Continuing Tales

A Morbid Taste for Ice

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by sitehound

Part 13 of 39

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The magic detector was the bastard offspring of a lead detector and an old GPS unit and it resembled a ray gun from an old science fiction movie.

After dinner, the four went out onto the porch to attempt to calibrate the thing. The sun had set an hour ago and the crickets and other insects of the night were starting their nighttime chorus. "Is there enough magic left to do this?" Darcy asked Loki.

"Most of the residual energy will have dissipated, but yes, there should be enough."

He crouched down at the spot where Andy's body had been found. Jane and Darcy did the same, flanking him like bookends, with Darcy setting a hand on his shoulder as if her hip still hurt (it didn't). Touching him had become a habit she couldn't break. Thor leaned against the porch railing, arms crossed over his muscular chest, watching them.

The construction of the device had involved a complicated stew of magic and techno-babble. When Loki had given her the rundown on its design, her first reaction had been to think he was giving her way too much credit, because Darcy didn't do science. The next had been surprise when some of it made sense. Either he was good at explaining stuff to the science-impaired, or by some kind of osmosis (science word!) an iota of technical knowledge had snuck into her brain.

But the operation was straightforward enough. Using the remnants of the magic on the porch's wood planks to calibrate the detector, Loki then switched it off, handed it to Darcy and had her repeat what he'd done. The process didn't require more than turning the device on, using a button to scroll through the three options on the screen--calibrate, test, and reset --choosing calibrate and holding down another button until it beeped and a number appeared on the screen.

"Change it to test mode," he said. She did and then holding down its trigger, moved the detector over the floor. It let out an obedient beep, this one lower than the calibration beep.

"It works" said Jane, "Yes!" She did a little fist pump.

Darcy licked her lips, tasting cinnamon. "Your magic is all over this," she observed. "That won't affect the calibration?"

"No, it should ignore anything that matches my signature."

She gave him a wink. "That's convenient. If I run across anything implicating you, the machine won't pick it up."

"All part of my evil plan."

Crouched at his left side, she could see the faint, and growing more so every day, scars around his eye. "Your evil plans don't always work out too well. For you."

"Mmmm. I'm a case study in villainous failure," he said, acerbically. He stood, taking Darcy's elbow and pulling her up with him. She caught him and Thor exchanging a testy glare and wondered what had happened after she left the Fish Bowl that morning. She hadn't had a chance to ask him if Thor had read him the riot act for Frenching his roommate. She really didn't want to know. Whatever occurred, neither Jane nor Thor had brought the matter up again.

An ebony SHIELD vehicle drove by, slowing when the driver saw them all out on the front porch. Darcy waved jauntily, and Thor and Jane did too, though less enthusiastically. Loki, of course, regarded the black SUV with the usual boredom, although something in his eyes suggested he was enjoying a lurid fantasy where the vehicle turned into an enormous fireball.

Picking up a small backpack from where she'd set it on the porch, Darcy unzipped it and slid in the detector. Next she pulled her cell phone from a side pocket and checked voice mail and the time. "I'm supposed to meet Sean in town in fifteen minutes."

Catching Jane's eyes, she saw her excitement mirrored there. Of course, Jane was giddy about the chance to see her invention put to the test. Darcy, however, was driven by a sense that she was finally doing something valuable. Thor and Loki had superpowers, immortality and magic. Jane, a high IQ, ambition and a PhD. Darcy was just...Darcy.

"Be careful," said Jane, a flicker of worry shadowing her enthusiasm.

"I will." She started to leave, only to be stopped by an arm across her chest. Pulled backward, she felt the immobile force of Loki's chest against her shoulders and back. Surrounded by the scent of leather, magic and him, his arm touching her breasts, not low enough to be naughty, but tantalizing in proximity, she felt a surge of insta-lust. She licked her lips nervously, aware that Jane and Thor were watching.

"Stay out of the building," he said, voice low, breath warm against her ear. Before she could formulate a snappy response, he disappeared, literally, leaving her swaying unsteadily on her feet. The muffled sound of a door closing, his bedroom door, followed.

"You know what's weird?" Darcy said to Jane. "I'm not even a little freaked out by him doing the apparating thing." Magic and science really had started to meld together: both incomprehensible, both something someone else did; both a regular part of her existence.

She had just unlocked her car door when Thor's voice called out, "Darcy, wait." He took the steps in one huge stride and marched toward the car, looking heroic despite the plaid shirt and jeans. Stopping before her, he bent his head to meet her eyes. "Should you encounter trouble, call Jane. I will come, immediately."

Darcy stared at the house. "How're you going to do that? Loki won't come into town."

"If needs be, I shall bind him hand and foot, sling him over my shoulder and drag him with me." He winked at her. "But I do not think it would come to that."

"Too bad, because that would be hilarious."

"Take care, Darcy." He clapped his big hands on her shoulders and gave her a companionable shake, like an older warrior sending the younger to battle. Except, the younger warrior would usually be another Asgardian, not a mortal woman. Her teeth rattled and a chunk of her college education fell out of her brain.

Pushing her glasses back up her nose, she forced a smile and thought, Loki's right. He is an oaf. Big and sweet and...oaf.


Her brain had reestablished contact with most of her body by the time she reached town. In the middle of the week, local activity was confined to the diner, the laundry and, of course, the bar. She parked on the street, got out of the car and slung the backpack onto her back.

When she dressed for the adventure, she had pawed through her closet and dresser, looking for something that said "stealthy." The image of a black clad cat burglar, lithe and unidentifiable, came to mind. Black, however, wasn't a key component of her wardrobe. And a sleek, androgynous look better suited willowy Jane. Darcy had too much going on up front and in the hips to pull off boyish.

She ended up wearing jeans, running shoes, and a navy blue T-shirt with the word "Meh" printed on the front. Her hair was pulled back into a pony tail and she wore a striped gray and blue hat with a short brim.

Sean was at the laundry. He had a washer and dryer at his house, but the dryer had a lousy work ethic, taking vacations every other week, so he often ended up hauling wet laundry into town.

As she approached the laundry, she could see that Sean was folding shirts, while a skinny blond chattered enthusiastically at him. The girl looked like she was in her late teens or early twenties. She wore cut-off shorts, a tank top and flip-flops. She was model thin with no boobs.

A slight smile was on Sean's lips and he nodded politely from time to time. Darcy, however, knew him well enough to know that he was wishing he had something sharp to jab into his eardrums. When she entered the laundry and got near, the reason was clear. The girl was yammering aboutJersey Shore, and Sean loathed reality TV.

Nevertheless, the girl was gorgeous, with honey-blond hair, big green-hazel eyes and put together from graceful, long limbs. The spike of jealously Darcy expected didn't materialize and she noted that they looked cute together.

"Hey," she said to Sean, with a genuine smile at the girl too. "No more soggy undies?"

"Huzzah, electricity," he replied.

"You could just buy a new dryer."

He grinned. "Then what would I complain about? To whine is human." He turned to the girl. "Molly, this is my friend, Darcy. Darcy, Molly."

"Hi." Molly extended her hand, giving Darcy a real handshake, not the usual stupid finger-shake favored by girly-girl types. Darcy decided she really couldn't hate her.

Once they left the laundry, walking toward his truck, Darcy said in an offhand manner, "She's cute."

"She's a child," Sean said. "And all she ever talks about are desperate degenerates glomming onto their fifteen minutes of fame."

Darcy smirked, pleased by his comment, even if she wasn't outright jealous. She really liked Sean as a friend and her body still wanted him with nothing on but the radio. Loki, however, having been unable to conquer the planet, had managed to occupy a huge chunk of geography in her heart. She didn't quite know what to do about that, since she had no idea how he felt. Probably he tolerated her because Thor would turn him into meat sauce if he did anything truly Loki-ish.

Sean loaded his dry laundry into his truck's front seat and they continued up the street. Edward's Heating and Cooling was two blocks off Route 8, and southwest of the laundry.

Sean walked close at her side, but didn't make an attempt to take her hand, which was okay, because she had the vague feeling she was cheating on somebody, although she wasn't sure who. A couple of furtive smooches, in the front seat of her car and in the kitchen, didn't exactly make for happily ever after, forsaking all others, commitment, blah-blah-blah. Loki didn't seem particularly bothered by her relationship with Sean. But Sean...well, he probably would be less than enthused about her playing tonsil hockey with the man he called a "killer." Unconsciously, she remembered the heat of Loki's lips on hers and knew it was a game she wouldn't mind playing again.

Confused guilt made her stomach start to fold itself like origami and she was grateful when Sean spoke. "So do we have a plan or are we just winging it?"

Darcy made a swooping motion with her hand. "Like a drunken falcon." They passed the title loans shop and two vacant properties with signs in the window that read, "This space for lease." They turned right at the next corner and Darcy stopped to pull the detector from her backpack.

"That thing can really sense magic?" Sean eyed the device dubiously.

"And cause cancer in three out of five lab rats." Loki and Jane used a lead detector because it contained a tiny bit of Cadmium 109 isotope. "Let's see if it picks anything up on a random sample." She switched it on and pointed the business end an inch from a nearby window sill. When she squeezed the trigger, it made no sound, but "Null" popped up on its little screen. Tries on a nearby doorway, the sidewalk and side of the building yielded the same result.

"House of Yarn," said Sean, pointing at the sign in the window. "Probably not a hot spot for evil wizards."

Edwards Heating and Cooling was another block over, in what some might call the seedier side of Puente Antiguo. That meant it had some of the modern amenities of the newer part of town, like sidewalks, but the only streetlight on the block was dead, and opportunistic weeds sprouted from cracks in the sidewalk. On a few of the buildings, graffiti marred the facades like ugly tattoos.

Darcy didn't feel particularly nervous about the area, though. Gang activity in Puente Antiguo consisted of two pimply faced posers who dropped spray-painted scribbles on buildings when they weren't hanging out in their basement, playing non-stop Halo.

The repair shop shared a yellow brick building with Beto's Tires and Transmissions. Beto's had the larger chunk of the building, and a chain link-enclosed lot to the north. The lot was filled with tires, most of which looked used, stacked in towering black piles that reached to the height of the fence, which was topped with razor wire. Darcy eyed the wire, wondering who would want to steal old tires.

Edwards's place, in the southern half, only had a small lot in the back of the building. The business sign, made from a cheap plastic placard with black stick-on letters, was propped in the front window.

"Lights are off," observed Sean, but they stopped several feet from the window, both remembering their last experience with the flawed assumption that "no lights" meant "nobody home." Darcy handed Sean the detector, which he took gingerly, still wary of the device, and she pulled a flashlight from the backpack.

With a deep breath, she marched over to the window and shined the flashlight through the glass. The light revealed a small, grubby office. A dark green, metal desk dominated the space; a phone and random office stuff--piles of paper, pens, stapler--took up its top, along with nuts, bolts and a small section of silver ducting. There was a map of Northern New Mexico stuck on the wall with push pins, along with a business license and a poster of a motorcycle. No sign of a computer or other modern office equipment. A narrow hallway opened in the rear of the room, but the flashlight's beam didn't penetrate far down the corridor. Taking the detector from Sean, she tried the window sill and got a null response. Same with the door.

Sean wasn't paying much attention, instead standing with his back to the building watching the street. Knowing it was pointless, she wrapped her hand around the doorknob and gave it a twist. It budged just a bit, stuck and then jerked and turned the rest of the way.

The door latch slid back with a loud click. "Wow," said Darcy.

"What are you doing?" Sean said, his voice a low hiss.

"It's a not-Christmas miracle." With a huge smile, she lifted her shoulders in shrug of exaggerated innocence. Turning back to the door, she set a finger on its surface and pushed. "Unlocked."

Sean did a face palm, then looked up the dark street nervously, blue eyes wide. "Somebody's going to call the cops on us."

"Nah. We're too white." She hefted the magic detector and poked her face through the opening. "Hullo. Lead inspectors, here."

"I'm pretty sure getting arrested for breaking and entering isn't on my bucket list," grumbled Sean, but he followed her into the building, closing the door behind them.

Darcy made for the desk, where she sampled several spots. All came back null, except for the section of ducting. Curiously, it started to beep a positive, the sound abruptly squelched off and then the display read null.

"What's that mean?" asked Sean.

"It's confused?" answered Darcy. She tried the desk chair and got the same yes/no answer. Different places on the floor in the vicinity all resulted in negatives. Setting the detector on the desk, she sat down and started to rifle through the drawers.

Sean crossed his arms over his chest. "Rumor has it, I'm pretty," he said. Darcy panned the flashlight at his face in time to see him wince at the description. "I'll have a lot of boyfriends in jail."

"Relax. The only two cops in the town are probably at the bar with Edwards and King." She went back to snooping. The top drawer contained two packs of cigarettes and a lighter. The larger of the side drawers contained files with handwritten labels. The smaller above it held old-fashioned receipt books. For a mechanical genius, Peter Edwards was very low-tech. She pawed through the larger drawer, until she found a file labeled "sheild."

She opened it on the desk for Sean to see. "That's the standard contract for services," said Sean, regarding the thick stapled sheaf of papers in the front of the folder. The contract had been signed by Sean's boss, Janet Behum, and Phil Coulson. At the second name, Darcy felt a sad pang in her heart, noting that there was no actual mention of SHIELD on the lengthy contract. Which made sense, since even her paychecks originated from a shadow corporation.

"He shouldn't have this stuff, here, in an unsecured location," said Sean. The remainder of the file contained as-built and architectural drawings, electrical and HVAC layouts, and other schematics of the SHIELD facility.

"Yikes." Darcy pointed at one drawing and looked up at Sean. She didn't have any experience reading construction drawings, but what she saw looked like the Fish Bowl. Someone had circled and X-ed over it with a thick red marker.

Sean's eyes widened. "They are obsessed." He gestured at the file. "You should take that and pass it on to Fury."

Darcy agreed, closing the folder. Before she slid it into her backpack, she ran the detector over it, getting a positive beep from the device.

She checked the rest of the room, netting negative readings except by the hallway, which gave off a distinct positive beep. The flashlight lit the hall, revealing two doors on the left. The first opened to a bathroom that smelled of pee. Assuming it was probably scarier than Jane and Thor's bathroom, she moved on. The second opened to a messy workroom. Three tall metal tool chests stood on the right side of the room. A long worktable took up most of the floor space and it was covered in mechanical bits and bobs. A stack of cardboard boxes, many with FedEx and UPS labels, teetered in a corner. Several wires, connected to something behind or under the pile of boxes, ran up the wall and disappeared in the ceiling. Most of the floor on the left was covered with HVAC units, ducting and other stuff Darcy couldn't identify.

She moved around the room, testing everything. The pile of boxes was negative, but a few spots on the toolboxes went yes/no. Nothing on the table registered a positive.

Staring at the pile of stuff on the floor, she said, "I wouldn't know a freeze ray gun if I saw one."

"Me neither. I'm still not sure that thing in your hand isn't a Star Trek prop," Sean said with a laugh. "Anyway, I think the only conclusion we can take from this adventure is that there might be traces of magic in the building, right?" Darcy nodded. "But that still doesn't mean they're connected to the murders."

"This thing only picks up magic that matches the hoodoo on the front porch."

Sean leaned against the table. "But we've only gotten two definitive hits."

"Let's try the back lot," she suggested, circling the table one last time. A little flashing red light, blinking from the darkness under a tool chest, caught her eye. Stopping, she crouched and pointed the flashlight at it.

"Ow," muttered Sean, who, deprived of light, had crashed into something.

"What's that? A burglar alarm?"

"Probably," said Sean gloomily, now crouched at her side and rubbing his shin. "And my jailhouse boyfriend's name will be Scar, or maybe T-Bone."

Darcy shot him a grin. "Would you like some cheese with your whine?" She reached under the chest and grabbed the blinking thing. A dark plastic box, along with several dust bunnies, came partway out, before it was stopped by wires. The same kind of wires that ran up the wall.

"Holy shit," said Sean.

"It's a clock, I mean a timer." Then she got why Sean had turned white as a ghost. "And it says 18, 17...16 seconds."

She was already rising as Sean's hand closed on her upper arm and hauled her up faster. Focusing the flashlight ahead of them, she ran toward the front door, Sean right behind her. For a split second, she stared stupidly at the door, both hands occupied with the detector and the flashlight. Sean reached around her and opened the door. He grabbed her arm again and towed her through the doorway.

"Run," he said, unnecessarily.

There was no traffic, which was a good thing, since neither bothered to look both ways, instead bolting into the street. They were almost across the street when the first blast hit.

"Get down!" Sean pushed her hard, with more strength than his lanky form suggested. Falling forward, she put out her hands, dropping the flashlight and detector. Sean's weight fell on her back and he said something unintelligible.

The sound wave fell like a blow on her ears. She shrank farther down, forehead on the rough asphalt, hands clamped to her ears. A second blast hit in quick succession and she had the sensation that all the air had vanished around her. Sounds, scents and colors vanished. Eyes closed tight, she cowered under Sean, feeling like the world was tearing itself apart.

When she got the courage, she opened her eyes, seeing a blur of something whizzing by out of the corner of her eyes. The chemical stench of petrol and motor oil rose from the asphalt.

Sean's arm went around her waist and he pulled her up. He said something, but her ears were roaring. He started to repeat himself, but instead scooped the magic detector and flashlight up and pushed her across the street and toward another side street. Together they half jogged, half walked away from the disaster.

After a block, she stopped in front of Lively Locks Beauty Parlor and looked back. At this angle she could see more of Beto's tire shop than Edward's place. Flames were starting to lick blazing tongues out the windows. She caught the first whiff of acrid smoke. One of the tire towers was also on fire. Something popped and sent a fiery orange plume into the black sky. In the distance, sirens started to wail. Or maybe they weren't so distant, as red lights started to strobe the street.

Sean urged her on, yelling in her ear, which sounded like a whisper. "We've got to get out here. Now."

They continued on for five blocks and then turned back to the main street. Flashing red lights splayed along the asphalt, sidewalk and over the buildings as two sheriff's cars zipped by, the sirens growing louder as her hearing recovered.

By the time they reached her little blue Honda, most of her hearing was back, accompanied by a constant ringing though. Sean turned her around and put the detector and flashlight in her backpack.

She slumped against the hood of her car, nose wrinkled at the stench of burning tires. "What the hell was that?"

"Redneck security?" he said, wearily, dark half circles under his eyes.

"That's crazy! Who uses explosives for security?" Her voice was taking on a high pitch. "What's the point of blowing up your own stuff? What! The! Fuck!" She hadn't felt this near hysteria since the night Thor fell out of the sky like a meteor. At least, then she got to Tase somebody. That's what she needed right now. If she could just Tase someone, she'd feel so much better.

Sean's attention was on the conflagration a few blocks away. His hair was extra scruffy from the shockwave and his jeans splotched with dark stains around the knees from the oily asphalt. The half circles under his eyes stood out like bruises on his fair skin.

With a feeble smile, she said, "Can I show a guy a good time or what?"

He faced her and smiled crookedly. "Well, you're never dull." A weird skinny shadow ran down the side his face. Literally ran.

"Oh, shit, you're bleeding!"

Lifting his hand, he touched his face, fingertips coming away crimson. Darcy slipped the backpack off and dug around. The backpack was Jane's and some of her wet hand wipes were still in the side pocket. Darcy tore open the little package and started to clean the blood from his face. The cut was on his scalp, about an inch above his hairline.

Cleaning was futile since he kept bleeding. She unwrapped a clean wipe, folded it and pushed it gently against the cut. He got the hint and took over, pressing it hard on the wound. "I'm okay," he assured her. "We should both get home before SHIELD gets wind of this and spots us in the vicinity."

Darcy grimaced, realizing that there was an excellent chance that SHIELD, or at least Fury, might make a connection. But better to deal with the fallout tomorrow, than tonight. She said bye to Sean and drove home.


Warm yellow light glowed through the front window although the rest of the house was dark. The backpack in her left hand, Darcy tromped up the stairs and let herself in the house.

Loki sat at his usual place on the couch, dressed in a dark green shirt, black pants and simple boots. His legs were stretched out, feet on the coffee table. A glass of red wine in one hand, he read a science journal.

Darcy dropped the backpack by the door and leaned against the wall, feeling sort of exhilarated and shocked all at once.

He cast her a look that she was starting to recognize as feigned indifference, but something in her demeanor made his eyebrows lift slightly. "Something amiss?"

"Things were done. Mistakes made. Stuff blew up."

"Blew up?" Loki set the wine glass and journal on the coffee table and rose, the beginning of menace emanating from his tall frame.

She considered lying, but then remembered she was a terrible liar. Besides, there was a good chance Fury would unleash some of his namesake on her tomorrow. "Edward's shop. It kind of went...kablooey."

He started toward her at a normal pace, then catching sight of her bedraggled appearance, appeared before her in a swirl of green. "The shop exploded?"

"Like Chinese New Year. Only not so pretty and no cute dragon costumes."

His hands were on her face, green eyes meeting hers. "You smell of smoke. Are you hurt? How close were you to this explosion?"

"My ears are ringing like church bells."

A long string of angry words in a harsh language came from his mouth. "Thor!" he yelled.

"Watch your mouth," she quipped. "This is a PG-rated living room."

Ignoring her, he said again, "Thor," this time accentuating the name with magic that made the house shake. "Are you having any difficulties breathing?"


Snapping his fingers on either side of her head, he continued his interrogation. "Besides ringing, can you hear, from both ears?"

"Yeah. Why?"

A second later, Thor emerged from the bedroom, followed by a dazed Jane. Thor, however, was wide awake and holding Mjölnir and obviously in battle mode. "What's wrong?"

"There was an explosion of some sort. Darcy was near." Loki looked at his brother, his angular jaw set in an angry clench. He looked at Darcy and back at Thor. "You have a talent for determining the severity of injuries." The admission obviously annoyed him. "She appears uninjured but..."

Thor nodded, understanding. He set Mjölnir aside and gestured at the couch. When Darcy sat, he bent down and lifted her face in his big, warm hands and met her eyes. Next he moved his hands to her upper shoulders, which she recalled was the same thing he did after she'd tripped over the dead body on the porch. This time a warm, sparky energy originated from his hands and she tasted something like peppermint, but sharper. It occurred to her that, like her nightmares, this was another side effect of Loki letting her sense the magic.

Loki's green eyes were on his brother, face set in a hard resentful lines, hands clenched in tight fists.

Thor took her hands, his powerful fingers started to close around her hers, but he paused. "This is blood. You are injured."

"I'm not. It's Sean's." She sighed. While Thor's concern was sweet, she felt sort of weird about holding hands with Jane's boyfriend. And Loki was looking grimmer every second. "I have all my fingers and toes. Why the fuss?"

"Blast injury," answered Jane. She was sitting on the loveseat, looking worried, toying with a lock of brown hair. "Shock waves can damage internal organs..." Seeing Jane's anxious expression, Darcy felt an emotion start to grow in her belly.

"She seems unharmed," said Thor, straightening. "Besides the reek of the foulest smoke I've ever smelled." He grinned down at Darcy.

"Burnt rubber. I hope nobody needs tires tonight," said Darcy.

Jane put her face in her hands, a huge sigh moving over her slim frame. "What happened?" she asked, face still hidden. Thor sat beside her and rubbed a hand over her back.

Darcy started to tell her story, but only got as far as opening the door and going into Edward's shop.

"Wait," said Loki, expression stony. "You went in the building?"

She tried the smile and shrug thing. "Like I said, the front door was unlocked. I, uh, thought we should check. Make sure nothing had been stolen."

Loki did a face palm that mirrored Sean's earlier version of the gesture. Thor just looked...thunderous. Literally.

"And the building exploded soon thereafter," Thor concluded, leaning forward, blue eyes angry.

"About ten minutes, after," answered Darcy. "But that's not the interesting part. Well, okay, explosions are always interesting..." Thor was doing a fabulous impression of Loki and ignoring her.

He stood and took two long steps toward Loki. "This is your fault, brother." Anger vibrated from his powerful frame.

"I'm not your brother," snapped Loki. "And how is it my fault?"

"You encouraged her-"

"She has a mind of her own."

"She is a mortal. She doesn't always act in her best interests. We know better."

"Hey," grumbled Darcy. "Taking my 'Dad' jokes a little too literally, big guy."

"And I thought freedom was a guiding principle in your dealings with mortals," said Loki to Thor. "The choice to run about killing each other and getting themselves killed."

"Well," Mjölnir was back in Thor's hands and he advanced on Loki, who didn't move. "You twist my words!"

Loki's lip curled. "They arrive already twisted, the product of a pathetic, distorted mind." He took a step forward and the two faced off, no more than a couple feet between them, bristling with rage.

Loki leaned ever so slightly into Thor's space, a suggestion of crimson in his eyes, the hint of something alien moving under his skin. With icy calm words that belied his demeanor, he said, "Though who better to level a charge of rashness at Darcy? You, who have blundered stupidly into one misadventure after another, headless of the consequences."

"The same stupidity that drove me to rescue you from prison on Asgard," countered Thor, matching Loki's posture.

"I did not ask for your rescue! I didn't want it!"

"Oh, hell," said Jane. Darcy's take was similar, but included several more expletives. As things stood, in a contest between the two, she had no doubt who the winner would be, and his name wasn't Loki. However conflicted her feelings toward her former-sociopath-turned-kind-of-amusing-and-huggable roommate, she didn't want to scrub his blood off the walls. Provided there were any walls left to clean. Provided there was any Darcy or Jane left after the two testosterone-poisoned immortals tried to kill each other.

Casting about, she looked for something useful, although she didn't know what. There was the journal, glass of wine, and a pen on the coffee table. Her fingers clenched the couch's material and her eyes lit on one of the smaller, and appropriately named throw pillows.

"Hello!" She flung the pillow at Loki, which he batted away at the last moment before it smacked him in the face. "Collateral damage, here." She pointed at herself and Jane. Loki turned his fiery glare on her, and she shrank back a little before she could stop herself. His eye color really had shifted into the redder part of the spectrum.

Thor also turned, attention on Jane. Anger still burning in his eyes, his shoulders rose with a deep inhalation. With a dark glance at Loki, he took two large steps backward. "I will not fight you, brother."

"I am not your brother."

As Darcy stared at the two enraged men, emotion welled up and she knew its name: guilt. I did this. She sniffed, noting that she smelled like a tire crematorium. "I'm sorry." Genuinely contrite, she got up and slunk away to the bathroom, feeling the prickle of everyone's stares on her back.

Because she did reek, she took a long hot shower. The house was dark, quiet, and still standing when she left the bathroom. Her hair was damp, so she covered the pillow with a towel, and then curled up in her bed. Loki's rose was still sprightly, although one petal had dropped off.

Guilt hooked up with shame and she bit back a sniffle. In one night, she'd almost gotten Sean killed and pushed Loki and Thor, who'd been civil to one another lately, to battle. The rose got more glittery in the weak moonlight as tears crystallized in her eyes. She might have spent hours torturing herself with self-recrimination, but the after-adrenaline-rush crash set in and she drifted to sleep.


The dream tried to get through again, the sounds of fighting, the rasp of rough rope and fear snaking across her subconscious. The hands latched onto her shoulders and this time she was all Darcy, punching with her fists, determined not to surrender. Her dream self's resistance did manage to keep anything awful from happening, but she was still utterly helpless, trapped by unnaturally strong hands. She struggled on, fear giving way to pure, unadulterated anger.


"No!" The grip on her felt so horribly real.

"Dar-cy." The voice pronounced the two syllables of her name slowly. "Wake up." The hands released her shoulders, only to take her wrists and pin them to the bed. The bed...her the house on Don Tenorio Road. A mild damp smell suffused with the scent of strawberry shampoo wafted over her.

Sleep fell away and she opened her eyes to a dark silhouette over her, ghostly face framed by black hair. "L-Loki?"

He was sitting on the edge of the bed, at an angle so he could hold her wrists. "I'm going to release your arms. I trust you won't hit me again." He let go and sat up.

"Like I could hurt you."

She saw a flash of white teeth. "No, but even the tiniest gnat can be annoying."

She rubbed a hand over her eyes. "Another bug comparison. When do I move up the evolutionary ladder?"

"A mammal, perhaps? Rattus novegicus?"

"That's a rat, isn't it?" She sat up and touched her hair, finding it dry. "Did you ever get any action in Asgard? Your version of sweet talk sucks."

He didn't have an immediate rejoinder and the guilt and shame from earlier started to rise in her chest. She leaned forward and clunked her forehead against his shoulder. "I'm sorry. That was mean, wasn't it?"

"Don't touch me," he said with obvious humor in his voice. After a beat he spoke again. "Are you offended?"

"No. You're just being...Loki."

"And you were just being Darcy."

Maybe it was all that had happened that night, or maybe it was some kind of stupid hormonal thing, but his statement made her go very still inside, frozen by an emotion too complex to name. It made her feel so absurdly happy that it broke her heart. She bent her legs at the knee, shifting position so she could lean her face and right shoulder against his back.

"I'm sorry I made you and Thor fight."

"That's a fair bit of hubris."


"There isn't much that doesn't set Thor and I at each other's throats." She felt his sigh. "Although, you may have the distinction of being one of the few that have kept us from beating each other bloody."

They sat together in silence in the darkness, Darcy breathing in the scent of him and listening to the rhythm of his heartbeat.

"Even in the most foolish of statements, there is sometimes wisdom," he said after a while.

"Speak English, magic boy."

"Thor had a point," he said and she could almost picture his lean face growing tight with the concession. "Had you been injured or...worse, I would have carried some of the blame."

"Nuh-uh. I am kind of like Thor, marching into stupid because I want to be the hero."

"You are not like Thor," he said, hotly. "You are young, terribly young, and braver than you should be."

"Sounds like a fancy way of saying 'stupid,'" she observed with a touch of self pity.

"Well, youth and idiocy are often coincident."

Making a fist with her left hand, she punched him lightly in the back. "You're not supposed to agree with me, you big dummy."

His shoulders shook with a quiet laugh. "Do any pillows remain that don't reek of strawberry shampoo?"

She sat up and moved her gaze over the familiar straight lines of his profile. "You could just sleep in the bed. I don't bite. Much."

He looked at her from the corner of his eye, the sharp edges dropping from his expression, leaving him looking startlingly young. "I don't think that would be wise."

"Why? Because I might jump your bones?"

She watched the play of muscles in his face as he figured out the idiom. "Or the reverse," he admitted.

The blood left her brain as her heart took up an erratic beat. She waved a hand in front of her face. "I'm blind," she said. "I don't see the problem."

His gaze move away from her, and he stared across the room to the closet as if he could find some useful truth there. The wheels turned in her head and her eyes narrowed with realization.

"What did Jane and Thor say to you?"

The softness fled his face, chased off by implacable and coldly mocking. "They said you deserved better." His mouth compressed in a hard sardonic line. "And I told them that their concerns were needless as you were quick to note that the kiss was nothing more than a bit of fun, aided by alcohol, and carrying no significance whatsoever."

His tone would suggest that even the conversation was ludicrous, that he found the very idea of romance ridiculous, the kind of stupid idea that only came from his oaf of a brother's head.

But she found it emotionally wrenching nonetheless; not for her, but for him.

She wriggled free of the covers and moved to him. Pressing her chest to his back, she wrapped her arms around him, her legs, folded at the knee, on either side of him.

"Don't," he said, this time with an angry edge. She tightened her grip, lacing her fingers together and leaned her face against the back of his neck. "Don't." He repeated himself, but this time it was a plea. "Darcy, don't. Please." His hands claws briefly at hers, trying to free himself from her embrace. She hung on with grim determination. He had none of Thor's bulging musculature, but the form she clung to was solid and thoroughly male.

He shuddered, long and agonized as if all the heat had fled his body. The resistance left him in a sigh and he leaned his weight back against her, defeated.

"Loki." She said his name because if he was Silvertongue, then she was Leadtongue. If the moment called for anything other than a wisecrack, she was mute. She lifted her face and the ragged ends of his poorly cut hair tickled the tip of her nose. The heat of his body bled into her inner thighs, but she tried to push back her need, and just be, wrapped in his presence, alive and warm and not alone.

Her window was closed, but she could still hear the growly buzz of a motorcycle moving along the road. A little later there was a quick flash of white from car lights. At this hour, probably the SHIELD patrol.

She felt the warmth of his hands on hers and his fingers working to disengage her grip. His touch was gentle and she didn't resist. He rose and stood, head bowed, staring at the floor.

"Really?" she said with open disappointment.

"Really." He reached his hand to her face, lifting her chin with slim fingertips. She closed her eyes as his thumb ran over her lips. His touch vanished and when she opened her eyes, he was backing away, a pillow in his hand.

"I need, we need...more time," he said, sort of awkwardly.

She didn't know exactly what he meant, but she quirked her eyebrows at him and said, "You've got all the time in the world, you're immortal. Me..."

For a second, he looked startled, as if the idea had never occurred to him. Then he folded his long legs and laid down, back to her. She blew a long breath and then peeled the damp towel off her pillow and slid back under the covers, her eyes on him.

To her surprise, he flipped around, eyes black in the darkness and focused on her. "Would you do me a favor and wake me in the morning?"

"You're bitey in the morning."

His teeth flashed, impish. "I won't hurt you, I promise."

"'K," she said.

She wasn't sure who fell asleep first, but they did so with their eyes on each other.

A Morbid Taste for Ice

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by sitehound

Part 13 of 39

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