Continuing Tales

A Morbid Taste for Ice

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by sitehound

Part 14 of 39

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It was a damned good thing Darcy's nightmares didn't strike in the morning, because her immortal protector would probably sleep right through the attack.

Loki was stretched in a long-limbed sprawl on her floor. Utterly at peace, his face was almost angelic. A spray of black hair fell over his forehead. Darcy was pretty sure if she took his picture and uploaded it, the Internet would explode. But she had enough explosions to her credit for the week.

She went for a bike ride instead and then took a shower and got dressed. Next, she knocked on Thor and Jane's door. When a bleary-eyed, and somewhat worried looking Jane opened the door, she said, "Tell Thor he's off the hook. I'll wake sleeping beauty." Thor was more than happy to turn the task over to her.

Time to wake the supervillain. She sat at his side, knees bent and legs out to the side. "Rise and shine, sunshine!" she said. Not brave enough to touch him, she clapped her hands in front of his face. His eyelids may have twitched. Maybe.

Timidly, she put a hand on his upper arm and withdrew it. Finding all her fingers intact, she tried again, this time tightening her grip and giving him a light shake. Nothing. She clapped again. No reaction. Apparently evil always happened at midnight because it wasn't a morning person.

"Come on, Mad Science. I want my breakfast. Wake up." Feeling braver, she grabbed his chin and turned his head back and forth. She slid her fingers up and squeezed his cheeks, moving his lips and making funny faces. Still nothing.

She straightened and glared down at him. "I've taken my shirt off. Boobies!" No response.

What am I thinking. "Look! Over there. It's the Tessaract. All yours!" Other than the slow rise and fall of his chest, he was utterly motionless.

She heard a chuckle behind her and turned to find Thor standing in the doorway. "No luck?"

"What's your trick?" she asked.

"I grasp him by the shoulders, lift and give him a hard shake. Repeatedly."

Darcy laughed. "No wonder he's nuts. You've rattled his brains too many times." She picked up Loki's limp arm, took his hand and waved it at Thor. "'Hi, Thor, it's me, Loki. If I don't wake up, Darcy's going to paint my fingernails pink and put makeup on me.'"

Laughing, Thor continued down the hallway toward the kitchen.

Hmmm. "You're at my mercy, aren't you?" Twisting his arm around, she smacked his hand lightly against his cheek. "Stop hitting yourself." Smack. "Stop, stop." Smack, smack.

His hand clenched in a fist and his armed stiffened, immobile. "Enough," he muttered sleepily, eyes still closed.

"Wakey, wakey. The world's not going to conquer itself."

"I'm awake."

"No, you're not. Your eyes are still closed. You're still horizontal."

He glared balefully at her through slitted eyes.

"An ancient evil awakes," she said in movie trailer announcer voice. His eyes slid shut. "And goes back to sleep. This movie plot sucks. Get up." Trying Thor's trick, she grabbed his shoulders. Lifting was out of the question, so she just shook, more than a little distracted by the lean muscle in her grasp. "If you don't wake up, I'll kiss you again. Mortal cooties, yuck." Two slivers of green appeared and she thought, sadly, Sure, that does it.

Strong hands grabbed her upper arms and yanked her down. She stared into his half open eyes, inches away from hers, heart rate spiking in his proximity. "You should not make empty threats," he said.

"Who, says it's empty?" Because he'd been kind of a prude last night, she bent and gave him a chaste peck on the cheek.

"Blasted woman, if you're going to torment me, at least do it right." His hands were suddenly on both sides of her face and he pull her mouth to his. A shiver ran through her at the divine relief of his lips taking hers, but unlike before, she didn't freeze up. Weight braced on her elbows, she let out a little whimper as he lazily bit her lower lip and swiped his tongue over hers. Feeling his smug smirk against her mouth, she lowered her body to his, breasts pressed suggestively against his chest. Beneath her, she felt his breath catch and it was her turn to smirk.

This time, they both seemed much more comfortable with the idea of kissing. He moved his hands to her back, rubbing a long easy line from her shoulder blades, down her spine and stopping at her waist, fingers tantalizingly just beneath her pants' waistband. His body heat radiated deliciously through his shirt to her breasts and her nipples hardened in response. The kiss moved at a languid pace, their approach tempered by the fact that they lay in plain sight on her bedroom floor and that Loki was, quiet frankly, rather groggy. Mornings obviously weren't his friend.

Which made it all the more fun, since there was no question she was in control. She could pull back and tease his lips with hers, brief brushes of contact, and longer contact, then back away and begin again. "You awake, yet?" she said into his mouth on one such retreat.

Eyes still half closed, he sat up, bringing her with him. With a last brief kiss, he let her go and turned away, dragging his fingers through his hair. "In part," he said. Giving him a quick once over, Darcy determined that he didn't mean his brain.

She flashed him a self-satisfied leer, dizzy from the kiss. "Is that why you wanted me to wake you?"

"Actually," he said, attention on the door, "The notion of not being shaken like...a martini had a tremendous appeal." He favored her with a sleepy smirk. "I can't quibble with your approach, though."

"007. Another Midgard reference. All that reading has paid off."

"I'm a veritable font of useless mortal trivia."

"Is that the new plan? Conquer us ants through pop culture?" He shot her a sly look and she groaned. "Oh no, you're scheming again."

"You assume I ever stopped."

"No," said Darcy. "No more blowing things up, or aliens, or evil monologues."

"Why would I pursue a strategy that so clearly doesn't work?" He cocked his head at her. "As for blowing things up, you seem to be my successor in that matter."

"A girl's gotta have a hobby."

From the kitchen came the very distant ka-chunk of the toaster; Thor getting his recommended daily allowance of preservatives and sugar via Pop-Tarts. "How did that happen, precisely?" asked Loki, meaning the explosion.

Darcy gave him the quick rundown, almost disappointed that it really wasn't her that blew anything up.

Loki was sitting, legs stretched before him, leaned slightly back, weight rested on his hands, eyes on the door. Darcy shifted, mirroring his posture, facing her bedroom window. She wiggled her toes, trying to work out the remnants of lust that still coursed through her system from the kiss.

After a moment, he asked, "Did the device have any switches on it?"

"One. It didn't seem like a good idea to see what it did."

"No, that wouldn't have been wise. My guess is the device had a delay to allow either man time to turn it off. Since both men scorn sobriety, they may have required the full ten minutes to remember the detonator."

He leaned forward, folding his legs and leaning his arms over his knees. Darcy took opportunity to study the long curving line of his back. "You were across the street when the explosives went off?" he asked.

"Not quite."

He studied her, green eyes moving over her from head to toe. "It's astonishing that you weren't seriously hurt and the boy had only a scratch." He bent his head slightly, holding her gaze with his. "You can't go out on you own again."

That sounded too much like an order for Darcy's taste, but she decided she could make it work in her favor. "Does this mean you'll come with next time?"

"It means," he said, combing fingers through unruly black hair, "That I need to remember where I've encountered that magic."

"Maybe Thor should whack you in the head with Mjölnir." He gave her a wounded look and she shrugged. "Used to work when my old TV acted up. Only my fist, not a mythical hammer of the gods."

"You've now demoted me from lunatic to faulty television." He grinned sardonically. "Is that your version of 'sweet talk?'"

"Yeah. Is it working?"

"Regrettably, yes." He rose unsteadily, lanky frame swaying. "How far the mighty have fallen, indeed."

Mouth open, ready to launch a retort, she stopped, eyes on the space under her dresser, the perfect place to hide a bug. "Wow. Did we just give SHIELD another naughty ear worm?"

"No. I disabled all the devices in the house last night and I always kill the ones in your room." With none of his usual grace, he shuffled off to his room. Darcy checked out his ass anyway.


Thor and Jane were sitting at the table, coffee and respective breakfast foods in hand. Curiously, they weren't smooshed together, hip-to-hip like a couple of mismatched Siamese twins, and she detected a measure of tension between the two. In the background, on the TV, a car salesman yelled enthusiastically about the sale of the century, which curiously, also happened last week and the week before.

"Morning!" she said, pouring some chocolate-y coffee and reaching for her cereal.

"Good morning, Darcy," said Thor with his usual cheer. Jane's reply was much more guarded. Sighing in her head, Darcy put together her breakfast, sat down and started to eat. A minute later, Jane's stare was boring a hole in Darcy's head.

"Do I have a volcano-sized zit on my forehead?" she asked Jane, mildly.

Embarrassed, Jane looked away, darting a glance at Thor. "Sorry, my mind's somewhere else." Before Darcy could let loose a wisecrack, Jane smiled at Thor and said, "Could you do me a big favor? I left my blue notebook in the bedroom. Would you mind getting it, please?" Thor, Prince of Asgard, probably wasn't in the habit of fetching things for anyone, but he nodded agreeably, and stood, his Pop-Tarts nothing more than crumbs on the table.

Once he was out of earshot, Darcy wrapped her hands around the hot coffee mug and said, "Find something in your room? That's not a favor, that's a quest."

Jane smiled wanly. "Who better than Thor for the job?"

After taking a long sip of coffee, Darcy leaned back in her chair, appraising Jane. "So what's the real reason you sent the big lug away?"

Jane cast a quick look at the hallway. "I saw you kissing Loki. On your floor, just now."

"Kissing?" said Darcy innocently. "That wasn't kissing, it was resuscitation. You know how he is in the mornings."

"I'm pretty sure CPR doesn't involve tongue."

Darcy arched her eyebrows. "My version does. It's really effective."

Jane's eyes narrowed. "I bet it is."

Making a big show of looking around the room, Darcy said, "Where's the Jane who said I could kiss anybody I wanted to?"

"She shows up when Fury starts throwing his weight around," replied Jane. "I meant what I said, but...Loki? Seriously? You know what he is, what he's done."

Lifting the coffee mug to her mouth, Darcy breathed in the comforting smell of chocolate, but didn't take a drink. Her immediate impulse, to continue making light of the kiss, died in her throat. But she also couldn't bring herself to tell Jane that truth. That she wanted Loki naked, above her, under her, inside her. And yet she'd be content with him just on her floor, his presence making her room all the more like home. That she loved the way he talked to her about science and magic, like there was a snowball's chance in hell that she'd understand any of it; like he believed she was smart; like he knew her ditzy flippancy was a kind of armor.

Like he respected her.

In the end, all she could say was, "He's my friend," which, frankly, was a big admission itself.

Those three words, however, may have disarmed Jane more than any bigger confession. Her pretty face shifted in confusion.

"And Thor?" said Darcy, "thinks his little bro could do better?"

"No." Jane blew out a frustrated sigh. "He thinks..." She set her elbows on the table and put her face in her hands. "I shouldn't tell you this. It'll just encourage you."

Darcy snorted. "Now you have to tell me."

Jane blurted out the rest in rapid fire of words. "He thinks you're good for Loki. His only concern is that you'll break his heart."

"Is that even possible?" The question was sort of rhetorical. Darcy suspected that Loki's heart came in a box with the words "Some assembly required" stamped in small text on the side. And when the box was opened, there'd be a million tiny pieces and instructions written in Chinese translated from Klingon. Darcy doubted there was much a mortal science assistant could do to a heart already so shattered.

Their conversation ended with the familiar cadence of Thor and Loki's voices. Basically, a cheerful bass alternating with an irritated growl. The two came into the kitchen soon after: Thor with broad smile on his face and blue notebook in hand, quest successful, and Loki, with his attention on the coffee maker as it were the Tessaract and every other artifact of power in the universe bound into one convenient glass pot.

"Coffee's your god, isn't it?" Darcy said when he sat down.

"More a master, the accursed brown swill," he said bitterly.

Out of the corner of her eyes, she could see Thor watching them with a fond smile. She wasn't sure if his approval was a good thing. Loki would probably lose what little interest he had in her if he thought the relationship made Thor happy.

On the television, video of Edwards Heating and Cooling and the tire shop burning popped up. "Fire investigators don't have a definite answer yet," said the on-the-spot reporter, "but they suspect it was caused by a gas leak."

"SHIELD's already gotten their tentacles into the matter," observed Loki. "I doubt any competent investigator would miss the evidence of a detonator and explosives."

Darcy's heart sank, any hope that she wouldn't get a scolding from Fury fading fast. To distract herself, she turned to a more practical matter. "Jane, did you pay the propane bill?" Jane's expression, unhappy realization, said it all. "Don't worry," Darcy said, "I'll pay it online when we get to work."

But boring stuff like the utility bills wasn't enough of a distraction from the creeping dread in her stomach. Even Loki must have notice the strain on her face, because he was waiting for her on the porch. After she'd locked up, he stopped her, studied her with a critical eye and then hooked his thumbs under a section of hair on either side of her head. As he ran the hair through his fingers, she smelled familiar cinnamon.

"What did you do?" she said, following him to the SUV, but, of course, he didn't answer.

She climbed in the backseat and strapped on her seatbelt. "Thor, what did your not-brother do to my hair?" Not orange, please don't be orange.

Turning around, Thor looked her, head tilted to the side. "Noth-, oh," he smiled, "That's rather lovely, I think."

Straining against her seatbelt, Jane twisted to see. "Turn your head. Oh, that is neat. Dark streaks, but iridescent, purple toward the roots and then dark blue."

Pulling a section forward and moving it in the light, Darcy found that in addition to midnight blue, her new low-lights were tipped in dark green. "Bitchin!" To Loki, she said, "Thanks. How long will this last?" Her purple hair faded to brown after two weeks.

He already had his nose in a book, Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. "How long do you want it to last?"

"At least through Christmas."



A full two hours passed before Darcy was summoned to Director Fury's office and she was starting to believe that no one had made a connection between her and the destruction in town. Remembering her conversation with Jane, she hopped on the Internet and paid the propane bill and, while she was at it, the cable bill, too.

The little gray lizard, conjured yesterday by Loki, trotted across her desk and onto the computer's keyboard. It stopped, bobbed up and down, and looked at her. Or at least, a part of her. "Loki, your pet is staring at my boobs!"

"Lo-ki." Thor's tone was scolding, but he was smiling. Any response from the god of mischief and lecherous lizards, however, was cut off by the chime of the Fish Bowl's door.

"Natasha!" Thor rose from his chair, looking surprised and more than a little hopeful. Jane had given him some paperwork to sort out, and obviously, he wasn't the man for that job. In fact, he was staring at the gorgeous, redheaded SHIELD agent like she was an angel come to deliver him from boredom with Avengers' business.

"Morning, Thor," she said, a twinkle in her eyes suggesting she knew exactly what he was thinking. She probably did; the woman had an uncanny ability to read people. "Jane. Darcy."

Loki, of course, ignored her, continuing to scroll through data on the computer. Beyond a dismissive glance his way, Natasha did the same.

Rather than tight black leather body armor, she wore a perfectly tailored dark blue pantsuit, the color bringing out the vivid copper of her hair. Her only obvious weapon was a gun at her hip. On anyone else, the weapon might have created a ridiculously high fashion Annie Oakley vibe. But on Natasha, it worked.

Natasha turned to Darcy. "Director Fury sent me to escort you to his office."

Darcy scooted her chair backward, genuinely unnerved. "He sent you?" She liked Natasha, but the woman was scary. "Are you going to take me out back and shoot me?"

"The Director considered it," Natasha deadpanned, "but then he realized it's unnecessary, since you're going to get yourself killed on your own."

"Demolition Darcy, that's me."

"Why did he send you?" asked Thor.

"He thought I'd be less threatening than a guard." There was a wry smile on her mouth.

"For a smart guy, he doesn't always read people that well, does he?" said Darcy.

The smile moved to her eyes. "And," she said with a shrug, "I'm in town."

"Really? For how long?" Darcy's mind pounced on a brilliant idea.

Natasha paused. "Through Friday." There was a question in her eyes, but Darcy decided to leave the issue till later.

"Okay," Darcy said, picking up the folder taken from Edwards's shop and standing. "Off to the principal's office."

As they started out of the Fish Bowl, Natasha's gaze moved downward, catching sight of the little reptile on the nearby table. "Why's there a lizard in the lab?"

"Mad Science made it," replied Darcy.

Natasha lifted an eyebrow, appraising the creature. "It's staring at my breasts."

"Yeah," said Darcy, "It's like the GEICO gecko's pervy little brother."


Director Fury's office was accessed through a smaller front office, guarded by his secretary Cora Chen. At about five feet two inches, Cora didn't seem imposing, but her slim athletic build hinted at untold lethal skills under the white blouse and black pencil skirt. She nodded politely at Natasha and Darcy, but didn't bother with other pleasantries, continuing whatever she was doing on the computer.

The front office was decorate in muted southwestern shades of tan and brown. Two prints of Ansel Adams photos hung on the wall, and Cora sat behind a simple wood desk. Fury's office had more of the traditional masculine power decor, with dark wood wainscoting, leather chairs and a carved oak desk for the Director himself. Two prints in expensive frames, Winslow Homer's "The Gulf Stream" and "Fox Hunt," hung on the left and right wall. The only things on his desk were a laptop computer and a phone. No other doors led out of the room, but Darcy figured he must have had some secret way out. Maybe the desk folded back to reveal a secret passage to an even more secret jet.

Sean was already seated in a chair before Fury's desk. When he look up, she saw he still had half circles under his eyes and the white in his left was spotted with broken blood vessels. He smiled warmly, but Darcy felt a hard sharp stab of guilt. The Director, seated in his plush leather chair, leaned back, watching her as she entered the office. Natasha shut the door behind them and station herself by the right wall.

Like every other office in the building, it was cold. Darcy rubbed her arms as she sat down and said, "Hi," to Sean. Fury said nothing, attention on Darcy. "You know," she said, to hide her nerves, "Loki fixed our AC. No more arctic temps." The Director continued to stare at her.

Obviously they were playing the same silence game as before in the lab. Except, she didn't have Loki to back her up, just poor Sean who'd been dragged into this mess by her impulsivity. Her fingers itched to reach across the desk, pluck the strap that held Fury's eye patch and snap it back against his head. She broke quickly: "It wasn't our fault. It was booby trapped. And the door was unlocked. If they didn't want people in the building they should have locked their door. Wasn't our fault."

"Looks like we won't be needing torture, sir," said Natasha with a smirk.

"Torture is absolutely not necessarily." Darcy smiled broadly. "I'll tell you everything. ATM codes, Facebook password, name of the first boy I ever kissed." She frowned. "Well, except that I don't exactly remember. It was either Matthew Morales or Kevin Dietz." With a shrug, she added, "It was junior high and I was drunk."

Fury exchanged a look with Natasha and then leaned forward. "See that?" He pointed to a spot on his shiny brown head.

"Uh, no," said Darcy.

"Those are all the gray hairs I'd have if I wasn't bald. All caused by you."

"Hurray, extreme male pattern baldness," she said. At her side, Sean lifted a hand to his mouth, his shoulders switching.

Fury leaned back in his chair. "I always assumed the one giving me trouble would be your boy, Loki."

"He's not-"

"Or Thor. Somebody with superpowers and a super ego. But no, it's the damn science assistant who goes and blows up the damn town."

"With all due respect, sir," said Sean, "While we shouldn't have been in the building, there was no way we could have foreseen what happened."

"It was just one building," protest Darcy.

"One building destroyed and several others, along with two cars, damaged. I should make you pay for the damage, take it out of your paycheck."

"Honestly?" said Darcy, "If it's that bad, I won't live or work long enough to pay it all off."

"At the rate you're going, that's an understatement," said Fury. "And you almost got Sean killed in the process."

"How was I supposed to know there was a bomb in the building?"

"Edwards was hired by an overeager contracts specialist who was trying to ingratiate SHIELD with the local community," explained Fury. "The problem is, if he'd done the necessary background checks, Edwards's history of mental illness, in particular PTSD, would have shown up and he never would have set foot on SHIELD property."

At this Darcy gave Fury an incredulous look. "And you told me this when?"

"It wasn't your concern."

"Uh-huh. Was too. You knew I was going to snoop around." She wrapped her arms around herself, feeling her teeth about to chatter. Somebody really needed to fix the AC.

"You know what you remind me of?" she said to Fury. "All the adults in the Harry Potter stories, who refused to tell Harry the truth because they thought ignorance protected him. Which it didn't.

"You could have said, 'Edwards is a nutjob who thinks it's okay to blow up a neighborhood to make a point.'" Everyone's attention was on her and she knew what they were thinking. "Okay," Darcy admitted, "I also live with that kind of guy. But that doesn't mean I can automatically detect crazy."

"She's right," said Natasha.

Fury didn't look convinced. "And would the truth have stopped you?"

"Maybe." She had acted rashly, but her stupidity might have been tempered if she knew Edwards wasn't just a drunk, but a permanent resident of Crazy Town. "Where are they? Edwards and King? Did you like, arrest them?"

Exchanging a quick glance with Natasha, Fury said, "King is dead. Edwards's whereabouts are unknown."

"Dead?" said Sean. "The same way as-?"

"No," replied Fury. "Looks like he was killed by a single bullet to the head. His body, what was left of it, was found in the yard behind Edwards Heating and Cooling." He fired a hard stare at Darcy, then Sean.

"Unless Tasers make bullet holes, it wasn't us. We never made it back to the yard." Darcy then went on to tell Fury what had happened that night.

"Perhaps Edwards and King had a falling out," said Natasha. "The bomb was a clumsy attempt to dispose of the body and cover Edward's tracks."

"We're surrounded by miles of barren desert and hungry coyotes. An explosion seems like overkill," said Sean. "There are probably easier ways to dispose of a body."

Remembering the folder, Darcy tossed it on Fury's desk. "That was in their office. It set off the magic detector and there's a drawing with the Fish Bowl circled in red, in there."

Fury paged through the folder, dark face going grimmer. "How the hell did they even get this stuff out of the building?" He handed it to Natasha, who studied the contents, her face inscrutable. "You say that device Jane and Loki cooked up actually works?" Darcy nodded. "I'd like to have a look at that thing. After all, by contract, any tech Jane develops belongs to us, anyway."

Darcy lifted her chin and gave Fury a knowing smirk. "So basically, nothing your people have tried works, right?" Fury didn't reply. "Jane used materials belonging to Tony Stark, so maybe we should just give it to him."

Fury shook his head, expression annoyed and weary. "Maybe I should let you shoot her," he said to Natasha. Leaning across the desk, he pinned Darcy with his intense stare. "Starting now, you're going to stop playing detective." Before she could protest, he added, "If you don't, it's you, not Loki, who's going to be spending quality time in one of our holding cells."

"Will I have my iPod?"

"Hell, no."

"That's cruel and unusual punishment."

"What's cruel," Fury leaned forward, "is having to tell your next of kin that you're now one of the dearly departed." He waved his hand dismissively at her, though not Sean. "We're done here. Take her back to the lab." Natasha moved toward Darcy.

Darcy stood, but didn't move for the door. "Are you going to fire Sean? It really wasn't his fault."

This earned her an exasperated huff from Fury. "Are you nuts? He's invaluable. Keeps the GAO auditors off our butts. You, on the other hand..."

Darcy got the hint and trooped obediently after Natasha.


A few feet from the door to the Fish Bowl, Darcy put her hand on Natasha's arm, stopping her. "I've got a favor to ask."

"This have something to do with me being around till Friday?"

"Yes." In the lab, Thor and Jane had spotted her and Darcy gave them a reassuring wave. Loki, seated at the table, apparently trying to explain something to Thor, judging from his sour expression, paid her and Natasha no mind. "Ever heard of Zozobra?"

"Some kind of yearly ritual in Santa Fe; they burn a huge puppet?"

Darcy nodded. "Ever since Thor and Loki moved in, Jane hasn't had a life. Less of life than before, which was close to dead, anyway.

"At this rate, Jane's going to turn into a crazy old lady who lives with a bunch of cats. Except instead of cats, it'll be hot guys with superpowers." With a shrug, she added, "Okay, that doesn't actually sound so bad."

"Unless one of the guys is Loki," noted Natasha.

Darcy stifled the need to say, "Oh, he's not so bad." Instead she explained her plan to Natasha. "I want to take Jane to Zozobra in Santa Fe, this Thursday evening. With Thor and Loki, because Jane won't going to go unless big blond comes along."

She held up one finger. "My first challenge is getting Loki to agree to go. Used to be he couldn't wait to go out and crush us mortals. Now he's got supervillain agoraphobia." She added a second finger to the first. "Next I need to get him out of Asgard clothes." At that, her brain skipped and got stuck on "...get him out of clothes."

Aware that Natasha was watching her, she took a deep breath and continued. "Get him out of Asgard clothes and into regular mortal clothing."

Holding up a third finger, she got to the last problem. "Fury isn't going to let us take the boys from Asgard, especially Loki, that far from home without a security escort, which is where you come in."

"I do?" said Natasha, dryly.

"Sure. Why sent six men to do the job of one woman?"

Natasha sniffed. "I smell flattery."

"I bet it smells like chocolate." Darcy beamed. "If you come along, we won't need a security escort, because you're awesome."

"Laying it on thick, aren't you?"

"Like clown makeup."



Natasha swept a lazy glare in Loki's direction. "Me and him in a car for several hours? Really?"

"Sounds fun, right?"

"Like a root canal."

"Come on. He'll behave. Or, at least, he'll ignore you. He's the God of Ignoring, now." Sensing that the SHIELD agent's resolve was weakening, she added, "I'll sit between you two crazy kids. You can ignore him too. Unless he gets out of line. In that case, 'Kapow!'"


"Okay? Seriously? Yay!" She grinned and threw her arms around Natasha, giving her a hug. The SHIELD agent stiffened and then gave Darcy an awkward pat on the back.

"Know why I agreed?" said Natasha with a slight smirk.

"No, why?"

Her gaze moved to Loki and back to Darcy. "Because that asshole will never agree to go."


Dinner that evening was green chile cheeseburgers and fries, the burgers cooked on Thor's grill and the chile from Jane and Darcy's recent trip into town. Thor, who wasn't much for spicy food, opted for a plain cheeseburger. Loki, however, piled on extra slices of chile, though he picked suspiciously at the fries, as he did with any pre-packaged food. Darcy ate her share of fries and some off of his plate as well.

A while later, when Loki made for the door, destination his lair, Darcy hurried after him. Stopping on the porch, he stared out across the lot into the growing darkness. "Even at dusk, I have a shadow."

Just a step behind, Darcy grinned up at his back. "Kind of a pretty shadow, don't you think?"

Turning his head slightly to the right, he gave her sexy sly smile. "When it isn't talking."

"Liar. That's when you like me best."

He started down the stairs. "I see plans in your eyes and fear they don't portend well."

"One exploded building and I'm marked for life." She stomped down the stairs after him.

"Now you know how I feel."

Darcy snorted, but spared him her snark. No point in pissing him off. Of course, that made him more suspicious.

"No wry commentary on my missing sanity...marbles...whatever euphemism you usually prefer?"

"I've got a favor to ask." Ahead a small lithe shape emerged from the airplane cabin. Inkblot hunting for mice. With a little meow, he disappeared behind the cabin. Darcy, feeling like a Chihuahua after a Great Dane, quickened her pace to match Loki's long strides.

"No," said Loki, almost cheerfully.

"You didn't let me ask."

He plopped heavily in his usual seat on the right side of the cabin. "It involves Agent Romanoff, correct?"

Damn. He was good. She scrambled over his long legs, probably sprawled intentionally to keep her from sitting at his side, and positioned herself on his left. "Mostly it involves you, me, Thor and Jane. Natasha would just be along for the ride."

"No." Firmer this time.

"There's this thing called Zozobra happening Thursday night in Santa Fe. It's really kind of silly, but there's a giant burning puppet and noise, and loads of people and noise, and then more noise, which is a hella lot more fun than this place."

"Way to sell it," he said in a flat unaccented voice. "And, no."

"Why not? A few hours among mortals who don't have guns or blab about science. What could it hurt?" It was childish, but she goaded, "You afraid?"

"Don't be absurd." His leg started to twitch. "I am, nevertheless, at a slight disadvantage, given my current handicap."

"Somebody find a sparkly crown. Asgard's got a new drama queen." She rolled her eyes. "You've still got magic, even if you can't remember spells. Magic is probably a reflex for you." To prove her point, she made a loose fist and threw a halfhearted punch at his face, expecting him to dodge the blow with ease, or better yet, throw up some kind of magic shield.

The shock of the impact, her knuckles hitting the side of his face, startled her as much as him. He turned on her, expression thunderous, eyes blazing, a suggestion of red in the green. Before she could react, his hand clamped around her wrist, and she was yanked into his face.

Anger transformed his face, stripping away the veneer of humanity.

"Shit, I'm sorry. I'm sorry-sorry-sorry." Adrenaline raced through her blood, her heart pounding in her ears. "I thought you saw me, I was totally in your line of sight..." Her voice trailed off, as a tiny idea took seed and grew in her mind. Last night, she'd thrown the pillow at his left side and he'd barely blocked it. "Whoa," she said, just as he released her, anger fading from his face, traded for something furtive.

Settling back into her seat, she studied him for a few seconds, waiting for his temper to cool. When it seemed safe, she waved her hand over his left eye. "You're blind in this eye."

"No." He snatched her wrist again. "Not entirely."

"Leggo." She twisted in his grip and again, he let go. "Not entirely?"

"I was blind in that eye, now I see...shadows and light. My sight is returning, slowly."

"Thor doesn't know, does he?"

"No!" He turned the full ferocity of his gaze on her. "And he can't know! It's bad enough to be...incapacitated. I will not suffer that dolt's pity."

"Yeah, it really sucks, having someone love you, unconditionally." The statement earned her a look that could peel the paint off the side of a building, but Darcy tilted her head and faced him fearlessly.

It was Loki who broke eye contact, dropping his gaze to his hands which were clenched in fists. "And you would use this against me, to force me to attend this mortal celebration."

She blinked. "That would be my evil plan." The thought hadn't yet occurred to her, but hey, why not?

"If I agree, you will not tell Thor or Jane about my infirmity."

"It's our secret." A rueful smile pulled at the corners of her mouth. It was almost too easy. Like taking candy from a baby. A big, dangerous baby with a killer smile and a personality to match who had a tendency to hold grudges for centuries. She reached for his sleeve, closing her fingers around leather and padded cloth and giving it a tug. "You're going to have to lose the Asgard threads, too."

Loki stared down at her hand on his arm. "I'm not mortal. Why should I play at one?"

"Because you're Loki and going incognito is part of your shtick." The cloth was thick but soft as silk. "Black hair, green eyes, tall and devastatingly good looking." His eyes met hers and too her annoyance, she blushed. "Even in Midgard clothes, you'll probably attract so much female attention, I'll have to beat them off with a stick."

Loki smirked. "That I'd like to see."

"You will if you're a good little god of mischief and play along with my plan." Her hand had conveniently slid down over his and with her thumb, she traced a line over his knuckles then down his index finger, feeling the shape of the long bones under his skin.

He reversed his hand, taking hers and lifting it to what little light remained. "More bruises. I hurt you again," he said, obviously chagrined.

"Those are from yesterday when I fell on the curb." She twisted awkwardly in his grip, so he could see the dark smudges of bruises on her elbow. There was a matching set on her other arm.

"But just now?" she said. "I kind of provoked you."

Her hand still in his, he set the full force of his stare on her, long lines of his face set in determined lines. "Do not make excuses for my behavior. Or anyone else's, should they strike at you in stupid anger. The fault lies with me, not you." A tiny smile played on his lips. "As you've noted, you cannot hurt me." Moving her hand toward his face, his clever fingers moved across her skin, investigating the shape of her fingers as though he'd never seen a hand before.

Lust and something much deeper pulsed through her in tiny shivers. She was starting to believe that Loki was doing something more than tolerate her. But why? Even half blind and with his brains scrambled like eggs, the likes of Loki Laufeyson didn't bother with alliances unless they benefited him in some way. To him, the universe was a vast chessboard and Darcy Lewis was less useful than a pawn. But here in the comforting gloom of the old airplane cabin, she could let herself nurture the stupid hope that maybe, against all logic, he felt a measure of affection for her.

If she were a braver person; if she could express herself in more than irreverent wisecracks, she would have told him that it took a whole lot more booze than one glass of wine to get her drunk. That she had kissed him because against all reason, she was probably all ready half in love with the irascible bastard.

But as with Jane, earlier that morning, she best she could do was a smaller truth. "I feel safe with you. Does that make any sense?"

Dark eyebrows lifting to make a peak above his forehead, he blinked, expression confused. "No. It does not." With deliberate care, he released her hand, setting it on the armrest. Tap, tap, tap. His boot heel rapped on the cabin's floor. "Particularly, since I find you more than a little unnerving." Lifting his right hand, he moved his fingers in undulating waves, as if casting a spell, but Darcy sensed no magic.

If Darcy was right, if being twitchy was his tell, there was a measure of truth in what he said. She felt a laugh bubbling up in her chest. Loki, who'd followed Thor and company into centuries of bloody battles, and most recently, led a massive alien army against the Avengers and the God of Thunder, was unnerved by her?

"I must be some kind of scary monster."

Fey humor shown in his eyes as he cast her a sideways glance. He reached to her, setting long fingers on the top her head and twisted, ruffling her hair. "My beloved monster."

She swatted at his hand, but he evaded her easily. In an instant, he was on his feet. With two long strides, he stood at the cabin's threshold, looking out, head turning back and forth as if searching for something. She had a feeling that he wanted to flee, but with quick sigh, he braced his arm against the wall and leaned, his back to her.

She combed her fingers through her hair, trying to fix the mess he had made. Loki was now staring up at the night sky. One of the nice things about living in the boondocks was that out there, one could actually see the stars, even the cloudy white spray that made up the Milky Way. He seemed to have forgotten she was there, and she took the opportunity to watch this unguarded version of Loki. Still vibrating with goofy energy, his body language was youthful, and Darcy realized she was getting another glimpse of the Loki that Thor remembered from long ago. She swallowed a tiny lump of grief that welled up in her throat, struck by a guilty sense that it was ever-loyal Thor, not her, who deserved to see this.

Then the moment passed. The familiar hardness returned to the set of his shoulders, weary bitterness emanating from his tall, slim silhouette. She got up and stood at his side.

"I need to devise a means of keeping you from the errant dreamer that doesn't require my presence," he said.

She couldn't resist. "If the floor is that bad, the offer for the bed still stands."

He didn't acknowledge her statement. "Soon, Thor will be off again with the Avengers and me with him. You'll need protection in my absence."

"Oh." In the brothers' absence, without Thor's jovial presence and Loki, the skulking yin to his yang, the house always felt a little hollow. Now, the thought of Loki's leaving made her hurt inside. She looked at him and he spared her a brief glance, shoulders slumping imperceptibly, knowing what came next. Obviously he could read her like a cheap novel, but he flinched anyway when she wrapped her arms around his waist. Boy's got issues being touched. Even so, he dropped his chin against the top of her head, gusting a long breath through her disheveled hair.

It was Darcy who broke the hug. Knowing Loki, he'd come out to his lair for some alone time, probably having exceeded his capacity for social interaction hours ago. Since she had successfully conned him, through dumb luck, into going to Zozobra, she decided to move on while she was still ahead.

In the house, she hung out with Thor and Jane, watching one of the many incarnations of a crime show, CSI Topeka, Kansas or something along those lines, and then went to bed.

When she woke later, it wasn't to the nightmare, but the awareness of someone near. Rolling over, she found Loki, his back to her, asleep on top of the covers. She considered the dark, indistinct shape of him and several ideas, all X-rated, marched through her sleepy head. As she listened to the soft, easy whoosh of his breathing, a goal anchored itself in her mind. Like most of her plans, it wasn't well thought out, or grounded in any reason.

She would make him hers, somehow.

"...I find you more than a little unnerving," he had said. So pouncing on him like a cat on catnip would probably send him back on the floor, or out of the room entirely.

Instead, she decided to approach him as if he was a skittish wild animal, easy spooked. She eased herself closer, and pressed her face against his back. The cadence of his breathing remained the same, so she pushed one step farther, slipping her arm around him and snuggling closer. At first, her contact went unnoticed and she was starting to drift off to sleep, when he jerked under her touch. She felt his hand around her arm and sighed, assuming he was going to push her way. Then, with a slight hesitation, he grasped her hand in his and pressed it to his chest.

Every nerve in her body tingled with the awareness of him so tantalizingly close, but she didn't move. She thought of Thor, who brightened whenever Loki graced him with more than a nasty growl and understood. With Loki, you were grateful for any little victories.

His breathing slowed again, and she followed him into sleep.

A Morbid Taste for Ice

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by sitehound

Part 14 of 39

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