please," says Darcy.

"Leave!" It comes out a scream, though he didn't mean it that way.

There is a popping noise. Something warm and delicious rushes through him, green light flares from behind, and more warmth spills against his back.

Loki's mouth drops open and Darcy takes a step back, her face bathed in a familiar green glow.

Loki begins to laugh.

"I'll go get you a towel," Darcy says, nearly running from the room, her face distressed. He should say something, apologize, but she is already gone. Loki turns his head to emerald flames turning to orange as real fire takes hold.

His magic is back.

x x x x

Loki spends the night and next morning in his room, eating, sleeping and repairing his damaged lungs. He doesn't bother Darcy with his requests. Instead, he utilizes JARVIS and the household staff. She's earned a break.

By lunchtime he isn't entirely healed, and his magic is nowhere near where it was, but he is able to slip into his Asgardian guise. It is tight and too hot, but it gives him confidence, too.

Stepping into the hallway, he nearly bumps into Darcy. He smiles at her, holds out his hands, looks down, and then waggles his eyebrows at her.

She just stares at him, mouth open for a moment, and then she says, "What's with the..." She shakes a hand at him. "Why are you doingthat?"

Shrugging, he smirks. "Because I can."

Her face scrunches up like she is sad, or confused, and she says, "Isn't that a waste of energy?"

Bending down, he takes one of her hands and brings it to his lips. Her skin is so very soft and warm beneath his kiss, and that warmth sparks from his lips through the rest of his body like an electric current; it's wonderful. Between his injuries and the nightmares he sometimes forgets his body can be a conduit for pleasure as well as pain. "You are so perceptive," he says.

Her face softens, but it is only when he takes a breath and lets his jotunn form ripple to the surface that she relaxes. He does need to conserve the energy. He drops her hand and gestures toward the stairs with a courtly bow.

She holds out an arm. "Do you need..."

He smiles. "No." But then he tilts his head and puts his arm in hers anyway. "For old times sake."

She smiles and as they go down the stairs, him not leaning on her for once, she says, "You feel good?"

He turns his head to look at her and feels that rush of warmth again. "Better than I have in centuries."

x x x x

There is a fireplace in the living room of the lodge. The flames in it are dancing orange and green. Loki is sitting on the floor in front of it, feet stretched out to the fire. He is still blue. He tilts his head. The heat feels good against his feet despite this form. He looks down at his hand and opens and closes it. He is still warm blooded, still enjoys some heat, even if he can handle much colder temperatures. That is comforting for some reason.

Behind him he hears a door open and close. He turns and smiles, not surprised to see Steve and Darcy walk in. The three of them have been together most of the day on the slopes - Steve insisted on skiing even with a broken arm. The rest of the Avengers aren't back yet, and the significant others of Thor, Tony and Bruce have gone off to do other things.

Steve is smiling, but Darcy's brow is furrowed. Loki came in a little early. He does feel good, but he is still out of shape, magically and physically. He attributes her scowl to worry. As the day has worn on, she has appeared more and more unhappy.

"A fire, what a great idea!" says Steve. Loki scoots over and makes room. Darcy comes over and sits down next to him, quiet as a mouse, and Steve sits on the other side of her.

Loki leans back on his hands. In a thousand years you learn to recognize the calm before the storm; this is one of those times. He is determined to be happy in this moment...and oddly finds that he can be. Perhaps it is his new skin, unfortunate as it is in some ways. It is easier to relax in physically.

Perhaps it is the company. Of course Loki is very fond of Darcy, for reasons innocent and not. But he doesn't mind Steve either. Not only does Steve not show any unease at his blue form, he has an ability Loki has never really possessed; he can 'let things go'. Once they may have been enemies, but Steve has evidently decided that Loki has repaid his debt and treats him as a new man. He a flicker of worry crosses his mind. Perhaps Thor has told Steve what happened in the void...perhaps that is the reason for his kindness. Loki sighs and lets the thought go. As long as Steve never asks him to 'talk about it', they will get along fine.

Tilting his head to a tray next to him, Loki says, "There is some wine and cheese."

Steve looks at the tray and says, "I'll take some wine, but ugh, I can't eat any more food. I can't believe you beat me at that eating contest at lunch!"

Loki smirks. "I've only been beaten in one eating contest in over 1,000 years," he says.

"I'd like some wine," says Darcy sitting up straighter. "I'll pour us all a glass."

Still leaning on his hands, Loki says, "Wait, I've got this!" He closes his eyes and concentrates, imagining the wine bottle popping open and pouring three glasses, and then he imagines the glasses hovering in the air to Darcy, Steve and himself.

"Wow," says Steve. "Thanks..."

Loki opens his eyes and plucks his glass out of the air. He raises a toast, and the humans do the same.

Over her glass, Darcy says, "So was it Logi in Utgard-Loki's disappearing castle who beat you in the eating contest?"

"Disappearing castle?" says Steve with innocent enthusiasm. "That's a story I want to hear!"

Loki smiles at the memory. "Well, it wasn't so much a disappearing castle, as a floating castle, and it started, like most things, with Thor deciding he was bored and needing to bang his hammer..."

When he finishes the tale, telling how the castle floated away after Loki lost his eating contest with Logi, the personification of fire, and Thor lost a battle with the personification of old age Darcy looks up at the ceiling and taps her lip. "A floating you remember that YouTube video we saw about humans colonizing Venus?"

"What-what?" says Steve, face contorting in confusion at the seeming non-sequitur, a little wine dribbling down his chin.

Wincing a little at the spilled wine, Darcy says, "Sorry, sometimes, I'm a little random."

Loki puts his wine down and tilts his head. He likes her randomness. "Actually, it is an interesting connection." He lifts an eyebrow at Steve. "During my convalescence Miss Lewis and I watched a video on the subject of colonizing Venus. Cities that float above the sulphuric acid clouds that line Venus's surface might be more feasible than habitations in Mar's near vacuum."

"Above the low-lying clouds the pressure, heat, and gravity would be about the same as ours," says Darcy. "The only thing to contend with would be a mostly carbon dioxide atmosphere."

Steve raises an eyebrow at her.

"I'm kind of a geek," says Darcy a little shyly, rubbing her nose with one finger. Loki absentmindedly gives her back a pat.

His face flushes as he realizes what he's doing, and he hopes Steve doesn't notice. Dropping his hand, he smiles bitterly at the fire. "Frost giants do have the technology...alas, they cannot share it with Earth." Not yet. But the storm is coming.

Steve looks towards the flames. "It sounds awesome."

Loki smiles for real then. "Yes."

Steve's phone goes off. Pulling it from his pocket he groans. "The gang's back. I better go to the debriefing."

He smiles at Loki and says, "Thanks for the wine and the story." Smiling wider at Darcy, he says, "See you later."

Darcy doesn't smile back as widely. The pressure and the heat in the room seem to increase when Steve leaves the room. Darcy leans back on her hands, her fingers nearly touching Loki's. It is ridiculous how much her proximity and that almost touch affects him. By Yggdrasil, how long had it been since he's had a lover?

He doesn't move his hand. Nor does he speak. But he hazards a glance in her direction.

Darcy's eyes are downcast. She's looking at some undefined spot on her trousers.

She turns her head and their faces are very close. "Now that your magic is back, you'll be leaving won't you?"

His heart drops. He doesn't really like to think about it. All he says is, "You're very perceptive, Darcy."

She pulls herself up and wraps her arms around her knees. "I'll miss you."

A lock of hair falls in front of her eyes, and Loki moves his hand to brush it to the side. For a moment he stares at the perfect peaches and cream of her complexion next to his hand. His own skin is nearly sapphire in the dim light, raised ridges on the back a lighter robin's egg. With a bittersweet smile, he gently moves the lock aside. She doesn't flinch or shudder.

His smile drops and he feels only heat. If there is no compulsion, there is no harm. He places his hand back on her cheek, and she closes her eyes, but he knows it isn't with disgust. He bends and places a long slow kiss on her opposite cheek. "Thank you," he whispers near her ear.

Her hand goes atop his, their fingers intertwine and that is really all the affirmation he needs. He presses his lips to hers.


A Marvel Movieverse Story
by startrekfanwriter

Part 3 of 26

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