Continuing Tales


A Marvel Movieverse Story
by startrekfanwriter

Part 5 of 26

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In his office in Stark Tower, Loki sits back in his chair puts his feet on his desk and flicks on his tablet. Opening his browser, he clicks on a bookmark and smiles at what he sees. An update.

Unbound ~ the Blog of Darcy Lewis

I'm Baaaaackkkkkk...

Hey internets buddies! I am back in Manhattan. Don't worry, I'll keep taking pictures and posting them here and in FB...and of course still make pithy comments on Twitter Because I. Can't. Help. Myself.

First impressions of the city after three years abroad: Coming here directly from Jakarta, it's like I've arrived in the country. Like, 'the country', as in rural oasis. It's so uncrowded, the streets are so wide and traffic is so orderly. A lot less monkeys, though.

I've got more exciting news, but it's got to wait. I've got a date to drop off some picts with a VIP blog reader - see you soon, JMStar!

Putting the tablet down, he looks at the blank space on the wall where Darcy's 'picts' will go. JMStar is him; it's a pseudonym for his current pseudonym, Jacob Morgenstern. The smile on his lips twists into something wry.

He looks forward to seeing her, even if he can't reveal his true identity - Fury is insistent on that. As much as Loki likes to get under Fury's skin, it's probably better for Darcy if she knows as little about the Hercules project as possible.

After she left SHIELD, Darcy went abroad. Loki didn't make an effort to stay in touch. It seemed better to let her go and lead a normal life.

But he did discover her blog and followed it avidly. She's managed to hit all the other six continents in 3 years and has recorded it all. The text entries were always witty and observant, but what really made her blog stand out were her photographs. Over 3 years she's gone from being a gifted amateur to an artist and has achieved a small amount of fame in her niche. She takes lovely portraits - it seems like no one is afraid to open up to her, and she has a keen eye for landscape imagery. But what sets her apart now is her photo manipulations. She creates photo montages that are more like abstract paintings, but they are always abstract art of that rare kind - the kind that has genuine emotional heft.

There is a knock at his door. Not looking up, Loki says "Come in," affecting the slight German accent he keeps in this form.

Janice, the slightly dowdy woman who is his receptionist, enters the room. "Mr. Stark here to see you, Mr. Morgenstern. He says it is a matter of great importance."

Before Loki even stands up, Tony bursts in.

"You can go," Loki says to Janice. The woman nods and quickly exits.

As soon as the door's shut Loki says, "Is something wrong with the vault?" He can think of nothing else that can be of great importance. The vault is the name for the floors within Stark Tower Loki and Tony have engineered to be free from Heimdall's prying gaze.

"No!" says Tony, scowling and tossing a black folio in Loki's direction.

Loki catches it. Opening it up he finds technical drawings inside of the Ironman suit. He tilts his head. "The chest plate is different," Loki says.

"Yes," says Tony, pacing across the room, hands on hips. "The chest plate is different and the way it is different will allow it to absorb impacts of 5% greater intensity."

Loki's brow furrows. "And this is a problem because?"

"Because I didn't think of it and the asshole who did is currently being interviewed by HR as an industrial designer for the Hercules project."

"I still don't see the problem," says Loki, closing the folio. He rubs the bridge of his nose. He suddenly longs to go down to an unoccupied corner of the vault and slip into his Jotunn form, if only there was room for a personal office there, or a suite of rooms...

"It's a problem because the guy can't be for real. He's a baby, 29 or something. He's created fabulous water systems with shit materials in the Sudan for poor farmers and he is redesigning my suit!"

Loki looks sideways. "I don't see how those two things contradict each oth-"

Waving his hands, Tony says, "His resume says he speaks German, Mandarin and some Japanese, too. That's impossible!"

"Improbable," says Loki, pursing his lips.

"We're going to bust into the interview and you're going to speak German, Mandarin and Japanese to him and expose him as a fraud."

Loki stares at Tony. While he hides from Heimdall in this form, it's best not to use magic. No matter how much he wants to transport an old sock into Tony's mouth.

Tony smiles at him. The bastard takes advantage of Loki in his human state - and not in the vault.

Narrowing his eyes, Loki says, "If I do this, will you leave me alone for the rest of the day?"

Tony blinks. "Hey, is that chick...the one who was your nurse or something and is going to do the Avenger's PR picts and make us all human and approachable and improve our she coming by today?"

"Her name is Darcy Lewis," says Loki, steepling his hands in front of him. He actually recommended her to Fury for the job. There was a recent incident in New York - excessive destruction and civilian deaths; the Avengers need some humanizing pictures right now. Darcy not only has the skills, she already knows the Avengers' secret identities and they'll be able to give her greater access to the team.

"She has a nice rack," says Tony.

It's true Darcy's physical attributes in that regard are rather unforgettable, still...Loki is annoyed. Smiling with all his teeth he says, "Someone should turn you into a toad, Mr. Stark." Sooner or later the two of them will be in the vault together and Loki will be free to use his magic.

Tony goes a little green; and it isn't due to enchantment. "I promise to leave you alone for the rest of the day," Tony says.

Loki stares at him a moment before rising from his chair. "Fine. Let's get this over with."

A few minutes later Tony bursts into the meeting room, Loki a few steps behind. Two women Loki doesn't recognize are sitting in front of a young man with dark curly hair, tan skin and brown almond eyes that are flecked with yellow. If Loki were in one of his female forms, he might find him attractive.

"Okay, ladies, we're taking over from here," Tony says with his usual bluster. They're not even out of the room when he turns to the young man and says, "So you think your work's hot shit?"

The young man does not stand up. He doesn't even blink. In a voice with a thick German accent he says, "None of my work iz sheet."

Tony's eyes and mouth go wide simultaneously.

Loki starts laughing. In German he says, "Well done. I'm going to recommend they hire you just so you can keep him in his place."

Turning his head to Loki, the man says, "With all due respect, I want to be hired to help design space ships for the colonization of the moon, not to be his babysitter."

Loki raises an eyebrow. Stark Industries is claiming they're going to put colonies and solar farms on the moon. They might do that, but that isn't really the end game. Still, the young man's chutzpah will help them reach that other end game. Holding out his hand, Loki says in Mandarin,"Understood. My name is Jakob Morgenstern. And you are?"

For the first time the young man stands up. He is nearly as tall as Loki. Taking Loki's hand, he answers in Mandarin. "David Adler, pleased to meet you."

Loki blinks. "Your Mandarin is nearly flawless."

For the first time David looks a little sheepish. "My mother is Chinese, my father is German. They made sure I could understand both sets of grandparents - it's not a real gift for languages."

Loki purses his lips and says in Japanese. "And the Japanese?"

"I was design student there for a year. It is not very good, but I get by." Looking suddenly very sheepish he says in English, "My worst language iz English. But my fiancee iz American and it iz getting better."

Loki turns to Tony, "He's for real. I'm late, I better not see you later."

As he leaves the room he hears Tony say, "Do you even know who I am?"

David responds in a very firm voice. "Yah."

"Okaaayyyy..." says Tony, sounding not as firm. If he doesn't hire David, Loki will take it to Fury. The kid will keep Tony on his toes.

x x x x

Darcy's left hand hurts. She looks down at the bandages wrapped around her left pinkie and ring finger. There is no blood showing. She looks at three canvasses next to her. They are over 6 and a half feet tall and are each 2 and a half feet wide. She inspects the brown paper covering them; no signs of blood there either. She breathes a sigh of relief.

With the help of several of Stark Industry's very helpful maintenance staff, Darcy got her three canvases from the truck to the lobby of Stark Tower. Now the canvasses are leaning against the security desk. The guards are eyeing them suspiciously.

Pushing the ends of her short bobbed hair behind her ear she says, "I have a delivery for Mr. Morgenstern."

One of the guards looks at his computer and says, "Ah, he is expecting it."

"Maybe I can take them up?" Darcy says. "He said we would like to meet..."

"No visitors without staff accompaniment," says the guard. "You can leave them here. We'll see they are delivered."

Darcy blinks. Security has gotten even tighter here. She's disappointed. Morgenstern, aka JMStar, is one of her favorite readers and commentators. Also, he's dropping 15 big ones on these canvases - less than the 20k she suggested, but more than the 10k he originally offered. It would be a big sale anyway, but since these have never hung in a gallery and there's no overhead or commission to pay, it's a very big sale for someone like her. Her biggest ever, in fact. She'd kind of like to meet the guy. Maybe he'll want to buy something else.

Jane still works here. Jane always got cranky with Darcy, because, let's face it, Darcy wasn't the most helpful of assistants when it came to the actual astrophysics part of the job, but maybe she'd take pity and...

From behind her a voice that is smooth, cultured, and just a wee bit German says, "Miss Lewis?"

She turns. Morgenstern is tall. He's got short, slicked back strawberry blonde hair that looks like it wants to be wild and wavy, very pale skin, thin lips and green eyes. His nose is prominent, but nice. Maybe it's that she's been reading his comments online for three years, but she feels like she knows him already.

She smiles broadly, and he blinks. Holding out a hand she says, "Nice to finally meet you!"

He takes her hand and gives her a half smile. "Indeed."

He looks at the canvasses leaning against the security desk. "I can't wait to get these open." He turns to her. "Would you like to see their new home?"

Darcy grins. "Would love to!"

Morgenstern gestures for the maintenance guys and they all get into the elevator.

"I'll show you how I like them displayed," Darcy says.

"I would appreciate that," he says, that half smile still on his face. He does seem familiar.

"Of course," Darcy says, "I'm not gonna wear a black beret here. You can display them as you like them. When I sell sets like these I encourage my clients to play with their positioning." Not that she's ever really sold a set on this scale. "Move them around and it's a bit more like they're alive."

Raising an eyebrow he says, "I'll take your word for it."

The elevator keeps going up. They're near the top of the building where she knows Tony's offices are when they get off. They walk past a receptionist who smiles at them and opens two huge double doors, and then Darcy's in an office that is bigger than any place she's lived in...ever. Off to one side there is a free standing fireplace surrounded by some chairs, like a little living room.

Morgenstern must see her staring because he says, "I find fire meditative." And then he directs the maintenance guys to a wall that is just across from a really big desk...behind which is a freakin' awesome view of Central Park.

Catching her staring again, he says, "Nothing like a picturesque rural view, is there?"

She grins. He must have read her update this morning. She turns and finds him waving the maintenance guys off with a "Thank you, I can handle it from here."

She raises an eyebrow and says, "I don't think you ever told me what you do?"

He shrugs. "No, I don't think I did. I manage security."

Darcy grins and tilts her head. "I'm guessing not of the rent-a-cop variety?"

He smirks. "Always so charmingly random."

Darcy's suddenly hit with a sense of deja-vu. Her mouth drops.

"Help me?" he says going to the canvasses.

Shaking her head, she goes over to the canvasses and helps him unwrap them. The composition is called "Water Lilies." It's not a picture of water lilies at all. It's a picture of a columbus clouds and blue sky reflected in a skyscraper tower spread across the three canvases. It's kind of hard to realize they are reflections in glass. The metal bars that are the window frames are set at a diagonal; they glow orange in the sunlight.

As she shows him the order she prefers they be in, she says, "I think you were one of the few people who got the joke in the name."

He huffs a soft breath and that smirk is back. "I love the name. The play on Monet's 'Water Lilies' is part of what makes these so fun."

Well...flattery...flattery will make her grin. "It is great to finally meet you," she says. "If you want, now that I know where you obviously live..."

He raises an eyebrow and she says, "Oh, come on, anyone with an office this big obviously lives here, most of the time anyway." Like Tony or Pepper.

"Perceptive as always," he says.

She takes a breath. Deja vu again. "...I'll put you on my mailing list for next time I have a show," she finishes.

"I'd like that," Morgenstern says. "I've heard you're going to be photographing the Avengers."

Darcy's jaw drops. "How do you know that? I haven't blogged about it."

His face goes blank for just a heartbeat. And then he says, "Tony Stark was just talking about it this morning."

"Oh," she says, still feeling somewhat uneasy.

Smiling brightly he says, "It's lunch time. Would you like to get a quick bite?"

Darcy blinks. "Oh, no, actually, I can't."

His face falls slightly.

"I'm meeting my fiance for lunch," she says.

"Your fiance?" he says, eyes falling to her left hand.

"Oh, yeah..." Darcy says looking at the bandage. "I cut my finger on some barbed wire while I may or may not have been trespassing to get a really awesome shot." She holds out her right hand. "I'm wearing the ring over here, though I guess you might not know it's an engagement ring..."

It's a rectangular sapphire, her birthstone, ringed with smaller diamonds in a platinum band.

"It suits you very well," he says quietly.

He tilts his head and looks at her with a wry smile. "Does the gentleman have a name?"

Darcy stares at Morgenstern for a moment. The smile...she tilts her head. "David. He's interviewing here today actually, for a job as an industrial designer."

Morgenstern's eyes go wide. "David Adler?"

"Yes!" says Darcy, with a smile.

"I understand he's very good," says Morgenstern.

"He's not good," says Darcy smugly. "He's awesome at what he does. We met in Japan, while he was studying there." Her smiles softens. "He actually is the one who got me into manipulating my photos." And gave her the confidence to start selling them, and he was always finding things...odd little things in nature, books, and online that fascinated him and in turn fascinated her. He was her muse in many ways. She's not sure what her life would be without him. Would she have discovered photography? Would she have bumbled back to New York broke and desperate and begged for a job she really didn't want at SHIELD? She's come to know a lot about herself in the past three years, and one of the things she's discovered is she really is not a good fit for the bureaucracies. It's not exactly something she's proud of. People who handle red tape, and are persistent enough to cut through it, are kind of heroic. But she isn't that.

...and maybe she isn't heroic but she is in love with her life, her work, and her fiance. She's pretty much so happy she expects at any moment she'll be hit by lightning.

"Ahhh..." says Morgenstern, and the moment seems a bit heavy.

Darcy's phone beeps in her bag. "That's my alarm," she says. She swallows, "I have to put all my dates on my phone, even the ones with my fiance, I tend to be..."

"Unfocused?" Morgenstern supplies.

"Yeah," says Darcy, her breath catching in her throat.

He holds out a hand towards the door. "Come, I presume you're meeting in the lobby. I'll show you out."

They go down the elevator in silence. The doors are just opening and their feet are clicking on the slate tiles of the floor in the lobby when Morgenstern says, "Marriage is a good thing, Darcy."

It's something about the way he says her reminds her so much of Loki. She looks up at him. He meets her gaze. His expression is too flat. Another elevator opens behind them, and suddenly she hears David's voice. "Darcy."

She turns around. David's stepping off the elevator. For a moment his eyes are on her, and they're soft, and then his eyes go to Morgenstern, and he puts on his 'German' face. Stern, a little angry - or as Darcy says, like he's thinking about invading a small country.

Morgenstern nods at him. "Get the job?"

The corners of David's mouth quirk. He's fighting breaking into a grin. Darcy can see it.

Nodding, David says, "Yah."

Morgenstern smiles. "Excellent. It will be nice to have someone around I can have a beer with at lunch without them looking askance."

David's brow furrows the way it does when he wishes Darcy would speak a little more slowly.

"You, him, beer at lunch - it's good."

David relaxes and grins. "Whew! Yah! What is it with prude..."

Morgenstern nods, and says, "See you around then. You'll excuse me..." and then he steps into an elevator whose door is just closing and is gone.

Darcy stares at the door a moment.

"Morgenstern, he iz alright," says David.

"Hmmm..." says Darcy. He can't be Loki...she's just a little on edge being back here is all.

And then she smiles. Even if he is Loki, which he isn't, she wouldn't care. Richer, magical, blue and hot, whatever. She has forgiven herself for the crush she had on Loki when she worked for SHIELD. She was adrift and he paid attention to her and well - he was magical, blue and hot; of course she would have a crush. But she's not sad nothing happened. Any time she spent with him would have been time she would have missed finding out who she was and what she loved. She was terrified when she left, but now she doesn't regret a moment of it. Her life feels like it is unfolding just the way it should.

"Why are you so happy?" says David.

Turning to David, Darcy smiles, "Because I have the most awesome fiance ever."

He grins and says in German, "I love you, too."

Darcy tweaks his they walk out into the afternoon sunlight, David's hand on her hip, he says, "You were right about Stark. He iz an ass."

"Did you use your best 'I am going to invade Poland' face when you met him?"

David laughs. "Ya, and you were right. It worked! He told me they looked forward to having me invade the moon with them."

Darcy's cheeks hurt from smiling too much. She is over the moon already.

x x x x

Darcy doesn't think about Loki very much, if at all, over the next month or two. She is too busy finding a place to live, and then setting up shoots of the Avengers. She's going for casual, candid, one-on-one sessions. The schedule keeps getting interrupted. Sometimes she sees the reason why the interruptions occur on the news.

She's managed to get some pretty good pictures of Tony and Steve when the Avengers disappear. Well, Agent Maria Hill doesn't say they disappeared, just that they are unavailable. Darcy knows it's the same thing.

She's worried about them, but she keeps busy. She's got tons of inspiration all around her, and the slow pace of portrait taking gives her a chance to focus on her more artistic montages.

It's a Saturday afternoon and David's stretched out in a sunbeam by the huge floor to ceiling windows that grace their 600 foot studio. Darcy's got her headphones on and is cracking on a collage. And then she gets the call.

It's Steve on the other end, and she can tell he's off near the line of fire somewhere because she can hear the fire.

"Darcy," he says. "Look, it's Loki...and I don't know who else to turn to. Thor's in Asgard, I'm away - and I'm really worried."

"Ummm..." says Darcy. "I think you overestimate my importance in the -"

"Darcy! Listen to me! He needs someone he trusts."

His voice is so frantic, and Steve doesn't do frantic. Darcy listens, her heart tumbling. When he's done, Darcy says softly. "Okay, I'll go in."

"Great," says Steve. There is a pause, and then there is a knock at the door. "That will be Maria Hill and the boys. They'll escort you to HQ."

Darcy hangs up the phone and David meets her eyes. Her mouth goes dry and her heart sinks a little more.


A Marvel Movieverse Story
by startrekfanwriter

Part 5 of 26

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